- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
THE PETTICOAT COMMANDO
Boer Women in Secret Service
With Ten Illustrations
Mills & Boon, Limited 49 Rupert Street London, W. Colonial Edition Published 1913
To HANSIE'S MOTHER AS A PEACE-OFFERING FOR HAVING BROUGHT HER INTO PUBLICITY IN DIRECT OPPOSITION TO HER WISHES
In introducing the English version of this book I venture to bespeak a welcome for it, not only for the light which it throws on some little-known incidents of the South African war, but also because of the keen personal interest of the events recorded. It is more than a history. It is a dramatic picture of the hopes and fears, the devotion and bitterness with which some patriotic women in Pretoria watched and, as far as they could, took part in the war which was slowly drawing to its conclusion on the veld outside.
I do not associate myself with the opinions expressed by the writer as to the causes of the war or the methods adopted to bring it to an end, or as to the policy which led to the Concentration Camps, and the causes of the terrible mortality which prevailed during the first months of their existence. On these matters many readers will hold different opinions from the writer, or will prefer to let judgment be in suspense and to look to the historian of the future for a final verdict. We are still too near the events to be impartial. But this book does not challenge or invite controversy. Fortunately for South Africa, most of us on both sides can now discuss the events of the war without bitterness and understand and respect the feelings of those who were most sharply divided by these events from ourselves.
The greater part of the narrative comes from a diary kept during the war with unusual fullness and vividness. The difficulty experienced by the writer of the diary in communicating to friends outside Pretoria information about what was passing inside, and in unburdening herself of the feelings roused in her by the events of the war, made the diary more than usually intimate. To understand fully many of the narratives which have been transferred from it to this book, it must be remembered that one is reading, not something written from memory years after the event, but rather the record of a conversation at the time, in which the diarist is describing the events as if to a friend who shares to the full all her own feelings and to whom she can speak without reserve.
Much has happened in the ten years which have passed since the end of the war. The country which was distracted by the conflicting ideals and interests of its different Governments and peoples has become the Union of South Africa. It is now one State. It remains that it should call forth a spirit of patriotism and nationality which will unite and not divide its people.
If, by inspiring feelings of patriotism in the hearts of some of my readers, especially those members of the rising generation to whom this story of adventure may appeal, I succeed in raising the standard of national life, this book will have achieved the purpose for which it was written, and I shall feel more than compensated for having set aside the reluctance with which I faced the thought of the publicity when first I began the work.
I have tried to give the public some idea of what was done by Boer women, during the great Anglo-Boer war, to keep their men in the field and to support them in what proved to be a hopeless struggle for independence and liberty.
As far as I was able I have also described the perils and hardships connected with the Secret Service of the Boers and the heroism and resource displayed by the men.
Although it is with the knowledge and consent of the Boer leaders that I give publicity to what is known to me of the methods employed in the Secret Service of the Boers, I do not wish to convey the impression that these events of the war at any time bore an official character.
It is a purely personal narrative and has only been written at the repeated request, during the last ten years, of the many friends associated with the experiences of the diarist and of the principal characters appearing in this book.
In order to preserve the historical value of the book no fictitious names have been employed.
There are, as far as we know, very few records of this nature in existence, owing to the dangers connected with keeping a diary under martial law, and it seemed a pity, therefore, to withhold from the public materials which may be of use to those who are interested in studying or writing the history of those critical years.
I cannot vouch for the truth of every war rumour related here, nor for the accuracy of the information which I have obtained from other people, but the experiences of the diarist, as they were recorded from day to day, are correct in every detail.
My Dutch edition of this book, Die Kappie Kommando, is now appearing in the Dutch South African bi-monthly journal, Die Brandwag, and will, when completed, be published in book form in Holland.
In conclusion, I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to the Honourable Sir Richard Solomon, G.C.M.G., etc., for the help and assistance which he has so kindly given me in connection with the publication of my book.
PAGE FOREWORD BY PATRICK DUNCAN, C.M.G., M.L.A. vii
CHAPTER I. THE SCENE OF ACTION 1
II. HOW THE MINES WERE SAVED 15
III. THE SURRENDER OF THE GOLDEN CITY 24
IV. MARTIAL LAW UNDER THE ENEMY 32
V. ONLY A BIT OF RIBBON GAY! 42
VI. PASSES AND PERMITS 46
VII. POSTAGE BY STRATEGY 56
VIII. OUTWITTING THE CENSOR 64
IX. JAN CELLIERS, POET AND PATRIOT 72
X. A LITTLE ADVENTURE WITH THE BRITISH SOLDIER 82
XI. PRISONER OF WAR 92
XII. THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS 106
XIII. A CONSULAR VISIT TO IRENE CAMP 124
XIV. NEW DEVELOPMENTS 135
XV. THE FORMATION OF THE NATIONAL SCOUTS CORPS 146
XVI. A CONSIGNMENT OF EXPLOSIVES 153
XVII. THE FIRST INTERVIEW WITH SPIES, INTRODUCING TWO HEROES 157
XVIII. THE CASE OF SPOELSTRA 166
XIX. DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND! 179
XX. THANKSGIVING AND HUMILIATION 187
XXI. FLIPPIE AND CO. 194
XXII. THE SECRET RAILWAY TIME-TABLE 204
XXIII. THE SYSTEM EMPLOYED BY THE SECRET COMMITTEE 213
XXIV. THE DEATH OF ADOLPH KRAUSE 222
XXV. THE SHOEMAKER AT WORK 229
XXVI. BITTEN BY OUR OWN DOGS 234
XXVII. THE BETRAYAL OF THE SECRET COMMITTEE. A MEMORABLE DAY OF TROUBLE 240
XXVIII. HANSIE EARNING THE VOTE 252
XXIX. A WAR-BABY AND A CURIOUS CHRISTENING 262
XXX. FORMING A NEW COMMITTEE 272
XXXI. "TEA FOR TWO" 279
XXXII. KIDNAPPING MAUSER THE KITTEN 283
XXXIII. THE FIRST SPIES AT HARMONY 291
XXXIV. THE CAPTAIN'S VISIT 301
XXXV. MEMORIES BITTER-SWEET 312
XXXVI. A SILENT DEPARTURE. "FARE THEE WELL" 316
XXXVII. BETRAYED 324
XXXVIII. THE RAID ON HARMONY 333
XXXIX. THE WATCHWORD. OILING THE HINGES 343
XL. PEACE, PEACE—AND THERE IS NO PEACE 356
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE WRITER Frontispiece FACING PAGE MRS. VAN WARMELO 4
THE SURRENDER OF THE GOLDEN CITY 30
LETTER FROM HEAD OF SECRET SERVICE TO PRESIDENT 70
THE SIX WILLOWS, HARMONY 83
CAPTAIN NAUDE 136
W.J. BOTHA 158
GENTLEMAN JIM'S ROOM 178
ADOLPH KRAUSE 225
THE APIARY, HARMONY 289
THE PETTICOAT COMMANDO
THE SCENE OF ACTION
When, on October 11th, 1899, shortly before 5 o'clock in the afternoon, martial law was proclaimed throughout the Transvaal and Orange Free State, South Africa, and after the great exodus of British subjects had taken place, there remained in Pretoria, where the principal events recorded here took place, a harmonious community of Boers and sympathisers, who for eight months enjoyed the novel advantage of Boer freedom under Boer martial law.
The remaining English residents were few in number, and kept, to all appearance, "strictly neutral," until the morning of June 5th, 1900, when the British troops poured into the capital.
The two people chiefly concerned in this story, mother and daughter, lived in Sunnyside, a south-eastern suburb of Pretoria, on a large and beautiful old property, appropriately called Harmony, one of the oldest estates in the capital.
This historical place consisted of a simple, comfortable farm-house, with a rambling garden—a romantic spot, and an ideal setting for the adventures and enterprises here recorded.
At the time our story opens, the owner, Mrs. van Warmelo, was living alone on it with her daughter, Hansie, a girl of twenty-two, the diarist referred to in the Introduction.
The other members of the family, though they took no part in those events of the war which took place within the capital, were so closely connected with the principal figures in this book that their introduction will be necessary here.
The family consisted of five, two daughters and three sons. The elder daughter was married and was living at Wynberg near Cape Town, the younger, as we have seen, was with her mother in Pretoria during the war, while of the sons, two, the eldest and the youngest, Dietlof and Fritz, were on commando, having left the capital with the first contingent of volunteers on September 28th.
The third brother, Willem, who had been studying in Holland when the war broke out, had, with his mother's knowledge and permission, given up his nearly completed studies and had come to South Africa, to take part in the deadly struggle in which his fellow-countrymen were engaged.
In order to achieve his purpose, he had taken the only route open to him, the eastern route through Delagoa Bay, and had joined his brothers in the field, after a brief sojourn with his mother and sister at Harmony.
Considering the circumstances under which he had joined the Boer forces and the sacrifice he had made for love of fatherland, it was particularly sad that he should have been made a prisoner at the last great fight at the Tugela, the battle of Pieter's Height in Natal, on February 27th, after a very short experience of commando life.
He was lodged in the Maritzburg jail at this time, where things would have gone hard with him, but for the loving-kindness of his cousin, Miss Berning, now Lady Bale, who frequently visited him with her sister, and provided him with baskets of fruit and other delicacies, which helped greatly to brighten the long months of his imprisonment.
