The Diary of a Nobody Part 7

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On arriving home at a quarter-past eleven, we found a hansom cab, which had been waiting for me for two hours with a letter. Sarah said she did not know what to do, as we had not left the address where we had gone. I trembled as I opened the letter, fearing it was some bad news about Mr. Perkupp. The note was: “Dear Mr. Pooter,–Come down to the Victoria Hotel without delay. Important. Yours truly, Hardfur Huttle.”

I asked the cabman if it was too late. The cabman replied that it was NOT; for his instructions were, if I happened to be out, he was to wait till I came home. I felt very tired, and really wanted to go to bed. I reached the hotel at a quarter before midnight. I apologised for being so late, but Mr. Huttle said: “Not at all; come and have a few oysters.” I feel my heart beating as I write these words. To be brief, Mr. Huttle said he had a rich American friend who wanted to do something large in our line of business, and that Mr. Franching had mentioned my name to him. We talked over the matter. If, by any happy chance, the result be successful, I can more than compensate my dear master for the loss of Mr. Crowbillon’s custom. Mr. Huttle had previously said: “The glorious ‘Fourth’ is a lucky day for America, and, as it has not yet struck twelve, we will celebrate it with a gla.s.s of the best wine to be had in the place, and drink good luck to our bit of business.”

I fervently hope it will bring good luck to us all.

It was two o’clock when I got home. Although I was so tired, I could not sleep except for short intervals–then only to dream.

I kept dreaming of Mr. Perkupp and Mr. Huttle. The latter was in a lovely palace with a crown on. Mr. Perkupp was waiting in the room. Mr. Huttle kept taking off this crown and handing it to me, and calling me “President.”

He appeared to take no notice of Mr. Perkupp, and I kept asking Mr. Huttle to give the crown to my worthy master. Mr. Huttle kept saying: “No, this is the White House of Washington, and you must keep your crown, Mr. President.”

We all laughed long and very loudly, till I got parched, and then I woke up. I fell asleep, only to dream the same thing over and over again.

CHAPTER THE LAST.

One of the happiest days of my life.

July 10.–The excitement and anxiety through which I have gone the last few days have been almost enough to turn my hair grey. It is all but settled. To-morrow the die will be cast. I have written a long letter to Lupin–feeling it my duty to do so,–regarding his attention to Mrs. Posh, for they drove up to our house again last night.

July 11.–I find my eyes filling with tears as I pen the note of my interview this morning with Mr. Perkupp. Addressing me, he said: “My faithful servant, I will not dwell on the important service you have done our firm. You can never be sufficiently thanked. Let us change the subject. Do you like your house, and are you happy where you are?”

I replied: “Yes, sir; I love my house and I love the neighbourhood, and could not bear to leave it.”

Mr. Perkupp, to my surprise, said: “Mr. Pooter, I will purchase the freehold of that house, and present it to the most honest and most worthy man it has ever been my lot to meet.”

He shook my hand, and said he hoped my wife and I would be spared many years to enjoy it. My heart was too full to thank him; and, seeing my embarra.s.sment, the good fellow said: “You need say nothing, Mr. Pooter,” and left the office.

I sent telegrams to Carrie, Gowing, and c.u.mmings (a thing I have never done before), and asked the two latter to come round to supper.

On arriving home I found Carrie crying with joy, and I sent Sarah round to the grocer’s to get two bottles of “Jackson Freres.”

My two dear friends came in the evening, and the last post brought a letter from Lupin in reply to mine. I read it aloud to them all. It ran: “My dear old Guv.,–Keep your hair on. You are on the wrong tack again. I am engaged to be married to ‘Lillie Girl.’ I did not mention it last Thursday, as it was not definitely settled. We shall be married in August, and amongst our guests we hope to see your old friends Gowing and c.u.mmings. With much love to all, from THE SAME OLD LUPIN.”

The Diary of a Nobody Part 5

If you are looking for The Diary of a Nobody Part 5 you are coming to the right place.
The Diary of a Nobody is a Webnovel created by George and Weedon Grossmith.
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By-the-by, I will never choose another cloth pattern at night. I ordered a new suit of dittos for the garden at Edwards’, and chose the pattern by gaslight, and they seemed to be a quiet pepper-and- salt mixture with white stripes down. They came home this morning, and, to my horror, I found it was quite a flash-looking suit. There was a lot of green with bright yellow-coloured stripes.

I tried on the coat, and was annoyed to find Carrie giggling. She said: “What mixture did you say you asked for?”

I said: “A quiet pepper and salt.”

Carrie said: “Well, it looks more like mustard, if you want to know the truth.”

CHAPTER XIX.

Meet Teddy Finsworth, an old schoolfellow. We have a pleasant and quiet dinner at his uncle’s, marred only by a few awkward mistakes on my part respecting Mr. Finsworth’s pictures. A discussion on dreams.

April 27.–Kept a little later than usual at the office, and as I was hurrying along a man stopped me, saying: “Hulloh! That’s a face I know.” I replied politely: “Very likely; lots of people know me, although I may not know them.” He replied: “But you know me–Teddy Finsworth.” So it was. He was at the same school with me. I had not seen him for years and years. No wonder I did not know him! At school he was at least a head taller than I was; now I am at least a head taller than he is, and he has a thick beard, almost grey. He insisted on my having a gla.s.s of wine (a thing I never do), and told me he lived at Middlesboro’, where he was Deputy Town Clerk, a position which was as high as the Town Clerk of London–in fact, higher. He added that he was staying for a few days in London, with his uncle, Mr. Edgar Paul Finsworth (of Finsworth and Pultwell). He said he was sure his uncle would be only too pleased to see me, and he had a nice house, Watney Lodge, only a few minutes’ walk from Muswell Hill Station. I gave him our address, and we parted.

In the evening, to my surprise, he called with a very nice letter from Mr. Finsworth, saying if we (including Carrie) would dine with them to-morrow (Sunday), at two o’clock, he would be delighted. Carrie did not like to go; but Teddy Finsworth pressed us so much we consented. Carrie sent Sarah round to the butcher’s and countermanded our half-leg of mutton, which we had ordered for to- morrow.

April 28, Sunday.–We found Watney Lodge farther off than we antic.i.p.ated, and only arrived as the clock struck two, both feeling hot and uncomfortable. To make matters worse, a large collie dog pounced forward to receive us. He barked loudly and jumped up at Carrie, covering her light skirt, which she was wearing for the first time, with mud. Teddy Finsworth came out and drove the dog off and apologised. We were shown into the drawing-room, which was beautifully decorated. It was full of knick-knacks, and some plates hung up on the wall. There were several little wooden milk- stools with paintings on them; also a white wooden banjo, painted by one of Mr. Paul Finsworth’s nieces–a cousin of Teddy’s.

Mr. Paul Finsworth seemed quite a distinguished-looking elderly gentleman, and was most gallant to Carrie. There were a great many water-colours hanging on the walls, mostly different views of India, which were very bright. Mr. Finsworth said they were painted by “Simpz,” and added that he was no judge of pictures himself but had been informed on good authority that they were worth some hundreds of pounds, although he had only paid a few shillings apiece for them, frames included, at a sale in the neighbourhood.

There was also a large picture in a very handsome frame, done in coloured crayons. It looked like a religious subject. I was very much struck with the lace collar, it looked so real, but I unfortunately made the remark that there was something about the expression of the face that was not quite pleasing. It looked pinched. Mr. Finsworth sorrowfully replied: “Yes, the face was done after death–my wife’s sister.”

I felt terribly awkward and bowed apologetically, and in a whisper said I hoped I had not hurt his feelings. We both stood looking at the picture for a few minutes in silence, when Mr. Finsworth took out a handkerchief and said: “She was sitting in our garden last summer,” and blew his nose violently. He seemed quite affected, so I turned to look at something else and stood in front of a portrait of a jolly-looking middle-aged gentleman, with a red face and straw hat. I said to Mr. Finsworth: “Who is this jovial-looking gentleman? Life doesn’t seem to trouble him much.” Mr. Finsworth said: “No, it doesn’t. HE IS DEAD TOO–my brother.”

