Stories

Opposite Sides Of The Law

Posted on April 04, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From From Man to Man
by Herman Charles Bosman

 

Because young Bothma was, after all, a mounted policeman in a khaki uniform, with brass letters on his shoulders, we did feel a measure of constraint in his company. The circumstance of our not feeling quite at ease manifested itself in the way most of us sat on our riempie chairs – a little more stiffly than usual, with our shoulders not quite touching the backs of the chairs. It also manifested itself in the unconventional way in which Gysbert van Tonder saw fit to sprawl in his seat, an affectation of mental contentment that would have awakened mistrust in any policeman with some experience.

It was then that Chris Welman made a remark that went a good way towards relieving the tension. Afterwards, in talking it over, we had to say that we could not but admire the manner in which Chris Welman had worked out the right words to use. Not that there was anything clever in the way that Chris Welman had spoken, of course.

No, we all felt that the statement Chris Welman had made, then, was something that was easily within the capacity of any of us, if we had just sat back a little and thought, and then made use of the common sense that comes naturally to anybody who has lived long enough on a farm.

‘The man you should really ask questions of,’ Chris Welman said to Constable Bothma, ‘is Gysbert van Tonder. That’s him there. Sitting with his legs taking up half the floor, his hands behind his head, and his elbows all stretched out. Just from the way he’s sitting, you can see he’s the biggest cattle-smuggler in the district.’

Well, that gave us all a good laugh. For everyone knew that Gysbert van Tonder had smuggled more cattle across the border than any other man in the Marico. What was more, we knew that Gysbert van Tonder’s father had regularly brought in cattle, over the line from Ramoutsa, before there had even been a proper barbed-wire fence there. And we also knew that, in the long years of the future, when we were all dead and gone, Gysbert van Tonder’s sons would still be doing the same thing.

What was more, nothing would ever stop them, either. Not even if every policeman from Cape Town to the Limpopo knew about it.

For the Bechuanas from whom he traded cattle felt friendly towards Gysbert van Tonder, and that was a sentiment they did not have for a border policeman – unreasonable though such an attitude might seem to be. This was an outlook on life that, to a considerable degree, Gysbert van Tonder shared with the Bechuanas.

Consequently, in speaking the way he did, Chris Welman had cleared the air for us all – Gysbert van Tonder included. As a result, Gysbert van Tonder could, for one thing, sit more comfortably in his chair, relaxing as he sat. There was no longer any need for him to adopt a carefree pose, which must have put quite a lot of strain on his neck and leg muscles, not to mention how hard it must have been for his spine to maintain the posture that was intended to suggest indifference.

Anyway, Gysbert van Tonder joined in the laughter that greeted Chris Welman’s words.

And Constable Bothma laughed, too. It was clear from his laughter that the sergeant at Bekkersdal had told him to keep an eye on Gysbert van Tonder.

~

After that it was Oupa Bekker who spoke. And although his story related to the distant past, when the functions of a police constable were exercised (apparently not unsuccessfully) by the local veldkornet, it seemed that the difficulties Constable Bothma was experiencing were not dissimilar from the vicissitudes of the young veldkornet in Oupa Bekker’s story.

‘Many a man would have been satisfied with the position of veldkornet,’ Oupa Bekker said, ‘because of the honour that went with it in those days. For one thing, even if you didn’t have a uniform, or an office with a telephone, or a mounted-police horse with a white star on his forehead – that could keep time to the music at the Johannesburg Show – and even if you had to ride one of your own horses on a patched saddle, with a patch on the seat of your trousers too, you still had a printed certificate, signed by the President, to say that you were the veldkornet. And you could hang that certificate in a gold frame on the wall of your voorkamer.’

But the glitter of rank and the burden of office were as nothing to that young veldkornet, Oupa Bekker said. What worried him far more was that, because it was his job to maintain law and order, he had to act as an informer on his neighbours, however delicately. And the thought that, because of his job, he was cut off from intimate contact with them, saddened him. He liked having friends, but found that he couldn’t have friends – well, not real friends – any more, now that he was the veldkornet.

‘In the end …’ Oupa Bekker said.

We would have preferred Oupa Bekker not to continue to the end, for the only true friend the young veldkornet had, in the end, was Sass Koggel – a scoundrel, the likes of which the Groot Marico had had but few in its history.

Only with Sass Koggel could the veldkornet be himself. They each took the other for what he was; and neither, in his relations with the other, had to maintain any sort of pretence. They were on opposite sides of the law.

Vocationally speaking, the veldkornet was devoted to apprehending Sass Koggel; and Sass Koggel was determined that the veldkornet would never come across anything against him. Outside of that technicality, however, it would have been hard to find two firmer friends in the whole of the Marico.

It was a long story that Oupa Bekker told, and we listened to it with fluctuating levels of attention. But Constable Bothma and Gysbert van Tonder did not listen to Oupa Bekker at all. They were too engrossed in what each had to say to the other. And while talking to Gysbert van Tonder, the cattle-smuggler, it was necessary for young Bothma, the policeman, to open his policeman’s notebook only once.

Constable Bothma opened his notebook in order to extract a photograph, which he handed to Gysbert van Tonder. Gysbert studied the likeness for some moments, and then he asked: ‘Takes after you, does he?’

And in his voice, there was only sincerity.

Posted in English

Teenoorgestelde Kante Van Die Wet

Posted on April 04, 2017 by Cape Rebel

Uit Man to Man
deur Herman Charles Bosman

 

Omdat jong Bothma, alles in ag genome, ’n berede polisieman in ’n kakie uniform was, met geelkoperletters op sy skouers, het ons ’n mate van gestremdheid in sy geselskap gevoel. Die feit dat ons nie juis so op ons gemak gevoel het nie, is gemanifesteer op die manier wat ons op ons riempiestoele gesit het – ’n bietjie meer gespanne en stywer as gewoonlik, met ons skouers wat nie eintlik aan die rugkant van die stoele geraak het nie. Dit kon ook gesien word op die ongewone manier wat Gysbert van Tonder as geskik beskou het – hy het uitgestrek op sy sitplek gesitlê. Dit was ’n geveinsery van geestelike tevredenheid wat enige polisieman met ’n bietjie ervaring, agterdogtig sou maak.