Later on, through the influence of his brother-in-law, Mr. Henry Cloete, of "Alphen," Wynberg, he was released on parole, and allowed to return to Holland to complete his studies. His name therefore will no more appear in these pages.
He was "out of action" once and for all, and could not be made use of, even when, later on, through the development of the events with which this book deals, his services were most required by his mother and sister.
The other two brothers, as we have said, had left Pretoria with the first volunteers.
It is strange that the first blood shed in that terrible war should have been that of a young Boer accidentally shot by a comrade.
As a train, laden with its burden of brave and hopeful burghers, steamed slowly through the cutting on the south-eastern side of Pretoria, volleys of farewell shots were fired.
It is customary to extract the bullets from the cartridges on such occasions, but one of the burghers must have omitted to do this, with the result that the bullet, rebounding from the rocks, penetrated a carriage window, and seriously wounded one of the occupants.
Was this event prophetic of a later development of the war, when, as we shall see, Boer shed the blood of brother Boer in the formation of the National Scouts Corps?
Mrs. van Warmelo was a "voor-trekker," a pioneer, in every sense of the word. As a girl of fourteen she had left Natal with her parents and had "trekked," with other families, through the wild waste of country, into the unknown and barbaric regions in which she was destined to spend her youth.
She had watched the growth of a new country, the building up of a new race. She had known all the hardships and dangers of life in an unsettled and uncivilised land, had been through a number of Kaffir wars and could speak, through personal experience, of many adventures with savage foes and wild beasts. Her children knew her stories by heart, and it is not to be wondered at that they grew up with the love of adventure strong in them. And above all things, they grew up with a strong love for the strange, rich, wild country for which their forefathers had fought and suffered.
Mrs. van Warmelo was the eldest daughter of a family of sixteen. Her father, Dietlof Siegfried Mare, for many years Landdrost of Zoutpansberg, that northern territory of the Transvaal, was a direct descendant of the Huguenot fugitives, and was a typical Frenchman, short of stature, dark, vivacious, and exceedingly humorous, a man remembered by all who knew him for his great hospitality and for the shrewd, quaint humour of his sayings.
Some years after their arrival in Zoutpansberg, Mrs. van Warmelo had married a Hollander, a young minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. Of him it is not necessary to speak in this book.
He had taken his part in the first Anglo-Boer war and had passed away in Heidelberg, Transvaal, leaving to the people of his adopted fatherland and to his children a rich inheritance in the memory of a life spent in doing noble deeds—a life of rare self-sacrifice.
His family had left Heidelberg a few years after his death, and had taken up their abode in the capital in order to be near Mrs. van Warmelo's married daughter, Mrs. Cloete, who then lived close to Harmony, in Sunnyside.
It was a wild, romantic suburb in those days, being still almost entirely in its natural state. Grass-covered hills, clumps of mimosa, and other wild trees, with here and there an old homestead picturesquely situated in isolated spots, were all there was to be seen.
Of all the private properties in this suburb, Harmony was the most overgrown and neglected when Mrs. van Warmelo first took possession of it.
It was bounded at the lower, the western end, by the Aapies River, a harmless rivulet in its normal state—almost dry, in fact, during the winter season—but in flood a most dangerous and destructive element, overflowing its banks and sweeping away every obstruction in its wild course.
The property was overgrown with rank vegetation and reminded one of the impenetrable forest abode of the "Sleeping Beauty" of fairy-tale fame.
Friends wondered that Mrs. van Warmelo had the courage to live alone with her daughter Hansie in such a wild and desolate spot, and they wondered still more when they heard of the alarming experience the two ladies had the very first night they spent in their new home.
On their arrival, there were still workmen busy repairing the house, and Mrs. van Warmelo pointed out to one of them that the skylight above the bathroom door had not yet been put in. The man nailed a piece of canvas over it, with the remark that that would do for the night, and that he would put in the skylight on his return the next day. Mrs. van Warmelo was only half satisfied, but left the matter there.
During the night one of her own servants, a sullen, treacherous-looking native, recently in her employment, entered the bathroom by putting a ladder against the door and tearing away the canvas from the skylight.
He must then have unlocked the door on the inside, striking about a dozen matches while he was in the room, and carried various portmanteaux out into the garden, where he slashed them open at the sides and overhauled their contents for money and valuables.
Early the next morning Mrs. van Warmelo was roused by old Anne Merriman, the only woman servant on the place, who came in from the garden with articles of wearing apparel which she had picked up under the trees, and which she held up to the astonished gaze of her mistress. On investigating further, they found the garden littered with articles of clothing, valuable documents, and title-deeds, which the thief had thrown aside as worthless, in his search for money.
The only things of value which he had taken with him were a set of pearl ear-rings and brooch, and a beautiful lined "kaross," or rug, made of the skins of wild South African animals. Nothing was seen of him again, but Mrs. van Warmelo immediately got a revolver and kept watch for him, hoping, yet fearing, that he would return for more plunder.
This was a sad beginning, and old Anne added to their fears by predicting every imaginable calamity to the inhabitants of Harmony. She was gifted with second-sight, so she said, and often saw a man in grey about the place; his presence "boded no good," and old Anne soon after left the place, with many warnings to her mistress to follow her example, before she could be overtaken by disaster.
All this had taken place long before the war broke out. Harmony had in the meantime been vastly improved, the dense undergrowth having been cut away, and the row of enormous willow trees, with which the house was overshadowed, having been removed, while large flower and vegetable gardens had been laid out, where once a jungle-like growth of shrubs and rank grass had abounded.
Much of the natural beauty still remained, however, and Harmony was a favourite resort for many people in Pretoria. Young and old visited the place, especially during the summer months when the garden was laden with its wealth of fruit and flowers; and of these friends of the family many figure in these pages, while some do not appear at all, having had no part in the stirring events with which this book deals.
Amongst the most frequent visitors at Harmony were the Consul-General for the Netherlands, Mr. Domela-Nieuwenhuis and his wife, and other members of the Diplomatic Corps with their families.
These friendships had been formed before the war, and it was only natural that they should have been strengthened and deepened by the trying circumstances of the years during which the country was convulsed by such unspeakable tragedies.
Although the position held by these men debarred them from taking any part whatsoever in the events of the war, their sympathies were undoubtedly with the people of South Africa. They suffered with and for their friends, and they must frequently have been weighed down by a sense of their powerlessness to alleviate the distress around them, which they were forced to witness; but they were, without exception, men of high integrity, and observed with strict honour the obligations laid upon them by their position of trust.
Needless to say, they were not aware of the conspiracies which were carried on at Harmony; to this day they are ignorant of the dangers to which the van Warmelos were exposed and the hazardous nature of many of the enterprises in which mother and daughter were engaged, and I look forward with delight to the privilege of presenting each of these gentlemen with a copy of this book, in which they will find so many revelations of an unexpected and startling nature.
It is not my intention to go into the details of the first encounters with the enemy, nor to describe the siege-comedy of Mafeking, where Baden-Powell, as principal actor, maintained a humorous correspondence with the Boers; nor of Kimberley, where Cecil Rhodes said he felt as safe as in Piccadilly; nor of Dundee, where the Boers were said to have found a large number of brand-new side-saddles, originally destined to be used by British officers on arrival at the capital, where they hoped to take the ladies of Pretoria riding, but ultimately consigned to the flames by the indignant brothers and lovers of those very ladies; nor of the fine linen, silver, cut-glass, and fingerbowls found and destroyed by the Boers in the luxurious British camp at Dundee. I shall not dwell upon the glorious victories of the first months, the capture of armoured trains, the blowing up of bridges, the besieging of towns, the arrival in Pretoria of the first British prisoners and the long sojourn of British officers in captivity in the Model School—from where, incidentally, Winston Churchill escaped in an ingenious way—and the crushing news of the first Boer reverses at Dundee and Elandslaagte.
Are these historical events not fully recorded in other books, by other writers more competent than myself?
A three-volume book would hardly contain the experiences Hansie had, first in the Volks Hospital in Pretoria and later in the State Girls' School, as volunteer nurse, but I shall pass over the events of the first eight months of war under Boer martial law and introduce my reader to that period in May 1900 shortly before the British took possession of the capital.
The two remaining brothers van Warmelo were at this time retreating with the now completely demoralised Boer forces, before the terrific onslaughts made upon them by the enemy.
Blow after blow was delivered by the English in quiet succession on their forced march from Bloemfontein to Pretoria, and it was on May 25th that the roar of Boer cannon reached the capital for the first time.
Looking south-east from Harmony, Mrs. and Miss van Warmelo were able to watch the Boer commandos pouring into the town—straggling would be a better word, for there was no one in command, and the weary men on their jaded horses passed in groups of twos and threes, and in small contingents of from fifty to a hundred.
Mrs. van Warmelo fully expected to see her sons among the number and made preparations to welcome them, for under the roar of cannon the fatted turkey had been killed and roasted and a large plum-pudding made.
Suddenly two men on horseback turned out of the wayside and rode straight up to the gate.
"Perhaps these men are bringing us news of our boys," Mrs. van Warmelo said to her daughter, who was watching them with anxiety at her heart.
The men dismounted at the gate and walked up to the two women, leading their horses slowly over the grass.
No one spoke until the men were a few yards off, when Hansie exclaimed, with unbounded joy and relief, "Why, they are our boys!"
