About noon we outspanned beside a stream and allowed the horses to have a roll. Under the shade of a bush we lay and chatted, while our eyes roamed over the rolling plains to the blue mountain range which formed its northern boundary.
"There," said my friend, pointing towards the mountains, "is the spot where one of the last lions was seen in this part of the country. There were plenty of them here once, and the last one disappeared in 1840, only thirty-six years ago."
He then related the incident connected with the lion referred to. The following is the substance of it.
Early in the year 1840 a runaway soldier was travelling through that part of the country. He was on his way to Graaff-Reinet in search of work. At that time farmhouses were very few and far between in that region. The wearied soldier came one evening to the house of a Boer named Smit, not many miles from the spot where Hobson and I were reposing.
Smit was a surly fellow, and refused shelter to the traveller, who was therefore obliged to continue his journey during the night. Next day the unfortunate man's mangled body was found not far off, a few yards from the foot of a small tree. The traces revealed clearly that he had been killed by a lion, whose footprints had been seen and voice heard for some time in the neighbourhood. On the approach of the lion the man had sought refuge in the small tree just mentioned, but being little better than a large bush, it failed him in the hour of need. Even when perched on the highest branch that would bear him, he was not beyond the spring of the lion. It had caught him, torn him down, and devoured his breast and arms, after which it left him.
This was the last lion in that region that succeeded in taking human life. Six months later the last lion of all made his appearance. He was evidently a less ferocious animal, and made his final exit in a rather humorous manner. In his prowling about he chanced to find an old Dutchman, and pounced upon him, but the old man had his wits about him. At first sight of his enemy he let himself go limp as if dead. Lions are particular. They don't like dead meals; they prefer to kill their own dinners. After pouncing on his prey the lion put his mouth to the old fellow's ear and roared. If he was not deaf for life after that he ought to have been! At all events he was deaf at the time to the remark, for he paid no attention to it whatever. Then the lion pawed him a little, lay down on him, rolled him about as a cat plays with a mouse, and ultimately couched a few yards off to watch jealously for the slightest sign of life. But the Dutchman was a splendid actor. Even in breathing he managed to remain motionless, and at last the lion sneaked away overwhelmed with disappointment. Then the old man slowly lifted his head, rose, congratulated himself, and returned home in a thankful state of mind.
Although lions had finally taken themselves off, and retired to safer and more distant retreats, the mountain glens of the neighbourhood were, as I have already said, still inhabited by leopards of large size and dangerous temper.
"They are powerful and savage fellows," said my friend, as he rose to inspan, "and few men like to face them unless assisted by a party, and with good dogs. One friend of mine, a doctor, used to boast that he could stare a leopard out of countenance. At last one was caught in a trap, and the doctor tried the experiment, but only got knocked over and his nose scratched for his pains. There was a curious instance, once, of a Fingo going mad in consequence of being bitten by a leopard. The madness took the form of his feigning to be a leopard, and there was no doubt as to his insanity, for he continually growled and scratched and snapped with his teeth, and finished off by jumping through a glass door.—Now then, the cart's ready; in you go."
I jumped in, and off we went again over the sweet-scented plain,—now on a good bit of road, now on a bad; often forsaking the track altogether, and occasionally plunging into holes that knocked our heads against the hood, and tried our springs to the uttermost, till evening at last found us among the hills, where a rough-and-ready inn afforded us shelter for the night.
Passing through Somerset we came to a place named Cookhouse Drift, where there is a bridge over the Great Fish River.
We also met here with seven troopers of the frontier, armed and mounted police, as tight and serviceable a set of young fellows as one could wish to see—clad in corduroy, thorough-going, rough-and-ready colonial cavalry—and well-trained to bush fighting. They were out after seven escaped convicts, and had caught one, a big Kafir, who was handcuffed, and seemed sulky when I looked at him.
At another place, where the prickly pear was very prolific, and the bush so dense that it formed a pretty safe retreat to escaped convicts, as well as baboons and tigers, we discovered a band of Kafirs celebrating a wedding.
The prickly pears, which were ripe at this time, we found to be very pleasant and refreshing, but we had to handle them with care, as they were covered with prickles so fine that they pierced the skin and broke off the pear with the least touch. The great evil of prickly pear thorns is that it is almost impossible to extract them, and although it can scarcely be said that they cause pain, the irritation they produce is great and prolonged. The monkeys know this well!
I was greatly amused once, while delayed at a road-side inn, by the antics of a monkey with a prickly pear. I had fed him with part of one, of which he seemed passionately fond. Wishing to know whether monkeys as well as men were cautious in handling the fruit, I pulled another by means of a couple of sticks. The usual mode of proceeding is to rub the pear on the ground with a bunch of grass, and thus remove the prickles, when it may be handled with impunity. Without doing this, however, I lifted the pear with my sticks and handed it to Jacko. He looked at it earnestly for a few seconds, then at me with a round mouth and reproachful eyes, as though to say, "You don't mean that, do you?"
I smiled and nodded.
Jacko looked again at the pear and put one finger towards it with great caution, but drew back and looked up at me again, as if to say, "Won't you help me?"
I smiled again and shook my head, whereupon he went to work with the most gingerly and delicate touches, as if he were handling red-hot iron. At last he managed to tear a hole in the skin, into which he inserted his black nose, and greedily devoured the contents. Despite his caution, however, I noticed that Jacko kept scratching his hands pretty steadily for some time afterwards.
As we advanced into the hills the roads became unimaginably bad. In one place our track had been carried away by a flood, and the boulder-covered bed of the torrent was our only road.
At last we got up into the mountain region of Glen Lynden, the place to which the Scotch settlers were sent by Government in 1820, under the care of Thomas Pringle, the "African poet," who, among other pieces, wrote the beautiful poem which begins:
"Afar in the desert I love to ride, With the silent bushboy alone by my side."
The descendants of the 1820 men now occupy these valleys. Both in physique and character they do credit to their sires.
Here I met one of the few survivors of the original settlers, Mr Dodds Pringle, and brother to the poet. [This happened about 1876.] Although upwards of seventy, and a large, stout man, I saw him mount his horse with the activity of a man of thirty. At his house in Glen Lynedock, where I spent a night, they showed me an assagai, or Kafir spear, which had been bent into the form of a half-moon against his, (Mr Pringle's), stomach! It happened thus:
He was out fighting with the rest of the farmers in the war of 1851, and one day was attacked by Kafirs, one of whom flung his assagai at him with tremendous force. Mr Pringle had just fired his rifle, and was reloading when the assagai struck him. It was arrested, however, in its deadly flight by his belt and bullet-pouch. The savage rushed forward, intending to finish his adversary by a thrust from a short spear, but old Pringle guarded the thrust with one hand, while, with the other, he drew a pistol and shot the Kafir through the heart. At that moment another savage ran at him, but a comrade of Pringle suddenly came on the scene and the savage turned to fly. The comrade took aim at him.
"Be cool, and take him low," said Pringle, undoing his belt to examine his wound.
The comrade fired, and the savage fell.
"Are you killed?" asked the comrade, turning to Pringle and glancing at the bent assagai.
"I don't know," replied the other, with a serious look, as he thrust his hand under his waist-belt, "there's no hole that I can find, anyhow."
The hand, when withdrawn, was covered with blood, but it was found on examination that the wound was slight, thanks to the providential interposition of the thick bullet-pouch. The old gentleman is now naturally fond of showing the weapon which had so nearly proved fatal.
Advancing into the Baviaans River District we passed through many places of historic interest, and scenery that must have reminded the Scottish settlers of the rugged glens to which they had bidden farewell for ever.
Among other places, Hobson pointed out a small cavern, high up on the cliffs, which was the scene of a cruel affray not many years before the arrival of the Scotch settlers in the district.
As it illustrates the wild frontier life of those times, and bears on the subject of the grievances of early colonists, I shall relate it.
There was a Dutch Boer, a farmer named Bezuidenhout, who, in the year 1815, dwelt in the lonely and wild recesses of the Baviaans River District. He seems to have been a passionate, headstrong man. The Dutch Boers were generally honest, sterling men, though at that time very ignorant, being far removed from the means of instruction. But the Dutchmen, not less than others, had wild and foolish men amongst them who were easily misled by unprincipled adventurers.
Bezuidenhout seems to have been one of these; at all events he was savage enough to treat one of his Hottentot servants so ill that he was cited to appear before the Court of his district, and was foolish enough to resist the summons. A messenger was therefore sent to arrest him, and as he was known to be a daring character, and had threatened to shoot any limb of the law who should dare to approach his residence, twenty men of the Cape Corps, under Lieutenant Rousseau accompanied the messenger.
On reaching the mountain home of Bezuidenhout they found him prepared. He and a powerful half-caste in his employment were found sheltered behind the high wall of a cattle enclosure, well armed. The Dutchman called to the soldiers to stop, else he would shoot the first man. Disregarding the threat, the lieutenant extended his men in skirmishing order, and attacked. Bezuidenhout fired, happily missed, and retreated into his house, whence he passed by a back-door into the thick jungle in rear. They lost him for a time, but finally traced him to a steep krantz, or precipice, up the almost inaccessible face of which he and his follower had taken refuge in a small cavern. The muzzles of their rifles were seen protruding from the entrance. Lieutenant Rousseau therefore crept up warily, until he reached a ledge above the aperture, from which point he challenged the farmer to surrender, telling him the reason of his being there, and assuring him of personal safety.