Dit was toe dat Chris Welman ’n opmerking gemaak het wat baie daartoe gehelp het om die spanning te verlig. Daarná, toe ons daaroor gepraat het, moes ons sê dat ons nie anders nie kon as om die manier wat Chris Welman die regte woorde gekies het, te bewonder. Natuurlik nie dat daar eintlik juis iets slims was op die manier wat Chris Welman gepraat het nie.

O nee, ons het almal gevoel dat die stelling wat Chris Welman toe gemaak het, iets was wat maklik binne die vermoë van enigeen van ons was. As ons net sou kon teruggesit, ’n bietjie gedink en ons gesonde verstand gebruik het – sou die opmerking van nature enigeen wat lank genoeg op ’n plaas gewoon het, te binne geskiet het.

“Die man oor wie jy regtig vrae moet vra,” het Chris Welman aan konstabel Bothma gesê, “is Gysbert van Tonder. Dis hy daardie, wat daar sit met sy bene oor die helfte van die vloer, met sy hande agter sy kop en sy elmboë uitgestrek. Deur net te kyk hoe hy daar sit, kan jy sien hy’s die grootste beessmokkelaar in die distrik.”

Wel, daaroor het ons almal lekker gelag. Want almal het geweet dat Gysbert van Tonder meer beeste oor die grens gesmokkel het as enige ander man in die Marico. Verder het ons geweet dat Gysbert van Tonder se pa gereeld beeste uit Ramoutsa, van anderkant die lyn af, ingebring het. Dit was selfs voor daar ’n behoorlike doringdraadheining was. En ons het ook geweet dat, in die jare wat nog sou kom, wanneer ons almal dood en vergete sou wees, Gysbert van Tonder se seuns nog steeds dieselfde ding sou doen.

Dit wat Chris Welman gesê het, het die gespanne stemming vir ons almal verlig – ook vir Gysbert van Tonder. Gevolglik kon Gysbert van Tonder, vereers, gemakliker en meer ontspanne in sy stoel wees, soos hy daar gesit het. Dit was nie vir hom nodig om langer so ’n ongeërgde houding in te neem nie. Daar moes nogal baie druk op sy nek- en beenspiere gewees het, om nie eers te praat van hoe swaar dit vir sy rugstring moes gewees het, om die liggaamshouding te handhaaf wat veronderstel was om sy traak-my-nie-agtigheid te toon te stel nie.

Ewenwel, Gysbert van Tonder het saam gelag oor dit wat Chris Welman gesê het.

En konstabel Bothma het ook gelag. Uit die manier wat hy gelag het, was dit duidelik dat die sersant by Bekkersdal vir hom gesê het om ’n ogie op Gysbert van Tonder te hou.

~

Daarna was dit oupa Bekker wat gepraat het. En hoewel sy storie verband gehou het met die gryse verlede, toe die werksverrigtinge van ’n polisiekonstabel nog deur die plaaslike veldkornet voorgeskryf was (klaarblyklik nogal suksesvol), het dit gelyk of die probleme wat konstabel Bothma ervaar het, nie juis anders was as die lotgevalle van die jong veldkornet in oupa Bekker se storie nie.

“Baie kêrels sou tevrede gewees het met die posisie van veldkornet,” het oupa Bekker gesê, “oor die eer wat in daardie dae daarmee saamgegaan het. Want een ding was seker: Selfs as jy nie ’n uniform gehad het nie, of nie ’n kantoor met ’n telefoon nie, of nie ’n beredepolisieperd met ’n wit ster op sy voorkop nie – ’n perd wat met die musiek by die Johannesburgse skou  kon tyd hou – en selfs as jy een van jou eie perde met ’n gelapte saal moes ry, of ook met ’n broek wat op die sitvlak gelap was, het jy steeds ’n gedrukte sertifikaat gehad wat deur die president geteken is wat gesê het dat jy ’n veldkornet was. En jy kon daardie sertifikaat in ’n goue raam aan die muur van jou voorkamer hang.”

Maar die glans van rang en die las en druk van amp was nie ’n probleem vir daardie jong veldkornet nie, het oupa Bekker gesê. Wat hom die meeste gepla het, was dat, omdat dit sy werk was om wet en orde te handhaaf, hy op sy medemens moes verklik, hoe netelig ook al. En die gedagte dat hy, as gevolg van sy werk, afgesny was van intieme kontak met die mense om hom, het hom treurig gestem. Hy het daarvan gehou om vriende te hê, maar hy het agtergekom dat hy nie vriende kon hê nie – wel, nie ware vriende nie – nie meer nie, nou dat hy veldkornet was.

“Aan die einde …” het oupa Bekker gesê.

Ons sou verkies het dat oupa Bekker nie aangegaan het tot die einde nie, want die enigste vriend wat die veldkornet gehad het, aan die einde, was Sass Koggel – ’n skobbejak wie se gelyke in die geskiedenis van die Groot Marico daar maar min van was.

Slegs saam met Sass Koggel kon die veldkornet homself wees. Hulle het mekaar aanvaar soos wat hulle was, en in hulle verhouding met mekaar was dit nie nodig vir een van die twee om enigsins te veins en voor te gee nie. Hulle was aan teenoorgestelde kante van die wet.

Ten opsigte van hulle beroepe was die veldkornet daaraan toegewy om Sass Koggel gevange te neem, en Sass Koggel was vasberade dat die veldkornet nooit iets teen hom sou kry nie. Behalwe vir hierdie tegniese punt, egter, sou dit moeilik wees om twee getrouer vriende in die hele Marico te kry.

