Part 10 out of 10
3. They have to forbid overt acts against the Boer government, and
distribute arms to its enemies.
4. They have to avoid collision with the British government, but still
stand by Jameson and their new oath of allegiance to the Boer government,
taken, uncovered, in presence of its flag.
They did such of these things as they could; they tried to do them all;
in fact, did do them all, but only in turn, not simultaneously. In the
nature of things they could not be made to simultane.
In preparing for armed revolution and in talking revolution, were the
Reformers "bluffing," or were they in earnest? If they were in earnest,
they were taking great risks--as has been already pointed out. A
gentleman of high position told me in Johannesburg that he had in his
possession a printed document proclaiming a new government and naming its
president--one of the Reform leaders. He said that this proclamation had
been ready for issue, but was suppressed when the raid collapsed.
Perhaps I misunderstood him. Indeed, I must have misunderstood him, for
I have not seen mention of this large incident in print anywhere.
Besides, I hope I am mistaken; for, if I am, then there is argument that
the Reformers were privately not serious, but were only trying to scare
the Boer government into granting the desired reforms.
The Boer government was scared, and it had a right to be. For if Mr.
Rhodes's plan was to provoke a collision that would compel the
interference of England, that was a serious matter. If it could be shown
that that was also the Reformers' plan and purpose, it would prove that
they had marked out a feasible project, at any rate, although it was one
which could hardly fail to cost them ruinously before England should
arrive. But it seems clear that they had no such plan nor desire. If,
when the worst should come to the worst, they meant to overthrow the
government, they also meant to inherit the assets themselves, no doubt.
This scheme could hardly have succeeded. With an army of Boers at their
gates and 50,000 riotous blacks in their midst, the odds against success
would have been too heavy--even if the whole town had been armed. With
only 2,500 rifles in the place, they stood really no chance.
To me, the military problems of the situation are of more interest than
the political ones, because by disposition I have always been especially
fond of war. No, I mean fond of discussing war; and fond of giving
military advice. If I had been with Jameson the morning after he
started, I should have advised him to turn back. That was Monday; it was
then that he received his first warning from a Boer source not to violate
the friendly soil of the Transvaal. It showed that his invasion was
known. If I had been with him on Tuesday morning and afternoon, when he
received further warnings, I should have repeated my advice. If I had
been with him the next morning--New Year's--when he received notice that
"a few hundred" Boers were waiting for him a few miles ahead, I should
not have advised, but commanded him to go back. And if I had been with
him two or three hours later--a thing not conceivable to me--I should
have retired him by force; for at that time he learned that the few
hundred had now grown to 800; and that meant that the growing would go on
For,--by authority of Mr. Garrett, one knows that Jameson's 600 were only
530 at most, when you count out his native drivers, etc.; and that the
530 consisted largely of "green" youths, "raw young fellows," not trained
and war-worn British soldiers; and I would have told. Jameson that those
lads would not be able to shoot effectively from horseback in the scamper
and racket of battle, and that there would not be anything for them to
shoot at, anyway, but rocks; for the Boers would be behind the rocks, not
out in the open. I would have told him that 300 Boer sharpshooters
behind rocks would be an overmatch for his 500 raw young fellows on
If pluck were the only thing essential to battle-winning, the English
would lose no battles. But discretion, as well as pluck, is required
when one fights Boers and Red Indians. In South Africa the Briton has
always insisted upon standing bravely up, unsheltered, before the hidden
Boer, and taking the results: Jameson's men would follow the custom.
Jameson would not have listened to me--he would have been intent upon
repeating history, according to precedent. Americans are not acquainted
with the British-Boer war of 1881; but its history is interesting, and
could have been instructive to Jameson if he had been receptive. I will
cull some details of it from trustworthy sources mainly from "Russell's
Natal." Mr. Russell is not a Boer, but a Briton. He is inspector of
schools, and his history is a text-book whose purpose is the instruction
of the Natal English youth.
After the seizure of the Transvaal and the suppression of the Boer
government by England in 1877, the Boers fretted for three years, and
made several appeals to England for a restoration of their liberties, but
without result. Then they gathered themselves together in a great mass-
meeting at Krugersdorp, talked their troubles over, and resolved to fight
for their deliverance from the British yoke. (Krugersdorp--the place
where the Boers interrupted the Jameson raid.) The little handful of
farmers rose against the strongest empire in the world. They proclaimed
martial law and the re-establishment of their Republic. They organized
their forces and sent them forward to intercept the British battalions.
This, although Sir Garnet Wolseley had but lately made proclamation that
"so long as the sun shone in the heavens," the Transvaal would be and
remain English territory. And also in spite of the fact that the
commander of the 94th regiment--already on the march to suppress this
rebellion--had been heard to say that "the Boers would turn tail at the
first beat of the big drum."--["South Africa As It Is," by F. Reginald
Statham, page 82. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1897.]
Four days after the flag-raising, the Boer force which had been sent
forward to forbid the invasion of the English troops met them at
Bronkhorst Spruit--246 men of the 94th regiment, in command of a colonel,
the big drum beating, the band playing--and the first battle was fought.
It lasted ten minutes. Result:
British loss, more than 150 officers and men, out of the 246.
Surrender of the remnant.
Boer loss--if any--not stated.
They are fine marksmen, the Boers. From the cradle up, they live on
horseback and hunt wild animals with the rifle. They have a passion for
liberty and the Bible, and care for nothing else.
"General Sir George Colley, Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief in
Natal, felt it his duty to proceed at once to the relief of the loyalists
and soldiers beleaguered in the different towns of the Transvaal." He
moved out with 1,000 men and some artillery. He found the Boers encamped
in a strong and sheltered position on high ground at Laing's Nek--every
Boer behind a rock. Early in the morning of the 28th January, 1881, he
moved to the attack "with the 58th regiment, commanded by Colonel Deane,
a mounted squadron of 70 men, the 60th Rifles, the Naval Brigade with
three rocket tubes, and the Artillery with six guns." He shelled the
Boers for twenty minutes, then the assault was delivered, the 58th
marching up the slope in solid column. The battle was soon finished,
with this result, according to Russell--
British loss in killed and wounded, 174.
