The Diary of a Nobody
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Charles Pooter

November 6.—Lupin went with me to the office, and had a long conversation with Mr. Perkupp, our principal, the result of which was that he accepted a clerkship in the firm of Job Cleanands and Co., Stock and Share Brokers.  Lupin told me, privately, it was an advertising firm, and he did not think much of it.  I replied: “Beggars should not be choosers;” and I will do Lupin the justice to say, he looked rather ashamed of himself.

In the evening we went round to the Cummings’, to have a few fireworks.  It began to rain, and I thought it rather dull.  One of my squibs would not go off, and Gowing said: “Hit it on your boot, boy; it will go off then.”  I gave it a few knocks on the end of my boot, and it went off with one loud explosion, and burnt my fingers rather badly.  I gave the rest of the squibs to the little Cummings’ boy to let off.

Another unfortunate thing happened, which brought a heap of abuse on my head.  Cummings fastened a large wheel set-piece on a stake in the ground by way of a grand finale.  He made a great fuss about it; said it cost seven shillings.  There was a little difficulty in getting it alight.  At last it went off; but after a couple of slow revolutions it stopped.  I had my stick with me, so I gave it a tap to send it round, and, unfortunately, it fell off the stake on to the grass.  Anybody would have thought I had set the house on fire from the way in which they stormed at me.  I will never join in any more firework parties.  It is a ridiculous waste of time and money.

Charles Pooter

November 13.—Carrie sent out invitations to Gowing, the Cummings, to Mr. and Mrs. James (of Sutton), and Mr. Stillbrook.  I wrote a note to Mr. Franching, of PeckhamCarrie said we may as well make it a nice affair, and why not ask our principal, Mr. Perkupp?  I said I feared we were not quite grand enough for him.  Carrie said there was “no offence in asking him.”  I said: “Certainly not,” and I wrote him a letter.  Carrie confessed she was a little disappointed with Daisy Mutlar’s appearance, but thought she seemed a nice girl.

Charles Pooter

November 14.—Everybody so far has accepted for our quite grand little party for to-morrow.  Mr. Perkupp, in a nice letter which I shall keep, wrote that he was dining in Kensington, but if he could get away, he would come up to Holloway for an hour.  Carrie was busy all day, making little cakes and open jam puffs and jellies.  She said she felt quite nervous about her responsibilities to-morrow evening.  We decided to have some light things on the table, such as sandwiches, cold chicken and ham, and some sweets, and on the sideboard a nice piece of cold beef and a Paysandu tongue—for the more hungry ones to peg into if they liked.

Gowing called to know if he was to put on “swallow-tails” to-morrow.  Carrie said he had better dress, especially as Mr. Franching was coming, and there was a possibility of Mr. Perkupp also putting in an appearance.

Gowing said: “Oh, I only wanted to know, for I have not worn my dress-coat for some time, and I must send it to have the creases pressed out.”

After Gowing left, Lupin came in, and in his anxiety to please Daisy Mutlar, carped at and criticised the arrangements, and, in fact, disapproved of everything, including our having asked our old friend Cummings, who, he said, would look in evening-dress like a green-grocer engaged to wait, and who must not be surprised if Daisy took him for one.

I fairly lost my temper, and said: “Lupin, allow me to tell you Miss Daisy Mutlar is not the Queen of England.  I gave you credit for more wisdom than to allow yourself to be inveigled into an engagement with a woman considerably older than yourself.  I advise you to think of earning your living before entangling yourself with a wife whom you will have to support, and, in all probability, her brother also, who appeared to be nothing but a loafer.”

Instead of receiving this advice in a sensible manner, Lupin jumped up and said: “If you insult the lady I am engaged to, you insult me.  I will leave the house and never darken your doors again.”

He went out of the house, slamming the hall-door.  But it was all right.  He came back to supper, and we played Bézique till nearly twelve o’clock.

Charles Pooter

November 15.—A red-letter day.  Our first important party since we have been in this house.  I got home early from the City.  Lupin insisted on having a hired waiter, and stood a half-dozen of champagne.  I think this an unnecessary expense, but Lupin said he had had a piece of luck, having made three pounds out a private deal in the City.  I hope he won’t gamble in his new situation.  The supper-room looked so nice, and Carrie truly said: “We need not be ashamed of its being seen by Mr. Perkupp, should he honour us by coming.”

I dressed early in case people should arrive punctually at eight o’clock, and was much vexed to find my new dress-trousers much too short.

Lupin, who is getting beyond his position, found fault with my wearing ordinary boots instead of dress-boots.

