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by Grant Allen
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It was Sunday evening, and on Sundays Max Schurz, the chief of the London Socialists, always held his weekly receptions. That night his cosmopolitan refugee friends were all at liberty; his French disciples could pour in from the little lanes and courts in Soho, where, since the Commune, they had plied their peaceful trades as engravers, picture-framers, artists'-colourmen, models, pointers, and so forth-for most of them were hangers-on in one way or another of the artistic world; his German adherents could stroll round, pipe in mouth, from their printing-houses, their ham-and-beef shops, or their naturalists' chambers, where they stuffed birds or set up exotic butterflies in little cabinets-for most of them were more or less literary or scientific in their pursuits; and his few English sympathisers, chiefly dissatisfied philosophical Radicals of the upper classes, could drop in casually for a chat and a smoke, on their way home from the churches to which they had been dutifully escorting their un-emancipated wives and sisters. Max Schurz kept open house for all on Sunday evenings, and there was not a drawing-room in London better filled than his with the very advanced and not undistinguished set who alone had the much-prized entree of his exclusive salon.
Of course the house was not vulgarly furnished, at least in the conventional sense of the word; Lady Le Breton was far too rigid in her social orthodoxy to have admitted into her rooms anything that savoured of what she considered bad form, according to her lights. It was only vulgar with the underlying vulgarity of mere tasteless fashionable uniformity. There was nothing in it that any well-bred footman could object to; nothing that anybody with one grain of genuine originality could possibly tolerate. The little occasional chairs and tables set casually about the room were of the strictest neglige Belgravian type, a sort of studied protest against the formal stiffness of the ordinary unused middle-class drawing-room.
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