|Water-carrying donkey, from Come, tell me how you live|
I just finished the most delightful book, and want to share some of it with my friends and readers from around the world. It is an autobiography by Agatha Christie Mallowan. Yes, the British mystery writer Agatha Christie, that everyone is familiar with. The title is Come, tell me how you live.
I have only read one other book by Agatha Christie, a mystery written in 1926, called The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (I wrote a post about my delve into mysteries at the end of July).
|photo from Come, tell me how you live|
I was so amused by Christie's mystery book that when a friend told me about this little known autobiography (written in 1946), I knew I had to read it (last year, Christie wrote another fuller life account). This autobiography was taken from several rough diaries and notes she had taken when living for several years in the Middle East with her husband, Sir Max Mallowan, an archaeologist. He was the Khwaja (Lord or Master) of several excavation sites in Syria.
|Building the Expedition House at Chagar Bazar, |
from Come, tell me how you live
Just to give you a glimpse of Christie's writing style, I am taking an excerpt from her book. I don't think anyone will mind. To lay the scene, they have just arrived for their first season at Chagar Bazar, in northeastern Syria. When they find their living quarters overrun with mice, a "highly professional cat" is loaned to them (note: the following should not be read by mouse-lovers or squeamish readers):
"Our cat arrives at dinner-time. I shall never forget that cat! It is, as Hamoudi has announced, a highly professional cat. It knows the job for which it has been engaged, and proceeds to get on with it in a truly specialized manner.
Whilst we dine, it crouches in ambush, behind a packing-case. When we talk, or move, or make too much noise, it gives us an impatient look.
"I must request of you,' the look says, 'to be quiet. How can I get on with the job without co-operation?'
So fierce is the cat's expression that we obey at once, speak in whispers, and eat with as little clinking of plates and glasses as possible.
Five times during the meal a mouse emerges and runs across the floor, and five times our cat springs. The sequel is immediate. There is no Western dallying, no playing with the victim. The cat simply bites off the mouse's head, crunches it up, and proceeds to the rest of the body! It is rather horrible and completely businesslike.
The cat stays with us five days. After those five days no mice appear. The cat then leaves us, and the mice never come back. I have never known before or since such a professional cat. It had no interest in us, it never demanded milk or a share of our food. It was cold, scientific and impersonal. A very accomplished cat!"