The Diary of a Nobody/Chapter 23
Lupin leaves us. We dine at his new apartments, and hear some extraordinary information respecting the wealth of Mr. Murray Posh. Meet Miss Lilian Posh. Am sent for by Mr. Hardfur Huttle. Important.
July 1.—I find, on looking over my diary, nothing of any consequence has taken place during the last month. To-day we lose Lupin, who has taken furnished apartments at Bayswater, near his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Murray Posh, at two guineas a week. I think this is most extravagant of him, as it is half his salary. Lupin says one never loses by a good address, and, to use his own expression, Brickfield Terrace is a bit "off." Whether he means it is "far off" I do not know. I have long since given up trying to understand his curious expressions. I said the neighbourhood had always been good enough for his parents. His reply was: "It is no question of being good or bad. There is no money in it, and I am not going to rot away my life in the suburbs."
We are sorry to lose him, but perhaps he will get on better by himself, and there may be some truth in his remark that an old and a young horse can't pull together in the same cart.
Gowing called, and said that the house seemed quite peaceful, and like old times. He liked Master Lupin very well, but he occasionally suffered from what he could not help youth.
July 2.—Cummings called, looked very pale, and said he had been very ill again, and of course not a single friend had been near him. Carrie said she had never heard of it, whereupon he threw down a copy of the Bicycle News on the table, with the following paragraph: "We regret to hear that that favourite old roadster, Mr. Cummings ('Long' Cummings), has met with what might have been a serious accident in Rye Lane. A mischievous boy threw a stick between the spokes of one of the back wheels, and the machine overturned, bringing our brother tricyclist heavily to the ground. Fortunately he was more frightened than hurt, but we missed his merry face at the dinner at Chingford, where they turned up in good numbers. 'Long' Cummings' health was proposed by our popular Vice, Mr. Westropp, the prince of bicyclists, who in his happiest vein said it was a case of 'Cumming(s) thro' the Rye, but fortunately there was more wheel than woe,' a joke which created roars of laughter."
We all said we were very sorry, and pressed Cummings to stay to supper. Cummings said it was like old times being without Lupin, and he was much better away.
July 3, Sunday.—In the afternoon, as I was looking out of the parlour window, which was open, a grand trap, driven by a lady, with a gentleman seated by the side of her, stopped at our door. Not wishing to be seen, I withdrew my head very quickly, knocking the back of it violently against the sharp edge of the windowsash. I was nearly stunned. There was a loud double-knock at the front door; Carrie rushed out of the parlour, upstairs to her room, and I followed, as Carrie thought it was Mr. Perkupp. I thought it was Mr. Franching. I whispered to Sarah over the banisters: "Show them into the drawing-room." Sarah said, as the shutters were not opened, the room would smell musty. There was another loud rat-tat. I whispered: "Then show them into the parlour, and say Mr. Pooter will be down directly." I changed my coat, but could not see to do my hair, as Carrie was occupying the glass.
Sarah came up, and said it was Mrs. Murray Posh and Mr. Lupin.
This was quite a relief. I went down with Carrie, and Lupin met me with the remark: "I say, what did you run away from the window for? Did we frighten you?"
I foolishly said: "What window?"
Lupin said: "Oh, you know. Shut it. You looked as if you were playing at Punch and Judy."
On Carrie asking if she could offer them anything, Lupin said: "Oh, I think Daisy will take on a cup of tea. I can do with a B. and S."
I said: "I am afraid we have no soda."
Lupin said: "Don't bother about that. You just trip out and hold the horse; I don't think Sarah understands it."
They stayed a very short time, and as they were leaving, Lupin said: "I want you both to come and dine with me next Wednesday, and see my new place. Mr. and Mrs. Murray Posh, Miss Posh (Murray's sister) are coming. Eight o'clock sharp. No one else."
I said we did not pretend to be fashionable people, and would like the dinner earlier, as it made it so late before we got home.
Lupin said: "Rats! You must get used to it. If it comes to that, Daisy and I can drive you home."
We promised to go; but I must say in my simple mind the familiar way in which Mrs. Posh and Lupin addressed each other is reprehensible. Anybody would think they had been children together. I certainly should object to six months' acquaintance calling my wife "Carrie," and driving out with her.
