In July 1796, Johannes Albertyn, a well-respected burgher of Stellenbosch, requested permission from Ryno van der Riet, landdrost of Stellenbosch, the chief administrative and legal officer of the district, to indenture four Khoikhoi children. He claimed that their mother, Catryn Paerl, had died recently and that before her demise, she had requested him in the presence of witnesses to raise her children and deny their biological father Jan Paerl any future role in their lives. Faced with the prospect of losing custody of his four children and having exhausted all possible avenues in seeking legal redress, including a visit to landdrost Van der Riet, the seemingly incomparable Jan Paerl hit the road and walked several kilometres from Stellenbosch to Cape Town. His destination: the Castle, in particular the office of the fiscal, otherwise known as the public prosecutor. In Cape Town, he urged the fiscal to intervene in the dispute and deny Albertyn the right to indenture his children. As their father, Paerl insisted that he, and not Albertyn, be granted sole custody of his offspring. By Paerl's demanding legal intervention at the highest level, the following encounter between Paerl, Albertyn and the Cape authorities exemplifies not only a classic struggle between master and servant, but highlights simultaneously the significance of ‘equality’ before the law in Cape society, at a time when burghers increasingly feared the possibility of gelykstelling at the end of the eighteenth century.