The Diary Of A Nobody

CHAPTER X

Reflections. I make another Good Joke. Am annoyed at the constant
serving-up of the “Blanc-Mange.” Lupin expresses his opinion of
Weddings. Lupin falls out with Daisy Mutlar.

NOVEMBER 16. Woke about twenty times during the night, with terrible
thirst. Finished off all the water in the bottle, as well as half that
in the jug. Kept dreaming also, that last night’s party was a failure,
and that a lot of low people came without invitation, and kept chaffing
and throwing things at Mr. Perkupp, till at last I was obliged to hide
him in the box-room (which we had just discovered), with a bath-towel
over him. It seems absurd now, but it was painfully real in the dream.
I had the same dream about a dozen times.

Carrie annoyed me by saying: “You know champagne never agrees with you.”
I told her I had only a couple of glasses of it, having kept myself
entirely to port. I added that good champagne hurt nobody, and Lupin
told me he had only got it from a traveller as a favour, as that
particular brand had been entirely bought up by a West-End club.

I think I ate too heartily of the “side dishes,” as the waiter called
them. I said to Carrie: “I wish I had put those ‘side dishes’ aside.”
I repeated this, but Carrie was busy, packing up the teaspoons we had
borrowed of Mrs. Cummings for the party. It was just half-past eleven,
and I was starting for the office, when Lupin appeared, with a yellow
complexion, and said: “Hulloh! Guv., what priced head have you this
morning?” I told him he might just as well speak to me in Dutch. He
added: “When I woke this morning, my head was as big as Baldwin’s
balloon.” On the spur of the moment I said the cleverest thing I think I
have ever said; viz.: “Perhaps that accounts for the parashooting
pains.” We roared.

NOVEMBER 17. Still feel tired and headachy! In the evening Gowing
called, and was full of praise about our party last Wednesday. He said
everything was done beautifully, and he enjoyed himself enormously.
Gowing can be a very nice fellow when he likes, but you never know how
long it will last. For instance, he stopped to supper, and seeing some
blanc-mange on the table, shouted out, while the servant was in the
room: “Hulloh! The remains of Wednesday?”

NOVEMBER 18. Woke up quite fresh after a good night’s rest, and feel
quite myself again. I am satisfied a life of going-out and Society is
not a life for me; we therefore declined the invitation which we received
this morning to Miss Bird’s wedding. We only met her twice at Mrs.
James’, and it means a present. Lupin said: “I am with you for once. To
my mind a wedding’s a very poor play. There are only two parts in it—the
bride and bridegroom. The best man is only a walking gentleman. With
the exception of a crying father and a snivelling mother, the rest are
supers who have to dress well and have to pay for their insignificant
parts in the shape of costly presents.” I did not care for the
theatrical slang, but thought it clever, though disrespectful.

I told Sarah not to bring up the blanc-mange again for breakfast. It
seems to have been placed on our table at every meal since Wednesday.
Cummings came round in the evening, and congratulated us on the success
of our party. He said it was the best party he had been to for many a
year; but he wished we had let him know it was full dress, as he would
have turned up in his swallow-tails. We sat down to a quiet game of
dominoes, and were interrupted by the noisy entrance of Lupin and Frank
Mutlar. Cummings and I asked them to join us. Lupin said he did not
care for dominoes, and suggested a game of “Spoof.” On my asking if it
required counters, Frank and Lupin in measured time said: “One, two,
three; go! Have you an estate in Greenland?” It was simply Greek to me,
but it appears it is one of the customs of the “Holloway Comedians” to do
this when a member displays ignorance.

In spite of my instructions, that blanc-mange was brought up again for
supper. To make matters worse, there had been an attempt to disguise it,
by placing it in a glass dish with jam round it. Carrie asked Lupin if
he would have some, and he replied: “No second-hand goods for me, thank
you.” I told Carrie, when we were alone, if that blanc-mange were
placed on the table again I should walk out of the house.

NOVEMBER 19, Sunday. A delightfully quiet day. In the afternoon Lupin
was off to spend the rest of the day with the Mutlars. He departed in
the best of spirits, and Carrie said: “Well, one advantage of Lupin’s
engagement with Daisy is that the boy seems happy all day long. That
quite reconciles me to what I must confess seems an imprudent
engagement.”