I replied satirically: “My dear son, I have lived to be above that sort of thing.”

Lupin burst out laughing, and said: “A man generally was above his boots.”

This may be funny, or it may not; but I was gratified to find he had not discovered the coral had come off one of my studs.  Carrie looked a picture, wearing the dress she wore at the Mansion House.  The arrangement of the drawing-room was excellent.  Carrie had hung muslin curtains over the folding-doors, and also over one of the entrances, for we had removed the door from its hinges.

Mr. Peters, the waiter, arrived in good time, and I gave him strict orders not to open another bottle of champagne until the previous one was empty.  Carrie arranged for some sherry and port wine to be placed on the drawing-room sideboard, with some glasses.  By-the-by, our new enlarged and tinted photographs look very nice on the walls, especially as Carrie has arranged some Liberty silk bows on the four corners of them.

The first arrival was Gowing, who, with his usual taste, greeted me with: “Hulloh, Pooter, why your trousers are too short!”

I simply said: “Very likely, and you will find my temper ‘short’ also.”

He said: “That won’t make your trousers longer, Juggins.  You should get your missus to put a flounce on them.”

I wonder I waste my time entering his insulting observations in my diary.

The next arrivals were Mr. and Mrs. Cummings.  The former said: “As you didn’t say anything about dress, I have come ‘half dress.’”  He had on a black frock-coat and white tie.  The James’, Mr. Merton, and Mr. Stillbrook arrived, but Lupin was restless and unbearable till his Daisy Mutlar and Frank arrived.

Carrie and I were rather startled at Daisy’s appearance.  She had a bright-crimson dress on, cut very low in the neck.  I do not think such a style modest.  She ought to have taken a lesson from Carrie, and covered her shoulders with a little lace.  Mr. Nackles, Mr. Sprice-Hogg and his four daughters came; so did Franching, and one or two of Lupin’s new friends, members of the “Holloway Comedians.”  Some of these seemed rather theatrical in their manner, especially one, who was posing all the evening, and leant on our little round table and cracked it.  Lupin called him “our Henry,” and said he was “our lead at the H.C.’s,” and was quite as good in that department as Harry Mutlar was as the low-comedy merchant.  All this is Greek to me.

We had some music, and Lupin, who never left Daisy’s side for a moment, raved over her singing of a song, called “Some Day.”  It seemed a pretty song, but she made such grimaces, and sang, to my mind, so out of tune, I would not have asked her to sing again; but Lupin made her sing four songs right off, one after the other.

At ten o’clock we went down to supper, and from the way Gowing and Cummings ate you would have thought they had not had a meal for a month.  I told Carrie to keep something back in case Mr. Perkupp should come by mere chance.  Gowing annoyed me very much by filling a large tumbler of champagne, and drinking it straight off.  He repeated this action, and made me fear our half-dozen of champagne would not last out.  I tried to keep a bottle back, but Lupin got hold of it, and took it to the side-table with Daisy and Frank Mutlar.

We went upstairs, and the young fellows began skylarking.  Carrie put a stop to that at once.  Stillbrook amused us with a song, “What have you done with your Cousin John?”  I did not notice that Lupin and Frank had disappeared.  I asked Mr. Watson, one of the Holloways, where they were, and he said: “It’s a case of ‘Oh, what a surprise!’”

We were directed to form a circle—which we did.  Watson then said: “I have much pleasure in introducing the celebrated Blondin Donkey.”  Frank and Lupin then bounded into the room.  Lupin had whitened his face like a clown, and Frank had tied round his waist a large hearthrug.  He was supposed to be the donkey, and he looked it.  They indulged in a very noisy pantomime, and we were all shrieking with laughter.

I turned round suddenly, and then I saw Mr Perkupp standing half-way in the door, he having arrived without our knowing it.  I beckoned to Carrie, and we went up to him at once.  He would not come right into the room.  I apologised for the foolery, but Mr. Perkupp said: “Oh, it seems amusing.”  I could see he was not a bit amused.

Carrie and I took him downstairs, but the table was a wreck.  There was not a glass of champagne left—not even a sandwich.  Mr. Perkupp said he required nothing, but would like a glass of seltzer or soda water.  The last syphon was empty.  Carrie said: “We have plenty of port wine left.”  Mr. Perkupp said, with a smile: “No, thank you.  I really require nothing, but I am most pleased to see you and your husband in your own home.  Good-night, Mrs. Pooter—you will excuse my very short stay, I know.”  I went with him to his carriage, and he said: “Don’t trouble to come to the office till twelve to-morrow.”