I was absolutely horrified at my own awkwardness. Fortunately at this moment Carrie entered with Mrs. Finsworth, who had taken her upstairs to take off her bonnet and brush her skirt. Teddy said: “Short is late,” but at that moment the gentleman referred to arrived, and I was introduced to him by Teddy, who said: “Do you know Mr. Short?” I replied, smiling, that I had not that pleasure, but I hoped it would not be long before I knew Mr. SHORT. He evidently did not see my little joke, although I repeated it twice with a little laugh. I suddenly remembered it was Sunday, and Mr. Short was perhaps VERY PARTICULAR. In this I was mistaken, for he was not at all particular in several of his remarks after dinner. In fact I was so ashamed of one of his observations that I took the opportunity to say to Mrs. Finsworth that I feared she found Mr. Short occasionally a little embarra.s.sing. To my surprise she said: “Oh! he is privileged you know.” I did not know as a matter of fact, and so I bowed apologetically. I fail to see why Mr. Short should be privileged.

Another thing that annoyed me at dinner was that the collie dog, which jumped up at Carrie, was allowed to remain under the dining- room table. It kept growling and snapping at my boots every time I moved my foot. Feeling nervous rather, I spoke to Mrs. Finsworth about the animal, and she remarked: “It is only his play.” She jumped up and let in a frightfully ugly-looking spaniel called Bibbs, which had been scratching at the door. This dog also seemed to take a fancy to my boots, and I discovered afterwards that it had licked off every bit of blacking from them. I was positively ashamed of being seen in them. Mrs. Finsworth, who, I must say, is not much of a Job’s comforter, said: “Oh! we are used to Bibbs doing that to our visitors.”

Mr. Finsworth had up some fine port, although I question whether it is a good thing to take on the top of beer. It made me feel a little sleepy, while it had the effect of inducing Mr. Short to become “privileged” to rather an alarming extent. It being cold even for April, there was a fire in the drawing-room; we sat round in easy-chairs, and Teddy and I waxed rather eloquent over the old school days, which had the effect of sending all the others to sleep. I was delighted, as far as Mr. Short was concerned, that it did have that effect on him.

We stayed till four, and the walk home was remarkable only for the fact that several fools giggled at the unpolished state of my boots. Polished them myself when I got home. Went to church in the evening, and could scarcely keep awake. I will not take port on the top of beer again.

April 29.–I am getting quite accustomed to being snubbed by Lupin, and I do not mind being sat upon by Carrie, because I think she has a certain amount of right to do so; but I do think it hard to be at once snubbed by wife, son, and both my guests.

Gowing and c.u.mmings had dropped in during the evening, and I suddenly remembered an extraordinary dream I had a few nights ago, and I thought I would tell them about it. I dreamt I saw some huge blocks of ice in a shop with a bright glare behind them. I walked into the shop and the heat was overpowering. I found that the blocks of ice were on fire. The whole thing was so real and yet so supernatural I woke up in a cold perspiration. Lupin in a most contemptuous manner, said: “What utter rot.”

Before I could reply, Gowing said there was nothing so completely uninteresting as other people’s dreams.

I appealed to c.u.mmings, but he said he was bound to agree with the others and my dream was especially nonsensical. I said: “It seemed so real to me.” Gowing replied: “Yes, to YOU perhaps, but not to US.” Whereupon they all roared.

Carrie, who had hitherto been quiet, said: “He tells me his stupid dreams every morning nearly.” I replied: “Very well, dear, I promise you I will never tell you or anybody else another dream of mine the longest day I live.” Lupin said: “Hear! hear!” and helped himself to another gla.s.s of beer. The subject was fortunately changed, and c.u.mmings read a most interesting article on the superiority of the bicycle to the horse.

CHAPTER XX.

Dinner at Franching’s to meet Mr. Hardfur Huttle.

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 gla.s.s 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 menu card to each. One lady said she always preserved the menu 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 Hillb.u.t.ter, Mrs. Field, Mr. and Mrs. Purd.i.c.k, 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 menu card.

One observation struck me as being absolutely powerful–though not to my way of thinking of course. Mrs. Purd.i.c.k 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. Purd.i.c.k, ‘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. Purd.i.c.k, 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. Purd.i.c.k, 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 cla.s.s or third; marry a d.u.c.h.ess 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. Huttle.

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 hooks on.”

This seemed rather personal and twice I caught myself looking in the gla.s.s of the cheffoniere; 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 cla.s.s 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 pa.s.sed 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 a bottle.”

I could not help thinking of “Jackson Freres” at three-and-six!

“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 cla.s.s 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 a comfort.

CHAPTER XXI.

Lupin is discharged. We are in great trouble. Lupin gets engaged elsewhere at a handsome salary.

May 13.–A terrible misfortune has happened: Lupin is discharged from Mr. Perkupp’s office; and I scarcely know how I am writing my diary. I was away from office last Sat., the first time I have been absent through illness for twenty years. I believe I was poisoned by some lobster. Mr. Perkupp was also absent, as Fate would have it; and our most valued customer, Mr. Crowbillon, went to the office in a rage, and withdrew his custom. My boy Lupin not only had the a.s.surance to receive him, but recommended him the firm of Gylterson, Sons and Co. Limited. In my own humble judgment, and though I have to say it against my own son, this seems an act of treachery.

This morning I receive a letter from Perkupp, informing me that Lupin’s services are no longer required, and an interview with me is desired at eleven o’clock. I went down to the office with an aching heart, dreading an interview with Mr. Perkupp, with whom I have never had a word. I saw nothing of Lupin in the morning. He had not got up when it was time for me to leave, and Carrie said I should do no good by disturbing him. My mind wandered so at the office that I could not do my work properly.

As I expected, I was sent for by Mr. Perkupp, and the following conversation ensued as nearly as I can remember it.

Mr. Perkupp said: “Good-morning, Mr. Pooter! This is a very serious business. I am not referring so much to the dismissal of your son, for I knew we should have to part sooner or later. I am the head of this old, influential, and much-respected firm; and when I consider the time has come to revolutionise the business, I will do it myself.”

I could see my good master was somewhat affected, and I said: “I hope, sir, you do not imagine that I have in any way countenanced my son’s unwarrantable interference?” Mr. Perkupp rose from his seat and took my hand, and said: “Mr. Pooter, I would as soon suspect myself as suspect you.” I was so agitated that in the confusion, to show my grat.i.tude I very nearly called him a “grand old man.”

Fortunately I checked myself in time, and said he was a “grand old master.” I was so unaccountable for my actions that I sat down, leaving him standing. Of course, I at once rose, but Mr. Perkupp bade me sit down, which I was very pleased to do. Mr. Perkupp, resuming, said: “You will understand, Mr. Pooter, that the high- standing nature of our firm will not admit of our bending to anybody. If Mr. Crowbillon chooses to put his work into other hands–I may add, less experienced hands–it is not for us to bend and beg back his custom.” “You SHALL not do it, sir,” I said with indignation. “Exactly,” replied Mr. Perkupp; “I shall NOT do it. But I was thinking this, Mr. Pooter. Mr. Crowbillon is our most valued client, and I will even confess–for I know this will not go beyond ourselves–that we cannot afford very well to lose him, especially in these times, which are not of the brightest. Now, I fancy you can be of service.”

I replied: “Mr. Perkupp, I will work day and night to serve you!”

Mr. Perkupp said: “I know you will. Now, what I should like you to do is this. You yourself might write to Mr. Crowbillon–you must not, of course, lead him to suppose I know anything about your doing so–and explain to him that your son was only taken on as a clerk–quite an inexperienced one in fact–out of the respect the firm had for you, Mr. Pooter. This is, of course, a fact. I don’t suggest that you should speak in too strong terms of your own son’s conduct; but I may add, that had he been a son of mine, I should have condemned his interference with no measured terms. That I leave to you. I think the result will be that Mr. Crowbillon will see the force of the foolish step he has taken, and our firm will neither suffer in dignity nor in pocket.”

