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 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
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!”
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 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 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
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 Bézique
till nearly twelve o’clock.
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
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
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’
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
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
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
November 18.—Woke up quite fresh after a good night’s
rest, and feel quite myself again. I am satisfied a life of going-out
and Society is not a life for me; we therefore declined the invitation
which we received this morning to Miss Bird’s wedding. We
only met her twice at Mrs. James’, and it means a present.
Lupin said: “I am with you for once. To my mind a wedding’s
a very poor play. There are only two parts in it—the bride
and bridegroom. The best man is only a walking gentleman.
With the exception of a crying father and a snivelling mother, the rest
are supers who have to dress well and have to pay for
their insignificant parts in the shape of costly presents.”
I did not care for the theatrical slang, but thought it clever, though
I told Sarah not to bring up the blanc-mange again for breakfast.
It seems to have been placed on our table at every meal since Wednesday.
Cummings came round in the evening, and congratulated us on the success
of our party. He said it was the best party he had been to for
many a year; but he wished we had let him know it was full dress, as
he would have turned up in his swallow-tails. We sat down to a
quiet game of dominoes, and were interrupted by the noisy entrance of
Lupin and Frank Mutlar. Cummings and I asked them to join us.
Lupin said he did not care for dominoes, and suggested a game of “Spoof.”
On my asking if it required counters, Frank and Lupin in measured time
said: “One, two, three; go! Have you an estate in Greenland?”
It was simply Greek to me, but it appears it is one of the customs of
the “Holloway Comedians” to do this when a member displays
In spite of my instructions, that blanc-mange was brought
up again for supper. To make matters worse, there had been an
attempt to disguise it, by placing it in a glass dish with jam round
it. Carrie asked Lupin if he would have some, and he replied:
“No second-hand goods for me, thank you.” I told Carrie,
when we were alone, if that blanc-mange were placed on the table
again I should walk out of the house.
November 19, Sunday.—A delightfully quiet day. In the
afternoon Lupin was off to spend the rest of the day with the Mutlars.
He departed in the best of spirits, and Carrie said: “Well, one
advantage of Lupin’s engagement with Daisy is that the boy seems
happy all day long. That quite reconciles me to what I must confess
seems an imprudent engagement.”
Carrie and I talked the matter over during the evening, and agreed
that it did not always follow that an early engagement meant an unhappy
marriage. Dear Carrie reminded me that we married early, and,
with the exception of a few trivial misunderstandings, we had never
had a really serious word. I could not help thinking (as I told
her) that half the pleasures of life were derived from the little struggles
and small privations that one had to endure at the beginning of one’s
married life. Such struggles were generally occasioned by want
of means, and often helped to make loving couples stand together all
Carrie said I had expressed myself wonderfully well, and that I was
quite a philosopher.
We are all vain at times, and I must confess I felt flattered by
Carrie’s little compliment. I don’t pretend to be
able to express myself in fine language, but I feel I have the power
of expressing my thoughts with simplicity and lucidness. About
nine o’clock, to our surprise. Lupin entered, with a wild,
reckless look, and in a hollow voice, which I must say seemed rather
theatrical, said: “Have you any brandy?” I said: “No;
but here is some whisky.” Lupin drank off nearly a wineglassful
without water, to my horror.
We all three sat reading in silence till ten, when Carrie and I rose
to go to bed. Carrie said to Lupin: “I hope Daisy is well?”
Lupin, with a forced careless air that he must have picked up from
the “Holloway Comedians,” replied: “Oh, Daisy?
You mean Miss Mutlar. I don’t know whether she is well or
not, but please never to mention her name again in my presence.”
November 22.—Gowing and Cummings dropped in during the evening.
Lupin also came in, bringing his friend, Mr. Burwin-Fosselton—one
of the “Holloway Comedians”—who was at our party the
other night, and who cracked our little round table. Happy to
say Daisy Mutlar was never referred to. The conversation was almost
entirely monopolised by the young fellow Fosselton, who not only looked
rather like Mr. Irving, but seemed to imagine that he was the
celebrated actor. I must say he gave some capital imitations of
him. As he showed no signs of moving at supper time, I said: “If
you like to stay, Mr. Fosselton, for our usual crust—pray do.”