The man replied he would die rather than submit. The Lieutenant endeavoured to persuade him to surrender, but he was obdurate. Night was approaching. The officer was anxious to get his men out of these dark kloofs in daylight. He therefore ordered them to ascend in two bodies. They did so, reached the cave, and rushed to the entrance, from which Bezuidenhout fired, but without effect, the muzzle of his rifle having been thrown up. At the same moment one of the soldiers fired into the cavern, and shot the farmer dead on the spot. The servant surrendered, and on entering the place it was found that a large quantity of ammunition had been collected there, evidently with a view to standing a siege.
After the departure of the military, the relations and friends of the unfortunate and misguided man assembled to bury him, and, over his grave, they vowed to avenge his death. A brother of Bezuidenhout spoke to them, and so wrought on their feelings that a great number of the farmers of that and the neighbouring districts ultimately assembled under arms, with the avowed intention of ridding themselves altogether of British interference! They went still further, and took a step which might have been much more serious. They sent Cornelius Faber, a brother-in-law of the Bezuidenhouts, to the Kafir chief Gaika for the purpose of rousing that savage and his hordes to attack the Colony.
Of course the Government was obliged to frustrate such an attempt with all possible speed. Troops were immediately sent against the rebels, under Colonel Cuyler. One of the rebel leaders, named Prinsloo, was captured at a critical moment, and the main body, amounting to between three and four hundred, was finally met with. But before proceeding to extremities, a field-commandant, William Nel, volunteered to go alone among the rebels, and reason with them. He did so, and was so far successful as to shake the resolution of some, for, although disaffected, many of these men were by no means so foolish as their leaders. Indeed, many of them had been threatened and coerced into rebellion. Seeing the effect of Nel's remonstrances, Faber, Bezuidenhout, and other leaders, assembled their forces at a place called Slachters Nek, and exacted from them an oath to remain faithful to each other until they had expelled the tyrants from the frontier.
Next morning Colonel Cuyler proceeded to attack them. On his approach thirty or more of them threw down their arms in token of surrender; the remainder, seeing that resistance would be hopeless, retired into the fastnesses of Baviaans River. There they were followed and surrounded, and an attempt was made to bring them to submission, but during the night most of them managed to escape by familiar mountain passes.
The principal leaders, rejecting all terms, escaped with their wagons, families, and goods to the Winterberg Mountains, bordering on Kafirland, where they hoped to be safe; but, being followed up hotly by a body of troops under Major Fraser, they were eventually overtaken and surrounded in a deep kloof. Here six of them were brought to bay, among whom were Faber, with his wife, his son—a lad of fourteen years,—and John Bezuidenhout. These, retiring behind the wagons, a skirmish began, which was not concluded until one of the soldiers was killed, another wounded, Bezuidenhout shot, and Faber and his wife and son severely wounded. Then the party were taken prisoners.
Subsequently fifty or sixty of the other rebels were captured and taken to Capetown. Of these, thirty-nine of the most culpable were tried on the charge of high treason. Six were condemned to death; the others, after being compelled to witness the execution of their leaders, were to undergo various degrees of punishment, according to their proved guilt. One of the six had the capital sentence commuted to transportation for life, and the remaining five ringleaders were executed.
LION-HUNTING, ETCETERA, IN THE EARLY DAYS—BUSHMEN AND THEIR TROUBLES.
It is deeply interesting to tread in the footsteps of bold adventurous men, and visit the scenes which have been rendered classic by their deeds of heroic daring or of patient endurance. So I found it during my brief sojourn in the regions of Baviaans River, where, upwards of fifty years before, my countrymen had faced, fought, and subdued the savage, the wilderness, and the wild-beast.
The every-day life of the early settlers of this region cannot be better illustrated than by a brief quotation from the diary of one of them.
"October 1st.—Arrival of the Somerset wagon with flour, seed-corn, etcetera. I discharged the servant Sandy from the party, gave him a pass, countersigned by the Deputy-Landdrost, and sent him off with the Somerset wagon towards Grahamstown. This lad has turned out to be at once a fool and a blackguard, and quite beyond hope of reform.
"4th.—A sharp frost last night blighted all our early potatoes, pumpkins, melons, kidney-beans, etcetera. It appears we had sown some of our seed too early.
"8th, Sunday.—A troop of about twenty quaggas galloped through the corner of our gardens during divine service.
"9th.—A herd of hartebeests passed close to our huts, pursued by a pack of six wild dogs (Hyaena venatica). Fired at the latter, but without effect. This day Mr John Rennie, being out hunting on Hyndhope Fells, fell in with two wild Bushmen, dressed in sheepskins. They ran off on his approach, but made no demonstration of hostility. He came upon six hyenas devouring a hartebeest, and brought me its skull and horns.
"11th.—Visited by three Boers from the Tarka—desirous of exchanging horses and cattle for guns and ammunition. Completed my map of the location.
"16th.—Surprised by a slight fall of snow; weather chill and cloudy. The laughing hyena heard near the folds last night. The sound truly horrible.
"21st.—Fine weather. Killed a large yellow snake.
"23rd.—Received a visit from our district clergyman, the Reverend J. Evans of Cradock. He brought a packet from the Landdrost conveying letters from the Colonial Secretary, assuring me of the continued support of the Government, and giving us the agreeable intelligence that a party of emigrants from the West of Scotland were speedily expected out, who would be located close beside us. Received also very pleasant letters from Scotland, from Dr Philip, and from our parted comrade Mr Elliott. Religious service in the evening by Mr Evans. All much pleased and comforted.
"24th.—Mr G. Rennie, who at my request had gone with a party of Hottentots to explore the country beyond the mountains towards the Koonap River, returned with a very favourable report of it. Abundance of wood, water, and rich pasturage. He saw a great deal of large game, and the recent traces of elephants. Shot a gnu and hartebeest.
"November 1st.—The weather warm and serene, like the finest summer weather in England. Two snakes and a large scorpion killed. Turtle-doves, touracoos, thrushes, finches, and other birds of beautiful plumage become numerous.
"6th.—Violent storm of thunder. The peals fearfully loud. Magnificent clouds at sunset.
"15th.—A tiger-wolf broke into the kraal last night, and killed several sheep.
"22nd.—A wolf-trap constructed, with the aid of the Hottentots, of large stones and timber.
"29th.—A wolf caught in the trap.
"December 4th.—A heavy rain for three days swells the river to an unfordable size. All the dry beds of torrents filled with furious floods.
"7th.—Weather again warm and serene. Mr G. Rennie kills another wild-boar at Glen Vair.
"19th.—My brother John finds stone fit for millstones, and with the aid of one of the Hottentots begins to construct a small mill.
"29th.—My father narrowly escapes being gored by a furious ox. Blight appears in the wheat.
"30th.—Receive a large packet of letters and newspapers from Scotland. All deeply interested. This is the first packet of British newspapers that has reached us."
How all the Robinson-Crusoe blood in one's veins is stirred by such a diary! Truly I sometimes almost regret that I was not born to become a pioneer settler in the African wilds!
However, it is some comfort to have the privilege of paying a flying visit to these same wilds, which in many respects are quite as wild now as they were then. The lions, elephants, quaggas, and some others of the large game, it is true, have taken themselves off to remoter wilds, but the leopards, hyenas, baboons, antelopes, still inhabit these kloofs, while snakes, scorpions, and the like are as plentiful as ever.
Talking of baboons reminds me that these creatures are said to sleep sometimes on a ledge of rock on the face of a precipice for security against lurking foes. I was assured that sometimes a row of them may be seen in such a situation sitting sound asleep, with their faces in their hands, against the precipice, and their tails hanging over the ledge. Of course I do not vouch for the truth of such reports. I am answerable only for what I profess to have seen.
The highest type of monkey suggests the lowest type of man in Africa. This is the Bushman, or, as the Dutch have it, Bosjesman. He is a branch of the Hottentot race, and a very miserable, stunted branch; nevertheless he is very far indeed removed from the baboon. He has no tail, for certain; at least if he has, he conceals it effectually. He wears garments, which no monkey does, and he speaks, which no monkey ever did.
No thanks to the white man, however, if the poor Bushman is not a baboon with the spirit of a tiger, for he has been most shamefully treated in time past. It is true the Bushmen were arrant thieves, and committed great havoc among the frontier farmers at various times, and it was both natural and right that these farmers should defend their homes and property. But it was neither right nor natural that these unfortunate natives should have been so cruelly dealt with.
When the Scotch party settled at Glen Lynden, their troubles with wild-beast pilferers were augmented occasionally by the appearance of Bosjesman-thieves.
"In the beginning of October," writes Mr Pringle, "we were somewhat alarmed by the discovery of a band of predatory Bushmen, lurking among the rocks and caverns of the wild mountains between us and the valley of the Tarka. Lieutenant Pettingal, an officer of engineers, who was then in our valley, engaged in the Government survey of the country, discovered this horde in searching for some of his horses that were missing. Suspecting, from the traces, that they had been carried off by Bushmen, he went out with an armed troop in pursuit, and came upon a party of these wild marauders in one of the most savage recesses of the neighbouring mountains. They were at breakfast, on a grey horse which they had slaughtered, and had steaks roasting on the fire cut out of the flank, with the hide still upon them. Pettingal, enraged by the supposed loss of his best blood-horse, poured in a volley upon them; but, apparently, without effect, for they all scrambled off with inconceivable agility among the rocks and bushes. He recovered, however, some of his own horses, and eight belonging to our neighbour which were tied up under an overhanging cliff near the top of a mountain."
There were no Bushmen running wild among the beautiful hills and valleys of Glen Lynden when Hobson and I entered it, but the region was not free, as I have related, from naked Kafirs, and it is still noted for its population of hairy baboons.
