This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Where necessary paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.
A catalogue of domestic calamities and difficult callers. Samuel has forgotten he is supposed to be in South Wales, and for some reason he uses a Gaelic expression for a drink taken before leaving (doch an dorrach), and spells whiskey in the Irish fashion. He ends on a resounding pun of ‘bang’ for an outright lie and the noise Mrs Crumpet makes. — David Skilton
I have been a loan (dear me, I mean alone, I am so used to talking with you about loans, sir) for several days, sir -- and I know about it, too. When Mrs Samuel, together with the rest of my household, proposed to visit her uncle Jerusha, who, like the madman that he is, invited the whole boiling to his new villa residence at the Mumbles, I readily agreed that I should be left in sole charge of my own dwelling, it being stipulated that old Mrs Crumpet, the charwoman, should call daily, and ‘do things up a bit’ whilst I went to a restaurant to dine. Somehow, when Mrs Samuel proposes to go away and leave me for a day or two, I generally fall in most readily with her scheme, though I never seem too eager outwardly, lest she should change her mind, but I have never been left in sole charge of the house before, and I never will be left again, if I know it. Oh, sir, what I have suffered. But l'll try and tell you. There is something terribly lonesome and uncanny about a house from which the inhabitants have departed. The silence is simply torturing, and when a knock sounds at the door it seems to strike one's very heart and to shake the foundations of the blessed building itself. And, oh, dear, the grim shapes that common articles of furniture do take about dusk — maddening, sir, maddening. I was fairly comfortable during the first afternoon of my wife's absence, except for ‘answering the door’ (as it is called), which I had to do about every ten minutes.
A not unacceptable caller.
There was a young woman, who left a tract, a voluble man, who smelt of stale tobacco, and wanted to sell me a ‘nest’ comprising an inordinate number of pie-dishes; a boy who wanted to know if Mr Higginbotham lived there; a man with a gas-rate demand; two insurance agents; nine or ten different women with tape and buttons; a missionary in want of subscriptions; and a miscellaneous collection of other kawkers [untruths]. All that afternoon (a fearfully hot one, sir) was I kept dodging about between the front door and the back, and sometimes I had callers at both doors at once. At last, about 5 o'clock, thinking that there was a lull, I determined that I'd have a cool, refreshing bath. No sooner had I stepped in, sir, than bang, bang, bang went the front door knocker, nearly startling me out of my senses. Dripping like a dog, I wrapped a towel or two round me, opened an upper window, and looked out. It was a boy, a nasty boy with a red head and freckled face. ‘I've dropped my ball down your cellar grate, will yer ger it for us, maister,’ said he. Down I snapped the window at once, sir, as you would have done, but mischief came of it afterwards. When I got back to the bath, I found that through leaving the tap on, I had allowed it to overflow, and there was a mess I can tell you; the drawing-room ceiling has looked like a map of the world ever since, and books on the centre table have suffered more than some. Well, I mopped the flood up as well as I could, and then I thought I'd go down stairs and have a cup of tea.
Can you spare a copper, Gov’nor; I’ve walked all the way from New York.