He replied: “Oh! thanks; but please call me Burwin-Fosselton.
It is a double name. There are lots of Fosseltons, but please
call me Burwin-Fosselton.”
He began doing the Irving business all through supper. He sank
so low down in his chair that his chin was almost on a level with the
table, and twice he kicked Carrie under the table, upset his wine, and
flashed a knife uncomfortably near Gowing’s face. After
supper he kept stretching out his legs on the fender, indulging in scraps
of quotations from plays which were Greek to me, and more than once
knocked over the fire-irons, making a hideous row—poor Carrie
already having a bad head-ache.
When he went, he said, to our surprise: “I will come to-morrow
and bring my Irving make-up.” Gowing and Cummings said they
would like to see it and would come too. I could not help thinking
they might as well give a party at my house while they are about it.
However, as Carrie sensibly said: “Do anything, dear, to make
Lupin forget the Daisy Mutlar business.”
April 16.—The night of the East Acton Volunteer Ball.
On my advice, Carrie put on the same dress that she looked so beautiful
in at the Mansion House, for it had occurred to me, being a military
ball, that Mr. Perkupp, who, I believe, is an officer in the Honorary
Artillery Company, would in all probability be present. Lupin,
in his usual incomprehensible language, remarked that he had heard it
was a “bounders’ ball.” I didn’t ask him
what he meant though I didn’t understand. Where he gets
these expressions from I don’t know; he certainly doesn’t
learn them at home.
The invitation was for half-past eight, so I concluded if we arrived
an hour later we should be in good time, without being “unfashionable,”
as Mrs. James says. It was very difficult to find—the cabman
having to get down several times to inquire at different public-houses
where the Drill Hall was. I wonder at people living in such out-of-the-way
places. No one seemed to know it. However, after going up
and down a good many badly-lighted streets we arrived at our destination.
I had no idea it was so far from Holloway. I gave the cabman five
shillings, who only grumbled, saying it was dirt cheap at half-a-sovereign,
and was impertinent enough to advise me the next time I went to a ball
to take a ’bus.
Captain Welcut received us, saying we were rather late, but that
it was better late than never. He seemed a very good-looking gentleman
though, as Carrie remarked, “rather short for an officer.”
He begged to be excused for leaving us, as he was engaged for a dance,
and hoped we should make ourselves at home. Carrie took my arm
and we walked round the rooms two or three times and watched the people
dancing. I couldn’t find a single person I knew, but attributed
it to most of them being in uniform. As we were entering the supper-room
I received a slap on the shoulder, followed by a welcome shake of the
hand. I said: “Mr. Padge, I believe;” he replied,
I gave Carrie a chair, and seated by her was a lady who made herself
at home with Carrie at once.
There was a very liberal repast on the tables, plenty of champagne,
claret, etc., and, in fact, everything seemed to be done regardless
of expense. Mr. Padge is a man that, I admit, I have no particular
liking for, but I felt so glad to come across someone I knew, that I
asked him to sit at our table, and I must say that for a short fat man
he looked well in uniform, although I think his tunic was rather baggy
in the back. It was the only supper-room that I have been in that
was not over-crowded; in fact we were the only people there, everybody
being so busy dancing.
I assisted Carrie and her newly-formed acquaintance, who said her
name was Lupkin, to some champagne; also myself, and handed the bottle
to Mr. Padge to do likewise, saying: “You must look after yourself.”
He replied: “That’s right,” and poured out half a
tumbler and drank Carrie’s health, coupled, as he said, “with
her worthy lord and master.” We all had some splendid pigeon
pie, and ices to follow.
The waiters were very attentive, and asked if we would like some
more wine. I assisted Carrie and her friend and Mr. Padge, also
some people who had just come from the dancing-room, who were very civil.
It occurred to me at the time that perhaps some of the gentlemen knew
me in the City, as they were so polite. I made myself useful,
and assisted several ladies to ices, remembering an old saying that
“There is nothing lost by civility.”
