Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 22)( Page 1 ) The Old Crocodile

We reached the Crocodile River drift on a Sunday morning, after a particularly dry and dusty night trek.  `Wanting a wash' did not on such occasions mean a mild inclination for a luxury: it meant that washing was badly needed.  The dust lay inches deep on the one worn veld road, and the long strings of oxen toiling along kicked up suffocating clouds of fine dust which there was seldom any breeze to carry off: it powdered white man and black to an equal level of yellowy red.  The waggons were a couple of hundred yards from the river; and, taking a complete change, I went off for a real clean up. We generally managed to get in a couple of bathes at the rivers--real swims--but that was only done in the regular drifts and when there were people about or waggons crossing.  In such conditions crocodiles rarely appeared; they prefer solitude and silence.  The swims were very delightful but somewhat different from ordinary bathes; however remote may have been the risk of meeting a crocodile when you dived, or of being grabbed by one as you swam, the idea was always there and made it more interesting. Being alone that day I had no intention of having a swim or of going into the open river, and I took a little trouble to pick a suitable pool with a rock on which to stand and dress.  The water was clear and I could see the bottom of the pool.  It was quite shallow--three feet deep at most--made by a scour in the sandy bed and divided from the main stream by a narrow spit of sand a couple of yards wide and twenty long. At the top end of the sand spit was a flat rock--my dressing table. After a dip in the pool I stood on to the sand spit to scrub off the brown dust, keeping one unsoaped eye roving round for  intrusive crocodiles, and the loaded rifle lying beside me.  The brutes slide out so silently and unexpectedly that in that exposed position, with water all round, one could not afford to turn one's back on any quarter for long.  There is something laughable--it seemed faintly humorous even then--in the idea of a naked man hastily washing soap out of his eyes and squeezing away the water to take a hurried look behind him, and then after careful survey, doing an `altogether' dowse just as hastily-- blowing and spluttering all the time like a boy after his first dive. The bath was successful and ended without incident--not a sign of a crocodile the whole time!  Breakfast was ready when I reached the waggons, and feeling very fit and clean in a fresh flannel shirt and white moleskins, I sat down to it.  Jim Makokel' brought the kettle of coffee from the fire and was in the act of pouring some into a big mug when he stopped with a grunt of surprise and, looking towards the river, called out sharply, "What is it?" One of the herd boys was coming at a trot towards us, and the drivers, thinking something had happened to the oxen, called a question to him. He did not answer until he reached them and even then spoke in so quiet a tone that I could not catch what he said.  But Jim, putting down the kettle, ran to his waggon and grabbing his sticks and assegais called to me in a husky shouting whisper--which imperfectly describes Jim's way of relieving his feelings, without making the whole world echo: "Ingwenye, Inkos!  Ingwenye Umkulu!  Big Clocodile!  Groot Krokodil, Baas!" Then abandoning his excited polyglot he gabbled off in pure Zulu and at incredible speed a long account of the big Crocodile: it had carried off four boys going to the goldfields that year; it had taken a woman and a baby from the kraal near by, but a white man had beaten it off with a bucket; it had taken all the dogs, and even calves and goats, at the drinking-place; and goodness knows how much more.  How Jim got his news, and when he made his friends, were puzzles never solved. Hunting stories, like travellers tales, are proverbially dangerous to reputations, however literally true they may be; and this is necessarily so, partly because only exceptional things are worth telling, and partly because the conditions of the country or the life referred to are unfamiliar and cannot be grasped.  It is a depressing but accepted fact that the ideal, lurid--and, I suppose, convincing--pictures of wild life are done in London, where the author is unhampered by fact or experience. "Stick to the impossible, and you will be believed: keep clear of fact and commonplace, and you cannot be checked."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 21)( Page 5 ) Monkeys And Wildebeeste

I stood and faced the bush that Mungo had shied at, and the first thing that occurred to me was that my bandolier and cartridges were with the pony.  Then Jock growled low and moved a few steps forward and slightly to the right, also sheering off from that bush.  I felt that he was bristling all over, but there was neither time nor light to watch him. I stepped slowly sideways after him gripping the rifle and looking hard at the bush. Our line was much the same as Mungo's and would take us some seven or eight paces off the road--more than that was not possible owing to the barrier of thorns on that side.  When we got abreast of the bush two large spots of pale light appeared in the middle of it, apparently waist high from the ground. It is impossible to forget the tense creepy feeling caused by the dead stillness, the soft light, and the pale expressionless glow of those eyes--the haunting mystery of eyes and nothing more! It is not unusual to see eyes in the night; but this was a `nervy' occasion, and there is no other that comes back with all the vividness and reality of the experience itself, as this one does.  And I was not the only nervous one.  Mungo incontinently bolted--probably what he saw warranted it; Jock, as ever, faced it; but when my foot touched his hind leg as we sidled away he flew round with a convulsive jump.  He too was strung to concert pitch. As we moved on and passed the reflecting angle of the moon, the light of the eyes went out as suddenly and silently as it had appeared.  There was nothing then to show me where danger lay; but Jock knew, and I kept a watch on him.  He jogged beside me, lagging slightly as if to cover our retreat, always looking back.  A couple of times he stopped entirely and stood in the road, facing straight back and growling; and I followed suit.  He was in command; he knew! There was nothing more.  Gradually Jock's subdued purring growl died down and the glances back became fewer.  I found Mungo a long way on, brought to a standstill by the slipping of his load; and we caught up to the waggons at the next outspan.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 21)( Page 4 ) Monkeys And Wildebeeste

One does not have to reason things out like that in actual practice: the conclusion comes instantly, as if by instinct, and no time is lost.  To drop from the branch, pick up the rifle, and start running were all parts of one movement.  Stooping slightly to prevent my bobbing hat from showing up in the grass tops, and holding the rifle obliquely before me as a sort of snowplough to clear the grass from my eyes, I made as good pace as the ground would allow. No doubt the rifle held in front of me made it difficult to notice anything on the ground; but the concentrated stare across the vlei in the direction of the galloping wildebeeste was quite as much the cause of what followed.  Going fast and stooping low, with all my weight thrown forward, I ran right into a wildebeeste cow.  My shot had wounded her through the kidneys, completely paralysing the hind quarters, and she had instantly dropped out of sight in the grass.  The only warning I got was a furious snort, and the black looking monster with great blazing blood-shot eyes rose up on its front legs as I ran into it. To charge into a wounded wildebeeste ready to go for you, just when your whole attention is concentrated upon others two hundred yards beyond, is nearly as unpleasant as it is unexpected; it becomes a question of what will happen to you, rather than of what you will do.  That at any rate was my experience.  The rifle, if it had hindered me, also helped: held out at arms length it struck the wildebeeste across the forehead and the collision saved my chest from the horns.  There was an angry toss of the big head and the rifle was twirled out of my hand, as one might flip a match away. I do not know exactly what happened: the impression is of a breathless second's whirl and scramble, and then finding myself standing untouched five yards away, with the half-paralysed wildebeeste squatting like a dog and struggling to drag the useless hind quarters along in its furious efforts to get at Jock who had already intervened to help me. The rifle lay within the circle of the big hooked horns; and the squatting animal, making a pivot of its hind quarters, slewed round and round, making savage lunges at Jock and great heaves at me each time I tried to get the rifle.  It often happens that shots touching the kidneys produce a paralysis, temporarily severe, which passes off to a great extent after some minutes and leaves the wounded animal well able to charge: it happened to me some years later while trying to photograph a wounded sable. I tried to hook the gun out with a stick but the wildebeeste swung round and faced me at once, snapping the sticks and twirling them out of my hands with surprising ease and quickness.  I then tried another game, and by making feint attacks from the other side at last got the animal gradually worked away from my gun; and the next attempt at raking was successful. When the excitement was over and there was a chance of taking stock of the position, I found that Jock had a pretty good `gravel rash' on one hip and a nasty cut down one leg; he had caught the wildebeeste by the nose the instant I ran into it, and it had `wiped the floor' with him and flung him aside. I found my bandolier with a broken buckle lying on the grass; one shirt sleeve was ripped open; the back of the right hand cut across; hands and knees were well grated; and there were lumps and bruises about the legs for which there was no satisfactory explanation.  I must have scrambled out like an unwilling participant in a dog fight. It was a long job skinning, cutting up, and packing the wildebeeste, and when we reached the outspan the waggons had already started and we had a long tramp before us to catch them. I drove Mungo before me, keeping him at an easy-jog.  We had been going for possibly an hour and it was quite dark, except for the stars and the young moon low down on our right; the road was soft and Mungo's jogging paces sounded like floppy pats; there was no other sound at all, not even a distant rumble from the waggons to cheer us; Mungo must have been sick of it and one might have thought him jogging in his sleep but for the occasional pricking of his ears--a trick that always makes me wonder how much more do horses see in the dark than we do.  I walked like a machine, with rifle on shoulder and glad to be rid of the broken bandolier, then transferred to Mungo; and Jock trotted at my heels. This tired monotonous progress was disturbed by Mungo: his ears pricked; his head went up; and he stopped, looking hard at a big low bush on our left.  I gave him a tap with the switch, and without an instant hesitation he dashed off to the right making a half circle through the veld and coming into the road again fifty yards ahead, and galloped away leaving a rising column of dust behind him.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 21)( Page 3 ) Monkeys And Wildebeeste

