Chapter 3: Tea, Biscuits and Other Assorted Consumables
Dear Mr. Wilford,
I, Lord Harry W.S.J. Cone, Lord Redcliff, and Mr. James P. Longteeth, would like to extend to You an invitation to join us for tea and biscuits, combined with other assorted consumables, at my warm hearth, here in London, named Hamington Hall, at 12 Hamington Road, this afternoon, at three o’clock. It would bring copious amounts of joy to our hearts if You would be accompanied by Your graceful wife, Mrs. Wilford.
Count Harry Cone
Mr. James Longteeth
This was but one of many invitations. Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins, Mr. Fordham, Mr. Laurence, Mr. and Mrs. Hopfstadter of Germany, met at a conference about world peace in war situations, Mr. del Savaréz of Spain, which Cone met while attempting to learn bullfighting in Madrid, some twenty years ago, when he also discovered he lacked any kind of talent where that subject is concerned, Mrs. Bentlemoore and, of course, Cone’s old friends; Mr. Brouney and Dr. Sqir all received some variation of this invitation. Also, Mr. Cone’s brother, the policeman, was invited via another invitation, asking him to be a doorkeeper, in exchange for food and a pitiful sum of money.
Hamington Hall was bustling with activity as everyone scrambled to make the house ready for the sublime party. Well, everyone but Mr. Cone and Mr. Longteeth, of course, but you didn’t expect them to, now, did you? The two gentlemen were enjoying a calm game of whist, a couple of Sherries and a nice pipe with tobacco from, freshly harvested and brought here from West India! They did not have a conversation, not in the regular sense, at least. Rather, they were humming and clearing their throats at each other, uttering something that sounded like “Hmpf” and “Hrmhrm”, from time to time, as was the custom for gentlemen when ordinary people did their duty, most of the time involving manual labour, something that British lords would never lower themselves under any possible circumstances, whatever they may be, including times when the lord’s life is at stake, or his family’s for that matter.
This scenario played out for an hour, and one hour exactly, neither more, nor less. At half past two, a butler arrived and announced to the gentlemen that their guests would arrive shortly, and that the gentlemen should ready themselves. Longteeth took out his pocket-watch and exclaimed: “Hah, time does fly when one is enjoying oneself. Extraordinary, I say.” Cone nodded slightly and said “Indeed, my friend” in an almost whispering manner. Quietly, Mr. Cone and Mr. Longteeth went their separate ways, as they were moving to their personal chambers, Longteeth, of course, having one of his own because he had won it in a game of whist.
As Cone neared his room, he used his walking cane to knock twice on the floor, prompting a footman outside of Cone’s chambers to open the door. Inside, the lord’s valet was waiting, having already chosen a splendid outfit for this particular gathering. A black frock coat, a black bow tie, a white vest, coupled with a white shirt and white trousers. On top of all this, Cone was to wear his third finest monocle and his beloved top hat, which, of course, he did not wear, since he was indoors. He would, however, carry it with him, or rather, have a butler do it, because it saddened him greatly to be without it, his most prized possession, without a doubt. There were, of course, other things he enjoyed, but none quite as much as the hat. After all that was done, the gentleman proceeded to exit the room, by knocking thrice on the door with his walking cane, causing the footman to open it once again.
Around ten minutes later, at three o’clock, the first guest arrived, Mr. Brouney, of course arriving first, and on time, since the young fellow surely lacked any important commitments, as older, more experienced, gentlemen did. Longteeth and Cone greeted him quickly, and frankly, quite coldly. What astonished the gentlemen, however, was that Mr. Brouney had managed to arrive before even Cone’s lowly brother, though not by a very long time. Jonapham turned up just a minute later, if even that. Dressed in his uniform, he took up position next to the door and was handed a list of guests and some money by a footman. The poor fellow did not utter a single word; he only nodded once at Cone, in greeting. Surely, he was ashamed of being poor, which did not surprise Lord Cone at all, nor Longteeth, for that matter.
