The Diary of a Nobody/Chapter 14
Begin the year with an unexpected promotion at the office. I make two good jokes. I get an enormous rise in my salary. Lupin speculates successfully and starts a pony-trap. Have to speak to Sarah. Extraordinary conduct of Gowing's.
January 1.—I had intended concluding my diary last week; but a most important event has happened, so I shall continue for a little while longer on the fly-leaves attached to the end of my last year's diary. It had just struck half-past one, and I was on the point of leaving the office to have my dinner, when I received a message that Mr. Perkupp desired to see me at once. I must confess that my heart commenced to beat and I had most serious misgivings.
Mr. Perkupp was in his room writing, and he said: "Take a seat, Mr. Pooter, I shall not be a moment."
I replied: "No, thank you, sir; I'll stand." I watched the clock on the mantelpiece, and I was waiting quite twenty minutes; but it seemed hours. Mr. Perkupp at last got up himself.
I said: "I hope there is nothing wrong, sir?"
He replied: "Oh dear, no! quite the reverse, I hope." What a weight off my mind! My breath seemed to come back again in an instant.
Mr. Perkupp said: "Mr. Buckling is going to retire, and there will be some slight changes in the office. You have been with us nearly twenty-one years, and, in consequence of your conduct during that period, we intend making a special promotion in your favour. We have not quite decided how you will be placed; but in any case there will be a considerable increase in your salary, which, it is quite unnecessary for me to say, you fully deserve. I have an appointment at two; but you shall hear more to-morrow."
He then left the room quickly, and I was not even allowed time or thought to express a single word of grateful thanks to him. I need not say how dear Carrie received this joyful news. With perfect simplicity she said: "At last we shall be able to have a chimney-glass for the back drawing-room, which we always wanted." I added: "Yes, and at last you shall have that little costume which you saw at Peter Robinson's so cheap."
January 2.—I was in a great state of suspense all day at the office. I did not like to worry Mr. Perkupp; but as he did not send for me, and mentioned yesterday that he would see me again to-day, I thought it better, perhaps, to go to him. I knocked at his door, and on entering, Mr. Perkupp said: "Oh! it's you, Mr. Pooter; do you want to see me?" I said: "No, sir, I thought you wanted to see me!" "Oh!" he replied, "I remember. Well, I am very busy to-day; I will see you to-morrow."
January 3.—Still in a state of anxiety and excitement, which was not alleviated by ascertaining that Mr. Perkupp sent word he should not be at the office to-day. In the evening, Lupin, who was busily engaged with a paper, said suddenly to me: "Do you know anything about chalk pits, Guv.?" I said: "No, my boy, not that I 'm aware of." Lupin said: "Well, I give you the tip; chalk pits are as safe as Consols, and pay six per cent, at par." I said a rather neat thing, viz.: "They may be six per cent, at par, but your pa has no money to invest." Carrie and I both roared with laughter. Lupin did not take the slightest notice of the joke, although I purposely repeated it for him; but continued: "I give you the tip, that's all—chalk pits!" I said another funny thing: "Mind you don't fall into them!" Lupin put on a supercilious smile, and said: "Bravo! Joe Miller."
January 4.—Mr. Perkupp sent for me and told me that my position would be that of one of the senior clerks. I was more than overjoyed. Mr. Perkupp added, he would let me know to-morrow what the salary would be. This means another day's anxiety; I don't mind, for it is anxiety of the right sort. That reminded me that I had forgotten to speak to Lupin about the letter I received from Mr. Mutlar, senr. I broached the subject to Lupin in the evening, having first consulted Carrie. Lupin was riveted to the Financial News, as if he had been a born capitalist, and I said: "Pardon me a moment, Lupin, how is it you have not been to the Mutlars' any day this week?"
Lupin answered: "I told you! I cannot stand old Mutlar."
I said: "Mr. Mutlar writes to me to say pretty plainly that he cannot stand you!"
