“Here come shit. Just one look, and I can see it coming. Here I walk all this way and God know that is bad enough, what with the child in the abbadoek on my back, and now there’s no turning back, it’s just straight on to hell and gone. This is the man I got to talk to if I want to lay a charge, they tell me, this Grootbaas who is so tall and white and thin and bony, with deep furrows in his forehead, like a badly ploughed wheat field, and a nose like a sweet potato that has grown past itself.
It’s a long story. First he want to find out everything about me, and it’s one question after another. Who am I? Where do I come from? What is the name of my Baas? What is the name of the farm? For how long I been working there? Did I get a pass for coming here? When did I leave and how long did I walk? Where did I sleep last night? What do I think is going to happen to me when I get home again? And every time I say something, he first write it down in his big book with those knobbly hands and his long white fingers. These people got a thing about writing everything down. Just look at the back pages of the black Bible that belong to Oubaas Cornelis Brink, that’s Francois Gerhard Jacob’s father.
While the Grootbaas is writing I keep watching him closely. There’s something second-hand about the man, like a piece of knitting gone wrong that had to be done over, but badly, not very smoothly. I can say that because I know about knitting. On his nose sit a pair of thick glasses like a bat with open wings, but he look at me over them, not through them. His long hands keep busy all the time. Writing, and dipping the long feather in the ink, and sprinkling fine sand on the thick paper, and shifting his papers this way and that on top of the table that is really too low for him because he is so tall. He is sitting, I keep standing, that is how it’s got to be.
In the beginning I feel scared, my throat is tight. But after the second or third question I start feeling better. All I can think of is: If it was me that was knitting you, you’d look a bit better, but now whoever it was that knitted you, did not cast you off right. Still, I don’t say anything. In this place it’s only him and me and I don’t want to get on his wrong side. I got to tell him everything, and that is exactly what I mean to do today, without keeping anything back.”
André Brink (Vrede, 29 mei 1935)