BY A.D.L., B.A., CHAPLAIN IN THE CONCENTRATION CAMP, BETHULIE, O.R.C., 1901.
CAPE TOWN: PRINTED BY S.A. NEWS CO., LTD., 1904.
To THE REV. H.C.J. BECKER, OF BETHULIE, O.R.C.
A perusal of the following "Introduction" by the Author, and of his true and touching "Diary," will assuredly carry the conviction into your own soul, if you still require conviction, that our South African women were the heroines of the late deplorable war.
May this pathetic relation bring us all nearer to one another in sympathy and love; and serve to awaken in every woman's breast the desire to emulate and perpetuate the pure faith and noble devotion which these Sisters of ours have handed down to us and to all posterity as their priceless legacy.
In undertaking the responsibility for the publication of this "Diary," I may simply state that the proceeds will be given towards the support of the Orphanage at Bethulie.
Yours, etc., D. DE VILLIERS, Secretary, Boer Relief Committee. CAPE TOWN.
This Journal was written in the Bethulie Concentration Camp just two years ago.
A few days after my return from Europe (whither I had gone for six months on the completion of a Theological course at Stellenbosch), a telegram came from the Deputy Administrator of the Orange River Colony, through the Rev. Wm. Robertson, inviting me to work as Chaplain in one of the Concentration Camps.
The Rev. Mr. Pienaar, who had received a similar invitation, and I therefore journeyed down to Bloemfontein a few days later. We received great courtesy at the hands of Sir Hamilton Gould-Adams, the Deputy Administrator, and every kindness from Mr. Robertson.
In a few days it was finally decided that Mr. Pienaar should go to Irene, in the Transvaal, and I to the Concentration Camp at Bethulie. Thither I forthwith travelled, arriving at my destination on the 21st August.
The thought suggested itself the very first day that I might desire, in after years, to recall my experiences in Camp, and so I decided to keep a diary. This thought, and this alone, prompted me in the matter. Of an evening, therefore, just before retiring, I noted down the doings of the day, consulting at such times always my pocket note-book.
What was written was done hurriedly, on the impulse of the moment—in fact, simply scribbled down without, of course, any regard to style, language, or form. Stress of circumstances must be held responsible for the many undignified expressions in which the Diary abounds. It should not be forgotten, moreover, that I was usually tired out after the day's work, when these entries were made.
For almost a year the Diary lay in my desk before I could summon courage to re-read it. After it had been hidden again for another year, I rashly promised a sick friend to send it for her to read. Fearing, however, that she would not be able to follow all the contractions, I decided to copy it over, and it was while thus engaged that it became clear to me that it should be published. Cui bono? is of course, the question which must be faced. The only answer I wish to plead is that this work is a tribute to Woman's Endurance, and that it presents in the story of that endurance, and the fortitude of the Dutch women and children, one of the nobler aspects of the late war. And is not this plea enough? Cannot we sometimes forget the inevitable political aspect of things and see beyond into the human?
In conclusion, this: A diary is simply a confidential talk to one's self of one's self—such is its prerogative. While, then, sending forth into publicity this Journal in its entirety, so as not to mar its integrity, need it be suggested how hard it is occasionally to lay bare the naked soul within?
Durbanville, Cape Colony, September, 1903.
* * * * *
As reproduced here, the Diary is substantially the same as the original, except for:—
1. Contractions, which are written out.
2. Slang, for which, where it could be done, inoffensive words are substituted.
In form it is given absolutely unchanged.
I have found it necessary to add a number of notes, and to translate all the Dutch.
Bethulie Concentration Camp, August, 1901.
Wednesday, August 21.—Arrived station 8.30 a.m. (from Bloemfontein); tedious delay; no pass to village obtainable, official in village for breakfast; number of refugees in same train, among them a sick girl, with fever: "Pappie, Pappie, ach mij ou Pappie!" ("Daddy, daddy! O my dear daddy!" Thus she cried whenever she was touched, as they carried her out of the train, and lifted her on to the wagon. She was fever-stricken and terribly emaciated. (Reference is made later to this same girl.) Alas! Arrival village; visit parsonage (Becker's); dinner; things forwarded per wagon; arrival camp (mile out); meet superintendent; given a tent; dust; misery; the Van As's offer me a home; kind; bitter cold night; leakage; bad draught; bad cold; feel lonesome; orphanish; pipe to rescue; great consolation.
* * * * *
Thursday, August 22.—My tent untenable position; in the thoroughfare; speak Superintendent; obtain new site; private; buy 150 bricks 1s. 6d., hire three boys, barrow 1s. 3d.; with miershoop (antheap, excellent for making floor) make brick kraal; hard work; Mr. Van As and Fourie grand; fine floor.
First visits: Young girl, orphan, bad; Weinanda, little girl, "Ja Oom, ik is nou bij mij Mamie" ("Yes, Uncle, now I am with my mother"); mind wanders. Third tent: Two babies wrestling with death; mothers raadeloos (in despair); 486, wife, babe at breast, measles; daughter, 14, convalescent; behind screen three children sick, measles; condition pitiable; husband prisoner Ladismith; great dirt; unbearable; the pity of it!
Pitch tent; wet floor; inside dire confusion.
Meeting Church-square thirty-nine elders; each a block; prayer; introduction Rev. Becker; kind words and cheer.
Early bed; restless night; hospital close by; commotion; groans; fifteen buried to-day; service for Mr. Van As.
* * * * *
Friday, August 23.—Early bird; wash spruit; first shave (tears); Van As coffee; pathetic sight; old man leading old wife back to tent from hospital; Hugo; son just died.
Visit Hugo's; dinner Van As; outspan (rest); cigar grand.
Unpack; three Red Cross boxes (gift of the chemist); order out of chaos; spirits revive; visits 2.5 p.m.
Dying child; mother broken-hearted.
Dying mother; clear doorway; deathbed grim attraction for our people; prayer; understands.
Widow; husband found dead outside in night; heart disease.
Sick child (since dead); sick child; sweet face; Louw.
Visit sick child of yesterday, also Weinanda.
Stray; hear cough; enter; father invalid (wife dead); three sick children; youngest very bad.
Comfort mother of dead child.
Funerals (seven), Mr. Becker: "I was dumb and opened not my mouth."
Burial ground; about 120 graves; weeping mothers; visit dying child; fool of myself, broke down in prayer; the helplessness in presence of Death!
Throat hoarse; dead off; return tent; meditate; convinced this work the very hardest in whole world.
Avoid taking guide next time (handicapped).
Neglected to visit 486 and mothers of yesterday's dying children.
Stienie; down measles; jelly.
Mr. Otto's dear loving daughter died hospital.
Fourteen corpses (in morgue tents).
Very many old friends all about of Papa's and Oom Jacob's.
One man disappointed; had expected Oom Jacob.
Night: Strains of Psalm-singing; calm and fresh after shower of rain; follow ear; Snyman; short conversation.
* * * * *
Saturday, August 24.—Evening: Coughing; wailing; crying; groaning.
Exhausting day; pure, clear air after refreshing rain.
The misery in our Camp heart-rending; hopeless to cope with work.
Up early; coffee in hospital kitchen; work.
235a; six orphans; baby; dirt; sad!
241; mother died to-day suddenly.
239; boy 12, Ignatius; malignant growth shoulder; hopeless; pining away.
249; child; measles.
468; Venter; motherless infants; all sick; food scarce; despair; powerful grandmother (arms!); daughter; all measles; "Ziet, minheer, die dochter is nog'n lady: sij is nie getrouwd nie" ('This daughter, sir, is still a lady; she is not yet married'); Bengers; beef tea.
485; Van Heerde; mother and tentful of sick children; pitiable; camphor; brandy.
487; Engelbrecht; Mrs. P. de Lint; wonderful discovery; yet withal sad; father India; children ill; wife broken-hearted; great rejoicing; thanksgiving for change.
321; Old Mr. De Villiers, grand old man; great cheer to myself.
268; Mrs. De Villiers; five children sick.
383; mother died last week; daughter this morning; "Minheer, dit was de prachtigste sterfbed wat ik ooit gezien het" ('Sir, it was the most beautiful deathbed I have ever seen'); "Dag, tante, ik gaat naar die Heere Jesus toe" ('Good-bye, Aunt, I am going to the Lord Jesus'); remaining daughter very, very bad; "Minheer, moet assemblief bid dat ik kan gezond word" ('Sir, you must pray, please, that I may recover'); little hope; inflammation.
292; Van der Berg; wife died last night.
81; casual visit; Mrs. Van Staden; Mrs. Otto; sick children.
80; Mrs. Van der Merwe died to-day; old lady, Mrs. Pienaar, ill in bed; when I repeated some verses Gezang 65, old lady forestalled me line for line.
612; "Ach mij lieve ou Pappie"; better.
Five hours' incessant work; wearisome; thank God when twilight comes.
Work here for ten men; no chance alone; no show; the helplessness of it all! and there are hundreds sick and dying that I know not of, and that I could not visit even should I know.
My brothers-elders must help me more.
Had I not seen body of 80 removed I should never have known.
Funerals this morning; twelve; rude coffins; rough and ready biers (six); young Hugo; "Gelijk een bloem des velds" ("As for man his days are as grass; as a flower of the field so he flourisheth")
Visit Mrs. Liebenberg, whose girlie was buried; prostrate; never saw glimpse of Mr. Becker.