RAIN! RAIN! RAIN!—BABOONS RIVER—SEAHORSE KLOOF—WE HUNT THE HILLS ON HORSEBACK IN SPITE OF RAIN—FLOODS AND ACCIDENTS—PART FROM HOBSON— MAIL-CARTS AND DIAMOND-DIGGERS.
Rain is a blessed refreshment to the thirsty land; it is a life-giving cordial to the thirsty soul; but when rain descends in torrents and without cessation during the greater part of one's brief holiday, or at any other very unseasonable period, and when one is not thirsty, it becomes depressing, to say the least.
Thus was I treated by rain during my week in Baviaans River. Hobson and I had at last pushed up into the very heart of that wild mountain region,—the allotted home of the Scottish settlers of 1820, the scene of many Kafir raids and battles.
For months before we had lived in perpetual sunshine. Hobson had sighed for a drop of rain. Sometimes South Africans have to sigh for a twelve-month before relief is sent. Even while I write, the colony is suffering excessively from drought, and many farmers have been ruined. On the Karroo I had almost come to forget the sensation of being rained upon, and an umbrella there would have appeared as great an impropriety as a muslin overcoat in Nova Zembla. Nevertheless, no sooner did we arrive at Seahorse Kloof than the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain came down steadily night and day, while the sky presented a universal grey that would have done credit to the Scottish Highlands. It was too bad!
My main object in penetrating to these rugged wilds was to visit one of the Pringles, a relative of personal friends on the borders of my own land. Finding that Mr Pringle was absent from home, we turned aside to visit a cousin of Hobson's, a Mr John Edwards, who dwelt in what appeared to me the fag-end of the world,—a lonely farmhouse, at the head of the mountain gorge named Seahorse Kloof.
"It's a splendid country," said Hobson, "with lots of game, and Edwards is a noted hunter, besides being a capital fellow."
What more could man desire? We arrived full of hope and spirits, received a hearty welcome, and awoke next day to find the sky grey, as I have said, and the rain descending steadily.
Of course we hoped against hope, but as day after day came and went, our hopes and spirits sank. Then there came a reaction that is not uncommon in the circumstances,—we grew desperate, and began to enjoy our misery. We got out our rifles, took up a sheltered position in the shed of an outhouse, and blazed away from dripping morn to pouring eve at empty bottles, amongst which we did tremendous execution.
Of course, also, we relieved the tedium of enforced indoor life by song and talk, but these resources could not make up for lost time, and the depth to which I had been sunk was revealed to me by the sudden rebound of joy when, after a week of heavy wet, there was a break in the universal grey and the sun came feebly out. Blessed sun, if thou wert to roast me alive, methinks I would love thee still!
Before this happened, however, we had a few brief intervals of modified dripping. During one of these, in which the rain all but ceased for a forenoon, I resolved to go out into one of the mountain gorges for a ramble alone. My host lent me his double barrel—one barrel being for shot, the other rifled.
"It is loaded," said he, "the right with shot, the left with ball."
"Very good," said I; "expect a tiger when I return."
My host smiled. Leopards were there, truly, but as he knew, and as I have elsewhere mentioned, they never show themselves except when driven out of their retreats by dogs. To say truth, I only wanted a walk, expected to kill a rabbit or a crow, and hoped faintly for a buck. None of these things did I see, but I found a small coney, at which I fired the shot barrel. To my surprise there came no report from the gun, merely a feeble spirt. I afterwards learned that one of "the boys" had loaded it the day before with a miniature charge for small birds. Hope increased as I pushed further up into the Kloof, and fancy began to play. Although there was no chance of seeing "tigers," it was something to know that such creatures were really there; that I was actually in the native home of "wild-beasts." The floor of my host's parlour was covered with the beautiful spotted skins of animals which had been shot or trapped by himself. One of these measured about nine feet, which, allowing three for the tail, gives a body of six feet long.
As the day advanced rain again began to fall, but nothing could damp me now. I had almost worked myself into the belief that I was tiger-hunting! I advanced with cautious tread, looked earnestly into dark caverns, and passed under the deep shadow of thick and tangled bushes with feelings of awe. I even indulged my wayward fancy by thinking of Gordon Cumming and Livingstone; did my best to mistake gnarled roots for big snakes, and red stones for couching leopards. At last, while in the sombre twilight of a dense mass of underwood, I actually did see a bit of brown hair moving. I threw forward my rifle with a promptitude worthy of Hawkeye himself, but experienced no shock of excitement, for the object was so palpably a small rabbit, or coney, that imagination sternly refused to deceive me. Baboons had been heard barking on the evening of our arrival. I looked out for these, but saw none. In short, none of the inhabitants of wood, glen, or mountain, save myself, were foolish enough to go out in such weather. Nevertheless I returned to the house happy and ready for supper.
On Saturday morning the sunshine, which I have before mentioned, gladdened our eyes and hearts. The weather seemed at last favourable. Edwards at once ordered out horses and rifles, and away we went—four of us—up the mountains after game. It was a new experience in regard to riding. Horses, I knew, were capable of travelling over exceedingly rough roads, and trained ones could even ascend staircases, but I now learned that horses can climb precipices. Never saw anything like it before; never even imagined it!
Our prospects were fair, but they were false, for, ere long, the rain began again. However, we were reckless by that time and defied it. Riding up the kloof that I had traversed on foot, we sighted bucks but got no shot. Gaining the top of the kloof we saw more bucks—out of range. We passed over the shoulder of the mountain into another glen, and skirted the top of a precipice. While descending some slopes at an angle of I know not what, the use of our cruppers became strikingly apparent. I began, for the first time in my life, to feel anxiety as to the strength of a horse's tail. In going up such places the saddle girths were severely tried, but the mane kept one from slipping down one's perpendicular animal.
Coming to a comparatively level stretch we sank into a silently reflective and forgetful mood, while the rain-drops dribbled down our noses, sopped from our mackintoshes to our saddles, whence they re-ascended, through the capillary influence of garments, to our necks, and soon equalised our humidity.
"Look out!" shouted Edwards, suddenly. We all obeyed, and saw a brown buck labouring up a slope so steep that running was out of the question. I stuck my heels into my steed and faced him at the slope. He took it. He would have taken the side of a house, I think, if told to. But he gasped with the frantic nature of his efforts. I felt as if he were leaping up the slope, kangaroo fashion, on his hind-legs. On reaching the top, the antelope was observed disappearing in the distance. It was of no use weeping. Rain would have washed the tears away.
"Look out!" again shouted our host; "get off!"
We all obeyed, cocked our guns, and gazed. A herd of antelopes! just visible in the mist. We all fired, and missed.
"Very mysterious," muttered one of our number,—I forget which.
We loaded hastily, but not quickly. Our guns were muzzle-loaders, and rain does not facilitate loading. In trying to force a bullet down, my ramrod slipped, and I cut my knuckles severely.
"You've drawn first blood, anyhow," savagely muttered one of us,—I forget who.
We mounted again, and let me tell you that mounting on a steep hillside in a long wet mackintosh with a big rifle, bleeding knuckles, and a heavy heart, is difficult as well as disagreeable.
To increase our enjoyment, Edwards again shouted, "Get off!" We did so with more than military obedience, and I saw a buck standing not more than a hundred yards in front of me. I gave him the rifled barrel. He hopped. Then the shot barrel. He winced and fled, but presently stopped and lay down. Edwards ran towards him, kneeled, fired, and broke his leg. Between us all we managed to kill him, and then turned homewards.
The only noteworthy incident that occurred on the way back was the starting of a troop of baboons, which went scampering down the cliffs in consternation like balls of brown hair. We also descended some broken ground, so steep that it was almost impossible to keep the saddle. Looking at Edwards, I observed that the ears of his horse appeared between his feet, while its tail waved over his head like a dragoon's plume. At last we were compelled to dismount and lead our animals, our minds being sometimes divided between the danger of missing our footing in front, and being tumbled on by our steeds behind.
Thus we hunted on the Baviaans River mountains in adverse circumstances, and returned home moderately pleased, though not particularly successful.
The rains had by that time flooded the whole country, and rendered travelling almost impossible. The river was running wildly past the house, and there was no bridge over it.
We held a consultation on Monday as to our departure. The weather was fine at last, but the river flooded. The tortuous nature of its bed necessitated five or six crossings in the course of twelve miles. Were they fordable? was the question. "We shall go and try," was Hobson's final decision. "Try" is the watchword of all true pioneers. We saddled and set forth. Hobson drove the cart, with my portmanteau. During the first part of the journey I was to accompany Edwards on horseback. We had a Hottentot servant with us, who rode one horse and led another.
It was a most enjoyable ride in the bright sunshine that day. Everything was fresh, green, and glittering after the long-continued rain. Baboons were seen on the way, and shouted at us, whether in defiance, derision, or encouragement, is best known to themselves. All the "drifts" or fords were passed in safety till we came to the last on Baviaans River. Here the powerful stream rose to our saddles, and the opposite bank had been so much washed away that it seemed impossible to get the cart up.
"I'll cross," said Edwards, "and if necessary we'll cut a slope in the bank."
In he went, floundered through, and managed to ascend the opposite bank, though not without a severe struggle, for besides being high and steep, it was very wet—coated, in fact, with soft mud.