Carrie and I talked the matter over during the evening, and agreed that
it did not always follow that an early engagement meant an unhappy
marriage. Dear Carrie reminded me that we married early, and, with the
exception of a few trivial misunderstandings, we had never had a really
serious word. I could not help thinking (as I told her) that half the
pleasures of life were derived from the little struggles and small
privations that one had to endure at the beginning of one’s married life.
Such struggles were generally occasioned by want of means, and often
helped to make loving couples stand together all the firmer.

Carrie said I had expressed myself wonderfully well, and that I was quite
a philosopher.

We are all vain at times, and I must confess I felt flattered by Carrie’s
little compliment. I don’t pretend to be able to express myself in fine
language, but I feel I have the power of expressing my thoughts with
simplicity and lucidness. About nine o’clock, to our surprise, Lupin
entered, with a wild, reckless look, and in a hollow voice, which I must
say seemed rather theatrical, said: “Have you any brandy?” I said: “No;
but here is some whisky.” Lupin drank off nearly a wineglassful without
water, to my horror.

We all three sat reading in silence till ten, when Carrie and I rose to
go to bed. Carrie said to Lupin: “I hope Daisy is well?”

Lupin, with a forced careless air that he must have picked up from the
“Holloway Comedians,” replied: “Oh, Daisy? You mean Miss Mutlar. I
don’t know whether she is well or not, but please never to mention her
name again in my presence.”

CHAPTER XI

We have a dose of Irving imitations. Make the acquaintance of a Mr.
Padge. Don’t care for him. Mr. Burwin-Fosselton becomes a nuisance.

NOVEMBER 20. Have seen nothing of Lupin the whole day. Bought a cheap
address-book. I spent the evening copying in the names and addresses of
my friends and acquaintances. Left out the Mutlars of course.

NOVEMBER 21. Lupin turned up for a few minutes in the evening. He asked
for a drop of brandy with a sort of careless look, which to my mind was
theatrical and quite ineffective. I said: “My boy, I have none, and I
don’t think I should give it you if I had.” Lupin said: “I’ll go where I
can get some,” and walked out of the house. Carrie took the boy’s part,
and the rest of the evening was spent in a disagreeable discussion, in
which the words “Daisy” and “Mutlar” must have occurred a thousand times.

NOVEMBER 22. Gowing and Cummings dropped in during the evening. Lupin
also came in, bringing his friend, Mr. Burwin-Fosselton—one of the
“Holloway Comedians”—who was at our party the other night, and who
cracked our little round table. Happy to say Daisy Mutlar was never
referred to. The conversation was almost entirely monopolised by the
young fellow Fosselton, who not only looked rather like Mr. Irving, but
seemed to imagine that he was the celebrated actor. I must say he gave
some capital imitations of him. As he showed no signs of moving at
supper time, I said: “If you like to stay, Mr. Fosselton, for our usual
crust—pray do.” He replied: “Oh! thanks; but please call me
Burwin-Fosselton. It is a double name. There are lots of Fosseltons,
but please call me Burwin-Fosselton.”

He began doing the Irving business all through supper. He sank so low
down in his chair that his chin was almost on a level with the table, and
twice he kicked Carrie under the table, upset his wine, and flashed a
knife uncomfortably near Gowing’s face. After supper he kept stretching
out his legs on the fender, indulging in scraps of quotations from plays
which were Greek to me, and more than once knocked over the fire-irons,
making a hideous row—poor Carrie already having a bad headache.

When he went, he said, to our surprise: “I will come to-morrow and bring
my Irving make-up.” Gowing and Cummings said they would like to see it
and would come too. I could not help thinking they might as well give a
party at my house while they are about it. However, as Carrie sensibly
said: “Do anything, dear, to make Lupin forget the Daisy Mutlar
business.”

NOVEMBER 23. In the evening, Cummings came early. Gowing came a little
later and brought, without asking permission, a fat and, I think, very
vulgar-looking man named Padge, who appeared to be all moustache. Gowing
never attempted any apology to either of us, but said Padge wanted to see
the Irving business, to which Padge said: “That’s right,” and that is
about all he did say during the entire evening. Lupin came in and
seemed in much better spirits. He had prepared a bit of a surprise. Mr.
Burwin-Fosselton had come in with him, but had gone upstairs to get
ready. In half-an-hour Lupin retired from the parlour, and returning in
a few minutes, announced “Mr. Henry Irving.”

