The Borrowers by Mary Norton
published 1952 chapter 12
[Pod] was well away on his yearly turn-out of the storerooms, mending partitions, and putting up new shelves. Arietty usually enjoyed this spring sorting, when half-forgotten treasures came to light and new uses were discovered for old borrowings. She used to love turning over the scraps of silk or lace; the odd kid gloves; the pencil stubs; the rusty razor blades; the hairpins and the needles; the dried figs, the hazel nuts, the powdery bits of chocolate and the scarlet stubs of sealing wax. Pod, one year, had made her a hairbrush from a toothbrush, and Homily had made her a small pair of Turkish bloomers from two glove fingers for “knocking about in the mornings.” There were spools and spools of coloured silks and cottons and small variegated balls of odd wool, penpoints which Homily used as flour scoops, and bottle tops galore.
observations: Looked at with adult eyes, this is a dark and haunting book. Funny, charming and inventive as well, but definitely with a streak of lamentation and sadness. The Clocks have lost all their relations, they look back to a time when there were a lot of them around, but now they are dispersed, they don’t know exactly where everyone is, and they are trying to decide when exactly would be the right moment to accept the inevitable and go themselves. There are disquieting echoes of the situation in Europe some years earlier (from publication – the book is set mostly in Victorian times). And the framing device of the book is mysterious and strange: the big boy grows up and becomes a colonel – and is it possible he even made up the whole thing? But then the dialogue is hilarious, and just look at the perfection of that phrase ‘knocking about in the mornings’. A true children’s classic, right up there with the very best.
Links up with: The Borrowers has featured before. Much discussion of gloves here, though no-one else has thought of the use the Clock family puts the gloves to.
Arietty’s bedroom is a cigar box, with pictures of beautiful women, so while it is wholly inappropriate to imagine her smoking, the picture above seemed right on two levels – as well as showing bloomers, it is a cigar box lid. The image can be found on Wikimedia Commons.