Boer loss, "trifling."
Colonel Deane was killed, and apparently every officer above the grade of
lieutenant was killed or wounded, for the 58th retreated to its camp in
command of a lieutenant. ("Africa as It Is.")
That ended the second battle.
On the 7th of February General Colley discovered that the Boers were
flanking his position. The next morning he left his camp at Mount
Pleasant and marched out and crossed the Ingogo river with 270 men,
started up the Ingogo heights, and there fought a battle which lasted
from noon till nightfall. He then retreated, leaving his wounded with
his military chaplain, and in recrossing the now swollen river lost some
of his men by drowning. That was the third Boer victory. Result,
according to Mr. Russell--
British loss 150 out of 270 engaged.
Boer loss, 8 killed, 9 wounded--17.
There was a season of quiet, now, but at the end of about three weeks Sir
George Colley conceived the idea of climbing, with an infantry and
artillery force, the steep and rugged mountain of Amajuba in the night--a
bitter hard task, but he accomplished it. On the way he left about 200
men to guard a strategic point, and took about 400 up the mountain with
him. When the sun rose in the morning, there was an unpleasant surprise
for the Boers; yonder were the English troops visible on top of the
mountain two or three miles away, and now their own position was at the
mercy of the English artillery. The Boer chief resolved to retreat--up
that mountain. He asked for volunteers, and got them.
The storming party crossed the swale and began to creep up the steeps,
"and from behind rocks and bushes they shot at the soldiers on the
skyline as if they were stalking deer," says Mr. Russell. There was
"continuous musketry fire, steady and fatal on the one side, wild and
ineffectual on the other." The Boers reached the top, and began to put in
their ruinous work. Presently the British "broke and fled for their
lives down the rugged steep." The Boers had won the battle. Result in
killed and wounded, including among the killed the British General:
British loss, 226, out of 400 engaged.
Boer loss, 1 killed, 5 wounded.
That ended the war. England listened to reason, and recognized the Boer
Republic--a government which has never been in any really awful danger
since, until Jameson started after it with his 500 "raw young fellows."
The Boer farmers and British soldiers fought 4 battles, and the Boers won
them all. Result of the 4, in killed and wounded:
British loss, 700 men.
Boer loss, so far as known, 23 men.
It is interesting, now, to note how loyally Jameson and his several
trained British military officers tried to make their battles conform to
precedent. Mr. Garrett's account of the Raid is much the best one I have
met with, and my impressions of the Raid are drawn from that.
When Jameson learned that near Krugersdorp he would find 800 Boers
waiting to dispute his passage, he was not in the least disturbed. He
was feeling as he had felt two or three days before, when he had opened
his campaign with a historic remark to the same purport as the one with
which the commander of the 94th had opened the Boer-British war of
fourteen years before. That Commander's remark was, that the Boers
"would turn tail at the first beat of the big drum." Jameson's was, that
with his "raw young fellows" he could kick the (persons) of the Boers
"all round the Transvaal." He was keeping close to historic precedent.
Jameson arrived in the presence of the Boers. They--according to
precedent--were not visible. It was a country of ridges, depressions,
rocks, ditches, moraines of mining-tailings--not even as favorable for
cavalry work as Laing's Nek had been in the former disastrous days.
Jameson shot at the ridges and rocks with his artillery, just as General
Colley had done at the Nek; and did them no damage and persuaded no Boer
to show himself. Then about a hundred of his men formed up to charge the
ridge-according to the 58th's precedent at the Nek; but as they dashed
forward they opened out in a long line, which was a considerable
improvement on the 58th's tactics; when they had gotten to within 200
yards of the ridge the concealed Boers opened out on them and emptied 20
saddles. The unwounded dismounted and fired at the rocks over the backs
of their horses; but the return-fire was too hot, and they mounted again,
"and galloped back or crawled away into a clump of reeds for cover, where
they were shortly afterward taken prisoners as they lay among the reeds.
Some thirty prisoners were so taken, and during the night which followed
the Boers carried away another thirty killed and wounded--the wounded to
Krugersdorp hospital. "Sixty per cent. of the assaulted force disposed
of--according to Mr. Garrett's estimate.
It was according to Amajuba precedent, where the British loss was 226 out
of about 400 engaged.
Also, in Jameson's camp, that night, "there lay about 30 wounded or
otherwise disabled" men. Also during the night "some 30 or 40 young
fellows got separated from the command and straggled through into
Johannesburg." Altogether a possible 150 men gone, out of his 530. His
lads had fought valorously, but had not been able to get near enough to a
Boer to kick him around the Transvaal.
At dawn the next morning the column of something short of 400 whites
resumed its march. Jameson's grit was stubbornly good; indeed, it was
always that. He still had hopes. There was a long and tedious
zigzagging march through broken ground, with constant harassment from the
Boers; and at last the column "walked into a sort of trap," and the Boers
"closed in upon it." "Men and horses dropped on all sides. In the
column the feeling grew that unless it could burst through the Boer lines
at this point it was done for. The Maxims were fired until they grew too
hot, and, water failing for the cool jacket, five of them jammed and went
out of action. The 7-pounder was fired until only half an hour's
ammunition was left to fire with. One last rush was made, and failed,
and then the Staats Artillery came up on the left flank, and the game was
Jameson hoisted a white flag and surrendered.
There is a story, which may not be true, about an ignorant Boer farmer
there who thought that this white flag was the national flag of England.
He had been at Bronkhorst, and Laing's Nek, and Ingogo and Amajuba, and
supposed that the English did not run up their flag excepting at the end
of a fight.