Great concern because of the difficulty of cleanliness amid such dire straits; point determined; to warn and exhort one and all to the strictest cleanliness; for "cleanliness is next to godliness."
Saw long convoy travelling past.
Eighteen corpses in morgue tents.
* * * * *
Sunday, August 25.—Longish day.
235a; six orphans; nice and clean; very satisfactory; boy bad.
383; still same; poor girl.
113; death; child; much misery; Olivier.
Church 1.30; open air; glorious weather; attentive congregation; singing impressive; majority stand; grand pulpit(!); regular rostrum.
Afternoon work begins 2 p.m., ends 7 p.m.; incessant, wearying.
Our Camp one large hospital, with hundreds wrestling with measles, pneumonia, fever. The sorrow of it that I never can sit down and say, "Now I have visited all the sick." There are hundreds of whom I know nothing.
Horrible whistle that! It signals the morgue tent people to come and remove the dead. It is Death's shrill, harsh, jarring, triumphant shout! It shivers one through.
176; great misery.
235b; child died; food needed.
375; dead child.
175; a most harrowing spectacle; Badenhorst; old father; old mother; bedridden 15-year-old boy; water head; simple; old mother feeds it mouth to mouth; "Die kind, leeraart, het ik nou al lang afgege aan de Heere Jesus!" (This child, Pastor, I have given to the Lord Jesus long ago.") She dotes on this imbecile, poor mother. Such a simple, homely, gladsome, believing old heart. "Ik ben velen een wonder geweest" ("I am a wonder unto many"); me certainly; daughter with sick girlie; "De Heere het haar ver ons terug gege" ("The Lord has given her back to us"); there was a fire in their tent, and this young mother was badly burnt to the bone (wrist).
169; Heever; four children; all sick.
450; great distress; Du Toit; child sick; no nourishment; young mother sick; only child dead.
526; De Wet; daughter delirious; dying; two others sick on the floor; pathetic.
372; Kotze; baby dying; two others sick; great friends Oom Jacob.
156; Joubert (or Ackerman); daughter; floor; dying; measles and pneumonia.
15; Barnard; two daughters; one dangerously sick; poor anxious mother! While hurrying to relieve with some beef tea and Benger's Food stopped on way by desperate mother.
471; Marais; eight children; all sick; no nourishment; two very bad. To think of it!
After tea called to 235; orphans; boy very bad; sisters' tears.
Also 211; Roux; daughter; pneumonia.
Again 383; much drawn to that child; large, soft, trustful brown eyes; asked yesterday that I pray she might get well; to-day otherwise; trusting.
Distributed beef tea and Benger's food to some very urgent cases; the thankfulness melts one's heart.
Found on getting home plate food on box; enjoyed same at tea; great cheer to be with the Van As's.
Closed Sunday School; children sing "Dat's Heeren Zegen!" ("The blessing of the Lord descend on thee.")
* * * * *
Monday, August 26.—That imbecile boy died to-day; the old mother sent for me, but I found no time to go.
Don't think 526 will last long; gave candles, beef tea and Benger's Food this evening.
383 much better; smiled this morning when I entered.
339; great tribulation; six deaths in one week.
440; girlie; sweet face; wonder if she will die or live; very, very bad; Cloete.
288; Mrs. Venter; young wife; sick; five children sick; gave beef tea and Benger's Food.
352; the lost little lamb found; one of my first, whose number I had omitted to take; Weinanda; five years; pining away; large grey eyes; far-away look; poor little mite; Ken jij ver mij, me kind?" (Do you still remember me, child?") "Ja, Oom; Oom is de Predikant" ("Yes, Uncle; Uncle is the Minister"). "Is Weinanda blij dat Oom weer gekom het?" ("Is Weinanda glad that Uncle has come again?") "Ja, Oom; Oom is goed om te kom" ("Yes, Uncle; it was good of Uncle to come") Wonder if I really am rather soft; but when this little mite clasped her tiny hands together when Oom began to pray, I was bowled clean over.
35, 156, 15 rather better.
At 34 found old friends of Oom Jacob; Wernich; the old woman weak; very nice to meet so many great friends of Oom Jacob and of Papa from Colesberg; old Mr. Du Plessis can't get over it.
Wasted much time at weekly meeting of the Elders; impatient; each Elder has block of sixteen tents to care for; heard reports; nearly all report general sickness. The amount of sickness just now is terrible; a vast hospital; the bitter cold nights play havoc; most lie on the hard bare ground.
Fighting grimly with uncleanliness; the idea that it is dangerous to wash with measles; rot!
Another great point; must insist that friends and relatives abstain from all long-faced despondency, with total absence of any cheer and hopefulness; this bad effect on patients; if anyone seriously ill, they "hands up" and cluster around to await the end, lest perchance they miss seeing "zoo 'n prachtige sterfbed" (such a beautiful deathbed).
Mrs. Botha (outer Camp) sent for me; penitent; wonder if it is only the fear that drives her, or whether it is a genuine case of true repentance; she has measles badly.
91; mother sick; five children (and one in hospital).
Sad about 398; buried two children this afternoon; this is the third; mother also dead; husband sick; glad I found time to see him; poor fellow.
458; great distress; old grandmother; sick mother; sick children; no nourishment; no candles; very helpless; Benger's Food, beef tea, and candles.
Made only about twenty-two visits to-day.
Relieved Mr. Becker funeral service; seven this afternoon; had no time to prepare; reckless; got through somehow; "Het wordt gezaaid in verderfelijkheid, het wordt opgewekt in onverderfelijkheid" (It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption).
"Ja, leeraar, hier in ons Kamp wordt daar nie droppels tranen gestort nie maar emmers vol" ("Yes, Pastor, here in our Camp it is not drops but bucketsful of tears that are shed").
There are about a dozen corpses in morgue tents just now.
* * * * *
Tuesday, August 27.—The blessedness of eventide.
Letters from Issie and Louise; seem to have forgotten for a brief space the sorrows around.
Record day so far; visited thirty-five tents; very hard task. It is so delightful to offer up a thanksgiving prayer for a change; the usual "noodgebed" (emergency prayer) is most wearying. Thank God, that in some I found "beterschap" (convalescence).
Am striking out in new direction now; there is too much despondency and heaviness of spirit rampant; anyhow, extremely difficult task, for the conditions all around are most lamentably depressing.
Am going to sew blankets into bag this evening, a la Hanglip; last night bitterly cold; frost this morning; to-day very hot again; these two extremes so disastrous to the sick.
440 little better, and 383 much better.
190; Mrs. Taljard died last night.
Deaths at 201, 312, and 460 also; and all these had never yet been visited. Here is where the dissatisfaction comes in; and yet, how am I to know?
In 436 a child died; mother in great sorrow.
Next to 416 is Mrs. Van der Walt; very sick; not at all serene within; such cases very hard. While at dinner suddenly called to Mrs. Van der Walt—death's throes; prayer; when at dinner, on return, heard the horrible whistle go.
Our wood is done, and there remains nothing wherewith to make coffins; will have to bury in blankets to-morrow I fear; this will cause extra affliction and unhappiness. Pitiable to see husband of Mrs. Van der Walt pleading for boxes which could not be given; and he was "schatryk" (very rich) they say. There will be a great outcry, I'm afraid. And yet, after all, will a coffin save the soul?
After dinner, 169; baby died; mother sorely stricken.
Visited old mother in 25 again, and spoke few words of cheer; she is an old Christian; blessed me for coming.
In luck's way to-day; felt inclined for handwash, and was taken into tent 335; Horak's; relations of old Jaap's; nice, clean, tidy; delighted; happiness; mother; daughter; autoharp; lemon syrup; must go again if I can.
"Wie is daar? Wat is dit?" ("Who is there? What is it?")
"Zal Minheer L—— assemblief gou kom naar Mrs. Meintjes? Zij le op sterve!" ("Will Mr. L—— please come quickly to Mrs. Meintjes? She is dying!")
Just returned; delirious; called her by name after prayer, and she became conscious for a few seconds; fear her moments on earth are numbered. How good of those girls to watch over her! Husband rushed out of tent in tears. Now, what could I do?
"Is there no pity sitting in the clouds can see into the bottom of our grief?"
10 p.m., walked through Camp.
Great coughs; little coughs; deep coughs; shrill coughs; hoarse coughs; long coughs; short coughs; coughs that are no coughs at all. Wonder how many are to die to-night!
* * * * *
Wednesday, August 28.—Now if there is anything that rubs me up the wrong way, it is to see a crowd around a tent doorway, watching the end. Yesterday I lost my temper at 35, and gave it hot all round. Such barefaced curiosity is revolting; I hate it.
Yes, 35 (21 years) passed away last night, and so did 415 (Mrs. Meintjes), whom I visited late last evening.
This morning the black list was laid on my table; twelve in the night—339, 415, 125, 253, 180, 526, 419, 35, 353, 450, I didn't expect 415 to live long.
The night has been a most restless one; "Ja, minheer, ons het vannacht nie rust gehad nie" ("Yes, sir, we had no rest last night") (morgue tents men).
I woke at 2 a.m. with the tramp of these bearers removing corpses.
One longs for day, and the night seems never to end.