With unkempt hair and long beards, covered with dust, tattered and weary, no wonder mother and sister failed to recognise them at first!
When the first greetings were over, the young men gave what news they could—stupefying news of the advance of the enemy in overwhelming numbers, and of the flight and confusion of what remained of the Boer forces.
"What are you going to do?" their mother asked.
"Rest and feed our horses first of all, mother," Dietlof, the elder, replied. "They are worn out and unfit for use. And when we have equipped ourselves for whatever may be in store for us, we must join some small commando and escape from the town. Little or no resistance is being offered by our men, and it is evident that Pretoria will not be defended. All we can do is to escape before the English take possession."
Mrs. van Warmelo then told her sons of the retreat of the President from the capital, with the entire Government, by the eastern railway route.
The greatest consternation had been caused by this flight at first, but subsequent events went to prove that this was the wisest course which could have been pursued.
In this decision the President had been urged by his wife, and Mrs. van Warmelo went on to tell how the brave old lady had said to her in an expressive way, on the occasion of her last visit at the President's house:
"My dear friend, do not fear. No Englishman will ever lay his hand on the coat-tails of the President."
It is quite impossible to describe the confusion that ensued during the next few days.
No one knew what to do; there were no organised Boer forces to join, there was no one in command, and, after long deliberation, the two young men, urged by mother and sister, came to the conclusion that, whatever other men might be doing, their duty was to get out of Pretoria and join whatever band of fighting burghers there might still be in the field.
The same spirit of determination not to fall into the hands of the enemy while the Boer Government was free, and could continue organising the war, prevailed amongst most of the men in Pretoria, and daily small parties could be seen leaving the town, in carts, on horseback, on bicycles, and even on foot. Where they were going and when they would return no one knew.
On the morning of June 4th, the necessary preparations for the departure of the young men having been made, as they were sitting at what proved to be their last meal together for such long and terrible years, they were suddenly startled by the sound of cannon-firing and the whistling of a shell through the air.
They listened, speechless, as the shell burst on Schanskop Fort, on the Sunnyside hill, just beyond Harmony, with an explosion that shook the house.
It was followed by another and yet another.
So little were the inhabitants of Pretoria prepared for this that everyone at first thought that the shells were being fired, for some unaccountable reason, by the Boers, from the Pretoria Forts, until a few of them burst so close to the houses that the fragments of rock and shell fell like hail on the iron roofs. The other members of the family followed Mrs. van Warmelo into the garden: and when it became evident that the enemy was bombarding the Pretoria Forts, the two young men immediately saddled their horses and rode out in the direction in which they thought it most likely that some resistance would be offered, after having advised their mother and sister to flee to some place of refuge in the centre of the town.
There was no doubt that Harmony was directly in the line of fire, and as the great shells went shrieking and hurtling through the air, the very earth seemed to shake with the force of each explosion.
Mrs. van Warmelo hastily packed a few valuables into a hand-bag, and fled into town with her daughter, leaving their dinner standing almost untouched on the table. On their way to town, they found many terrified women and children huddled under bridges for safety.
The bombardment continued all the afternoon, and ceased only when darkness fell.
That night, when the van Warmelos returned to their deserted home, they found the house still standing and no trace of the bombardment except pieces of shell lying in the garden.
They were much surprised a few hours later, by the return of their two warriors, weary and desperate after a hopeless attempt to keep back the English with a handful of burghers, and the news they brought was to the effect that Pretoria was to be surrendered to the enemy the next morning. Once more they expressed their determination to escape to the Boer lines, wherever they might be.
Only a few hours' rest for them that night and then they rode away at dawn, in the Middelburg direction, on that dark and dreadful June 5th.
It was Fritz's twenty-second birthday on that cruel mid-winter's morn, and when Hansie saw him again he was a man of twenty-six, with the experiences and suffering of a lifetime resting on his shoulders.
The fate of the two young men remained a mystery to their dear ones for many months of agonising suspense, and they pass out of these pages for a time while we turn our attention to the relation of events within the capital.
HOW THE MINES WERE SAVED
Before we begin relating the events with which this book is actually concerned, and which took place, as we have said in the previous chapter, exclusively in and around the capital, I must ask my reader to turn his attention for a few moments to that great mining centre, Johannesburg, "The Golden City" of South Africa.
If it was hated by the Boers before the war as the cause of all the unrest in their beloved country, the unwelcome revolution in the calm simplicity of their hitherto peaceful life, it is not to be wondered at that their hatred and resentment had been intensified by the way in which the war was brought about.
This feeling had risen to its height of concentrated fury when it became known to the burghers that the sweeping advance of the British forces in overwhelming numbers would soon make it possible for the English to take full possession of those coveted mines.
At the time of the Republican successes there had been no suggestion that it would be politic to destroy the mines, but as reverses became more frequent, and it became evident beyond a doubt that the British troops were about to cross the Vaal, a strong section of the Government, supported by popular feeling, openly advocated the destruction of the mines as well as the town of Johannesburg. The precedent quoted for such a course was the burning of Moscow by the Russians, in order to retard the victorious advance of Napoleon.
Very soon it became apparent that the members of the Government who were advocating this policy were gaining the upper hand, as instructions were actually given to certain officials of the Mines Department to make the necessary arrangements for blowing up the mines. Another section of the Government, among whom were General Louis Botha and Dr. F.E.T. Krause, strenuously opposed the carrying out of this policy.
This section eventually gained the upper hand at the time when Commandant Schutte was compelled to relinquish the position of Special Commandant for the Rand, and Dr. Krause was appointed in his stead, although the circumstances leading to this change had at first in some measure strengthened those who advocated destroying the mines. The change was brought about in consequence of the terrible explosion at Begbie's Engineering Works, which had been converted into a bomb factory by the Government, and where several persons were killed and many injured.
The cause of this explosion after investigation was alleged to have been the work of British spies, and it was only natural that those persons advocating the destruction of the mines should avail themselves of this circumstance to further their scheme, but the bold and determined opposition of Dr. Krause, supported as he was by the mines police, a special body of men organised for the purpose of protecting the mines, had the effect of inducing the "Destroyers" to mature their scheme in secret.
The probable fate of the mines was openly and freely discussed in the capital, and I have a faint recollection of a debating society having taken for its subject, at this time, the question, "Would the result of blowing up the mines be beneficial or detrimental to the Boer cause?" Many were the pros and cons, and what conclusion was arrived at I do not know.
At Harmony, mother and daughter followed the subject with the keenest interest and anxiety, realising the important effect which the destruction of the mines would have on the later development of the war.
There were several weighty considerations which the "Destroyers," in their thirst for revenge, seemed to have overlooked entirely.
In the first place, the blowing up of the mines would have failed in its object of punishing the mining magnates against whom the resentment of the Republicans was specially directed, and the chief sufferers would be innocent shareholders in every part of the world, members of the middle-classes who had invested their little all in the fabulously rich gold mines of the Rand. Another very important consideration which was discussed by the more thoughtful section of the community was the probable destruction of the farms by the British forces by way of retaliation for the fate of the mines. Could the burghers have foreseen that the entire country would be laid waste in any case as the war proceeded, nothing could have saved the mines. But the devastation of Boer homesteads was not to begin until a much later period, and to this fact the "Destroyers" no doubt owed the frustration of their schemes.
I have to thank friends who were principally concerned in the matter for the following account of how the mines were saved and for the interesting description of the surrender of the Golden City, appearing in Chapter III.
* * * * *
At this time the British troops were advancing rapidly. The Boers were panic-stricken, and had it not been for the determined efforts of the administration in Johannesburg, chaos would have resulted.
About ten days before the surrender of the town, the scheme of the "Destroyers" was unwittingly disclosed through the foolishness of the man who had been apparently chosen to carry it out. Judge Kock, who was a friend of Dr. Krause's, came over to Johannesburg for the purpose of making a last and determined effort to destroy the mines. Being a great friend of the Krauses, he was invited to stay at their house. In a burst of confidence he produced a letter signed by a very high-placed official of the Executive Council, whereby he was empowered, in indefinite terms, to call for the co-operation of any military official whom he pleased. He showed Dr. Krause this letter and requested him to instruct the mine police and certain other mine officials to assist him. He was met with a blank refusal, and a threat that if he persisted in this undertaking he would be arrested. Judge Kock, or, as he then styled himself, "General" Kock, had gathered together a cosmopolitan force of about 100 men.
About this time events were rapidly changing. The determined advance of the British forces and the panic-stricken retreat of the Boers had the effect of encouraging "General" Kock and his men. Dr. Krause's hands were full in attending to the military necessities of the situation. Urgent messages from Botha and the President were hourly passing over the wires. General French, who was advancing on Johannesburg from the east, had pressed forward to such an extent that the Boers retreating from Vereeniging were practically hemmed in by the British columns.
Commandant Krause on the Sunday afternoon hastily gathered as many fighting men as he could muster, and with them occupied the hills surrounding Van Wyk's Rust, in order to check the advance of French and give the Boers an opportunity of retreating safely. On the Monday, while fighting was going on, he was obliged to leave his men—who by that time had been reinforced by the retreating Boers—for Johannesburg, on receiving an urgent message that chaos was reigning in town, and that the goods sheds at the station, where Government provisions and food-stuffs were stored, were being looted. On his return order was speedily restored.