I must say we were all astounded. I never saw such a resemblance. It
was astonishing. The only person who did not appear interested was the
man Padge, who had got the best arm-chair, and was puffing away at a foul
pipe into the fireplace. After some little time I said; “Why do actors
always wear their hair so long?” Carrie in a moment said, “Mr. Hare
doesn’t wear long hair.” How we laughed except Mr. Fosselton, who
said, in a rather patronising kind of way, “The joke, Mrs. Pooter, is
extremely appropriate, if not altogether new.” Thinking this rather a
snub, I said: “Mr. Fosselton, I fancy—” He interrupted me by saying:
“Mr. Burwin-Fosselton, if you please,” which made me quite forget what
I was going to say to him. During the supper Mr. Burwin-Fosselton again
monopolised the conversation with his Irving talk, and both Carrie and I
came to the conclusion one can have even too much imitation of Irving.
After supper, Mr. Burwin-Fosselton got a little too boisterous over his
Irving imitation, and suddenly seizing Gowing by the collar of his coat,
dug his thumb-nail, accidentally of course, into Gowing’s neck and took a
piece of flesh out. Gowing was rightly annoyed, but that man Padge, who
having declined our modest supper in order that he should not lose his
comfortable chair, burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter at the
little misadventure. I was so annoyed at the conduct of Padge, I said:
“I suppose you would have laughed if he had poked Mr. Gowing’s eye out?”
to which Padge replied: “That’s right,” and laughed more than ever. I
think perhaps the greatest surprise was when we broke up, for Mr.
Burwin-Fosselton said: “Good-night, Mr. Pooter. I’m glad you like the
imitation, I’ll bring the other make-up to-morrow night.”

NOVEMBER 24. I went to town without a pocket-handkerchief. This is the
second time I have done this during the last week. I must be losing my
memory. Had it not been for this Daisy Mutlar business, I would have
written to Mr. Burwin-Fosselton and told him I should be out this
evening, but I fancy he is the sort of young man who would come all the
same.

Dear old Cummings came in the evening; but Gowing sent round a little
note saying he hoped I would excuse his not turning up, which rather
amused me. He added that his neck was still painful. Of course,
Burwin-Fosselton came, but Lupin never turned up, and imagine my utter
disgust when that man Padge actually came again, and not even accompanied
by Gowing. I was exasperated, and said: “Mr. Padge, this is a
surprise.” Dear Carrie, fearing unpleasantness, said: “Oh! I suppose
Mr. Padge has only come to see the other Irving make-up.” Mr. Padge
said: “That’s right,” and took the best chair again, from which he never
moved the whole evening.

My only consolation is, he takes no supper, so he is not an expensive
guest, but I shall speak to Gowing about the matter. The Irving
imitations and conversations occupied the whole evening, till I was sick
of it. Once we had a rather heated discussion, which was commenced by
Cummings saying that it appeared to him that Mr. Burwin-Fosselton was not
only like Mr. Irving, but was in his judgment every way as good or
even better. I ventured to remark that after all it was but an
imitation of an original.

Cummings said surely some imitations were better than the originals. I
made what I considered a very clever remark: “Without an original there
can be no imitation.” Mr. Burwin-Fosselton said quite impertinently:
“Don’t discuss me in my presence, if you please; and, Mr. Pooter, I
should advise you to talk about what you understand;” to which that cad
Padge replied: “That’s right.” Dear Carrie saved the whole thing by
suddenly saying: “I’ll be Ellen Terry.” Dear Carrie’s imitation wasn’t a
bit liked, but she was so spontaneous and so funny that the disagreeable
discussion passed off. When they left, I very pointedly said to Mr.
Burwin-Fosselton and Mr. Padge that we should be engaged to-morrow
evening.

NOVEMBER 25. Had a long letter from Mr. Fosselton respecting last night’s
Irving discussion. I was very angry, and I wrote and said I knew little
or nothing about stage matters, was not in the least interested in them
and positively declined to be drawn into a discussion on the subject,
even at the risk of its leading to a breach of friendship. I never wrote
a more determined letter.

On returning home at the usual hour on Saturday afternoon I met near the
Archway Daisy Mutlar. My heart gave a leap. I bowed rather stiffly, but
she affected not to have seen me. Very much annoyed in the evening by
the laundress sending home an odd sock. Sarah said she sent two pairs,
and the laundress declared only a pair and a half were sent. I spoke to
Carrie about it, but she rather testily replied: “I am tired of speaking
to her; you had better go and speak to her yourself. She is outside.” I
did so, but the laundress declared that only an odd sock was sent.

