THE AUNT AND THE SLUGGARD
by P. G. Wodehouse
... continued ...
The stuff was on the table in the sitting-room. Rocky took up the
"Say when, Bertie."
"Stop!" barked the aunt, and he dropped it.
I caught Rocky's eye as he stooped to pick up the ruins. It was the eye
of one who sees it coming.
"Leave it there, Rockmetteller!" said Aunt Isabel; and Rocky left it
"The time has come to speak," she said. "I cannot stand idly by and see
a young man going to perdition!"
Poor old Rocky gave a sort of gurgle, a kind of sound rather like the
whisky had made running out of the decanter on to my carpet.
"Eh?" he said, blinking.
The aunt proceeded.
"The fault," she said, "was mine. I had not then seen the light. But
now my eyes are open. I see the hideous mistake I have made. I shudder
at the thought of the wrong I did you, Rockmetteller, by urging you
into contact with this wicked city."
I saw Rocky grope feebly for the table. His fingers touched it, and a
look of relief came into the poor chappie's face. I understood his
"But when I wrote you that letter, Rockmetteller, instructing you to go
to the city and live its life, I had not had the privilege of hearing
Mr. Mundy speak on the subject of New York."
"Jimmy Mundy!" I cried.
You know how it is sometimes when everything seems all mixed up and
you suddenly get a clue. When she mentioned Jimmy Mundy I began to
understand more or less what had happened. I'd seen it happen before.
I remember, back in England, the man I had before Jeeves sneaked off
to a meeting on his evening out and came back and denounced me in front
of a crowd of chappies I was giving a bit of supper to as a moral leper.
The aunt gave me a withering up and down.
"Yes; Jimmy Mundy!" she said. "I am surprised at a man of your stamp
having heard of him. There is no music, there are no drunken, dancing
men, no shameless, flaunting women at his meetings; so for you they would
have no attraction. But for others, less dead in sin, he has his message.
He has come to save New York from itself; to force it--in his picturesque
phrase--to hit the trail. It was three days ago, Rockmetteller, that I
first heard him. It was an accident that took me to his meeting. How
often in this life a mere accident may shape our whole future!
"You had been called away by that telephone message from Mr. Belasco;
so you could not take me to the Hippodrome, as we had arranged. I asked
your manservant, Jeeves, to take me there. The man has very little
intelligence. He seems to have misunderstood me. I am thankful that he
did. He took me to what I subsequently learned was Madison Square
Garden, where Mr. Mundy is holding his meetings. He escorted me to a
seat and then left me. And it was not till the meeting had begun that I
discovered the mistake which had been made. My seat was in the middle
of a row. I could not leave without inconveniencing a great many
people, so I remained."
"Rockmetteller, I have never been so thankful for anything else. Mr.
Mundy was wonderful! He was like some prophet of old, scourging the
sins of the people. He leaped about in a frenzy of inspiration till I
feared he would do himself an injury. Sometimes he expressed himself in
a somewhat odd manner, but every word carried conviction. He showed me
New York in its true colours. He showed me the vanity and wickedness of
sitting in gilded haunts of vice, eating lobster when decent people
should be in bed.
"He said that the tango and the fox-trot were devices of the devil to
drag people down into the Bottomless Pit. He said that there was more
sin in ten minutes with a negro banjo orchestra than in all the ancient
revels of Nineveh and Babylon. And when he stood on one leg and pointed
right at where I was sitting and shouted, 'This means you!' I could
have sunk through the floor. I came away a changed woman. Surely you
must have noticed the change in me, Rockmetteller? You must have seen
that I was no longer the careless, thoughtless person who had urged you
to dance in those places of wickedness?"
Rocky was holding on to the table as if it was his only friend.
"Y-yes," he stammered; "I--I thought something was wrong."
"Wrong? Something was right! Everything was right! Rockmetteller, it is
not too late for you to be saved. You have only sipped of the evil cup.
You have not drained it. It will be hard at first, but you will find
that you can do it if you fight with a stout heart against the glamour
and fascination of this dreadful city. Won't you, for my sake, try,
Rockmetteller? Won't you go back to the country to-morrow and begin the
struggle? Little by little, if you use your will----"
I can't help thinking it must have been that word "will" that roused
dear old Rocky like a trumpet call. It must have brought home to him
the realisation that a miracle had come off and saved him from being
cut out of Aunt Isabel's. At any rate, as she said it he perked up, let
go of the table, and faced her with gleaming eyes.
"Do you want me to go back to the country, Aunt Isabel?"
"Not to live in the country?"
"Stay in the country all the time, do you mean? Never come to New
"Yes, Rockmetteller; I mean just that. It is the only way. Only there
can you be safe from temptation. Will you do it, Rockmetteller? Will
you--for my sake?"
Rocky grabbed the table again. He seemed to draw a lot of encouragement
from that table.
"I will!" he said.
* * * * *
"Jeeves," I said. It was next day, and I was back in the old flat, lying
in the old arm-chair, with my feet upon the good old table. I had just
come from seeing dear old Rocky off to his country cottage, and an hour
before he had seen his aunt off to whatever hamlet it was that she was
the curse of; so we were alone at last. "Jeeves, there's no place like
"Very true, sir."
"The jolly old roof-tree, and all that sort of thing--what?"
I lit another cigarette.
"Do you know, at one point in the business I really thought you were
"When did you get the idea of taking Miss Rockmetteller to the meeting?
It was pure genius!"
"Thank you, sir. It came to me a little suddenly, one morning when I
was thinking of my aunt, sir."
"Your aunt? The hansom cab one?"
"Yes, sir. I recollected that, whenever we observed one of her attacks
coming on, we used to send for the clergyman of the parish. We always
found that if he talked to her a while of higher things it diverted her
mind from hansom cabs. It occurred to me that the same treatment might
prove efficacious in the case of Miss Rockmetteller."
I was stunned by the man's resource.
"It's brain," I said; "pure brain! What do you do to get like that,
Jeeves? I believe you must eat a lot of fish, or something. Do you eat
a lot of fish, Jeeves?"
"Oh, well, then, it's just a gift, I take it; and if you aren't born
that way there's no use worrying."
"Precisely, sir," said Jeeves. "If I might make the suggestion, sir, I
should not continue to wear your present tie. The green shade gives you
a slightly bilious air. I should strongly advocate the blue with the
red domino pattern instead, sir."
"All right, Jeeves." I said humbly. "You know!"