July 4.—Lupin's rooms looked very nice; but the dinner was, I thought, a little too grand, especially as he commenced with champagne straight off. I also think Lupin might have told us that he and Mr. and Mrs. Murray Posh and Miss Posh were going to put on full evening dress. Knowing that the dinner was only for us six, we never dreamed it would be a full dress affair. I had no appetite. It was quite twenty minutes past eight before we sat down to dinner. At six I could have eaten a hearty meal. I had a bit of bread-and-butter at that hour, feeling famished, and I expect that partly spoiled my appetite.
We were introduced to Miss Posh, whom Lupin called "Lillie Girl," as if he had known her all his life. She was very tall, rather plain, and I thought she was a little painted round the eyes. I hope I am wrong; but she had such fair hair, and yet her eyebrows were black. She looked about thirty. I did not like the way she kept giggling and giving Lupin smacks and pinching him. Then her laugh was a sort of a scream that went right through my ears, all the more irritating because there was nothing to laugh at. In fact, Carrie and I were not at all prepossessed with her. They all smoked cigarettes after dinner, including Miss Posh, who
startled Carrie by saying: "Don't you smoke, dear?" I answered for Carrie, and said: "Mrs. Charles Pooter has not arrived at it yet," whereupon Miss Posh gave one of her piercing laughs again.
Mrs. Posh sang a dozen songs at least, and I can only repeat what I have said before she does not sing in tune; but Lupin sat by the side of the piano, gazing into her eyes the whole time. If I had been Mr. Posh, I think I should have had something to say about it. Mr. Posh made himself very agreeable to us, and eventually sent us home in his carriage, which I thought most kind. He is evidently very rich, for Mrs. Posh had on some beautiful jewellery. She told Carrie her necklace, which her husband gave her as a birthday present, alone cost £300.
Mr. Posh said he had a great belief in Lupin, and thought he would make rapid way in the world.
I could not help thinking of the £600 Mr. Posh lost over the Parachikka Chlorates through Lupin's advice.
During the evening I had an opportunity to speak to Lupin, and expressed a hope that Mr. Posh was not living beyond his means.
Lupin sneered, and said Mr. Posh was worth thousands. "Posh's one-price hat" was a household word in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and all the big towns throughout England. Lupin further informed me that Mr. Posh was opening branch establishments at New York, Sydney, and Melbourne, and was negotiating for Kimberley and Johannesburg.
I said I was pleased to hear it.
Lupin said: "Why, he has settled over £10,000 on Daisy, and the same amount on 'Lillie Girl.' If at any time I wanted a little capital, he would put up a couple of 'thou' at a day's notice, and could buy up Perkupp's firm over his head at any moment with ready cash."
On the way home in the carriage, for the first time in my life, I was inclined to indulge in the radical thought that money was not properly divided.
On arriving home at a quarter-past eleven, we found a hansom cab, which had been waiting for me for two hours with a letter. Sarah said she did not know what to do, as we had not left the address where we had gone. I trembled as I opened the letter, fearing it was some bad news about Mr. Perkupp. The note was: "Dear Mr. Pooter, Come down to the Victoria Hotel without delay. Important. Yours truly, Hardfur Huttle."
I asked the cabman if it was too late. The cabman replied that it was not; for his instructions were, if I happened to be out, he was to wait till I came home. I felt very tired, and really wanted to go to bed. I reached the hotel at a quarter before midnight. I apologised for being so late, but Mr. Huttle said: "Not at all; come and have a few oysters." I feel my heart beating as I write these words. To be brief, Mr. Huttle said he had a rich American friend who wanted to do something large in our line of business, and that Mr. Franching had mentioned my name to him. We talked over the matter. If, by any happy chance, the result be successful, I can more than compensate my dear master for the loss of Mr. Crowbillon's custom. Mr. Huttle had previously said: "The glorious 'Fourth' is a lucky day for America, and, as it has not yet struck twelve, we will celebrate it with a glass of the best wine to be had in the place, and drink good luck to our bit of business."
I fervently hope it will bring good luck to us all.
It was two o'clock when I got home. Although I was so tired, I could not sleep except for short intervals then only to dream.
I kept dreaming of Mr. Perkupp and Mr Huttle. The latter was in a lovely palace with a crown on. Mr. Perkupp was waiting in the room. Mr. Huttle kept taking off this crown and handing it to me, and calling me "President."
He appeared to lake no notice of Mr. Perkupp, and I kept asking Mr. Huttle to give the crown to my worthy master. Mr. Huttle kept saying: "No, this is the White House of Washington, and you must keep your crown, Mr. President."
We all laughed long and very loudly, till I got parched, and then I woke up. I fell asleep, only to dream the same thing over and over again.