The Tottie with the led horse followed his master. I followed the Tottie—close in his steps, so as to get the benefit of his experience, either by imitating or avoiding his example. We gained the opposite side. I saw the Hottentot's horse rise before me as if mounting a staircase. He slipped, and floundered on his nose and knees. The led horse disconcerted him. Just then my own horse made a bound up the bank, and pawed the mud for a moment. "Slack the reins! give him his head!" shouted Edwards. I did so. With a mighty plunge and a groan the sturdy animal bore me to the top of the bank in safety. I turned and saw the Tottie's horse throw up its head and fore legs, as if imploringly, to the skies, and fall backwards. The Tottie himself appeared for a moment in the form of a spread-eagle, and then horse and man went back with a sounding splash into the river.
Hobson, who had been all the time enjoying the spectacle, now crossed with the cart; but, on taking the bank, despite their utmost efforts, the powerful pair stuck fast on their knees and noses. Meanwhile the Hottentot scrambled out with his animals, none the worse for the plunge.
As the horses could not move the cart an inch in their semi-perpendicular position, we unharnessed them, and the four of us, by slow degrees, working one wheel at a time, zig-zagged the cart upward a few feet, when horses were once more attached, and the crossing was finally accomplished.
That evening we came to "Smith's farm," one of the places where the Diamond-field coaches stop to change horses. It was beyond the mountains at the commencement of the great rolling plains. Here I had arranged to await the arrival of the mail-cart, and proceed via Bedford to Grahamstown.
And here, with deep regret, I bade farewell to my friend Hobson—a true-hearted, well-educated Englishman, born in the colony; the son of one of the "1820 settlers;" a brave, bold, fearless, loving man, who hunted lions, leopards, elephants, zebras, and all the large game of Africa in his youth, and was "out" in the war,—a warm friend, a splendid type of those hardy men whose lot it is to subdue the wilderness.
There were several hours to pass before the arrival of the mail-cart. Smith and his people were busy, and, as there were no guests at the time in that lonely road-side inn, I had plenty of leisure to bask in the sunshine, sketch the cactus bushes that abounded there, [see Note 1], gaze dreamily over the boundless Karroo, and meditate sadly on friendships and partings.
The first thing that struck me on turning from Smith's humble abode to ramble on the plains was the presence of a bad smell—a very bad smell! I brought my nose to bear in various directions, but could discover no cause. Having nothing to do I applied myself with diligence to the investigation, all the more earnestly that I found it impossible to get out of the tainted atmosphere. Regarding the heavens steadily, for it was very calm, and making up my mind as to the direction which the little wind that there was came from, I followed my nose, and was led by it to the decaying carcass of an ox which lay not a hundred yards from Smith's door. My opinion of Smith was lowered! When I passed to windward of the carcass, the bad smell ceased.
I mention this, not because it is an interesting incident, but because it is a feature of South African travel. Wherever you go on the Karroo, there you will find the rotting remains of poor creatures, which, having "died in harness," are cast loose for the benefit of the vultures. These ill-looking and disgusting birds are most useful scavengers. They scent the quarry from afar—so far, indeed, as to be beyond the vision of human eyes. You may gaze round you far and near in the plains, and behold no sign of any bird; but kill one of your horses and leave it dead on the plain, and straightway, from various quarters of the heavens, you will see little specks which grow and float, and circle and grow, until they assume the ugly form and huge proportions of unclean vultures, which will perch on the carcass, and make away with it in a remarkably short space of time. It was only the skin and bones of the ox which rendered themselves obnoxious at Smith's. Vultures had cleared out of it every morsel of flesh some days before.
As I have said, there are no roads worthy of the name in many parts of the Karroo. Those that exist are often in such a dilapidated condition that travellers sometimes find it more pleasant to forsake them and drive over the rugged veldt. This can be easily understood when it is remembered that the roads are traversed by the celebrated "Cape wagons," which are of enormous size and weight, requiring from sixteen to twenty oxen to draw them. Such vehicles finding a hollow in a road, soon make it a deep hole, which finally becomes an impassable cavern. In drawing, struggling, and fighting with these wagons, sick and weakly animals constantly succumb, are left to die, and thus vultures are supplied with a continual feast, while carcasses and skulls, and bleaching bones, are familiar objects by the roadsides on the plains.
At last the mail-cart arrived, and I secured a place.
It is usually a small two-wheeled vehicle drawn by four horses, the driver of which seems to think that every one ought to possess an iron frame as callous as his own. The cart has a species of canvas hood, such as I have described in a former letter, stretched on a movable frame. It serves the purpose of a monstrous parasol. You get into this cart, the team is cleverly started by, it may be, a smart fellow, and driven away with the speed at which mails ought to travel; or it is wildly started by a conceited driver, who sets out with a plunge, and continues his course with a prolonged crash, as though the fate of empires reposed in his mail-bags. You come to a ditch; you go in with a plunge, and come out with a jerk. Your head hits the back of the hood when you go in, your nose hits the back of the driver when you come out. A rut in the road causes one wheel to descend suddenly about eighteen inches; or an unavoidable lump of that height produces the same effect; the hood gives you a deliberate punch on the head. Before you have quite recovered, it gives you another. A miniature precipice appears. This was caused by the latest waterspout choosing to cut the road instead of follow it. The mail-cart does not pause. Its springs were made, apparently, to spring. It descends. For one instant you are left in the air, the next you resume your seat—with violence. This sort of thing does not last long, however, for you quickly become wise. You acquire the habit of voluntarily stiffening your backbone at the ditches, of yielding to the ruts, and of holding on at the precipices. Still, with all your precautions, you suffer severely. I have been seriously informed that, during some of their plunges on what may be called stormy roads, men have been jolted bodily out of mail-carts at the Cape, and I can easily believe it.
The Diamond-field mail was full, but they kindly made room for me, and plastered my portmanteau, like an excrescence, on the other baggage.
The drive to Bedford was too short to admit of much familiar intercourse with the diggers,—if diggers they were. Subsequently I met with a successful digger, who told me a good deal about the diamond-fields. He was a Scot, who had left a lucrative claim to be managed by a partner while he took a trip to the "old country." His account of diamond digging inclined me to think that coal-heaving is a much easier occupation, and more remunerative on the whole, except in the case of lucky diggers. This Scot showed me what he called a "big diamond," and allowed me to make a careful drawing of it. He could not guess at its value. If it had been a pure diamond like the "star of South Africa," it would have been worth many thousands of pounds, but it was not pure. According to digger parlance it was "off-colour," and, therefore, not excessively valuable. Still it was a precious gem, and would doubtless fetch several hundreds of pounds. Of course it was unpolished, but even in that state was very beautiful. It weighed seventy-eight carats. The "star of South Africa," above referred to, was a pure and magnificent gem. It was found by a Hottentot, named Swartzboy, sold by him for 400 pounds, and disposed of the same day for 12,000 pounds—so, at least, runs one account of the matter.
Late in the evening we reached Bedford.
As we started next morning at break of day my personal knowledge of that flourishing town is too limited to warrant many remarks thereon. It may be that the vision of ghostly houses passing our cart in the morning mists suggested to my sleepy imagination the idea of a town, but I cannot remember that it did. Possibly the fact that the population numbered above 1000 may have occurred to my mind, but I think not. It is more probable that the mind, if it operated at all, pictured the population as recumbent and snoring. Indeed, the only thing that memory will recall, when severely taxed, in regard to Bedford, is—bed, its first syllable.
Note 1. The author was an artist as well as a writer of merit, and exhibited water-colour drawings at the Royal Scottish Academy.
CROSSING THE GREAT FISH RIVER—TRAVELLING AT THE CAPE AS IT IS TO BE— GRAHAMSTOWN, HER EARLY STRUGGLES AND PRESENT PROSPERITY.
Travelling in South Africa is occasionally interrupted by sudden storms of rain which convert dry beds of streams into roaring torrents, and perennial rivers into devastating floods.
At the Great Fish River I came on a specimen of the mighty power of water in the ruins of a splendid bridge. The great floods of the previous year had carried one-half of it away. The other half—denuded of its flooring and all its woodwork, and standing out against the sky a mere skeleton of iron girders—still connected the left bank of the river with the massive tower of masonry in the middle. From this tower to the other bank was a gulf impassable to horse or cart. The great river itself flows in a deep channel. It was still somewhat flooded. From its high banks we saw it roaring more than forty feet beneath the level of the bridge. It was clear to the most ignorant eye that fording the stream was impossible. I looked inquiringly at the driver.
"You'll have to go over on the rope," he said, with a sardonic smile.
"The rope?" said I, with an earnest gaze at the impassable gulf.
"Yes, the rope. There's a man crossing now."
I looked again, and observed something like a cobweb on the sky between the central pier and the opposite bank. There was a black spot that resembled a spider moving slowly along the cobweb. It was a fellow-man!
"And the mails and the luggage?" I asked.
"Go over same way."
"The cart and horses?"
"Don't go over at all. Get fresh ones on other side. There was once a box on the river for hauling them over, but it's been damaged."
The process of crossing was begun at once.
The driver and some workmen shouldered the bags and baggage, while the passengers—of whom there were three—followed to the central pier.
To men with heads liable to giddiness the passage from the bank to the pier would have been trying, for, the floor having been carried away, we had to walk on the open girders, looking down past our feet to the torrent as to a miniature Niagara. The distance of forty feet seemed changed to four hundred from that position. Fortunately none of us were afflicted with giddy heads.
The flat space on the tower-top gained, we found two workmen engaged in tying our baggage to a little platform about four feet square, which was suspended by ropes to a couple of little wheels. These wheels travelled on a thick cable,—the spider web before referred to. The contrivance was hauled to and fro by a smaller line after the manner of our rocket apparatus for rescuing life at sea, and, when we passengers afterwards sat down on it with nothing but the tight grip of our hands on an iron bar to save us from falling into the flood below, we flattered ourselves that we had attained to something resembling the experience of those who have been saved from shipwreck.