I could not help thinking what a n.o.ble gentleman Mr. Perkupp is. His manners and his way of speaking seem to almost thrill one with respect.

I said: “Would you like to see the letter before I send it?”

Mr. Perkupp said: “Oh no! I had better not. I am supposed to know nothing about it, and I have every confidence in you. You must write the letter carefully. We are not very busy; you had better take the morning to-morrow, or the whole day if you like. I shall be here myself all day to-morrow, in fact all the week, in case Mr. Crowbillon should call.”

I went home a little more cheerful, but I left word with Sarah that I could not see either Gowing or c.u.mmings, nor in fact anybody, if they called in the evening. Lupin came into the parlour for a moment with a new hat on, and asked my opinion of it. I said I was not in the mood to judge of hats, and I did not think he was in a position to buy a new one. Lupin replied carelessly: “I didn’t buy it; it was a present.”

I have such terrible suspicions of Lupin now that I scarcely like to ask him questions, as I dread the answers so. He, however, saved me the trouble.

He said: “I met a friend, an old friend, that I did not quite think a friend at the time; but it’s all right. As he wisely said, ‘all is fair in love and war,’ and there was no reason why we should not be friends still. He’s a jolly, good, all-round sort of fellow, and a very different stamp from that inflated fool of a Perkupp.”

I said: “Hush, Lupin! Do not pray add insult to injury.”

Lupin said: “What do you mean by injury? I repeat, I have done no injury. Crowbillon is simply tired of a stagnant stick-in-the-mud firm, and made the change on his own account. I simply recommended the new firm as a matter of biz–good old biz!”

I said quietly: “I don’t understand your slang, and at my time of life have no desire to learn it; so, Lupin, my boy, let us change the subject. I will, if it please you, TRY and be interested in your new hat adventure.”

Lupin said: “Oh! there’s nothing much about it, except I have not once seen him since his marriage, and he said he was very pleased to see me, and hoped we should be friends. I stood a drink to cement the friendship, and he stood me a new hat–one of his own.”

I said rather wearily: “But you have not told me your old friend’s name?”

Lupin said, with affected carelessness: “Oh didn’t I? Well, I will. It was MURRAY POSH.”

May 14.–Lupin came down late, and seeing me at home all the morning, asked the reason of it. Carrie and I both agreed it was better to say nothing to him about the letter I was writing, so I evaded the question.

Lupin went out, saying he was going to lunch with Murray Posh in the City. I said I hoped Mr. Posh would provide him with a berth. Lupin went out laughing, saying: “I don’t mind WEARING Posh’s one- priced hats, but I am not going to SELL them.” Poor boy, I fear he is perfectly hopeless.

It took me nearly the whole day to write to Mr. Crowbillon. Once or twice I asked Carrie for suggestions; and although it seems ungrateful, her suggestions were none of them to the point, while one or two were absolutely idiotic. Of course I did not tell her so. I got the letter off, and took it down to the office for Mr. Perkupp to see, but he again repeated that he could trust me.

Gowing called in the evening, and I was obliged to tell him about Lupin and Mr. Perkupp; and, to my surprise, he was quite inclined to side with Lupin. Carrie joined in, and said she thought I was taking much too melancholy a view of it. Gowing produced a pint sample-bottle of Madeira, which had been given him, which he said would get rid of the blues. I dare say it would have done so if there had been more of it; but as Gowing helped himself to three gla.s.ses, it did not leave much for Carrie and me to get rid of the blues with.

May 15.–A day of great anxiety, for I expected every moment a letter from Mr. Crowbillon. Two letters came in the evening–one for me, with “Crowbillon Hall” printed in large gold-and-red letters on the back of the envelope; the other for Lupin, which I felt inclined to open and read, as it had “Gylterson, Sons, and Co. Limited,” which was the recommended firm. I trembled as I opened Mr. Crowbillon’s letter. I wrote him sixteen pages, closely written; he wrote me less than sixteen lines.

His letter was: “Sir,–I totally disagree with you. Your son, in the course of five minutes’ conversation, displayed more intelligence than your firm has done during the last five years.– Yours faithfully, Gilbert E. Gillam O. Crowbillon.”

What am I to do? Here is a letter that I dare not show to Mr. Perkupp, and would not show to Lupin for anything. The crisis had yet to come; for Lupin arrived, and, opening his letter, showed a cheque for 25 pounds as a commission for the recommendation of Mr. Crowbillon, whose custom to Mr. Perkupp is evidently lost for ever. c.u.mmings and Gowing both called, and both took Lupin’s part. c.u.mmings went so far as to say that Lupin would make a name yet. I suppose I was melancholy, for I could only ask: “Yes, but what sort of a name?”

May 16.–I told Mr. Perkupp the contents of the letter in a modified form, but Mr. Perkupp said: “Pray don’t discuss the matter; it is at an end. Your son will bring his punishment upon himself.” I went home in the evening, thinking of the hopeless future of Lupin. I found him in most extravagant spirits and in evening dress. He threw a letter on the table for me to read.

To my amazement, I read that Gylterson and Sons had absolutely engaged Lupin at a salary of 200 pounds a year, with other advantages. I read the letter through three times and thought it must have been for me. But there it was–Lupin Pooter–plain enough. I was silent. Lupin said: “What price Perkupp now? You take my tip, Guv.–‘off’ with Perkupp and freeze on to Gylterson, the firm of the future! Perkupp’s firm? The stagnant dummies have been standing still for years, and now are moving back. I want to go on. In fact I must go OFF, as I am dining with the Murray Poshs to-night.”

In the exuberance of his spirits he hit his hat with his stick, gave a loud war “Whoo-oop,” jumped over a chair, and took the liberty of rumpling my hair all over my forehead, and bounced out of the room, giving me no chance of reminding him of his age and the respect which was due to his parent. Gowing and c.u.mmings came in the evening, and positively cheered me up with congratulations respecting Lupin.

Gowing said: “I always said he would get on, and, take my word, he has more in his head than we three put together.”

Carrie said: “He is a second Hardfur Huttle.”

CHAPTER XXII.

Master Percy Edgar Smith James. Mrs. James (of Sutton) visits us again and introduces “Spiritual Seances.”

May 26, Sunday.–We went to Sutton after dinner to have meat-tea with Mr. and Mrs. James. I had no appet.i.te, having dined well at two, and the entire evening was spoiled by little Percy–their only son–who seems to me to be an utterly spoiled child.

Two or three times he came up to me and deliberately kicked my shins. He hurt me once so much that the tears came into my eyes. I gently remonstrated with him, and Mrs. James said: “Please don’t scold him; I do not believe in being too severe with young children. You spoil their character.”

Little Percy set up a deafening yell here, and when Carrie tried to pacify him, he slapped her face.

I was so annoyed, I said: “That is not my idea of bringing up children, Mrs. James.”

Mrs. James said. “People have different ideas of bringing up children–even your son Lupin is not the standard of perfection.”

A Mr. Mezzini (an Italian, I fancy) here took Percy in his lap. The child wriggled and kicked and broke away from Mr. Mezzini, saying: “I don’t like you–you’ve got a dirty face.”

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A very nice gentleman, Mr. Birks Spooner, took the child by the wrist and said: “Come here, dear, and listen to this.”

He detached his chronometer from the chain and made his watch strike six.

To our horror, the child s.n.a.t.c.hed it from his hand and bounced it down upon the ground like one would a ball.

Mr. Birks Spooner was most amiable, and said he could easily get a new gla.s.s put in, and did not suppose the works were damaged.

To show you how people’s opinions differ, Carrie said the child was bad-tempered, but it made up for that defect by its looks, for it was–in her mind–an unquestionably beautiful child.

