The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 9

15 Apr

Apologies for the long gap between episodes and for the lack of illustrations in this chapter, although that can be explained by the simple fact that there are none in the original book either. Attentive readers might notice that the font has changed from previous chapters. This is because WordPress has changed the paste function to strip out all formatting by default and I can’t figure out how to put it back in without an inordinate amount of work.

Whence, I hear you ask, cometh the text that is being copied and pasted. Well, the thrilling news is that it comes from the ebook, which will be published at the conclusion of this series to great acclaim, arising from the fact that it is free.

 

CHAPTER IX.

 

Our first important Party. Old Friends and New Friends. Gowing is a little annoying; but his friend, Mr. Stillbrook, turns out to be quite amusing. Inopportune arrival of Mr. Perkupp, but he is most kind and complimentary. Party a great success.

November 15. - A red-letter day. Our first important party since we have been in this house. I got home early from the City. Lupin insisted on having a hired waiter, and stood a half-dozen of champagne. I think this an unnecessary expense, but Lupin said he had had a piece of luck, having made three pounds out a private deal in the City. I hope he won’t gamble in his new situation. The supper-room looked so nice, and Carrie truly said: “We need not be ashamed of its being seen by Mr. Perkupp, should he honour us by coming.”

I dressed early in case people should arrive punctually at eight o’clock, and was much vexed to find my new dress-trousers much too short.

Lupin, who is getting beyond his position, found fault with my wearing ordinary boots instead of dress-boots.

I replied satirically: “My dear son, I have lived to be above that sort of thing.”

Lupin burst out laughing, and said: “A man generally was above his boots.”

This may be funny, or it may NOT; but I was gratified to find he had not discovered the coral had come off one of my studs. Carrie looked a picture, wearing the dress she wore at the Mansion House. The arrangement of the drawing-room was excellent. Carrie had hung muslin curtains over the folding-doors, and also over one of the entrances, for we had removed the door from its hinges.

Mr. Peters, the waiter, arrived in good time, and I gave him strict orders not to open another bottle of champagne until the previous one was empty. Carrie arranged for some sherry and port wine to be placed on the drawing-room sideboard, with some glasses. By-the-by, our new enlarged and tinted photographs look very nice on the walls, especially as Carrie has arranged some Liberty silk bows on the four corners of them.

The first arrival was Gowing, who, with his usual taste, greeted me with: “Hulloh, Pooter, why your trousers are too short!”

I simply said: “Very likely, and you will find my temper ‘sHORT’ also.”

He said: “That won’t make your trousers longer, Juggins. You should get your missus to put a flounce on them.”

I wonder I waste my time entering his insulting observations in my diary.

The next arrivals were Mr. and Mrs. Cummings. The former said: “As you didn’t say anything about dress, I have come ‘half dress.’” He had on a black frock-coat and white tie. The James’, Mr. Merton, and Mr. Stillbrook arrived, but Lupin was restless and unbearable till his Daisy Mutlar and Frank arrived.

Carrie and I were rather startled at Daisy’s appearance. She had a bright-crimson dress on, cut very low in the neck. I do not think such a style modest. She ought to have taken a lesson from Carrie, and covered her shoulders with a little lace. Mr. Nackles, Mr. Sprice-Hogg and his four daughters came; so did Franching, and one or two of Lupin’s new friends, members of the “Holloway Comedians.” Some of these seemed rather theatrical in their manner, especially one, who was posing all the evening, and leant on our little round table and cracked it. Lupin called him “our Henry,” and said he was “our lead at the H.C.’s,” and was quite as good in that department as Harry Mutlar was as the low-comedy merchant. All this is Greek to me.

We had some music, and Lupin, who never left Daisy’s side for a moment, raved over her singing of a song, called “Some Day.” It seemed a pretty song, but she made such grimaces, and sang, to my mind, so out of tune, I would not have asked her to sing again; but Lupin made her sing four songs right off, one after the other.

At ten o’clock we went down to supper, and from the way Gowing and Cummings ate you would have thought they had not had a meal for a month. I told Carrie to keep something back in case Mr. Perkupp should come by mere chance. Gowing annoyed me very much by filling a large tumbler of champagne, and drinking it straight off. He repeated this action, and made me fear our half-dozen of champagne would not last out. I tried to keep a bottle back, but Lupin got hold of it, and took it to the side-table with Daisy and Frank Mutlar.

We went upstairs, and the young fellows began skylarking. Carrie put a stop to that at once. Stillbrook amused us with a song, “What have you done with your Cousin John?” I did not notice that Lupin and Frank had disappeared. I asked Mr. Watson, one of the Holloways, where they were, and he said: “It’s a case of ‘Oh, what a surprise!’”

We were directed to form a circle – which we did. Watson then said: “I have much pleasure in introducing the celebrated Blondin Donkey.” Frank and Lupin then bounded into the room. Lupin had whitened his face like a clown, and Frank had tied round his waist a large hearthrug. He was supposed to be the donkey, and he looked it. They indulged in a very noisy pantomime, and we were all shrieking with laughter.

I turned round suddenly, and then I saw Mr Perkupp standing half-way in the door, he having arrived without our knowing it. I beckoned to Carrie, and we went up to him at once. He would not come right into the room. I apologised for the foolery, but Mr. Perkupp said: “Oh, it seems amusing.” I could see he was not a bit amused.

Carrie and I took him downstairs, but the table was a wreck. There was not a glass of champagne left – not even a sandwich. Mr. Perkupp said he required nothing, but would like a glass of seltzer or soda water. The last syphon was empty. Carrie said: “We have plenty of port wine left.” Mr. Perkupp said, with a smile: “No, thank you. I really require nothing, but I am most pleased to see you and your husband in your own home. Good-night, Mrs. Pooter, you will excuse my very short stay, I know.” I went with him to his carriage, and he said: “Don’t trouble to come to the office till twelve to-morrow.”

I felt despondent as I went back to the house, and I told Carrie I thought the party was a failure. Carrie said it was a great success, and I was only tired, and insisted on my having some port myself. I drank two glasses, and felt much better, and we went into the drawing-room, where they had commenced dancing. Carrie and I had a little dance, which I said reminded me of old days. She said I was a spooney old thing.

 

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 8

18 Mar

Chapter 8 contains an intriguing riddle. We see Mr. Pooter attending a fireworks party, which takes place on the 6th of November, instead of the customary 5th. Without further investigation, which I will undertake at the first opportunity, I can think of no other reason for this than that someone made a mistake – author, editor, printer or gremlin.

 

CHAPTER VIII.

Daisy Mutlar sole topic of conversation. Lupin’s new berth. Fireworks at the Cummings’. The “Holloway Comedians.” Sarah quarrels with the charwoman. Lupin’s uncalled-for interference. Am introduced to Daisy Mutlar. We decide to give a party in her honour.

November 5, Sunday. - Carrie and I troubled about that mere boy Lupin getting engaged to be married without consulting us or anything. After dinner he told us all about it. He said the lady’s name was Daisy Mutlar, and she was the nicest, prettiest, and most accomplished girl he ever met. He loved her the moment he saw her, and if he had to wait fifty years he would wait, and he knew she would wait for him.

Lupin further said, with much warmth, that the world was a different world to him now, – it was a world worth living in. He lived with an object now, and that was to make Daisy Mutlar – Daisy Pooter, and he would guarantee she would not disgrace the family of the Pooters. Carrie here burst out crying, and threw her arms round his neck, and in doing so, upset the glass of port he held in his hand all over his new light trousers.

I said I had no doubt we should like Miss Mutlar when we saw her, but Carrie said she loved her already. I thought this rather premature, but held my tongue. Daisy Mutlar was the sole topic of conversation for the remainder of the day. I asked Lupin who her people were, and he replied: “Oh, you know Mutlar, Williams and Watts.” I did not know, but refrained from asking any further questions at present, for fear of irritating Lupin.

November 6. - Lupin went with me to the office, and had a long conversation with Mr. Perkupp, our principal, the result of which was that he accepted a clerkship in the firm of Job Cleanands and Co., Stock and Share Brokers. Lupin told me, privately, it was an advertising firm, and he did not think much of it. [1] I replied: “Beggars should not be choosers;” and I will do Lupin the justice to say, he looked rather ashamed of himself.

In the evening we went round to the Cummings’, to have a few fireworks. It began to rain, and I thought it rather dull. One of my squibs would not go off, and Gowing said: “Hit it on your boot, boy; it will go off then.” I gave it a few knocks on the end of my boot, and it went off with one loud explosion, and burnt my fingers rather badly. I gave the rest of the squibs to the little Cummings’ boy to let off.

Another unfortunate thing happened, which brought a heap of abuse on my head. Cummings fastened a large wheel set-piece on a stake in the ground by way of a grand finale. He made a great fuss about it; said it cost seven shillings. There was a little difficulty in getting it alight. At last it went off; but after a couple of slow revolutions it stopped. I had my stick with me, so I gave it a tap to send it round, and, unfortunately, it fell off the stake on to the grass. Anybody would have thought I had set the house on fire from the way in which they stormed at me. I will never join in any more firework parties. It is a ridiculous waste of time and money.

November 7. - Lupin asked Carrie to call on Mrs. Mutlar, but Carrie said she thought Mrs. Mutlar ought to call on her first. I agreed with Carrie, and this led to an argument. However, the matter was settled by Carrie saying she could not find any visiting cards, and we must get some more printed, and when they were finished would be quite time enough to discuss the etiquette of calling.

November 8. - I ordered some of our cards at Black’s, the stationers. I ordered twenty-five of each, which will last us for a good long time. In the evening, Lupin brought in Harry Mutlar, Miss Mutlar’s brother. He was rather a gawky youth, and Lupin said he was the most popular and best amateur in the club, referring to the “Holloway Comedians.” Lupin whispered to us that if we could only “draw out” Harry a bit, he would make us roar with laughter.

At supper, young Mutlar did several amusing things. He took up a knife, and with the flat part of it played a tune on his cheek in a wonderful manner. He also gave an imitation of an old man with no teeth, smoking a big cigar. The way he kept dropping the cigar sent Carrie into fits.

In the course of conversation, Daisy’s name cropped up, and young Mutlar said he would bring his sister round to us one evening – his parents being rather old-fashioned, and not going out much. Carrie said we would get up a little special party. As young Mutlar showed no inclination to go, and it was approaching eleven o’clock, as a hint I reminded Lupin that he had to be up early to-morrow. Instead of taking the hint, Mutlar began a series of comic imitations. He went on for an hour without cessation. Poor Carrie could scarcely keep her eyes open. At last she made an excuse, and said “Good-night.”

Mutlar then left, and I heard him and Lupin whispering in the hall something about the “Holloway Comedians,” and to my disgust, although it was past midnight, Lupin put on his hat and coat, and went out with his new companion.

