How Jakhals Fed Oom Leeuw.

 
     
 
“One day in the early morning, before any people were awake, Jakhals was prowling
round and prowling round, looking for something to eat. Jakhals is not fond of
hunting for himself. Oh, no! he likes to wait till the hunt is over, so that he can share
in the feast without having had any of the work. He had just dragged himself quietly
to the top of a kopje—so, my baasjes, so—with his stomach close to the ground, and
his ears moving backwards and forwards”—Outa’s little hands, on either side of the
kopdoek, suited the action to the word—“to hear the least sound. Then he looked

here, he looked there, he looked all around, and yes, truly! whom do you think he saw
in the kloof below? No other than OomLeeuw himself, clawing a nice big hamel he
had just killed—a Boer hamel, baasjes, with a beautiful fat tail. Oh yes, OomLeeuw
had picked out a good one.
“‘Arré!’ thought Jakhals, ‘this is luck,’ and he sat still for a minute, wondering how
he could get some of the nice meat for himself. He soon made a plan. A white thing
fluttered in a little bush near him. It was a piece of paper. He picked it up and folded
it—so—and so—and so—” the crooked fingers were very busy—“till it looked like a
letter. Then he ran down the kopje in a great hurry and called out, ‘Good morning,
Oom.’
“‘Morning, Neef.’
“‘I see Oom has killed a Boer hamel.’
“‘Yes, Neef, a big fat one.’
“‘Well, here is a letter from Tante,’ said Jakhals, giving the piece of paper to Leeuw.
‘As I was passing she asked me to give it to Oom.’
“Leeuw took it and turned it this way, that way. He held it far from him, he held it
close to his eyes, but he couldn’t make it out at all. See, baasjes, Leeuw was one of
the old-fashioned sort. He grew up before there were so many schools and good
teachers”—here Outa’s bright eyes winked and blinked flatteringly on Cousin Minnie
and her pupils—“he was not clever; he could not read. But he didn’t want anyone to
know it, so he said:
“‘Jakhals, Oom has forgotten his spectacles; you had better read it out.”
“‘Hm, hm, hm,’ said Jakhals, pretending to read. ‘Tante says Oom must kill a nice fat
Boer hamel and send it home at once by me. She and the children are hungry.’
“‘Well, that’s all right. Here is the very thing. Tante is not very well. The Jew
smouse’s donkey she ate the other day disagreed with her, so we must coax her a
little. I don’t want to say anything, but you know a vrouwmens is a dangerous thing
when she is in a temper. So you had better take this hamel to her at once, and then
you can have the offal for your trouble.”
“‘Thank you, noble Oom, King of Beasts,’ said Jakhals in a fawning voice, promising
himself at the same time that he would have something more than the offal. ‘How
fortunate am I, poor humble creature, to have the King for my uncle,’ and off he
trotted with the sheep.
“Leeuw prowled further up the kloof, waving his tail from side to side.” Had Outa
had a tail he would have wagged it, but, as he had not, his right arm was slowly
flourished to and fro to give point to his description. “Here comes a little Steenbokje
on its way to a veld dam for water. Ach! but it is pretty! It looks here, it looks there,
with its large soft eyes. One little front foot is in the air; now it is down; the other
goes up; down again. On it comes, slowly, slowly”—Outa’s hands, bunched up to
resemble the buck’s feet, illustrated each step, the children following his movements
with breathless interest. “Now it stops to listen.” Outa was rigid as he bent forward to
catch the least sound. Suddenly he started violently, and the children involuntarily did
the same. “Hark! what was that? What is coming? Ach! howSteenbokjeskriks and
shivers! A terrible form blocks the way! Great eyes—cruel eyes burn him with their
fire. Now he knows. It is LEEUW!—LEEUW who stands in the path! He growls and
glares at Steenbokje. Steenbokje cannot turn away. They stare at each other—so—
just so—” Outa glares at each fascinated child in turn. “Steenbokje cannot look away,
cannot move. He is stiff with fright. His blood is cold. His eyes are starting out of his
head. And then—voops!”—the listeners jump as Outa’s long arms suddenly swoop
towards them—“one spring and Leeuw is on him. Steenbokje blares—meh, meh,
meh—but it is no good. Leeuw tears him and claws him. Tip, tip, tip, the red blood
drips down; s-s-s-s-s, it runs out like a stream, and Leeuw licks it up. There lies pretty
littleSteenbokje, dead, dead.” Outa’s voice trails away faintly.

