Every town has its Landdrost, and every town has its Landdrost's clerk. Usually the clerk does all the work, and the Landdrost, in his capacity of chief magistrate, passes all the sentences and issues all the instructions. But, then, Landdrosts, as a rule, are very agreeable people, possibly because they are educated and intelligent men, and have nothing in common with the Boer.
I have one particular Landdrost in my mind as I write. He was a dear old man, but he was dead against Kaffirs and natives generally. His father had been killed by Kaffirs, and this fact probably rankled in his bosom and ruled his judgments to a great extent. When he wanted to show a little bit of leniency, as, for instance, after an extraordinarily good breakfast, he would bind the culprit over to serve in his own kitchen for a period of one year without remuneration. But he never did get a native to serve the full time, because the native preferred to break the law once more and go to 'tronk' instead. Hard work was not in his line.
He is dead now, poor man! but he was a regular type of a Landdrost. He lived a very quiet life, and the brunt of the work fell to the lot of the ever-willing and conscientious clerk, which arrangement allowed the Landdrost sufficient leisure to attend to a somewhat large garden. There were fruit trees in that garden which in the fruit season incited every boy in town to deeds of valour, the said deeds consisting in being able to carry away as much fruit as possible without being caught in the act. For the Landdrost exercised a watchful eye over that fruit. It was currently reported, however, that his was the first garden to be literally left desolate before the season had far advanced, and it was usually his misfortune to be deprived of his fruit just after he had retired for the night, after having prowled about with an empty gun in his hand from sunset till late in the evening. It was even reported that one evening, after the old man had retired as usual, a certain person who had a strong predilection for other people's fruit approached the Landdrost's garden with a handcart and a lantern, and assisted himself freely before taking his departure.
In conclusion, and as an illustration of the moral tendencies of young Boers generally, I shall now quote a little scene which was written some time ago for another purpose.
In a mealie-field close to a certain farm, which shall be nameless, a curious scene was being witnessed by a very stout Dutch lady. She was standing at the edge of the field. Above her head myriads of locusts floated in a darkening mass. The mealie stalks were only a foot or so high, but the locusts knew that they were green, and therefore good to eat, so they hovered around. The mealies were in rows, and between these rows galloped half-a-dozen horses carrying half-a-dozen very raw natives. The latter were making such a hideous noise, that it seemed to point to remarkable staying powers on the part of the locusts, inasmuch as they still persisted in trying to gain a footing. But the Kaffirs cantered their steeds faster, and the noise waxed more hideous, and the fat vrouw continued to urge them to renewed and increased effort. Round the edges of the patch four or five Kaffir women walked, each at a different point, and each in possession of a five-gallon empty paraffin tin and a stick, with which to strengthen and augment the noisy defence. The locusts were reinforced every minute, and they made repeated and determined efforts to sample the young mealies, but the horsemen and the paraffin tins were too much for them.
A small white boy was standing near the fat lady, watching the proceedings with a critical eye. His dress was very primitive, and his home-made veldschoens were very large, but he was a healthy-looking boy.
'Ma,' he said at length, looking up into the fat lady's face, 'I see something.'
This was rather a peculiar remark to make, because undoubtedly he must see something, not being blind.
'Yes,' returned his 'ma,' without taking her eyes off the mealie patch, 'what do you see, son?'
'I won't tell you, ma.'
'Ma' paid no particular attention to this decision on the part of her small son, but he continued to look into his 'ma's' face as if uncertain about something.
'Ma, I won't tell you what I see,' he continued, coming up closer to the stout lady and catching hold of her hand.
'Why won't you tell me, son?' asked 'ma,' looking down affectionately upon the white head of her boy.
'Not until you promise me something, ma.'
'Well, what must I promise you?'
The boy hesitated for a minute before replying. He had apparently grave doubts as to whether 'ma' would concede even if he did ask her.
'Ma, I want to shoot Witbooi with my gun.'
Witbooi was a Kaffir umfaan, who had no particular liking for his young Baas.
'I can't promise you that until your pa comes home, Gert,' said his 'ma,' patting him lovingly on the head, and at the same time lending her critical eye to the mealie business.
The boy left his mother's side and walked away a few yards, evidently disgusted with unsympathetic 'mas.' Then, apparently changing his mind, he ran towards her again, and clung to her dress, meantime looking up in her face.
'I'll tell you, ma—I'll tell you,' he said laughingly.
'That's a good boy,' said 'ma,' again patting him on the head.
'I see waggons coming; that's it!' exclaimed the boy, running away playfully, and observing with evident satisfaction the look of surprise on his mother's face, as if it atoned somewhat for the disappointment regarding the fate of Witbooi.