The Dreamer by Saki (HH Monro)
short story from Beasts and Superbeasts, published 1914
Cyprian was a boy who carried with him through early life the wondering look of a dreamer, the eyes of one who sees things that are not visible to ordinary mortals, and invests the commonplace things of this world with qualities unsuspected by plainer folk - the eyes of a poet or a house agent. He was quietly dressed - that sartorial quietude which frequently accompanies early adolescence, and is usually attributed by novel-writers to the influence of a widowed mother. His hair was brushed back in a smoothness as of ribbon seaweed and seamed with a narrow furrow that scarcely aimed at being a parting. His aunt particularly noted this item of his toilet when they met at the appointed rendezvous, because he was standing waiting for her bare-headed.
"Where is your hat?" she asked.
"I didn't bring one with me," he replied.
Adela Chemping was slightly scandalised.
"You are not going to be what they call a Nut, are you?" she inquired with some anxiety, partly with the idea that a Nut would be an extravagance which her sister's small household would scarcely be justified in incurring, partly, perhaps, with the instinctive apprehension that a Nut, even in its embryo stage, would refuse to carry parcels.
Cyprian looked at her with his wondering, dreamy eyes.
"I didn't bring a hat," he said, "because it is such a nuisance when one is shopping; I mean it is so awkward if one meets anyone one knows and has to take one's hat off when one's hands are full of parcels. If one hasn't got a hat on one can't take it off."
observations: Love the line about the poet or the house agent.
A Nut – though the term is mysteriously hard to track down - was an extravagantly fashionable young man of around the turn of the last century, assumed to be idle, also known as a masher, or a swell. How slang fades – one of the few citations for usage of the word in this sense is this exact story. The OED says it was in fact pronounced Knut, and it seems to have come from a music-hall song of the time: Gilbert the Filbert, the knut with a K.
The lovely dreamy Cyprian is going to prove to be more alert than you might think - after drifting around after his aunt for most of the day, his hatlessness is going to make people think he is a shop assistant. And that is going to prove profitable.
Links up with: The natty men in the boat. More Saki here and here. Lucia’s Georgie was always well-dressed. Waugh's Gilbert Pinfold starts singing the musichall song about the k-Nut during his Ordeal.
The dreamer man is a Norwegian photo from Flickr.