Twice funerals—morning at 11 a.m. (six), "Leer ons alzoo onze dagen tellen" ("So teach us to number our days"); afternoon, 4 p.m. (six), "En de dooden werden geoordeeld uit hetgeen in de boeken geschreven was, naar hunne werken" ("And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works").
Our wood has given in, and we are forced to bury in blankets. But let me not think on it! It is painful to remember, and our people feel very deeply.
The Van der Walts managed to put together an apology for a coffin, and there was something pathetically comic about that production. I think it was made of candle and milk boxes.
That reminds me, what queer pastimes some folks can have. One man casually informed me that he attends all the funerals! But some folks unconsciously delight to wander in the sombre shadows of life. A funeral to me is a most fatiguing duty; more so when one has to give an address at the graves, and there is no time for preparation except on the march to the burying ground. I am getting reckless, for I am forced absolutely to rely on impromptu grace. I tremble, when I think what I risk each day.
Visits only a dozen, owing to funerals.
Sad about 91; very bad.
599, 602, 606, 16, 238, 327, all new tents, with great affliction; must go soon again.
Called to 117; Nel; young wife; just received tidings of her husband's death in Ceylon; desperately stricken; hard, hard case.
Called to hospital; Annie Bothma; strong young girl (twenty); very bad; just struggling to live; mother holding hand. Foeitog! (alas!) So well and strong; horrid pneumonia; have visited her again, and cannot get reconciled that she should die. And yet she yearns to be "ontbonden" (loosed), and begs of me to pray to that effect. Now, God forgive me, but this dying girl's request I cannot, cannot accede to. Humanly speaking, she simply cannot live; it is only her abnormally strong constitution that fights so grimly. I have wrestled with God for her life. Oh, she must not, may not, die! Think of the weak, frail mother—of the father far, far away in Ceylon! "O ye of little faith"; and yet I firmly believe God can still spare her life.
Yesterday, row about the miserable meat. Some women rather violent and loose with tongue; to-day committed to imprisonment. Yesterday my letters were returned by the Censor. I boiled over for some time; such a little snob, who is too big for his boots! Pinpricks; will fight it out to-morrow.
* * * * *
Thursday, August 29.—Went back to hospital after writing above, and then I did indeed pray as the sick girl desired. God took her home at about two this morning. Poor child! she did suffer so very much, and yet withal so patiently; "Die doctor het mij gif ingespuyt en gif ingege daarom lei ik zoo zwaar" ("The doctor injected poison into me, and gave me to take poison; that is why I suffer so bitterly"); very likely morphia had to be injected. Whenever I repeated a verse to her she would say the lines in advance.
After breakfast I went to village for first time; saw Magistrate; obtained residential pass; hunted high and low for boards for coffin for Annie Bothma. At last, after despairing search, succeeded in getting six boards and two boxes; hope they will be enough wherewith to fashion some sort of a coffin.
Dined with the Beckers.
Deaths last night—8, 129, 401, 52, 427, 213, 239, and one in hospital.
Very trying afternoon among the dying.
One woman just giving her last breath when I entered to pray for her; lamentation. Roaring lion, because of the crowd of inquisitives; stood at doorway and addressed them; said I was ashamed of their conduct; boiled over. Simply will not stand such things; and yet such things are inevitable with a camp of 650 tents all crowded together; with hundreds swarming all over, and countless children. Am going to put a stop to children visiting morgue tents; should not be allowed; will see Superintendent to-morrow.
91 very bad.
I usually make a last round after the day's work to take Benger's Food and beef tea, etc., to urgent cases. When I got to 268, found she had died soon after my visit.
Have written to Issie and Mr. Robertson.
Wonder how long my things will last, and what I shall do after that.
* * * * *
Friday, August 30.—Village; morning visits.
Found 91 died in night.
Dropped in to speak few words to old woman in 25; don't think she will last very long.
79; boy sick; relapse; Van der Berg; baby died yesterday
Mrs. Castelan lies sick in 76; husband Bloemfontein Camp; three children sick; also daughter just out of hospital (1-1/4 months).
Called in at 217; Du Preez; very nice, clean people; daughter very sick; pneumonia; found her very much distressed, and that because the thought of being buried without coffin was so repulsive; "Net sous een beest" (just like an animal). We must not anticipate God!
Am much distressed that 383, who was getting well so nicely, and who smiled when I looked in yesterday, has died.
Mother died few weeks ago, and sister few days ago.
Near the coalfields I was called to see Mrs. Van der Walt; 191; heart bad; most desperately anxious to be taken "home," and quite ready too; wonder if she will live through the night!
When a person decides and is determined to die, the chances at recovery are very poor indeed.
Mr. Otto called and asked me to take prayer meeting 2 p.m. "En Samuel bad den Heere" (And Samuel prayed unto the Lord).
Then came the inevitable funerals, ten, among others Annie Botha. Oh, the sorrow of it! the sorrow of it! Nothing is more regular than that dreary procession every afternoon at four o'clock.
Several in blankets; "Ik ben verstomd, ik deed mynen mond niet open, want gij hebt het gedaan" (I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because thou didst it).
Met old Tollie's brother; rejoiced.
Found sick orphan girl I visited first day; much better.
Nice dinner; nice supper; "vet schaapie en vet ou bokkie" (fat lamb, fat little goat), which we bought.
Wonder what I would have done were the Van As's not here; so happy with them; everyone always so cheerful.
At tea called to pray with dying little girl; went immediately, and found tent full of weeping and wailing women; the little girl was in death's throes; short prayer, and when I finished her spirit had fled; mother frantic; hard, very hard to know how best to comfort. A woman is a wonderful network of cross-wires, and when these wires get unstrung or entangled, the result is most distressing. In presence of such, one feels hopelessly lost, and all one can do is to—walk away. And yet, for downright, dogged perseverance—for silent, struggling endurance—for quiet, patient suffering—commend me to a woman. What would become of Man without the Woman!
* * * * *
Saturday, August 31.—Glum; just returned from dying boy, Herklaas; young, strong; father Ceylon; visited him yesterday; said he did not want to die because his father was away, and he had to care for the mother. Touched late last night, and found him very bad; went down again with doctor; this morning he was better, but this afternoon worse, and now (10 p.m.) I find him dying. I am very, very down-hearted to-night, and am tempted to think that, after all, God—No! I won't write it, because I believe this is a temptation of Satan! But oh! we did pray so fervently that God should spare his life; he is still so young and so strong. Found some more inquisitive onlookers. Some folks will put themselves to endless inconvenience to be able to witness a deathbed. They revel in it. I am vexed in my soul, and feel as though I could knock down everyone of them.
Funerals twice to-day.
This morning I buried seven; "Het wordt snellijk afgesneden" (For it is soon cut off).
This afternoon Mr. Becker buried six.
There were twenty corpses in morgue tents this morning.
This afternoon a column struck camp half a mile north of our Camp.
To-morrow is Sunday; I am quite unprepared, and must hold two services.
Walked through Camp this evening (10 p.m.); found several women busy round fire; all to warm "pap" (poultice) for sick children. Pneumonia is playing havoc.
Better stop; feeling tootoo to-night; and besides, my two letters have again been returned by the Censor, and I am too cross for anything.
[Footnote 1: Mr. Van As and Mr. Fourie laid out the floor for my tent, and encircled it with a 9-inch wall.]
[Footnote 2: Each tent was numbered.]
[Footnote 3: Not real church elders; each, however, had a block of tents under his care.]
[Footnote 4: Stream between Camp and village; it only had running water, though, after rain.]
[Footnote 5: Mr. Van As's eldest daughter.]
[Footnote 6: Sannie Otto was the bosom friend of Sarah van As. Sarah has since died.]
[Footnote 7: My father was for many years minister at Colesberg, and my uncle again at Fauresmith.]
[Footnote 8: Some friends at Durbanville subscribed about L20, with which I had bought some invalid food, to take down with me from Cape Town (beef tea, Benger's Food, jelly, arrowroot, dozen bottles of port). While visiting the sick I noted down the most distressing cases, and after the day's work I made a final round to these tents with some of this invalid food.]
[Footnote 9: Pieter de Lint, an old College friend.]
[Footnote 10: Our Hymnary is divided into Psalms and Evangelical hymns (Psalmen en Gezangen).]
[Footnote 11: I decided to note down always in diary my text for the address at the gravesides. Our people expect the pastor to give an address before reading the Burial Service.]
[Footnote 12: What with water to be carried, rations to be fetched, wood to be brought and chopped, food to be cooked (in the open), bread to be baked, washing to be done (not to speak of the menial sanitary duties), it was indeed hard for a mother (herself perhaps weak), with a number of sick children, to keep her tent clean.]
[Footnote 13: Van Huysteens. The mother was shot while they were fleeing before the English. There was a babe of five months.]
[Footnote 14: As a pigeon feeds its young.]
[Footnote 15: Where I have often camped out.]
[Footnote 16: College chum.]
[Footnote 17: The twelfth was probably in hospital.]
[Footnote 18: When removing the dead from a certain section of the Camp, the bearers had to pass my tent.]
[Footnote 19: She was a probationer.]
