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Kafir simplicity goes hand in hand often even with considerable knowledge. A chief who can read and write, and is otherwise pretty well educated, was visited not long ago by a friend of mine, a trader, who had a very indifferent lot of goods to sell. It was near the end of the dry season, and my friend found that there had arrived at the station two days before him another trader, who had ridden up in his travelling-waggon, so as to be a good deal in advance of his wares. Trader No. 1 described the stuff that was coming on in such eloquent terms that the chief would not even look at No. 2's stock; and until trade was permitted, of course the tribe could not buy. For four or five days No. 2 cast about vainly in his head for some plan by which to make a market, as he knew thoroughly well that if the other fellow's waggons came in, the place would be overstocked, and he would not sell £10 worth. One day when the waggons were within a few hours of arriving, he noticed his rival looking into a tree. On joining him he found that he was examining the skin of a large iguana (river-lizard), which he had killed shortly after his arrival at the village. Off went my friend to the chief, whom he saluted politely—then, as is customary, sitting down for a time without speaking a word. On being at length asked what he wanted, he said, “When had you rain last? The grass is burned up; why do not your rain-makers go to work?” The chief immediately informed him that the rain-makers were busy and would make rain soon. “No,” said the innocent white man; “not so long as that man with the three waggons coming wants to cross the river without wetting his feet. He is a great doctor, and has hung a lizard's skin in a tree, with the tail to the sky, so that it cannot rain while he is here.” Indunas (headmen) were instantly despatched to search for the magic skin. It was found as described. The king, indignant with the astonished trader, whom he would not permit to open his mouth, and who therefore was utterly unable to guess what charges were made against him, hurried the man at once out of his country, and turned back his waggons, already within three hours' journey of the place. The unfortunate reputed witch was bundled on from kraal to kraal, and finally returned to civilisation, his trad
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ing prospects entirely spoiled, and having lost a season without knowing why or wherefore. His only rival being thus got rid of, my inventive and mendacious acquaintance sold his goods at a splendid profit, and returned to his home rejoicing. The hero of the tale is now alive and doing well in Lydenberg. I have stated that even Secocoeni's Kafirs have a principle of honour, as illustrated by their conduct to Ryan. They have also a certain spirit of fair-play, which enables them very often to judge rightly of acts which, with enemies of less fair and impartial character, would certainly meet with misconstruction. On the 30th of January 1877, for sufficiently good reasons, I deemed it necessary to send a few men as a stealth-patrol a long way down towards Secocoeni’s. These I put in charge of Mr Bayley, with whom went Mr Eckersley as interpreter, with private instructions to capture some of the headmen—if possible alive—but not, under any circumstances, to kill any one unless in case of necessity. This party started before daylight, and succeeded in fixing themselves unobserved on a path that led from one of the king's principal kraals to others—kraals, path, hiding-place and all being in a valley, the hills around which were thickly planted with Kafirs. During the morning many people came and went along the path, but they were women and children—people of no account. At length a warrior was seen, attended by a few others, all highly decorated in full war-costume of tails and feathers. From what I have since learned, I believe the fellow was the king's adjutant-general on a tour of inspection. With his followers he was walking nicely into the little trap, when a horse unfortunately broke out of the bush, showing at once that Europeans were in the valley. Some of the Kafirs immediately turned for safety towards the side from whence they had come; whilst others, believing they were as yet unseen, simply vanished—sinking down where they stood amongst the rocks and bushes. Eckersley, however, could not lose his prize so easily. He galloped after the fugitives, telling them to halt, and promising that he would spare their lives. He spoke good Kafir, and they understood him well; but instead of surrendering, as his horse gained on K
them—just as they reached the edge of the bush for which they were making, they turned and fired at their pursuer. A second time he asked the principal fugitive to submit. His reply was another shot that nearly spoiled George's curls, who of course then put a bullet through the Kafir, rode back to his ambush, picked up his party, and got away home out of the valley, which by this time was alive with drum-beating, horm-blowing, and other sounds of alarm. In thus returning to his party, he passed through one of those groups of the enemy that I have mentioned as not having fled, but that had merely sunk to cover on the ground where they stood. Any of these could easily have shot him down; but they afterwards explained to us at the fort that they would not do so, because they knew “Umbabala” (Mr Eckersley, the “Bush-buck”) had offered life to their chief, and did not kill him until he was forced by the old fool's firing twice. Of course all these Kafir sayings