The grimacing little imps invariably tempt one to tease or chase them, just to see their antics and methods; and when I rose, openly watching them and stepping about for a better view, they abandoned the silent methods and bounded freely from branch to branch for fresh cover, always ducking behind something if I pointed the gun or a stick or even my arm at them, and getting into paroxysms of rage and leaning over slang and cheek me whenever it seemed safe. Jock was full of excitement, thoroughly warmed up and anxious to be at them, running about from place to place to watch them, tacking and turning and jumping for better views, and now and then running to the trunk and scraping at it.  Whenever he did this there was a moment's silence; the idea of playing a trick on them struck me and I caught Jock up and put him in the fork of a big main branch about six feet from the ground.  The effect was magical: the whole of the top of the tree seemed to whip and rustle at once, and in two seconds there was not a monkey left. Then a wave in the top of a small tree some distance off betrayed them and we gave chase--a useless romping schoolboy chase.  They were in the small trees away from the river and it was easy to see and follow them; and to add to the fun and excitement I threw stones at the branches behind them.  Their excitement and alarm then became hysterical, and as we darted about to head them off they were several times obliged to scamper a few yards along the ground to avoid me and gain other trees. It was then that Jock enjoyed himself most: he ran at them and made flying leaps and snaps as they sprang up the trees out of reach.  It was like a caricature of children in one of their make-believe chases; the screams, grimaces, and actions were so human that it would have seemed like a tragedy had one of them been hurt.  They got away into the big trees once more, to Jock's disappointment but greatly to my relief; for I was quite pumped from the romp and laughter. The river at this point was broken into several sluices by islands formed of piles of rocks on which there were a few stunted trees and dense growths of tall reeds, and here and there little spits and fringes of white sand were visible.  There was plenty of small game in that part, and it was a great place for crocodiles.  As we were then about half a mile below where Mungo had been left I strolled along the bank on the look out for a shot, frequently stopping to examine suspicious-looking rocks on the sand spits or at the borders of the reed fringes on the little islands. The shooting of crocodiles was an act of war: it was enmity and not sport or a desire for trophies that prompted it, and when it did not interfere with other chances we never missed a practice shot at these fellows.  I picked out several `rocks,' so suspicious looking that I would have had a shot at them had there been a clear chance, and twice, while I was trying to make them out, they slid silently into the water before there was time to fire. However, further on there came a better chance than any: there was something so peculiar about the look of this `rock' that I picked a good spot and sat down to watch it; and presently the part nearest me turned slightly, just enough to show that it was a crocodile lying on the flat sand with his nose towards me and his tail hidden in the reeds.  It was fifty yards away, and from where I sat there was not much to aim at, as a Martini bullet would glance from almost any part of that polished hard case if it struck at such an angle. I was sitting on the bank above the shelving beach of the river on which a dense mass of reeds grew, and the waving feathery tops partly obscured the sight.  I know the bullet hit him somewhere, because he bounded with astonishing strength and activity several feet in the air and his tail slashed through the reeds like a mighty scythe.  The huge jaws opened and he gave a horrible angry bellow--something between a roar and a snarl--as he plunged into the river, sending masses of spray and water flying every way.  He made straight across, apparently at me, swimming on top of the water at amazing speed and throwing up a wave on either side and a white swirl of foam from the propelling tail. It was certainly a most surprising and unheard-of proceeding, and as he reached my side of the stream, and because hidden from me by the screen of reeds at my feet, I turned and bolted.  It may be that he came at me with murderous intent; or it may be that, blinded by rage or pain, he came towards me simply because he happened to be facing that way; but, whatever the reason, it was painfully clear that if he meant business he would be on to me before it was possible to see him in the reeds.  That was enough for me.  It had never occurred to me that there was going to be any fun in this for the crocodile; but one's sense of humour and justice was always being stimulated in the Bushveld. With twenty yards of open ground between us I turned and waited; but no crocodile appeared, nor was there a sound to be heard in the reeds.  A few minutes wait; a cautious return; a careful scrutiny; and then resort to sticks and stones; but all to no purpose: there was neither sign nor sound of the crocodile; and not being disposed to go into the reeds to look for something which I did not want, but might want me, I returned to Mungo--a little wiser, it is true, but not unduly `heady' on that account. Half an hour's jogging along the bank having failed to propose anything, I struck away from the river taking a line through the bush towards camp, and eventually came across a small herd of blue wildebeeste. Mungo's pricked ears and raised head warned me; but the grass being high it was not easy to see enough of them from the ground to place an effective shot, and before a chance offered they moved off slowly.  I walked after them, leading Mungo and trying to get a fair opening on slightly higher ground. Presently half a dozen blackish things appeared above the tall grass; they were the heads of the wildebeeste- all turned one way, and all looking at us with ears wide spread.  Only the upper halves of the heads were visible through the thinner tops of the grass, and even an ordinary standing shot was not possible.  I had to go to a tree for support in order to tip-toe for the shot, and whilst in the act of raising my rifle the heads disappeared; but I took chance and fired just below where the last one had shown up. The wildebeeste were out of sight, hidden by grass six feet high, but a branch of the tree beside me served as a horizontal bar and hoisting myself chin high I was able to see them again.  In front of us there was a dry vlei quite free of bush, some two hundred yards across and four hundred yards long, and the wildebeeste had gone away to the right and were skirting the vlei, apparently meaning to get round to the opposite side, avoiding the direct cut across the vlei for reasons of their own. It occurred to me that there must be a deep donga or perhaps a mud hole in front which they were avoiding; but that it might be possible for me to get across, or even half-way across, in time to have another shot at them the next time they stopped to look back, as they were almost certain to do; so I ran straight on.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 21)( Page 2 ) Monkeys And Wildebeeste

