Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 133.djvu/709

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KIDNAPPING A SLOTH.

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lucrative and increasing, but cattle-breeding is the staple industry of the country. There is some exportation also of wool, butter, ivory, leather, and tobacco; but the entire commerce inwards and outwards of the Transvaal has probably never reached a quarter of a million sterling per annum. The finances of the republic had lately fallen into terrible disorder, and the exhaustion of the treasury is so complete, that the payment of the employés in the government offices and of the police has been, since the beginning of the year, an impossibility. In 1872 the public income was thirty-six thousand pounds, and the expenditure a little less. The public debt was then only sixty thousand pounds, secured by a mortgage of State lands; but the Transvaal has since borrowed heavily, especially in Belgium and Holland. President Burgers came to Europe a couple of years ago to raise a loan of three hundred thousand pounds, ostensibly for the construction of a railway to Delagoa Bay; he actually raised ninety thousand pounds, but no account has been published of the manner in which this sum was expended. It is only certain that the railway has not been begun. The Portuguese government have granted the Transvaal freedom of trade with Delagoa Bay, but the district between the Transvaal frontier and the coast is rendered almost impassable for wagons by the presence of the tsetse fly, so fatal to draught cattle of every kind. If railway communication with the sea were established, we might expect a rapid development of the natural wealth of the Transvaal. At present, communication either with Natal or with the Cape Colony is impeded by the difficulty of transport, which the Boers, always jealous of foreign intrusion, have not been anxious to remove.




From The Leisure Hour.

KIDNAPPING A SLOTH.

When I first went to live at Larangeiras, which is a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, one of my especial pets was a young sloth. Rather a curious favorite, you may say; but the fact was, that I had heard several travellers deny the possibility of rearing a sloth to recognize and become familiar with you, and I had a fancy to try the experiment for myself.

At first (as might be expected) my native friends made great fun of the idea, and were always asking how my pupil was getting on, and whether I had not better send him to school, now that he was getting too big for a private tutor. However, I stuck to my own way, like a true Englishman, and in course of time the beast got to know me quite well. Many a time, when I was sitting reading in the garden, under the shade of my favorite palm-tree, I would be startled by feeling a huge hairy paw passed inquiringly along the back of my neck, and, turning round, find myself face to face with Senhor Melhado, as I had named him, in compliment to a very take-it-easy neighbor of mine.

These reminders, I must confess, generally meant getting a bit of sugarcane or a sup of molasses, for he was a shocking "sweet-tooth." When we sat eating our sugarcane on the verandah, in the cool of the evening, he used to come for his piece as regularly as the clock struck; and whenever he had misbehaved himself, I used to punish him by giving him none. Having got his education to this point, I began to think whether I could not carry it further still, when lo! one fine morning my pet was nowhere to be found.

This discovery was not made till after I had started for the city as usual; but my black retainers were naturally dismayed at a catastrophe the whole blame of which would evidently fall upon them. Moreover, the garden being entirely surrounded by a high wall, and all the trees standing well back from it, it was difficult to imagine how he could have got out. The whole affair had quite an air of witchcraft; and (as is wont to be the case in a public crisis) a great deal was said, and nothing done.

Now, it happened that this same difficulty of getting out was Mr. Sloth's special grievance; for, although one might have thought that long walks were not much his line, he had a great hankering to know what lay on the other side of that wall. And so, one morning, as if on purpose to gratify him, while he was sitting disconsolate upon a projecting bough, there came sliding up over the top of the wall, right towards him, the end of a pole, long, strong, and well-smoothed as heart of sloth could wish.

Slowly and heavily, one after another, the huge clumsy paws fastened upon this unexpected windfall. But, alas! for the poor beast, he had no sooner trusted himself to his new perch than he discovered that there was a black man in ambush underneath it; and before he could collect his scattered ideas, he found himself whisked up and marched away down the street, to the cry of "Preguiça! boa pre-