Many people hold the erroneous doctrine that travellers and traffic create railways, whereas all experience goes to prove that railways create travellers and traffic. Of course at their first beginnings railways were formed by the few hundreds of travellers who were chiefly traffickers, but no sooner were they called into being than they became creative,—they turned thousands of stay-at-homes into travellers; they rushed between the great centres of industry, sweeping up the people in their train, and, with a grand contempt of littleness in every form, caught up the slow-going cars and coaches of former days in their huge embrace, and whirled them along in company with any number you chose of tons and bales of merchandise; they groaned up the acclivities of Highland hills, and snorted into sequestered glens, alluring, nay, compelling, the lonely dwellers to come out, and causing hosts of men, with rod and gun and hammer and botanical box, to go in; they scouted the old highroads, and went, like mighty men of valour, straight to the accomplishment of their ends, leaping over and diving under each other, across everything, through anything, and sticking at nothing, until over lands where, fifty years ago, only carts and coaches used to creep and poor pedestrians were wont to plod, cataracts of travellers now flow almost without intermission night and day—the prince rolling in his royal bedroom from palace to palace; the huntsman flying to the field, with his groom and horse in a box behind him; the artisan travelling in comfort to his daily toil, with his tools and a mysterious tin of victuals at his feet; thousands on thousands of busy beings hurrying through the land where one or two crawled before; shoals of foreigners coming in to get rid of prejudices and add "wrinkles to their horns," while everything is cheapened, and, best of all, knowledge is increased by this healthy—though, it may be, rather rapid—moving about of men and women.
Thus railways have created travellers and traffic. But they have done much more; they have turned road-side inns into "grand hotels"; they have clambered up on the world's heights, and built palatial abodes on the home of the mountain-hare and the eagle, where weak and worn invalids may mount without exertion, and drink in health and happiness with the freshest air of heaven.
The principle cannot be disputed that the creation of railways between great centres of industry has a direct tendency to stimulate that industry and to create other subsidiary industries with their travellers on business and travellers for pleasure. If railways ran over the Karroo, adventurous capitalists would come from all ends of the earth to see it; they would buy land when they found a convenient mode of running their produce to the markets of the large towns and the ports on the coast; they would start ostrich farms and breed horses, and grow wool, and build mighty dams, and sink artesian wells, as the French have done with some success I believe in Algiers. If railways were run up to the diamond-fields, adventurous diggers would crowd in hundreds to the great pit of Kimberley; some would succeed; those who failed would gravitate into the positions for which they were fitted by nature in a land where the want of labourers is a confessedly perplexing evil. The population would not only be increased by much new blood from without, but by that which results from prosperity and wealth within; off shoot, and as yet unimagined, enterprises would probably become numerous; additional lines would be pushed on into the gold regions; all sorts of precious gems and minerals, including "black diamonds," are known to be abundant in the Transvaal, and,—but why go on? Those who agree with me understand these matters so well as to require no urging. As for those who don't agree:
"The man convinced against his will Is of the same opinion still."
What I have written is for the benefit of those who know little or nothing about South Africa. I will only add to it my own conviction, [see note 1], that the day is not far distant when a Cape man will breakfast one morning in Capetown, and dine next day at Port Elizabeth, (510 miles), run on to Grahamstown, (84 miles), to sup with a friend there take the early train to Graaff-Reinet, (160 miles), so as to have time for luncheon and a chat with a friend or relation before the starting of the night train for Kimberley, (280 miles), where he has to assist at the marriage of a sister with a diamond-digger who intends to spend his honeymoon at the Cliff Hotel amid the romantic scenery of the Catberg, and finish off with a week or two at Snowy Retreat, a magnificent hotel, (yet to be), on the tiptop of the Compassberg mountain.
This brings me back to the point at which I diverged—the Great Fish River, which takes its rise in the Sneewberg range.
What tremendous floods are implied in the carrying away of this bridge! What superabundance of water in that so-called land of drought! What opportunities for engineering skill to catch and conserve the water, and turn the "barren land" into fruitful fields! Don't you see this, Periwinkle? If not, I will say no more, for, according to the proverb, "a nod is as good as a wink to the blind horse."
Having crossed the bridge in safety we continued our journey in the new vehicle with fresh horses, and reached Grahamstown at four in the afternoon.
Between sixty and seventy years is not a great age for a city. Indeed, as cities go, Grahamstown may be called quite infantile. Nevertheless this youthful city has seen much rough work in its brief career.
Grahamstown was born in smoke, and cradled in war's alarms. It began life in 1812, at which time the thieving and incorrigible Kafirs were driven across the Great Fish River—then the colonial boundary—by a strong force of British and Burgher troops under Colonel Graham. During these disturbed times it was established as headquarters of the troops which guarded the frontier.
When the infant was seven years old its courage and capacity were severely put to the proof. In the year 1818-19—just before the arrival of the "British settlers,"—it was deemed necessary to interfere in the concerns of contending Kafir chiefs, and to punish certain tribes for their continued depredations on the colony. For these ends, as well as the recovery of stolen cattle, a strong force was sent into Kafirland. While the troops were absent, a body of Kafirs assembled in the bush of the Great Fish River, from which they issued to attack Grahamstown. They were led by a remarkable man named Makana. He was also styled the Lynx.
This Kafir, although not a chief, rose to power by the force of a superior intellect and a strong will. He was well-known in Grahamstown, having been in the habit of paying it frequent visits, on which occasions he evinced great curiosity on all subjects, speculative as well as practical.
Makana appears to have been an apt scholar. Being a man of eloquence as well as originality, he soon acquired ascendency over most of the great chiefs of Kafirland, was almost worshipped by the people, who acknowledged him a warrior-chief as well as a prophet, and collected around him a large body of retainers. It has been thought by some that Makana was a "noble" savage, and that although he imposed on the credulity of his countrymen, his aim was to raise himself to sovereign power in order to elevate the Kafir race nearer to a level with Europeans.
But whatever be the truth regarding his objects, the invasion of Kafirland by the white men gave Makana an opportunity of which he was not slow to avail himself. His followers had suffered, with others, from the proceedings of the troops, and his soul was fired with a desire to be revenged and "drive the white men into the sea,"—a favourite fate, in the Kafir mind, reserved for the entire colonial family!
Makana was general enough to perceive that nothing effective could be accomplished by the mere marauding habits to which his countrymen were addicted. He had learned that "union is strength," and, making use of his spirit-rousing power of eloquence, went about endeavouring to concentrate the aims of the savages and to direct their energies. In these efforts he was in some measure successful. He pretended to have received heavenly revelations, and to have been sent by the great spirit to avenge their wrongs; predicted certain success to the enterprise if his followers only yielded implicit obedience to his commands, and thus managed to persuade most of the various clans to unite their forces for a simultaneous attack on the headquarters of the British troops. He told them that he had power to call from their graves the spirits of their ancestors to assist them in the war, and confidently affirmed that it was decreed that they were to drive the white men across the Zwartkops River into the ocean, after which they should "sit down and eat honey!"
Early on the morning of the 22nd April 1819 this singular man led his force of 9000 sable warriors towards Grahamstown, and the affair had been conducted with so great secrecy that the few troops there were almost taken by surprise.
Enemies in the camp are always to be more dreaded than open foes. Makana had taken care to provide himself with a spy and informer, in the person of Klaas Nuka, the Government Interpreter to Colonel Wilshire, who was at that time in command of the troops. Three days previous to the attack, this villain—well aware of Makana's approach—informed the Colonel that Kafirs had been seen in the precisely opposite direction. The unsuspecting Colonel at once fell into the trap. He detached the light company of the 38th regiment to patrol in the direction pointed out. Thus was the garrison of the town, which consisted of 450 European soldiers and a small body of mounted Hottentots, weakened to the extent of 100 men.
On that same April morning Colonel Wilshire was quietly inspecting a detachment of the mounted Cape Corps, when the Hottentot Captain Boezac, chief of a band of buffalo-hunters, informed him that he had just received information of Makana's advance. The Colonel, mounted on a fleet charger, at once rode off with an escort of ten men to reconnoitre. He came unexpectedly on the enemy in a ravine not far from the town. They were taking a rest before rushing to the assault, and so sure were these poor savages of their irresistible power, that thousands of their wives and children followed them with their mats, pots, and cooking-jars ready to take possession of the place!
Colonel Wilshire retreated instantly, and there was need for haste. The Kafirs pursued him so closely that he reached his troops only a few minutes before them.
The small band of defenders more than made up for the difference in numbers, by the deadly precision of their fire. The Kafirs came on in a dense sable mass, led by their various chiefs, and generalled by the Lynx, who had impressed his followers with the belief that the muskets of the foe were charged only with "hot water!"
The field pieces of the troops were loaded with shrapnel shells, which at the first discharge mowed long lanes in the advancing masses, while musketry was discharged with deadly effect. But Kafirs are stern and brave warriors. On they came with wild cries, sending a shower of short spears, (assagais), before them, which, however, fell short. Regardless of the havoc in their ranks, they still came on, and the foremost men were seen to break short their assagais, with the evident intention of using them more effectively as daggers in hand-to-hand conflict. This was deliberately done by Makana's orders, and showed his wisdom, for, with the great bodily strength, size, and agility of the Kafirs, and their overwhelming numbers, the attack, if promptly and boldly made at close quarters, could not have failed of success.
