The Diary Of A Nobody

CHAPTER V

After the Mansion House Ball. Carrie offended. Gowing also offended. A
pleasant party at the Cummings’. Mr. Franching, of Peckham, visits us.

MAY 8. I woke up with a most terrible headache. I could scarcely see,
and the back of my neck was as if I had given it a crick. I thought
first of sending for a doctor; but I did not think it necessary. When
up, I felt faint, and went to Brownish’s, the chemist, who gave me a
draught. So bad at the office, had to get leave to come home. Went to
another chemist in the City, and I got a draught. Brownish’s dose seems
to have made me worse; have eaten nothing all day. To make matters
worse, Carrie, every time I spoke to her, answered me sharply—that is,
when she answered at all.

In the evening I felt very much worse again and said to her: “I do
believe I’ve been poisoned by the lobster mayonnaise at the Mansion House
last night;” she simply replied, without taking her eyes from her sewing:
“Champagne never did agree with you.” I felt irritated, and said: “What
nonsense you talk; I only had a glass and a half, and you know as well as
I do—” Before I could complete the sentence she bounced out of the room.
I sat over an hour waiting for her to return; but as she did not, I
determined I would go to bed. I discovered Carrie had gone to bed
without even saying “good-night”; leaving me to bar the scullery door and
feed the cat. I shall certainly speak to her about this in the morning.

MAY 9. Still a little shaky, with black specks. The Blackfriars
Bi-weekly News contains a long list of the guests at the Mansion House
Ball. Disappointed to find our names omitted, though Farmerson’s is in
plainly enough with M.L.L. after it, whatever that may mean. More than
vexed, because we had ordered a dozen copies to send to our friends.
Wrote to the Blackfriars Bi-weekly News, pointing out their omission.

Carrie had commenced her breakfast when I entered the parlour. I helped
myself to a cup of tea, and I said, perfectly calmly and quietly:
“Carrie, I wish a little explanation of your conduct last night.”

She replied, “Indeed! and I desire something more than a little
explanation of your conduct the night before.”

I said, coolly: “Really, I don’t understand you.”

Carrie said sneeringly: “Probably not; you were scarcely in a condition
to understand anything.”

I was astounded at this insinuation and simply ejaculated: “Caroline!”

She said: “Don’t be theatrical, it has no effect on me. Reserve that
tone for your new friend, Mister Farmerson, the ironmonger.”

I was about to speak, when Carrie, in a temper such as I have never seen
her in before, told me to hold my tongue. She said: “Now I’m going to
say something! After professing to snub Mr. Farmerson, you permit him to
snub you, in my presence, and then accept his invitation to take a
glass of champagne with you, and you don’t limit yourself to one glass.
You then offer this vulgar man, who made a bungle of repairing our
scraper, a seat in our cab on the way home. I say nothing about his
tearing my dress in getting in the cab, nor of treading on Mrs. James’s
expensive fan, which you knocked out of my hand, and for which he never
even apologised; but you smoked all the way home without having the
decency to ask my permission. That is not all! At the end of the
journey, although he did not offer you a farthing towards his share of
the cab, you asked him in. Fortunately, he was sober enough to detect,
from my manner, that his company was not desirable.”

Goodness knows I felt humiliated enough at this; but, to make matters
worse, Gowing entered the room, without knocking, with two hats on his
head and holding the garden-rake in his hand, with Carrie’s fur tippet
(which he had taken off the downstairs hall-peg) round his neck, and
announced himself in a loud, coarse voice: “His Royal Highness, the Lord
Mayor!” He marched twice round the room like a buffoon, and finding we
took no notice, said: “Hulloh! what’s up? Lovers’ quarrel, eh?”

There was a silence for a moment, so I said quietly: “My dear Gowing, I’m
not very well, and not quite in the humour for joking; especially when
you enter the room without knocking, an act which I fail to see the fun
of.”

Gowing said: “I’m very sorry, but I called for my stick, which I thought
you would have sent round.” I handed him his stick, which I remembered I
had painted black with the enamel paint, thinking to improve it. He
looked at it for a minute with a dazed expression and said: “Who did
this?”

I said: “Eh, did what?”

He said: “Did what? Why, destroyed my stick! It belonged to my poor
uncle, and I value it more than anything I have in the world! I’ll know
who did it.”

I said: “I’m very sorry. I dare say it will come off. I did it for the
best.”

Gowing said: “Then all I can say is, it’s a confounded liberty; and I
would add, you’re a bigger fool than you look, only that’s absolutely
impossible.”