I felt despondent as I went back to the house, and I told Carrie I thought the party was a failure.  Carrie said it was a great success, and I was only tired, and insisted on my having some port myself.  I drank two glasses, and felt much better, and we went into the drawing-room, where they had commenced dancing.  Carrie and I had a little dance, which I said reminded me of old days.  She said I was a spooney old thing.

Charles Pooter

November 16.—Woke about twenty times during the night, with terrible thirst.  Finished off all the water in the bottle, as well as half that in the jug.  Kept dreaming also, that last night’s party was a failure, and that a lot of low people came without invitation, and kept chaffing and throwing things at Mr. Perkupp, till at last I was obliged to hide him in the box-room (which we had just discovered), with a bath-towel over him.  It seems absurd now, but it was painfully real in the dream.  I had the same dream about a dozen times.

Carrie annoyed me by saying: “You know champagne never agrees with you.”  I told her I had only a couple of glasses of it, having kept myself entirely to port.  I added that good champagne hurt nobody, and Lupin told me he had only got it from a traveller as a favour, as that particular brand had been entirely bought up by a West-End club.

I think I ate too heartily of the “side dishes,” as the waiter called them.  I said to Carrie: “I wish I had put those ‘side dishes’ aside.”  I repeated this, but Carrie was busy, packing up the teaspoons we had borrowed of Mrs. Cummings for the party.  It was just half-past eleven, and I was starting for the office, when Lupin appeared, with a yellow complexion, and said: “Hulloh! Guv., what priced head have you this morning?”  I told him he might just as well speak to me in Dutch.  He added: “When I woke this morning, my head was as big as Baldwin’s balloon.”  On the spur of the moment I said the cleverest thing I think I have ever said; viz.: “Perhaps that accounts for the parashooting pains.”  We roared.

Charles Pooter

December 21.—To save the postman a miserable Christmas, we follow the example of all unselfish people, and send out our cards early.  Most of the cards had finger-marks, which I did not notice at night.  I shall buy all future cards in the daytime.  Lupin (who, ever since he has had the appointment with a stock and share broker, does not seem over-scrupulous in his dealings) told me never to rub out the pencilled price on the backs of the cards.  I asked him why.  Lupin said: “Suppose your card is marked 9d.  Well, all you have to do is to pencil a 3—and a long down-stroke after it—in front of the ninepence, and people will think you have given five times the price for it.”

In the evening Lupin was very low-spirited, and I reminded him that behind the clouds the sun was shining.  He said: “Ugh! it never shines on me.”  I said: “Stop, Lupin, my boy; you are worried about Daisy Mutlar.  Don’t think of her any more.  You ought to congratulate yourself on having got off a very bad bargain.  Her notions are far too grand for our simple tastes.”  He jumped up and said: “I won’t allow one word to be uttered against her.  She’s worth the whole bunch of your friends put together, that inflated, sloping-head of a Perkupp included.”  I left the room with silent dignity, but caught my foot in the mat.

Charles Pooter

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 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.”

Charles Pooter

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.”

Charles Pooter

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.”

Charles Pooter

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 CarrieLupin 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.”

Charles Pooter

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 Frères.”  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, to-day 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.”

Charles Pooter

February 11.—Feeling a little concerned about Lupin, I mustered up courage to speak to Mr. Perkupp about him.  Mr. Perkupp has always been most kind to me, so I told him everything, including yesterday’s adventure.  Mr. Perkupp kindly replied: “There is no necessity for you to be anxious, Mr. Pooter.  It would be impossible for a son of such good parents to turn out erroneously.  Remember he is young, and will soon get older.  I wish we could find room for him in this firm.”  The advice of this good man takes loads off my mind.  In the evening Lupin came in.

After our little supper, he said: “My dear parents, I have some news, which I fear will affect you considerably.”  I felt a qualm come over me, and said nothing.  Lupin then said: “It may distress you—in fact, I’m sure it will—but this afternoon I have given up my pony and trap for ever.”  It may seem absurd, but I was so pleased, I immediately opened a bottle of port.  Gowing dropped in just in time, bringing with him a large sheet, with a print of a tailless donkey, which he fastened against the wall.  He then produced several separate tails, and we spent the remainder of the evening trying blindfolded to pin a tail on in the proper place.  My sides positively ached with laughter when I went to bed.