November 9. - My endeavours to discover who tore the sheets out of my diary still fruitless. Lupin has Daisy Mutlar on the brain, so we see little of him, except that he invariably turns up at meal times. Cummings dropped in.

November 10. - Lupin seems to like his new berth – that’s a comfort. Daisy Mutlar the sole topic of conversation during tea. Carrie almost as full of it as Lupin. Lupin informs me, to my disgust, that he has been persuaded to take part in the forthcoming performance of the “Holloway Comedians.” He says he is to play Bob Britches in the farce, GONE TO MY UNCLE’S; Frank Mutlar is going to play old Musty. I told Lupin pretty plainly I was not in the least degree interested in the matter, and totally disapproved of amateur theatricals. Gowing came in the evening.

November 11. - Returned home to find the house in a most disgraceful uproar, Carrie, who appeared very frightened, was standing outside her bedroom, while Sarah was excited and crying. Mrs. Birrell (the charwoman), who had evidently been drinking, was shouting at the top of her voice that she was “no thief, that she was a respectable woman, who had to work hard for her living, and she would smack anyone’s face who put lies into her mouth.” Lupin, whose back was towards me, did not hear me come in. He was standing between the two women, and, I regret to say, in his endeavour to act as peacemaker, he made use of rather strong language in the presence of his mother; and I was just in time to hear him say: “And all this fuss about the loss of a few pages from a rotten diary that wouldn’t fetch three-halfpence a pound!” I said, quietly: “Pardon me, Lupin, that is a matter of opinion; and as I am master of this house, perhaps you will allow me to take the reins.”

I ascertained that the cause of the row was, that Sarah had accused Mrs. Birrell of tearing the pages out of my diary to wrap up some kitchen fat and leavings which she had taken out of the house last week. Mrs. Birrell had slapped Sarah’s face, and said she had taken nothing out of the place, as there was “never no leavings to take.” I ordered Sarah back to her work, and requested Mrs. Birrell to go home. When I entered the parlour Lupin was kicking his legs in the air, and roaring with laughter.

November 12, Sunday. - Coming home from church Carrie and I met Lupin, Daisy Mutlar, and her brother. Daisy was introduced to us, and we walked home together, Carrie walking on with Miss Mutlar. We asked them in for a few minutes, and I had a good look at my future daughter-in-law. My heart quite sank. She is a big young woman, and I should think at least eight years older than Lupin. I did not even think her good-looking. Carrie asked her if she could come in on Wednesday next with her brother to meet a few friends. She replied that she would only be too pleased.

Daisy Mutlar

Daisy Mutlar.

November 13. - Carrie sent out invitations to Gowing, the Cummings, to Mr. and Mrs. James (of Sutton), and Mr. Stillbrook. I wrote a note to Mr. Franching, of Peckham. Carrie said we may as well make it a nice affair, and why not ask our principal, Mr. Perkupp? I said I feared we were not quite grand enough for him. Carrie said there was “no offence in asking him.” I said: “Certainly not,” and I wrote him a letter. Carrie confessed she was a little disappointed with Daisy Mutlar’s appearance, but thought she seemed a nice girl.

November 14. - Everybody so far has accepted for our quite grand little party for to-morrow. Mr. Perkupp, in a nice letter which I shall keep, wrote that he was dining in Kensington, but if he could get away, he would come up to Holloway for an hour. Carrie was busy all day, making little cakes and open jam puffs and jellies. She said she felt quite nervous about her responsibilities to-morrow evening. We decided to have some light things on the table, such as sandwiches, cold chicken and ham, and some sweets, and on the sideboard a nice piece of cold beef and a Paysandu tongue – for the more hungry ones to peg into if they liked.

Gowing called to know if he was to put on “swallow-tails” to-morrow. Carrie said he had better dress, especially as Mr. Franching was coming, and there was a possibility of Mr. Perkupp also putting in an appearance.

Gowing said: “Oh, I only wanted to know, for I have not worn my dress-coat for some time, and I must send it to have the creases pressed out.”

After Gowing left, Lupin came in, and in his anxiety to please Daisy Mutlar, carped at and criticised the arrangements, and, in fact, disapproved of everything, including our having asked our old friend Cummings, who, he said, would look in evening-dress like a green-grocer engaged to wait, and who must not be surprised if Daisy took him for one.

I fairly lost my temper, and said: “Lupin, allow me to tell you Miss Daisy Mutlar is not the Queen of England. I gave you credit for more wisdom than to allow yourself to be inveigled into an engagement with a woman considerably older than yourself. I advise you to think of earning your living before entangling yourself with a wife whom you will have to support, and, in all probability, her brother also, who appeared to be nothing but a loafer.”

Instead of receiving this advice in a sensible manner, Lupin jumped up and said: “If you insult the lady I am engaged to, you insult me. I will leave the house and never darken your doors again.”

He went out of the house, slamming the hall-door. But it was all right. He came back to supper, and we played Bezique till nearly twelve o’clock.

FOOTNOTE:
1. A stockbroker firm that advertises for business – a practice to which the more established and highly regarded firms would not stoop.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 7

15 Mar

My humble apologies to the legions of fans of our continuing serial, “The Diary of a Nobody.” It has been a week since I posted the previous chapter. This is because the business of being a literary giant has been extremely hectic this last little while. It’s not all slagging off Hemingway in fashionable cafes and accepting the accolades of an adoring public. Well, alright, that is actually mostly what I do, but there’s some other stuff too, and there’s been a lot of it. Sorry.

CHAPTER VII.

Home again. Mrs. James’ influence on Carrie. Can get nothing for Lupin. Next-door neighbours are a little troublesome. Some one tampers with my diary. Got a place for Lupin. Lupin startles us with an announcement.

August 22. - Home sweet Home again! Carrie bought some pretty blue-wool mats to stand vases on. Fripps, Janus and Co. write to say they are sorry they have no vacancy among their staff of clerks for Lupin.

August 23. - I bought a pair of stags’ heads made of plaster-of-Paris and coloured brown. They will look just the thing for our little hall, and give it style; the heads are excellent imitations. Poolers and Smith are sorry they have nothing to offer Lupin.

A stag's head

I hung up a stag’s head made of plaster-of-Paris.

August 24. - Simply to please Lupin, and make things cheerful for him, as he is a little down, Carrie invited Mrs. James to come up from Sutton and spend two or three days with us. We have not said a word to Lupin, but mean to keep it as a surprise.

August 25. - Mrs. James, of Sutton, arrived in the afternoon, bringing with her an enormous bunch of wild flowers. The more I see of Mrs James the nicer I think she is, and she is devoted to Carrie. She went into Carrie’s room to take off her bonnet, and remained there nearly an hour talking about dress. Lupin said he was not a bit surprised at Mrs. James’ VISIT, but was surprised at HER.

August 26, Sunday. - Nearly late for church, Mrs. James having talked considerably about what to wear all the morning. Lupin does not seem to get on very well with Mrs. James. I am afraid we shall have some trouble with our next-door neighbours who came in last Wednesday. Several of their friends, who drive up in dog-carts, have already made themselves objectionable.

An evening or two ago I had put on a white waistcoat for coolness, and while walking past with my thumbs in my waistcoat pockets (a habit I have), one man, seated in the cart, and looking like an American, commenced singing some vulgar nonsense about “I HAD THIRTEEN DOLLARS IN MY WAISTCOAT POCKET.” I fancied it was meant for me, and my suspicions were confirmed; for while walking round the garden in my tall hat this afternoon, a “throw-down” cracker was deliberately aimed at my hat, and exploded on it like a percussion cap. I turned sharply, and am positive I saw the man who was in the cart retreating from one of the bedroom windows.

August 27. - Carrie and Mrs. James went off shopping, and had not returned when I came back from the office. Judging from the subsequent conversation, I am afraid Mrs. James is filling Carrie’s head with a lot of nonsense about dress. I walked over to Gowing’s and asked him to drop in to supper, and make things pleasant.

Carrie prepared a little extemporised supper, consisting of the remainder of the cold joint, a small piece of salmon (which I was to refuse, in case there was not enough to go round), and a blanc-mange and custards. There was also a decanter of port and some jam puffs on the sideboard. Mrs. James made us play rather a good game of cards, called “Muggings.” [1] To my surprise, in fact disgust, Lupin got up in the middle, and, in a most sarcastic tone, said: “Pardon me, this sort of thing is too fast for me, I shall go and enjoy a quiet game of marbles in the back-garden.”

Things might have become rather disagreeable but for Gowing (who seems to have taken to Lupin) suggesting they should invent games. Lupin said: “Let’s play ‘monkeys.’” He then led Gowing all round the room, and brought him in front of the looking-glass. I must confess I laughed heartily at this. I was a little vexed at everybody subsequently laughing at some joke which they did not explain, and it was only on going to bed I discovered I must have been walking about all the evening with an antimacassar on one button of my coat-tails. [2]

August 28. - Found a large brick in the middle bed of geraniums, evidently come from next door. Pattles and Pattles can’t find a place for Lupin.

August 29. - Mrs. James is making a positive fool of Carrie. Carrie appeared in a new dress like a smock-frock. She said “smocking” was all the rage. I replied it put me in a rage. She also had on a hat as big as a kitchen coal-scuttle, and the same shape. Mrs. James went home, and both Lupin and I were somewhat pleased – the first time we have agreed on a single subject since his return. Merkins and Son write they have no vacancy for Lupin.

October 30. - I should very much like to know who has wilfully torn the last five or six weeks out of my diary. It is perfectly monstrous! Mine is a large scribbling diary, with plenty of space for the record of my everyday events, and in keeping up that record I take (with much pride) a great deal of pains.

I asked Carrie if she knew anything about it. She replied it was my own fault for leaving the diary about with a charwoman cleaning and the sweeps in the house. I said that was not an answer to my question. This retort of mine, which I thought extremely smart, would have been more effective had I not jogged my elbow against a vase on a table temporarily placed in the passage, knocked it over, and smashed it.

Carrie was dreadfully upset at this disaster, for it was one of a pair of vases which cannot be matched, given to us on our wedding-day by Mrs. Burtsett, an old friend of Carrie’s cousins, the Pommertons, late of Dalston. I called to Sarah, and asked her about the diary. She said she had not been in the sitting-room at all; after the sweep had left, Mrs. Birrell (the charwoman) had cleaned the room and lighted the fire herself. Finding a burnt piece of paper in the grate, I examined it, and found it was a piece of my diary. So it was evident some one had torn my diary to light the fire. I requested Mrs. Birrell to be sent to me to-morrow.

October 31. - Received a letter from our principal, Mr. Perkupp, saying that he thinks he knows of a place at last for our dear boy Lupin. This, in a measure, consoles me for the loss of a portion of my diary; for I am bound to confess the last few weeks have been devoted to the record of disappointing answers received from people to whom I have applied for appointments for Lupin. Mrs. Birrell called, and, in reply to me, said: “She never SEE no book, much less take such a liberty as TOUCH it.”

