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 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
choose 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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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. 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 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 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.