The Diary Of A Nobody

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CHAPTER XIX

Meet Teddy Finsworth, an old schoolfellow. We have a pleasant and quiet
dinner at his uncle’s, marred only by a few awkward mistakes on my part
respecting Mr. Finsworth’s pictures. A discussion on dreams.

APRIL 27. Kept a little later than usual at the office, and as I was
hurrying along a man stopped me, saying: “Hulloh! That’s a face I know.”
I replied politely: “Very likely; lots of people know me, although I may
not know them.” He replied: “But you know me—Teddy Finsworth.” So it
was. He was at the same school with me. I had not seen him for years
and years. No wonder I did not know him! At school he was at least a
head taller than I was; now I am at least a head taller than he is, and
he has a thick beard, almost grey. He insisted on my having a glass of
wine (a thing I never do), and told me he lived at Middlesboro’, where he
was Deputy Town Clerk, a position which was as high as the Town Clerk of
London—in fact, higher. He added that he was staying for a few days in
London, with his uncle, Mr. Edgar Paul Finsworth (of Finsworth and
Pultwell). He said he was sure his uncle would be only too pleased to
see me, and he had a nice house, Watney Lodge, only a few minutes’ walk
from Muswell Hill Station. I gave him our address, and we parted.

In the evening, to my surprise, he called with a very nice letter from
Mr. Finsworth, saying if we (including Carrie) would dine with them
to-morrow (Sunday), at two o’clock, he would be delighted. Carrie did
not like to go; but Teddy Finsworth pressed us so much we consented.
Carrie sent Sarah round to the butcher’s and countermanded our half-leg
of mutton, which we had ordered for to-morrow.

APRIL 28, Sunday. We found Watney Lodge farther off than we anticipated,
and only arrived as the clock struck two, both feeling hot and
uncomfortable. To make matters worse, a large collie dog pounced forward
to receive us. He barked loudly and jumped up at Carrie, covering her
light skirt, which she was wearing for the first time, with mud. Teddy
Finsworth came out and drove the dog off and apologised. We were shown
into the drawing-room, which was beautifully decorated. It was full of
knick-knacks, and some plates hung up on the wall. There were several
little wooden milk-stools with paintings on them; also a white wooden
banjo, painted by one of Mr. Paul Finsworth’s nieces—a cousin of Teddy’s.

Mr. Paul Finsworth seemed quite a distinguished-looking elderly
gentleman, and was most gallant to Carrie. There were a great many
water-colours hanging on the walls, mostly different views of India,
which were very bright. Mr. Finsworth said they were painted by “Simpz,”
and added that he was no judge of pictures himself but had been informed
on good authority that they were worth some hundreds of pounds, although
he had only paid a few shillings apiece for them, frames included, at a
sale in the neighbourhood.

There was also a large picture in a very handsome frame, done in coloured
crayons. It looked like a religious subject. I was very much struck
with the lace collar, it looked so real, but I unfortunately made the
remark that there was something about the expression of the face that was
not quite pleasing. It looked pinched. Mr. Finsworth sorrowfully
replied: “Yes, the face was done after death—my wife’s sister.”

I felt terribly awkward and bowed apologetically, and in a whisper said I
hoped I had not hurt his feelings. We both stood looking at the picture
for a few minutes in silence, when Mr. Finsworth took out a handkerchief
and said: “She was sitting in our garden last summer,” and blew his nose
violently. He seemed quite affected, so I turned to look at something
else and stood in front of a portrait of a jolly-looking middle-aged
gentleman, with a red face and straw hat. I said to Mr. Finsworth: “Who
is this jovial-looking gentleman? Life doesn’t seem to trouble him
much.” Mr. Finsworth said: “No, it doesn’t. He is dead too—my
brother.”

I was absolutely horrified at my own awkwardness. Fortunately at this
moment Carrie entered with Mrs. Finsworth, who had taken her upstairs to
take off her bonnet and brush her skirt. Teddy said: “Short is late,”
but at that moment the gentleman referred to arrived, and I was
introduced to him by Teddy, who said: “Do you know Mr. Short?” I
replied, smiling, that I had not that pleasure, but I hoped it would not
be long before I knew Mr. Short. He evidently did not see my little
joke, although I repeated it twice with a little laugh. I suddenly
remembered it was Sunday, and Mr. Short was perhaps very particular.
In this I was mistaken, for he was not at all particular in several of
his remarks after dinner. In fact I was so ashamed of one of his
observations that I took the opportunity to say to Mrs. Finsworth that I
feared she found Mr. Short occasionally a little embarrassing. To my
surprise she said: “Oh! he is privileged you know.” I did not know as a
matter of fact, and so I bowed apologetically. I fail to see why Mr.
Short should be privileged.

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Another thing that annoyed me at dinner was that the collie dog, which
jumped up at Carrie, was allowed to remain under the dining-room table.
It kept growling and snapping at my boots every time I moved my foot.
Feeling nervous rather, I spoke to Mrs. Finsworth about the animal, and
she remarked: “It is only his play.” She jumped up and let in a
frightfully ugly-looking spaniel called Bibbs, which had been scratching
at the door. This dog also seemed to take a fancy to my boots, and I
discovered afterwards that it had licked off every bit of blacking from
them. I was positively ashamed of being seen in them. Mrs. Finsworth,
who, I must say, is not much of a Job’s comforter, said: “Oh! we are used
to Bibbs doing that to our visitors.”

Mr. Finsworth had up some fine port, although I question whether it is a
good thing to take on the top of beer. It made me feel a little sleepy,
while it had the effect of inducing Mr. Short to become “privileged” to
rather an alarming extent. It being cold even for April, there was a
fire in the drawing-room; we sat round in easy-chairs, and Teddy and I
waxed rather eloquent over the old school days, which had the effect of
sending all the others to sleep. I was delighted, as far as Mr. Short
was concerned, that it did have that effect on him.

We stayed till four, and the walk home was remarkable only for the fact
that several fools giggled at the unpolished state of my boots. Polished
them myself when I got home. Went to church in the evening, and could
scarcely keep awake. I will not take port on the top of beer again.

APRIL 29. I am getting quite accustomed to being snubbed by Lupin, and I
do not mind being sat upon by Carrie, because I think she has a certain
amount of right to do so; but I do think it hard to be at once snubbed by
wife, son, and both my guests.

Gowing and Cummings had dropped in during the evening, and I suddenly
remembered an extraordinary dream I had a few nights ago, and I thought I
would tell them about it. I dreamt I saw some huge blocks of ice in a
shop with a bright glare behind them. I walked into the shop and the
heat was overpowering. I found that the blocks of ice were on fire. The
whole thing was so real and yet so supernatural I woke up in a cold
perspiration. Lupin in a most contemptuous manner, said: “What utter
rot.”

Before I could reply, Gowing said there was nothing so completely
uninteresting as other people’s dreams.

I appealed to Cummings, but he said he was bound to agree with the others
and my dream was especially nonsensical. I said: “It seemed so real to
me.” Gowing replied: “Yes, to you perhaps, but not to us.”
Whereupon they all roared.

Carrie, who had hitherto been quiet, said: “He tells me his stupid dreams
every morning nearly.” I replied: “Very well, dear, I promise you I will
never tell you or anybody else another dream of mine the longest day I
live.” Lupin said: “Hear! hear!” and helped himself to another glass of
beer. The subject was fortunately changed, and Cummings read a most
interesting article on the superiority of the bicycle to the horse.

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