The band struck up for the dance, and they all went into the ball-room.
The ladies (Carrie and Mrs. Lupkin) were anxious to see the dancing,
and as I had not quite finished my supper, Mr. Padge offered his arms
to them and escorted them to the ball-room, telling me to follow.
I said to Mr. Padge: “It is quite a West End affair,” to
which remark Mr. Padge replied: “That’s right.”
When I had quite finished my supper, and was leaving, the waiter
who had been attending on us arrested my attention by tapping me on
the shoulder. I thought it unusual for a waiter at a private ball
to expect a tip, but nevertheless gave a shilling, as he had been very
attentive. He smilingly replied: “I beg your pardon, sir,
this is no good,” alluding to the shilling. “Your
party’s had four suppers at 5s. a head, five ices at 1s., three
bottles of champagne at 11s. 6d., a glass of claret, and a sixpenny
cigar for the stout gentleman—in all £3 0s. 6d.!”
I don’t think I was ever so surprised in my life, and had only
sufficient breath to inform him that I had received a private invitation,
to which he answered that he was perfectly well aware of that; but that
the invitation didn’t include eatables and drinkables. A
gentleman who was standing at the bar corroborated the waiter’s
statement, and assured me it was quite correct.
The waiter said he was extremely sorry if I had been under any misapprehension;
but it was not his fault. Of course there was nothing to be done
but to pay. So, after turning out my pockets, I just managed to
scrape up sufficient, all but nine shillings; but the manager, on my
giving my card to him, said: “That’s all right.”
I don’t think I ever felt more humiliated in my life, and I
determined to keep this misfortune from Carrie, for it would entirely
destroy the pleasant evening she was enjoying. I felt there was
no more enjoyment for me that evening, and it being late, I sought Carrie
and Mrs. Lupkin. Carrie said she was quite ready to go, and Mrs.
Lupkin, as we were wishing her “Good-night,” asked Carrie
and myself if we ever paid a visit to Southend? On my replying
that I hadn’t been there for many years, she very kindly said:
“Well, why don’t you come down and stay at our place?”
As her invitation was so pressing, and observing that Carrie wished
to go, we promised we would visit her the next Saturday week, and stay
till Monday. Mrs. Lupkin said she would write to us to-morrow,
giving us the address and particulars of trains, etc.
When we got outside the Drill Hall it was raining so hard that the
roads resembled canals, and I need hardly say we had great difficulty
in getting a cabman to take us to Holloway. After waiting a bit,
a man said he would drive us, anyhow, as far as “The Angel,”
at Islington, and we could easily get another cab from there.
It was a tedious journey; the rain was beating against the windows and
trickling down the inside of the cab.
When we arrived at “The Angel” the horse seemed tired
out. Carrie got out and ran into a doorway, and when I came to
pay, to my absolute horror I remembered I had no money, nor had Carrie.
I explained to the cabman how we were situated. Never in my life
have I ever been so insulted; the cabman, who was a rough bully and
to my thinking not sober, called me every name he could lay his tongue
to, and positively seized me by the beard, which he pulled till the
tears came into my eyes. I took the number of a policeman (who
witnessed the assault) for not taking the man in charge. The policeman
said he couldn’t interfere, that he had seen no assault, and that
people should not ride in cabs without money.
We had to walk home in the pouring rain, nearly two miles, and when
I got in I put down the conversation I had with the cabman, word for
word, as I intend writing to the Telegraph for the purpose of
proposing that cabs should be driven only by men under Government control,
to prevent civilians being subjected to the disgraceful insult and outrage
that I had had to endure.
May 10.—Received a letter from Mr. Franching, of Peckham, asking
us to dine with him to-night, at seven o’clock, to meet Mr. Hardfur
Huttle, a very clever writer for the American papers. Franching
apologised for the short notice; but said he had at the last moment
been disappointed of two of his guests and regarded us as old friends
who would not mind filling up the gap. Carrie rather demurred
at the invitation; but I explained to her that Franching was very well
off and influential, and we could not afford to offend him. “And
we are sure to get a good dinner and a good glass of champagne.”