At this moment the Hottentot Captain Boezac created a diversion. He rushed with his band of a hundred and thirty men to meet the foe. These buffalo-hunters had among them some of the coolest and best marksmen in the country. Singling out the boldest of those who advanced, and were encouraging their followers in the final charge, Boezac and his men laid low many of the bravest chiefs and warriors. This gave the Kafirs a decided check. The troops cheered and fired with redoubled speed and energy. Lieutenant Aitcheson of the Artillery plied the foe with a withering fire of grapeshot. Boezac and his hunters, turning their flank, pressed them hotly in rear, and the Hottentot cavalry charged. The Kafirs recoiled, though some of the boldest, scorning to give in, rushed madly among the soldiers, and perished fighting. Then a wild panic and a total rout ensued, and the great host was scattered like chaff, and driven into the ravines.
Brief though this fight had been, the carnage among the Kafirs was terrible. One who was an eye-witness of the fight tells us that the bodies of about 2000 Kafir warriors strewed the field of battle, and that many others perished of their wounds in the rivulet leading down to the Cape Corps' barracks. Nuka, the faithless interpreter, was shot, but Makana escaped.
A few months afterwards, however, he delivered himself up, and the other chiefs sued for peace. With Makana's surrender the war of 1819 ended. The Lynx himself was sent prisoner to Robben Island. After nearly two years' confinement he attempted to escape in a boat with some other prisoners, but the boat was upset in the surf on Blueberg beach, and Makana was drowned, while his companions escaped.
As Grahamstown grew in years and size, she bore her part well, both in the suffering and the action which the colony has been called on to endure and undertake, during all the vicissitudes of its career—in peace and in war. What that part has been would take a volume to tell.
She is now a large and beautiful town—the capital of the Eastern Province—situated on the slopes of the Zuurberg range, near the head waters of the Kowie River, 1760 feet above the sea, and thirty-six miles distant therefrom. She is also the focus where all the roads from the interior converge to enter the only available gap through the mountains—Howison's Poort.
Very pleasant to dwell in is this "City of the Settlers"—alias the "city of gardens," with its agreeable society, fresh breezes, and charming situation; its "twenty miles" of well-gravelled and tree-lined streets; its handsome shops and stores, its fine public buildings— notably the Cathedral, and the Albany Hall—its three great reservoirs, with their "twenty-four million gallons" of water, and its "twelve miles" of main pipes, by means of which its inhabitants are watered.
But I must not linger in Grahamstown now. When there in the body, I was sorely tempted to do so, too long, by the kindness of friends and the salubrity of the weather. Adieu, Grahamstown! thou art a green spot in memory, as well as in reality.
Note 1. The map of the present railways on page vi will enable the reader to judge how far this has been realised.
SALEM—A PECULIAR PICNIC—POLO UNDER DIFFICULTIES—LECTURING AND SINGING—SPORTING AT NIGHT.
Salem is, as it should be, a peaceful spot. It was not always so. There was a time when its inhabitants had to toil, so to speak, with the spade in one hand, and the musket in the other. It lies in a hollow of the great rolling plains, and was founded, like many of the eastern towns, in the memorable "1820," when the "British settlers" came out, and a new era for the colony began.
The arrival of the original settlers at Salem is thus described by one who was a noted leader in the first days:
"Our Dutch wagon-driver intimating that we had at length reached our proper location, we took our boxes out of the wagon, and placed them on the ground. He bade us goeden dag, or farewell, cracked his long whip, and drove away, leaving us to our reflections. My wife sat down on one box, and I on another. The beautiful blue sky was above us, and the green grass beneath our feet. We looked at each other for a few moments, indulged in some reflections, and perhaps exchanged a few sentences; but it was no time for sentiment, and hence we were soon engaged in pitching our tent, and when that was accomplished, we removed into it our trunks and bedding. All the other settlers who arrived with us were similarly engaged, and in a comparatively short time the somewhat extensive valley of that part of the Assagai Bush River, which was to be the site of our future village, presented a lively and picturesque appearance."
Soon the spade, the plough, and the axe began their subduing work. Some of the beautiful grassy slopes were turned up. Small clearings were made in the bush. Frail huts with doors of matting and windows of calico began to arise. Lime was found, white-wash was applied, and the huts began to "smile." So did the waters of the stream when partially shorn of the bush-moustache by which, from time immemorial, they had been partially concealed; the first crops were sown, and the work of civilisation began. There was a ruinous "wattle and daub" edifice which had been deserted by a Dutch Boer before the arrival of the settlers. This was converted into a church, town-hall, and hospital.
The yell of the Kafir and the whizzing assagai afterwards disturbed the peace of Salem, and at that time the settlers proved that, though on peaceful plans intent, they could bravely hold their own; but it was peaceful enough, and beautiful, when I first beheld it.
At the door of a moderately handsome residence—which had succeeded the wattle-and-daub style of thing—I was heartily welcomed by my friend and his amiable spouse. Here I had the pleasure of enjoying a South African picnic.
A picnic is at all times interesting, doubly so when undertaken in peculiar circumstances. One of the peculiarities of this picnic was that the invitation to it was publicly given, and embraced the entire population. Another peculiarity was that the population, almost in its entirety, accepted the invitation. But there were still other peculiarities which will appear in the sequel.
The morning of the day fixed was bright and beautiful. This, indeed, was no peculiarity. Most of the mornings, days, and nights in that splendid region were of much the same stamp at that time. The spot fixed on for the scene of the picnic was about six miles from Salem, where a wild buffalo had been killed the week before.
The killing of this buffalo was an "event," for that wild denizen of the African Bush had long ago retired before the rifle of the settler to safer retreats, and rarely returned to his old haunts. A band of buffaloes, however, had apparently taken a fancy to revisit the home of their childhood at this time. There was nothing to prevent them, for, although the country is "settled," the original "Bush" is in many places sufficiently extensive and impervious to afford safe shelter to the wildest of animals. At all events, a band of buffaloes did come to the neighbourhood of Salem, and there met with a farmer-Nimrod, who "picked off" one of their number. I turned aside, during one of my rides, to visit the head and horns, which lay near his house.
The place of rendezvous for those who dwelt in the village was an open space in front of the church. Here, at an early hour, there assembled numerous equestrians, as well as vehicles of varied shape and character. I was mounted on a smart brown pony kindly lent by Mr Shaw, teacher of the flourishing school of Salem. My friend Caldecott bestrode a powerful steed suited to his size. When the gathering had reached considerable proportions, we started like an Eastern caravan.
Among the cavaliers there were stalwart men and fair damsels—also little boys and girls, prancing in anxiety to get away. There were carts, and gigs, and buggies, or things that bore some resemblance to such vehicles, in which were the more sedate ones of the gathering; and there were great "Cape wagons," with fifteen or twenty oxen to each, containing whole families—from hale old "grannies" down to grannies' weaknesses in the shape of healthy lumps of live lard clad in amazement and bibs. It was a truly grand procession, as, after toiling up the slope that leads from the valley of Salem, we debouched upon the wide plain, and assumed our relative positions—that is, the riders dashed away at speed, the carts and buggies, getting up steam, pushed on, and the oxen trailed along at their unalterable gait, so that, in a few minutes, the dense group spread into a moving mass which gradually drew itself out into an attenuated line, whereof the head ultimately became invisible to the tail.
My tall host led the way with enthusiastic vigour. He was a hearty, earnest man, who could turn quickly from the pleasant contemplation of the trivialities of life to the deep and serious consideration of the things that bear on the life to come.
One Sunday I rode over the plains with him to visit a native church in which it was his duty to conduct worship. The congregation was black and woolly-headed—Hottentots chiefly, I believe, though there may have been some Kafirs amongst them.
There is something very attractive to me in the bright, eager, childlike look of black men and women. The said look may be the genuine expression of feeling—it may be, for aught I can tell, the result of contrast between the dazzling whites of eyes and teeth, with liquid-black pupils and swarthy cheeks,—but that does not alter the fact that it is pleasant.
The Hottentot who translated my friend's discourse, sentence by sentence, was a fine specimen—I won't say of his race, but of humanity. He was full of intelligence and fire; caught the preacher's meaning instantly, riveted with his glittering eye the attention of his audience, and rattled out his words with a power that was most impressive, and with the interspersion of those indescribable "clicks" with which the native language abounds.
But to return to the picnic.
As we advanced, groups and couples of cavaliers and carts and wagons joined the line of march from outlying farms, so that when we reached the rendezvous we must have formed a body of two hundred strong, or more.
The spot chosen was the summit of a woody knoll, from which we could survey all the country round, and look down upon the river with its miles and miles of dense bush, in which the buffaloes had vainly fancied themselves free from the danger of human foes.
Was there plenty of food at that picnic? I should think there was. South Africans do not live upon air, by any means—though air has a good deal to do with their living. These comely maidens and strapping boys had not been brought up on water-gruel. These powerful men and ruddy matrons, to say nothing of the aged and the juvenile, would not have gone to that knoll on the plain without a prospect of "strong meat" of some sort. There were pies and joints, buns and beef, cakes and coffee, tea and tongues, sugar and sandwiches, hams and hampers, mounds of mealies, oceans of milk, and baskets of bread and butter. I'm not sure whether there were wines or spirits. I culpably forget. Probably there were not, for "Good Templars" are powerful in that region, and so is temperance.