The day he caught the monkey he was well pleased, and may possibly have told the truth. Baboons and monkeys, he said, can count just like men, but they can only count two!  If one man goes into a mealie field and waits for them with a gun, their sentry will see him, and he may wait for ever; if two go and one remains, it is useless, for they realise that only one has come out where two went in; but if three go in, one may remain behind to lie in wait for them, for the monkeys, seeing more than one return, will invade the mealie field as soon as the two are safely out of the way.  That was only Jantje's explanation of the well-known fact  that monkeys and baboons know the difference between one and more than one. But, as Jantje explained, their cleverness helped him to catch them.  He went alone and came away alone, leaving his trap behind, knowing that they were watching his every movement, but knowing also that their intense curiosity would draw them to it the moment it seemed safe.  The trap he used was an old calabash or gourd with a round hole in it about an inch in diameter; and a few pumpkin seeds and mealies and a hard crust of bread, just small enough to get into the calabash, formed the bait. After fastening the gourd by a cord to a small stump, he left it lying on its side on the ground where he had been sitting.  A few crumbs and seeds were dropped near it and the rest placed in the gourd, with one or two showing in the mouth.  Then he walked off on the side where he would be longest in view, and when well out of sight sped round in a circuit to a previously selected spot where he could get close up again and watch. The foremost monkey was already on the ground when he got back and others were hanging from low branches or clinging to the stems, ready to drop or retreat.  Then began the grunts and careful timid approaches, such as one sees in a party of children hunting for the hidden `ghost' who is expected to appear suddenly and chase them; next, the chattering garrulous warnings and protests from the timid ones--the females--in the uppe branches; the sudden start and scurry of one of the youngsters; and the scare communicated to all, making even the leader jump back a pace; then his angry grunt and loud scolding of the frightened ones-- angry because they had given him a fright, and loud because he was reassuring himself. After a pause they began the careful roundabout approach and the squatting and waiting, making pretences of not being particularly interested, while their quick eyes watched everything; then the deft picking up of one thing--instantly dropped again, as one picks up a roasted chestnut and drops it in the same movement, in case it should be hot; and finally the greedy scramble and chatter. I have seen all that, but not, alas, the successful ending, when trying to imitate Jantje's methods.  Jantje waited until the tugs at the gourd became serious, and then, knowing that the smaller things had been taken out or shaken out and eaten and that some enterprising monkey had put its arm into the hole and grabbed the crust, he ran out. A monkey rarely lets go any food it has grabbed, and when, as in this case, the hand is jammed in a narrow neck, the letting go cannot easily be done instinctively or inadvertently; the act requires a deliberate effort.  So Jantje caught his monkey, and flinging his ragged coat over the captive sat down to make it safe.  By pushing the monkey's arm deeper into the gourd the crust became released and the hand freed; he  then gradually shifted the monkey about until he got the head into the shoulders of the loose old coat, and thence into the sleeve; and worked away at this until he had the creature as helpless as a mummy with the head appearing at the cuff-opening and the body jammed in the sleeve like a bulging overstuffed sausage.  The monkey struggled, screamed, chattered, made faces, and cried like a child; but Jantje gripping it between his knees worked away unmoved. He next took the cord from the calabash and tied one end securely round the monkey's neck, to the shrinking horror of that individual, and the other end to a stout bush stick about seven or eight feet long; and then slipped monkey cord and stick back through the sleeve and had his captive safe; the cord prevented it from getting away, and the stick from getting too close and biting him.  When they sat opposite and pulled faces at each other the family likeness was surprising.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 21)( Page 1) Monkeys And Wildebeeste

Mungo was not a perfect mount, but he was a great improvement on Snowball; he had a wretched walk, and led almost as badly as his predecessor; but this did not matter so much because he could be driven like a pack donkey and relied on not to play pranks.  In a gallop after game he was much faster than Snowball, having a wonderfully long stride for so low a pony. A horse made a good deal of difference in the hunting in many ways, not the least of which was that some sort of excursion was possible on most days.  One could go further in  the time available and, even if delayed, still be pretty sure of catching up to the waggons without much difficulty. Sometimes after a long night's trekking I would start off after breakfast for some `likely' spot, off-saddle there in a shady place, sleep during the heat of the day, and after a billy of tea start hunting towards the waggons in the afternoon. It was in such a spot on the Komati River, a couple of hundred yards from the bank, that on one occasion I settled down to make up lost ground in the matter of sleep, and with Mungo knee-haltered in good grass and Jock beside me, I lay flat on my back with hat covering my eyes and was soon comfortably asleep. The sleep had lasted a couple of hours when I began to dream that it was raining and woke up in the belief that a hail storm--following the rain--was just breaking over me.  I started up to find all just as it had been, and the sunlight beyond the big tree so glaring as to make the eyes ache.  Through half-closed lids I saw Mungo lying down asleep and made out Jock standing some yards away quietly watching me. With a yawn and stretch I lay back again; sleep was over but a good lazy rest was welcome: it had been earned, and, most comforting of all, there was nothing else to be done.  In the doze that followed I was surprised to feel quite distinctly something like a drop of rain strike my leg, and then another on my hat. "Hang it all, it is raining," I said, sitting up again and quite wide awake this time.  There was Jock still looking at me, but only for the moment of moving, it appears; for, a minute later he looked up into the tree above me with ears cocked, head on one side, and tail held lazily on the horizontal and moving slowly from time to time. It was his look of interested amusement. A couple of leaves fluttered down, and then the half-eaten pip of a `wooden orange' struck me in the face as I lay back again to see what was going on above.  The pip gave me the line, and away up among the thick dark foliage I saw a little old face looking down at me; the quick restless eyes were watchfully on the move, and the mouth partly opened in the shape of an O--face and attitude together a vivid expression of surprise and indignation combined with breathless interest. As my eyes fairly met those above me, the monkey ducked its head forward and promptly `made a face' at me without uttering a sound.  Then others showed up in different places, and whole figures became visible now as the monkeys stole softly along the branches to get a better look at Jock and me: there were a couple of dozen of them of all sizes. They are the liveliest, most restless, and most inquisitive of creatures; ludicrously nervous and excitable; quick to chattering anger and bursts of hysterical passion, which are intensely comical, especially when they have been scared.  They are creatures whose method of progress most readily betrays them by the swaying of a branch or quivering of leaves, yet they can steal about and melt away at will, like small grey ghosts, silent as the grave. I had often tried to trap them, but never succeeded: Jantje caught them, as he caught everything, with cunning that out-matched his wilder kindred; pitfalls, nooses, whip-traps, fall-traps, foot-snares, drags, slip knots of all kinds, and tricks that I cannot now remember, were in his repertory; but he disliked showing his traps, and when told to explain he would half sulkily show one of the common kind.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 8 ) Jantje