“Which never agrees with you!” Carrie replied, sharply.
I regarded Carrie’s observation as unsaid. Mr. Franching
asked us to wire a reply. As he had said nothing about dress in
the letter, I wired back: “With pleasure. Is it full dress?”
and by leaving out our name, just got the message within the sixpence.
Got back early to give time to dress, which we received a telegram
instructing us to do. I wanted Carrie to meet me at Franching’s
house; but she would not do so, so I had to go home to fetch her.
What a long journey it is from Holloway to Peckham! Why do people
live such a long way off? Having to change ’buses, I allowed
plenty of time—in fact, too much; for we arrived at twenty minutes
to seven, and Franching, so the servant said, had only just gone up
to dress. However, he was down as the clock struck seven; he must
have dressed very quickly.
I must say it was quite a distinguished party, and although we did
not know anybody personally, they all seemed to be quite swells.
Franching had got a professional waiter, and evidently spared no expense.
There were flowers on the table round some fairy-lamps and the effect,
I must say, was exquisite. The wine was good and there was plenty
of champagne, concerning which Franching said he himself, never wished
to taste better. We were ten in number, and a menû
card to each. One lady said she always preserved the menû
and got the guests to write their names on the back.
We all of us followed her example, except Mr. Huttle, who was of
course the important guest.
The dinner-party consisted of Mr. Franching, Mr. Hardfur Huttle,
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Hillbutter, Mrs. Field, Mr. and Mrs. Purdick, Mr.
Pratt, Mr. R. Kent, and, last but not least, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pooter.
Franching said he was sorry he had no lady for me to take in to dinner.
I replied that I preferred it, which I afterwards thought was a very
uncomplimentary observation to make.
I sat next to Mrs. Field at dinner. She seemed a well-informed
lady, but was very deaf. It did not much matter, for Mr. Hardfur
Huttle did all the talking. He is a marvellously intellectual
man and says things which from other people would seem quite alarming.
How I wish I could remember even a quarter of his brilliant conversation.
I made a few little reminding notes on the menû card.
One observation struck me as being absolutely powerful—though
not to my way of thinking of course. Mrs. Purdick happened to
say “You are certainly unorthodox, Mr. Huttle.” Mr.
Huttle, with a peculiar expression (I can see it now) said in a slow
rich voice: “Mrs. Purdick, ‘orthodox’ is a grandiloquent
word implying sticking-in-the-mud. If Columbus and Stephenson
had been orthodox, there would neither have been the discovery of America
nor the steam-engine.” There was quite a silence.
It appeared to me that such teaching was absolutely dangerous, and yet
I felt—in fact we must all have felt—there was no answer
to the argument. A little later on, Mrs. Purdick, who is Franching’s
sister and also acted as hostess, rose from the table, and Mr. Huttle
said: “Why, ladies, do you deprive us of your company so soon?
Why not wait while we have our cigars?”
The effect was electrical. The ladies (including Carrie) were
in no way inclined to be deprived of Mr. Huttle’s fascinating
society, and immediately resumed their seats, amid much laughter and
a little chaff. Mr. Huttle said: “Well, that’s a real
good sign; you shall not be insulted by being called orthodox any longer.”
Mrs. Purdick, who seemed to be a bright and rather sharp woman, said:
“Mr. Huttle, we will meet you half-way—that is, till you
get half-way through your cigar. That, at all events, will be
the happy medium.”
I shall never forget the effect the words, “happy medium,”
had upon him. He was brilliant and most daring in his interpretation
of the words. He positively alarmed me. He said something
like the following: “Happy medium, indeed. Do you know ‘happy
medium’ are two words which mean ‘miserable mediocrity’?
I say, go first class or third; marry a duchess or her kitchenmaid.
The happy medium means respectability, and respectability means insipidness.
Does it not, Mr. Pooter?”
I was so taken aback by being personally appealed to, that I could
only bow apologetically, and say I feared I was not competent to offer
an opinion. Carrie was about to say something; but she was interrupted,
for which I was rather pleased, for she is not clever at argument, and
one has to be extra clever to discuss a subject with a man like Mr.