I may be wrong, but I do not think I have seen a much uglier child myself. That is MY opinion.

May 30.–I don’t know why it is, but I never antic.i.p.ate with any pleasure the visits to our house of Mrs. James, of Sutton. She is coming again to stay for a few days. I said to Carrie this morning, as I was leaving: “I wish, dear Carrie, I could like Mrs. James better than I do.”

Carrie said: “So do I, dear; but as for years I have had to put up with Mr. Gowing, who is vulgar, and Mr. c.u.mmings, who is kind but most uninteresting, I am sure, dear, you won’t mind the occasional visits of Mrs. James, who has more intellect in her little finger than both your friends have in their entire bodies.”

I was so entirely taken back by this onslaught on my two dear old friends, I could say nothing, and as I heard the ‘bus coming, I left with a hurried kiss–a little too hurried, perhaps, for my upper lip came in contact with Carrie’s teeth and slightly cut it. It was quite painful for an hour afterwards. When I came home in the evening I found Carrie buried in a book on Spiritualism, called THERE IS NO BIRTH, by Florence Singleyet. I need scarcely say the book was sent her to read by Mrs. James, of Sutton. As she had not a word to say outside her book, I spent the rest of the evening altering the stair-carpets, which are beginning to show signs of wear at the edges.

Mrs. James arrived and, as usual, in the evening took the entire management of everything. Finding that she and Carrie were making some preparations for table-turning, I thought it time really to put my foot down. I have always had the greatest contempt for such nonsense, and put an end to it years ago when Carrie, at our old house, used to have seances every night with poor Mrs. Fussters (who is now dead). If I could see any use in it, I would not care. As I stopped it in the days gone by, I determined to do so now.

I said: “I am very sorry Mrs. James, but I totally disapprove of it, apart from the fact that I receive my old friends on this evening.”

Mrs. James said: “Do you mean to say you haven’t read THERE IS NO BIRTH?” I said: “No, and I have no intention of doing so.” Mrs. James seemed surprised and said: “All the world is going mad over the book.” I responded rather cleverly: “Let it. There will be one sane man in it, at all events.”

Mrs. James said she thought it was very unkind, and if people were all as prejudiced as I was, there would never have been the electric telegraph or the telephone.

I said that was quite a different thing.

Mrs. James said sharply: “In what way, pray–in what way?”

I said: “In many ways.”

Mrs. James said: “Well, mention ONE way.”

I replied quietly: “Pardon me, Mrs. James; I decline to discuss the matter. I am not interested in it.”

Sarah at this moment opened the door and showed in c.u.mmings, for which I was thankful, for I felt it would put a stop to this foolish table-turning. But I was entirely mistaken; for, on the subject being opened again, c.u.mmings said he was most interested in Spiritualism, although he was bound to confess he did not believe much in it; still, he was willing to be convinced.

I firmly declined to take any part in it, with the result that my presence was ignored. I left the three sitting in the parlour at a small round table which they had taken out of the drawing-room. I walked into the hall with the ultimate intention of taking a little stroll. As I opened the door, who should come in but Gowing!

On hearing what was going on, he proposed that we should join the circle and he would go into a trance. He added that he KNEW a few things about old c.u.mmings, and would INVENT a few about Mrs. James. Knowing how dangerous Gowing is, I declined to let him take part in any such foolish performance. Sarah asked me if she could go out for half an hour, and I gave her permission, thinking it would be more comfortable to sit with Gowing in the kitchen than in the cold drawing-room. We talked a good deal about Lupin and Mr. and Mrs. Murray Posh, with whom he is as usual spending the evening. Gowing said: “I say, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Lupin if old Posh kicked the bucket.”

My heart gave a leap of horror, and I rebuked Gowing very sternly for joking on such a subject. I lay awake half the night thinking of it–the other hall was spent in nightmares on the same subject.

May 31.–I wrote a stern letter to the laundress. I was rather pleased with the letter, for I thought it very satirical. I said: “You have returned the handkerchiefs without the colour. Perhaps you will return either the colour or the value of the handkerchiefs.” I shall be rather curious to know what she will have to say.

More table-turning in the evening. Carrie said last night was in a measure successful, and they ought to sit again. c.u.mmings came in, and seemed interested. I had the gas lighted in the drawing-room, got the steps, and repaired the cornice, which has been a bit of an eyesore to me. In a fit of unthinkingness–if I may use such an expression,–I gave the floor over the parlour, where the seance was taking place, two loud raps with the hammer. I felt sorry afterwards, for it was the sort of ridiculous, foolhardy thing that Gowing or Lupin would have done.

However, they never even referred to it, but Carrie declared that a message came through the table to her of a wonderful description, concerning someone whom she and I knew years ago, and who was quite unknown to the others.

When we went to bed, Carrie asked me as a favour to sit to-morrow night, to oblige her. She said it seemed rather unkind and unsociable on my part. I promised I would sit once.

June 1.–I sat reluctantly at the table in the evening, and I am bound to admit some curious things happened. I contend they were coincidences, but they were curious. For instance, the table kept tilting towards me, which Carrie construed as a desire that I should ask the spirit a question. I obeyed the rules, and I asked the spirit (who said her name was Lina) if she could tell me the name of an old aunt of whom I was thinking, and whom we used to call Aunt Maggie. The table spelled out C A T. We could make nothing out of it, till I suddenly remembered that her second name was Catherine, which it was evidently trying to spell. I don’t think even Carrie knew this. But if she did, she would never cheat. I must admit it was curious. Several other things happened, and I consented to sit at another seance on Monday.

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 Marche. 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 seance, which, in some respects, was very remarkable, although the first part of it was a little doubtful. Gowing called, as well as c.u.mmings, 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 seance.

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 seance. Carrie and Mrs. James, as well as c.u.mmings, 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 the sort.”

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 arm-chair.

The table began to move again, and we might have had a wonderful seance 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 c.u.mmings 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 very rich.”

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 present.

c.u.mmings, before leaving, said it was certainly interesting, but he wished the spirits would say something about him.

June 4.–Quite looking forward to the seance this evening. Was thinking of it all the day at the office.

Just as we sat down at the table we were annoyed by Gowing entering without knocking.

He said: “I am not going to stop, but I have brought with me a sealed envelope, which I know I can trust with Mrs. Pooter. In that sealed envelope is a strip of paper on which I have asked a simple question. If the spirits can answer that question, I will believe in Spiritualism.”

I ventured the expression that it might be impossible.

Mrs. James said: “Oh no! it is of common occurrence for the spirits to answer questions under such conditions–and even for them to write on locked slates. It is quite worth trying. If ‘Lina’ is in a good temper, she is certain to do it.”

Gowing said: “All right; then I shall be a firm believer. I shall perhaps drop in about half-past nine or ten, and hear the result.”

He then left and we sat a long time. c.u.mmings wanted to know something about some undertaking in which he was concerned, but he could get no answer of any description whatever–at which he said he was very disappointed and was afraid there was not much in table-turning after all. I thought this rather selfish of him. The seance was very similar to the one last night, almost the same in fact. So we turned to the letter. “Lina” took a long time answering the question, but eventually spelt out “ROSES, LILIES, AND COWS.” There was great rocking of the table at this time, and Mrs. James said: “If that is Captain Drinkwater, let us ask him the answer as well?”

It was the spirit of the Captain, and, most singular, he gave the same identical answer: “ROSES, LILIES, AND COWS.”

I cannot describe the agitation with which Carrie broke the seal, or the disappointment we felt on reading the question, to which the answer was so inappropriate. The question was, “WHAT’S OLD POOTER’S AGE?”

This quite decided me.

As I had put my foot down on Spiritualism years ago, so I would again.

I am pretty easy-going as a rule, but I can be extremely firm when driven to it.

I said slowly, as I turned up the gas: “This is the last of this nonsense that shall ever take place under my roof. I regret I permitted myself to be a party to such tomfoolery. If there is anything in it–which I doubt–it is nothing of any good, and I WON’T HAVE IT AGAIN. That is enough.”

