|I receive an insulting Christmas card. We spend a pleasant Christmas at Carrie's mother's. A Mr. Moss is rather too free. A boisterous evening, during which I am struck in the dark. I receive an extraordinary letter from Mr. Mutlar, senior, respecting Lupin. We miss drinking out the Old Year.|
December 24. -- I am a poor man, but I would gladly give ten shillings to find out who sent me the insulting Christmas card I received this morning. I never insult people; why should they insult me? The worst part of the transaction is, that I find myself suspecting all my friends. The handwriting on the envelope is evidently disguised, being written sloping the wrong way. I cannot think either Gowing or Cummings would do such a mean thing. Lupin denied all knowledge of it, and I believe him; although I disapprove of his laughing and sympathising with the offender. Mr. Franching would be above such an act; and I don't think any of the Mutlars would descend to such a course. I wonder if Pitt, that impudent clerk at the office, did it? Or Mrs. Birrell, the charwoman, or Burwin-Fosselton? The writing is too good for the former.
Christmas Day. -- We caught the 10.20 train at Paddington, and spent a pleasant day at Carrie's mother's. The country was quite nice and pleasant, although the roads were sloppy. We dined in the middle of the day, just ten of us, and talked over old times. If everybody had a nice, uninterfering mother-in-law, such as I have, what a deal of happiness there would be in the world. Being all in good spirits, I proposed her health, and I made, I think, a very good speech.
I concluded, rather neatly, by saying: 'On an occasion like this - whether relatives, friends, or acquaintances, -- we are all inspired with good feelings towards each other. We are of one mind, and think only of love and friendship. Those who have quarrelled with absent friends should kiss and make it up. Those who happily have not fallen out, can kiss all the same.'
I saw the tears in the eyes of both Carrie and her mother, and must say I felt very flattered by the compliment. That dear old Reverend John Panzy Smith, who married us, made a most cheerful and amusing speech, and said he should act on my suggestion respecting the kissing. He then walked round the table and kissed all the ladies, including Carrie. Of course one did not object to this; but I was more than staggered when a young fellow named Moss, who was a stranger to me, and who had scarcely spoken a word through dinner, jumped up suddenly with a sprig of misletoe, and exclaimed: 'Hulloh! I don't see why I shouldn't be on in this scene.' Before one could realise what he was about to do, he kissed Carrie and the rest of the ladies.
Fortunately the matter was treated as a joke, and we all laughed; but it was a dangerous experiment, and I felt very uneasy for a moment as to the result. I subsequently referred to the matter to Carrie, but she said: 'Oh, he's not much more than a boy.' I said that he had a very large moustache for a boy. Carrie replied: 'I didn't say he was not a nice boy.'
December 26. -- I did not sleep very well last night; I never do in a strange bed. I feel a little indigestion, which one must expect at this time of the year. Carrie and I returned to Town in the evening. Lupin came in late. He said he enjoyed his Christmas, and added: 'I feel as fit as a Lowther Arcade fiddle, and only require a little more "oof" to feel as fit as a £500 Stradivarius.' I have long since given up trying to understand Lupin's slang, or asking him to explain it.
December 27. -- I told Lupin I was expecting Gowing and Cummings to drop in to-morrow evening for a quiet game. I was in hope the boy would volunteer to stay in, and help to amuse them. Instead of which, he said: 'Oh, you had better put them off, as I have asked Daisy and Frank Mutlar to come.' I said I could not think of doing such a thing. Lupin said: 'Then I will send a wire, and put off Daisy.' I suggested that a post-card or letter would reach her quite soon enough, and would not be so extravagant.
Carrie, who had listened to the above conversation with apparent annoyance, directed a well-aimed shaft at Lupin. She said: 'Lupin, why do you object to Daisy meeting your father's friends? Is it because they are not good enough for her, or (which is equally possible) she is not good enough for them?' Lupin was dumbfounded, and could make no reply. When he left the room, I gave Carrie a kiss of approval.
December 28. -- Lupin, on coming down to breakfast, said to his mother: 'I have not put off Daisy and Frank, and should like them to join Gowing and Cummings this evening.' I felt very pleased with the boy for this. Carrie said, in reply: 'I am glad you let me know in time, as I can turn over the cold leg of mutton, dress it with a little parsley, and no one will know it has been cut.' She further said she would make a few custards, and stew some pippins, so that they would be cold by the evening.
Finding Lupin in good spirits, I asked him quietly if he really had any personal objection to either Gowing or Cummings. He replied: 'Not in the least. I think Cummings looks rather an ass, but that is partly due to his patronising "the three-and-six-one-price hat company," and wearing a reach-me-down frock-coat. As for that perpetual brown velveteen jacket of Gowing's -- why, he resembles an itinerant photographer.'
I said it was not the coat that made the gentleman; whereupon Lupin, with a laugh, replied: 'No, and it wasn't much of a gentleman who made their coats.'