The Jackal asked that he might be Umpire for the Things of the Earth. "You are too small to be seen!" objected the Lion gruffly. "No!  No!" urged the Jackal, "I will stand on a big ant-heap and hold my bushy tail on high where all will see it shining silver and gold in the sunlight." "Good!" said the Lion.  "It is better so, perhaps, for you would never fight; and as soon as one begins to run, others follow!" The Things of the Air gathered in their numbers, and the Eagle led them, showing them how to make up for their weakness by coming swiftly down in numbers where they found their enemies alone or weak; how to keep the sun behind them so that it would shine in their enemies' eyes and blind them; and how the loud voiced ones should attack on the rear and scream suddenly, while those with bill and claw swooped down in front and struck at the eyes. And for a time it went well with the Things of the Air.  The little birds and locusts and butterflies came in clouds about the Lion and he could see nothing as he moved from place to place; and the Things of the Earth were confused by these sudden attacks; and, giving up the fight, began to flee from their places. Then the Jackal, believing that he would not be found out, cheated: he kept his tail up to make them think they were not beaten.  The Lion roared to them, so that all could hear, to watch the hill where the Jackal stood and see the sign of victory; and the Things of the Earth, being strong, gathered together again and withstood the enemy and drove them off. The battle was going against the Things of the Air when the Go'way bird came to the Eagle and said: "It is the Jackal who has done this.  Long ago we had won; but, Cheat and Coward, he kept his tail aloft and his people have returned and are winning now." Then the Eagle, looking round the field, said, "Send me the Bee." And when the Bee came the Eagle told him what to do; and setting quietly about his work, as his habit is, he made a circuit through the trees that brought him to the hill where the Jackal watched from the ant-heap. While the Jackal stood there with his mouth open and tongue out, laughing to see how his cheating had succeeded, the Bee came up quietly behind and, as Jantje put it, "stuck him from hereafter!" The Jackal gave a scream of pain and, tucking his tail down, jumped from the ant-heap and ran away into the bush; and when the Things of the Earth saw the signal go down they thought that all was lost, and fled. So was the Great Battle won!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 7 ) Jantje

How much of fact there may have been in it I cannot say: honey-birds gave me many a wild goose chase, but when they led to anything at all it was to hives, and not to snakes, tigers and crocodiles.  Perhaps it is right to own up that I never cheated a honey-bird!  We pretended to laugh at the superstition, but we left some honey all the same--just for luck!  After all, as we used to say, the bird earned its share and deserved encouragement. Round the camp fire at nights it was no uncommon thing to see some one jump up and let out with whatever was handiest at some poisonous intruder.  There was always plenty of dead wood about and we piled on big branches and logs freely, and as the ends burnt to ashes in the heart of the fire we kept pushing the logs further in.  Of course, dead trees are the home of all sorts of `creepy-crawly' things, and as the log warmed up and the fire eat into the decayed heart and drove thick hot smoke through the cracks and corridors and secret places in the logs the occupants would come scuttling out at the butt ends.  Small snakes were common--the big ones usually clearing when the log was first disturbed--and they slipped away into the darkness giving hard quick glances about them; but scorpions, centipedes and all sorts of spiders were by far the most numerous. Occasionally in the mornings we found snakes under our blankets, where they had worked in during the night for the warmth of the human body; but no one was bitten, and one made a practice of getting up at once, and with one movement, so that unwelcome visitors should not be warned or provoked by any preliminary rolling.  The scorpions, centipedes and tarantulas seemed to be more objectionable; but they were quite as anxious to get away as we were, and it is wonderful how little damage is done. One night when we had been watching them coming out of a big honeycombed log like the animals from the Ark, and were commenting on the astonishing number and variety of these things, I heard Jantje conveying in high-pitched tones fanciful bits of information to the credulous waggon-boys.  When he found that we too were listenin --and Jantje had the storyteller's love for a `gallery'--he turned our way and dropped into a jargon of broken English, helped out with Hottentot-Dutch, which it is impossible to reproduce in intelligible form. He had made some allusion to `the great battle,' and when I asked for an explanation he told us the story.  It is well enough known in South Africa, and similar stories are to be found in the folklore of other countries, but it had a special interest for us in that Jantje gave it as having come to him from his own people.  He called it "The Great Battle between the Things of the Earth and the Things of the Air." For a long time there had been jealousy between the Things of the Earth and the Things of the Air, each claiming superiority for themselves; each could do something the others could not do; and each thought their powers greater and their qualities superior.  One day a number of them happened to meet on an open plain near the river's bank, and the game of brag began again as usual.  At last the Lion, who was very cross, turned to the old Black Aasvogel, as he sat half asleep on a dead tree, and challenged him. "You only eat the dead: you steal where others kill.  It is all talk with you; you will not fight!" The Aasvogel said nothing, but let his bald head and bare neck settle down between his shoulders, and closed his eyes. "He wakes up soon enough when we find him squatting above the carcase," said the Jackal.  "See him flop along then." "When _we_ find him!" the Aasvogel said, opening his eyes wide. "Sneaking prowler of the night!  Little bastard of the Striped Thief!" "Come down and fight," snarled the Hyena angrily.  "Thief and scavenger yourself!" So the Things of the Air gathered about and joined in backing the Black Aasvogel; and the Things of the Earth kept on challenging them to come down and have it out; but nobody could hear anything because the Jackal yapped incessantly and the Go'way bird, with its feathers all on end and its neck craned out, screamed itself drunk with passion. Then the Eagle spoke out: "You have talked enough.  Strike--strike for the eyes!" and he swept down close to the Lion's head, but swerving to avoid the big paw that darted out at him, he struck in passing at the Jackal, and  took off part of his ear. "I am killed!  I am killed!" screamed the Jackal, racing for a hole to hide in.  But the other beasts laughed at him; and when the Lion called them up and bade them take their places in the field for the great battle, the Jackal walked close behind him holding his head on one side and showing each one what the Eagle had done. "Where is my place?" asked the Crocodile, in a soft voice, from the bank where no one had noticed him come up. The Things of the Earth that were near him moved quietly away. "Your place is in the water," the Lion answered.  "Coward and traitor whom no one trusts!  Who would fight with his back to you?" The Crocodile laughed softly and rolled his green eyes from one to
another; and they moved still further away.
"What am I?" asked the Ostrich.  "Kindred of the Birds, I am of the winged ones; yet I cannot fight with them!" "Let him fly!" said the Jackal, grinning, "and we shall then see to whom he belongs!  Fly, old Three Sticks!  Fly!" The Ostrich ran at him, waltzing and darting with wings outspread, but the Jackal dodged away under the Lion and squealed out, "Take your feet off the ground, Clumsy, and fly!" Then it was arranged that there should be two Umpires, one for each party, and that the Umpires should stand on two high hills where all could see them.  The Ostrich was made Umpire for the Things of the Air, and as long as the fight went well with his party he was to hold his head high so that the Things of the Air might see the long thin neck upright and, knowing that all was well, fight on.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 6 ) Jantje