Charles Pooter

March 21.—To-day I shall conclude my diary, for it is one of the happiest days of my life.  My great dream of the last few weeks—in fact, of many years—has been realised.  This morning came a letter from Mr. Perkupp, asking me to take Lupin down to the office with me.  I went to Lupin’s room; poor fellow, he seemed very pale, and said he had a bad headache.  He had come back yesterday from Gravesend, where he spent part of the day in a small boat on the water, having been mad enough to neglect to take his overcoat with him.  I showed him Mr. Perkupp’s letter, and he got up as quickly as possible.  I begged of him not to put on his fast-coloured clothes and ties, but to dress in something black or quiet-looking.

Carrie was all of a tremble when she read the letter, and all she could keep on saying was: “Oh, I do hope it will be all right.”  For myself, I could scarcely eat any breakfast.  Lupin came down dressed quietly, and looking a perfect gentleman, except that his face was rather yellow.  Carrie, by way of encouragement said: “You do look nice, Lupin.”  Lupin replied: “Yes, it’s a good make-up, isn’t it?  A regular-downright-respectable-funereal-first-class-City-firm-junior-clerk.”  He laughed rather ironically.

In the hall I heard a great noise, and also Lupin shouting to Sarah to fetch down his old hat.  I went into the passage, and found Lupin in a fury, kicking and smashing a new tall hat.  I said: “Lupin, my boy, what are you doing?  How wicked of you!  Some poor fellow would be glad to have it.”  Lupin replied: “I would not insult any poor fellow by giving it to him.”

When he had gone outside, I picked up the battered hat, and saw inside “Posh’s Patent.”  Poor Lupin!  I can forgive him.  It seemed hours before we reached the office.  Mr. Perkupp sent for Lupin, who was with him nearly an hour.  He returned, as I thought, crestfallen in appearance.  I said: “Well, Lupin, how about Mr. Perkupp?”  Lupin commenced his song: “What’s the matter with Perkupp?  He’s all right!”  I felt instinctively my boy was engaged.  I went to Mr. Perkupp, but I could not speak.  He said: “Well, Mr. Pooter, what is it?”  I must have looked a fool, for all I could say was: “Mr. Perkupp, you are a good man.”  He looked at me for a moment, and said: “No, Mr. Pooter, you are the good man; and we’ll see if we cannot get your son to follow such an excellent example.”  I said: “Mr. Perkupp, may I go home?  I cannot work any more to-day.”

My good master shook my hand warmly as he nodded his head.  It was as much as I could do to prevent myself from crying in the ’bus; in fact, I should have done so, had my thoughts not been interrupted by Lupin, who was having a quarrel with a fat man in the ’bus, whom he accused of taking up too much room.

In the evening Carrie sent round for dear old friend Cummings and his wife, and also to Gowing.  We all sat round the fire, and in a bottle of “Jackson Frères,” which Sarah fetched from the grocer’s, drank Lupin’s health.  I lay awake for hours, thinking of the future.  My boy in the same office as myself—we can go down together by the ’bus, come home together, and who knows but in the course of time he may take great interest in our little home.  That he may help me to put a nail in here or a nail in there, or help his dear mother to hang a picture.  In the summer he may help us in our little garden with the flowers, and assist us to paint the stands and pots.  (By-the-by, I must get in some more enamel paint.)  All this I thought over and over again, and a thousand happy thoughts beside.  I heard the clock strike four, and soon after fell asleep, only to dream of three happy people—Lupin, dear Carrie, and myself.

Charles Pooter

April 8.—No events of any importance, except that Gowing strongly recommended a new patent stylographic pen, which cost me nine-and-sixpence, and which was simply nine-and-sixpence thrown in the mud.  It has caused me constant annoyance and irritability of temper.  The ink oozes out of the top, making a mess on my hands, and once at the office when I was knocking the palm of my hand on the desk to jerk the ink down, Mr. Perkupp, who had just entered, called out: “Stop that knocking!  I suppose that is you, Mr. Pitt?”  That young monkey, Pitt, took a malicious glee in responding quite loudly: “No, sir; I beg pardon, it is Mr. Pooter with his pen; it has been going on all the morning.”  To make matters worse, I saw Lupin laughing behind his desk.  I thought it wiser to say nothing.  I took the pen back to the shop and asked them if they would take it back, as it did not act.  I did not expect the full price returned, but was willing to take half.  The man said he could not do that—buying and selling were two different things.  Lupin’s conduct during the period he has been in Mr. Perkupp’s office has been most exemplary.  My only fear is, it is too good to last.

Charles Pooter

April 16.—The night of the East Acton Volunteer Ball.  On my advice, Carrie put on the same dress that she looked so beautiful in at the Mansion House, for it had occurred to me, being a military ball, that Mr. Perkupp, who, I believe, is an officer in the Honorary Artillery Company, would in all probability be present.  Lupin, in his usual incomprehensible language, remarked that he had heard it was a “bounders’ ball.”  I didn’t ask him what he meant though I didn’t understand.  Where he gets these expressions from I don’t know; he certainly doesn’t learn them at home.