The following is (as I understand it) Mr. Garrett's estimate of Jameson's
total loss in killed and wounded for the two days:
"When they gave in they were minus some 20 per cent. of combatants.
There were 76 casualties. There were 30 men hurt or sick in the wagons.
There were 27 killed on the spot or mortally wounded."
Total, 133, out of the original 530. It is just 25 per cent.--[However,
I judge that the total was really 150; for the number of wounded carried
to Krugersdorp hospital was 53; not 30, as Mr. Garrett reports it. The
lady whose guest I was in Krugerdorp gave me the figures. She was head
nurse from the beginning of hostilities (Jan. 1) until the professional
nurses arrived, Jan. 8th. Of the 53, "Three or four were Boers"; I quote
her words.]--This is a large improvement upon the precedents established
at Bronkhorst, Laing's Nek, Ingogo, and Amajuba, and seems to indicate
that Boer marksmanship is not so good now as it was in those days. But
there is one detail in which the Raid-episode exactly repeats history.
By surrender at Bronkhorst, the whole British force disappeared from the
theater of war; this was the case with Jameson's force.
In the Boer loss, also, historical precedent is followed with sufficient
fidelity. In the 4 battles named above, the Boer loss, so far as known,
was an average of 6 men per battle, to the British average loss of 175.
In Jameson's battles, as per Boer official report, the Boer loss in
killed was 4. Two of these were killed by the Boers themselves, by
accident, the other by Jameson's army--one of them intentionally, the
other by a pathetic mischance. "A young Boer named Jacobz was moving
forward to give a drink to one of the wounded troopers (Jameson's) after
the first charge, when another wounded man, mistaking his intention; shot
him." There were three or four wounded Boers in the Krugersdorp
hospital, and apparently no others have been reported. Mr. Garrett, "on
a balance of probabilities, fully accepts the official version, and
thanks Heaven the killed was not larger."
As a military man, I wish to point out what seems to me to be military
errors in the conduct of the campaign which we have just been
considering. I have seen active service in the field, and it was in the
actualities of war that I acquired my training and my right to speak.
I served two weeks in the beginning of our Civil War, and during all that
tune commanded a battery of infantry composed of twelve men. General
Grant knew the history of my campaign, for I told it him. I also told
him the principle upon which I had conducted it; which was, to tire the
enemy. I tired out and disqualified many battalions, yet never had a
casualty myself nor lost a man. General Grant was not given to paying
compliments, yet he said frankly that if I had conducted the whole war
much bloodshed would have been spared, and that what the army might have
lost through the inspiriting results of collision in the field would have
been amply made up by the liberalizing influences of travel. Further
endorsement does not seem to me to be necessary.
Let us now examine history, and see what it teaches. In the 4 battles
fought in 1881 and the two fought by Jameson, the British loss in killed,
wounded, and prisoners, was substantially 1,300 men; the Boer loss, as
far as is ascertainable, eras about 30 men. These figures show that
there was a defect somewhere. It was not in the absence of courage. I
think it lay in the absence of discretion. The Briton should have done
one thing or the other: discarded British methods and fought the Boer
with Boer methods, or augmented his own force until--using British
methods--it should be large enough to equalize results with the Boer.
To retain the British method requires certain things, determinable by
arithmetic. If, for argument's sake, we allow that the aggregate of
1,716 British soldiers engaged in the 4 early battles was opposed by the
same aggregate of Boers, we have this result: the British loss of 700 and
the Boer loss of 23 argues that in order to equalize results in future
battles you must make the British force thirty times as strong as the
Boer force. Mr. Garrett shows that the Boer force immediately opposed to
Jameson was 2,000, and that there were 6,000 more on hand by the evening
of the second day. Arithmetic shows that in order to make himself the
equal of the 8,000 Boers, Jameson should have had 240,000 men, whereas he
merely had 530 boys. From a military point of view, backed by the facts
of history, I conceive that Jameson's military judgment was at fault.
Another thing.--Jameson was encumbered by artillery, ammunition, and
rifles. The facts of the battle show that he should have had none of
those things along. They were heavy, they were in his way, they impeded
his march. There was nothing to shoot at but rocks--he knew quite well
that there would be nothing to shoot at but rocks--and he knew that
artillery and rifles have no effect upon rocks. He was badly overloaded
with unessentials. He had 8 Maxims--a Maxim is a kind of Gatling, I
believe, and shoots about 500 bullets per minute; he had one 12 1/2-
pounder cannon and two 7-pounders; also, 145,000 rounds of ammunition.
He worked the Maxims so hard upon the rocks that five of them became
disabled--five of the Maxims, not the rocks. It is believed that upwards
of 100,000 rounds of ammunition of the various kinds were fired during
the 21 hours that the battles lasted. One man killed. He must have been
much mutilated. It was a pity to bring those futile Maxims along.
Jameson should have furnished himself with a battery of Pudd'nhead Wilson
maxims instead, They are much more deadly than those others, and they are
easily carried, because they have no weight.
Mr. Garrett--not very carefully concealing a smile--excuses the presence
of the Maxims by saying that they were of very substantial use because
their sputtering disordered the aim of the Boers, and in that way saved
Three cannon, eight Maxims, and five hundred rifles yielded a result
which emphasized a fact which had already been established--that the
British system of standing out in the open to fight Boers who are behind
rocks is not wise, not excusable, and ought to be abandoned for something
more efficacious. For the purpose of war is to kill, not merely to waste
If I could get the management of one of those campaigns, I would know
what to do, for I have studied the Boer. He values the Bible above every
other thing. The most delicious edible in South Africa is "biltong."
You will have seen it mentioned in Olive Schreiner's books. It is what
our plainsmen call "jerked beef." It is the Boer's main standby. He has
a passion for it, and he is right.
If I had the command of the campaign I would go with rifles only, no
cumbersome Maxims and cannon to spoil good rocks with. I would move
surreptitiously by night to a point about a quarter of a mile from the
Boer camp, and there I would build up a pyramid of biltong and Bibles
fifty feet high, and then conceal my men all about. In the morning the
Boers would send out spies, and then the rest would come with a rush.