At night as he lay unable to sleep the bats came and made faces at him; a night adder rose up before his face and slithered out its forked tongue--the two black beady eyes glinting the firelight back; and whichever way he looked there was a honey-bird, silent and angry, yet with a look of satisfaction, as it watched.  So it went all night: no sleep for him; no rest! In the morning he rose early and taking his gun and chopper set out in search of hives: he would give all to the honey-bird he had cheated, and thus make amends. He had not gone far before, to his great delight, there came a welcome chattering in answer to his low whistle, and the busy little fellow flew up to show himself and promptly led the way, going ahead ten to twenty yards at a flight.  Jantje followed eagerly until they came to a small donga with a sandy bottom, and then the honey-bird calling briskly, fluttered from tree to tree on either bank, leading him on. Jantje, thinking the hive must be near by, was walking slowly along the sandy bed and looking upwards in the trees, when something on the ground caught his eye and he sprang back just as the head of a big puff-adder struck where his bare foot had been a moment before.  With one swing of his chopper he killed it; he took the skin off for an ornament, the poison-glands for medicine, and the fangs for charms, and then whistled and looked about for the honey-bird; but it had gone. A little later on, however, he came upon another, and it led him to a big and shady wild fig tree.  The honey-bird flew to the trunk itself and cheeped and chattered there, and Jantje put down his gun and looked about for an easy place to climb.  As he peered through the foliage he met a pair of large green eyes looking full into his: on a big limb of the tree lay a tiger, still as death, with its head resting on its paws, watching him with a cat-like eagerness for its prey.  Jantje hooked his toe in the reim sling of his old gun and slowly gathered it up without moving his eyes from the tiger's, and backing away slowly, foot by foot, he got out into the sunshine and made off as fast as he could. It was the honey-bird's revenge: he knew it then! He sat down on some bare ground to think what next to do; for he knew he must die if he did not find honey and make good a hundred times what he had cheated. All day long he kept meeting honey-birds and following them; but he would no longer follow them into the bad places, for he could not tell whether they were new birds or the one he had robbed!  Once he had nearly been caught; the bird had perched on an old ant-heap, and Jantje,  thinking there was a ground hive there, walked boldly forward.  A small misshapen tree grew out of the ant-heap, and one of the twisted branches caught his eye because of the thick ring around it: it was the coil of a long green mamba; and far below that, half hidden by the leaves, hung the snake's head with the neck gathered in half-loop coils ready to strike at him. After that Jantje kept in the open, searching for himself among rocks and in all the old dead trees for the tell-tale stains that mark the hive's entrance; but he had no luck, and when he reached the river in the early afternoon he was glad of a cool drink and a place to rest. For a couple of hours he had seen no honey-birds, and it seemed that at last his pursuer had given him up, for that day at least.  As he sat in the shade of the high bank, however, with the river only a few yards from his feet he heard again a faint chattering: it came from the river-side beyond a turn in the bank, and it was too far away for the bird to have seen Jantje from where it called, so he had no doubt about this being a new bird.  It seemed to him a glorious piece of luck that he should find honey by the aid of a strange bird and be able to take half of it back to the hive he had emptied the day before and leave it there for the cheated bird. There was a beach of pebbles and rocks between the high bank and the river, and as Jantje walked along it on the keen lookout for the bird, he spotted it sitting on a root half-way down the bank some twenty yards ahead.  Close to where the chattering bird perched there was a break in the pebbly beach, and there shallow water extended up to the perpendicular bank.  In the middle of this little stretch of water, and conveniently placed as a stepping-stone, there was a black rock, and the bare-footed Jantje stepped noiselessly from stone to stone towards lit. An alarmed cane-rat, cut off by Jantje from the river, ran along the foot of the bank to avoid him; but when it reached the little patch of shallow water it suddenly doubled back in fright and raced under the boy's feet into the river. Jantje stopped!  He did not know why; but there seemed to be something wrong.  Something had frightened the cane-rat back on to him, and he stared hard at the bank and the stretch of beach ahead of him.  Then the rock he meant to step on to gave a heave, and a long blackish thing curved towards him; he sprang into the air as high as he could, and the crocodile's tail swept under his feet! Jantje fled back like a buck--the rattle on the stones behind him and crash of reeds putting yards into every bound. For four days he stayed in camp waiting for some one to find a hive and give him honey enough to make his peace; and then, for an old snuff-box and a little powder, he bought a huge basket full of comb, young and old, from a kaffir woman at one of the kraals some miles away, and put it all at the foot of the tree he had cleaned out. Then he had peace. The boys believed every word of that story: so, I am sure, did Jantje himself.  The buffalo story was obviously true, and Jantje thought nothing of it: the honey-bird story was not, yet he gloried in it; it touched his superstitious nature, and it was impossible for him to tell the truth or to separate fact from fancy and superstition.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 5 ) Jantje

He laughed almost hysterically, his eyes disappearing altogether and every tooth showing, as I lifted his arm to investigate; and then in high-pitched falsetto tones he shouted in a sort of ecstasy of delight, "Die ouw buffels, Baas!  Die buffels bull, Baas!" "Buffalo!  Did he toss you?"  I asked.  Jantje seemed to think it the best joke in the world and with constant squeals of laughter and graphic gestures gabbled off his account. His master, it appears, had shot at and slightly wounded the buffalo, and Jantje had been placed at one exit from the bush to prevent the herd from breaking away.  As they came towards him he fired at the foremost one; but before he could reload the wounded bull made for him and he ran for dear life to the only tree near--one of the flat-topped thorns.  He heard the thundering hoofs and the snorting breath behind, but raced on hoping to reach the tree and dodge behind it; a few yards short, however, the bull caught him, in spite of a jump aside, and flung him with one toss right on top of the thorn-tree. When he recovered consciousness he was lying face upwards in the sun, with nothing to rest his head on and only sticks and thorns around him. He did not know where he was or what had happened; he tried to move, but one arm was useless and the effort made him slip and sag, and he thought he was falling through the earth.  Presently he heard regular tramping underneath him and the breath of a big animal: and the whole incident came back to him.  By feeling about cautiously he at last located the biggest branch under him, and getting a grip on this he managed to turn over and ease his right side.  He could then see the buffalo: it had tramped a circle round the tree and was doing sentry over him.  Now and again the huge creature stopped to sniff, snort and stamp, and then resumed the round, perhaps the reverse way.  The buffalo could not see him and never once looked up, but glared about at its own accustomed level; and, relying entirely on its sense of smell, it kept up the relentless vengeful watch for hours, always stopping in the same place, to leeward, to satisfy itself that the enemy had not escaped. Late in the afternoon the buffalo, for the first time, suddenly came to a stand on the windward side of the tree, and after a good minute's silence turned its tail on Jantje and with angry sniffs and tosses stepped swiftly and resolutely forward some paces.  There was nothing to be seen; but Jantje judged the position and yelled out a warning to his master whom he guessed to be coming through the bush to look for him, and at the same time he made what noise he could in the tree top to make the buffalo think he was coming down.  The animal looked round from time to time with swings and tosses of the head and threatening angry sneezes, much as one sees a cow do when standing between her young calf and threatened danger: it was defending Jantje, for his own purposes, and facing the danger. For many minutes there was dead silence: no answer came to Jantje's call, and the bull stood its ground glaring and sniffing towards the bush.  At last there was a heavy thud below, instantly followed by the report of the rifle--the bullet came faster than the sound; the buffalo gave a heavy plunge and with a grunting sob slid forward on its chest. Round the camp fire at night Jantje used to tell tales in which fact, fancy, and superstition were curiously mingled; and Jantje when not out of humour was free with his stories.  The boys, for whose benefit they were told, listened open mouthed; and I often stood outside the ring of gaping boys at their fire, an interested listener. The tale of his experiences with the honey-bird which he had cheated of its share was the first I heard him tell.  Who could say how much was fact, how much fancy, and how much the superstitions of his race?  Not even Jantje knew that!  He believed it all. The Honey-bird met him one day with cheery cheep-cheep, and as he whistled in reply it led him to an old tree where the beehive was: it was a small hive, and Jantje was hungry; so he ate it all.  All the time he was eating, the bird kept fluttering about, calling anxiously, and expecting some honey or fat young bees to be thrown out for it; and when he had finished, the bird came down and searched in vain for its share. As he walked away the guilty Jantje noticed that the indignant bird followed him with angry cries and threats. All day long he failed to find game; whenever there seemed to be a chance an angry honey-bird would appear ahead of him and cry a warning to the game; and that night as he came back, empty handed and hungry, all the portents of bad luck came to him in turn.  An owl screeched three times over his head; a goat-sucker with its long wavy wings and tail flitted before him in swoops and rings in most ghostly silence--and there is nothing more ghostly than that flappy wavy soundless flitting of the goat-sucker; a jackal trotted persistently in front looking back at him; and a striped hyena, humpbacked, savage, and solitary, stalked by in silence, and glared.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 4 ) Jantje

