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.
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 à 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
To think that a man who mends our scraper should know any member
of our aristocracy! 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.