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Full text of "Life in South Africa"

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 



PRESENTED BY 

PROF. CHARLES A. KOFOID AND 
MRS. PRUDENCE W. KOFOID 



LIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA 



BY LADY BARKER, 

AUTHOR OF 

STATION LIFE IN NEW ZEALAND," "STORIES ABOUT," ETC., ETC. 





PHILADELPHIA 
J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO. 

1877. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1876, by 

J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO., 
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 



JJI 



LIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA. 



CAPE TOWN, October 16, 1875. 

SAFE, safe at last, after twenty-four 
days of nothing but sea and sky, of 
white - crested waves which made no 
secret of their intention of coming on 
board whenever they could or of tossing 
the good ship Edinburgh Castle hither 
and thither like a child's plaything and 
of more deceitful sluggish rolling billows, 
looking tolerably calm to the unseafar- 
ing eye, but containing a vast amount of 
heaving power beneath their slow, un- 
dulating water-hills and valleys. Some- 
times sky and sea have been steeped in 
dazzling haze of golden glare, sometimes 
brightened to blue of a sapphire depth. 
Again, a sudden change of wind has driv- 
en up serried clouds from the south and 
east, and all has been gray and cold and 
restful to eyes wearied with radiance and 
glitter of sun and sparkling water. 

Never has there been such exceptional 
weather, although the weather of my 
acquaintance invariably is exceptional. 
No sooner had the outlines of Madeira 
melted and blended into the soft dark- 
ness of a summer night than we appear- 
ed to sail straight into tropic heat and a 
sluggish vapor, brooding on the water 
like steam from a giant geyser. This 
simmering, oily, exhausting temperature 
carried us close to the line. " What is 
before us," we asked each other languid- 
ly, " if it be hotter than this ? How can 
mortal man, woman, still less child, en- 
dure existence ?" Vain alarms ! Yet 



another shift of the light wind, another 
degree passed, and we are all shivering 
in winter wraps. The line was crossed 
in greatcoats and shawls, and the only 
people whose complexion did not resem- 
ble a purple plum were those lucky ones 
who had strength of mind and steadiness 
of body to lurch up and down the deck 
all day enjoying a strange method of 
movement which they called walking. 

The exceptional weather pursued us 
right into the very dock. Table Moun- 
tain ought to be seen and very often is 
seen seventy miles away. I am told it 
looks a fine bold bluff at that distance. 
Yesterday we had blown off our last 
pound of steam and were safe under its 
lee before we could tell there was a moun- 
tain there at all, still less an almost per- 
pendicular cliff more than three thou- 
sand feet high. Robben Island looked 
like a dun-colored hillock as we shot 
past it within a short distance, and a 
more forlorn and discouraging islet I 
don't think I have ever beheld. When 
I expressed something of this impression 
to a cheery fellow-voyager, he could only 
urge in its defence that there were a great 
many rabbits on it. If he had thrown 
the lighthouse into the bargain, I think 
he would have summed up all its attrac- 
tive features. Unless Langalibalele is 
of a singularly unimpressionable nature, 
he must have found his sojourn on it 
somewhat monotonous, but he always 
says he was very comfortable there. 
3 



WITHDRAWN 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



And now for the land. We are close 
alongside of a wharf, and still a capital 
and faithful copy of a Scotch mist wraps 
houses, trees and sloping uplands in a 
fibry fantastic veil, and the cold driz- 
zle seems to curdle the spirits and ener- 
gies of the few listless Malays and half- 
caste boys and men who are lounging 
about. Here come hansom cabs rattling 
up one after the other, all with black 
drivers in gay and fantastic head and 
shoulder gear ; but their hearts seem 
precisely as the hearts of their London 
brethren, and they single out new-com- 
ers at a glance, and shout offers to drive 
them a hundred yards or so for exorbi- 
tant sums, or yell laudatory recommen- 
dations of sundry hotels. You must 
bear in mind that in a colony every pot- 
house is a hotel, and generally rejoices 
in a name much too imposing to fit 
across its frontage. These hansoms are 
all painted white with the name of some 
ship in bright letters on the side, and are 
a great deal cleaner, roomier and more 
comfortable than their London "for- 
bears." The horses are small and shab- 
by, but rattle along at a good pace ; and 
soon each cab has its load of happy 
home-comers and swings rapidly away to 
make room for fresh arrivals hurrying up 
for fares. Hospitable suggestions come 
pouring in, and it is as though it were al- 
together a new experience when one steps 
cautiously on the land, half expecting it 
to dip away playfully from under one's 
feet. A little boy puts my thoughts into 
words when he exclaims, " How steady 
the ground is !" and becomes a still more 
faithful interpreter of a wave-worn voy- 
ager's sensations when, a couple of hours 
later, he demands permission to get out 
of his delicious little white bed that he 
may have the pleasure of getting into it 
again. The evening is cold and raw 
and the new picture is all blurred and 
soft and indistinct, and nothing seems 
plain except the kindly grace of our wel- 
come and the never-before-sufficiently- 
appreciatcd delights of space and silence. 

OCTOBER 17. , 

How pleasant is the process familiarly 
known as "looking about one," particu- 



larly when performed under exception- 
ally favorable circumstances ! A long 
and happy day commenced with a stroll 
through the botanic gardens, parallel 
with which runs, on one side, a splendid 
oak avenue just now in all the vivid 
freshness of its young spring leaves. 
The gardens are beautifully kept, and 
are valuable as affording a sort of ex- 
perimental nursery in which new plants 
and trees can be brought up on trial and 
their adaptability to the soil and climate 
ascertained. For instance, the first thing 
that caught my eye was the gigantic 
trunk of an Australian blue-gum tree, 
which had attained to a girth and height 
not often seen in its own land. The flora 
of the Cape Colony is exceptionally va- 
ried and beautiful, but one peculiarity 
incidentally alluded to by my charming 
guide struck me as very noticeable. It 
is that in this dry climate and porous soil 
all the efforts of uncultivated nature are 
devoted to the stems of the vegetation : 
on their sap-retaining power depends the 
life of the plant, so blossom and leaf, 
though exquisitely indicated, are fragile 
and incomplete compared to the solidity 
and bulbous appearance of the stalk. 
Everything is sacrificed to the practical 
principle of keeping life together, and it 
is not until these stout-stemmed plants 
are cultivated and duly sheltered and 
watered, and can grow, as it were, with 
confidence, that they are able to do jus- 
tice to the inherent beauty of penciled 
petal and veined leaf. Then the stem 
contracts to ordinary dimensions, and 
leaf and blossom expand into things 
which may well be a joy to the botanist's 
eye. A thousand times during that shady 
saunter did I envy my companions their 
scientific acquaintance with the beautiful 
green things of earth, and that intimate 
knowledge of a subject which enhances 
one's appreciation of its charms as much 
as bringing a lamp into a darkened pic- 
ture-gallery. There are the treasures of 
form and color, but from ignorant eyes 
more than half their charms and won- 
ders are held back. 

A few steps beyond the garden stand 
the library and natural history museum. 
The former is truly a credit to the Colony. 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



Spacious, handsome, rich in literary treas- 
ures, it would bear comparison with sim- 
ilar institutions in far older and wealthier 
places. But I have often noticed in col- 
onies how much importance is attached 
to the possession of a good public library, 
and how fond, as a rule, colonists are of 
books. In a new settlement other shops 
may be ill supplied, but there is always 
a good bookseller's, and all books are to 
be bought there at pretty nearly the same 
prices as in England. Here each vol- 
ume costs precisely the same as it would 
in London, and it would puzzle ever so 
greedy a reader to name a book which 
would not be instantly handed to him. 

The museum is well worth a visit of 
many more hours than we could afford 
minutes, and, as might be expected, con- 
tains numerous specimens of the Bok 
family, whose tapering horns and slen- 
der legs are to be seen at every turn of 
one's head. Models are there also of 
the largest diamonds, and especially well 
copied is the famous "Star of South 
Africa," a magnificent brilliant of purest 
water, sold here originally for something 
like twelve thousand pounds, and resold 
for double that sum three or four years 
back. In these few hours I perceive, or 
think I perceive, a certain soreness, if 
one may use the word, on the part of the 
Cape Colonists about the unappreciative- 
ness of the English public toward their 
produce and possessions. For instance, 
an enormous quantity of wine is annual- 
ly exported, which reaches London by a 
devious route and fetches a high price, 
as it is fairly entitled to do from its ex- 
cellence. If that same wine were sent 
direct to a London merchant and boldly 
sold as Cape wine, it is said that the 
profit on it would be a very different 
affair. The same prejudice exists against 
Cape diamonds. Of course, as in other 
things, a large proportion of inferior 
stones are forced into the market and 
serve to give the diamonds that bad 
name which we all know is so fatal to a 
dog. But it is only necessary to pretend 
that a really fine Cape diamond has 
come from Brazil to ensure its fetching a 
handsome price, and in that way even 
jewelers themselves have been known 



to buy and give a good round sum, too, 
for stones they would otherwise have 
looked upon with suspicion. Already I 
have seen a straw-colored diamond from 
"Du Zoit's pan" in the diamond-fields 
cut in Amsterdam and set in London, 
which could hold its own for purity, ra- 
diance and color against any other stone 
of the same rare tint, without fear or fa- 
vor ; but of course such gems are not 
common, and fairly good diamonds cost 
as much here as in any other part of the 
world. 

The light morning mists from that 
dampness of yesterday have rolled grad- 
ually away as the beautiful sunshine 
dried the atmosphere, and by mid-day 
the table-cloth, as the colonists affection- 
ately call the white, fleece-like vapor 
which so often rests on their pet moun- 
tain, has been folded up and laid aside 
in Cloudland for future use. I don't 
know what picture other people may 
have made to their own minds of the 
shape and size of Table Mountain, but 
it was quite a surprise and the least little 
bit in the world of a disappointment to 
me to find that it cuts the sky (and what 
a beautiful sky it is !) with a perfectly 
straight and level line. A gentle, un- 
dulating foreground broken into ravines, 
where patches of green veils or fields, 
clumps of trees and early settlers' houses 
nestle cosily down, guides the eye half- 
way up the mountain. There the round- 
er forms abruptly cease, and great gran- 
ite cliffs rise, bare and straight, up to the 
level line stretching ever so far along. 
" It is so characteristic," and "You grow 
to be so fond of that mountain," are ob- 
servations I have heard made in reply to 
the carping criticisms of travelers, and 
already I begin to understand the mean- 
ing of the phrases. But you need to see 
the mountain from various points of view 
and under different influences of sun and 
cloud before you can take in its striking 
and peculiar charms. 

On each side of the straight line which 
is emphatically Table Mountain, but act- 
ually forming part of it, is a bold head- 
land of the shape one is usually accus- 
tomed to in mountains. The " Devil's 
Peak" is uncompromising enough for 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



any one's taste, whilst the " Lion's Head " 
charms the eye by its bluff form and deep 
purple fissures. These grand promon- 
tories are not, however, half so beloved 
by Cape Colonists as their own Table 
Mountain, and it is curious and amusing 
to notice how the influence of this odd 
straight ridge, ever before their eyes, has 
unconsciously guided and influenced their 
architectural tastes. All the roofs of the 
houses are straight straight as the moun- 
tain ; a gable is almost unknown, and 
even the few steeples are dwarfed to an 
imperceptible departure from the pre- 
vailing straight line. The very trees 
which shade the Parade - ground and 
border the road in places have their tops 
blown absolutely straight and flat, as 
though giant shears had trimmed them ; 
but I must confess, in spite of a natural 
anxiety to carry out my theory, that the 
violent " sou'-easters " are the "straight- 
eners" in their case. 

Cape Town is so straggling that it is 
difficult to form any idea of its real size, 
but the low houses are neat and the 
streets are well kept and look quaint 
and lively enough to my new eyes this 
morning. There are plenty of people 
moving about with a sociable, business- 
like air ; lots of different shades of black 
and brown Malays, with pointed hats on 
the men's heads : the women encircle 
their dusky, smiling faces with a gay 
cotton handkerchief and throw another 
of a still brighter hue over their shoul- 
ders. When you add to this that they 
wear a full, flowing, stiffly-starched cot- 
ton gown of a third bright color, you can 
perhaps form some idea of how they en- 
liven the streets. Swarms of children 
everywhere, romping and laughing and 
showing their white teeth in broadest of 
grins. The white children strike me at 
once as looking marvelously well such 
chubby cheeks, such sturdy fat legs 
and all, black or white, with that amaz- 
ing air of independence peculiar to baby- 
colonists. Nobody seems to mind them 
and nothing seems to harm them. Here 
are half a dozen tiny boys shouting and 
laughing at one side of the road, and half 
a dozen baby-girls at the other (they all 
seem to play separately) : they are all 



driving each other, for "horses" .is the 
one game here. By the side of a pond 
sit two toddles of about three years old, 
in one garment apiece and pointed hats : 
they are very busy with string and a pin ; 
but who is taking care of them and why 
don't they tumble in ? They are as fat 
as ortolans and grin at us in the most 
friendly fashion. 

We must remember that this chances 
to be the very best moment of the whole 
year in which to see the Cape and the 
dwellers thereat. The cold weather has 
left its bright roses on the children's 
cheeks, and the winter rains exception- 
ally having this year made every blade 
of grass and leaf of tree to laugh and 
sing in freshest green. After the dry, 
windy summer I am assured there is 
hardly a leaf and never a blade of grass 
to be seen in Cape Town, and only a lit- 
tle straggling verdure under the shelter 
of the mountain. The great want of 
this place is water. No river, scarcely a 
brook, refreshes one's eye for many and 
many a league inward. The necessary 
water for the use of the town is brought 
down by pipes from the numerous springs 
which trickle out of the granite cliffs of 
Table Mountain, but there is never a 
sufficiency to spare for watering roads or 
grassplots. This scarcity is a double loss 
to residents and visitors, for one misses it 
both for use and beauty. 

Everybody who comes here rides or 
drives round the " Kloof." That may 
be ; but what I maintain is that very few 
do it so delightfully as I did this sunny af- 
ternoon with a companion who knew and 
loved every turn of the romantic road, 
who could tell me the name of every 
bush or flower, of every distant stretch of 
hills, and helped me to make a map in 
my head of the stretching landscape and 
curving bay. Ah ! how delicious it was, 
the winding, climbing road, at whose 
every angle a fresh fair landscape fell 
away from, beneath our feet or a shining 
stretch of sea, whose transparent green 
and purple shadows broke in a fringe of 
feathery spray at the foot of bold, rocky 
cliffs, or crept up to a smooth expanse 
of silver sand in a soft curling line of 
foam ! " Kloof" means simply cleft, and 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



is the pass between the Table Mountain 
and the Lion's Head. The road first 
rises, rises, rises, until one seems half- 
way up the great mountain, and the little 
straight - roofed white houses, the green 
velts or fields and the parallel lines of 
the vineyards have sunk below one's 
feet far, far away. The mountain gains 
in grandeur as one approaches it, for the 
undulating spurs which run from it down 
to the sea-shore take away from the height 
looking upward. But when these are left 
beneath, the perpendicular walls of gran- 
ite, rising sheer and straight up to the 
bold sky-line, and the rugged, massive 
strength of the buttress-like cliffs, begin 
to gain something of their true value to 
the stranger's eye. The most beautiful 
part of the road, however, to my taste, 
is the descent, when the shining expanse 
of Camp's Bay lies shimmering in the 
warm afternoon haze with a thousand 
lights and shadows from cloud and cliff 
touching and passing over the crisp wa- 
ter-surface. By many a steep zigzag we 
round the Lion's Head, and drop once 
more on a level road running parallel to 
the sea-shore, and so home in the balmy 
and yet bracing twilight. The midday 
sun is hot and scorching even at this time 
of year, but it is always cool in the shade, 
and no sooner do the afternoon shadows 
grow to any length than the air freshens 
into sharpness, and by sundown one is 
glad of a good warm shawl. 

OCTOBER 18. 

Another bright, ideal day, and the 
morning passed in a delicious flower- 
filled room looking over old books and 
records and listening to odd, quaint little 
scraps from the old Dutch records. But 
directly after luncheon (and how hungry 
we all are, and how delicious everything 
tastes on shore !) the open break with 
four capital horses comes to the door, 
and we start for a long, lovely drive. 
Half a mile or so takes us out on a flat 
red road with Table Mountain rising 
straight up before it, but on the left 
stretches away a most enchanting pano- 
rama. It is all so soft in coloring and 
tone, distinct and yet not hard, and ex- 
quisitely beautiful ! 



The Blue-Berg range of mountains 
stretch beyond the great bay, which, un- 
less a "sou'-easter" is tearing over it, 
lies glowing in tranquil richness. This 
afternoon it is colored like an Italian 
lake. Here are lines of chrysoprase, 
green - fringed, white with little waves, 
and beyond lie dark, translucent, purple 
depths, which change with every passing 
cloud. Beyond these amethystic shoals 
again stretches the deep blue water, and 
again beyond, and bluer still, rise the five 
ranges of "Hottentots' Holland," which 
encircle and complete the landscape, 
bringing the eye round again to the 
nearer cliffs of the Devil's Peak. When 
the Dutch came here some two hundred 
years ago, they seized upon this part of 
the coast and called it Holland, driving 
the Hottentots beyond the neighboring 
range and telling them that was to be 
their Holland a name it keeps to this 
day. Their consciences must have trou- 
bled them after this arbitrary division of 
the soil, for up the highest accessible 
spurs of their own mountain they took the 
trouble to build several queer little square 
houses called " block-houses," from which 
they could keep a sharp look-out for foes 
coming over the hills from Hottentots' 
Holland. The foes never came, how- 
ever, and the roofs and walls of the 
block -houses have gradually tumbled 
in, and the gun-carriages for they man- 
aged to drag heavy ordnance up the steep 
hillside have rotted away, whilst the 
old-fashioned cannon lie, grim and rusty, 
amid a tangled profusion of wild geran- 
ium, heath and lilies. I scrambled up 
to one of the nearest block-houses, and 
found the date on the dismounted gun to 
be more than a hundred years old. The 
view was beautiful and the air fresh and 
fragrant with scent of flowers. 

But to return to our drive. I could 
gaze and gaze for ever at this lovely 
panorama, but am told this is the ugliest 
part of the road. The road itself is cer- 
tainly not pretty just here, and is cloudy 
with a fine red dust, but this view of sea 
and distant hills is enchanting. Soon 
we get under the lee of the great moun- 
tain, and then its sheltering arms show 
their protective power ; for splendid oak 



8 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



avenues begin to border the road all the 
way, and miniature forests of straight- 
stemmed pines and shimmering belts of 
the ghostly silver tree run up all the 
mountain-clefts. Stem and leaf of the 
silver tree are all of purest white ; and 
when one gets a gleam of sunlight on a 
distant patch of these trees, the effect is 
quite indescribable, contrasting, as they 
do, with green of field and vineyard. 
The vines all about here and towards 
Constantia, thirteen miles off, are dwarf- 
plants, and only grow to the height of 
gooseberry-bushes. It is a particular 
species, which is found to answer best as 
requiring less labor to train and cultivate, 
and is less likely to be blown out of the 
ground by the violent " sou'-easters " 
which come sweeping over the mountain. 
These gales are evidently the greatest 
annoyance which Cape Colonists have to 
endure ; and although everybody kindly 
suggests that I ought to see one, just to 
understand what it is like, I am profound- 
ly thankful that I only know it from their 
description and my own distinct recol- 
lection of the New Zealand " nor'-west- 
ers." Those were hot winds, scorching 
and curling up everything, whereas this 
is rather a cold breeze, although it blows 
chiefly in summer. It whirls along clouds 
of dust from the red clay roads and fields 
which penetrates and clings to everything 
in the most extraordinary manner. All 
along the road the stems and lower 
branches of the trees are dyed a deep 
brick-dust color, and I hear moving and 
pathetic stories of how it ruins clothes, 
not only utterly spoiling black silk dresses, 
but staining white petticoats and chil- 
dren's frocks and pinafores with a bor- 
der of color exactly like the ruddle with 
which sheep are branded. Especially is 
it the terror of sailors, rendering the nav- 
igation along the coast dangerous and 
difficult; for it blends land and water 
into one indistinct whirl of vaporous 
cloud, confusing and blurring everything 
until one cannot distinguish shore from 
sea. 

The vineyards of Constantia origin- 
ally took their pretty name from the fair 
daughter of one of the early Dutch gov- 
ernors, but now it has grown into a generic 



word, and you see "Cloete's Constantia," 
" Von Reybeck Constantia," written upon 
great stone gateways leading by long 
avenues into the various vine-growing 
plantations. It was to the former of 
these constantias, which was also the 
farthest off, that we were bound that 
pleasant summer afternoon, and from 
the time we got out of the carriage until 
the moment we re-entered it all too 
soon, but it is a long drive back in the 
short cold twilight I felt as though I 
had stepped through a magic portal into 
the scene of one of Washington Irving's 
stories. It was all so simple and home- 
ly, so quaint and so inexpressibly pic- 
turesque. The house had stood there 
for a couple of hundred years, and looks 
as though it might last for ever, with its 
air of cool, leisurely repose and comfort 
and strength. 

In the flagged hall stands a huge stal- 
actite some ten feet high, brought a hun- 
dred years ago from caves far away in 
the distant ranges. It is shaped some- 
thing like a Malay's hat, only the peak 
tapers to a point about eight feet high. 
The drawing-room though it seems a 
profanation to call that venerable stately 
room by so flippant and modern a name 
is large, ceiled with great beams of 
cedar, and lighted by lofty windows, 
which must contain many scores of small 
panes of glass. There were treasures of 
rarest old china and delfware, and curi- 
ous old carved stands for fragile dishes. 
A wealth of swinging-baskets of flowers 
and ferns and bright girl - faces lighted 
up the solemn, shady old room, in which 
we must not linger, for there is much to 
see outside. First to the cellar, as it is 
called, though it is far from being under 
ground, and is, in fact, a spacious stone 
building with an elaborately-carved ped- 
iment. Here are rows and rows of giant 
casks, stretching on either hand into av- 
enues in the black distance, but these are 
mere children in the nursery, compared 
to those we are going to see. First we 
must pause in a middle room full of 
quaintest odds and ends crossbows, 
long whips of hippopotamus hide, strange 
rusty old swords and firearms to look 
at a map of South Africa drawn some- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



where about 1640. It hangs on the wall 
and is hardly to be touched, for the paint 
and varnish crack and peel off at a 
breath. It is a marvel of accurate geo- 
graphical knowledge, and is far better 
filled in than the maps of yesterday. 
All poor Livingstone's great geograph- 
ical discoveries are marked on it as being 
perhaps only from description known 
or guessed at all that long time ago. It 
was found impossible to photograph it 
on account of the dark shade which age 
has laid over the original yellow varnish, 
but a careful tracing has been made and, 
I believe, sent home to the Geographical 
Society. It is in the long corridor be- 
yond this that the "stuck-vats" live 
puncheons which hold easily some thou- 
sand gallons or so, and are of a solemn 
rotundity calculated to strike awe into 
the beholder's heart. Here is white con- 
stantia, red constantia, young constantia, 
middle-aged constantia, and constantia 
so old as to be a liqueur almost beyond 
price. When it has been kept all these 
years, the sweetness by which it is dis- 
tinguished becomes so absorbed and 
blended as to be hardly perceptible. 

Presently one of the party throws a door 
suddenly open, and, behold, we are stand- 
ing right over a wild wooded glen with a 
streamlet running through it, and black 
washerwomen beating heaps of white 
clothes on the strips of shingle. Turtle- 
doves are cooing, and one might almost 
fancy one was back again on the wild 
Scotch west coast, until some one else 
says calmly, "Look at the ostriches!" 
Here they come, with a sort of dancing 
step, twisting their long necks and snake- 
like heads from side to side in search of 
a tempting pebble or trifle of hardware. 
Their wings are slightly raised, and the 
long fringe of white feathers rustles soft- 
ly as they trot easily and gracefully past 
us. They are. young male birds, and in 
a few months more their plumage, which 
now resembles that of a turkey-cock, will 
be jet black, except the wing-feathers. A 
few drops of rain are falling, so we hur- 
ry back to where the carriage is standing 
under some splendid oak trees, swallow 
a sort of stirrup-cup of delicious hot tea, 
and so home again as fast as we can go. 



OCTOBER 19. 

It is decided that I must take a drive 
in a Cape cart ; so directly after break- 
fast a smart workman-like-looking ve- 
hicle, drawn by a pair of well-bred iron- 
gray cobs, dashes up under the portico. 
There are capital horses here, but they 
fetch a good price, and such a pair as 
these would easily find purchasers at 
one hundred and fifty pounds. The 
cart itself is very trim and smart, with 
a framework sort of head, which falls 
back at pleasure, and it holds four peo- 
ple easily. It is a capital vehicle, light 
and strong and uncommonly comfort- 
able, but I am warned not to imagine 
that all Cape carts are as easy as this 
one. Away we go at a fine pace through 
the delicious sparkling morning sunshine 
and crisp air, soon turning off the red 
high-road into a sandy, marshy flat with 
a sort of brackish back-water standing 
in pools here and there. We are going 
to call on Langalibalele, and his son, 
Malambuli, who are located at Uitvlugt 
on the Cape downs, about four miles 
from the town. It is a sort of farm-resi- 
dence ; and considering that the chief 
has hitherto lived in a reed hut, he is not 
badly off, for he has plenty of room out 
of doors as well as a good house over 
his head. We bump over some strange 
and rough bits of sandy road and climb 
up and down steep banks in a manner 
seldom done on wheels. There is a wealth 
of lovely flowers blooming around, but 
I can't help fixing my eyes on the pole 
of the cart, which is sometimes sticking 
straight up in the air, its silver hook 
shining merrily in the sun, or else it has 
disappeared altogether, and I can only 
see the horses' haunches. That is when 
we are going down hill, and I think it is 
a more terrible sensation than when we 
are playfully scrambling up some sandy 
hillock as a cat might. 

Here is the location at last, thank 
Heaven ! and there is Langalibalele sit- 
ting in the verandah stoep (pronounced 
"stoup") on his haunches on a brick. 
He looks as comfortable as if he were 
in an arm-chair, but it must be a dif- 
ficult thing to do if you think seriously 
of it. The etiquette seems to be to take 



10 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



no notice of him as we pass into the par- 
lor, where we present our pass and the 
people in authority satisfy themselves 
that we are quite in rule. Then the 
old chief walks quietly in, takes off his 
soft felt hat and sits himself down in a 
Windsor arm-chair with grave delibera- 
tion. He is uncommonly ugly ; but 
when one remembers that he is nearly 
seventy years of age, it is astonishing to 
see how young he looks. Langalibalele 
is not a true Kafir at all : he is a Fingor, 
a half-caste tribe contemptuously chris- 
tened by the Kafirs "dogs." His wool 
grows in distinct and separate clumps 
like hassocks of grass all over his head. 
He is a large and powerful man and 
looks the picture of sleek contentment, 
as well he may. Only one of his sons, 
a good-natured, fine young man, black 
as ebony, is with him, and the chief's 
one expressed grievance is that none of 
his wives will come to him. In vain he 
sends commands and entreaties to these 
dusky ladies to come and share his sol- 
itude. They return for answer that "they 
are working for somebody else;" for, 
alas ! the only reason their presence is 
desired is that they may cultivate some 
of the large extent of ground placed at 
the old chief's disposal. Neither he nor 
his stalwart 'son would dream for a mo- 
ment of touching spade or hoe ; but if 
the ladies of the family could only be 
made to see their duty, an honest penny 
might easily be turned by oats or rye. I 
gave him a large packet of sugar-plums, 
which he seized with childish delight and 
hid away exactly like the big monkeys 
at the Zoo. 

By way of a joke, Malambuli pretended 
to want to take them away, and the chat- 
tering and laughing which followed was 
almost deafening. But by and by a gen- 
tleman of the party presented a big parcel 
of the best tobacco, and the chuckling old 
chief made over at once all my sweet- 
meats "jintly" to his son, and proceeded 
to hide away his new treasure. He was 



dressed exactly like a dissenting minis- 
ter, and declared through the interpreter 
he was perfectly comfortable. The im- 
pression here seems to be that he is a 
restless, intriguing and mischief-making 
old man, who may consider himself as 
having come out of the hornets' nest he 
tried to stir up uncommonly well. 

We don't want to bump up and down 
the sandy plain again, so a lively con- 
versation goes on in Dutch about the 
road between one of my gentlemen and 
somebody who looks like a"stuck-vat" 
upon short legs. The dialogue is fluent 
and lively, beginning with " Ja, ja !" and 
ending with "All right!" but it leads to 
our hitting off the right track exactly, 
and coming out at a lovely little cottage- 
villa under the mountain, where we rest 
and lunch and then stroll about up the 
hill spurs, through myrtle hedges and 
shady oak avenues. Then, before the 
afternoon shadows grow too long, we 
drive off to "Groote Schuur," the an- 
cient granary of the first settlers, which 
is now turned into a roomy, comfortable 
country-house, perfect as a summer res- 
idence, and securely sheltered from the 
" sou '-casters." We approach it through 
a double avenue of tall Italian pines, and 
after a little while go out once more for 
a ramble up some quaint old brick steps, 
and so through a beautiful glen alPfringed 
and feathered with fresh young fronds 
of maiden-hair ferns, and masses of hy- 
drangea bushes, which must be beautiful 
as a poet's dream when they are covered 
with their great bunches of pale blue 
blossom. That will not be until Christ- 
mas-tide, and, alas ! I shall not be here 
to see, for already my three halcyon 
days of grace are ended and over, and 
this very evening we must steam away 
from a great deal yet unvisited of what 
is interesting and picturesque, and from 
friends who three days ago were stran- 
gers, but who have made eveiy moment 
since we landed stand out as a bright and 
pleasant landmark on life's highway. 



:F.A.:R,T 



ALCOA BAY, October 23, 1875. 

TWO days ago we steamed out of 
Table Bay on just such a gray, driz- 
zling afternoon as that on which we en- 
tered it. But the weather cleared direct- 
ly we got out to sea, and since then it 
has carried us along as though we had 
been on a pleasant summer cruise. All 
yesterday we were coasting along the 
low downs which edge the dangerous 
sea-board for miles upon miles. From 
the deck of the Edinburgh Castle the 
effect is monotonous enough, although 
just now everything is brightly green ; 
and, with their long ribbon fringe of 
white breaker-foam glinting in the spring 
sunshine, the stretches of undulating hil- 
locks looked their best. This part of the 
coast is well lighted, and it was always 
a matter of felicitation at night when, 
every eighty miles or so, the guiding 
rays of a lighthouse shone out in the 
soft gloom of the starlight night. One 
of these lonely towers stands more than 
eight hundred feet above the sea-level, 
and warns ships off the terrible Agulhas 
Bank. 

We have dropped our anchor this 
fresh bright morning a mile or so from 
the shore on which Port Elizabeth stands. 
Algoa Bay is not much of a shelter, and 
it is always a chance whether a sudden 
south-easter may not come tearing down 
upon the shipping, necessitating a sud- 
den tripping of anchors and running out 
to sea to avoid the fate which is staring 
us warningly in the face in the shape of 
the gaunt ribs or rusty cylinders of sun- 
dry cast-away vessels. To-day the weath- 
er is on its good behavior ; the south- 
easter rests on its 

aery nest 
As still as a brooding dove ; 

and sun and sea are doing their best to 
show off the queer little straggling town 
creeping up the low sandy hills that lie 
before us. I am assured that Port Eliz- 
abeth is a flourishing mercantile place. 



From the deck of our ship I can't at all 
perceive that it is flourishing, or doing 
anything except basking in the pleasant 
sunshine. But when I go on shore an 
hour or two later I am shown a store 
which takes away my breath, and before 
whose miscellaneous contents the stout- 
est-hearted female shopper must needs 
baisser son pavilion. Everything in this 
vast emporium looked as neat and or- 
derly as possible, and, though the build- 
ing was twice as big as the largest 
co-operative store in London, there was 
no hurry or confusion. Thimbles and 
ploughs, eau-de-cologne and mangles, 
American stoves, cotton dresses of as- 
tounding patterns to suit the taste of 
Dutch ladies, harmoniums and flat-irons, 
all stood peaceably side by side to- 
gether. But these were all " unconsid- 
ered trifles " next the more serious busi- 
ness of the establishment, which was 
wool wool in every shape and stage 
and bale. In this department, however, 
although for the sake of the dear old 
New Zealand days my heart warms at 
the sight of the huge packages, I was 
not supposed to take any interest; so 
we pass quickly out into the street again, 
get into a large open carriage driven by 
a black coachman, and make the best 
of our way up to a villa on the slope of 
the sandy hill. Once I am away from 
the majestic influence of that store the 
original feeling of Port Elizabeth being 
rather a dreary place comes back upon 
me ; but we drive all about to the Park, 
which may be said to be in its swaddling- 
clothes as a park, and to the Botanic 
Gardens, where the culture of foreign 
and colonial flowers and shrubs is car- 
ried on under the chronic difficulties of. 
too much sun and wind and too little 
water. Everywhere there is building 
going on very modest building, it is 
true, with rough-and-ready masonry or 
timber, and roofs of zinc painted in strips 
of light colors, but everywhere there are 
ii 



12 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



signs of progress and growth. People 
look bored, but healthy, and it does not 
surprise me in the least to hear that 
though there are a good many inhabit- 
ants, there is not much society. A pret- 
ty little luncheon and a pleasant hour's 
chat in a cool, shady drawing-room, with 
plenty of new books and music and flow- 
ers, gave me an agreeable impression to 
carry back on board the ship ; which, 
by the way, seemed strangely silent and 
deserted when we returned, for most of 
our fellow-passengers had disembarked 
here on their way to different parts of 
the interior. 

As I saunter up and down the clean, 
smart-looking deck of what has been 
our pleasant floating home during these 
past four weeks, I suddenly perceive a 
short, squat pyramid on the shore, 
standing out oddly enough among the 
low-roofed houses. If it had only been 
red instead of gray, it might have pass- 
ed for the model of the label on Bass's 
beer -bottles; but, even as it is, I feel 
convinced that there is a story connected 
with it : and so it proves, for this ugly, 
most unsentimental-looking bit of ma- 
sonry was built long ago by a former 
governor as a record of the virtues and 
perfections of his dead wife, whom, 
among other lavish epithets of praise, 
he declares to have been " the most per- 
fect of women." Anyhow, there it stands, 
on what was once a lonely strip of sand 
and sea, a memorial if one can only 
believe the stone story, now nearly a 
hundred years old of a great love and 
a great sorrow ; and one can envy the 
one and pity the other just as much 
when looking at this queer, unsightly 
monument as when one stands on the 
pure marble threshold of the exquisite 
Taj Mahal at Agra, and reads that it too, 
in all its grace and beauty, was reared 
"in memory of an undying love." 

Although the day has been warm and 
balmy, the evening arr strikes chill and 
raw, and our last evening on board the 
dear old ship has to be spent under 
shelter, for it is too cold to sit on deck. 
With the first hours of daylight next 
morning we have to be up and packing, 
for by ten o'clock we must be on board 



the Florence, a small, yacht-like coast- 
ing-steamer which can go much closer 
into the sand-blocked harbors scooped by 
the action of the rivers all along the coast. 
It is with a very heavy heart that I, for 
one, say good-bye to the Edinburgh Cas- 
tle, where I have passed so many hap- 
py hours and made some pleasant ac- 
quaintances. A ship is a very forcing- 
house of friendship, and no one who has 
not taken a voyage can realize how rap- 
idly an acquaintance grows and ripens 
into a friend under the lonely influences 
of sea and sky. We have all been so 
happy together, everything has been so 
comfortable, everybody so kind, that one 
would indeed be cold-hearted if, when 
the last moment of our halcyon voyage 
arrived, it could bring with it anything 
short of a regret. 

With the same chivalrous goodness 
and courtesy which has taken thought 
for the comfort of our every movement 
since we left Dartmouth, our captain in- 
sists on seeing us safely on board the 
Florence (what a toy -boat she looks af- 
ter our stately ship !) and satisfying him- 
self that we can be comfortably settled 
once more in our doll's house of a new 
cabin. Then there comes a reluctant 
"Good-bye" to him and all our kind 
care-takers of the Edinburgh Castle ; 
and the last glimpse we catch of her 
for the Florence darts out of the bay like 
a swallow in a hurry is her dipping her 
ensign in courteous farewell to us. 

In less than twenty-four hours we had 
reached another little port, some hun- 
dred and fifty miles or so up the coast, 
called East London. Here the harbor 
is again only an open roadstead, and 
hardly any vessel drawing more than 
three or four feet of water can get in at 
all near the shore, for between us and it 
is a bar of shifting sand, washed down, 
day by day, by the strong current of the 
river Buffalo. All the cargo has to be 
transferred to lighters, and a little tug 
steamer bustles backward and forward 
with messages of entreaty to those said 
lighters to come out and take away their 
loads. W r e had dropped our anchor by 
daylight, yet at ten o'clock scarcely a 
boat had made its appearance alongside, 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



and every one was fuming and fretting 
at the delay and consequent waste of 
fine weather and daylight. That is to 
say, it was a fine bright day overhead, 
with sunshine and sparkle all round, but 
the heavy roll of the sea never ceased 
for a moment. From one side to the 
other, until her ports touched the water, 
backward and forward, with slow, monot- 
onous heaving, our little vessel swayed 
with the swaying rollers until everybody 
on board felt sick and sorry. " This is 
comparatively a calm day," I was told: 
"you can't possible imagine from this 
what rolling really is." But I can imag- 
ine quite easily, and do not at all desire 
a closer acquaintance with this restless 
Indian Ocean. Breakfast is a moment of 
penance : little G is absolutely faint- 
ing from agonies of sea-sickness, though 
he has borne 'all our South-Atlantic toss- 
ings with perfect equanimity ; and it is 
with real joy that I hear the lifeboat is 
alongside, and that the kind-hearted cap- 
tain of the Florence (how kind sailors 
are !) offers to take babies, nurse and me 
on shore, so as to escape a long day of 
this agonizing rolling. In happy un- 
consciousness of what landing at East 
London, even in a lifeboat, meant when 
a bar had to be crossed, we were all tum- 
bled and bundled, more or less uncere- 
moniously, into the great, roomy boat, 
and were immediately taken in hand by 
the busy little tug. For half a mile or 
more we made good progress in her 
wake, being in a position to set at naught 
the threatening water-mountains which 
came tumbling in furious haste from sea- 
ward. It was not until we seemed close 
to the shore and all our troubles over 
that the tug was obliged to cast us off, 
owing to the rapidly shoaling water, and 
we prepared to make the best of our 
own way in. Bad was that best, indeed, 
though the peril came and went so quick- 
ly that it is but a confused impression I 
retain of what seemed to me a really ter- 
rible moment. One instant I hear fe- 
licitations exchanged between our cap- 
tain who sits protectingly close to me 

and poor, fainting little G , who lies 

like death in my arms and the captain 
of the lifeboat. The next moment, in 



spite of sudden panic and presence of 
danger, I could laugh to hear the latter 
sing out in sharpest tones of terror and 
dismay, "Ah, you would, would you?" 
coupled with rapid orders to the stout 
rowers and shouts to us of "Look out!" 
and I do look out, to see on one side sand 
which the retreating wave has sucked 
dry, and in which the boat seems trying 
to bury herself as though she were a 
mole: on the other hand there towers 
above us a huge green wave, white- 
crested and curled, which is rushing at 
us like a devouring monster. I glance, 
as I think, for the last time, at the pale 
nurse, on whose lap lies the baby placid- 
ly sucking his bottle. I see a couple of 
sailors lay hold of her and the child with 
one hand each, whilst with the other they 
cling desperately to the thwarts. A stout 
seafaring man flings the whole weight 
of his ponderous pilot-coated body upon 

G and me : I hear a roar of water, 

and, lo ! we are washed right up along- 
side of the rude landing-place, still in 
the boat indeed, but wet and frightened 
to the last degree. Looking back on it 
all, I can distinctly remember that it was 
not the sight of the overhanging wave 
which cost me my deadliest pang of sick- 
ening fright, but the glimpse I caught of 
the shining, cruel-looking sand, sucking 
us in so silently and greedily. We were 
all trembling so much that it seemed as 
impossible to stand upright on the earth 
as on the tossing waters, and it was with 
reeling, drunken-looking steps that we 
rolled and staggered through the heavy 
sand-street until we reached the shelter 
of an exceedingly dirty hotel. Every- 
thing in it required courage to touch, and 
it was with many qualms that I deposited 
limp little G on a filthy sofa. How- 
ever, the mistress of the house looked 
clean, and so did the cups and saucers 
she quickly produced ; and by the time 
we had finished a capital breakfast we 
were all quite in good spirits again, and 
so sharpened up as to be able to "mock 
ourselves" of our past perils and present 
discomforts. Outside there were strange, 
beautiful shrubs in flower, tame pigeons 
came cooing and bowing in at the door, 
and above all there was an enchanting 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



freshness and balminess in the sunny 
air. 

In about an hour "Capting Florence" 

(as G styles our new commander) 

calls for us and takes us out sight-seeing. 
First and foremost, across the river to the 
rapidly-growing railway lines, where a 
brand-new locomotive was hissing away 
with full steam up. Here we were met 
and welcomed by the energetic superin- 
tendent of this iron road, and, to my in- 
tense delight, after explaining to me what 
a long distance into the interior the line 
had to go and how fast it was getting on, 
considering the difficulties in the way 
of doing anything in South Africa, from 
washing a pocket-handkerchief up to lay- 
ing down a railway, he proposed that we 
should get on the engine and go as far 
as the line was open for anything like 
safe traveling. Never were such de- 
lightful five minutes as those spent in 
whizzing along through the park-like 
country and cutting fast through the 
heavenly air. In vain did I smell that 
my serge skirts were getting dreadfully 
singed, in vain did I see most uncertain 
bits of rail before me : it was all too per- 
fectly enchanting to care for danger or 
disgrace, and I could have found it in 

my heart to echo G 's plaintive cry 

for "More!" when we came to the end 
and had to get off. But it consoled us a 
little to watch the stone-breaking ma- 
chine crunching up small rocks as though 
they had been lumps of sugar, and after 
looking at that we set off for the unfin- 
ished station, and could take in, even in 
its present skeleton state, how commo- 
dious and handsome it will all be some 
day. You are all so accustomed to be 
whisked about the civilized world when 
and where you choose that it is difficult 
to make you understand the enormous 
boon the first line of railway is to a new 
country not only for the convenience 
of travelers, but for the transport of goods, 
the setting free of hundreds of cattle and 
horses and drivers all sorely needed for 
other purposes and the fast-following 
effects of opening up the resources of the 
back districts. In these regions labor is 
the great difficulty, and one needs to hold 
both patience and temper fast with both 



one's hands when watching either Kafir 
or Coolie at work. The white man can- 
not or will not do much with his hands 
out here, so the navvies are slim-looking 
blacks, who jabber and grunt and sigh 
a good deal more than they work. 

It is a fortunate circumstance that the 
delicious air keeps us all in a chronic state 
of hunger, for it appears in South Africa 
that one is expected to eat every half 
hour or so. And, shamed am I to con- 
fess, we do eat and eat with a good ap- 
petite too a delicious luncheon at the 
superintendent's, albeit it followed close- 
ly on the heels of our enormous break- 
fast at the dirty hotel. Such a pretty lit- 
tle bachelor's box as it was ! so cool and 
quiet and neat! built somewhat after 
the fashion of the Pompeian houses, with 
a small square garden full of orange 
trees in the centre, and the house run- 
ning round this opening in four corridors. 
After lunch a couple of nice, light Cape 
carts came to the door, and we set off to 
see a beautiful garden whose owner had 
all a true Dutchman's passion for flowers. 
Here was fruit as well as flowers. .Pine- 
apples and jasmine, strawberries and 
honeysuckle, grew side by side with bor- 
dering orange trees, feathery bamboos 
and sheltering gum trees. In the midst 
of the garden stood a sort of double plat- 
form, up whose steep border we all climb- 
ed : from this we got a good idea of the 
slightly undulating land all about, waving 
down like solidified billows to where the 
deep blue waters sparkled and rolled 
restlessly beyond the white line of waves 
ever breaking on the bar. I miss ani- 
mal life sadly in these parts : the dogs I 
see about the streets are few in number, 
and miserably currish specimens of their 
kind. "Good dogs don't answer out 
here," I am told: that is to say, they 
get a peculiar sort of distemper, or ticks 
bite them, or they got weak from loss 
of blood, or become degenerate in some 
way. The horses and cattle are small 
and poor-looking, and hard-worked, very 
dear to buy and very difficult to keep and 
to feed. I don't even see many cats, 
and a pet bird is a rarity. However, as 
we stood on the breezy platform I saw a 
most beautiful wild bird fly over the rose- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



hedge just below us. It was about as big 
as a crow, but with a strange iridescent 
plumage. When it flitted into the sun- 
shine its back and wings shone like a 
rainbow, and the next moment it looked 
perfectly black and velvety in the shade. 
Now a turquoise-blue tint comes out on 
its spreading wings, and a slant in the 
sunshine turns the blue into a chryso- 
prase green. Nobody could tell me its 
name : our Dutch host spoke exactly 
like Hans Breitmann, and declared it 
was a "bid of a crow," and so we had 
to leave it and the platform and come 
down to more roses and tea. There 
was so much yet to be seen and to be 
done that we could not stay long, and, 
laden with magnificent bouquets of gloire 
de Dijon roses and honeysuckle, and 
divers strange and lovely flowers, we 
drove off again in our Cape carts. I ob- 
served that instead of saying "Whoa!" or 
checking the horses in any way by the 
reins, the driver always whistles to them 
a long, low whistle and they stand quite 
still directly. We bumped up and down, 
over extraordinarily rough places, and 
finally slid down a steep cutting to the 
brink of the river Buffalo, over which we 
were ferried, all standing, on a big punt, 
or rather pontoon. A hundred yards or 
so of rapid driving then took us to a sort 
of wharf which projected into the river, 
where the important-looking little tug 
awaited us ; and no sooner were we all 
safely on board rather a large party by 
this time, for we had gone on picking up 
stragglers ever since we started, only 
three in number, from the hotel than 
she sputtered and fizzed herself off up- 
stream. By this time it was the after- 
noon, and I almost despair of making 
you see the woodland beauty of that 
broad mere, fringed down to the water's 
edge ori one side with shrubs and tangle 
of roses and woodbine, with ferns and 
every lovely green creeping thing. That 
was on the bank which was sheltered 
from the high winds : the other hillside 
showed the contrast, for there, though 
green indeed, only a few feathery tufts of 
pliant shrubs had survived the force of 
some of these south-eastern gales. We 
paddled steadily along in mid-stream, 



and from the bridge (where little G 

and I had begged " Capting Florence" 
to let us stand) one could see the double 
of each leaf and tendril and passing 
cloud mirrored sharp and clear in the 
crystalline water. The lengthening shad- 
ows from rock and fallen crag were in 
some places flung quite across our little 
boat, and so through the soft, lovely air, 
flooded with brightest sunshine, we made 
our way, up past Picnic Creek, where 
another stream joins the Buffalo, and 
makes miniature green islands and har- 
bors at its mouth, up as far as the river 
was navigable for even so small a steamer 
as ours. Every one was sorry when it 
became time to turn, but there was no 
choice: the sun-burned, good-looking 
captain of the tug held up a warning 
hand, and round we went with a wide 
sweep, under the shadows, out into the 
sunlight, down the middle of the stream, 
all too soon to please us. 

Before we left East London, however, 
there was one more great work to be 
glanced at, and accordingly we paid a 
hasty visit to the office of the superin- 
tendent of the new harbor-works, and 
saw plans and drawings of what will in- 
deed be a magnificent achievement when 
carried out. Yard by yard, with patient 
under-sea sweeping, all that waste of 
sand brought down by the Buffalo is 
being cleared away ; yard by yard, two 
massive arms of solidest masonry are 
stretching themselves out beyond those 
cruel breakers : the river is being forced 
into so narrow a channel that the rush 
of the water must needs carry the sand 
far out to sea in future, and scatter it in 
soundings where it cannot accumulate 
into such a barrier as that which now ex- 
ists. Lighthouses will guard this safe en- 
trance into a tranquil anchorage, and so, 
at some not too far distant day, there is 
good hope that East London may be 
one of the most valuable harbors on 
this vast coast ; and when her railway 
has reached even the point to which it is 
at present projected, nearly two hundred 
miles away, it will indeed be a thriving 
place. Even now, there is a greater air 
of movement and life and progress about 
the little seaport, what with the railway 



i6 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



and the harbor-works, than at any other 
place I have yet seen ; and each great 
undertaking is in the hands of men of 
first-rate ability and experience, who are 
as persevering as they are energetic. After 
looking well over these most interesting 
plans there was nothing left for us to do 
except to make a sudden raid on the 
hotel, pick up our shawls and bags, pay 
a most moderate bill of seven shillings 
and sixpence for breakfast for three peo- 
ple and luncheon for two, and the use 
of a room all day, piteously entreat the 
mistress of the inn to sell us half a bot- 
tle of milk for G 's breakfast to-mor- 
row as he will not drink the preserved 
milk and so back again on board the 
tug. The difficulty about milk and but- 
ter is the first trouble which besets a 
family traveling in these parts. Every- 
where milk is scarce and poor, and the 
butter such as no 'charwoman would 
touch in England. In vain does one be- 
hold from the sea thousands of acres 
of what looks like undulating green pas- 
turage, and inland the same waving 
green hillocks stretch as far as the eye 
can reach : there is never a sheep or 
cow to be seen, and one hears that there 
is no water, or that the grass is sour, 
or that there is a great deal of sickness 
about among the animals in that local- 
ity. Whatever the cause, the result is 
the same namely, that one has to go 
down on one's knees for a cupful of milk, 
which is but poor, thin stuff at its best, 
and that Irish salt butter out of a tub is 
a costly delicacy. 

Having secured this precious quarter 
of a bottle of milk, for which I was real- 
ly as grateful as though it had been the 
Koh-i-noor, we hastened back to the 
wharf and got on board the little tug 

again. " Now for the bridge !" cry G 

and I, for has not Captain Florence prom- 
ised us a splendid but safe tossing across 
the bar ? And faithfully he and the bar 
and the boat keep their word, for we are 
in no danger, it seems, and yet we ap- 
pear to leap like a race-horse across the 
strip of sand, receiving a staggering buf- 
fet first on one paddle-wheel and then 
on the other from the angry guardian 
breakers, which seem sworn foes of 



boats and passengers. Again and again 
are we knocked aside by huge billows, 
as though the poor little tug were a wal- 
nut-shell ; again and again do we re- 
cover ourselves, and blunder bravely on, 
sometimes with but one paddle in the 
water, sometimes burying our bowsprit 
in a big green wave too high to climb, 
and dashing right through it as fast as 
if we shut our eyes and went at every- 
thing. The spray flies high over our 

heads, G and I are drenched over 

and over again, but we shake the spark- 
ling water off our coats, for all the world 
like Newfoundland dogs, and are all 
right again in a moment. " Is that the 

very last ?" asks G reluctantly as we 

take our last breaker like a five-barred 
gate, flying, and find ourselves safe and 
sound, but quivering a good deal, in what 
seems comparatively smooth water. Is 
it smooth, though ? Look at the Florence 
and all the other vessels. Still at it, see- 
saw, backward and forward, roll, roll, 
roll ! How thankful we all are to have 
escaped a long day of sickening, monot- 
onous motion ! But there is the get- 
ting on board to be accomplished, for 
the brave little tug dare not come too 
near to her big sister steamboat or she 
would roll over on her. So we signal for 
a boat, and quickly the largest which the 
Florence possesses is launched and man- 
ned no easy task in such a sea, but ac- 
complished in the smartest and most 
seamanlike. fashion. The sides of the 
tug are low, so it is not very difficult to 
scramble and tumble into the boat, which 
is laden to the water's edge by new pas- 
sengers from East London and their lug- 
gage. When, however, we have reach- 
ed the rolling Florence it is no easy mat- 
ter to get out of the said boat and on 
board. There is a ladder let down, in- 
deed, from the Florence's side, but how 
are we to use it when one moment half 
a dozen rungs are buried deep in the 
sea, and the next instant ship and ladder 
and all have rolled right away from us ? 
It has to be done, however, and what a 
tower of strength and encouragement 
does "Capting Florence" prove himself 
at this juncture ! We are all to sit per- 
fectly still : no one is to move until his 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



name is called, and then he is to come 
unhesitatingly and do exactly what he is 
told. 

" Pass up the baby !" is the first order 
which I hear given, and that astonishing 
baby is " passed up " accordingly. I use 
the word "astonishing" advisedly, for 
never was an infant so bundled about 
uncomplainingly. He is just as often up- 
side down as not ; he is generally hand- 
ed from one quartermaster to the other 
by the gathers of his little blue flannel 
frock ; seas break over his cradle on deck, 
but nothing disturbs him. He grins and 
sleeps and pulls at his bottle through ev- 
erything, and grows fatter and browner 
and more impudent every day. On this 
occasion, when after rivaling Leotard's 
most daring feats on the trapeze in my 
scramble up the side of a vessel which 
was lurching away from me I at last 
reached the deck, I found the ship's car- 
penter nursing the baby, who had seized 
the poor man's beard firmly with one 
hand, and with the finger and thumb of 
the other was attempting to pick out one 
of his merry blue eyes. " Avast there !" 
cried the long-suffering sailor, and gladly 
relinquished the mischievous bundle to 
me. 

Up with the anchor, and off we go 
once more into the gathering darkness 
of what turns out to be a wet and windy 
night. Next day the weather had re- 
covered its temper, and I was called upon 
deck directly after breakfast to see the 
"Gates of St. John," a really fine pass 
on the coast where the river Umzimvubu 
rushes through great granite cliffs into 
the sea. If the exact truth is to be told, 
I must confess I am a little disappointed 
with this coast-scenery. I have heard 
so much of its beauty, and as yet, though 
I have seen it under exceptionally favor- 
able conditions of calm weather, which 
has allowed us to stand in very close to 
shore, I have not seen anything really fine 
until these "Gates" came in view. It has 
all been monotonous, undulating downs, 
here and there dotted with trees, and in 
some places the ravines were filled with 
what we used to call in New Zealand 
bush i. e., miscellaneous greenery. Here 
and there a bold cliff or tumbled pile of 



red rock makes a landmark for the pass- 
ing ships, but otherwise the uniformity is 
great indeed. The ordinary weather 
along this coast is something frightful, 
and the great reputation of our little 
Florence is built on the method in which 
she rides dry and safe as a duck among 
these stormy waters. Now that we are 
close to "fair Natal," the country opens 
out and improves in beauty. There are 
still the same sloping, rolling downs, but 
higher downs rise behind them, and again 
beyond are blue and purpling hills. Here 
and there, too, are clusters of fat, dumpy 
haystacks, which in reality are no hay- 
stacks at all, but Kafir kraals. Just be- 
fore we pass the cliff and river which 
marks where No-Man's Land ends and 
Natal begins these little locations are 
more frequently to be observed, though 
what their inhabitants subsist on is a 
marvel to me, for we are only a mile or 
so from shore, and all the seeing power 
of all the field-glasses on board fails to 
discern a solitary animal. We can see 
lots of babies crawling about the hole 
which serves as door to a Kafir hut, and 
they are all as fat as little pigs ; but what 
do they live on ? Buttermilk, I am' told 
that is to say, sour milk, for the true Kafir 
palate does not appreciate fresh, sweet 
milk and a sort of porridge made of 
mealies. I used to think "mealies " was 
a coined word for potatoes, but it really 
signifies maize or Indian corn, which is 
rudely crushed and ground, and forms 
the staple food of man and beast. 

In the mean time, we are speeding 
gayly over the bright waters, never very 
calm along this shore. Presently we 
come to a spot clearly marked by some 
odd-colored, tumbled-down cliffs and the 
remains of a great iron butt, where, more 
than a hundred years ago, the Grosvenor, 
a splendid clipper ship, was wrecked. 
The men nearly all perished or were 
made away with, but a few women were 
got on shore and carried off as prizes to 
the kraals of the Kafir " inkosis" or chief- 
tains. What sort of husbands these stal- 
wart warriors made to their reluctant 
brides tradition does not say, but it is 
a fact that almost all the children were 
born mad, and their descendants are, 



i8 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



many of them, lunatics or idiots up to 
the present time. As the afternoon draws 
on a chill mist creeps over the hills and 
provokingly blots out the coast, which 
gets more beautiful every league we go. 
I wanted to remain up and see the light 
on the bluff just outside Port d'Urban, 
but a heavy shower drove me down to 
my wee cabin before ten o'clock. Soon 
after midnight the rolling of the anchor- 
chains and the sudden change of motion 
from pitching and jumping to the old 
monotonous roll told us that we were once 
more outside a bar, with a heavy sea on, 
and that there we must remain until the 
tug came to fetch us. But, alas ! the tug 
had to make short work of it next morn- 
ing, on account of the unaccommodating 
state of the tide, and all our hopes of 
breakfasting on shore were dashed by a 
hasty announcement at 5 A. M. that the 
tug was alongside, the mails were rapid- 
ly being put on board of her, and that 
she could not wait for passengers or 
anything else, because ten minutes later 
there would not be water enough to float 
her over the bar. 

" When shall we be able to get over 
the bar ?" I asked dolefully. 

"Not until the afternoon," was the 
prompt and uncompromising reply, de- 
livered through my .keyhole by the au- 
thority in charge of us. And he proved 
to be quite right ; but I am bound to say 
the time passed more quickly than we 
had dared to hope or expect, for an hour 
later a bold little fishing-boat made her 
way through the breakers and across the 
bar in the teeth of wind and rain, bring- 
ing F on board. He has been out 

here these eight months, and looks a 
walking advertisement of the climate 
and temperature of our new home, so 
absolutely healthy is his appearance. He 
is very cheery about liking, the place, 
and particularly insists on the blooming 
faces and sturdy limbs I shall see belong- 
ing to the young Natalians. Altogether, 
he appears thoroughly happy and con- 
tented, liking his work, his position, ev- 
erything and everybody ; which is all 
extremely satisfactory to hear. There is 
so much to tell and so much to behold 
that, as G declares, "it is afternoon 



directly," and, the signal-flag being up, 
we trip our anchor once more and rush 
at the bar, two quartermasters and an 
officer at the wheel, the pilot and captain 
on the bridge, all hands on deck and on 
the alert, for always, under the most 
favorable circumstances, the next five 
minutes hold a peril in every second. 
" Stand by for spray !" sings out some- 
body, and we do stand by, luckily for 
ourselves, for "spray " means the top of 
two or three waves. The dear little 
Florence is as plucky as she is pretty, 
and appears to shut her eyes and lower 
her head and go at the bar. Scrape, 
scrape, scrape ! "We've stuck ! No, we 
haven't! Helm hard down! Over!" 
and so we are. Among the breakers, it 
is true, buffeted hither and thither, knock- 
ed first to one side and then to the other ; 
but we keep right on, and a few more 
turns of the screw take us into calm 
water under the green hills of the bluff. 
The breakers are behind us, we have 
twenty fathoms of water under our keel, 
the voyage is ended and over, the cap- 
tain takes off his straw hat to mop his 
curly head, everybody's face loses the 
expression of anxiety and rigidity it has 
worn these past ten minutes, and boats 
swarm like locusts round the ship. The 
baby is passed over the ship's side for 
the last time, having been well kissed 
and petted and praised by every one as 
he was handed from one to the other, 
and we row swiftly away to the low 
sandy shore of the "Point." 

Only a few warehouses, or rather sheds 
of warehouses, are to be seen, and a rude 
sort of railway-station, which appears to 
afford indiscriminate shelter to boats as 
well as to engines. There are leisurely 
trains which saunter into the town of 
D'Urban, a mile and a half away, every 
half hour or so, but one -of these "crawl- 
ers" had just started. The sun was very 
hot, and we voyagers were all sadly 
weary and headachy. But the best of 
the colonies is the prompt, self-sacrificing 
kindness of old-comers to new-comers. 
A gentleman had driven down in his 
own nice, comfortable pony - carriage, 
and without a moment's hesitation he 
insisted on our all getting into it and 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



making the best of our way to our hotel. 
It is too good an offer to be refused, for 
the sun is hot and the babies are tired to 
death; so we start, slowly enough, to 
plough our way through heavy sand up 
to the axles. If the tide had been out 
we could have driven quickly along the 
hard, dry sand; but we comfort our- 
selves by remembering that there had 
been water enough on the bar, and make 
the best of our way through clouds of im- 
palpable dust to a better road, of which 
a couple of hundred yards land us at 
our hotel. It looks bare and unfurnished 
enough, in all conscience, but it is a new 
place, and must be furnished by degrees. 
At all events, it is tolerably clean and 
quiet, and we can wash our sunburned 
faces and hands, and, as nurse says, 
"turn ourselves round." 

Coolies swarm in every direction, pic- 
turesque fish- and fruit-sellers throng the 
verandah of the kitchen a little way off, 
and everything looks bright and green 
and fresh, having been well washed by 
the recent rains. There are still, however, 
several feet of dust in the streets, for they 
are made of dust ; and my own private 
impression is, that all the water in the 
harbor would not suffice to lay the dust 
of D' Urban for more than half an hour. 
With the restlessness of people who have 
been cooped up on board ship for a 
month, we insist, the moment it is cool 
enough, on being taken out for a walk. 
Fortunately, the public gardens are close 
at hand, and we amuse ourselves very 
well in them for an hour or two, but we 
are all thoroughly tired and worn out, 
and glad to get to bed, even in gaunt, 
narrow rooms on hard pallets. 

