The Diary of a Nobody, by George Grossmith

Chapter xxi

Lupin is discharged. We are in great trouble. Lupin gets engaged elsewhere at a handsome salary.

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 tomorrow, or the whole day if you like. I shall be here myself all day tomorrow, 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-inthe-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.”

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 Lupin. Carrie 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.

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?”

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.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37