MAY 12. Got a single copy of the Blackfriars Bi-weekly News. There was
a short list of several names they had omitted; but the stupid people had
mentioned our names as “Mr. and Mrs. C. Porter.” Most annoying! Wrote
again and I took particular care to write our name in capital letters,
POOTER, so that there should be no possible mistake this time.

MAY 16. Absolutely disgusted on opening the Blackfriars Bi-weekly News
of to-day, to find the following paragraph: “We have received two letters
from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pewter, requesting us to announce the important
fact that they were at the Mansion House Ball.” I tore up the paper and
threw it in the waste-paper basket. My time is far too valuable to
bother about such trifles.

MAY 21. The last week or ten days terribly dull, Carrie being away at
Mrs. James’s, at Sutton. Cummings also away. Gowing, I presume, is
still offended with me for black enamelling his stick without asking him.

MAY 22. Purchased a new stick mounted with silver, which cost
seven-and-sixpence (shall tell Carrie five shillings), and sent it round
with nice note to Gowing.

MAY 23. Received strange note from Gowing; he said: “Offended? not a bit,
my boy—I thought you were offended with me for losing my temper.
Besides, I found after all, it was not my poor old uncle’s stick you
painted. It was only a shilling thing I bought at a tobacconist’s.
However, I am much obliged to you for your handsome present all same.”

MAY 24. Carrie back. Hoorah! She looks wonderfully well, except that
the sun has caught her nose.

MAY 25. Carrie brought down some of my shirts and advised me to take them
to Trillip’s round the corner. She said: “The fronts and cuffs are much
frayed.” I said without a moment’s hesitation: “I’m ‘frayed they are.”
Lor! how we roared. I thought we should never stop laughing. As I
happened to be sitting next the driver going to town on the ‘bus, I told
him my joke about the “frayed” shirts. I thought he would have rolled
off his seat. They laughed at the office a good bit too over it.

MAY 26. Left the shirts to be repaired at Trillip’s. I said to him: “I’m
‘fraid they are frayed.” He said, without a smile: “They’re bound to
do that, sir.” Some people seem to be quite destitute of a sense of
humour.

JUNE 1. The last week has been like old times, Carrie being back, and
Gowing and Cummings calling every evening nearly. Twice we sat out in
the garden quite late. This evening we were like a pack of children, and
played “consequences.” It is a good game.

JUNE 2. “Consequences” again this evening. Not quite so successful as
last night; Gowing having several times overstepped the limits of good
taste.

JUNE 4. In the evening Carrie and I went round to Mr. and Mrs. Cummings’
to spend a quiet evening with them. Gowing was there, also Mr.
Stillbrook. It was quiet but pleasant. Mrs. Cummings sang five or six
songs, “No, Sir,” and “The Garden of Sleep,” being best in my humble
judgment; but what pleased me most was the duet she sang with
Carrie—classical duet, too. I think it is called, “I would that my
love!” It was beautiful. If Carrie had been in better voice, I don’t
think professionals could have sung it better. After supper we made them
sing it again. I never liked Mr. Stillbrook since the walk that Sunday
to the “Cow and Hedge,” but I must say he sings comic-songs well. His
song: “We don’t Want the old men now,” made us shriek with laughter,
especially the verse referring to Mr. Gladstone; but there was one verse
I think he might have omitted, and I said so, but Gowing thought it was
the best of the lot.

JUNE 6. Trillip brought round the shirts and, to my disgust, his charge
for repairing was more than I gave for them when new. I told him so, and
he impertinently replied: “Well, they are better now than when they were
new.” I paid him, and said it was a robbery. He said: “If you wanted
your shirt-fronts made out of pauper-linen, such as is used for packing
and bookbinding, why didn’t you say so?”

JUNE 7. A dreadful annoyance. Met Mr. Franching, who lives at Peckham,
and who is a great swell in his way. I ventured to ask him to come home
to meat-tea, and take pot-luck. I did not think he would accept such a
humble invitation; but he did, saying, in a most friendly way, he would
rather “peck” with us than by himself. I said: “We had better get into
this blue ‘bus.” He replied: “No blue-bussing for me. I have had enough
of the blues lately. I lost a cool ‘thou’ over the Copper Scare. Step
in here.”