The two following days were spent in 
looking after and collecting our cum- 
brous array of boxes and baskets. Tin 
baths, wicker chairs and baskets, all had 
to be counted and recounted, until one 
got weary of the word "luggage;" but 
that is the penalty of drafting babies 
about the world. In the intervals of the 
serious business of tracing No. 5 or run- 
ning No. 10 to earth in the corner of a 
warehouse, I made many pleasant ac- 
quaintances and received kindest words 
and notes of welcome from unknown 



friends. All this warm-hearted, uncon- 
ventional kindness goes far to make the 
stranger forget his "own people and his 
father's house," and feel at once at home 
amid strange and unfamiliar scenes. 
After all, "home" is portable, luckily, 
and a welcoming smile and hand-clasp 
act as a spell to create it in any place. 
We also managed, after business-hours, 
when it was of no use making expeditions 
to wharf or custom-house after recusant 
carpet-bags, to drive to the Botanic Gar- 
dens. They are extensive and well kept, 
but seem principally devoted to shrubs. 
I was assured that this is the worst time 
of year for flowers, as the plants have not 
yet recovered from the winter drought. 
A dry winter and wet summer is the cor- 
rect atmospheric fashion here : in winter 
everything is brown and dusty and dried 
up, in summer green and fragrant and 
well watered. The gardens are in good 
order, and I rather regretted not being 
able to examine them more thoroughly. 
Another afternoon we drove to the Berea, 
a sort of suburban Richmond, where the 
rich semi-tropical vegetation is cleared 
away in patches, and villas with pretty 
pleasure-grounds are springing up in 
every direction. The road winds up the 
luxuriantly - clothed slopes, with every 
here and there lovely sea-views of the 
harbor, with the purpling lights of the 
Indian Ocean stretching away beyond. 
Every villa must have an enchanting 
prospect from its front door, and one can 
quite understand how alluring to the 
merchants and business -men of D'Ur- 
ban must be the idea of getting away 
after office-hours, and sleeping on such 
high ground in so fresh and healthy an 
atmosphere. And here I must say that 
we Maritzburgians (I am only one in 
prospective) wage a constant and dead- 
ly warfare with the D'Urbanites on the 
score of the health and convenience of 
our respective cities. We are two thou- 
sand feet above the sea and fifty-two 
miles inland, so we talk in a pitying tone 
of the poor D'Urbanites as dwellers in a 
very hot and unhealthy place. " Relax- 
ing" is the word we apply to their cli- 
mate when we want to be particularly 
nasty, and they retaliate by reminding 



20 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



us that they are ever so much older than 
we are (which is an advantage in a col- 
ony), and that they are on the coast, and 
can grow all manner of nice things which 
we cannot compass, to say nothing of 
their climate being more equable than 
ours, and their thunderstorms, though 
longer in duration, mere flashes in the 
pan compared to what we in our amphi- 
theatre of hills have to undergo at the 
hands of the electric current. We never 
can find answer to that taunt, and if the 
D'Urbanites only follow up their victory 
by allusions to their abounding bananas 
and other fruits, their vicinity to the ship- 
ping, and consequent facility of getting 
almost anything quite easily, we are com- 
pletely silenced, and it is a wonder if we 
retain presence of mind enough to mur- 
mur " Flies." On the score of dust we are 
about equal, but I must in fairness confess 
that D'Urban is a more lively and a bet- 
ter-looking town than Maritzburg when 
you are in it, though the effect from a dis- 
tance is not so good. It is very odd how 
unevenly the necessaries of existence are 
distributed in this country. Here at D'Ur- 
ban anything hard in the way of stone is 
a treasure : everything is soft and friable : 
sand and finest shingle, so fine as to be 
mere dust, are all the available material 
for road-making. I am told that later on 
I shall find that a cartload of sand in 
Maritzburg is indeed a rare and costly 
thing: there we are all rock, a sort of 
flaky, slaty rock underlying every place. 
Our last day, or rather half day, in 
D'Urban was very full of sightseeing 
and work. F was extremely anx- 
ious for me to see the sun rise from the 
signal-station on the bluff, and accord- 
ingly he, G and I started with the 

earliest dawn. We drove through the 
sand again in a hired and springless 
Cape cart down to the Ppint, got into the 
port -captain's boat and rowed across a 
little strip of sand at the foot of a wind- 
ing path cut out of the dense vegetation 
which makes the bluff such a refreshing- 
ly green headland to eyes of wave-worn 
voyagers. A stalwart Kafir carried our 
picnic basket, with tea and milk, bread 
and butter and eggs, up the hill, and it 
was delightful to follow the windings of 



the path through beautiful bushes bear- 
ing strange and lovely flowers, and knit 
together in patches in a green tangle by 
the tendrils of a convolvulus or clematis, 
or sort of wild passion-flower, whose blos- 
soms were opening to the fresh morning 
air. It was a cool but misty morning, and 
though we got to our destination in am- 
ple time, there was never any sunrise at 
all to be seen. In fact, the sun steadily 
declined to get up the whole day, so far 
as I knew, for the sea looked gray and 
solemn and sleepy, and the land kept its 
drowsy mantle of haze over its flat shore ; 
which haze thickened and deepened into 
a Scotch mist as the morning wore on. 
We returned by the leisurely railway a 
railway so calm and stately in its method 
of progression that it is not at all unusual 
to see a passenger step calmly out of the 
train when it is at its fullest speed of crawl, 
and wave his hand to his companions as 
he disappears down the by-path leading 
to his little home. The passengers are 
conveyed at a uniform rate of sixpence 
a head, which sixpence is collected pro- 
miscuously by a small boy at odd mo- 
ments during the journey. There are 
no nice distinctions of class, either, for 
we all travel amicably together in com- 
partments which are a judicious mixture 
of a third-class carriage and a cattle- 
truck. Of course, wood is the only fuel 
used, and that but sparingly, for it is ex- 
ceedingly costly. 

There was still much to be done by 
the afternoon many visitors to receive, 
notes to write and packages to arrange, 
for our traveling of these fifty-two miles 
spreads itself over a good many hours, 
as you will see. About three o'clock the 
government mule -wagon came to the 
door. It may truly and literally be de- 
scribed as "stopping the way," for not 
only is the wagon itself a huge and cum- 
brous machine, but it is drawn by eight 
mules in pairs, and driven by a couple 
of black drivers. \ say "driven by a 
couple of drivers," because the driving 
was evidently an affair of copartnership : 
one held the reins such elaborate reins 
as they were ! a confused tangle of leath- 
er and the other had the care of two 
or three whips of differing lengths. The 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



21 



drivers were both jet black not Kafirs, 
but Cape blacks descendants of the old 
slaves taken by the Dutch. They ap- 
peared to be great friends, these two, 
and took earnest counsel together at ev- 
ery rut and drain and steep pinch of the 
road, which stretched away, over hill and 
dale, before us, a broad red track, with 
high green hedges on either hand. Al- 
though the rain had not yet fallen long 
or heavily, the ditches were all running 
freely with red, muddy water, and the 
dust had already begun to cake itself 
into a sticky, pasty red clay. The wagon 
was shut in by curtains at the back and 
sides, and could hold eight passengers 
easily. Luckily for the poor mules, how- 
ever, we were only five grown-up people, 
including the drivers. The road was ex- 
tremely pretty, and the town looked very 
picturesque as we gradually rose above 
it and looked down on it and the harbor 
together. Of a fine, clear afternoon it 
would have been still nicer, though I was 
much congratulated on the falling rain on 
account of the absence of its alternative 
dust. Still, it was possible to have too 
much of a good thing, and by the time 
we reached Pine Town, only fourteen 
miles away, the heavy roads were begin- 
ning to tell on the poor mules, and the 
chill damp of the clqsing evening made 
us all only too thankful to get under the 
shelter of a roadside inn (or hotel, as 
they are called here), which was snug 
and bright and comfortable enough to 
be a credit to any colony. It seemed 
the most natural thing in the world to be 
told that this inn was not only a favorite 
place for people to come out to from 
D'Urban to spend their holiday time in 
fine weather (there is a pretty little church 
in the village hard by), but also that it 
was quite de rigueur for all honeymoons 
to be spent amid its pretty scenery. 

A steady downpour of rain all through 
the night made our early start next day 
an affair of doubt and discouragement 
and dismal prophecy ; but we persevered, 
and accomplished another long stage 
through a cold persistent drizzle before 
reaching an inn, where we enjoyed sim- 
ply the best breakfast I ever tasted, or 
at all events the best I have tasted in 



Natal. The mules were also unharness- 
ed, and after taking, each, a good roll 
on the damp grass, turned out in the 
drizzling rain for a rest and a nibble 
until their more substantial repast was 
ready. The rain cleared up from time 
to time, but an occasional heavy shower 
warned us that the weather was still 
sulky. It was in much better heart and 
spirits, however, that we made a second 
start about eleven o'clock, and struggled 
on through heavy roads up and down 
weary hills, slipping here, sliding there, 
and threatening to stick everywhere. 
Our next stage was to a place where the 
only available shelter was a filthy inn, 
at which we lingered as short a time as 
practicable only long enough, in fact, 
to feed the mules and then, with every 
prospect of a finer afternoon, set out once 
more on the last and longest stage of our 
journey. All the way the road has been 
very beautiful, in spite of the shrouding 
mist, especially at the Inchanga Pass, 
where round the shoulder of the hill as 
fair a prospect of curved green hills, dot- 
ted with clusters of timber exactly like 
an English park, of distant ranges rising 
in softly-rounded outlines, with deep vio- 
let shadows in the clefts and pale green 
lights on the slopes, stretches before you 
as the heart of painter could desire. Nest- 
ling out of sight amid this rich pasture- 
land are the kraals of a large Kafir loca- 
tion, and no one can say that these, the 
children of the soil, have not secured one 
of the most favored spots. To me it all 
looked like a fair mirage. I am already 
sick of beholding all this lovely country 
lying around, and yet of being told that 
food and fuel are almost at famine-prices. 
People say, "Oh, but you should see it 
in winter. Now it is green, and there is 
plenty of feed on it, but three months 
ago no grass-eating creature could have 
picked up a living on all the country-side. 
It is all as brown and bare as parchment 
for half the year. This is the spring." 
Can you not imagine how provoking it 
is to hear such statements made by old 
settlers, who know the place only too 
well, and to find out that all the radiant 
beauty which greets the traveler's eye 
is illusive, for in many places there are 



22 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



miles and miles without a drop of water 
for the flock and herds; consequently, 
there are no means of transport for all 
t^iis fuel until the days of railways ? Be- 
sides which, through Natal lies the great 
highway to the Diamond Fields, the 
Transvaal and the Free States, and all 
the opening-up country beyond ; so it is 
more profitable to drive a wagon than to 
till a farm. Every beast with four legs 
is wanted to drag building materials or 
provisions. The supply of beef becomes 
daily more precarious and costly, for the 
oxen are all "treking," and one hears 
of nothing but diseases among animals 
" horse sickness," pleuro-pneumonia, 
fowl sickness (I feel it an impertinence 
for the poultry to presume to be ill), and 
even dogs set up a peculiar and fatal sort 
of distemper among themselves. 

But to return to the last hours of our 
journey. The mules struggle bravely 
along, though their ears are beginning 
to flap about any way, instead of being 
held straight and sharply pricked for- 
ward, and the encouraging cries of "Pull 
up, Capting ! now then, Blue-bok, hi!" 



become more and more frequent: the 
driver in charge of the whips is less nice 
in his choice of a scourge with which to 
urge on the patient animals, and whacks 
them soundly with whichever comes first. 
The children have long ago wearied of 
the confinement and darkness of the 
back seats of the hooded vehicle; we 
are all black and blue from jolting in 
and out of deep holes hidden by mud 
which occur at every yard ; but still our 
flagging spirits keep pretty good, for our 
little Table Mountain has been left be- 
hind, whilst before us, leaning up in one 
corner of an amphitheatre of hills, are 
the trees which mark where Maritzburg 
nestles. The mules see it too, and, snif- 
fing their stables afar off, jog along faster. 
Only one more rise to pull up : we turn 
a little off the high-road, and there, amid 
a young plantation of trees, with roses, 
honeysuckle and passion-flowers climb- 
ing up the posts of the wide verandah, a 
fair and enchanting prospect lying at our 
feet, stands our new home, with its broad 
red tiled roof stretching out a friendly 
welcome to the tired, belated travelers. 




MARITZBURG, November, 1875. 

THE weather at the beginning of this 
month was lovely and the climate 
perfection, but now (I am writing on its 
last day) it is getting very hot and try- 
ing. If ever people might stand excused 
for talking about the weather when they 
meet, it is we Natalians, for, especially at 
this time of year, it varies from hour to 
hour. All along the coast one hears of 
terrible buffeting and knocking about 
among the shipping in the open road- 
steads which have to do duty for harbors 
in these parts ; and it was only a few 
days ago that the lifeboat, with the Eng- 
lish mail on board, capsized in crossing 
the bar at D'Urban. The telegram was 
as telegrams always are terrifying in 
its vagueness, and spoke of the mail-bags 
as " floating about." When one remem- 
bers the vast size of the breakers on which 
this floating would take place, it sounded 
hopeless for our letters. They turned up, 
however, a few days later in a pulpy 
state, it is true, but quite readable, though 
the envelopes were curiously blended and 
engrafted upon the letters inside so 
much so that they required to be taken 
together, for it was impossible to separate 
them. I had recourse to the expedient 
of spreading my letters on a dry towel 
and draining them before attempting to 
dissever the leaves. Still, we were all 
only too thankful to get our correspond- 
ence in any shape or form, for precious 
beyond the power of words to express 
are home-letters to us, so far away from 
home. 

But to return to our weather. At first 
it was simply perfect. Bright hot days 
not too hot, for a light breeze tempered 
even the midday heat and crisp, bra- 
cing nights succeeded each other durfng 
the first fortnight. The country looked 
exquisitely green in its luxuriant spring 
tints over hill and dale, and the rich red 
clay soil made a splendid contrast on 
road and track with the brilliant green 



on either hand. Still, people looked 
anxiously for more rain, declaring that 
not half enough had fallen to fill tanks 
or "shuits" (as the ditches are called), 
and it took four days of continuous down- 
pour to satisfy these thirsty souls even 
for the moment. Toward the middle of 
the month the atmosphere became more 
oppressive and clouds began to come up 
in thick masses all round the horizon, 
and gradually spread themselves^over the 
whole sky. The day before the heaviest 
rain, though not particularly oppressive, 
was remarkable for the way in which all 
manner of animals tried to get under 
shelter at nightfall. The verandah was 
full of big frogs : if a door remained open 
for a moment they hopped in, and then 
cried like trapped birds when they found 
themselves in a corner. As for the wing- 
ed creatures, it was something wonderful 
the numbers in which they flew in at the 
windows wherever a light attracted them. 
I was busy writing English letters that 
evening : I declare the cockroaches fair- 
ly drove me away from the table by the 
mad way in which they flung themselves 
into my ink-bottle, whilst the smell of 
singed moths at the other lamp was quite 
overpowering. Well, after this came 
rain indeed not rain according to Eng- 
lish ideas, but a tropical deluge, as many 
inches falling in a few hours as would 
fill your rain-gauges for months. I be- 
lieve my conduct was very absurd that 
first rainy night. The little house had 
just been newly papered, and as the 
ceiling was not one to inspire confidence, 
consisting as it did merely of boards 
roughly joined together and painted 
white, through which and through the 
tiles beyond the sky could be seen quite 
plainly, I suffered the gravest doubts 
about the water getting in and spoil- 
ing my pretty new paper. Accordingly, 
whenever any burst of rain came heavier 
than its immediate predecessor, I jump- 
i ed out of bed in a perfect agony of mind, 

23 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



and roamed, candle in hand, all over the 
house to see if I could not detect a leak 
anywhere. But the unpromising-look- 
ing roof and ceiling stood the test brave- 
ly, and not a drop of all that descend- 
ing downpour found its way to my new 
walls. 

By the way, I must describe the house 
to you, remarking, first of all, that archi- 
tecture, so far as my observation extends, 
is at its lowest ebb in South Africa. I 
have not seen a single pretty building of 
any sort or kind since I arrived, although 
in these small houses it would be so easy 
to break by gable and porch the severe 
simplicity of the unvarying straight line 
in which they are built. Whitewashed 
outer walls with a zinc roof are not un- 
common, and they make a bald and hid- 
eous combination until kindly, luxuriant 
Nature has had time to step in and cover 
up man's ugly handiwork with her fes- 
toons of roses and passion-flowers. Most 
of the houses have, fortunately, red-tiled 
roofs, which are not so ugly, and mine is 
among the number. It is so squat and 
square, however, that, as our landlord 
happens to be the chief baker of Ma- 
ritzburg, it has been proposed to christen 
it "Cottage Loaf," but this idea requires 
consideration on account of the baker's 
feelings. In the mean time, it is known 
briefly as "Smith's," that being the 
landlord's name. It has, as all the 
houses here have, a broad projecting 
roof extending over a wide verandah. 
Within are four small rooms, two on 
either side of a narrow passage which runs 
from one end to the other. By a happy 
afterthought, a kitchen has been added 
beyond this extremely simple ground- 
plan, and on the opposite side a corre- 
sponding projection which closely resem- 
bles a packing-case, and which has been 
painted a bright blue inside and out. 
This is the dining-room, and evidently 
requires to be severely handled before 
its present crude and glaring tints can 
be at all toned down. At a little distance 
stands the stable, saddle-room, etc., and 
a good bedroom for English servants, 
and beyond that, again, among large 
clumps of rose-bushes, a native hut. It 
came up here half built that is, the 



frame was partly put together elsewhere 
and it resembled a huge crinoline more 
than anything else in its original state. 
Since that, however, it has been made 
more secure by extra pales of bamboo, 
each tied in its place with infinite trouble 
and patience by a knot every inch or 
two. The final stage consisted of care- 
ful thatching with thick bundles of grass 
laid on the framework, and secured by 
long ropes of grass binding the whole 
together. The door is the very smallest 
opening imaginable, and inside it is of 
course pitch dark. All this labor was 
performed by stalwart Kafir women, one 
of whom, a fearfully repulsive female, in- 
formed my cook that she had just been 
bought back by her original husband. 
Stress of circumstances had obliged him 
to sell her, and she had been bought by 
three other husband-masters since then, 
but was now resold, a bargain, to her 
first owner, whom, she declared, she pre- 
ferred to any of the others. But few as 
are these rooms, they yet are watertight 
which is a great point out here and 
the house, being built of large, awkward 
blocks of stone, is cool and shady. When 
I have arranged things a little, it will be 
quite comfortable and pretty ; and I defy 
any one to wish for a more exquisite view 
than can be seen from any corner of the 
verandah. We are on the brow of a hill 
which slopes gently down to the hollow 
wherein nestles the picturesque little 
town, or rather village, of Maritzburg. 
The intervening distance of a mile or so 
conceals the real ugliness and monotony 
of its straight streets, and hides all archi- 
tectural shortcomings. The clock-tower, 
for instance, is quite a feature in the land- 
scape, and from here one cannot per- 
ceive that the clock does not go. Noth- 
ing can be prettier than the effect of the 
red-tiled roofs and white walls peeping out 
from among thick clumps of trees, whilst 
beyond the ground rises again to low 
hills with deep purple fissures and clefts 
in their green sides. It is only a couple 
of years since this little house was built 
and the garden laid out, and yet the shrubs 
and trees are as big as if half a dozen years 
had passed over their leafy heads. As 
for the roses, I never saw anything like 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



the way they flourish at their own sweet 
will. Scarcely a leaf is to be seen on 
the ugly straggling tree nothing but 
masses of roses of every tint and kind 
and old-fashioned variety. The utmost 
I can do in the way of gathering daily 
basketsful appears only in the light of 
judicious pruning, and next day a dozen 
blossoms have burst forth to supply the 
place of each theft of mine. And there 
is such a variety of trees ! Oaks and 
bamboos, blue gums and deodars, seem 
to flourish equally well within a yard or 
two of each other, and the more distant 
flower-beds are rilled with an odd mix- 
ture of dahlias and daturas, white fleur- 
de-lis and bushy geraniums, scarlet eu- 
phorbias and verbenas. But the weeds ! 
They are a chronic eyesore and grief to 
every gardener. On path and grass-plat, 
flower-bed and border, they flaunt and 
flourish. " Jack," the Zulu refugee, wages 
a feeble and totally inadequate warfare 
against them with a crooked hoe, but he 
is only a quarter in earnest, and stops to 
groan and take snuff so often that the 
result is that our garden is precisely in 
the condition of the garden of the slug- 
gard, gate and all. This hingeless con- 
dition of the gate, however, is, I must in 
fairness state, neither Jack's nor our fault. 
It is a new gate, but no one will come 
out from the town to hang it. That is 
my standing grievance. Because we 
live about a mile from the town it is 
next to impossible to get anything done. 
The town itself is one of the shabbiest as- 
semblages of dwellings I have ever seen 
in a colony. It is not to be named on 
the same day with Christchurch, the cap- 
ital of Canterbury, New Zealand, which 
ten years ago was decently paved and 
well lighted by gas. Poor sleepy Maritz- 
burg consists now, at more than forty 
years of age (Christchurch is not twenty- 
five yet), of a few straight, wide, grass- 
grown streets, which are only picturesque 
at a little distance on account of their 
having trees on each side. On particu- 
larly dark nights a dozen oil-lamps stand- 
ing at long intervals apart are lighted, but 
when it is even moderately starlight these 
aids to finding one's way about are pru- 
dently dispensed with. There is not a 



single handsome and hardly a decent 
building in the whole place. The streets, 
as I saw them after rain, are veritable 
sloughs of despond, but they are capa- 
ble of being changed by dry weather 
into deserts of dust. It is true, I have 
only been as yet twice down to the town, 
but on both visits it reminded me more 
of the sleepy villages in Washington 
Irving's stories than of a smart, mod- 
ern, go-ahead colonial "city." There 
are some fairly good shops, but they 
make no show outside, and within the 
prices of most of the articles sold are 
nearly double the same things would 
bring either at Melbourne or at Christ- 
church. As D 'Urban is barely a month 
away from London in point of communi- 
cation, and New Zealand (when I knew 
it) nearly treble the distance and time, 
this is a great puzzle to me. 

A certain air of quaint interest and life 
is given to the otherwise desolate streets 
by the groups of Kafirs and the teams 
of wagons which bring fuel and forage 
into the town every day. Twenty bul- 
locks drag these ponderous contrivances 
bullocks so lean that one wonders how 
they have strength to carry their wide- 
spreading horns aloft ; bullocks of a stu- 
pidity and obstinacy unparalleled in the 
natural history of horned beasts. At 
their head walks a Kafir lad called a 
"forelooper," who tugs at a rope fasten- 
ed to the horns of the leading oxen, and 
in moments of general confusion invari- 
ably seems to pull the wrong string and 
get the whole team into an inextricable 
tangle of horns and yokes. Sometimes 
of a quiet Sunday morning these teams 
and wagons I see "out-spanned" on the 
green slopes around Maritzburg, making 
a picturesque addition to the sylvan sce- 
nery. Near each wagon a light wreath 
of smoke steals up into the summer 
air, marking where some preparation of 
"mealies" is on foot, and the groups of 
grazing oxen "spans," as each team is 
called give the animation of animal 
life which I miss so sadly at every turn 
in this part of the world. 

In Maritzburg itself I only noticed two 
buildings which made the least effect. 
One is the government house, standing 



26 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



in a nice garden and boasting of a rath- 
er pretty porch, but otherwise reminding 
one except for the sentinel on duty 
of a quiet country rectory : the other is a 
small block comprising the public offices. 
The original idea of this square building 
must have come from a model dairy. 
But the crowning absurdity of the place 
is the office of the colonial secretary, 
which stands nearly opposite. I am told 
that inside it is tolerably comfortable, be- 
ing the remains of an old Dutch build- 
ing : outside, it can only be compared to 
a dilapidated barn on a bankrupt farm, 
and when it was first pointed out to me 
I had great difficulty, remembering sim- 
ilar buildings in other colonies, in be- 
lieving it was a public office. 

The native police look very smart and 
shiny in their white suits, and must be 
objects of envy to their black brethren 
on account of their "knobkerries," the 
knobbed sticks which they alone are per- 
mitted to carry officially in their hands. 
The native loves a stick, and as he is 
forbidden to carry either an assegai 
which is a very formidable weapon in- 
deed or even a knobkerry, only one 
degree less dangerous, he consoles him- 
self with a wand or switch in case of 
coming across a snake. You never see 
a Kafir without something of the sort in 
his hand: if he is not twirling a light 
stick, then he has a sort of rude reed 
pipe from which he extracts sharp and 
tuneless sounds. As a race, the Kafirs 
make the effect of possessing a fine 
physique : they walk with an erect bear- 
ing and a light step, but in true leisurely 
savage fashion. I have seen the black 
race in four different quarters of the 
globe, and I never saw one single indi- 
vidual move quickly of his own free will. 
We must bear in mind, however, that it 
is a new and altogether revolutionary 
idea to a Kafir that he should do any 
work at all. Work is for women war 
or idleness for men ; consequently, their 
fixed idea is to do as little as they can ; 
and no Kafir will work after he has earn- 
ed money enough to buy a sufficient 
number of wives who will work for him. 
"Charlie," our groom who is, by the 
way, a very fine gentleman and speaks 



"Ingeliss" after a strange fashion of his 
own only condescends to work until he 
can purchase a wife. Unfortunately, the 
damsel whom he prefers is a costly ar- 
ticle, and her parents demand a cow, a 
kettle and a native hut as the price of 
her hand or hands, rather so Charlie 
grunts and groans through about as much 
daily work as an English boy of twelve 
years old could manage easily. He is a 
very amusing character, being exceed- 
ingly proud, and will only obey his own 
master, whom he calls his great inkosi 
or chief. He is always lamenting the 
advent of the inkosi-casa, or chieftainess, 
and the piccaninnies and their following, 
especially the "vaiter," whom he detests. 
In his way, Charlie is a wag, and it is as 
good as a play to see his pretence of stu- 
pidity when the " vaiter" or French butler 
desires him to go and eat "sa paniche." 
Charlie understands perfectly that he is 
told to go and get his breakfast of mealy 
porridge, but he won't admit that it is to 
be called "paniche," preferring his own 
word " scoff;" so he shakes his head vio- 
lently and says, "Nay, nay, paniche." 
Then, with many nods, "Scoff, ja;" and 
so in this strange gibberish of three lan- 
guages he and the Frenchman carry on 
quite a pretty quarrel. Charlie also 
"mocks himself" of the other servants, 
I am informed, and asserts that he is the 
" indema" or headman. He freely boxes 
the ears of Jack, the Zulu refugee poor 
Jack, who fled from his own country, 
next door, the other day, and arrived 
here clad in only a short flap made of 
three bucks' tails. That is only a month 
ago, and " Jack" is already quite a petit 
m ait re about his clothes. He ordinarily 
wears a suit of knickerbockers and a 
shirt of blue check bound with red, and 
a string of beads round his neck, but he 
cries like a baby if he tears his clothes, 
or still worse if the color of the red braid 
washes out. At first he hated civilized 
garments, even when they were only two 
in number, and begged to be allowed to 
assume a sack with holes for the arms, 
which is the Kafir compromise when 
near a town between clothes and flaps 
made of the tails of wild beasts or strips 
of hide. But he soon came to delight in 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



27 



them, and is now always begging for 
"something to wear." 

I confess I am sorry for Jack. He is 
the kitchen-boy, and is learning with 
much pains and difficulty the wrong 
language. My cook is also French, 
and, naturally, all that Jack learns is 
French, and not English. Imagine poor 
Jack's dismay when, after his three years' 
apprenticeship to us is ended, he seeks 
perhaps to better himself, and finds that 
no one except madame can understand 
him ! Most of their dialogues are car- 
ried on by pantomime and the incessant 
use, in differing tones of voice, of the 
word " Ja." Jack is a big, loutish young 
man, but very ugly and feeble, and ap- 
parently under the impression that he is 
perpetually " wanted" to answer for the 
little indiscretion, whatever it was, on 
account of which he was forced to flee 
over the border. He is timid and scared 
to the last degree, and abjectly anxious 
to please if it does not entail too much 
exertion. He is, as it were, apprenticed 
to us for three years. We are bound to 
feed and clothe and doctor him, and he 
is to work for us, in his own lazy fash- 
ion, for small wages. The first time Jack 
broke a plate his terror and despair were 
quite edifying to behold. Madame call- 
ed him a " maladroit" on the spot. Jack 
learned this word, and after his work was 
over seated himself gravely on the ground 
with the fragments of the plate, which he 
tried to join together, but gave up the 
attempt at last, announcing in his own 
tongue that it was "dead." After a lit- 
tle consideration he said slowly, several 
times, " Maldraw, ja," and hit himself a 
good thump at each "ja." Now, I grieve 
to say, Jack breaks plates, dishes and 
cups with a perfectly easy and unembar- 
rassed qonscience, and is already far too 
civilized to care in the least for his mis- 
fortunes in that line. Whenever a fowl 
is killed and I came upon Jack slowly 
putting one to death the other day with 
a pair of nail-scissors he possesses him- 
self of a small store of feathers, which he 
wears tastefully placed over his left ear. 
A gay ribbon, worn like a bandeau across 
the forehead, is what he really loves. 
Jack is very proud of a tawdry ribbon of 



many colors with a golden ground which 
I found for him the other day, only he 
never can make up his mind where to 
wear it ; and I often come upon him sit- 
ting in the shade with the ribbon in his 
hands, gravely considering the question. 
The Pickle and plague of the estab- 
lishment, however, is the boy Tom, a 
grinning young savage fresh from his 
kraal, up to any amount of mischief, 
who in an evil hour has been engaged 
as the baby's body-servant. I cannot 
trust him with the child out of my sight 
for a moment, for he " snuffs " enormous- 
ly, and smokes coarse tobacco out of a 
cow's horn, and is anxious to teach the 
baby both these accomplishments. Tom 
wears his snuff-box which is a brass 
cylinder a couple of inches long in 
either ear impartially, there being huge 
slits in the cartilage for the purpose, and 
the baby never rests till he gets posses- 
sion of it and sneezes himself nearly into 
fits. Tom likes nursing Baby immensely, 
and croons to him in a strange buzzing 
way which lulls him to sleep invariably. 
He is very anxious, however, to acquire 
some words of English, and I was much 
startled the other day to hear in the ve- 
randah my own voice saying, " What is 
it, dear?" over and over again. This 
phrase proceeded from Tom, who kept 
on repeating it, parrot-fashion an exact 
imitation, but with no idea of its mean- 
ing. I had heard the baby whimpering a 
little time before, and Tom had remark- 
ed that these four words produced the 
happiest effect in restoring good-humor ; 
so he learned them, accent and all, on 
the spot, and used them as a spell or 
charm on the next opportunity. I think 
even the poor baby was puzzled. But 
one cannot feel sure of what Tom will 
do next. A few evenings ago I trusted 
him to wheel the perambulator about 
the garden-paths, but, becoming anxious 
in a very few minutes to know what he 
was about, I went to look for him. I 
found him grinning in high glee, watch- 
ing the baby's efforts at cutting his teeth 
on a live young bird. Master Tom had 
spied a nest, climbed the tree, and 
brought down the poor little bird, which 
he presented to the child, who instantly 



28 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



put it into his mouth. When I arrived on 
the scene Baby's mouth was full of feath- 
ers, over which he was making a very 
disgusted face, and the unhappy bird was 
nearly dead of fright and squeezing, whilst 
Tom was in such convulsions of laughter 
that I nearly boxed his ears. He show- 
ed me by signs how Baby insisted on 
sucking the bird's head, and conveyed 
his intense amusement at the idea. I 
made Master Tom climb the tree instant- 
ly and put the poor little half- dead crea- 
ture back into its nest, and sent for 
Charlie to explain to him he should have 
no sugar the only punishment Tom 
cares about for two days. I often think, 
however, that I must try and find anoth- 
er penalty, for when Tom's allowance of 
sugar is stopped he "requisitions" that 
of every one else, and so gets rather more 
than usual. He is immensely proud of 
the brass chin-strap of an old artillery 
bushy which has been given to him. He 
used to wear it across his forehead in the 
favorite Kafir fashion, but as the baby 
always made it his first business to pull 
this shining strap down over Tom's eyes, 
and eventually over Tom's mouth, it has 
been transferred to his neck. 

These Kafir-lads make excellent nurse- 
boys generally, and English children are 
very fond of them. Nurse-girls are rare, 
as the Kafir women begin their lives of 
toil so early that they are never very 
handy or gentle in a house, and boys are 
easier to train as servants. I heard to- 
day, however, of an excellent Kafir nurse- 
maid who was the daughter of a chief, 
and whose only drawback was the size 
of her family. She was actually and 
truly one of eighty brothers and sisters, 
her father being a rich man with twenty- 
five wives. That simply means that he 
had twenty - five devoted slaves, who 
worked morning, noon and night for 
him in field and mealy-patch without 
wages. Jack the Zulu wanted to be 
nurse-boy dreadfully, and used to follow 
Nurse about with a towel rolled up into 
a bundle, and another towel arranged as 
drapery, dandling an imaginary baby on 
his arm, saying plaintively, " Piccaninny, 
piccaninny !" This Nurse translated to 
mean that he was an experienced nurse- 



boy, and had taken care of a baby in his 
own country, but as I had no confidence 
in maladroit Jack, who chanced to be 
very deaf besides, he was ruthlessly 
relegated to his pots and pans. 

It is very curious to see the cast-off 
clothes of all the armies of Europe find- 
ing their way hither. The natives of 
South Africa prefer an old uniform coat 
or tunic to any other covering, and the 
effect of a short scarlet garment when 
worn with bare legs is irresistibly droll. 
The apparently inexhaustible supply of 
old-fashioned English coatees with their 
worsted epaulettes is just coming to an 
end, and being succeeded by ragged red 
tunics, franc-tireurs' brownish-green jack- 
ets and much-worn Prussian gray coats. 
Kafir-Land may be looked upon as the 
old-clothes shop of all the fighting world, 
for sooner or later every cast-off scrap 
of soldier's clothing drifts toward it. 
Charlie prides himself much upon the 
possession of an old gray great-coat, so 
patched and faded that it may well have 
been one of those which toiled up the 
slopes of Inkerman that rainy Sunday 
morning twenty years ago ; whilst scamp- 
ish Tom got well chaffed the other day 
for suddenly making his appearance clad 
in a stained red tunic with buff collar 
and cuffs, and the number of the old 
"dirty Half-hundred" in tarnished metal 
on the shoulder-scales. "Sir Garnet," 
cried Charlie the witty, whilst Jack affect- 
ed to prostrate himself before the grin- 
ning imp, exclaiming, "O great inkosi !" 

Charlie is angry with me just now, and 
looks most reproachfully my way on all 
occasions. The cause is that he was 
sweeping away sundry huge spiders' 
webs from the roof of the verandah (the 
work of a single night) when I heard 
him coughing frightfully. I gave him 
some lozenges, saying, " Do your cough 
good, Charlie." Charlie received them 
in both hands held like a cup, the high- 
est form of Kafir gratitude, and gulped 
them all down on the spot. Next day 
I heard the same dreadful cough, and 
told F to give him some more loz- 
enges. But Charlie would have none 
of them, alleging he "eats plenty to- 
morrow's yesterday, and dey no good 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



29 



at all;" and he evidently despises me ! 
and my remedies. 

If only there were no hot winds ! But 
the constant changes are so trying and 
so sudden. Sometimes we have a hot, 
scorching gale all day, drying and parch- 
ing one's very skin up, and shriveling 
one's lovely roses like the blast from a 
furnace: then in the afternoon a dark 
cloud sails suddenly up from behind the 
hills to the west. It is over the house 
before one knows it is coming: a loud 
clap of thunder shakes the very ground 
beneath one's feet, others follow rapid- 
ly, and a thunderstorm bewilders one for 
some ten minutes or so. A few drops 
of cold rain fall to the sound of the dis- 
tant thunder, now rolling away eastward, 
which yet "struggles and howls at fits." 
It is not always distant, but we have not 
yet seen a real thunderstorm ; only a few 
of these short, sudden electrical disturb- 
ances, which come and go more like ex- 
plosions than anything else. A few days 
ago there was a duststorm which had a 
very curious effect as we looked down 
upon it from this hill. All along the 
roads one could watch the dust being 
caught up, as it were, and whirled along 
in dense clouds, whilst the poor little 
town itself was absolutely blotted out by 
the blinding masses of fine powder. For 
half an hour or so we could afford to watch 
and smile at our neighbors' plight, but 
soon we had to flee for shelter ourselves 
within the house, for a furious hot gale 
drove heavily up behind the dust and 
nearly blew us away altogether. Still, 
there was no thunderstorm, though we 
quite wished for one to cool the air and 
refresh the parched and burnt-up grass 
and flowers. Such afternoons are gen- 
erally pretty sure to be succeeded by a 
cold night, and perhaps a cold, damp 
morning; and one can already under- 
stand that these alternations during the 
summer months are apt to produce dys- 
entery among young children. I hear 
just now of a good many such ca^es 
among babies. 

I have been so exceedingly busy this 
month packing, arranging and settling 
that there has been but little time for 
going about and seeing the rather pretty 



environs of Maritzburg; besides which, 
the weather is dead against excursions, 
changing as it does to rain or threaten- 
ing thunderstorms nearly every after- 
noon. One evening we ventured out for 
a walk in spite of growlings and spittings 
up above among the crass-looking clouds. 
Natal is not a nice country, for women 
at all events, to walk in. You have to 
keep religiously to the road or track, for 
woe betide the rash person who ventures 
on the grass, though from repeated burn- 
ings all about these hills it is quite short. 
There is a risk of your treading on a 
snake, and a certainty of your treading 
on a frog. You will soon find your legs 
covered with small and pertinacious ticks, 
who have apparently taken a "header" 
into your flesh and made up their minds 
to die sooner than let go. They must be 
the bull -dogs of the insect tribe, these 
ticks, for a sharp needle will scarcely 
dislodge them. At the last extremity of 
extraction they only burrow their heads 
deeper into the skin, and will lose this 
important part of their tiny bodies soon- 
er than yield to the gentlest leverage. 
Then there are myriads of burs which 
cling to you in green and brown scales 
of roughness, and fringe your petticoats 
with their sticky little lumps. As for the 
poor petticoats themselves, however short 
you may kilt them, you bring them back 
from a walk deeply flounced with the red 
clay of the roads ; and as the people who 
wash do not seem to consider this a dis- 
advantage, and take but little pains to 
remove the earth-stains, one's garments 
gradually acquire, even when clean, a 
uniform bordering of dingy red. All 
the water at this time of year is red too ; 
as the rivers are stirred up by the heavy 
summer rains, and resemble angry mud- 
dy ditches more than fresh-water streams. 
I miss at every turn the abundance of 
clear, clean, sparkling water in the creeks 
and rivers of my dear New Zealand, and 
it is only after heavy rain, when every 
bath and large vessel has been turned 
into a receptacle during the downpour, 
that one can compass the luxury of an 
inviting-looking bath or glass of drink- 
ing-water. Of course this turbid water 
renders it pretty difficult to get one's 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



clothes properly washed, and the substi- 
tute for a mangle is an active Kafir, who 
makes the roughly-dried clothes up into 
a neat parcel, places them on a stone 
and dances up and down upon them for 
as long or short a time as he pleases. 
Fuel is so enormously dear that the cost 
of having clothes ironed is something 
astounding, and altogether washing is 
one of the many costly items of Natal- 
ian housekeeping. When I remember 
the frantic state of indignation and alarm 
we were all in in England three years 
ago when coals rose to 2 los. a ton, 
and think how cheap I should consider 
that price for fuel here, I can't help a 
melancholy smile. Nine solid sovereigns 
purchase you a tolerable-sized load of 
wood, about equal for cooking purposes 
to a ton of coal ; but whereas the coal is 
at all events some comfort and conveni- 
ence to use, the wood is only a source 
of additional trouble and expense. It 
has to be cut up and dried, and finally 
coaxed and cajoled by incessant use of 
the bellows into burning. Besides the 
price of fuel, provisions of all sorts seem 
to me to be dear and bad. Milk is sold 
by the quart bottle : it is now fourpence 
per bottle, but rises to sixpence during 
the winter. Meat is eightpence a pound, 
but it is so thin and bony, and of such 
indifferent quality, that there is very little 
saving in that respect. I have not tasted 
any really good butter since we arrived, 
and we pay two shillings a pound for 
cheesy, rancid stuff. I hear that " meal- 
ies," the crushed maize, are also very 
dear, and so is forage for the horses. In- 
stead of the horses being left out on the 
run night and day, summer and winter, 
as they used to be in New Zealand, with 
an occasional feed of oats for a treat, they 
need to be carefully housed at night and 
well fed with oaten straw and mealies to 
give them a chance against the mysterious 
and fatal "horse-sickness," which kills 
them in a few hours. Altogether, so far 
as my very limited experience of only 
a few weeks, remember goes, I should 
say that Natal was an expensive place to 
live in, owing to the scarcity and dear- 
ness of the necessaries of life. I am 
told that far up in the country food and 



fuel are cheap and good, and that it is 
the dearness and difficulty of transport 
which forces Maritzburg to depend foi 
its supplies entirely on what is grown in 
its own immediate vicinity, where there 
is not very much land under cultivation ; 
so we must look to the coming railway 
to remedy all that. 

If only one could eat flowers, or if wheat 
and other cereals grew as freely and lux- 
uriously as flowers grow, how nice it would 
be! On the open grassy downs about 
here the blossoms are lovely beautiful 
lilies in scarlet and white clusters, sev- 
eral sorts of periwinkles, heaths, cinne- 
rarias, both purple and white, and gold- 
en bushes of citisus or Cape broom, load 
the air with fragrance. By the side of 
every "spruit" or brook one sees clumps 
of tall arum lilies filling every little wa- 
ter-washed hollow in the brook, and the 
ferns which make each ditch and water- 
course green and plumy have a sepa- 
rate shady beauty of their own. This is 
all in Nature's own free, open garden, 
and when the least cultivation or care 
is added to her bounteous luxuriance a 
magnificent garden for fruit, vegetables 
and flowers is the result ; always suppos- 
ing you are fortunate enough to be able 
to induce these lazy Kafirs to dig the 
ground for you. 

About a fortnight ago I braved the dirt 
and disagreeables of a cross-country walk 
in showery weather for we have not been 
able to meet with a horse to suit us yet 
and went to see a beautiful garden a cou- 
ple of miles away. It was approached 
by a long double avenue of blue gum 
trees, planted only nine years ago, but 
tall and stately as though a century had 
passed over their lofty, pointed heads, 
and with a broad red clay road running 
between the parallel lines of trees. The 
ordinary practice of clearing away the 
grass as much as possible round a house 
strikes an English eye as bare and odd, 
but when one hears that it is done to 
avoid snakes, it becomes a necessary 
and harmonious adjunct to the rest of 
the scene. In this instance I found these 
broad smooth walks, with their deep rich 
red color, a very beautiful contrast to the 
glow of brilliant blossoms in the enor- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



mous flower-beds. For this garden was 
not at all like an ordinary garden, still 
less like a prim English parterre. The 
beds were as large as small fields, slight- 
ly raised and bordered by a thick line of 
violets. Large shrubs of beautiful semi- 
tropical plants made tangled heaps of 
purple, scarlet and white blossoms on 
every side ; the large creamy bells of the 
datura drooped toward the reddish earth ; 
thorny shrubs of that odd bluish-green 
peculiar to Australian foliage grew side 
by side with the sombre-leaved myrtle. 
Every plant grew in the most liberal 
fashion ; green things which we are ac- 
customed to see in England in small 
pots shoot up here to the height of lau- 
rel bushes ; a screen of scarlet euphor- 
bia made a brilliant line against a back- 
ground formed by a hedge of shell-like 
cluster-roses, and each pillar of the ve- 
randah of the little house had its own 
magnificent creeper. Up one standard 
an ipomea twined closely ; another pil- 
lar was hidden by the luxuriance of a 
trumpet-honeysuckle ; whilst a third was 
thickly covered by an immense passion- 
flower. In shady, damp places grew 
many varieties of ferns and blue hy- 
drangeas, whilst other beds were filled 
by gay patches of verbenas of every hue 
and shade. The sweet-scented verbena 
is one of the commonest and most suc- 
cessful shrubs in a Natal garden, and 
just now the large bushes of it which one 
sees in every direction are covered by ta- 
pering spikes of its tiny white blossoms. 
But the feature of this garden was roses 
roses on each side whichever way you 
turned, and I should think of at least a 
hundred different sorts. Not the stiff 
standard rose tree of an English garden, 
with its few precious blossoms, to be 
looked at from a distance and admired 
with respectful gravity. No : in this gar- 
den the roses grow as they might have 
grown in Eden untrained, unpruned, in 
enormous bushes covered entirely by 
magnificent blossoms, each bloom of 
which would have won a prize at a rose- 
show. There was one cloth-of-gold rose 
bush that I shall never forget its size, 
its fragrance, its wealth of creamy-yel- 
lowish blossoms. A few yards off stood 



a still bigger and more luxuriant pyra- 
mid, some ten feet high, covered with the 
large, delicate and regular pink bloom 
of the souvenir de Malmaison. When I 
talk of a bush I only mean one especial 
bush which caught my eye. I suppose 
there were fifty cloth-of-gold and fifty 
souvenir rose bushes in that garden. 
Red roses, white roses, tea roses, blush- 
roses, moss roses, and, last not least, the 
dear old-fashioned, homely cabbage rose, 
sweetest and most sturdy of all. You 
could wander for acres and acres among 
fruit trees and plantations of oaks and 
willows and other trees, but you never 
got away from the roses. There they 
were, beautiful, delicious things at every 
turn hedges of them, screens of them 
and giant bushes of them on either hand. 
As I have said before, though kept free 
from weeds by some half dozen scantily- 
clad but stalwart Kafirs with their awk- 
ward hoes, it was not a bit like a trim 
English garden. It was like a garden 
in which Lalla Rookh might have wan- 
dered by moonlight talking sentimental 
philosophy with her minstrel prince un- 
der old Fadladeen's chaperonage, or a 
garden that Boccaccio might have peo- 
pled with his Arcadian fine ladies and 
gentlemen. It was emphatically a poet's 
or a painter's garden, not a gardener's 
garden. Then, as though nothing should 
be wanting to make the scene lovely, one 
could hear through the fragrant silence 
the tinkling of the little "spruit" or brook 
at the bottom of the garden, and the 
sweet song of the Cape canary, the same 
sort of greenish finch which is the parent 
stock of all our canaries, and whose ac- 
quaintance I first made in Madeira. A 
very sweet warbler it is, and the clear, 
flute-like notes sounded prettily among 
the roses. From blossom to blossom 
lovely butterflies flitted, perching quite 
fearlessly on the red clay walk just be- 
fore me, folding and unfolding their big 
painted wings. Every day I see a new 
kind of butterfly, and the moths which 
one comes upon hidden away under the 
leaves of the creepers during the bright 
noisy day are lovely beyond the power 
of words. One little fellow is a great 
pet of mine. He wears pure white wings, 



3 2 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



with vermilion stripes drawn in regular 
horizontal lines across his back, and 
between the lines are shorter, broken 
streaks of black, which is at once neat 
and uncommon ; but he is always in the 
last stage of sleepiness when I see him. 

I am so glad little G is not old enough 

to want to catch them all and impale 
them upon corks in a glass case ; so the 
pretty creatures live out their brief and 
happy life in the sunshine, without let or 
hinderance from him. 

The subject of which my mind is most 
full just now is the purchase of a horse. 

F has a fairly good chestnut cob of 

his own ; G has become possessed, to 

his intense delight, of an aged and long- 
suffering Basuto pony, whom he fidgets 
to death during the day by driving him 
all over the place, declaring he is "only 
showing him where the nicest grass 
grows ;" and I want a steed to draw my 

pony-carriage and to carry me. F 

and I are at dagger's drawn on this ques- 
tion. He wants to buy me a young, 
handsome, showy horse of whom his ad- 
mirers predict that "he will steady down 
presently," whilst my affections are firm- 
ly fixed on an aged screw who would not 
turn his head if an Armstrong gun were 
fired behind him. His owner says Scots- 
man is "rising eleven :" F declares 

Scotsman will never see his twentieth 

birthday again. F points out to me 

that Scotsman has had rough times of 
it, apparently, in his distant youth, and 
that he is strangely battered about the 
head, and has a large notch out of one 
ear. I retaliate by reminding him how 
sagely the old horse picked his way, with 
a precision of judgment which only years 
can give, through the morass which lies 
at the foot of the hill, and which must 
be crossed every time I go into town (and 
there is nowhere else to go). That mo- 
rass is a bog in summer and a honey- 
comb of deep ruts and holes in winter, 
which, you must bear in mind, is the 
dry season here. Besides his tact in 
the matter of the morass, did I not drive 
Scotsman the other day to the park, and 
did he not comport himself in the most 
delightfully sedate fashion ? You require 
experience to be on the lookout for the 



perils of Maritzburg streets, it seems, for 
all their sleepy, deserted, tumble-down 
air. First of all, there are the transport- 
wagons, with their long span of oxen 
straggling all across the road, and a 
nervous bullock precipitating himself 
under your horse's nose. The driver, 
too, invariably takes the opportunity of 
a lady passing him to crack his whip 
violently, enough to startle any horse 
except Scotsman. Then when you have 
passed the place where the wagons most 
do congregate, and think you are toler- 
ably safe and need only look out for ruts 
and holes in the street, lo ! a furious gal- 
loping behind you, and some half dozen 
of the "gilded youth" of Maritzburg 
dash past you, stop, wheel round and 
gallop past again, until you are almost 
blinded with dust or smothered with mud, 
according to the season. This peril oc- 
curred several times during my drive 
to and from the park, and I can only 
remark that dear old Scotsman kept 
his temper better than I did: perhaps 
he was more accustomed to Maritzburg 
manners. 

When the park was reached at last, 
across a frail and uncertain wooden 
bridge shaded by large weeping willows, 
I found it the most creditable thing I 
had yet seen. It is admirably laid out, 
the natural undulations of the ground 
being made the most of, and exceeding- 
ly well kept. This in itself is a difficult 
matter where all vegetation runs up like 
Jack's famous beanstalk, and where the 
old proverb about the steed starving 
whilst his grass is growing falls com- 
pletely to the ground. There are nu- 
merous drives, made level by a coating 
of smooth black shale, and bordered by 
a double line of syringas and oaks, with 
hedges of myrtle or pomegranate. In 
some places the roads run alongside the 
little river a very muddy torrent when 
I saw it and then the oaks give way to 
great drooping willows, beneath whose 
trailing branches the river swirled an- 
grily. On fine Saturday afternoons the 
band of the regiment stationed here 
plays on a clear space under some 
shady trees for you can never sit or 
stand on the grass in Natal, and even 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



33 



croquet is played on bare leveled earth 
and everybody rides or walks or drives 
about. When I saw the park there was 
not a living creature in it, for it was, as 
most of our summer afternoons are, wet 
and cold and drizzling ; but, considering 
that there was no thunderstorm likely to 
break over our heads that day, I felt that 
I could afford to despise a silent Scotch 
mist. We varied our afternoon weather 
last week by a hailstorm, of which the 
stones were as big as large marbles. I 
was scoffed at for remarking this, and 
assured it was " nothing, absolutely noth- 
ing," to the great hailstorm of two years 
ago, which broke nearly every tile and 
pane of glass in Maritzburg, and left the 
town looking precisely as though it had 
been bombarded. I have seen photo- 
graphs of some of the ruined houses, 
and it is certainly difficult to believe that 
hail could have done so much mischief. 
Then, again, stories reach me of a cer- 
tain thunderstorm one Sunday evening 
just before I arrived in which the light- 
ning struck a room in which a family 
was assembled at evening prayers, kill- 
ing the poor old father with the Bible in 
his hand, and knocking over every mem- 
ber of the little congregation. My in- 
formant said, " I assure you it seemed as 
though the lightning were poured out 
of heaven in a jug. There were no dis- 
tinct flashes : the heavens appeared to 
split open and pour down a flood of 
blazing violet light." I have seen noth- 



ing like this yet, but can quite realize 
what such a storm must be like, for I 
have observed already how different the 
color of the lightning is. The flashes I 
have seen were exactly of the lilac col- 
or he described, and they followed each 
other with a rapidity of succession un- 
known in less electric regions. And yet 
my last English letters were full of com- 
plaints of the wet weather in London, 
and much self-pity for the long imprison- 
ment in-doors. Why, those very people 
don't know what weather inconveniences 
are. If London streets are muddy, at 
all events there are no dangerous mo- 
rasses in them. No matter how much it 
rains, people get their comfortable meals 
three times a day. Here, rain means a 
risk of starvation (if the little wooden 
bridge between us and the town were to 
be swept away) and a certainty of short 
commons. A wet morning means damp 
bread for breakfast and a thousand other 
disagreeables. No, I have no patience with 
the pampered Londoners, who want per- 
petual sunshine in addition to their other 
blessings, for saying one word about dis- 
comfort. They are all much too civilized 
and luxurious, and their lives are made 
altogether too smooth for them. Let them 
come out here and try to keep house on 
the top of a hill with servants whose lan- 
guage they don't understand, a couple of 
noisy children and a small income, and 
then, as dear Mark Twain says, " they'll 
know something about woe." 




iv. 



D'URBAN, January 3, 1876. 

I MUST certainly begin this letter by 
setting aside every other topic for the 
moment and telling you of our grand 
event, our national celebration, our his- 
torical New Year's Day. We have "turn- 
ed the first sod" of our first inland rail- 
way, and, if I am correctly informed, at 
least a dozen sods more, but you must 
remember, if you please, that our nav- 
vies are Kafirs, and that they do not un- 
derstand what Mr. Carlyle calls the beau- 
ty and dignity of labor in the least. It is 
all very well for you conceited dwellers 
in the Old and New Worlds to laugh at 
us for making such a fuss about a pro- 
jected hundred miles of railway you 
whose countries are made into dissected 
maps by the magic iron lines but for 
poor us, who have to drag every pound 
of sugar and reel of sewing-cotton over 
some sixty miles of vile road between 
this and Maritzburg, such a line, if it be 
ever finished, will be a boon and a bless- 
ing indeed. 

I think I can better make you under- 
stand how great a blessing if I describe 
my journeys up and down journeys 
made, too, under exceptionally favorable 
circumstances. The first thing which 
had to be done, some three weeks before 
the day of our departure, was to pack 
and send down by wagon a couple of 
portmanteaus with our smart clothes. I 
may as well mention here that the cost 
of the transit came to fourteen shillings 
each way for three or four small, light 
packages, and that on each occasion we 
were separated from our possessions for 
a fortnight or more. The next step to 
be taken was to secure places in the daily 
post-cart, and it required as much min- 
gled firmness and persuasion to do this 
as though it had reference to a political 
crisis. But then there were some hun- 
dreds of us Maritzburgians all wanting 
to be taken down to D 'Urban within the 
space of a few days, and there was noth- 
34 



ing to take us except the open post-cart, 
which occupied six hours on the journey, 
and an omnibus, which took ten hours, 
but afforded more shelter from possible 
rain and probable sun. Within the two 
vehicles some twenty people might, at a 
pinch, find places, and at least a hun- 
dred wanted to go every day of that last 
week of the old year. I don't know how 
the others managed : they must have got 
down somehow, for there they were in 
great force when the eventful day had 
arrived. 

This first journey was prosperous, de- 
ceitfully prosperous, as though it would 
fain try to persuade us that after all there 
was a great deal to be said in favor of a 
mode of traveling which reminded one 
of the legends of the glories of the old 
coaching days. No dust for there had 
been heavy rain a few days before a 
perfect summer's day, hot enough in the 
sun, but not disagreeably hot as we bowl- 
ed along, fast as four horses could go, in 
the face of a soft, balmy summer breeze. 
We were packed as tightly as we could 
fit two of us on the coach -box, with 
the mail - bags under our feet and the 
driver's elbows in our ribs. The ordi- 
nary light dog-cart which daily runs be- 
tween Maritzburg and D'Urban was ex- 
changed for a sort of open break, strong 
indeed, but very heavy, one would fancy, 
for the poor horses, who had to scamper 
along up and down veldt and berg, over 
bog and spruit, with this lumbering con- 
veyance at their heels. Not for long, 
though : every seven miles, or even less, 
we pulled up sometimes at a tidy inn, 
where a long table would be set in the 
open verandah laden with eatables (for 
driving fast through the air sharpens 
even the sturdy colonial appetite), some- 
times at a lonely shanty by the road- 
side, from whence a couple of Kafir lads 
emerged tugging at the bridles of the 
fresh horses. But I am bound to say 
that although each of these teams did 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



35 



a stage twice a day, although they were 
ill-favored and ill-groomed, their harness 
shabby beyond description, and their 
general appearance most forlorn, they 
were one and all in good condition and 
did their work in first -rate style. The 
wheelers were generally large, gaunt and 
most hideous animals, but the leaders oft- 
en were ponies who, one could imagine, 
under happier circumstances might be 
handsome little horses enough, staunch 
and willing to the last degree. They 
knew their driver's cheery voice as well 
as possible, and answered to every cry 
and shout of encouragement he gave 
them as we scampered along. Of course, 
each horse had its name, and equally of 
course "Sir Garnet" was there in a team 
with " Lord GifTord" and " Lord Carnar- 
von " for leaders. Did we come to a 
steep hillside, up which any respectable 
English horse would certainly expect to 
walk in a leisurely, sober fashion, then 
our driver shook out his reins, blew a 
ringing blast on his bugle, and cried, 
"Walk along, Lord Gifford ! think as 
you've another Victoriar Cross to get top 
o* this hill ! Walk along, Lord Carnar- 
von ! you ain't sitting in a cab'net coun- 
cil here, you know. Don't leave Sir 
Garnet do all the work, you know. For- 
ward, my lucky lads ! creep up it !" and 
by the time he had shrieked out this and 
a lot more patter, behold ! we were at the 
top of the hill, and a fresh, lovely land- 
scape was lying smiling in the sunshine 
below us. It was a beautiful country we 
passed through, but, except for a scat- 
tered homestead here and there by the 
roadside, not a sign of a human dwelling 
on all its green and fertile slopes. How 
the railway is to drag itself up and round 
all those thousand and one spurs run- 
ning into each other, with no distinct 
valley or flat between, is best known to 
the engineers and surveyors, who have 
declared it practicable. To the non-pro- 
fessional eye it seems not only difficult, 
but impossible. But oh how it is want- 
ed ! All along the road shrill bugle- 
blasts warned the slow, trailing ox- 
wagons, with their naked "forelooper" 
at their head, to creep aside out of our 
way. I counted one hundred and twen- 



ty wagons that day on fifty miles of road. 
Now, if one considers that each of these 
wagons is drawn by a span of some thir- 
ty or forty oxen, one has some faint idea 
of how such a method of transport must 
waste and use up the material of the 
country. Something like ten thousand 
oxen toil over this one road summer and 
winter, and what wonder is it not only 
that merchandise costs more to fetch up 
from D'Urban to Maritzburg than it does 
to bring it out from England, but that 
beef is dear and bad ! As transport pays 
better than farming, we hear on all sides 
of farms thrown out of cultivation, and 
as a necessary consequence milk, butter, 
and so forth are scarce and poor, and in 
the neighborhood of Maritzburg, at least, 
it is esteemed a favor to let you have 
either at exorbitant prices and of most 
inferior quality. When one looks round 
at these countless acres of splendid graz- 
ing-land, making a sort of natural park 
on either hand, it seems like a bad dream 
to know that we have constantly to use 
preserved milk and potted meat as be- 
ing cheaper and easier to procure than 
fresh. 

No one was in any mood, however, to 
discuss political economy that beautiful 
day, and we laughed and chatted, and 
ate a great many luncheons, chiefly of 
tea and peaches, all the way along. Our 
driver enlivened the route by pointing 
out various spots where frightful accidents 
had occurred to the post-cart on former 
occasions : " You see that big stone ? 
Well, it war jest there that Langabilile 
and Colenso, they takes the bits in their 
teeth, those 'osses do, and they sets off 
their own pace and their own way. Jim 
Stanway, he puts his brake down hard 
and his foot upon the reins, but, Lord 
love you ! them beasts would ha' pulled 
his arms and legs both off afore they'd 
give in. So they runs poor Jim's near 
wheel right up agin that bank and upsets 
the whole concern, as neat as needs be, 
over agin that bit o' bog. Anybody 
hurt ? Well, yes : they was all what you 
might call shook. Mr. Bell, he had his 
arm broke, and a foreign chap from the 
diamond-fields, he gets killed outright, 
and Jim himself, had his head cut open. 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



It was a bad business, you bet, and rough 
upon Jim. Ja !" 

All the driver's conversation is inter- 
larded with " Ja" but he never says 
a worse word than that, and he drinks 
nothing but tea. As for a pipe, or a 
cigar even, when it is offered to him he 
screws up his queer face into a droll 
grimace and says, " No thanks. I want 
all my nerves, I do, on this bit of road. 
Walk along, Lady Barker : I'm asham- 
ed of you, I am, hanging your head like 
that at a bit of a hill!" It was rather 
startling to hear this apostrophe all of a 
sudden, but as my namesake was a very 
hard-working little brown mare, I could 
only laugh and declare myself much 
flattered. 