The children heave big sighs. Little Jan’s grey eyes are full of tears. The old native’s
graphic description has made them feel as though they had been watching round a
death-bed.
“Yes, baasjes, Leeuw killed Steenbokje there in the kloof. He tore the skin off—skr-rr-
r—and bit through the bones—skrnch, skrnch, skrnch—and ate little Steenbokje for
his breakfast. Then he went to the krantzes to sleep, for the day was coming and the
light began to hurt his eyes.
“When he awoke it was evening, and he felt refreshed and rather hungry. My baasjes
know a steenbokje is nothing for a meal for OomLeeuw. But before hunting again he
thought he would go home and see how Tante and the children were getting on, and
whether they had feasted well on the nice fat hamel.
“But, dear land! What did poor OomLeeuw find? The children crying, Tante
spluttering and scratching with rage, everything upside down, and not even the bones
of the hamel to be seen.
“‘Ohé!ohé! ohé!’ cried Tante. ‘The bad, wicked Jakhals! Ach, the low, veld dog!’
“‘But what is the matter?’ asked Leeuw. ‘Where is Jakhals?’
“‘Where is he? How should I know? He has run off with the nice fat hamel, and me—
yes, me, the King’s wife—has he beaten with the entrails! Ohé! ohé!’
“‘And boxed my ears!’ cried one of the cubs. ‘Wah! wah! wah!’
“‘And pinched my tail,’ roared the other. ‘Weh! weh! weh!’
“‘And left us nothing but the offal.Oh, the cunning, smooth-tongued vagabond!’
“And all three fell to weeping and wailing, while Leeuw roared aloud in his anger.
“‘Wait a bit, I’ll get him,’ he said. ‘Before the world wakes to-morrow he’ll see
who’s baas.’
“He waved his tail to and fro and stuck out his strong claws. His eyes glared like fire
in a dark kloof when there is no moon, and when he brulled it was very terrible to
hear—hoor-r-r-r-r, hoor-r-r-r-r,” and Outa gave vent to several deep, blood-curdling
roars.
“Very early the next morning, when only a little grey in the sky shewed that the night
was rolling round to the other side of the world, Leeuw took his strongest sjambok
and started off to look for Jakhals. He spied him at last on the top of a krantz sitting
by a fire with his wife and children.
“‘Ah! there you are, my fine fellow,’ he thought. ‘Well and happy are you? But wait,
I’ll soon show you!’
“He began at once to try and climb the krantz, but it was very steep and high, and so
smooth that there was nothing for him to hold to. Every time he got up a little way,
his claws just scratched along the hard rock and he came sailing down again. At last
he thought, ‘Well, as I can’t climb up, I’ll pretend to be nice and friendly, and then
perhapsJakhals will come down. I’ll ask him to go hunting with me.’”
Here Outa’s beady little eyes danced mischievously. “Baasjes know, the only way to
get the better of a schelm is to be schelm, too. When anyone cheats, you must cheat
more, or you will never be baas. Ach, yes! that is the only way.”
(Cousin Minnie would not disturb the course of the tale, but she mentally prescribed
and stored up for future use an antidote to this pagan and wordly-wise piece of advice
to her pupils.)
“So Leeuw stood at the foot of the krantz and called out quite friendly and kind,
‘Good morning, NeefJakhals.’
[
“‘Morning, Oom.’
“‘I thought you might like to go hunting with me, but I see you are busy.’
“At any other time Jakhals would have skipped with delight, for it was very seldom
he had the honour of such an invitation, but now he was blown up with conceit at
having cheated Oom and TanteLeeuw so nicely.
“‘Thank you, Oom, but I am not in want of meat just now. I’m busy grilling some
nice fat mutton chops for breakfast. Won’t you come and have some, too?’
“‘Certainly, with pleasure, but this krantz is so steep—how can I get up?’
“‘Ach!that’s quite easy, Oom. I’ll pull you up in an eye-wink. Here, vrouw, give me
a nice thick riem. That old rotten one that is nearly rubbed through,’ he said in a
whisper to his wife.
“So Mrs. Jakhals, who was as slim as her husband, brought the bad riem, and they set
to work to pull OomLeeuw up. ‘Hoo-ha!hoo-ha!’ they sang as they slowly hauled
away.
“When he was about ten feet from the ground, Jakhals called out, ‘Arré!butOom is
heavy,’ and he pulled the riem this way and that way along the sharp edge of the
krantz”—Outa vigorously demonstrated—“till it broke right through and—kabloops!
—down fell OomLeeuw to the hard ground below.
“‘Oh! my goodness! What a terrible fall! I hope Oom is not hurt. How stupid can a
vrouwmens be! To give me an old riem when I called for the best! Now, here is a
strong one. Oom can try again.’
“So Leeuw tried again, and again, and again, many times over, but each time the rope
broke and each time his fall was greater, because Jakhals always pulled him up a little
higher, and a little higher. At last he called out:
“‘It’s very kind of you, Jakhals, but I must give it up.’
“‘Ach!but that’s a shame!’ said Jakhals, pretending to be sorry. ‘The carbonaatjes are
done to a turn, and the smell—allewereld! it’s fine! Shall I throw Oom down a piece
of the meat?’
“‘Yes please, Jakhals,’ said Leeuw eagerly, licking his lips. ‘I have a big hole inside
me and some carbonaatjes will fill it nicely.’
“Ach!mybaasjes, what did cunning Jakhals do? He carefully raked a red-hot stone
out of the fire and wrapped a big piece of fat round it. Then he peered over the edge
of the krantz and saw Leeuw waiting impatiently.
