The Red and Gold Shoe part 7/7

The Red and Gold Shoe

The Red and Gold Shoe part  7/7

Reading makes country great

They passed the shoe  from hand  to hand, and Lata watched jealously as they examined it.

"Can I try  it on?" asked one of  the girls, and Lata  looked at her for a long moment.  "Only  for a second-just  to see what  it feels  like," the girl pleaded.

This was something new indeed-to be asked,  instead of ordered,  shouted at, or even pushed. And  then  to know  that she had  the choice of answering  yes, or even no. She had to be careful  here, and so she said, with  that cunning that comes from being  treated like nothing  for  too long: "What will you give me in return?"

It started off with a piece of sesame crunch saved from the recent marriage feast to which  they had not invited her. She shared  it promptly with Joseph,  and from  there  it went on until, at the end of the week, she had  for him a top without a point,  three plastic bangles  for herself, first place at the tap on two occasions when she overslept  and was  late, and even an invitation  to a not-so-important  doll marriage, For only  the first week  that was a good run of luck  indeed, and Lata had reason  to feel happy. The conditions  laid down for the wearing  of her shoe were  stern.  It must never  touch the ground, nor be scuffed against anything  to wear away the gold. This was no ordinary shoe and therefore  it must be treated as no ordinary shoe was ever treated.  Such conditions were bound  to affect  the wearer  too. The betel seller's daughter borrowed  the shoe  for a whole  afternoon  and she wore it when her  relatives  called on the family from  their village. All through  the visit she sat sedately on a trunk, one leg folded  under her and the other hanging down.

"What a beautiful pair of shoes  !" cried her girl cousins, green with envy.

"What a modest and well-behaved  girl !" said  the elders -which she certainly was not. But  for  this excellent piece of foolery, the shoe earned Lata  twenty-five coppers, with which she and Joseph treated  themselves  to gaudy pink balls of ice on sticks. They never bought  these  things because,  as they argued-after  they were eaten-it was nothing but frozen water after all, wasn't it? And  they had to be eaten fast; otherwise  they melted down one's chin and were wasted.

However,  now Lata and Joseph could allow  themselves  such extravagance because  the shoe held out promise of more to come.

"If we sold  it, we could easily get a thousand  rupees!" cried Joseph, his eyes shining.

Perhaps that was wishful  thinking-but being rajah no longer was, and  it was a proud moment when Lata was allowed to climb  to the coveted  position  between Janak Seth's broad  feet, wearing  the shoe and holding the stick aloft  to start  the game. Shabby she was, and shabby  she would remain-but  at last she had something about which she could feel important. And  this the shoe had done for her' Unfortunately even  the most enchanted of shoes have a way of growing  too small for one's feet, and  there came a time when Lata couldn't wear her gold and red shoe any more. The felt  innersole  had become dirty from all the grubby feet  that had worn it, the gold  thread was not so gold any more, and  the whole shoe had begun  to show wear and even a little tear in its velvet. But even  if Lata and every other child  in the lane outgrew it, there was still one person  not likely  to do so. With a little wad of paper stuffed  into its toe, the shoe would always  fit Joseph. That was the way he wore it the first  time Lata  lifted him  into place between Janak Seth's broad  feet. Sitting under the gentle  curve of Seth's large round stomach, he seemed smaller than ever, but he was smiling.

He looked  down and all the  faces were  turned up  to him. To think  that he, poor  little Joseph Pinto  the Legless One had the power in this hand  that held  the rod  to make all those children stop or go just  as he chose! The  thought almost brought  tears  to his eyes.

"Joseph  is rajah!" cried Lata, clapping her hands. "Joseph is rajah  forever  !"

'Janak Rajah went  to Dilli . . ." the children chanted. So  Joseph  too became  a rajah, and because of his shriveled legs,  it was possible he might be rajah forever. This was  far better  than pretending  to believe he could ever become  a jet-plane pilot, or an egret, or even an engine driver.

The other parts

The Red and Gold Shoe part 1/7
The Red and Gold Shoe part 2/7
The Red and Gold Shoe part 3/7
The Red and Gold Shoe part 4/7
The Red and Gold Shoe part 5/7
The Red and Gold Shoe part 6/7

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