Monday, April 04, 2005

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - VI

Corbett is not without humor. One of my favorite stories in the book is this one.

“The younger members of the two large families who spent the winter months in Kaladhungi numbered fourteen, excluding my younger brother who was too small to take part in the nightly bonfire or to bathe in the river, and who therefore did not count. Of these fourteen, seven were girls, ranging in age from nine to eighteen, and seven were boys, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, of whom I was the youngest. This handicap, of being the youngest of the males, saddled me with the task that I disliked intensely, for we were living in the Victorian age and when, for instance, the girls went bathing in the canal that formed one boundary of our estate, which they did every day except Sunday – why girls should not bathe on Sunday I do not know – it was deemed necessary for them to be accompanied by a male whose age would offer no offence to Mother Grundy. The selected victim being myself, it was my duty to carry the towels and nightdresses of the girls – for there were no swim-suits in those days – and to keep guard while the girls were bathing and warn them of the approach of males, for there was a footpath used by men on their way to collect firewood in the jungles, or to work on the canal when it needed repair or cleaning.”

“The entering of running water while wearing a thin cotton nightdress is a difficult feat, if the proprieties are to be maintained, for if the unwary step into three feet of water and sit down – as all girls appear to want to do the moment they get into the water – the nightdress rises up and flows over the head, to the consternation of all beholders. When this happened, as it very frequently did, I was under strict orders to look the other way.”

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