Here we are at last, amid the tropical 
vegetation which makes a green and 
tangled girdle around D' Urban for a 
dozen miles inland : yonder is the white 
and foaming line of breakers which 
marks where the strong current, sweep- 
ing down the east coast, brings along 
with it all the sand and silt it can collect, 
especially from the mouth of the Um- 
geni River close by, and so forms the 
dreaded bar which divides the outer 
from the inner harbor. Beyond this 
crisp and sparkling line of heaving, toss- 
ing snow stretches the deep indigo-blue 
of the Indian Ocean, whilst over all 
wonderful sunset tints of opal and flame- 
color are hovering and changing with 
the changing, wind-driven clouds. Be- 
neath our wheels are many inches of 
thick white sand, but the streets are gay 
and busy, with picturesque coolies in their 
bright cotton draperies and swiftly-pass- 
ing Cape carts and vehicles of all sorts. 
We are in D'Urban indeed D'Urban 
in unwonted holiday dress and on the 
tippest tiptoe of expectation and excite- 
ment. A Cape cart, with a Chinese coo- 
lie driver, and four horses apparently put 
in harness together for the first time, was 
waiting for us and our luggage at the 
post-office. We got into it, and straight- 
way began to plunge through the sandy 
streets once more, turning off the high- 
road and beginning almost immediately 
to climb with pain and difficulty the red 
sandy slopes of the Berea, a beautiful 



wooded upland dotted with villas. The 
road is terrible for man and beast, and 
we had to stop every few yards to breathe 
the horses. At last our destination is 
reached, through fields of sugar-cane 
and plantations of coffee, past luxuriant 
fruit trees, rustling, broad-leafed bananas 
and encroaching greenery of all sorts, 
to a clearing where a really handsome 
house stands, with hospitable, wide-open 
doors, awaiting us. Yes, a good big bath 
first, then a cup of tea, and now we are 
ready for a saunter in the twilight on the 
wide level terrace (called by the ugly 
Dutch name "stoop") which runs round 
three sides of the house. How green 
and fragrant and still it all is ! Straight- 
way the glare of the long sunny day, the 
rattle and jolting of the post-cart, the 
toil through the sand, all slip away from 
mind and memory, and the tranquil de- 
licious present, "with its odors of rest 
and of love," slips in to soothe and calm 
our jaded senses. Certainly, it is hotter 
here than in Maritzburg that assertion 
we are prepared to die in defence of 
but we acknowledge that the heat at this 
hour is not oppressive, and the tropical 
luxuriance of leaf and flower all around 
is worth a few extra degrees of tempera- 
ture. Of course, our talk is of to-mor- 
row, and we look anxiously at the pur- 
pling clouds to the -west. 

"A fine day," says our host; and so 
it ought to be with five thousand people 
come from far and wide to see the sight. 
Why, that is more than a quarter of the 
entire white population of Natal ! Bed 
and sleep become very attractive sugges- 
tions, though made indecently soon after 
dinner, and it is somewhere about ten 
o'clock when they are carried out, and, 
like Lord Houghton's famous "fair little 
girl," we 

Know nothing more till again it is day. 

A fine day, too, is this same New Year's 
Day of 1876 a glorious day sunny of 
course, but with a delicious breeze steal- 
ing among the flowers and shrubs in ca- 
pricious puffs, and snatching a differing 
scent from each heavy cluster of blos- 
som it visits. By mid-day F has 

got himself into his gold-laced coat and 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



37 



has lined the inside of his cocked hat 
with plaintain-leaves. He has also groan- 
ed much at the idea of substituting this 
futile head-gear for his hideous but con- 
venient pith helmet. I too have donned 
my best gown, and am horrified to find 
how much a smart bonnet (the first time 
I have needed to wear one since I left 
England) sets off and brings out the 
shades of tan in a sun-browned face ; 
and for a moment I too entertain the 
idea of retreating once more to the pro- 
tecting depths of my old shady hat. But 
a strong conviction of the duty one owes 
to a " first sod," and the consoling reflec- 
tion that, after all, everybody will be 
equally brown (a fallacy, by the way : 
the D'Urban beauties looked very blanch- 
ed by this summer weather), supported 
me, and I followed F and his cock- 
ed hat into the waiting carriage. 

No need to ask, "Where are we to 
go ?" All roads lead to the first sod to- 
day. We are just a moment late : F 

has to get out of the carriage and plunge 
into the sand, madly rushing off to find 
and fall into his place in the procession, 
and we turn off to secure our seats in 
the grand stand. But before we take 
them I must go and look at the wheel- 
barrow and spade, and above all at the 
"first sod." For some weeks past it has 
been a favorite chaff with us Maritz- 
burgians to offer to bring a nice fresh, 
lively sod down with us, but we were 
assured D'Urban could furnish one. 
Here it is exactly under the triumphal 
arch, looking very faded and depressed, 
with a little sunburned grass growing 
feebly on it, but still a genuine sod and 
no mistake. The wheelbarrow was real- 
ly beautiful, made of native woods with 
their astounding names. All three speci- 
mens of the hardest and handsomest 
yellow woods were there, and they were 
described to me as, "stink-wood, breeze- 
wood and sneeze-wood." The rich yel- 
low of the wood is veined by handsome 
dark streaks, with " 1876" inlaid in large 
black figures in the centre. The spade 
was just a common spade, and could not 
by any possibility be called anything else. 
But there is no time to linger and laugh 
any longer beneath all these fluttering 



streamers and waving boughs, for here 
are the Natal Carbineers, a plucky little 
handful of light horse clad in blue and 
silver, who have marched, at their own 
charges, all the way down from Maritz- 
btirg to help keep the ground this fine 
New Year's Day. Next come a strong 
body of Kafir police, trudging along 
through the dust with odd shuffling 
gait, bended knees, bare legs, bodies 
leaning forward, and keeping step and 
time by means of a queer sort of bar- 
baric hum and grunt. Policemen are 
no more necessary than my best bonnet : 
they are only there for the same reason 
for the honor and glory of the thing. 
The crowd is kept in order by somebody 
here and there with a ribboned wand, 
for it is the most orderly and respectable 
crowd you ever saw. In fact, such a crowd 
would be an impossibility in England or 
any highly-civilized country. There are 
no dodging vagrants, no slatternly wo- 
men, no squalid, starving babies. In 
fact, our civilization has not yet mount- 
ed to effervescence, so we have no dregs. 
Every white person on the ground was 
well clad, well fed, and apparently well- 
to-do. The " lower orders " were repre- 
sented by a bright fringe of coolies and 
Kafirs, sleek, grinning and as fat as or- 
tolans, especially the babies. Most of 
the Kafirs were dressed in snow-white 
knickerbockers and shirts bordered by 
gay bands of color, with fillets of scar- 
let ribbon tied round their heads, while 
as for the coolies, they shone out like a 
shifting bed of tulips, so bright were the 
women's chuddahs and the men's jack- 
ets. All looked smiling, healthy and 
happy, and the public enthusiasm rose 
to its height when to the sound of a vig- 
orous band (it is early yet in the day, 
remember, O flute and trombone !) a per- 
fect liliputian mob of toddling children 
came on the ground. These little peo- 
ple were all in their cleanest white frocks 
and prettiest hats : they clung to each 
other and to their garlands and staves 
of flowers until the tangled mob remind- 
ed one of a May-Day fete. Not that any 
English May Day of my acquaintance 
could produce such a lavish profusion of 
roses and buds and blossoms of every 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



hue and tint, to say nothing of such a 
sun and sky. The children's corner was 
literally like a garden, and nothing could 
be prettier than the effect of their little 
voices shrilling up through the summer 
air, as, obedient to a lifted wand, they 
burst into the chorus of the national 
anthem when the governor and mayor 
drove up. Cheers from white throats; 
gruff, loud shouts all together of Bay etc ! 
(the royal salute) and Inkosi! ("chief- 
tain") from black throats; yells, ex- 
pressive of excitement and general good- 
fellowship, from throats of all colors. 
Then a moment's solemn pause, a hush- 
ed silence, bared heads, and the loud, 
clear tones of a very old pastor in the 
land were heard imploring the blessing 
of Almighty God on this our undertak- 
ing. Again the sweet childish trebles rose 
into the sunshine in a chanted Amen, 
and then there were salutes from cannon, 
feux-de-joie from carbines, and more 
shoutings, and all the cocked hats were 
to be seen bowing ; and then one more 
tremendous burst of cheering told that 
the sod was cut and turned and trundled, 
and finally pitched out of the new bar- 
row back again upon the dusty soil all 
in the most artistic and satisfactory fash- 
ion. " There are the Kafir navvies : they 
are really going to work now." (This lat- 
ter with great surprise, for a Kafir really 
working, now or ever, would indeed have 
been the raree-show of the day.) But 
this natural phenomenon was left to 
develop itself in solitude, for the crowd 
began to reassemble into processions, 
and generally to find its way under 
shelter from sun and dust. The five 
hundred children were heralded and 
marched off to the tune of one of their 
own pretty hymns to where unlimited 
buns and tea awaited them, and we eld- 
ers betook ourselves to the grateful shade 
and coolness of the flower-decked new 
market-hall, open to-day for the first 
time, and turned by flags and ferns and 
lavish wealth of what in England are 
costliest hot-house flowers into a charm- 
ing banqueting-hall. All these exquisite 
ferns and blossoms cost far less than the 
string and nails which fastened them 
against the walls, and their fresh fra- 



grance and greenery struck gratefully 
on our sun-baked eyes as we found our 
way into the big room. 

Nothing could be more creditable to a 
young colony than the way everything 
was arranged, for the difficulties in one's 
culinary path in Natal are hardly to be 
appreciated by English housekeepers. At 
one time there threatened to be almost a 
famine in D'Urban, for besides the pres- 
sure of all these extra mouths of visitors 
to feed, there was this enormous lunch- 
eon, with some five hundred hungry 
people to be provided for. It seems so 
strange that with every facility for rear- 
ing poultry all around it should be scarce 
and dear, and when brought to market 
as thin as possible. The same may be 
said of vegetables : they need no culture 
beyond being put in the ground, and yet 
unless you have a garden of your own 
it is very difficult to get anything like a 
proper supply. I heard nothing but wails 
from distracted housekeepers about the 
price and scarcity of food that week. 
However, the luncheon showed no sign 
of scarcity, and I was much amused at 
the substantial and homely character 
of the menu, which included cold baked 
sucking pig among its delicacies. A 
favorite specimen of the confectioner's 
art that day consisted of a sort of solid 
brick of plum pudding, with, for legend, 
" The First Sod " tastefully picked out in 
white almonds on its dark surface. But 
it was a capital luncheon, and so soon 
as the mayor had succeeded in impress- 
ing on the band that they were not ex 
pected to play all the time the speeches 
were being made, everything went on 
very well. Some of the speeches were 
short, but oh ! far, far too many were 
long, terribly long, and the whole affair 
was not over before five o'clock. The 
only real want of the entertainment was 
ice. It seems so hard not to have it in 
a climate which can produce such burn- 
ing days, for those tiresome cheap little 
ice-machines with crystals are of no use 
whatever. I got one which made ice 
(under pressure of much turning) in the 
ship, but it has never made any here, 
and my experience is that of everybody 
else. Why there should not be an ice- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



39 



making or an ice-importing company no 
one knows, except that there is so little 
energy or enterprise here that everything 
is davvdly and uncomfortable because it 
seems too much trouble to take pains to 
supply wants. It is the same everywhere 
throughout the colony : sandy roads with 
plenty of excellent materials for harden- 
ing them close by ; no fish to be bought 
because no one will take the trouble of 
going out to catch them. But I had bet- 
ter stop scribbling, for I am evidently 
getting tired after my long day of un- 
wonted festivity. It is partly the oppres- 
sion of my best bonnet, and partly the 
length of the speeches, which have wea- 
ried me out so thoroughly. 

MAKITZBURG, January 6. 

Nothing could afford a greater con- 
trast than our return journey. It was 
the other extreme of discomfort and mis- 
ery, and must surely have been sent to 
make us appreciate and long for the com- 
pletion of this very railway. We waited 
a day beyond that fixed for our return, 
in order to give the effects of a most ter- 
rific thunderstorm time to pass away, but 
it was succeeded by a perfect deluge of 
rain. Rain is not supposed to last long 
at this season of the year, but all I can 
say is that this rain did last. When the 
third day came and brought no sign 
of clearing up with it, and very little 
down to speak of, we agreed to delay no 
longer ; besides which our places in the 
post-cart could not be again exchanged, 
as had previously been done, for the 
stream of returning visitors was setting 
strongly toward Maritzburg, and we 
might be detained for a week longer if 
we did not go at once. Accordingly, we 
presented ourselves at the D' Urban post- 
office a few minutes before noon and 
took our places in the post-cart. My 
seat was on the box, antf as I flattered 
myself that I was well wrapped up, I did 
not feel at all alarmed at the prospect 
of a cold, wet drive. Who would be- 
lieve that twenty -four hours ago one 
could hardly endure a white muslin 
dressing - gown ? Who w^ould believe 
that twenty-four hours ago a lace shawl 
was an oppressive wrap, and that the 



serious object of my envy and admira- 
tion all these hot days on the Berea has 
been a fat Abyssinian baby, as black as 
a coal, and the strongest and biggest 
child one ever saw. That sleek and 
grinning infant's toilette consisted of a 
string of blue beads round its neck, and 
in this cool and airy costume it used to 
pervade the house, walking about on all 
fours exactly like a monkey, for of course 
it could not stand. Yet, how cold that 
baby must be to-day ! But if it is, its 
mother has probably tied it behind her 
in an old shawl, and it is nestling close 
to her fat broad back fast asleep. 

But the baby is certainly a most un- 
warrantable digression, and we must re- 
turn to our post-cart. The discouraging 
part of it was that the vehicle itself had 
been in all the storm and rain of yester- 
day. Of course no one had dreamed of 
washing or wiping it out in any fashion, 
so we had to sit upon wet cushions and 
put our feet into a pool of red mud and 
water. Now, if I must confess the truth, 
I, an old traveler, had done a very stupid 
thing. I had been lured by the deceitful 
beauty of the weather when we started 
into leaving behind me everything except 
the thinnest and coolest garments I pos- 
sessed, and I therefore had to set out on 
this journey in the teeth of a cold wind 
and driving rain clad in a white gown. 
It is true, I had my beloved and most 
useful ulster, but it w r as a light water- 
proof one, and just about half enough in 
the way of warmth. Still, as I had an- 
other wrap, a big Scotch plaid, I should 
have got along very well if it had not 
been for the still greater stupidity of the 
only other female fellow-passenger, who 
calmly took her place in the open post- 
cart behind me in a brown holland gown, 
without scarf or wrap or anything what- 
ever to shelter her from the weather, ex- 
cept a white calico sunshade. She was 
a Frenchwoman too, and looked so pit- 
eous and forlorn in her neat toilette, al- 
ready drenched through, that of course 
I could do nothing less than lend her my 
Scotch shawl, and trust to the driver's 
friendly promises of empty corn-bags at 
some future stage. By the time the bags 
came or rather by the time we got to 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



the bags I was indeed wet and cold. 
The ulster did its best, and all that could 
be expected of it, but no garment manu- 
factured in a London shop could possi- 
bly cope with such wild weather, tropical 
in the vehemence of its pouring rain, 
wintry in its cutting blasts. The wind 
seemed to blow from every quarter of 
the heavens at once, the rain came down 
in sheets, but I minded the mud more 
than either wind or rain : it was more 
demoralizing. On the box-seat I got my 
full share and more, but yet I was better 
off there than inside, where twelve people 
were squeezed into the places of eight. 
The horses' feet got balled with the stiff 
red clay exactly as though it had been 
snow, and from time to time as they gal- 
loped along, six fresh ones at every stage, 
I received a good lump of clay, as big 
and nearly as solid as a croquet-ball, full 
in my face. It was bitterly cold, and the 
night was closing in when we drove up 
to the door of the best hotel in Maritz- 
burg, at long past eight instead of six 
o'clock. It was impossible to get out to 
our own place that night, so there was 
nothing for it but to stay where we were, 
and get what food and rest could be coax- 
ed out of an indifferent bill of fare and a 
bed of stony hardness, to say nothing of 
the bites of numerous mosquitoes. The 
morning light revealed the melancholy 
state of my unhappy white gown in its 
full horror. All the rivers of Natal will 
never make it white again, I fear. Cer- 
tainly there is much to be said in favor 
of railway-traveling, after all, especially 
in wet weather. 

JANUARY 10. 

Surely, I have been doing something 
else lately besides turning this first sod ? 
Well, not much. You see, no one can 
undertake anything in the way of expe- 
ditions or excursions, or even sight-see- 
ing, in summer, partly on account of the 
heat, and partly because of the thunder- 
storms. We have had a few very severe 
ones lately, but we hail them with joy on 
account of the cool clear atmosphere 
which succeeds to a display of electrical 
vehemence. We walked home from 
church a few evenings ago on a very 



wild and threatening night, and I never 
shall forget the weird beauty of the scene. 
We had started to go to church about 
six o'clock : the walk was only two miles, 
and the afternoon was calm and cloud- 
less. The day had been oppressively 
hot, but there were no immediate signs 
of a storm. While we were in church, 
however, a fresh breeze sprang up and 
drove the clouds rapidly before it. The 
glare of the lightning made every corner 
of the church as bright as day, and the 
crash of the thunder shook the wooden 
roof over our heads. But there was no 
rain yet, and when we came out in fear 
and trembling, I confess, as to how we 
were to get home we could see that the 
violence of the storm had either passed 
over or not yet reached the valley in 
which Maritzburg nestles, and was ex- 
pending itself somewhere else. So F 
decided that we might venture. As for 
vehicles to be hired in the streets, there 
are no such things, and by the time we 
could have persuaded one to turn out for 
us a very doubtful contingency, and 
only to be procured at the cost of a sove- 
reign or so the full fury of the storm 
would probably be upon us. There was 
nothing for it, therefore, but to walk, and 
so we set out as soon as possible to climb 
our very steep hill. Instead of the soft, 
balmy twilight on which we had counted, 
the sky was of an inky blackness, but 
for all that we had light enough and to 
spare. I never saw such lightning. The 
flashes came literally every second, and 
lit up the whole heavens and earth with a 
blinding glare far brighter than any sun- 
shine. So great was the contrast, and so 
much more intense the darkness after each 
flash of dazzling light, that we could only 
venture to walk on during the flashes, 
though one's instinct was rather to stand 
still, awestricken and mute. The thunder 
growled and cracked incessantly, but far 
away, toward the Inchanga Valley. If 
the wind had shifted ever so little and 
brought the storm back again, our plight 
would have been poor indeed ; and with 
this dread upon us we trudged bravely 
on and breasted the hillside with what 
haste and courage we could. During 
the rare momentary intervals of darkness 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



we could perceive that the whole place 
was ablaze with fireflies. Every blade 
of grass held a tiny sparkle of its own, 
but when the lightning shone out with 
its yellow and violet glare the modest 
light of the poor little fireflies seemed to 
be quite extinguished. As for the frogs, 
the clamorous noise they kept up sound- 
ed absolutely deafening, and so did the 
shrill, incessant cry of the cicalas. We 
reached home safely and before the rain 
fell, but found all our servants in the ve- 
randah in the last stage of dismay and 
uncertainty what to do for the best. They 
had collected waterproofs, umbrellas and 
lanterns ; but as it was not actually rain- 
ing yet, and we certainly did not require 
light on our path for they said that each 
flash showed them our climbing, trudg- 
ing figures as plainly as possible it was 
difficult to know what to do, especially 
as the Kafirs have, very naturally, an 
intense horror and dislike to going out 
in a thunderstorm. This storm was not 
really overhead at all, and scarcely de- 
serves mention except as the precursor 
of a severe one of which our valley got 
the full benefit. It was quite curious to 
see the numbers of dead butterflies on 
the garden-paths after that second storm. 
Their beautiful plumage was not dimmed 
or smirched nor their wings broken : they 
would have been in perfect order for a 
naturalist's collection ; yet they were quite 
dead and stiff. The natives declare it is 
the lightning which kills them thus. 

My own private dread to return to 
that walk home for a moment was of 
^stepping on a snake, as there are a great 
many about, and one especial variety, a 
small poisonous brown adder, is of so 
torpid and lazy a nature that it will not 
glide out of your way, as other snakes 
do, but lets you tread on it and then bites 
you. It is very marvelous, considering 
how many snakes there are, that one 

hears of so few bad accidents. G is 

always poking about in likely places for 
them, as his supreme ambition is to see 
one. I fully expect a catastrophe some 
day, and keep stores of ammonia and 
brandy handy. Never was such a fear- 
less little monkey. He is always scam- 
pering about on his old Basuto pony, and 



of course tumbles off now and then ; but 
he does not mind it in the least. When 
he is not trying to break his neck in this 
fashion he is clown by himself at the riv- 
er fishing, or he is climbing trees, or 
down a well which is being dug here, 
or in some piece of mischief or other. 
The sun and the fruit are my betes noires, 
but neither seems to hurt him, though I 
really don't believe that any other child 
in the world has ever eaten so many 
apricots at one time as he has been do- 
ing lately. This temptation has just been 
removed, however, for during our short 
absence at D'Urban every fruit tree has 
been stripped to the bark every peach 
and plum, every apple and apricot, clean 
gone. Of course, no one has done it, 
but it is very provoking all the same, for 
it used to be so nice to take the baby out 
very early, and pick up the fallen apri- 
cots for breakfast. The peaches are 
nearly all pale and rather tasteless, but 
the apricots are excellent in flavor, of a 
large size and in extraordinary abun- 
dance. There was also a large and 
promising crop of apples, but they have 
all been taken in their unripe state. As 
a rule, the Kafirs are scrupulously hon- 
est, and we left plate and jewelry in the 
house under Charlie's care whilst we were 
away, without the least risk, for such 
things they would never touch ; but fruit 
or mealies they cannot be brought to 
regard as personal property, and they 
gather the former and waste the latter 
without scruple. It is a great objection 
to the imported coolies, who make very 
clean and capital servants, that they 
have inveterate habits of pilfering and 
are hopelessly dishonest about trifles. 
For this reason they are sure to get on 
badly with Kafir fellow - servants, who 
are generally quite above any tempta- 
tion of that kind. 

JANUARY 14. 

A few days ago we took G to see 

the annual swimming sports in the small 
river which runs through the park. It 
was a beautiful afternoon, for a wonder, 
with no lowering thunder-clouds over the 
hills, so the banks of the river were 
thronged for half a mile and more with 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



spectators. It made a very pretty pic- 
ture, the large willow trees drooping into 
the water on either shore, the gay con- 
course of people, the bright patch of 
color made by the red coats of the band 
of the regiment stationed across the 
stream, the tents for the competitors to 
change in, the dark wondering faces of 
Kafirs and coolies, who cannot compre- 
hend why white people should take so 
much trouble and run so much risk to 
amuse themselves. We certainly must 
appear to them to be possessed by a 
restless demon of energy, both in our 
work and our play, and never more so 
than on this hot afternoon, when, amid 
much shouting and laughing, the vari- 
ous water-races came off. The steeple- 
chase amused us a great deal, where the 
competitors had to swim over and under 
various barriers across the river ; and so 
did the race for very little boys, which 
was a full and excellent one. The mon- 
keys took, to the water as naturally as 
fishes, and evidently enjoyed the fun 
more than any one. Indeed, the dif- 
ficulty was to get them out of the water 
and into the tents to change their swim- 
ming costume after the race was over. 
But the most interesting event was one 
meant to teach volunteers how to swim 
rivers in case of field service, and the 
palm lay between the Natal Carbineers 
and a smart body of mounted police. At 
a given signal they all plunged on horse- 
back into the muddy water, and from 
a very difficult part of the bank too, 
and swam, fully accoutred and carrying 
their carbines, across the river. It was 
very interesting to watch how clever the 
horses were, and how some of their 
riders slipped off their backs the mo- 
ment they had fairly entered the stream 
and swam side by side with their steeds 
until the opposite bank was reached ; 
and then how the horses paused to allow 
their dripping masters to mount again 
no easy task in heavy boots and saturated 
clothes, with a carbine in the left hand j 
which had to be kept dry at all risks and 

hazards. When I asked little G 

which part he liked best, he answered 
without hesitation, " The assidents " (an- 
gli9e, accidents), and I am not sure that 



he was not right ; for, is no Dne vas 
hurt, the crowd mightily enjoyed seeing 
some stalwart citizen in his best clothes 
suddenly topple from his place of van- 
tage on the deceitfully secure-looking but 
rotten branch of a tree and take an in- 
voluntary bath in his own despite. When 
that citizen further chanced to be clad in 
a suit of bright-colored velveteen the ef- 
fect was much enhanced. It is my pri- 
vate opinion that G was longing to 

distinguish himself in a similar fashion, 
for I constantly saw him "lying out" on 
most frail branches, but try as he might, 
he could not accomplish a tumble. 

JANUARY 17. 

I have had an opportunity lately of 
attending a Kafir /// de justice, and I 
can only say that if we civilized people 
managed our legal difficulties in the 
same way it would be an uncommonly 
good thing for everybody except the law- 
yers. Cows are at the bottom of nearly 
all the native disputes, and the Kafirs 
always take their grievance soberly to 
the nearest magistrate, who arbitrates to 
the best of his ability between the dis- 
putants. They are generally satisfied 
with his award, but if the case is an in- 
tricate one, or they consider that the 
question is not really solved, then they 
have the right of appeal, and it is this 
court of appeal which I have been attend- 
ing lately. It is held in the newly-built 
office of the minister for native affairs 
the prettiest and most respectable-look- 
ing public office which I have seen in 
Maritzburg, by the way. Before the 
erection of this modest but comfortable 
building the court used to be held out in 
the open air under the shade of some 
large trees a more picturesque method 
of doing business, certainly, but subject 
to inconveniences on account of the 
weather. It is altogether the most prim- 
itive and patriarchal style of business 
one ever saw, but all the more delightful 
on that account. 

It is inexpressibly touching to see with 
one's own eyes the wonderfully deep 
personal devotion and affection of the 
Kafirs for the kindly English gentleman 
who for thirty years and more has been 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA, 



43 



their real ruler and their wise and judi- 
cious friend. Not a friend to pamper 
their vices and give way to their great 
fault of idleness, but a true friend to pro- 
tect their interests, and yet to labor inces- 
santly for their social advancement and 
for their admission into the great field 
of civilized workers. The Kafirs know 
little and care less for all the imposing 
and elaborate machinery of British rule ; 
the queen on her throne is but a fair and 
distant dream-woman to them ; Sir Gar- 
net himself, that great inkosi, was as 
nobody in their eyes compared to their 
own chieftain, their king of hearts, the 
one white man to whom of their own 
free will and accord they give the royal 
salute whenever they see him. I have 
stood in magnificent halls and seen king 
and kaiser pass through crowds of bow- 
ing courtiers, but I never saw anything 
which impressed me so strongly as the 
simultaneous springing to the feet, the 
loud shout of Bayete ! given with the 
right hand upraised (a higher form of 
salutation than Inkosi ! and only accord- 
ed to Kafir royalty), the look of love 
and rapture and satisfied expectation in 
all those keen black faces, as the min- 
ister, quite unattended, without pomp or 
circumstance of any sort or kind, quiet- 
ly walked into the large room and sat 
himself down at his desk with some pa- 
pers before him. There was no clerk, 
no official of any sort : no one stood be- 
tween the people and the fountain of 
justice. The extraordinary simplicity 
of the trial which commenced was only 
to be equaled by the decorum and dig- 
nity with which it was conducted. First 
of all, everybody sat down upon the floor, 
the plaintiff and defendant amicably side 
by side opposite to the minister's desk, 
and the other natives, about a hundred 
in number, squatted in various groups. 
Then, as there was evidently a slight 
feeling of surprise at my sitting myself 
down in the only other chair they prob- 
ably considered me a new - fashioned 
clerk the minister explained that I was 
the wife of another inkosi, and that I 
wanted to see and hear how Kafirmen 
stated their case when anything went 
wrong with their affairs. This explana- 



tion was perfectly satisfactory to all pai- 
ties, and they regarded me no more, but 
immediately set to work on the subject 
in hand. A sort of precis of each case 
had been previously prepared from the 
magistrate's report for Mr. S 's in- 
formation by his clerk, and these docu- 
ments greatly helped me to understand 
what was going on. No language can 
be more beautiful to listen to than either 
the Kafir or Zulu tongue : it is soft and liq- 
uid as Italian, with just the same gentle 
accentuation on the penultimate and an- 
tepenultimate syllables. The clicks which 
are made with the tongue every now and 
then, and are part of the language, give 
it a very quaint sound, and the proper 
names are excessively harmonious. 

In the first cause which was taken the 
plaintiff, as I said before, was not quite 
satisfied with the decision of his own 
local magistrate, and had therefore come 
here to restate his case. The story was 
slightly complicated by the plaintiff hav- 
ing two distinct names by which he had 
been known at different times of his life. 
"Tevula," he averred, was the name of 
his boyhood, and the other, " Mazumba," 
the name of his manhood. The natives 
have an unconquerable aversion to giv- 
ing their real names, and will offer half 
a dozen different aliases, making it very 
difficult to trace them if they are "want- 
ed," and still more difficult to get at the 
rights of any story they may have to tell. 
However, if they are ever frank and 
open to anybody, it is to their own min- 
ister, who speaks their language as well 
as they do themselves, and who fully 
understands their mode of reasoning and 
their habits of mind. 

Tevula told his story extremely well, 
I must say quietly, but earnestly, and 
with the most perfectly respectful though 
manly bearing. He sometimes used 
graceful and natural gesticulation, but 
not a bit more than was needed to give 
emphasis to his oratory. He was a 
strongly-built, tall man, about thirty-five 
years of age, dressed in a soldier's great- 
coat for it was a damp and drizzling 
day had bare legs and feet, and wore 
nothing on his head except the curious 
ring into which the men weave their hair. 



44 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



So soon as a youth is considered old 
enough to assume the duties and re- 
sponsibilities of manhood he begins to 
weave his short crisp hair over a ring of 
grass which exactly fits the head, keep- 
ing the woolly hair in its place by means 
of wax. - In time the hair grows perfect- 
ly smooth and shining and regular over 
this firm foundation, and the effect is as 
though it were a ring of jet or polished 
ebony worn round the brows. Different 
tribes slightly vary the size and form of 
the ring ; and in this case it was easy 
to see that the defendant belonged to a 
different tribe, for his ring was half the 
size, and worn at the summit of a cone 
of combed-back hair which was as thick 
and close as a cap, and indeed looked 
very like a grizzled fez. Anybody in 
court may ask any questions he pleases, 
and in fact what we should call "cross- 
examine" a witness, but no one did 
so whilst I was present. Every one lis- 
tened attentively, giving a grunt of in- 
terest whenever Tevula made a point; 
and this manifestation and sympathy al- 
ways seemed to gratify him immensely. 
But it was plain that, whatever might be 
the decision of the minister, who listen- 
ed closely to every word, asking now and 
then a short question which evidently 
hit some logical nail right on the head 
they would abide by it, and be satisfied 
that it was the fairest and most equitable 
solution of the subject. 

Here is a resume of the first case, and 
it is a fair sample of the intricacies of a 
Kafir lawsuit: Our friend Tevula pos- 
sesses an aged relative, a certain aunt, 
called Mamusa, who at the present time 
appears to be in her dotage, and conse- 
quently her evidence is of very little 
value. But once upon a time long, 
long ago Mamusa was young and gen- 
erous: M-amusa had cows, and s\\zgave 
or lent there was the difficulty a cou- 
ple of heifers to the defendant, whose 
name I can't possibly spell on account 
of the clicks. Nobody denies that of her 
own free will these heifers had been be- 
stowed by Mamusa on the withered-look- 
ing little old man squatting opposite, but 
the question is, Were they a loan or a 
gift ? For many years nothing was done ! 



about these heifers, but one fine day Te- 
vula gets wind of the story, is immedi- 
ately seized with a fit of affection for his 
aged relative, and takes her to live in his 
kraal, proclaiming himself her protector 
and heir. So far so good : all this was 
in accordance with Kafir custom, and 
the narration of this part of the story was 
received with grunts of asseveration and 
approval by the audience. Indeed, Ka- 
firs are as a rule to be depended upon, 
and their minds, though full of odd prej- 
udices and quirks, have a natural bias 
toward truth. Two or three years ago 
Tevula began by claiming, as heir-at- 
law, though the old woman still lives, 
twenty cows from the defendant as the 
increase of these heifers : now he de- 
mands between thirty and forty. When 
asked why he only claimed twenty, as 
nobody denies that the produce of the 
heifers has increased to double that num- 
ber, he says naively, but without hesita- 
tion, that there is a fee to be paid of a 
shilling a head on such a claim if estab- 
lished, and that he only had twenty shil- 
lings in the world ; so, as he remarked 
with a knowing twinkle in his eye, "What 
was the use of my claiming more cows 
than I had money to pay the fee for ?" 
But times have improved with Tevula 
since then, and he is now in a position 
to claim" the poor defendant's whole herd, 
though he generously says he will not in- 
sist on his refunding those cows which 
do not resemble the original heifers, and 
are not, as they were, dun and red and 
white. This sounded magnanimous, and 
met with grunts of approval until the 
blear-eyed defendant remarked, hope- 
lessly, "They are all of those colors," 
which changed the sympathies of the 
audience once more. Tevula saw this 
at a glance, and hastened to improve 
his position by narrating an anecdote. 
No words of mine could reproduce the 
dramatic talent that man displayed in 
his narration. I did not understand a 
syllable of his language, and yet I could 
gather from his gestures, his intonation, 
and above all from the expression of his 
hearers' faces, the sort of story he was 
telling them. After he had finished, Mr. 
S turned to me and briefly trans- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



45 



lated the episode with which Tevula had 
sought to rivet the attention and sym- 
pathy of the court. Tevula's tale, much 
condensed, was this : Years ago, when 
his attention had first been directed to 
the matter, he went with the defendant 
out on the veldt to look at the herd. No 
sooner did the cattle see them approach- 
ing than a beautiful little dun-colored 
heifer, the exact counterpart of her 
grandmother ( Mamusa's cow), left the 
others and ran up to him, Tevula, lowing 
and rubbing her head against his shoul- | 
der, and following him all about like a 
dog. In vain did her reputed owner try 
to drive her away : she persisted in fol- 
lowing Tevula all the way back to his 
kraal, right up to the entrance of his hut. 
" I was her master, and the inkomokazi 
knew it," cried Tevula triumphantly, 
looking round at the defendant with a 
knowing nod, as much as to say, " Beat 
that, if you can !" Not knowing what 
answer to make, the defendant took his 
snuff-box out of his left ear and solaced 
himself with three or four huge pinches. 
I started the hypothesis that Mamusa 
might once have had a tcndresse for the 
old gentleman, and might have bestow- 
ed these cows upon him as a love-gift ; 
but this idea was scouted, even by the 
defendant, who said gravely, " Kafir wo- 
men don't buy lovers or husbands : we 
buy the wife we want." A Kafir girl is 
exceedingly proud of being bought, and 
the more she costs the prouder she is. 
She pities English women, whose bride- 
grooms expect to receive money instead 
of paying it, and considers a dowry as a 
most humiliating arrangement. 

I wish I could tell you how Mamusa's 
cows have finally been disposed of, but, 
although it has occupied three days, the 
case is by no means over yet. I envy 

and admire Mr. S 's untiring patience 

and unfailing good-temper, but it is just 
these qualities which make his Kafir 
subjects (for they really consider him as 



their ruler) so certain that their affairs 
will not be neglected or their interests 
suffer in his hands. 

Whilst I was listening to Tevula's or- 
atory my eyes and my mind sometimes 
wandered to the eager and silent audi- 
ence, and I amused myself by studying 
their strange head-dresses. In most in- 
stances the men wore their hair in the 
woven rings to which I have alluded, 
but there were several young men pres- 
ent who indulged in purely fancy head- 
dresses. One stalwart youth had got 
hold of the round cardboard lid of a col- 
lar-box, to which he had affixed two bits 
of string, and tied it firmly but jauntily 
on one side of his head. Another lad 
had invented a most extraordinary dec- 
oration for his wool - covered pate, and 
one which it is exceedingly difficult to 
describe in delicate language. He had 
procured the intestines of some small 
animal, a lamb or a kid, and had cleaned 
and scraped them and'tied them tightly, 
at intervals of an inch or two, with string. 
This series of small clear bladders he had 
then inflated, and arranged them in a 
sort of bouquet on the top of his head, 
skewering tufts of his crisp hair between, 
so that the effect resembled a bunch of 
bubbles, if there could be such a thing. 
Another very favorite adornment for the 
head consisted of a strip of gay cloth or 
ribbon, or of even a few bright threads, 
bound tightly like a fillet across the brows 
and confining a tuft of feathers over one , 
ear ; but I suspect all these fanciful ar- 
rangements were only worn by the gilded 
youth of a lower class, because I noticed 
that the chieftains and indunas, or head- 
men of the villages, never wore such 
frivolities. They wore indeed numerous 
slender rings of brass or silver wire on 
their straight, shapely legs, and also 
necklaces of lions' or tigers' claws and 
teeth round their throats, but these were 
trophies of the chase as well as personal 
ornaments. 



MARITZBURG, February 10, 1876. 

IN the South African calendar this is 
set down as the first of the autumnal 
months, but the half dozen hours about 
mid-day are still quite as close and op- 
pressive as any we have had. I am, 
however, bound to say that the nights 
at all events, up here are cooler, and I 
begin even to think of a light shawl for 
my solitary walks in the verandah just 
before bedtime. When the moon shines 
these walks are pleasant enough, but 
when only the "common people of the 
skies" are trying to filter down their 
feebler light through the misty atmo- 
sphere, I have a lurking fear and dis- 
trust of the reptiles and bugs who may 
also have a fancy for promenading at 
the same time and in the same place. 
I say nothing of bats, frogs and toads, 
mantis or even huge moths : to these 
we are quite accustomed. But although 
I have never seen a live snake in this 
country myself,, still one hears such un- 
pleasant stories about them that it is just 
as well to what the Scotch call " mak sic- 
car" with a candle before beginning a 
constitutional in the dark. 

It is not a week ago since a lady of 
my acquaintance, being surprised at her 
little dog's refusal to follow her into her 
bedroom one night, instituted a search 
for the reason of the poor little crea- 
ture's terror and dismay, and discover- 
ed a snake coiled up under her chest of 
drawers. At this moment, too, the local 
papers are full of recipes for the preven- 
tion and cure of snake-bites, public at- 
tention being much attracted to the sub- 
ject on account of an Englishman hav- 
ing been bitten by a black "mamba" 
(a very venomous adder) a short time 
since, and having died of the wound in a 
few hours. In his case, poor man ! there 
does not seem to have been a chance 
from the first, for he was obliged to walk 
some distance to the nearest house, and 
as they had no proper remedies there, 
46 



he had to be taken on a farther journey 
of some miles to a hospital. All this ex- 
ercise and motion caused the poison to 
circulate freely through the veins, and 
was the worst possible thing for him. 
The doctors here seem agreed that the 
treatment of ammonia and brandy is the 
safest, and many instances are adduced 
to show how successful it has been, though 
one party of practitioners admits the am- 
monia, but denies the brandy. On the 
other hand, one hears of a child bitten 
by a snake and swallowing half a large 
bottle of raw brandy in half an hour 
without its head being at all affected, 
and, what is more, recovering from the 
bite and living happy ever after. I keep 
quantities of both remedies close at hand, 
for three or four venomous snakes have 
been killed within a dozen yards of the 
house, and little G is perpetually ex- 
ploring the long grass all around or hunt- 
ing for a stray cricket-ball or a pegtop in 
one of those beautiful fern-filled ditches 
whose tangle of creepers and plumy ferns 
is exactly the favorite haunt of snakes. 
As yet he has brought back from these 
forbidden raids nothing more than a few 
ticks and millions of burs. 

As for the ticks, I am getting over my 
horror at having to dislodge them from 
among the baby's soft curls by means of 

a sharp needle, and even G only 

shouts with laughter at discovering a 
great swollen monster hanging on by its 
forceps to his leg. They torment the 
poor horses and dogs dreadfully ; and 
if the said horses were not the very qui- 
etest, meekest, most underbred and de- 
pressed animals in the world, we should 
certainly hear of more accidents. As it 
is, they confine their efforts to get rid of 
their tormentors to rubbing all the hair 
off their tails and sides in patches against 
the stable walls or the trunk of a tree. 
Indeed, the clever way G 's misera- 
ble little Basuto pony actually climbs in- 
side a good-sized bush, and sways him- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



47 



self about in it with his legs off the ground 
until the whole thing comes with a crash 
to the ground, is edifying to behold to 
every one except the owner of the tree. 
Tom, the Kafir boy, tried hard to per- 
suade me the other day that the pony 
was to blame for the destruction of a 
peach tree, but as the only broken-down 
branches were those which had been 
laden with fruit, I am inclined to acquit 
the pony. Carbolic soap is an excellent 
thing to wash both dogs and horses with, 
as it not only keeps away flies and ticks 
from the skin, which is constantly rubbed 
off by incessant scratching, but helps to 
heal the tendency to a sore place. In- 
deed, nothing frightened me so much as 
what I heard when I first arrived about 
Natal sores and Natal boils. Everybody 
told me that ever so slight a cut or abra- 
sion went on slowly festering, and that 
sores on children's faces were quite com- 
mon. This sounded very dreadful, but 
I am beginning to hope it was an exag- 
geration, for whenever G cuts or 

knocks himself (which is every day or 
so), or scratches an insect's bite into a 
bad place, I wash the part with a little 
carbolic soap (there are two sorts one 
for animals and a more refined prepara- 
tion for the human skin), and it is quite 
well the next day. We have all had a 
threatening of those horrid boils, but they 
have passed off. 

In town the mosquitoes are plentiful 
and lively, devoting their attentions 
chiefly to new-comers, but up here I 
write as though we were five thousand 
feet instead of only fifty above Maritz- 
burg it is rare to see one. I think " fillies" 
are more in our line, and that in spite 
of every floor in the house being scrub- 
bed daily with strong soda and water. 
"Fillies," you must know, is our black 
groom's (Charlie's) way of pronouncing 
fleas, and I find it ever so much prettier. 
Charlie and I are having a daily discus- 
sion just now touching sundry moneys 
he expended during my week's absence 
at D'Urban for the kittens' food. Charlie 
calls them the "lu" catties," and declares 
that the two small animals consumed 
three shillings and ninepence worth of 
meat in a week I laughingly say, " But, 



Charlie, that would be nearly nine 
pounds of meat in six days, and they 
couldn't eat that, you know." Charlie 
grins and shows all his beautiful even 
white teeth : then he bashfully turns his 
head aside and says, "I doan know, ma' : 
I buy six' meat dree time." " Very well, 
Charlie, that would be one shilling and 
sixpence." "I doan know, ma';" and 
we've not got any further than that yet. 

But G and I are picking up many 

words of Kafir, and it is quite mortifying 
to see how much more easily the little 
monkey learns than I do. I forget my 
phrases or confuse them, whereas when 
he learns two or three sentences he ap- 
pears to remember them always. It is a 
very melodious and beautiful language, 
and, except for the clicks, not very dif- 
ficult to learn. Almost everybody here 
speaks it a little, and it is the first thing 
necessary for a new-comer to endeavor 
to acquire ; only, unfortunately, there are 
no teachers, as in India, and consequent- 
ly you pick up a wretched, debased kind 
of patois, interlarded with Dutch phrases. 
Indeed, I am assured there are two words, 
el has hi (" the horse "), of unmistakable 
Moorish origin, though no one knows 
how they got into the language. Many 
of the Kafirs about town speak a little 
English, and they are exceedingly sharp, 
when they choose, about understanding 
what is meant, even if they do not quite 
catch the meaning of the words used. 
There is one genius of my acquaintance, 
called "Sixpence," who is not only a 
capital cook, but an accomplished Eng- 
lish scholar, having spent some months 
in England. Generally, to Cape Town 
and back is the extent of their journey- 
ings, for they are a home-loving people ; 
but Sixpence went to England with his 
master, and brought back a shivering 
recollection of an English winter and a 
deep-rooted amazement at the boys of 
the Shoe Brigade, who wanted to clean 
his boots. That astonished him more 
than anything else, he says. 

The Kafirs are very fond of attending 
their own schools and church services, 
of which there are several in the town ; 
and I find one of my greatest difficulties 
in living out here consists in getting Ka- 



4 8 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



firs to come out of town, for by doing, so 
they miss their regular attendance at 
chapel and school. A few Sundays ago 
I went to one of these Kafir schools, and 
was much struck by the intently -ab- 
sorbed air of the pupils, almost all of 
whom were youths about twenty years 
of age. They were learning to read the 
Bible in Kafir during my visit, sitting in 
couples, and helping each other on with 
immense diligence and earnestness. No 
looking about, no wandering, inattentive 
glances, did I see. I might as well have 
" had the receipt of fern-seed and walk- 
ed invisible" for all the attention I ex- 
cited. Presently the pupil - teacher, a 
young black man, who had charge of 
this class, asked me if I would like to 
hear them sing a hymn, and on my as- 
senting he read out a verse of " Hold 
the Fort," and they all stood up and 
sang it, or rather its Kafir translation, 
lustily and with good courage, though 
without much tune. The chorus was 
especially fine, the words " Inkanye kan- 
ye " ringing through the room with great 
fervor. This is not a literal translation 
of the words "Hold the Fort," but it is 
difficult, as the teacher explained to me, 
for the translator to avail himself of the 
usual word for "hold," as it conveys 
more the idea of "take hold," "seize," 
and the young Kafir missionary thor- 
oughly understood all the nicety of the 
idiom. There was another class for 
women and children, but it was a small 
one. Certainly, the young men seemed 
much in earnest, and the rapt expres- 
sion of their faces was most striking, 
especially during the short prayer which 
followed the hymn and ended the school 
for the afternoon. 

I have had constantly impressed upon 
my mind since my arrival the advice not 
to take Christian Kafirs into my service, 
but I am at a loss to know in what way 
the prejudice against them can have 
arisen. "Take a Kafir green from his 
kraal if you wish to have a good servant," 
is what every one tells me. It so hap- 
pens that we have two of each two 
Christians and two heathens about the 
place, and there is no doubt whatever 
which is the best. Indeed, I have some- 



times conversations with the one who 
speaks English, and I can assure you we 
might all learn from him with advantage. 
His simple creed is just what came from 
the Saviour's lips two thousand years 
ago, and comprises His teaching of the 
whole duty of man to love God, the 
great "En' Kos," and his neighbor as 
himself. He speaks always with real 
delight of his privileges, and is very anx- 
ious to go to Cape Town to attend some 
school there of which he talks a great 
deal, and where he says he should learn 
to read the Bible in English. At present 
he is spelling it out with great difficulty 
in Kafir. This man often talks to me 
in the most respectful and civil manner 
imaginable about the customs of his 
tribe, and he constantly alludes to the 
narrow escape he had of being murder- 
ed directly after his birth for the crime 
of being a twin. His people have a fix- 
ed belief that unless one of a pair of 
babies be killed at once, either the fa- 
ther or mother will die within -the year; 
and they argue that as in any case one 
child will be sure to die in its infancy, 
twins being proverbially difficult to rear, 
it is only both kind and natural to kill 
the weakly one at once. This young 
man is very small and quiet and gentle, 
with an ugly face, but a sweet, intelligent 
expression and a very nice manner. I 
find him and the other Christian in our 
employment very trustworthy and re- 
liable. If they tell me anything which 
has occurred, I know I can believe their 
version of it, and they are absolutely hon- 
est. Now, the other lads have very loose 
ideas on the subject of sugar, and make 
shifty excuses for everything, from the 
cat breaking a heavy stone filter up to 
half the marketing being dropped on the 
road. 

I don't think I have made it sufficient- 
ly clear that besides the Sunday-schools 
and services I have mentioned there 
are night-schools every evening in the 
week, which are fully attended by Kafir 
servants, and where they are first taught 
to read their own language, which is an 
enormous difficulty to them. They al- 
ways tell me it is so much easier to learn 
to read English than Kafir ; and if one 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



49 



studies the two languages, it is plain to 
see how much simpler the new tongue 
must appear to a learner than the intri- 
cate construction, the varying patois and 
the necessarily phonetic spelling of a lan- 
guage compounded of so many dialects 
as the Zulu-Kafir. 

FEBRUARY 12. 

In some respects I consider this cli- 
mate has been rather over-praised. Of 
course it is a great deal a very great 
deal better than our English one, but 
that, after all, is not saying much in its 
praise. Then we must remember that 
in England we have the fear and dread 
of the climate ever before our eyes, and 
consequently are always, so to speak, on 
our guard against it. Here, and in other 
places where civilization is in its infancy, 
we are at the mercy of dust and sun, 
wind and rain, and all the eccentric ele- 
ments which go to make up weather. 
Consequently, when the balance of com- 
fort and convenience has to be struck, it 
is surprising how small an advantage a 
really better climate gives when you take 
away watering-carts and shady streets 
for hot weather, and sheltered railway- 
stations and hansom cabs for wet weath- 
er, and roads and servants and civility 
and general convenience everywhere. 
This particular climate is both depress- 
ing and trying in spite of the sunny 
skies we are ever boasting about, be- 
cause it has a strong tinge of the tropical 
element in it; and yet people live in 
much the same kind of houses (only that 
they are very small), and wear much the 
same sort of clothes (only that they are 
very ugly), and lead much the same sort 
of lives (only that it is a thousand times 
duller than the dullest country village), 
as they do in England. Some small 
concession is made to the thermometer 
in the matter of puggeries and matted 
floors, but even then carpets are used 
wherever it is practicable, because this 
matting never looks clean and nice after 
the first week it is put down. All the 
houses are built on the ground floor, with 
the utmost economy of building material 
and labor, and consequently there are 
no passages : every room is, in fact, a 
4 



passage and leads to its neighbor. So 
the perpetually dirty bare feet, or, still 
worse, boots fresh from the mud or dust 
of the streets, soon wear out the mat- 
ting. Few houses are at all prettily dec- 
orated or furnished, partly from the dif- 
ficulty of procuring anything pretty here, 
the cost and risk of its carriage up from 
D'Urban if you send to England for it, 
and partly from the want of servants 
accustomed to anything but the roughest 
and coarsest articles of household use. 
A lady soon begins to take her drawing- 
room ornaments en guignon if she has 
to dust them herself every day in a very 
dusty climate. I speak feelingly and 
with authority, for that is my case at 
this moment, and applies to every other 
part of the house as well. 

I must say I like Kafir servants in 
some respects. They require, I acknow- 
ledge, constant supervision ; they require 
to be told to do the same thing over and 
over again every day ; and, what is more, 
besides telling, you have to stand by and 
see that they do the thing. They are 
also very slow. But still, with all these 
disadvantages, they are far better than 
the generality of European servants out 
here, who make their luckless employ- 
ers' lives a burden to them by reason of 
their tempers and caprices. It is much 
better, I am convinced, to face the evil 
boldly and to make up one's mind to 
have none but Kafir servants. Of course 
one immediately turns into a sort of over- 
seer and upper servant one's self; but 
at all events you feel master or mistress 
of your own house, and you have faith- 
ful and good-tempered domestics, who do 
their best, however awkwardly, to please 
you. Where there are children, then in- 
deed a good English nurse is a great 
boon ; and in this one respect I am for- 
tunate. Kafirs are also much easier to 
manage when the orders come direct 
from the master or mistress, and they 
work far more willingly for them than 
for white servants. Tom, the nurse-boy, 
confided to me yesterday that he hoped 
to stop in my employment for forty moons. 
After that space of time he considered 
that he should be in a position to buy 
plenty of wives, who would work for him 



5 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



and support him for the rest of his life. 
But how Tom or Jack, or any of the 
boys in fact, are to save money I know 
not, for every shilling of their wages, ex- 
cept a small margin for coarse snuff, goes 
to their parents, who fleece them without 
mercy. If they are fined for breakages 
or misconduct (the only punishment a 
Kafir cares for), they have to account for 
the deficient money to the stern parents ; 
and both Tom and Jack went through a 
most graphic pantomime with a stick of 
the consequences to themselves, adding 
that their father said both the beating 
from him and the fine from us served 
them right for their carelessness. It 
seemed so hard they should suffer both 
ways, and they were so good-tempered 
and uncomplaining about it, that I fear 
I shall find it very difficult to stop any 
threepenny pieces out of their wages in 
future. A Kafir servant usually gets one 
pound a month, his clothes and food. 
The former consists of a shirt and short 
trousers of coarse check cotton, a sol- 
dier's old great-coat for winter, and plen- 
ty of mealy-meal for "scoff." ' If he is a 
good servant and worth making comfort- 
able, you give him a trifle every week to 
buy meat. Kafirs are very fond of going 
to their kraals, and you have to make 
them sign an agreement to remain with 
you so many months, generally six. By 
the time you have just taught them, with 
infinite pains and trouble, how to do 
their work, they depart, and you have to 
begin it all over again. 

I frequently see the chiefs or indunas 
of chiefs passing here on their way to 
some kraals which lie just over the hills. 
These kraals consist of half a dozen or 
more large huts, exactly like so many 
huge beehives, on the slope of a hill. 
There is a rude attempt at sod-fencing 
round them ; a few head of cattle graze 
in the neighborhood ; lower down, the 
hillside is roughly scratched by the wo- 
men with crooked hoes to form a mealy- 
ground. (Cows and mealies are all they 
require except snuff or tobacco, which 
they smoke out of a cow's horn.) They 
seem a very gay and cheerful people, to 
judge by the laughter and jests I hear 
from the groups returning to these kraals 



every day by the road just outside our 
fence. Sometimes one of the party car- 
ries an umbrella ; and I assure you the 
effect of a tall, stalwart Kafir, clad either 
in nothing at all or else in a sack, care- 
fully guarding his bare head with a tat- 
tered Gamp, is very ridiculous. Often 
some one walks along playing upon a 
rude pipe, whilst the others jog before 
and after him, laughing and capering 
like boys let loose from school, and all 
chattering loudly. You never meet a 
man carrying a burden unless he is a 
white settler's servant. When a chief 
or the induna of a kraal passes this way, 
I see him, clad in a motley garb of red 
regimentals with his bare "ringed" head, 
riding a sorry nag, only the point of his 
great toe resting in his stirrup. He is 
followed closely and with great empresse- 
ment by his " tail," all " ringed" men also 
that is, men of some substance and 
weight in the community. They carry 
bundles of sticks, and keep up with the 
ambling nag, and are closely followed 
by some of his wives bearing heavy loads 
on their heads, but stepping out bravely 
with beautiful erect carriage, shapely bare 
arms and legs, and some sort of coarse 
drapery worn across their bodies, cover- 
ing them from shoulder to knee in folds 
which would delight an artist's eye and be 
the despair of a sculptor's chisel. They 
don't look either oppressed or discon- 
tented. Happy, healthy and jolly are 
the words by which they would be most 
truthfully described. Still, they are lazy, 
and slow to appreciate any benefit from 
civilization except the money, but then 
savages always seem to me as keen and 
sordid about money as the most civilized 
mercantile community anywhere. 

FEBRUARY 14. 

I am often asked by people who are 
thinking of coming here, or who want to 
send presents to friends here, what to 
bring or send. Of course it is difficult 
to say, because my experience is limit- 
ed and confined to one spot at present : 
therefore I give my opinion very guarded- 
ly, and acknowledge it is derived in great 
part from the experience of others who 
have been here a long time. Amongst 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



other wraps, I brought a sealskin jacket 
and muff which I happened to have. 
These, I am assured, will be absolutely 
useless, and already they are a great 
anxiety to me on account of the swarms 
of fish-tail moths which I see scuttling 
about in every direction if I move a box 
or look behind a picture. In fact, there 
are destructive moths everywhere, and 
every drawer is redolent of camphor. 
The only things I can venture to recom- 
mend as necessaries are things which no 
one advised me to bring, and which were 
only random shots. One was a light 
waterproof ulster, and the other was a 
lot of those outside blinds for windows 
which come, I believe, from Japan, and 
are made of grass green, painted with 
gay figures. I picked up these latter by 
the merest accident at the Baker-street 
bazaar for a few shillings : they are the 
comfort of my life, keeping out glare and 
dust in the day and moths and insects of 
all kinds at night. As for the waterproof, 
I do not know what I should have done 

without it ; and little G 's has also 

been most useful. It is the necessary of 
necessaries here a real, good substan- 
tial waterproof. A man cannot do bet- 
ter than get a regular military water- 
proof which will cover him from chin to 
heel on horseback ; and even waterproof 
hats and caps are a comfort in this trea- 
cherous summer season, 'where a storm 
bursts over your head out of a blue dome 
of sky, and drenches you even whilst the 
sun is shining brightly. 

A worse climate and country for clothes 
of every kind and description cannot be 
imagined. When I first arrived I thought 
I had never seen such ugly toilettes in 
all my life ; and I should have been less 
than woman (or more which is it ?) if I 
had not derived some secret satisfaction 
from the possession of at least prettier 
garments. What I was vain of in my 
secret heart was my store of cotton 
gowns. One can't very well wear cot- 
ton gowns in London ; and, as I am par- 
ticularly fond of them, I indemnify my- 
self for going abroad by rushing wildly 
into extensive purchases in cambrics and 
print dresses. They are so pretty and so 
cheap, and when charmingly made, as 



mine were (alas, they are already things 
of the past !), nothing can be so satisfac- 
tory in the way of summer country garb. 
Well, it has been precisely in the matter 
of cotton gowns that I have been punish- 
ed for my vanity. For a day or two each 
gown in turn looked charming. Then 
came a flounce or bordering of bright 
red earth on the lower skirt and a gen- 
eral impression of red dust and dirt all 
over it. That was after a drive into Ma- 
ritzburg along a road ploughed up by 
ox-wagons. Still, I felt no uneasiness. 
What is a cotton gown made for if not to 
be washed ? Away it goes to the wash ! 
What is this limp, discolored rag which 
returns to me iron-moulded, blued until 
it is nearly black, rough-dried, starched 
in patches, with the fringe of red earth 
only more firmly fixed than before ? Be- 
hold my favorite ivory cotton ! My white 
gowns are even in a worse plight, for 
there are no two yards of them the same, 
and the grotesque mixture of extreme 
yellowness, extreme blueness and a per- 
vading tinge of the red mud they have 
been washed in renders them a piteous 
example of misplaced confidence. Other 
things fare rather better not much but 
my poor gowns are only hopeless wrecks, 
and I am reduced to some old yachting 
dresses of ticking and serge. The price 
of washing, as this spoiling process is 
pleasantly called, is enormous, and I ex- 
haust my faculties in devising more eco- 
nomical arrangements. We can't wash 
at home, for the simple reason that we 
have no water, no proper appliances of 
any sort, and to build and buy such 
would cost a small fortune. But a tall, 
white-aproned Kafir, with a badge upon 
his arm, comes now at daylight every 
Monday morning and takes away a huge 
sackful of linen, which is placed, with 
sundry pieces of soap and blue in its 
mouth, all ready for him. He brings it 
back in the afternoon full of clean and 
dry linen, for which he receives three 
shillings and sixpence. But this is only 
the first stage. The things to be starched 
have to be sorted and sent to one wo- 
man, and those to be mangled to anoth- 
er, and both lots have to be fetched home 
again by Tom and Jack. (I have for- 



5 2 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



gotten to tell you that Jack's real name, 
elicited with great difficulty, as there is a 
click somewhere in it, is "Umpashong- 
wana," whilst the pickle Tom is known 
among his own people as " Umkabang- 
wana." You will admit that our substi- 
tutes for these five-syllabled appellations 
are easier to pronounce in a hurry. Jack 
is a favorite name : I know half a dozen 
black Jacks myself.) To return, however, 
to the washing. I spend my time in this 
uncertain weather watching the clouds 
on the days when the clothes are to come 
home, for it would be altogether too great 
a trial if one's starched garments, borne 
aloft on Jack's head, were to be caught 
in a thunder-shower. If the washerwo- 
man takes pains with anything, it is with 
gentlemen's shirts, though even then she 
insists on ironing the collars into strange 
and fearful shapes. 

Let not men think, however, that they 
have it all their own way in the matter 
of clothes. White jackets and trousers 
are commonly worn here in summer, and 
it is very soothing, I am told, to try to 
put them on in a hurry when the arms 
and legs are firmly glued together by 
several pounds of starch. Then as to 
boots and shoes : they get so mildewed 
if laid aside for even a few days as to be 
absolutely offensive ; and these, with hats, 
wear out at the most astonishing rate. 
The sun and dust and rain finish up the 
hats in less than no time. 

But I have not done with my clothes 
yet. A lady must keep a warm dress 
and jacket close at hand all through 
the most broiling summer weather, for a 
couple of hours will bring the thermom- 
eter down ten or twenty degrees, and 
I have often been gasping in a white 
dressing-gown at noon and shivering 
in a serge dress at three o'clock on the 
same day. I am making up my mind that 
serge and ticking are likely to be the 
most useful material for dresses, and, as 
one must have something very cool for 
these burning months, tussore or foulard, 
which get themselves better washed than 
my poor dear cottons. Silks are next to 
useless too smart, too hot, too entirely 
out of place in such a life as this, except 
perhaps one or two of tried principles, 



which won't spot or fade or misbehave 
themselves in any way. One goes out 
of a warm, dry afternoon with a tulle 
veil on to keep off the flies, or a feather 
in one's hat, and returns with the one a 
limp, wet rag and the other quite out of 
curl. I only wish any milliner could see 
my feathers now ! All straight, rigidly 
straight as a carpenter's rule, and tinged 
with red dust besides. As for tulle or 
crepe-lisse frilling, or any of those soft 
pretty adjuncts to a simple toilette, they 
are five minutes' wear no more, I sol- 
emnly declare. 

I love telling a story against myself, 
and here is one. In spite of repeated 
experiences of the injurious effect of al- 
ternate damp and dust upon finery, the 
old Eve is occasionally too strong for 
my prudence, and I can't resist, on the 
rare occasions which offer themselves, 
the temptation of wearing pretty things. 
Especially weak am I in the matter of 
caps, and this is what befell me. Im- 
agine a lovely, soft summer evening, 
broad daylight, though it is half-past 
seven (it will be dark directly, however) : 
a dinner-party to be reached a couple of 
miles away. The little open carriage is 
at the door, and into this I step, swath- 
ing my gown carefully up in a huge 
shawl. This precaution is especially 
necessary, for during the afternoon there 
has been a terrific thunderstorm and a 
sudden sharp deluge of rain. Besides a 
swamp or two to be ploughed through as 
best we may, there are those two miles 
of deep red muddy road full of ruts and 
big stones and pitfalls of all sorts. The 
drive home in the dark will be nervous 
work, but now in daylight let us enjoy 
whilst we may. Of course I ought to 
have taken my cap in a box or bag, or 
something of the sort ; but that seemed 
too much trouble, especially as it was so 
small it needed to be firmly pinned on 
in its place. It consisted of a centre 
or crown of white crepe, a little frill of 
the same, and a close-fitting wreath of 
deep red feathers all round. Very neat 
and tidy it looked as I took my last 
glance at it whilst I hastily knotted a 
light black lace veil over my head by 
way of protection during my drive When 



LhTTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



53 



I got to my destination there was no look- 
ing-glass to be seen anywhere, no maid, 
no anything or anybody to warn me. 
Into the dining-room I marched in hap- 
py unconsciousness that the extreme 
dampness of the evening had flattened 
the crown of my cap, and that it and its 
frill were mere unconsidered limp rags, 
whilst the unpretending circlet of feath- 
ers had started into undue prominence, 
and struck straight out like a red nimbus 
all round my unconscious head. How 
my fellow-guests managed to keep their 
countenances I cannot tell. I am cer- 
tain / never could have sat opposite to 
any one with such an Ojibbeway Indian's 
head-dress on without giggling. But no 
one gave me the least hint of my mis- 
fortune, and it only burst upon me sud- 
denly when I returned to my own room 
and my own glass. Still, there was a 
ray of hope left : it might have been the 
dampness of the drive home which had 
worked me this woe. I rushed into 

F 's dressing-room and demanded 

quite fiercely whether my cap had been 
like that all the time. 