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 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 to-morrow, 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.

Charles Pooter

May 10.—Received a letter from Mr. Franching, of Peckham, asking us to dine with him to-night, at seven o’clock, to meet Mr. Hardfur Huttle, a very clever writer for the American papers.  Franching apologised for the short notice; but said he had at the last moment been disappointed of two of his guests and regarded us as old friends who would not mind filling up the gap.  Carrie rather demurred at the invitation; but I explained to her that Franching was very well off and influential, and we could not afford to offend him.  “And we are sure to get a good dinner and a good glass of champagne.”  “Which never agrees with you!” Carrie replied, sharply.  I regarded Carrie’s observation as unsaid.  Mr. Franching asked us to wire a reply.  As he had said nothing about dress in the letter, I wired back: “With pleasure.  Is it full dress?” and by leaving out our name, just got the message within the sixpence.

Got back early to give time to dress, which we received a telegram instructing us to do.  I wanted Carrie to meet me at Franching’s house; but she would not do so, so I had to go home to fetch her.  What a long journey it is from Holloway to Peckham!  Why do people live such a long way off?  Having to change ’buses, I allowed plenty of time—in fact, too much; for we arrived at twenty minutes to seven, and Franching, so the servant said, had only just gone up to dress.  However, he was down as the clock struck seven; he must have dressed very quickly.

I must say it was quite a distinguished party, and although we did not know anybody personally, they all seemed to be quite swells.  Franching had got a professional waiter, and evidently spared no expense.  There were flowers on the table round some fairy-lamps and the effect, I must say, was exquisite.  The wine was good and there was plenty of champagne, concerning which Franching said he himself, never wished to taste better.  We were ten in number, and a menû card to each.  One lady said she always preserved the menû and got the guests to write their names on the back.

We all of us followed her example, except Mr. Huttle, who was of course the important guest.

The dinner-party consisted of Mr. Franching, Mr. Hardfur Huttle, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Hillbutter, Mrs. Field, Mr. and Mrs. Purdick, Mr. Pratt, Mr. R. Kent, and, last but not least, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pooter.  Franching said he was sorry he had no lady for me to take in to dinner.  I replied that I preferred it, which I afterwards thought was a very uncomplimentary observation to make.

I sat next to Mrs. Field at dinner.  She seemed a well-informed lady, but was very deaf.  It did not much matter, for Mr. Hardfur Huttle did all the talking.  He is a marvellously intellectual man and says things which from other people would seem quite alarming.  How I wish I could remember even a quarter of his brilliant conversation.  I made a few little reminding notes on the menû card.

One observation struck me as being absolutely powerful—though not to my way of thinking of course.  Mrs. Purdick happened to say “You are certainly unorthodox, Mr. Huttle.”  Mr. Huttle, with a peculiar expression (I can see it now) said in a slow rich voice: “Mrs. Purdick, ‘orthodox’ is a grandiloquent word implying sticking-in-the-mud.  If Columbus and Stephenson had been orthodox, there would neither have been the discovery of America nor the steam-engine.”  There was quite a silence.  It appeared to me that such teaching was absolutely dangerous, and yet I felt—in fact we must all have felt—there was no answer to the argument.  A little later on, Mrs. Purdick, who is Franching’s sister and also acted as hostess, rose from the table, and Mr. Huttle said: “Why, ladies, do you deprive us of your company so soon?  Why not wait while we have our cigars?”

The effect was electrical.  The ladies (including Carrie) were in no way inclined to be deprived of Mr. Huttle’s fascinating society, and immediately resumed their seats, amid much laughter and a little chaff.  Mr. Huttle said: “Well, that’s a real good sign; you shall not be insulted by being called orthodox any longer.”  Mrs. Purdick, who seemed to be a bright and rather sharp woman, said: “Mr. Huttle, we will meet you half-way—that is, till you get half-way through your cigar.  That, at all events, will be the happy medium.”

I shall never forget the effect the words, “happy medium,” had upon him.  He was brilliant and most daring in his interpretation of the words.  He positively alarmed me.  He said something like the following: “Happy medium, indeed.  Do you know ‘happy medium’ are two words which mean ‘miserable mediocrity’?  I say, go first class or third; marry a duchess or her kitchenmaid.  The happy medium means respectability, and respectability means insipidness.  Does it not, Mr. Pooter?”