Perhaps you have never noticed, sir, that when a man who is unaccustomed to preparing a meal for himself endeavours to do so, he infall[i]ably finds that every separate article required is in a different cupboard or drawer. So I found it — though I didn’t find all the articles. First of all, I put the kettle on, then, with much difficulty, I discovered the tea, and shovelled a quantity into the pot. Then I thought about the milk. Couldn't find it anywhere at first. Had to rummage in a dark cellar — a frightfully weird place; brought the milk up stairs at last. Just instituting an investigation in the matter of a teaspoon, when bang, bang, bang at the door. Went upstairs in a nervous tremor; fancied that it might be a telegram saying that somebody [sic] had gone wrong with somebody or other; no one there; runaway knock evidently; drat the mischievous urchins. Went down stairs again; ha, the cat at the milk; made a run for ‘tabby’; over went the milk and the sugar basin; awful mess; cat non est. Dear me, where do they keep the knives and forks? and now I want another knife; I’ll get the marmalade jar; now I'll fill the teapot; the kettle must boil by this time; by-the-way; how am I to I tell whether a kettle boils or not? there doesn't seem to be much steam; well, of all the asses in creation, I must surely -- why, I've never put any water in the kettle; soon repair that omission, but kettle red hot; will let it cool first; bang, bang, bang, another confounded knock; never mind, must go to see who it is; no one there; that boy with the red head, I've no doubt, but I'll be even with him; whilst the kettle is a-biling [sic] I'll wait behind the door with this ashplant, and I'll give Master Rufus ‘gyp;’ I'll make him sit up so that he cannot sit down; patience, Samuel, he's sure come back; bang, bang, bang; whiz -- take that, you young scoundrel — oh, wha- a-a-at, dear me, Mr Kadger, the insurance agent! I'm very sorry; I took you for a wicked boy who has been annoying me for the last hour. I have not drawn blood, I hope, I really struck harder than – [un]intentional injury, do you say? Paltry excuse; will take out a summons and make me smart; really, you -- gone in a fearful rage; well, this is too much. Oh, that cat again, and going through the ventilation window with an abstracted kippered herring, too; I'll have a shy; whizz, bang; dear, dear, dear, I've thrown the brush through the window; bang; bang; ‘Ah, the bla-gard, I'm kilt entoirely; it's the brush has sphlit me skull like a cocoanut’; old hawker been hit; must square her; two shillings at one bang: she's taken the brush too. No tea for me -- I'll go out.
The Rev. Sigismund Stiveks, the missionary.
This is the sort of thing, sir, that I underwent for a start, but I'll tell you more than that. The silence at nights was simply cruelty to animals. And one night I latched myself out, and nearly got apprehended by a too diligent and astute constable, who watched me breaking into my own domicile; and I quite willingly starved Mrs Samuel's canary to death, and that nasty, red-headed boy (I am sure that he was the culprit) threw a lump of ‘slag’ through one of the dining-room windows, and all the peas in the garden which were just coming to perfection disappeared one night, and I am certain that I saw a mysterious looking man (such a one as your Mr M'Govan, who always finds everything out so easily, is accustomed to dealing with) looking through the key-hole of the kitchen door. I couldn't work at home for answering the door, and when I went out to dine I always happened, somehow, to meet with friends, and then I stopped out — rather late once or twice. And talk about dust in the house, sir, why I hadn't been alone for two days before the whole, house seemed to be steeped and impregnated with dust. I got mad and reckless, sir, through my terrible loneliness, and one night I took Swigley and Swypes home with me just to have a doch an dorrach , or final toothful. And I couldn’t get rid of them; they smoked away at my best box of cigars, and they seemed possessed of a maddening thirst. Swigley, after endeavouring to slake this, insisted, he having been in the yeomanry, in demonstrating with the poker how he did the sword exercise. Awful result – the pier glass smashed right in the centre. I know what Mrs Samuel will say when she returns. Swigley says he’ll pay for the glass: never knew him pay for a glass of any kind yet. Swypes, too, behaved abominably; he fell over the hat rack, and broke the weather-glass [barometer], and his own neck nearly. Shouldn't have much minded what was broken as long as it wasn't my property.
Left: You shall pay for this, sir. Right: Mrs. Crumpet had to do things up.
Mrs Crumpet had to do things up a bit. She did! She did up all the available liquid consolation in the house, and, wholly disgusted, I laid a trap for her. I put some turpentine into the whiskey decanter. I knew she'd have a sample: she did! She threatened me with an action for damages, and her son, who is the ‘chucker out,’ whatever that may be, at the Bull and Battleaxe, has called three times to see me. I believe that he expresses a charitable intention of ‘riving me i'bits,’ and of becoming possessed of certain portions of my interior organisation. l must avoid him, ha, ha! Oh, that Mrs Crumpet was a bad lot; I am certain that the stock of table linen left by Mrs Samuel has most sensibly diminished, and I've a sort of idea, sir, that the drawing-room clock, which never went before, has gone finally. Perhaps it's [sic] tick is not represented by a tick—et [pawn ticket]. Bang, bang, bang; Oh, dear, I'll telegraph for Mrs Samuel; it’s no use at all going on like this.
Last modified 4 December 2021