"Why, yes," F admitted; adding 

by way of consolation, " In fact, it is a 
good deal subdued now: it was very 
wild all dinner-time. I can't say I ad- 
mired it, but I supposed it was all right." 

Did ever any one hear such shocking 
apathy ? In answer to my reproaches 
for not telling me, he only said, "Why, 
what could you have done with it if you 
had known ? Taken it off and put it in 
your pocket, or what ?" 

I don't know, but anything would have 
been better than sitting at table with a 
thing only fit for a May-Day sweep on 
one's head. It makes me hot and angry 
with myself even to think of it now. 

F 's clothes could also relate some 

curious experiences which they have had 
to go through, not only at the hands of 
his washerwoman, but at those of his 
temporary valet, Jack (I beg his pardon, 
Umpashongwana) the Zulu, whose zeal 
exceeds anything one can imagine. For 
instance, when he sets to work to brush 

F 's clothes of a morning he is by no 

means content to brush the cloth clothes. 
Oh dear, no ! He brushes the socks, 



I putting each carefully on his hand like a 
glove and brushing vigorously away. As 
they are necessarily very thin socks for 
this hot weather, they are apt to melt 
away entirely under the process. I say 
nothing of his blacking the boots inside 
as well as out, or of his laboriously scrub- 
bing holes in a serge coat with a scrub- 
bing-brush, for these are errors of judg- 
ment dictated by a kindly heart. But 
when Jack puts a saucepan on the fire 
without any water and burns holes in it, 
or tries whether plates and dishes can 
support their own weight in the air with- 
out a table beneath them, then, I con- 
fess, my patience runs short. But Jack' 
is so imperturbable, so perfectly and 
genuinely astonished at the untoward 
result of his experiments, and so grieved 
that the inkosacasa (I have not an idea 
how the word ought to be spelt) should 
be vexed, that I am obliged to leave off 
shaking my head at him, which is the 
only way I have of expressing my dis- 
pleasure. He keeps on saying, " Ja, oui, 
yaas," alternately, all the time, and I 
have to go away to laugh. 

FEBRUARY 16. 

I was much amused the other day at 
receiving a letter of introduction from a 
mutual friend in England, warmly rec- 
ommending a newly-arrived bride and 
bridegroom to my acquaintance, and 
especially begging me to take pains to 
introduce the new-comers into the "best 
society." To appreciate the joke thor- 
oughly you must understand that there 
is no society here at all absolutely 
none. We are not proud, we Maritz- 
burgians, nor are we inhospitable, nor 
exclusive, nor unsociable. Not a bit. 
We are as anxious as any community 
can be to have society or sociable ga- 
therings, or whatever you like to call 
the way people manage to meet togeth- 
er ; but circumstances are altogether too 
strong for us, and we all in turn are forced 
to abandon the attempt in despair. First 
of all, the weather is against us. It is 
maddeningly uncertain, and the best-ar- 
ranged entertainment cannot be consid- 
ered a success if the guests have to strug- 
gle through rain and tempest and streets 



54 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



ankle-deep in water and pitchy darkness 
to assist at it. People are hardly likely 
to make themselves pleasant at a party 
when their return home through storm 
and darkness is on their minds all the 
time : at least, I know 7 cannot do so. 
But the weather is only one of the lets 
and hinderances to society in Natal. 
We are all exceedingly poor, and neces- 
sary food is very dear : luxuries are en- 
ormously expensive, but they are gen- 
erally not to be had at all, so one is not 
tempted by them. Servants, particular- 
ly cooks, are few and far between, and I 
doubt if even any one calling himself a 
cook could send up what would be con- 
sidered a fairly good dish elsewhere. 
Kafirs can be taught to do one or two 
things pretty well, but even then they 
could not be trusted to do them for a 
party. In fact, if I stated that there 
were no good servants in the ordinary 
acceptation of the word here at all, I 
should not be guilty of exaggeration. 
If there are, all I can say is, I have nei- 
ther heard of nor seen them. On the 
contrary, I have been overwhelmed by 
lamentations on that score in which I can 
heartily join. Besides the want of means 
of conveyance (for there are no cabs, and 
very few remises] and good food and at- 
tendance, any one wanting to entertain 
would almost need to build a house, so 
impossible is it to collect more than half 
a dozen people inside an ordinary-sized 
house here. For my part, my verandah 
is the comfort of my life. When more 
than four or five people at a time chance 
to come to afternoon tea, we overflow 
into the verandah. It runs round three 
sides of the four rooms called a house, 
and is at once my day-nursery, my lum- 
ber-room, my summer-parlor, my place 
of exercise everything, in fact. And it 
is an incessant occupation to train the 
creepers and wage war against the legions 
of brilliantly-colored grasshoppers which 
infest and devour the honeysuckles and 
roses. Never was there such a place for 
insects! They eat up everything in the 
kitchen-garden, devour every leaf off my 
peach and orange trees, scarring and 
spoiling the fruit as well. It is no com- 
fort whatever that they are wonderfully 



beautiful creatures, striped and ringed 
with a thousand colors in a thousand 
various ways : one has only to see the 
riddled appearance of every leaf and 
flower to harden one's heart. Just now 
they have cleared off every blossom out 
of the garden except my zinnias, which 
grow magnificently and make the de- 
vastated flower-bed still gay with every 
hue and tint a zinnia can put on sal- 
mon-color, rose, scarlet, pink, maroon, 
and fifty shades besides. On the veldt 
too the flowers have passed by, but their 
place is taken by the grasses, which are 
all in seed. People say the grass is rank 
and poor, and of not much account as 
food for stock, but it has an astonishing 
variety of beautiful seeds. In one patch 
it is like miniature pampas-grass, only a 
couple of inches long each seed-pod, out 
white and fluffy. Again, there will be 
tall stems laden with rich purple grains or 
delicate tufts of rose-colored seed. One 
of the prettiest, however, is like wee 
green harebells hanging all down a tall 
and slender stalk, and hiding within their 
cups the seed. Unfortunately, the weeds 
and burs seed just as freely, and there is 
one especial torment to the garden in the 
shape of an innocent-looking little plant 
something like an alpine strawberry in 
leaf and blossom, bearing a most aggra- 
vating tuft of little black spines which 
lose no opportunity of sticking to one's 
petticoats in myriads. They are famil- 
iarly known as "blackjacks," and can 
hold their own as pests with any weed 
of my acquaintance. 

But the most beautiful tree I have seen 
in Natal was an Acacia flamboyante. I 
saw it at D'Urban, and I shall never for- 
get the contrast of its vivid green, bright 
as the spring foliage of a young oak, and 
the crown of rich crimson flowers on its 
topmost branches, tossing their brilliant 
blossoms against a background of gleam- 
ing sea and sky. It was really splendid, 
like a bit of Italian coloring among the 
sombre tangle of tropical verdure. It is 
too cold up here for this glorious tree, 
which properly belongs to a far more 
tropical temperature than even D'Urban 
can mount up to. 

I am looking forward to next month 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



55 



and the following ones to make some 
little excursions into the country, or to 
go "trekking," as the local expression is. 
I hear on all sides how much that is in- 
teresting lies a little way beyond the 
reach of a ride, but it is difficult for the 
mistress who is at the same time the 
general servant of an establishment out 
here to get away from home for even a few 
days, especially when there is a couple 
of small children to be left behind. No 



one travels now who can possibly help 
it, for the sudden violent rains which 
come down nearly every afternoon swell 
the rivers and make even the spruits im- 
passable ; so a traveler may be detained 
for days within a few miles of his desti- 
nation. Now, in winter the roads will 
be hard, and dust will be the only in- 
convenience. At least, that is what I 
am promised. 




"VX. 



MARITZBURG, March 5, 1876. 

I DON'T think I like a climate which 
produces a thunderstorm every after- 
noon. One disadvantage of this electric 
excitement is that I hardly ever get out 
for a walk or drive. All day it is burn- 
ing hot : if there is a breath of air, it is 
sultry, and adds to the oppression of the 
atmosphere instead of refreshing it. Then 
about midday great fleecy banks of cloud 
begin to steal up behind the ridge of hills 
to the south-west. Gradually they creep 
round the horizon, stretching their sort 
gray folds farther and farther to every 
point of the compass, until they have 
shrouded the dazzling blue sky and drop- 
ped a cool, filmy veil of mist between the 
sun's fierce, steady blaze and the baked 
earth below. That is always my nervous 

moment. F declares I am exactly 

like an old hen with her chickens ; and 
I acknowledge that I should like to cluck 
and call everything and everybody into 

shelter and safety. If little G is out 

on his pony alone, as is generally the 
case for he returns from school early in 
the afternoon and I think of the great 
open veldt, the rough, broken track and 
the treacherous swamp, what wonder is 
it that I cannot rest in-doors, but am 
always making bareheaded expeditions 
every five minutes to the brow of the 
hill to see if I can discern the tiny figure 
tearing along the open, with its floating 
white puggery streaming behind ? The 
pony may safely be trusted not to loiter, 
for horse and cow, bird and beast, know 
what that rapidly - darkening shadow 
means, and what sudden death lurks 
within those patches of inky clouds, from 
which a deep and rolling murmur comes 
from time to time. I am uneasy even if 

F has not returned, for the little riv- 

er^ the noisy Umsindusi, thinks nothing 
of suddenly spreading itself far and wide 
over its banks, turning the low -lying 
ground into a lake for miles. 

It is true that this may only last for 



a few hours, or even moments, but five 
minutes is quite enough to do a great 
deal of mischief when a river is rising at 
the rate of two feet a minute mischief 
not only to human beings, but to bridges, 
roads and drains, as well as plantations 
and fields. Yet that tropical downpour, 
where the clouds let loose the imprison- 
ed moisture suddenly in solid sheets of 
water instead of by the more slow and 
civilized method of drops, is a relief to 
my mind, for there are worse possibilities 
than a wet jacket behind those lurid, 
low -hanging vapors. There are hail- 
storms, like one yesterday morning which 
rattled on the red tile roof like a dis- 
charge of musketry, and with nearly as 
damaging an effect, for several tiles were 
broken and tumbled down, leaving mel- 
ancholy gaps, like missing teeth, in the 
eaves. There are thunderbolts, which 
strike the tallest trees, leaving them in 
an instant gaunt and bare and shriveled, 
as though centuries had suddenly pass- 
ed over their green and waving heads. 
There are flashes of lightning which dart 
through a verandah or room, and leave 
every living thing in it struck down dead 
peals of thunder wHich seem to shake 
the very earth to its centre. There are 
all these meteorological possibilities 
nay, probabilities following fast upon 
a burning, hot, still morning; and what 
wonder is it that I am anxious and ner- 
vous until everybody belonging to me is 
under shelter, though shelter can only 
be from the driving rain or tearing gusts 
of wind ? No wall or window, no bolt 
or bar, can keep out the dazzling death 
which swoops down in a violet glare and 
snatches its victims anywhere and every- 
where. A Kafir washerman, talking yes- 
terday morning to his employer in her 
verandah, was in the act of saying, " I 
will be sure to come to-morrow," when 
he fell forward on his face, dead from a 
blinding flash out of a passing thunder- 
cloud. An old settler, a little way up- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



57 



country, was reading prayers to his house- 
hold the other night, and in a second 
half the little kneeling circle were struck 
dead alongside of the patriarchal reader 
dead on their knees. Two young men 
were playing a game of billiards quiet- 
ly enough : one was leaning forward to 
make a stroke when there came a crash 
and a crackle, and he dropped dead with 
his cue in his hand. The local papers 
are full every day of a long list of cas- 
ualties, but it is not from these sources 
I have drawn the preceding examples : I 
only chanced to hear them yesterday, 
and they all happened quite close by. 
As for cattle or trees being killed, that 
is an every-day occurrence in summer, 
and even a hailstorm, so long as it does 
not utterly bombard the town and leave 
the houses roofless and open to wind and 
weather, is not thought anything of. The 
hail -shower of yesterday, though, bom- 
barded my creepers and reduced them 
to a pitiful state in five minutes. So soon 
as it was possible to venture outside the 

house, F called me to. see the ruin 

of leaf and bud which strewed the ce- 
mented floor of the verandah. It is dif- 
ficult to describe, and still more difficult 
to believe, the state to which the foliage 
had been reduced. On the weather side 
of the house every leaf was torn off, and 
not only torn, but riddled through and 
through as though by a charge of swan- 
shot. All my young rose-shoots, climb- 
ing so swiftly up to the roof of the ve- 
randah, were snapped off and stripped 
of their tender leaves and pretty buds. 
The honeysuckles' luxuriant foliage was 
all gone, lying in a wet, forlorn mass of 
beaten green leaves around each pillar, 
and there was not a leaf left on the vines. 
But a much more serious trouble came 
out of that storm. Though it has passed 
with the passing fury of wind and rain, 
still, it will always leave a feeling of in- 
security in my mind during similar out- 
bursts. The great hailstones were forced 
by the driving wind in immense quanti- 
ties beneath the tiles, and deposited on 
the rude planking which, painted white, 
forms the ceiling. This planking has the . 
boards wide apart, so it is not difficult to 
see that so soon as the warmth of the 



house melted the hailstones that is, in 
five minutes the water trickled down as 
through a sieve. It was not to be dealt 
with like an ordinary leak : it was here, 
there and everywhere, on sofas and chairs, 
beds and writing-tables ; and the moment 
the sun shone out again, bright and hot 
as ever, the contents of the house had 
to be turned out of doors to dry. Dry- 
ing meant, however, warping of writing- 
tables, and in fact of all woodwork, and 
fading of chintzes, beneath the broiling 
glare of a midday sun. Such are a few 
of the difficulties of existence in South 
Africa difficulties, however, which must 
be met and got over as best they may, 
and laughed at once they are past and 
over, as I am really doing in spite of my 
affectation of grumbling. 

A very pleasant adventure came to us 
the other evening, however, through one 
of these sudden thunderstorms. Imag- 
ine a little tea-table, with straw chairs all 
around it, standing in the verandah. A 
fair and pleasant view lies before us of 
green rises and still greener hollows, with 
dark dots of plantations from which peep 
red roofs or white gables. Beyond, again, 
lies Maritzburg under the lee of higher 
hills, which cast a deeper shadow over 
the picturesque little town. We are six 
in all, and four horses are being led up 
and down by Kafir grooms, for their 
riders have come out for a breath of air 
after a long, burning day of semi-trop- 
ical heat, and also for a cup of tea and 
a chat. We were exactly even, three 
ladies and three gentlemen ; and we 
grumbled at the weather and complain- 
ed of our servants according to the usual 
style of South-African conversation. 

Presently, some one said, "It's much 
cooler now." 

"Yes," was the answer, "but look at 
those clouds ; and is that a river rolling 
down the hillside ?" 

Up to that moment there had not been 
a drop of rain, but even as the words 
passed the speaker's lips a blinding flash 
of light, a sullen growl and a warning 
drop of rain, making a splash as big as 
half a crown at our feet, told their own 
story. In less time than it takes me to 
write or you tjo read the horses had been 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



hastily led up to the stable and stuffed 
into stalls only meant for two, and al- 
ready occupied. But Natalian horses 
are generally meek, underbred, spirit- 
less creatures, ' with sense enough to 
munch their mealies in peace and quiet, 
no matter how closely they are packed. 
As for me, I snatched up my tea-tray 
and fled into the wee drawing-room. 
Some one else caught up the table ; 
the straw chairs were left as usual to 
be buffeted by the wind and weather, 
and we retreated to the comparative 
shelter of the house. But no doors or 
windows could keep out the torrent of 
rain which burst like a waterspout over 
our heads, forcing its way under the 
tiles, beneath the badly -fitting doors 
and windows, sweeping and eddying all 
around like the true tropical tempest it 
was. Claps of thunder shook the nur- 
sery, where we three ladies had taken 
refuge, ostensibly to encourage and cheer 
the nurse, but really to huddle together 
like sheep with the children in our midst. 
Flash after flash lit up the fast-gathering 
darkness as the storm rolled away, to 
end in an hour or so as suddenly as it 
began. By this time it was not much 
past six, and though the twilight is 
early in these parts, there was enough 
daylight still left for our guests to see 
their way home. So the horses were 
brought, adieux were made, and our 
guests set forth, to return, however, in 
half an hour asking whether there was 
any other road into town, for the river 
was sweeping like a maelstrom for half 
a mile on either side of the frail wooden 
bridge by which they had crossed a 
couple of hours earlier. Now, the only 
other road into town is across a ford, or 
"drift," as it is called here, of the same 
river a mile higher up. Of course, it 
was of no use thinking of this way for 
even a moment ; but as they were 
really anxious to get home if possible, 

F volunteered to go back and see if 

it was practicable to get across by the 
bridge. I listened and waited anxiously 
enough in the verandah, for I could hear 
the roar of the rushing river down below 
a river which is ordinarily as sluggish 
as a brook in midsummer and I was 



so afraid that F or one of the other 

gentlemen would rashly venture across. 
But it was not to be attempted by any 
one who valued his life that evening, 

and F returned joyously, bringing 

our guests home as captives. It was 
great fun, for, in true colonial fashion, 
we had no servants to speak of except 
the nurse, the rest being Kafirs, one more 
ignorant than the other. And fancy 
stowing four extra people into a house 
with four rooms already full to overflow- 
ing ! But it was done, and done success- 
fully too, amid peals of laughter and 
absurd contrivances and arrangements, 
reminding us of the dear old New Zea- 
land days. 

The triumph of condensation was due, 
however, to Charlie, the Kafir groom, 
who ruthlessly turned my poor little 
pony carriage out into the open air to 
make room for some of his extra horses, 
saying, " It wash it, ma' make it clean : 
carriage no can get horse-sickness." And 
he was right, for it is certain death to turn 
a horse unaccustomed to the open out of 
his stable at night, especially at this time 
of year. We were all up very early next 
morning, and I had an anxious moment 
or two until I knew whether my market- 
Kafir could get out to me with bread, 
etc.; but soon after seven I saw him 
trudging gayly along with his bare legs, 
red tunic and long wand or stick, with- 
out which no Kafir stirs a yard away 
from home. Apropos of that red tunic, 
it was bought and given to him to pre- 
vent him from wearing the small piece 
of waterproof canvas I gave him to wrap 
up my bread, flour, sugar, etc. in on a 
wet morning. I used to notice that these 
perishable commodities arrived as often 
quite sopped through and spoiled after 
this arrangement about the waterproof as 
before, but the mystery was solved by 
seeing "Ufan" (otherwise John) with my 
basket poised on his head, the rain pelt- 
ing down upon its contents, and the small 
square of waterproof tied with a string at 
each corner over his own back. That 
reminds me of a hat I saw worn in Ma- 
ritzburg two days ago in surely the most 
eccentric fashion hat was ever yet put 
on. It was a large, soft gray felt, and. 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



59 



as far as I could judge, in pretty good 
condition. The Kafir who sported it had 
fastened a stout rope to the brim, at the 
extreme edge of the two sides. He had 
then turned the hat upside down, and 
wore it thus securely moored by these 
ropes behind his ears and under his chin. 
There were sundry trifles of polished 
bone, skewers and feathers stuck about 
his head as well, but the inverted hat 
sat serenely on the top of all, the soft 
crown being further secured to its own- 
er's woolly pate by soda-water wire. I 
never saw anything so absurd in my life ; 
but Charlie, who was holding my horse, 
gazed at it with rapture, and putting both 
hands together murmured in his best 
English and in the most insinuating 
manner, " Inkosi have old hat, ma' ? 
Like dat?" He evidently meant to 
imitate the fashion if he could. 

Poor Charlie has lost his savings 
three pounds. He has been in great 
trouble about it, as he was saving up his 
money carefully to buy a wife. It has 
been stolen, I fear, by one of his fellow- 
servants, and suspicion points strongly 
to Tom the Pickle, who cannot be made 
to respect the rights of property in any 
shape, from my sugar upward. The ma- 
chinery of the law has been set in mo- 
tion to find these three pounds, with no 
good results, however ; and now Charlie 
avows his intention of bringing a "witch- 
finder" (that is, a witch who finds) up 
to tell him where the money is. I am 
invited to be present at the performance, 
but I only hope she won't say /have got 
poor Charlie's money, for the etiquette 
is that whoever she accuses has to pro- 
duce the missing sum at once, no mat- 
ter whether he knows anything about its 
disappearance or not. 

Before I quite leave the subject of 
thunderstorms of which I devoutly 
hope this is the last month I must ob- 
serve that it seems a cruel arrangement 
that the only available material for met- 
aling the roads should be iron-stone, of 
which there is an immense quantity in 
the immediate neighborho.od of Maritz- 
burg. It answers the purpose admirably 
so far as changing the dismal swamps 
of the streets into tolerably hard high- 



roads goes ; but in such an electric cli- 
mate as this it is really very dangerous. 
Since the principal street has been thus 
improved, I am assured that during a 
thunderstorm it is exceedingly danger- 
ous to pass down it. Several oxen and 
Kafirs have been struck down in it, ami 
the lightning seems to be attracted to the 
ground, and runs along it in lambent 
sheets of flame. Yet I fancy it is a case 
of iron-stone or nothing, for the only 
other stone I see is a flaky substance 
which is very friable and closely resem- 
bles slate, and would be perfectly un- 
manageable for road-making purposes. 

Speaking of roads, I only wish any- 
body who grumbles at rates and taxes, 
which at all events keep him supplied 
with water and roads, could come here 
for a month. First, he should see the 
red mud in scanty quantities which repre- 
sents our available water-supply (except 
actually in the town) ; and next he should 
walk or ride or drive for each is equal- 
ly perilous down to the town, a mile or 
two off, with me of a dark night. I say, 
"with me," because I should make it a 
point to call the grumbler's attention to 
the various pitfalls on the way. I think 
I should like him to drive about seven 
o'clock, say to dinner, when one does 
not like the idea of having to struggle 
with a broken carriage or to go the re- 
mainder of the way on foot. About 7 
p. M. the light is peculiarly treacherous 
and uncertain, and is worse than the 
darkness later on. Very well, then, we 
will start, first looking carefully to the 
harness, lest Charlie should have omit- 
ted to fasten some important strap or 
buckle. There is a track in fact, there 
are three tracks all the way down to the 
main road, but each track has its own 
dangers. Down the centre of one runs 
a ridge like a backbone, with a deep furrow 
on either hand. If we were to attempt 
this, the bed of the pony carriage would 
rest on the ridge, to the speedy destruc- 
tion of the axles. To the right there is 
a grassy track, which is as uneven as a 
ploughed field, and has a couple of tre- 
mendous holes, to begin with, entirely 
concealed by waving grass. The secret 
of these constant holes is that a noctur- 



6o 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



nal animal called an ant-bear makes 
raids upon the ant-hills, which are like 
mole-hills, only bigger, destroys them, 
and scoops down to the new foundation 
in its search for the eggs, an especial 
dainty hard to get at. So one day there 
is a little brown hillock to be seen among 
the grass, and the next only a scratched- 
up hole. The tiny city is destroyed, the 
fortress taken and razed to the ground. 
All the ingenious galleries and large 
halls are laid low and the precious nur- 
series crumbled to the dust. If we get 
into one of these, we shall go no farther 
(a horse broke his neck in one last week). 
But we will suppose them safely passed ; 
and also the swamp. To avoid this we 
must take a good sweep to the left over per- 
fectly unknown ground, and we shall be 
sure to disturb a good many Kafir cranes 
birds who are so ludicrously like the 
black-headed, red-legged, white-bodied 
cranes in a " Noah's ark " that they seem 
old friends at once. Now, there is one 
deep, deep ravine right across the road, 
and then a steep hill, halfway down which 
comes a very pretty bit of driving in 
doubtful light. You've got to tura ab- 
ruptly to the left on the shoulder of the 
hill. Exactly where you turn is a cre- 
vasse of unknown depth, originally some 
sort of rude drain. The rains have wash- 
ed away the hoarding, made havoc around 
the drain, and left a hole which it is not 
pleasant to look into on foot and in broad 
daylight. But, whatever you do, don't, 
in trying to avoid this hole, keep too 
much to the right, for there is what was 
once intended for a reasonable ditch, but 
furious torrents of water racing along 
have seized upon it as a channel and 
turned it into a river-course. After that, 
at the foot of the hill, lies a quarter of a 
mile of mud and heavy sand, with alter- 
nate big projecting boulders and deep 
holes made by unhappy wagons having 
stuck therein. Then you reach always 
supposing you have not yet broken a 
spring the willow bridge, a little frail 
wooden structure, prettily shaded and 
sheltered by luxuriant weeping willows 
drooping their trailing green plumes into 
the muddy Umsindusi ; and so on to the 
main road into Pieter-Maritzburg. Such 



a bit of road as this is ! It ought to be 
photographed. I suppose it is a couple 
of dozen yards wide (for land is of little 
value hereabouts, and we can afford wide 
margins to our highways), and there cer- 
tainly is not more than a strip a yard 
wide which is anything like safe driving. 
In two or three places it is deeply furrow- 
ed for fifty yards or so by\he heavy sum- 
mer rains. Here and there are standing 
pools of water in holes whose depth is 
unknown, and everywhere the surface is 
deeply seamed and scarred by wagon- 
wheels. Fortunately for my nerves, there 
are but few and rare occasions on which 
we are tempted to confront these perils 
by night, and hitherto we have been tol- 
erably fortunate. 

\ MARCH 10. 

You will think this letter is nothing but 
a jumble of grumbles if, after complain- 
ing of the roads, I complain of my hens ; 
but, really, if the case were fairly stated, 
I am quite sure that Mr. Tetmegeier or 
any of the great authorities on poul- 
try-keeping would consider I had some 
ground for bemoaning myself. In the 
first place, as I think I have mentioned 
before, there is a sudden and mysterious 
disease among poultry which breaks out 
like an epidemic, and is vaguely called 
"fowl-sickness." That possibility alone 
is an anxiety to one, and naturally makes 
the poultry-fancier desirous of rearing as 
many chickens as possible, so as to leave 
a margin for disaster. In spite of all 
my incessant care and trouble, and a 
vast expenditure of mealies, to say noth- 
ing of crusts and scraps, I only manage 
to rear about twenty-five per cent, of my 
chickens. Even this is accomplished in 
the face of such unparalleled stupidity on 
the part of my hens that I wonder any 
chickens survive at all. Nothing will 
induce the hens to avail themselves of 
any sort of shelter for their broods. They 
just squat down in the middle of a path 
or anywhere, and go to sleep there. I 
hear sleepy "squawks" in the middle of 
the night, and find next morning that 
a cat or owl or snake has been supping 
off half my baby-chickens. Besides this 
sort of nocturnal fatalism, they perpetrate 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



61 



wholesale infanticide during the day by 
dragging the poor little wretches about 
among weeds and grass five feet high, 
all wet and full of thorns and burs. But 
it is perhaps in the hen-house that the 
worst and most idiotic part of their nature 
shows itself. Some few weeks ago I took 
three hens who were worrying us all to 
death by clucking entreaties to be given 
eggs to sit upon, and established them in 
three empty boxes, with seven or eight 
eggs under each. What do you think these 
hens have done ? They have contrived, 
in the first place, to push and roll all the 
eggs into one nest. Then they appear 
to have invited every laying hen in the 
place into that box, for I counted forty- 
eight eggs in it last week. Upon these 
one hen sits, in the very centre. Of 
course, there are many eggs outside her 
wings, although she habitually keeps 
every feather fluffed out to the utmost ; 
which must in itself be a fatigue. Around 
her, standing, but still sitting vigorously, 
were three other hens covering, or at- 
tempting to cover, this enormous nest- 
ful of eggs. Every now and then they 
appear to give a party, for I find several 
eggs kicked out into the middle of the 
hen-house, and strange fowls feeding on 
them amid immense cackling. Nothing 
ever seems to result from this pyramid 
of feathers. It (the pyramid) has been 
there just five weeks now, and at distant 
intervals a couple of chickens have ap- 
peared which none of the hens will ac- 
knowledge. Sitting appears to be their 
one idea. They look upon chickens as 
an interruption to their more serious du- 
ties, and utterly disregard them. It is 
quite heartbreaking to see these unhap- 
py chickens seeking for a mother, and 
meeting with nothing but pecks and 
squalls, which plainly express, "Go along, 
do/" One hen I have left, as advised, 
to her own devices, and she has shown 
her instinct by laying ten eggs on a rafter 
over the stable, upon which she can bare- 
ly balance herself and them. Upon these 
eggs she is now sitting with great dili- 
gence, but as each chicken is hatched 
there is no possible fate for it but to 
tumble off the rafter and be killed. 
There is no ladder or any means of as- 



cent, or of descent except a drop of a 
dozen feet. Another hen has turned a 
pigeon off her nest, and insisted on sit- 
ting upon the two eggs herself. Great 
was her dismay, however, when she found 
that her babies required to be fed every 
five minutes, and that no amount of peck- 
ing could induce them to come out for a 
walk the day they Avere hatched. She 
deserted them, of course, and the poor 
little pigeons died of neglect. Now, do you 
not think Kafir hens are a handful for a 
poor woman, who has quantities of other 
things to do, to have to manage ? 

Part of my regular occupation at this 
time of year, when nearly every blade 
of grass carries a tick at its extreme 
tip, is to extract these pertinacious little 
beasties from the children's legs and 
arms. I can understand how it is that 
G is constantly coming to me say- 
ing, "A needle, mumsy, if you please: 
here is such a big tick !" because he is 
always in the grass helping Charlie to 
stuff what he has cut for the horses into 
a sack or assisting some one else to burn 
a large patch of rank vegetation, and dis- 
lodging snakes, centipedes and all sorts 
of venomous things in the process, I 
can understand, I say, how this mis- 
chievous little imp, who is always in the 
front of whatever is going on, should ga- 
ther unto himself ticks, mosquitoes, ajid 
even "fillies;" but I cannot comprehend 
why the baby, who, from lack of physical 
possibilities, leads a comparatively harm- 
less and innocent existence, should also 
attract ticks to his fat arms and legs. I 
thought perhaps they might come from 
a certain puppy which gets a good deal 
of hugging up, but I am assured that a 
tick never leaves an animal. They will 
come off the grass upon any live thing 
passing, but they never move once they 
have taken hold of flesh with their cruel 
pincers. It is quite a dreadful thing to 
see the oxen "out-spanned" when they 
come down to the "spruit" to drink. 
Their dewlaps, and indeed their whole 
bodies, seem a mass of these horrible, 
swollen, bloated insects, as big as a large 
pea already, but sucking away with all 
their might, and resisting all efforts the 
unhappy animals can make with tail or 



62 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



head to get rid of them. Whenever I 
see the baby restless and fidgety, I un- 
dress him, and I am pretty sure to find 
a tick or two lazily moving about look- 
ing for a comfortable place to settle. 

G gave me quite a fright the other 

day. He was nicely dressed, for a won- 
der, to go for a drive with me in the car- 
riage, and was standing before my look- 
ing-glass attempting to brush his hair. 
Suddenly I saw a stream of blood pour- 
ing down his neck, and on examination 
I found that he must have dislodged the 
great bloated tick lying on his collar, and 
which had settled on a vein just above 
his ear. The creature had made quite a 
wound- as it was being torn away by the 
brush, and the blood was pouring free- 
ly from it, and would not be staunched. 
No cold water or plaster or anything 
would stop it, and the end was that poor 

little G had to give up his drive and 

remain at home with wet cloths on his 
head. He was rather proud of it, all 
the same, considering it quite an adven- 
ture, especially as he declared it did not 
hurt at all. Both the children keep very 
well here, although they do not look so 
rosy as they used to in England; but 
I am assured that the apple-cheeks will 
come back in the winter. They have 
enormous appetites, and certainly enjoy 
the free, unconventional life amazingly ; 
only Baby will not take to a Kafir nurse- 
boy. He condescends to smile when 
Charlie or any of the servants (for they 
all pet him a great deal) executes a war- 
dance for his amusement or sings him a 
song, but he does not like being carried 
about in their arms. I have now got a 
Kafir nurse-girl, a Christian. She is a 
fat, good-tempered and very docile girl 
of about fifteen, who looks at least twen- 
ty-five years old. Baby only goes to her 
to pluck off the gay 'kerchief she wears 
on her head. When that is removed he 
shrieks to get away from her. 

It is so absurd to see an English child 

falling into colonial ways. G talks 

to all the animals in Kafir, for they evi- 
dently don't understand English. If one 
wants to get rid of a dog, it is of no use 
saying "Get out!" ever so crossly; but 
when G yells "Foot-sack!" (this is 



pure phonetic spelling, out of my own 
head) the cur retreats precipitately. So 
to a horse : you must tell him to go on 
in Kafir, and he will not stop for any 

sound except a long low whistle. G 

even plays at games of the country. 
Sometimes I come upon the shady side 
of the verandah, taken up with chairs 
arranged in pairs along all its length 
and a sort of tent of rugs and shawls at 
one end, which is the wagon. " I am 
playing at trekking, mumsy dear: would 
you like to wait and see me out-span ? 
There is a nice place with water for the 
bullocks, and wood for my fire. Look 
at the brake of my wagon ; and here's 
such a jolly real bullock-whip Charlie 
made me out of a bamboo and strips of 

bullock-hide." G can't believe he 

ever played at railways or horses or civ- 
ilized games, and it is very certain that 
the baby will trek and out-span so soon 
as he can toddle. 

We grown - up people catch violent 
colds here ; and it is no wonder, con- 
sidering the changes of weather, far be- 
yond what even you, with your fickle 
climate, have to bear. Twenty - four 
hours ago it was so cold that I was glad 
of my sealskin jacket at six o'clock in 
the evening, and it was really bitterly 
cold at night. The next morning there 
was a hot wind, and it has been like 
living at the mouth of a furnace ever 
since. What wonder is it that I hear 
of bronchitis or croup in almost every 
house, and that we have all got bad 
colds in our throats and chests ? I heard 
the climate defined the other day as one 
in which sick people get well, and well 
people get sick, and I begin to think it 
is rather a true way of looking at it. 
People are always complaining, and the 
doctors (of whom there are a great many 
in proportion to the population) seem al- 
ways very busy. Everybody says, "Wait 
till the winter," but I have been here 
four months now, three of which have 
certainly been the most trying and dis- 
agreeable, as to climate and weather, I 
have ever experienced ; nor have I ever 
felt more generally unhinged and unwell 
in my life. This seems a hard thing to 
say of a climate with so good a reputa- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



tion as this, but I am obliged to write of 
things as I find them. I used to hear 
the climate immensely praised in Eng- 
land, but I don't hear much said in its 
favor here. The most encouraging re- 
mark one meets with is, "Oh, you'll get 
used to it." 

HOWICK, March 13. 

It is difficult to imagine that so cool 
and charming a spot as this is only a 
dozen miles from Maritzburg, of which 
one gets so tired. It must be acknow- 
ledged that each mile might fairly count 
for six English ones if the difficulty of 
getting over it were reckoned. The jour- 
ney occupied three hours of a really beau- 
tiful afternoon, which had the first crisp 
freshness of autumn in its balmy breath, 
and the road climbed a series of hills, 
with, from the top of each, a wide and 
charming prospect. We traveled in a 
sort of double dog-cart of a solidity and 
strength of construction which filled me 
with amazement until I saw the nature 
of the ground it had to go over. Then I 
was fain to confess it might have been 
if such were possible twice as strong 
with advantage, for in spite of care and 
an exceeding slow pace we bent our 
axles. This road is actually the first 
stage of the great overland journey to 
the diamond-fields, and it is difficult to 
imagine how there can be any transport 
service at all in the face of such difficul- 
ties. I have said so much about bad 
roads already that I feel more than half 
ashamed to dilate upon this one; yet 
roads, next to servants, are the standing 
grievance of Natal. To see a road-party 
at work and you must bear in mind 
that thousands are spent annually on 
roads is to understand in a great mea- 
sure how so many miles come to be 
mere quagmires and pitfalls for man and 
beast. A few tents by the roadside here 
and there, a little group of lazy, three- 
parts-naked Kafirs, a white man in com- 
mand who probably knows as little of 
the first principles of roadmaking as his 
dog, and a feeble scratching up of the 
surrounding mud, transferring it from 
one hole to the other, that is roadmak- 
ing in Natal, so far as it has presented 



itself to me. On this particular route the 
fixed idea of the road-parties of which 
we passed three was to dig a broad, 
wide ditch a couple of feet below the 
level of the surrounding country, and to 
pick up the earth all over it, so. that the 
first shower of rain might turn it into a 
hopeless, sticky mass of mud. As for 
any idea of making the middle of the 
road higher than the sides, that appears 
to be considered a preposterous one, and 
is not, at all events, acted upon in any 
place I have seen. It was useless to 
think of availing ourselves of the ditch, 
for the mud looked too serious after last 
night's heavy rain ; so we kept to an old- 
er track, where we bumped in and out of 
holes in a surprising and bruising fash- 
ion. It took four tolerably stout and 
large horses to get us along at all ; and 
if they had not been steadily and care- 
fully driven, we should have been still 
more black and blue and stiff and aching 
than we were. I wonder if you will be- 
lieve me when I say that I was assured 
that many of the holes were six feet 
deep? I don't think our wheels went 
into any hole more than three feet be- 
low the rough surface. I found, how- 
ever, that the boulders were worse than 
the holes. One goes, to a certain extent, 
quietly in and out of a hole, but the 
wheel slips very suddenly off the top of 
a high boulder, and comes to the ground 
with a cruel jerk. There was plenty of 
rock in the hillside, so every now and 
then the holes would be filled up by 
boulders, and we crawled for some yards 
over ground which had the effect of an 
exceedingly rough wall having tumbled 
down over it. If one could imagine Mr. 
MacAdam's idea carried out in Brobding- 
nag, one would have some faint notion of 
the gigantic proportions of the hardening 
material on that road. 

It was as is often the case where an 
almost tropical sun draws up the mois- 
ture from the earth a misty evening, 
and the distant view was too vague and 
vaporous to leave any distinct picture on 
my memory. Round Howick itself are 
several little plantations in the clefts of 
the nearest downs, and each plantation 
shelters a little farm or homestead. We 



6 4 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



can only just discern in more distant hol- 
lows deep blue-black shadows made by 
patches of real native forest, the first I 
have seen ; but close at hand the park- 
like country is absolutely bare of timber 
save for these sheltering groups of gum 
trees, beneath whose protection other 
trees can take root and flourish. Gum 
trees seem the nurses of all vegetation 
in a colony : they drain a marshy soil 
and make it fit for a human dwelling- 
place wherever they grow. There you 
see also willows with their delicate ten- 
der leaves, and sentinel poplars whose 
lightly -poised foliage keeps up a cool 
rustle always. But now the road is get- 
ting a trifle better, and we are beginning 
to drop down hill. Hitherto it has been 
all stiff collar-work, and we have climbed 
a thousand feet or more above Maritz- 
burg. It is closing in quite a cold even- 
ing, welcome to our sun-baked energies, 
as we drive across quite an imposing 
bridge (as well it may be, for it cost 
a good many thousand pounds) which 
spans the Umgeni River, and so round a 
sharp turn and up a steepish hill to where 
the hotel stands amid sheltering trees 
and a beautiful undergrowth of ferns and 
arum lilies. Ho wick appears to be all 
hotel, for two have already been built, 
and a third is in progress. A small store 
and a pretty wee church are all the other 
component parts of the place. Our ho- 
tel is delightful, with an enchanting view 
of the Umgeni widening out as it ap- 
proaches the broad cliff from which it 
leaps a few hundred yards farther on. 

Now, ever since I arrived in Natal I 
have been pining to see a real mountain 
and a real river not a big hill or a ca- 
pricious spruit, sometimes a ditch and 
sometimes a lake, but a respectable river, 
too deep to be muddy. Here it is before 
me at last, the splendid Umgeni, curving 
among the hills, wide and tranquil, yet 
with a rushing sound suggestive of its im- 
mense volume. We can't waste a mo- 
ment in-doors : not even the really nice 
fresh butter and what a treat that is you 
must taste Maritzburg butter to under- 
stand nor the warm tea can detain us 
for long. We snatch up our shawls and 
run out in the gloaming to follow the 



river's sound and find out the spot where 
it leaps down. It is not difficult, once 
we are in the open air, to decide in which 
direction we must go, and for once we 
brave ticks, and even snakes, and go 
straight across country through the long 
grass. There it is. Quite suddenly we 
have come upon it, so beautiful in its 
simplicity and grandeur, no .ripple or 
break to confuse the eye and take away 
the sense of unity and consolidation. The 
river widens, and yet hurries, gathering up 
strength and volume until it reaches that 
great cliff of iron-stone. You could drop 
a plumb-line over it, so absolutely straight 
is it for three hundred and fifty feet. I 
have seen other waterfalls in other parts 
of the world, but I never saw anything 
much more imposing than this great per- 
pendicular sheet of water broken into a 
cloud of spray and foam so soon as it 
touches the deep, silent basin below. 
The water is discolored where it flings 
itself over the cliff, and there are tinges 
and stains of murky yellow on it there, 
but the spray which rises up from below 
is purer and whiter than driven snow, 
and keeps a great bank of lycopodium 
moss at the foot of the cliff, over which 
it is driven by every breath of air, fresh 
and young and vividly green. Many 
rare ferns and fantastic bushes droop on 
either side of the great fall droop as 
if they too were giddy with the noise of 
the water rushing past them, and were 
going to fling themselves into the dark 
pools below. But kindly Nature holds 
them back, for she needs the contrast of 
branch and stem to give effect to the 
purity of the falling water. Just one last 
gleam of reflected sunlight gilded the 
water's edge where it dashed over the 
cliff, and a pale crescent moon hung low 
over it in a soft "daffodil sky." It was 
all ineffably beautiful and poetic, and the 
roar of the falling river seemed only to 
'bring out with greater intensity the ab- 
solute silence of the desolate spot and 
the starlight hour. 

MARCH 15. 

If the fall was beautiful in the myste- 
rious gloaming, it looks a thousand times 
more fair in its morning splendor of sun- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



shine. The air here is pleasant almost 
cold, and yet deliciously balmy. It is 
certainly an enchanting change from 
Pieter - Maritzburg, were it not for the 
road which lies between. It is not, how- 
ever, a road at all. What is the antithe- 
sis of a road, I wonder the opposite of 
a road ? That is what the intervening 
space should be called. After the river 
takes its leap it moves quietly away among 
hills and valleys, a wide sheet of placid 
water, as though there was nothing more 
needed in the way of exertion. I hear 
there are some other falls, quite as cha- 
racteristic in their way, a few miles far- 
ther in the interior, but as the difficulty 
of getting to them is very great they 
must wait until we can spare a longer 
time here. To-day we drove across fright- 
ful places until we got on a hill just op- 
posite the fall. I am not generally ner- 
vous, but I confess to a very bad five 
minutes as we approached the edge of 
the cliff. The brake of the dog-cart was 
hard down, but the horses had their ears 
pricked well forward and were leaning 
back almost on their haunches as we 
moved slowly down the grassy incline. 
Every step seemed as if it would take 
us right over the edge, and the roar and 
rush of the falling water opposite appear- 
ed to attract and draw us toward itself 
in a frightful and mysterious manner. I 
was never more thankful in my life than 
when the horses stood stark still, planted 
their fore feet firmly forward, and refused, 
trembling all over, to move an inch near- 
er. We were not really so very close to 
the edge, but the incline was steep and the 
long grass concealed that there was any 
ground beyond. After all, I liked bet- 
ter returning to a cliff a good deal near- 
er to the falls, where a rude seat of stones 
had been arranged on a projecting point 
ti om whence there was an excellent view. 
I asked, as one always does, whether 
there had ever been any accidents, and 
among other narratives of peril and dis- 
aster I heard this one. 

Some years ago nothing would in- 
duce the person who told me the story 
to commit himself to any fixed period 
or any nearer date than this a wagon 
drawn by a long team of oxen was at- 
5 



tempting to cross the "drift," or ford, 
which used to exist a very short way 
above the falls. I saw the spot after- 
ward, and it really looked little short of 
madness to have attempted to establish 
a ford so near the place where the river 
falls over this great cliff. They tried to 
build a bridge, even, at the same spot, 
but it was swept away over and over 
again, and some of the buttresses remain 
standing to this day. One of them rests 
on a small islet between the river and 
the cliff, only a few yards away from 
the brink of the precipice. It is a sort 
of rudimentary island, formed by great 
blocks of stone and some wind-blown 
earth in which a few rank tufts of grass 
have taken root, binding it all together. 
But this island does not divide the vol- 
ume of water as it tumbles headlong 
over the cliff, for the river is only parted 
by it for a brief moment. It sweeps rap- 
idly round on either side of the frail ob- 
stacle, and then unites itself again into 
a broad sheet just before its leap. The 
old boers used to imagine that this island 
broke the force of the current, and would 
protect them from being carried over the 
falls by it. In winter, when the water is 
low and scarce, this may be so, but in 
summer it is madness to trust to it. Any- 
way, the Dutchman got his team half- 
way across, a Kafir sitting in the wagon 
and driving, another lad acting as " fore- 
looper" and guiding the "span" (as a 
team is called here). The boer prudent- 
ly rode, and had no sooner reached the 
midstream than he perceived the current 
to be of unusual depth and swiftness. 
He managed, however, to struggle across 
to the opposite bank, and from thence he 
beheld his wagon overturn, his goods 
wash out of it and sweep like straws 
over the precipice : as for the poor little 
forelooper, nobody knows what became 
of him. The overturned wagon, with 
the struggling oxen still yoked to it and 
the Kafir driver clinging on, swept to 
the edge of the falls. There a lucky 
promontory of this miniature island 
caught and held it fast, drowning some 
of the poor bullocks indeed, but saving 
the wagon. Doubtless, the Kafir might 
easily have saved himself, for he had 



66 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



hold of the wagon when it was checked 
in its rapid rush. But instead of grasp- 
ing at bush or rock, at a wheel or the 
horn of a bullock, he stood straight up, 
holding his whip erect in his right hand, 
and with one loud defiant whoop of ex- 
ultation jumped straight over the fearful 
ledge. His master said the fright must 
have driven him mad, for he rode furi- 
ously along the bank shouting words of 
help and encouragement, which prob- 
ably the poor Kafir never heard, for he 
believed his last hour had come and 
sprang to meet the death before him 
with that dauntless bravery which sav- 
ages so often show in the face of the in- 
evitable. As one sat in safety and look- 
ed at the rushing, irresistible water, one 
could easily picture to one's self the strug- 
gling pile of wagon and oxen in the wa- 
ter just caught back at the edge, the fran- 
tic horseman by the river-side gesticula- 
ting wildly, and the ebony figure erect 
and fearless, with the long streaming 
whip held out, taking that desperate leap 
as though of his own free will. 

I think we spent the greater part of 
the day at the fall, looking at it under 
every effect of passing cloud-shadow or 
sunny sky, beneath the midday brilliancy 
of an almost tropical sun and in the soft 
pearly-gray tints of the short twilight. 
The young moon set almost as soon as 
she rose, and gave no light to speak of: 
it was therefore no use stumbling in the 
dark to the edge of so dangerous a cleft 
when we could see nothing except the 
ghostly shimmer of spray down below, 
and only hear the ceaseless roar of the 
water. So how do you think we amused 
ourselves after our late dinner ? We went 
to a traveling circus advertised to play 
at Howick"for one night only." That 
is to say, it was not there at all, because 
the wagons had all stuck fast in some of 
the holes in that fearful road. But the 
performing dogs and ponies had not 
stuck, nor the " boneless boy. " He could 

not stick anywhere," as G remarked, 

and they held a little performance of their 
own in a room at the other hotel. Thith- 
er we stumbled through pitchy darkness 

at nine o'clock, G insisting on being 

taken out of bed and dressed again to 



come with us. There was a good deal 
of difference between the behavior and 
demeanor of the black and white spec- 
tators of that small performance. The 
Kafirs sat silent, dignified and attentive, 
gazing with wide-open eyes at the " bone- 
less boy," who turned himself upside 
down and inside out in the most per- 
plexing fashion. "What do you think 
of it?" I asked a Kafir who spoke Eng- 
lish. " Him master take all him bone 
out 'fore him begin, inkosa-casa : when 
him finish, put 'em all back again inside 
him ;" and indeed that was what our 
pliable friend looked like. We two la- 
dies for I had the rare treat of a charm- 
ing companion of my own "sect" on 
this occasion could not remain long, 
however, on account of our white neigh- 
bors. Many were drunk, all were up- 
roarious. They lighted their cigars with 
delightful colonial courtesy and inde- 
pendence, and called freely for more 
liquor ; so we were obliged to leave the 
boneless one in the precise attitude of 
one of those porcelain grotesque mon- 
sters one sees, his feet held tightly in his 
hands on either side of his little grin- 
ning Japanese face, and his body dis- 
posed comfortably in an arch over his 

head. Even G had to give up and 

come away, for he was stifled by smoke 
and frightened by the noise. The sec- 
ond rank of colonists here do not seem 
to me to be drawn from so respectable 
and self-respecting a class as those I 
came across in New Zealand and Austra- 
lia. Perhaps it is demoralizing to them 
to find themselves, as it were, over the 
black population whom they affect to de- 
spise and yet cannot do without. They 
do not seem to desire contact with the 
larger world outside, nor to receive or 
welcome the idea of progress which is 
the life-blood of a young colony. Natal 
resembles an overgrown child with very 
bad manners and a magnificent igno- 
rance of its own shortcomings. 

At daylight next morning we were up 
betimes and made an early start, so as 
to avoid the heat of the morning sun. 
A dense mist lay close to the earth as 
far as the eye could reach, and out of 
its soft white billows only the highest 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



of the hilltops peeped like islands in 
a lake of fleecy clouds. We bumped 
along in our usual style, here a hole, 
there a boulder, slipping now on a steep 
cutting for this damp mist makes the 
hillsides very "greasy," as our driver 
remarked climbing painfully over ridge 
after ridge, until we came to the highest 
point of the road between us and Maritz- 
burg. Here we paused for a few mo- 
ments to breathe our panting team and 
to enjoy the magnificent view. I have 
at last seen a river worthy of the name, 
and now I see mountains not the in- 
cessant rising hills which have opened 
out before me in each fresh ascent, but 
a splendid chain of lofty mountains not 
peaks, for they are nearly all cut quite 
straight against the sky, but level lines far 
up beyond the clouds, which are just flush- 
ing red with the sunrise. The mountains 
are among and behind the clouds, and 
have not yet caught any of the light and 
color of the new day. They loom dimly 
among the growing cloud-splendors, cold 
and ashen and sombre, as befits their 
majestic outlines. These are the Drak- 
enfels, snow-covered except in the hot- 
test weather. I miss the serrated peaks 
of the Southern Alps and the grand con- 
fusion of the Himalayan range. These 
mountains are lofty, indeed rise far into 
cloudland, but except for a mighty crag 
or a huge notch here and there they rep- 
resent a series of straight lines against 
the sky. This is evidently the peculiar- 
ity of the mountain - formation of South 
Africa. I noticed it first in Table Moun- 
tain at Cape Town : it is repeated in ev- 
ery little hill between D'Urban and Ma- 
ritzburg, and now it is before me, carried 
out on a gigantic scale in this splendid 
range. My eye is not used to it, I sup- 
pose, for I hear better judges of outline 
and proportion than I am declare it is 



characteristic and soothing, with all sorts 
of complimentary adjectives to which I 
listen in respectful silence, but with which 
I cannot agree in my secret heart. I 
like mountains to have peaks for sum- 
mits, and not horizontal lines, no matter 
how lofty these lines may be. It was a 
beautiful scene, for from the Drakenfcls 
down to where we stood there rolled a 
very ocean of green, billowy hills, softly 
folded over each other, with delicious pur- 
ple shadows in their hollows and shining 
pale -green lights on their sunny slopes. 
We had left the Umgeni so far behind 
that it only showed like a broad silver rib- 
bon here and there, while the many red 
roads stretching away into the background 
certainly derived enchantment from dis- 
tance. The foreground was made lively 
by an encampment of wagons which were 
just going to "in-span " and start. The 
women fussed about the gypsy-like fires 
getting breakfast, the Kafirs shouted to 
the bullocks prudently grazing until the 
last moment, and last, not least, to the 

intense delight of G , four perfectly 

tame ostriches were walking leisurely 
among the wagons eating food out of the 
children's hands and looking about for 
"digesters" among the grass. I felt in- 
clined to point out the boulders with 
which the road was strewn to their fa- 
vorable notice. They had come from far 
in the interior, from the distant borders of. 
the Transvaal, a weary way off. These 
ostriches were the family pets, and were 
going to be sold and sent to England. 
The travelers "trekkers" is the cor- 
rect word expected to get at least thir-r 
ty-five pounds each for these splendid 
male birds in full plumage, and they 
were probably worth much more. We 
made a fresh start from this, and the 
best of our way into Maritzburg before 
the sun became too overpowering. 



MARITZBURG, April 4. 

CAN you believe that we are crying 
out for rain already, and anxiously 
scanning the clouds as they bank up 
over the high hills to the south-west ? 
But so it is. It would be a dreadful mis- 
fortune if the real dry weather were to 
set in so early, and without the usual 
heavy downfall of rain which fills the 
tanks and spruits, and wards off the evil 
day of a short water-supply and no grass. 
Besides which, everybody here faithfully 
promises pleasanter weather weather 
more like one's preconceived idea of the 
climate of Natal after a regular three 
days' rain. It is high time for my tem- 
per, as well as for the tanks that this 
rain should come, for the slow, dragging 
summer days are now only broken by 
constant gales of hot wind. These same 
hot winds are worse than anything more 
exasperating and more exhausting nor 
does a drop of dew fall at night to refresh 
the fast-browning vegetation over which 
they scatter a thick haze of dust. Hot 
winds are bad enough in India, lived 
through in large, airy, lofty rooms, with 
mats of fragrant grass kept constantly 
wet and hung at every door and window 
with punkahs and ice, and all the neces- 
sary luxury and idle calm of Indian life. 
What must they be here and remember, 
the wind is just as hot, only it blows for 
shorter intervals, instead of continuously 
for months in small houses, with low 
rooms of eight or ten feet square, and in 
a country where the mistress of the house 
is head-cook, head-nurse, head-house- 
maid, and even head - coachman and 
gardener, and where a glass of cold wa- 
ter is a luxury only dreamed of in one's 
feverish slumbers ? Nature demands 
that we should all be lotos-eaters and lie 
"propt on beds of amaranth and moly " 
at all events from November to April. 
Necessity insists on our rising early and 
going to bed late, and eating the bread 
of carefulness during all those hot weeks. 
68 



That is to say, one must work very hard 
one's self if one desires to have a toler- 
ably clean and comfortable house and to 
live in any sort of rational and civilized 
fashion. For my part, I like hard work, 
speaking generally, but not in a hot wind. 
Yet people seem to be pretty well, except 
their tempers again speaking for myself 
so I suppose the climate is disagreeable 
rather than actually unhealthy. 

I feel it is exceedingly absurd the way 
I dilate incessantly upon three topics 
roads (I promise faithfully not to say a 
word about them this time), weather (I 
have had my grumble at that, and feel 
all the better for it), and servants. We 
have lately added to our establishment 
a Kafir-girl who is a real comfort and 
help. Ma/ia for Kafirs cannot pro- 
nounce the letter r: "red" is always 
"led" with them, and so on is a short, 
fat, good-humored-looking damsel of fif- 
teen years of age, but who looks thirty. 
Regarded as a servant, there is still much 
to be desired, in spite of the careful and 
excellent training she has enjoyed in the 
household of the bishop of Natal, but as 

a playmate for G , who is teaching 

her the noble game of cricket, or as a 
nursemaid for the baby, she is indeed a 
treasure of sweet-temper and willingness. 
To be sure, she did race the perambula- 
tor down a steep hill the other day, up- 
setting the baby and breaking the small 
vehicle into bits, but still English nurse- 
maids do the same, and do not tell the 
truth about it at once, as Malia did. It 
was done to amuse the two children, and 
answered that part of the programme 
excellently well, even the final upset 
eliciting peals of laughter from both the 
mischievous monkeys. It is also rather 
singular that in spite of the extreme 
slowness and deliberation of her move- 
ments she breaks quite as much crock- 
ery in a week as any one else would in 
a year. And she is so inexpressibly 
quaint about it all that one has neither 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



69 



the heart nor the command of counte- 
nance requisite to scold. I handed her 
a saucer last night to put down. The 
next moment she remarked in her sin- 
gularly sweet and gentle voice and pret- 
ty, musical accent, " Now, here is the 
saucer in three pieces." So it was ; and 
how she broke it without dropping it 
must ever be a mystery to me. It was 
like a conjuring trick, but it occurs some- 
what too often. Malia ought not to be a 
housemaid at all, for she has a thirst for 
knowledge which is very remarkable, 
and a good deal of musical talent. She 
speaks and reads three languages Ka- 
fir, -English and Dutch with perfect 
ease and fluency ; and is trying hard to 
learn to write, practicing incessantly on 
a slate ; she is always whistling or sing- 
ing, or picking out tunes on a sort of 
pipe, on which she plays some airs very 
prettily. Every spare moment of her 
time she is poring over a book, and her 
little Kafir Bible is ever at hand. I wish 
with all my heart that I had time to teach 
her to write and to learn Kafir from her 
myself, but except on Sunday, when I 
read with her and hear her say some 
hymns, I never have a moment. She is 
so anxious to learn, poor girl ! that she 
watches her opportunity, and when I sit 
down to brush my hair or lace my boots 
she drops on one knee by my side, pro- 
duces her book from her pocket, and 
says in the most calinante voice, "Sail I 
lead to you a little, inkosa casa ?" Who 
could have the heart to say no, although 
my gravity is sorely tried by some pecu- 
liarities of pronunciation ? She cannot 
say " such :" it is too harsh, and the near- 
est we can arrive at, after many efforts, 
is "sush." Almost every word has a 
vowel tacked on to the end, so as to 
bring it as near to her own liquid, soft- 
sounding Zulu as possible. I think what 
upsets me most is to hear our first parents 
perseveringly called '"Dam and Eva," 
but indeed most of the Bible names are 
difficult of recognition. Yet her idioms 
are perfect, and she speaks in well- 
chosen, rather elegant phraseology. Ev- 
ery alternate Sunday, Malia goes down 
to town dressed in the smartest of bright 
pink cotton frocks, made very full and 



very short, a clean white apron, and a 
sky-blue kerchief arranged on her head 
in a becoming turban. Malia's shy grins 
of delight and pride as she comes thus 
arrayed to make me her parting curtsey 
are quite charming to behold, and dis- 
play a set of teeth which it would be 
hard to match for beauty anywhere out 
of Kafirland. Indeed, all these people 
seem to possess most exquisite teeth, and 
they take great care of them, rinsing 
their mouths and polishing thes'e even, 
glistening pearls at every opportunity. 

The more I see of the Kafirs, the more 
I like them. People tell me they are 
unreliable, but I find them gay and 
good-humored, docile and civil. Every 
cowherd on the veldt has his pretty 
"sako" bow (phonetic spelling again, 
on my part) as he passes me when I am 
fern "or grass -seed hunting in the early 
morning, and I hear incessant peals of 
laughter from kitchen and stable. Of 
course, laughter probably means idle- 
ness, but I have not the heart to go out 
every time (as indeed I ought, I believe) 
and make them, as Mr. Toots calls it, 
" resume their studies." Their mirth is 
very different from that of my old friends 
the West Indian negroes, who are always 
chattering and grinning. The true Ka- 
firs wear a stolid expression of counte- 
nance in public, and are not easily moved 
to signs of surprise or amusement, but at 
home they seem to me a very merry and 
sociable people. Work is always a dif- 
ficulty and a disagreeable to them, and 
I fear that many generations must pass 
before a Kafir will do a hand's turn more 
than is actually necessary to keep his 
body and soul together. They are very 
easily trained as domestic servants, in 
spite of the drawback of not understand- 
ing half what is said to them, and they 
make especially good grooms. The most 
discouraging part of the training process, 
however, is that it is wellnigh perpetual, 
for except gypsies I don't believe there 
is on the face of the earth a more rest- 
less, unsettled human being than your 
true Kafir. Change he seems to crave 
for, and change he will have, acknow- 
ledging half his time that he knows it 
must be for the worse. He will leave a 



7 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



comfortable, easy place, where he is well 
treated and perfectly happy, for harder 
work, and often blows, just for the sake 
of a change. No kindness can attach 
him, except in the rarest instances, and 
nothing upon earth could induce him to 
forego his periodical visits to his own 
kraal. This means a return, for the time 
being, to barbarism, which seems very 
strange when a man has had time to get 
accustomed to clothes and a good room 
and good food, and the hundred and one 
tastes which civilization teaches. Imag- 
ine laying aside the comforts and decen- 
cies of life to creep in at the low door of 
a big beehive, and squat naked round 
a huge fire, smoking filthy tobacco and 
drinking a kind of beer which is made 
from mealies ! I've often seen this beer, 
and Charlie is very anxious I should 
taste it, bringing me some occasionally 
in an old biscuit-tin with assurances that 
"Ma"' will find it very good. But I 
cannot get beyond looking at it, for it is 
difficult to associate the idea of beer with 
a thick liquid resembling dirty chocolate 
more than anything else. So I always 
stave off the evil day of tasting with ingeni- 
ous excuses. 

