Jock of the bushveld, by Percy FitzPatrick
While Percy FitzPatrick's style is ostensibly plain and matter of fact, it reveals the art which conceals art. In Jock of the bushveld it is a valuable picture of a phase of adventurous existence which, in the nature of things, few are fortunate enough to experience.
'Sonny, you kin reckon it dead sure, thar's something wrong 'bout a thing that don't explain itself.' That was Old Rocky's advice, given three-and-twenty years ago, not forgotten yet but, in this instance, respectfully ignored. It happened some years ago and this was the way of it: the Fox of Ballybotherem having served three generations, in his native Tipperary, in Kaffraria and in the Transvaal, seemed entitled to a rest; and when, in the half-hour before Tights out' which is the Little People's particular own, the demand came from certain Autocrats of the Nightgown: 'Now tell us something else!' it occurred to the Puzzled One to tell of Jock's fight with the table leg. And that is how the trouble began. Those with experience will know what followed; and, for those less fortunate, the modest demand of one, comfortably tucked up tailorwise, and emphasising his points by excited handshakes with his toes, will convey the idea: It must be all true! And don't leave out anything!' To such an audience a story may be told a hundred times, but it must be told, as Kipling says, 'Just so!' that is, in the same way; because, even a romance (what a three-year-old once excused as 'only a play tell') must be true - to itself! Once Jock had taken the field it was not long before the narrator found himself helped or driven over the pauses by quick suggestions from the Gallery; but there were days of fag and worry when thoughts lagged or strayed, and when slips were made, and then a vigilant and pitiless memory swooped like the striking falcon on its prey. There came a night when the story was of the Old Crocodile, and one in the Gallery - one of more exuberant fancy - seeing the gate open ran into the flower-strewn field of romance and by suggestive questions and eager promptings helped to gather a little posy: And he caught the Crocodile by the tail, didn't he?' And he hung on and fought him, didn't he?' And the Old Crocodile flung him high into the air? High!' and, turning to the two juniors, added, 'Quite as high as the house!' And the narrator - accessory by reason of a mechanical nod and an absent-minded 'Yes' - passed on, thinking it could all be put right next time. But there is no escape from the 'tangled web' when the Little People sit in judgment. It was months later when retribution came. The critical point of the story was safely passed when - Oh! the irony and poetic justice of it - it was the innocent tempter himself who laid his hand in solemn protest on the narrator's shoulder and, looking him reproachfully in the eyes, said 'Dad! You have left out the best part of all. Don't you remember how ...' And the description which followed only emphasises the present writer's unfitness for the task he has undertaken. In the text of the story and in the illustration by my friend Mr Caldwell (who was himself subjected to the same influence) there is left a loophole for fancy: it is open to anyone to believe that Jock is just beginning or just ending his aerial excursion. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel Jock of the bushveld, by Percy FitzPatrick.
Title: Jock of the bushveld
Author: J. Percy FitzPatrick
Series: Penguin Modern Classics
Publisher: The Penguin Group (South Africa)
Cape Town, South Africa 2007
ISBN 9780143185505 / ISBN 978-0-14-318550-5
Softcover, 13 x 20 cm, illustrations, 240 pages, 1 map
FitzPatrick, Percy im Namibiana-Buchangebot
The South African novel 'Jock of the bushveld' is a tribute to the life of 1880s in the outposts of the agrarian Transvaal.