I was so taken aback by being personally appealed to, that I could only bow apologetically, and say I feared I was not competent to offer an opinion.  Carrie was about to say something; but she was interrupted, for which I was rather pleased, for she is not clever at argument, and one has to be extra clever to discuss a subject with a man like Mr. Huttle.

He continued, with an amazing eloquence that made his unwelcome opinions positively convincing: “The happy medium is nothing more or less than a vulgar half-measure.  A man who loves champagne and, finding a pint too little, fears to face a whole bottle and has recourse to an imperial pint, will never build a Brooklyn Bridge or an Eiffel Tower.  No, he is half-hearted, he is a half-measure—respectable—in fact, a happy medium, and will spend the rest of his days in a suburban villa with a stucco-column portico, resembling a four-post bedstead.”

We all laughed.

“That sort of thing,” continued Mr. Huttle, “belongs to a soft man, with a soft beard with a soft head, with a made tie that hooks on.”

This seemed rather personal and twice I caught myself looking in the glass of the cheffonière; for I had on a tie that hooked on—and why not?  If these remarks were not personal they were rather careless, and so were some of his subsequent observations, which must have made both Mr. Franching and his guests rather uncomfortable.  I don’t think Mr. Huttle meant to be personal, for he added; “We don’t know that class here in this country: but we do in America, and I’ve no use for them.”

Franching several times suggested that the wine should be passed round the table, which Mr. Huttle did not heed; but continued as if he were giving a lecture:

“What we want in America is your homes.  We live on wheels.  Your simple, quiet life and home, Mr. Franching, are charming.  No display, no pretension!  You make no difference in your dinner, I dare say, when you sit down by yourself and when you invite us.  You have your own personal attendant—no hired waiter to breathe on the back of your head.”

I saw Franching palpably wince at this.

Mr. Huttle continued: “Just a small dinner with a few good things, such as you have this evening.  You don’t insult your guests by sending to the grocer for champagne at six shillings a bottle.”

I could not help thinking of “Jackson Frères” at three-and-six!

“In fact,” said Mr. Huttle, “a man is little less than a murderer who does.  That is the province of the milksop, who wastes his evening at home playing dominoes with his wife.  I’ve heard of these people.  We don’t want them at this table.  Our party is well selected.  We’ve no use for deaf old women, who cannot follow intellectual conversation.”

All our eyes were turned to Mrs. Field, who fortunately, being deaf, did not hear his remarks; but continued smiling approval.

“We have no representative at Mr. Franching’s table,” said Mr. Huttle, “of the unenlightened frivolous matron, who goes to a second class dance at Bayswater and fancies she is in Society.  Society does not know her; it has no use for her.”

Mr. Huttle paused for a moment and the opportunity was afforded for the ladies to rise.  I asked Mr. Franching quietly to excuse me, as I did not wish to miss the last train, which we very nearly did, by-the-by, through Carrie having mislaid the little cloth cricket-cap which she wears when we go out.

It was very late when Carrie and I got home; but on entering the sitting-room I said: “Carrie, what do you think of Mr. Hardfur Huttle?”  She simply answered: “How like Lupin!”  The same idea occurred to me in the train.  The comparison kept me awake half the night.  Mr. Huttle was, of course, an older and more influential man; but he was like Lupin, and it made me think how dangerous Lupin would be if he were older and more influential.  I feel proud to think Lupin does resemble Mr. Huttle in some ways.  Lupin, like Mr. Huttle, has original and sometimes wonderful ideas; but it is those ideas that are so dangerous.  They make men extremely rich or extremely poor.  They make or break men.  I always feel people are happier who live a simple unsophisticated life.  I believe I am happy because I am not ambitious.  Somehow I feel that Lupin, since he has been with Mr. Perkupp, has become content to settle down and follow the footsteps of his father.  This is a comfort.

Charles Pooter

May 13.—A terrible misfortune has happened: Lupin is discharged from Mr. Perkupp’s office; and I scarcely know how I am writing my diary.  I was away from office last Sat., the first time I have been absent through illness for twenty years.  I believe I was poisoned by some lobster.  Mr. Perkupp was also absent, as Fate would have it; and our most valued customer, Mr. Crowbillon, went to the office in a rage, and withdrew his custom.  My boy Lupin not only had the assurance to receive him, but recommended him the firm of Gylterson, Sons and Co. Limited.  In my own humble judgment, and though I have to say it against my own son, this seems an act of treachery.