Perhaps the Kafirs are more behind- 
hand in medical faith than in any other 
respect. The other day one of our Ka- 
firs had a bad bilious attack, and, de- 
clining all offers of more civilized treat- 
ment, got one of his own physicians to 
bleed him in the great toe, with, as he 
declared, the happiest effect. Certain it 
is that in the afternoon he reported him- 
self as perfectly well. But the most ex- 
traordinary kind of remedy came be- 
fore me quite lately. Tom had a fright- 
ful headache, which is not to be wonder- 
ed at, considering how that boy smokes 
the strongest tobacco out of a cow's horn 
morning, noon and night, to say noth- 
ing of incessant snuff-taking. The first 
I heard of Tom's headache was when 
Charlie came to ask me for a remedy ; 
which I thought very nice on his part, 
because he and Tom live in a chronic 
state of quarreling, and half my time is 
taken up in keeping the peace between 
them. However, I told Charlie that I 
knew of no remedy for a bad headache 



except going to bed, and that was what 
I should advise Tom to do. Charlie 
smiled rather contemptuously, as if pity- 
ing my ignorance, and asked if I would 
give him a box of wooden matches. Now, 
matches are a standing grievance in a 
Kafir establishment, and go at the rate 
of a box a day if not carefully locked 
up; so I, failing to connect wooden 
matches and Tom's headache together, 
began a reproachful catalogue of how 
many boxes he had asked for lately. 
Charlie, however, hastily cut me short 
by saying, "But, ma', it for make Tom 
well." So of course I produced a box of 
Bryant May, and stood by to watch 
Charlie doctoring Tom. Match after 
match did Charlie strike, holding the 
flaming splinter up Tom's exceedingly 
wide nostrils, until the box was empty. 
Tom winced a good deal, but bore this 
singeing process with great fortitude. Ev- 
ery now and then he cried out, as well 
he might, when Charley thrust a freshly- 
lighted match up his nose, but on the 
whole he stood it bravely, and by the 
time the matches were all burned out he 
declared his headache was quite cured, 
and that he was ready to go and chop 
wood; nor would he listen to the idea 
of going to bed. " It very good stuff to 
smell, ma'," said Charlie: "it burn de 
sickness away." Kafirs are inexpress- 
ibly queer, too, about their domestic ar- 
rangements ; and I had a long argument 
with a Kafir-woman only the other day, 
through Malia's interpretation, as to the 
propriety of killing one of her babies 
when she chanced to have twins. My 
dusky friend declared it was much the 
best plan, and one which was always fol- 
lowed when the whites did not interfere. 
If both children were kept alive, she 
averred they would both be wretched, 
puny little creatures, and would be quite 
sure to die eventually; so, as a Kafir 
looks to his children to take care of and 
work for him, even in his middle age, 
the sons by their wages, the daughters 
by their dowries, or rather by the prices 
paid for them, she declared it was very 
bad economy to try and rear two babies 
at once, and calmly recapitulated the in- 
stances in her own and her neighbors' 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



families where one wretched twin had 
been killed to give the other a better 
chance. She confessed she had been 
much puzzled upon one occasion when 
the twins were a girl and a boy, for both 
would have been useful hereafter. " I 
thought of the cows I should get for the 
girl," she said, "and then I thought of 
the boy's wages, and I didn't know which 
to keep ; but the girl, she cry most, so I 
kill her, and the boy grow up very good 
boy earn plenty money." That was 
Malia's interpretation, for, although she 
speaks excellent English, when another 
person's words have to be reproduced 
her tenses get a little confused and jum- 
bled up. But she is a capital mouth- 
piece, and it always amuses me to bar- 
gain, through her, for my eggs and chick- 
ens and mealies. Sorry bargaining it is, 
generally resulting in my paying double 
the market-price for these commodities. 
Lately I have been even more fleeced 
than usual, especially by my egg-man, 
who is an astute old Kafir, very much 
adorned with circlets of copper wire on 
his legs and arms. He brings his eggs 
in a bag, which he swings about so reck- 
lessly that it is a perpetual marvel to me 
how they escape annihilation. Every 
time he comes he adds threepence to the 
price of his eggs per dozen on account 
of the doubled hut-tax ; and I assure 
him that in time it will end in my having 
paid the whole amount instead of him. 
Hitherto, the natives have paid a tax of 
seven shillings per annum on each hut, 
but this year it has been doubled ; so the 
Kafirs very sensibly make their white 
customers pay a heavy percentage on 
the necessaries of life with which they 
supply them. It is exactly what it used 
to be in London three or four years ago, 
when coals were so costly : everything 
rose in price, from china vases down to 
hairpins ; so now this doubled hut-tax is 
the excuse for a sudden rise in the value 
of eggs, fowls, cows, mealies and what 
not. I don't understand political econ- 
omy myself, but it always seems to me 
a curious fact that although every article 
of food or clothing is only too ready to 
jump up in price' on the smallest excuse, 
it never copies down again. I try to chaff 



my old Kafir egg-merchant, and show 
him by figures that his extra charge for 
eggs pays his extra seven shillings in 
about six weeks. I endeavor to per- 
suade him, after this increased tax is thus 
provided for, to go back to his original 
price, but he smiles knowingly and shakes 
his head, murmuring, " Ka, ka," which 
appears to mean "No." 

All this time, however, I am longing 
to tell you of a famous tea-party I have 
had here lately a regular "drum," only 
it beat all the London teas hollow, even 
with dear little "Minas"* thrown into 
the bargain, because in the corner of 
my cards were the words "Tea and 
witches." Now, I ask you, could any 
one wish for a greater excitement than 
that to enliven a summer afternoon ? At- 
tractive as was the bait, it was a blunder 
or a fib which you choose for, so far 
from being witches, my five extraordi- 
nary performers were the sworn enemies 
of witches, being, in fact, "witch-find- 
ers," or "witch-doctors," as they are just 
as often called. I am quite sure that no 
one has ever suffered so much anxiety 
about a small entertainment as I did 
about that tea-party. Of course, there 
was the usual thunderstorm due that 
afternoon, and not until the last moment, 
when the clouds rolled off toward the 
Umgeni valley, leaving us a glorious sky 
and a pleasant breeze, did I cease to fear 
that the whole thing might prove a fiasco. 
By the time I had begun to have con- 
fidence in the weather came a distracted 
message from the obliging neighbor who 
supplies me with milk, to say that, as ill- 
luck would have it, her cows had select- 
ed this particular afternoon of all the 
year to stray away and get themselves 
impounded, and that consequently the 
delivery of sundry bottles (everything is 
sold in bottles here) of new milk was as 
uncertain as what shall I say ? Natal 
weather, for nothing can be more un- 
certain than that. Imagine my dismay ! 
No one even dared to suggest preserved 
milk to me, so well known is my antip- 
athy to that miserable makeshift. I 
should have sat me down and wept if at 

* A wonderful performing dog exhibited by Ma- 
dame Hager, and much in request last season. 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



that moment I had not discovered a small 
herd of cattle wending their way across 
the veldt to my neighbor's gate. Oh 
joy ! the milk and the weather were all 
right ! But what was that enormous mob 
of shouting, singing Kafirs clamoring 
outside my garden fence ? They were 
my witch-finders, escorted by nearly the 
whole black population of Maritzburg : 
they had arrived about three hours be- 
fore the proper time, and were asking for 
some place to dress in, not from any fastid- 
iousness, but simply because they didn't 
want profane eyes to witness the details 
of assuming their professional decora- 
tions. Remember, there was not a white 
man nearer than Maritzburg, and there 
was nothing upon earth to prevent any 
number of these excited, shouting men 
and boys from walking into my little 
house, or at least helping themselves to 
anything off the tea-tables, which the 
servants were beginning to arrange in 
the verandah. But they were as docile 
and obedient as possible, readily acced- 
ing to my desire that they should remain 
outside the fence, and asking for nothing 
except copious draughts of water. Cer- 
tainly, I was armed with a talisman, for 
I went out to them myself, with one of 
my numerous "Jacks " as an interpreter, 
and told them they must all sit down 

and wait patiently until Mr. S (their 

own beloved inkosi) came, adding that 
he would be there immediately. That 
was a fih, for he could not come until 
late, but an excellent substitute very soon 
appeared and set my mind partly at rest. 
I say, only "partly," because I had been 

so teased about my party. F had 

been especially aggravating, observing 
from time to time that my proceedings 
were at once illegal and improper, add- 
ing that " he was surprised at me." Can 
you imagine anything more trying ? And 
yet I knew quite well all the time that he 
was just as anxious to see these people 
as we were, only he persisted in being 
semi-official and disagreeable. Never 
mind : I triumphed over him afterward, 
when it all went off so well. When I 
had leisure to think of anything but 
whether there would be a riot or not, I 
had horrible misgivings about the com- 



pulsory scantiness of my invitations. I 
should have liked to ask all my acquaint- 
ances, as well as the few friends I had 
invited, but what is one to do with a 
doll's house and a dozen tea - cups ? 
Those were my resources, and I taxed 
them to the uttermost as it was. One 
cannot hire things here, and I had no 
place to put them if I could ; but it is 
horrid to feel, as I did, that heaps of 
people must have wondered why they 
were left out. 

At last five o'clock came, bringing with 
it a regiment of riders, thirsting for tea 
and clamorous to see the witches, want- 
ing their fortunes told, their lost trinkets 
found, and Heaven knows what besides. 
"They are not witches at all," I said 
gravely : " they are witch-finders, and I 
believe the whole thing is very wrong." 
There was a depressing announcement 
for one's hostess to make ! But it had a 
good effect for the moment, and sent my 
guests quietly off to console themselves 
with their tea : that, at least, could not 
be wrong, especially as the milk had'ar- 
rived, new and delicious. In the mean 

time, kind Mr. F had gone off to 

fetch the witches, as everybody persist- 
ed in calling them, and presently they 
appeared in full official dress, walking 
along in a measured, stately step, keep- 
ing time and tune to the chanting of a 
body-guard of girls and women who sang 
continuously, in a sort of undertone, a 
montonous kind of march. They made 
an excellent stage-entrance grave, com- 
posed, erect of carriage and dauntless of 
mien. These Amazonian women walk- 
ed past the verandah, raising their hand, 
as the men do, with the low cry of " In- 
kosi !" in salutation. Their pride is to 
be looked upon as men when once they 
take up this dread profession, which is 
also shared with them by men. They 
are permitted to bear shield and spear 
as warriors, and they hunt and kill with 
their own hands the wild beasts and rep- 
tiles whose skins they wear. Their day 
is over and ended, however, for the cru- 
elties practiced under their, auspices had 
risen to a great height, and it is now 
against the law to seek out a witch by 
means of these pitiless women. It is not 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



73 



difficult to understand bearing in mind 
the superstition and cruelty which exist- 
ed in remote parts of England not so 
very long ago how powerful such wo- 
men became among a savage people, or 
how tempting an opportunity they could 
furnish of getting rid of an enemy. Of 
course, they are exceptional individuals, 
more observant, more shrewd and more 
dauntless than the average fat, hard- 
working Kafir-women, besides possess- 
ing the contradictory mixture of great 
physical powers and strong hysterical 
tendencies. They work themselves up 
to a pitch of frenzy, and get to believe 
as firmly in their own supernatural dis- 
cernment as any individual among the 
trembling circle of Zulus to whom a 
touch from the whisk they carry in their 
hands is a sentence of instant death. It 
gave a certain grim interest to what a 
Scotch friend called the " ploy " to know 
that it had once been true, and I begged 

Mr. F to explain to them before they 

began that the only reason I had wanted 
to see them arose from pure curiosity to 
know what they looked like, how they were 
dressed, and so forth, and that I quite 
understood that it was all nonsense and 
very wrong and against the law to do, 
really, but that this was only a play and 
pretence. Shall I confess that I felt rath- 
er ashamed at making this public avowal ? 
But my conscience demanded it clamor- 
ously, and I felt many misgivings lest 
I should indeed be causing any "weak 
brother to offend." However, it was too 
late now for scruples, and a sort of shout 
came up from the good-humored, well- 
behaved crowd outside, assuring me they 
knew it was only for fun and that it was 
quite right, and they were glad for the 
English " inkosa-casa " and her friends 
to see an old custom which it was a good 
thing to have done with. This little 
speech, so full of true tact, put me at 
my ease at once, and we all took up our 
position at one side of the little semi- 
circular lawn, where the dance-crescent 
was already formed, supplying ourselves 
the place of the supposed ring of spec- 
tators and victims. 1 wish I could make 
you see the scene as I saw it, and shall 
ever see it when I look back upon it. 



The first original "tail" of my witch- 
finders had been supplemented by a 
crowd of people who formed a back- 
ground, keeping perfectly quiet, and, 
though uninvited and unexpected, giv- 
ing not the slightest trouble. That is the 
odd part of a colony: individuals are 
rougher, less polite and more brusque 
and overbearing than the people one 
is accustomed to see in England, but the 
moment it comes to a great concourse of 
people, then the absolute respectability 
of class asserts itself, and the crowd 
the "rough" element being conspicuous 
by its absence is far more orderly than 
any assemblage of a dozen people else- 
where. Imagine a villa at Wimbledon or 
Putney, and some four or five hundred 
uninvited people calmly walking into the 
grounds to look at something they wish- 
ed to see, without a ghost of a policeman 
or authority in charge ! Yet that was our 
predicament for an hour or two, and not 
a leaf or rosebud or blade of grass was 
touched or injured in any way, nor was 
there a sound to be heard to mar the 
tranquil beauty of that summer evening. 
It was indeed "a beauteous evening, 
calm and free " in spite of my chronic 
state of grumbling at the climate and 
weather, I must acknowledge that an 
evening which might have been made 
to order. Recent rains had washed the 
surrounding hills, brightened the dust- 
laden grass to green once more, and fresh- 
ened up everything. The amphitheatre 
of rising ground which surrounds Mar- 
itzburg had never looked more beautiful, 
with purple and blue shadows passing 
over it from the slow-sailing clouds above. 
Toward the west the sky was gently 
taking that peculiar amethystic glow 
which precedes a fine sunset, and the 
sun itself laid long, parting lances of 
pure golden light across hill and dale 
around. A fresh air came up from the 
south, blowing softly across the downs, 
and sleepy, picturesque little Maritzburg 
empty for the afternoon of its inhabit- 
ants, I should fancy nestled cozily up 
against the undulating ground opposite. 
Then, to come nearer home, just outside 
our sod-fence a line of dusky faces rose 
above the ferns and waving grasses 



74 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



faces whose gleaming eyes were riveted 
on the performers within. The little 
drive and garden-paths were crowded 
with strangers, white and colored all, 
as I said before, perfectly quiet and 
orderly, but evidently interested and 
amused. A semicircle of girls and wo- 
men some in gay civilized garb, some 
in coarsest drapery, some with drowsy 
babies hung at their backs, some with 
bright beads on wrist and neck, but all 
earnest and intent on their part stood 
like the chorus of a Greek play, beating 
their hands together and singing a low 
monotonous chant, the measure and 
rhythm of which changed every now 
and again with a stamp and a swing. A 
pace or two in front of these singers were 
the witch-finders in full ceremonial dress. 
Collectively, they are known by the name 
of the "Izinyanga" or "Abangoma," 
but each had of course her distinctive 
name, and each belonged to a separate 
tribe. Conspicuous from her great height, 
Nozinyanga first caught my eye, her 
floating, helmet-like plume of the tail- 
feathers of the saka-bula bird shading 
her fierce face, made still more gruesome 
by wafers of red paint on cheek and 
brow. In her right hand she held a 
light sheaf of assegais or lances, and on 
her left arm was slung a small pretty 
shield of dappled ox hide. Her petti- 
coat was less characteristic than that of 
her sister-performers, being made of a 
couple of large gay handkerchiefs worn 
kiltwise. But she made up for the short- 
comings of characteristic decoration in 
her skirts by the splendor of the bead 
necklaces and armlets, fringes of goat's 
hair and scarlet tassels, with which she 
was covered from throat to waist. A 
baldric of leopard skin was fastened 
across her capacious chest, and down her 
back hung a beautifully dried and flat- 
tened skin of an enormous boa constrict- 
or. This creature must have been of a 
prodigious length, for, whilst its hooded 
head was fastened at the broad nape of 
Nozinyanga's neck, its tail dragged some 
two feet or so on the ground behind her. 
Now, Nozinyanga stood something like 
six feet two inches on her bare feet, but 
although I first looked at her, attracted 



j by her tall stature and defiant pose, the 
proceedings were really opened by a 
small, lithe woman with a wonderfully 
pathetic, wistful face, who seemed more 
in earnest than her big sisters, and who 
in her day must doubtless have brushed 
away many a man's life with the quag- 
ga's tail she brandished so lightly. 

To make you understand the terrible in- 
terest attaching to these women, I ought 
to explain to you here that it used to be the 
custom whenever anything went wrong, 
either politically or socially, among the 
Zulus and other tribes, to attribute the 
shortcomings to witch-agency. The next 
step to be taken, after coming to this res- 
olution, was to seek out and destroy the 
witch or witches ; and for this purpose a 
great meeting would be summoned by 
order of the king and under his super- 
intendence, and a large ring of natives 
would sit trembling and in fear of their 
lives on the ground. In the centre of 
these danced the witch-finders or witch- 
doctors ; and as they gradually lashed 
themselves up to a frantic state of frenzy 
bordering, in fact, on demoniacal pos- 
session they lightly switched with their 
quagga tail one or other of the quivering 
spectators. No sooner had the fatal brush 
passed over the victim than he was drag- 
ged away and butchered on the spot ; and 
not only he, but all the live things in his 
hut wives and children, dogs and cats 
not a stick left standing or a living 
creature breathing. Sometimes a whole 
kraal was exterminated in this fashion ; 
and it need not be told what a method 
it became of gratifying private revenge 
and paying off old scores. Of all the 
blessings, so unwillingly and grudgingly 
admitted, which ever so partial a civiliza- 
tion has brought to these difficult, lazy, 
and yet pugnacious Kafir people, none 
can be greater, surely, than the rule 
which strictly forbids this sort of Lynch 
law from being carried out anywhere, 
under any circumstances, by these priest- 
esses of a cruel faith. Now, perhaps, you 
see why there was such a strong under- 
current of interest and excitement be- 
neath the light laughter and frolic of our 
summer-afternoon tea-party. 

Nozilwane was the name of this tern- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA, 



75 



ble little sorceress, who frightened more 
than one of us more thoroughly than we 
should like to acknowledge, peering up 
in our faces, as she hung about the group 
of guests, with a weird and wistful glance 
which was both uncanny and uncomfort- 
able. She was really beautifully dressed 
for her part in lynx skins folded over and 
ever from waist to knee, and the upper 
part of her body covered by strings of 
wild beasts' teeth and fangs, skeins of 
brilliantly - hued yarn, beads, strips of 
snake skin and fringes of Angora goat 
fleece. This was a singularly effective 
and graceful decoration, worn round the 
body and above each elbow, and falling 
in soft white flakes among the gay color- 
ing and against the dusky skin. Lynx 
tails hung down like lappets on each side 
of her face, which was overshadowed, al- 
most hidden, by the profusion of saka- 
bula feathers. This bird has a very beau- 
tiful plumage, and is sufficiently rare for 
the natives to attach a peculiar value and 
charm to the tail-feathers. They are like 
those of a young cock, curved and slen- 
der, and of a dark-chestnut color, with a 
white eye at the extreme tip of each fea- 
ther. Among this floating, thick plumage 
small bladders were interspersed, and 
skewers and pins fashioned out of tusks. 
All the witch-finders wear their own hair 
(or rather wool) alike ; that is, highly 
greased and twisted up with twine until 
it loses the appearance of hair complete- 
ly, and hangs around their faces like a 
thick fringe dyed deep red. 

Nozilwane stepped out with a creeping, 
cat-like gesture, bent double, as if she 
were seeking out a trail. Every move- 
ment of her undulating body kept time 
to the beat of the girls' hands and the 
low, crooning chant. Presently, she af- 
fected to find the clew she sought, and 
sprang aloft with a series of wild pirou- 
ettes, shaking her spears and brandish- 
ing her little shield in a frenzied fashion. 
But Nomaruso, albeit much taller and in 
less good condition than the lady of the 
lynx skins, was determined that she 
should not remain the cynosure of our 
eyes; and she too, with a yell and a 
caper, cut into the dance to the sound 
of louder grunts and faster hand-claps. 



Nomaruso turned her back to us a good 
deal in her performances, conscious of a 
magnificent snake skin, studded besides 
in a regular pattern with brass-headed 
nails, which floated like a streamer down 
her back. She wore a magnificcnty^0# 
of leopard skins decorated with red ro- 
settes, and her toilette was altogether 
more recherche and artistic than any of 
the others. Her bangles were brighter, 
her goat fringes whiter, and her face 
more carefully painted. Yet Nozilwane 
held her own gallantly in virtue of being 
a mere bag of bones, and also having 
youth and a firm belief in herself on her 
side. The others, though they all joined 
in hunting out a phantom foe, and tri- 
umphed over his discovery in turn, were 
soon breathless and exhausted, and glad 
to be led away by some of the attendant 
women to be anointed and to drink wa- 
ter. Besides which, they were all of a 
certain age, and less inclined to frisk 
about than the agile Nozilwane. As for 
great big Nozinyanga, she danced like 
Queen Elizabeth, " high and disposedly ;" 
and no wonder, for I should think she 
weighed at least fifteen stone. Umgiteni, 
in a petticoat of white Angora skin and 
a corsage of bladders and teeth, beads 
and viper skins, was nothing remarkable ; 
nor was Umanonjazzla, a melancholy- 
looking woman with an enormous wig- 
like coiffure of red woolen ringlets and 
white skewers. Her physiognomy, too, 
was a trifle more stolid and common- 
place than that of her comrades ; and al- 
together she gave me the impression of 
being a sensible, respectable woman who 
was very much ashamed of herself for 
playing such antics. However, she bran- 
dished her divining-brush with the rest, 
and cut-in now and then to "keep the 
flure " with the untiring Nozilwane. 

All this time the chanting and hand- 
beating never ceased, the babies dozed 
placidly behind their mothers' backs, and 
we all began to think fondly of a second 
cup of tea. The sun had now quite 
dropped behind the high hills to the 
west, and was sending long rays right 
up across the tranquil sky. We felt we 
had enough of imaginary witch-finding, 
and looked about for some means of 



7 6 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



ending the affair. " Let us test their 
powers of finding things," said one of 
the party : " I have lost a silver pipe- 
stem, which I value much." So the five 
wise women were bidden to discover what 
was lost, and where it was to be found. 
They set about this in a curious and in- 
teresting way, which reminded one of the 
children's game of "magic music." In 
the first place, it was a relief to know 
there were not any ghastly recollections 
attached to this performance ; and in the 
next, one could better understand by the 
pantomime what they were about. In front 
of us squatted on heels and haunches a 
semicircle of about a dozen men, who 
were supposed to have invoked the aid 
of the sisterhood to find some lost prop- 
erty. These men, however, did not in 
the least know what was asked for, and 
were told to go on with their part until a 
signal was given that the article had been 
named. They were all highly respect- 
able head-men "indunas," in fact 
each worth a good herd of cows at least, 
and much portable property. In every- 
day life it would have been hard to beat 
them for shrewd common sense. Yet it 
was easy to perceive that the old savage 
instincts and beliefs were there strong as 
ever, and that though they affected to take 
it all, as we did, as an afternoon's frolic, 
they were firm believers in the mystic 
power of the Abangoma, else they never 
could have played their parts so well, so 
eagerly and with such vivid interest. 

"What is it the inkosi has lost?" they 
cried. "Discover, reveal, make plain to 
us." 

It was a good moment in which to try 
the experiment, because all the singing 
and dancing had worked the Izinyanga 
up to a high pitch of enthusiasm and ex- 
citement, and the inspiration was held 
to be complete; so, without hesitation, 
Nomaruso accepted the men's challenge 
and cried, "Sing for me: make a ca- 
dence for me." Then, after a moment's 
hesitation, she went on in rapid, broken 
utterance, " Is this real ? is it a test ? is 
it but a show ? do the white chiefs want 
to laugh at our pretensions? Has the 
white lady called us only to show other 
white people that we can do nothing ? Is 



anything really lost? is it not hidden? 
No, it is lost. Is it lost by a black person ? 
No, a white person has lost it. Is it lost by 
the great white chief?" (meaning their 
own King of Hearts, their native minis- 
ter). " No, it is lost by an ordinary white 
man. Let me see what it is that is lost. 
Is it money ? No. Is it a weighty thing ? 
No, it can be always carried about : it is 
not heavy. All people like to carry it, 
especially the white inkosi. It is made 
of the same metal as money. I could 
tell you more, but there is no earnestness 
in all this : it is only a spectacle." 

Between each of these short sentences 
the seeress made a pause and eagerly 
scanned the faces of the men before her. 
For safe reply they gave a loud, simul- 
taneous snap of their finger and thumb, 
pointing toward the ground as they did 
so and shouting but one word, "Y-i-z- 
wa !" (the first syllable tremendously ac- 
cented and drawn out), "discover re- 
veal." That is all they can say to urge 
her on, for in this case they know not 
themselves; but the priestesses watch 
their countenances eagerly to see if hap- 
pily there may be, consciously or uncon- 
sciously, some sign or token whether, as 
children say in their games, they are 
"hot" or not. 

Nomaruso will say no more she sus- 
pects a trick but Nozilwane rushes about 
like one possessed, sobbing and quiver- 
ing with excitement. " It is this it is 
that." Gigantic Nozinyanga strikes her 
lance firmly into the ground and cries 
haughtily, in her own tongue, " It is his 
watch," looking round as though she 
dared us to contradict her. The other 
three join hands and gallopade round 
and round, making the most impossible 
suggestions; but the "inquirers." as the 
kneeling men are called, give them no 
clew or help, nothing but the rapid finger- 
snap, the hand pointed sternly down to 
the ground, as though they were to seek 
it there, and the fast-following cry, " Yiz- 
wa, yizwa !" 

At last Nozilwane has it: "His pipe." 
("Yizwa, yizwa!") "A thing which has 
come off his pipe ;" and so it is. Nozil- 
wane's pluck and perseverance and cun- 
ning watching of our faces at each hit 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



77 



she made have brought her off triumph- 
antly. A grunt and a murmur of admi- 
ration go round. The indunas jump up 
and subside into ebony images of im- 
passive respectability ; the chorus, sore- 
ly weary by this time, breaks up into 
knots, and the weird sisterhood drop as 
if by one accord on their knees, sitting 
back on their heels, before me, raise 
their right hands in salutation and deliv- 
er themselves of a little speech, of which 
this is as close a translation as it is pos- 
sible to get of so dissimilar a language : 
" Messages were sent to us at our kraals 
that an English lady wished to see us 
and witness our customs. When we 
heard these messages our hearts said, 
1 Go to the English lady.' So we have 
come, and now our hearts are filled with 
pleasure at having seen this lady, and 
ourselyes heard her express her thanks 
to us. We would also, on our part, thank 
the lady for her kindness and her pres- 
ents. White people do not believe in our 
powers, and think that we are mad ; but 
still we know it is not so, and that we 
really have the powers we profess. So 
it comes that we are proud this day at 
being allowed to show ourselves before 
our great white chief and so many great 
white people. We thank the lady again ; 

and say for us, O son of Mr. F ! that 

we wish her ever to dwell in peace, and 
we desire for her that her path may have 
light." It was not easy to find anything 
equally pretty to say in return for this, but 
I, in my turn, invoked the ready wit and 

fluent tongue of the " son of Mr. F ," 

and I dare say he turned out, as if from 
me, something very neat and creditable. 
So we were all mutually pleased with 
each other ; only I was haunted all the 
time of this pretty speech-making by the 
recollection of a quaint saying, often used 
by a funny old Scotch nurse we had when 
we were children : I don't think I have 
ever heard it since, but it darted into my 
mind with my first platitude : " When 
gentlefolks meet compliments pass." 
We were all anxious to outdo each oth- 
er in politeness, but unless my niaiserics 
gained a good deal by being changed 
into Zulu, I fear the witch-finders did 
the best in that line. 



The twilight, sadly short now, was fast 
coming on, and all the black people were 
anxious to get back to their homes. Al- 
ready the crowd of spectators had melted 
away like magic, streaming down the 
green hillsides by many a different track : 
only a remnant of the body-guard linger- 
ed to escort the performers home. As 
they passed the corner of the verandah 
where the tea-table was set, I fancied 
they glanced wistfully at the cakes ; so 
I rather timidly handed a substantial bis- 
cuit, as big as a saucer, to the huge No- 
zinyanga, who graciously accepted it as 
joyfully as a child would. Another little 
black hand was thrust out directly, and 
yet another, and so the end was that the 
tea-tables were cleared, then and there, 
of all the eatables ; and it was not until ev- 
ery dish was empty that the group moved 
on, raising a parting cry of " Inkosa 
casa !" and a sort of cheer or attempt at 
a cheer. They were so unfeignedly de- 
lighted with this sudden " happy thought" 
about the cakes and biscuits that it was 
quite a pleasure to see them, so good- 
humored and docile, moving off the mo- 
ment they saw I really had exhausted my 
store, with pretty gestures of gratitude and 
thanks. We had to content ourselves with 
bread and butter with our second cups 
of tea, but we were so tired and thirsty, 
and so glad of a little rest and quiet, that 
I don't think we missed the cakes. 

As we sat there enjoying the last love- 
ly gleams of daylight and chatting over 
the strange, weird scene, we could just 
hear the distant song of the escort as they 
took the tired priestesses home, and we 
all fell to talking of the custom when it 
was in all its savage force. Many of the 
friends present had seen or heard terri- 
ble instances of the wholesale massacre 
which wo~uld have followed just such an 
exhibition as this had it been in earnest. 
But I will repeat for you some of the less 
ghastly stories. One shall be modern 
and one' ancient as ancient as half a 
century ago, which is ancient for modern 
tradition. The modern one is the tamest, 
so it shall come first. 

Before the law was passed making 
it wrong to consult these Izinyanga or 
witch-doctors a servant belonging to one 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



of the English settlers lost his savings, 
some three or four pounds. He sus- 
pected one of his fellow-servants of be- 
ing the thief, summoned the Izinyanga, 
and requested his master to " assist " at 
the ceremony. All the other servants 
were bidden to assemble themselves, and 
to do exactly what the witch-finder bade 
them. She had them seated in a row in 
front of her, and ordered them, one and 
all, to bare their throats and chests, for, 
you must remember, they were clothed 
as the law obliges them to be in the 
towns in a shirt and knickerbockers. 
This they did, the guilty one with much 
trepidation, you may be sure, and she 
fixed her eyes on that little hollow in the 
neck where the throat joins the body, 
watching carefully the accelerated pul- 
sation : " It is thou : no, it is not. It must 
then be you ;"^and so on, dodging about, 
pointing first to one, and then rapidly 
wheeling round to fix on another, until 
the wretched criminal was so nervous 
that when she made one of her sudden 
descents upon him, guided by the be- 
wraying pulse, which fluttered and throb- 
bed with anxiety and terror, he was fain 
to throw up his hands and confess, pray- 
ing for mercy. In this case the Izin- 
yanga was merely a shrewd, observant 
woman with a strong spice of the detec- 
tive in her; but they are generally re- 
garded not only as sorceresses, whose 
superior incantations can discover and 
bring to light the machinations of the 
ordinary witch, but as priestesses of a 
dark and obscure faith. 

The other instance of their discern- 
ment we talked of happened some fifty 
years ago, when Chaka the Terrible was 
king of the Zulus. The political power 
of these Izinyanga had then reached a 
great height in Zululand, and they were 
in the habit of denouncing as witches 
or rather wizards one after the other of 
the king's ministers and chieftains. It 
was difficult to put a stop to these whole- 
sale murders, for the sympathy of the 
people was always on the side of the 
witch-finders, cruel though they were. 
At last the king thought of an expedient. 
He killed a bullock, and with his own 



hands smeared its blood over the royal 
hut in the dead of night. Next day he 
summoned a council, and announced 
that some one had been guilty of high 
treason in defiling the king's hut with 
blood, and that, too, when it stood, ap- 
parently secure from outrage, in the very 
middle of the kraal. What was to be 
done ? The Izinyanga were summoned, 
and commanded, on pain of death, to de- 
clare who was the criminal. This they 
were quite ready to do, and named with- 
out hesitation one after another the great 
inkosi who sat trembling around. But 
instead of dooming the wretched victim 
to death, the denouement closely resem- 
bled that of the famous elegy: "The 
dog it was that died." In other words, 
the witch-finders who named an inkosi 
heard to their astonishment that they 
were to be executed and the denounced 
victim kept alive. This went on for some 
time, until one, cleverer than the rest, and 
yet afraid of committinghimself too much, 
rose up and said oracularly, " I smell the 
heavens above." Chaka took this as a 
compliment, as well as a guess in the right 
direction, ordered all the remaining Izin- 
yanga to be slain on the spot, and ap- 
pointed the fortunate oracle to be his one 
and only witch-finder for ever after. 

Chaka's name will be remembered for 
many and many a day in Zululand and 
the provinces which border it by both 
black and white. In the first decade of 
this century, when Napoleon was mapping 
out Europe afresh with the bayonet for a 
stylus, and we were pouring out blood 
and money like water to check him here 
and there at that very time Ranpehera 
in New Zealand and Chaka in Zululand 
were playing a precisely similar game. 
Here, Chaka had a wider field for his 
Alexander -like rage for conquest, and 
he and his wild warriors dashed over the 
land like a mountain-stream. No place 
was safe from him, and he was the terror 
of the unhappy first settlers. Even now 
his name brings a sense of uneasiness 
with it, for it is still a spell to rouse the 
warrior-spirit, which only sleeps in the 
breasts of his wild subjects across the 
border. 



MARITZBURG, May 10, 1876 

N' O, I will not begin about the weather 
this time. It is a great temptation 
to do so, because this is the commence- 
ment of the winter, and it is upon the 
strength of the coming four months that 
the reputation of Natal, as possessing the 
finest climate in the world, is built. Be- 
fore I came here meteorologists used to 
tell me that the "average" temperature 
of Maritzburg was so and so, mention- 
ing something very equable and pleas- 
ant; but then, you see, there is this little 
difference between weather-theories and 
the practice of the weather itself: it is 
sadly apt to rush into extremes, and de- 
grees of heat and cold are very different 
when totted up and neatly spread over 
many weeks, from the same thing bolted 
in lumps. Then you don't catch cold on 
paper, nor live in doubt whether-to have 
a fire or open windows and doors. To 
keep at all on a level with the thermom- 
eter here, one needs to dress three or four 
times a day ; and it is quite on the cards 
that a muslin gown and sealskin jacket 
may both be pleasant wear on the same 
day. We have all got colds, and, what 
is worse, we have all had colds more 
or less badly for some time past; and I 
hear that everybody else has them too. 
Of course, this news is an immense con- 
solation, else why should it invariably 
be mentioned as a compensation for 
one's own paroxysms of sneezing and 
coughing ? 

It is certainly cooler, at times quite 
cold, but the sudden spasms of fierce 
hot winds and the blazing sun during 
the midday hours appear the more with- 
ering and scorching for the contrast with 
the lower temperature of morning and 
evening. Still, we all keep saying (I 
yet protest against the formula, but I've 
no doubt I shall come round presently 
and join heart and soul in it), " Natal has 
the finest climate in the world," although 
we have to go about like the man in the 



fable, and either wrap our cloaks tightly 
around us or throw them wide open to 
breathe. But there ! I said I would not 
go off into a meteorological report, and 
I will not be beguiled by the attractions 
of a grievance for there is no such satis- 
factory grievance as weather into break- 
ing so good a resolution. Rather let me 
graft upon this monotonous weather- 
grumble a laugh at the expense of poor 
Zulu Jack, whom I found the other morn- 
ing in a state of nervous anxiety over the 
butter, which steadily refused to be spread 
on 'a slice of bread for little G 's con- 
sumption. " Have you such a thing as a 
charm about you, lady-chief?" Jack de- 
manded in fluent Zulu ; " for this butter 
is assuredly bewitched. Last night I 
could make slices of buttered bread 
quite easily : this morning, behold it !" 
and he exhibited his ill-used slice of 
bread, with obstinate and isolated dabs 
of butter sticking about it. So, you see, 
it must be cooler; and so it is, I acknow- 
ledge, except of a morning on which a hot 
wind sets in before sunrise. 

To show you how perfectly impartial 
and unprejudiced even a woman can be, 
I am going to admit that the day last 
week on which I took a long ride to 
Edendale a mission-station some half 
dozen miles away was as absolutely de- 
lightful as a day could well be. It was a 
gray, shady day, very rare beneath these 
sunny skies, for clouds generally mean 
rain or fog, but this day they meant noth- 
ing worse than the tiniest sprinkle at 
sundown just a few big drops flirted in 
our faces from the ragged edge of a swift- 
ly-sailing thundercloud. There was no 
wind to stir up the dust, and yet air 
enough to be quite delicious: now and 
then the sun came out from behind the 
friendly clouds, creating exquisite effects 
of light and shadow among the hills 
through which our road wound. Across 
many a little tributary of the Umsindusi, 
by many a still green valley and round 
79 



So 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



many a rocky hill-shoulder, our road lay 
a road which for me was most pleasant- 
ly beguiled by stories of Natal as it was 
five-and-twenty years ago, when lions 
came down to drink at these streams, 
when these very plains were thickly 
studded with buck and eland, buffalo 
and big game whose names would be a 
treasure of puzzledom to a spelling bee. 
In those days no man's hand ever left 
for an instant the lock of his trusty gun, 
sleeping or waking, standing or sitting, 
eating or riding. 

The great want of ever so fair a land- 
scape in these parts is timber. Here and 
there a deeper shadow in the distant hill- 
clefts may mean a patch of scrub, but 
when once you pass the belt of farms 
which girdle Maritzburg for some four 
or five miles in every direction, and 
leave behind their plantations of gums 
and poplars, oaks and willows, then there 
is nothing more to be seen but rolling hill- 
slopes bare of bush or shrub, until the eye 
is caught by the trees around the settle- 
ment we are on our way to visit. It 
stands quite far back among the hills 
too much under their lee, in fact, to be 
quite healthy, I should fancy, for a layer 
of chilly, vaporous air always lurks at the 
bottom of these folded -away valleys, 
and breeds colds and fever and ague. 
Still, it is all inexpressibly homelike and 
fertile as it lies there nestling up against 
the high, rising ground, with patches of 
mealies spread in a green fan around and 
following the course of the winding river 
in tall green rustling brakes like sugar- 
cane. The road, a fairly good one for 
Natal, was strangely still and silent, and 
bereft of sight or sound of animal life. 
At one of the spruits a couple of timber- 
wagons were outspanned, and the jaded, 
tick-covered bullocks gave but little ani- 
mation to the scene. Farther on, whilst 
we cantered easily along over a wide 
plain still rich in grass, a beautiful little 
falcon swept across our path. Slow and 
low was its flight, quite as though it neith- 
er feared nor cared for us, and I had am- 
ple time to admire its exquisite plumage 
and its large keen eye. By and by we 
came upon the usual " groups from the 
antique" in bronze and ebony working 



at the road, and, as usual, doing rather 
more harm than good. But when we 
had crossed the last streamlet and turn- 
ed into a sort of avenue which led to the 
main street of the settlement, then there 
was life and movement enough and to 
spare. Forth upon the calm air rang 
the merry voices of children, of women 
carrying on laughing dialogues across 
the street, and of men's deeper -toned 
but quite as fluent jabber. And here 
are the speakers themselves as we leave 
the shade of the trees and come out upon 
the wide street rising up before us toward 
the mountain-slope which ends its vista. 

Sitting at the doors of their houses are 
tidy, comfortable-looking men and wo- 
men, the former busy plaiting with deft 
and rapid movement of their little fin- 
gers neat baskets and mats of reeds and 
rushes the latter either cooking mealies, 
shelling them or crushing them for the 
market. Everywhere are mealies and 
children. Fat black babies squat hap- 
pily in the dust, munching the boiled 
husk before it is shelled ; older children 
are eqCially happy cleaning with finger 
and tongue a big wooden spoon just out 
of the porridge- pot ; whilst this same fa- 
miliar pot, of every conceivable size, but 
always of the same three-legged shape, 
something like a gypsy-kettle, lurks more 
or less en evidence in the neighborhood of 
every house. No grass-thatched huts are 
here, but thoroughly nice, respectable lit- 
tle houses, nearly all of the same simple 
pattern, with vermilion or yellow-ochre 
doors, and half covered with creepers. 
Whoever despairs of civilizing the Kafir 
need only look here and at other simi- 
lar stations to see how easily he adapts 
himself to comfortable ways and cus- 
toms, and in what a decent, orderly fash- 
ion he can be trained to live with his 
fellows. 

Edendale is a Wesleyan mission-sta- 
tion, and the history of its settlement 
is rather a curious one curious from its 
being the result of no costly organiza- 
tion, no elaborate system of proselytism, 
but the work of one man originally, and 
the evident result and effect of a percep- 
tion on the part of the natives of the 
benefits of association and civilization. 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



Si 



And here I feel it incumbent on me to 
bear testimony not only in this instance 
and in this colony to the enormous 
amount of real, tangible, common-sense 
good accomplished among the black 
races all over the world by both Wesley- 
an Methodist and Baptist missions and 
missionaries. I am a staunch Church- 
woman myself, and yield to no one in 
pure love and reverence for my own 
form of worship ; but I do not see why 
that should hinder me from acknowledg- 
ing facts which I have noticed all my 
life. Long ago in Jamaica, how often in 
our girlish rambles and rides have my 
sister and I come suddenly upon a little 
clearing in the midst of the deep silence 
and green gloom of a tropical forest! 
In the centre of the clearing would be 
a rude thatched barn, with felled trees 
for seats, and neither door nor window. 
"What is that?" we would ask of the 
negro lad who always rode on a mule 
behind us to open gates or tell us the 
right road home again after an excursion 
in search of rare orchids or parrots' nests. 
" Dat Baptist chapel, missis. Wesleyan, 
him hab chapel too ober dere. Sunday 
good man come preach tell us poor 
niggers all good tings. Oder days same 
good gempleman teach pickaninnies." 
That was the answer, and in those few 
words would lie the history of much 
patient, humble planting of good seed, 
unnoticed by the more pompous world 
around. The minister works perhaps 
during the week at some means of sup- 
port, but devotes even his scant leisure 
moments to teaching the little black chil- 
dren. I am so ignorant of the details on 
which dissenters differ from us that I dare 
not go into the subject, but I only know 
it was the same thing in India. Up in 
the Himalayas I have come across just 
the same story scores of times. Whilst 
our more costly and elaborate system 
of organization is compelled to wait for 
grants and certified teachers, and desks 
and benches, and Heaven knows what, 
the Methodist or Baptist missionary 
fells a few trees, uses them as walls and 
seats, thatches the roof of his shelter, 
and begins then and there to teach the 
people around him something of the 
6 



sweet charities and decencies of a Chris- 
tian life. 

Doubtless, Edendale had once upon a 
time as humble a beginning, but when I 
saw it that soft autumn day it was dif- 
ficult to recall such a chrysalis stage of 
its existence. On our right hand rose a 
neat brick chapel, substantial and hand- 
some enough in its way, with proper seats 
and good woodwork within. This plain 
structure, however, cost something over 
a thousand pounds, nearly every penny 
of which has been contributed by Kafirs, 
who twenty-five years ago had probably 
never seen a brick or a bench, and were 
in every respect as utter savages as you 
could find anywhere. Nor is this the only 
place of worship or instruction on the es- 
tate, although it is the largest and most 
expensive, for within the limits of the 
settlement, or "location," as it is called 
only embracing, remember, some thir- 
ty-five hundred acres under cultivation 
there is another chapel, a third a few 
miles farther off at a sort of out-station, 
and no less than four day-schools with 
two hundred scholars, and three Sunday- 
schools at which two hundred and eighty 
children assemble weekly. All the neces- 
sary buildings for these purposes have 
been created entirely by and at the ex- 
pense of the natives, who only number 
eight hundred residents in the village it- 
self. On Sundays, however, I heard with 
much pleasure that more than a hun- 
dred natives from neighboring kraals at- 
tend the services at the chapels, attracted 
no doubt in the first instance by the sing- 
ing. But still, one cannot have a better 
beginning, and the Kafir is quite shrewd 
enough to contrast his squalid hut, his 
scanty covering and monotonous food 
with the well-clad, well-housed, well-fed 
members of the little community of whom 
he catches this weekly glimpse, and ev- 
ery one of whom, save their pastor, is as 
black as himself. 

But I promised to tell you briefly how 
the little settlement first originated. Its 
founder and organizer was the Rev. James 
Allison, a Wesleyan missionary who la- 
bored long and successfully among the 
Basuto and Amaswazi tribes in the inte- 
rior, far away. Circumstances, external 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



as well as private, into which I need not 
enter, led to his purchasing from Preto- 
rius, the old Dutch president of Natal, 
this "location" or estate of some sixty- 
five hundred acres in extent, and settling 
himself upon it. He was followed by a 
great many of his original flock, who 
were warmly and personally attached 
to him, and had faithfully shared his 
fortunes in the past. In this way the 
nucleus of a settlement lay ready to his 
hand, and he seems to have been a man 
of great business talents and practical 
turn of mind, as well as a spiritual teach- 
er of no mean ability. The little village 
I saw the other day was quickly laid out, 
and the small freehold lots or "craen," 
as they are called still by their old Dutch 
name were readily bought by the na- 
tive settlers. This was only in 1851, and 
probably the actual tillage of the soil was 
not commenced for a year or two later. 
As we walked through the fertile fields 
with their rich and abundant crops stand- 
ing ready for the sickle, and looked down 
into the sheltered nooks where luxuriant 
gardens full of vegetables flourished, it 
was difficult to believe that ever since 
the first blade of grass or corn was put 
in till now those fields had never known 
any artificial dressing or manuring of 
any sort. For more than twenty years 
the soil had yielded abundantly without 
an hour's rest, or any further cultiva- 
tion than a very light plough could give. 
The advantages of irrigation, so shame- 
fully overlooked elsewhere, were here 
abundantly recognized, and every few 
yards brought one to a diminutive chan- 
nel, made by a hoe in a few minutes, 
bearing from the hill above a bright 
trickle down to the gardens and houses. 
I confess I often thought during that 
pleasant ramble of the old saying about 
God helping those who help themselves, 
for all the comfort and well-to-do-ness 
which met my eyes every moment was 
entirely from within. The people had 
done everything with their own hands, 
and during the past year had, besides, 
contributed over two hundred pounds to 
their minister's support. There have 
been three or four pastoral successors to 
Mr. Allison, who left the settlement about 



a dozen years ago, and the minister, who 
offered me, a complete stranger, a most 
cordial and kindly welcome, showing me 
everything which could interest me, and 
readily falling in with my desire to un- 
derstand it all, was the Rev. Daniel Eva, 
who has only been in charge of this 
mission for eighteen months. I was 
much struck by his report of the clever- 
ness of the native children ; only it made 
one regret still more that they had not 
better and greater opportunities all over 
the colony of being taught and trained. 
In the girls' school I saw a bright-eyed 
little Kafir maiden, neatly dressed and 
with the most charming graceful carriage 
and manner, who was only twelve years 
old, and the most wonderful arithmeti- 
cian. She had passed her teacher long 
ago, and was getting through her " frac- 
tions " with the ease and rapidity of Bab- 
bage's calculating - machine. Nothing 
short of Euclid was at all likely to satis- 
fy her appetite for figures. She and her 
slate were inseparable, and, she liked 
nothing better than helping the other 
children with their sums. But, indeed, 
they were all very forward with their 
learning, and did their native teachers 
great credit: What I longed for, more 
than anything else, was to see a regular 
training-school established in this and 
similar stations where these clever little 
monkeys could be trained as future do- 
mestic servants for us whites, and as good, 
knowledgeable wives for their own peo- 
ple. There was for some years an in- 
dustrial school here, and I was dreadful- 
ly sorry to hear it had been given up, but 
not before it had turned out some very 
creditable artisans among the boys, all of 
whom are doing well at their respective 
trades and earning their five or six shil- 
lings a day as skilled workmen. This 
school used to receive a yearly grant from 
the local government of one hundred 
pounds, but when, from private reasons, it 
was given up, the grant was of course with- 
drawn. The existing schools only get a 
government grant of fifty pounds a year ; 
and, small as the sum seems, it is yet 
difficult to expect more from a heavily- 
taxed white population who are at this 
moment busy in preparing a better and 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



more costly scheme of education than 
they possess at present for their own 
children. Still, I confess my heart was 
much drawn to this cheerful, struggling 
little community ; and not only to it, but 
to its numerous offshoots scattered here 
and there far away. The Edendale peo- 
ple already look forward to the days 
when they shall have outgrown their 
present limits, and have purchased two 
very large farms a hundred miles farther 
in the interior, to which several of the 
original settlers of the parent mission 
have migrated, and so formed a fresh 
example of thrift and industry and a 
fresh nucleus of civilization in another 
wild part. 

There were a hundred houses in the 
village (it is called George Town, after 
Sir George Grey), and into some of these 
houses I went by special and eager invi- 
tation of the owners. You have no idea 
how clean and comfortable they were, 
nor what a good notion of decoration 
civilized Kafirs have. In fact, there was 
rather too much decoration, as you will 
admit if I describe one dwelling to you. 
This particular house stood on high 
ground, just where the mountain slopes 
abruptly, so it had a little terrace in front 
to make the ground level. Below the ter- 
race was a kind of yard, in which quan- 
tities of fowls scratched and clucked, and 
beyond that, again, an acre of garden- 
ground, every part of which was plant- 
ed with potatoes, pumpkins, green peas 
and other things. A couple of somewhat 
steep and rough steps helped us to mount 
up on the terrace, and then we were usher- 
ed with such a natural pride and delight 
in a white lady visitor into a little flag- 
ged passage. On one side was the 
kitchen and living-room, a fair -sized 
place enough, with substantial tables 
and chairs, and a large open hearth, 
on which a wood-fire was cooking the 
savory contents of a big pot. As for the 
walls, they were simply the gayest I ever 
beheld. Originally whitewashed, they 
had been absolutely covered with bril- 
liant designs in vermilion, cobalt and 
yellow ochre, most correctly and sym- 
metrically drawn in geometrical figures. 
A many-colored star within a circle was 



a favorite pattern. The effect was as 
dazzling as though a kaleidoscope had 
been suddenly flung against a wall and 
its gay shapes fixed on it. But, grand as 
was this apartment, it faded into insig- 
nificance compared to the drawing-room 
and the "English bedroom," both of 
which were exhibited to me with much 
complacency by the smiling owner. Now, 
these rooms had originally been one, and 
were only divided by a slender partition- 
wall. When the door of the drawing- 
room was thrown open, I must say I 
almost jumped back in alarm at the size 
of the roses and lilies which seemed 
about to assault me. I never before saw 
such a wall-paper never. It would have 
been a large pattern for, say, St. James's 
Hall, and there it was, flaunting on walls 
about seven feet by eight. A brilliant 
crimson flock formed the ground, and 
these alarming flowers, far larger than 
life, bloomed and nodded all over it. 
The chairs and sofa were gay with an 
equally remarkable chintz, and brilliant 
mats of beads and wool adorned the 
tables. China ornaments and pictures 
were in profusion, though it took time 
to get accustomed to those roses and 
lilies, so as to be able to perceive any- 
thing else. In one part of the tiny 
room some bricks had been taken out 
of the wall and a recess formed, fitted 
up with shelves on which stood more 
vases and statuettes, the whole being 
framed and draped with pink calico cut 
in large Vandykes. I must say, my 
black hostess and her numerous female 
friends, who came flocking to see me, 
stood out well against this magnificent 
background. We all sat for some time 
exchanging compliments and personal 
remarks through the medium of an in- 
terpreter. But one smiling sable under- 
stood English, and it was she who pro- 
posed that the "lady-chief" should now 
be shown the bedroom, which was Eng- 
lish fashion. We all flocked into it, gen- 
tlemen and all, for it was too amusing to 
be left out. Sure enough, there was a 
gay iron bedstead, a chest of drawers, 
and, crowning glory of all, a real dress- 
ing-table, complete with pink and white 
petticoat and toilette-glass. The glass 



84 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



might have been six inches square I 
don't think it was more but there was 
a great deal of wooden frame to it, and 
it stood among half a dozen breakfast 
cups and saucers which were symmetri- 
cally arranged, upside down, on the toi- 
lette-table. 

"What are these for?" I asked inno- 
cently. 

" Dat English fashion, missis : all 
white ladies hab cup-saucers on deir 
tables like dat." 

It would have been the worst possible 
taste to throw any doubt on this asser- 
tion, which we all accepted with perfect 
gravity and good faith, and so returned 
to the drawing-room, much impressed, 
apparently, by the grandeur of the bed- 
room. 

Of course, the babies came swarming 
round, and very fat and jolly they all 
looked in their nice cotton frocks or 
shirt-blouses. I did not see a single rag- 
ged or squalid or poverty-stricken person 
in the whole settlement, except one poor 
mad boy, who followed us about, darting 
behind some shelter whenever he fancied 
himself observed. Poor fellow ! he was 
quite harmless a lucky circumstance, for 
he was of enormous stature and strength. 
Over his pleasant countenance came a 
puzzled, vacant look every now and then, 
but nothing repulsive, though his shaggy 
locks hung about his face like a water- 
spaniel's ears, and he was only wrapped 
in a coarse blanket. I was sorry to no- 
tice a good deal of ophthalmia among 
the children, and heard that it was often 
prevalent here. 

In^another house, not quite so gay, I 
was specially invited to look at the con- 
tents of the good wife's wardrobe, hung 
out to air in the garden. She was huge- 
ly delighted at my declaring that I should 
like to borrow some of her smart gowns, 
especially when I assured her, with per- 
fect truth, that I did not possess anything 
half so fine. Sundry silk dresses of hues 
like the rainbow waved from the pome- 
granate bushes, and there were mantles 
and jackets enough to have started a 
second-hand clothes' shop on the spot. 
This young woman who was quite pret- 
ty, by the way was the second wife 



of a rich elderly man, and I wonder- 
ed what her slight, petite figure would 
look like when buried in those large and 
heavy garments. It chanced to be Sat- 
urday, and there was quite as much clean- 
ing and general furbishing up of every- 
thing going on inside and outside the lit- 
tle houses as in an English country vil- 
lage, and far less shrewishness over the 
process. 

I wanted to have one more look at 
the principal school-room, whose scholars 
were just breaking up for a long play ; 
so we returned, but only in time for the 
outburst of liberated children, whooping 
and singing and noisily joyful at the end- 
ing of the week's lessons. The little 
girls dropped their pretty curtsies shyly, 
but the boys kept to the charming Kafir 
salutation of throwing up the right hand 
with its two fingers extended, and crying 
" Inkosi !" It is a good deal prettier and 
more graceful than the complicated wave 
and bow in one which our village chil- 
dren accomplish so awkwardly. 

Oh, how I should like to "do up" that 
school-room, and hang gay prints and 
picture - lessons on its walls, for those 
bright little creatures to go wild with de- 
light at ! There has been so much need- 
ed in the settlement that no money has 
been or can be forthcoming just yet for 
anything beyond bare necessaries. But 
the school-room wanted " doing up " very 
much. It was perfectly sweet and clean, 
and there was no occasion for any inspec- 
tor to measure out so many cubic feet of 
air to each child, for the breeze from the 
mountains was whistling in at every crev- 
ice and among the rafters, and the floor 
was well scrubbed daily ; but it wanted 
new stands and desks and forms every- 
thing, in short most sadly. Then just 
think what a boon it would be if the most 
intelligent and promising among the girls 
could be drafted from this school when 
twelve years old into a training-school, 
where they could be taught sewing and 
cooking and other homely accomplish- 
ments ! There is no place in the colony 
where one can turn for a good female 
servant, and yet here were all these nice 
sharp little girls only wanting the oppor- 
tunity of learning to grow up into capital 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



servants and good future wives, above 
merely picking mealies or hoeing the 
ground. 

As I have said before, I am no polit- 
ical economist, and the very combina- 
tion of words frightens me, but still I 
can't help observing how we are wasting 
the good material which lies ready to our 
hands. When one first arrives one is told, 
as a frightful piece of news, that there are 
three hundred thousand Kafirs in Natal, 
and only seventeen thousand whites. The 
next remark is that immigration is the cure 
for all the evils of the country, and that we 
want more white people. Now, it seems 
to me that is just what we don't want 
at least, white people of what is called 
the lower classes. Of course, every col- 
ony is the better for the introduction of 
skilled labor and intelligence of every 
kind, no matter how impecunious it may 
be. But the first thing a white person of 
any class at all does here is to set up Ka- 
firs under him, whom he knocks about as 
much as he dares, complaining all the time 
of their ignorance and stupidity. Every 
man turns at once into a master and an 
independent gentleman, with black ser- 
vants under him ; and the result is, that 
it is impossible to get the simplest thing 
properly done, for the white people -are 
too fine to do it, and the black ones eith- 
er too ignorant or too lazy. Then there 
is an outcry at the chronic state of mud- 
dle and discomfort we all live in. Eng- 
lish servants directly expect two or three 
Kafirs under them to do their work ; and 
really no one except ladies and gentle- 
men seem to do anything save by deputy. 
Now, if we were only to import a small 
number of teachers and trained arti- 
sans of the highest procurable degree 
of efficiency, we could establish training- 
schools in connection with the missions 
which are scattered all over the country, 
and which have been doing an immense 
amount of good silently all these years. 
In this way we might gradually use up 
the material we have all ready to our 
hand in these swarming black people ; 
and it appears to me as if it would be 
more likely to succeed than bringing 
shiploads of ignorant, idle whites into 
the colony. There is no doubt about 



it : Natal will never be an attractive 
country to European immigrants ; and if 
it is not to be fairly crowded out of the 
list of progressive English colonies by 
its population of blacks, we must devise 
some scheme for bringing them into the 
great brotherhood of civilization. They 
are undoubtedly an intelligent people, 
good - humored and easy to manage. 
Their laziness is their great drawback, 
but at such a settlement as Edendale I 
heard no complaints, and certainly there 
were no signs of it. No one learns more 
readily than a savage how good are clothes 
and shelter and the thousand comforts of 
civilized people. Unhappily, he learns the 
evil with the good, especially in the towns, 
but that is our own fault. In a climate with 
so many cold days as this the want of cloth- 
ing is severely felt by the Kafirs, and it 
is one of the first inducements to work. 
Then they very soon learn to appreciate 
the comfort of a better dwelling than 
their dark huts, and a wish for more 
nourishing food follows next. It is ea- 
sier to get at the children and form their 
habits and ideas than to change those 
of the grown - up men, for the women 
scarcely count for anything at present 
in a scheme of improvement : they are 
mere hewers of wood and drawers of 
water. So the end of it all is, that I 
want a little money from some of you 
rich people to encourage the Edendale 
settlers by helping them with their ex- 
isting schools, and if possible setting 
up training-schools where boys could be 
taught carpentering and other trades, and 
the girls housewifery ; and I want the same 
idea taken up and enlarged, and gradu- 
ally carried out on a grand scale all over 
the country. 

There are several Norwegian missions 
established on the borders of Zululand, 
presided over by Bishop Schreuder ; and 
I have been so immensely interested in 
the bishop's report of a visit he paid last 
year to Cetywayo (there is a click in the 
C), the Zulu king, that I have copied 
some of it out of a Blue Book for you. 
Do you know there is a very wrong im- 
pression abroad about blue books ? They 
contain the most interesting reading pos- 
sible, full of details of colonial difficulties 



86 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



and dangers which are not to be met with 
anywhere else, and I have never been bet- 
ter entertained than by turning over the 
leaves of one whenever it is my good 
fortune to come across it. I remember 
one in particular upon Japan, beautiful- 
ly written, and as thrillingly sensational 
as any of Miss Braddon's novels. How- 
ever, you shall judge for yourself of the 
bishop's narrative. I will only mention 
what he is too modest to cause to appear 
here and which was told me by other 
people that he is one of the most zeal- 
ous and fearless of the great band of 
missionaries, beloved and respected by 
black and white. In fact, my inform- 
ant managed to convey a very good 
impression of the bishop's character to 
me when he summed up his panegyric 
in true colonial phraseology, though I 
quite admit that it does not sound suf- 
ficiently respectful when applied to a 
bishop: "He is a first-rate fellow, all 
round." 

This document, which I have shorten- 
ed a little, was addressed as a letter to 
our minister for native affairs, and has 
thus become public property, read and 
re-read with deep interest by us here, 
and likely, I am sure, to please a wider 
circle : 

UNTUNJAMBILI, August 20, 1875. 

DEAR SIR : I beg to send you a short 
sketch of my last trip to and interview 
with the Zulu king, in order to present to 
him your report of your embassy, 1873, 
and leave it to your discretion to lay be- 
fore His Excellency the whole or a part 
of this sketch, got up in a language for- 
eign to me. 

After an irksome traveling right across 
the Tugela from here to Undi, I arrived 
the fifth day (August 5) at the king's head 
kraal sufficiently early to have a prelim- 
inary interview with the headmen then 
present viz., Umnjamana, Usegetwayo, 
Uganze, Uzetzalusa, Untzingwayo, etc. 
and, according to Zulu etiquette, lay be- 
fore them the substance of my message 
in the main points, the same as I, the 
day after (6th August), told the king. 

(N. B. In the course of the evening one 
of the headmen hinted to me that as re- 



gards the killing of people, all was not as 
it ought to be, and that I ought to press 
the matter when I had the interview with 
the king, as he needed to have his mem- 
ory (I would rather say his conscience, for 
his memory is still very good even re- 
markably good) stirred up, and that the 
present occasion was the very time to do 
that. The result proved this to be a very 
safe and timely hint.) 