Mrs. James said: “I think, Mr. Pooter, you are rather over- stepping–“

I said: “Hush, madam. I am master of this house–please understand that.”

Mrs. James made an observation which I sincerely hope I was mistaken in. I was in such a rage I could not quite catch what she said. But if I thought she said what it sounded like, she should never enter the house again.

CHAPTER XXIII.

Lupin leaves us. We dine at his new apartments, and hear some extraordinary information respecting the wealth of Mr. Murray Posh. Meet Miss Lilian Posh. Am sent for by Mr. Hardfur Huttle. Important.

July 1.–I find, on looking over my diary, nothing of any consequence has taken place during the last month. To-day we lose Lupin, who has taken furnished apartments at Bayswater, near his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Murray Posh, at two guineas a week. I think this is most extravagant of him, as it is half his salary. Lupin says one never loses by a good address, and, to use his own expression, Brickfield Terrace is a bit “off.” Whether he means it is “far off” I do not know. I have long since given up trying to understand his curious expressions. I said the neighbourhood had always been good enough for his parents. His reply was: “It is no question of being good or bad. There is no money in it, and I am not going to rot away my life in the suburbs.”

We are sorry to lose him, but perhaps he will get on better by himself, and there may be some truth in his remark that an old and a young horse can’t pull together in the same cart.

Gowing called, and said that the house seemed quite peaceful, and like old times. He liked Master Lupin very well, but he occasionally suffered from what he could not help–youth.

July 2.–c.u.mmings called, looked very pale, and said he had been very ill again, and of course not a single friend had been near him. Carrie said she had never heard of it, whereupon he threw down a copy of the Bicycle News on the table, with the following paragraph: “We regret to hear that that favourite old roadster, Mr. c.u.mmings (‘Long’ c.u.mmings), has met with what might have been a serious accident in Rye Lane. A mischievous boy threw a stick between the spokes of one of the back wheels, and the machine overturned, bringing our brother tricyclist heavily to the ground. Fortunately he was more frightened than hurt, but we missed his merry face at the dinner at Chingford, where they turned up in good numbers. ‘Long’ c.u.mmings’ health was proposed by our popular Vice, Mr. Westropp, the prince of bicyclists, who in his happiest vein said it was a case of ‘c.u.mMING(s) thro’ the RYE, but fortunately there was more WHEEL than WOE,’ a joke which created roars of laughter.”

We all said we were very sorry, and pressed c.u.mmings to stay to supper. c.u.mmings said it was like old times being without Lupin, and he was much better away.

July 3, Sunday.–In the afternoon, as I was looking out of the parlour window, which was open, a grand trap, driven by a lady, with a gentleman seated by the side of her, stopped at our door. Not wishing to be seen, I withdrew my head very quickly, knocking the back of it violently against the sharp edge of the window-sash. I was nearly stunned. There was a loud double-knock at the front door; Carrie rushed out of the parlour, upstairs to her room, and I followed, as Carrie thought it was Mr. Perkupp. I thought it was Mr. Franching.–I whispered to Sarah over the banisters: “Show them into the drawing-room.” Sarah said, as the shutters were not opened, the room would smell musty. There was another loud rat- tat. I whispered: “Then show them into the parlour, and say Mr. Pooter will be down directly.” I changed my coat, but could not see to do my hair, as Carrie was occupying the gla.s.s.

Sarah came up, and said it was Mrs. Murray Posh and Mr. Lupin.

This was quite a relief. I went down with Carrie, and Lupin met me with the remark: “I say, what did you run away from the window for? Did we frighten you?”

I foolishly said: “What window?”

Lupin said: “Oh, you know. Shut it. You looked as if you were playing at Punch and Judy.”

On Carrie asking if she could offer them anything, Lupin said: “Oh, I think Daisy will take on a cup of tea. I can do with a B. and S.”

I said: “I am afraid we have no soda.”

Lupin said: “Don’t bother about that. You just trip out and hold the horse; I don’t think Sarah understands it.”

They stayed a very short time, and as they were leaving, Lupin said: “I want you both to come and dine with me next Wednesday, and see my new place. Mr. and Mrs. Murray Posh, Miss Posh (Murray’s sister) are coming. Eight o’clock sharp. No one else.”

I said we did not pretend to be fashionable people, and would like the dinner earlier, as it made it so late before we got home.

Lupin said: “Rats! You must get used to it. If it comes to that, Daisy and I can drive you home.”

We promised to go; but I must say in my simple mind the familiar way in which Mrs. Posh and Lupin addressed each other is reprehensible. Anybody would think they had been children together. I certainly should object to a six months’ acquaintance calling MY wife “Carrie,” and driving out with her.

July 4.–Lupin’s rooms looked very nice; but the dinner was, I thought, a little too grand, especially as he commenced with champagne straight off. I also think Lupin might have told us that he and Mr. and Mrs. Murray Posh and Miss Posh were going to put on full evening dress. Knowing that the dinner was only for us six, we never dreamed it would be a full dress affair. I had no appet.i.te. It was quite twenty minutes past eight before we sat down to dinner. At six I could have eaten a hearty meal. I had a bit of bread-and-b.u.t.ter at that hour, feeling famished, and I expect that partly spoiled my appet.i.te.

We were introduced to Miss Posh, whom Lupin called “Little Girl,” as if he had known her all his life. She was very tall, rather plain, and I thought she was a little painted round the eyes. I hope I am wrong; but she had such fair hair, and yet her eyebrows were black. She looked about thirty. I did not like the way she kept giggling and giving Lupin smacks and pinching him. Then her laugh was a sort of a scream that went right through my ears, all the more irritating because there was nothing to laugh at. In fact, Carrie and I were not at all prepossessed with her. They all smoked cigarettes after dinner, including Miss Posh, who startled Carrie by saying: “Don’t you smoke, dear?” I answered for Carrie, and said: “Mrs. Charles Pooter has not arrived at it yet,” whereupon Miss Posh gave one of her piercing laughs again.

Mrs. Posh sang a dozen songs at least, and I can only repeat what I have said before–she does NOT sing in tune; but Lupin sat by the side of the piano, gazing into her eyes the whole time. If I had been Mr. Posh, I think I should have had something to say about it. Mr. Posh made himself very agreeable to us, and eventually sent us home in his carriage, which I thought most kind. He is evidently very rich, for Mrs. Posh had on some beautiful jewellery. She told Carrie her necklace, which her husband gave her as a birthday present, alone cost 300 pounds.

Mr. Posh said he had a great belief in Lupin, and thought he would make rapid way in the world.

I could not help thinking of the 600 pounds Mr. Posh lost over the Parachikka Chlorates through Lupin’s advice.

During the evening I had an opportunity to speak to Lupin, and expressed a hope that Mr. Posh was not living beyond his means.

Lupin sneered, and said Mr. Posh was worth thousands. “Posh’s one- price hat” was a household word in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and all the big towns throughout England. Lupin further informed me that Mr. Posh was opening branch establishments at New York, Sydney, and Melbourne, and was negotiating for Kimberley and Johannesburg.

I said I was pleased to hear it.

Lupin said: “Why, he has settled over 10,000 pounds on Daisy, and the same amount on ‘Lillie Girl.’ If at any time I wanted a little capital, he would put up a couple of ‘thou’ at a day’s notice, and could buy up Perkupp’s firm over his head at any moment with ready cash.”

On the way home in the carriage, for the first time in my life, I was inclined to indulge in the radical thought that money was NOT properly divided.

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He replied: “That’s not the question. The question is whether an illness does not enable you to discover who are your TRUE friends.”

I said such an observation was unworthy of him. To make matters worse, in came Gowing, who gave c.u.mmings a violent slap on the back, and said: “Hulloh! Have you seen a ghost? You look scared to death, like Irving in Macbeth.” I said: “Gently, Gowing, the poor fellow has been very ill.” Gowing roared with laughter and said: “Yes, and you look it, too.” c.u.mmings quietly said: “Yes, and I feel it too–not that I suppose you care.”