This morning I receive a letter from Perkupp, informing me that Lupin’s services are no longer required, and an interview with me is desired at eleven o’clock.  I went down to the office with an aching heart, dreading an interview with Mr. Perkupp, with whom I have never had a word.  I saw nothing of Lupin in the morning.  He had not got up when it was time for me to leave, and Carrie said I should do no good by disturbing him.  My mind wandered so at the office that I could not do my work properly.

As I expected, I was sent for by Mr. Perkupp, and the following conversation ensued as nearly as I can remember it.

Mr. Perkupp said: “Good-morning, Mr. Pooter!  This is a very serious business.  I am not referring so much to the dismissal of your son, for I knew we should have to part sooner or later.  I am the head of this old, influential, and much-respected firm; and when I consider the time has come to revolutionise the business, I will do it myself.”

I could see my good master was somewhat affected, and I said: “I hope, sir, you do not imagine that I have in any way countenanced my son’s unwarrantable interference?”  Mr. Perkupp rose from his seat and took my hand, and said: “Mr. Pooter, I would as soon suspect myself as suspect you.”  I was so agitated that in the confusion, to show my gratitude I very nearly called him a “grand old man.”

Fortunately I checked myself in time, and said he was a “grand old master.”  I was so unaccountable for my actions that I sat down, leaving him standing.  Of course, I at once rose, but Mr. Perkupp bade me sit down, which I was very pleased to do.  Mr. Perkupp, resuming, said: “You will understand, Mr. Pooter, that the high-standing nature of our firm will not admit of our bending to anybody.  If Mr. Crowbillon chooses to put his work into other hands—I may add, less experienced hands—it is not for us to bend and beg back his custom.”  “You shall not do it, sir,” I said with indignation.  “Exactly,” replied Mr. Perkupp; “I shall not do it.  But I was thinking this, Mr. Pooter.  Mr. Crowbillon is our most valued client, and I will even confess—for I know this will not go beyond ourselves—that we cannot afford very well to lose him, especially in these times, which are not of the brightest.  Now, I fancy you can be of service.”

I replied: “Mr. Perkupp, I will work day and night to serve you!”

Mr. Perkupp said: “I know you will.  Now, what I should like you to do is this.  You yourself might write to Mr. Crowbillon—you must not, of course, lead him to suppose I know anything about your doing so—and explain to him that your son was only taken on as a clerk—quite an inexperienced one in fact—out of the respect the firm had for you, Mr. Pooter.  This is, of course, a fact.  I don’t suggest that you should speak in too strong terms of your own son’s conduct; but I may add, that had he been a son of mine, I should have condemned his interference with no measured terms.  That I leave to you.  I think the result will be that Mr. Crowbillon will see the force of the foolish step he has taken, and our firm will neither suffer in dignity nor in pocket.”

I could not help thinking what a noble gentleman Mr. Perkupp is.  His manners and his way of speaking seem to almost thrill one with respect.

I said: “Would you like to see the letter before I send it?”

Mr. Perkupp said: “Oh no!  I had better not.  I am supposed to know nothing about it, and I have every confidence in you.  You must write the letter carefully.  We are not very busy; you had better take the morning to-morrow, or the whole day if you like.  I shall be here myself all day to-morrow, in fact all the week, in case Mr. Crowbillon should call.”

I went home a little more cheerful, but I left word with Sarah that I could not see either Gowing or Cummings, nor in fact anybody, if they called in the evening.  Lupin came into the parlour for a moment with a new hat on, and asked my opinion of it.  I said I was not in the mood to judge of hats, and I did not think he was in a position to buy a new one.  Lupin replied carelessly: “I didn’t buy it; it was a present.”

I have such terrible suspicions of Lupin now that I scarcely like to ask him questions, as I dread the answers so.  He, however, saved me the trouble.

He said: “I met a friend, an old friend, that I did not quite think a friend at the time; but it’s all right.  As he wisely said, ‘all is fair in love and war,’ and there was no reason why we should not be friends still.  He’s a jolly, good, all-round sort of fellow, and a very different stamp from that inflated fool of a Perkupp.”

I said: “Hush, Lupin!  Do not pray add insult to injury.”

Lupin said: “What do you mean by injury?  I repeat, I have done no injury.  Crowbillon is simply tired of a stagnant stick-in-the-mud firm, and made the change on his own account.  I simply recommended the new firm as a matter of biz—good old biz!”

I said quietly: “I don’t understand your slang, and at my time of life have no desire to learn it; so, Lupin, my boy, let us change the subject.  I will, if it please you, try and be interested in your new hat adventure.”

Lupin said: “Oh! there’s nothing much about it, except I have not once seen him since his marriage, and he said he was very pleased to see me, and hoped we should be friends.  I stood a drink to cement the friendship, and he stood me a new hat—one of his own.”