I said I was determined to find out who did it, whereupon she said she would do her best to help me; but she remembered the sweep lighting the fire with a bit of the ECHO. I requested the sweep to be sent to me to-morrow. I wish Carrie had not given Lupin a latch-key; we never seem to see anything of him. I sat up till past one for him, and then retired tired.

Mr. Perkupp

Mr. Perkupp.

November 1. - My entry yesterday about “retired tired,” which I did not notice at the time, is rather funny. If I were not so worried just now, I might have had a little joke about it. The sweep called, but had the audacity to come up to the hall-door and lean his dirty bag of soot on the door-step. He, however, was so polite, I could not rebuke him. He said Sarah lighted the fire. Unfortunately, Sarah heard this, for she was dusting the banisters, and she ran down, and flew into a temper with the sweep, causing a row on the front door-steps, which I would not have had happen for anything. I ordered her about her business, and told the sweep I was sorry to have troubled him; and so I was, for the door-steps were covered with soot in consequence of his visit. I would willingly give ten shillings to find out who tore my diary.

November 2. - I spent the evening quietly with Carrie, of whose company I never tire. We had a most pleasant chat about the letters on “Is Marriage a Failure?” It has been no failure in our case. In talking over our own happy experiences, we never noticed that it was past midnight. We were startled by hearing the door slam violently. Lupin had come in. He made no attempt to turn down the gas in the passage, or even to look into the room where we were, but went straight up to bed, making a terrible noise. I asked him to come down for a moment, and he begged to be excused, as he was “dead beat,” an observation that was scarcely consistent with the fact that, for a quarter of an hour afterwards, he was positively dancing in his room, and shouting out, “See me dance the polka!” or some such nonsense. [3]

November 3. - Good news at last. Mr. Perkupp has got an appointment for Lupin, and he is to go and see about it on Monday. Oh, how my mind is relieved! I went to Lupin’s room to take the good news to him, but he was in bed, very seedy, so I resolved to keep it over till the evening.

He said he had last night been elected a member of an Amateur Dramatic Club, called the “Holloway Comedians”; and, though it was a pleasant evening, he had sat in a draught, and got neuralgia in the head. He declined to have any breakfast, so I left him. In the evening I had up a special bottle of port, and, Lupin being in for a wonder, we filled our glasses, and I said: “Lupin my boy, I have some good and unexpected news for you. Mr. Perkupp has procured you an appointment!” Lupin said: “Good biz!” and we drained our glasses.

Lupin then said: “Fill up the glasses again, for I have some good and unexpected news for you.”

I had some slight misgivings, and so evidently had Carrie, for she said: “I hope we shall think it good news.”

Lupin said: “Oh, it’s all right! I’M ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED!”

Lupin engaged

Lupin said: “I’m engaged to be married.”

FOOTNOTES
1. Muggings was a children’s card game, rather like snap. When two players turned over matching cards, the first one to shout “Muggings” would take both piles of cards.
2. An antimacassar was a lace cover placed on the back of an armchair to protect it against hair oil. Although the threat posed by hair oil has receded since the Grossmiths’ day, you might still spot antimacassars in your Granny’s sitting room.
3. George Grossmith is having a joke at his own expense. See Me Dance the Polka was a hit song of his in 1886.

A Performance Bonus to Keir Murray of BBC Sport Scotland

10 Mar

It’s been a while since I handed out a performance bonus, but a well-deserved one is on its way to Keir Hardy at the BBC Sport Scotland website for an inspired post during the live commentary of the Scottish Premiership games this Saturday. It would have been so easy simply to state that the referee for the match between Kilmarnock and Hearts was Euan Norris, but so much less picturesque than …

“And the man at Rugby Park in tight shorts, clutching a whistle, able to run backwards and who can make grown men look like errant schoolboys, is grade one official Euan Norris.”

Most weeks I would be able to make the snide remark that this was a lot more entertaining than the huff and puff endeavours on the field of play, but the ensuing match actually tuned into an action-packed six goal thriller in which Killie came out on top 4-2.

This was not an isolated flash of brilliance. Mr. Murray played a stormer for the whole ninety minutes (or however long he was covering the afternoon’s action). When Hibs came back from two goals down to take a 3-2 lead against Motherwell, he painted the following vivid word picture of the Steelmens’ manager …

“Stuart McCall’s cheeks will be redder than his flowing locks after watching his side surrender their commanding lead.”

So much better than actually watching the game.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 6

8 Mar

The sixth installment introduces Mr. Pooter’s son, Lupin. I intend to check in about a year’s time to ascertain whether the runaway success of my blog, and this feature in particular, has resulted in a sudden surge in the popularity of Lupin as a boy’s name.

I also intend to persuade my friends to join me in a game of Cutlets at the next social occasion I attend and describe the resulting hilarity. Please be patient for this report, as I am not popular and don’t get asked to many social occasions. If the game results in any injuries, I will, of course, feel no sympathy for those who would have known what was going to happen if they had taken the time to read my blog.

CHAPTER VI.

The Unexpected Arrival Home of our Son, Willie Lupin Pooter.

August 4. - The first post brought a nice letter from our dear son Willie, acknowledging a trifling present which Carrie sent him, the day before yesterday being his twentieth birthday. To our utter amazement he turned up himself in the afternoon, having journeyed all the way from Oldham. He said he had got leave from the bank, and as Monday was a holiday he thought he would give us a little surprise.

August 5, Sunday. - We have not seen Willie since last Christmas, and are pleased to notice what a fine young man he has grown. One would scarcely believe he was Carrie’s son. He looks more like a younger brother. I rather disapprove of his wearing a check suit on a Sunday, and I think he ought to have gone to church this morning; but he said he was tired after yesterday’s journey, so I refrained from any remark on the subject. We had a bottle of port for dinner, and drank dear Willie’s health.

He said: “Oh, by-the-by, did I tell you I’ve cut my first name, ‘William,’ and taken the second name ‘Lupin’? In fact, I’m only known at Oldham as ‘Lupin Pooter.’ If you were to ‘Willie’ me there, they wouldn’t know what you meant.”

Of course, Lupin being a purely family name, Carrie was delighted, and began by giving a long history of the Lupins. I ventured to say that I thought William a nice simple name, and reminded him he was christened after his Uncle William, who was much respected in the City. Willie, in a manner which I did not much care for, said sneeringly: “Oh, I know all about that – Good old Bill!” and helped himself to a third glass of port.

Carrie objected strongly to my saying “Good old,” but she made no remark when Willie used the double adjective. I said nothing, but looked at her, which meant more. I said: “My dear Willie, I hope you are happy with your colleagues at the Bank.” He replied: “Lupin, if you please; and with respect to the Bank, there’s not a clerk who is a gentleman, and the ‘boss’ is a cad.” I felt so shocked, I could say nothing, and my instinct told me there was something wrong.

Lupin

Lupin.

August 6, Bank Holiday. - As there was no sign of Lupin moving at nine o’clock, I knocked at his door, and said we usually breakfasted at half-past eight, and asked how long would he be? Lupin replied that he had had a lively time of it, first with the train shaking the house all night, and then with the sun streaming in through the window in his eyes, and giving him a cracking headache. Carrie came up and asked if he would like some breakfast sent up, and he said he could do with a cup of tea, and didn’t want anything to eat.

Lupin not having come down, I went up again at half-past one, and said we dined at two; he said he “would be there.” He never came down till a quarter to three. I said: “We have not seen much of you, and you will have to return by the 5.30 train; therefore you will have to leave in an hour, unless you go by the midnight mail.” He said: “Look here, Guv’nor, it’s no use beating about the bush. I’ve tendered my resignation at the Bank.”

For a moment I could not speak. When my speech came again, I said: “How dare you, sir? How dare you take such a serious step without consulting me? Don’t answer me, sir! – you will sit down immediately, and write a note at my dictation, withdrawing your resignation and amply apologising for your thoughtlessness.”

Imagine my dismay when he replied with a loud guffaw: “It’s no use. If you want the good old truth, I’ve got the chuck!”

August 7. - Mr. Perkupp has given me leave to postpone my holiday a week, as we could not get the room. This will give us an opportunity of trying to find an appointment for Willie before we go. The ambition of my life would be to get him into Mr. Perkupp’s firm.

August 11. - Although it is a serious matter having our boy Lupin on our hands, still it is satisfactory to know he was asked to resign from the Bank simply because “he took no interest in his work, and always arrived an hour (sometimes two hours) late.” We can all start off on Monday to Broadstairs with a light heart. This will take my mind off the worry of the last few days, which have been wasted over a useless correspondence with the manager of the Bank at Oldham.

August 13. - Hurrah! at Broadstairs. Very nice apartments near the station. On the cliffs they would have been double the price. The landlady had a nice five o’clock dinner and tea ready, which we all enjoyed, though Lupin seemed fastidious because there happened to be a fly in the butter. It was very wet in the evening, for which I was thankful, as it was a good excuse for going to bed early. Lupin said he would sit up and read a bit.

August 14. - I was a little annoyed to find Lupin, instead of reading last night, had gone to a common sort of entertainment, given at the Assembly Rooms. I expressed my opinion that such performances were unworthy of respectable patronage; but he replied: “Oh, it was only ‘for one night only.’ I had a fit of the blues come on, and thought I would go to see Polly Presswell, England’s Particular Spark.” [1] I told him I was proud to say I had never heard of her. Carrie said: “Do let the boy alone. He’s quite old enough to take care of himself, and won’t forget he’s a gentleman. Remember, you were young once yourself.” Rained all day hard, but Lupin would go out.

August 15. - Cleared up a bit, so we all took the train to Margate, and the first person we met on the jetty was Gowing. I said: “Hulloh! I thought you had gone to Barmouth with your Birmingham friends?” He said: “Yes, but young Peter Lawrence was so ill, they postponed their visit, so I came down here. You know the Cummings’ are here too?” Carrie said: “Oh, that will be delightful! We must have some evenings together and have games.”

I introduced Lupin, saying: “You will be pleased to find we have our dear boy at home!” Gowing said: “How’s that? You don’t mean to say he’s left the Bank?”

I changed the subject quickly, and thereby avoided any of those awkward questions which Gowing always has a knack of asking.

August 16. - Lupin positively refused to walk down the Parade with me because I was wearing my new straw helmet with my frock-coat. I don’t know what the boy is coming to.Lupin positively refused

“Lupin positively refused to walk down the Parade with me because I was wearing my new straw helmet with my frock-coat.”

August 17. - Lupin not falling in with our views, Carrie and I went for a sail. It was a relief to be with her alone; for when Lupin irritates me, she always sides with him. On our return, he said: “Oh, you’ve been on the ‘Shilling Emetic,’ have you? You’ll come to six-pennorth on the ‘Liver Jerker’ next.” I presume he meant a tricycle, but I affected not to understand him.

