Old Calabria By Norman Douglas

 -  . . .

My visits to the provincial museum have become scandalously frequent
during the last few days. I cannot keep away from - Page 340
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. . ." My Visits To The Provincial Museum Have Become Scandalously Frequent During The Last Few Days.

I cannot keep away from the place.

I go there not to study the specimens but to converse with their keeper, the woman who, in her quiet way, has cast a sort of charm over me. Our relations are the whispered talk of the town; I am suspected of matrimonial designs upon a poor widow with the ulterior object of appropriating the cream of the relics under her care. Regardless of the perils of the situation, I persevere; for the sake of her company I forswear the manifold seductions of Catan-zaro. She is a noteworthy person, neither vicious nor vulgar, but simply the dernier mot of incompetence. Her dress, her looks, her children, her manners - they are all on an even plane with her spiritual accomplishments; at no point does she sink, or rise, beyond that level. They are not as common as they seem to be, these harmoniously inefficient females.

Why has she got this job in a progressive town containing so many folks who could do it creditably? Oh, that is simple enough! She needs it. On the platform of the Reggio station (long before the earthquake) I once counted five station-masters and forty-eight other railway officials, swaggering about with a magnificent air of incapacity. What were they doing? Nothing whatever. They were like this woman: they needed a job.

We are in a patriarchal country; work is pooled; it is given not to those who can do it best, but to those who need it most - given, too, on pretexts which sometimes strike one as inadequate, not to say recondite. So the street-scavengering in a certain village has been entrusted to a one-armed cripple, utterly unfit for the business - why?

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