My Aunt Mattie, Matthewa H. Tombs, is President of the Daughters of Terra. I am her nephew, the one who didn't turn out well. Christened Hapland Graves, after Earth President Hapland, a cousin by marriage, the fellows at school naturally called me Happy Graves. "Haphazard Graves, it should be," Aunt Mattie commented acidly the first time she heard it. It was her not very subtle way of reminding me of the way I lived my life and did things, or didn't do them. She shuddered at anything disorderly, which of course included me, and it was her beholden duty to right anything which to her appeared wrong. "There won't be any evil to march on after you get through, Aunt Mattie," I once said when I was a child. I like now to think that even at the age of six I must have mastered the straight face, but I'm afraid I was so awed by her that I was sincere.
"That will do, Hapland!" she said sternly. But I think she knew I meant it—then—and I think that was the day I became her favorite nephew. For some reason, never quite clear to me, she was my favorite aunt. I think she liked me most because I was the cross she had to bear. I liked her most, I'm sure, because it was such a comfortable ride.
A few billions spent around the house can make things quite comfortable.
She had need of her billions to carry out her hobbies, or, as she called it, her "life's work." Aunt Mattie always spoke in clichés because people could understand what you meant. One of these hobbies was her collection of flora of the universe. It was begun by her maternal grandfather, one of the wealthier Plots, and increased as the family fortunes were increased by her father, one of the more ruthless Tombs, but it was under Aunt Mattie's supervision that it came, so to speak, into full flower...