Grandmother was tolerant of most of his pets, but she drew the line at reptiles. Even a sweet-tempered lizard made her blood run cold. There was little chance that she would allow a python in the house.
“It will strangle you to death!” she cried.
“Nonsense,” said Grandfather. “He’s only a young fellow.”
“He’ll soon get used to us,” I added, by way of support.
“Lock that awful thing in the bathroom,” she said.
“Go and find the man you bought it from, give him twenty rupees or twice as much, and get him to come here and collect it! He can keep the money you gave him.”
Grandfather and I took the snake into the bathroom and placed it in an empty tub. Looking a bit crestfallen, he said, “Perhaps your Grandmother is right. I’m not worried about Aunt Ruby, but we don’t want the python to get hold of Toto or Popeye.”
We hurried off to the bazaar in search of the snake-charmer but hadn’t gone far when we found several snake-charmers looking for us. They had heard that Grandfather was buying snakes, and they had brought with them snakes of various sizes and descriptions.
“No, no!” protested Grandfather. “We don’t want more snakes. We want to return the one we bought”.
But the man who had sold it to us had, apparently, returned to his village in the jungle, looking for another python for Grandfather; and the other snake-charmers were not interested in buying, only in selling. In order to shake them off, we had to return home by a roundabout route, climbing a wall and cutting through an orchard.
We found Grandmother pacing up and down the verandah. One look at our faces and she knew we had failed in our mission.
But the python did not confine himself to the roof. Piercing shrieks from Aunt Ruby had us all rushing to her room. There was the python on her dressing table, apparently admiring himself in the mirror.
“All the attention he’s been getting has probably made him conceited,” said Grandfather picking up the python to the accompaniment of further shrieks from Aunt Ruby.
“Would you like to hold him for a minute, Ruby? He seems to have taken a fancy to you.”
Aunt Ruby ran from the room and on to the verandah, where she was greeted with whistles of derision from Popeye the parrot. Poor Aunt Ruby, she cut short her stay by a week and returned to Lucknow, where she was a schoolteacher. She said she felt safer in her school than she did in our house.
Just when all of us, including Grandmother, were getting used to having the python about the house and grounds, it was decided that we would be going to Lucknow for a few months.
Lucknow is a large city, about three hundred m