Paying Guests (A Satirical Novel)
Paying Guests (A Satirical Novel)
Table of Contents
This inauspicious afternoon finished better than might have been anticipated. The Colonel's favourite hazard, it is true, was laid low, but the trunk now dragged to the edge of the green, was discovered to be a very well-placed bunker, when Miss Howard put the ball underneath it in an unplayable position, and thus enabled Colonel Chase to win the match. Then it was found that Mrs. Oxney's chauffeur who was an ingenious mechanic could put the pedometer to rights with the greatest ease. (He geared it a shade too high, so that for the future when Colonel Chase had ridden seven-eights of a mile it recorded a full mile, and so ever afterwards when he rode thirty-two miles, as he so often did, he could inform admiring Wentworth with indisputable evidence to back him, that he had ridden thirty-six. A pleasing spell of record-breaking ensued.)
After a quantity of hot scones for tea, he retired to his bedroom according to his usual custom for a couple of hours of solid reading before dinner. He took from a small book-shelf above his bed, which contained for the most part old Army lists, an antique copy of Macaulay's Essays which he had won as a prize for Geography at school, and before settling down to read made himself very comfortable in a large armchair with his pipe and tobacco handy. Then he glanced at the news in the evening paper, which for many months now had put him in a towering passion since it so largely concerned the coal strike. All strikers, according to his firm conviction, were damned lazy skunks, who refused to do a stroke of work, because they preferred to be supported in idle luxury by the dole, while Mr. Cook was a Bolshevist, whom Colonel Chase, so he repeatedly affirmed, would have rejoiced to hang with his own hands, having heartily flogged him first. There would soon have been an end of the strike if the weak-kneed Government had only done what he had recommended from the very beginning. Then, in order to quiet and calm his mind he mused over a cross-word puzzle, jotting down in pencil the solutions which seemed to fit. Half an hour generally sufficed to break the back of it, and then he leaned back in his chair, opened Macaulay's Essays at random, and gave himself up to meditation.
This meditation was always agreeable, for its origin, the cave out of which it so generously gushed was his strong and profound satisfaction with himself, and this gave a pleasant flavour to whatever he thought about. He had had a thoroughly creditable though uneventful career in the army, and on his retirement two years ago, found himself able to contemplate the past and await the future with British equanimity. Being unmarried and possessed of a comfortable competence, he could live for a couple of months in the year in furnished rooms close to his club in London, and for the other ten at this admirably conducted boarding-establishment, thus escaping all the responsibilities of house-keeping and of friendship. In London armchair acquaintances sufficed for social needs, they afforded him rubbers of bridge in the cardroom and ample opportunity to curse the weather and the Government in company with kindred spirits; for the rest of the day the perusal of the morning and the evening papers and an hour's constitutional tramp round the park, fulfilled the wants of mind and body. At Wentworth similarly, his bicycle rides, his excellent meals, his comfortable bedroom supplied his physical wants and he had the additional mental satisfaction of being undisputed cock of the walk, whereas among the members at his club there was a sad tendency to think themselves as good as he. But here his tastes and his convenience were consulted before those of any other guest, cream was poured forth for the mollification of his tantrums and his wish was of the nature of law to the economies of the establishment. He was convinced that Mrs. Oxney had no gre