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 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.
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 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)
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.
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 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
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 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 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 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 Bézique.”
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.”
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 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. 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.
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.