I would surround them, and they would have to fight my men on equal
terms, in the open. There wouldn't be any Amajuba results.
--[Just as I am finishing this book an unfortunate dispute has sprung up
between Dr. Jameson and his officers, on the one hand, and Colonel Rhodes
on the other, concerning the wording of a note which Colonel Rhodes sent
from Johannesburg by a cyclist to Jameson just before hostilities began
on the memorable New Year's Day. Some of the fragments of this note were
found on the battlefield after the fight, and these have been pieced
together; the dispute is as to what words the lacking fragments
contained. Jameson says the note promised him a reinforcement of 300 men
from Johannesburg. Colonel Rhodes denies this, and says he merely
promised to send out "some" men "to meet you."]
It seems a pity that these friends should fall out over so little a
thing. If the 300 had been sent, what good would it have done? In 21
hours of industrious fighting, Jameson's 530 men, with 8 Maxims, 3
cannon, and 145,000 rounds of ammunition, killed an aggregate of 1.
Boer. These statistics show that a reinforcement of 300 Johannesburgers,
armed merely with muskets, would have killed, at the outside, only a
little over a half of another Boer. This would not have saved the day.
It would not even have seriously affected the general result. The
figures show clearly, and with mathematical violence, that the only way
to save Jameson, or even give him a fair and equal chance with the enemy,
was for Johannesburg to send him 240 Maxims, 90 cannon, 600 carloads of
ammunition, and 240,000 men. Johannesburg was not in a position to do
this. Johannesburg has been called very hard names for not reinforcing
Jameson. But in every instance this has been done by two classes of
persons--people who do not read history, and people, like Jameson, who do
not understand what it means, after they have read it.]
None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its
cussedness; but we can try.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The Duke of Fife has borne testimony that Mr. Rhodes deceived him. That
is also what Mr. Rhodes did with the Reformers. He got them into
trouble, and then stayed out himself. A judicious man. He has always
been that. As to this there was a moment of doubt, once. It was when he
was out on his last pirating expedition in the Matabele country. The
cable shouted out that he had gone unarmed, to visit a party of hostile
chiefs. It was true, too; and this dare-devil thing came near fetching
another indiscretion out of the poet laureate. It would have been too
bad, for when the facts were all in, it turned out that there was a lady
along, too, and she also was unarmed.
In the opinion of many people Mr. Rhodes is South Africa; others think he
is only a large part of it. These latter consider that South Africa
consists of Table Mountain, the diamond mines, the Johannesburg gold
fields, and Cecil Rhodes. The gold fields are wonderful in every way.
In seven or eight years they built up, in a desert, a city of a hundred
thousand inhabitants, counting white and black together; and not the
ordinary mining city of wooden shanties, but a city made out of lasting
material. Nowhere in the world is there such a concentration of rich
mines as at Johannesburg. Mr. Bonamici, my manager there, gave me a
small gold brick with some statistics engraved upon it which record the
output of gold from the early days to July, 1895, and exhibit the strides
which have been made in the development of the industry; in 1888 the
output was $4,162,440; the output of the next five and a half years was
(total: $17,585,894); for the single year ending with June, 1895, it was
The capital which has developed the mines came from England, the mining
engineers from America. This is the case with the diamond mines also.
South Africa seems to be the heaven of the American scientific mining
engineer. He gets the choicest places, and keeps them. His salary is
not based upon what he would get in America, but apparently upon what a
whole family of him would get there.
The successful mines pay great dividends, yet the rock is not rich, from
a Californian point of view. Rock which yields ten or twelve dollars a
ton is considered plenty rich enough. It is troubled with base metals to
such a degree that twenty years ago it would have been only about half as
valuable as it is now; for at that time there was no paying way of
getting anything out of such rock but the coarser-grained "free" gold; but
the new cyanide process has changed all that, and the gold fields of the
world now deliver up fifty million dollars' worth of gold per year which
would have gone into the tailing-pile under the former conditions.
The cyanide process was new to me, and full of interest; and among the
costly and elaborate mining machinery there were fine things which were
new to me, but I was already familiar with the rest of the details of the
gold-mining industry. I had been a gold miner myself, in my day, and
knew substantially everything that those people knew about it, except how
to make money at it. But I learned a good deal about the Boers there,
and that was a fresh subject. What I heard there was afterwards repeated
to me in other parts of South Africa. Summed up--according to the
information thus gained--this is the Boer:
He is deeply religious, profoundly ignorant, dull, obstinate, bigoted,
uncleanly in his habits, hospitable, honest in his dealings with the
whites, a hard master to his black servant, lazy, a good shot, good
horseman, addicted to the chase, a lover of political independence, a
good husband and father, not fond of herding together in towns, but
liking the seclusion and remoteness and solitude and empty vastness and
silence of the veldt; a man of a mighty appetite, and not delicate about
what he appeases it with--well-satisfied with pork and Indian corn and
biltong, requiring only that the quantity shall not be stinted; willing
to ride a long journey to take a hand in a rude all-night dance
interspersed with vigorous feeding and boisterous jollity, but ready to
ride twice as far for a prayer-meeting; proud of his Dutch and Huguenot
origin and its religious and military history; proud of his race's
achievements in South Africa, its bold plunges into hostile and uncharted
deserts in search of free solitudes unvexed by the pestering and detested
English, also its victories over the natives and the British; proudest of
all, of the direct and effusive personal interest which the Deity has
always taken in its affairs. He cannot read, he cannot write; he has one
or two newspapers, but he is, apparently, not aware of it; until latterly
he had no schools, and taught his children nothing, news is a term which
has no meaning to him, and the thing itself he cares nothing about. He
hates to be taxed and resents it. He has stood stock still in South
Africa for two centuries and a half, and would like to stand still till
the end of time, for he has no sympathy with Uitlander notions of
progress. He is hungry to be rich, for he is human; but his preference
has been for riches in cattle, not in fine clothes and fine houses and
gold and diamonds. The gold and the diamonds have brought the godless
stranger within his gates, also contamination and broken repose, and he
wishes that they had never been discovered.