August 18. - Gowing and Cummings walked over to arrange an evening at Margate. It being wet, Gowing asked Cummings to accompany him to the hotel and have a game of billiards, knowing I never play, and in fact disapprove of the game. Cummings said he must hasten back to Margate; whereupon Lupin, to my horror, said: “I’ll give you a game, Gowing – a hundred up. A walk round I the cloth will give me an appetite for dinner.” I said: “Perhaps Mister Gowing does not care to play with boys.” Gowing surprised me by saying: “Oh yes, I do, if they play well,” and they walked off together.

August 19, Sunday. - I was about to read Lupin a sermon on smoking (which he indulges in violently) and billiards, but he put on his hat and walked out. Carrie then read ME a long sermon on the palpable inadvisability of treating Lupin as if he were a mere child. I felt she was somewhat right, so in the evening I offered him a cigar. He seemed pleased, but, after a few whiffs, said: “This is a good old tup’ny – try one of mine,” and he handed me a cigar as long as it was strong, which is saying a good deal.

August 20. - I am glad our last day at the seaside was fine, though clouded overhead. We went over to Cummings’ (at Margate) in the evening, and as it was cold, we stayed in and played games; Gowing, as usual, overstepping the mark. He suggested we should play “Cutlets,” a game we never heard of. He sat on a chair, and asked Carrie to sit on his lap, an invitation which dear Carrie rightly declined.

After some species of wrangling, I sat on Gowing’s knees and Carrie sat on the edge of mine. Lupin sat on the edge of Carrie’s lap, then Cummings on Lupin’s, and Mrs. Cummings on her husband’s. We looked very ridiculous, and laughed a good deal.

Gowing then said: “Are you a believer in the Great Mogul?” We had to answer all together: “Yes – oh, yes!” (three times). Gowing said: “So am I,” and suddenly got up. The result of this stupid joke was that we all fell on the ground, and poor Carrie banged her head against the corner of the fender. Mrs. Cummings put some vinegar on; but through this we missed the last train, and had to drive back to Broadstairs, which cost me seven-and-sixpence. [2]

Game of Cutlets

We play the game of Cutlets. “When we had all sat on each other’s laps, Gowing said Are you a believer in the Great Mogul.”

Gowing said So am I

“Gowing said So am I, and suddenly got up.”

FOOTNOTES

1. A play on the nickname of a popular music hall entertainer at the time, Jenny Hill, who was known as “The Vital Spark.” I have not been able to find out if she was the inspiration for the fictional Clyde puffer of that name, but it gives me an excuse for a Youtube clip (see below).
2. Looks like poor old Mr. Pooter is being cheated again. That would have been an exorbitant amount for this journey.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 5

4 Mar

The story continues. If you are reading this in your email, because you showed the good taste to follow this blog, you might want to click through to the web version in order to enjoy the illustrations, which might not show up in the email version.

CHAPTER V.

After the Mansion House Ball. Carrie offended. Gowing also offended. A pleasant party at the Cummings’. Mr. Franching, of Peckham, visits us.

May 8. - I woke up with a most terrible head-ache. I could scarcely see, and the back of my neck was as if I had given it a crick. I thought first of sending for a doctor; but I did not think it necessary. When up, I felt faint, and went to Brownish’s, the chemist, who gave me a draught. So bad at the office, had to get leave to come home. Went to another chemist in the City, and I got a draught. Brownish’s dose seems to have made me worse; have eaten nothing all day. To make matters worse, Carrie, every time I spoke to her, answered me sharply – that is, when she answered at all.

In the evening I felt very much worse again and said to her: “I do believe I’ve been poisoned by the lobster mayonnaise at the Mansion House last night;” she simply replied, without taking her eyes from her sewing: “Champagne never did agree with you.” I felt irritated, and said: “What nonsense you talk; I only had a glass and a half, and you know as well as I do – ” Before I could complete the sentence she bounced out of the room. I sat over an hour waiting for her to return; but as she did not, I determined I would go to bed. I discovered Carrie had gone to bed without even saying “good-night”; leaving me to bar the scullery door and feed the cat. I shall certainly speak to her about this in the morning.

May 9. - Still a little shaky, with black specks. The BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS contains a long list of the guests at the Mansion House Ball. Disappointed to find our names omitted, though Farmerson’s is in plainly enough with M.L.L. after it, whatever that may mean. More than vexed, because we had ordered a dozen copies to send to our friends. Wrote to the BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS, pointing out their omission.

Carrie had commenced her breakfast when I entered the parlour. I helped myself to a cup of tea, and I said, perfectly calmly and quietly: “Carrie, I wish a little explanation of your conduct last night.”

She replied, “Indeed! and I desire something more than a little explanation of your conduct the night before.”

I said, coolly: “Really, I don’t understand you.”

Carrie said sneeringly: “Probably not; you were scarcely in a condition to understand anything.”

I was astounded at this insinuation and simply ejaculated: “Caroline!”

She said: “Don’t be theatrical, it has no effect on me. Reserve that tone for your new friend, Mister Farmerson, the ironmonger.”

I was about to speak, when Carrie, in a temper such as I have never seen her in before, told me to hold my tongue. She said: “Now I’M going to say something! After professing to snub Mr. Farmerson, you permit him to snub YOU, in my presence, and then accept his invitation to take a glass of champagne with you, and you don’t limit yourself to one glass. You then offer this vulgar man, who made a bungle of repairing our scraper, a seat in our cab on the way home. I say nothing about his tearing my dress in getting in the cab, nor of treading on Mrs. James’s expensive fan, which you knocked out of my hand, and for which he never even apologised; but you smoked all the way home without having the decency to ask my permission. That is not all! At the end of the journey, although he did not offer you a farthing towards his share of the cab, you asked him in. Fortunately, he was sober enough to detect, from my manner, that his company was not desirable.”

Farmerson smokes

Mr. Farmerson smokes all the way home in the cab.

Goodness knows I felt humiliated enough at this; but, to make matters worse, Gowing entered the room, without knocking, with two hats on his head and holding the garden-rake in his hand, with Carrie’s fur tippet (which he had taken off the downstairs hall-peg) round his neck, and announced himself in a loud, coarse voice: “His Royal Highness, the Lord Mayor!” He marched twice round the room like a buffoon, and finding we took no notice, said: “Hulloh! what’s up? Lovers’ quarrel, eh?”

There was a silence for a moment, so I said quietly: “My dear Gowing, I’m not very well, and not quite in the humour for joking; especially when you enter the room without knocking, an act which I fail to see the fun of.”

Gowing said: “I’m very sorry, but I called for my stick, which I thought you would have sent round.” I handed him his stick, which I remembered I had painted black with the enamel paint, thinking to improve it. He looked at it for a minute with a dazed expression and said: “Who did this?”

I said: “Eh, did what?”

He said: “Did what? Why, destroyed my stick! It belonged to my poor uncle, and I value it more than anything I have in the world! I’ll know who did it.”

I said: “I’m very sorry. I dare say it will come off. I did it for the best.”

Gowing said: “Then all I can say is, it’s a confounded liberty; and I WOULD add, you’re a bigger fool than you look, only THAT’S absolutely impossible.”

May 12. - Got a single copy of the BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS. There was a short list of several names they had omitted; but the stupid people had mentioned our names as “Mr. and Mrs. C. Porter.” Most annoying! Wrote again and I took particular care to write our name in capital letters, POOTER, so that there should be no possible mistake this time.

May 16. - Absolutely disgusted on opening the BLACKFRIARS BI-WEEKLY NEWS of to-day, to find the following paragraph: “We have received two letters from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pewter, requesting us to announce the important fact that they were at the Mansion House Ball.” I tore up the paper and threw it in the waste-paper basket. My time is far too valuable to bother about such trifles.

May 21. - The last week or ten days terribly dull, Carrie being away at Mrs. James’s, at Sutton. Cummings also away. Gowing, I presume, is still offended with me for black enamelling his stick without asking him.

May 22. - Purchased a new stick mounted with silver, which cost seven-and-sixpence (shall tell Carrie five shillings), and sent it round with nice note to Gowing.

May 23. - Received strange note from Gowing; he said: “Offended? not a bit, my boy – I thought you were offended with me for losing my temper. Besides, I found after all, it was not my poor old uncle’s stick you painted. It was only a shilling thing I bought at a tobacconist’s. However, I am much obliged to you for your handsome present all same.”

May 24. - Carrie back. Hoorah! She looks wonderfully well, except that the sun has caught her nose.

May 25. - Carrie brought down some of my shirts and advised me to take them to Trillip’s round the corner. She said: “The fronts and cuffs are much frayed.” I said without a moment’s hesitation: “I’m ‘FRAYED they are.” Lor! how we roared. I thought we should never stop laughing. As I happened to be sitting next the driver going to town on the ‘bus, I told him my joke about the “frayed” shirts. I thought he would have rolled off his seat. They laughed at the office a good bit too over it.

May 26. - Left the shirts to be repaired at Trillip’s. I said to him: “I’m ‘FRAID they are FRAYED.” He said, without a smile: “They’re bound to do that, sir.” Some people seem to be quite destitute of a sense of humour.

June 1. - The last week has been like old times, Carrie being back, and Gowing and Cummings calling every evening nearly. Twice we sat out in the garden quite late. This evening we were like a pack of children, and played “consequences.” It is a good game.

June 2. - “Consequences” again this evening. Not quite so successful as last night; Gowing having several times overstepped the limits of good taste.

June 4. - In the evening Carrie and I went round to Mr. and Mrs. Cummings’ to spend a quiet evening with them. Gowing was there, also Mr. Stillbrook. It was quiet but pleasant. Mrs. Cummings sang five or six songs, “No, Sir,” and “The Garden of Sleep,” being best in my humble judgment; but what pleased me most was the duet she sang with Carrie – classical duet, too. I think it is called, “I would that my love!” It was beautiful. If Carrie had been in better voice, I don’t think professionals could have sung it better. After supper we made them sing it again. I never liked Mr. Stillbrook since the walk that Sunday to the “Cow and Hedge,” but I must say he sings comic-songs well. His song: “We don’t Want the old men now,” made us shriek with laughter, especially the verse referring to Mr. Gladstone; but there was one verse I think he might have omitted, and I said so, but Gowing thought it was the best of the lot.

June 6. - Trillip brought round the shirts and, to my disgust, his charge for repairing was more than I gave for them when new. I told him so, and he impertinently replied: “Well, they are better now than when they were new.” I paid him, and said it was a robbery. He said: “If you wanted your shirt-fronts made out of pauper-linen, such as is used for packing and bookbinding, why didn’t you say so?”