They spent the forenoon communicat- 
ing in their bulky way this news to the 
king, so it was midday before I got an 
interview with the king, when I opened 
the interview verbatim, thus : 

" My arrival here to-day is not on my 
own account. I have come at the re- 
quest of the chiefs across (the Tugela) 
to cause you to receive by hand and by 
mouth a book which has come from Vic- 
toria, the queen of the English the book 
of the new laws of this Zulu country, 
which Somtseu ( Mr. Shepstone ) pro 
claimed publicly at Umlambongwenya 
the day he, being called to do so, set 
you apart to be king of the Zulus. Vic- 
toria, queen of the English, says : ' I and 
my great headmen (ministers) have read 
the new laws of the Zulu country, which 
you, king, and all the Zulus, agreed to 
with Somtseu ; and as we adhere to our 
words, so also I wish you, chief of the 
Zulus, to hold fast to these words of yours 
of this law which you agreed to adhere 
to the day you were made king by Mr. 
Shepstone, who was sent to do that by 
the government of Natal.' I have now 
finished: this is the only word I have 
brought with me from the chiefs across 
(the Tugela)." 

The royal inscription of the copy was 
of course literally translated. 

After having thus delivered the gov- 
ernment message entrusted to me, I add- 
ed, in the way of explaining to the king 
and his councilors the merits of the case 
at issue, by saying : 

"You have heard the government 
word, but that you may clearly see the 
line of this book of the new laws, I wish 
to explain to you as follows: The day 
the Zulu nation brought the head of the 
king, laid low, four oxen, to the govern- 
ment, the Zulu nation asked that Mr. 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



Shepstone might come and proclaim the 
new laws of Zululand, and set apart the 
real royal child, because they no longer 
had power of themselves to set apart for 
themselves a king. Mr. Shepstone came, 
and began by consulting you, the Zulu 
nation, at Umlambongwenya on the fifth 
day of the week, on all the points of the 
new law which he had been sent for to 
proclaim ; and he conversed with you 
until the sun went down, having begun 
early in the day. He then left you Zu- 
lus to consult together and investigate 
the new laws on the last day of the week 
and on the Sunday ; and when Mr. 
Shepstone returned to the wagons (camp) 
he wrote in a book all the points of the 
new law ; and on Monday he again came 
with all his attendants, and it was in ac- 
cordance with his previous arrangement 
with you ; and he came to the Umlam- 
bongwenya, the residence appointed for 
the purpose, that he might set apart in 
becoming manner the young king. We 
all were present : we heard him, stand- 
ing publicly, holding in his hand a paper, 
and pointing to it, saying, ' That forget- 
fulness may never, never happen, I have 
written in this paper all the points of the 
new laws of the country which we agreed 
upon, two days ago and to-day, in the 
presence of all the Zulu nation, the royal 
children and the nobles ;' and he then 
handed that paper to his son, that it 
might be accessible and speak when he 
himself is no more ; and this proclama- 
tion of the new laws was confirmed by 
the English custom of firing cannons sev- 
enteen times, and according to the Zulu 
by the striking of shields. On the sec- 
ond day of the week Mr. Shepstone re- 
turned to the Umlambongwenya to take 
his leave of the king, and again the points 
of the new law were explained ; and Ut- 
tainn (Cetywayo's brother) explained to 
Mr. Shepstone the history of this house ; 
and on the third day the nobles all went 
to the wagons (camp), being sent to the 
king to take leave, and Mr. Shepstone 
went home satisfied ; and when he re- 
turned to the colony he wrote this book 
of the narrative of his journey and his 
work in Zululand ; and, as is done (in the 
colony), then he sent it to the governor, 



and the governor read it, and read it all, 
and said the work of Somtseu is good, 
and the new laws of the Zulu country 
are good ; and, as is done there too, he 
sent it forward to Victoria, the queen of 
the English ; and Victoria sent back this 
book of the new laws by the same way 
to the governor, and the governor re- 
turned it to Somtseu, and here it is come 
back to its work (discharge its function) 
in Zululand, where it was set up to rule 
over you. And as Victoria binds her- 
self by her words, so are you also, king, 
and you, the Zulu nation, bound by this 
new law made for you here by Somtseu 
at Umlambongwenya. And this is the 
generation of this book of the new law : 
It was born an infant ; it went across (the 
water), the child of a king, to seek for 
kingship, and it found it ; it was made 
king far away, and here it is returned 
with its rank to its own country, Zulu- 
land ; therefore do not say it is only the 
book that speaks. No, I tell you, Zulus, 
of a truth, that this book has to-day rank : 
it took that rank beyond (the water) : it 
has come back a king, and is supreme 
in this country. 

"The words of the governor are fin- 
ished, and my explanation is finished ; 
but there are small items of news which 
I wish to tell you in your ears, which the 
authorities (in Natal) did not tell me, 
but which I speak for myself because 
I wish to see for you and reprove you 
gently, that you may understand." 

Uganze then commenced in his usual 
tattling way to make some remarks, that 
they, as black people, did not understand 
books and the value of such written doc- 
uments ; whereupon I said to him, "That 
won't do, Ganze, that you, after having 
applied, as in the present case, to people 
who transact business through written 
documents, now afterward say you do 
not understand the value of books. You 
all know very well that book-rules are 
supreme with white people : it is there- 
fore of no use that you, after having ob- 
tained what you wanted from the white 
people, now come and plead ignorance 
about book. If you don't know your- 
selves to read book, there is nothing else 
for you to be done but to get a trustwor- 



88 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



thy person to read for you, or learn to 
read yourselves." 

By these remarks I stopped effectually 
all further talk of that kind ; and, evi- 
dently displeased at Uganze's talk, the 
king repeated very correctly all I had 
endeavored to say. (You know the king 
has a good memory.) 

While I was translating, the king and 
his nobles often expressed their astonish- 
ment, uttering occasionally that it was as 
if they were living the thing over again, 
and that what was translated was exact- 
ly what was spoken and transacted in 
your way to and under your stay at the 
place of encampment ; and, having fin- 
ished, I told them that the fullness and 
correctness of the details of the report 
was a natural result of the habit of white 
people under such circumstances, daily 
to take down in writing what transpired, 
in order not to forget it itself long time 
afterward. 

As the king and his nobles now enter- 
ed upon a discussion of the merits of the 
new laws as set forth in your report, and 
this discussion evidently would take the 
turn of being an answer to the message 
delivered, I found it necessary to tell 
them that I had received no commission 
to bring back any answer to the govern- 
ment message ; and stated my own private 
opinion about not having received such 
commission by saying most explicitly, 
" My opinion is that the chiefs across the 
Tugela did not tell me to take back to 
them your answer, because your right 
words to adhere to the new law are com- 
pleted. They are many : no more are 
necessary. The thing wanted now is 
your acts in accordance with the law." 

Here, again, Uganze asked what I meant 
by acts ; and the answer was, " That you 
rule and manage this Zululand in accord- 
ance with the new law, and never over- 
step it;" and I explained this further by 
telling them frankly that many reports 
circulated in Natal of the extensive kill- 
ing of people all over the Zululand ; that 
from the time I this year had crossed the 
Tugela, Natal people had with one mouth 
asked me if the killing of people in Zu- 
luland now really was carried on to such 
an extent as reported, in spite of the new 



law ; that I had not with my own eyes 
seen any corpse, and personally only 
knew of them said to have been killed ; 
that I myself had my information prin- 
cipally from the same sources as people 
in Natal, and often from Natal newspa- 
pers ; that I myself personally believed 
that there were some, and perhaps too 
much, foundation for said reports : there 
were many who pretended having seen 
corpses of people killed both with guns 
and spears. And, after having lectured 
my Zulu audience very earnestly upon 
this vital point, I concluded, saying, 
" Well-wishers of the Zulus are very sorry 
to hear of such things, as they certainly 
had hoped that the new constitution 
would have remedied this sad shedding 
of blood ; while, on the other hand, peo- 
ple who did not care whether the Zulu 
nation was ruined or not, merely laugh- 
ed at the idea that any one ever could 
have entertained the hope of altering or 
amending the old-cherished Zulu prac- 
tice of bloodshed, as the Zulus were such 
an irrecoverable set of man -butchers. 
Further, I tell you seriously, king, your 
reputation is bad among the whites ; and, 
although it is not as yet officially report- 
ed to the government, still it has come 
to its ears, all these bloody rumors, and 
nobody can tell what may be the con- 
sequences hereafter to-morrow." 

The king and his izinduna seemed 
wonderfully tame even conscience-smit- 
ten all along while the rumors were 
mentioned, for I had expected some of 
their usual unruly excitement ; but noth- 
ing of that kind was seen. But, although 
the king and his nobles present had, as 
mentioned above, with astonishment ut- 
tered that your report had reported ex- 
actly everything done and said there and 
then, he now tried to point out that you, 
in your report, had left out to inform the 
queen that he, in his transactions with 
you, had reserved to himself the right 
of killing people who kill others, who lie 
with the king's girls, who sin against or 
steal the king's property that it is the 
royal Zulu prerogative " from time imme- 
morial," at the accession to the throne, 
to make raid on neighboring tribes. I 
went into details of both questions, and 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



89 



proved by plain words of your report, as 
well as by logical conclusion therefrom, 
the fallacy of both complaints ; and espe- 
cially as to the pretended " from time im- 
memorial," that this was nonsense, as 
that bloody system of raid only was from 
yesterday (chaka], and therefore there 
were no reasons why it should not be 
broken off to-morrow ; and much more 
so as this raid - system only tended to 
exasperate all neighboring tribes against 
the Zulus, and eventually bring on their 
(Zulus') ruin, for it was well known that 
all neighboring tribes were gradually 
coming under the protection of the white 
people. The king made, in self-defence, 
some irrelevant remarks, and was of 
course supported by the izinduna in the 
usual Zulu-duda way, but, most remark- 
ably, in a very tame way ; but I thought 
by myself, " It is easy to make an end to 
this support and combination, for I shall 
split your interest, and then combat you 
singly." So I turned the current of the 
discussion in this way, saying, "I do 
really believe that there is going on kill- 
ing people in such a manner that the 
king is blamed in Natal for doings he 
first afterward is made aware of viz., 
the grandees will, for example, kill a 
man of no note, take a few heads of 
cattle to the king in order to shut his 
mouth, saying, ' I found a rat spoiling 
my things, and struck this rat of mine, 
and here is the few cattle it left behind.' 
Then the king will although the thing 
does not suit him think by himself, ' If 
I stir up in this poltroon matter, my 
grandees will say that I trouble them ;' 
and so the thing is growing on, and 
brings on such rumors and bad names 
over in Natal. But was it not agreed 
upon, king, at your installation, that the 
common saying, ' My man,' or ' My peo- 
ple,' must not be tolerated any longer ? 
It must cease in the mouth of the 
grandees in the country. Here in the 
Zululand is now 'my people' of the 
grandees, but all are people of the 
king. The" grandees have no right to 
the people : the king is the owner of 
them all solely. And was it not agreed 
upon that no Zulu male or female, old 
or young could be executed without fair, 



open trial and the special previous sanc- 
tion of the king ? But now, by the old 
practice creeping into use again, and the 
grandees killing their so-called people, 
and the king killing his, it is like the real 
owner and the other imaginary owners 
killing independently cattle out of the 
same herd, without telling each other, till 
the herd is cut up. By executing people 
who really only belong to the king, the 
grandees will, in the same degree as they 
do so, detract from and diminish the roy- 
al power and prerogative, so that there 
in fact reign several kings in this same 
kingdom, at least as far as the authority 
over life and death concerns. The gran- 
dees are concealed behind their king in 
the bad rumors over in Natal ; so the 
king gains a bad name and blame for 
the whole, while the grandees gain the 
satisfaction of succeeding in killing peo- 
ple they dislike." 

The king assented to these my re- 
marks ; so the izinduna found them- 
selves deserted and silenced. Umnja- 
mana only tried to put in a few very 
tame remarks of his usual ones, but I 
quickly brought him to his senses by re- 
membering him sharply of his sayings 
and doings at the installation. I now 
thought it high time to cut the further 
parlance short by saying, " I find that I 
am going to be dragged into an argu- 
ment about matters that are no business 
of mine, and I will therefore talk no 
more of these things, for the new law- 
owners are still alive; and, moreover, 
the new law is there invested with un- 
deniable royalty; so that even when 
Her Majesty Victoria, her present coun- 
cilors and the rest of us are no more, 
the Umteto will be there, and numerous 
copies of it are in the hands of the white 
people, so that they at present and in fu- 
ture times will be able to compare wheth- 
er the doings of yours (Zulu) are in ac- 
cordance or at variance with that law, 
and take their measures accordingly. 
Victoria binds herself by books, and so 
you are bound by this book of new law 
that now is ruling supreme : that is the 
long and short of it, for this book of the 
law will decay with the country. ... I 
have now talked myself tired, finished 



9 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



my verbal errand to you, king, and now 
I will hand over to you this splendid copy 
of the new law." He then said, " Lay it 
down here" (pointing to the mat under 
his feet). "No," I replied, "that won't 
do : the book is not at your feet, but you 
are at the feet of the book ; and if my 
hands are not too good to hand it over 
to you, your hands ought not to be too 
good to receive it. Don't make any dif- 
ficulty." So he received the copy with 
his hands, laid it himself on the mat, 
placed both his elbows on his knees, and 
holding bent over his head between his 
hands, uttered that peculiar native "Oh 
dear ! oh dear ! what a man this is !" 

The king evidently felt himself so out 
of his depth that he quite forgot his usual 
final topics, begging for a royal cloak 
(the standing topic of late) or some sim- 
ilar thing, and dropped into begging for 
a dog to bark for him at night. 

Lastly, in order to test him how he 
now was disposed toward mission-work, 
I told him that, as my business with him 
was finished, I should immediately, with- 
out sleeping that night at Undi, com- 
mence my homeward journey, for I 
had left much work to be done behind, 
having commenced a new station over 
in Natal, as here in Zululand is no work 
for us missionaries as long as he prohib- 
ited his subjects from becoming Chris- 
tians ; therefore it was at present quite 
sufficient for me in Zululand, where it, 
under present circumstances, was use- 
less to get new stations only to live and 
not work on, while we over in Natal 
could buy, and from government, who 
approved of the mission-work, get land 
for stations ; moreover, the people for 
example, over at Untunjambili were 
very anxious to be taught. With an 
heedful air the king asked, "Do the 
Kafirs really wish to be taught?" "Yes, 
they really do," I answered him. 

Thinking that it would do them (the 
king and councilors) good to hear a bit 
of those proceedings, I inserted a few 
words about the contemplated and pro- 
posed federation between the colony of 
Natal, Cape, the Transvaal, and Orange 



States by mentioning that an important 
letter from the great people beyond the 
water had come and proposed a grand 
meeting of men chosen from these four 
states to deliberate of the best mode 
of establishing such federation among 
themselves, and the advantage and im- 
portance of this federation, which I tried 
to point out by a few practical instances. 
The king and his induna now insisted 
upon my not leaving before next morn- 
ing, as the king wanted to prepare for 
me (get me some living beef); and in 
the course of the evening I got a special 
message from him to you to get from a 
doctor medicine for a complaint he had 
in the chest, rising at times from regions 
about the liver, and medicine for an in- 
duna who of late had been completely 
deaf. The messenger also told that the 
king already had sent to you for medi- 
cines, but as yet got no answer. I think 
that he has found out that it comes very 
expensive to call a dotela from Natal, 
and that it therefore would be cheapest 
to get the aid of genuine doctors through 
your kind unpaid assistance. 

Under the conversation with the king 
the headman Usagetwayo (a rather stu- 
pid man, but whose assumed grandeur 
is so great and supercilious that he pre- 
tends never to know anybody, but al- 
ways must ask somebody who this is) 
asked in his well-known hoarse way, 
" Who is he there who speaks with the 
king?" (meaning me). Umnjamana an- 
swered, " Bishop Schreuder, native man : 
he is Panda's old headman. You are 
joking in saying you don't know him : it 
was he for whom they cut off the large 
bit of land at Enlumeni." (One of my 
Christian natives present overheard this 
conversation getting on in a subdued 
tone while I was speaking with the king.) 

When our interview commenced the 
king seemed rather sulky, but got grad- 
ually brighter, at least very tame, which 
hardly could have been expected after 
such dusky beginning, for which there 
were also other reasons, needless to spe- 
cify here. I remain, etc., 

H. SCHREUDER. 



MARITZBURG, June 3, 1876. 

DUST and the bazaar! These are 
the topics of the month. Perhaps 
I ought to put the bazaar first, for it is 
past and over, to the intense thankful- 
ness of everybody, buyers and sellers 
included, whereas the dust abides with 
us for ever, and increases in volume and 
density and restlessness more and more. 
It certainly seems to me a severe penalty 
to pay for these three months of fine and 
agreeable weather to have no milk, hard- 
ly any butter, very little water, and to be 
smothered by dust into the bargain. But 
still, here is a little bit of bracing, healthy 
weather, and far be it from me to depre- 
ciate it. We enjoy every moment of it, 
and congratulate each other upon it, and 
boast once more to new-comers that we 
possess "the finest climate in the world." 
This remark died out in the summer, but 
is again to be heard on all sides ; and I 
am not strong-minded enough to take up 
lance and casque and tilt against it. Be- 
sides which, it would really be very pleas- 
ant if only the tanks were not dry, the 
cows giving but a teacupful of milk a day 
for want of grass, whilst butter is half a 
crown a pound, and of a rancid cheesiness 
trying to the consumer. Still, the weath- 
er is bright and sunny and fresh all day 
too hot, indeed, in the sun, and general- 
ly bitterly cold in the evening and night. 
About once a week, however, we have a 
burning hot wind, and are obliged still to 
keep our summer clothes close at hand. 
The rapidity with which cold succeeds 
this hot wind is hardly to be believed. 
Our "season" is just over. It lasts as 
nearly as possible one week, and all the 
gayety and festivity of the year is crowd- 
ed into it. During this time of revelry 
I drove down the hill to a garden-party 
one sunny afternoon, and found a muslin 
scarf absolutely unbearable, so intensely 
hot was the air. That was about three 
o'clock, and by five I was driving home 
in the darkening twilight, dusty as a mill- 



er and shivering in a seal-skin jacket. It 
is no wonder that most of us, Kafirs and 
all, have fearful colds and coughs, or that 
croup is both common and dangerous 
among the little ones. Still, we must 
never lose sight of the fact that it is "the 
finest climate in the world," and excep- 
tionally favorable, or so they say, to con- 
sumptive patients. 

I am more thankful than words can 
express that we live out of the town, 
though the pretty green slopes around 
are sere and yellow now, with here and 
there patches of black where the fires 
rage night and day among the tall grass. 
About this season prudent people burn 
strips around their fences and trees to 
check any vagrant fire, for there is so 
little timber that the few green trees are 
precious things, not to be shriveled up 
in an hour by fast-traveling flames for 
want of precautions. The spruits or 
brooks run low in their beds, the ditches 
are dry, the wells have only a bucketful 
of muddy water and a good many frogs 
in them, and the tanks are failing one 
after another. Yet this is only the be- 
ginning of winter, and I am told that I 
don't yet know what dust and drought 
mean. I begin to think affectionately of 
those nice heavy thunder-showers every 
evening, and to long to see again the 
familiar bank of cloud peeping up over 
that high hill to the west, precursor of a 
deluge. Well ! well ! there is no satisfy- 
ing some people. I am ready to swal- 
low my share of dust as uncomplaining- 
ly as may be, but I confess to horrible 
anxiety as to what we are all to do for 
milk for the babies presently. Every 
two or three days I get a polite note from 
whoever is supplying me with milk to 
say they are extremely sorry to state they 
shall be obliged to discontinue doing so, 
as their cows don't give a pint a day 
amongst them all. The little which is 
to be had is naturally enormously dear. 
F steadily declines to buy a cow, be- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



cause he says he knows it will be just 
like all the rest, but I think if only I had 
a cow I should contrive to find food for 
it somewhere. I see those horrid tins of 
preserved milk drawing nearer and near- 
er day by day. 

It is very wrong to pass over our great 
bazaar with so little notice. I dare say 
you who read this think that you know 
something about bazaars, but I assure you 
you do not not about such a bazaar 
as this, at all events. We have been 
preparing for it, working for it, worrying 
for it, advertising it, building it, decorat- 
ing it, and generally slaving at it for a 
year and more. When I arrived the first 
words I heard were about the bazaar. 
W T hen I tried to get some one to help me 
with my stall, I was laughed at : all the 
young ladies in the place had been se- 
cured months before as saleswomen. I 
don't know what I should have done if a 
very charming lady had not arrived soon 
after I did. No sooner had she set foot 
on shore than I rushed at her and snap- 
ped her up before any one else knew that 
she had come, for I was quite desperate, 
and felt it was my only chance. How- 
ever, luck was on my side, and my fair 
A. D. C. made up in energy and devotion 
to the cause for half a dozen less enthu- 
siastic assistants. All this time I have 
never told you what the bazaar was for, 
or why we all threw ourselves into it with 
so much ardor. It was for the Natal Lit- 
erary Society, which has been in exist- 
ence some little time, struggling to form 
the nucleus of a public library and read- 
ing-room, giving lectures and so forth to 
provide some sort of elevating and refin- 
ing influences for the more thoughtful 
among the Maritzburgians. It has been 
very up-hill work, and there is no doubt 
that the promoters and supporters de- 
serve a good deal of credit. They had 
met with the usual fate of such pioneers 
of progress : they had been overwhelmed 
with prophecies of all kinds of disaster, 
but they can turn the tables now on their 
tormentors. The building did not take 
fire, nor was it robbed ; there were no 
riots ; all the boxes arrived in time ; 
everybody was in the sweetest temper ; 
no one died for want of fresh air (these 



were among the most encouraging prog- 
nostics) ; and last, not least, after paying 
all expenses two thousand guineas stand 
at the bank to the credil of the society. 
I must say 1 was astonished at the finan- 
cial result, but delighted too, for it is an 
excellent undertaking, and one in which 
I feel the warmest interest. It will be an 
immense boon to the public, and cannot 
fail to elevate the tone of thought and 
feeling in the town. This sum, large as 
it is for our slender resources, will only 
barely build a place suitable for a libra- 
ry and reading-room, and the nucleus 
of a museum. We want gifts of books 
and maps and prints, and nice things 
of all kinds; and I only wish any one 
who reads these lines, and could help 
us in this way, would kindly do so, for 
it will be a long time before we can buy 
such things for ourselves, and yet they 
are indispensable to the carrying out of 
the scheme. 

Everybody from far and near came to 
the bazaar and bought liberally. The 
things provided were selected with a 
view to the wants of a community which 
has not a large margin for luxuries, and 
although 'they were very pretty, there 
was a strong element of practical useful- 
ness in everything. It must have been 
a perfect carnival for the little ones. 
Such blowing of whistles and trumpets, 
such beating of drums and tossing of 
gay balls in the air, as were to be seen all 
around ! Little girls walked about hug- 
ging newly-acquired dolls with an air of 
bewildered maternal happiness, whilst 
on every side you heard boys comparing 
notes as to the prices of cricket-bats (for 
your true colonial boy has always a keen 
sense of the value of money) or the mer- 
its of carpenters' tools. A wheelwright 
gave half a dozen exquisitely -finished 
wheelbarrows to the bazaar, made of the 
woods of the colony, and useful as well 
as exceedingly pretty. The price was 
high, but I shut my economical eyes 
tight and bought one, to the joy and de- 
light of the boys, big and little. There 
were heaps of similar things, besides con- 
tributions from London and Paris, from 
Italy and Austria, from India and Aus- 
tralia, to say nothing of Kafir weapons 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



93 



and wooden utensils, of live-stock, veg- 
etables and flowers. Everybody re- 
sponded to our entreaties, and helped 
us liberally and kindly ; and this is the 
result with which we are all immensely 
delighted. 

Some of our best customers were funny 
old Dutchmen from far up country, who 
had come down to the races and the 
agricultural show, which were all going 
on at the same time. They bought reck- 
lessly the most astounding things, but 
wisely made it a condition of purchase 
that they should not be required to take 
away the goods. In fact, they hit upon 
the expedient of presenting to one stall 
what they bought at another ; and one 
worthy, who looked for all the world as 
if he had sat for his portrait in dear old 
Geoffrey Crayon's Sketch-books, brought 
us at our stall a large wax doll dressed 
as a bride, and implored us to accept it, 
and so rid him of its companionship. An 
immense glass vase was bestowed on us 
in a similar fashion later on in the even- 
ing, and at last we quite came to hail the 
sight of those huge beaver hats with their 
broad brims and peaked crowns as an 
omen of good fortune. But what I most 
wanted to see all the time were the he- 
roes of the rocket practice. You do not 
know perhaps that delicious and verita- 
ble South African story ; so I must tell it 
to you, only you ought to see my dear 
boers or emigrant farmers to appreciate 
it thoroughly. 

A little time ago the dwellers in a cer- 
tain small settlement far away on the 
frontier took alarm at the threatening at- 
titude of their black neighbors. I need 
not go into the rights or rather the 
wrongs of the story here, but skip all 
preliminary details and start fair one fine 
morning when a commando was about 
to march. Now, a commando means 
a small expedition armed to the teeth, 
which sets forth to do as much retalia- 
tory mischief as it can. It had occurred 
to the chiefs of this warlike force that a 
rocket apparatus would be a very fine 
thing, and likely to strike awe into sav- 
age tribes, and so would a small, light 
cannon. The necessary funds were forth- 
coming, and some kind friend in Eng- 



land sent them out a beautiful little rock- 
et-tube, all complete, and the most know- 
ing and destructive of light field-pieces. 
They reached their destination in the very 
nick of time the eve, in fact, of the de- 
parture of this valiant commando. It 
was deemed advisable to make trial of 
these new weapons before starting, and 
an order was issued for the commando 
to assemble a little earlier in the market- 
square and learn to handle their artillery 
pieces before marching. Not only did 
the militia assemble, but all the towns- 
folk, men, women and children, and clus- 
tered like bees round the rocket-tube, 
which had been placed near the powder 
magazine, so as to be handy to the am- 
munition. The first difficulty consisted in 
finding anybody who had ever seen a 
cannon before : as for a rocket-tube, that 
was indeed a new invention. The most 
careful search only succeeded in pro- 
ducing a boer who had many, many 
years ago made a voyage in an old tea- 
ship which carried a couple of small 
guns for firing signals, etc. This valiant 
artilleryman was at once elected com- 
mander-in-chief of the rocket-tube and 
the little cannon, whilst everybody stood 
by to see some smart practice. The tube 
was duly hung on its tripod, and the re- 
luctant fellow-passenger of the two old 
cannon proceeded to load, and attempt- 
ed to fire it. The loading was compara- 
tively easy, but the firing ! I only wish I 
understood the technical terms of rock- 
et-firing, but, although they have been 
minutely explained to me half a dozen 
times, I don't feel strong enough on the 
subject to venture to use them. The re- 
sults were, that some connecting cord or 
other having been severed contrary to 
the method generally pursued by experts 
in letting off a rocket, half of the pro- 
jectile took fire, could not escape from 
the tube on account of the other half 
blocking up the passage, and there was 
an awful internal commotion instead of 
an explosion. The tripod gyrated rap- 
idly, the whizzing and fizzing became 
more pronounced every moment, and at 
last, with a whish and a bang, out rush- 
ed the ill-treated and imprisoned rocket. 
But there was no clear space for it. It 



94 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



ricochetted among the trees, zigzagging 
here and there, opening out a line for 
itself with lightning speed among the ter- 
rified and flustered crowd. There seem- 
ed no end to the progress of that blazing 
stick. A wild cry arose, "The powder 
magazine !" but before the stick could 
reach so far, it brought up all standing 
in a wagon, and made one final leap 
among the oxen, killing two of them 
and breaking the leg of a third. This 
was an unfortunate beginning for the 
new captain, but he excused himself on 
the ground that, after all, rockets were 
not guns : with those he was perfectly 
familiar, having smoked his pipe often 
and often on board the tea-ship long ago 
with those two cannon full in view. Yet 
the peaceablest cannons have a nasty 
trick of running back and treading on 
the toes of the bystanders ; and to guard 
against such well-known habits it seem- 
ed advisable to plant the trail of this lit- 
tle fellow securely in the ground, so that 
he must perforce keep steady. "Volun- 
teers to the front w r ith spades !" was the 
cry, and a good-sized grave was made 
for the trail of the gun, which was then 
lightly covered up with earth. There 
was now no fear in loading him, and in- 
stead of one, two charges of powder were 
carefully rammed home, and two shells 
put in. There was some hitch also about 
applying the fuse to this weapon, fuses 
not having been known on board the 
tea-ship; but at last something was ig- 
nited, and out jumped one shell right into 
the middle of the market-square, and 
buried itself in the ground. But, alas 
and alas ! the cannon now behaved in 
a wholly unexpected manner. It turned 
itself deliberately over on its back, with 
its muzzle pointing full among the groups 
of gaping Dutchmen in its rear, its wheels 
spun round at the rate of a thousand 
miles an hour, and a fearful growling 
and sputtering could be heard inside it. 
The recollection of the second shell now 
obtruded itself vividly on all minds, and 
caused a furious stampede among the 
spectators. The fat Dutchmen looked 
as if they were playing some child's 
game. One ran behind another, puttung 
his hands on his shoulders, but no soon- 



er did any person find himself the first 
of a file than he shook off the detaining 
hands of the man behind him and fled 
to the rear to hold on to his neighbor. 
However ludicrous this may have look- 
ed, it was still very natural with the muz- 
zle of a half-loaded cannon pointing full 
toward you, and one is thankful to know 
that with such dangerous weapons around 
no serious harm was done. If you could 
only see the fellow-countrymen of these 
heroes, you would appreciate the story 
better their wonderful diversity of 
height, their equally marvelous diversity 
of breadth, of garb and equipment. One 
man will be over six feet high, a giant 
in form and build, mounted on a splen- 
did saddle fresh from the store, spick 
and span in all details. His neighbor in 
the ranks will be five feet nothing, and 
an absolute circle as to shape : he will 
have rolled with difficulty on to the back 
of a gaunt steed, and his horse furniture 
will consist of two old saddle-flaps sewn 
together with a strip of bullock-hide, and 
with a sheepskin thrown over all. You 
may imagine that a regiment thus turn- 
ed out would look somewhat droll to the 
eyes of a martinet in such matters, even 
without the addition of a cannon lying 
on its back kicking, or a twirling rocket- 
tube sputtering and fizzing. 

JUNE 7. 

Let me see what we have been doing 
since I last wrote. I have had a Kafir 
princess to tea with me, and we have 
killed a snake in the baby's nursery. 
That is to say, Jack killed the snake. 
Jack does everything in the house, and 
is at once the most amiable and the clev- 
erest servant I ever had. Not Zulu Jack. 
He is so deaf, poor boy ! he is not of 
much use except to clean saucepans and 
wash up pots and pans. He seems to 
have no sense of smell either, because I 
have to keep a strict watch over him that 
he does not introduce a flavor of kerosene 
oil into everything by his partiality for 
wiping cups and plates with dirty lamp- 
cloths instead of his own nice clean dust- 
ers. But he is very civil and quiet, lei- 
surely in all he does, and a strict conser- 
vative in his notions of work, resenting 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



95 



the least change of employment. No : 
the other Jack is a tiny little man, also 
a Zulu, but he speaks English well, and 
it is his pride and delight to dress as an 
English "boy" that is what he calls it 
even to the wearing of agonizingly 
tight boots on his big feet. Jack learns 
all I can teach him of cooking with per- 
fect ease, and gives us capital meals. 
He is the bravest of the establishment, 
and is always to the fore in a scrimmage, 
generally dealing the coiip de grace in 
all combats with snakes. In this in- 
stance my first thought was to call Jack. 
I had tried to open the nursery-door one 
sunny midday to see if the baby was still 
asleep, and could not imagine what it 
was pressing so hard against the door 
and preventing my opening it. I deter- 
mined to see, and lo ! round the edge 
darted the head of a large snake, held 
well up in air, with the forked tongue 
out. He must have been trying to get 
out of the room, but I shut the door in 
his face and called for Jack, arming my- 
self with my riding -whip. Jack came 
running up instantly, but declined all 
offers of walking-sticks from the hall, 
having no confidence in English sticks, 
and preferring to trust only to his own 
light strong staff. Cautiously we opened 
the door again, but the snake was drawn 
up in battle-array, coiled in a corner dif- 
ficult to get at, and with outstretched 
neck and darting head. Jack advanced 
boldly, and fenced a little with the crea- 
ture, pretending to strike it, but when he 
saw a good moment he dealt one shrewd 
blow which proved sufficient. Then I 
suddenly became very courageous (after 
Jack had cried with a grin of modest 
pride, "Him dead now, inkosa-casa") 
and hit him several cuts with my whip, 
just to show my indignation at his hav- 
ing dared to invade the nursery and to 
drink up a cup of milk left for the baby. 
Baby woke up, and was delighted with 
the scrimmage, being extremely anxious 
to examine the dead snake, now dang- 
ling across Jack's stick. We all went 
about with fear and suspicion after that 
for some days, as the rooms all open on 
to the verandah, and the snakes are very 
fond of finding a warm, quiet corner to 



hibernate in. There is now a strict search 
instituted into all recesses into cup- 
boards, behind curtains, and especially 
into F 's tall riding -boots but al- 
though several snakes have been seen 
and killed quite close to the house, I am 
bound to say this is the only one which 
has come in-doors. Frogs hop in when- 
ever they can, and frighten us out of our 
lives by jumping out upon us in the dark, 
as we always think it is a snake and not 
a frog which startles us. It requires a 
certain amount of persuasion and re- 
monstrance now to induce any of us to 
go into a room first in the dark, and 
there have been many false alarms and 
needless shrieks caused by the lash of 

one of G 's many whips, or even a 

boot-lace, getting trodden upon in the 
dark. 

My Kafir princess listened courteous- 
ly to a highly dramatic narrative of this 
snake adventure as conveyed to her 
through the medium of Maria. But then 
she listened courteously to everything, 
and was altogether as perfect a specimen 
of a well-bred young lady as you would 
wish to see anywhere. Dignified and 
self-possessed, without the slightest self- 
assumption or consciousness, with the 
walk of an empress and the smile of a 
child, such was Mazikali, a young wid- 
ow about twenty years of age, whose 
husband (I can neither spell nor pro- 
nounce his name) had been chief of the 
Putili tribe, whose location is far away 
to the north-west of us, by Bushman's 
River, right under the shadow of the 
great range of the Drakensberg. This 
tribe came to grief in the late disturb- 
ances apropos of Langalibalele, and lost 
all their cattle, and what Mr. Wemmick 
would call their "portable property," in 
some unexplained way. We evidently 
consider that it was what the Scotch call 
"our blame," for every year there is a 
grant of money from our colonial ex- 
chequer to purchase this tribe ploughs 
and hoes, blankets and mealies, and so 
forth, but whilst the crops are growing it 
is rather hard times for them, and their 
pretty chieftainess occasionally comes 
down to Maritzburg to represent some 
particular case of suffering or hardship 



9 6 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



to their kind friend the minister for na- 
tive affairs, who is always the man they 
fly to for help in all their troubles. Poor 
girl ! she is going through an anxious 
time keeping the clanship open for her 
only son, a boy five years old, whom she 
proudly speaks of as " Captain Lucas," 
but whose real name is Luke. 

I was drinking my afternoon tea as 
usual in the verandah one cold Sunday 
afternoon lately when Mazikali paid me 
this visit, so I had a good view of her as 
she walked up the drive attended by her 
maid of honor (one of whose duties is to 
remove stones and other obstructions 
from her lady's path), and closely fol- 
lowed by about a dozen elderly, grave 
"ringed" men, who never leave her, 
and are, as it were, her body-guard. 
There was something very pretty and 
pathetic, to any one knowing how a Ka- 
fir woman is despised by her lords and 
masters, in the devotion and anxious 
care and respect which these tall war- 
riors and councilors paid to this gentle- 
eyed, grave-faced girl. Their pride and 
delight in my reception of her were the 
most touching things in the world. I 
went to meet her as she walked at the 
head of her followers with her graceful 
carriage and queenly gait. She gave me 
her hand, smiling charmingly, and I led 
her up the verandah steps and placed 
her in a large arm-chair, and two or three 
gentlemen who chanced to be there 
raised their hats to her. The delight of 
her people at all this knew no bounds : 
their keen dusky faces glowed with pride, 
and they raised their right hands in salu- 
tation before sitting down on the edge of 
the verandah, all facing their mistress, 
and hardly taking their eyes off her for 
a moment. Maria came to interpret for 
us, which she did very prettily, smiling 
sweetly ; but the great success of the af- 
fair came from the baby, who toddled 
round the corner, and seeing this bright- 
ly-draped figure in a big chair, threw up 
his little hand and cried "Bayete!" It 
was quite a happy thought, and was rap- 
turously received by the indunas with 
loud shouts of "Inkosi! inkosi !" whilst 
even the princess looked pleased in her 
composed manner. I offered her some 



tea, which she took without milk, man- 
aging her cup and saucer, and even 
spoon, as if -she had been used to it all 
her life, though I confess to a slight feel- 
ing of nervousness, remembering the 
brittle nature of china as compared to 
calabashes or to Kafir wooden bowls. 

F gave each of her retinue a cigar, 

which they immediately crumbled up 
and took in the form of snuff with many 
grateful grunts of satisfaction. 

Now, there is nothing in the world 
which palls so soon as compliments, and 
our conversation, being chiefly of this 
nature, began to languish dreadfully. 
Maria had conveyed to the princess sev- 
eral times my pleasure in receiving her, 
and my hope that she and her people 
would get over this difficult time and 
prosper everlastingly. To this the prin- 
cess had answered that her heart re- 
joiced at having had its own way, and 
directed her up the hill which led to my 
house, and that even after she had de- 
scended the path again, it would eternal- 
ly remember the white lady. This was 
indeed a figure of speech, for by dint of 
living in the verandah, rushing out after 
the children, and my generally gypsy 
habits, Mazikali is not very much dark- 
er than I am. All this time the little 
maid of honor had sat shivering close 
by, munching a large slice of cake and 
staring with her big eyes at my English 
nurse. She now broke silence by a fear- 
fully distinct inquiry as to whether that 
other white woman was not a secondary 
or subsidiary wife. This question set 
Maria off into such fits of laughter, and 
covered poor little Nanna with so much 
confusion, that as a diversion I brought 
forward my gifts to the princess, consist- 
ing of a large crystal cross and a pair of 
.ear-rings. The reason I gave her these 
ornaments was because I heard she had 
parted with everything of that sort she 
possessed in the world to relieve the dis- 
tresses of her people. The cross hung 
upon a bright ribbon which I tied round 
her throat. All her followers sprang to 
their feet, waved their sticks and cried, 
"Hail to the chieftainess !" But, alas! 
there was a professional beggar attached 
to the party, who evidently considered 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



97 



the opportunity as too good to be lost, 
and drew Maria aside, suggesting that as 
the white lady was evidently enormous- 
ly rich and very foolish, it would be as 
well to mention that the princess had 
only skins of wild beasts to wear (she 
had on a petticoat or kilt of lynx-skins, 
and her shoulders were wrapped in a 
gay striped blanket, which fell in grace- 
ful folds nearly to her feet), and suffered 
horribly from cold. He added that there 
never was such a tiresome girl, for she 
never would ask for anything ; and how 
was she to get it without ? Besides which, 
if she had such a dislike to asking for 
herself, she surely might speak about 
things for them : an old coat, now, or a 
hat, would be highly acceptable to him- 
self, and so would a little money. But 
Mazikali turned quite fiercely on him, or- 
dering him to hold his tongue, and de- 
manding if that was the way to receive 
kindness, by asking for more? 

The beggar's remark, however, had 
the effect of drawing my attention to 
the princess's scanty garb. I have said 
it was a bitterly cold evening, and so the 
maid of honor pronounced it, shivering ; 
so Nurse and I went to our boxes and 
had a good hunt, returning with a warm 
knitted petticoat, a shawl and two sets 
of flannel bathing - dresses. One was 
perfectly new, of crimson flannel trim- 
med with a profusion of white braid. Of 
course this was for the princess, and she 
and her maiden retired to Maria's room 
and equipped themselves, finding much 
difficulty, however, in getting into the 
bathing-suits, and marveling much at 
the perplexing fashion in which white 
women made their clothes. The maid 
of honor was careful to hang her solitary 
decorations, two small round bits of look- 
ing - glass, outside her skeleton suit of 
blue serge, and we found her an old 
woolen table-cover which she arranged 
into graceful shawl-folds with one clever 
twist of her skinny little arm. Just as 
they turned to leave the room, Maria 
told me, this damsel said, " Now, ma'am, 
if we only had a little red earth to color 
our foreheads, and a few brass rings, we 
should look very nice ;" but the princess 
rejoined, "Whatever you do, don't ask 
7 



for anything;" which, I must say, I thought 
very nice. So I led her back again to 
her watchful followers, who hailed her 
improved appearance with loud shouts 
of delight. She then took her leave with 
many simple and graceful protestations 
of gratitude, but I confess it gave me a 
pang when she said with a sigh, "Ah, if 
all white inkosa-casas were like you, and 
kind to us Kafir-women !" I could not 
help thinking how little I had really done, 
and how much more we might all do. 

I must mention that, by way of amus- 
ing Mazikali, I had shown her some large 
photographs of the queen and the royal 
family, explaining to her very carefully 
who they all were. She looked very at- 
tentively at Her Majesty's portrait, and 
then held it up to her followers, who rose 
of their own accord and saluted it with 
the royal greeting of "Bayete !" and as 
Mazikali laid it down again she remark- 
ed pensively, " I am very glad the great 
white chieftainess has such a kind face. 
I should not be at all afraid of going to 
tell her any of my troubles : I am sure 
she is a kind and good lady." Mazikali 
herself admired the princess of Wales' 
portrait immensely, and gazed at it for a 
long time, but I am sorry to say her fol- 
lowers persisted in declaring it was only 
a very pretty girl, and reserved all their 
grunts and shouts of respectful admi- 
ration for a portrait of the duke of Cam- 
bridge in full uniform. " Oh ! the great 
fighting inkosi ! Look at his sword and 
the feathers in that beautiful hat ! How 
the hearts of his foes must melt away 
before his terrible and splendid face !" 
But indeed on each portrait they had 
some shrewd remark to make, tracing 
family likenesses with great quickness, 
and asking minute questions about re- 
lationship, succession, etc. They took 
a special interest in hearing about the 
prince of Wales going to India, and im- 
mediately wished His Royal Highness 
would come here and shoot buffalo and 
harte-beeste. 

JUNE 15. 

We had such a nice Cockney family 
picnic ten days ago, on Whit-Monday ! 
F had been bewailing himself about 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



this holiday beforehand, declaring he 
should not know what to do with him- 
self, and regretting that " holidays had 
ever been invented, and so on, until I 
felt that it was absolutely necessary to 
provide him with some out-door occupa- 
tion for the day. There was no anxiety 
about the weather, for it is only too "set 
fair" all round, and the water shrinks 
away and the dust increases upon us day 
by day. But there was an anxiety about 
where to go and how to get to any place. 
"Such a bad road!" was the objection 
raised to every place I proposed, or else 
it was voted too far. At last all difficul- 
ties were met by a suggestion of spend- 
ing a "happy day" at the falls of the 
lower Umgeni, only a dozen miles away, 
and the use of the mule-wagon. Every- 
thing was propitious, even to the mate- 
rials for a cold dinner being handy, and 
we bundled in ever so many boys, Nurse 
and myself, and Maria in her brightest 
cotton frock and literally beaming with 
smiles, which every now and then broke 
out into a joyous, childish laugh of pure 
delight at nothing at all. She came to 
carry the baby, who loves her better than 
any one, and who understands Kafir bet- 
ter than English. The great thing was, 
that everybody had the companions they 
liked : as I have said, Baby had his Ma- 
ria, F had secured a pleasant friend 

to ride with him, so as to be independent 
of the wagon, G had his two favor- 
ite little schoolfellows, and I well, I had 
the luncheon -basket, and that was quite 
enough for me to think of. I kept re- 
membering spasmodically divers omis- 
sions made in the hurry of packing it 
up ; for, like all pleasant parties, it was 
quite a riwprevu, and that made me 
rather anxious. It was really a delicious 
morning, sunny and yet cool, with every- 
thing around looking bright and glowing 
under the beautiful light. The near hills 
seemed to fold the little quiet town in 
soft round curves melting and blending 
into each other, whilst the ever-rising and 
more distant outlines showed exquisite 
indigo shadows and bold relief of purple 
and brown. The greenery of spring and 
summer is all parched and dried away 
now, but the red African soil takes in 



the distance warm hues and tints which 
make up for the delicate coloring of 
young grass. Here and there, as it 
glows beneath the sun and a slow-sail- 
ing cloud casts a shadow, it changes 
from its own rich indescribable color to 
the purple of a heather-covered Scotch 
moor, but while one looks the cloud has 
passed away, the violet tints die out, and 
it is again a bare red hillside which lies 
before you. A steep hillside, too, for the 
poor mules, but they breast it bravely at 
a jog trot, with their jangling bells and 
patient bowed heads, and we are soon at 
the top, looking down on the clouds of 
our own dust. The wind or rather the 
soft air, for it is hardly a wind blows 
straight in our faces as we trot on toward 
the south-west, and it drives the mass of 
finely-powdered dust raised by the heels 
of the six mules far behind us, to our 
great contentment and comfort. The 
two gentlemen on horseback are fain to 
keep clear of us and our dust, and to take 
a short cut whenever they can get off the 
highroad, which in this case and at this 
time of year is really a very good one. 
Inside the wagon, under the high hood, 
it is deliciously cool, but the boys are in 
such tearing spirits that I don't know 
what to do with them. Every now and 
then, when we are going up hill, they 
jump out of the wagon and search the 
hillside for a yellow flower, a sort of ev- 
erlasting, out of the petals of which they 
extemporize shrill whistles ; and when 
their invention in this line falls short, 
Maria steps in with a fresh suggestion. 
They make fearful pipes of reeds, they 
chirp like the grasshoppers, they all chat- 
ter and laugh together like so many mag- 
pies. When I am quite at my wits' end I 
produce buns, and these keep them quiet 
for full five minutes, but not longer. 

At last, after two hours' steady up-hiJl 
pulling on the part of the mules, we have 
reached the great plateau from which the 
Umgeni takes its second leap, the first 
being at Howick. There, the sight of the 
great river rolling wide and swift between 
its high banks keeps the boys quiet with 
surprise and delight for a short space, 
and before they have found their tongues 
again the wagon has noisily crossed a re- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



99 



sounding wooden bridge and drawn up 
at the door of an inn. Here the mules 
find rest and shelter, as well as their 
Hottentot drivers, whilst we are only be- 
ginning our day's work. As for the boys, 
their whole souls are absorbed in their 
fishing - rods : they grudge the idea of 
wasting time in eating dinner, and stip- 
ulate earnestly that they may be allow- 
ed to "eat fast." We find and charter 
a couple of tall Kafirs to carry the pro- 
vision-baskets ; F and his compan- 
ion take careful and tender charge each 
of a bottle of beer ; Maria shoulders the 
baby ; I cling to my little teapot ; Nurse 
seizes a bottle of milk, and away we all 
go down the dusty road again, over the 
bridge (the boys don't want to go a yard 
farther, for they see some Kafirs fish- 
ing below), across a burnt-up meadow, 
through scrub of terrible thorniness, and 
so on, guided by the rush and roar of 
the falling water, to our dining-room 
among the great boulders beneath the 
shade of the chief cascade. Unlike the 
one grand, concentrated leap of the riv- 
er we saw at Ho wick, here it tumbles in 
a dozen places over a wide semicircular 
ledge of basalt. It is no joke to any one 
except the boys who seem to enjoy 
tumbling about and grazing their elbows 
and chins getting over the wet, slippery 
rocks which have to be crossed to get to 
the place we want. I tremble for the 
milk and the beer, and the teapot and 
I slip down repeatedly, but I am under 
no apprehension about Maria and the 
baby, for she plants her broad, big, bare 
feet firmly on the rocks, and steps over 
their wet, slippery surface with the ease 
and grace of a stout gazelle. Once, and 
once only, is she in danger, but it is be- 
cause she is laughing so immoderately 
at the baby's suggestion, made in lisping 
Kafir when he first caught sight of the 
waterfall, that we should all have a bath 
there and then. 

The falls are not in their fullest splen- 
dor to-day, for this is the dry season, and 
even the great Umgeni acknowledges the 
drain of burning sunshine day after day, 
and is rather more economical in her 
display of tumbling water and iridescent 
spray. Still, all is very beautiful, and in 



spite of our hunger for we are all well- 
nigh ravenous we climb various rocks 
of vantage to see the fine semicircle of 
cascades gleaming white among tufts of 
green scrub and massive boulders. In 
the wet season, of course, much that we 
see now of rock and tree is hidden by 
the greater volume of water, but they 
add greatly to the sylvan beauty of the 
fair scene. It is quite cold in the shade, 
but we have no choice, for where the sun 
shines invitingly there is not a foot of 
level rock and not an inch of soft white 
sand like the floor of our dining-room. 
Such an indignant twitter as the birds 
raise, hardly to be pacified by crumbs 
and scraps of the rapidly- vanishing bread 
and meat, salad and pudding ! But the 
days are so short now that we cannot 
spare ourselves half the time we want 
either to eat or rest, or to linger and lis- 
ten to the great monotonous roar of fall- 
ing water, so agitating at first, so sooth- 
ing after a little while. The boys have 
bolted their dinner, plunged their heads 
and hands under a tiny tricklet close by, 
and are off to the shallows beneath the 
bridge, where the river runs wide and 
low, where geese are cackling on the 
boulders, fish leaping in the pools, and 
Kafir lads laughing and splashing on the 
brink. We leave Baby and his nurse in 
charge of the birds' dinner until the men 
return for the lightened baskets, and we 
three "grown-ups" start for a sharp scram- 
ble up the face of the cliff, over the bed 
of a dry watercourse, to look at the won- 
derful expanse of the great river coming 
down from the purple hills on the hori- 
zon, sweeping across the vast, almost 
level, plain in a magnificent tranquil 
curve, wide as an inland lake, until it 
falls abruptly over the precipice before 
it. Scarcely a ripple on the calm sur- 
face, scarcely a quickening of its steady, 
tranquil flow, and yet it has gone, drop- 
ped clean out of sight, and that monot- 
onous roar is the noise of its fall. I 
should like to see it in summer, when its 
stately progress is quickened and its lim- 
pid waters stained by the overflow of 
countless lesser streams into its broad 
bosom, and when its banks are fringed 
with tufts of tall white arum lilies now 



100 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



only green folded leaves, shrunken as 
close to the water's edge as they can get 
and when the carpet of violets beneath 
our feet is a sheet of blossom flecked with 
gayer flowers all over this great spread- 
ing veldt. To-day the wish of my heart, 
of all our hearts, is for a canoe apiece. 
Oh for the days of fairy thievery, to be 
able to swoop down upon Mr. Searle's 
yard and snatch up three perfect little 
canoes, paddles, sails, waterproof aprons 
and all, and put them down over there 
by that clump of lilies and crimson 
bushes ! What a race we could have for 
clear eight miles up that shining reach, 
between banks which are never nearer 
than sixty or seventy feet to each other, 
and where the river is as smooth as glass, 
and free from let or hindrance to a canoe 
for all that distance ! But, alas ! there 
are neither roguish fairies nor stolen ca- 
noes to be seen nothing except one's 
rough-and-ready fishing-rod and the ev- 
erlasting mealie-meal worked into a paste 
for bait. We are too impatient to give it 
a fair trial, although the fish are leaping 
all around, for already the sun is travel- 
ing fast toward those high western hills, 
and when once he gets behind the tallest 
of the peaks darkness will be upon us 
in five minutes. We should be much 
more careful of our minutes even, did 
there not chance to be an early moon, 
already a silver disk in yonder bright 
blue sky. The homeward path is longer 
and easier, and leads us more circuitous- 
ly back to the bridge, beneath which I 

am horrified to find G and his friends, 

their fishing-rods and one small fish on 
the bank, disporting themselves in the 
water, with nothing on save their hats. 

G is not at all dismayed at my shrill 

reproaches to him from the high bridge 
above, but suggests that I should throw 
him down my pocket handkerchief for a 
towel, and promises to dress and come 
up to the house directly. So I, with the 
thoughts of my tea in my mind for we 
have not been able to have a fire at the 
falls hurry up to the inn, and have time 
for a look round before the boys are 
ready. It is all so odd such a strange 
jumble, such a thorough example of the 
queer upside-down fashion of colonizing 



which reigns here that I cannot help 
describing it. A fairly good, straggling 
house with sufficiently good furniture, 
and plenty of it, and an apparent abun- 
dance of good glass and crockery. A 
sort of bar also, with substantial array 
of bottles and tins of biscuits and pre- 
served meats and pickles of all sorts and 
kinds. But what I want you to bear in 
mind is, that all this came from England, 
and has finally been brought up here, 
nearly seventy miles from the coast, at 
an enormous trouble and expense. There 
are several young white people about 
the place, but a person of that class in 
Natal is too fine to work, and in five min- 
utes I hear fifty complaints of want of 
labor and of the idleness of the Kafirs. 
There is no garden, no poultry - yard, 
no dairy. Here, with the means of irri- 
gation at their very doors, with the pos- 
sibility of food for cattle all the year 
round at the cost of a little personal 
trouble, there is neither a drop of milk 
nor an ounce of butter to be had. Nor 
an egg: "The fowls don't do so very 
well." I should think not, with such ac- 
commodation as they have in the way of 
water and food. For more than twenty 
years that house has stood there, a gen- 
eration has grown up around it and in it, 
and yet it might as well have been built 
last year for all the signs of a homestead 
about it. There is somewhere a mealie- 
patch, and perhaps a few acres of green 
forage, and that is all. Now, in Austra- 
lia or New Zealand, in a more rigor- 
ous climate, under far greater disadvan- 
tages, the dwellers in that house would 
have had farmyard and grain-fields, gar- 
den and poultry-yard, about them in five 
years, and all the necessary labor would 
have been performed by the master and 
mistress and their sons and daughters. 
Here they all sit in-doors, listless and 
discontented, grumbling because the 
Kafirs won't come and work for them. 
I can't make it out, and I confess I long 
to give all this sort of colonists a good 
shaking, and take away every single 
Kafir from them. I am sure they would 
get on a thousand times better. The 
only thing is, it is too late to shake en- 
ergy and thrift into elderly or already 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



101 



grown-tjp people. They get on very 
well as it is, they say, and make money, 
which is all they care for, having no 
pride in neatness or order, and setting 
no value on the good opinion of others. 
They can sell their beer and pickles and 
tins of meat and milk at double and 
treble what they cost ; and that is less 
fatiguing than digging and fencing and 
churning. So the tea has no milk and 
the bread no butter where twenty years 
ago cows were somewhere about five 
shillings apiece, and we get on as well 
as we can without them ; but I long, up 
to the very last, to shake them all round, 
especially the fat, pallid young people. 
Fortunately for Her Majesty's peace, I 
refrain from this expression of my opin- 
ion, and get myself and all my boys into 
the mule-wagon, and so off again, jog- 
ging homeward before the sun has dip- 
ped behind that great blue hill. Long 
ere we have gone halfway the daylight 
has all died away, and the boys find 
fresh cause for shouts of delight at the 
fantastic shadows the moon casts as she 
glides in and out of her cloud-palaces. 

It would have been an enchanting drive 
home, wrapped up to the chin as we all 
were, except for the dust. What air there 
was came from behind us, from the same 
point as it had blown in the morning, but 
now we carried the dust along with us, 
and were powdered snow-white by it. 
Every hundred yards or so the drivers 
put on the brake and whistled to the 



mules to stop. They did not mind losing 
sight altogether of the leaders in a dense 
cloud of dust, nor even of the next pair, 
but when the wheelers were completely 
blotted out by the thick stirred-up mass 
of fine dust, then they thought it high time 
to pause and let it blow past us. But all 
this stopping made the return journey 
rather long and tedious, and all the curly 
little heads were nodding on our shoul- 
ders, only rousing up with a flicker of 
the day's animation when we came to 
where a grass-fire was sweeping over the 
veldt, and our road a dusty but wide and 
safe barrier against the sheets of crack- 
ling flame. All along the horizon these 
blazing belts showed brightly against the 
deep twilight sky, sometimes racing up 
the hills, again lighting up the valleys 
with yellow belt and circle of smoke and 
fire, but everywhere weird and picturesque 
beyond the power of words to tell. 

I noticed during that drive what I have 
so often observed out here before the 
curious layers of cold air. Sometimes 
we felt our wraps quite oppressive : gen- 
erally, this was when we were at the top 
of a hill, or even climbing up it : then, 
when we were crossing a valley or a nar- 
row ravine, we seemed to drive into an 
ice-cold region where we shivered be- 
neath our furs ; and then again in five 
minutes the air would once more be soft 
and balmy crisp and bracing indeed, 
but many degrees warmer than those 
narrow arctic belts here and there. 




MARITZBURG, July 3, 187$. 

I HAVE seen two Kafir weddings late- 
ly, and, oddly enough, by the merest 
chance they took place within a day or 
two of each other. The two extremes 
of circumstances, the rudest barbarism 
and the culminating smartness of civil- 
ization, seemed to jostle each other be- 
fore my very eyes, as things do in a 
dream. And they went backward, too, 
to make it more perplexing, for it was 
the civilized wedding I saw first the 
wedding of people whose mothers had 
been bought for so many cows, and 
whose marriage-rites had probably been 
celebrated with a stick, for your Kafir 
bridegroom does not understand coy- 
ness, and speedily ends the romance of 
courtship by a few timely cuffs. 

Well, then, I chanced to be in town 
one of these fine bright winter mornings 
(which would be perfect if it were not for 
the dust), and I saw a crowd round the 
porch of the principal church. "What 
is going on?" I asked naturally, and 
heard, in broken English dashed with 
Dutch and Kafir, that there was an 
"umtyado" (excuse phonetic spelling), 
a"bruitlof," a"vedding." Hardly had 
I gathered the meaning of all these terms 
the English being by far the most dif- 
ficult to recognize, for they put a click 
in it than the bridal party came out of 
church, formed themselves into an order- 
ly procession and commenced to walk up 
the exceedingly dusty street two by two. 
They were escorted by a crowd of well- 
wishers and a still greater crowd of spec- 
tators more or less derisive, I regret to 
state. But nothing upset the gravity and 
decorum of the bride and bridegroom, 
who walked first with a perfectly happy 
and self-satisfied expression of face. 
Uniforms were strictly excluded, and 
the groom and his male friends prided 
themselves on having discarded all their 
miscellaneous red coats for the day, and ' 
on being attired in suits of ready-made 
102 



tweed, in which they looked queerer 
than words can say. Boots also had 
they on their feet, to their huge discom- 
fort, and white felt soft hats stuck more 
or less rakishly on their elaborately 
combed and woolly pates. The general 
effect of the gentlemen, I am sorry to 
say, was that of the Christy Minstrels, 
but the ladies made up for everything. 
I wish you could have seen the perfect 
ease and grace of the bride as she paced 
along with her flowing white skirts trail- 
ing behind her in the dust and her lace 
veil thrown over a wreath of orange- 
flowers and hanging to the ground. It 
was difficult to believe that probably not 
long ago she had worn a sack or a fold 
of coarse salempore as her sole clothing. 
She managed her draperies, all snowy 
white and made in the latest fashion, as 
if she had been used to long gowns all 
her life, and carried her head as though 
it had never known red clay or a basket 
of mealies. I could not see her features, 
but face and throat and bare arms were 
all as black as jet, and shone out in 
strong relief from among her muslin 
frills, and furbelows. There were many 
yards of satin ribbon among these same 
frills, and plenty of artificial flowers, but 
everything was all white, shoes and all. 
I am afraid she had " disremembered " 
her stockings. The principal couple 
were closely followed by half a dozen 
other pairs of sable damsels, also "gown- 
ed in pure white" and made wonderful 
with many bows of blue ribbon. Each 
maiden was escorted by a groomsman, 
the rear-guard of guests trailing off into 
colored cottons and patched suits. Ev- 
erybody looked immensely pleased with 
him and herself,, and I gradually lost 
sight of them in the unfailing cloud of 
dust which rises on the slightest provo- 
cation at this time of year. I assure you 
it was a great event, the first smart wed- 
ding in Maritzburg among the Kafirs, 
and I only hope the legal part is all 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



103 



right, and that the bridegroom won't be 
free to bring another wife home some 
day to vex the soul of this smart lady. 
Kafir marriage - laws are in a curious 
state, and present one of the greatest 
difficulties in the process of grafting civ- 
ilized habits on the customs of utter bar- 
barism. 