I think that the bulk of those details can be found in Olive Schreiner's
books, and she would not be accused of sketching the Boer's portrait with
an unfair hand.
Now what would you expect from that unpromising material? What ought you
to expect from it? Laws inimical to religious liberty? Yes. Laws
denying, representation and suffrage to the intruder? Yes. Laws
unfriendly to educational institutions? Yes. Laws obstructive of gold
production? Yes. Discouragement of railway expansion? Yes. Laws heavily
taxing the intruder and overlooking the Boer? Yes.
The Uitlander seems to have expected something very different from all
that. I do not know why. Nothing different from it was rationally to be
expected. A round man cannot be expected to fit a square hole right
away. He must have time to modify his shape. The modification had begun
in a detail or two, before the Raid, and was making some progress. It
has made further progress since. There are wise men in the Boer
government, and that accounts for the modification; the modification of
the Boer mass has probably not begun yet. If the heads of the Boer
government had not been wise men they would have hanged Jameson, and thus
turned a very commonplace pirate into a holy martyr. But even their
wisdom has its limits, and they will hang Mr. Rhodes if they ever catch
him. That will round him and complete him and make him a saint. He has
already been called by all other titles that symbolize human grandeur,
and he ought to rise to this one, the grandest of all. It will be a
dizzy jump from where he is now, but that is nothing, it will land him in
good company and be a pleasant change for him.
Some of the things demanded by the Johannesburgers' Manifesto have been
conceded since the days of the Raid, and the others will follow in time,
no doubt. It was most fortunate for the miners of Johannesburg that the
taxes which distressed them so much were levied by the Boer government,
instead of by their friend Rhodes and his Chartered Company of
highwaymen, for these latter take half of whatever their mining victims
find, they do not stop at a mere percentage. If the Johannesburg miners
were under their jurisdiction they would be in the poorhouse in twelve
I have been under the impression all along that I had an unpleasant
paragraph about the Boers somewhere in my notebook, and also a pleasant
one. I have found them now. The unpleasant one is dated at an interior
village, and says--
"Mr. Z. called. He is an English Afrikander; is an old resident, and has
a Boer wife. He speaks the language, and his professional business is
with the Boers exclusively. He told me that the ancient Boer families in
the great region of which this village is the commercial center are
falling victims to their inherited indolence and dullness in the
materialistic latter-day race and struggle, and are dropping one by one
into the grip of the usurer--getting hopelessly in debt--and are losing
their high place and retiring to second and lower. The Boer's farm does
not go to another Boer when he loses it, but to a foreigner. Some have
fallen so low that they sell their daughters to the blacks."
Under date of another South African town I find the note which is
creditable to the Boers:
"Dr. X. told me that in the Kafir war 1,500 Kafirs took refuge in a great
cave in the mountains about 90 miles north of Johannesburg, and the Boers
blocked up the entrance and smoked them to death. Dr. X. has been in
there and seen the great array of bleached skeletons--one a woman with
the skeleton of a child hugged to her breast."
The great bulk of the savages must go. The white man wants their lands,
and all must go excepting such percentage of them as he will need to do
his work for him upon terms to be determined by himself. Since history
has removed the element of guesswork from this matter and made it
certainty, the humanest way of diminishing the black population should be
adopted, not the old cruel ways of the past. Mr. Rhodes and his gang
have been following the old ways.--They are chartered to rob and slay,
and they lawfully do it, but not in a compassionate and Christian spirit.
They rob the Mashonas and the Matabeles of a portion of their territories
in the hallowed old style of "purchase!" for a song, and then they force
a quarrel and take the rest by the strong hand. They rob the natives of
their cattle under the pretext that all the cattle in the country
belonged to the king whom they have tricked and assassinated. They issue
"regulations" requiring the incensed and harassed natives to work for the
white settlers, and neglect their own affairs to do it. This is slavery,
and is several times worse than was the American slavery which used to
pain England so much; for when this Rhodesian slave is sick, super-
annuated, or otherwise disabled, he must support himself or starve--his
master is under no obligation to support him.
The reduction of the population by Rhodesian methods to the desired limit
is a return to the old-time slow-misery and lingering-death system of a
discredited time and a crude "civilization." We humanely reduce an
overplus of dogs by swift chloroform; the Boer humanely reduced an
overplus of blacks by swift suffocation; the nameless but right-hearted
Australian pioneer humanely reduced his overplus of aboriginal neighbors
by a sweetened swift death concealed in a poisoned pudding. All these
are admirable, and worthy of praise; you and I would rather suffer either
of these deaths thirty times over in thirty successive days than linger
out one of the Rhodesian twenty-year deaths, with its daily burden of
insult, humiliation, and forced labor for a man whose entire race the
victim hates. Rhodesia is a happy name for that land of piracy and
pillage, and puts the right stain upon it.
Several long journeys--gave us experience of the Cape Colony railways;
easy-riding, fine cars; all the conveniences; thorough cleanliness;
comfortable beds furnished for the night trains. It was in the first
days of June, and winter; the daytime was pleasant, the nighttime nice
and cold. Spinning along all day in the cars it was ecstasy to breathe
the bracing air and gaze out over the vast brown solitudes of the velvet
plains, soft and lovely near by, still softer and lovelier further away,
softest and loveliest of all in the remote distances, where dim island-
hills seemed afloat, as in a sea--a sea made of dream-stuff and flushed
with colors faint and rich; and dear me, the depth of the sky, and the
beauty of the strange new cloud-forms, and the glory of the sunshine, the
lavishness, the wastefulness of it! The vigor and freshness and
inspiration of the air and the sunwell, it was all just as Olive
Schreiner had made it in her books.
