‘It’s very funny,’ Jurie Steyn said, ‘but all this talk of yours fits in with what Minnie Nienaber said in her letter. That’s the reason why, in the end, she decided to go and get herself psycho-analysed. I mean, there was nothing wrong with her, or course. They say you’ve got to have nothing wrong with you, before you can get psycho-analysed. This new kind of doctor can’t do anything for you if there’s something the matter with you …’
‘I don’t know of any doctor that can do anything for you when there’s something the matter with you,’ Oupa Bekker interrupted. ‘The last time I went to see a doctor was during the rinderpest. The doctor said I must wear a piece of leopard skin behind my left ear. That would keep the rinderpest away from my oxen, he said, and it would at the same time cure me of my rheumatism. The doctor only said that after he had thrown the bones for the second time. After the first time he threw the bones, the doctor said …’
By that time we were all laughing very loudly. We didn’t mean that kind of doctor, we said to Oupa Bekker. We didn’t mean a Shangaan witch-doctor. We meant a doctor who’d been to university, and all that.
Oupa Bekker was silent for a few moments.
‘Perhaps you’re right,’ he said at last. ‘Because all my cattle died of the rinderpest. Mind you, I’ve never had rheumatism since that time. Perhaps all the witch-doctor could cure was rheumatism. From what Jurie Steyn tells us, I can see that that witch-doctor was just old-fashioned. It seems that a doctor is of no use today, unless he can cure nothing at all.
‘But I still say, I don’t think much of that doctor who threw the bones upward of fifty years ago. I was more concerned about my cattle’s rinderpest than about my own ailments. All the same, if you want a cure for rheumatism – there it is. A piece of leopard skin tied behind your left ear. The skin from any ordinary old leopard will do.’
With all this talk, it was quite a while before Jurie Steyn could get a word in. But what he had to say, then, was quite interesting.
‘You don’t seem to realise it,’ Jurie Steyn said, ‘but you’ve been talking all this while about Minnie Nienaber’s symptoms. The reason why she went to get herself psycho-analysed, I mean. It was about the awful dreams she’s been having of late.
‘Chris Welman has mentioned his prize cow, that got chased out of the Rand Show, and At Naudé has told us about his silver-medal bull, and Oupa Bekker has reminded us of the old days, when this part of the Marico was all leopard country. Well, that was Minnie Nienaber’s trouble. That’s why she went to that new kind of doctor. She’d had the most awful dreams – Koos Nienaber told me.
‘She dreamt of being ordered to leave places – night clubs, and so on, Koos Nienaber said. Also, she dreamt regularly of being chased by wild bulls. And of being chased by Natal Indians with long sugar-cane knives. And lately she’s been having nightmares almost every night, dreaming she’s being chased by a leopard. That’s why, in the end, she went to have herself psycho-analysed.’
We discussed Minnie Nienaber’s troubles at some length. And we ended up saying that we’d like to know where the Afrikaner people would be today if our women could run to a new sort of doctor every time they dreamt of being chased by a wild animal. If Louis Trichardt’s wife had dreamt she was being chased by a rhinoceros, we said, she’d jolly well have had to escape from that rhinoceros in her dream. She wouldn’t have been able to come to her husband with her dream troubles the next day, seeing that he already had so many Voortrekker problems on his mind.