The Diary Of A Nobody

CHAPTER II

Tradesmen and the scraper still troublesome. Gowing rather tiresome with
his complaints of the paint. I make one of the best jokes of my life.
Delights of Gardening. Mr. Stillbrook, Gowing, Cummings, and I have a
little misunderstanding. Sarah makes me look a fool before Cummings.

APRIL 9. Commenced the morning badly. The butcher, whom we decided not
to arrange with, called and blackguarded me in the most uncalled-for
manner. He began by abusing me, and saying he did not want my custom. I
simply said: “Then what are you making all this fuss about it for?” And
he shouted out at the top of his voice, so that all the neighbours could
hear: “Pah! go along. Ugh! I could buy up ‘things’ like you by the
dozen!”

I shut the door, and was giving Carrie to understand that this
disgraceful scene was entirely her fault, when there was a violent
kicking at the door, enough to break the panels. It was the blackguard
butcher again, who said he had cut his foot over the scraper, and would
immediately bring an action against me. Called at Farmerson’s, the
ironmonger, on my way to town, and gave him the job of moving the scraper
and repairing the bells, thinking it scarcely worth while to trouble the
landlord with such a trifling matter.

Arrived home tired and worried. Mr. Putley, a painter and decorator, who
had sent in a card, said he could not match the colour on the stairs, as
it contained Indian carmine. He said he spent half-a-day calling at
warehouses to see if he could get it. He suggested he should entirely
repaint the stairs. It would cost very little more; if he tried to match
it, he could only make a bad job of it. It would be more satisfactory to
him and to us to have the work done properly. I consented, but felt I
had been talked over. Planted some mustard-and-cress and radishes, and
went to bed at nine.

APRIL 10. Farmerson came round to attend to the scraper himself. He
seems a very civil fellow. He says he does not usually conduct such
small jobs personally, but for me he would do so. I thanked him, and
went to town. It is disgraceful how late some of the young clerks are at
arriving. I told three of them that if Mr. Perkupp, the principal, heard
of it, they might be discharged.

Pitt, a monkey of seventeen, who has only been with us six weeks, told me
“to keep my hair on!” I informed him I had had the honour of being in
the firm twenty years, to which he insolently replied that I “looked it.”
I gave him an indignant look, and said: “I demand from you some respect,
sir.” He replied: “All right, go on demanding.” I would not argue with
him any further. You cannot argue with people like that. In the evening
Gowing called, and repeated his complaint about the smell of paint.
Gowing is sometimes very tedious with his remarks, and not always
cautious; and Carrie once very properly reminded him that she was
present.

APRIL 11. Mustard-and-cress and radishes not come up yet. To-day was a
day of annoyances. I missed the quarter-to-nine ‘bus to the City,
through having words with the grocer’s boy, who for the second time had
the impertinence to bring his basket to the hall-door, and had left the
marks of his dirty boots on the fresh-cleaned door-steps. He said he had
knocked at the side door with his knuckles for a quarter of an hour. I
knew Sarah, our servant, could not hear this, as she was upstairs doing
the bedrooms, so asked the boy why he did not ring the bell? He replied
that he did pull the bell, but the handle came off in his hand.

I was half-an-hour late at the office, a thing that has never happened to
me before. There has recently been much irregularity in the attendance
of the clerks, and Mr. Perkupp, our principal, unfortunately choose this
very morning to pounce down upon us early. Someone had given the tip to
the others. The result was that I was the only one late of the lot.
Buckling, one of the senior clerks, was a brick, and I was saved by his
intervention. As I passed by Pitt’s desk, I heard him remark to his
neighbour: “How disgracefully late some of the head clerks arrive!” This
was, of course, meant for me. I treated the observation with silence,
simply giving him a look, which unfortunately had the effect of making
both of the clerks laugh. Thought afterwards it would have been more
dignified if I had pretended not to have heard him at all. Cummings
called in the evening, and we played dominoes.

APRIL 12. Mustard-and-cress and radishes not come up yet. Left Farmerson
repairing the scraper, but when I came home found three men working. I
asked the meaning of it, and Farmerson said that in making a fresh hole
he had penetrated the gas-pipe. He said it was a most ridiculous place
to put the gas-pipe, and the man who did it evidently knew nothing about
his business. I felt his excuse was no consolation for the expense I
shall be put to.

In the evening, after tea, Gowing dropped in, and we had a smoke together
in the breakfast-parlour. Carrie joined us later, but did not stay long,
saying the smoke was too much for her. It was also rather too much for
me, for Gowing had given me what he called a green cigar, one that his
friend Shoemach had just brought over from America. The cigar didn’t
look green, but I fancy I must have done so; for when I had smoked a
little more than half I was obliged to retire on the pretext of telling
Sarah to bring in the glasses.

I took a walk round the garden three or four times, feeling the need of
fresh air. On returning Gowing noticed I was not smoking: offered me
another cigar, which I politely declined. Gowing began his usual
sniffing, so, anticipating him, I said: “You’re not going to complain of
the smell of paint again?” He said: “No, not this time; but I’ll tell
you what, I distinctly smell dry rot.” I don’t often make jokes, but I
replied: “You’re talking a lot of dry rot yourself.” I could not help
roaring at this, and Carrie said her sides quite ached with laughter. I
never was so immensely tickled by anything I have ever said before. I
actually woke up twice during the night, and laughed till the bed shook.