He continued, with an amazing eloquence that made his unwelcome opinions
positively convincing: “The happy medium is nothing more or less
than a vulgar half-measure. A man who loves champagne and, finding
a pint too little, fears to face a whole bottle and has recourse to
an imperial pint, will never build a Brooklyn Bridge or an Eiffel Tower.
No, he is half-hearted, he is a half-measure—respectable—in
fact, a happy medium, and will spend the rest of his days in a suburban
villa with a stucco-column portico, resembling a four-post bedstead.”
We all laughed.
“That sort of thing,” continued Mr. Huttle, “belongs
to a soft man, with a soft beard with a soft head, with a made tie that
This seemed rather personal and twice I caught myself looking in
the glass of the cheffonière; for I had on a tie that
hooked on—and why not? If these remarks were not personal
they were rather careless, and so were some of his subsequent observations,
which must have made both Mr. Franching and his guests rather uncomfortable.
I don’t think Mr. Huttle meant to be personal, for he added; “We
don’t know that class here in this country: but we do in America,
and I’ve no use for them.”
Franching several times suggested that the wine should be passed
round the table, which Mr. Huttle did not heed; but continued as if
he were giving a lecture:
“What we want in America is your homes. We live on wheels.
Your simple, quiet life and home, Mr. Franching, are charming.
No display, no pretension! You make no difference in your dinner,
I dare say, when you sit down by yourself and when you invite us.
You have your own personal attendant—no hired waiter to breathe
on the back of your head.”
I saw Franching palpably wince at this.
Mr. Huttle continued: “Just a small dinner with a few good
things, such as you have this evening. You don’t insult
your guests by sending to the grocer for champagne at six shillings
I could not help thinking of “Jackson Frères”
“In fact,” said Mr. Huttle, “a man is little less
than a murderer who does. That is the province of the milksop,
who wastes his evening at home playing dominoes with his wife.
I’ve heard of these people. We don’t want them at
this table. Our party is well selected. We’ve no use
for deaf old women, who cannot follow intellectual conversation.”
All our eyes were turned to Mrs. Field, who fortunately, being deaf,
did not hear his remarks; but continued smiling approval.
“We have no representative at Mr. Franching’s table,”
said Mr. Huttle, “of the unenlightened frivolous matron, who goes
to a second class dance at Bayswater and fancies she is in Society.
Society does not know her; it has no use for her.”
Mr. Huttle paused for a moment and the opportunity was afforded for
the ladies to rise. I asked Mr. Franching quietly to excuse me,
as I did not wish to miss the last train, which we very nearly did,
by-the-by, through Carrie having mislaid the little cloth cricket-cap
which she wears when we go out.
It was very late when Carrie and I got home; but on entering the
sitting-room I said: “Carrie, what do you think of Mr. Hardfur
Huttle?” She simply answered: “How like Lupin!”
The same idea occurred to me in the train. The comparison kept
me awake half the night. Mr. Huttle was, of course, an older and
more influential man; but he was like Lupin, and it made me think
how dangerous Lupin would be if he were older and more influential.
I feel proud to think Lupin does resemble Mr. Huttle in some
ways. Lupin, like Mr. Huttle, has original and sometimes wonderful
ideas; but it is those ideas that are so dangerous. They make
men extremely rich or extremely poor. They make or break men.
I always feel people are happier who live a simple unsophisticated life.
I believe I am happy because I am not ambitious. Somehow
I feel that Lupin, since he has been with Mr. Perkupp, has become content
to settle down and follow the footsteps of his father. This is
June 3.—The laundress called, and said she was very sorry about
the handkerchiefs, and returned ninepence. I said, as the colour
was completely washed out and the handkerchiefs quite spoiled, ninepence
was not enough. Carrie replied that the two handkerchiefs originally
only cost sixpence, for she remembered bring them at a sale at the Holloway
Bon Marché. In that case, I insisted that threepence
buying should be returned to the laundress. Lupin has gone to
stay with the Poshs for a few days. I must say I feel very uncomfortable
about it. Carrie said I was ridiculous to worry about it.