The rest of the guests arrived shortly afterwards, or shortly appeared at Cone’s doorstep, either way works, so I will let you, dear reader, choose which one you prefer, but I digress. As the honourable visitors gathered in the great hall, which was adjacent to the entrance and designed to hold a respectable number of people, maybe around thirty, they were served drinks by Mr. Cone’s footmen. Mr. Cone had also arranged for a string quartet, which was now playing some music from a corner. A butler asked for the guests to be seated at some chairs the footmen were just now bringing out, as Lord Cone would like to say a few words.
“My honoured guests, I would like to welcome to my humble abode for this little event of mine. Of course, there is a reason for this gathering, other than my generosity and politeness, believe it or not. This is partly for your entertainment and pleasure and because I enjoy having guests. And I like to brag about my past...”
A number of guests started laughing, including del Savaréz, Mr. Hopfstadter, Longteeth and others. Cone took the opportunity to clear his throat, smiling while doing so.
“Yes, yes, very funny indeed. In any case, there is also some seriousness about this meeting. I have a very important subject to discuss with you. ‘Discuss’, of course, means me having a monologue, this is politics after all. Maybe I did not mention that in your invitations, but it is. The truth is, I love poor people!” Everyone in the room gasped, including the servants, who even dropped trays and cups. Of course, inhaling this much air made them all look immensely fat. “And that is why”, Cone continued, “I want to keep them poor!” Everyone seemed relieved by his statement and returned to their original shapes.
At this instant, a noise came floating from the entrance hall. The
noise, followed by a footman, alerted everyone to the fact that Dr. Sqir had
arrived, late as usual. Shortly thereafter, the man himself entered the room
and began making excuses for himself:
“I am so sorry, ladies and gentlemen, for arriving at this late hour. I do, however, have a perfectly valid excuse. You see, I was walking from my house to my coach when a small gentleman, looking rather suspicious, bumped into me. As it turned out, the young man was a pickpocket, and had done what pickpockets do best; he had picked my pockets, so to speak. Naturally, I was furious and ran after him. Thankfully, my years in Africa had done me well, as I managed to catch him, not one hundred yards later. To humiliate him even more, I challenged him to a game of cricket, threatening to fetch the police should he not accept. The poor fellow agreed, and thus started a marvellous game, attended by hundreds of spectators, if not thousands. As you might imagine, this took a while, though I have to say the game itself was quite the disappointment, since my opponent had barely ever held a cricket bat in his life, sadly.”
“I have been there myself. It is a perfectly valid excuse”, Cone interrupted him by saying.
“I am not finished...”
“Sure?” Cone had a sad and somewhat irritated expression.
“Yes”, Sqir continued. “After the game, there were but ten minutes left before your party, and I was all the way in Hampshire. I had my servants prepare a bath on the train, on which I rode in first class, of course. Anyway, now I am here. It will not surprise you, nor anger you, to learn that a few other things occurred on the way. Is anyone interested to hear what is left of my story?”
“God, no!” Cone burst out, trying to keep calm. “I was in the middle of something here, and you all would rather listen me, am I correct?” There were some assorted nods throughout the room, before Cone once again continued:
“Please be seated, Dr. Sqir. Now, where was I? Oh, right. Poor people. They are hilarious. As I said, I want to keep them poor, so that they may continue brightening our days, with their pitiful attempts to survive. Now, on to the question. “How might we maintain their poverty?” one might ask. There are several possible answers to this question, but the easiest one is, without a doubt, to vote for me in the upcoming election. Do you stand by my side? Let’s hope so indeed. Cheers!”
Subsequently, everyone rose and marched into the dining hall, where a magnificent meal, consisting of, among other things, pork, potatoes, a stew, lamb, four different sauces, salad and a cake. And on top of that, a mighty fine wine, some fifty years old, made from grapes grown in Italy. It was splendid!