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Old Hendrik's Tales   By:

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Old Hendrik's Tales, by Captain Arthur Owen Vaughan.




The day was hot, and the koppies simmered blue and brown along the Vaal River. Noon had come, dinner was done. "Allah Mattie!" said the grey old kitchen boy to himself, as he stretched to sleep in the shade of the mimosa behind the house. "Allah Mattie! but it near break my back in dem tobacco lands dis mawnin'. I sleep now."

He stretched himself with a slow groan of pleasure, settling his face upon his hands as he lay, soaking in comfort. In three minutes he was asleep.

But round the corner of the house came the three children, the eldest a ten year old, the youngest six. With a whoop and a dash the eldest flung himself astride the old Hottentot's back, the youngest rode the legs behind, while the girl, the eight year old with the yellow hair and the blue eyes, darted to the old man's head and caught him fast with both hands. "Ou' Ta'! Ou' Ta'!" she cried. "Now you're Ou' Jackalse and we're Ou' Wolf, and we've got you this time at last." She wanted to dance in the triumph of it, could she have done it without letting go.

Old Hendrik woke between a grunt and a groan, but the merry clamour of the little girl would have none of that. "Now we've got you, Ou' Jackalse," cried she again.

The old man's yellow face looked up in a sly grin. "Ah, Anniekye," said he unctuously; "but Ou' Wolf never did ketch Ou' Jackalse. He ain't never bin slim enough yet. He make a big ole try dat time when he got Oom Baviyaan to help him; but all dey got was dat kink in Ou' Baviyaan's tail you can see it yet."

"But how did old Bobbyjohn get that kink in his tail? You never told us that, Ou' Ta'," protested Annie.

The old Hottentot smiled to the little girl, and then straightway sighed to himself. "If you little folks only knowed de Taal," said he plaintively. "It don't soun' de same in you' Englis' somehow." He shook his head sadly over English as the language for a Hottentot story handed down in the Boer tongue. He had been long enough in the service of this "English" family (an American father and Australian mother) to know enough of the language for bald use; though, being a Hottentot, he had never mastered the "th," as a Basuto or other Bantu might have done, and was otherwise uncertain also the pronunciation of a word often depending upon that of the words next before and after it. But English was not fond enough, nor had diminutives enough, for a kitchen tale as a house Kaffir loves to tell it.

None the less, his eyes brightened till the smile danced in his face as his words began. "Ou' Wolf well, Ou' Wolf, he'd a seen a lot less trouble if he ha'n't had sich a wife, for Ou' Missis Wolf she yust had a temper like a meer cat. Folks use' to won'er how Ou' Wolf manage' wid her, an' Ou' Jackalse use' to say to him, `Allah man! if she was on'y my wife for about five minutes she'd fin' out enough to tink on as long's she keep a livin'.' An' den Ou' Jackalse, he'd hit 'is hat back on to de back of his head an' he'd step slouchin' an' fair snort agen a grinnin'.

"But Ou' Wolf ud look behind to see if his missis was hearin', an' den he'd shake his head, an' stick his hands in his pockets an' walk off an tink. He'd see some mighty tall tinkin' yust up over his head, but he couldn' somehow seem to get a hold of it.

"Well, one mawnin' Missis Wolf she get up, an' she look on de hooks an' dere ain't no meat, an' she look in de pot an' dere ain't no mealies. `Allah Crachty!' says she, `but dat Ou' Wolf is about de laziest skellum ever any woman wore herse'f out wid. I'll ketch my deat' of him afore I's done.'

"Den she look outside, an' dere she seen Ou' Wolf a settin' on de stoop in de sun. He was yust a waitin', sort o' quiet an' patient, for his breakfas', never dreamin' nothin' about bein' banged about de yead wid a mealie ladle, when out flops Missis Wolf, an' fair bangs him a biff on one side his head wid de long spoon... Continue reading book >>

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