June 7. - A dreadful annoyance. Met Mr. Franching, who lives at Peckham, and who is a great swell in his way. I ventured to ask him to come home to meat-tea, and take pot-luck. I did not think he would accept such a humble invitation; but he did, saying, in a most friendly way, he would rather “peck” with us than by himself. I said: “We had better get into this blue ‘bus.” [1] He replied: “No blue-bussing for me. I have had enough of the blues lately. I lost a cool ‘thou’ over the Copper Scare. Step in here.”

Mr. Franching

Mr. Franching, of Peckham.

We drove up home in style, in a hansom-cab, and I knocked three times at the front door without getting an answer. I saw Carrie, through the panels of ground-glass (with stars), rushing upstairs. I told Mr. Franching to wait at the door while I went round to the side. There I saw the grocer’s boy actually picking off the paint on the door, which had formed into blisters. No time to reprove him; so went round and effected an entrance through the kitchen window. I let in Mr. Franching, and showed him into the drawing-room. I went upstairs to Carrie, who was changing her dress, and told her I had persuaded Mr. Franching to come home. She replied: “How can you do such a thing? You know it’s Sarah’s holiday, and there’s not a thing in the house, the cold mutton having turned with the hot weather.”

Eventually Carrie, like a good creature as she is, slipped down, washed up the teacups, and laid the cloth, and I gave Franching our views of Japan to look at while I ran round to the butcher’s to get three chops.

The grocer boy

“The grocer boy was actually picking off the paint on the side door, which had formed into blisters.”

July 30. - The miserable cold weather is either upsetting me or Carrie, or both. We seem to break out into an argument about absolutely nothing, and this unpleasant state of things usually occurs at meal-times.

This morning, for some unaccountable reason, we were talking about balloons, and we were as merry as possible; but the conversation drifted into family matters, during which Carrie, without the slightest reason, referred in the most uncomplimentary manner to my poor father’s pecuniary trouble. I retorted by saying that “Pa, at all events, was a gentleman,” whereupon Carrie burst out crying. I positively could not eat any breakfast.

At the office I was sent for by Mr. Perkupp, who said he was very sorry, but I should have to take my annual holidays from next Saturday. Franching called at office and asked me to dine at his club, “The Constitutional.” Fearing disagreeables at home after the “tiff” this morning, I sent a telegram to Carrie, telling her I was going out to dine and she was not to sit up. Bought a little silver bangle for Carrie.

July 31. - Carrie was very pleased with the bangle, which I left with an affectionate note on her dressing-table last night before going to bed. I told Carrie we should have to start for our holiday next Saturday. She replied quite happily that she did not mind, except that the weather was so bad, and she feared that Miss Jibbons would not be able to get her a seaside dress in time. I told Carrie that I thought the drab one with pink bows looked quite good enough; [2] and Carrie said she should not think of wearing it. I was about to discuss the matter, when, remembering the argument yesterday, resolved to hold my tongue.

I said to Carrie: “I don’t think we can do better than ‘Good old Broadstairs.’” Carrie not only, to my astonishment, raised an objection to Broadstairs, for the first time; but begged me not to use the expression, “Good old,” but to leave it to Mr. Stillbrook and other GENTLEMEN of his type. Hearing my ‘bus pass the window, I was obliged to rush out of the house without kissing Carrie as usual; and I shouted to her: “I leave it to you to decide.” On returning in the evening, Carrie said she thought as the time was so short she had decided on Broadstairs, and had written to Mrs. Beck, Harbour View Terrace, for apartments.

August 1. - Ordered a new pair of trousers at Edwards’s, and told them not to cut them so loose over the boot; the last pair being so loose and also tight at the knee, looked like a sailor’s, and I heard Pitt, that objectionable youth at the office, call out “Hornpipe” as I passed his desk. Carrie has ordered of Miss Jibbons a pink Garibaldi [3] and blue-serge skirt, which I always think looks so pretty at the seaside. In the evening she trimmed herself a little sailor-hat, while I read to her the EXCHANGE AND MART. We had a good laugh over my trying on the hat when she had finished it; Carrie saying it looked so funny with my beard, and how the people would have roared if I went on the stage like it.

Hornpipe

“Young Pitt called out Hornpipe as I passed his desk.”

August 2. - Mrs. Beck wrote to say we could have our usual rooms at Broadstairs. That’s off our mind. Bought a coloured shirt and a pair of tan-coloured boots, which I see many of the swell clerks wearing in the City, and hear are all the “go.”

August 3. - A beautiful day. Looking forward to to-morrow. Carrie bought a parasol about five feet long. I told her it was ridiculous. She said: “Mrs. James, of Sutton, has one twice as long so;” the matter dropped. I bought a capital hat for hot weather at the seaside. I don’t know what it is called, but it is the shape of the helmet worn in India, only made of straw. Got three new ties, two coloured handkerchiefs, and a pair of navy-blue socks at Pope Brothers. Spent the evening packing. Carrie told me not to forget to borrow Mr. Higgsworth’s telescope, which he always lends me, knowing I know how to take care of it. Sent Sarah out for it. While everything was seeming so bright, the last post brought us a letter from Mrs. Beck, saying: “I have just let all my house to one party, and am sorry I must take back my words, and am sorry you must find other apartments; but Mrs. Womming, next door, will be pleased to accommodate you, but she cannot take you before Monday, as her rooms are engaged Bank Holiday week.”

FOOTNOTES

1. In Mr. Pooter’s day, the horse-drawn buses were not numbered like their modern mechanical descendants. Their route was designated by their colour. The blue bus went to Holloway. Hansom cabs would have been a much more expensive way to make the same journey.

2. Drab refers to a brown woollen cloth material. It would not necessarily have been “drab” in the modern sense, though presumably a bit warm for a summer holiday.

3. A red blouse, named for the red shirts worn by Garibaldi’s Italian revolutionaries.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 4

1 Mar

With apologies for being a day late, here is the fourth installment of this comedy classic. In this episode, Mr. Pooter perhaps overestimates the honour of receiving an invitation to a ball at the Mansion House, the residence of the Lord Mayor. Events of this kind were frequently held there and people from various walks of life would receive invitations.

Although Mr. Pooter and T. John Dick are very different in many respects, they do seem to share some similarities, the most striking being, of course, the disconnect between the way they see themselves and how they are viewed by others. Another more concrete similarity, which pops up at the end of this chapter, would appear to be a shared belief in what TJ calls the effectiveness of his non-verbal communication skills, and in particular the ability of one of his “looks” to convey his displeasure.

CHAPTER IV.

 

The ball at the Mansion House.

April 30. - Perfectly astounded at receiving an invitation for Carrie and myself from the Lord and Lady Mayoress to the Mansion House, to “meet the Representatives of Trades and Commerce.” My heart beat like that of a schoolboy’s. Carrie and I read the invitation over two or three times. I could scarcely eat my breakfast. I said – and I felt it from the bottom of my heart, -”Carrie darling, I was a proud man when I led you down the aisle of the church on our wedding-day; that pride will be equalled, if not surpassed, when I lead my dear, pretty wife up to the Lord and Lady Mayoress at the Mansion House.” I saw the tears in Carrie’s eyes, and she said: “Charlie dear, it is I who have to be proud of you. And I am very, very proud of you. You have called me pretty; and as long as I am pretty in your eyes, I am happy. You, dear old Charlie, are not handsome, but you are GOOD, which is far more noble.” I gave her a kiss, and she said: “I wonder if there will be any dancing? I have not danced with you for years.”

I cannot tell what induced me to do it, but I seized her round the waist, and we were silly enough to be executing a wild kind of polka when Sarah entered, grinning, and said: “There is a man, mum, at the door who wants to know if you want any good coals.” Most annoyed at this. Spent the evening in answering, and tearing up again, the reply to the Mansion House, having left word with Sarah if Gowing or Cummings called we were not at home. Must consult Mr. Perkupp how to answer the Lord Mayor’s invitation.

Polka

“I seized her round the waist, and we were silly enough to be executing a wild kind of polka when Sarah entered.”

May 1. - Carrie said: “I should like to send mother the invitation to look at.” I consented, as soon as I had answered it. I told Mr. Perkupp, at the office, with a feeling of pride, that we had received an invitation to the Mansion House; and he said, to my astonishment, that he himself gave in my name to the Lord Mayor’s secretary. I felt this rather discounted the value of the invitation, but I thanked him; and in reply to me, he described how I was to answer it. I felt the reply was too simple; but of course Mr. Perkupp knows best.

May 2. - Sent my dress-coat and trousers to the little tailor’s round the corner, to have the creases taken out. Told Gowing not to call next Monday, as we were going to the Mansion House. Sent similar note to Cummings.

May 3. - Carrie went to Mrs. James, at Sutton, to consult about her dress for next Monday. While speaking incidentally to Spotch, one of our head clerks, about the Mansion House, he said: “Oh, I’m asked, but don’t think I shall go.” When a vulgar man like Spotch is asked, I feel my invitation is considerably discounted. In the evening, while I was out, the little tailor brought round my coat and trousers, and because Sarah had not a shilling to pay for the pressing, he took them away again.

May 4. - Carrie’s mother returned the Lord Mayor’s invitation, which was sent to her to look at, with apologies for having upset a glass of port over it. I was too angry to say anything.

May 5. - Bought a pair of lavender kid-gloves for next Monday, and two white ties, in case one got spoiled in the tying.

May 6, Sunday. - A very dull sermon, during which, I regret to say, I twice thought of the Mansion House reception to-morrow.

May 7. - A big red-letter day; viz., the Lord Mayor’s reception. The whole house upset. I had to get dressed at half-past six, as Carrie wanted the room to herself. Mrs. James had come up from Sutton to help Carrie; so I could not help thinking it unreasonable that she should require the entire attention of Sarah, the servant, as well. Sarah kept running out of the house to fetch “something for missis,” and several times I had, in my full evening-dress, to answer the back-door.

The last time it was the greengrocer’s boy, who, not seeing it was me, for Sarah had not lighted the gas, pushed into my hands two cabbages and half-a-dozen coal-blocks. I indignantly threw them on the ground, and felt so annoyed that I so far forgot myself as to box the boy’s ears. He went away crying, and said he should summons me, a thing I would not have happen for the world. In the dark, I stepped on a piece of the cabbage, which brought me down on the flags all of a heap. For a moment I was stunned, but when I recovered I crawled upstairs into the drawing-room and on looking into the chimney-glass discovered that my chin was bleeding, my shirt smeared with the coal-blocks, and my left trouser torn at the knee.

The greengrocer's boy

“The greengrocer’s boy … who pushed into my hands two cabbages and half-a-dozen coal-blocks.”