In spite of the imposing appearance 
of bride and bridegroom, in spite of the 
good sign all this aping of our ways 
really is, in spite of a hundred consider- 
ations of that nature which ought to have 
weighed with me, but did not, I fear I 
took far more interest in a real Kafir 
marriage, a portion of whose prelimin- 
ary proceedings I saw two days after 
this gala procession in white muslin and 
gray tweed. I was working in the ve- 
randah after breakfast for you must 
know that it is so cold in-doors that we 
all spend the middle part of the day 
basking like lizards in the delicious 
warmth of sunny air outside when I 
heard a distant but loud noise beyond 
the sod fence between us and a track 
leading over the hills, in whose hollows 
many a Kafir kraal nestles snugly. I 
knew it must be something unusual, for 
I saw all our Kafirs come running out 
in a state of great excitement, calling to 

each other to make haste. G too 

left the funeral obsequies of a cat-mur- 
dered pigeon in which he was busily 
employed, and scampered off to the 
gate, shouting to me to come and see. 
So I, who am the idlest mortal in the 
world, and dearly love an excuse for 
leaving whatever rational employment 
I am engaged upon, snatched up the 
baby, who was supremely happy dig- 
ging in the dust in the sunshine, called 
Maria in case there might be anything 
to explain, and ran off to the gate also. 
But there was nothing to be seen, not 
even dust: we only heard a sound of 
monotonous singing and loud grunting 
coming nearer and nearer, and by and 
by a muffled tread of bare hurrying feet 
shuffling through the ,powdered earth of 
the track. My own people had clam- 
bered up on the fence, and were gestic- 
ulating wildly and laughing and shout; 
ing, Tom waving the great wooden spoon 



with which he stirs his everlasting " scoff." 
"What is it, Maria?" I asked. Maria 
shook her head and looked very solemn, 
saying " I doan know," but even while she 
spoke a broad grin broke all over her face, 
and she showed her exquisite teeth from 
ear to ear as she said, half contemptu- 
ously, " It's only a wild Kafir wedding, 
lady. There are the warriors: that's 
what they do when they don't know any 
better." Evidently, Maria inclined to the 
long white muslin gown of the civilized 
bride which I had so minutely described 
to her, and she turned away in disdain. 
Yes, here they come first, a body of 
stalwart warriors dressed in skins, with 
immense plumes of feathers on their 
heads, their lithe, muscular bodies shin- 
ing like ebony as they flash past me 
not so quickly, however, but that they 
have time for the politesse of tossing up 
shields and spears with a loud shout of 
" Inkosi !" which salutation the baby, who 
takes it entirely to himself, returns with 
great gravity and unction. These are 
the vanguard, the flower of Kafir chiv- 
alry, who are escorting the daughter of 
a chieftain to her new home in a kraal 
on the opposite range of hills. They 
make it a point of honor to go as quick- 
ly as possible, for they are like the stroke 
oar and give the time to the others. After 
them come the male relatives of the bride, 
a motley crew, numerous, but altogether 
wanting in the style and bearing of the 
warriors. Their garb, too, is a wretched 
mixture, and a compromise between 
clothes and no clothes, and they shuf- 
fle breathlessly along, some with sacks 
over their shoulders, some with old tu- 
nics of red or blue and nothing else, and 
some only with two flaps or aprons. But 
all wear snuffboxes in their ears snuff- 
boxes made of every conceivable mate- 
rial hollow reeds, cowries, tiger-cats' 
teeth, old cartridge-cases, acorn-shells, 
empty chrysalises of some large moth 
all sorts of miscellaneous rubbish 
which could by any means be turned to 
this use. Then comes a more compact 
and respectable -looking body of men, 
all with rings on their heads, the Kafir 
sign and token of well-to-do-ness, with 
bare legs, but draped in bright-colored 



104 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



rugs or blankets. They too fling up 
their right arm and cry "Inkosi!" as 
they race along, but are more intent on 
urging on their charge, the bride, who is 
in their midst. Poor girl ! she has some 
five or six miles yet to go, and she looks 
ready to drop now ; but there seems to 
be no consideration for her fatigue, and 
I observe that she evidently shrinks from 
the sticks which her escort flourish about. 
She is a good-looking, tall girl, with a nice 
expression in spite of her jaded and hur- 
ried air. She wears only a large sheet of 
coarse brownish cloth draped gracefully 
and decently around her, leaving, how- 
ever, her straight, shapely legs bare to 
run. On her right arm she too bears a 
pretty little shield made of dun and 
white ox hide, and her face is smeared 
over brow and cheeks with red clay, 
her hair also being tinged with it. She 
glances wistfully, I fancy, at Maria stand- 
ing near me in her good clothes and with 
her fat, comfortable look. Kafir girls 
dread being married, for it is simply 
taking a hard place without wages. Love 
has very rarely anything to do with the 
union, and yet the only cases of murder 
of which I have heard have been com- 
mitted under the influence of either love 
or jealousy. This has always seemed 
odd to me, as a Kafir girl does not appear 
at all prone to one or the other. When 
I say to Maria, "Perhaps you will want 
to marry some day, Maria, and leave 
me?" she shakes her head vehemently, 
and says, " No, no, I should not like to 
do that : I should have to work much 
harder, and no one would be kind to 
me." Maria too looks compassionately 
at her savage sister racing along, and 
murmurs, " Maria would not like to have 
to run so fast as that." Certainly, she is 
not in good condition for a hand gallop 
across these hills, for she is bursting out 
of all her gowns, although she is grow- 
ing very tall as well. 

There is no other woman in the bridal 
cavalcade, which is a numerous one, and 
closes with a perfect mob of youths and 
boys grunting and shuffling along. Ma- 
ria says doubtfully, "I think they are 
only taking that girl to look at her kraal. 
She won't be married just yet, for they 



say the heer is not ready so soon." This 
information is shouted out as some of 
the party rush past us, but I cannot 
catch the exact words amid the loud mo- 
notonous song with a sort of chorus or 
accompaniment of grunts. 

Ever since my arrival I have wanted to 
see a real Kafir kraal, but the difficulty 
has been to find one of any size and re- 
taining any of the distinctive features of 
such places. There are numbers of *hem 
all about the hills which surround Maritz- 
burg, but they are poor degenerate things, 
the homes of the lowest class of Kafir, a 
savage in his most disgusting and dan- 
gerous state of transition, when he is 
neither one thing nor the other, and has 
picked up only the vices of civilization. 
Such kraals would be unfavorable spe- 
cimens of a true Kafir village, and only 
consist of half a dozen ruinous, filthy 
hovels whose inhabitants would probably 
beg of you. For some time past I had 
been inquiring diligently where a really 
respectable kraal could be found, and at 
last I heard of one about eight miles off, 
whose "induna" or head-man gave it a 
very good character. Accordingly, we 
set out on a broiling afternoon, so early 
in the day that the sun was still beating 
down on us with all his summer tricks 
of glowing heat and a fierce fire of bright- 
est rays. The road was steep over hill 
and dale, and it was only when we had 
climbed to the top of each successive ridge 
that a breath of cool breeze greeted us. 
A strange and characteristic panorama 
gradually spread itself out before and 
behind us. After the first steep ascent 
we lost sight of Maritzburg and its bosky 
streets. From the next ridge we could 
well see the regular ring of wooded 
homesteads which lie in a wide circle 
outside the primitive little town. Each 
rising down had a couple or so of these 
suburban villas hid away in gum trees 
clinging to its swelling sides. Melan- 
choly-looking sides they were now, and 
dreary was the immediate country around 
us, for grass-fires had swept the hills for 
a hundred miles and more, and far as 
the eye could reach all was black, sere 
and arid, the wagon-tracks alone winding 
about in dusty distinctness. The streams 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



I0 5 



had shrunk away to nothing, and scarce- 
ly showed between their high banks. It 
was a positive relief to horse and rider 
when we had clambered up the rocky 
track across the highest saddle we had 
yet needed to mount. Close on our left 
rose, some three hundred feet straight up 
against the brass-bright sky, a big bluff 
with its basalt sides cut down clean and 
sharp as though by a giant's knife. In 
its cold shade a few stunted bushes were 
feebly struggling to keep their scraggy 
leaves and branches together, and on 
the right the ground fell irregularly away 
down to a valley in which were lovely 
patches of young forage, making a ten- 
der green oasis, precious beyond words 
in contrast with the black and sun-dried 
desolation of the hills around. Here too 
were the inevitable gum trees, not to be 
despised at this ugly time of year, al- 
though they are for all the world like 
those stiff wooden trees, all of one pat- 
tern, peculiar to the model villages in the 
toys of our youth. With quite as little 
grace and beauty do these gum trees 
grow, but yet they are the most valuable 
things we possess, being excellent nat- 
ural drainers of marshy soil, kindly ab- 
sorbers of every stray noxious vapor, and 
good amateur lightning-conductors into 
the bargain. Amid these much-abused, 
not-to-be-done-without trees, then, agable 
peeped : it was evidently a thriving, com- 
fortable homestead, yet here my friendly 
guide and companion drew rein and look- 
ed around with deep perplexity on his 
kindly face. 

" How beautiful the view is !" I cried 
in delight, for indeed the distant sweep 
of ever-rising mountains, the splendid 
shadows lying broad and deep over the 
hills and valleys, the great Umgeni, dis- 
daining even this long drought, and shin- 
ing here and there like a silver ribbon, 
now widening into a mere, now making 
almost an island of some vast tract of 
country, but always journeying "with a 
gentle ecstasy," were all most beautiful. 
The burnt-up patches gave only a brown 
umber depth to the hollows in the island 
hills, and the rich red soil glowed bright- 
ly on the bare downs around us as the 
westering sun touched and warmed them 



into life and color. I was well content 
to drop the reins on my old horse's neck 
whilst I gazed with greedy eyes on the 
fair scene, which I felt would change and 
darken in a very short while. Perhaps 
it was also this thought which made my 
companion say anxiously, " Yes, but look 
how fast the sun is dropping behind that 
high hill ; and where is the kraal ? It 
ought to be exactly here, according to 
Mazimbulu's directions, and yet I don't 
see a sign of it, do you ?" 

If his eyes, accustomed since child- 
hood to every nook and cranny in these 
hills, could not make out where the kraal 
hid, little chance was there of mine find- 
ing it out. But even he was completely 
at fault, and looked anxiously arouncj 
like a deer-hound which has lost the 
scent. The narrow track before us led 
straight on into the interior for a couple 
of hundred miles, and in all the pano- 
rama at our feet we could not see trace 
or sign of living creature, nor could the 
deadliest silence bring sound of voice or 
life to our strained ears. 

" I dare not take you any farther," Mr. 

Y said : "it is getting much too late 

already. But how provoking to come all 
this way and have to go back without 
finding the kraal !" In vain I tried to 
comfort him by assurances of how pleas- 
ant the ride had been, beguiled by many 
a hunting-story of days when lions and 
elephants drank at the stream before us, 
and when no man's hand ever lost its 
clasp of his g\m, sleeping or waking. We 
had come to see a kraal, and it was an 
expedition manque if we could not find 
it. Still, the sun seemed in a tremendous 
hurry to reach the shelter of that high 
hill yonder, and even I was constrained 
to acknowledge we must not go farther 
along the rocky track before us. At this 
moment of despair there came swiftly 
and silently round the sharp edge of the 
bluff just ahead of us two Kafir-women, 
with huge bundles of firewood on their 
heads, and walking rapidly along, as 
though in a hurry to get home. To my 
companion Kafir was as familiar as Eng- 
lish, so he was at no loss for pleasant words 
and still more pleasant smiles with which 
to ask the wav to Mazimbuln's kraal. 



io6 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



" We go there now, O great chieftain !" 
the women answered with one voice ; and, 
true to the savage code of politeness, they 
betrayed no surprise as to what we could 
possibly want at their kraal so late. We 
had scarcely noticed a faint narrow track 
on the burnt-up ground to our right, but 
into this the women unhesitatingly struck, 
and we followed them as best we could. 
Scarcely three hundred yards away from 
the main track, round the shoulder of a 
down, and nestling close in a sort of nat- 
ural basin scooped out of the hillside, was 
the kraal, silent enough now, for all except 
a few old men and babies were absent. 
The women, like our guides, were out 
collecting firewood ; some of the young- 
er men and bigger children had gone 
into town to sell poultry and eggs ; others 
were still at work for the farmer whose 
homestead stood a mile or two away. 
There must have been at least a hundred 
goats skipping about beneath the steep 
hillside down which we had just come 
goats who had ventured to the very edge 
of the shelf along which our bridle-path 
had lain, and yet who had never by bleat 
or inquisitive protruded head betrayed 
their presence to us. In the centre of 
the excavation stood a large, high, neat- 
ly-wattled fence, forming an enclosure 
for the cattle at night, a remnant of the 
custom when Kafir herds were ravaged 
by wild animals and still wilder neigh- 
bors. A very small angle of this place 
was portioned off as a sty for the biggest 
and mangiest pig it has ever been my 
lot to behold a gaunt and hideous beast, 
yet the show animal of the kraal, and 
the first object which Mazimbulu pointed 
out to us. Of course, Mazimbulu was at 
home : what is the use of being an in- 
duna if you have to exert yourself? He 
came forward at once to receive us, and 
did the honors of his kraal most thor- 
oughly and with much grace and dignity. 

Mr. Y explained that I was the wife 

of another inkosi, and that I was con- 
sumed by a desire to see with my own 
eyes a real Kafir kraal. It is needless 
to say that this was pleasantly conveyed, 
and a compliment to this particular kraal 
neatly introduced here. 

Mazimbulu an immensely tall, pow- 



erful elderly man, "ringed" of course, 
and draped in a large gay blanket 
looked at me with half- contemptuous 
surprise, but saluted to carry off his 
wonder, and said deprecatingly to Mr. 
Y : "O chief, the chieftainess is wel- 
come; but what a strange people are 
these whites ! They have all they can 
desire, all that is good and beautiful of 
their own, yet they can find pleasure in 
looking at where we live ! Why, chief, 
you know their horses and dogs have 
better places to sleep in than we h^ve. 
It is all most wonderful, but the chief- 
tainess may be sure we are glad to see 
her, no matter for what reason she 
comes." 

There was not very much to see, af- 
ter all. About twenty large, substan- 
tial, comfortable huts, all of the beehive 
shape, stood in a crescent, the largest in 
the middle. This belonged to Mazim- 
bulu, and in front of it knelt his newest 
wife, resting on her heels and cutting up 
pumpkins into little bits to make a sort 
of soup, or what she called "scoff." I 
think young Mrs. Mazimbulu was one 
of the handsomest and sulkiest Kafir- 
women I have yet seen. She was very 
smart in beads and bangles, her coiffure 
was elaborate and carefully stained red, 
her blanket and petticoat were gay and 
warm and new, and yet she looked the 
very picture of ill-humor. The vicious 
way she cut up her pumpkins and pitch- 
ed the slices into a large pot, the sar- 
castic glances she cast at Mazimbulu as 
he invited me to enter his hut, declaring 
that he was so fortunate in the matter of 
wives that I should find it the pink of 
cleanliness ! Nothing pleased her, and 
she refused to talk to me or to "saka 
bono," or anything. I never saw such 
a shrew, and wondered whether poor 
Mazimbulu had not indeed got a hand- 
ful in this his latest purchase. And yet 
he looked quite capable of taking care 
of himself, and his hand had probably 
lost none of its old cunning in boxing a 
refractory bride's ears, for the damsel in 
question seemed rather on the watch as 
to how far she might venture to show her 
temper. Such a contrast as her healthy, 
vigorous form made to that of a slight, 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



107 



sickly girl who crawled out of an adjoin- 
ing hut to see the wonderful spectacle 
of an "inkosa-casa" ! This poor thing 
was a martyr to sciatica, and indeed had 
rheumatism apparently in all her joints. 
She moved aside her kilt of lynx skins 
to show me a terribly swollen knee, 
saying plaintively in Kafir, " I ache all 
over, for always." Mazimbulu declared 
in answer to my earnest inquiries that 
they were all very kind to her, and prom- 
ised faithfully that a shilling which I put 
in her hand should remain her own prop- 
erty. " Physic or beads, just as she likes," 
he vowed, but seemed well content when 
I gave another coin into his own hand 
for snuff. There were not many babies 
only three or four miserable sickly crea- 
tures, all over sores and dirt and ophthal- 
mia. Yet the youth who held our horses 

whilst we walked about and Mr. Y 

chatted fluently with Mazimbulu might 
have stood for the model of a bronze 
Apollo, so straight and tall and sym- 
metrical were his shapely limbs and his 
lithe, active young body. He too shout- 
ed " Inkosa-casa !" in rapturous gratitude 
for a sixpence which I gave him, and vow- 
ed to bring me fowls to buy whenever the 
young chickens all around should be big 
enough. 

My commissariat is always on my 
mind, and I never lose an opportunity 
of replenishing it, but I must confess 
that I get horribly cheated whenever I 
try bargaining on my own account. For 
instance, I sent out a roving commission 
the other day for honey, which resulted 
in the offer of a small jar containing per- 
haps one pound of empty, black and 
dirty comb and a tablespoonful of honey, 
which apparently had already been used 
to catch flies. For this treasure eight 
shillings were asked. To-day I tried to 
buy a goat from Mazimbulu, but he hon- 
estly said it would be of no use to me, 
nor could I extract a promise of milk 
from the cows I saw coming home just 
then. He declared that there was no 
milk to be had ; and certainly, when 
one looks at the surrounding pasture, 
it is not incredible. 

Mazimbulu's own hut contained little 
beyond a stool or two, some skins and 



mats for a bed, a heap of mealie-husks 
with which to replenish the fire, his shield 
and a bundle of assegais and knobkerries. 
There was another smaller wattled en- 
closure holding a great store of mealies, 
and another piled up with splendid pump- 
kins. At the exact top of Mazimbulu's hut 
stood a perfect curiosity-shop of lightning- 
charms old spear -points, shells, the 
broken handle of a china jug, and a 
painted portion of some child's toy : all 
that is mysterious or unknown to them 
must perforce be a lightning - charm. 
They would no more use a conductor 
than they would fly, declaring triumph- 
antly that our houses, for all their "fire- 
wires," get more often struck by light- 
ning than their huts. Indeed, Mazim- 
bulu became quite pathetic on the sub- 
ject of the personal risk I was running on 
account of my prejudice against his light- 
ning-charms, and hinted that I should 
come to a bad end some day through 
it. 

By the time we had spent half an hour 
in the kraal the sun had long since gain- 
ed the shelter of the western hills and 
sunk behind them, taking with him ap- 
parently every vestige of daylight out 
of the sky. No one who has not felt it 
could believe the rapidity of the change 
in the temperature. So long as there was 
sunlight it was too hot. In half an hour 
it was bitingly, bitterly cold. We could 
not go fast down the rocky tracks, but 
we cantered over every inch of available 
space cantered for the sake of warming 
ourselves as much as to get home. The 
young moon gave us light enough to 
keep on the right track, but I don't think 
I ever was so cold in my life as when we 
reached home about half-past six. The 
wood-fire in the little drawing-room the 
only room with a fireplace seemed in- 
deed delicious, and so did a cup of tea 

so hot as to be almost scalding. F 

declared that I was of a bright-blue col- 
or, and I admit that I came nearer to un- 
derstanding what being frozen to death 
meant than I had ever done before. 
Yet there was not much frost, but one 
suffered from the reaction after the burn- 
ing heat of the day and from the impos- 
sibility of taking any wraps with one. 



io8 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



JULY 12. 

Don't think I am going to let you off 
from my usual monthly grumble about 
the weather. Not a bit of it ! It is worse 
than ever. At this moment a violent and 
bitterly cold gale of wind is blowing, and 
I hear the red tiles flying off the house, 
which I fully expect will be a regular 
sieve by the time the rains come. Not 
one drop of rain have we had these six 
weeks, and people remark that "the dry 
season is beginning" Everything smells 
and tastes of dust one's clothes, the fur- 
niture, everything. If I sit down in an 
arm-chair, I disturb a cloud of dust ; my 
pillow is, I am convinced, stuffed with it; 
my writing-table is inches deep in it. All 
the food is flavored with it, and Don Quix- 
ote's enemies could not more persistently 
"bite the dust" than we do at each meal. 
Yet when I venture to mention this draw- 
back in answer to the usual question, "Is 
not this delicious weather ?" the answer is 
always, " Oh, but you can have no dust 
here : you should see what it is in town !" 
Between us and the town is an ever-fly- 
ing scud of dust, through which we can 
but ill discern the wagons. I wonder 
there are no accidents, for one often 
hears a wagon before and behind one 
when it is impossible to see anything 
through the choking, suffocating cloud 
around one. Of a still day, when you car- 
ry your own dust quietly along with you, 
there is nothing for it except to stop at 
home if you wish to keep your temper. 

The other day little G was about to 

suffer the extreme penalty of the domes- 
tic law for flagrant disobedience, and he 
remarked dryly to the reluctant execu- 
tioner, "You had better take care : I am 
very dusty" It was quite true, for the 
slipper elicited such clouds of dust from 
the little blue serge suit that the chas- 
tisement had to be curtailed, much to 
the culprit's satisfaction. As for the 
baby, he was discovered the other day 
taking a dust - bath exactly like the 
chickens, and considered it very hard 
to be stopped in his amusement. Every 
now and then we have a dust-storm: 
there have been two this month already, 
perfect hurricanes of cold wind driving 
the dust in solid sheets before them. 



Nearer the coast these storms have been 
followed by welcome rain, but here we 
are still dry and parched. The only 
water-supply we (speaking individually) 
have is brought in buckets from the river, 
about half a mile off, and one has to wash 
in it and drink it with closed eyes. But it 
cannot be unwholesome, thank Heaven ! 
for most of us take nothing else and are 
very well. I owe it a grudge, however, 
on account of its extraordinary hardness. 
Not only does it spoil the flavor of my be- 
loved tea, but it chaps our skins fright- 
fully ; and what with the dust in the 
pores, and the chronic irritation caused 
by some strange peculiarity in the cli- 
mate, we are all like nutmeg -graters, 
and one can understand the common- 
sense of a Kafir's toilette, into which 
grease enters largely. Yet in spite of 
dust and dryness for everything is 
ludicrously dry, sugar and salt are so 
many solid cakes, not to be dealt with 
by means of a spoon at all one is very 
thankful for the cold, bracing weather, 
and unless there is a necessity for front- 
ing the dust, we contrive to enjoy many 
of the pleasant sunshiny hours in the ve- 
randah ; and I rejoice to see the roses 
blooming again in the children's cheeks. 
Every evening we have a wood-fire on 
the open hearth in the drawing-room, 
and there have been sharp frosts lately. 
The waving tips of the poor bamboos 
look sadly yellow, but I have two fine 
flourishing young camellias out of doors 
without shelter of any kind, and my sup- 
ply of roses has never failed from those 
trees which get regularly watered. The 
foliage, too, of the geraniums is as lux- 
uriant as ever, though each leaf is white 
with dust, but the first shower will make 
them lovely once more. 

Quail passed over here a few days ago 
in dense, solid clouds, leaving many 
weary stragglers here and there on the 
veldt to delight the sportsmen. I am 
told it is a strange and wonderful sight 
to see these birds sweep sometimes in 
the dead silence of a moonlight night, 
flying low and compactly, beating the air 
with the monotonous whir of their un- 
tiring wings down one of the wide, 
empty streets of quiet Maritzburg, so 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



109 



close to the bystander that a stick would 
knock some over. And to think of the 
distance they have traveled thus ! For 
hundreds and hundreds of miles, over 
deserts and lakes at whose existence we 
can but dimly guess, the little wayfarers 
have journeyed, from the far interior 
down to the seaboard of this great con- 
tinent. Last season a weary pair drop- 
ped down among my rose-bushes, but no 
sportsman knew of their visit, for I found 
them established there when I came, and 
jealously guarded their secret for them ; 
but I don't know yet whether any others 
have claimed my hospitality and protec- 
tion, in the same way, poor pretty crea- 
tures ! 

I was seized with a sudden wish the 
other day to see the market here, and 
accordingly got my household up very 
early one of these cold mornings, hur- 
ried breakfast over, and drove down to 
the market-square exactly at nine A. M., 
when the sales commence. Everything 
is sold by auction, but sold with a rapid- 
ity which seemed magical to me. I 
saw some fine potatoes a dozen yards 
away from where the market-master was 
Celling with lightning speed wagon-load 
after wagon-load of fresh green forage. 
I certainly heard " Two and a halfpenny, 
two and three farthings thank you ! 
gone !" coming rather near, and I had 
gone so far in my own mind as to deter- 
mine which of my friends for heaps of 
people I knew were there I should ask 
to manage it for me. But like a wave 
the bidding swept over my potatoes I 
quite looked upon them as mine and 
they were gone. So, as I did not want 
any firewood, and there were only about 
a dozen huge wagons piled high up with 
lopped branches and limbs of trees, and 
as I had begun to perceive that a dozen 
wagon-loads were nothing to the rapid 
utterance of the market-master, I went 
into the market-hall to look at the fruit 
and vegetables, eggs and butter, with 
which the tables were fairly well cover- 
ed. There was very little poultry, and 
a pair of ducks toward which I felt some- 
what attracted went for six shillings six- 
pence each, directly the bidding began. 
So I consoled myself by purchasing, still 



in a vicarious manner by means of a 
friend, three turkeys. Such a bargain ! 
the only cheap things I have seen in 
Natal. Only nine shillings ninepence 
apiece! beautiful full-grown turkeys 
two hens and a cock, just what I wanted. 
Of course, everybody clustered round me, 
and began to damp my joy directly by 
pouring statistics into my ears of the 
mortality among turkey-chicks and the 
certain ill-fortune which would attend my 
efforts to rear them. But it is too early 
in the season yet for such anxieties, and 
I am free for the next two months to 
admire my turkeys as much as I choose 
without breaking my heart over the un- 
timely fate of their offspring. Yes, these 
turkeys were the only cheap things : 
butter sold easily at three shillings nine- 
pence a pound, eggs at three shillings a 
dozen, and potatoes and other vegetables 
at pretty nearly Covent Garden prices. 
It gave one a good idea of the chronic 
state of famine even so little a town as 
this lives in to see the clean sweep made 
of every single thing, live and dead 
always excepting my turkeys in ten 
minutes after the market-master entered 
the building. I am sure treble the quan- 
tity would have been snapped up quite 
as quickly. Such odd miscellaneous 
things! bacon, cheese, pumpkins, all 
jumbled together. Then outside for a 
few moments, to finish up with a few 
wheelbarrows of green barley, a basket 
or two of mealies, and some fagots of 
firewood brought in by the Kafirs ; and 
lo! in something less than an hour it 
was all over, and hungry Maritzburg 
had swallowed up all she could get for 
the day. The market-master was now 
at liberty after explaining to a Kafir 
or two that it was not, strictly speaking, 
right to sell your wheelbarrow-load twice 
over, once privately and once publicly 
to show me the market-hall, a very cred- 
itable building, large and commodious, 
well roofed and lighted. Knowing as I 
did the exceeding slowness of build- 
ing operations in Maritzburg, it struck 
me as little less than marvelous to hear 
that it had actually been run up in twen- 
ty-one days. No lesser pressure than 
Prince Alfred's visit about fifteen years 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



ago could have induced such Aladdin- 
like rapidity ; but the loyal Maritzburg- 
ers wanted to give their sailor-prince a 
ball, and there was no room in the whole 
town capable of holding one-quarter of 
the people who wanted to see the royal 
midshipman. So Kafirs and whites and 
men of all colors fell to with a will, and 
hammered night and day until all was 
finished, extempore chandeliers of paint- 
ed hoops dangling in all directions, flow- 
ers and flags hiding the rough-and-ready 
walls, and the " lion and the unicorn fight- 
ing for the crown " in orthodox fashion 
over the doorway, where they remain to 
this day. The only thing that puzzles me 
is whether the floor was at all more even 
then than now, for at present it is near- 
ly as much up and down as the waves 
of the Indian Ocean. 

Now, too, that there were no more 
domestic purchases to be made, I could 
look about and see how quaint and pic- 
turesque it all was. In summer the effect 
must really be charming with the double 
bordering of acacia trees fresh and green 
instead of leafless and dusty ; the queer 
little Dutch church, with its hugely dis- 
proportionate weathercock shining large 
and bright in the streaming sunlight ; the 
teams of patient bullocks moving slowly 
off again through the dust with wagons 
of forage or firewood to be dragged to 
their various destinations ; and the fast- 
melting, heterogeneous crowd of Kafirs 
and coolies, Dutch and English some 
with baskets, some with dangling poultry 
or carefully-carried tins of eggs, but none 
with turkeys. The market-hall and its 
immediate vicinity became quite desert- 
ed, but the crowd seemed reassembling a 
little lower down, where a weekly auction 
was being held in a primitive fashion out 
in the open air beneath the acacia trees. 
A stalwart Kafir wandered about listless- 
ly ringing a large bell, and the auction- 
eer, mounted on a table, was effecting 
what he called a clearance sale, appar- 
ently of all the old rubbish in the place. 
Condemned military stores, such as tents 
and greatcoats, pianos from which the 
very ghost of tone had fled years ago, 
cracked china, broken chairs, crinolines, 
fiddles, kettles, faded pictures under fly- 



blown glasses, empty bottles, old baskets, 
all were "going, going, gone" whilst 
we stood there, drifting away to other 
homes all over the place. I pass every 
day an ingenious though lowly family 
mansion made solely and entirely of the 
sheets of zinc out of boxes, fastened to- 
gether in some strange fashion : roof, 
walls, flooring, all are of it. There is 
neither door nor window facing the road, 
so I don't know how they are put in, but 
I can imagine how that hovel must creak 
in a high wind. What mysterious law 
of gravitation keeps it down to the ground 
I have failed to discover, nor do I know 
how the walls are supported even in their 
leaning position. Well, I saw the owner 
of this cot, a Dutchman, buying furni- 
ture, and he was very near purchasing 
the piano under the impression it was a 
folding-up bedstead. I have always taken 
such an interest in the zinc dwelling that 
it was with difficulty I could refrain from 
giving my opinion about its furniture. 

But the sun is getting high, and it is 
ten o'clock and past quite time for all 
housewives to be at home and the men 
at their business ; so the clearance sale 
ends like a transformation-scene. Kafirs 
hoist ponderous burdens on their heads 
and walk off unconcernedly with them, 
and the odds and ends of what were 
once household goods disappear round 
the corner. My early rising makes me 
feel as dissipated as one does after going 
to a wedding, and I can't help a reluctance 

to go back to the daily routine of G 's 

lessons and baby's pinafores, it seems so 
delightful to idle about in the sunshine in 
spite of the dust. What is there to do or 
to see ? What excuse can any one find 
at a moment's notice to prevent my going 
home just yet ? It is an anxious thought, 
for there is nothing to do, and nothing to 
see beyond wagons and oxen, in the length 
and breadth of Maritzburg.. Some one 
fortunately recollects the mill there is 
only one in the whole place and avers 
that wool-scouring is going on there at 
the present time. At all events, it is a 
charming drive, and in five minutes we 
are trotting along, raising a fine cloud of 
dust on the road which leads to the park. 
When the river-side has been reached 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



Ill 



poor, shrunken Umsindusi ! it is a mere 
rivulet now, and thoroughly shrunken 
and depressed we turn off and follow 
the windings of the banks for a few hun- 
dred yards till we come to where the mill- 
wheel catches and makes use of a tiny 
streamlet just as it is entering the river. 
It is a very picturesque spot, although the 
immediate country around is flat and un- 
interesting ; but there is such a profusion 
of willow trees, such beautiful tufts of 
tall willow-ferns, such clumps of grasses, 
that the old brick buildings are hidden 
and shaded by all manner of waving 
branches. Then in front is the inevit- 
able wagon, the long, straggling span of 
meagre oxen with their tiny black fore- 
looper and attendant Kafirs. This is in- 
deed beginning at the end of the story, 
for into the wagon big neat bales all 
ready for shipment bales which have 
been "dumped" and branded are be- 
ing lowered by a crane out of a large 
upper story. Very different do these 
bales look as they now depart from those 
in which the wool arrives. With the 
characteristic untidiness and makeshift 
fashion of the whole country, the wool 
is loosely and carelessly stuffed into in- 
ferior bales, which become ragged and 
filthy by the time they reach this, and 
are a discredit to the place as they pass 
along the streets. That is the state in 
which it is brought here and delivered 
over to the care of the wool - scourers. 
The first step is to sort it all, sift the 
coarsest dirt out of it, and then away it 
goes, first into a bath of soda and water, 
and afterward into many succeeding 
tubs of cooler water, until at last it 
emerges, dripping indeed, but cleansed 
from burrs and seeds, and white as the 
driven snow, to be next laid out on a 
terrace sheltered from dust and wind 
and dried rapidly under the burning 
South African sun. Then there is the 
steam -press, which squeezes it tightly 
into these neat, trim bales, and a hy- 
draulic machine which gives it that one 
turn more of the screw which is sup- 
posed to constitute the difference be- 
tween neuralgia and gout, but which here 
marks the difference between " dumped " 
and " undumped " bales. The iron bands 



are riveted with a resounding clang or 
two, the letters are rapidly brushed in 
over their iron plate, and the bale is 
pronounced finished. A very creditable 
piece of work it is, too neat and tidy out- 
side and fair and honest inside. I heard 
none of the usual excuses for dirt and 
untidiness no "Oh, one cannot get the 
Kafirs to do anything." There was a 
sufficiency of Kafirs at work under the 
eyes of the masters, but there was no 
ill-temper or rough language. All was 
methodical and business-like, every de- 
tail seen to and carried thoroughly out 
from first to last, and the result some- 
thing to be proud of. The machinery 
combed and raked and dipped with mo- 
notonous patience, and many an inge- 
nious connecting-rod or band saved time 
and labor. I declare it was the most en- 
couraging and satisfactory thing I have 
seen since I came, apart from the real 
pleasure of looking at a bale of wool 
turned out as it used to be from every 
wool-shed in New Zealand, instead of 
the untidy bundles one sees slowly trav- 
eling down to Durham, not even well 
packed in the wagons. Apart from this, 
it is inspiriting to see the resources of 
the place made the best of, and every- 
thing kept up to the mark of a high 
standard of excellence. There were no 
incomplete or makeshift contrivances, 
and the two bright, active young mas- 
ters going about and seeing to every- 
thing themselves, as colonists ought to 
do, were each a contrast to the ordinary 
loafing, pale-faced, unkempt overseer of 
half a dozen creeping Kafirs that repre- 
sent the labor-market here. 

I feel, however, as if I were rather 
"loafing" myself, and am certainly very 

idle, for it is past midday before G 

has half enough examined the establish- 
ment and tumbled often enough in and 
out of the wool- press ; so we leave the 
cool shade of the willows and the mes- 
meric throb of the mill-wheel, and drive 
home through the dust once more to our 
own little house on the hill. 

Ever since I began this letter I have 
been wanting to tell you of an absurd 
visitor I had the other day, and my poor 
little story has very nearly been crowded 



112 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



out by other things. A couple of morn- 
ings ago I was very busy making a new 
cotton skirt for "Malia" for I am her 
sole dressmaker, and she keeps me at 
work always, what with growing into a 
stout grenadier of a girl, and what with 
rending these skirts upon all occasions. 
Well, I was getting over the seams at a 
fine rate on the sewing-machine, which 
I had moved out into the verandah for 
light and warmth, when I became aware 
of a shadow between me and the sun. 
It was a very little shadow, and the sub- 
stance of it was the tiniest old Dutchman 
you ever saw in your life. I assure you 
my first idea was that I must be looking 
at a little goblin, he w-as so precisely like 
the pictures one sees in the illustrations 
of a fairy-tale. His long waistcoat of a 
gay-flowered chintz, his odd, square-tail- 
ed coat and square shoes, his wide, short 
breeches and pointed hat were all in keep- 
ing with the goblin theory. But his face ! 
I was too startled to laugh, but it ought to 
have been sketched on the spot. No ap- 
ple ever was more rosy, no snake-skin 
ever more wrinkled. Eyes, blue and 
keen as steel, gleamed out at me from 
beneath enormous shaggy brows, and 
his nose and chin were precisely like 
Punch's. I wonder what he thought of 
me? My eyes were as round as mar- 
bles, and I do believe my mouth was 
wide open. He gave a sort of nod, and 
in a strange dialect said something to 
which I in my bewilderment answered 
" Ja," being the one single word of Dutch 
I know. This misleading reply encour- 
aged my weird visitor to sit down on the 
steps before me, to take off his hat, mop 
his thin, long gray locks, and to launch 
forth with much pantomime into a long 
story of which I did not understand one 
word, for the simple reason that it was 
all literally in High Dutch. Here was a 
pretty predicament ! alone with a gob- 
lin to whom I had just told a flat false- 
hood, for evidently his first inquiry, of 
which I only caught the word "Hol- 
lands," and which I imagined to refer 
to gin, must have been a demand as to 
whether I understood his language ! And 
I had said "Ja!" It was dreadful. In 
my dismay I remembered having heard 



somebody say "Nic," and I even follow- 
ed it up with a faltering " Stehts nic " ("I 
don't understand"), which also came to 
me in my extremity. This contradictory 
answer puzzled my old gentleman, and 
he looked at me frowningly ; but I had 
always heard that courage is everything 
with goblins, so I smiled and said in- 
quiringly "Ja?" again. He shook his 
head reprovingly, and then by the aid 
of ticking off each word on his fingers, 
and stopping at it until he thought I un- 
derstood, he contrived, by means of Ger- 
man and English and Kafir, only break- 
ing out into Dutch at the very interesting 
parts, to tell me that he was in search of 
a little black ox. I must clearly under- 
stand that it was " Schwartz," and also 
that the "pfennigs" it had cost were 
many. The ox seems to have been a 
regular demon if his story was anything 
like true. No rest had he had (here a 
regular pantomime of going to sleep) ; 
from over Berg had he come ; he had 
bought this wayward beast from one 
Herr Schmidt, an inkosi. A great deal 
of shaking of the head here, which must 
have meant that this Herr Inkosi had 
cheated him. Yet I longed to ask how 
one could get the better of a goblin. I 
didn't know it was to be done. From 
the moment the " klein schwartz " ox 
changed masters my small friend's trou- 
bles began. "Friin in de morgen " did 
that ox get away every day : in vain was 
it put in kraals at night, in vain did Ka- 
firs search for it (great acting here of 
following up a spoor) : it was over the 
berg and far away. He was drie tags 
mit nodings to eat av mealies. It was a 
long story, but the refrain was always, 
"Vere hat dat leetel ox, dat schwartzen 
ox, got to ?" If I am to say the exact 
truth, he once demanded, " Vere das 
tcufels dat leetel ox hat be ?" but I look- 
ed so shocked that he took off his steeple- 
crowned hat deprecatingly. "Sprechen 
Sie Kafir ?" I asked in despair, but it was 
no better. His countenance brightened, 
and he went through it all again in Ka- 
fir, and the " inkomo" was quite as prom- 
inent as the ox had been. Of course / 
meant that he should speak to some of 
my Kafirs about it if he knew their Ian- 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



guage. I believe we should have been 
there to this day talking gibberish to each 

other if little G had not appeared 

suddenly round the corner and taken the 
matter into his own hands. 

"Why, what a queer old man that is, 
mumsey ! Wherever did you find him, 
and what does he want ?" G demand- 
ed with true colonial brevity. 

" I think he is looking for a little black 
ox," I answered guardedly. 

" Ja, wohl, dat is it ein leetel black 
ox, my tear" (I trust he meant G ). 

" Oh, all right !" G shouted, spring- 
ing up. "Osa (come), old gentleman. 



There's rather a jolly little black bullock 
over there : I know, because I've been 
with Jack there looking for a snake." 
The goblin was on his feet in a mo- 
ment, with every wrinkle on the alert. 
14 Banks, my tear umfan : du air ein gut 
leetel boy. Friih in de morgen ;" and 
so on with the whole story over again to 

G , who understood him much better 

than I did, and gave me quite a minute 
account of the "leetel black ox's " adven- 
tures. The last thing G saw of it 

it was taking a fence like a springbok, 
with the goblin and three Kafirs in full 
chase after it. 



8 




IP.A.:R,T 



MARITZBURG, August i, 1876. 

THE brief winter season seems al- 
ready ended and over, so far as 
the crisp, bracing atmosphere is con- 
cerned. For many days past it has been 
not only very hot in the sun, but a light 
hot air has brooded over everything. Not 
strong enough to be called a hot wind, it 
is yet like the quivering haze out of a 
furnace-mouth. I pity the poor trees: it 
is hard upon them. Not a drop of rain 
has fallen for three months to refresh 
their dried-up leaves and thirsting roots, 
and now the sun beats down with a fiercer 
fire than ever, and draws up the drop of 
moisture which haply may linger low 
down in the cool earth. Cool earth, did 
I say ? I fear that is a figure of speech. 
It almost burns one's feet through the 
soles of thin boots, and each particle of 
dust is like a tiny cinder. I think regret- 
fully of the pleasant, sharp, frosty morn- 
ings and evenings, even though the days 
are lengthening, and one may now count 
by weeks the time before the rain will 
come, and fruits and vegetables, milk 
and butter, be once more obtainable 
with comparative ease. What I most 
long for, however, is a good pelting 
shower, a down- pour which will fill the 
tanks and make water plentiful. I am 
always rushing out in the sun to see that 
the horses and the fowls and all the an- 
imals have enough water to drink. In 
spite of all my care, they all seem in a 
chronic state of thirst, for the Kafirs are 
too lazy and careless to think that it mat- 
ters if tubs get empty or if a horse comes 
home too late to be led down to the river 
with the rest. The water that I drink 
myself and I drink nothing else would 
give a sanitary inspector a fit to look at, 
even after it has passed through two fil- 
ters. But it goes through many vicissi- 
tudes before it reaches this comparative- 
ly clean stage. It is brought from the 
river (which is barely able to move slug- 
gishly over its ironstone bed) through 
114 



clouds of dust. If the Kafir rests his 
pails for a moment outside before pour- 
ing their contents into the first large fil- 
ter, the pony, who is always on the look- 
out for a chance, plunges his muzzle in 
among the green boughs with snorts of 
satisfaction ; the pigeons fly in circles 
round the man's head, trying to take ad- 
vantage of the first favorable moment 
for a bath ; and not only dogs, but even 
cats, press up for a drop. This is be- 
cause it is cool, and not so dusty as that 
in pans outside. There is not a leaf any- 
where yet large enough to give shade, 
and the water outside soon becomes 
loathsomely hot. Of course it is an ex- 
ceptionally dry season. All the weather 
and all the seasons I have ever met with 
in the course of my life always have been 
quite out of the ordinary routine. Doubt- 
less, it is kindly meant on the part of the 
inhabitants, and is probably intended as 
a consolation to the new-comer. But I 
am too well used to it to be comforted. 
Even when one comes back to dear old 
England after three or four years' ab- 
sence, and arrives, say, early in May, 
everybody professes to be amazed that 
there should be a keen east wind blow- 
ing, and apologizes for the black hard 
buds on the lilac trees and the iron-bound 
earth and sky by assurances that " There 
have been such east winds this year!" 
Just as if there are not "such " east winds 
every year ! 

After these last few amiable lines it 
k will hardly surprise any one to hear that 
this is the irritating hot wind which is 
blowing so lightly. You must know we 
have hot winds from nearly opposite 
quarters. There is one from the north- 
east, which comes down from Delagoa 
Bay and all the fever -haunted region 
thereabouts, which is more unhealthy 
than this. That furnace-breath makes 
you languid and depressed : exertion is 
almost an impossibility, thought is an 
effort. But this light air represents the 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



nealthy hot wind, a nice rasping zephyr 
a wind which dries you up like a Nor- 
mandy pippin, and puts you and keeps 
you in the most peevish, discontented 
frame of mind. It has swept over the 
burning deserts of the interior, and comes 
from the north-west, and I can only say 
there is aggravation in every puff of it. 
The only person toward whom I feel at 
all kindly disposed when this wind is 
blowing is Jim. Jim is a new Kafir-lad, 
Tom's successor, for Tom's battles with 
Charlie became rather too frequent to 
be borne in a quiet household. Jim is 
such a nice boy, and Jim's English is 
delightful. He began by impressing 
upon me through Maria that he had 
" no Inglis," but added immediately, "Jim 
no sheeky." Certainly he is not cheeky, 
but, on the contrary, the sweetest - tem- 
pered creature you could meet with any- 
where. He must be about sixteen years 
old, but he is over six feet high, and as 
straight as a willow wand. To see Jim 
stride along by the side of my little car- 
riage is to be reminded of the illustra- 
tions to the Seven -League -Boots story. 
At first, Jim tried to coil and fold and 
double his long legs into the small perch 
at the back of the pony-carriage, but he 
always tumbled out at a rut in the road, 
and kept me in perpetual terror of his 
snapping himself in two. Not that there 
are many ruts now in my road, I would 
have you know. It is all solid dust, about 
three feet deep everywhere. A road- 
party worked at it in their own peculiar 
way for many weeks this fall, and the 
old Dutch overseer used to assure me 
with much pride every time I passed that 
he "vas making my ladyships a boofler 
road mit grabels." Of course it was the 
queen's highway at which he and his 
Kafirs dug, but it pleased him to regard 
it as my private path, and this gave him 
greater courage to throw out "schnapps " 
as a suggestion worthy of my attention. 

Will you believe me when I declare 
that in spite of all these weary weeks of 
drought, in spite of this intense blaze of 
burning sunshine all through the thirsty 
day, the long stretches of the blackened 
country are showing tender green shoots 
round the stumps of the old rank grass 



burned away long ago ? It seems little 
short of a miracle when one sees the 
baked earth, hard as a granite cliff, dry 
as a last year's bone, and through its 
parched, pulverized surface little clumps 
of trefoil are springing everywhere, and 
young blades of grass. On the mulber- 
ry trees, too, the buttons have burst into 
tufts of dainty leaves, which assert them- 
selves more and more every day, and 
herald that wealth of freshest greenery 
in which Natal was clad over hill and 
dale when first I saw her last November. 
Then I could not take in that the smiling 
emerald downs which stretched around 
me could ever be the arid desolate waste- 
land they now appear; and now I can 
scarcely summon up faith enough to be- 
lieve in the miracle of the spring resur- 
rection close at hand, of which these few 
lonely leaves and blades are the sign and 
token. 

Yes, Jim's English is very droll all 
the more so for his anxiety to practice 
it, in spite of his protestations to the con- 
trary. Jim is a great meteorologist, un- 
like the majority of Kafirs, from whom 
you can extract no opinion whatever. 
They say the rain-doctor is the proper 
person to determine whether it is going 
to be fair or foul weather. I have ask- 
ed Charlie whether it was going to rain 
when the heavy clouds have been almost 
over our heads, just to hear what he 
would say; and Charlie has answered 
with Turkish fatalism, "Oh, ma', I doan 
know : if it like to rain, it will, but if it 
don't, it won't." Now, Jim does proffer 
an opinion, expressed by a good deal 
of pantomime, and Jim is quite as often 
right as most weather-prophets. Jim 
studies the skies on account of getting 
and keeping his wood -heap dry, and 
prides himself on neat stacks of chop- 
ped-up fuel. I gave Jim an orange the 
other day, and he took it in the graceful 
Kafir fashion with both hands, and burst 
forth into all his English at once: "Oh, 
danks, ma' : inkosa-casa vezy kind new 
face, vezy. Jim no sheeky : oh yaas, 
all lite !" His meaning can only dimly 
be guessed at, especially about the new 
face. I wish with all my heart I could 
get a new face, for this one is much the 



n6 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



worse for the South African sun and my 
inveterate habit of loitering about out of 
doors whenever I can, and spending most 
of my waking hours in the verandah. 

AUGUST 4. 

Since I last wrote there has not been 
much loitering out of doors, nor has any 
one who could possibly avoid doing so 
even put his nose outside. The hot zephyr 
I alluded to three days ago suddenly 
changed to a furious hot gale, the worst 
I have ever seen hotter than a New 
Zealand nor'-wester, and as heavy as a 
hurricane. The clouds of dust baffle 
description. The direction, too, from 
whence it came must also have changed, 
for a sort of epidemic of low fever is 
hanging about, and the influenza would 
be ludicrous from the number of its vic- 
tims if it were not so disagreeable and 
so dangerous. All the washermen and 
washerwomen in the whole place are ill, 
the entire body of Kafir police is or, the 
sick list, all one's servants are laid up 
Charlie says pathetically, " Too moch 
plenty cough inside, ma' " and every- 
body looks wretched. The "inkos" 
which one hears in passing are either 
a hoarse growl or a wheezy whisper. 
When you consider how absolutely dry 
the atmosphere must be, it is difficult to 
imagine how people catch such constant 
and severe colds as they do here. I am 
bound to say, however, that except with 
this influenza a cold does not last so long 
as it does in England, but I think you 
catch cold oftener ; and the reason is not 
far to seek. In these hot winds, or out 
of the broiling midday sun, some visitor 
rides up from town, and arrives here or 
elsewhere very hot indeed. Then he 
comes into a little drawing-room with its 
thick stone walls and closed, darkened 
windows, and exclaims, " How delight- 
fully cool you are here !" but in five 
minutes he is shivering; and the next 
thing I hear is that he has cold or fever. 
Yet what is one to do ? I have to keep 
in-doors all day : I must have a cool 
room to sit in ; and as long as one has 
not been taking exercise out of doors, it 
does no harm. 

The gale of hot wind seemed to set 



the whole place on fire. I should not 
have thought a tussock had been left 
anywhere, but every night lately has 
been made bright as day by the glare 
of blazing hillsides. Then I leave my 
readers to imagine the state of a house 
into which all these fine particles of soot 
filter through ill-fitting doors and win- 
dows, driven by a furious hurricane. The 

other morning poor little G 's plate 

of porridge set aside to cool in the din- 
ing-room, with every door and window 
closed, had a layer of black burnt grass 
on the top in five minutes ; and the state 
of the tablecloth, milk, etc. baffles de- 
scription. Indeed, one's life is a life of 
dusting and scrubbing and cleaning gen- 
erally, if a house is to be kept even tol- 
erably tidy in these parts. 

I forget if I have ever told you of the 
spiders here. They are another sorrow 
to the careful housewife, spinning webs 
in every corner, across doorways, filling 
up spaces beneath tables, flinging their 
aerial bridges from chair to chair all in 
a single night and regarding glass and 
china ornaments merely as a nucleus or 
starting-point for a filmy labyrinth. 

AUGUST 10. 

Every now and then, when I give way 
to temper and a hot wind combined, and 
write crossly about the climate, my con- 
science reproaches me severely with a 
want of fairness when the weather 
changes, as it generally does directly, 
and we have some exquisite days and 
nights. For instance, directly after I 
last wrote our first spring showers fell 
very coyly, it is true, and almost as if the 
clouds had forgotten how to dissolve into 
rain. Still, the very smell of the moist 
earth was delicious, and ever since that 
wet night the whole country has been 

Growing glorious 
Quietly, day by day ; 

and except in the very last-burnt patches 
a faint and hesitating tinge of palest 
green is stealing over all the bleak hill- 
sides. My poor bamboos are still mere 
shriveled ghosts of the fair green plumes 
which used to rustle and wave all through 
the drenching summer weather, but ev- 
erything else is pushing a leaf here and 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



a shoot there wherever it can, and, joy 
of joys ! there has been no dust for a 
day or two. All looks washed and re- 
freshed : parched-up Nature accepts this 
shower as the first installment of the del- 
uge which is coming presently. In the 
mean time, the air is delicious, and even 
the poor influenza victims are creeping 
about in the sunshine. The Kafirs have 
suffered most, and it is really quite sad 
to see how weak they are, and how 
grateful for a little nourishing food, which 
they absolutely require at present. 

I took advantage of the first of these 
new spring days, with their cool air, to 
make a little expedition I have long had 
on my mind. From my verandah I can 
see on the opposite hills, at about my 
own lofty elevation of fifty feet or so, the 
white tents beyond the dark walls of Fort 
Napier. Now, this little spot represents 
the only shelter and safety in all the 
country-side in case of a "difficulty" 
with our swarming dusky neighbors. 
Here and there in other townships there 
are "laagers," or loopholed enclosures, 
within which wagons can be dragged 
and a stand made against a sudden Ka- 
fir raid ; but here, at the seat of govern- 
ment, there is a battalion of an English 
regiment, a thousand strong, and a regu- 
lar, orthodox fortified place, with some 
heavy pieces of ordnance. But you 
know of old how terribly candid I am, 
so I must confess at once that it was not 
with the smallest idea of ascertaining 
for myself the military strength and ca- 
pability of Fort Napier that I paid it a 
visit that fine spring morning. No : my 
object was of the purest domestic cha- 
racter, and indeed was only to see with 
my own eyes what these new Kafir huts 
were like, with a view to borrowing the 
idea for a spare room here. Could any- 
thing be more peaceful than such a pro- 
ject? I felt like the old wife in Jean 
Ingelow's Brides of En derby as I drove 
slowly up the steep hill, at the brow of 
which I could already see the pacing 
sentries and the grim cannon-mouth 

And why should this thing be? 
What danger lowers by land or sea? 

I might have answered as she did, 

For storms be none, and pyrates flee ; 



for, although there are skirmishes be- 
yond our borders, we ourselves, thank 
God ! dwell in peace and safety within 
them. Nothing could be more pictu- 
resque than the gleaming white points 
now standing sharply out in snowy van- 
dykes against a cobalt sky, or else toned 
harmoniously down against a soft gray 
cloud ; now glistening on a background 
of green hillside, or nestling dimly in a 
dusty hollow. There is only barrack- 
room for half the regiment, and the oth- 
er half, under canvas, takes a good many 
tents and covers a good deal of ground. 
Although the soldiers have got through 
the winter very well, it would not be 
prudent to trust them to the shelter of a 
tent during the coming summer months 
of alternate flood and sunshine. So Ka- 
firs have been busy building nearly a 
hundred of their huts on an improved 
plan all this dry weather, and these lit- 
tle dwellings are now just ready for their 
complement of five men apiece. They 
are a great step in advance of the orig- 
inal Kafir hut, and it was for this reason 
I came to see them, lured also by hearing 
that they only cost four pounds apiece. 
We are so terribly cramped for room 
here, I have only ventured on one tiny 
addition a dressing-room about as big 
as the cabin of a ship, which cost nearly 
eighty pounds to build of stone like the 
rest of the house. So I have had it on 
my mind for some time that it would be 
a very fine thing to build one of these 
glorified Kafir huts close to the house 
for a spare room. The real Kafir hut is 
exactly like a beehive, without door or 
window, and only a small hole to creep 
in and out at. These new military huts 
have circular walls, five feet high and 
about a dozen feet in diameter, made of 
closely-woven wattles, and covered with- 
in and without with clay. I stood watch- 
ing the Kafirs working at one for some 
time. It certainly looked a rude and 
simple process. Some four or five stal- 
wart Kafirs were squatting on the ground 
hard by, "snuffing" and conversing with 
much gesticulation and merriment. They 
were the off-gang, I imagine. Three or 
four more were tranquilly and in a lei- 
surely fashion trampling the wet clay 



n8 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



and daubing it on with their hands in- 
side and out. They had not the ghost 
of a tool of any sort, and yet the result 
was wonderfully good. I wondered why 
finely-chopped grass was not mixed with 
the clay, as I have seen the New Zealand 
shepherds do in preparing the " cob " for 
their mud walls ; but I was told that the 
Kafir would greatly object to anything 
so uncomfortable for his bare legs and 
feet. Of course, the shepherd works up 
the ugly muss with a spade, whilst here 
these men slowly trample it to the right 
consistency. The plastering is really a 
triumph of (literally) handiwork, though 
the process is exasperatingly slow. At 
first the mud comes out all over thumb- 
marks, and dries so, but in a day or two 
buckets of water are dashed over it, so 
as to remoisten it, and then it is once 
more patiently smoothed all over with 
the palm of the hand until an absolute- 
ly smooth surface is obtained, as flat and 
flawless as though the best of trowels had 
been used. A neatly -fitting door and 
window have meantime been made in 
the regimental workshop, and hung in 
the spaces left for them in the wattled 
walls. More wattles, closely woven to- 
gether, are put on in the shape of a very 
irregular dome, and this is thatched near- 
ly a foot deep with long rank grass tied 
securely down by endless ropes of finely- 
plaited grass. The result is a spacious, 
cool, and most comfortable circular room, 
and those which are finished and fitted up 
with shelves and camp furniture look as 
nice as possible. A little tuft of straw at 
the apex of each dome is at once a light- 
ning-conductor and a finish to the quaint 
little building. The plastered walls of 
some huts are whitewashed, but the most 
popular idea seems to be to tar them 
and make them still more weather-proof. 
A crooked stick or two, being merely the 
rough branch of a tree, stands in the 
centre and acts as a musket-rack and 
tent-pole to the little dwelling. The Ka- 
firs get only one pound ten shillings for 
each hut, and the wooden fittings are 
calculated to cost about two pounds ten 
shillings more ; but I hear that they 
grumble a good deal on account of 
the distance from which they have to 



bring the grass, all in the neighborhood 
having been burnt. They also regard it 
as women's work, for all the kraals are 
built by women. 

On the whole, I am more than ever 
taken with the idea of a Kafir spare room, 
and quite hope to carry it out some day, 
the huts look so cool and healthy and 
clean. The thatch and mud walls will 
keep off the sun in the hot weather be- 
fore us ; and as all the huts stand on a 
gentle slope, there is no fear of their be- 
ing damp. It is wonderful how well the 
soldiers have managed hitherto under 
canvas, and how healthy they have been ; 
but I can quite understand that it is not 
well to presume upon such good luck 
during another wet season. As we were 
up in camp, we looked at all the sol- 
diers' arrangements the canteen, where 
mustard and pickles seemed to be the 
most popular articles of food ; the school- 
house, a wee brick building, in which 
both the children and the recruits have 
to learn, and which is also used as a 
chapel on Sunday. Everything was the 
pink of neatness and cleanliness, as is 
always the case where soldiers or sailors 
live, and I was much struck by the ab- 
solute silence and repose of so small an 
enclosure with a thousand men inside it. 
I wondered whether a thousand women 
could have kept so quiet ? Of course I 
peeped into the kitchen, and instantly 
coveted the beautiful brick oven out of 
which sundry smoking platters were be- 
ing drawn. But curry and rice was the 
chief dish in the bill of fare for that day, 
and I can only say the smell was excel- 
lent and exceedingly appetizing. The 
view all round, too, was charming. Just 
at our feet lay the hollow where the men's 
gardens are. Such potatoes and pump- 
kins ! such cabbages and onions ! The 
men delight in cultivating the willing soil 
in which all vegetables grow so luxuri- 
antly and easily ; and it is so managed 
that it shall be a profit as well as a plea- 
sure to them. In many ways this en- 
couragement of a taste for gardening is 
good: there is the first consideration of 
the advantage to themselves, and it is 
indirectly a boon to us, for if a thousand 
men were added to the consumers of the 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



119 



few potatoes and vegetables which daily 
find their way into the Maritzburg mar- 
ket, I know not what would become of 
us. Our last stroll was to the brow 
of another down close by, also crowned 
with white tents. Beneath it lay the mil- 
itary graveyard, and I have seldom seen 
anything more poetic and touching than 
the effect of this lovely garden for so it 
looked, a spot of purest green, tenderly 
cared for amid the bare winter coloring 
of all the country-side. The hills folded 
it softly, as if it were a precious place, 
the sun lay brightly on it, and the quiet 
sleeping -ground was made orderly and 
tranquil by many a sheltering tree and 
blooming shrub. I promised myself tc 
come in summer and look down on it 
again when all the wealth of roses and 
geraniums are out, and when these brown 
hillsides are green and glorious with their 
tropic pasture. 

You will think I have indeed taken a 
sudden mania for soldiers and camps 
when I tell you that a very few days 
after my visit to Fort Napier I joyfully 
accepted the offer of a friend to take 
me to see the annual joint encampment 
of the Natal Carbineers and D'Urban 
Mounted Rifles out on Botha's Flat, rath- 
er more than halfway between this and 
D'Urban. Not only was I delighted at 
the chance of seeing that lovely bit of 
country more at my leisure than dash- 
ing through it in the post-cart, but I have 
always so much admired the pluck and 
spirit of this handful of volunteers, who 
keep up the discipline and prestige of 
their little corps in the teeth of all sorts 
of difficulties and discouragements, that 
I was glad to avail myself of the oppor- 
tunity of paying them a visit when they 
were out in camp. For many years past 
these smart light -horse have struggled 
on in spite of obstacles to attending drill, 
want of money, lack of public attention 
and interest, and a thousand other lets 
and hinderances. Living as we do in 
such a chronically precarious position 
a position in which five minutes' official 
ill-temper or ever so trifling an injudicious 
action might set the whole Kafir popula- 
tion in a blaze of discontent, and even 
revolt too much importance cannot, in 



my poor judgment, be attached to the 
volunteer movement; and it seems to 
me worthy in the highest degree of every 
encouragement and token of appreciation 
which it is in our power to give. Of ei- 
ther pence or praise these Natal mounted 
volunteers (for they would be very little 
use on foot over such an extent of rail- 
way-less country) have hitherto had a 
very small share, and yet I found the 
pretty little camp as full of military en- 
thusiasm, as orderly, as severely simple 
in its internal economy, as though the 
eyes of all Europe were upon it. Each 
man there in sacrificing a week of his 
time was giving up a good deal more 
than most volunteers give up, and it 
would make too long a story if I were to 
enter into particulars of the actual pecu- 
niary loss which in this country attends 
the lawyer leaving his office, the clerk 
his desk, the merchant his counting- 
house, and each providing himself with 
horses, etc. to come out here twice a 
year and drill pretty nearly from morn- 
ing till night. The real difficulty, I fancy, 
lies in subordinates being able to obtain 
leave. Every sugar-estate, every office, 
every warehouse, has so few white men 
employed in it, exists in such a chronic 
state of short-handedness, that it is the 
greatest inconvenience to the masters to 
let their clerks go out. Both corps are 
therefore stronger on paper than in the 
field, but from no lack of willingness to 
serve on the part of the volunteers them- 
selves. 