Gowing passed into the passage at this time and was rude enough to listen
to the conversation, and interrupting, said: “Don’t waste the odd sock,
old man; do an act of charity and give it to some poor man with only one
leg.” The laundress giggled like an idiot. I was disgusted and walked
upstairs for the purpose of pinning down my collar, as the button had
come off the back of my shirt.

When I returned to the parlour, Gowing was retailing his idiotic joke
about the odd sock, and Carrie was roaring with laughter. I suppose I am
losing my sense of humour. I spoke my mind pretty freely about Padge.
Gowing said he had met him only once before that evening. He had been
introduced by a friend, and as he (Padge) had “stood” a good dinner,
Gowing wished to show him some little return. Upon my word, Gowing’s
coolness surpasses all belief. Lupin came in before I could reply, and
Gowing unfortunately inquired after Daisy Mutlar. Lupin shouted: “Mind
your own business, sir!” and bounced out of the room, slamming the door.
The remainder of the night was Daisy Mutlar—Daisy Mutlar—Daisy Mutlar.
Oh dear!

NOVEMBER 26, Sunday. The curate preached a very good sermon to-day—very
good indeed. His appearance is never so impressive as our dear old
vicar’s, but I am bound to say his sermons are much more impressive. A
rather annoying incident occurred, of which I must make mention. Mrs.
Fernlosse, who is quite a grand lady, living in one of those large houses
in the Camden Road, stopped to speak to me after church, when we were all
coming out. I must say I felt flattered, for she is thought a good deal
of. I suppose she knew me through seeing me so often take round the
plate, especially as she always occupies the corner seat of the pew. She
is a very influential lady, and may have had something of the utmost
importance to say, but unfortunately, as she commenced to speak a strong
gust of wind came and blew my hat off into the middle of the road.

I had to run after it, and had the greatest difficulty in recovering it.
When I had succeeded in doing so, I found Mrs. Fernlosse had walked on
with some swell friends, and I felt I could not well approach her now,
especially as my hat was smothered with mud. I cannot say how
disappointed I felt.

In the evening (Sunday evening of all others) I found an impertinent
note from Mr. Burwin-Fosselton, which ran as follows:

“DEAR MR. POOTER,—Although your junior by perhaps some twenty or
thirty years—which is sufficient reason that you ought to have a
longer record of the things and ways in this miniature of a planet—I
feel it is just within the bounds of possibility that the wheels of
your life don’t travel so quickly round as those of the humble writer
of these lines. The dandy horse of past days has been known to
overtake the slow coach.

“Do I make myself understood?

“Very well, then! Permit me, Mr. Pooter, to advise you to accept the
verb. sap. Acknowledge your defeat, and take your whipping
gracefully; for remember you threw down the glove, and I cannot claim
to be either mentally or physically a coward!

“Revenons à nos moutons.

“Our lives run in different grooves. I live for MY ART—THE STAGE.
Your life is devoted to commercial pursuits—’A life among Ledgers.’
My books are of different metal. Your life in the City is
honourable, I admit. But how different! Cannot even you see the
ocean between us? A channel that prevents the meeting of our brains
in harmonious accord. Ah! But chaçun à son goût.

“I have registered a vow to mount the steps of fame. I may crawl, I
may slip, I may even falter (we are all weak), but reach the top
rung of the ladder I will!!! When there, my voice shall be heard,
for I will shout to the multitudes below: ‘Vici!’ For the present
I am only an amateur, and my work is unknown, forsooth, save to a
party of friends, with here and there an enemy.

“But, Mr. Pooter, let me ask you, ‘What is the difference between the
amateur and the professional?’

“None!!!

“Stay! Yes, there is a difference. One is paid for doing what the
other does as skilfully for nothing!

“But I will be paid, too! For I, contrary to the wishes of my
family and friends, have at last elected to adopt the stage as my
profession. And when the farce craze is over—and, mark you,
that will be soon—I will make my power known; for I feel—pardon my
apparent conceit—that there is no living man who can play the
hump-backed Richard as I feel and know I can.

“And you will be the first to come round and bend your head in
submission. There are many matters you may understand, but knowledge
of the fine art of acting is to you an unknown quantity.

“Pray let this discussion cease with this letter. Vale!

Yours truly,
“BURWIN-FOSSELTON.”

I was disgusted. When Lupin came in, I handed him this impertinent
letter, and said: “My boy, in that letter you can see the true character
of your friend.”

Lupin, to my surprise, said: “Oh yes. He showed me the letter before he
sent it. I think he is right, and you ought to apologise.”