“‘Now Oom,’ he called, ‘open your mouth wide and I’ll drop this in. It’s such a nice
big one, I bet you won’t want another.’
“And when he said this, Jakhals chuckled, while Mrs. Jakhals and the little ones
doubled up with silent laughter at the great joke.
“‘Are you ready, Oom?’
“‘Grr-r-r-r-r!’ gurgledLeeuw. He had his mouth wide open to catch the carbonaatje,
and he would not speak for fear of missing it.
“Jakhals leaned over and took aim. Down fell the tit-bit and—sluk! sluk!—Leeuw
had swallowed it.
“And then, my baasjes, there arose such a roaring and raving and groaning as had not
been heard since the hills were made. The dassies crept along the rocky ledges far
above, and peeped timidly down; the circling eagles swooped nearer to find out the
cause; the meerkats and ant-bears, the porcupines and spring-hares snuggled further
into their holes; while the frightened springboks and elands fled swiftly over the plain
to seek safety in some other veld.
“Only wicked Jakhals and his family rejoiced. With their bushy tails waving and their
pointed ears standing up, they danced round the fire, holding hands and singing over
and over:
“‘Arré!who is stronger than the King of Beastland?
Arré! who sees further than the King of Birdland?
Who but thick-tailed Jakhals, but the Silver-maned One?
He, the small but sly one; he, the wise Planmaker.
King of Beasts would catch him; catch him, claw him, kill him!
Ha! ha! ha! would catch him! Ha! ha! ha! would kill him!
But he finds a way out; grills the fat-tailed hamel,
Feeds the King of Beastland with the juicy tit-bits;
Eats the fat-tailed hamel while the King lies dying;
Ha! ha! ha! lies dying! Ha! ha! ha! lies dead now!’”
Outa crooned the Jakhals’ triumph song in a weird monotone, and on the last words
his voice quavered out, leaving a momentary silence among the small folk.
Pietie blinked as though the firelight were too much for his eyes. Little Jan sighed
tumultuously. Willem cleared his throat.
“But how did Jakhals know that OomLeeuw was dead?” he asked suddenly.
“He peeped over the krantz every time between the dancing and singing—like this,
baasje, just like this.” Outa’s eyes, head and hands were at work. “The first time he
looked, he saw OomLeeuw rolling over and over; the next time Leeuw was
scratching, scratching at the rocky krantz; then he was digging into the ground with
his claws; then he was only blowing himself out—so—with long slow breaths; but
the last time he was lying quite still, and then Jakhals knew.”
“Oh! I didn’t want poor Steenbokje to die,” said little Jan. “He was such a pretty little
thing. Outa, this is not one of your nicest stories.”
“It’s all about killing,” said Pietie. “First Leeuw killed poor Steenbokje, who never
did him any harm, and then Jakhals killed OomLeeuw, who never did him any harm.
It was very cruel and wicked.”
“Ach yes, baasjes,” explained Outa, apologetically, “we don’t know why, but it is so.
Sometimes the good ones are killed and the bad ones grow fat. In this old world it
goes not always so’s it must go; it just go so’s it goes.”
“But,” persistedPietie, “you oughtn’t to have let Jakhals kill OomLeeuw. Oom
Leeuw was much stronger, so he ought to have killed naughty Jakhals.”
Outa’s eyes gleamed pityingly. These young things! What did they know of the ups
and downs of a hard world where the battle is not always to the strong, nor the race to
the swift?
“But, my baasje, Outa did not make up the story. He only put in little bits, like the
newspaper and the spectacles and the Jew smouse, that are things of to-day. But the
real story was made long, long ago, perhaps when baasje’s people went about in skins
like the RooiKafirs, and Outa’s people were still monkeys in the bushveld. It has
always been so, and it will always be so—in the story and in the old wicked world. It
is the head, my baasjes, the head,” he tapped his own, “and not the strong arms and
legs and teeth, that makes one animal master over another. Ach yes! if the Bushman’s
head had been the same as the white man’s, arré! what a fight there would have been
between them!”
And lost in the astonishing train of thought called up by this idea, he sat gazing out
before him with eyes which saw many strange things. Then, rousing himself, with a
quick change of voice and manner, “Ach! please, Nooi!” he said in a wheedling tone,
“a span of tobacco—just one little span for to-night and to-morrow.”

His mistress laughed indulgently, and, unhooking the bunch of keys from her belt,
handed them to Cousin Minnie. “The old sinner!” she said. “We all spoil him, and yet
who could begin to be strict with him now? Only a small piece, Minnie.”
“Thank you, thank you, my Nonnie,” said the old man, holding out both hands, and
receiving the coveted span as if it were something very precious. “That’s my young
lady! Nonnie can have Outa’s skeleton when he is dead. Yes, it will be a fine skeleton
forNonnie to send far across the blue water, where she sent the old long-dead
Bushman’s bones. Ach foei! all of him went into a little soap boxie—just to think of
it! a soap boxie!”
He started as a young coloured girl made her appearance. “O mijlieve! here is Lys
already. How the time goes when a person is with the baasjes and the noois! Night,
Baas; night, Nooi; night, Nonnie and little masters. Sleep well! Ach! the beautiful
family Van der Merwe!”
His thanks, farewells and flatteries grew fainter and fainter, and finally died away in
the distance, as his granddaughter led him away.