To me the veldt, in its sober winter garb, was surpassingly beautiful.
There were unlevel stretches where it was rolling and swelling, and
rising and subsiding, and sweeping superbly on and on, and still on and
on like an ocean, toward the faraway horizon, its pale brown deepening by
delicately graduated shades to rich orange, and finally to purple and
crimson where it washed against the wooded hills and naked red crags at
the base of the sky.
Everywhere, from Cape Town to Kimberley and from Kimberley to Port
Elizabeth and East London, the towns were well populated with tamed
blacks; tamed and Christianized too, I suppose, for they wore the dowdy
clothes of our Christian civilization. But for that, many of them would
have been remarkably handsome. These fiendish clothes, together with the
proper lounging gait, good-natured face, happy air, and easy laugh, made
them precise counterparts of our American blacks; often where all the
other aspects were strikingly and harmoniously and thrillingly African, a
flock of these natives would intrude, looking wholly out of place, and
spoil it all, making the thing a grating discord, half African and half
One Sunday in King William's Town a score of colored women came mincing
across the great barren square dressed--oh, in the last perfection of
fashion, and newness, and expensiveness, and showy mixture of unrelated
colors,--all just as I had seen it so often at home; and in their faces
and their gait was that languishing, aristocratic, divine delight in
their finery which was so familiar to me, and had always been such a
satisfaction to my eye and my heart. I seemed among old, old friends;
friends of fifty years, and I stopped and cordially greeted them. They
broke into a good-fellowship laugh, flashing their white teeth upon me,
and all answered at once. I did not understand a word they said. I was
astonished; I was not dreaming that they would answer in anything but
The voices, too, of the African women, were familiar to me sweet and
musical, just like those of the slave women of my early days. I followed
a couple of them all over the Orange Free State--no, over its capital--
Bloemfontein, to hear their liquid voices and the happy ripple of their
laughter. Their language was a large improvement upon American. Also
upon the Zulu. It had no Zulu clicks in it; and it seemed to have no
angles or corners, no roughness, no vile s's or other hissing sounds, but
was very, very mellow and rounded and flowing.
In moving about the country in the trains, I had opportunity to see a
good many Boers of the veldt. One day at a village station a hundred of
them got out of the third-class cars to feed.
Their clothes were very interesting. For ugliness of shapes, and for
miracles of ugly colors inharmoniously associated, they were a record.
The effect was nearly as exciting and interesting as that produced by the
brilliant and beautiful clothes and perfect taste always on view at the
Indian railway stations. One man had corduroy trousers of a faded
chewing gum tint. And they were new--showing that this tint did not come
by calamity, but was intentional; the very ugliest color I have ever
seen. A gaunt, shackly country lout six feet high, in battered gray
slouched hat with wide brim, and old resin-colored breeches, had on a
hideous brand-new woolen coat which was imitation tiger skin wavy broad
stripes of dazzling yellow and deep brown. I thought he ought to be
hanged, and asked the station-master if it could be arranged. He said
no; and not only that, but said it rudely; said it with a quite
unnecessary show of feeling. Then he muttered something about my being a
jackass, and walked away and pointed me out to people, and did everything
he could to turn public sentiment against me. It is what one gets for
trying to do good.
In the train that day a passenger told me some more about Boer life out
in the lonely veldt. He said the Boer gets up early and sets his
"niggers" at their tasks (pasturing the cattle, and watching them); eats,
smokes, drowses, sleeps; toward evening superintends the milking, etc.;
eats, smokes, drowses; goes to bed at early candlelight in the fragrant
clothes he (and she) have worn all day and every week-day for years. I
remember that last detail, in Olive Schreiner's "Story of an African
Farm." And the passenger told me that the Boers were justly noted for
their hospitality. He told me a story about it. He said that his grace
the Bishop of a certain See was once making a business-progress through
the tavernless veldt, and one night he stopped with a Boer; after supper
was shown to bed; he undressed, weary and worn out, and was soon sound
asleep; in the night he woke up feeling crowded and suffocated, and found
the old Boer and his fat wife in bed with him, one on each side, with all
their clothes on, and snoring. He had to stay there and stand it--awake
and suffering--until toward dawn, when sleep again fell upon him for an
hour. Then he woke again. The Boer was gone, but the wife was still at
Those Reformers detested that Boer prison; they were not used to cramped
quarters and tedious hours, and weary idleness, and early to bed, and
limited movement, and arbitrary and irritating rules, and the absence of
the luxuries which wealth comforts the day and the night with. The
confinement told upon their bodies and their spirits; still, they were
superior men, and they made the best that was to be made of the
circumstances. Their wives smuggled delicacies to them, which helped to
smooth the way down for the prison fare.
In the train Mr. B. told me that the Boer jail-guards treated the black
prisoners--even political ones--mercilessly. An African chief and his
following had been kept there nine months without trial, and during all
that time they had been without shelter from rain and sun. He said that
one day the guards put a big black in the stocks for dashing his soup on
the ground; they stretched his legs painfully wide apart, and set him
with his back down hill; he could not endure it, and put back his hands
upon the slope for a support. The guard ordered him to withdraw the
support and kicked him in the back. "Then," said Mr. B., "'the powerful
black wrenched the stocks asunder and went for the guard; a Reform
prisoner pulled him off, and thrashed the guard himself."
The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
--Pudd'nhead Wilsons's New Calendar.
There isn't a Parallel of Latitude but thinks it would have been the
Equator if it had had its rights.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Next to Mr. Rhodes, to me the most interesting convulsion of nature in
South Africa was the diamond-crater. The Rand gold fields are a
stupendous marvel, and they make all other gold fields small, but I was
not a stranger to gold-mining; the veldt was a noble thing to see, but it
was only another and lovelier variety of our Great Plains; the natives
were very far from being uninteresting, but they were not new; and as for
the towns, I could find my way without a guide through the most of them
because I had learned the streets, under other names, in towns just like
them in other lands; but the diamond mine was a wholly fresh thing, a
splendid and absorbing novelty. Very few people in the world have seen
the diamond in its home. It has but three or four homes in the world,
whereas gold has a million. It is worth while to journey around the
globe to see anything which can truthfully be called a novelty, and the
diamond mine is the greatest and most select and restricted novelty which
the globe has in stock.