Lupin said: "Well, I like his cheek in writing to you. I'll find out if his father is still alive, and I will write him a note complaining of his son, and I'll state pretty clearly that his son is a blithering idiot!"
I said: "Lupin, please moderate your expressions in the presence of your mother."
Lupin said: "I'm very sorry, but there is no other expression one can apply to him. However, I'm determined not to enter his place again."
I said: "You know, Lupin, he has forbidden you the house."
Lupin replied: "Well, we won't split straws—it's all the same. Daisy is a trump, and will wait for me ten years, if necessary."
January 5.—I can scarcely write the news. Mr. Perkupp told me my salary would be raised £100! I stood gaping for a moment unable to realise it. I annually get £10 rise, and I thought it might be £15 or even £20; but £100 surpasses all belief. Carrie and I both rejoiced over our good fortune. Lupin came home in the evening in the utmost good spirits. I sent Sarah quietly round to the grocer's for a bottle of champagne, the same as we had before, "Jackson Fréres." It was opened at supper, and I said to Lupin: "This is to celebrate some good news I have received to-day." Lupin replied: "Hooray, Guv.! And I have some good news, also; a double event, eh?" I said: "My boy, as a result of twenty-one years' industry and strict attention to the interests of my superiors in office, I have been rewarded with promotion and a rise in salary of £100."
Lupin gave three cheers, and we rapped the table furiously, which brought in Sarah to see what the matter was. Lupin ordered us to "fill up" again, and addressing us upstanding, said: "Having been in the firm of Job Cleanands, stock and share-brokers, a few weeks, and not having paid particular attention to the interests of my superiors in office, my Guv'nor, as a reward to me, allotted me £5 worth of shares in a really good thing. The result is, today I have made £200." I said: "Lupin, you are joking." "No, Guv., it 's the good old truth; Job Cleanands put me on to Chlorates."
January 21.—I am very much concerned at Lupin having started a pony-trap. I said: "Lupin, are you justified in this outrageous extravagance?" Lupin replied: "Well, one must get to the City somehow. I've only hired it, and can give it up any time I like." I repeated my question: "Are you justified in this extravagance?" He replied: "Look here, Guv.; excuse me saying so, but you 're a bit out of date. It does not pay nowadays, fiddling about over small things. I don't mean anything personal, Guv'nor. My boss says if I take his tip, and stick to big things, I can make big money!" I said I thought the very idea of speculation most horrifying. Lupin said: "It is not speculation, it's a dead cert." I advised him, at all events, not to continue the pony and cart; but he replied: "I made £200 in one day; now suppose I only make £200 in a month, or put it at £100 a month, which is ridiculously low why, that is £1,250 a year. What's a few pounds a week for a trap?"
I did not pursue the subject further, beyond saying that I should feel glad when the autumn came, and Lupin would be of age and responsible for his own debts. He answered: "My dear Guv., I promise you faithfully that I will never speculate with what I have not got. I shall only go on Job Cleanands' tips, and as he is in the 'know' it is pretty safe sailing." I felt somewhat relieved. Gowing called in the evening and, to my surprise, informed me that, as he had made £10 by one of Lupin's tips, he intended asking us and the Cummings round next Saturday. Carrie and I said we should be delighted.
January 22.—I don't generally lose my temper with servants; but I had to speak to Sarah rather sharply about a careless habit she has recently contracted of shaking the table-cloth, after removing the breakfast things, in a manner which causes all the crumbs to fall on the carpet, eventually to be trodden in. Sarah answered very rudely: "Oh, you are always complaining." I replied: "Indeed, I am not. I spoke to you last week about walking all over the drawing-room carpet with a piece of yellow soap on the heel of your boot." She said: "And you're always grumbling about your breakfast." I said: "No, I am not; but I feel perfectly justified in complaining that I never can get a hard-boiled egg. The moment I crack the shell it spurts all over the plate, and I have spoken to you at least fifty times about it." She began to cry and make a scene; but fortunately my 'bus came by, so I had a good excuse for leaving her. Gowing left a message in the evening, that we were not to forget next Saturday. Carrie amusingly said: "As he has never asked any friends before, we are not likely to forget it."