We drove up home in style, in a hansom-cab, and I knocked three times at
the front door without getting an answer. I saw Carrie, through the
panels of ground-glass (with stars), rushing upstairs. I told Mr.
Franching to wait at the door while I went round to the side. There I
saw the grocer’s boy actually picking off the paint on the door, which
had formed into blisters. No time to reprove him; so went round and
effected an entrance through the kitchen window. I let in Mr. Franching,
and showed him into the drawing-room. I went upstairs to Carrie, who was
changing her dress, and told her I had persuaded Mr. Franching to come
home. She replied: “How can you do such a thing? You know it’s Sarah’s
holiday, and there’s not a thing in the house, the cold mutton having
turned with the hot weather.”

Eventually Carrie, like a good creature as she is, slipped down, washed
up the teacups, and laid the cloth, and I gave Franching our views of
Japan to look at while I ran round to the butcher’s to get three chops.

JULY 30. The miserable cold weather is either upsetting me or Carrie, or
both. We seem to break out into an argument about absolutely nothing,
and this unpleasant state of things usually occurs at meal-times.

This morning, for some unaccountable reason, we were talking about
balloons, and we were as merry as possible; but the conversation drifted
into family matters, during which Carrie, without the slightest reason,
referred in the most uncomplimentary manner to my poor father’s pecuniary
trouble. I retorted by saying that “Pa, at all events, was a gentleman,”
whereupon Carrie burst out crying. I positively could not eat any
breakfast.

At the office I was sent for by Mr. Perkupp, who said he was very sorry,
but I should have to take my annual holidays from next Saturday.
Franching called at office and asked me to dine at his club, “The
Constitutional.” Fearing disagreeables at home after the “tiff” this
morning, I sent a telegram to Carrie, telling her I was going out to dine
and she was not to sit up. Bought a little silver bangle for Carrie.

JULY 31. Carrie was very pleased with the bangle, which I left with an
affectionate note on her dressing-table last night before going to bed.
I told Carrie we should have to start for our holiday next Saturday. She
replied quite happily that she did not mind, except that the weather was
so bad, and she feared that Miss Jibbons would not be able to get her a
seaside dress in time. I told Carrie that I thought the drab one with
pink bows looked quite good enough; and Carrie said she should not think
of wearing it. I was about to discuss the matter, when, remembering the
argument yesterday, resolved to hold my tongue.

I said to Carrie: “I don’t think we can do better than ‘Good old
Broadstairs.'” Carrie not only, to my astonishment, raised an objection
to Broadstairs, for the first time; but begged me not to use the
expression, “Good old,” but to leave it to Mr. Stillbrook and other
gentlemen of his type. Hearing my ‘bus pass the window, I was obliged
to rush out of the house without kissing Carrie as usual; and I shouted
to her: “I leave it to you to decide.” On returning in the evening,
Carrie said she thought as the time was so short she had decided on
Broadstairs, and had written to Mrs. Beck, Harbour View Terrace, for
apartments.

AUGUST 1. Ordered a new pair of trousers at Edwards’s, and told them not
to cut them so loose over the boot; the last pair being so loose and also
tight at the knee, looked like a sailor’s, and I heard Pitt, that
objectionable youth at the office, call out “Hornpipe” as I passed his
desk. Carrie has ordered of Miss Jibbons a pink Garibaldi and blue-serge
skirt, which I always think looks so pretty at the seaside. In the
evening she trimmed herself a little sailor-hat, while I read to her the
Exchange and Mart. We had a good laugh over my trying on the hat when
she had finished it; Carrie saying it looked so funny with my beard, and
how the people would have roared if I went on the stage like it.

AUGUST 2. Mrs. Beck wrote to say we could have our usual rooms at
Broadstairs. That’s off our mind. Bought a coloured shirt and a pair of
tan-coloured boots, which I see many of the swell clerks wearing in the
City, and hear are all the “go.”

AUGUST 3. A beautiful day. Looking forward to to-morrow. Carrie bought
a parasol about five feet long. I told her it was ridiculous. She said:
“Mrs. James, of Sutton, has one twice as long so;” the matter dropped. I
bought a capital hat for hot weather at the seaside. I don’t know what
it is called, but it is the shape of the helmet worn in India, only made
of straw. Got three new ties, two coloured handkerchiefs, and a pair of
navy-blue socks at Pope Brothers. Spent the evening packing. Carrie
told me not to forget to borrow Mr. Higgsworth’s telescope, which he
always lends me, knowing I know how to take care of it. Sent Sarah out
for it. While everything was seeming so bright, the last post brought us
a letter from Mrs. Beck, saying: “I have just let all my house to one
party, and am sorry I must take back my words, and am sorry you must find
other apartments; but Mrs. Womming, next door, will be pleased to
accommodate you, but she cannot take you before Monday, as her rooms are
engaged Bank Holiday week.”