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 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.
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 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 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 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.
As it was getting on for five, we four held a consultation, and Gowing
suggested that we should make for “The Cow and Hedge” 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.”
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
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.” 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
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, 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!”
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
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.
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 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 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
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.
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 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.”
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 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.”
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.