[Footnote 20: The women, brandishing the meat ration on high, literally laid siege to the official tent. The meat supplied was miserably lean, quite unfit for consumption. I myself wouldn't have given it to a dog. When thrown against a wall, for instance, it would stick. Throughout the Camp it was dubbed "vrekvlys" (a man dies, an animal "vreks"—vlys is meat). The flour given was good, for the bread was usually excellent.]
[Footnote 21: This number soon grew to 800.]
[Footnote 22: There were three such tents about 100 yards beyond the hospital; they were the most dilapidated tents in the whole Camp, always open; they were occasionally blown down.]
[Footnote 23: A ration of coal was sometimes served out.]
[Footnote 24: Another old College chum.]
[Footnote 25: The Van As's received my ration (which was same as theirs), and I took all my meals with them.]
[Footnote 26: This doctor, a most capable man, was always most friendly to me. I had learnt to humour him, and he was ever willing to accompany me, even at night, to desperate cases. He was, however, almost as universally detested as he was feared, and ultimately was knocked down by an irate husband.]
Sunday, September 1.—Recklessness; preached twice to-day without any preparation; "sommer uit die vuis uit" (literally, straight from the fist); simply compelled to; very unpleasant day; wind and dust; made services very short; fifty-five minutes.
In afternoon a large crowd of young people.
Mr. Otto took funerals for me this morning (eleven buried).
This afternoon Mr. Becker buried six.
About fourteen have died since last night.
It is pitiable to see the innocent little children and babies suffering and struggling against the accursed pneumonia; and there seems no hope when once they get it. Poor little mites!
A census taken lately gives 683 as the number of sick. Milk ration has been stopped since yesterday; new sorrow. Our Camp a veritable valley of desolation. For the very essence of sorrow and misery, come here! For weeping, wailing mothers, come here! For broken hearts, come here! For desperate misery and hopelessness, come here! What would become of us if we had not our Religion to fall back upon! What, if we had not the assurance that a Good and Merciful God reigns above! What if there was no Love! What, if there was no hope of the Resurrection and Life Everlasting! What, if there is nothing beyond the Grave!
The nights here are so awful, and one yearns for day; and then the fearfulness of being awakened repeatedly in the night by the tramp of those who carry away the dead to the morgue tents. I woke last night in such a way, and knew that they were bearing young Herklaas away. One grows a bit pessimistic under the circumstances. Despite my services, I had to visit several sick—mostly dying children, with weeping mothers. It is so hard to pray, and so very wearying. And then, to comfort and cheer, when your own heart is lead within.
In the hospital there are many sick; am neglecting the hospital, and my conscience hurts, but am going regularly from to-morrow; must find time somewhere.
Mrs. De Lint's children are all sick; baby very bad; poor woman; am so sorry for her; Peter away in Ceylon.
Those deep rings round the eyes, which one sees all about, bear testimony to nights of watching and of anguish in the heart. May God take pity!
Monday, September 2.—Bitter day, the bitterest I have yet had; Superintendent furious because of my last letters. The worst is I see that I am altogether misunderstood, and that I am suspected now of interfering and working against the Superintendent. And yet this is not so, for I would go to-morrow if I knew I was at all hostile to the authorities. I fear I have been indiscreet in what I wrote; shall have straight talk to-morrow, and ask Superintendent to let me resign if I have not his confidence; there must be no suspicion, otherwise I cannot stay. This matter is a load upon my heart.
Busy day; new tents 63, 552a, 50, 40, all with sick children except 552, where young man is very sick.
Called to hospital; Mrs. Retief dying; prayer; expired just after. Hurried to 34, but found I was just too late; Mrs. Ackerman just died.
156; very sad case; mother, Mrs. Joubert, died this morning, and when I came I found three helpless little ones all alone, and sick too; father in Bloemfontein Camp; the grandmother will provide, I understand.
Had short conversation with Mr. Branders, Superintendent Sunday School, and decided to exhort parents to send children to school.
395; Mrs. Botha very ill; twenty-eight days in bed; advise removal hospital; this afternoon doctor called and said she was dying; she leaves a baby.
Went to few cases with doctor; very interesting; get on well with him.
Visited 239, Ignatius, with malignant growth on arm; must soon die.
Took doctor to see 36; young girl suddenly sick; great misery there; bad ventilation; four others measles.
Funerals this afternoon (about nine); "Hetgeen gij zaait wordt niet levend tenzij dat het gestorven is" (That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die).
Visited hospital to-day, and mean to go regularly each day.
* * * * *
Tuesday, September 3.—Went to Superintendent first thing to-day; reasonable; long talk; reconciled; thank God.
Found boy in 34 very, very bad; this afternoon stopped bearers on way to morgue tents, and learnt that they were carrying him away; poor little fellow; he suffered so very much!
In 35 there is also great sickness.
27; Mrs. Taljaard; very sick baby; also sick boy; husband commando.
Hospital; read and prayed in the three wards; glad I went; some very seriously ill; so sorry to hear that Miss Hendriks died this morning; she was very bad; spoke to her yesterday, and prayed with her; she enquired restlessly, time after time, "Is dit nog nie vijf uur nie?" (Is it not yet five o'clock?). At five this morning she passed away.
The men's ward quite full; all ages; all were so glad to have me read and pray.
541; Mrs. Steyn; two children gone; very sore; glad I went.
500; Mrs. Schoeman; eight children; two sick; husband Ceylon.
503; Mrs. Robertson; baby dead; two boys sick; husband fighting.
In 418 great misery; Mrs. Herbst ill and three sick children.
In 322 called in to pray for dying baby.
Very busy afternoon; always stopped on way and called in.
The poor little mites! the horrid, cruel pneumonia! and there seems to be no saving them when once the pneumonia, grips them.
Mr. Becker took funerals, seventeen; several in blankets.
And so we go forth day by day; the dread whistle; the regular tramp of the bearers to morgue tents, and the slowly winding procession every afternoon.
Called hurriedly to hospital twice; dying girl just brought in; could understand.
Hysterical girl Martie, swearing and cursing all round; each nurse in particular, and the whole lot generally.
Old Mrs. Van Zyl, 492, evidently dying.
Called to enquire after old Mrs. Oosthuizen; found she had died soon after last visit.
Pleasant evening; stories of my travels; in Italy once more.
* * * * *
Wednesday, September 4.—My visits to hospital I love.
That one girl such a sad case; fever and most terrible headache; they say it is sunstroke.
Hysterical girl quiet.
Filth and stench in some tents almost unbearable.
Nos. 34 and 35 very bad; ventilated tent myself; some folks built that way, and sickness becomes their trench behind which they shelter. But I will persist in maintaining that no matter the sickness, no matter the distress and poverty, cleanliness is a possibility anywhere. But what an opportunity for the careless to degenerate!
Managed to get bedstead for Mrs. Van Zyl; fear she won't last long.
I wonder what the safest policy would be when two women pour out their griefs into your ear at the same time. When they simultaneously tell you all about their departed cherubs? Some people selfish in their sorrow. Took little camphor brandy Mrs. Niemand's; tent full lamenting womenfolk; and the helpless babe casting her black eyes from one to another. Some people will insist on anticipating the Almighty (the child is dead, though).
Saw a child to-day the very image of a mouse; two months' illness; large ears; black eyes; thin, bony hands; huddled together.
Very busy afternoon.
Funerals at 4 p.m.; eighteen corpses; "En God zal alle tranen van hunne oogen afwisschen" (And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes).
How can one's heart remain hard? Can one be unmoved when you see weeping, stricken mothers kneeling in anguish beside their infants' graves?
Love, after all, is the greatest and most mysterious of all things.
Explain it that a mother can cling to a helpless, idiotic, deformed boy for fourteen years, and feed him mouth to mouth! Explain that a mother can sit up night and day, day and night, with a sick child! Look at those deep-set eyes, sorrow-sunken, their care-wornness, and tell me what is this Love that endureth all things!
Two things have I learnt during these fourteen days which till now to me were "all fancy"—the meaning of Love and the thing called Religion.
* * * * *
Thursday, September 5th.—Tent overhauled; floor rubbed and "smeered" (coated); very miserable, windy day; dust; dirt; towards evening cold south winds; fear it will work havoc with the children to-night.
Hospitals; so sorry about Miss Snyman; quite delirious to-day; wonder if she will live.
Hysterical one quite tame; "Ach, minheer zijn hand is tog zoo koud; ik wens, minheer, wil die heele dag mij kop hou" ("Ah, sir, your hand is so very cold, I wish you would hold it to my head the whole day").
Found things cleaner at 35; still great misery.
Fear old Mrs. Van Zyl will die.
The De Wets (526) sad way; so many sick; one daughter dead; two children in hospital; this afternoon baby died.
Neglected to go to Mrs. Niemand—poor little mother!
De Lintz in great misery; gnashing teeth girlie weaker.
Some people selfish in their sorrow; but I don't suppose a man can fathom the love a mother bears her child!
Near Church (!) great misery; sick mother (husband Bloemfontein) and four sick children; all helplessly ill; no one to help; and water has to be carried and wood fetched and chopped.
Milk supply has been stopped in Camp; this causes great distress.
What sorrows one is to find tent upon tent with sick children and no nourishing or invalid food; not even milk.
Wonder if there can be suffering greater than what some folk endure here.
Mr. Becker funerals; four, I believe, only (!).
Eight died since yesterday afternoon; may a change come speedily.