Tuesday, May 29th, was the eventful day in the history of the saving of the mines, as on this date Dr. Krause personally arrested "General" Kock and dispersed his band of followers. It happened in this way.
During the progress of the war the Government had been working some of the mines, and, at the time of the rapid advance of the British from Bloemfontein, instructions were given that all the gold should be conveyed to Pretoria. The week before the surrender of Johannesburg, Dr. Krause had given the necessary instructions for doing this, and had received a report that all gold had been transported. Now, it appears that Kock had taken advantage of the Commandant's absence from Johannesburg to further his scheme of destruction, and the first mine he went to with that purpose in view was the Robinson. On arriving there he accidentally discovered that about 120,000 ounces of gold, valued at about L400,000, were still stored on the mine. He was evidently so perturbed about this that he momentarily forgot his purpose, and galloped post-haste with the greater number of his men to the Commandant's office. His men were drawn up outside; he dismounted and found Dr. Krause in consultation with Commandant L.E. van Diggelen, the energetic officer in command of the Mines Police. Kock adopted a threatening and bullying attitude, and demanded the reason why so much gold had been left on the mine, and where the treachery lay. During the course of his angry outburst he disclosed the fact that he had proceeded to the mine for the purpose of destroying it, and had discovered the presence of the gold. It may be mentioned here that Dr. Krause, in the course of the morning, had been in telegraphic communication with General Botha, who was then in the vicinity of Eagles' Nest, and had informed him that it would probably be necessary to take violent measures against Kock, which might lead to bloodshed. General Botha's reply was: "I hold you responsible for the safety of the mines and the town of Johannesburg, and I leave everything in your hands."
When, therefore, "General" Kock disclosed his purpose, Dr. Krause jumped up, closed the door, confronted him, and, before he could realise his position, had him under arrest, calling upon van Diggelen to disarm him. Kock made an attempt to escape, but he was powerless in the hands of two determined men. Some time elapsed before he realised the hopelessness of the situation, as his last attempt to induce Commandant van Diggelen to deliver a note to his men outside was met with a blank refusal. The next thing to be done was to get rid of these men, who evidently had been instructed by their "General" not to leave without him, he probably fearing that something unforeseen might happen to him. How now to get rid of these men? The following ruse was adopted: Dr. Krause took up some telegrams, and, waving these in the air, rushed out to where they were stationed, demanding to know who the officer in charge was. He was met by a confusion of voices calling out, "Where is our General?" "Oh!" was the reply, "your General is still in my office, consulting on military matters, and I have just received information that the British are advancing on the town from the direction of the Gueldenhuis. Your General commands you to proceed in that direction to reinforce the Boers, who are trying to stop the advance. We will follow immediately with the rest of the men. Now! who is in command?" "I am, sir—Captain McCullum." "Now, Captain," the Doctor said, "ride for your life and do your duty."
The ruse was successful, and in a few minutes not a single man of the band was in sight. The next question was, what was to be done with Kock. The following plan was adopted: The arrest took place shortly before the luncheon hour, and as the offices were generally closed from one till two, Kock was detained in the Commandant's office until one. All officials were then ordered to leave. Van Diggelen ordered his dog-cart to be brought round, Kock was told to step in, and was quietly driven to the fort, where he was detained by the officer in charge.
During the afternoon General Botha and his staff passed through Johannesburg, and came to see Dr. Krause, who reported what had happened. General Botha approved of and confirmed his action in every respect. The conference between the two officers did not last long, and resulted in Dr. Krause being definitely instructed to remain in Johannesburg in order to protect the town and its inhabitants, and to see that all fighting burghers immediately left for their respective commandos. The same evening Kock was sent to Pretoria, escorted by several police, and handed over to the authorities there.
The great danger which had threatened the safety of the mines was in this way averted.
Before closing this chapter, mention should be made of the excellent work done by the Mines Police in the protection of the mines, and in this connection especially to name Commandant L.E. van Diggelen and Lt. W. Vogts, the energetic Secretary of the Force.
The gold found on the Robinson Mine was on the same Tuesday sent by Dr. Krause to Pretoria in charge of Captain Arendt Burkhardt and several members of the Field Police, and was duly delivered by them to the authorities there.
* * * * *
Note.—The subsequent career of Kock was an eventful one. He lost his father, J.H. Kock, at the battle of Elandslaagte. This and other matters so preyed upon his mind that eventually he became subject to delusions, and is at present confined in the lunatic asylum at Pretoria.
THE SURRENDER OF THE GOLDEN CITY
In attempting to chronicle the events which surround the surrender of Johannesburg, the mind involuntarily pauses, and a picture, which reminds one of the fairy-tales of one's childhood, is called up in imagination.
In 1886 Johannesburg could only boast of a few tin shanties—the beginnings of a mining camp; fourteen years later the British troops marched through the streets of a modern city. And what has been the history of these fourteen years?
In the history of the older European nations development and progress are slow, and social and economic cause and effect can be traced with almost scientific accuracy. In Johannesburg, however, ordinary human agencies do not seem to have been at work. The man who has the leisure at his disposal to ascertain the true facts of that period before the war, would present to the world a history so interesting and fascinating that he would be accused of having indulged in fiction in his narrative of events. It would be out of place in this book, however, to enter into these historical events, and we must confine ourselves to the details of the period with which this story deals.
Ever since the beginning of the war it was the intention of the Republican Government to defend both Pretoria and Johannesburg, and had the outbreak of the war not been precipitated, and the necessary cannon ordered from France arrived in time, this would have been done. Even after the fall of Bloemfontein the idea was not entirely abandoned, and Commandant Krause was instructed to provision the Johannesburg Fort and make other necessary preparations. A promise was made that several cannon would be left at Johannesburg by the Boers during their retreat. It was hoped that such defence would retard the British advance and enable the Boers to recover from the panic which had seized them ever since the surrender of Cronje at Paardeberg.
When, however, General Botha on Tuesday, May 29th, 1900, passed through Johannesburg, Commandant Krause was ordered to abandon the defence of the town, to distribute all provisions collected amongst the families of the men on commando, and to get rid of all men capable of fighting. These orders were promptly carried out.
On the following day, Wednesday, May 30th, between ten and eleven in the morning, Major Francis Davis appeared with a flag of truce and requested to see Dr. Krause.
At the time the Commandant was at the fort attending to General Grobelaar and about 500 men who were retreating in the direction of Pretoria. During the day bodies of armed burghers were continually passing through the town.
On arrival at his office Dr. Krause found Major Davis in the company of two old Johannesburg residents. The latter were dressed in mufti. Both these men had taken an active part in the agitation which preceded the war.
Major Davis in soldierly manner addressed Dr. Krause by saying that he was commanded by Lord Roberts to demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the town, in the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
Dr. Krause's reply was very short: "No, sir, not immediately and not unconditionally."
Major Davis thereupon said that Lord Roberts had also expressed a desire that the Commandant should grant him an interview, at which the matter could be discussed. Dr. Krause assented to this proposition.
What the Boers wanted was delay—and if Commandant Krause could delay the forward advance of the British troops a great advantage would be gained.
Lord Roberts was encamped just above the Victoria Lake, close to Germiston. On arrival at the camp Dr. Krause was met by Lord Roberts on the verandah of the house occupied by him and his staff.
A private interview then took place between the two officers, at which the terms of surrender of Johannesburg were agreed upon, and which will be found in the letter set out hereunder.
The chief reason for an armistice advanced by the Boer Commandant was that if the British were at once to enter the town, street-fighting would undoubtedly take place, as the many armed burghers passing through the town would only obey the orders of their own respective Commandants and Field-cornets. Such street-fighting would be a serious menace to the women and children and to the other peaceful citizens of the town. Lord Roberts agreed to this, adding that he had once, in Afghanistan, experienced street-fighting and would not like to see it again.
Another incident of this interview is worth recording, viz. the protest made by Dr. Krause at the presence of the two civilians who accompanied Major Davis. Lord Roberts asked for the reason of this protest, and was informed that, according to the view of the people in Johannesburg, these men, through the part they played in the mendacious political agitation which was carried on prior to the war, were partly responsible for the war, and further that he (Dr. Krause) had in his possession a warrant for the arrest of one of these men for high treason, issued prior to the commencement of hostilities, and consequently their presence in the town was looked upon with a great deal of disfavour and resentment.
Lord Roberts expressed his regret, and said that these men had accompanied his officer only because he was told that they would be excellent guides, knowing the locality and the officials.
The terms of surrender were agreed to, including an armistice of twenty-four hours. This delay undoubtedly helped to save the Republican forces from utter destruction and certainly enabled General Botha and the other Boer officers to retreat with their men beyond Pretoria and to collect their scattered forces.
Dr. Krause returned to Johannesburg after this interview and immediately set about making the necessary arrangements to carry out his part of the bargain. A Proclamation was issued, calling upon all armed burghers and other capable men to leave the town; all officials were ordered to be in readiness the next day at the respective offices, for the purpose of handing over their administration to their successors.
Early the next morning Mr. William Shawe, the Deputy Sheriff, was dispatched to Lord Roberts, with a formal letter, confirming the terms of surrender agreed to at the above interview. This historical document is, I believe, here printed for the first time and reads as follows:
"JOHANNESBURG, "May 30th, 1900. "Lord Roberts, "Commander-in-Chief of Her "Majesty's troops in South Africa.