January 23.—I asked Lupin to try and change the hard brushes, he recently made me a present of, for some softer ones, as my hairdresser tells me I ought not to brush my hair too much just now.
January 24.—The new chimney-glass came home for the back drawing-room. Carrie arranged some fans very prettily on the top and on each side. It is an immense improvement to the room.
January 25.—We had just finished our tea, when who should come in but Cummings, who has not been here for over three weeks. I noticed that he looked anything but well, so I said: "Well, Cummings, how are you? You look a little blue." He replied: "Yes! and I feel blue too." I said: "Why, what's the matter?" He said: "Oh, nothing, except that I have been on my back for a couple of weeks, that's all. At one time my doctor nearly gave me up, yet not a soul has come near me. No one has even taken the trouble to inquire whether I was alive or dead."
I said: "This is the first I have heard of it. I have passed your house several nights, and presumed you had company, as the rooms were so brilliantly lighted."
Cummings replied: "No! The only company I have had was my wife, the doctor, and the landlady—the last-named having turned out a perfect trump. I wonder you did not see it in the paper. I know it was mentioned in the Bicycle News."
I thought to cheer him up, and said: "Well, you are all right now?"
He replied: "That's not the question. The question is whether an illness does not enable you to discover who are your true friends."
I said such an observation was unworthy of him. To make matters worse, in came Gowing, who gave Cummings a violent slap on the back, and said: "Hulloh! Have you seen a ghost? You look scared to death, like Irving in Macbeth." I said: "Gently, Gowing, the poor fellow has been very ill." Gowing roared with laughter and said: "Yes, and you look it, too." Cummings quietly said: "Yes, and I feel it too not that I suppose you care."
An awkward silence followed. Gowing said: "Never mind, Cummings, you and the missis come round to my place to-morrow, and it will cheer you up a bit; for we'll open a bottle of wine."
January 26.—An extraordinary thing happened. Carrie and I went round to Gowing's, as arranged, at half-past seven. We knocked and rang several times without getting an answer. At last the latch was drawn and the door opened a little way, the chain still being up. A man in shirt-sleeves put his head through and said: "Who is it? What do you want?" I said: "Mr. Gowing, he is expecting us." The man said (as well as I could hear, owing to the yapping of a little dog): "I don't think he is. Mr. Gowing is not at home." I said: "He will be in directly."
With that observation he slammed the door, leaving Carrie and me standing on the steps with a cutting wind blowing round the corner.
Carrie advised me to knock again. I did so, and then discovered for the first time that the knocker had been newly painted, and the paint had come off on my gloves—which were, in consequence, completely spoiled.
I knocked at the door with my stick two or three times.
The man opened the door, taking the chain off this time, and began abusing me. He said: "What do you mean by scratching the paint with your stick like that, spoiling the varnish? You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
I said: "Pardon me, Mr. Gowing invited——"
He interrupted and said: "I don't care for Mr. Gowing, or any of his friends. This is my door, not Mr. Gowing's. There are people here besides Mr. Gowing."
The impertinence of this man was nothing. I scarcely noticed it, it was so trivial in comparison with the scandalous conduct of Gowing.
At this moment Cummings and his wife arrived. Cummings was very lame and leaning on a stick; but got up the steps and asked what the matter was.
The man said: "Mr. Gowing said nothing about expecting anyone. All he said was he had just received an invitation to Croydon, and he should not be back till Monday evening. He took his bag with him."
With that he slammed the door again. I was too indignant with Gowing's conduct to say anything. Cummings looked white with rage, and as he descended the steps struck his stick violently on the ground and said: "Scoundrel!"