.
How the Jackal got his Stripe.
 
 
“The Sun was a strange little child,” said Outa. “He never had any Pap-pa or Mamma.
No one knew where he came from. He was just found by the roadside.
“In the olden days when the men of the Ancient Race—the old, old people that lived
so long ago—were trekking in search of game, they heard a little voice calling,
calling. It was not a springbokkie, it was not a tarentaal, it was not a little ostrich.
They couldn’t think what it was. But it kept on, it kept on.” Outa’s head nodded in
time to his repetitions.
“Why didn’t they go and look?” asked Willem.
“They did, my baasje. They hunted about amongst the milk-bushes by the roadside,
and at last under one of them they found a nice brown baby. He was lying quite still
looking about him, not like a baby, baasjes, but like an old child, and sparks of light,
as bright as the sparks from Outa’s tinderbox, seemed to fly out of his eyes. When he
saw the men, he began calling again.
“‘Carry me, carry me! Pick me up and carry me!’
“‘Arré! he can talk,’ said the man. ‘What a fine little child! Where have your people
gone? and why did they leave you here?’
“But the little Sun wouldn’t answer them. All he said was, ‘Put me in your awa-skin.
I’m tired; I can’t walk.’
“One of the men went to take him up, but when he got near he said, ‘Soe! but he’s
hot; the heat comes out of him. I won’t take him.’
“‘How can you be so silly?’ said another man. ‘I’ll carry him.’
“But when he got near, he started back. ‘Alla! what eyes! Fire comes out of them.’
And he, too, turned away.
“Then a third man went. ‘He is very small,’ he said; ‘I can easily put him in my awaskin.’
He stooped and took the little Sun under his arms.
“‘Ohé! ohé! ohé!’ he cried, dropping the baby on to the red sand. ‘What is this for
toverij! It is like fire under his arms. He burns me when I take him up.’
“The others all came round to see. They didn’t come too near, my baasjes, because
they were frightened, but they wanted to see the strange brown baby that could talk,
and that burned like a fire.
“All on a sudden he stretched himself; he turned his head and put up his little arms.
Bright sparks flew from his eyes, and yellow light streamed from under his arms,
and—hierr, skierr—the Men of the Early Race fell over each other as they ran
through the milk-bushes back to the road. My! but they were frightened!
“The women were sitting there with their babies on their backs, waiting for their
husbands.
“‘Come along! Hurry! hurry! See that you get away from here,’ said the men, without
stopping.
“The women began to run, too.
“‘What was it? What did you find?’
“‘A terrible something,’ said the men, still running. ‘It pretends to be a baby, but we
know it is a mensevreter. There it lies in the sand, begging one of us to pick it up and
put it in his awa-skin, but as soon as we go near, it tries to burn us; and if we don’t
make haste and get away from here, it will certainly catch us.’
“The women with their babies on their backs, flew”
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“Then they ran faster than ever. Baasjes know—ach no!” corrected Outa, with a sly
smile; “Outa means baasjes don’t know—how frightenness makes wings grow on
people’s feet, so that they seem to fly. So the Men of the Early Race, and the women
with their babies on their backs, flew, and very soon they were far from the place
where the little Sun was lying.
“But someone had been watching, my baasjes, watching from a bush near by. It was
Jakhals, with his bright eyes and his sharp nose, and his stomach close to the ground.
When the people had gone, he crept out to see what had made them run. Hardly a leaf
stirred, not a sound was heard, so softly he crept along under the milk-bushes to
where the little Sun lay.
“‘Ach, what a fine little child has been left behind by the men!’ he said. ‘Now that is
really a shame—that none of them would put it into his awa-skin.’
“‘Carry me, carry me! Put me in your awa-skin,’ said the little Sun.
“‘I haven’t got an awa-skin, baasje,’ said Jakhals, ‘but if you can hold on, I’ll carry
you on my back.’
“So Jakhals lay flat on his stomach, and the little Sun caught hold of his maanhaar,
and rolled round on his back.