"Referring to the verbal interview I had with Your Lordship this morning, with reference to the surrender of the town, Johannesburg, I now wish to confirm the following in writing:
"(a) That all officials and other Government employees will be treated with the necessary respect and consideration. On their behalf I can give Your Lordship the assurance, that until the surrender is complete, everything will be done by them to facilitate Your Lordship's work, in so far as their honour allows.
"(b) With reference to the protection of women and children (including the women and children of Burghers on Commando),—that these persons will not be molested by the troops,—Your Lordship having already given the necessary instructions in this connection.
"(c) That property will be protected, also forage, except in so far as military requirements necessitate it.
"(d) That as regards the 13,000 Kaffirs still on the mines, the necessary precautions will be taken by Your Lordship:—in this respect the Special Mine Police corps, till now under my command, will render Your Lordship all assistance.
"(e) Enclosed I send Your Lordship a copy of a notice distributed by me, which speaks for itself, and from which Your Lordship will learn that all fighting and armed burghers have been ordered to leave the town at once.
"(f) It grieves me to have to inform Your Lordship, that notwithstanding our arrangement, that no armed men would enter the town till to-morrow at 10 o'clock, several armed persons entered the town (evidently without Your Lordship's knowledge, and contrary to instructions), and several of whom are under arrest; one who attempted to disarm a burgher was wounded, and is at present in the hospital here.
"Finally, I must request Your Lordship not to enter the town with too great a force (for reasons already communicated to Your Lordship). I shall send some one who will conduct Your Lordship personally (or the officer in command) to the Government offices to there carry out and complete the necessary formalities of handing over the town. All chief and other officials have been notified by me of this arrangement, and they have been ordered to hold themselves in readiness to hand over their offices to the persons appointed thereto.
"I have the honour to be, "Respectfully yours, "(Signed) F.E.T. KRAUSE. "Acting Special Commandant."
On the morning of May 31st, 1900, the sun rose in his bright winter splendour—the sky was blue, and not a cloud appeared upon the horizon. Mother Nature seemed to emphasise the darkness and bitterness in the hearts of the staunch and free Republicans by her dazzling brightness. The new era had dawned, heralding the victory of the invading forces and giving practical proof of the old adage, "Might is right."
At about 10 o'clock Commandant Krause received a message from Lord Roberts announcing his presence on the outskirts of the town (at Denver) and expressing a desire that the Commandant should personally come and meet and conduct him to the Government offices, there to hand over the "keys" of the city. This request was complied with. The British were then seen entering the town, headed by Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, and Commandant Krause. On arrival at the Government offices the different officials were presented to Lord Roberts, who requested them to remain in office until they were relieved of their duties by an English officer.
The surrender of the Golden City was an accomplished fact!
In conclusion, and as a contrast to this terrible period for the Republicans, I may here be permitted to publish a letter written by Lord Roberts to Dr. Krause, which will show in what manner the Golden City was previously administrated and afterwards handed over to the British troops on May 31st, 1900.
"ARMY HEAD-QUARTERS, "JOHANNESBURG, "June 2nd, 1900.
"DEAR DR. KRAUSE,
"I desire to express to you how fully I appreciate the valuable assistance you have afforded me in connection with the entry into this town of the force under my command.
"I recognise that you have had DIFFICULTIES OF NO ORDINARY NATURE TO CONTEND WITH OF LATE, and any weakness in the administration of the town and suburbs at such a juncture would doubtless have been taken full advantage of by the disorderly element which necessarily exists in an important mining community. THANKS TO YOUR ENERGY AND VIGILANCE, ORDER AND TRANQUILLITY HAVE BEEN PRESERVED, and I congratulate you heartily on the result of your labours.
"Permit me also to tender to you my personal thanks for the great courtesy you have shown me since I first had the pleasure of meeting you.
"Believe me to be, "Yours truly, "ROBERTS, F.M."
MARTIAL LAW UNDER THE ENEMY
After her brothers' departure, described in Chapter I, Hansie fastened her "Vierkleur," a broad band of the Transvaal colours, round her hat, and announced her intention of going into town to see the British troops come in.
Her mother thought it a most unseemly proceeding, and declined to accompany her wilful daughter, but the latter did not wish to miss what she knew would become an historical event of great importance, and rode away on her bicycle, accompanied by her faithful retriever, Carlo.
The thought of the conspicuous band of ribbon round her hat, in green, red, white, and blue, gave her a certain feeling of comfort and satisfaction.
At least none of the friends she might chance to meet that day could suspect her of being in town to welcome the enemy.
The air was charged with the electricity of an excitement so tense, so suppressed, that it struck her like some living force as she rode through the thronged, though silent streets.
In the heart of the town, as she neared Government Square, a change was noticeable—a change that she could not define until it was borne in upon her that it originated in the attitude of the black and coloured part of the community.
They had come out in their thousands—the streets literally seethed with them, the remarkable part of this being that they were all on the pavements, while their "white brothers" walked in the middle of the road.
For the sake of the uninitiated I must explain that under the Boer regime no black or coloured person was allowed on the pavements, nor to be out at night, nor to walk about without a registered pass. There was no "black peril" then.
This noisy, unlawful demonstration was an expression of joy on their part at the prospect of that day being set free from Boer restrictions, a short-lived joy, however, for they became so lawless and overbearing that it was found necessary, within a very few days, to re-enforce the Boer laws and regulations.
* * * * *
In perfect order, but weary unto death, the British troops marched in. Thousands and thousands of soldiers in khaki, travel-stained, footsore, and famished, sank to the ground, at a given command, in the open square facing Government Buildings.
Some of them tried to eat of the rations they had with them, others, too exhausted to eat, fell into a deep sleep almost at once, and one old warrior, looking up into the face of the girl standing above him, said, in a broken voice, "Thank God, the war is over."
Hansie bent towards him and answered, in a voice vibrating with passionate feeling, "Tommy Atkins, the war has just begun."
He looked at her in puzzled surprise, and sighing heavily, closed his eyes.
Ah, unknown soldier, did you in after years, I wonder, remember the prophetic words spoken by the lips of a girl that day?
At three o'clock that afternoon the Union Jack was hoisted on Government Buildings!
Those of my readers whose love of home, kindred, traditions, ideals—patriotism—belong to other countries can draw a mental picture of what a similar experience would mean to them. One day to be full of hope that a beloved country and independence would be restored to its people, the next with those hopes laid low in the dust, shattered, destroyed for ever, by the sight of a small, unfamiliar flag standing out against the blue sky.
In time of great shock or crisis, merciful Providence numbs our keenest sensibilities and the brain acts and thinks mechanically. The inevitable comes, however, and we wonder at finding ourselves still breathing, after passing through that fire of mental agony.
Our young patriot's heart was torn and bleeding, but her sufferings then were as nothing compared to those she endured in later months and years, when the incidents of that winter's day would pass in review across her brain, haunting her sleeping and waking thoughts like some hideous nightmare.
It is not for me to describe the scene: the cheering of the multitude, the parade of haggard troops—the soul-sickening display of imperial patriotism.
As if ashamed of having witnessed it, the sun, suddenly grown old and grey, hid himself behind a passing cloud, and in the shadows which enveloped her the girl seemed to feel the hand of Nature, groping for hers, to convey its silent message of sympathy.
The crowds dispersed and the troops withdrew to the outskirts of the town to pitch their tents for the night.
When Hansie arrived at Harmony she found all the open space around it occupied by troops, and camps erected at the very gates, while, all along the roads and railway lines, fires were burning and soldiers were engaged in tending their horses and preparing their rations.
The air was so heavy with smoke and dust that it seemed as if a dense fog were resting on the town, but an order and discipline prevailed which could not be surpassed.
Mrs. van Warmelo was standing at the gate with a loaded revolver in her hands, keeping the entire British army at bay with a pair of blazing eyes.
She had already spoken to the officer in command, who, on hearing that two unprotected ladies were living alone on the property, had immediately issued orders that no man was to enter Harmony on any pretext whatever. Somewhat reassured, mother and daughter retired into their stronghold, barricading doors and windows and ordering Carlo, the good watch-dog, to preserve an extra vigilance that night.
Brave old Carlo! from that moment he seemed to understand that his duty was to protect his beloved mistresses from their mortal foe, and nothing could equal his dislike and distrust of anything connected with the unwelcome visitors around his hitherto peaceful abode. For a long time, he valiantly withstood temptation in the form of titbits offered him by soldiers, not at any time responding to the many advances made by them, and my reader will agree with me, as this story unfolds itself, that no dog could have developed more useful qualities.
The first few weeks after the occupation of Pretoria were spent in settling down and finding accommodation for the thousands of British officers and men, and it soon became evident to the inhabitants of Harmony that Sunnyside had been chosen as a suitable suburb for the more important members of the military forces.
To give the reader some idea of how Harmony was hemmed in by troops on every side, I have drawn the annexed chart, and, though some alterations were made as the months went by, this was practically the position of our heroines during the greater part of the war.
On the eastern side were encamped the Military Mounted Police; on the west, on the banks of the Aapies River and adjoining the Berea Park, lay Kitchener's bodyguard; on the south were established the Montmorency Scouts; and on the north, commanding the principal entrance to Harmony, the Provost-Marshal, Major Poore, had taken up his abode in the comfortable residence of the ex-Mayor of Pretoria, Sir Johannes van Boeschoten, who was knighted on the occasion of the recent visit to South Africa of the Duke of Connaught.