The Kimberley diamond deposits were discovered about 1869, I think. When
everything is taken into consideration, the wonder is that they were not
discovered five thousand years ago and made familiar to the African world
for the rest of time. For this reason the first diamonds were found on
the surface of the ground. They were smooth and limpid, and in the
sunlight they vomited fire. They were the very things which an African
savage of any era would value above every other thing in the world
excepting a glass bead. For two or three centuries we have been buying
his lands, his cattle, his neighbor, and any other thing he had for sale,
for glass beads and so it is strange that he was indifferent to the
diamonds--for he must have pickets them up many and many a time. It
would not occur to him to try to sell them to whites, of course, since
the whites already had plenty of glass beads, and more fashionably
shaped, too, than these; but one would think that the poorer sort of
black, who could not afford real glass, would have been humbly content to
decorate himself with the imitation, and that presently the white trader
would notice the things, and dimly suspect, and carry some of them home,
and find out what they were, and at once empty a multitude of fortune-
hunters into Africa. There are many strange things in human history; one
of the strangest is that the sparkling diamonds laid there so long
without exciting any one's interest.
The revelation came at last by accident. In a Boer's hut out in the wide
solitude of the plains, a traveling stranger noticed a child playing with
a bright object, and was told it was a piece of glass which had been
found in the veldt. The stranger bought it for a trifle and carried it
away; and being without honor, made another stranger believe it was a
diamond, and so got $125 out of him for it, and was as pleased with
himself as if he had done a righteous thing. In Paris the wronged
stranger sold it to a pawnshop for $10,000, who sold it to a countess for
$90,000, who sold it to a brewer for $800;000, who traded it to a king
for a dukedom and a pedigree, and the king "put it up the spout."--
[handwritten note: "From the Greek meaning 'pawned it.'" M.T.]--I know
these particulars to be correct.
The news flew around, and the South African diamond-boom began. The
original traveler--the dishonest one--now remembered that he had once
seen a Boer teamster chocking his wagon-wheel on a steep grade with a
diamond as large as a football, and he laid aside his occupations and
started out to hunt for it, but not with the intention of cheating
anybody out of $125 with it, for he had reformed.
We now come to matters more didactic. Diamonds are not imbedded in rock
ledges fifty miles long, like the Johannesburg gold, but are distributed
through the rubbish of a filled-up well, so to speak. The well is rich,
its walls are sharply defined; outside of the walls are no diamonds. The
well is a crater, and a large one. Before it had been meddled with, its
surface was even with the level plain, and there was no sign to suggest
that it was there. The pasturage covering the surface of the Kimberley
crater was sufficient for the support of a cow, and the pasturage
underneath was sufficient for the support of a kingdom; but the cow did
not know it, and lost her chance.
The Kimberley crater is roomy enough to admit the Roman Coliseum; the
bottom of the crater has not been reached, and no one can tell how far
down in the bowels of the earth it goes. Originally, it was a
perpendicular hole packed solidly full of blue rock or cement, and
scattered through that blue mass, like raisins in a pudding, were the
diamonds. As deep down in the earth as the blue stuff extends, so deep
will the diamonds be found.
There are three or four other celebrated craters near by a circle three
miles in diameter would enclose them all. They are owned by the De Beers
Company, a consolidation of diamond properties arranged by Mr. Rhodes
twelve or fourteen years ago. The De Beers owns other craters; they are
under the grass, but the De Beers knows where they are, and will open
them some day, if the market should require it.
Originally, the diamond deposits were the property of the Orange Free
State; but a judicious "rectification" of the boundary line shifted them
over into the British territory of Cape Colony. A high official of the
Free State told me that the sum of $4,00,000 was handed to his
commonwealth as a compromise, or indemnity, or something of the sort, and
that he thought his commonwealth did wisely to take the money and keep
out of a dispute, since the power was all on the one side and the
weakness all on the other. The De Beers Company dig out $400,000 worth
of diamonds per week, now. The Cape got the territory, but no profit;
for Mr. Rhodes and the Rothschilds and the other De Beers people own the
mines, and they pay no taxes.
In our day the mines are worked upon scientific principles, under the
guidance of the ablest mining-engineering talent procurable in America.
There are elaborate works for reducing the blue rock and passing it
through one process after another until every diamond it contains has
been hunted down and secured. I watched the "concentrators" at work big
tanks containing mud and water and invisible diamonds--and was told that
each could stir and churn and properly treat 300 car-loads of mud per day
1,600 pounds to the car-load--and reduce it to 3 car-loads of slush. I
saw the 3 carloads of slush taken to the "pulsators" and there reduced to
quarter of a load of nice clean dark-colored sand. Then I followed it to
the sorting tables and saw the men deftly and swiftly spread it out and
brush it about and seize the diamonds as they showed up. I assisted, and
once I found a diamond half as large as an almond. It is an exciting
kind of fishing, and you feel a fine thrill of pleasure every time you
detect the glow of one of those limpid pebbles through the veil of dark
sand. I would like to spend my Saturday holidays in that charming sport
every now and then. Of course there are disappointments. Sometimes you
find a diamond which is not a diamond; it is only a quartz crystal or
some such worthless thing. The expert can generally distinguish it from
the precious stone which it is counterfeiting; but if he is in doubt he
lays it on a flatiron and hits it with a sledgehammer. If it is a
diamond it holds its own; if it is anything else, it is reduced to
powder. I liked that experiment very much, and did not tire of
repetitions of it. It was full of enjoyable apprehensions, unmarred by
any personal sense of risk. The De Beers concern treats 8;000 carloads--
about 6,000 tons--of blue rock per day, and the result is three pounds of
diamonds. Value, uncut, $50,000 to $70,000. After cutting, they will
weigh considerably less than a pound, but will be worth four or five
times as much as they were before.