Dit was ’n lang verhaal wat oupa Bekker vertel het, en ons het met wisselende vlakke van belangstelling en aandag daarna geluister. Maar konstabel Bothma en Gysbert van Tonder het glad nie na oupa Bekker geluister nie. Hulle was te verdiep in wat hulle vir mekaar te sê gehad het. En terwyl hy met Gysbert van Tonder, die beessmokkelaar, gepraat het, was dit nodig vir die jong Bothma, die polisieman, om sy polisienotaboekie net een keer oop te maak.

Konstabel Bothma het sy notaboekie oopgemaak om ’n foto daaruit te haal wat hy aan Gysbert van Tonder oorhandig het. Gysbert het die ooreenkoms vir ’n paar oomblikke goed beskou, en toe gevra: “Trek na jou, nè?”

En in sy stem was daar slegs opregtheid.

Posted in Afrikaans

And In Your Heart There Are Whisperings

Posted on April 04, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Ox-wagons On Trek
by Herman Charles Bosman

 

When I see the rain beating white on the thorn-trees, as it does now (Oom Schalk Lourens said), I remember another time when it rained. And there was a girl in an ox-wagon who dreamed. And in answer to her dreaming, a lover came galloping to her side from out of the veld. But he tarried only a short while, this lover who had come to her from the mist of the rain and the warmth of her dreams.

And yet, when he had gone, there was a slow look in her eyes that must have puzzled her lover very much – for it was a look of satisfaction, almost.

~

We had been to Zeerust for the Nagmaal church service, which we attended once a year.

You know what it is with these Nagmaals.

The Lord spreads these festivities over so many days that you have time, not only to go to church, but also to go to the bioscope. Sometimes you can even go to the bar, but then you must go in the back way, through the dark alley next to the draper’s shop.

Zeerust is a small place, and if you’re seen going into the bar during Nagmaal, people are liable to talk. I can still remember how surprised I was one morning when I went into that dark alley next to the draper’s shop, and found the predikant there, wiping his mouth. The predikant looked at me and shook his head solemnly, and I felt very guilty.

So I went to the bioscope instead.

~

A few days later five ox-wagons, full of people who had been to the Zeerust Nagmaal, were trekking along the road that led back to the Groot Marico. Inside the wagon-tents sat the women and children, listening to the rain pelting against the canvas. The drivers walked by the side of the oxen, cracking their long whips while the rain beat in their faces.

Overhead everything was black, except for the frequent flashes of lightening that tore across the sky.

After I had walked in this manner for some time, I began to get lonely. So I handed the whip to my voorloper, and went on ahead to Adriaan Brand’s wagon. For some distance I walked in silence beside Adriaan. He had his trousers rolled up to his knees; and he had much trouble brandishing his whip and, at the same time, keeping the rain out of his pipe.

‘It’s Minnie,’ Adriaan Brand said suddenly, referring to his nineteen-year-old daughter. ‘There’s one place in Zeerust where Minnie shouldn’t go. And every Nagmaal, to my sorrow, I find that she’s been there. And it all goes to her head.’

‘Oh yes,’ I answered. ‘It always does.’

All the same, I was somewhat startled at Adriaan’s remarks. Minnie didn’t strike me as the sort of girl who would go and spend her father’s money drinking peach brandy in the bar. I started wondering if she’d seen me in the draper’s alley. Then Adriaan went on talking, and I felt more at ease.

‘The place where they show those moving pictures,’ he explained. ‘Every time Minnie goes there, she comes back with ideas that are useless for a farmer’s daughter. But this time it has made her quite impossible. For one thing, she says she won’t marry Frans du Toit any more. She says Frans is too honest.’

‘Well, that needn’t be a difficulty, Adriaan,’ I said. ‘You can teach Frans du Toit a few of the things you’ve done. That’ll make him dishonest enough. Like the way you put your brand on those oxen that strayed into your kraal. Or the way you altered the figures on the compensation forms after the rinderpest. Or the way …’.

Adriaan looked at me with some disfavour.

‘It isn’t that,’ he interrupted me, while I was still trying to call to mind a lot of other things he was able to teach Frans du Toit. ‘Minnie wants a mysterious sort of man. She wants a man who’s dishonest, but who’s got foreign manners and a good heart. She saw a man like that at the picture place she went to, and since then …’.

~

We both looked round together.

Through the mist of the white rain, a horseman came galloping up towards our wagons. He rode fast. Adriaan Brand and I stood and watched him.

By this time our wagons were some distance behind the others.

The horseman came thundering along at full galop until he was abreast of us. Then he pulled up sharply, jerking his horse onto his hind legs.

The stranger told us his name was Koos Fichardt, and that he was on his way to the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Adriaan Brand and I introduced ourselves, and shortly afterwards Fichardt accepted our invitation to spend the night with us.

~

We outspanned a mile or so further on, drawing the five wagons up close together and getting what shelter we could by spreading bucksails.

Next morning there was no more rain. By that time, Koos Fichardt had seen Adriaan Brand’s daughter Minnie. So he decided to stay with us longer.

We trekked on again and, from where I walked beside my oxen, I could see Koos Fichardt and Minnie. They sat at the back of Adriaan Brand’s wagon, hatless, with their legs hanging down and the morning breeze blowing through their hair, and it was evident that Minnie was fascinated by the stranger. Also, he seemed to be very much interested in her.

You do get like that, when there is suddenly a bright morning after long rains, and a low wind stirs the wet grass, and you feel, for a little while, that you know the same thing that the veld knows, and in your heart there are whisperings.

Most of the time they sat holding hands, Fichardt talking a great deal and Minnie nodding her pretty head at intervals, encouraging him to continue. They were all lies he told her, I suppose, as only a young man in love can tell lies.

Fichardt was tall and dark and well-dressed. He walked with a swagger. He had easy and engaging manners, and we all liked him.