An awkward silence followed. Gowing said: “Never mind, c.u.mmings, you and the missis come round to my place to-morrow, and it will cheer you up a bit; for we’ll open a bottle of wine.”

January 26.–An extraordinary thing happened. Carrie and I went round to Gowing’s, as arranged, at half-past seven. We knocked and rang several times without getting an answer. At last the latch was drawn and the door opened a little way, the chain still being up. A man in shirt-sleeves put his head through and said: “Who is it? What do you want?” I said: “Mr. Gowing, he is expecting us.” The man said (as well as I could hear, owing to the yapping of a little dog): “I don’t think he is. Mr. Gowing is not at home.” I said: “He will be in directly.”

With that observation he slammed the door, leaving Carrie and me standing on the steps with a cutting wind blowing round the corner.

Carrie advised me to knock again. I did so, and then discovered for the first time that the knocker had been newly painted, and the paint had come off on my gloves–which were, in consequence, completely spoiled.

I knocked at the door with my stick two or three times.

The man opened the door, taking the chain off this time, and began abusing me. He said: “What do you mean by scratching the paint with your stick like that, spoiling the varnish? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

I said: “Pardon me, Mr. Gowing invited–“

He interrupted and said: “I don’t care for Mr. Gowing, or any of his friends. This is MY door, not Mr. Gowing’s. There are people here besides Mr. Gowing.”

The impertinence of this man was nothing. I scarcely noticed it, it was so trivial in comparison with the scandalous conduct of Gowing.

At this moment c.u.mmings and his wife arrived. c.u.mmings was very lame and leaning on a stick; but got up the steps and asked what the matter was.

The man said: “Mr. Gowing said nothing about expecting anyone. All he said was he had just received an invitation to Croydon, and he should not be back till Monday evening. He took his bag with him.”

With that he slammed the door again. I was too indignant with Gowing’s conduct to say anything. c.u.mmings looked white with rage, and as he descended the steps struck his stick violently on the ground and said: “Scoundrel!”

CHAPTER XV.

Gowing explains his conduct. Lupin takes us for a drive, which we don’t enjoy. Lupin introduces us to Mr. Murray Posh.

February 8.–It does seem hard I cannot get good sausages for breakfast. They are either full of bread or spice, or are as red as beef. Still anxious about the 20 pounds I invested last week by Lupin’s advice. However, c.u.mmings has done the same.

February 9.–Exactly a fortnight has pa.s.sed, and I have neither seen nor heard from Gowing respecting his extraordinary conduct in asking us round to his house, and then being out. In the evening Carrie was engaged marking a half-dozen new collars I had purchased. I’ll back Carrie’s marking against anybody’s. While I was drying them at the fire, and Carrie was rebuking me for scorching them, c.u.mmings came in.

He seemed quite well again, and chaffed us about marking the collars. I asked him if he had heard from Gowing, and he replied that he had not. I said I should not have believed that Gowing could have acted in such an ungentlemanly manner. c.u.mmings said: “You are mild in your description of him; I think he has acted like a cad.”

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the door opened, and Gowing, putting in his head, said: “May I come in?” I said: “Certainly.” Carrie said very pointedly: “Well, you ARE a stranger.” Gowing said: “Yes, I’ve been on and off to Croydon during the last fortnight.” I could see c.u.mmings was boiling over, and eventually he tackled Gowing very strongly respecting his conduct last Sat.u.r.day week. Gowing appeared surprised, and said: “Why, I posted a letter to you in the morning announcing that the party was ‘off, very much off.'” I said: “I never got it.” Gowing, turning to Carrie, said: “I suppose letters sometimes MISCARRY, don’t they, MRS. Carrie?” c.u.mmings sharply said: “This is not a time for joking. I had no notice of the party being put off.” Gowing replied: “I told Pooter in my note to tell you, as I was in a hurry. However, I’ll inquire at the post-office, and we must meet again at my place.” I added that I hoped he would be present at the next meeting. Carrie roared at this, and even c.u.mmings could not help laughing.

February 10, Sunday.–Contrary to my wishes, Carrie allowed Lupin to persuade her to take her for a drive in the afternoon in his trap. I quite disapprove of driving on a Sunday, but I did not like to trust Carrie alone with Lupin, so I offered to go too. Lupin said: “Now, that is nice of you, Guv., but you won’t mind sitting on the back-seat of the cart?”

Lupin proceeded to put on a bright-blue coat that seemed miles too large for him. Carrie said it wanted taking in considerably at the back. Lupin said: “Haven’t you seen a box-coat before? You can’t drive in anything else.”

He may wear what he likes in the future, for I shall never drive with him again. His conduct was shocking. When we pa.s.sed Highgate Archway, he tried to pa.s.s everything and everybody. He shouted to respectable people who were walking quietly in the road to get out of the way; he flicked at the horse of an old man who was riding, causing it to rear; and, as I had to ride backwards, I was compelled to face a gang of roughs in a donkey-cart, whom Lupin had chaffed, and who turned and followed us for nearly a mile, bellowing, indulging in coa.r.s.e jokes and laughter, to say nothing of occasionally pelting us with orange-peel.

Lupin’s excuse–that the Prince of Wales would have to put up with the same sort of thing if he drove to the Derby–was of little consolation to either Carrie or myself. Frank Mutlar called in the evening, and Lupin went out with him.

February 11.–Feeling a little concerned about Lupin, I mustered up courage to speak to Mr. Perkupp about him. Mr. Perkupp has always been most kind to me, so I told him everything, including yesterday’s adventure. Mr. Perkupp kindly replied: “There is no necessity for you to be anxious, Mr. Pooter. It would be impossible for a son of such good parents to turn out erroneously. Remember he is young, and will soon get older. I wish we could find room for him in this firm.” The advice of this good man takes loads off my mind. In the evening Lupin came in.

After our little supper, he said: “My dear parents, I have some news, which I fear will affect you considerably.” I felt a qualm come over me, and said nothing. Lupin then said: “It may distress you–in fact, I’m sure it will–but this afternoon I have given up my pony and trap for ever.” It may seem absurd, but I was so pleased, I immediately opened a bottle of port. Gowing dropped in just in time, bringing with him a large sheet, with a print of a tailless donkey, which he fastened against the wall. He then produced several separate tails, and we spent the remainder of the evening trying blindfolded to pin a tail on in the proper place. My sides positively ached with laughter when I went to bed.

February 12.–In the evening I spoke to Lupin about his engagement with Daisy Mutlar. I asked if he had heard from her. He replied: “No; she promised that old windbag of a father of hers that she would not communicate with me. I see Frank Mutlar, of course; in fact, he said he might call again this evening.” Frank called, but said he could not stop, as he had a friend waiting outside for him, named Murray Posh, adding he was quite a swell. Carrie asked Frank to bring him in.

He was brought in, Gowing entering at the same time. Mr. Murray Posh was a tall, fat young man, and was evidently of a very nervous disposition, as he subsequently confessed he would never go in a hansom cab, nor would he enter a four-wheeler until the driver had first got on the box with his reins in his hands.

On being introduced, Gowing, with his usual want of tact, said: “Any relation to ‘Posh’s three-shilling hats’?” Mr. Posh replied: “Yes; but please understand I don’t try on hats myself. I take no ACTIVE part in the business.” I replied: “I wish I had a business like it.” Mr. Posh seemed pleased, and gave a long but most interesting history of the extraordinary difficulties in the manufacture of cheap hats.

Murray Posh evidently knew Daisy Mutlar very intimately from the way he was talking of her; and Frank said to Lupin once, laughingly: “If you don’t look out, Posh will cut you out!” When they had all gone, I referred to this flippant conversation; and Lupin said, sarcastically: “A man who is jealous has no respect for himself. A man who would be jealous of an elephant like Murray Posh could only have a contempt for himself. I know Daisy. She WOULD wait ten years for me, as I said before; in fact, if necessary, SHE WOULD WAIT TWENTY YEARS FOR ME.”