One day I was watching the ants as they travelled along their route-- sometimes stopping to hobnob with those they met, sometimes hurrying past, and sometimes turning as though  sent back on a message or reminded of something forgotten--when a little dry brown bean lying in a spot of sunlight gave a jump of an inch or two.  At first it seemed that I must have unknowingly moved some twig or grass stem that flicked it; but as I watched it there was another vigorous jump.  I took it up and examined it but there was nothing unusual about it, it was just a common light brown bean with no peculiarities or marks; it was a real puzzle, a most surprising and ridiculous one.  I found half a dozen more in the same place; but it was some days before we discovered the secret.  Domiciled in each of them was a very small but very energetic worm, with a trap-door or stopper on his one end, so artfully contrived that it was almost impossible with the naked eye to locate the spot where the hole was.  The worm objected to too much heat and if the beans were placed in the sun or near the fire the weird astonishing jumping would commence. The beans were good for jumping for several months, and once in Delagoa, one of our party put some on a plate in the sun beside a fellow who had been doing himself too well for some time previously: he had become a perfect nuisance to us and we could not get rid of him.  He had a mouth full of bread, and a mug of coffee on the way to help it down, when the first bean jumped.  He gave a sort of peck, blinked several times to clear his eyes, and then with his left hand pulled slightly at his collar, as though to ease it.  Then came another jump, and his mouth opened slowly and his eyes got big.  The plate being hollow and glazed was not a fair field for the jumpers--they could not escape; and in about half a minute eight or ten beans were having a rough and tumble. With a white scared face our guest slowly lowered his mug, screened his eyes with the other hand, and after fighting down the mouthful of bread, got up and walked off without a word. We tried to smother our laughter, but some one's choking made him look back and he saw the whole lot of us in various stages of convulsions. He made one rude remark, and went on; but every one he met that day made some allusion to beans, and he took the Durban steamer next morning. The insect life was prodigious in its numbers and variety; and the birds, the beasts, and the reptiles were all interesting.  There is a goodness-knows-what-will-turn-up-next atmosphere about the Bushveld which is, I fancy, unique.  The story of the curate, armed with a butterfly net, coming face to face with a black-maned lion may or may not be true--in fact; but it is true enough as an illustration; and it is no more absurd or unlikely than the meeting at five yards of a lioness and a fever-stricken lad carrying a white green-lined umbrella-- which is true!  The boy stood and looked: the lioness did the same. "She seemed to think I was not worth eating, so she walked off," he used to say--and he was Trooper 242 of the Imperial Light Horse who went back under fire for wounded comrades and was killed as he brought the last one out. I had an old cross-bred Hottentot-Bushman boy once--one could not tell which lot he favoured--who was full of the folklore stories and superstitions of his strange and dying race, which he half humorously and half seriously blended with his own knowledge and hunting experiences.  Jantje had the ugly wrinkled dry-leather face of his breed, with hollow cheeks, high cheek-bones, and little pinched eyes, so small and so deeply set that no one ever saw the colour of them; the peppe  corns of tight wiry wool that did duty for hair were sparsely scattered over his head like the stunted bushes in the desert; and his face and head were seamed with scars too numerous to count, the souvenirs of his drunken brawls.  He resembled a tame monkey rather than ahuman creature, being, like so many of his kind without the moral side or qualities of human nature which go to mark the distinction between man and monkey.  He was normally most cheery and obliging; but it meant nothing, for in a moment the monkey would peep out, vicious, treacherous and unrestrained.  Honesty, sobriety, gratitude, truth, fidelity, and humanity were impossible to him: it seemed as if even the germs were not there to cultivate, and the material with which to work did not exist. He had certain make-believe substitutes, which had in a sense been grafted on to his nature, and appeared to work, while there was no real use for them; they made a show, until they were tested; one took them for granted, as long as they were not disproved: it was a skin graft only, and there seemed to be no real `union' possible between them and the tough alien stock.  He differed in character and nature from the Zulu as much as he did from the white man; he was as void of principle as- well, as his next of kin, the monkey; yet, while without either shame of, or contempt for, cowardice; he was wholly without fear of physical danger, having a sort of fatalist's indifference to it; and that was something to set off against his moral deficit.  I put Jantje on to wash clothes the day he turned up at the waggons to look for work, and as he knelt on the  ocks stripped to the waist I noticed a very curious knotted line running up his right side from the lowest rib into the armpit.  The line was whiter than his yellow skin; over each rib there was a knot or widening in the line; and under the arm there was a big splotchy star--all markings of some curious wound.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 3 ) Jantje

There were numbers of little squirrel-like creatures there too.  Our fellows used to call them ground-squirrels and "tree-rats"; because they live underground, yet climb trees readily in search of food; they were little fellows like meerkats, with bushy tails ringed in brown, black and white, of which the waggon-boys made decorations for their slouch hats. Jock wanted a go at them: they did not appear quite so much beneath notice as the birds. Along the water's edge one came on the lagavaans, huge repulsive water-lizards three to four feet long, like crocodiles in miniature, sunning themselves in some favourite spot in the margin of the reeds or on the edge of the bank; they give one the jumps by the suddenness of their rush through the reeds and plunge into deep water. There were otters too, big black-brown fierce fellows, to be seen swimming silently close under the banks.  I got a couple of them, but was  lways nervous of letting Jock into the water after things, as one never knew where the crocodile lurked.  He got an ugly bite from one old dog-otter which I shot in shallow water; and, mortally wounded as he was, the otter put up a rare good fight before Jock finally hauled him out. Then there were the cane-rats, considered by some most excellent and delicate of meats, as big and tender as small sucking-pigs.  The cane-rat, living and dead, I was one of the stock surprises, and the subject of jokes and tricks upon the unsuspecting: there seems to be no sort of ground for associating the extraordinary fat thing, gliding among the reeds or swimming silently under the banks, with either its live capacity of rat or its more attractive dead _role_ of roast sucking-pig. The hardened ones enjoyed setting this treat before the hungry and unsuspecting, and, after a hearty meal, announcing--"That was roast rat: good, isn't it?"  The memory of one experience gives me water in the gills now!  It was unpleasant, but not equal to the nausea and upheaval which supervened when, after a very savoury stew of delicate white meat, we were shown the fresh skin of a monkey hanging from the end of the buck-rails, with the head drooping forward, eyes closed, arms dangling lifeless, and limp open hands--a ghastly caricature of some hanged human, shrivelled and shrunk within its clothes of skin.  I felt like a cannibal. The water tortoises in the silent pools, grotesque muddy fellows, were full of interest to the quiet watcher, and better that way than as the "turtle soup" which once or twice we ventured on and tried to think was good! There were certain hours of the day when it was more pleasant and profitable to lie in the shade and rest.  It is the time of rest for the Bushveld--that spell about middle-day; and yet if one remains quiet, there is generally something to see and something worth watching.  There were the insects on the ground about one which would not otherwise be seen at all; there were caterpillars clad in spiky armour made of tiny fragments of grass--fair defence no doubt against some enemies and a most marvellous disguise; other caterpillars clad in bark, impossible to detect until they moved; there were grasshoppers like leaves, and irregularly shaped stick insects, with legs as bulky as the body, and all jointed by knots like irregular twigs--wonderful mimetic creatures. Jock often found these things for me.  Something would move and interest him; and when I saw him stand up and examine a thing at his feet, turning it over with his nose or giving it a scrape with his paw, it was usually worth joining in the inspection.  The Hottentot-gods always attracted him as they reared up and `prayed' before him; quaint things, with tiny heads and thin necks and enormous eyes, that sat up with fore legs raised to pray, as a pet dog sits up and begs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 2 ) Jantje