I said rather wearily: “But you have not told me your old friend’s name?”

Lupin said, with affected carelessness: “Oh didn’t I?  Well, I will.  It was Murray Posh.”

Charles Pooter

May 14.—Lupin came down late, and seeing me at home all the morning, asked the reason of it.  Carrie and I both agreed it was better to say nothing to him about the letter I was writing, so I evaded the question.

Lupin went out, saying he was going to lunch with Murray Posh in the City.  I said I hoped Mr. Posh would provide him with a berth.  Lupin went out laughing, saying: “I don’t mind wearing Posh’s one-priced hats, but I am not going to sell them.”  Poor boy, I fear he is perfectly hopeless.

It took me nearly the whole day to write to Mr. Crowbillon.  Once or twice I asked Carrie for suggestions; and although it seems ungrateful, her suggestions were none of them to the point, while one or two were absolutely idiotic.  Of course I did not tell her so.  I got the letter off, and took it down to the office for Mr. Perkupp to see, but he again repeated that he could trust me.

Gowing called in the evening, and I was obliged to tell him about Lupin and Mr. Perkupp; and, to my surprise, he was quite inclined to side with LupinCarrie joined in, and said she thought I was taking much too melancholy a view of it.  Gowing produced a pint sample-bottle of Madeira, which had been given him, which he said would get rid of the blues.  I dare say it would have done so if there had been more of it; but as Gowing helped himself to three glasses, it did not leave much for Carrie and me to get rid of the blues with.

Charles Pooter

May 15.—A day of great anxiety, for I expected every moment a letter from Mr. Crowbillon.  Two letters came in the evening—one for me, with “Crowbillon Hall” printed in large gold-and-red letters on the back of the envelope; the other for Lupin, which I felt inclined to open and read, as it had “Gylterson, Sons, and Co. Limited,” which was the recommended firm.  I trembled as I opened Mr. Crowbillon’s letter.  I wrote him sixteen pages, closely written; he wrote me less than sixteen lines.

His letter was: “Sir,—I totally disagree with you.  Your son, in the course of five minutes’ conversation, displayed more intelligence than your firm has done during the last five years.—Yours faithfully, Gilbert E. Gillam O. Crowbillon.”

What am I to do?  Here is a letter that I dare not show to Mr. Perkupp, and would not show to Lupin for anything.  The crisis had yet to come; for Lupin arrived, and, opening his letter, showed a cheque for £25 as a commission for the recommendation of Mr. Crowbillon, whose custom to Mr. Perkupp is evidently lost for ever.  Cummings and Gowing both called, and both took Lupin’s part.  Cummings went so far as to say that Lupin would make a name yet.  I suppose I was melancholy, for I could only ask: “Yes, but what sort of a name?”

Charles Pooter

May 16.—I told Mr. Perkupp the contents of the letter in a modified form, but Mr. Perkupp said: “Pray don’t discuss the matter; it is at an end.  Your son will bring his punishment upon himself.”  I went home in the evening, thinking of the hopeless future of Lupin.  I found him in most extravagant spirits and in evening dress.  He threw a letter on the table for me to read.

To my amazement, I read that Gylterson and Sons had absolutely engaged Lupin at a salary of £200 a year, with other advantages.  I read the letter through three times and thought it must have been for me.  But there it was—Lupin Pooter—plain enough.  I was silent.  Lupin said: “What price Perkupp now?  You take my tip, Guv.—‘off’ with Perkupp and freeze on to Gylterson, the firm of the future!  Perkupp’s firm?  The stagnant dummies have been standing still for years, and now are moving back.  I want to go on.  In fact I must go off, as I am dining with the Murray Poshs to-night.”

In the exuberance of his spirits he hit his hat with his stick, gave a loud war “Whoo-oop,” jumped over a chair, and took the liberty of rumpling my hair all over my forehead, and bounced out of the room, giving me no chance of reminding him of his age and the respect which was due to his parent.  Gowing and Cummings came in the evening, and positively cheered me up with congratulations respecting Lupin.

Gowing said: “I always said he would get on, and, take my word, he has more in his head than we three put together.”

Carrie said: “He is a second Hardfur Huttle.”


The Diary of a Nobody is the fictitious diary of Charles Pooter, written by George Grossmith and originally serialised in Punch magazine in 1888 and 1889.
The text of this version is taken from the Gutenberg etext, and the weblog format was engineered by Kevan Davis (initially a straight weblog in 2004, then rewritten as an auto RSS generator in April 2007).