The Diary Of A Nobody

CHAPTER VI

The Unexpected Arrival Home of our Son, Willie Lupin Pooter.

AUGUST 4. The first post brought a nice letter from our dear son Willie,
acknowledging a trifling present which Carrie sent him, the day before
yesterday being his twentieth birthday. To our utter amazement he turned
up himself in the afternoon, having journeyed all the way from Oldham.
He said he had got leave from the bank, and as Monday was a holiday he
thought he would give us a little surprise.

AUGUST 5, Sunday. We have not seen Willie since last Christmas, and are
pleased to notice what a fine young man he has grown. One would scarcely
believe he was Carrie’s son. He looks more like a younger brother. I
rather disapprove of his wearing a check suit on a Sunday, and I think he
ought to have gone to church this morning; but he said he was tired after
yesterday’s journey, so I refrained from any remark on the subject. We
had a bottle of port for dinner, and drank dear Willie’s health.

He said: “Oh, by-the-by, did I tell you I’ve cut my first name,
‘William,’ and taken the second name ‘Lupin’? In fact, I’m only known at
Oldham as ‘Lupin Pooter.’ If you were to ‘Willie’ me there, they
wouldn’t know what you meant.”

Of course, Lupin being a purely family name, Carrie was delighted, and
began by giving a long history of the Lupins. I ventured to say that I
thought William a nice simple name, and reminded him he was christened
after his Uncle William, who was much respected in the City. Willie, in
a manner which I did not much care for, said sneeringly: “Oh, I know all
about that—Good old Bill!” and helped himself to a third glass of port.

Carrie objected strongly to my saying “Good old,” but she made no remark
when Willie used the double adjective. I said nothing, but looked at
her, which meant more. I said: “My dear Willie, I hope you are happy
with your colleagues at the Bank.” He replied: “Lupin, if you please;
and with respect to the Bank, there’s not a clerk who is a gentleman, and
the ‘boss’ is a cad.” I felt so shocked, I could say nothing, and my
instinct told me there was something wrong.

AUGUST 6, Bank Holiday. As there was no sign of Lupin moving at nine
o’clock, I knocked at his door, and said we usually breakfasted at
half-past eight, and asked how long would he be? Lupin replied that he
had had a lively time of it, first with the train shaking the house all
night, and then with the sun streaming in through the window in his eyes,
and giving him a cracking headache. Carrie came up and asked if he would
like some breakfast sent up, and he said he could do with a cup of tea,
and didn’t want anything to eat.

Lupin not having come down, I went up again at half-past one, and said we
dined at two; he said he “would be there.” He never came down till a
quarter to three. I said: “We have not seen much of you, and you will
have to return by the 5.30 train; therefore you will have to leave in an
hour, unless you go by the midnight mail.” He said: “Look here, Guv’nor,
it’s no use beating about the bush. I’ve tendered my resignation at the
Bank.”

For a moment I could not speak. When my speech came again, I said: “How
dare you, sir? How dare you take such a serious step without consulting
me? Don’t answer me, sir!—you will sit down immediately, and write a
note at my dictation, withdrawing your resignation and amply apologising
for your thoughtlessness.”

Imagine my dismay when he replied with a loud guffaw: “It’s no use. If
you want the good old truth, I’ve got the chuck!”

AUGUST 7. Mr. Perkupp has given me leave to postpone my holiday a week,
as we could not get the room. This will give us an opportunity of trying
to find an appointment for Willie before we go. The ambition of my life
would be to get him into Mr. Perkupp’s firm.

AUGUST 11. Although it is a serious matter having our boy Lupin on our
hands, still it is satisfactory to know he was asked to resign from the
Bank simply because “he took no interest in his work, and always arrived
an hour (sometimes two hours) late.” We can all start off on Monday to
Broadstairs with a light heart. This will take my mind off the worry of
the last few days, which have been wasted over a useless correspondence
with the manager of the Bank at Oldham.

AUGUST 13. Hurrah! at Broadstairs. Very nice apartments near the
station. On the cliffs they would have been double the price. The
landlady had a nice five o’clock dinner and tea ready, which we all
enjoyed, though Lupin seemed fastidious because there happened to be a
fly in the butter. It was very wet in the evening, for which I was
thankful, as it was a good excuse for going to bed early. Lupin said he
would sit up and read a bit.