However, Mrs. James brought me down another shirt, which I changed in the drawing-room. I put a piece of court-plaster on my chin, and Sarah very neatly sewed up the tear at the knee. At nine o’clock Carrie swept into the room, looking like a queen. Never have I seen her look so lovely, or so distinguished. She was wearing a satin dress of sky-blue – my favourite colour – and a piece of lace, which Mrs. James lent her, round the shoulders, to give a finish. I thought perhaps the dress was a little too long behind, and decidedly too short in front, but Mrs. James said it was E LA MODE. Mrs. James was most kind, and lent Carrie a fan of ivory with red feathers, the value of which, she said, was priceless, as the feathers belonged to the Kachu eagle – a bird now extinct. I preferred the little white fan which Carrie bought for three-and-six at Shoolbred’s, but both ladies sat on me at once.

We arrived at the Mansion House too early, which was rather fortunate, for I had an opportunity of speaking to his lordship, who graciously condescended to talk with me some minutes; but I must say I was disappointed to find he did not even know Mr. Perkupp, our principal.

I felt as if we had been invited to the Mansion House by one who did not know the Lord Mayor himself. Crowds arrived, and I shall never forget the grand sight. My humble pen can never describe it. I was a little annoyed with Carrie, who kept saying: “Isn’t it a pity we don’t know anybody?”

Once she quite lost her head. I saw someone who looked like Franching, from Peckham, and was moving towards him when she seized me by the coat-tails, and said quite loudly: “Don’t leave me,” which caused an elderly gentleman, in a court-suit, and a chain round him, and two ladies, to burst out laughing. There was an immense crowd in the supper-room, and, my stars! it was a splendid supper – any amount of champagne.

Carrie made a most hearty supper, for which I was pleased; for I sometimes think she is not strong. There was scarcely a dish she did not taste. I was so thirsty, I could not eat much. Receiving a sharp slap on the shoulder, I turned, and, to my amazement, saw Farmerson, our ironmonger. He said, in the most familiar way: “This is better than Brickfield Terrace, eh?” I simply looked at him, and said coolly: “I never expected to see you here.” He said, with a loud, coarse laugh: “I like that – if YOU, why not ME?” I replied: “Certainly,” I wish I could have thought of something better to say. He said: “Can I get your good lady anything?” Carrie said: “No, I thank you,” for which I was pleased. I said, by way of reproof to him: “You never sent to-day to paint the bath, as I requested.” Farmerson said: “Pardon me, Mr. Pooter, no shop when we’re in company, please.”

Before I could think of a reply, one of the sheriffs, in full Court costume, slapped Farmerson on the back and hailed him as an old friend, and asked him to dine with him at his lodge. I was astonished. For full five minutes they stood roaring with laughter, and stood digging each other in the ribs. They kept telling each other they didn’t look a day older. They began embracing each other and drinking champagne.

To think that a man who mends our scraper should know any member of our aristocracy! [1] I was just moving with Carrie, when Farmerson seized me rather roughly by the collar, and addressing the sheriff, said: “Let me introduce my neighbour, Pooter.” He did not even say “Mister.” The sheriff handed me a glass of champagne. I felt, after all, it was a great honour to drink a glass of wine with him, and I told him so. We stood chatting for some time, and at last I said: “You must excuse me now if I join Mrs. Pooter.” When I approached her, she said: “Don’t let me take you away from friends. I am quite happy standing here alone in a crowd, knowing nobody!”

As it takes two to make a quarrel, and as it was neither the time nor the place for it, I gave my arm to Carrie, and said: “I hope my darling little wife will dance with me, if only for the sake of saying we had danced at the Mansion House as guests of the Lord Mayor.” Finding the dancing after supper was less formal, and knowing how much Carrie used to admire my dancing in the days gone by, I put my arm round her waist and we commenced a waltz.

A most unfortunate accident occurred. I had got on a new pair of boots. Foolishly, I had omitted to take Carrie’s advice; namely, to scratch the soles of them with the points of the scissors or to put a little wet on them. I had scarcely started when, like lightning, my left foot slipped away and I came down, the side of my head striking the floor with such violence that for a second or two I did not know what had happened. I needly hardly say that Carrie fell with me with equal violence, breaking the comb in her hair and grazing her elbow.

There was a roar of laughter, which was immediately checked when people found that we had really hurt ourselves. A gentleman assisted Carrie to a seat, and I expressed myself pretty strongly on the danger of having a plain polished floor with no carpet or drugget to prevent people slipping. The gentleman, who said his name was Darwitts, insisted on escorting Carrie to have a glass of wine, an invitation which I was pleased to allow Carrie to accept.

I followed, and met Farmerson, who immediately said, in his loud voice “Oh, are you the one who went down?”

I answered with an indignant look.

With execrable taste, he said: “Look here, old man, we are too old for this game. We must leave these capers to the youngsters. Come and have another glass, that is more in our line.”

Although I felt I was buying his silence by accepting, we followed the others into the supper-room.

Neither Carrie nor I, after our unfortunate mishap, felt inclined to stay longer. As we were departing, Farmerson said: “Are you going? if so, you might give me a lift.”

I thought it better to consent, but wish I had first consulted Carrie.

FOOTNOTE

1.The sheriffs may have sported impressive attire, but they were not “aristocrats.” They were elected annually by the city companies. Farmerson, being an ironmonger, was presumably a member of the Ironmongers’ Company, so it was not unusual that he would know the sheriff elected by that company.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 3

24 Feb

It’s time for the third thrilling episode of our continuing drama, The Diary of a Nobody. Once again, I’ve included a few footnotes to explain some references that might be unfamiliar to the modern reader. I am able to do this, because I myself am not a modern reader.

CHAPTER III.

A conversation with Mr. Merton on Society. Mr. and Mrs. James, of Sutton, come up. A miserable evening at the Tank Theatre. Experiments with enamel paint. I make another good joke; but Gowing and Cummings are unnecessarily offended. I paint the bath red, with unexpected result.

April 19. - Cummings called, bringing with him his friend Merton, who is in the wine trade. Gowing also called. Mr. Merton made himself at home at once, and Carrie and I were both struck with him immediately, and thoroughly approved of his sentiments.

He leaned back in his chair and said: “You must take me as I am;” and I replied: “Yes – and you must take us as we are. We’re homely people, we are not swells.”

He answered: “No, I can see that,” and Gowing roared with laughter; but Merton in a most gentlemanly manner said to Gowing: “I don’t think you quite understand me. I intended to convey that our charming host and hostess were superior to the follies of fashion, and preferred leading a simple and wholesome life to gadding about to twopenny-halfpenny tea-drinking afternoons, and living above their incomes.”

I was immensely pleased with these sensible remarks of Merton’s, and concluded that subject by saying: “No, candidly, Mr. Merton, we don’t go into Society, because we do not care for it; and what with the expense of cabs here and cabs there, and white gloves and white ties, etc., it doesn’t seem worth the money.”

Merton said in reference to FRIENDS: “My motto is ‘Few and True;’ and, by the way, I also apply that to wine, ‘Little and Good.’” Gowing said: “Yes, and sometimes ‘cheap and tasty,’ eh, old man?” Merton, still continuing, said he should treat me as a friend, and put me down for a dozen of his “Lockanbar” whisky, and as I was an old friend of Gowing, I should have it for 36s., which was considerably under what he paid for it. [1]

He booked his own order, and further said that at any time I wanted any passes for the theatre I was to let him know, as his name stood good for any theatre in London.

April 20. - Carrie reminded me that as her old school friend, Annie Fullers (now Mrs. James), and her husband had come up from Sutton for a few days, it would look kind to take them to the theatre, and would I drop a line to Mr. Merton asking him for passes for four, either for the Italian Opera, Haymarket, Savoy, or Lyceum. I wrote Merton to that effect.

April 21. - Got a reply from Merton, saying he was very busy, and just at present couldn’t manage passes for the Italian Opera, Haymarket, Savoy, or Lyceum, but the best thing going on in London was the BROWN BUSHES, at the Tank Theatre, Islington, and enclosed seats for four; also bill for whisky.

April 23. - Mr. and Mrs. James (Miss Fullers that was) came to meat tea, and we left directly after for the Tank Theatre. We got a ‘bus that took us to King’s Cross, and then changed into one that took us to the “Angel.” Mr. James each time insisted on paying for all, saying that I had paid for the tickets and that was quite enough.

We arrived at theatre, where, curiously enough, all our ‘bus-load except an old woman with a basket seemed to be going in. I walked ahead and presented the tickets. The man looked at them, and called out: “Mr. Willowly! do you know anything about these?” holding up my tickets. The gentleman called to, came up and examined my tickets, and said: “Who gave you these?” I said, rather indignantly: “Mr. Merton, of course.” He said: “Merton? Who’s he?” I answered, rather sharply: “You ought to know, his name’s good at any theatre in London.” He replied: “Oh! is it? Well, it ain’t no good here. These tickets, which are not dated, were issued under Mr. Swinstead’s management, which has since changed hands.” While I was having some very unpleasant words with the man, James, who had gone upstairs with the ladies, called out: “Come on!” I went up after them, and a very civil attendant said: “This way, please, box H.” I said to James: “Why, how on earth did you manage it?” and to my horror he replied: “Why, paid for it of course.”

This was humiliating enough, and I could scarcely follow the play, but I was doomed to still further humiliation. I was leaning out of the box, when my tie – a little black bow which fastened on to the stud by means of a new patent – fell into the pit below. A clumsy man not noticing it, had his foot on it for ever so long before he discovered it. He then picked it up and eventually flung it under the next seat in disgust. What with the box incident and the tie, I felt quite miserable. Mr. James, of Sutton, was very good. He said: “Don’t worry – no one will notice it with your beard. That is the only advantage of growing one that I can see.” There was no occasion for that remark, for Carrie is very proud of my beard.

To hide the absence of the tie I had to keep my chin down the rest of the evening, which caused a pain at the back of my neck.

April 24. - Could scarcely sleep a wink through thinking of having brought up Mr. and Mrs. James from the country to go to the theatre last night, and his having paid for a private box because our order was not honoured, and such a poor play too. I wrote a very satirical letter to Merton, the wine merchant, who gave us the pass, and said, “Considering we had to pay for our seats, we did our best to appreciate the performance.” I thought this line rather cutting, and I asked Carrie how many p’s there were in appreciate, and she said, “One.” After I sent off the letter I looked at the dictionary and found there were two. Awfully vexed at this.

Decided not to worry myself any more about the James’s; for, as Carrie wisely said, “We’ll make it all right with them by asking them up from Sutton one evening next week to play at Bezique.”

April 25. - In consequence of Brickwell telling me his wife was working wonders with the new Pinkford’s enamel paint, I determined to try it. I bought two tins of red on my way home. I hastened through tea, went into the garden and painted some flower-pots. I called out Carrie, who said: “You’ve always got some newfangled craze;” but she was obliged to admit that the flower-pots looked remarkably well. Went upstairs into the servant’s bedroom and painted her washstand, towel-horse, and chest of drawers. To my mind it was an extraordinary improvement, but as an example of the ignorance of the lower classes in the matter of taste, our servant, Sarah, on seeing them, evinced no sign of pleasure, but merely said “she thought they looked very well as they was before.” [2]

Washstand

I painted the washstand in the servant’s bedroom

April 26. - Got some more red enamel paint (red, to my mind, being the best colour), and painted the coal-scuttle, and the backs of our SHAKSPEARE, the binding of which had almost worn out.

