Arthur Dabner was an accountant at Barkers stationery firm who was the guest of honour at Derek and Mavis Wilton's soiree at The Kabin flat in March 1989 - at least, guest of honour in spirit; the point of the event was for Derek to ingratiate himself with the management and his boss DP was the original invitee, but after last-minute cancellations by DP and then his second-in-command, Derek turned to Arthur, describing him to Mavis as the firm's "chief accountant". Arthur was surprised by the invitation as he and Derek had barely spoken before, but he accepted.
Along with Arthur and Ken and Deirdre Barlow, Mavis invited Emily Bishop along to make up the numbers - much to the disapproval of Derek, who feared that she wouldn't be up to "sophisticated dinner table chat". However, Arthur turned out to be a quiet man who was more one for small, intimate chats with Emily than being life and soul, and the pair monopolised each other the whole evening. To cap it off, Arthur had no appetite and Mavis was horrified to discover at the evening's conclusion that she'd gone to all that effort for a mere colleague of Derek's, who was recently promoted from wages clerk after studying at night school.
Arthur and Emily enjoyed each other's company so much that they agreed to have lunch the next day, and over the next few weeks they became friends. With a taste for classical music, wine and travel, Arthur was more stimulating company for Emily than Percy Sugden, and her meetings with Arthur provided a welcome means of escape from her bossy lodger. To make his intentions clear, Arthur told Emily that he wasn't a single man, as Derek thought, but had been separated from his wife Babs for three years. Emily was disappointed by the news, but after some advice from Deirdre, she told Arthur that she wanted to keep on seeing him. Their friendship deepened over the next few days, with Arthur enjoying a day out to an art gallery with Emily, where Arthur showed his appreciation of Emily admitting when she didn't understand the paintings instead of faking an intellectual reaction. However, the nature of Arthur's relationship with his wife preyed on Emily's mind, particularly after Mavis warned her that Arthur still saw his wife and often spent weekends under the same roof, despite Arthur telling Emily that they only saw each other when one of their children had a problem.
In early April, Arthur made plans to spend a Sunday with Emily, but had to cancel with Babs demanded to see him. Preferring to keep Babs out of it, Arthur told Emily that he'd been called in to work, however he was caught out when Percy saw him and Babs walking through Heaton Park together. Deciding to face Emily, Arthur visited her and admitted he'd lied to her, and confessed that he and Babs had decided to reconcile. Knowing that Percy didn't like him, Arthur was surprised to learn that he hadn't said anything to Emily. The pair agreed to stay friends, but Emily quickly decided that Arthur was best forgotten, and they didn't see each other again.