The Aunt and the Sluggard, part 7


by P. G. Wodehouse

... continued ...

It was Rocky. The poor old scout was deeply agitated.

"Bertie! Is that you, Bertie! Oh, gosh? I'm having a time!"

"Where are you speaking from?"

"The Midnight Revels. We've been here an hour, and I think we're a
fixture for the night. I've told Aunt Isabel I've gone out to call up a
friend to join us. She's glued to a chair, with this-is-the-life
written all over her, taking it in through the pores. She loves it, and
I'm nearly crazy."

"Tell me all, old top," I said.

"A little more of this," he said, "and I shall sneak quietly off to the
river and end it all. Do you mean to say you go through this sort of
thing every night, Bertie, and enjoy it? It's simply infernal! I was
just snatching a wink of sleep behind the bill of fare just now when
about a million yelling girls swooped down, with toy balloons. There
are two orchestras here, each trying to see if it can't play louder
than the other. I'm a mental and physical wreck. When your telegram
arrived I was just lying down for a quiet pipe, with a sense of
absolute peace stealing over me. I had to get dressed and sprint two
miles to catch the train. It nearly gave me heart-failure; and on top
of that I almost got brain fever inventing lies to tell Aunt Isabel.
And then I had to cram myself into these confounded evening clothes of

I gave a sharp wail of agony. It hadn't struck me till then that Rocky
was depending on my wardrobe to see him through.

"You'll ruin them!"

"I hope so," said Rocky, in the most unpleasant way. His troubles
seemed to have had the worst effect on his character. "I should like to
get back at them somehow; they've given me a bad enough time. They're
about three sizes too small, and something's apt to give at any moment.
I wish to goodness it would, and give me a chance to breathe. I haven't
breathed since half-past seven. Thank Heaven, Jeeves managed to get out
and buy me a collar that fitted, or I should be a strangled corpse by
now! It was touch and go till the stud broke. Bertie, this is pure
Hades! Aunt Isabel keeps on urging me to dance. How on earth can I
dance when I don't know a soul to dance with? And how the deuce could
I, even if I knew every girl in the place? It's taking big chances even
to move in these trousers. I had to tell her I've hurt my ankle. She
keeps asking me when Cohan and Stone are going to turn up; and it's
simply a question of time before she discovers that Stone is sitting
two tables away. Something's got to be done, Bertie! You've got to
think up some way of getting me out of this mess. It was you who got me
into it."

"Me! What do you mean?"

"Well, Jeeves, then. It's all the same. It was you who suggested
leaving it to Jeeves. It was those letters I wrote from his notes that
did the mischief. I made them too good! My aunt's just been telling me
about it. She says she had resigned herself to ending her life where
she was, and then my letters began to arrive, describing the joys of
New York; and they stimulated her to such an extent that she pulled
herself together and made the trip. She seems to think she's had some
miraculous kind of faith cure. I tell you I can't stand it, Bertie!
It's got to end!"

"Can't Jeeves think of anything?"

"No. He just hangs round saying: 'Most disturbing, sir!' A fat lot of
help that is!"

"Well, old lad," I said, "after all, it's far worse for me than it is
for you. You've got a comfortable home and Jeeves. And you're saving a
lot of money."

"Saving money? What do you mean--saving money?"

"Why, the allowance your aunt was giving you. I suppose she's paying
all the expenses now, isn't she?"

"Certainly she is; but she's stopped the allowance. She wrote the
lawyers to-night. She says that, now she's in New York, there is no
necessity for it to go on, as we shall always be together, and it's
simpler for her to look after that end of it. I tell you, Bertie, I've
examined the darned cloud with a microscope, and if it's got a silver
lining it's some little dissembler!"

"But, Rocky, old top, it's too bally awful! You've no notion of what
I'm going through in this beastly hotel, without Jeeves. I must get
back to the flat."

"Don't come near the flat."

"But it's my own flat."

"I can't help that. Aunt Isabel doesn't like you. She asked me what you
did for a living. And when I told her you didn't do anything she said
she thought as much, and that you were a typical specimen of a useless
and decaying aristocracy. So if you think you have made a hit, forget
it. Now I must be going back, or she'll be coming out here after me.

* * * * *

Next morning Jeeves came round. It was all so home-like when he floated
noiselessly into the room that I nearly broke down.

"Good morning, sir," he said. "I have brought a few more of your
personal belongings."

He began to unstrap the suit-case he was carrying.

"Did you have any trouble sneaking them away?"

"It was not easy, sir. I had to watch my chance. Miss Rockmetteller is
a remarkably alert lady."

"You know, Jeeves, say what you like--this is a bit thick, isn't it?"

"The situation is certainly one that has never before come under my
notice, sir. I have brought the heather-mixture suit, as the climatic
conditions are congenial. To-morrow, if not prevented, I will endeavour
to add the brown lounge with the faint green twill."

"It can't go on--this sort of thing--Jeeves."

"We must hope for the best, sir."

"Can't you think of anything to do?"

"I have been giving the matter considerable thought, sir, but so far
without success. I am placing three silk shirts--the dove-coloured, the
light blue, and the mauve--in the first long drawer, sir."

"You don't mean to say you can't think of anything, Jeeves?"

"For the moment, sir, no. You will find a dozen handkerchiefs and the
tan socks in the upper drawer on the left." He strapped the suit-case
and put it on a chair. "A curious lady, Miss Rockmetteller, sir."

"You understate it, Jeeves."

He gazed meditatively out of the window.

"In many ways, sir, Miss Rockmetteller reminds me of an aunt of mine
who resides in the south-east portion of London. Their temperaments are
much alike. My aunt has the same taste for the pleasures of the great
city. It is a passion with her to ride in hansom cabs, sir. Whenever
the family take their eyes off her she escapes from the house and
spends the day riding about in cabs. On several occasions she has
broken into the children's savings bank to secure the means to enable
her to gratify this desire."

"I love to have these little chats with you about your female
relatives, Jeeves," I said coldly, for I felt that the man had let me
down, and I was fed up with him. "But I don't see what all this has got
to do with my trouble."

"I beg your pardon, sir. I am leaving a small assortment of neckties on
the mantelpiece, sir, for you to select according to your preference. I
should recommend the blue with the red domino pattern, sir."

Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out.

... to be continued ...

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