April 27. - Painted the bath red, and was delighted with the result. Sorry to say Carrie was not, in fact we had a few words about it. She said I ought to have consulted her, and she had never heard of such a thing as a bath being painted red. I replied: “It’s merely a matter of taste.”

Fortunately, further argument on the subject was stopped by a voice saying, “May I come in?” It was only Cummings, who said, “Your maid opened the door, and asked me to excuse her showing me in, as she was wringing out some socks.” I was delighted to see him, and suggested we should have a game of whist with a dummy, and by way of merriment said: “You can be the dummy.” Cummings (I thought rather ill-naturedly) replied: “Funny as usual.” He said he couldn’t stop, he only called to leave me the BICYCLE NEWS, as he had done with it.

Another ring at the bell; it was Gowing, who said he “must apologise for coming so often, and that one of these days we must come round to HIM.” I said: “A very extraordinary thing has struck me.” “Something funny, as usual,” said Cummings. “Yes,” I replied; “I think even you will say so this time. It’s concerning you both; for doesn’t it seem odd that Gowing’s always coming and Cummings’ always going?” Carrie, who had evidently quite forgotten about the bath, went into fits of laughter, and as for myself, I fairly doubled up in my chair, till it cracked beneath me. I think this was one of the best jokes I have ever made.

Then imagine my astonishment on perceiving both Cummings and Gowing perfectly silent, and without a smile on their faces. After rather an unpleasant pause, Cummings, who had opened a cigar-case, closed it up again and said: “Yes – I think, after that, I SHALL be going, and I am sorry I fail to see the fun of your jokes.” Gowing said he didn’t mind a joke when it wasn’t rude, but a pun on a name, to his thinking, was certainly a little wanting in good taste. Cummings followed it up by saying, if it had been said by anyone else but myself, he shouldn’t have entered the house again. This rather unpleasantly terminated what might have been a cheerful evening. However, it was as well they went, for the charwoman had finished up the remains of the cold pork.

April 28. - At the office, the new and very young clerk Pitt, who was very impudent to me a week or so ago, was late again. I told him it would be my duty to inform Mr. Perkupp, the principal. To my surprise, Pitt apologised most humbly and in a most gentlemanly fashion. I was unfeignedly pleased to notice this improvement in his manner towards me, and told him I would look over his unpunctuality. Passing down the room an hour later. I received a smart smack in the face from a rolled-up ball of hard foolscap. I turned round sharply, but all the clerks were apparently riveted to their work. I am not a rich man, but I would give half-a-sovereign to know whether that was thrown by accident or design. Went home early and bought some more enamel paint – black this time – and spent the evening touching up the fender, picture-frames, and an old pair of boots, making them look as good as new. Also painted Gowing’s walking-stick, which he left behind, and made it look like ebony.

April 29, Sunday. - Woke up with a fearful headache and strong symptoms of a cold. Carrie, with a perversity which is just like her, said it was “painter’s colic,” and was the result of my having spent the last few days with my nose over a paint-pot. I told her firmly that I knew a great deal better what was the matter with me than she did. I had got a chill, and decided to have a bath as hot as I could bear it. Bath ready – could scarcely bear it so hot. I persevered, and got in; very hot, but very acceptable. I lay still for some time.

On moving my hand above the surface of the water, I experienced the greatest fright I ever received in the whole course of my life; for imagine my horror on discovering my hand, as I thought, full of blood. My first thought was that I had ruptured an artery, and was bleeding to death, and should be discovered, later on, looking like a second Marat, as I remember seeing him in Madame Tussaud’s. [3] My second thought was to ring the bell, but remembered there was no bell to ring. My third was, that there was nothing but the enamel paint, which had dissolved with boiling water. I stepped out of the bath, perfectly red all over, resembling the Red Indians I have seen depicted at an East-End theatre. I determined not to say a word to Carrie, but to tell Farmerson to come on Monday and paint the bath white.

Marat in the bath“I looked like Marat in the bath, in Madame Tussaud’s.”

FOOTNOTES

1. Mr. Pooter is not getting a great deal, of course. The price of 36 shillings for a dozen bottles of “Lockanbar” (a cheesy evocation of Walter Scott’s poem “Young Lochinvar”) does not represent good value.

2. Grossmith is parodying the craze at the time for painting furniture as part of the “Arts and Crafts” movement.

3. Those with a less-than-perfect knowledge of the history of the French Revolution might have forgotten that Marat, one of the leaders of that Revolution, was stabbed to death in the bath by Charlotte Corday in 1793, an event commemorated in Madame Tussaud’s waxworks, as well as this famous painting by David.

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 2

21 Feb

A few terms may not be familiar to the modern reader, so I have included some footnotes. There is no charge for this service, despite the fact that it took me ages to figure out how to do footnotes.

CHAPTER II.

Tradesmen and the scraper still troublesome. Gowing rather tiresome with his complaints of the paint. I make one of the best jokes of my life. Delights of Gardening. Mr. Stillbrook, Gowing, Cummings, and I have a little misunderstanding. Sarah makes me look a fool before Cummings

April 9. - Commenced the morning badly. The butcher, whom we decided NOT to arrange with, called and blackguarded me in the most uncalled-for manner. He began by abusing me, and saying he did not want my custom. I simply said: “Then what are you making all this fuss about it for?” And he shouted out at the top of his voice, so that all the neighbours could hear: “Pah! go along. Ugh! I could buy up ‘things’ like you by the dozen!”

I shut the door, and was giving Carrie to understand that this disgraceful scene was entirely her fault, when there was a violent kicking at the door, enough to break the panels. It was the blackguard butcher again, who said he had cut his foot over the scraper, and would immediately bring an action against me. Called at Farmerson’s, the ironmonger, on my way to town, and gave him the job of moving the scraper and repairing the bells, thinking it scarcely worth while to trouble the landlord with such a trifling matter.

Arrived home tired and worried. Mr. Putley, a painter and decorator, who had sent in a card, said he could not match the colour on the stairs, as it contained Indian carmine. He said he spent half-a-day calling at warehouses to see if he could get it. He suggested he should entirely repaint the stairs. It would cost very little more; if he tried to match it, he could only make a bad job of it. It would be more satisfactory to him and to us to have the work done properly. I consented, but felt I had been talked over. Planted some mustard-and-cress and radishes, and went to bed at nine.

April 10. - Farmerson came round to attend to the scraper himself. He seems a very civil fellow. He says he does not usually conduct such small jobs personally, but for me he would do so. I thanked him, and went to town. It is disgraceful how late some of the young clerks are at arriving. I told three of them that if Mr. Perkupp, the principal, heard of it, they might be discharged.

Pitt, a monkey of seventeen, who has only been with us six weeks, told me “to keep my hair on!” I informed him I had had the honour of being in the firm twenty years, to which he insolently replied that I “looked it.” I gave him an indignant look, and said: “I demand from you some respect, sir.” He replied: “All right, go on demanding.” I would not argue with him any further. You cannot argue with people like that. In the evening Gowing called, and repeated his complaint about the smell of paint. Gowing is sometimes very tedious with his remarks, and not always cautious; and Carrie once very properly reminded him that she was present.

April 11. - Mustard-and-cress and radishes not come up yet. To-day was a day of annoyances. I missed the quarter-to-nine ‘bus to the City, through having words with the grocer’s boy, who for the second time had the impertinence to bring his basket to the hall-door, and had left the marks of his dirty boots on the fresh-cleaned door-steps. He said he had knocked at the side door with his knuckles for a quarter of an hour. I knew Sarah, our servant, could not hear this, as she was upstairs doing the bedrooms, so asked the boy why he did not ring the bell? He replied that he did pull the bell, but the handle came off in his hand.

I was half-an-hour late at the office, a thing that has never happened to me before. There has recently been much irregularity in the attendance of the clerks, and Mr. Perkupp, our principal, unfortunately chose this very morning to pounce down upon us early. Someone had given the tip to the others. The result was that I was the only one late of the lot. Buckling, one of the senior clerks, was a brick, and I was saved by his intervention. As I passed by Pitt’s desk, I heard him remark to his neighbour: “How disgracefully late some of the head clerks arrive!” This was, of course, meant for me. I treated the observation with silence, simply giving him a look, which unfortunately had the effect of making both of the clerks laugh. Thought afterwards it would have been more dignified if I had pretended not to have heard him at all. Cummings called in the evening, and we played dominoes.

April 12. - Mustard-and-cress and radishes not come up yet. Left Farmerson repairing the scraper, but when I came home found three men working. I asked the meaning of it, and Farmerson said that in making a fresh hole he had penetrated the gas-pipe. He said it was a most ridiculous place to put the gas-pipe, and the man who did it evidently knew nothing about his business. I felt his excuse was no consolation for the expense I shall be put to.

In the evening, after tea, Gowing dropped in, and we had a smoke together in the breakfast-parlour. Carrie joined us later, but did not stay long, saying the smoke was too much for her. It was also rather too much for me, for Gowing had given me what he called a green cigar, one that his friend Shoemach had just brought over from America. The cigar didn’t look green, but I fancy I must have done so; for when I had smoked a little more than half I was obliged to retire on the pretext of telling Sarah to bring in the glasses.

I took a walk round the garden three or four times, feeling the need of fresh air. On returning Gowing noticed I was not smoking: offered me another cigar, which I politely declined. Gowing began his usual sniffing, so, anticipating him, I said: “You’re not going to complain of the smell of paint again?” He said: “No, not this time; but I’ll tell you what, I distinctly smell dry rot.” I don’t often make jokes, but I replied: “You’re talking a lot of DRY ROT yourself.” I could not help roaring at this, and Carrie said her sides quite ached with laughter. I never was so immensely tickled by anything I have ever said before. I actually woke up twice during the night, and laughed till the bed shook.

April 13. - An extraordinary coincidence: Carrie had called in a woman to make some chintz covers for our drawing-room chairs and sofa to prevent the sun fading the green rep of the furniture. I saw the woman, and recognised her as a woman who used to work years ago for my old aunt at Clapham. It only shows how small the world is.