CHAPTER XVI.

We lose money over Lupin’s advice as to investment, so does c.u.mmings. Murray Posh engaged to Daisy Mutlar.

February 18.–Carrie has several times recently called attention to the thinness of my hair at the top of my head, and recommended me to get it seen to. I was this morning trying to look at it by the aid of a small hand-gla.s.s, when somehow my elbow caught against the edge of the chest of drawers and knocked the gla.s.s out of my hand and smashed it. Carrie was in an awful way about it, as she is rather absurdly superst.i.tious. To make matters worse, my large photograph in the drawing-room fell during the night, and the gla.s.s cracked.

Carrie said: “Mark my words, Charles, some misfortune is about to happen.”

I said: “Nonsense, dear.”

In the evening Lupin arrived home early, and seemed a little agitated. I said: “What’s up, my boy?” He hesitated a good deal, and then said: “You know those Parachikka Chlorates I advised you to invest 20 pounds in? I replied: “Yes, they are all right, I trust?” He replied: “Well, no! To the surprise of everybody, they have utterly collapsed.”

My breath was so completely taken away, I could say nothing. Carrie looked at me, and said: “What did I tell you?” Lupin, after a while, said: “However, you are specially fortunate. I received an early tip, and sold out yours immediately, and was fortunate to get 2 pounds for them. So you get something after all.”

I gave a sigh of relief. I said: “I was not so sanguine as to suppose, as you predicted, that I should get six or eight times the amount of my investment; still a profit of 2 pounds is a good percentage for such a short time.” Lupin said, quite irritably: “You don’t understand. I sold your 20 pounds shares for 2 pounds; you therefore lose 18 pounds on the transaction, whereby c.u.mmings and Gowing will lose the whole of theirs.”

February 19.–Lupin, before going to town, said: “I am very sorry about those Parachikka Chlorates; it would not have happened if the boss, Job Cleanands, had been in town. Between ourselves, you must not be surprised if something goes wrong at our office. Job Cleanands has not been seen the last few days, and it strikes me several people DO want to see him very particularly.”

In the evening Lupin was just on the point of going out to avoid a collision with Gowing and c.u.mmings, when the former entered the room, without knocking, but with his usual trick of saying, “May I come in?”

He entered, and to the surprise of Lupin and myself, seemed to be in the very best of spirits. Neither Lupin nor I broached the subject to him, but he did so of his own accord. He said: “I say, those Parachikka Chlorates have gone an awful smash! You’re a nice one, Master Lupin. How much do you lose?” Lupin, to my utter astonishment, said: “Oh! I had nothing in them. There was some informality in my application–I forgot to enclose the cheque or something, and I didn’t get any. The Guv. loses 18 pounds.” I said: “I quite understood you were in it, or nothing would have induced me to speculate.” Lupin replied: “Well, it can’t be helped; you must go double on the next tip.” Before I could reply, Gowing said: “Well, I lose nothing, fortunately. From what I heard, I did not quite believe in them, so I persuaded c.u.mmings to take my 15 pounds worth, as he had more faith in them than I had.”

Lupin burst out laughing, and, in the most unseemly manner, said: “Alas, poor c.u.mmings. He’ll lose 35 pounds.” At that moment there was a ring at the bell. Lupin said: “I don’t want to meet c.u.mmings.” If he had gone out of the door he would have met him in the pa.s.sage, so as quickly as possible Lupin opened the parlour window and got out. Gowing jumped up suddenly, exclaiming: “I don’t want to see him either!” and, before I could say a word, he followed Lupin out of the window.

For my own part, I was horrified to think my own son and one of my most intimate friends should depart from the house like a couple of interrupted burglars. Poor c.u.mmings was very upset, and of course was naturally very angry both with Lupin and Gowing. I pressed him to have a little whisky, and he replied that he had given up whisky; but would like a little “Unsweetened,” as he was advised it was the most healthy spirit. I had none in the house, but sent Sarah round to Lockwood’s for some.

February 20.–The first thing that caught my eye on opening the Standard was–“Great Failure of Stock and Share Dealers! Mr. Job Cleanands absconded!” I handed it to Carrie, and she replied: “Oh! perhaps it’s for Lupin’s good. I never did think it a suitable situation for him.” I thought the whole affair very shocking.

Lupin came down to breakfast, and seeing he looked painfully distressed, I said: “We know the news, my dear boy, and feel very sorry for you.” Lupin said: “How did you know? who told you?” I handed him the Standard. He threw the paper down, and said: “Oh I don’t care a b.u.t.ton for that! I expected that, but I did not expect this.” He then read a letter from Frank Mutlar, announcing, in a cool manner, that Daisy Mutlar is to be married next month to Murray Posh. I exclaimed, “Murray Posh! Is not that the very man Frank had the impudence to bring here last Tuesday week?” Lupin said: “Yes; the ‘POSH’S-THREE-SHILLING-HATS’ chap.”

We all then ate our breakfast in dead silence.

In fact, I could eat nothing. I was not only too worried, but I cannot and will not eat cushion of bacon. If I cannot get streaky bacon, I will do without anything.

When Lupin rose to go I noticed a malicious smile creep over his face. I asked him what it meant. He replied: “Oh! only a little consolation–still it is a consolation. I have just remembered that, by MY advice, Mr. Murray Posh has invested 600 pounds in Parachikka Chlorates!”

CHAPTER XVII.

Marriage of Daisy Mutlar and Murray Posh. The dream of my life realised. Mr. Perkupp takes Lupin into the office.

March 20.–To-day being the day on which Daisy Mutlar and Mr. Murray Posh are to be married, Lupin has gone with a friend to spend the day at Gravesend. Lupin has been much cut-up over the affair, although he declares that he is glad it is off. I wish he would not go to so many music-halls, but one dare not say anything to him about it. At the present moment he irritates me by singing all over the house some nonsense about “What’s the matter with Gladstone? He’s all right! What’s the matter with Lupin? He’s all right!” I don’t think either of them is. In the evening Gowing called, and the chief topic of conversation was Daisy’s marriage to Murray Posh. I said: “I was glad the matter was at an end, as Daisy would only have made a fool of Lupin.” Gowing, with his usual good taste, said: “Oh, Master Lupin can make a fool of himself without any a.s.sistance.” Carrie very properly resented this, and Gowing had sufficient sense to say he was sorry.

March 21.–To-day I shall conclude my diary, for it is one of the happiest days of my life. My great dream of the last few weeks–in fact, of many years–has been realised. This morning came a letter from Mr. Perkupp, asking me to take Lupin down to the office with me. I went to Lupin’s room; poor fellow, he seemed very pale, and said he had a bad headache. He had come back yesterday from Gravesend, where he spent part of the day in a small boat on the water, having been mad enough to neglect to take his overcoat with him. I showed him Mr. Perkupp’s letter, and he got up as quickly as possible. I begged of him not to put on his fast-coloured clothes and ties, but to dress in something black or quiet-looking.

Carrie was all of a tremble when she read the letter, and all she could keep on saying was: “Oh, I DO hope it will be all right.” For myself, I could scarcely eat any breakfast. Lupin came down dressed quietly, and looking a perfect gentleman, except that his face was rather yellow. Carrie, by way of encouragement said: “You do look nice, Lupin.” Lupin replied: “Yes, it’s a good make- up, isn’t it? A regular-downright-respectable-funereal-first- cla.s.s-City-firm-junior-clerk.” He laughed rather ironically.

In the hall I heard a great noise, and also Lupin shouting to Sarah to fetch down his old hat. I went into the pa.s.sage, and found Lupin in a fury, kicking and smashing a new tall hat. I said: “Lupin, my boy, what are you doing? How wicked of you! Some poor fellow would be glad to have it.” Lupin replied: “I would not insult any poor fellow by giving it to him.”