Opposite the Provost-Marshal, in a house belonging to Mr. B.T. Bourke, the War Office, as we called it, was established; and still a little farther north, in the British Agency, vacated by Sir Conyngham and Lady Lily Greene when martial law was proclaimed, Lord Roberts and his staff were installed, until better quarters could be found for them. The Military Governor, General Sir John Maxwell, then took possession of the British Agency and remained there, as far as I know, until the end of the war.
During the first half-year after the British entry into Pretoria Harmony's front gate was blocked by the tent of the military post office, the ropes of which had been fastened to the posts of the gate. Although the inhabitants of Harmony found it inconvenient to squeeze through the small opening at the side of the gate, Mrs. van Warmelo made no objection to the arrangement, because it safeguarded the property to some extent from possible intruders.
Other houses in the immediate neighbourhood of Harmony were occupied at different times by Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, the Duke of Westminster, and many other distinguished personages, with their staffs. From this it will readily be understood that in the whole of Pretoria no spot could have been more completely hemmed in by the vigilant military than Harmony.
How this vigilance was evaded by two Boer women, and how Harmony became the centre of Boer espionage as time went on, will be the theme of this story; but I wish my reader clearly to understand that from beginning to end there was no treachery, no broken promises of peace and good behaviour.
It was simply taken for granted that the two women in question were hopelessly cut off from all communication with their friends in the field, and utterly helpless and incapable of assisting their fellow-countrymen.
There were no conditions attached to the privilege of remaining undisturbed in their home, and, though it was well known that their menfolk were among the fighting burghers and that they themselves entertained the strongest feelings of antagonism towards the British, they were quietly left in peace.
Whether the fact that Mrs. van Warmelo's elder daughter was married to Mr. Henry Cloete, of Alphen, Wynberg, had anything to do with this unexpected and altogether undeserved leniency, I do not know. It certainly could not be put down to the credit of our heroines that Mr. Cloete had at one time been Acting British Agent at Pretoria, nor that he had shown the British Government such services as earned for him the distinction of having the Order of Companion of St. Michael and St. George conferred upon him.
All I can say is that if the van Warmelos owed their security to these facts, we can only look upon that as one of the fortunate circumstances of war over which we had no control. Other Boer residents in Pretoria fared less fortunately.
A great many "undesirable" families were put over the border at once; and of the remaining burghers, some took the oath of allegiance for purposes of their own, on which I am not in a position to pass judgment, others, the greater majority, took the oath of neutrality, and a few, in some mysterious way or other, avoided both these oaths, and remained in the capital, without pass, without permit, until time and occasion presented themselves for a sudden and unaccountable disappearance. In another chapter I shall endeavour to describe the dangers and difficulties under which one of these men escaped from British martial law to the free life of the Boer commandos.
Although houses were "commandeered" right and left, and officers quartered on private families, as is the custom in every well-conducted war, Harmony was left in peace, only one mild attempt being made a few days after the occupation of Pretoria, by the officer in command of the Montmorency Scouts, to obtain entrance for himself and fellow officers at Harmony's inhospitable door.
"Only three officers," he said—"no men; and we shall give no trouble."
It was Hansie's duty to refuse, and refuse she did, firmly, patiently, without betraying her inmost fear that he could, and probably would—like the American darkie preacher, who announced to his flock that a certain meeting would take place "on Friday next, de Lord willin', an' if not, den on Sat'dy, whedder or no"—take possession of her home, "whedder or no" she gave her consent.
It is still a source of surprise that he did not, that, instead, he descended to argument, to beseechings.
"Our tents are bitterly cold at night," he said at last. "Let us at least sleep in the house."
"My brothers in the field have no tents," Hansie answered, "they sleep under the open sky. Do you think that we are going to allow British officers to sleep in their beds? Allow me to tell you that we are red-hot Republicans."
He departed, and, though Mrs. van Warmelo and Hansie lived in some trepidation for the next few days, no second attempt was made to commandeer Harmony.
The incident of the large number of side-saddles found in the British camp at Dundee had given Hansie food for much thought, and had caused her to plan her own future line of action long before the British officers entered Pretoria.
"They will want to enjoy themselves with our girls," she told her mother.
"They will be found at tennis-parties, at social evenings, and at concerts. They will want us to go out riding and driving with them, but, mother, I vow I shall never be seen with a khaki officer as long as our men are in the field." And, as far as she was able, she kept her word until the war was over.
This was not always easy, for many temptations were brought in her way, and she soon found it necessary to give up riding and tennis altogether in order to keep to her resolution.
ONLY A BIT OF RIBBON GAY!
The conspicuously bright hues of the "Vierkleur" round Hansie's hat attracted the attention of the new-comers in Pretoria, and she was often asked what they represented. In course of time other girls donned their colours, flaunting them in the face of the enemy on every possible occasion.
Now perhaps this was indiscreet, but, after all, what harm could it do?
It was a certain comfort to them, and there could be no objection to their taking a public stand for their own, under British martial law. At least, we thought so. Not so the enemy!
About three weeks after the British entry into the capital, the van Warmelos were told that orders had been issued that no Transvaal burgher in Pretoria would in future be permitted to wear the "Vierkleur."
"Impossible! I do not believe it," Hansie exclaimed.
"What are you going to do?" her mother inquired.
"Go out as usual with my 'Vierkleur' on, and see what happens," she said.
She went out and nothing happened, so she went out again next day, and the next.
In the meantime she heard that dozens of women and girls had been stopped in the streets and marched off to the various Charge Offices, where their colours were forcibly removed and detained as contraband articles of war.
Her mother warned her not to run the risk of losing her precious ribbon, and advised her to put it away, but Hansie was determined to wear it until compelled to submit. For a few days she rode about as usual, accompanied by Carlo, without being molested in any way, and she was just beginning to feel reassured, when, one day, a petty officer rode up to her in the street and ordered her to take off her Transvaal colours. She was on her way to Consul Cinatti's house, and was walking, for the Portuguese Consulate was quite close to Harmony.
With the horse prancing before her, she could not very well proceed on her way. She stopped and looked up at the soldier. She did not like his face at all, and changed her mind about what she meant to say to him.
"Why don't you do as I tell you? Take off that ribbon at once," he commanded.
"Why don't you go and conquer the Transvaal?" she asked.
"I have my orders," he said, with a black look, "and if you don't remove those colours from your hat immediately, I shall send some one to take them off by force."
"Take the Transvaal first," she said persuasively, "then you will be quite welcome to my bit of ribbon."
He wheeled round suddenly and tore off to the Sunnyside Charge Office, lashing his poor horse savagely and looking round at her with a watchful eye every few yards.
Hansie walked faster, and had nearly reached the side gate of the Consulate, when she saw him returning with two other mounted soldiers.
She dived through the gate, and running through the garden, unceremoniously entered the house at a side door.
"Oh, Celeste!" she said to the astonished Miss Cinatti, "there are three men after me!"
"Three men after you! What do you mean?"
"They want my precious 'Vierkleur.' What shall I do?"
"Take it off!"
Here they were joined by Mr. Cinatti, who waved his arms and stamped his feet when he heard the story, and got so excited and indignant that he spluttered even more than usual in his broken English.
"What meant it all? What impudent impertinence was dis? It was nothing but one big mean trick, a prying trap," etc., etc.
When the storm was over (and his storms were usually of brief duration) he asked Hansie, with a gesture of comical despair:
"What are we going to do now?"
"I don't know."
"Will you take off dat ribbon?"
"I will not."
Hugely delighted, he clasped his hands in well-assumed agony of mind.
"Stay here and go home in de dark?"
"No," Hansie laughed.
"I'll tell you. Celeste will give you anudder ribbon to put over dat one."
"Thank you very much," Hansie said. "Yes, that is a good idea."
Miss Cinatti fastened a broad white ribbon over the "Vierkleur," and Hansie bade her an affectionate farewell. The Consul escorted her to the gate, where they found one of the mounted soldiers guarding the entrance, while the second had been stationed at the side gate into which Hansie had been seen to disappear. The man who had addressed her first was nowhere to be seen. Mr. Cinatti glared at the soldier, who backed away from the entrance, and allowed the girl to pass. He did not look triumphant—on the contrary he saluted respectfully; but the other Tommy at the side gate laughed when he saw the white ribbon on her hat, and I am afraid that Hansie felt very much inclined to say, "I've got my 'Vierkleur' on still!" But she wisely refrained, walking on stiffly without so much as a glance at the man. That night she slowly and sadly took off her 'bit of ribbon gay,' replacing it by a black band in token of mourning and bereavement.
There was too much at stake, and she felt it would be better to keep the ribbon in safety at home than to run the risk of being deprived of it by force.
A sympathetic friend afterwards painted two crossed flags, the flags of the Transvaal and the Free State, on her band of black, and this she wore unmolested until the end of the war.
PASSES AND PERMITS
At this time the procuring of passes and permits became the order of the day, and it is inconceivable the amount of red-tape that had to be gone through in the process.
For women living alone and having no menfolk to send to the offices, this was especially annoying.
Hours were spent in waiting, and applicants were frequently sent from one official to another, and from one department to another, on unimportant matters.
This brought Hansie into touch with the very men whose society she had resolved to avoid.