April 14. - Spent the whole of the afternoon in the garden, having this morning picked up at a bookstall for fivepence a capital little book, in good condition, on GARDENING. I procured and sowed some half-hardy annuals in what I fancy will be a warm, sunny border. I thought of a joke, and called out Carrie. Carrie came out rather testy, I thought. I said: “I have just discovered we have got a lodging-house.” She replied: “How do you mean?” I said: “Look at the BOARDERS.” Carrie said: “Is that all you wanted me for?” I said: “Any other time you would have laughed at my little pleasantry.” Carrie said: “Certainly – AT ANY OTHER TIME, but not when I am busy in the house.” The stairs looked very nice. Gowing called, and said the stairs looked ALL RIGHT, but it made the banisters look ALL WRONG, and suggested a coat of paint on them also, which Carrie quite agreed with. I walked round to Putley, and fortunately he was out, so I had a good excuse to let the banisters slide. By-the-by, that is rather funny.

April 15, Sunday. - At three o’clock Cummings and Gowing called for a good long walk over Hampstead and Finchley, and brought with them a friend named Stillbrook. We walked and chatted together, except Stillbrook, who was always a few yards behind us staring at the ground and cutting at the grass with his stick.

Stillbrook up hill

Stillbrook lags behind. Going uphill.

As it was getting on for five, we four held a consultation, and Gowing suggested that we should make for “The Cow and Hedge” [1] and get some tea. Stillbrook said: “A brandy-and-soda was good enough for him.” I reminded them that all public-houses were closed till six o’clock. Stillbrook said, “That’s all right – BONA-FIDE travellers.”

Going down hill

Going downhill.

We arrived; and as I was trying to pass, the man in charge of the gate said: “Where from?” I replied: “Holloway.” He immediately put up his arm, and declined to let me pass. I turned back for a moment, when I saw Stillbrook, closely followed by Cummings and Gowing, make for the entrance. I watched them, and thought I would have a good laugh at their expense, I heard the porter say: “Where from?” When, to my surprise, in fact disgust, Stillbrook replied: “Blackheath,” and the three were immediately admitted. [2]

Nearly there

Nearly there.

Gowing called to me across the gate, and said: “We shan’t be a minute.” I waited for them the best part of an hour. When they appeared they were all in most excellent spirits, and the only one who made an effort to apologise was Mr. Stillbrook, who said to me: “It was very rough on you to be kept waiting, but we had another spin for S. and B.’s.” [3] I walked home in silence; I couldn’t speak to them. I felt very dull all the evening, but deemed it advisable NOT to say anything to Carrie about the matter.

April 16. - After business, set to work in the garden. When it got dark I wrote to Cummings and Gowing (who neither called, for a wonder; perhaps they were ashamed of themselves) about yesterday’s adventure at “The Cow and Hedge.” Afterwards made up my mind not to write YET.

April 17. - Thought I would write a kind little note to Gowing and Cummings about last Sunday, and warning them against Mr. Stillbrook. Afterwards, thinking the matter over, tore up the letters and determined not to WRITE at all, but to SPEAK quietly to them. Dumfounded at receiving a sharp letter from Cummings, saying that both he and Gowing had been waiting for an explanation of MY (mind you, MY) extraordinary conduct coming home on Sunday. At last I wrote: “I thought I was the aggrieved party; but as I freely forgive you, you – feeling yourself aggrieved – should bestow forgiveness on me.” I have copied this VERBATIM in the diary, because I think it is one of the most perfect and thoughtful sentences I have ever written. I posted the letter, but in my own heart I felt I was actually apologising for having been insulted.

April 18. - Am in for a cold. Spent the whole day at the office sneezing. In the evening, the cold being intolerable, sent Sarah out for a bottle of Kinahan. Fell asleep in the arm-chair, and woke with the shivers. Was startled by a loud knock at the front door. Carrie awfully flurried. Sarah still out, so went up, opened the door, and found it was only Cummings. Remembered the grocer’s boy had again broken the side-bell. Cummings squeezed my hand, and said: “I’ve just seen Gowing. All right. Say no more about it.” There is no doubt they are both under the impression I have apologised.

While playing dominoes with Cummings in the parlour, he said: “By-the-by, do you want any wine or spirits? My cousin Merton has just set up in the trade, and has a splendid whisky, four years in bottle, at thirty-eight shillings. It is worth your while laying down a few dozen of it.” I told him my cellars, which were very small, were full up. To my horror, at that very moment, Sarah entered the room, and putting a bottle of whisky, wrapped in a dirty piece of newspaper, on the table in front of us, said: “Please, sir, the grocer says he ain’t got no more Kinahan [4], but you’ll find this very good at two-and-six, with twopence returned on the bottle; and, please, did you want any more sherry? as he has some at one-and-three, as dry as a nut!”

Kinahan

“Please, sir, the grocer says he ain’t got no more Kinahan, but you’ll find this very good at two-and-six.”

FOOTNOTES

1. A whimsical reference to the Bull and Bush pub which still stands on Hampstead Heath

2. The laws of the day permitted the sale of alcohol on Sundays to travellers, who were defined as those who had come more than three miles. Blackheath is about forty miles distant, which makes Stillbrook’s statement and it’s acceptance by the landlord as absurd as it is infuriating to Mr. Pooter.

3. This probably refers to tossing a coin to determine who pays for the round of brandy and sodas.

4. Kinahan and Co.was a vendor of whiskey, based in Dublin and with offices in London. Their inexpensive beverage was advertised as “more wholesome than the finest Cognac Brandy.”

The Diary of a Nobody – Episode 1

17 Feb

PREFACE

Introductory Comments

Introduction by Mr. Pooter.

Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see – because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’ – why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth.

Charles Pooter
The Laurels,
Brickfield Terrace
Holloway.

CHAPTER I.

      The LaurelsThe Laurels

 We settle down in our new home, and I resolve to keep a diary. Tradesmen trouble us a bit, so does the scraper. The Curate calls and pays me a great compliment.

My dear wife Carrie and I have just been a week in our new house, “The Laurels,” Brickfield Terrace, Holloway – a nice six-roomed residence, not counting basement, with a front breakfast-parlour. We have a little front garden; and there is a flight of ten steps up to the front door, which, by-the-by, we keep locked with the chain up. Cummings, Gowing, and our other intimate friends always come to the little side entrance, which saves the servant the trouble of going up to the front door, thereby taking her from her work. We have a nice little back garden which runs down to the railway. We were rather afraid of the noise of the trains at first, but the landlord said we should not notice them after a bit, and took 2 pounds off the rent. He was certainly right; and beyond the cracking of the garden wall at the bottom, we have suffered no inconvenience.

After my work in the City, I like to be at home. What’s the good of a home, if you are never in it? “Home, Sweet Home,” that’s my motto. I am always in of an evening. Our old friend Gowing may drop in without ceremony; so may Cummings, who lives opposite. My dear wife Caroline and I are pleased to see them, if they like to drop in on us. But Carrie and I can manage to pass our evenings together without friends. There is always something to be done: a tin-tack here, a Venetian blind to put straight, a fan to nail up, or part of a carpet to nail down – all of which I can do with my pipe in my mouth; while Carrie is not above putting a button on a shirt, mending a pillow-case, or practising the “Sylvia Gavotte” on our new cottage piano (on the three years’ system), manufactured by W. Bilkson (in small letters), from Collard and Collard (in very large letters). It is also a great comfort to us to know that our boy Willie is getting on so well in the Bank at Oldham. We should like to see more of him. Now for my diary:–

April 3. - Tradesmen called for custom, and I promised Farmerson, the ironmonger, to give him a turn if I wanted any nails or tools. By-the-by, that reminds me there is no key to our bedroom door, and the bells must be seen to. The parlour bell is broken, and the front door rings up in the servant’s bedroom, which is ridiculous. Dear friend Gowing dropped in, but wouldn’t stay, saying there was an infernal smell of paint.

GowingOur dear friend Gowing.

April 4. - Tradesmen still calling; Carrie being out, I arranged to deal with Horwin, who seemed a civil butcher with a nice clean shop. Ordered a shoulder of mutton for to-morrow, to give him a trial. Carrie arranged with Borset, the butterman, and ordered a pound of fresh butter, and a pound and a half of salt ditto for kitchen, and a shilling’s worth of eggs. In the evening, Cummings unexpectedly dropped in to show me a meerschaum pipe he had won in a raffle in the City, and told me to handle it carefully, as it would spoil the colouring if the hand was moist. He said he wouldn’t stay, as he didn’t care much for the smell of the paint, and fell over the scraper as he went out. Must get the scraper removed, or else I shall get into a SCRAPE. I don’t often make jokes.

CummingsOur dear friend Cummings.

April 5. - Two shoulders of mutton arrived, Carrie having arranged with another butcher without consulting me. Gowing called, and fell over scraper coming in. MUST get that scraper removed.

April 6. - Eggs for breakfast simply shocking; sent them back to Borset with my compliments, and he needn’t call any more for orders. Couldn’t find umbrella, and though it was pouring with rain, had to go without it. Sarah said Mr. Gowing must have took it by mistake last night, as there was a stick in the ‘all that didn’t belong to nobody. In the evening, hearing someone talking in a loud voice to the servant in the downstairs hall, I went out to see who it was, and was surprised to find it was Borset, the butterman, who was both drunk and offensive. Borset, on seeing me, said he would be hanged if he would ever serve City clerks any more – the game wasn’t worth the candle. I restrained my feelings, and quietly remarked that I thought it was POSSIBLE for a city clerk to be a GENTLEMAN. He replied he was very glad to hear it, and wanted to know whether I had ever come across one, for HE hadn’t. He left the house, slamming the door after him, which nearly broke the fanlight; and I heard him fall over the scraper, which made me feel glad I hadn’t removed it. When he had gone, I thought of a splendid answer I ought to have given him. However, I will keep it for another occasion.

April 7. - Being Saturday, I looked forward to being home early, and putting a few things straight; but two of our principals at the office were absent through illness, and I did not get home till seven. Found Borset waiting. He had been three times during the day to apologise for his conduct last night. He said he was unable to take his Bank Holiday last Monday, and took it last night instead. He begged me to accept his apology, and a pound of fresh butter. He seems, after all, a decent sort of fellow; so I gave him an order for some fresh eggs, with a request that on this occasion they SHOULD be fresh. I am afraid we shall have to get some new stair-carpets after all; our old ones are not quite wide enough to meet the paint on either side. Carrie suggests that we might ourselves broaden the paint. I will see if we can match the colour (dark chocolate) on Monday.

April 8, Sunday. - After Church, the Curate came back with us. I sent Carrie in to open front door, which we do not use except on special occasions. She could not get it open, and after all my display, I had to take the Curate (whose name, by-the-by, I did not catch,) round the side entrance. He caught his foot in the scraper, and tore the bottom of his trousers. Most annoying, as Carrie could not well offer to repair them on a Sunday. After dinner, went to sleep. Took a walk round the garden, and discovered a beautiful spot for sowing mustard-and-cress and radishes. Went to Church again in the evening: walked back with the Curate. Carrie noticed he had got on the same pair of trousers, only repaired. He wants me to take round the plate, which I think a great compliment.

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