Did we do justice to the viands? Didn't we? My notions of human capacity were enlarged that day. So was my own capacity—out of sympathy, coupled with the ride. But we did not linger over our food. Seated in groups near the margin of, and partly in, the bush, we refreshed ourselves in comparative silence. Then we grew noisy over our milk and tea. Some of us even got the length of singing and speech-making, but the younger portion of the band soon lost their appetites and dispersed—some to romp, some to ramble, others to engage in games.
A few of the more reckless among us extemporised a game of polo.
Most people know, though some may not, that this is a game played on horseback with a club and ball—a species of equestrian "hockey," as it is styled in England, "shinty" in Scotland. To be well done it requires good and trained horses, a wide expanse of level country, and expert riders. Our state of preparation for the game may be understood when I say that we had indifferent and untrained horses, that the ground was very uneven and covered with huge ant-hills, while the riders were not expert—at least, not at polo.
We got sticks, however, and went at it. Half a dozen men cut and levelled several ant-hills, and marking off a square patch of ground, four of us—I won't say who—were placed, one at each corner, while the ball, a football, was put in the middle of the square.
Our innocent horses stood quietly there till the signal was given to start. Then each cavalier essayed to reach the ball first. The sudden urging of the steeds to instant action seemed to confuse them. They did not spring, as they should have done like arrows from bows. One rider wildly kicked with his heels and shook his reins. The horse turned round, as if in contempt, from the ball. Another applied his whip with vehemence, but his horse only backed. A third shouted, having neither whip nor spur, and brought his polo-stick savagely down on his animal's flank, but it plunged and reared. The only horse that behaved well was that of a gallant youth who wore spurs. A dig from these sent him into the field. He reached the ball, made a glorious blow at it, and hit the terrestrial ball by mistake. Before the mistake could be rectified three of the other players were up, flourishing their long clubs in reckless eagerness; the fourth rode into them; the horses then lost patience and refused obedience to orders—no wonder, for one club, aimed at the ball, fell on a horse's shins, while another saluted a horse's ear. Presently the ball spurted out from the midst of us; the horses scattered, and one was seen to rise on its hind-legs. Immediately thereafter one of the players—I won't say which—was on the ground and his horse was careering over the plain! Regardless of this the other three charged, met in the shock of conflict; clubs met clubs, and ears, and shins—but not the ball—until finally an accidental kick, from one of the horses I think, sent it towards the boundary at a considerable distance from the players.
Then it was that the power of spurs became conspicuously apparent. While two of the champions backed and reared, the gallant youth with the armed heels made a vigorous rush at the ball, miraculously hit it, and triumphantly won the game.
On the whole it was a failure in one sense, but a great success in another, inasmuch as it afforded immense amusement to the spectators, and pleasant excitement as well as exercise to the performers.
It must not be supposed, however, that the energies of the whole picnic were concentrated on polo. The party, as I have said, had broken up into groups, one of which played hide-and-seek among the bushes on the knoll, while another engaged in a game which involved sitting in a circle, changing places, frequent collisions, constant mistakes on the part of the ignorant, and shouts of laughter, with rectifying advice on the part of the knowing.
All this time the sun was glowing as only a South African summer sun can glow, in a cloudless sky, and it was not until that sun had become red in the face, and sunk far down into the west, that the panting, but far from exhausted revellers saddled up and inspanned, and began to quit the scene.
Then it was, as my friend and I stood on the bush-topped knoll, that the magnificence of our picnic fully impressed us, for, as we surveyed the long line of riders, and trundling carts, and gigs, and carriages, and heavy Cape wagons with their creeping teams winding over the plain, the head of the column was seen almost on the horizon before the rear-guard had left the scene of our festivities. This was altogether one of the pleasantest days I had spent in the colony; the people were so hearty and vigorous, so varied in appearance, character, and age, so full of life and fun and good-will.
But it is not always in the sunshine that the good people of Salem enjoy themselves. The hunters among them occasionally go out shooting at night with the aid of a dark lantern, and the wretched creature which they pursue on such occasions is called a spring-hare. It seems a mixture of the hare and the kangaroo—its size and aspect being those of the former animal, while its long hind-legs and its action in springing resemble the latter. In running it does not use its fore legs, but bounds like the kangaroo.
Never having engaged in night-sporting—save in dreams—I agreed to accompany two Salem Nimrods on a hunt after spring-hares.
We went into the fields. That is all I can vouch for. It happened to be so dark that we might as well have been groping about in a coal-pit. My companions, however, knew the ground, which was fortunate, for walking over a rugged surface in the dark is not only confusing, but trying to the nerves, to say nothing of the temper. I followed faithfully and "close to heel," like a well-trained dog.
"This way, Sir; mind the ditch."
"Where? ah! all ri-ight!"
The last syllable was shot out of me like a bullet as I plunged into the ditch.
The Nimrod who carried the lantern opened the slide for a moment, revealed the rugged nature of the ground, and closed it when I had risen.
"It's better farther on," he said, encouragingly.
"Is it? Ah, that's well."
We came to a piece of ground which my feet and legs told me was covered with long rough grass and occasional bushes. Over this we stumbled, and here the rays of the lantern were directed far in advance of us, so as to sweep slowly round, bringing bushes, and grassy tufts, and stumps, and clods, into spectral view for a moment as the focus of light moved on.
"We never see their bodies," said the lantern-bearer, slowly, as he peered earnestly in front, "we only see the sparkle of one eye when the light falls on it, and—then—we—fire—at—there, that's one! Look, don't you see his eye? Fire, Sir, fire!"
I raised my gun, and looked eagerly with all my eyes, but saw nothing. Never having been in the habit of firing at nothing, I hesitated.
"Ah, he's gone! Never mind, we'll soon see another."
We stumbled on again. The surrounding gloom depressed me, but I revived under the influence of one or two false alarms, and a severe plunge into a deepish hole.
"There he is again, quite near," whispered my light-bearer.
"Aim for the eye," whispered the other.
The whispering, and intense silence that followed, coupled with the gloom, made me feel guilty. I saw nothing, but tried so hard to do so that I persuaded myself that I did, and attempted to aim.
"The sights of the gun are invisible," I whispered somewhat testily.
Without a word the lantern was raised until the light glittered on the barrels. Then I saw nothing whatever except the gun! In sheer desperation I pulled the trigger. The tremendous appearance in the dark of the sheet of flame that belched forth, and the crash of the report in the silent night, gave me quite new ideas as to firearms.
"You've missed," said the light-bearer.
As I had fired at nothing I felt inclined to reply that I had not—but refrained.
Again we stumbled on, and I began to grow melancholy, when another "there he goes" brought me to the "ready," with eager eyes.
I saw it clearly enough this time. A diamond was sparkling in the blackness before me. I aimed and fired. There was a squeal and a rush. Instantly my friends dashed off in wild pursuit and I stood listening, not daring to move for fear of ditches. The sounds of leaping, stumbling, and crashing came to me on the night air for a few minutes; then my friends returned with the light, and with a poor little spring-hare's lifeless and long-hind-legged body.
With this trophy I returned home, resolved never more to go hunting at night.
ALGOA BAY—KAFIRS ON THE COAST—DIFFICULTIES REGARDING SERVANTS.
Standing on the shores of Algoa Bay, with the "Liverpool of South Africa"—Port Elizabeth—at my back, I attempted to realise what must have been the scene, in the memorable "1820," when the flourishing city was yet unborn, when the whole land was a veritable wilderness, and the sands on which the port now stands were covered with the tents of the "settlers."
Some of the surroundings, thought I, are pretty much as they were in those days. The shipping at anchor in the offing must resemble the shipping that conveyed the emigrants across the sea—except, of course, these two giant steamers of the "Donald Currie" and the "Union" lines. The bright blue sky, too, and the fiery sun are the same, and so are those magnificent "rollers," which, rising, one scarce can tell when or where, out of a dead-calm sea, stand up for a few seconds like liquid walls, and then rush up the beach with a magnificent roar.
As I gazed, the scene was rendered still more real by the approach from seaward of a great surf-boat, similar to the surf-boats that brought the settlers from their respective ships to the shore. Such boats are still used at the port to land goods—and also passengers, when the breakers are too high to admit of their being landed in small boats at the wooden pier. The surf-boats are bulky, broad, and flat, strongly built to stand severe hammering on the sand, and comparatively shallow at the stern, to admit of their being backed towards the beach, or hauled off to sea through the surf by means of a rope over the bow.
As the surf-boat neared the shore, I heard voices behind me, and, turning round, beheld a sight which sent me completely back into the 1820 days. It was a band of gentlemen in black—black from the crowns of their heads to the soles of their feet, with the exception of their lips and teeth and eyes. Here was the Simon Pure in very truth. They were so-called Red Kafirs, because of their habit of painting their bodies and blankets with red ochre. At this time the paint had been washed off, and the blankets laid aside. They were quite naked, fresh from the lands of their nativity, and apparently fit for anything.
Shade of Othello!—to say nothing of Apollo—what magnificent forms the fellows had, and what indescribably hideous faces! They were tall, muscular, broad-shouldered, small waisted and ankled, round-muscled, black-polished—in a word, elegantly powerful. Many of them might have stood as models for Hercules. Like superfine cloth, they were of various shades; some were brown-black, some almost blue-black, and many coal-black.
They were coming down to unload the surf-boat, and seemed full of fun, and sly childlike humour, as they walked, tripped, skipped and sidled into the water. At first I was greatly puzzled to account for the fact that all their heads and throats were wrapped up, or swathed, in dirty cloth. It seemed as if every man of them was under treatment for a bad cold. This I soon found was meant to serve as a protection to their naked skins from the sharp and rugged edges and corners of the casks and cases they had to carry.
