And cholera, too, that's quicker than croup
But never a word about Jharans.
They told us that small-pox would seem like a curse,
Of scorpions black they told quite a lot,
"Your books will be eaten by white ants," they said,
They told us about the omnivorous rats,
They fully explained that, not even in fun,
"In torrents the rain always comes," they declared,
They even suggested that those who aspire
There's reason enough for this silence discreet,
Jharans for degchis and jharans for shoes,
p. 226 HOUSEHOLD PESTS
Jharans to dust with and jharans to burn,
Julia Norton ClemesBack to the top
I could write my autobiography and entitle it. "Up From Slavery". That may be my only connection with the hero of that book, but it's not my only connection with the truly great, for I am also like Mary Slessor in one respect. She would walk a mile to avoid meeting a cow. So would I
But this is an essay on keys, not cows. That is what I mean by slavery-the slavery of keys. I started life in India as an ordinary missionary shackled and chained to keys. Every time a jharan or a stamp or a cup of milk was needed, out jangled my keys. My response was slow and stupid. I failed to recognize quickly a shallow notch from a deep notch, a square hole from a round one. I'm not sure what psychologists would call it-perhaps an inhibition, may he a complex or more likely a low IQ and slow sense perception. Anyway instead of learning Persian derivatives and Arabic measures I spent hours in becoming automatic in key recognition-table linen, long and ,bin; supplies, hollow round; coal godam, brass solid and so on ad infinitum as learned creatures say.
But just as I teas beginning to feel easy and efficient in key recognition (I am not speaking musically) a new form of distress appeared. My geographical sense has always been deficient. A sardonic sin le of superiority passes over my husband's otherwise beautiful face when he hears me direct guests to walk southeast to
HOUSEHOLD PESTS p. 227
find a certain place when I am pointing them due north. I had long been conscious of this weakness but had consoled myself that in spite of it I could tell Friend Husband instantly that his cholera belt was on the third shelf center back of the large almira, and his dress tie was in the small white box on the right hand side of the left hand drawer of the dressing table. Therefore I was strangely puzzled when this accuracy did not carry over to keys. I would slip them under the baby's mattressI was sure I didand lo ! they would appear in my work basket. I would drop them in a drawer, only to find them again in my pocket. At times in despair and chagrin I would appeal to the bearer, "Have you by any chance seen my keys lying around ? " "O yes, Madam, they are under your pillow." Always in a very safe place !
After some months of such humiliation I made a wonderful discoveryword combination locks were available in India. I invested, and consigned to the safe my keys as relics of the days of sweet ignorance. True, I could not allow myself to leave the opened combination locks lying around to be investigated by . aspiring students of English. But I managed to observe that caution until a third chapter was rudely opened.
One dark night thieves entered and with fell blows demolished the hasps and carried off my precious combination locks as keepsakes of the raid. On inquiry I found that no more word locks were for sale. What should I do ? Go back to the bondage of keys ? Does one, having tasted the sweetness of freedom, voluntarily clamp the shackles on his own wrist ? Never, and neither did I. In one mighty effort I broke the last thread of tradition, and left all-unlocked !
Julia Norton ClemesBack to the top
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