~

That night, when we outspanned next to the Groen River, it was very pleasant. We all gathered around the campfire, and braaied meat and cooked crushed mielies. We sang songs and told ghost stories. And I wondered what Frans du Toit – the honest youth whom Minnie had discarded in Zeerust – would have thought if he could see Minnie Brand and Koos Fichardt sitting unashamedly in each other’s arms, for all the world to see their love, while the light of the campfire cast a rich glow over the thrill that was on their faces.

And although I knew how wonderful were the passing moments for these two, yet somehow, somehow, because I had seen so much of the world, I also felt sorry for them.

The next day we did not trek.

The Groen River was in flood from the heavy rains, and Oupa van Tonder, who had lived a long time in the Cape and was well versed in the ways of rivers – and who even knew how to swim – told us that it would not be safe to cross the drift for another twenty-four hours. Accordingly, we decided to remain camped out where we were until the next morning.

At first Koos Fichardt was much disturbed by this news, explaining how necessary it was for him to get into the Bechuanaland Protectorate by a certain day. After a while, however, he seemed to grow more reconciled to the necessity of waiting until the river had gone down.

But I noticed that he frequently gazed out over the veld, in the direction from which we had come. He gazed out rather anxiously, I thought.

~

Night came, and the occupants of the five wagons again gathered around the blazing fire. In some ways, that night was even grander than the one before. The songs we sang were more rousing. The stories we told seemed to have more power in them.

There was much excitement the following morning by the time the wagons were ready to go through the drift. And the excitement did not lie only in the bustle of inspanning the oxen.

For when we crossed the river, it was without Koos Fichardt; and there was a slow look in Minnie’s eyes.

The wagons creaked and splashed in the water, and we saw Koos Fichardt for the last time, sitting on his horse, with a uniformed horseman on either side of him. And when he took off his hat in farewell, he had to use both hands, because of the cuffs that held his wrists together.

What I will always remember, however, is the slow look in Minnie’s eyes. It was a kind of satisfaction, almost, at the thought that all the things that had come to the girl she’d seen in the picture, had now come to her too.

Posted in English

En In Jou Hart Is Daar Fluisteringe

Posted on April 04, 2017 by Cape Rebel

Uit Ox-wagons On Trek 
deur Herman Charles Bosman

 

Wanneer ek die reën so wit sien neersous op die doringbome, soos nou (het oom Schalk Lourens gesê), onthou ek ’n ander keer toe dit gereën het. En daar was ’n meisie aan die droom in ’n ossewa. En in antwoord op haar droom, het ’n minnaar uit die veld uit na haar sy toe aangalop gekom. Maar hy het net ’n klein rukkie vertoef, hierdie minnaar wat uit die mis van die reën en die warmte van haar drome na haar toe gekom het.

Maar tog, toe hy nie meer daar was nie, was daar ’n stadige kyk in haar oë wat haar minnaar heelwat moes verbyster het, want dit was ’n kyk van bevrediging, wel amper.

Ons was na Zeerust toe vir die Nagmaalsdiens, wat ons een keer ’n jaar bygewoon het.

Jy weet mos hoe dit gaan met Nagmaaltye.

Die Here versprei hierdie feesverrigtinge oor ’n hele paar dae sodat jy tyd het om nie net kerk toe te gaan nie, maar ook bioskoop toe. Soms kan jy selfs kroeg toe gaan, maar dan moet jy agterom gaan, deur die donker agterstraatjie langs die klerewinkel.

Zeerust is ’n klein plekkie, en sou jy gesien word waar jy gedurende die Nagmaal by die kroeg ingaan, kon jy verwag dat die mense sou praat. Ek onthou nog hoe verras ek een oggend was toe ek by daardie donker agterstraatjie langs die klerewinkel ingegaan het, en die predikant daar raakgeloop het, nog besig om sy mond af te vee. Die predikant het na my gekyk en sy kop heel plegtig geskud, en ek het baie skuldig gevoel.

En so het ek toe maar liewer bioskoop toe gegaan.

~

’n Paar dae later, op die pad na Groot Marico, het daar vyf ossewaens vol mense wat die Nagmaal in Zeerust bygewoon het, getrek. Binne in die watente het die vrouens en kinders gesit en luister na die gietende reën teen die seile. Langs die osse het die drywers geloop en hulle het hul lang swepe laat klap terwyl dit in hulle gesigte gestortreën het.

Bo hulle in die lug was alles swart behalwe vir die herhaaldelike weerligflitse wat deur die hemele geklief het.

Na ek ’n ruk lank op hierdie manier geloop het, het ek eensaam begin voel. En so het ek die sweep aan my voorloper oorhandig en vooruit geloop na Adriaan Brand se wa toe. Ek het ’n entjie in stilte langs Adriaan geloop. Sy broek was tot by sy knieë opgerol, en hy het dit moeilik gevind om sy sweep te swaai en terselfdertyd die reën uit sy pyp te hou.

“Dis Minnie,” het Adriaan Brand skielik gesê, met verwysing na sy negentienjarige dogter. “Daar’s een plek in Zeerust waarheen Minnie nie behoort te gaan nie. En met elke Nagmaal, tot my verdriet, vind ek uit dat sy daar was. En alles gaan na haar kop toe.”

“O ja,” het ek geantwoord, “dit gebeur altyd.”

Nogtans was ek ietwat verbaas oor Adriaan se opmerkings. Dit het nie vir my gelyk of Minnie die soort meisie was wat haar pa se geld sou gaan staan en mors deur perskebrandewyn by die kroeg te gaan loop en drink nie. Ek het begin wonder of sy my nie dalk in die agterstraatjie by die klerewinkel gesien het nie. Maar toe het Adriaan aangegaan met sy pratery, en ek het rustiger begin voel.

“Die plek waar hulle daardie bewegende prente wys,” het hy verduidelik. “Elke keer wat Minnie daarheen gaan, kom sy terug met idees wat vir ’n plaasboer se dogter niks werd is nie. Maar hierdie keer het dit haar totaal onmoontlik gemaak. Vereers sê sy dat sy nie meer met Frans du Toit wil trou nie. Sy sê dat Frans heeltemal te eerlik is.”