I don't want to be spiteful or invidious, 
but I have seen volunteer camps nearer 
the heart of civilization, where there were 
flower-gardens round the tents and love- 
ly "fixings" inside, portable couches 
and chairs, albums, and clocks, besides 
a French cook and iced champagne 
flowing like a river. Dismiss from your 
mind all ideas of that sort if you come 
with me next year to Botha's Flat. I 
can promise you scrupulous and exquis- 
ite neatness and cleanliness, but in every 
other respect you might as well be in a 
real camp on active service. Even the 
Kafir servants are left behind, the men 
some of them very fine gentlemen in- 
deed cleaning their own horses and ac- 



I2O 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



coutrements, pitching their own tents, 
cooking their own food, and in fact act- 
ing precisely as though they had really 
taken the field in an enemy's country. 
The actual drill, therefore though more 
than half the hours of daylight are spent 
in the saddle under the instruction of 
one of the most enthusiastic and compe- 
tent drill-instructors you could find any- 
where is by no means all that is prac- 
ticed in these brief, hardly-won camp- 
days. The men learn to rely solely on 
their own resources. Their commissariat 
is arranged by themselves, one single 
small wagon to each corps conveying 
tents, forage, stores, firewood all that 
is needed for man and horse for ten 
days or so. They have no "base of 
operations " nothing and nobody to 
depend upon but themselves. It is 
literally a " flying camp," and all the 
more interesting for being so evident- 
ly what we shall most need in case of 
any native difficulty. I don't suppose 
they ever dream of visitors, for in this 
languid land few people would journey 
thirty miles to look at anything, espe- 
cially in a hot wind. Nor am I sure the 
volunteers want visitors. It is real, earn- 
est, practical hard work with them, done 
with their utmost diligence, and without 
expecting the smallest reward, even in 
fair words. It strikes me as very re- 
markable and characteristic of the lack 
of general interest in public subjects 
how little one hears of the very men on 
whom we may at any moment be only 
too glad to rely. However, I never can 
attempt to fathom causes : rather let me 
describe effects for you as best I may. 

And a very pretty effect the camp has 
as we dash round the shoulder of a 
steep hill with the brake hard down, the 
leaders plunging wildly along with slack 
traces, and a general appearance of an 
impending upset over everything. It 
has been a lovely drive, though rather 
hot, but the roads are ever so much 
better than they were in the summer, 
and I have never seen the country look- 
ing more beautiful, as it seems to grow 
greener with every mile out of Maritz- 
burg. When the hills open out sudden- 
ly and show th y^it fertile cleft of un- 



dulating downs, green ravines with trick- 
ling silver threads down them, and pur- 
ple mountains in the distance stretching 
away to the coast, which is known as the 
Inanda Location, one feels as if one were 
looking at the Happy Valley. 

O mortal man, who livest here by toil, 
Do not complain of this, thy hard estate, 

for neither the imaginary kingdom of 
Amhara nor any other kingdom in all 
the fair earth can show a more poetical 
or suggestive glimpse of scenic beauty. 
Yet when a few miles more of rushing 
and galloping through the soft air brings 
us to the top of the pass of the Inchanga, 
I make up my mind that that is the 
most beautiful stretch of country my eyes 
have ever beheld. It is too grand to de- 
scribe, too complete to break up into 
fragments by words. Far down among 
the sylvan slopes of the park-like fore- 
ground the Umgeni winds, with the sun- 
shine glinting here and there on its wa- 
ters : beyond are bold, level mountains 
with rich deep indigo shadows and lofty 
crests cut off straight against the dappled 
sky, according to the South African for- 
mation. But we soon climb the lofty 
saddle, and put the brake hard down 
again for the worst descent on the road. 
If good driving and skill and care can 
save us, we need not be nervous, for we 
have all these ; but the state of the har- 
ness fills me with apprehension, and it is 
little short of a miracle why it does not 
all give way at once and tumble off the 
horses' backs. Luckily, there is very lit- 
tle of it to begin with, and the original 
leather is largely supplemented by reins 
or strips of dried bullock hide, so we hold 
together until the vehicle draws up at 
the door of a neat little wayside inn, 
where we get out and begin at once to 
rub our elbows tenderly, for they are 
all black and blue. There is the camp, 
however, on yonder green down, and 
here are two of the officers from it wait- 
ing for us, and wanting to know all about 
hours and plans and so forth. A little 
rest and luncheon are first on the pro- 
gramme, and a good deal of soap and 
water also for us travelers, and then, the 
afternoon being still young, we mount 
our horses and canter up the rising ground 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



121 



to where the flagstaff stands. The men 
are just falling in for their third and last 
drill, which will last till sundown, so 
there is time to go round the pretty little 
spot and admire the precision and neat- 
ness, the serviceable, business-like air, of 
everything. There is the path the sen- 
tries tread, already worn perfectly bare, 
but straight as though it had been ruled : 
yonder is the bit of sod-fencing thrown 
up as a shelter to the kettles and frying- 
pans. The kitchen range consists of 
half a dozen forked sticks to leeward of 
this rude shelter, and each troop con- 
tributes a volunteer cook and commis- 
sariat officer. The picket-ropes for the 
horses run down the centre of the little 
camp, and we must look at the neat pile 
of blankets and nose-bags marked with 
separate initials. The officers' tents are 
at one end, and the guard tents at the 
other, and those for the privates, holding 
five men each, are between. It is all as 
sweet and clean and neat as possible, 
and one can easily understand what is 
stated almost as a joke that the first 
night in camp no one could sleep for his 
own and his neighbor's cough, and now 
there is not such a sound to be heard. 

We are coming back into camp pres- 
ently, for I am invited to dine at the of- 
ficers' mess to-night, so we must make 
the most of the daylight. It is a gray 
evening, and the hot wind has died 
away, allowing the freshness from the 
hills to steal down to this green spur, 
which is yet high enough to be out of 
the cold mists of the valley. The drill 
is not very amusing for a lady this after- 
noon, because it is real hard work pa- 
tiently doing the same thing over and 
over again until each little point is per- 
fect until the horses are steady and 
the men move with the ease and precis- 
ion of a machine. But it is just because 
there is little else to distract one's atten- 
tion that I can notice what fine stalwart 
young fellows they all are, and how thor- 
oughly in earnest. Their uniforms and 
accoutrements are simple, but natty, and 
clean as a new pin, the horses especially 
being ever so much better groomed and 
turned out by their masters' hands than 
if each had been saddled by his usual 



Kafir groom. So, after a short while of 
watching the little squadron patiently 
wheel and trot and advance by those 
mysterious "fours," manoeuvre across a 
swamp, charge down a hill, skirmish up 
that burnt slope over there, and so forth, 
we leave them hard at work, and canter 
over some ridges to see what lies be- 
yond. But there is nothing much to re- 
ward us, and the only effect of our long 
evening ride is to make us all raven- 
ously hungry and anxious for six o'clock 
and dinner. Long before that hour the 
dusk has crept down, and by the time 
we have returned, and I have exchanged 
my riding-habit for a splendid dinner- 
costume of ticking, it is cold enough and 
dark enough to make us glad of all the 
extra wraps we can find, and of the light 
and shelter of the snug little tent. Here, 
again, it is real camp fare. I am given 
the great luxury of the encampment to 
sit upon a delicious karosse, or rug of 
dressed goat skins. It is snowy white, 
and soft and flexible as a glove on the 
wrong side, and on the right it is cover- 
ed with long, wavy cream-colored hair 
with black patches at each corner. The 
ground is strewn with grass, dry and 
sweet as hay, and carriage candles are 
tied by wire to a cross stick fastened on 
a tent-pole : the tablecloth is a piece of 
canvas, the dishes are billies, but the 
food is excellent, and, above all, we have 
tea as the sole beverage for everybody. 
We are all provided with the best of 
sauces, and I assure you we very soon 
find ourselves at our dessert of oranges 
in a basket-lid. Never have any of us 
enjoyed a meal more, and certainly ev- 
erybody except myself has earned it. 
Then there is a little tinkling and tun- 
ing up outside, and the band turns out 
to play to us. By this time the wind has 
got up again from another point, and is 
so bitterly bleak and cold that the mu- 
sicians cannot possibly stand still, but 
have to keep marching round and round 
the little tent, playing away lustily and 
singing with a good courage. Every now 
and then a stumble over a tent-peg jerks 
out a laugh instead of a note, but still 
there is plenty of "go " and verve in the 
music, and half the camp turns out to 



122 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA 



join in the chorus of "Sherman's March 
through Georgia." We all declare loud- 
ly that we are going to carry "the flag 
that makes us free " through all sorts of 
places, especially from "Atlanta to the 
sea," and I am quite sure that Sherman's 
own " dashing Yankee boys" could not 
possibly have made more noise them- 
selves. This is followed by the softest 
and sweetest of sentimental songs, given 
in a beautiful falsetto which would be a 
treasure to a chorister; but it is really too 
cold for sentiment, so we have one more 
song, and then the band sings "Auld 
Lang Syne " with great spirit, and as the 
wind is now rising to a hurricane, the mu- 
sical performances are wound up some- 
what hurriedly by " God Save the Queen !" 
For this the whole camp turns out of 
their own accord. The cooks leave their 
fires, the fatigue-party their scrubbing 
and the lazy ones their pipes. Under 
the clear starlight, with the Southern 
Cross sloping up from the edge of yon- 
der dusky hill, with the keen wind sweep- 
ing round the camp of this little handful 
of Englishmen in a strange and distant 
country, the words of the most beautiful 
tune in the world come ringing as though 
straight from each man's heart. Of course 
we all come out of our tent to stand bare- 
headed too, and I assure you it is a very 
impressive and beautiful moment. One 
feels as one stands here amid the flower 
of the young colonists, each man hold- 
ing his cap aloft in his strong right hand, 
each man putting all the fervor and pas- 
sion of his loyal love and reverence for 
his queen into every tone of his voice, 
that it is well worth coming down for this 
one moment atone. It is very delight- 
ful to see the English people, whether 
in uniis or tens of thousands, greet their 
sovereign face to face, but there is some- 
thing even more heart-stirring, more in- 
expressibly pathetic, in such outbursts as 
this, evoked by none of the glamour and 
glitter of a royal pageant, but called into 
being merely by a name, a tune, a sen- 
timent. I often think if I were a queen 
I should be more really gratified and 
touched by the ardent and loyal love of 
such handfuls of my subjects in out-of- 
the-way corners of my empire, where the 



sentiment has nothing from outside to fan 
it, than with the acclamations of a shout- 
ing multitude as my splendor is passing 
them by. At all events, / have never 
seen soldiers or sailors, regulars or vol- 
unteers, more enthusiastic over our own 
anthem. It is followed by cheer upon 
cheer, blessing upon blessing on the be- 
loved and royal name, until everybody 
is perfectly hoarse from shouting in such 
a high wind, and we all retreat into the 
tiny tents for a cup of coffee and what 
do you think ? Stories. I am worse than 
any child in my love of stories, and we 
have one or two really good raconteurs 
in the little knot of hosts. 

Of course one of the first inquiries I 
make is whether any snakes have been 
found in the tents, and I hear, much to 
my disappointment because the bare 
fact will not at all lend itself to a story 

for G when I get home that only 

one little one had crept beneath a folded 
great-coat (which is the camp pillow, it 
seems), and been found in the morning 
curled up, torpidly dozing in the woolen 

warmth. No, it is not a story G 

will ever care about, for the poor little 
snake had not even been killed : it was 
too small and too insignificant, they say, 
and it merely got kicked out of its com- 
fortable bed. To console me for this 
bald and incomplete adventure, I am 
told some more snake-stories, which, at 
all events, ought to have been true, so 
good are they. Here are two for you, 
one of which especially delights me. 

Hard by this very camp a keen sports- 
man was lately pursuing a buck. He 
had no dogs except a pet Skye terrier to 
help him in the chase nothing but his 
rifle and a trusty Kafir. Yet the hard- 
pressed buck had to dash into a small, 
solitary patch of thorny scrub for shelter 
and a moment's rest. In an instant the 
hunter was off his pony, and had sent 
the Kafir into the bush to drive out the 
buck, that he might have a shot at it the 
moment it emerged from the cover. In- 
stead of the expected buck, however I 
must tell you the story never states what 
became of him came loud cries in Ka- 
fir from the scrub of, "Oh, my mother! 
oh, my friends and relations ! I die ! I 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



123 



die !" The master, much astonished, 
peeped as well as he could into the little 
patch of tangled briers and bushes, and 
there he saw his crouching Kafir stoop- 
ing, motionless, beneath a low branch 
round which was coiled a large and ven- 
omous snake. The creature had struck 
at the man's head as he crept beneath, 
and its forked tongue had got firmly im- 
bedded in the Kafir's woolly pate. The 
wretched beater dared not stir an inch : 
he dared not even put up his hands 
to free himself; but there he remained 
motionless and despairing, uttering these 
loud shrieks. His master bade him stay 
perfectly still, and taking close aim at 
the snake's body, fired and blew it in 
two. He then with a dexterous jerk dis- 
entangled the barbed tongue, and flung 
the quivering head and neck outside the 
bushes. Here comes the only marvelous 
part of the story. "How did he know it 
was a poisonous snake?" I ask. "Oh, 
well : the little dog ran up to play with 
the head, and the snake or rather the 
half snake struck out at it and bit it in 
the paw, and it died in ten minutes." 

But the following is my favorite Mun- 
chausen : There was once a certain val- 
iant man of many adventures whose Ka- 
fir title was "the prince of fibs," and he 
used to relate the following experience : 
One day so long ago that breech-loading 
guns were unknown, and the process of 
reloading was a five-minute affair he 
came upon a large and deadly snake 
making as fast as it could for its hole 
hard by. Of course, such a thing as 
escape could not be permitted, and as 
there was no other weapon at hand, the 
huntsman determined to shoot the huge 
reptile. But first the gun must be load- 
ed, and whilst this was being done, 
lo ! the snake's head had already dis- 
appeared in the hole : in another instant 
the whole body would have followed. A 
sudden grasp at the tail, a rapid, bold 
jerk, flung the creature a yard or two off. 
Did it attempt to show fight ? Oh no : 
it glided swiftly as ever toward the same 
shelter from which it had been so rudely 
plucked. The ramrod was rapidly plied, 
the charge driven home, but there was 
yet the percussion-cap to be adjusted. 



Once more the tail was grasped, the 
snake pulled out and flung still farther 
away. Again did the wily creature ap- 
proach the hole. In another instant the 
cap would be on and the gun cocked, 
but everything depended on that instant. 
The sportsman kept his eye fixed on his 
artful foe even whilst his fingers deft- 
ly found and fixed the percussion-cap. 
What, then, was his horror and dismay 
to find that he had, for once, met his 
match, and that the snake, recognizing 
the desperate nature of the position, and 
keeping a wary eye on the hunter's move- 
ments, instead of going into his hole for 
the third time in the usual method, had 
turned round and was backing in tail 
first! Is it not delightful? 

As soon as we had finished laughing 
at this and similar stories it was high 
time to break up the little party, although 
it was only about the hour at which one 
sits down to dinner in London. Still, 
there were early parades and drills and 
Goodness knows what, and I was very 
tired and sleepy with my jolting jour- 
ney and afternoon on horseback. So we 
all went the "grand rounds," lantern in 
hand, and with a deep feeling of admi- 
ration and pity for the poor sentries pa- 
cing up and down on the bleak hillside, 
walked down to the little inn, where a 
tiny room, exactly like a wooden box, 
had been secured for me, the rest of 
the party climbing heroically up the 
hill again to sleep on the ground with 
their saddles for a pillow. This was 
playing at soldiers with a vengeance, 
was it not? However, they all looked 
as smart and well as possible next morn- 
ing, when they came to fetch me up to 
breakfast in the camp. Then more drill 
very pretty this time a sham attack 
and defence, and then another delight- 
ful long ride over a different range of 
hills. It was a perfect morning for ex- 
ploring, gray and cool and cloudy 
so different from the hot wind and 
scorching sun of yesterday. We could 
not go fast, not only from the steep 
up-and-down hill, but from the way 
the ground was turned up by the ant- 
bears. Every few yards was a deep 
burrow, often only a few hours' old ; and 



124 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA 



unless you had seen it with your own eyes 
I can never make you believe or under- 
stand the extraordinarily vivid color of 
this newly - turned earth. During yes- 
terday's journey I had noticed that the 
only wild-flower yet out was a curious 
iily growing on a fat bulb more than 
half out of the ground, and sometimes 
of a deep-orange or of a brilliant-scarlet 
color. With the recollection of these 
blossoms fresh in my mind, I noticed a 
patch of bright scarlet on the face of 
an opposite down, and thought it must, 
of course, be made by lilies. As I was 
very anxious to get some bulbs for my 
garden, I proposed that we should ride 
across the ravine and dig some up. "We 
can come if you like," said the kindest 
and pleasantest of guides, "but I assure 
you it is only a freshly - dug ant-bear's 
hole." Never did I find belief so dif- 
ficult, and, like all incredulous people, 
I was on the point of backing up my 
hasty opinion by half a dozen pairs of 
gloves when the same friendly guide 
laughingly pointed to a hole close by, 
bidding me look well at it before risking 
my gloves. There was nothing more to 
be said. The freshly scratch ed-out earth 
was exactly like vermilion, moist and 
brilliant in color "a ferruginous soil," 
some learned person said ; but, however 
that may be, I had never before seen 
earth of such a bright color, for it was 
quite different from the red-clay soil one 
has seen here and in other places. 

The line of country we followed that 
morning was extraordinarily pretty and 
characteristic. The distant purple hills 
rolled down to the gently -undulating 
ground over which we rode. Here and 
there would that it had been oftener ! 
a pretty homestead with its sheltering 
trees and surrounding patches of pale- 
green forage clung to the steep hillside 
before us. Then, as we rode on, one 
of the ravines fell away at our feet to a 
deep gully, through which ran a stream- 



let among clustering scrub and bushes. 
In one spot the naked rock stood out 
straight and bare and bold for fifty yards 
or so, as though it were the walls of a 
citadel, with a wealth of creeping green- 
ery at its foot, and over its face a tiny 
waterfall, racing from the hill behind, 
leapt down to join the brook in the gul- 
ly. We saw plenty of game, too part- 
ridges, buck, two varieties of the bald- 
headed ibis, secretary-birds, and, most 
esteemed of all, a couple of paauw (I 
wonder how it is spelt?), a fine kind of 
bustard, which is quite as good eating as 
a turkey, but daily becoming more and 
more scarce. There were lots of plover, 
too, busy among the feathery ashes on 
the newly-burned ground, and smaller 
birds chirruped sweetly every now and 
then. It was all exceedingly delightful, 
and I enjoyed it all the more for the 
absence of the blazing sunshine, which, 
however it may light up and glorify the 
landscape, beats too fiercely on one's 
head to be pleasant. If only we women 
could bring ourselves to wear pith hel- 
mets, it would not be so bad ; but with 
the present fashion of hats, which are 
neither shade nor shelter, a ride in the 
sun is pretty nearly certain to end in a 
bad headache. At all events, this ride 
had no worse consequence than making 
us very hungry for our last camp-meal, 
a solid luncheon, and then there was just 
time to rush down the hill and clamber 
into the post-cart for four hours of gal- 
loping and jolting through the cold 
spring evening air. My last look was 
at the white tents of the pretty camp, the 
smoke of its fires and the smart lines of 
carbineers and mounted rifles assembling 
to the bugle-call for another long after- 
noon of steady drill down in the valley, 
or "flat," as it is called a picturesque 
and pretty glimpse, recalling the mem- 
ory of some very pleasant hours, the 
prettiest imaginable welcome, and a great 
deal of hearty and genuine hospitality. 



MARITZBURG, September i, 1876. 

I HAVE had many pleasant cups of 
tea in my life, indoors and out of 
doors, but never a pleasanter cup than 
the one I had the other day in a wagon, 
or, to speak more exactly, by the side of 
a wagon a wagon, too, upon which one 
looked with the deepest respect, for it had 
just come down from a long journey up 
the country, where it had been trekking 
these four months past trekking night 
and day right up to the territory of the 
Ama-Swazies, through the Thorn coun- 
try, over hundreds of miles of these end- 
less billowy hills, rolling in wearying mo- 
notony day after day ; but and this "but" 
made up for every other shortcoming 
amid hunting-grounds happier than often 
fall to the lot of even the South African 
explorer. And there were the spoils of 
the little campaign spread out before us. 
The first result, however, which struck 
me was the splendid health of the trav- 
elers. Sunburned indeed they were, 
especially the fair young English girl- 
face which had smiled good-bye to me 
from the depths of a sun-bonnet last 
April. But who would not risk a few 
shades of tan to have gone through such 
a novel and delightful journey ? I never 
saw two people look so well in all my 
life as this adventurous couple, and it 
was with one voice they declared they 
had enjoyed every moment of the time. 
And what a pleasant time it must have 
been, rewarded as they were and de- 
served to be by splendid sport ! On 
the fore part of the wagon lay a goodly 
pile of skins and quantities of magnif- 
icent horns, from the ponderous pair on 
the shaggy buffalo-skulls down to taper 
points which might have belonged to a 
fairy buck, so slender, so polished, so in- 
expressibly graceful, were they. But the 
trophy of trophies was the skin of a lion, 
which had been shot in the earliest morn- 
ing light some twenty yards from the 
hunter's tent. It was a splendid skin, 



and the curved claws are to be made into 
a necklace and earrings for the sports- 
man's wife, who indeed deserves them 
for bearing her share of the dangers and 
discomforts of the expedition so cheer- 
fully and bravely. It was very difficult 
to elicit the least hint of what the dis- 
comforts were, or might have been, until 
at last my eager questions raked out an 
admission that a week of wet weather 
(the only one, by the way, in all the 
four months) was tedious when cooped 
up under the tilt of the wagon, or that 
some of the places up and down which 
the lumbering, unwieldy conveyance had 
crept were fearful to look at and danger- 
ous to travel, necessitating a lashing to 
gether of the wheels by iron chains, as 
well as the use of the ordinary heavy 
brake. Yet there had been no upset, no 
casualty, no serious trouble of any sort ; 
and I think what these English travelers 
were more impressed with than anything 
else was the honesty of the Kafirs. The 
wagon with its stores of food and wine, 
of comforts and conveniences of all sorts, 
had been left absolutely alone by the 
side of a track crossed and recrossed 
every hour by Kafirs, and twenty miles 
short of the place whither the tent had 
been carried for greater facilities of get- 
ting at the big game. The oxen were 
twenty miles off in another direction, 
under no one's care in particular; the 
wagon stood absolutely alone ; and yet 
when the moment of reassembling came 
every bullock was forthcoming, and noth- 
ing whatever of any description was miss- 
ing from the unguarded wagon. The 
great attraction to the Kafirs along the 
line of travel had been the empty tins 
of preserved milk or jam : with tops and 
bottoms knocked out they made the most 
resplendent bangles, and became a vio- 
lent fashion up among the Thorns. 

Nor was that grand lion's skin the only 
one. There were quagga skins, wolf 
skins, buck skins of half a dozen differ- 
125 



126 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



ent species, eland skins, buffalo skins, 
lynx and wild-cat skins enough to start 
a furrier's shop, and all in excellent pres- 
ervation, having been tightly pegged out 
and thoroughly dried. The horns or 
rather the skulls were still a little high, 
and needed to be heaped well to leeward 
before we settled down to tea, camping 
on kegs and boxes and whatever we could 
find. I was made proud and happy by 
being accommodated with a seat on the 
lion skin ; and exactly opposite to me, 
tranquilly grazing on the young grass, 
was the identical donkey which had at- 
tracted the king of animals to the spot 
where his fate awaited him. Although 
camped in the very heart of the lion 
country, the hunter had neither seen nor 
heard anything of his big game until this 
donkey chanced to be added to the stud, 
and then the lions came roaring round, 
half a dozen at a time. A huge fire had 
to be kept up night and day, and close 
to this the unhappy ass was tethered, for 
his life would not have been worth much 
otherwise ; and he seems to have been 
thoroughly alive to the perils of his situ- 
ation. Lions can resist anything except 
ass-flesh, it appears ; but it is so entirely 
their favorite delicacy that they forget their 
cunning, and become absolutely reckless 
in pursuit of it. When at the last ex- 
tremity of terror, the poor donkey used 
to lift up his discordant voice, and so 
keep the prowling foe at bay for a while, 
though it invariably had the double effect 
of attracting all the lions within earshot. 
And so it was that in the early dawn the 
hunter, hearing the lion's growls coming 
nearer and nearer, and the poor donkey's 
brays more and more frequent, stole out, 
rifle in hand, just in time to get a steady 
shot at the splendid brute only fifteen 
yards away, who was hungrily eyeing 
the miserable ass on the other side of 
the blazing fire. In spite of all legends 
to the contrary, a lion never attacks a 
man first, and this lion turned and moved 
away directly he saw the sportsman's 
leveled rifle. Only one shot was fired, 
for the dull thud of the bullet told that 
it had struck the lion, and nothing upon 
earth is so dangerous as a wounded lion. 
The huge beast walked slowly away, and 



when the full daylight had come the 
sportsman and a few Kafirs followed up 
the blood-flecked trail for a quarter of a 
mile, or less, to find the lion lying down 
as if asleep, with his head resting on his 
folded fore paw, quite dead. I don't 
think I ever understood the weight of 
a lion until I was told that it took two 
strong Kafirs to lift one of its ponderous 
fore feet a few inches even from the 
ground, and it was almost more than ten 
men could manage to drag it along the 
ground by ropes back to the tent. Twen- 
ty men could scarcely have carried it, 
the size and weight of the muscle are so 
enormous. The Kafirs prize the fat of 
the lion very highly, and the headman 
of the expedition had claimed this as his 
perquisite, melting it down into gourds 
and selling it in infinitesimal portions 
as an unguent. I don't know what the 
market-price up country was, but whilst 
we were laughing and chatting over our 
tea I saw the crafty Kafir scooping out 
the tiniest bits of lion's fat in return for 
a shilling. One of my Kafirs asked 
leave to go down and buy some. "What 
for, Jack?" I asked. "Not for me, ma' 
-for my brudder : make him brave, 
ma' able for plenty fight, ma'." I am 
certain, however, that this was a ruse, 
and that Jack felt his own need of the 
courage-giving ointment. 

Talking of Jack, reminds me of a visit 
I had the other day from a detachment 
of his friends and relatives. They did 
not come to see Jack : they came to see 
me, and very amusing visitors they were. 
First of all, there was a bride, who brought 
me a young hen as a present. She was 
attended by two or three scraggy girls of 
about fifteen, draped only in short man- 
tles of coarse cloth. The bride herself 
was exceedingly smart, and had one of 
the prettiest faces imaginable. Her reg- 
ular features, oval outline, dazzling teeth 
and charming expression were not a bit 
disfigured by her jet-black skin. Her 
hair was drawn straight up from her head 
like a tiara, stained red and ornamented 
with a profusion of bones and skewers, 
feathers, etc., stuck coquettishly over one 
ear, and a band of bead embroidery, stud- 
ded with brass-headed nails, being worn 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



127 



like a fillet where the hair grew low 
on the forehead. She had a kilt or se- 
ries of aprons, rather of lynx skins, a 
sort of bodice of calf skin, and over her 
shoulders, arranged with ineffable grace, 
a gay table - cover. Then there were 
strings of beads on her pretty, shapely 
throat and arms, and a bright scarlet 
ribbon tied tight round each ankle. All 
the rest of the party seemed immensely 
proud of this young person, and were 
very anxious to put her forward in every 
way. Indeed, all the others, mostly hard- 
working, hard-featured matrons, prema- 
turely aged, took no more active part 
than the chorus of a Greek play, always 
excepting the old induna or headman of 
the village, who came as escort and in 
charge of the whole party. He was a 
most garrulous and amusing individual, 
full of reminiscences and anecdotes of 
his fighting days. He was rather more 
frank than most warriors who 

Shoulder their crutch and show how fields are won, 

for the usual end of his battle-stories was 
the na'ive confession, "And then I thought 
I should be killed, and so I ran away." 
He and I used up a great many interpre- 
ters in the course of the visit, for he wea- 
ried every one out, and nothing made 
him so angry as any attempt to condense 
his conversation in translating it to me. 
But he was great fun polite, as became 
an old soldier, full of compliments and 
assurances that "now, the happiest day 
of his life having come, he desired to 
live no longer, but was ready for death." 
The visit took place on the shady side of 
the verandah, and thither I brought my 
large musical-box and set it down on the 
ground to play. Never was there such 
a success. In a moment they were all 
down on their knees before it, listening 
with rapt delight, the old man telling 
them the music was caused by very 
little people inside the box, who were 
obliged to do exactly as I bade them. 
They were all in a perfect ecstasy of 
delight for ever so long, retreating rap- 
idly, however, to a distance whenever I 
wound it up. The old induna took snuff 
copiously all the time, and made me af- 
fectionate speeches, which resulted in the 



gift of an old great-coat, which he as- 
sured me he never should live to wear 
out, because he was quite in a hurry to 
die and go to the white man's land, now 
that he had seen me. We hunted up all 
manner of queer odds and ends for pres- 
ents, and made everybody happy in turn. 
As a final ceremony, I took them through 
the house : tiny as it is, it filled them with 
amazement and delight. My long look- 
ing-glass was at once a terror and a plea- 
sure to them, for they rather feared be- 
witchment ; but I held up the baby to see 
himself in it, and then they were pacified, 
saying, "The chieftainess never would go 
and bewitch that nice little chieftain." As 
usual, the pictures were what they most 
thoroughly enjqyed. Landseer's prints 
of wild cattle elicited low cries of recog- 
nition and surprise: "Zipi in korno !" 
("Behold the cows!") My own favor- 
ite print of the three little foxes was 
much admired, but pronounced to be 
"lill catties." The bride was anxious to 
know why I kept the beds of the estab- 
lishment on the floor and allowed people 
to walk over them. She did not consider 
that a good arrangement evidently ; nor 
could she understand how matting could 
be of any use except to sleep on. At 
last it became time for " scoff," and they 
all retired to partake of that dainty, the 
old induna having begged leave to kiss 
my hands, which he did very gallantly, 
assuring me he had never been so happy 
before in all his life, and that he could 
quite believe now what I had told him 
about the great white queen over the sea 
being just as careful for and fond of her 
black children as of her white ones. I 
made a great point of this in my con- 
versations with him, and showed them 
all Her Majesty's picture, to which they 
cried "Moochlie!" ("Nice!"), and gave 
the royal salute. I must say I delight 
in these little glimpses of Kafir charac- 
ter ; I find in those whom I come across, 
like my visitors of last week, so much 
simple dignity with shrewd common 
sense. Their minds, too, seem pecu- 
liarly adapted to receive and profit by 
anything like culture and civilization, 
and there certainly is a better founda- 
tion on which to build up both these 



128 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA, 



things than in any other black race with 
which I am acquainted. 

SEPTEMBER 15. 

Such an expedition as we have just 
made ! It reminded me exactly of the 
dear old New Zealand days, only that I 
should have been sure to have had a bet- 
ter horse to ride in New Zealand than 
here. I have a very poor opinion of 
most of the animals here : anything like 
a tolerable horse is rare and expensive, 
and the ordinary run of steeds is ugly to 
look at, ill-groomed and ill-favored, be- 
sides not being up to much work. Upon 
this occasion I was mounted on a coarse- 
ly-put-together chestnut, who was broken 
in to carry a lady a few evenings ago 
whilst I was getting ready for my ride. 
However, beyond being a little fidgety 
and difficult to mount, owing to lurking 
distrust of my habit, he has no objection 
to carry me. But he is as rough as a 
cart-horse in his paces, and the way he 
stops short in his canter or trot, flinging 
all his legs about anywhere, is enough to 
jolt one's spine out of the crown of one's 
head. As for his mouth, it might as well 
be a stone wall, and he requires to be 
ridden tightly on the curb to keep him 
from tripping. When you add to these 
peculiarities a tendency to shy at every 
tuft of grass, and a habit of hanging the 
entire weight of his head on your bridle- 
hand as soon as he gets the least bit 
jaded, it must be admitted that it would 
be easy to find a pleasanter horse for a 
long, hurried journey. Still, on the prin- 
ciple of all's well that ends well, I ought 
not to be so severe on my steed, for the 
expedition ended well, and was really 
rather a severe tax on man and beast. 
This is the way we came to take it : 

Ever since I arrived, now nearly a 
year ago, I have been hearing of a cer- 
tain "bush" or forest some forty-five or 
fifty miles away, which is always named 
when I break into lamentations over the 
utter treelessness of Natal. Latterly, I 
have had even a stronger craving than 
usual to see something more than a small 
plantation of blue gums, infantine oaks 
and baby firs, making a dot here and 
there amid the eternal undulation of the 



low hills around. "Seven-Mile Bush" 
has daily grown more attractive to my 
thoughts, and at last we accepted one 
of many kind and hospitable invitations 

thither, and I induced F to promise 

that he would forego the dear delight of 
riding down to his barn-like office for a 

couple of days, and come with Mr. C 

and me to the " bush." This was a great 
concession on his part ; and I may state 
here that he never ceased pining for his 
papers and his arm-chair from the mo- 
ment we started until we came back. 

It was necessary to make a very early 
start indeed, and the stars were still 
shining when we set off, though the first 
sunbeams were creeping brightly and 
swiftly over the high eastern hills. It 
was a fresh morning, in spite of the oc- 
casional puff of dust -laden air, which 
seemed to warn us every now and then 
that there was such a thing as a hot 
wind to be considered, and also that 
there had not been a drop of rain for 
these last five months. The whole coun- 
try seems ground to powder, and the al- 
most daily hot winds keep this powder 
incessantly moving about ; so it is not 
exactly pleasant for traveling. We pick- 
ed up our Kafir guide as we rode through 
the town, and made the best of our way 
at once across the flats between this and 
Edendale, which we left on our right, 
climbing slowly and tediously up a high 
hill above it; then down again and up 
again, constantly crossing clear, cold, 
bright rivulets a welcome moment to 
horse and rider, for already our lips are 
feeling swollen and baked ; across stony 
reefs and ridges cropping out from bare 
hillsides ; past many a snug Kafir kraal 
clinging like the beehives of a giant to 
the side of a steep pitch, with the long 
red wagon-track stretching out as though 
for ever and ever before us. The sun is 
hot, very hot, but we have left it behind 
us in the valleys below, and we sweep 
along wherever there is a foothold for 
the horses, with a light and pleasant air 
blowing in our faces. Still, it is with 
feelings of profound content that at the 
end of a twenty-mile stage we see "Tay- 
lor's," a roadside shanty, looking like 
a child's toy set down on the vast flat 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



129 



around, but uncommonly comfortable 
and snug inside, with mealie-gardens 
and forage - patches around, and more 
accommodation than one would have 
believed possible beneath its low, thatch- 
ed eaves from the first bird's-eye glance. 
The horses are made luxuriously com- 
fortable directly in a roomy, cool shed, 
and we sit down to an impromptu break- 
fast in the cleanest of all inn-parlors. I 
have no doubt it would have been a very 
comprehensive and well-arranged meal, 
but the worst of it was it never had a 
chance of being taken as a whole. What- 
ever edible the nice, tidy landlady put 
down on her snowy cloth vanished like 
a conjuring trick before she had time to 
bring the proper thing to go with it. We 
ate our breakfast backward and forward, 
and all sorts of ways, beginning with 
jam, sardines, and mustard, varied by 
eggs, and ending with rashers of bacon. 
As for the tea, we had drunk up all the 
milk and eaten the sugar by the time the 
pot arrived. The only thing which at 
all daunted us was some freshly-made 
boers' bread, of the color of a sponge, 
the consistency of clay and the weight 
of pig iron. We were quite respectful 
to that bread, and only ventured to break 
off little crusts here and there and eat it 
guardedly, for it was a fearful condiment. 
Still, we managed to eat an enormous 
breakfast in spite of it, and so did the 
horses; and we all started in highest 
condition and spirits a little before two 
o'clock, having had more than a couple 
of hours' rest. After riding hard for 
some time, galloping over every yard of 
anything approaching to broken ground, 
we ventured to begin to question our 
guide who kept up with us in an amaz- 
ing manner, considering the prominence 
of his little rough pony's ribs as to the 
remaining distance between us and "Sev- 
en-Mile Bush." Imagine our horror when 
he crooked his hand at right angles to 
his wrist, and made slowly and distinct- 
ly five separate dips with it, pointing 
to the horizon as he did so ! Now, the 
alarming part was, that there were five 
distinct and ever-rising ranges of hills 
before us, the range which made a hard 
ridge against the dazzling sky being of 
9 



a deep and misty purple, so distant was 
it. We had been assured at Taylor's 
that only twenty-five miles more lay 
between us and the "bush," and those 
mountains must be now at least thirty 
miles off. But the guide only grins and 
nods his head, and kicks with his bare 
heels against his pony's pronounced ribs, 
and we hasten on once more. On our 
right hand, but some distance off, rises 
the dark crest of the Swartzkopf Moun- 
tain, and beneath its shadow, extending 
over many thousand acres of splendid 
pasture-ground, is what is known as the 
Swartzkopf Location, a vast tract of coun- 
try reserved or rather appropriated to 
the use of a large tribe of Kafirs. They 
dwell here in peace and plenty, and, until 
the other day, in prosperity too. But a 
couple of years ago lung-sickness broke 
out and decimated their herds, reducing 
the tribe to the very verge of starva- 
tion and misery. However, they bat- 
tled manfully with the scourge, but it 
gave them a distrust of cattle, and they 
took every opportunity of exchanging 
oxen for horses, of which they now own 
a great number. What we should have 
called in New Zealand "mobs " of them 
were to be seen peacefully pasturing 
themselves on the slopes around us, and 
in almost every nook and hollow nestled 
a Kafir kraal. Here and there were large 
irregular patches of brown on the fast 
greening hillsides, and these straggling 
patches, rarely if ever fenced, were the 
mealie-gardens belonging to the kraals. 
By four of the clock we have made 
such good way that we can afford imme- 
diately after crossing Eland's River, a 
beautiful stream, to "off saddle " and sit 
down and rest by its cool banks for a 
quarter of an hour. Then, tightening 
up our girths, we push off once more. 
It has been up hill the whole way, just 
excepting the sudden sharp descent into 
a deep valley on the farther side of each 
range ; but the increasing freshness 
nay, sharpness of the air proved to us 
how steadily we had been climbing up 
to a high level ever since we had passed 
through Edendale. From this point of 
the journey the whole scenic character 
of the country became widely different 



I 3 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



from anything I have hitherto seen in 
Natal. For the first time I began to un- 
derstand what a wealth of beauty lies 
hidden away among her hills and valleys, 
and that the whole country is not made 
up of undulating downs, fertile flats and 
distant purple hills. At the top of the 
very first ridge up which we climbed after 
crossing Eland's River a perfectly new 
and enchanting landscape opened out 
before us, and it gained in majesty and 
beauty with every succeeding mile of our 
journey. Ah ! how can I make you see 
it in all its grandeur of form and glory 
of color ? The ground is broken up ab- 
ruptly into magnificent masses cliffs, 
terraces and rocky crags. The hills ex- 
pand into abrupt mountain-ranges, ser- 
rated in bold relief against the loveliest 
sky blazing with coming sunset splen- 
dors. Every cleft or kloof, as it is call- 
ed here is filled with fragments of 
the giant forest which until quite lately 
must have clothed these rugged moun- 
tain-sides. Distant hill-slopes, still bare 
with wintry leanness, catch some slant- 
ing sun-rays on their scanty covering of 
queer, reddish grass, and straightway 
glow like sheets of amethyst and topaz, 
and behind them lie transparent deep- 
blue shadows of which no pigment ever 
spread on mortal palette could give the 
exquisite delicacy and depth. Under 
our horses' feet the turf might be off 
the Sussex downs, so close and firm and 
delicious is it the very thing for sheep, 
of which we only see a score here and 
there. " Why are there not more sheep ?" 
I ask indignantly, with my old squatter 
instincts coming back in full force upon 

me. Mr. C translates my question 

to the Kafir guide, who grins and kicks 
his pony's ribs and says, " No can keep 
ship here. Plenty Kafir dog : eat up all 
ships two, tree day." "Yes, that is ex- 
actly the reason," Mr. C says, "but 

I wanted you to hear it from himself." 
And ever after this, I, remembering the 
dearness and scarcity of mutton in Ma- 
ritzburg, and seeing all this splendid feed 
growing for nothing, look with an eye 
of extreme disfavor and animosity on 
all the gaunt, lean curs I see prowling 
about the kraals. Almost every Kafir 



we meet has half a dozen of these poach- 
ing-looking brutes at his heels, and it 
exasperates me to hear that there is a 
dog law or ordinance, or something of 
that sort, " only it has not come into op- 
eration yet." I wish it would come into 
operation to-morrow, and so does every 
farmer in the country, I should think. 
Yes, in spite of this fairest of fair scenes 
and in all my gypsy life I have never 
seen anything much more beautiful I 
feel quite cross and put out to think of 
imaginary fat sheep being harried by 
these useless, hideous dogs. 

But the horses are beginning to go 
a little wearily, and gladly pause to wet 
their muzzles and cool their hoofs in ev- 
ery brook we cross. I am free to confess 
that I am getting very tired, for nothing 
is so wearying as a sudden, hurried jour- 
ney like this, and I am also excessively 
hungry and thirsty. The sun dips down 
quite suddenly behind a splendid confu- 
sion of clouds and mountain-tops, lights 
up the whole sky for a short while with 
translucent masses of crimson and am- 
ber, which fade swiftly away into stran- 
gest, tenderest tints of primrose and pale 
green, and then a flood of clear cold 
moonlight breaks over all and bathes 
everything in a differing but equally 
beautiful radiance. Three ridges have 
now been climbed, and the pertinacious 
guide only dips his hand twice more in 
answer to my peevish questions about 
the distance. Nay, he promises in won- 
derful Dutch and Kafir phraseology to 
show me the "baas's" house (whither 
we are bound) from the very next ridge. 
But what a climb it is ! and what a pan- 
orama do we look down upon from the 
topmost crag before commencing the 
steep descent, this time through a bit 
of dense forest ! It is all as distinct as 
day, and yet there is that soft, ineffable 
veil of mystery and silence which moon- 
light wraps up everything in. We look 
over immense tree-tops, over plains which 
seem endless beneath the film of evening 
mist creeping over them, to where the 
broad Umkomanzi rushes and roars 
amid great boulders and rocks, leaping 
every here and there over a crag down 
to a lower level of its wide and rocky 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



bed. In places the fine river widens 
out into a mere, and then it sleeps tran- 
quilly enough in the moonlight, making 
great patches of shimmering silver amid 
the profound shadows cast by hill and 
forest. Beyond, again, are mountains, 
always mountains, and one more day's 
journey like this would take us into 
Adam Kop's Land. As we look at it 
all now, it does indeed seem "a sleepy 
world of dreams;" but in another mo- 
ment the panorama is shut out, for we 
are amid the intense darkness of the for- 
est-path, stepping carefully down what 
resembles a stone ladder placed at an an- 
gle of 45. Of course I am frightened, 
and of course my fright shows itself in 
crossness and in incoherent reproaches. 
I feel as if I were slipping down on my 
horse's neck ; and so I am, I believe. 
But nobody will "take me off," which is 
what I earnestly entreat. Both my gen- 
tlemen retain unruffled good-humor, and 
adjure me "not to think about it," coup- 
led with assurances of perfect safety. I 
hear, however, a great deal of slipping 
and sliding and rolling of displaced 
rocks even after these consoling an- 
nouncements of safety, and orders are 
given to each weary steed to "hold up;" 
which orders are not at all reassuring. 
Somebody told me somewhere it seems 
months ago, but it must have been early 
in the afternoon that this particular and 
dreadful hill was only three-quarters of a 
mile from the "baas's;" so you may im- 
agine my mingled rage and disappoint- 
ment at hearing that it was still rather 
more than three miles off. And three 
miles at this stage of the journey is 
equal to thirteen at an earlier date. It 
is wonderful how well the horses hold 
out. This last bit of the road is almost 
flat, winding round the gentlest undula- 
tion possible, and it is as much as I can 
do to hold the chestnut, who has caught 
sight evidently of twinkling lights there 
under the lee of that great wooded cliff. 
No sound can ever be so delightful to a 
wearied and belated traveler as the bark 
of half a dozen dogs, and no greeting 
more grateful than their rough caresses, 
half menace and half play. But there is a 
much warmer and more cordial welcome 



waiting for us behind the sako bono of 
the dogs, and I find myself staggering 
about as if the water I have been drink- 
ing so freely all day had been something 
much stronger. On my feet at last in 
such a pretty sitting-room! Pictures, 
books, papers, all sorts of comforts and 
conveniences, and, sight of joy ! a tea- 
table all ready, even to the tea-pot, which 
had been brought in when the dogs an- 
nounced us. If I had even sixpence for 
every cup of tea I drank that evening, I 
should be a rich woman to the end of my 
days. As for the milk, deliciously fresh 
from the cow, it was only to be equaled 
by the cream ; and you must have lived 
all these months in Natal before you can 
appreciate as we did the butter, which 
looked and tasted like butter, instead of 
the pale, salt, vapid compound, as much 
lard as anything else, for which we pay 
three shillings and sixpence a pound in 
Maritzburg, and which has been cost- 
ing six shillings in Port Elizabeth all this, 
winter. 

It is always a marvel to me, arriving 
at night at these out-of-the-way places, 
which seem the very Ultima Thule of 
the habitable globe, how the furniture, 
the glass and china, the pictures and or- 
naments and books, get there. How has 
anybody energy to think of transporting 
all these perishable articles over that 
road? Think of their jolting in a bul- 
lock-wagon down that hill ! One fancies 
if one lived here it must needs be a Rob- 
inson-Crusoe existence ; instead of which 
it is as comfortable as possible ; and if 
one did not remember the distance and 
the road and the country, one might be 
in England, except for the Kafir boys, 
barefooted and white-garmented, some- 
thing like choristers, who are gliding 
about with incessant relays of food for 
us famished ones. The sweet little gold- 
en-haired children, rosy and fresh as the 
bough of apple-blossoms they are play- 
ing with, the pretty chatelaine in her 
fresh toilette, all might have been 
taken up in a beneficent fairy's thumb 
and transported, a moment ago, from 
the heart of civilization to this its far- 
thest extremity. As for sleep, you must 
slumber in just such a bed if you want 



I 3 2 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



to know what a good night's rest is, and 
then wake up as we did, with all memo- 
ries of the long, wearying day's jour- 
ney clean blotted out of one's mind, 
and nothing in it but eagerness not to 
lose a moment of the lovely fresh and 
cool day before us. Even the sailing 
clouds are beautiful, and the shadows 
they cast over the steep mountains, the 
broad rivers and the long dark belt of 
forest are more beautiful still. Of course, 
the "bush " is the great novelty to us who 
have not seen a tree larger than a dozen 
years' growth could make it since we 
landed ; and it is especially beautiful 
just now, for although, like all native 
forests, it is almost entirely evergreen 
(there is a more scientific word than 
that, isn't there?), still, there are patches 
and tufts of fresh green coming out in 
delicate spring tints, which show vividly 
against the sombre mass of foliage. But 
oh, I wish they had not such names ! 
Handed down to us from our Dutch 
predecessors, they must surely have got 
changed in some incomprehensible fash- 
ion, for what rhyme or reason, what sense 
or satire, is there in such a name as "can- 
nibal stink-wood"? applied, too, to a 
graceful, handsome tree, whose bark 
gives out an aromatic though pungent 
perfume. Is it not a libel ? For a tree 
with a particularly beautifully - veined 
wood, of a deep amber color, they could 
think of no more poetical or suggestive 
name than simply " yellow-wood :" a tree 
whose wood is of a rich veined brown, 
which goes, too, beautifully with the yel- 
low-wood in furniture,, is merely called 
"iron-wood," because it chances to be 
hard; and so forth. 

Before going to the "bush," however, 
we consider ourselves bound to go and 
look at the . great saw-mill down by the 
Umkomanzi, where all these trees are 
divided and subdivided, cut into lengths 
of twenty feet, sawn into planks, half a 
dozen at a time, and otherwise changed 
from forest kings to plain, humdrum piles 
and slabs and posts for bridges, roof- 
trees, walls, and what not. There is the 
machinery at work, with just one ripple, 
as it were, of the rushing river turned 
aside by a little sluice, to drive the great 



wheel round and set all the mysterious 
pistons and levers moving up and down in 
their calm, monotonous strength, doing 
all sorts of miraculous things in the most 
methodical, commonplace manner. I 
was much struck by the physiognomy of 
the only two white men employed about 
this mill. There were some assistant 
Kafirs of course, but these two in their 
widely-different ways were at once repel- 
lent and interesting. One of them was, 
I think, the biggest man I ever saw. To 
say that he looked like a tall tree him- 
self among his fellows is to give you, 
after all, the best idea of his enormous 
height and powerful build. He moved 
huge logs about with scarcely an effort, 
and it was entirely for his enormous phys- 
ical strength that our host kept him in 
his place. I did not need to be told he 
was one of the most persistent and con- 
sistent bad characters imaginable, for a 
single glance at his evil countenance was 
enough to suggest that he could hardly 
be a very satisfactory member of society. 
He had only one eye, and about as hang- 
dog, sullen, lowering a countenance as 
one would see out of the hulks. His 
"mate" was a civil, tidy, wizen-looking, 
elderly man, who might have appeared 
almost respectable by the side of the 
bigger villain if his shaking hand and 
bleared, restless eyes had not told his 
story plainly enough. Still, if he could 
only be kept out of temptation the old 
man might be trusted ; but our host con- 
fessed that he did not half like retaining 
the services of the other, and yet did not 
know where to find any one who would 
or could do his work so easily and ad- 
mirably. It is almost impossible to get 
any men to come and live up here, so 
far away from their fellow-creatures and 
from everything except their work; so 
one has to put up with a thousand draw- 
backs in the service one is able to pro- 
cure. I was glad when we turned our 
backs upon that villainous-looking giant 
arid strolled beneath a perfect sun and 
sky and balmy air toward the lowest 
kloof or cleft where the great "bush" 
ran down between two steep spurs. The 
grass of the downs over which we walk- 
ed had all the elasticity of tread of turf 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



to our feet, but they ended abruptly in a 
sort of terrace, under which ran a noisy, 
chattering brooklet in a vast hurry to 
reach the Umkomanzi over yonder. It 
is easy to scramble down among the tan- 
gle of ferns and reeds and across the 
boulders which this long dry winter has 
left bare, and so strike one of the Bush- 
men's paths without difficulty, and get 
into the heart of the forest before we 
allow ourselves to sit down and look 
around us. How wonderfully poetical 
and beautiful it all is ! the tall, stately 
trees around us, with their smooth mag- 
nificent boles shooting up straight as a 
willow wand for sixty feet and more be- 
fore putting forth their crown of lofty 
branches, the more diminutive under- 
growth of gracefulest shrubs and plumy 
tufts of fern and lovely wild flowers 
violets, clematis, wood-anemones and he- 
paticas showing here and there a mod- 
est gleam of color. But indeed the very 
mosses and lichens at our feet are a 
week's study, and so are the details of 
the delicate green tracery creeping close 
to the ground. The trees, the actual 
great forest trees, are our delight, how- 
ever, and we never weary of calling to 
each other to "come and look at this 
one," extemporizing measuring - lines 
from the endless green withies which 
hang in loops and festoons from the 
higher branches. Thirty feet round five 
feet from the ground is not an uncom- 
mon measurement, and it is half sad, 
half amusing to see how in an hour or 
so we too begin to look upon everything 
as timber, to call the most splendid trees 
"blocks" (the woodman's word), and to 
speculate and give opinions as to the best 
way of "falling" the beautiful stems. 
Up above our heads the foliage seems 
all interlaced and woven together by a 
perfect network of these monkey ropes 
a stout and sturdy species of Kane, 
really such as I have seen swinging 
from West India forest trees. Here 
they are actually used as a sort of tra- 
peze by the troops of baboons which 
live in these great woods, coming down 
in small armies when the mealies are 
ripe, and carrying off literally armsful 
of cobs. The Kafirs dread the baboons 



more than anything else, and there is a 
regular organized system of warfare be- 
tween them, in which the baboons by no 
means get the worst. I heard a sicken- 
ing story of how only last season the 
Kafirs of a kraal close by, infuriated 
by their losses, managed to catch an old 
baboon, leader of his troop, and skinned 
him and let him go again into the woods. 
It is too horrible to think of such cruelty, 
and it seemed a blot upon the lovely 
idyllic scene around us. All the wild 
animals with which the bush was teem- 
ing until a very few years ago are grad- 
ually being driven farther and farther 
back into the highest part, which has 
not yet been touched by axe or hatchet. 
There are still many kinds of buck, how- 
ever we saw three splendid specimens 
grazing just outside besides other game. 
It must not so long ago, either have 
been the quiet forest home of many a 
wild creature, for there are pits now to 
be seen, one of which we came across 
with sharp stakes at the bottom, dug to 
trap elephants, whose bones lie there to 
this day. Tigers also have been seen, 
and panthers and leopards, but they 
grow scarcer every year. The aborig- 
inal inhabitants of the border country 
beyond, the little Bushmen the lowest 
type of human creatures used to come 
down and hunt in great numbers here in 
this very spot where we are sitting, and 
traces of their ingenious methods of 
snaring their prey are to be seen in 
many places. 

As I sat there, with the tinkle of the 
water in my ears, sole break in the 
"charmed silence" around, I could not 
make up my mind which was the most 
enchanting, to look up or down up to 
where the tenderest tint of cobalt blue 
showed through the flicker of green 
leaves nearly a hundred feet above us, 
and where a sudden terror among the 
birds drove them in bright - plumaged 
flight from bough to bough ; or down on 
the ground among the delicious brown 
leaves and wonderful minutiae of dimin- 
utive tendril and flower. Here and there 
were fallen crimson and yellow leaves, 
riveting the eye for a moment by their 
vivid glow, or the young fronds of a rare 



134 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



fern over yonder are pushing up their 
curled horns of pale green. A month 
hence it will be all carpeted with wild 
flowers, and the heaths will be spires of 
tiny bells. There is also a coarse but 
sweet grass, growing luxuriantly, on 
which the cattle love to feed when all 
the herbage outside is parched and burn- 
ed to the very root. 

As I read over what I have written, I 
am filled with a deep disgust to perceive 
how impossible it has been for me to 
catch even the faintest reflection of the 
charm of that forest-glade how its sub- 
tle beauty is not, by any poor words of 
mine, to be transferred to paper how 
its stillness and its life, its grandeur and 
its delicate pretti nesses, the aroma of the 
freshly-cut logs, the chirrup of the cica- 
las, the twitter of the birds, all, all escape 
me. Yet I shall have failed indeed if I 
have not been able to convey to you that 
it was a delicious hour, and that I enjoy- 
ed every moment of it. I am only a wo- 
man, so I was content to sit there plait- 
ing a crown of ferns, and thinking how 
I should tell you all about it some day, 
perhaps. My companions conversed to- 
gether, and their talk was entirely about 
killing something "sport" they called 
it how best they could get a shot at 
those graceful bucks over yonder ; what 
a pity the close season had begun ; what 
partridges there were; when the wild- 
ducks would come down to that large 
mere shining in the distance; whether 
there were any wild - pigeons ; how far 
into the unexplored bush one must pen- 
etrate to get a shot at a panther ; and so 
forth. It seemed a desecration to talk 
of taking life on such a heavenly morn- 
ing, and I was glad when it all ended in 
a project of a fishing-excursion after a 
late luncheon. 

As we found we should be obliged to 
start early to-morrow morning, I decided 
to stay at home and rest this afternoon ; 
and I did not regret my resolution, for 
it was very pleasant by the fire, and our 
beautiful morning turned into a raw, cold 
drizzle. But, as the people about here 
say, it has really forgotten how to rain, 
and it is more like a Scotch mist than 
anything else. Whatever it may be call- 



ed, it blots out mountain and forest and 
river, and causes the fishing -excursion 
to turn into the dismalest failure. Next 
morning, too, when we start after break- 
fast, we are all glad of our waterproofs 
(what should I do without my ulster?), 
and the ground is as slippery as though 
it had been soaped. Our farewells are 
made, and we declare that we have no 
need of our Kafir guide again, though I 
confess to misgivings as to how we are 
to find our road through so thick a mist. 
It has also been decided, for the sake of 
the horses, to take them only as far as 
Taylor's to-night, and so break the jour- 
ney. But the question is, Shall we ever 
find Taylor's? for it is a little off the 
track, and we cannot see five yards 
to our right hand or our left. We are 
obliged to go very slowly, and there are- 
places, steep up and down hill, where in 
spite of precaution and picking out grass 
or stones to go over, our horses' feet fly 
from under them, and we each in our 
turn come down on the damp red clay 
in an awkward sprawl. However, we do 
not disgrace ourselves by tumbling off, 
and my poor habit fares the worst, for 
the chestnut always seems to pick him- 
self up, in some odd way, by its help ; 
and the process is not beneficial to it. 
Eland's River is crossed early in the af- 
ternoon, and then, slippery or not, we 
are forced to push on, for it seems as 
though it intended to be pitchy dark by 
four o'clock, and the mist turns into a 
thick, fine rain. At last, about half-past 
four, we hear on our left the joyful sound 
of barking dogs and crowing cocks, and 
the horses of their own accord show a 
simultaneous desire to turn off the track, 
to which, with its guiding wagon-wheels, 
we have so persistently clung. If it be 
not Taylor's if it turns out that these 
sounds come only from a Kafir kraal 
then indeed I don't know what we shall 
do, for we can never find the track again. 
It is an anxious moment, and Taylor's is 
so small and so low that we are as likely 
as not to ride right over it ; but no, there 
is a wagon, and behind the wagon, and 
not much higher, is a thatched roof, and 
under that thatched roof are warmth and 
food and shelter and a warm, cordial 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



'35 



welcome ; all of which good things we 
are enjoying in five minutes' time. As 
for the horses, they are rubbed down 
and put to stand in a warm shed, with 
bedding up to their knees and a perfect 
orgie of mealies and green forage before 
them in boxes. Let us hope they enjoy- 
ed the contrast between indoors and out 
of doors as much as we did. At all 
events, they were freshness itself next 
morning, when we made another start 
not quite so early, for only the lesser 
half of our long journey lay before us, 
and the flood of sunshine made it worth 
while to wait a little and let the soapy 
clay tracks have a chance to get dry. 
It was exquisitely fresh and balmy 
about nine o'clock, when, after a capital 
breakfast, we did start at last, and the 
well -washed hills had actually put on 
quite a spring-green tint since we passed 
them a couple of days ago from yester- 
day's long looked-for, much-wanted rain. 
I went through many anxieties, however, 
on that return journey, because my two 
companions, who were in the most tear- 
ing, school-boy spirits, insisted on leav- 
ing the road with its guiding marks of 
wagon-wheels, as well as every landmark 
to which I fondly clung, and taking me 
across country, over hill and dale, through 
swampy hollows and over rocky goat- 
paths, until I was quite bewildered and 
thoroughly incredulous as to where we 
should emerge. It is true that the dark 
crest of Swartzkopf lay steadily to our 
left, just where it should be, but I inva- 
riably protested we were all wrong when 
I had any leisure or breath to do any- 
thing but "hold on with my eyelids " up 
and down hill. At last we climbed up 
our last hill-face, and there, below us, 
literally smiling in the sunshine, lay the 
pretty little mission settlement of Eden- 
dale. We were exactly where we want- 
ed, topographically speaking, to be, but 
between us and Edendale the mountain 
dropped sheer down, as it seemed to me, 
and naught but a goat-path was there. 
" Of course we are going to get off and 
lead our horses down," I fondly hope. 
No such thing! I can't very well get 
off by myself, for the precipice is so sheer 
that I should certainly drop down a hun- 



dred feet or so. F steadily declines 

to "take me off," and begins to slip and 
slither down the track on horseback. I 
feel my saddle getting into all sorts of 
odd positions, and I believe I am seated 
on my horse's ears, although I lean back 
until I can nearly touch his tail. It is 
really horrible. I get more and more 

cross every moment, and scold F 

and reproach Mr. C furiously all the 

way down, without eliciting the smallest 
sign of remorse from either. But it is 
very difficult to remain cross when once 
we have reached the foot of that cruel 
descent, for it is all inexpressibly lovely 
and calm and prosperous that beautiful 
spring morning. Everybody seems busy, 
and yet good-humored. The little black 
children grinned and saluted on their 
way to school; the elders cried "Sako 
bono, inkosa !" as they looked up from 
their basket - plaiting or their wagon- 
making ; the mill - wheel turned mer- 
rily with a busy clatter inexpressibly 
cool and charming ; the numerous fowls 
and ducks cackled and quacked as they 
scuttled from under our horses' feet. 
We rode down the main street, with its 
neat row of unburnt brick houses on 
either hand, across a little river, and so, 
under avenues of syringas whose heavy 
perfume filled the delicious air, out into 
the open country once more. It is near- 
ly a dead level between this and Maritz- 
burg, and the road is in good order after 
the long winter drought ; so we make 
the best of our way, and hardly draw 
rein until we are under the lee of the 
hill on which Fort Napier stands. Here 
is a villainous bit of road, a perfect study 
of ingenuity as to cross-drains, holes and 
pitfalls generally; so the horses take 
breath once more for an easy canter 
down the quiet straight streets of the 
sleepy little Dutch town. Our cottage 
lies beyond it and across the river, but 
it is still early, hardly noon in fact, when 
we pull up at our own stable-door, and 
the horses seem every whit as fresh and 
in as good condition as when we started, 
yet they have gone close upon one hun- 
dred miles from first to last, 

Over hill, over dale, 
Through brush, through brier. 



136 



LETTERS FROM SOUTH AFRICA. 



SEPTEMBER 25. 

I declare I have not said anything 
about the weather for a long time. I 
cannot finish mere appropriately than 
by one of my little meteorological re- 
ports. The skies are trying to remem- 
ber how to rain ; we have every now 
and then a cold, gray day a day which 
is my particular delight, it is so like an 
English one; then rain more or less 
heavy, and an attempt at a thunder- 
storm. The intervening days are bright- 
ly glaring and exceedingly hot. Every- 
thing is bursting hurriedly and luxuriant- 
ly into bloom ; my scraggy rose-bushes 
are thickly covered with buds, which 



blow into splendid roses after every 
shower ; the young oaks are a mass of 
tender, luxuriant green, and even the 
unpoetical blue gums try hard to assume 
a fresh spring tint ; the fruit trees look 
like large bouquets of pink blossom, 
and the laquot trees afford good sport 
for G in climbing and stone- throw- 
ing. On the veldt the lilies are pushing 
up their green sheaths and brilliant cups 
through the still hard ground, the black 
hill-slopes are turning a vivid green, and 
the weeds are springing up in millions all 
over my field-like flower-beds. Spring is 
always lovely everywhere, but nowhere 
lovelier than in "fair Natal." 




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