Mr. Posh was very fond of Lupin, who, after all, was only a mere boy.
In the evening we had another séance, which, in some respects,
was very remarkable, although the first part of it was a little doubtful.
Gowing called, as well as Cummings, and begged to be allowed to join
the circle. I wanted to object, but Mrs. James, who appears a
good Medium (that is, if there is anything in it at all), thought there
might be a little more spirit power if Gowing joined; so the five of
us sat down.
The moment I turned out the gas, and almost before I could get my
hands on the table, it rocked violently and tilted, and began moving
quickly across the room. Gowing shouted out: “Way oh! steady,
lad, steady!” I told Gowing if he could not behave himself
I should light the gas, and put an end to the séance.
To tell the truth, I thought Gowing was playing tricks, and I hinted
as much; but Mrs. James said she had often seen the table go right off
the ground. The spirit Lina came again, and said, “WARN”
three or four times, and declined to explain. Mrs. James said
“Lina” was stubborn sometimes. She often behaved like
that, and the best thing to do was to send her away.
She then hit the table sharply, and said: “Go away, Lina; you
are disagreeable. Go away!” I should think we sat
nearly three-quarters of an hour with nothing happening. My hands
felt quite cold, and I suggested we should stop the séance.
Carrie and Mrs. James, as well as Cummings, would not agree to it.
In about ten minutes’ time there was some tilting towards me.
I gave the alphabet, and it spelled out S P O O F. As I have heard
both Gowing and Lupin use the word, and as I could hear Gowing silently
laughing, I directly accused him of pushing the table. He denied
it; but, I regret to say, I did not believe him.
Gowing said: “Perhaps it means ‘Spook,’ a ghost.”
I said: “You know it doesn’t mean anything of
Gowing said: “Oh! very well—I’m sorry I ‘spook,’”
and he rose from the table.
No one took any notice of the stupid joke, and Mrs. James suggested
he should sit out for a while. Gowing consented and sat in the
The table began to move again, and we might have had a wonderful
séance but for Gowing’s stupid interruptions. In
answer to the alphabet from Carrie the table spelt “NIPUL,”
then the “WARN” three times. We could not think what
it meant till Cummings pointed out that “NIPUL” was Lupin
spelled backwards. This was quite exciting. Carrie was particularly
excited, and said she hoped nothing horrible was going to happen.
Mrs. James asked if “Lina” was the spirit. The
table replied firmly, “No,” and the spirit would not give
his or her name. We then had the message, “NIPUL will be
Carrie said she felt quite relieved, but the word “WARN”
was again spelt out. The table then began to oscillate violently,
and in reply to Mrs. James, who spoke very softly to the table, the
spirit began to spell its name. It first spelled “DRINK.”
Gowing here said: “Ah! that’s more in my line.”
I asked him to be quiet as the name might not be completed.
The table then spelt “WATER.”
Gowing here interrupted again, and said: “Ah! that’s
not in my line. Outside if you like, but not inside.”
Carrie appealed to him to be quiet.
The table then spelt “CAPTAIN,” and Mrs. James startled
us by crying out, “Captain Drinkwater, a very old friend of my
father’s, who has been dead some years.”
This was more interesting, and I could not help thinking that after
all there must be something in Spiritualism.
Mrs. James asked the spirit to interpret the meaning of the word
“Warn” as applied to “NIPUL.” The alphabet
was given again, and we got the word “BOSH.”
Gowing here muttered: “So it is.”
Mrs. James said she did not think the spirit meant that, as Captain
Drinkwater was a perfect gentleman, and would never have used the word
in answer to a lady’s question. Accordingly the alphabet
was given again.
This time the table spelled distinctly “POSH.”
We all thought of Mrs. Murray Posh and Lupin. Carrie was getting
a little distressed, and as it was getting late we broke up the circle.
We arranged to have one more to-morrow, as it will be Mrs. James’
last night in town. We also determined not to have Gowing
Cummings, before leaving, said it was certainly interesting, but
he wished the spirits would say something about him.