The labour is rather severe, but is well paid, so that hundreds of Kafirs annually come down from their homes in the wilderness to work for a short time. They do not, I believe, make a profession of it. Fresh relays come every year. Each young fellow's object is to make enough money to purchase a gun and cattle, and a wife—or wives. As these articles cost little in Africa, a comparatively short attention to business, during one season, enables a man who left home a beggar to return with his fortune made! He marries, sets his wives to hoe the mealies and milk the cows, and thereafter takes life easy, except when he takes a fancy to hunt elephants, or to go to war for pastime. Ever after he is a drone in the world's beehive. Having no necessity he need not work, and possessing no principle he will not.
As the boat came surging in on the foam, these manly children waded out to meet her, throwing water at each other, and skylarking as they went. They treated the whole business in fact as a rather good jest, and although they toiled like heroes, they accompanied their work with such jovial looks, and hummed such lilting, free-and-easy airs the while, that it was difficult to associate their doings with anything like labour.
Soon the boat grounded, and the Kafirs crowded round her, up to their waists sometimes in the water, and sometimes up to the arm-pits, when a bigger wave than usual came roaring in. The boat itself was so large that, as they stood beside it, their heads barely rose to a level with the gunwale. The boatmen at once began to heave and roll the goods over the side. The Kafirs received them on their heads or shoulders, according to the shape or size of each package—and they refused nothing. If a bale or a box chanced to be too heavy for one man, a comrade lent assistance; if it proved still too heavy, a third added his head or shoulder, and the box or bale was borne off.
One fellow, like a black Hercules, put his wrapper on his head, and his head under a bale, which I thought would crush him down into the surf, but he walked ashore with an easy springing motion, that showed he possessed more than sufficient power. Another man, hitting Hercules a sounding smack as he went by, received a mighty cask on his head that should have cracked it—but it didn't. Then I observed the boatmen place on the gunwale an enormous flat box, which seemed to me about ten feet square. It was corrugated iron, they told me, of, I forget, how many hundredweight. A crowd of Kafirs got under it, and carried it ashore as easily as if it had been a butterfly. But this was nothing to a box which next made its appearance from the bowels of that capacious boat. It was in the form of a cube, and must have measured nine or ten feet in all directions. Its contents I never ascertained, but the difficulty with which the boatmen got it rested on the side of the boat proved its weight to be worthy of its size. To get it on the shoulders of the Kafirs was the next difficulty. It was done by degrees. As the huge case was pushed over the edge, Kafir after Kafir put his head or shoulder to it, until there were, I think, from fifteen to twenty men beneath the weight;—then, slowly, it left the boat, and began to move towards the shore.
Assuredly, if four or five of these men had stumbled at the same moment, the others would have been crushed to death, but not a man stumbled. They came ashore with a slow, regular, almost dancing gait, humming a low monotonous chant, as if to enable them to step in time, and making serio-comic motions with arms and hands, until they deposited safely in a cart a weight that might have tested Atlas himself!
It seemed obvious that these wild men, (for such they truly were), had been gifted with all the powers that most white men lay claim to,— vigour, muscle, energy, pluck, fun, humour, resolution. Only principle is wanted to make them a respectable and useful portion of the human family. Like all the rest of us they are keenly alive to the influence of kindness and affection. Of course if your kindness, forbearance, or affection, take the form of action which leads them to think that you are afraid of them, they will merely esteem you cunning, and treat you accordingly; but if you convince a Kafir, or any other savage, that you have a disinterested regard for him, you are sure to find him grateful, more or less.
One family with which I dined gave me to understand that this was the result of their own experience. At that very time they had a Kafir girl in training as a housemaid. Servants, let me remark in passing, are a Cape difficulty. The demand is in excess of the supply, and the supply is not altogether what it should be, besides being dear and uncomfortably independent. I suppose it was because of this difficulty that the family I dined with had procured a half-wild Kafir girl, and undertaken her training.
Her clothes hung upon her in a manner that suggested novelty. She was young, very tall, black, lithe as an eel, strong as a horse. She was obviously new to the work, and went about it with the air of one who engages in a frolic. But the free air of the wilderness had taught her a freedom of action and stride, and a fling of body that it was not easy to restrain within the confined precincts of a dining—room. She moved round the table like a sable panther—ready to spring when wanted. She had an open-mouthed smile of amused good-will, and an open-eyed "what-next—only-say-quick—and-I'll-do-it" expression that was impressive. She seized the plates and dishes and bore them off with a giraffe-like, high-stepping action that was quite alarming, but she broke or spilt nothing. To say that she flung about, would be mild. It would not have been strange, I thought—only a little extra dash in her jubilant method of proceeding—if she had gone head-foremost through the dining-room window for the sake of bearing the mutton round by a shorter route to the kitchen.
The family expected that this girl would be reduced to moderation, and rendered faithful—as she certainly was intelligent—by force of kindness in a short time.
Of course in a country thus circumstanced, there are bad servants. The independence of the Totties is most amusing—to those who do not suffer from it. I was told that servants out there have turned the tables on their employers, and instead of bringing "characters" with them, require to know the characters of master and mistress before they will engage. It is no uncommon thing for a domestic to come to you and say that she is tired and wants a rest, and is going off to see her mother. Indeed it is something to her credit if she takes the trouble to tell you. Sometimes she goes off without warning, leaving you to shift for yourself, returning perhaps after some days. If you find fault with her too severely on her return, she will probably leave you altogether.
This naturally tries the temper of high-spirited mistresses—as does also the incorrigible carelessness of some servants.
A gentle lady said to me quietly, one day, "I never keep a servant after slapping her!"
"Is it your habit to slap them?" I asked with a smile.
"No," she replied with an answering smile, "but occasionally I am driven to it. When a careless girl, who has been frequently cautioned, singes one's linen and destroys one's best dress, and melts one's tea-pot by putting it on the red-hot stove, what can flesh and blood do?"
I admitted that the supposed circumstances were trying.
"The last one I sent off," continued the lady, "had done all that. When she filled up her cup of iniquity by melting the tea-pot, I just gave her a good hearty slap on the face. I couldn't help it. Of course she left me after that."
I did not doubt it, for the lady was not only gentle in her manner, and pretty to boot, but was tall and stout, and her fair arm was strong, and must have been heavy.
PORT ELIZABETH—ALGOA BAY—DIAMONDS—KAFIR NOBILITY.
Port Elizabeth may be described as the first-born city of the Eastern Province of the Cape of Good Hope. It came into being in 1820. It is now a flourishing seaport, full of energetic, busy, money-making men. It is the principal seaport of the Eastern Province, and the nearest point on the coast to the Diamond-fields—420 miles from De Beer's New Rush, a distance which was traversed in about six days by coaches.
Among its more useful enterprises it has the honour of having sent out one pioneer of future commercial prosperity in the Eastern Province, for Port Elizabeth is the starting-point of one branch of that great railway system which is to revolutionise Africa. I do not say South Africa, but advisedly use the title of wider scope.
It is not every day that one can boast of having handled a tumbler full of diamonds. Being anxious to see a mass of those precious gems in an uncut condition, I appealed to a friend who had come out with me in the "Windsor Castle."
He introduced me to a broker, who took me into a back office, opened a strong-box, took out a small packet, and, untying it, poured out a tumblerful of diamonds! They ranged from the size of a pin-head to that of a bean, and were varied in shade, from pure crystal to straw-colour. The broker then opened one or two separate parcels, each of which contained a specially large or fine diamond, varying in size from a pea to a hazelnut.
"That one," he said, "may be worth four hundred pounds, and this, perhaps about five or six hundred."
Looking at them, it was difficult to believe that they were other than paltry pebbles; yet these were the things for which men left home and kindred, pushed into the wilds of a savage land, toiled and moiled in the Great Pit at Kimberley, and too often sacrificed health, happiness, and life itself. Judging them from their looks, I would not have given sixpence for the entire lot—so true is it that we do wrong in judging uncut gems, as well as unknown men, by the "outward appearance."
A very striking, and rather unfortunate instance of this false style of judgment occurred not many days afterwards in reference to some Kafir princes and chiefs: it was on the occasion of my quitting Port Elizabeth for Capetown.
We were to have started on a Saturday afternoon, but a gale said "no," and we left on Sunday morning. Even then, although the gale had abated, a surf so magnificent was rolling into Algoa Bay that no ship's boat could approach the jetty. This obliged the passengers to go off to the steamer in a surf-boat. Of course the boat could not approach nearer the dry sand than fifty yards or so. There she heaved about in oceans of boiling foam, while Kafirs carried us on board one by one. The Kafirs bore the women in their strong arms as children are carried, and put them over the gunwale tenderly, but the men were made to sit on their shoulders, as one sits on horseback, and were treated with less ceremony. A giant in ebony carried me off, and trotted as he went, to the delight of some of his comrades; but I was accustomed to riding, and patted his black head approvingly.
While standing on a commanding point in the stern, a fellow-passenger directed attention to a group of Kafirs who tried to keep apart from the others, and looked dignified. These, he told me, were a party of native princes, chiefs, and councillors, who had been brought fresh from their wilderness home—with their own consent, of course—and were being taken to Capetown for the purpose of being impressed with the wealth, power, grandeur, and vast resources of the white man. The other Kafirs, of whom there was a large gang, were common fellows, who chanced to be going by the same steamer as navvies to work on the Western railways. The difference between the navvies and their nobility was not great. Personally there was scarcely any, and the somewhat superior cloth of the robes worn by the latter made no great show.