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Who Was The Thief?

Source: Outa Karel's Stories

"Yes, my baasjes, so was Oom Jakhals: he always made as if he forgot
all about what he had done, and he made as if he thought all the
others forgot too, quick-quick. He is maar so schelm."

Here Outa took full advantage of the pinch of snuff he held between
his right forefinger and thumb, sneezed with evident enjoyment two
or three times, and continued:

"When Jakhals thought Hyena was quite well, he went to visit her.

"'It's very dull here in the veld,' he said, 'and food is so scarce,
so I'm going to hire myself to a farmer. He'll give me lots to eat
and drink, and when I'm nice and fat I'll come home again. Would you
like to go too, Brown Sister?'

"Hyena smacked her lips when she heard about the nice things to
eat. She thought it a very good plan. So they went to a farm, and
Jakhals talked so nicely that the farmer hired them both to work
for him.

"Ach! it was a beautiful place; lots of chickens and little ducks,
and Afrikander sheep with large fat tails that could be melted out
for soap and candles, and eggs, and doves and pigeons--all things
that Jakhals liked. He just felt in his stomach that he was going to
have a jolly life.

"During the day Jakhals peeped all about, in this corner, in that
corner, and he found out where the farmer kept the nice fat that was
melted out of the sheep's tails. In the middle of the night, when all
the people were fast asleep, he got up and went quietly, my baasjes,
quietly, like a shadow on the ground, to the place where the fat
was. He took a big lump and smeared it all over Brown Sister's tail
while she was asleep. Then he ate all that was left--n-yum, n-yum,
n-yum--and went to sleep in the waggon-house.

"Early in the morning, when the farmer went out to milk the cows,
he missed the fat.

"'Lieve land! Where is all my fat?' he said. 'It must be that vagabond
Jakhals. But wait, I'll get him!'

"He took a thick riem and his sjambok, and went to the waggon-house
to catch Jakhals and give him a beating. But when he asked about the
fat, Jakhals spoke in a little, little voice.

"'Ach no, Baas! Would I then do such an ugly thing? And look at my
tail. There's no fat on it. The one whose tail is full of fat is
the thief.'

"He turned round and waved his tail in the farmer's face, and anyone
could easily see that there was no fat on it.

"'But the fat is gone,' said the farmer, 'someone must have stolen it,'
and he went on hunting, hunting in the waggon-house.

"At last he came to where Hyena was sleeping, just like a baby,
baasjes, so nicely, and snoring a little: not the loud snoring like
sawing planks--gorr-korrr, gorr-korr--but nice soft snoring like people
do when they sleep very fast--see-uw, see-uw. It is the deepest sleep
when a person snores see-uw, see-uw. Hyena's head was on some chaff,
and her tail was sticking out behind her, stiff with fat!

"'Aha! here is the thief,' said the farmer, and he began to tie the
riem round her.

"Old Brown Sister sat up and rubbed her eyes. 'What's the matter?' she
asked. 'I had a beautiful dream. I dreamt I was eating fat the whole
night, and----'

"'And so you were--my fat,' said the farmer, and he pulled the rope
tighter. 'And now I'm going to teach you not to steal again.'

"Poor old Brown Sister jumped about when she found out what he was
going to do; she ran round and round the waggon-house trying to get
away; she called out, and she called out that she did not know about
the fat, that she had never tasted it, and had never even seen it. But
it was no good.

"'Look at your tail,' said the farmer. 'Will you tell me that your
tail went by itself and rubbed itself in the fat?'

"So he tied her to the waggon wheel and beat her, and beat
her--ach! she was quite sore--and she screamed and screamed, and at
last he drove her away from the farm.

"Poor old Brown Sister! She didn't even have the fat from her tail to
eat, because, baasjes see, with the running round and the beating,
it was all rubbed off. But she never went to live on a farm again;
the veld was quite good enough for her."

"Is that the end, Outa?" asked Willem.

"Yes, my baasje. It's a bad end, but Outa can't help it. It does maar
end so."

"And where was Jakhals all the time?" enquired Pietie, severely.

"Jakhals, my baasje, was sitting on the waggon saying his prayers--so,
my baasjes." Outa put his crooked hands together and cast his twinkling
eyes upwards till only the yellows showed.

"'Bezie, bezie, brame,
Hou jouw handjes same.' [3]

"And every time Hyena screamed, Jakhals begged her not to steal again,
but to try and behave like a good Christian."

"But Jakhals was the thief," said little Jan, indignantly. "He was
always the wicked one, and he was never punished. How was that, Outa?"

A whimsical smile played over the old man's face, and though his eyes
danced as wickedly as ever, his voice was sober as he answered.

"Ach! my little master, how can Outa tell? It is maar so in this
old world. It's like the funny thing Baas Willem saw in the Kaap,
[4] that runs down a place so quickly that it just runs up on the
other side, and then it can't stop, but it has to run down again,
and so it keeps on--up and down, up and down."

"You mean the switchback?" asked Willem.

"Ach, yes! baasje, Outa means so. And in the world it is the same--up
and down, up and down. And often the good ones are down and the bad
ones are up. But the thing--Outa can't get the name right--goes on,
and it goes on, and by-and-by the good ones are up and the bad ones
are down."

"But Jakhals seemed always to be up," remarked Willem.

"Yes, my baasje," said the old man, soberly. "Jakhals seemed always to
be up. It goes so sometimes, it goes so," but his eyes suddenly had
a far-away look, and one could not be certain that he was thinking
of Jakhals.

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