AUGUST 14. I was a little annoyed to find Lupin, instead of reading last
night, had gone to a common sort of entertainment, given at the Assembly
Rooms. I expressed my opinion that such performances were unworthy of
respectable patronage; but he replied: “Oh, it was only ‘for one night
only.’ I had a fit of the blues come on, and thought I would go to see
Polly Presswell, England’s Particular Spark.” I told him I was proud to
say I had never heard of her. Carrie said: “Do let the boy alone. He’s
quite old enough to take care of himself, and won’t forget he’s a
gentleman. Remember, you were young once yourself.” Rained all day
hard, but Lupin would go out.

AUGUST 15. Cleared up a bit, so we all took the train to Margate, and the
first person we met on the jetty was Gowing. I said: “Hulloh! I thought
you had gone to Barmouth with your Birmingham friends?” He said: “Yes,
but young Peter Lawrence was so ill, they postponed their visit, so I
came down here. You know the Cummings’ are here too?” Carrie said: “Oh,
that will be delightful! We must have some evenings together and have
games.”

I introduced Lupin, saying: “You will be pleased to find we have our dear
boy at home!” Gowing said: “How’s that? You don’t mean to say he’s left
the Bank?”

I changed the subject quickly, and thereby avoided any of those awkward
questions which Gowing always has a knack of asking.

AUGUST 16. Lupin positively refused to walk down the Parade with me
because I was wearing my new straw helmet with my frock-coat. I don’t
know what the boy is coming to.

AUGUST 17. Lupin not falling in with our views, Carrie and I went for a
sail. It was a relief to be with her alone; for when Lupin irritates me,
she always sides with him. On our return, he said: “Oh, you’ve been on
the ‘Shilling Emetic,’ have you? You’ll come to six-pennorth on the
‘Liver Jerker’ next.” I presume he meant a tricycle, but I affected not
to understand him.

AUGUST 18. Gowing and Cummings walked over to arrange an evening at
Margate. It being wet, Gowing asked Cummings to accompany him to the
hotel and have a game of billiards, knowing I never play, and in fact
disapprove of the game. Cummings said he must hasten back to Margate;
whereupon Lupin, to my horror, said: “I’ll give you a game, Gowing—a
hundred up. A walk round the cloth will give me an appetite for dinner.”
I said: “Perhaps Mister Gowing does not care to play with boys.” Gowing
surprised me by saying: “Oh yes, I do, if they play well,” and they
walked off together.

AUGUST 19, Sunday. I was about to read Lupin a sermon on smoking (which
he indulges in violently) and billiards, but he put on his hat and walked
out. Carrie then read me a long sermon on the palpable inadvisability
of treating Lupin as if he were a mere child. I felt she was somewhat
right, so in the evening I offered him a cigar. He seemed pleased, but,
after a few whiffs, said: “This is a good old tup’ny—try one of mine,”
and he handed me a cigar as long as it was strong, which is saying a good
deal.

AUGUST 20. I am glad our last day at the seaside was fine, though clouded
overhead. We went over to Cummings’ (at Margate) in the evening, and as
it was cold, we stayed in and played games; Gowing, as usual,
overstepping the mark. He suggested we should play “Cutlets,” a game we
never heard of. He sat on a chair, and asked Carrie to sit on his lap,
an invitation which dear Carrie rightly declined.

After some species of wrangling, I sat on Gowing’s knees and Carrie sat
on the edge of mine. Lupin sat on the edge of Carrie’s lap, then
Cummings on Lupin’s, and Mrs. Cummings on her husband’s. We looked very
ridiculous, and laughed a good deal.

Gowing then said: “Are you a believer in the Great Mogul?” We had to
answer all together: “Yes—oh, yes!” (three times). Gowing said: “So am
I,” and suddenly got up. The result of this stupid joke was that we all
fell on the ground, and poor Carrie banged her head against the corner of
the fender. Mrs. Cummings put some vinegar on; but through this we
missed the last train, and had to drive back to Broadstairs, which cost
me seven-and-sixpence.