“Wel Adriaan, dit behoort nie ’n probleem te wees nie,” het ek gesê. “Jy kan Frans du Toit ’n paar dinge leer wat jy gedoen het. Dit sal hom skelm genoeg maak. Soos die manier wat jy gehad het om jou brandmerk te sit op daardie losloperosse wat na jou kraal toe afgedwaal het. Of die manier wat jy na die runderpes die getalle op die kompensasievorms verander het. Of die manier …”.

Adriaan het my nors aangekyk.

“Dis nie dit nie,” het hy my in die rede geval terwyl ek nog ’n klomp ander dinge probeer onthou het wat hy vir Frans du Toit kon leer. “Minnie wil ’n misterieuse soort van ’n man hê. Sy wil ’n man hê wat oneerlik is, en met uitheemse maniere, maar tog ook met ’n goeie hart. Sy het so ’n man by daardie prentplek waarheen sy gegaan het, gesien, en sedertdien …”.

~

Ons het altwee saam omgekyk.

Deur die mistigheid van die wit reën het ’n perderuiter na ons waens toe aangery gekom. Hy het vinnig gery. Ek en Adriaan het na hom gestaan en kyk.

Teen dié tyd was ons waens ’n hele entjie agter die ander.

Die ruiter het op ’n vinnige galop aangejaag gekom tot hy langs ons was. Toe het hy gou sy perd met ’n ruk op sy agterpote ingehou.

Die vreemdeling het ons vertel dat sy naam Koos Fichardt was en dat hy onderweg na die Betsjoeanalandse protektoraat was. Ek en Adriaan Brand het onsself aan hom voorgestel, en kort daarna het Fichardt ons uitnodiging om die nag by ons deur te bring, aanvaar.

’n Myl of wat verder het ons uitgespan. Ons het die vyf waens na aanmekaar getrek en, om soveel moontlik beskerming te kon kry, het ons bokseile bo-oor getrek.

Die volgende oggend het die reën opgeklaar. Teen daardie tyd het Koos Fichardt reeds Adriaan Brandt se dogter, Minnie, raakgesien. En so het hy besluit om bietjie langer by ons te bly.

Ons het verder getrek en, van waar ek langs my osse geloop het, kon ek Koos Fichardt en Minnie sien. Hulle het agter op Adriaan Brand se wa gesit, sonder hoede, met hulle bene wat afgehang het en die oggendbries wat deur hulle hare gewaai het. Dit was duidelik dat die vreemdeling Minnie gefassineer het. En dit het ook gelyk of hy baie in haar belanggestel het.

Mens raak so wanneer daar skielik na langdurige reëns ’n helder oggend aanbreek, en daar ’n sagte windjie waai wat die nat gras saggies roer, en vir ’n kort rukkie voel jy dat jy ook weet wat die veld weet, en in jou hart is daar fluisteringe.

Die meeste van die tyd het hulle daar handjie-handjie gesit, met Fichardt wat baie gepraat het en Minnie wat haar pragtige kop elke af en toe geskud het, en hom só aangemoedig het om aan te hou met praat. Ek veronderstel dat dit wat hy haar vertel het, alles leuens was, soos net ’n verliefde jongkêrel leuens kan vertel.

Fichardt was lank en donker en netjies aangetrek. Hy het ’n windmakerstap gehad met gemaklike en sjarmante maniere, en ons het almal van hom gehou.

~

Daardie aand toe ons langs die Groenrivier uitgespan het, was alles baie aangenaam. Ons het almal om die kampvuur gesit, vleis gebraai en mieliegruis gekook. Ons het liedjies gesing en spookstories vertel. En ek het gewonder wat Frans du Toit – die eerlike jongkêrel in Zeerust wat deur Minnie afgewys en weggestoot is – sou gedink het as hy Minnie Brand en Koos Fichardt so onbeskaamd in mekaar se arms kon sien sit, vir die hele wêreld om hulle verliefdheid te sien, terwyl die lig van die kampvuur ’n ryke gloed oor die passie en opwinding wat op hulle gesigte was, gegooi het.

En ek geweet het hoe wonderlik die verbygaande oomblikke vir hierdie twee was. Hoewel ek tog, op ’n manier, op een of ander manier, omdat ek so baie van die wêreld gesien het, ook jammer vir hulle gevoel het.

Die volgende dag het ons nie getrek nie.

Ná die swaar reëns was die Groenrivier in vloed, en oupa Van Tonder, wat lank in die Kaap gewoon het en wat heel goed onderleg was in die maniere van riviere, en wat selfs geweet het hoe om te swem, het ons vertel dat dit nie veilig sou wees om die rivier vir die volgende vier en twintig uur oor te steek nie. Gevolglik het ons besluit om tot die volgende oggend daar in die kamp te bly.

Aanvanklik was Koos Fichardt nogal heel ontstel oor dié nuus, en het hy verduidelik hoe noodsaaklik dit vir hom was om op ’n sekere dag die Betsjoeanalandse protektoraat binne te gaan. Ná ’n ruk egter, het dit gelyk of hy meer versoen geraak het met die noodsaaklikheid om te wag tot die rivier gesak het.

Maar ek het opgemerk dat hy herhaaldelik oor die veld uitgekyk het in die rigting waarvandaan ons gekom het. En ek het gedink dat hy nogal taamlik onrustig daarheen gestaar het.
~

Dit het aand geword, en die bewoners van die vyf waens het om die gloed van die vuur bymekaar gekom. Op ’n manier was daardie aand nog grootser en fraaier as die vorige aand. Die liedjies wat ons gesing het, was roerender, en die stories wat ons vertel het, het geklink of hulle indrukwekkender en kragtiger was.

Teen die tyd wat die waens die volgende oggend gereed was om deur die drif te trek, was daar groot opwinding. En die opgewondenheid was nie net in die gewoel om die osse ingespan te kry nie.

