THE AUNT AND THE SLUGGARD
by P. G. Wodehouse
Now that it's all over, I may as well admit that there was a time
during the rather funny affair of Rockmetteller Todd when I thought
that Jeeves was going to let me down. The man had the appearance of
Jeeves is my man, you know. Officially he pulls in his weekly wages
for pressing my clothes and all that sort of thing; but actually he's
more like what the poet Johnnie called some bird of his acquaintance who
was apt to rally round him in times of need--a guide, don't you know;
philosopher, if I remember rightly, and--I rather fancy--friend. I rely
on him at every turn.
So naturally, when Rocky Todd told me about his aunt, I didn't
hesitate. Jeeves was in on the thing from the start.
The affair of Rocky Todd broke loose early one morning of spring. I was
in bed, restoring the good old tissues with about nine hours of the
dreamless, when the door flew open and somebody prodded me in the lower
ribs and began to shake the bedclothes. After blinking a bit and
generally pulling myself together, I located Rocky, and my first
impression was that it was some horrid dream.
Rocky, you see, lived down on Long Island somewhere, miles away from
New York; and not only that, but he had told me himself more than once
that he never got up before twelve, and seldom earlier than one.
Constitutionally the laziest young devil in America, he had hit on a
walk in life which enabled him to go the limit in that direction. He
was a poet. At least, he wrote poems when he did anything; but most of
his time, as far as I could make out, he spent in a sort of trance. He
told me once that he could sit on a fence, watching a worm and
wondering what on earth it was up to, for hours at a stretch.
He had his scheme of life worked out to a fine point. About once a
month he would take three days writing a few poems; the other three
hundred and twenty-nine days of the year he rested. I didn't know there
was enough money in poetry to support a chappie, even in the way in
which Rocky lived; but it seems that, if you stick to exhortations to
young men to lead the strenuous life and don't shove in any rhymes,
American editors fight for the stuff. Rocky showed me one of his things
once. It began:
The past is dead.
To-morrow is not born.
Be with every nerve,
With every muscle,
With every drop of your red blood!
It was printed opposite the frontispiece of a magazine with a sort of
scroll round it, and a picture in the middle of a fairly-nude chappie,
with bulging muscles, giving the rising sun the glad eye. Rocky said
they gave him a hundred dollars for it, and he stayed in bed till four
in the afternoon for over a month.
As regarded the future he was pretty solid, owing to the fact that he
had a moneyed aunt tucked away somewhere in Illinois; and, as he had
been named Rockmetteller after her, and was her only nephew, his
position was pretty sound. He told me that when he did come into the
money he meant to do no work at all, except perhaps an occasional poem
recommending the young man with life opening out before him, with all
its splendid possibilities, to light a pipe and shove his feet upon the
And this was the man who was prodding me in the ribs in the grey dawn!
"Read this, Bertie!" I could just see that he was waving a letter or
something equally foul in my face. "Wake up and read this!"
... to be continued ...