* * * * *
Friday, September 6.—Handicapped with a horrible cold, which won't go away; throat hoarse; unpleasant day, very; wind, dust.
Daily routine: Hospital; visits; dinner; visits; funerals; visits; supper; bed.
Nine buried this afternoon; "Heere gij zijt ons een Toevlucht van Geslacht tot Geslacht" (Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations); dreary business.
There have died during one month (August) about 230 people.
A new doctor has come, and now I hope things will grow brighter.
Miss Snyman in hospital little better.
Sad case this evening; found mother at bedside of sick child; she has lost two already this week, and this one is the last; husband died Green Point. The sorrow of it! May God spare that child's life.
Hear from Mr. Becker that the old Tante beyond the Camp, with sick mother and sick children, has broken down. What on earth will become of them?
Some here unconsciously overdo it, and overtax their own strength in their grim fights with Angel of Death. A sort of superhuman power sustains them for a time, and then—the collapse!
But there sings the kettle!
* * * * *
Saturday, September 7.—To-morrow is Sunday, and my sermons? O, the recklessness of it! I had determined to set aside this afternoon for preparation.
Morning very busy.
Mrs. Mentz' child dead.
Hospitals; hysterical girl very bad; fear she won't pull through; others betterish; except the fever one; very weak.
In men's ward, old Mr. Petersen dying; quite conscious; waiting on God; Ps. 23.
Another youth also very bad.
Arrangements upset; funerals this morning (seven); had to rush to overtake procession; Ps. 39, "Handbreed" (an hand-breadth).
Found I was burying Mrs. De Lint's infant and also "she of the gnashing teeth."
Sorrowing mothers; I always hurry away when the first sod falls with its horrible thud; it unstrings the chords of one's being, and the best thing is to depart.
Spent afternoon in; at five, went to few tents.
Old Tante yonder; the great collapse; very sorrowful; faithful unto death. Weeks of toil; untiring efforts with sick daughter and her three sick children; poor; helpless; no one to assist save little Billy, who herself is sick. And now—now the daughter is better, the three children on the way to recovery, and the faithful old grandmother? Nunc demittis. She has lain there like a log since yesterday without nourishment; took beef tea; kind neighbour brought broth; made her sit up, and she gulped down the food; will try and get her removed to hospital to-morrow.
Visited Mrs. Naude of yesterday; anguish; the last child died this morning; husband gone; three children gone; alone. Made fool of myself. O, the pity of it all!
Long visit from Doctor; desperate; at wit's end; and with a sermon hanging upon my mind.
* * * * *
Sunday, September 8.—Most awful day of wind and dust. May I never see such another.
Church (!); open air; clouds of dust; people just simply buried in dust; could scarcely read; whole service forty-five minutes.
During sermon compelled to turn round and shut eyes; saw on opening them that my black hat had changed to my brown one.
Met wailing women on return; Mrs. Lubbe; news of husband's death; shot in war; frantic; visited this evening; hopeless. What could I do? frantic despair; cruel anguish unconsolable. Grief makes one unreasonable. I think one should fight against grief and not collapse so readily; and yet—and yet!
Funerals five; old Mr. Petersen; large crowd; availed myself of opportunity; "Alleen wiens namen opgeschreven zijn in het Boek des Levens des Lams" (But they which are written in the Lamb's Book of Life).
May God not let His word return to Him void; read also Psalm 25, which I read to old Mr. Petersen just before he died.
Accompanied Mrs. Mentz to see husband in hospital; youngest child dead; father knows not; in fear and trembling lest she should tell. He gave her half an orange to give the little girl (buried already); I must tell him of child's death to-morrow; bitter task.
Disappointed about hospital; could not go through thoroughly; some there who won't pull through, I'm afraid.
On way home from funerals called in to pray for dying children; found I was too late at the first tent; much grief and wailing; second tent; baby dying.
Neglected to go to old mother beyond; wonder if!
This evening two girls came to ask for candle; great misery no light; gave half a candle; visited this evening Van der Walt; sorrowful; three children ill; saw my candle burning. What if I had not been able to give! Other sick children; sent brandy and Benger's food.
Mr. Becker service afternoon; same old dust.
Heard there were some of the Ladies' Commission present; good! May God bless their work and give them His Spirit in their work. May they see all.
Nice singing at our Church this evening; Miss Dussels; new doctor sick; "ipperkonders" gave him cocoa.
Weinanda dead; thank God! another burden of suffering ended.
Woman I prayed with in hospital this afternoon, dead this evening.
Girlie (35) Ackerman also dying.
Mrs. De Wet called me to her bedside (hospital), and asked me to pray that she might sleep. May God's angels guard over those hospital tents this night.
* * * * *
Monday, September 9.—Ladies' Commission; one of them, Dr. Jane Waterston. Glorious rain. How nice it will be to sleep with the soothing music of falling showers.
Our new kitchen getting on famously. What a comfort it will be when finished. It takes 800 bricks to build a kitchen here, and few there be that possess such a luxury. Spent half an hour in kitchen of hospital after visits; delighted with the sight of walls again; more determined than ever to go and do likewise. Am sure won't need more than 3,000 bricks to build a regular palace, and won't it be glorious! Besides, one does not know in the least, how long we are still to remain here, and even were it only a month longer it would be worth while.
Doctor gave up 71; went and found woman dead; child very sick; found Mr. Becker there.
Just after dinner was called to see one of the little orphans of few days ago; went at 2.30; too late; bad of me; should have gone immediately.
To-day saw the thinnest, boniest woman imaginable; Mrs. Booysen; just a skeleton; husband Ceylon; daughter here; son and daughter still at the front.
Saw also the most emaciated baby imaginable; puny; nine months; mother dead; lives on "genade" (mercy) of other mothers whose babies are dead; a regular "kannie dood" (literally, a "won't die").
Got the Van Huysteen girls to undertake case of outside tent with old grandmother; opened bottom to-day to ventilate; foul.
Visited old Mr. Van Heerde; very bad; wife "praat soos een boek" (talks like a book); quite a change to do a bit of listening on points of Theology!
Found the Fouries of first day; daughter much better.
The quack doctor deserves to be kicked; found bottle of medicine on table somewhere; pure water; five shillings. He is coining money and fleecing people most scandalously; child now luckily in hospital; spoke strongly to parents on the point.
In hospital things are rather glum; Miss Snyman utterly weak and fearfully excited; hysterical girl still alive; so are all others; but I fear some of them won't see light of morning.
Doctor actually in bed in hospital; bad too; rather a sell; tables cruelly turned on us.
* * * * *
Tuesday, September 10.—Ladies' Commission here again; can more or less predict what report will be.
Rain all night; soaking showers; this morning everything very muddy; some streets in Camp awful; and then to see the "gesukel" (distress) this morning all round among the women trying to cook breakfast.
Yesterday met several women carrying heavy buckets of water; "Dit is daarom nie vrouwen's werk nie" (This truly is not work for women).
The women here have a rough time; what with no servants, no kitchen, scanty wood, and poor rations; it is hard to make ends meet. Were it not for the little extras we have (golden syrup, jam, oatmeal, tea and until yesterday fat), I wonder what I would do.
Went to village to-day; nothing to be had there; was absolutely refused permit for rice and beans; got 4 lbs. peas; candles not to be had for love or money; dined Beckers.
Owing to presence of Ladies' Commission, unable to do my daily visit to hospital; three have died—Mrs. Kruger, Miss Ackerman, and a lad of seventeen.
Superintendent called me to-day, and said I could issue "briefies" (notes) for food to-morrow; very glad, for I know many tents where there is dire distress.
Very weary and sickish; eager for bed.
Funerals nine; "U te kennen is het eeuwige leven" (To know Thee is life everlasting."
Yesterday Mr. Becker buried eleven.
* * * * *
To-day most were in blankets.
Wednesday, September 11.—Waylaid doctor; throat bad; got two bottles medicine; seedy.
34 and 71 great distress; the girl in 71 actually still alive; some people die hard.
Hurried back to hospital; Miss Snyman now so hysterical removed; tent to herself; wonder if!
That Lotz girl too is still alive; but what a wonderful constitution she must have!
Saw some distressing and heartrending cases to-day.
626; mother in agony; strong daughter (18) in throes of death and fearfully "benauwd" (in agony), pneumonia. Little sister; insensible; far gone; no doctor.
Hunted for doctor; gone to village; took him down this evening at nine. O, the sorrow of it! Can never imagine a more harrowing spectacle; we got medicine down; stayed three-quarters of an hour; left doctor there and returned. Here go the bearers with their lifeless burden; the elder sister died little while ago.
The little one, too, is dead; poor suffering innocents!
That sweet little girl at 128, whom I visited late last night, and with whom I prayed—she, too, died early this morning; and now she has the desire of her heart: they were laying her out when I called this morning.
Visited tent to which I sent little brandy yesterday; found child had just died; too late.
Gave old woman at 34, children and grandchildren, earnest talking-to this afternoon; old woman, over seventy, quite callous as to religion; no "behoefte" (sense of need): "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth."
Old Mr. Van Heerde, whom I visited two days ago, died in night. Great consternation about little boy in 348; was getting on so well, and actually dead this morning. Doctor completely upset; he took great trouble with this child; poor little chap, he had such a bonny little face.
