George & Weedon Grossmith
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.
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 assisted 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 assisted 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 assisted 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 glass 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 assured 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 scrape 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 Saturday week, and stay till Monday. Mrs. Lupkin said she would write to us tomorrow, 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 canals, 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 assault) for not taking the man in charge. The policeman said he couldn't interfere, that he had seen no assault, 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.
On hearing this, Lupin suddenly jumped up from the couch and rushed out of the room sideways. Cummings 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 assured Cummings that he had only run out to open the door to a friend he expected. Cummings 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. Cummings said: "It was mentioned in the Bicycle News."
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!
I wrote a note, saying we were compelled to "decline her kind invitation." Carrie thought this very satirical, and to the point.
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."
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