That was Mungo Park--the long, strong, low-built, half-bred Basuto pony--well-trained and without guile. I left Snowball with his previous owner, to use as required, and never called back for him; and if this should meet the eye of Joey the Smith he will know that I no longer hope his future life will be spent in stalking a wart-eyed white horse in a phantom Bushveld.  Mungo made amends. There was a spot between the Komati and Crocodile rivers on the north side of the road where the white man seldom passed and nature was undisturbed; few knew of water there; it was too well concealed between deep banks and the dense growth of thorns and large trees. The spot always had great attractions for me apart from the big game to be found there.  I used to steal along the banks of this lone water and watch the smaller life of the bush.  It was a delightful field for naturalist and artist, but unfortunately we thought little of such things, and knew even less; and now nothing is left from all the glorious opportunities but the memory of an endless fascination and a few facts that touch the human chord and will not submit to be forgotten. There were plenty of birds--guinea fowl, pheasant, partridge, knoorhaan and bush pauw.  Jock accompanied me of course when I took the fowling-piece, but merely for companionship; for there was no need for him on these occasions.  I shot birds to get a change of food and trusted to walking them up along the river banks and near drinking pools; but one evening Jock came forward of his own accord to help me--a sort of amused volunteer; and after that I always used him. He had been at my heels, apparently taking little interest in the proceedings from the moment the first bird fell and he saw what the game was; probably he was intelligently interested all the time but considered it nothing to get excited about.  After a time I saw him turn aside from the line we had been taking and stroll off at a walking pace, sniffing softly the while.  When he had gone a dozen yards he stopped and looked back at me; then he looked in front again with his head slightly on one side, much as he would have done examining a beetle rolling his ball. There were no signs of anything, yet the grass was short for those parts, scarce a foot high, and close, soft and curly.  A brace of partridges rose a few feet from Jock, and he stood at ease calmly watching them, without a sign or move to indicate more than amused interest.  The birds were absurdly tame and sailed so quietly along that I hesitated at first to shoot; then the noise of the two shots put up the largest number of partridges I have ever seen in one lot, and a line of birds rose for perhaps sixty yards across our front.  There was no wild whirr and confusion: they rose in leisurely fashion as if told to move on, sailing  nfinitely slowly down the slope to the thorns near the donga.  Running my eye along the line I counted them in twos up to between thirty and forty; and that I could not have been more than half. How many coveys had packed there, and for what purpose, and whether they came every evening, were questions which one would like answered now; but they were not of sufficient interest then to encourage a second visit another evening.  The birds sailed quietly into the little wood, and many of them alighted on branches of the larger trees.  It is the only time I have seen a partridge in a tree; but when one comes to think it out, it seems commonsense that, in a country teeming with vermin and night-prowlers, all birds should sleep off the ground.  Perhaps they do!

Sighting of the month October 2012

Looking around
Mom and cubs
Walking in the road next to the open vehicle

 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 20)( Page 1 ) Jantje

There was no hunting for several days after the affair with the koodoo cow.  Jock looked worse the following day than he had done since recovering consciousness: his head and neck swelled up so that chewing was impossible and he could only lap a little soup or milk, and could hardly bend his neck at all. On the morning of the second day Jim Makokel' came up with his hostile-looking swagger and a cross worried look on his face, and in a half-angry and wholly disgusted tone jerked out at me, "The dog is deaf. I say so!  Me!  Makokela!  Jock is deaf.  He does not hear when you speak.  Deaf! yes, deaf!" Jim's tone grew fiercer as he warmed up; he seemed to hold me responsible.  The moment the boy spoke I knew it was true--it was the only possible explanation of many little things; nevertheless I jumped up hurriedly to try him in a dozen ways, hoping to find that he could hear something.  Jim was right; he was really stone deaf.  It was pathetic to find how each little subterfuge that drew his eyes from me left him out of reach: it seemed as if a link had broken between us and I had lost my hold.  That was wrong, however!  In a few days he began to realise the loss of hearing; and after that, feeling so much greater dependence on sight, his watchfulness increased so that nothing escaped him.  None of those who saw him in that year, when he was at his very best, could bring themselves to believe that he was deaf.  With me it made differences both ways: something lost, and something gained.  If he could hear nothing, he saw more; the language of signs developed; and taking it all round I believe the sense of mutual dependence for success and of mutual understanding was greater than ever. Snowball went on to the retired list at the end of the next trip. Joey the Smith stood at the forge one day, trimming a red-hot horse-shoe, when I rode up and dropping the reins over Snowball's head, sang out "Morning, Joey!" Joey placed the chisel on the shoe with nice calculation of the amount he wanted to snip off; his assistant boy swung the big hammer, and an inch cube of red-hot iron dropped off.  Then Joey looked up with, what seemed to me, a conflict of innocent surprise and stifled amusement in his face.  The boy also turned to look, and--the insignificant incident is curiously unforgettable--trod upon the piece of hot iron.  "Look where you're standing," said Joey reproachfully, as the smoke and smell of burning skin-welt rose up; and the boy with a grunt of disgust, such as we might give at a burned boot, looked to see what damage had been done to his `unders.'  It gave me an even better idea of a nigger's feet than those thorn digging operations when we had to cut through a solid whitish welt a third of an inch thick. Joey grinned openly at the boy; but he was thinking of Snowball. "I wonder you had the heart, Joey, I do indeed!"  I said, shaking my head at him. "You would have him, lad, there was no refusin' you!  You arst so nice and wanted him so bad!" "But how could you bear to part with him, Joey?  It must have been like selling one of the family." "'Es, Boy, 'es!  We are a bit stoopid--our lot!  Is he still such a fool, or has he improved any with you?" "Joey, I've learned him--full up to the teeth.  If he stops longer he will become wicked, like me; and you would not be the ruin of an innocent young thing trying to earn a living honestly, if he can?" "Come round behind the shop, Boy.  I got a pony'll suit you proper!"  He gave a hearty laugh, and added "You can always get what you arsk for--if it ain't worth having.  Moril!  Don't arsk!  I never offered you Snowball.  This one's different.  You can have him at cost price; and that's an old twelve month account!  Ten pounds.  He's worth four of it! Salted _an'_ shootin'!  Shake!" and I gripped his grimy old fist gladly, knowing it was jonnick and `a square deal.'

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 19)( Page 7 ) Jocks Mistake