Our kitchen we are building, getting on famously; I stand good for bricks and wood; we need about 1,000 bricks; quite a great affair, and will prove a blessing.
Gave out "briefies" to-day, but fear that I shall give up the job; what use, when they return empty-handed, or with but half the things! Sorely vexed in my soul at the treatment I receive. Why ask me to issue briefies?
Washing-stand looks handsome, thanks to Stienie; oilcloth will make it quite spruce.
Young man addressed me quite intimate-like this afternoon, "En wat schrijf maat in de boekie?" ("Mate, what are you writing in that book?")
Mr. Becker funerals; don't know number.
* * * * *
Thursday, September 12.—News from Steytler; sent away from Potchefstroom; let me be doubly careful. I am so attached to my work now, love it, that it would be a grievous burden were I compelled to give it up.
Only there is too much, too much to do, and if I visit one side of the Camp, the other side has to be neglected. Five would have their hands comfortably full here, and then there would be less "oorslaan" (neglect).
I am continually asked to visit new sick people; there seems to be no end to all the sickness.
The woman in 34 is very bad; next door to 626 is also great misery; children very sick and without medical attendance. That is so sorrowful; the number of tents where no doctor comes, the absence of invalid food and nourishment; the hard, bare floor (heard of a case yesterday where grass had begun to grow under sick bed); the despair and helplessness of the mothers.
Another burden—no lights! There are numbers of tents where there is sickness, in some cases dying people, and where to-night there is not an inch of candle.
Pathetic sight yesterday; mother melting odd ends and scraps of tallow and fat to make some sort of candle; daughter on brink of death.
Wonder what plan they have made to-night for light!
Girl 71 still alive; wonderful.
Funerals—nine, I believe; great crowd; calamity; one grave short, and coffin had to be returned; women faint; consternation.
Upset, and couldn't pick my thread in address, "En ziet een groote schaar die niemand tellen kon" (And lo! a great multitude which no man could number). These funerals most painful and wearying, and then the burden of having to give address.
Small quantity boards arrived; may we have no more burials in blankets now!
Mrs. Snyman in tears yesterday in hospital, and her great trouble was that there would be no coffin for her daughter, who is in jaws of death; reprimand; should not anticipate God; besides, the sorrows of to-day are grievous enough, why bear to-morrow's in the bargain?
Great wailing and lamentation round morgue tents this morning; daughter and wife of old Mr. Van Heerde; and she boasted so big three days ago of her boundless faith. Gave her straight talk; fruit of our faith is our resignation and peace of heart. Thank God rather for the blessedness of so long and happy a union; cross with daughter; a woman can become so unreasonable in her grief.
Arrival of my autoharp; gladness.
* * * * *
Friday, September 13.—Spat fire. Now let me never have occasion to get so annoyed again; wished for a bag of chaff to pummel for half an hour just to let off steam.
458 the very essence of misery; old mother helpless (since dead); young mother sick; three wretched and sick children; and yet when I presented myself for rice at office was cold-shouldered by Assistant Superintendent; and these be the things sent by friends from Cape Town to relieve distress here; and after permission from Superintendent to issue "briefies! I got rice and two beef teas after all; but sparks inward flew all the same.
Got to 458; found old grandmother dead; wished Assistant Superintendent could have been forced to look in; but what an if!
There comes the pity of it all—total absence of sympathy of any kind!
Wonder of wonders; 70 new person; much better; returned from the very borders; now let me never doubt on the subject of miracles again!
Saw crowd (hateful) round 34; worked way in; dying. Singing of hymn; prayer (and after, strong words to crowd). This horrible attractiveness of a deathbed! Where does it originate?
34 and 35, Ackermans; these people have had ten deaths since their arrival in Camp; they are dying out altogether. There is one in hospital, and she has small chances of recovery.
Long visit to hospital; all four wards. Spoke to Mrs. ——, who lost her babe in night.
Betty Lotz quite "plezierig" (cheerful); Betty Kruger (mother died few days ago in hospital), sweet little girl; languid dark brown eyes; much suffering; wonder if!
Snyman girl very low; mother there; very pathetic: quite delirious; fear!
Went to see Mrs. Welgemoed, 518; very bad; don't think she will "make it."
Mrs. Hett called me in; very concerned; Annie, ten years, very ill; sweet little thing; took her some Benger's Food and milk; wine. Mother in mortal dread of seeing child sent to hospital; but what foolishness! Selfish, and altogether disastrous policy.
Saw Mr. Becker; not here yesterday; poor man; new misery; new cross; and he looks like a bit of leather already. The military contemplate taking possession of his parsonage (he has wife, four little children), and this good man has slaved ever since the Camp has been here, day after day, indefatigably, out of pure goodness and charity.
Our kitchen has the woodwork of its roof finished; hope soon to see it completed; glorious anticipation; a masterpiece!
Tramping about from 1.30 to 6.30, and now exceedingly tired. Wonder how about Sunday's sermons.
Mr. Becker; funerals—nine, I believe.
* * * * *
Saturday, September 14.—Great day; this way: inspected this afternoon immense new marquee tent put up for hospital; glorious within; charmed; mindful of our sufferings when trying to hold and attend Divine service; idea spontaneous; immediate action; bee-line to Superintendent's tent; psychological moment; agreeable. Hurrah! Strike iron while hot; enlist men to help at 3 p.m. Resultum: Fine large tent between the two school sheds; "Alles achter mekaar" (everything in order). Can have use of school forms, which will seat 300 people. Position grand; bit aside, but quiet and clean neighbourhood. Inauguration to-morrow.
And sermon? That still to be made. It's no absolute good; busy whole morning; planned to reserve afternoon for preparation.
Afternoon comes; new church; funerals; final visits, and where does the preparation come in? No show! Never mind; too satisfied to grumble to-night; "Alles zal wel recht komen" (all will come right).
No chance for hospital to-day; sorry; Betty Lotz dead; poor child. Yesterday I still teased her with her cropped hair and the orange she was eating; always so glad when I come; "Betty, gij kan moes mooi hoor als ik lees en bid neh" ("Betty, you listen very nicely when I read and pray"). "O ja, minheer, ik luister baing mooi" ("O yes, sir, I listen very well").
Buried her this afternoon, also seven others; "Dood, waar is uw prikkel?" (Death, where is thy sting?)
She belonged to 627, from which two daughters were buried in the week; parents far away; aunt still very sick.
Found Mrs. Barkhuizen dying; passed away soon after I left.
518, Mrs. Welgemoed, died in night; baby also dying; great sorrow.
Called to console mother whose babe had just died, Mrs. Van der M.
Next door old Mr. R. dying, and, worst of all, unprepared. Oh! how unspeakably difficult is my work and how fearful the responsibility!
Wonder if he is still alive? Mr. Otto went to him too, and I asked Mr. Becker to visit him also.
Rather ashamed this morning; had taken down Nos. 268 and 263 some days ago, and never yet been there. To-day "voorgekeerd" (waylaid).
268, Mrs. Steyn; very sick for one and a half months already; glad I went; in other tent found Mrs. Fourie; heard that her two children already dead; very resigned; glad of my visit even though so late in day.
While in official tent, woman came with note, for maizena, brandy, and milk from doctor; was simply told there was none. (And where are the things that came down lately, with two dozen brandy and 24 dozen milk?)
Gave her arrowroot and milk. This is no isolated case. How many go away empty-handed who present "briefies" at the office? The cry for a little brandy or wine is simply pitiable. And candles! Fie on it! O fie!
Our kitchen nearly done; grand tin roof, out of coffee tins (one shilling a tin); must inaugurate on Monday with pancakes or something.
Now for sermon (10.30 p.m.).
* * * * *
Sunday, September 15 (the Great 15th).—What a day!
Yesterday ecstasy over new church; to-day in the depths again. Joy shortlived. This way: very stormy night; soaking rains; morning whirlwind, frightful; hurried to the church; one side already blown loose; mighty burst wind; whole show laid low. Such are the vicissitudes of Camp life.
Service out of question. Thankful!
Similar tent, hospital, also blown down same time. A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind.
One of morgue tents also blown down.
Last night very restless one; bearers with their horrid tramp always waken me, and it is fearful to be so awakened.
Mr. Roelvert they bore away last night, and several others. It was frightfully dark, and on one occasion the men walked bang against my "airing structure" to their great discomfort.
Woke again 3.30 with peculiar noise. "There goes Dr. Maddon's tent," says I, "the pole has snapped." Rather helpless sort; guessed he would come to me; and so it was. Made him call out five times before I answered, just for fun; got up and helped him; delightful to get into bed again.
So sorry. I hear Betty Lotz was buried yesterday in blanket; glad I was unaware it was she. She asked me the last time I saw her, "Wanneer gaat, minheer, dan mij stukkie lees uit die Bijbel?" ("Sir, when are ou going to read my little portion out of the Bible?") "Wat is dit dan, Betty?" ("What is it, Betty?") "Minheer, van Jairus en sijn dochtertje" ("Sir, about the daughter of Jairus"). I promised to read that for next day; but this promise unfulfilled; couldn't go to hospital yesterday; besides, she was carried away by then. Never mind, I'll read about Jairus' daughter to-morrow all the same.
Betty Kruger betterish; poor little thing; her mother died in beginning of week, also in hospital. She knows nothing though, but to-day she asked her sister to make her a black frock because her mother was dead.