Want toe ons die rivier oorgesteek het, was dit sonder Koos Fichardt, en daar was ’n stadige kyk in Minnie se oë.

Die waens het deur die water gekreun en gespat, en ons het Koos Fichardt vir die laaste keer gesien waar hy op ’n perd gesit het met ’n ruiter in ’n uniform aan beide kante van hom. En toe hy sy hoed opgelig het om ons vaarwel toe te waai, moes hy beide hande gebruik, want sy gewrigte was in boeie.

Wat ek egter altyd sal onthou, is die stadige kyk in Minnie se oë. Dit was amper ’n soort van bevrediging by die gedagte dat al die dinge wat gebeur het met die meisie wat sy in die rolprent gesien het, nou ook na haar toe gekom het.

Hiding Their Weaknesses

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Bushveld Romance
by Herman Charles Bosman

 

It’s a queer thing – Oom Schalk Lourens observed – how much trouble people will take to hide their weaknesses from the world. Often, of course, they aren’t weaknesses at all; only the people who have these peculiarities don’t know that. Another thing they don’t know is that the world is aware all the time of these things they imagine they’re concealing.

I remember a story my grandfather used to tell – of something that happened when he was a boy. Of course, that was a long time ago. It was before the Great Trek. But it seems that, even in those days, there was a lot of trouble between the Boers and the English. It had much to do with slaves. The English Government wanted to free the slaves, my grandfather said, and one man who was very prominent at the meetings that were held to protest against this was Gert van Tonder.

Now Gert van Tonder was a very able man, and a good speaker. He was at his best, too, when dealing with a subject about which he knew nothing at all. He always spoke very loudly then. As you can see, he was a fine leader.

So, when the slaves were freed, and a manifesto was drawn up to be sent to the King of England, the farmers of Graaff-Reinet took it first to Gert van Tonder for his signature.

You can imagine how surprised everyone was when he refused to sign. He sat with the manifesto in front of him, and the pen in his hand, and said that he had changed his mind. He said that perhaps they were a bit hasty in writing to the King of England about so trivial a matter.

‘Even though the slaves are free, now,’ he said, ‘it doesn’t make any difference. Just let one of my slaves try to act as though he’s free. I’ll show him. That’s all.  Just let him try.’

The farmers told Gert van Tonder he was quite right. It didn’t really make any difference whether the slaves were free or not. They said they knew that already. But there were a lot of other grievances in the manifesto, they explained, and they were sending it to let the King of England know that, unless the Boers got their wrongs redressed, they would trek out of the Cape Colony.

My grandfather used to say that everybody was still more surprised when Gert van Tonder put down the pen, very firmly, and told the farmers that they could trek right to the other end of Africa, for all he cared. He was quite satisfied with the way the King of England had done things, Gert said, and there was a lot about English rule for which they should all be thankful.

The upshot of all this was that, when the farmers of the Cape Colony trekked away, into the north, with their heavily laden wagons, and their long spans of oxen, and their guns, Gert van Tonder did not go with them.

My grandfather often spoke about how small a thing it was that kept Gert van Tonder from being remembered in history as one of the leaders of the nation. It was all on account of that one weakness of his – his not wanting people to know that he couldn’t read or write.

~

When I speak of people and their peculiarities, it always makes me think of Stoffel Lemmer. He had a weakness of an altogether different sort. What was peculiar about Stoffel Lemmer was that if a girl, or a woman, so much as looked at him, he was quite certain that she was in love with him. And what made it worse was that he never had the courage to go up and talk to the girl he thought was making eyes at him.

Another queer thing about Stoffel Lemmer was that he was just as much in love with the girl as he imagined she was with him.

~

‘I could see by the look in Minnie Bonthuys’s eyes that she loved me, Oom Schalk,’ Stoffel Lemmer went on, once, ‘and by the firm way that her mouth shut when she caught sight of me. In fact, I can hardly even say that she looked at me. It all happened so quickly. She just gave one glance in my direction, and slammed the window shut. All girls who are in love with me do that.’

This was just one example of the sort of thing that Stoffel Lemmer would relate to me, sitting on my stoep. Mostly it was in the evening. And he would look out into the dusk, and say that the shadows that lay on the thorn-trees were in his heart also. As I have told you, I had frequently heard him say exactly the same thing. About other girls.

And always it would end up the same way – with him saying what a sorrowful thing it was that he would never be able to tell her how much he loved her. He would also say how grateful he was to have someone like me who would listen to his sad story, with understanding. That, too, I had heard before. Often.

What’s that? Did he ever tell her? Well, I don’t know.

The last time I saw Stoffel Lemmer was in Zeerust. It was in front of the church, just after the ceremony. And by the determined expression that Minnie still had on her face when the wedding guests threw rice and confetti over Stoffel and herself – no, I don’t think he ever got up the courage to tell her.

Posted in English

Om Hulle Swakhede Weg Te Steek

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Cape Rebel

Uit Bushveld Romance 
deur Herman Charles Bosman

 

Dis ’n vreemde ding – het oom Schalk Laurens opgemerk – hoeveel moeite mense sal doen om hulle swakhede van die wêreld af weg te steek. Dikwels, natuurlik, is dit glad nie eers swakhede nie; dis net dat die mense wat hierdie eienaardighede het, dit nie weet nie. Nog iets wat hulle nie weet nie, is dat die wêreld die hele tyd bewus is van die dinge wat hulle dink hulle wegsteek.

Ek onthou ’n storie wat my oupa lief was om te vertel – oor iets wat gebeur het toe hy ’n seuntjie was. Natuurlik was dit lank gelede. Dit was voor die Groot Trek. Maar dit lyk of daar selfs in daardie dae baie probleme tussen die Boere en die Engelse was. Dit het baie te doene gehad met die slawe. Die Engelse regering wou die slawe vrystel, het my oupa gesê, en een man wat baie prominent was by die vergaderings wat gehou is om daarteen te protesteer, was Gert van Tonder.

