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.
June 7.—A dreadful annoyance. Met Mr. Franching, who
lives at Peckham, and who is a great swell in his way. I ventured
to ask him to come home to meat-tea, and take pot-luck. I did
not think he would accept such a humble invitation; but he did, saying,
in a most friendly way, he would rather “peck” with us than
by himself. I said: “We had better get into this blue ’bus.”
He replied: “No blue-bussing for me. I have had enough of
the blues lately. I lost a cool ‘thou’ over the Copper
Scare. Step in here.”
We drove up home in style, in a hansom-cab, and I knocked three times
at the front door without getting an answer. I saw Carrie, through
the panels of ground-glass (with stars), rushing upstairs. I told
Mr. Franching to wait at the door while I went round to the side.
There I saw the grocer’s boy actually picking off the paint on
the door, which had formed into blisters. No time to reprove him;
so went round and effected an entrance through the kitchen window.
I let in Mr. Franching, and showed him into the drawing-room.
I went upstairs to Carrie, who was changing her dress, and told her
I had persuaded Mr. Franching to come home. She replied: “How
can you do such a thing? You know it’s Sarah’s holiday,
and there’s not a thing in the house, the cold mutton having turned
with the hot weather.”
Eventually Carrie, like a good creature as she is, slipped down,
washed up the teacups, and laid the cloth, and I gave Franching our
views of Japan to look at while I ran round to the butcher’s to
get three chops.
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.
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