Miss Taljaard very much better; if she pulls through it will be a miracle. Mr. Van der Merwe very, very bad indeed (enteric); wonder if! Sad; mother died some days ago; then young wife, and yesterday his little daughter was buried. Is there a sorrow like to our sorrow?
Little boy is dying in hospital.
49; child also dead.
156; of these remaining orphans (Joubert's), one little girlie is dying. Foeitog!
70 very much better.
Got bedstead for 631; three little children dangerously ill; and all three "deurgele" (bedsores); "Mammie, mammie, mij boutjes is zoo zeer" ("Mother, mother, my legs are so sore").
The misery there is heartrending; hard ground; cold and wet as well. Poor little mites; and nourishment?
Second visit. Found mother down too; terrible pain. What will happen now, I wonder!
Called in to 620; old Mrs. Roux; sick; prayer; asked me to come again.
Wish I could press a button and summon papa to do the praying part for me!
Number of deaths so far (according to Mr. Becker's funeral lists) about 420.
Since I've been here (25 days), we have buried about 300. Appalling figures!
This afternoon (Mr. Becker), funerals eight.
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Monday, September 16.—Flood.
Our Camp one sheet of water and mud; furrow too small for the rush of water; great inundations; many tents flooded; great misery; and how about the cooking business? Everything to be done outside (we are among the few privileged with a kitchen). Women have to wade through water and mud; wet wood; raining continually. Just picture the scene!
Came to one tent; in front of door one mass clay and mud; inside awful; and yet there lay a girl very dangerously sick, and another also down.
425, Mrs. Booysen; skeleton; completely flooded; everything wet; and the floor! Yesterday they got her a bedstead; till now she had to lie on the floor; sick daughter; wonder where she will sleep. Floor? Impossible.
In another tent rain leaked through; water all over.
Another matter which tells of fresh misery. The sanitary sheds and screens are all some distance out of the camp. Imagine the painfulness of affairs on days like this, when one hardly dares put head out of doors.
Overheard conversation between old man and doctor:
You, what do you want here? Go away from this —— tent! Voetzak, voetzak! Get away from this —— tent!" This was to an old man. It makes one's blood boil. There is no real—no, not a particle of—sympathy.
In 631, wife told me doctor (another) came past, and she, meaning that he was looking for her tent (third morning already and he had not yet come), attempted to direct him. "You go to ——!" was all she got; and she has three little ones in very precarious state.
Visited in New Camp; several sick there.
652, sick wife and child. (Nice biltongs hanging up; but for all my hints, got nothing!)
631, Kotze; doppers; two girls measles; prayer; repeated Psalm.
518, little child (mother dead two days ago) died this after noon.
Found another very sick girlie, 532, Venter; took orange wine, arrowroot, milk; but I doubt whether she'll "make it"; too far gone.
Talk with Mrs. Steyn, who has lost three children; such a good little woman; while there an old Tante came, evidently to tell all her tale of woe, so I cleared.
Funerals ten, all children.
Meant to have spoken on "Heere, maak mij bekend mijne einde" (Lord, make me to know mine end), but on discovery at graveyard that all were children, spoke on "The Reaper and the Flowers."
Miss Snyman in hospital, moaning awfully just now; just been there; poor girl; and she disturbs all the others.
Spruit nicely down; Mr. Becker not come; can't get across evidently.
Visits to hospital. In women's ward "beterschap"; little Betty and Miss Taljaard much better; wonder if!
Read to them about Jairus' daughter; but the other Betty "wasn't there no more" to hear.
Pancakes; five easily.
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Tuesday, September 17.—Fine, glorious day; people all busy airing and drying things; life again.
69, old Mr. Theunissen, very weak; old man; old wife; floor. Hard luck; "Ach, Minheer, ik het zoo gewens dat mij zoon mij ooge moet toe druk, en nou is hij in Ceylon, en ik voel dat ik nie langmeer hier zal wees nie" ("O sir, I did so wish that my son should close my eyes, and now he is in Ceylon, and I feel that I won't be here much longer").
Saw Mr. Mentz being led home to tent (from hospital) by Mr. Booysen; anxiety; knows nothing about daughter's death, and his wife lies ill in bed. What's to be done? Mr. Mentz (one month in hospital) still very weak. Brought him to the Van As's for some tea while I planned how best to act. Decide to break news to him just before he arrives at tent; very painful task indeed. Caught the two up just before tent door, and told him to stop a minute. Now God help me and him!—Thank God, it is over! Rude, cruel awakening! O the sorrow, the sorrow of it! Prayed with family, and left with heavy, leaden heart.
Why is there so much sorrow and bitterness in this life?
Last week, when his wife visited him in hospital, he gave her half an orange to give his Nellie, and on another occasion a biscuit—and all the while his girlie was under the cold, dark sod.
Visited Van den Heever, 68. Also 626, 631, 624, 70, 74.
Went with trembling heart to 532; "Waar is die kind?" ("Where is the child?"). "Nee, Minheer, zij is vannach om een uur dood" ("Sir, she died last night at one o'clock").
Found the Van Zyls, 499, and the Robertsons, 503, had also lost babies during last few days.
424, Hasebroek; sick child; baby died yesterday.
482, Hetts; little daughter very sick; wonder if! Such a sweet little thing.
Getting sick to death of doctor; such a terrible amount of brag and big talk, always about himself; always dread his calls; can never get so far as to return; a regular thorn in the flesh.
Visits to hospital.
Mr. Van der Merwe still very bad; men's ward full of boys; some very bad.
Martie Snyman recognised me to-day, and asked me to pray for her; mother there too.
Mr. Becker funerals; six.
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Wednesday, September 18.—Bitterly cold night; frost; glorious day.
Regular holiday; did precious little "leeraarts" (pastoral) work to-day; grand clean up; fine bookcase of big box; grand!
Baby comes regularly now to clean up.
Tent very close to-day; hot weather; contemplating building house; busy with estimates to-day; will need about 3,500 bricks; such edifice will be real boon when hot weather sets in.
Our kitchen is palatial, and the admiration of the whole camp, and I guess hundreds have cast envious eyes upon it. And yet within it is but 4 feet by 7 feet, its height is 5 feet 10 inches; but it has a pitch roof, with coffee tins beaten out to serve for zinc. It is built of good, raw brick, and the walls are 4 inches thick, plus two more inches of substantial clay plaster. It has a window without panes, and a doorless doorway, and yet a marvellous structure both in workmanship and usefulness. Total cost about L3. Let me not forget its chimney—made of a half-sheet of zinc, and beaten into a cone (1s.). Now with my mind's eye I see the structure sparkling in the gentle moonbeams. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever. Enough!
Rigged up church again; little nearer in, and this afternoon three of us went and put everything geometrically straight—poles, pegs, ropes, etc.—to prevent second collapse. We are going to sink heavy stones into the ground as anchors, and the whole structure we are going to make rigid with wire ropes. This all to be done on the morrow. It is going to serve as school; good!
There must be some two thousand children here, and yet I doubt if fifty go to school; pity; children run loose, absolutely neglected.
Too much sickness about; fear the deterioration.
Funerals this afternoon five; all children; "Heere, maak mij bekend mijne einde" (Lord, make me to know mine end). May those graveside addresses bear fruit!
Called to 104, Hugo's; great sorrow; baby died this morning; poor mother; talk about tears rolling down! Let me not think on it!
179, Roelvert's baby; convulsions after measles; also dying.
A mother's heart: the most delicate, mysterious, profound piece of architecture in creation. Let a man not attempt to fathom its depths; there are mazes which he can never pass through; and there are recesses (illuminated, I guess) which he can just barely know of, let alone enter.
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Thursday, September 19.—Two women cleared last night; burghers evidently in near neighbourhood. There are always numbers of women who go to hills to collect wood, and for long, weary distances they carry their loads of oven wood, like so many Kaffir girls. It hurts to watch them return.
Camp continually getting bigger; there must be some 800 tents now, and quite 5,000 souls.
Feel bad at thought of so many thousands whom it is impossible to reach just now, because of the sickness all about.
I have been here just a month, and have, during that time, done nothing but visit sick and dying.
Hospital, too, grown larger; five big marquee tents; began visit there this morning; disturbed by arriving patients and doctor.
Found Martie Snyman dying; dead a quarter of an hour after. We gathered round her bedside and committed her spirit into God's safe keeping; poor child! she had such a time of suffering; mostly always delirious; and her mother! Let me not think of it!
Many new arrivals in women's wards; some dangerously ill.
Poor Betty Kruger; fear she won't "make it."
Meant to go again this afternoon, but disappointed; had to take charge of books which had come; great work, and unsatisfactory too.
Meant to have made long visits to New Camp this afternoon; "Alles verijdeld" (everything fell through).
Visits 432, 482, 268 (old Mr. De V.), 494 (aunt of Miss Van Rooi, who died in hospital), 458, 424, 499, and 503.
Went again with couple of eggs and milk to 432 and 424.
Poor little girl; so very sick, and on ground too.
Found 458 in total darkness; no lights, and little boy dying. Foeitog! Borrowed half a candle from Mrs. Van As.
Ordered bricks to-day for my house—3,500, at 1s. a hundred. Hope to see it standing "moet 'n boog" (for show) by next week.