APRIL 13. An extraordinary coincidence: Carrie had called in a woman to
make some chintz covers for our drawing-room chairs and sofa to prevent
the sun fading the green rep of the furniture. I saw the woman, and
recognised her as a woman who used to work years ago for my old aunt at
Clapham. It only shows how small the world is.

APRIL 14. Spent the whole of the afternoon in the garden, having this
morning picked up at a bookstall for fivepence a capital little book, in
good condition, on Gardening. I procured and sowed some half-hardy
annuals in what I fancy will be a warm, sunny border. I thought of a
joke, and called out Carrie. Carrie came out rather testy, I thought. I
said: “I have just discovered we have got a lodging-house.” She replied:
“How do you mean?” I said: “Look at the boarders.” Carrie said: “Is
that all you wanted me for?” I said: “Any other time you would have
laughed at my little pleasantry.” Carrie said: “Certainly—at any other
time, but not when I am busy in the house.” The stairs looked very
nice. Gowing called, and said the stairs looked all right, but it made
the banisters look all wrong, and suggested a coat of paint on them
also, which Carrie quite agreed with. I walked round to Putley, and
fortunately he was out, so I had a good excuse to let the banisters
slide. By-the-by, that is rather funny.

APRIL 15, Sunday. At three o’clock Cummings and Gowing called for a good
long walk over Hampstead and Finchley, and brought with them a friend
named Stillbrook. We walked and chatted together, except Stillbrook, who
was always a few yards behind us staring at the ground and cutting at the
grass with his stick.

As it was getting on for five, we four held a consultation, and Gowing
suggested that we should make for “The Cow and Hedge” and get some tea.
Stillbrook said: “A brandy-and-soda was good enough for him.” I reminded
them that all public-houses were closed till six o’clock. Stillbrook
said, “That’s all right—bona-fide travellers.”

We arrived; and as I was trying to pass, the man in charge of the gate
said: “Where from?” I replied: “Holloway.” He immediately put up his
arm, and declined to let me pass. I turned back for a moment, when I saw
Stillbrook, closely followed by Cummings and Gowing, make for the
entrance. I watched them, and thought I would have a good laugh at their
expense, I heard the porter say: “Where from?” When, to my surprise, in
fact disgust, Stillbrook replied: “Blackheath,” and the three were
immediately admitted.

Gowing called to me across the gate, and said: “We shan’t be a minute.”
I waited for them the best part of an hour. When they appeared they were
all in most excellent spirits, and the only one who made an effort to
apologise was Mr. Stillbrook, who said to me: “It was very rough on you
to be kept waiting, but we had another spin for S. and B.’s.” I walked
home in silence; I couldn’t speak to them. I felt very dull all the
evening, but deemed it advisable not to say anything to Carrie about
the matter.

APRIL 16. After business, set to work in the garden. When it got dark I
wrote to Cummings and Gowing (who neither called, for a wonder; perhaps
they were ashamed of themselves) about yesterday’s adventure at “The Cow
and Hedge.” Afterwards made up my mind not to write yet.

APRIL 17. Thought I would write a kind little note to Gowing and Cummings
about last Sunday, and warning them against Mr. Stillbrook. Afterwards,
thinking the matter over, tore up the letters and determined not to
write at all, but to speak quietly to them. Dumfounded at receiving
a sharp letter from Cummings, saying that both he and Gowing had been
waiting for an explanation of my (mind you, MY) extraordinary conduct
coming home on Sunday. At last I wrote: “I thought I was the aggrieved
party; but as I freely forgive you, you—feeling yourself aggrieved—should
bestow forgiveness on me.” I have copied this verbatim in the diary,
because I think it is one of the most perfect and thoughtful sentences I
have ever written. I posted the letter, but in my own heart I felt I was
actually apologising for having been insulted.

APRIL 18. Am in for a cold. Spent the whole day at the office sneezing.
In the evening, the cold being intolerable, sent Sarah out for a bottle
of Kinahan. Fell asleep in the arm-chair, and woke with the shivers.
Was startled by a loud knock at the front door. Carrie awfully flurried.
Sarah still out, so went up, opened the door, and found it was only
Cummings. Remembered the grocer’s boy had again broken the side-bell.
Cummings squeezed my hand, and said: “I’ve just seen Gowing. All right.
Say no more about it.” There is no doubt they are both under the
impression I have apologised.

While playing dominoes with Cummings in the parlour, he said: “By-the-by,
do you want any wine or spirits? My cousin Merton has just set up in the
trade, and has a splendid whisky, four years in bottle, at thirty-eight
shillings. It is worth your while laying down a few dozen of it.” I
told him my cellars, which were very small, were full up. To my horror,
at that very moment, Sarah entered the room, and putting a bottle of
whisky, wrapped in a dirty piece of newspaper, on the table in front of
us, said: “Please, sir, the grocer says he ain’t got no more Kinahan, but
you’ll find this very good at two-and-six, with twopence returned on the
bottle; and, please, did you want any more sherry? as he has some at
one-and-three, as dry as a nut!”