It seemed rummy to me, though, that the parcel of nice books was still there with the string and paper on it. It looked as if Motty, after seeing mother off at the station, had decided to call it a day.
Jeeves came in with the nightly whisky-and-soda. I could tell by the chappie’s manner that he was still upset.
“Lord Pershore gone to bed, Jeeves?” I asked, with reserved hauteur and what-not.
“No, sir. His lordship has not yet returned.”
“Not returned? What do you mean?”
“His lordship came in shortly after six-thirty, and, having dressed, went out again.”
At this moment there was a noise outside the front door, a sort of scrabbling noise, as if somebody were trying to paw his way through the woodwork. Then a sort of thud.
“Better go and see what that is, Jeeves.”
“Very good, sir.”
He went out and came back again.
“If you would not mind stepping this way, sir, I think we might be able to carry him in.”
“Carry him in?”
“His lordship is lying on the mat, sir.”
I went to the front door. The man was right. There was Motty huddled up outside on the floor. He was moaning a bit.
“He’s had some sort of dashed fit,” I said. I took another look. “Jeeves! Someone’s been feeding him meat!”
“He’s a vegetarian, you know. He must have been digging into a steak or something. Call up a doctor!”
“I hardly think it will be necessary, sir. If you would take his lordship’s legs, while I——”
“Great Scot, Jeeves! You don’t think—he can’t be——”
“I am inclined to think so, sir.”
And, by Jove, he was right! Once on the right track, you couldn’t mistake it. Motty was under the surface.
It was the deuce of a shock.
“You never can tell, Jeeves!”
“Very seldom, sir.”
“Remove the eye of authority and where are you?”
“Where is my wandering boy to-night and all that sort of thing, what?”
“It would seem so, sir.”
“Well, we had better bring him in, eh?”
So we lugged him in, and Jeeves put him to bed, and I lit a cigarette and sat down to think the thing over. I had a kind of foreboding. It seemed to me that I had let myself in for something pretty rocky.
Next morning, after I had sucked down a thoughtful cup of tea, I went into Motty’s room to investigate. I expected to find the fellow a wreck, but there he was, sitting up in bed, quite chirpy, reading Gingery stories.
“What ho!” I said.
“What ho!” said Motty.
“What ho! What ho!”
“What ho! What ho! What ho!”
After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.
“How are you feeling this morning?” I asked.
“Topping!” replied Motty, blithely and with abandon. “I say, you know, that fellow of yours—Jeeves, you know—is a corker. I had a most frightful headache when I woke up, and he brought me a sort of rummy dark drink, and it put me right again at once. Said it was his own invention. I must see more of that lad. He seems to me distinctly one of the ones!”
I couldn’t believe that this was the same blighter who had sat and sucked his stick the day before.
“You ate something that disagreed with you last night, didn’t you?” I said, by way of giving him a chance to slide out of it if he wanted to. But he wouldn’t have it, at any price.
“No!” he replied firmly. “I didn’t do anything of the kind. I drank too much! Much too much. Lots and lots too much! And, what’s more, I’m going to do it again! I’m going to do it every night. If ever you see me sober, old top,” he said, with a kind of holy exaltation, “tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Tut! Tut!’ and I’ll apologize and remedy the defect.”
“But I say, you know, what about me?”
“What about you?”
“Well, I’m so to speak, as it were, kind of responsible for you. What I mean to say is, if you go doing this sort of thing I’m apt to get in the soup somewhat.”
“I can’t help your troubles,” said Motty firmly. “Listen to me, old thing: this is the first time in my life that I’ve had a real chance to yield to the temptations of a great city. What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them? Makes it so bally discouraging for a great city. Besides, mother told me to keep my eyes open and collect impressions.”
I sat on the edge of the bed. I felt dizzy.
“I know just how you feel, old dear,” said Motty consolingly. “And, if my principles would permit it, I would simmer down for your sake. But duty first! This is the first time I’ve been let out alone, and I mean to make the most of it. We’re only young once. Why interfere with life’s morning? Young man, rejoice in thy youth! Tra-la! What ho!”
Put like that, it did seem reasonable.
“All my bally life, dear boy,” Motty went on, “I’ve been cooped up in the ancestral home at Much Middlefold, in Shropshire, and till you’ve been cooped up in Much Middlefold you don’t know what cooping is! The only time we get any excitement is when one of the choir-boys is caught sucking chocolate during the sermon. When that happens, we talk about it for days. I’ve got about a month of New York, and I mean to store up a few happy memories for the long winter evenings. This is my only chance to collect a past, and I’m going to do it. Now tell me, old sport, as man to man, how does one get in touch with that very decent chappie Jeeves? Does one ring a bell or shout a bit? I should like to discuss the subject of a good stiff b.-and-s. with him!”
I had had a sort of vague idea, don’t you know, that if I stuck close to Motty and went about the place with him, I might act as a bit of a damper on the gaiety. What I mean is, I thought that if, when he was being the life and soul of the party, he were to catch my reproving eye he might ease up a trifle on the revelry. So the next night I took him along to supper with me. It was the last time. I’m a quiet, peaceful sort of chappie who has lived all his life in London, and I can’t stand the pace these swift sportsmen from the rural districts set. What I mean to say is this, I’m all for rational enjoyment and so forth, but I think a chappie makes himself conspicuous when he throws soft-boiled eggs at the electric fan. And decent mirth and all that sort of thing are all right, but I do bar dancing on tables and having to dash all over the place dodging waiters, managers, and chuckers-out, just when you want to sit still and digest.
