Page images
PDF
EPUB

them out. The foremost ranks of the great host thus become victims, and the others pass safely across upon the holocaust 3 thus made. So you see even fires cannot stop the course of the locusts when they are in great numbers.

“In many parts of Africa, where the natives cultivate the soil, as soon as they discover a migration of these insects, and perceive that they are heading in the direction of their fields and gardens, quite a panic is produced among them. They know that they will lose their crops to a certainty, and hence dread a visitation of locusts as they would an earthquake, or some other great calamity.”

“We can well understand their feelings upon such an occasion," remarked Hendrik, with a significant look.

“The flying locusts,” continued Hans,“ seem less to follow a particular direction than their larvæ. The former seem to be guided by the wind. Frequently this carries them all into the sea, where they perish in vast numbers. On some parts of the coast their dead bodies have been found washed back to land in quantities incredible. At one place the sea threw them upon the beach, until they lay piled up in a ridge four feet in height, and fifty miles in length! It has been asserted by several well-known travellers that the effluvium from this mass tainted the air to such an extent that it was perceived one hundred and fifty miles inland !”

“Heigh!” exclaimed little Jan, “I didn't think anybody had so good a nose.

At little Jan's remark there was a general laugh. Von Bloom did not join in their merriment; he was in too serious a mood just then.

“Papa," inquired little Trüey, perceiving that her father did not laugh, and thinking to draw him into the conversation. “Papa, were these the kind of locusts eaten by John the Baptist when in the desert? His food, the Bible says, was 'locusts and wild honey?

“I believe these are the same,” replied the father.

"I think, papa,” modestly rejoined Hans, "they are not exactly the same, but a kindred species. The locust of Scripture was the true Gryllus migratorius, and different from those of South Africa, though very similar in its habits. But," continued he, “some writers dispute that point altogether. The Abyssinians say it was beans of the locust-tree, and not insects, that were the food of St. John."

“What is your own opinion, Hans?" inquired Hendrik, who had great belief in his brother's bookknowledge.

"Why, I think,” replied Hans, "there need be no question about it. It is only torturing the meaning of a word to suppose that St. John ate the locust fruit, and not the insect. I'am decidedly of opinion that the latter is meant in Scripture; and what makes me think so is, that these two kinds of food, 'locusts and, wild honey,' are often coupled together, as forming at the present time the subsistence of many tribes who are denizens of the desert... Besides, we have good evidence that both were used as food by desertdwelling people in the days of Scripture. It is, therefore, but natural to suppose that St. John, when in the desert, was forced to partake of this food, just as many a traveller of modern times has eaten of it when crossing the deserts that surround us here in South Africa. I have read a great many books about locusts,” continued Hans; “and now that the Bible has been mentioned, I must say, for my part, I know no account given of these insects so truthful and beautiful as that in the Bible itself. Shall I read it, papa?”

"By all means, my boy," said the field-cornet, rather pleased at the request which his son had made, and at the tenor of the conversation.

Little Trüey ran into the inner room and brought out an immense volume bound in gemsbok skin, with a couple of strong brass clasps upon it to keep it closed. This was the family Bible; and here let me observe, that a similar book may be found in the house of nearly every Boor, for these Dutch colonists are a Protestant and Bible-loving people, —so much so, that they think nothing of going a hundred miles, four times in the year, to attend the nacht-maal, or sacramental supper! What do you think of that?

Hans opened the volume, and turned at once to the book of the Prophet Joel. From the readiness with which he found the passage, it was evident he was well acquainted with the book he held in his hands. He read as follows:

"A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains; a great people and a strong : there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth; the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them, The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.” “The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble; the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” “How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture, yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate."

Even the rude Swartboy could perceive the poetic beauty of this description.

But Swartboy had much to say about the locusts as well as the inspired Joel.

Thus spoke Swartboy :

“Bushman no fear da springhaan. Bushman hab no garden —no maize— no buckwheat-no nothing for da springhaan to eat. Bushman eat locust himself-he grow fat on da locust. Eberything eat dem dar springhaan. Eberything grow fat in da locust season. Ho, den for dem springhaan!”

These remarks of Swartboy were true enough. The locusts are eaten by almost every species of animal known in South Africa. Not only do the carnivoras greedily devour them, but also animals and birds of the game kind, such as antelopes, partridges, guinea-fowls, bustards, and, strange to say, the giant of all—the huge elephant—will travel for miles to overtake a migration of locusts! Domestic fowls, sheep, horses, and dogs, devour them with equal greediness. Still another strange fact —the locusts eat one another! If any one of them gets hurt, so as to impede his progress, the others immediately turn upon him and eat him up!

The Bushmen and other native races of Africa submit the locusts to a process of cookery before eating them; and during the whole evening Swartboy had been engaged in preparing the bagful which he had collected. He "cooked" them thus:

He first boiled, or rather steamed them, for only. a small quantity of water was put into the pot. This

process lasted two hours. They were then taken out, and allowed to dry; and after that shaken about in a pan, until all the legs and wings were broken off from the bodies. A winnowing process -Swartboy's thick lips acting as a fan—was next gone through; and the legs and wings were thus got rid of. The locusts were then ready for eating.

A little salt only was required to render them more palatable, when all present made trial of, and some of the children even liked them. By many, locusts prepared in this way are considered quite equal to shrimps !

Sometimes they are pounded when quite dry into a sort of meal, and with water added to them,

« PreviousContinue »