It took her three or four hours to get a permit for her bicycle and as many days to get permission to retain her Colt's pocket-pistol, for the officers in charge of the rifle department refused to let her keep it and she eventually decided to go straight to head-quarters, viz. the Military Governor, General Maxwell.
Orders had very rightly been issued that all firearms should be delivered to the military authorities, but in this case Mrs. van Warmelo thought an exception should be made, because two unprotected women, living in an isolated homestead, could hardly be considered safe in times of such great danger unless sufficiently armed and able to defend themselves.
Other matters, of minor importance, could be overlooked, but it was to this question of retaining weapons that she and her daughter owed their acquaintance with the charming and affable Military Governor.
The two women were received with great courtesy, and when they had explained that they had a Mauser rifle in their possession, a revolver, and a pistol, begging to be allowed to keep them for self-defence, General Maxwell instantly granted them permits for the revolver and pistol, but asked them to give up their rifle. He gave them a written promise, signed by himself, that the rifle would be returned to them after the war—which promise, I may add, was faithfully kept. General Maxwell asked many questions about their fighting relatives, and, when they were departing, said he hoped they would come straight to him if at any time they got into trouble.
This kindness opened the way to many subsequent visits, and brought about a friendly understanding between the officials in the Governor's Department and Mrs. and Miss van Warmelo.
The latter, upon whom naturally devolved the task of procuring the necessary passes and permits, was always well received, and never kept waiting, although she made no secret of her feelings towards the British, and frankly gave vent to her opinions on every subject connected with the war. This state of affairs was brought about all the more easily by the fact that General Maxwell and his A.D.C., Major Hoskins, invited her opinions on every possible occasion.
Mutual respect, and a sincere desire to alleviate the suffering caused by the war, formed the basis of the somewhat incongruous friendship between the high British official and the Republican girl, especially as time went on and the appalling problem of the concentration camps presented itself. Then it was that General Maxwell, pacing up and down in his office, his brow drawn with care, and every movement betraying his distress, frankly discussed the situation with Hansie and invited her confidence. As she had no secrets of importance at this time, these interviews were marked by a spirit of mutual understanding, and she learnt more and more to admire and respect the Governor for his humanity and nobility of character; but the time was soon to come when the demands of her land and people called her to more dangerous fields of labour, and then it became difficult, well-nigh impossible, to meet the searching eye of the Military Governor.
Her visits became less frequent, of her own free will, and in time ceased altogether.
Soon after the rifle incident Hansie had to call on General Maxwell, as Secretary of the Pretoria Ladies' Vocal Society, for a permit to hold rehearsals. She found him alone and disengaged, for a wonder, and so evidently pleased to see her again that she entered into conversation with him unhesitatingly.
After she had explained the object of her visit and apologised for troubling him about such a trifle, she told him that she had been informed in other Departments that as there was no institution for granting permits to hold rehearsals, she would have to get a special permit from the Military Governor.
"Why," he exclaimed in surprise, "can you not rehearse without a permit?"
"No," Hansie answered laughingly. "Do you not know that two or three may not gather together except in the name of the Governor under the new regulations and since the execution of Cordua? Why, we may be conspiring against your life instead of rehearsing our songs, and at the present moment we can hardly put our noses out-of-doors without being asked whether we have permits for them."
"You are right," he answered; "I did not think of this. Well, you may have your permit on condition that you promise to talk no politics and to be in your own homes before 7 p.m."
Hansie gave the promise on behalf of the vocal society, and yet another war-permit was added to her curious collection! With all the friendliness existing between the Governor and herself, I do not for a moment think that they ever trusted one another completely. Were they not both good patriots? Hansie knew by the questions he asked her that he was trying to extract information from her, and the Governor only told her as much as he thought she could use to his own advantage.
On this particular occasion, when he parted from her, he asked in a fatherly, I-take-such-an-interest-in-you way whether she ever heard from her brothers.
"No," she exclaimed in innocent surprise. "How can I?" (and at the time she spoke truth). Whereupon he sympathetically murmured something about "a very trying time for you."
Permits everywhere and for everything!
Men were stopped in the streets to show their residential passes, private carriages were held up and the occupants requested to produce their permits for vehicle and horses, and cyclists had to dismount a dozen times a day at the sign of some khaki-clothed figure patrolling the streets.
The first British officers to cross Harmony's threshold as visitors and equals were a colonel and a young captain, who both came from Wynberg with letters of introduction from Mrs. van Warmelo's daughter, Mrs. Henry Cloete.
After the long months of irregular correspondence, always severely censored, it was such a relief to get news direct that the bearers were welcomed gratefully.
They called again, and the dignified presence of the Colonel soon became a familiar sight at Harmony. With him it was quite possible to converse, for he avoided every painful topic with the utmost tact and good-breeding, but the Captain was a veritable firebrand, and many were the heated arguments carried on during his visits.
As the weary, weary months dragged on, and the most sanguine could not see the end of the terrible war, it seemed as if feeling grew stronger and the power of endurance lessened.
Even the occasional visits of the British officers became trying to the van Warmelos, and one day her mother asked Hansie to request the Captain not to come again, valiantly retreating to the garden when next he called, and leaving her daughter to fight it out with him alone.
"I am very sorry," he said, "but what have I done?"
"Nothing," Hansie answered, "but you see it is against our principles, and we would like you to wait until the war is over——" The hateful task was over, and the Captain took his departure, not to return again.
Hansie refused obstinately to go over the same ground with the Colonel. He came so seldom, and he was such a kind and courteous old gentleman, that it seemed unnecessary to put an end to his visits, and in time his own good feeling told him to discontinue them.
It was in the summer of 1901, when the days at Harmony were spent in the fruit-laden garden and great jars of apples, pears, peaches, and figs were being canned and preserved for winter use, that thoughts strayed most lovingly and persistently to the two hungry brothers in the field.
"Where are they, I wonder?" was a frequent exclamation. "Did they ever reach the Boer commandos, and oh, when shall we hear from them?"
Great were the rejoicings when Dr. Mulder, who was on his way to Holland, and had got permission from the British to pass through Pretoria from the Boer lines, arrived at Harmony with the news that he had seen the two van Warmelos in the English camp at Nooitgedacht, after its capture by the Boers under General Beyers. They were well and in good spirits then, and the delight their mother and sister experienced at seeing some one direct from the Boer lines can only be appreciated by those who know what it means to a Boer to be a captive under British martial law.
At this time Pretoria was almost completely surrounded by the Boers, and every precaution was being taken against a possible attack. Deep trenches were dug all round the town, electric wires put up, while the hills bristled with cannon and searchlights played from the forts incessantly at night.
The realities of war were forced upon one by the increased activity on the Eastern Railway line to Delagoa Bay, plainly visible from the side verandah at Harmony, and, daily, train loads passed of armed soldiers, or Boer women and children being brought in from the devastated farms.
Armoured trains and Red Cross carriages steamed in and out, horses, cattle, provision loads—everything that could remind one of the fierce strife raging throughout the land.
At this time it became evident that a thief or thieves were helping themselves at night to thoroughbred fowls and fruit at Harmony, and Mrs. van Warmelo asked the sergeant-major of the Military Mounted Police to consult with her about catching the miscreants.
She suspected Kaffirs—certainly not the troops encamped about the place, for a more orderly set of soldiers it would have been hard to find. Their behaviour was always so exemplary that they were now and then rewarded with baskets of fruit and vegetables from Harmony's overflowing abundance.
It was therefore perfectly natural that the sergeant-major should hurry over to the house, indignant and sympathetic, to listen to Mrs. van Warmelo's grievances and to lay plans for the capture of the cunning thief.
That he came at dawn seemed evident, for though the police watched every night, they never caught sight of him, and yet there were fowls missing every morning. Things were beginning to look rather suspicious when, in spite of the vigilant watch kept by the police, there were only nineteen fowls left of the sixty. Mrs. van Warmelo made up her mind to watch for herself.
Early next morning, when a fine white cock had disappeared, she set out with one of the native servants, and, following the track made by the white feathers the bird had lost in its struggles, she came upon the thieves' den. An ideal spot in a little hollow by the riverside, surrounded by trees and shrubs! A small fireplace, a few old sacks and tins and a mass of feathers and bones told their own tale, and Mrs. van Warmelo went home well satisfied.
The sergeant-major, when he heard her story, said he thought it would be better to catch the thief red-handed in the fowl-run than to surprise him in his den, and the police were set to watch again that night.
In the morning two fine hens were missing! The remarks then made at Harmony on the vigilance of British soldiers in general and Military Mounted Police in particular were complimentary in the extreme.
Then Mrs. van Warmelo sent the boy to reconnoitre, and he soon came running back in great excitement, with the news that the thief, a young Kaffir, was sitting beside a fire, eating fowls.
Armed to the teeth, the police set forth to capture him, and soon returned with the miscreant. Such a sight he was! Glistening with fat and covered with feathers, and, as one of the soldiers remarked, "with a corporation like the Lord Mayor." He was handcuffed and taken to the police camp, while the men had their breakfast before escorting him to the Charge Office.
Suddenly there was a fearful commotion.
The culprit had slipped off one of his handcuffs, crept through the wire fence unobserved, and was flying like the wind through the garden towards the river.
After him, in wild confusion, jumping over shrubs and furrows, followed half a dozen soldiers, a couple of natives, Carlo, and I don't know how many other dogs.
He was captured by the brave corporal as he was dashing up the bank on the other side of the river, and brought back to the camp, with his hands tied securely behind.