Dit was so dat Gert van Tonder ’n baie knap kêrel en ’n goeie spreker was. En hy was dan ook op sy allerbeste wanneer hy oor ’n saak gepraat het waarvan hy niks geweet het nie. Dan het hy baie hard gepraat. Soos jy kan sien, was hy ’n goeie leier.

En so, toe die slawe vrygestel is, en ’n manifesto opgetrek is om aan die koning van Engeland gestuur te word, het die Boere van Graaff-Reinet dit eers na Gert van Tonder toe geneem vir sy handtekening.

Jy kan jou voorstel hoe verras almal was toe hy geweier het om dit te onderteken. Hy het daar gesit met die manifesto voor hom, en die pen in die hand, en hy het gesê dat hy van besluit verander het. Hy het gesê dat hulle miskien ’n bietjie oorhaastig was om aan die koning van Engeland oor so ’n onbelangrike saak te skryf.

“Selfs al is die slawe nou vry,” het hy gesê, “maak dit glad nie saak nie. Laat net een van my slawe optree asof hy vry is. Ek sal hom wys. Laat hy net probeer.”

Die plaasboere het vir Gert van Tonder gesê dat hy heeltemal reg was. Dit het nie regtig saakgemaak of die slawe vry was of nie. Hulle het gesê dat hulle dit reeds geweet het. Maar daar was ’n hele klomp ander griewe in die manifesto, het hulle verduidelik, en hulle wou dit aan die koning van Engeland stuur sodat hy kon weet dat, as die onregte teen hulle nie reggemaak word nie, hulle uit die Kaapkolonie sou wegtrek.

My oupa het altyd gesê dat almal nog meer verbaas was toe Gert van Tonder die pen neergesit het, heel ferm en beslis, en aan die Boere gesê het dat hulle maar kon trek, reg tot aan die anderkant van Afrika vir al wat hy omgee. Hy was heeltemal tevrede met die manier wat die koning van Engeland dinge gedoen het. Gert het gesê dat daar baie omtrent die Engelse bestuur was waarvoor hulle almal dankbaar behoort te wees.

Die uiteinde van al dié gebeure was dat, toe die Boere uit die Kaapkolonie weggetrek het, noorde toe, met hulle swaargelaaide waens, en hulle lang spanne osse, en hulle gewere, Gert van Tonder nie saam met hulle gegaan het nie.

My oupa het dikwels gepraat van hoe ’n nietige ding dit was wat Gert van Tonder daarvan laat weerhou het om in die geskiedenis as een van die leiers van die nasie onthou te word. Dit was alles as gevolg van een swakheid van hom  hy wou nie dat die mense moes weet dat hy nie kon lees of skryf nie.

~

Wanneer ek praat van mense en hulle eienaardighede, laat dit my altyd dink aan Stoffel Lemmer. Hy het ’n heel ander soort swakheid gehad. Wat so eienaardig van Stoffel Lemmer was, was dat as ’n meisie, of ’n vrou, net na hom sou gekyk het, hy seker was dat sy op hom verlief was. En wat dit erger gemaak het, was dat hy nooit die moed gehad het om na die meisie toe te gaan wat hy gedink het met hom ogies gemaak het nie.

’n Verdere vreemde ding van Stoffel Lemmer was dat hy net so verlief op die nooi was as wat hy hom verbeel het sy op hom was.

~

“Ek kon aan die kyk in Minnie Bonthuys se oë sien dat sy lief was vir my, oom Schalk,” het Stoffel Lemmer weer op ’n keer aangegaan, “en op die ferme manier wat sy haar mond toegemaak het wanneer sy my raakgesien het. Dis ’n feit dat ek nie eintlik kan sê dat sy na my gekyk het nie. Dit het alles so vinnig gebeur. Sy het net so ’n vinnige blik in my rigting gegee, en toe die venster toegeklap. Al die meisies wat op my verlief raak, doen dieselfde ding.”

Dit was maar net een voorbeeld van die soort goed wat Stoffel Lemmer aan my vertel het daar waar ons op my stoep gesit het. Dit was meestal in die aande. En dan sou hy in die skemerte uitkyk en sê, dat die skaduwees wat oor die doringbome gelê het, ook in sy hart was. Soos ek vir jou gesê het, ek het hom dikwels presies dieselfde ding hoor sê. Oor ander meisies.

Dit het altyd op dieselfde manier geëindig – met hy wat sê dat dit so ’n droewige ding was dat hy haar nooit sou kon vertel hoe lief hy haar gehad het nie. Hy het ook gesê hoe dankbaar hy was dat hy iemand soos ek gehad het wat na sy treurige storie sou luister, en wat hom verstaan het. Dit het ek ook al voorheen gehoor. Al baiemaal.

Wat vra jy? Het hy haar al ooit vertel? Wel, ek weet nie.

Die laaste keer wat ek Stoffel Lemmer gesien het, was in Zeerust. Dit was voor die kerk, net na die seremonie. En met die vasbeslote uitdrukking wat Minnie nog steeds op haar gesig gehad het toe die huweliksgaste die rys en konfetti oor haar en Stoffel gegooi het – nee, ek dink nie hy het ooit die moed bymekaar geskraap om haar te vertel nie.

Posted in Afrikaans

The Most Wild And The Most Beautiful Thing In The Whole World

Posted on March 14, 2017 by Cape Rebel

From Mampoer
by Herman Charles Bosman

It was good mampoer, made from karee berries that were plucked when they were still green and full of thick sap, just before they had begun to whiten, and we said things that contained much wisdom.

‘It was like the shadow of a flower on her left cheek,’ I heard Hans Kriel say, and immediately I sat up to listen, for I could guess of whom it was that he was talking.

‘Is it on the lower part of the cheek?’ I asked. ‘Two small purple marks?’