Split in connection with church; old lot near old church-stand dissatisfied; some folk hard to please; rather vexing; they want us to keep up service at old place as well.
Mr. Becker referred matter to me; said I was quite agreeable if there was possibility of drawing two congregations. Mr. Otto may be induced to conduct one.
Well, certainly, we have enough people for a double service.
Concerned about Catechism class; there must be hundreds who ought to be confirmed. Concerned also about Sunday school. How are we to collect these thousands! If the sickness in camp would only decrease, what great things we could attempt.
Found packet Sunlight soap in tent; my ration; large family Van As gets two cakes; I, single, whole packet; not very complimentary!
Sent parcel books to hospital as library; decided to divide miscellaneous books into four small circulating libraries.
Mr. Becker funerals; eight.
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Friday, September 20.—Early bird; brought over all books from store tent; also cask of Quaker oats; very glad of latter; will serve out like mad next week.
Tent now regular chaos; boxes; feel need of house all the more.
Four circulating libraries—Otto's, Dussel's, Van As's, and Lubbe's. Reading, however, rather an impossibility here in camp; one has always something to do. What a blessing that everyone has work in plenty, because in one's work one can derive a measure of happiness and satisfaction; it detracts one's thoughts from the seamy side of life just now.
Immediately after breakfast visited two dying babies, 585, 695.
Great crowd of children assembled in front of church, several hundreds (I hear a weeping and a wailing close by; evidently someone just died); hurried thither; gathered children in circle; Psalm 146; prayer; address (privilege, obedience, faithfulness); also exhorted them to take good care of church and to be careful of lines, ropes, pegs, etc.
Ordered 3,500 bricks at 1s. 1-1/2d. per hundred; saw Superintendent, who promised to provide roofing; hope he won't disappoint. Busy whole morning with books.
Called after dinner Mrs. Pelser; ill and concerned about soul; same one I had long talks with before; afraid she is still ignorant of primary step, reconciliation with God; spent long while in making way of salvation clear; Doppers; tent full; "Haar Leuze" (her delight), Psalm 62, verse 1, and when I read it aloud I was on the point of remarking, "Nee, wach, ik het die regte vers ver jou—Gez 39, vers 3, 'Komt gij allen" ("No, wait, I have the right verse for you—Hymn 39, verse 3, 'Come ye all, sinners come, what dare hold you back"); saved from this calamity by mere chance (grace); perhaps they are Doppers! and so it was. Narrow shave; second time!
Had to hurry to funerals; eight; Martie and Annie Erasmus; "Leer ons alzoo onze dagen tellen" (So teach us to number our days).
(Here go the bearers with another corpse.)
Met another brother of Tolllie's; regular reproduction; brought me to several new sick people; Mrs. Venter very, very ill. Fear! Asked if I should pray for her; "Ja, Minheer" ("Yes, sir"). "En wat zal ik bid?" ("And what shall I pray?") "Ach, Minheer, dat die Heere mij gouw moet kom haal" ("O sir, that the Lord come quick to fetch me").
Poor old dad! He has lost eight children and grandchildren in camp already, and this is his last daughter.
Neglected hospital again; disgusted; those troublesome books!
Had hurried walk round; Mrs. Kruger dying; prayed, but quite delirious.
Met weeping mother on coming out; "Minheer, zal minheer tog nie ver mij help nie om vir mij man een telegram te stuur, hij is in Doornbult Camp. Ik is alleen hier en twee van mij kinders is al dood, and nou le die dochtertje ernstig ziek in die hospital?" ("Sir, won't you be able to help me to send a telegram to my husband, he is in Doornbult Camp. I am alone here; two of my children are already dead, and now my daughter lies dangerously sick in hospital"). That is the saddest part of all. Mothers here alone with sick children, and fathers far off—some in other camps. And then, when Death comes and takes a child, the loneliness of such mothers is too hard a burden to bear. Many children here and many who have died, never yet seen by fathers.
Led prayer meeting at young Otto's tent; six young fellows.
* * * * *
Saturday, September 21.—Longish day; called early to see 270 and 269; again in evening to 270; last stage of consumption; won't last long. (Here go those terrible bearers again! When, O when, will the Angel of Death sheathe his scythe and depart out of our midst!)
Made church straight for morrow; fine stout "doornhout" (mimosa) pins—(more bearers, here they go again!)—and two strong wires fastened to stones buried in ground (anchors). There are some 24 school forms, and these will seat about 400 people.
Quaky about tomorrow; sermon unprepared; meant to have had afternoon to self, but quite impossible.
Another death, 128; croup; Smit; tent removed on doctor's orders outside camp while child dying; cruel; entreaties of mother vain; child carried in dying condition; expired little after; when I came, found woman in greatest distress; things bundled outside; indignant; poor defenceless, helpless women. May God help them!
Visits 386, 424, 432, 489, 519.
Called to Mrs. Steyn, 541 (three children gone already); daughter suddenly sick; looks like fever; found Mr. Becker there; poor little mother! She is so reconciled and patient in her tribulation.
Called to tent near shop; Mrs. Theron; great pain; three children, sick; no help; dependent on charity of neighbours; no light; God alone knows how many tents there are without lights to-night and with very sick inmates.
Hospital; talk with Mr. V.d.M.; very sick; delirious somewhat; Psalm 27, prayer.
Girlie in ward 1 very sick.
In children's ward found mother and grandmother sitting by bedside of dying boy five years; mother broken; after my prayer there was a tear glistening in the boy's left eye; pathetic to see mother wipe it away as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
In the upper ward lies a girl of fourteen, with the softest, sweetest face imaginable; two clear, languid, blue eyes; very dangerously ill; wonder if!
Prayed at bedside; daughter of the mother who asked me to wire to her husband yesterday. Spoke to Superintendent; quite unsympathetic; fruitless.
May God spare that child's life!
Mr. Becker funerals; seven or eight, I believe.
Called in by Mr. Kruger; wife died in hospital this morning; son (16 years) buried Monday; another child some days ago; poor fellow; he himself sick; subscribed 5s. to assist him to obtain coffin.
Now for to-morrow's sermon!
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Sunday, September 22.—Grand day; ideal weather; longish.
Up six o'clock; sermon; sweat; veld; "Om te doen gedenken" (To bring to remembrance).
Inauguration of church; huge crowd; packed; hundreds outside.
Impossible to use even the tiniest bit of notes; "broekscheur." Made rather mull of first half; "Ik gedenk heden aan mijne zonden" (I do remember my faults this day). Introduction and second point more satisfactory; luckily (?) girl fainted; seized opportunity to give out hymn; grasped notes to refresh memory; "Ik gedenk heden aan de weldaden des Heeren—God's liefde" (I remember this day the mercies of the Lord—God's love).
Feel the utter insignificance of my best efforts; sore point; no time at all to prepare; I tremble when I think of what I venture in coldbloodedness.
After service went to 207; saw bedding outside, and knew the worst. "Gister aand, minheer, is zij gestorven. Ach, minheer, zij kon tog die minuut nie afwag nie, zoo haastig was zij om wegtegaan" ("Yestereen, sir, she died. O sir, she scarcely had patience to wait, so eager she was to depart").
Great tribulation and bitterness on account of doctor, who insisted on forcing hot coffee down her throat, and for whom Mrs. Venter was desperately afraid; also on account of his violent conduct and harshness in the presence of Death. She could not even die in peace.
Mrs. Steyn's girlie very bad; fever; so restless, and so much pain.
There again in evening; still so restless; no sleep last two nights; advised Mrs. Steyn to send her to hospital; environment disastrous; too much to remind her of her two brothers and sister, who died last week.
Rounds in hospital; girlie No. 1 very bad.
In No. 4, girlie of Mrs. Van der Berg very low; did not know me to-day; too beautiful a child, really; got mother permission to stay with her to-night.
Mrs. Bonig's child still alive this afternoon; died towards evening. Thank God!
Another little chap passed away quite suddenly in same tent this morning.
Autoharp in convalescent tent.
Hurried to funerals; four; large crowd; several hundreds; Rev. 7, chapter Mrs. Venter gave as comfort to her people, "Deze zijn het die uit groote verdrukking komen" (These are they which come out of great tribulation).
Hurried from there straight to church to lead girls' prayer meeting; some sixty turned up; off the point, though, in their prayers.
And now for the cream of the day's work. Announced meeting for young people, 7.15, in church; service of song; borrowed two lamps; scanty light. Found immense crowd; many turned away; threw up side of tent; numbers outside; some 500 young people and several old to watch.
Shall never forget how they sang Psalm 146. It was glorious! We sang Psalms and gezangen and some "kinder harp liederen" (children's hymns); and for the last, Gezangen 12, "op lieder wijs" (to new tune). Beautiful! Short address on Zaccheus—"Moeilijkheden" (difficulties). The heartiest and most refreshing meeting ever yet attended; had to stand in middle all the while, with hardly room to turn myself. So delighted that announced another meeting for Tuesday; fine moon just now.
Great point is this—singing sounds lovely at distance, and can be heard all through the camp and in hospital, and who knows how many hearts are not refreshed as the strains come rolling by.
Mr. Becker afternoon service; great crowd also.
Now the day is over!
* * * * *
Tuesday, September 24.—Seedy all yesterday; no diary; straight to bed; hot water from hospital; footbath.