THE AUNT AND THE SLUGGARD
by P. G. Wodehouse
... continued ...
"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!"
I can't read before I've had my morning tea and a cigarette. I groped
for the bell.
Jeeves came in looking as fresh as a dewy violet. It's a mystery to me
how he does it.
"Very good, sir."
He flowed silently out of the room--he always gives you the impression
of being some liquid substance when he moves; and I found that Rocky
was surging round with his beastly letter again.
"What is it?" I said. "What on earth's the matter?"
"I can't. I haven't had my tea."
"Well, listen then."
"Who's it from?"
At this point I fell asleep again. I woke to hear him saying:
"So what on earth am I to do?"
Jeeves trickled in with the tray, like some silent stream meandering
over its mossy bed; and I saw daylight.
"Read it again, Rocky, old top," I said. "I want Jeeves to hear it. Mr.
Todd's aunt has written him a rather rummy letter, Jeeves, and we want
"Very good, sir."
He stood in the middle of the room, registering devotion to the cause,
and Rocky started again:
"MY DEAR ROCKMETTELLER.--I have been thinking things over for a
long while, and I have come to the conclusion that I have been
very thoughtless to wait so long before doing what I have made
up my mind to do now."
"What do you make of that, Jeeves?"
"It seems a little obscure at present, sir, but no doubt it becomes
cleared at a later point in the communication."
"It becomes as clear as mud!" said Rocky.
"Proceed, old scout," I said, champing my bread and butter.
"You know how all my life I have longed to visit New York and see
for myself the wonderful gay life of which I have read so much. I
fear that now it will be impossible for me to fulfil my dream. I
am old and worn out. I seem to have no strength left in me."
"Sad, Jeeves, what?"
"Sad nothing!" said Rocky. "It's sheer laziness. I went to see her last
Christmas and she was bursting with health. Her doctor told me himself
that there was nothing wrong with her whatever. But she will insist
that she's a hopeless invalid, so he has to agree with her. She's got a
fixed idea that the trip to New York would kill her; so, though it's
been her ambition all her life to come here, she stays where she is."
"Rather like the chappie whose heart was 'in the Highlands a-chasing of
the deer,' Jeeves?"
"The cases are in some respects parallel, sir."
"Carry on, Rocky, dear
"So I have decided that, if I cannot enjoy all the marvels of the
city myself, I can at least enjoy them through you. I suddenly
thought of this yesterday after reading a beautiful poem in the
Sunday paper about a young man who had longed all his life for a
certain thing and won it in the end only when he was too old to
enjoy it. It was very sad, and it touched me."
"A thing," interpolated Rocky bitterly, "that I've not been able to do
in ten years."
"As you know, you will have my money when I am gone; but until now
I have never been able to see my way to giving you an allowance. I
have now decided to do so--on one condition. I have written to a
firm of lawyers in New York, giving them instructions to pay you
quite a substantial sum each month. My one condition is that you
live in New York and enjoy yourself as I have always wished to do.
I want you to be my representative, to spend this money for me as
I should do myself. I want you to plunge into the gay, prismatic
life of New York. I want you to be the life and soul of brilliant
"Above all, I want you--indeed, I insist on this--to write me
letters at least once a week giving me a full description of all
you are doing and all that is going on in the city, so that I may
enjoy at second-hand what my wretched health prevents my enjoying
for myself. Remember that I shall expect full details, and that no
detail is too trivial to interest.--Your affectionate Aunt,
"What about it?" said Rocky.
"What about it?" I said.
"Yes. What on earth am I going to do?"
It was only then that I really got on to the extremely rummy attitude
of the chappie, in view of the fact that a quite unexpected mess of the
right stuff had suddenly descended on him from a blue sky. To my mind
it was an occasion for the beaming smile and the joyous whoop; yet here
the man was, looking and talking as if Fate had swung on his solar
plexus. It amazed me.
"Aren't you bucked?" I said.
"If I were in your place I should be frightfully braced. I consider
this pretty soft for you."
He gave a kind of yelp, stared at me for a moment, and then began to
talk of New York in a way that reminded me of Jimmy Mundy, the reformer
chappie. Jimmy had just come to New York on a hit-the-trail campaign,
and I had popped in at the Garden a couple of days before, for half an
hour or so, to hear him. He had certainly told New York some pretty
straight things about itself, having apparently taken a dislike to the
place, but, by Jove, you know, dear old Rocky made him look like a
publicity agent for the old metrop.!
"Pretty soft!" he cried. "To have to come and live in New York! To have
to leave my little cottage and take a stuffy, smelly, over-heated hole
of an apartment in this Heaven-forsaken, festering Gehenna. To have to
mix night after night with a mob who think that life is a sort of St.
Vitus's dance, and imagine that they're having a good time because
they're making enough noise for six and drinking too much for ten. I
loathe New York, Bertie. I wouldn't come near the place if I hadn't got
to see editors occasionally. There's a blight on it. It's got moral
delirium tremens. It's the limit. The very thought of staying more than
a day in it makes me sick. And you call this thing pretty soft for me!"
I felt rather like Lot's friends must have done when they dropped in
for a quiet chat and their genial host began to criticise the Cities of
the Plain. I had no idea old Rocky could be so eloquent.
"It would kill me to have to live in New York," he went on. "To have to
share the air with six million people! To have to wear stiff collars
and decent clothes all the time! To----" He started. "Good Lord! I
suppose I should have to dress for dinner in the evenings. What a
I was shocked, absolutely shocked.
... to be continued ...