In the past I have written about magic from time to time and always advised my readers to take it seriously. Never say things like “there’s no such thing as magic” or “magic is just trickery” or any such silly thing. I also spoke that way at one time, but many years of marriage to Miriam have cured me of such a narrow view of the world. I’ll give you an example.

We like long drives. I mean really long drives: Johannesburg to Cape Town, or to Victoria Falls, or up the Mozambique coast, or such. Do not ask me why we like them, but we do. And one thing we never do on such drives is take padkos (food for the road). When the need comes to eat, we stop at favourite places like the coffee shop at the foot of the Hex River pass where you’re likely to get the best breakfast for the next thousand kilometres, or Milly’s outside Machadodorp with their excellent trout. We never take food with us in the car.

For that reason it was a big surprise to me when, as we were getting ready to drive back to Johannesburg from Cape Town, I found Miriam boiling eggs – six of them to be precise. “And that?” I demanded, in my usual genial fashion.

“Padkos,” she said.

That is all she prepared – six hard-boiled eggs, no rye bread, no fresh lettuce leaves, no smoked sausages or anything else, just six eggs. But I enquired no further.

So we set off. It was early morning and as we approached the Hex River pass, she said, “Let’s have breakfast here, at the coffee shop.”

“And the padkos?” I asked.

She avoided a direct answer. “This is a nice place to have breakfast.”

And it was. We sat in their garden, where the flowers smelled good, the view was pleasant and the breakfast excellent. We still had the six eggs.

By the time we got to Colesberg I was ready for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. “You remember than inn we stayed at once before. Let’s go there,” she said.

We did, but the sandwich and coffee was not nearly as good as the place where we had breakfast. We had six uneaten boiled eggs that would certainly have been better than that indifferent sandwich and weak coffee.

We reached Ventersburg in late afternoon. Now, without sneering at what may be a nice little town to live in if you have no choice, it is not one of the garden spots of the country. As we approached an intersection that was without shops, gardens or any distinguishing feature. To my surprise Miriam made a suggestion. “Could you stop here?” she asked.

So I stopped next to this unmarked brick wall and waited. I looked enquiringly at her, but was polite enough to say nothing. “Just a little longer,” she said.

It took two or three minutes before the reason for our stopping became apparent. A sad-looking dog, its coat shaggy and its gait slow, rounded the corner and came straight for us. She was female, her udders were swollen with milk. She clearly had a family close by, but she did not look as if she had the strength to be feeding them for long.

She stopped next to the passenger door, which Miriam had already opened and where she was waiting. The dog stood completely still, looking up into Miriam’s eyes. The padkos came out and she fed the eggs to the dog, one at a time, until all six had been consumed. “All right,” Miriam told her. “You’re on your own now. Good luck.” To me, she said, “I guess we can go.”

I restarted the engine which I had switched off some time before and set the car in motion. “What exactly happened there?” I asked.

“She was hungry,” Miriam said. “So were the puppies.”

Be careful when you talk about magic.