One month's imprisonment only and a change of diet were prescribed for him at the Charge Office that day.
This incident, though exciting at the time, would not have been worth recording here were it not for its connection with what happened afterwards.
Whatever suspicions the military may have had of intrigues at Harmony, these must have been removed by the fact of their having been requested by the inmates themselves to keep a watch over the property.
So the way was being unconsciously prepared for subsequent events.
As fruit was also being stolen from time to time, the soldiers maintained their watch over the garden, well knowing that their vigilance would be rewarded by a full share of the good things, while they would be the losers if the pilfering were allowed to continue.
When it became evident, a few months later, that another thief was helping himself to her fowls, Mrs. van Warmelo made up her mind to catch him red-handed, without the assistance of the Military Police.
She decided that he would not come back at once, and gave him two days to digest his spoil, and on the third day she got up very early in the hopes of being on the scenes before him, ready to receive him when he came.
She had only been in the garden a few moments when she saw some one, in a stooping posture, running swiftly towards the fowl-run. A moment later and he had seen her. He turned and ran in the opposite direction, Mrs. van Warmelo following closely on his heels, loading her revolver as she ran and calling out, "Stand, or I fire." On being warned a second time he stopped and turned round. Mrs. van Warmelo demanded what he was doing on her property, and he answered in good English that he had lost his way, upon which Mrs. van Warmelo offered to show him the way, and ordered him to march on ahead. With the loaded revolver between his shoulders, the culprit was forced to obey, and Mrs. van Warmelo had the satisfaction of handing him over to the sergeant-major "all by herself."
To save himself, the wily thief turned Queen's evidence and offered to conduct the police to a place where drink for natives was brewed and sold, but the soldiers, not relishing the idea of his escaping scot-free, first gave him a good thrashing before handing him over to be further dealt with by the Provost-Marshal.
POSTAGE BY STRATEGY
Life at Pretoria was at this time far from pleasant for the Boers who remained loyal to their cause.
Most people who had the means, or were not bound to the country by the closest ties, let their houses and went to Europe until the war was over. Many of those who did not leave of their own free will were sent away to the coast, where they were considered safe from plotting against the British, and the few remaining Boer families were apparently on their best behaviour, above all dreading the fate of their fellow-countrymen.
The inmates of Harmony, perhaps more than any other Boers, feared being sent away, because they knew that watching events from afar would be a thousand times worse than enduring the restrictions of English martial law, and that banishment would make it impossible for them to render their fighting men any services. But they found the time of inactivity terribly trying, so much so that they began to cast about in their minds for work, for mischief—for anything, in fact, to relieve the daily, deadening suspense and the dread, of what they knew not, with which they were consumed.
Very galling was the severe censorship of their letters. Mrs. van Warmelo's high spirit rebelled against the continued surveillance of her correspondence and she determined to outwit the censor.
Then began an exciting period of smuggling and contriving, which led to the most complete independence on their part of the services of Mr. Censor, and ended in a well-organised and exceedingly clever system of communication with friends in every part of the world.
On one occasion a sympathiser, leaving the country for good, offered to smuggle through to Mrs. Cloete any document Mrs. van Warmelo might wish to send.
There was nothing ready at the time, but Mrs. van Warmelo decided to make use of this opportunity for some future occasion, and wrote to her daughter on a tiny piece of tissue-paper, "Whatever you may receive in future, marked with a small blue cross, examine closely."
This was smuggled through in some way unknown to the sender and safely delivered to Mrs. Cloete, for people were leaving Pretoria daily, and it was not difficult to find suitable envoys.
Hansie had—and has to this day in her possession as a priceless memento of the war—a small morocco case with a maroon velvet lining, which travelled backwards and forwards between Harmony and Alphen until some better way of communication was contrived. With a sharp instrument Mrs. van Warmelo had removed the entire tray-like bottom of the case, packed two or three closely-written sheets of tissue paper in the opening, and pressed the little tray firmly down in its place again. A tiny blue cross carelessly pasted on the bottom of the case carried its own message to the conspirator at Alphen.
A few weeks later the case came back to Harmony with an antique gold bracelet for Hansie and a long uncensored letter, in the snug hiding-place, for Mrs. van Warmelo.
The next adventure was with a charming lady, whom we shall call "the English lady," she was so very English. (If the truth were known, she was not really English, but Cape Colonial, and, as is often the case, more English than the English themselves, and more loyal than the Queen.)
She unwisely said to a friend of Hansie's, who naturally repeated her words to Hansie, that she would take good care not to convey letters or parcels for the van Warmelos when she left for England, as she shortly intended doing, because she was quite sure they "smuggled," or, if she did consent to take anything, she would examine it thoroughly and destroy whatever it contained of a doubtful character.
When this reached Hansie's ears she made up her mind that "the English lady," and no other, would be her next messenger to Alphen. She dismissed the morocco case from her mind as unsuitable for the occasion, and deliberated long with her mother. At last she was sent to town to buy three medium-sized dolls.
It did not matter much what kind of dolls they were, but they had to have hollow porcelain heads, and they were to be bought from one man only, an indispensable fellow-conspirator in one of the principal stores in Church Street.
When she came home with the dolls her mother seemed pretty well satisfied with the heads; they looked fairly roomy from the outside, and so they were found to be when one of them had been carefully steamed until the glue melted and the head dropped off.
Hansie had been writing, without lifting her head, while her mother prepared the doll. The sheets of paper, rolled up into pellets, were then forced through the slender neck, and the dolls weighed to see if the difference in weight were noticeable. It was not. The head was glued on again, a blue cross was marked on the body, and the dolls were neatly wrapped in a brown-paper parcel.
"The English lady" soon after came to pay her farewell call. After the usual formalities had been exchanged she remarked that she hoped to visit Alphen soon after her arrival in Cape Town.
Mrs. van Warmelo was charmed and delighted, and asked whether she would be good enough to take a parcel of three dolls for Mrs. Cloete's little daughters.
There was just one moment's hesitation, then "the English lady rapidly made up her mind." "Yes, with pleasure, but I must have the parcel to-morrow, because my trunks have to be closed and sent on ahead."
Mrs. van Warmelo turned to her daughter in grave consultation. "Let me see, it is too late now, the shops will be closed, but you can perhaps go to town on your bicycle early to-morrow morning to buy the dolls and have them sent straight to Mrs. ——'s house."
"Yes, mother, I'll do that with pleasure, but I won't have them sent. I'll take them to her myself to be quite sure that she will have them before twelve o'clock."
The next morning Hansie took the dolls to her fellow-conspirator behind the counter and had them made up into an unmistakably professional-looking parcel, tied and sealed with the label of the shop.
Thus were the suspicions of "the English lady" lulled to rest. For her comfort, should this ever reach her eye, I may say that there were no dangerous communications in the doll's head, and should she feel resentful at having been outwitted, she should have known better than to dare one of her country-women under martial law.
On other occasions sympathetic friends were willingly made use of, and the methods of smuggling were so carefully planned in every case that none of the bearers ever got into trouble, with one exception.
A foreign gentleman of high position, through his own carelessness, found himself in a difficult and unpleasant situation. He was leaving for Europe and expressed his willingness to take letters or documents, provided they were packed so carefully that there would be no danger of their being discovered.
Mrs. van Warmelo asked him if he could let her have any little article in daily use and which he was in the habit of carrying about in his pockets. He said that he would think about it, and sent her, next day, a silver cigarette-case with a watered-silk lining. It did not take long to remove the lining and to pack the letters under it. When the lining was replaced and the cigarettes lay in neat rows against it, the most careful observer could not detect anything unusual. These letters were destined for Mr. W.T. Stead and contained a full account of the condition of the Irene Concentration Camp.
In addition to this, Hansie gave her friend a photo of herself in a sturdy frame, containing a hidden letter for Mrs. Cloete, whilst instructing him to destroy the epistle if he could not hand it over to Mrs. Cloete personally, moreover, not to remove the letter from the cigarette-case until he arrived in London.
At Cape Town he met at the hotel a man who professed to be a great pro-Boer and with whom he soon became so friendly that he, finding it impossible to go out to Alphen himself, indiscreetly entrusted Mrs. Cloete's letter into the hands of this stranger, with the result that it was taken direct to the military authorities.
Our friend was arrested the next day as he was boarding the ocean liner, and was kept under strict surveillance while his luggage was being overhauled.
We were told afterwards by friends who witnessed the scene that, during the process, he sat on deck with the utmost unconcern, smoking cigarettes and toying with a silver case! No further evidence having been found against him, he was allowed to sail away in peace, and Mrs. Cloete too escaped without so much as a warning, perhaps because the contents of the letter were not considered sufficiently incriminating.
Mr. Stead received the documents hidden in the cigarette-case in due time and made full use of their contents in his monthly magazine, The Review of Reviews.
Although, surprising to relate, no steps were taken against the conspirators at Harmony, they soon noticed an extraordinary increase in the vigilance of the censor, so much so, that the most harmless communications failed to reach their destination, and when by chance anything was allowed to pass through it was mutilated beyond recognition, whole sentences being smirched with printer's ink or pages cut away by the ruthless hand of the censor.
It may seem a small thing now, but this state of affairs, when letters and papers were the only consolation one had, became a source of such keen annoyance and distress that Hansie decided to approach the censor and ask him the reason for such petty persecutions.