“‘Where do you want to go?’ asked Jakhals.
“‘There, where it far is,’ said the baby, sleepily.
“Jakhals trotted off with his nose to the ground and a sly look in his eye. He didn’t
care where the baby wanted to go; he was just going to carry him off to the krantz
where Tante and the young Jakhalses lived. If baasjes could have seen his face! Alle
wereld! he was smiling, and when Oom Jakhals smiles, it is the wickedest sight in the
world. He was very pleased to think what he was taking home; fat brown babies are
as nice as fat sheep-tails, so he went along quite jolly.
“But only at first. Soon his back began to burn where the baby’s arms went round it.
The heat got worse and worse, until he couldn’t hold it out any longer.
“‘Soe! Soe! Baasje burns me,’ he cried. ‘Sail down a little further, baasje, so that my
neck can get cool.’
“The little Sun slipped further down and held fast again, and Jakhals trotted on.
“But soon he called out again, ‘Soe! Soe! Now the middle of my back burns. Sail
down still a little further.’
“The little Sun went further down and held fast again. And so it went on. Every time
Jakhals called out that he was burning, the baby slipped a little further, and a little
further, till at last he had hold of Jakhals by the tail, and then he wouldn’t let go. Even
when Jakhals called out, he held on, and Jakhals’s tail burnt and burnt. My! it was
quite black!
“‘Help! help!’ he screamed! ‘Ach, you devil’s child! Get off! Let go! I’ll punish you
for this! I’ll bite you! I’ll gobble you up! My tail is burning! Help! Help!’ And he
jumped, and bucked, and rushed about the veld, till at last the baby had to let go.
“Then Jakhals voertsed1 round, and ran at the little Sun to bite him and gobble him
up. But when he got near, a funny thing happened, my baasjes. Yes truly, just when
he was going to bite, he stopped halfway, and shivered back as if someone had beaten
him. At first he had growled with crossness, but now he began to whine from
frightenness.
“And why was it, my baasjes? Because from under the baby’s arms streamed
brightness and hotness, and out of the baby’s eyes came streaks of fire, so that Jakhals
winked and blinked, and tried to make himself small in the sand. Every time he
opened his eyes a little, just like slits, there was the baby sitting straight in front of
him, staring at him so that he had to shut them again quick, quick.
“‘Come and punish me,’ said the baby.
“‘No, baasje, ach no!’ said Jakhals in a small, little voice, ‘why should I punish you?’
“‘Come and bite me,’ said the baby.
“‘No, baasje, no, I could never think of it.’ Jakhals made himself still a little smaller
in the sand.
“‘Come and gobble me up,’ said the baby.
“Then Jakhals gave a yell and tried to crawl further back.
“‘Such a fine little child,’ he said, trying to make his voice sweet, ‘who would ever do
such a wicked thing?’
“‘You would,’ said the little Sun. ‘When you had carried me safely to your krantz,
you would have gobbled me up. You are toch so clever, Jakhals, but sometimes you
will meet your match. Now, look at me well.’
“Jakhals didn’t want to look, my baasjes, but it was just as if something made his
eyes go open, and he lay there staring at the baby, and the baby stared at him—so, my
baasjes, just so”—Outa stretched his eyes to their utmost and held each fascinated
child in turn.
“‘You’ll know me again when you see me,’ said the baby, ‘but never, never again
will you be able to look me in the face. And now you can go.’
“Fierce light shot from his eyes, and he blew at Jakhals with all his might; his breath
was like a burning flame, and Jakhals, half dead with frightenness, gave a great howl
and fled away over the vlakte.
“From that day, my baasjes, he has a black stripe right down his back to the tip of his
tail. And he cannot bear the Sun, but hides away all day with shut eyes, and only at
night when the Old Man with the bright armpits has gone to sleep, does he come out
to hunt and look for food, and play tricks on the other animals.”
Voertsed.—Evidently a word of Outa’s coining, meaning to jump round suddenly and violently.