must be taken with a grain of salt; but still I have no doubt that they appreciated Eckersley's motives on this occasion, and well understood that he had no desire to shed blood uselessly. Kafirs altogether are a queer lot, and circumstances apparently very insignificant often produce most disproportionate effects upon their minds. I remember on the Queen's birthday in Lydenberg, at the review and feu-dejoie firing in honour of her Most Gracious Majesty, two or three little incidents occurred, one of which showed the observant and peculiar character of the South African savage in a very strong light. The officers, after the work was done, had a sort of impromptu tiffin in the large marquee facing the parade-ground. Without any intention deliberately to offend, they yet managed to neglect the little courtesy of inviting the Dutch officials of the village, who were present, to join their company. It must be remembered that there were no other persons present as representatives of either the British Crown or the Dutch Republic but the officers of the 13th P. A. Light Infantry and the Dutch officials of Lydenberg district. The latter, with a proper respect for them. selves and their offices, having received no special invitations to the déjeaner in her Majesty's honour, of course with:
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drew to their homes. The result was, that the loyal toasts were not even proposed; the gulf between English and Dutch was still further widened; and a Kafir commander, who was present on a visit, came to me and said, “Have you seen that the Boers and the English will not eat together? They will soon fight.” Now I do not believe that Captain Cox, then in command at the camp, meant any disrespect to the Boer officers and Dutch officials; in fact I know that he did not. He and his officers are most courteous and amiable gentlemen. They merely forgot that a Dutch Landdrost, who really ranks next to the Governor and Judge of the High Court, was a person in the public eye of much more importance than a potboy or a huckster's Counterman. The same Kafir was filled with delight at the new bayonet exercise, which he had heard of, but never before seen. He thought it was the grand war-dance of the red-coats, and went, eager for battle, to his great friend and confidant, Mr Stafford Parker, formerly “Lord of Misrule,” at Klipdrift, and President of the Waal River diggers, saying, “Inkosi ! what a beautiful war-dance the Queen's red soldiers have l Now Secocoeni must tremble. The English have taken their medicine and danced their dance; to-morrow they will be on the path to the mountain.” The poor fellow judged of our practice by his own. Not only he, but many of the enemy were deceived into expecting an immediate attack. The soldiers, however, as might be expected, remained in their quarters; and after a couple of weeks British prestige was seriously injured by the report going through Kafirland that the soldiers had danced their war-dance, but dared not leave the village to march against the enemy, from whom they had to be protected by the Boers and the volunteers. It is as well that the public should learn something as to the real state of the Bapedi in regard to education, religion, and morality. During my journeys through their country, I have found many who were well aware of the power, and had acquired some little of the learning, of Europeans; but I have never seen one who was the less a savage by reason of his education or his acquired habits. I agree most heartily with those who consider that a Kafir is capable of adding the vices of white men to his own more primitive ones; but, as a rule, if he remains under, or goes back to, tribal influence, he retains none of our better teaching. In page 408 of the work I have so often referred to, published by the London Missionary Society, I find the following pregnant remark: “My observation goes to show that these wanderers (Kafirs), by their short residence with white people, have adopted the worst habits of the latter, while they are much more treacherous and unmanageable than the raw heathen. From these statements it will be evident that the mingling of the native tribes and foreigners is far from being an unmixed benefit.” The evil “rather than the good qualities of the latter are propagated.” In the same way, I have failed to find that improved methods of cultivation, the possession of ploughs and other agricultural implements, or even the acquisition of habits of luxury, leading them to increased intercourse and trade with the whites, have in any way tended to wean the Kafir, while still under tribal influences, from war and bloodshed. It will be found that the tribes who have availed themselves to the greatest extent of the advantages of civilisation offered to them in and about British Kaffraria, have been as prone to revolt as the most utter barbarians.
I have seen many very pretty and highly creditable bits of cultivation in Kafirland, especially in the beautiful valley of the Speckboom, where, after passing Johannes' stronghold, the river, amidst lovely scenery, flows through a rich and fertile valley to the plain. I have seen Kafirs who could talk English, and steal, drink, and lie, as well as if they had been born in Europe; but these same men in war time became utter savages, and even began to resume truthful and honest habits. That there are tame and civilised Kafirs I admit; but they belong to no Kafir nation, sit under no chief, and, as a rule, are to be found dwelling only amongst the Boers. With these people I deal more at length in another chapter.