We were rather jolly at supper, and Daisy made herself very agreeable, especially in the earlier part of the evening, when she sang. At supper, however, she said: 'Can you make tee-to-tums with bread?' and she commenced rolling up pieces of bread, and twisting them round on the table. I felt this to be bad manners, but of course said nothing. Presently Daisy and Lupin, to my disgust, began throwing bread-pills at each other. Frank followed suit, and so did Cummings and Gowing, to my astonishment. They then commenced throwing hard pieces of crust, one piece catching me on the forehead, and making me blink. I said: 'Steady, please; steady!' Frank jumped up and said: 'Tum, tum; then the band played.'
I did not know what this meant, but they all roared, and continued the bread-battle. Gowing suddenly seized all the parsley off the cold mutton, and threw it full in my face. I looked daggers at Gowing, who replied: 'I say, it's no good trying to look indignant, with your hair full of parsley.' I rose from the table, and insisted that a stop should be put to this foolery at once. Frank Mutlar shouted: 'Time, gentlemen, please! time!' and turned out the gas, leaving us in absolute darkness.
I was feeling my way out of the room, when I suddenly received a hard intentional punch at the back of my head. I said loudly: 'Who did that?' There was no answer; so I repeated the question, with the same result. I struck a match, and lighted the gas. They were all talking and laughing, so I kept my own counsel; but, after they had gone, I said to Carrie; 'The person who sent me that insulting post-card at Christmas was here to-night.'
December 29. -- I had a most vivid dream last night. I woke up, and on falling asleep, dreamed the same dream over again precisely. I dreamt I heard Frank Mutlar telling his sister that he had not only sent me the insulting Christmas card, but admitted that he was the one who punched my head last night in the dark. As fate would have it, Lupin, at breakfast, was reading extracts from a letter he had just received from Frank.
I asked him to pass the envelope, that I might compare the writing. He did so, and I examined it by the side of the envelope containing the Christmas card. I detected a similarity in the writing, in spite of the attempted disguise. I passed them on to Carrie, who began to laugh. I asked her what she was laughing at, and she said the card was never directed to me at all. It was 'L. Pooter,' not 'C. Pooter.' Lupin asked to look at the direction and the card, and exclaimed, with a laugh: 'Oh yes, Guv., it's meant for me.'
I said: 'Are you in the habit of receiving insulting Christmas cards?' He replied: 'Oh yes, and of sending them, too.'
In the evening Gowing called, and said he enjoyed himself very much last night. I took the opportunity to confide in him, as an old friend, about the vicious punch last night. He burst out laughing, and said: 'Oh, it was your head, was it? I know I accidentally hit something, but I thought it was a brick wall.' I told him I felt hurt, in both senses of the expression.
December 30, Sunday. -- Lupin spent the whole day with the Mutlars. He seemed rather cheerful in the evening, so I said: 'I'm glad to see you so happy, Lupin.' He answered: 'Well, Daisy is a splendid girl, but I was obliged to take her old fool of a father down a peg. What with his meanness over his cigars, his stinginess over his drinks, his farthing economy in turning down the gas if you only quit the room for a second, writing to one on half-sheets of note-paper, sticking the remnant of the last cake of soap on to the new cake, putting two bricks on each side of the fireplace, and his general "outside-halfpenny-'bus-ness," I was compelled to let him have a bit of my mind.' I said: 'Lupin, you are not much more than a boy; I hope you won't repent it.'
December 31. -- The last day of the Old Year. I received an extraordinary letter from Mr. Mutlar, senior. He writes:
For a long time past I have had considerable difficulty deciding the important question, 'Who is the master of my own house? Myself, or your son Lupin?' Believe me, I have no prejudice one way or the other; but I have been most reluctantly compelled to give judgment to the effect that I am the master of it. Under the circumstances, it has become my duty to forbid your son to enter my house again. I am sorry, because it deprives me of the society of one of the most modest, unassuming, and gentlemanly persons I have ever had the honour of being acquainted with.'
I did not desire the last day to wind up disagreeably, so I said nothing to either Carrie or Lupin about the letter.
A most terrible fog came on, and Lupin would go out in it, but promised to be back to drink out the Old Year -- a custom we have always observed. At a quarter to twelve Lupin had not returned, and the fog was fearful. As time was drawing close, I got out the spirits. Carrie and I deciding on whisky, I opened a fresh bottle; but Carrie said it smelt like brandy. As I knew it to be whisky, I said there was nothing to discuss. Carrie, evidently vexed that Lupin had not come in, did discuss it all the same, and wanted me to have a small wager with her to decide by the smell. I said I could decide it by the taste in a moment. A silly and unnecessary argument followed, the result of which was we suddenly saw it was a quarter-past twelve, and, for the first time in our married life, we missed welcoming in the New Year. Lupin got home at a quarter- past two, having got lost in the fog -- so he said.
The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, 1892