Directly I managed to tear myself away that night and get home, I made up my mind that this was jolly well the last time that I went about with Motty. The only time I met him late at night after that was once when I passed the door of a fairly low-down sort of restaurant and had to step aside to dodge him as he sailed through the air en route for the opposite pavement, with a muscular sort of looking chappie peering out after him with a kind of gloomy satisfaction.
In a way, I couldn’t help sympathizing with the fellow. He had about four weeks to have the good time that ought to have been spread over about ten years, and I didn’t wonder at his wanting to be pretty busy. I should have been just the same in his place. Still, there was no denying that it was a bit thick. If it hadn’t been for the thought of Lady Malvern and Aunt Agatha in the background, I should have regarded Motty’s rapid work with an indulgent smile. But I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that, sooner or later, I was the lad who was scheduled to get it behind the ear. And what with brooding on this prospect, and sitting up in the old flat waiting for the familiar footstep, and putting it to bed when it got there, and stealing into the sick-chamber next morning to contemplate the wreckage, I was beginning to lose weight. Absolutely becoming the good old shadow, I give you my honest word. Starting at sudden noises and what-not.
And no sympathy from Jeeves. That was what cut me to the quick. The man was still thoroughly pipped about the hat and tie, and simply wouldn’t rally round. One morning I wanted comforting so much that I sank the pride of the Woosters and appealed to the fellow direct.
“Jeeves,” I said, “this is getting a bit thick!”
“Sir?” Business and cold respectfulness.
“You know what I mean. This lad seems to have chucked all the principles of a well-spent boyhood. He has got it up his nose!”
“Well, I shall get blamed, don’t you know. You know what my Aunt Agatha is!”
“Very well, then.”
I waited a moment, but he wouldn’t unbend.
“Jeeves,” I said, “haven’t you any scheme up your sleeve for coping with this blighter?”
And he shimmered off to his lair. Obstinate devil! So dashed absurd, don’t you know. It wasn’t as if there was anything wrong with that Country Gentleman hat. It was a remarkably priceless effort, and much admired by the lads. But, just because he preferred the Longacre, he left me flat.
It was shortly after this that young Motty got the idea of bringing pals back in the small hours to continue the gay revels in the home. This was where I began to crack under the strain. You see, the part of town where I was living wasn’t the right place for that sort of thing. I knew lots of chappies down Washington Square way who started the evening at about 2 a.m.—artists and writers and what-not, who frolicked considerably till checked by the arrival of the morning milk. That was all right. They like that sort of thing down there. The neighbours can’t get to sleep unless there’s someone dancing Hawaiian dances over their heads. But on Fifty-seventh Street the atmosphere wasn’t right, and when Motty turned up at three in the morning with a collection of hearty lads, who only stopped singing their college song when they started singing “The Old Oaken Bucket,” there was a marked peevishness among the old settlers in the flats. The management was extremely terse over the telephone at breakfast-time, and took a lot of soothing.
The next night I came home early, after a lonely dinner at a place which I’d chosen because there didn’t seem any chance of meeting Motty there. The sitting-room was quite dark, and I was just moving to switch on the light, when there was a sort of explosion and something collared hold of my trouser-leg. Living with Motty had reduced me to such an extent that I was simply unable to cope with this thing. I jumped backward with a loud yell of anguish, and tumbled out into the hall just as Jeeves came out of his den to see what the matter was.
“Did you call, sir?”
“Jeeves! There’s something in there that grabs you by the leg!”
“That would be Rollo, sir.”
“I would have warned you of his presence, but I did not hear you come in. His temper is a little uncertain at present, as he has not yet settled down.”
“Who the deuce is Rollo?”
“His lordship’s bull-terrier, sir. His lordship won him in a raffle, and tied him to the leg of the table. If you will allow me, sir, I will go in and switch on the light.”
There really is nobody like Jeeves. He walked straight into the sitting-room, the biggest feat since Daniel and the lions’ den, without a quiver. What’s more, his magnetism or whatever they call it was such that the dashed animal, instead of pinning him by the leg, calmed down as if he had had a bromide, and rolled over on his back with all his paws in the air. If Jeeves had been his rich uncle he couldn’t have been more chummy. Yet directly he caught sight of me again, he got all worked up and seemed to have only one idea in life—to start chewing me where he had left off.
“Rollo is not used to you yet, sir,” said Jeeves, regarding the bally quadruped in an admiring sort of way. “He is an excellent watchdog.”
“I don’t want a watchdog to keep me out of my rooms.”
“Well, what am I to do?”
“No doubt in time the animal will learn to discriminate, sir. He will learn to distinguish your peculiar scent.”
“What do you mean—my peculiar scent? Correct the impression that I intend to hang about in the hall while life slips by, in the hope that one of these days that dashed animal will decide that I smell all right.” I thought for a bit. “Jeeves!”
“I’m going away—to-morrow morning by the first train. I shall go and stop with Mr. Todd in the country.”
“Do you wish me to accompany you, sir?”
“Very good, sir.”
“I don’t know when I shall be back. Forward my letters.”
As a matter of fact, I was back within the week. Rocky Todd, the pal I went to stay with, is a rummy sort of a chap who lives all alone in the wilds of Long Island, and likes it; but a little of that sort of thing goes a long way with me. Dear old Rocky is one of the best, but after a few days in his cottage in the woods, miles away from anywhere, New York, even with Motty on the premises, began to look pretty good to me. The days down on Long Island have forty-eight hours in them; you can’t get to sleep at night because of the bellowing of the crickets; and you have to walk two miles for a drink and six for an evening paper. I thanked Rocky for his kind hospitality, and caught the only train they have down in those parts. It landed me in New York about dinner-time. I went straight to the old flat. Jeeves came out of his lair. I looked round cautiously for Rollo.