Because in that case I would know for sure that he was talking about the new waitress in the Zeerust café. I had seen her only once, through the plate-glass window, and because I had liked her looks I had gone up to the counter and asked for a roll of Boer tobacco, which she said they did not stock. When she said they didn’t stock kudu biltong, either, I had felt too embarrassed to ask for anything else. Only afterwards I remembered that I could have gone in and sat down and ordered a cup of coffee and some harde beskuit. But it was too late then. By that time I felt that she could see that I came from this part of the Marico, even though I was wearing my hat well back on my head.

‘Did you – did you speak to her?’ I asked Hans Kriel after a while. 

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I went in and asked her for a roll of Boer tobacco. But she said they didn’t sell tobacco by the roll, or kudu biltong either. She said this last with a sort of a sneer. I thought it was funny, seeing that I hadn’t asked for kudu biltong. So I sat down in front of a little table and ordered some harde beskuit and a cup of coffee. She brought me a number of little dry, flat cakes with letters on them I couldn’t read very well. Her name is Marie Rossouw.’

‘You must have said quite a lot to her to have found out her name,’ I said, with something in my voice that must have made Hans Kriel suspicious.

‘How do you know who I’m talking about?’ he demanded suddenly.

‘Oh, never mind,’ I answered, ‘let’s ask Krisjan Wilman to refill our glasses.’ I winked at the others and we all laughed, because by that time Hans Kriel was sitting half sideways on the riempie bench, with his shoulders drawn up very high and his whole body seeming to be kept up by one elbow. It wasn’t long after that that he moved his elbow, so that we had to pick him up from the floor and carry him into thevoorkamer, where we laid him in a corner on some leopard skins.

But before that he had spoken more about Marie Roussouw, the new waitress in the café. He said he had passed by and had seen her through the plate-glass window and there had been a vase of purple flowers on the counter, and he had noticed those two marks on her cheek, and those marks had looked very pretty to him, like two small shadows from those purple flowers.

‘She is very beautiful,’ Hans Kriel said. ‘Her eyes have got deep things in them, like those dark pools behind Abjaterskop. And when she smiled at me once – by mistake, I think – I felt as though my heart was rushing over the vlaktes like that shadow we saw in the sunset.’

‘You must be careful of those dark pools behind Abjaterskop,’ I warned him. ‘We know those pools have got witches in them.’

I felt it was a pity that we had to carry him inside, shortly afterwards. For the mampoer had begun to make Hans Kriel talk rather well.

As it happened, Hans Kriel was not the only one, that night, who encountered difficulties with the riempiebench. Several more of us were carried inside. And when I look back on that Nagmaal my most vivid memories are not of what the predikant said at the church service, or of Krisjan Wilman’s mampoer, even, but of how very round the black spots were on the pale yellow of the leopard skin. They were so round that every time I looked at them they were turning.

In the morning Krisjan Wilman’s wife woke us up and brought us coffee. Hans Kriel and I sat up side by side on the leopard skins, and in between drinking his coffee Hans Kriel said strange things. He was still talking about Marie Roussouw.

‘Just after dark I got up from the front stoep and went to see her in the café,’ Hans Kriel said.

‘You may have got up from the front stoep,’ I answered, ‘but you never got up from these leopard skins. Not from the moment we carried you here. That’s the truth.’

‘I went to the café,’ Hans Kriel said, ignoring my interruption, ‘and it was very dark. She was there alone. I wanted to find out how she had got those marks on her cheek. I think she is very pretty even without them. But with those marks Marie Roussouw is the most wild and the most beautiful thing in the whole world.’

‘I suppose her cheek got cut there when she was a child,’ I suggested. ‘Perhaps when a bottle of her father’s mampoer exploded.’
 
‘No,’ Hans Kriel replied, very earnestly. ‘No. It was something else. I asked her there, in the café, when we were alone together, and it suddenly seemed as though the whole place was washed with moonlight, and there was no counter between us any more, and there was a strange laughter in her eyes when she brought her face very close to mine. And she said, “I know you won’t believe me. But that is where the devil kissed me. Satan kissed me there when we were behind Abjaterskop. Shall I show you?”’

‘That was what she said to me,’ Hans Kriel continued, ‘and I knew, then, that she was a witch. And that it was a very sinful thing to be in love with a witch. And so I caught her up, in my arms, and I whispered, trembling all the time, “Show me,” and our heads rose up very tall through the shadows. And everything moved very fast, faster than the shadows move from Abjaterskop in the setting of the sun. And I knew that we were behind Abjaterskop, and that her eyes were indeed dark pools there, with the tall reeds growing on the edges. And then I saw Satan come in between us. And he had hooves and a forked tail. And there were flames coming out of him. And he stooped down and kissed Marie Roussouw on her cheek, where those marks were. And she laughed. And her eyes danced with merriment. And I found that it was all the time I who was kissing her. Now, what do you make of this, Schalk?’

I said, of course, that it was the mampoer. And that I knew, now, why I had been sleeping in such discomfort. It wasn’t because the spots on the leopard were turning like round wheels, but because I had Satan sleeping next to me all night. And I said that this discovery wasn’t new, either. I had always suspected something like that about him.

But I got an idea. And while the others were at breakfast I went out, on the pretext that I had to go and help Manie Burghers with his oxen at the church square outspan. But instead, I went into the café, and because I knew her name was Marie Roussouw, when the waitress came for my order I could ask her whether she was related to the Roussouws of Rysmierbult, and I could tell her that I was distantly related to that family, also.

In the daylight, there was about that café none of the queerness that Hans Kriel had spoken about. It was all very ordinary. Even those purple flowers were still on the counter. They looked slightly faded. And then, suddenly, while we were talking, I asked her the thing I was burning to know.

‘That mark on your cheek, juffrou,’ I said, ‘will you tell me where you got it from?’

Marie Roussouw brought her face very close to mine, and her eyes were like dark pools with dancing light in them.

‘I know you won’t believe me,’ she said, ‘but that is where Satan kissed me. When we were at the back of Abjaterskop together. Shall I show you?’

Posted in English

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