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Jock of the Bushveld   By: (1862-1931)

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Jock of the Bushveld By Sir Percy FitzPatrick Illustrations by E. Caldwell Published by Longmans, Green, and Co, London. This edition dated 1922. Jock of the Bushveld, by Sir Percy FitzPatrick.



"Sonny, you kin reckon it dead sure, thar's something wrong 'bout a thing that don't explain itself."

That was Old Rocky's advice, given three and twenty years ago not forgotten yet, but, in this instance, respectfully ignored.

It happened some years ago, and this was the way of it: the Fox of Ballybotherem having served three generations in his native Tipperary, in Kaffraria, and in the Transvaal seemed entitled to a rest; and when, in the half hour before `lights out,' which is the Little People's particular own, the demand came from certain Autocrats of the Nightgown: "Now, tell us something else!" it occurred to the Puzzled One to tell of Jock's fight with the table leg. And that is how the trouble began. Those with experience will know what followed; and, for those less fortunate, the modest demand of one, comfortably tucked up tailorwise, and emphasising his points by excited hand shakes with his toes, will convey the idea: "It must be all true ! and don't leave out anything !"

To such an audience a story may be told a hundred times, but it must be told, as Kipling says, "Just so!" that is, in the same way; because, even a romance (what a three year old once excused as "only a play tell") must be true to itself!

Once Jock had taken the field it was not long before the narrator found himself helped or driven over the pauses by quick suggestions from the Gallery; but there were days of fag and worry when thoughts lagged or strayed, and when slips were made, and then a vigilant and pitiless memory swooped like the striking falcon on its prey. There came a night when the story was of the Old Crocodile, and one in the Gallery one of more exuberant fancy seeing the gate open ran into the flower strewn field of romance and by suggestive questions and eager promptings helped to gather a little posy: "And he caught the Crocodile by the tail, didn't he?" "And he hung on and fought him, didn't he?" "And the Old Crocodile flung him high into the air? High!" and, turning to the two juniors, added "quite as high as the house?" And the narrator accessory by reason of a mechanical nod and an absent minded "Yes" passed on, thinking it could all be put right next time. But there is no escape from the `tangled web' when the Little People sit in judgment. It was months later when retribution came. The critical point of the story was safely passed when Oh; the irony and poetic justice of it it was the innocent tempter himself who laid his hand in solemn protest on the narrator's shoulder and, looking him reproachfully in the eyes, said "Dad! You have left out the best part of all. Don't you remember how..."

And the description which followed only emphasises the present writer's unfitness for the task he has undertaken. In the text of the story and in the illustration by my friend Mr Caldwell (who was himself subjected to the same influence) there is left a loophole for fancy: it is open to any one to believe that Jock is just beginning or just ending his aerial excursion. The Important People are not satisfied; but then the page is not big enough to exhibit Jock at the top of that flight of fancy!

From the date of that lesson it was apparent that reputations would suffer if the story of Jock were not speedily embodied in some durable and authoritative form, and during a long spell of ill health many of the incidents were retold in the form of letters to the Little People. Other Less Important Persons grown ups read them and sometimes heard them, and so it came about that the story of Jock was to be printed for private circulation, for the Little People and their friends... Continue reading book >>

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