When he had gone outside, I picked up the battered hat, and saw inside “Posh’s Patent.” Poor Lupin! I can forgive him. It seemed hours before we reached the office. Mr. Perkupp sent for Lupin, who was with him nearly an hour. He returned, as I thought, crestfallen in appearance. I said: “Well, Lupin, how about Mr. Perkupp?” Lupin commenced his song: “What’s the matter with Perkupp? He’s all right!” I felt instinctively my boy was engaged. I went to Mr. Perkupp, but I could not speak. He said: “Well, Mr. Pooter, what is it?” I must have looked a fool, for all I could say was: “Mr. Perkupp, you are a good man.” He looked at me for a moment, and said: “No, Mr. Pooter, YOU are the good man; and we’ll see if we cannot get your son to follow such an excellent example.” I said: “Mr. Perkupp, may I go home? I cannot work any more to-day.”

My good master shook my hand warmly as he nodded his head. It was as much as I could do to prevent myself from crying in the ‘bus; in fact, I should have done so, had my thoughts not been interrupted by Lupin, who was having a quarrel with a fat man in the ‘bus, whom he accused of taking up too much room.

In the evening Carrie sent round for dear old friend c.u.mmings and his wife, and also to Gowing. We all sat round the fire, and in a bottle of “Jackson Freres,” which Sarah fetched from the grocer’s, drank Lupin’s health. I lay awake for hours, thinking of the future. My boy in the same office as myself–we can go down together by the ‘bus, come home together, and who knows but in the course of time he may take great interest in our little home. That he may help me to put a nail in here or a nail in there, or help his dear mother to hang a picture. In the summer he may help us in our little garden with the flowers, and a.s.sist us to paint the stands and pots. (By-the-by, I must get in some more enamel paint.) All this I thought over and over again, and a thousand happy thoughts beside. I heard the clock strike four, and soon after fell asleep, only to dream of three happy people–Lupin, dear Carrie, and myself.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Trouble with a stylographic pen. We go to a Volunteer Ball, where I am let in for an expensive supper. Grossly insulted by a cabman. An odd invitation to Southend.

April 8.–No events of any importance, except that Gowing strongly recommended a new patent stylographic pen, which cost me nine-and- sixpence, and which was simply nine-and-sixpence thrown in the mud. It has caused me constant annoyance and irritability of temper. The ink oozes out of the top, making a mess on my hands, and once at the office when I was knocking the palm of my hand on the desk to jerk the ink down, Mr. Perkupp, who had just entered, called out: “Stop that knocking! I suppose that is you, Mr. Pitt?” That young monkey, Pitt, took a malicious glee in responding quite loudly: “No, sir; I beg pardon, it is Mr. Pooter with his pen; it has been going on all the morning.” To make matters worse, I saw Lupin laughing behind his desk. I thought it wiser to say nothing. I took the pen back to the shop and asked them if they would take it back, as it did not act. I did not expect the full price returned, but was willing to take half. The man said he could not do that–buying and selling were two different things. Lupin’s conduct during the period he has been in Mr. Perkupp’s office has been most exemplary. My only fear is, it is too good to last.

April 9.–Gowing called, bringing with him an invitation for Carrie and myself to a ball given by the East Acton Rifle Brigade, which he thought would be a swell affair, as the member for East Acton (Sir William Grime) had promised his patronage. We accepted of his kindness, and he stayed to supper, an occasion I thought suitable for trying a bottle of the sparkling Algera that Mr. James (of Sutton) had sent as a present. Gowing sipped the wine, observing that he had never tasted it before, and further remarked that his policy was to stick to more recognised brands. I told him it was a present from a dear friend, and one mustn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth. Gowing facetiously replied: “And he didn’t like putting it in the mouth either.”

I thought the remarks were rude without being funny, but on tasting it myself, came to the conclusion there was some justification for them. The sparkling Algera is very like cider, only more sour. I suggested that perhaps the thunder had turned it a bit acid. He merely replied: “Oh! I don’t think so.” We had a very pleasant game of cards, though I lost four shillings and Carrie lost one, and Gowing said he had lost about sixpence: how he could have lost, considering that Carrie and I were the only other players, remains a mystery.

April 14, Sunday.–Owing, I presume, to the unsettled weather, I awoke with a feeling that my skin was drawn over my face as tight as a drum. Walking round the garden with Mr. and Mrs. Treane, members of our congregation who had walked back with us, I was much annoyed to find a large newspaper full of bones on the gravel-path, evidently thrown over by those young Griffin boys next door; who, whenever we have friends, climb up the empty steps inside their conservatory, tap at the windows, making faces, whistling, and imitating birds.

April 15.–Burnt my tongue most awfully with the Worcester sauce, through that stupid girl Sarah shaking the bottle violently before putting it on the table.

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, “That’s right.”

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 a.s.sisted 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 a.s.sisted 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 a.s.sisted 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 gla.s.s of claret, and a sixpenny cigar for the stout gentleman–in all 3 pounds 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 a.s.sured 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 sc.r.a.pe 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 Sat.u.r.day 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 ca.n.a.ls, 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 a.s.sault) for not taking the man in charge. The policeman said he couldn’t interfere, that he had seen no a.s.sault, 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.

April 17.–No water in our cistern again. Sent for Putley, who said he would soon remedy that, the cistern being zinc.

April 18.–Water all right again in the cistern. Mrs. James, of Sutton, called in the afternoon. She and Carrie draped the mantelpiece in the drawing-room, and put little toy spiders, frogs and beetles all over it, as Mrs. James says it’s quite the fashion. It was Mrs. James’ suggestion, and of course Carrie always does what Mrs. James suggests. For my part, I preferred the mantelpiece as it was; but there, I’m a plain man, and don’t pretend to be in the fashion.

April 19.–Our next-door neighbour, Mr. Griffin, called, and in a rather offensive tone accused me, or “someone,” of boring a hole in his cistern and letting out his water to supply our cistern, which adjoined his. He said he should have his repaired, and send us in the bill.

April 20.–c.u.mmings called, hobbling in with a stick, saying he had been on his back for a week. It appears he was trying to shut his bedroom door, which is situated just at the top of the staircase, and unknown to him a piece of cork the dog had been playing with had got between the door, and prevented it shutting; and in pulling the door hard, to give it an extra slam, the handle came off in his hands, and he fell backwards downstairs.

On hearing this, Lupin suddenly jumped up from the couch and rushed out of the room sideways. c.u.mmings looked very indignant, and remarked it was very poor fun a man nearly breaking his back; and though I had my suspicions that Lupin was laughing, I a.s.sured c.u.mmings that he had only run out to open the door to a friend he expected. c.u.mmings said this was the second time he had been laid up, and we had never sent to inquire. I said I knew nothing about it. c.u.mmings said: “It was mentioned in the Bicycle News.”

April 22.–I have of late frequently noticed Carrie rubbing her nails a good deal with an instrument, and on asking her what she was doing, she replied: “Oh, I’m going in for manicuring. It’s all the fashion now.” I said: “I suppose Mrs. James introduced that into your head.” Carrie laughingly replied: “Yes; but everyone does it now.”

I wish Mrs. James wouldn’t come to the house. Whenever she does she always introduces some new-fandangled rubbish into Carrie’s head. One of these days I feel sure I shall tell her she’s not welcome. I am sure it was Mrs. James who put Carrie up to writing on dark slate-coloured paper with white ink. Nonsense!

April 23.–Received a letter from Mrs. Lupkin, of Southend, telling us the train to come by on Sat.u.r.day, and hoping we will keep our promise to stay with her. The letter concluded: “You must come and stay at our house; we shall charge you half what you will have to pay at the Royal, and the view is every bit as good.” Looking at the address at the top of the note-paper, I found it was “Lupkin’s Family and Commercial Hotel.”

I wrote a note, saying we were compelled to “decline her kind invitation.” Carrie thought this very satirical, and to the point.