So that was the explanation of the koodoo's return to us!  The natives, a hunting party, had heard the shot and coming along in hopes of meat had met and headed off the wounded koodoo, turning her back almost on her own tracks.  There was satisfaction in having the puzzle solved, but the more practical point was that here was all the help I wanted; and the boys readily agreed to skin the animal and carry the four quarters to the camp for the gift of the rest. Then my trouble began with Jock.  He flew at the first of the kaffir dogs that sneaked up to sniff at the koodoo.  Shouting at him produced no effect whatever, and before I could get hold of him he had mauled the animal pretty badly.  After hauling him off I sat down in the shade, with him beside me; but there were many dogs, and a succession of affairs, and I, knowing nothing of his deafness, became thoroughly exasperated and  urprised by poor old Jock's behaviour. His instinct to defend our kills, which was always strong, was roused that day beyond control, and his hatred of kaffir dogs--an implacable one in any case--made a perfect fury of him; still, the sickening awful feeling that came over me as he lay limp and lifeless was too fresh, and it was not possible to be really angry; and after half a dozen of the dogs had been badly handled there was something so comical in the way they sheered off and eyed Jock that I could only laugh.  They sneaked behind bushes and tried to circumvent him in all sorts of ways, but fled precipitately as soon as he moved a step or lowered his head and humped his shoulders threateningly.  Even the kaffir owners, who had begun to look glum, broke into appreciative laughter and shouts of admiration for the white man's dog. Jock kept up an unbroken string of growls, not loud, of course, but I could feel them going all the while like a volcano's rumbling as my restraining hand rested on him, and when the boys came up to skin the koodoo I had to hold him down and shake him sharply.  The dog was mad with fight; he bristled all over; and no patting or talking produced more than a flicker of his ears.  The growling went on; the hair stood up; the tail was quite unresponsive; his jaws were set like a vice; and his eyes shone like two black diamonds.  He had actually struggled to get free of my hand when the boys began to skin, and they were so scared by his resolute attempt that they would not start until I put him down between my knees and held him. I was sitting against a tree only three or four yards from the koodoo, and the boys, who had lighted a fire in anticipation of early tit-bits which would grill while they worked, were getting along well with the skinning, when one of them saw fit to pause in order to hold forth in the native fashion on the glories of the chase and the might of the white man.  Jock's head lay on his paws and his mouth was shut like a rat trap; his growling grew louder as the bombastic nigger, all unconscious of the wicked watching eyes behind him, waved his blood-stained knife and warmed to his theme. "Great you thought yourself," proclaimed the orator, addressing the dead koodoo in a long rigmarole which was only partly understood by me but evidently much approved by the other boys as they stooped to their work, "Swift of foot and strong of limb.  But the white man came, and--there!" I could not make out the words with any certainty; but whatever the last word was, it was intended as a dramatic climax, and to lend additional force to his point the orator let fly a resounding kick on the koodoo's stomach. The effect was quite electrical!  Like an arrow from the bow Jock flew at him!  The warning shout came too late, and as  ock's teeth fastened in him behind the terrified boy gave a wild bound over the koodoo, carrying Jock like a streaming coat-tail behind him. The work was stopped and the natives drew off in grave consultation.  I thought that they had had enough of Jock for one day and that they would strike work and leave me, probably returning later on to steal the meat while I went for help from the waggons.  But it turned out that the consultation was purely medical, and in a few minutes I had an interesting exhibition of native doctoring.  They laid the late orator out face downwards, and one burly `brother' straddled him across the small of the back; then after a little preliminary examination of the four slits left by Jock's fangs, he proceeded to cauterise them with the glowing ends of sundry sticks which an assistant took from the fire and handed to him as required.  The victim flapped his hands on the ground and hallooed out "My babo!  My babo!" but he did not struggle; and the operator toasted away with methodical indifference. The orator stood it well! I took Jock away to the big tree near the pool: it was evident that he, too, had had enough of it for one day.

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick ( Chapter 19 )( Page 2 )Jock's Mistake

At the next stop I had a look back to see how he was behaving, and to my surprise, although he was following carefully close behind me, he was looking steadily away to our immediate right.  I subsided gently on to my left side to see what it was that interested him, and to my delight saw a troop of twenty to twenty-five Blue Wildebeeste.  They, too, were `standing any way,' and evidently had not seen us. I worked myself cautiously round to face them so as to be able to pick my shot and take it kneeling, thus clearing the tops of the grass; but whilst doing this another surprising development took place.  Looking hard and carefully at the wildebeeste two hundred yards away, I became conscious of something else in between us, and only half the distance off, looking at me.  It had the effect of a shock; the disagreeable effect produced by having a book or picture suddenly thrust close to the face; the feeling of wanting to get further away from it to re-focus one's sight. What I saw was simply a dozen quagga, all exactly alike, all standing alike, all looking at me, all full face to me, their fore feet together, their ears cocked, and their heads quite motionless--all gazing steadily at me, alive with interest and curiosity.  There was something quite ludicrous in it, and something perplexing also: when I looked at the quagga the wildebeeste seemed to get out of focus and were lost to me; when I looked at the wildebeeste the quagga `blurred' and faded out of sight.  The difference in distance, perhaps as much as the very marked difference in the distinctive colourings, threw me out; and the effect of being watched also told.  Of course I wanted to get a wildebeeste, but I was conscious of the watching quagga all the time, and, for the life of me, could not help constantly looking at them to see if they were going to start off and stampede the others. Whilst trying to pick out the best of the wildebeeste a movement away on the left made me look that way: the impala jumped off like one animal, scaring the tsessebe into a scattering rout; the quagga switched round and thundered off like a stampede of horses; and the wildebeeste simply vanished.  One signal in one troop had sent the whole lot off.  Jock and I were left alone, still crouching, looking from side to side, staring at the slowly drifting dust, and listening to the distant dying sound of galloping feet. It was a great disappointment, but the conviction that we had found a really good spot made some amends, and Snowball was left undisturbed to feed and rest for another two hours.  We made for the waggons along another route taking in some of the newly discovered country in the home sweep, and the promise of the morning was fulfilled.  We had not been more than a few minutes on the way when a fine rietbuck ram jumped up within a dozen yards of Snowball's nose.  Old Rocky had taught me to imitate the rietbuck's shrill whistle and this one fell to the first shot.  He was a fine big fellow, and as Snowball put on airs and pretended to be nervous when it came to packing the meat, I had to blindfold him, and after hoisting the buck up to a horizontal branch lowered it on to his back.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 19)( Page 6 ) Jocks Mistake

The reason for Jock's persistent disobedience that day was not even suspected then; I put everything down to the kick; and he seemed to me to be `all wrong,' but indeed there was excuse enough for him. Nevertheless it was puzzling that at times he should ignore me in positively contemptuous fashion, and at others obey with all his old readiness: I neither knew he was deaf, nor realised that the habit of using certain signs and gestures when I spoke to him--and even of using them in place of orders when silence was imperative--had made him almost independent of the word of mouth.  From that day he depended wholly upon signs; for he never heard another sound. Jock came back with me and lay down; but he was not content.  Presently he rose again and remained standing with his back to me, looking steadily in the direction taken by the koodoo.  It was fine to see the indomitable spirit, but I did not mean to let him try again; the koodoo was as good as dead no doubt, yet a hundred koodoo would not have tempted me to risk taking him out: to rest him and get him back to the camp was the only thought.  I was feeling very soft about the dog then. And while I sat thus watching him and waiting for him to rest and recover, once more and almost within reach of me he started off again. But it was not as he had done before: this time he went with a spring and a rush, and with head lowered and meaning business.  In vain I called and followed: he outpaced me and left me in a few strides. The koodoo had gone along the right bank of the donga which, commencing just below the pool, extended half a mile or more down the flat valley. Jock's rush was magnificent, but it was puzzling, and his direction was even more so; for he made straight for the donga. I ran back for the rifle and followed, and he had already disappeared down the steep bank of the donga when, through the trees on the opposite side, I saw a koodoo cow moving along at a slow cramped walk.  The donga was a deep one with perpendicular sides, and in places even overhanging crumbling banks, and I reached it as Jock, slipping and struggling, worked his way up the other wall writhing and climbing through the tree roots exposed by the floods.  As he rushed out the koodoo saw him and turned; there was just a chance--a second of time: a foot of space-- before he got in the line of fire; and I took it.  One hind leg gave way, and in the short sidelong stagger that followed Jock jumped at the koodoo's throat and they went down together. It took me several minutes to get through the donga, and by that time the koodoo was dead and Jock was standing, wide-mouthed and panting, on guard at its head: the second shot had been enough. It was an unexpected and puzzling end; and, in a way, not a welcome one, as it meant delay in getting back.  After the morning's experience there was not much inclination for the skinning and cutting up of a big animal and I set to work gathering branches and grass to hide the carcase, meaning to send the boys back for it. But the day's experiences were not over yet: a low growl from Jock made me look sharply round, to see half a dozen kaffirs coming through the bush with a string of mongrel hounds at their heels.