All the plain around that region is spread over, a foot deep, with blue
rock, placed there by the Company, and looks like a plowed field.
Exposure for a length of time make the rock easier to work than it is
when it comes out of the mine. If mining should cease now, the supply of
rock spread over those fields would furnish the usual 8,000 car-loads per
day to the separating works during three years. The fields are fenced
and watched; and at night they are under the constant inspection of lofty
electric searchlight. They contain fifty or sixty million dollars'
worth' of diamonds, and there is an abundance of enterprising thieves
In the dirt of the Kimberley streets there is much hidden wealth. Some
time ago the people were granted the privilege of a free wash-up. There
was a general rush, the work was done with thoroughness, and a good
harvest of diamonds was gathered.
The deep mining is done by natives. There are many hundreds of them.
They live in quarters built around the inside of a great compound. They
are a jolly and good-natured lot, and accommodating. They performed a
war-dance for us, which was the wildest exhibition I have ever seen.
They are not allowed outside of the compound during their term of service
three months, I think it, is, as a rule. They go down the shaft, stand
their watch, come up again, are searched, and go to bed or to their
amusements in the compound; and this routine they repeat, day in and day
It is thought that they do not now steal many diamonds successfully.
They used to swallow them, and find other ways of concealing them, but
the white man found ways of beating their various games. One man cut his
leg and shoved a diamond into the wound, but even that project did not
succeed. When they find a fine large diamond they are more likely to
report it than to steal it, for in the former case they get a reward, and
in the latter they are quite apt to merely get into trouble. Some years
ago, in a mine not owned by the De Beers, a black found what has been
claimed to be the largest diamond known to the world's history; and, as a
reward he was released from service and given a blanket, a horse, and
five hundred dollars. It made him a Vanderbilt. He could buy four
wives, and have money left. Four wives are an ample support for a
native. With four wives he is wholly independent, and need never do a
stroke of work again.
That great diamond weighs 97l carats. Some say it is as big as a piece
of alum, others say it is as large as a bite of rock candy, but the best
authorities agree that it is almost exactly the size of a chunk of ice.
But those details are not important; and in my opinion not trustworthy.
It has a flaw in it, otherwise it would be of incredible value. As it
is, it is held to be worth $2,000,000. After cutting it ought to be
worth from $5,000,000 to $8,000,000, therefore persons desiring to save
money should buy it now. It is owned by a syndicate, and apparently
there is no satisfactory market for it. It is earning nothing; it is
eating its head off. Up to this time it has made nobody rich but the
native who found it.
He found it in a mine which was being worked by contract. That is to
say, a company had bought the privilege of taking from the mine 5,000,000
carloads of blue-rock, for a sum down and a royalty. Their speculation
had not paid; but on the very day that their privilege ran out that
native found the $2,000,000-diamond and handed it over to them. Even the
diamond culture is not without its romantic episodes.
The Koh-i-Noor is a large diamond, and valuable; but it cannot compete in
these matters with three which--according to legend--are among the crown
trinkets of Portugal and Russia. One of these is held to be worth
$20,000,000; another, $25,000,000, and the third something over
Those are truly wonderful diamonds, whether they exist or not; and yet
they are of but little importance by comparison with the one wherewith
the Boer wagoner chocked his wheel on that steep grade as heretofore
referred to. In Kimberley I had some conversation with the man who saw
the Boer do that--an incident which had occurred twenty-seven or twenty-
eight years before I had my talk with him. He assured me that that
diamond's value could have been over a billion dollars, but not under it.
I believed him, because he had devoted twenty-seven years to hunting for
it, and was, in a position to know.
A fitting and interesting finish to an examination of the tedious and
laborious and costly processes whereby the diamonds are gotten out of the
deeps of the earth and freed from the base stuffs which imprison them is
the visit to the De Beers offices in the town of Kimberley, where the
result of each day's mining is brought every day, and, weighed, assorted,
valued, and deposited in safes against shipping-day. An unknown and
unaccredited person cannot, get into that place; and it seemed apparent
from the generous supply of warning and protective and prohibitory signs
that were posted all about, that not even the known and accredited can
steal diamonds there without inconvenience.
We saw the day's output--shining little nests of diamonds, distributed a
foot apart, along a counter, each nest reposing upon a sheet of white
paper. That day's catch was about $70,000 worth. In the course of a
year half a ton of diamonds pass under the scales there and sleep on that
counter; the resulting money is $18,000,000 or $20,000,000. Profit,
Young girls were doing the sorting--a nice, clean, dainty, and probably
distressing employment. Every day ducal incomes sift and sparkle through
the fingers of those young girls; yet they go to bed at night as poor as
they were when they got up in the morning. The same thing next day, and
all the days.
They are beautiful things, those diamonds, in their native state. They
are of various shapes; they have flat surfaces, rounded borders, and
never a sharp edge. They are of all colors and shades of color, from
dewdrop white to actual black; and their smooth and rounded surfaces and
contours, variety of color, and transparent limpidity make them look like
piles of assorted candies. A very light straw color is their commonest
tint. It seemed to me that these uncut gems must be more beautiful than
any cut ones could be; but when a collection of cut ones was brought out,
I saw my mistake. Nothing is so beautiful as a rose diamond with the
light playing through it, except that uncostly thing which is just like
it--wavy sea-water with the sunlight playing through it and striking a
Before the middle of July we reached Cape Town, and the end of our
African journeyings. And well satisfied; for, towering above us was
Table Mountain--a reminder that we had now seen each and all of the great
features of South Africa except Mr. Cecil Rhodes. I realize that that is
a large exception. I know quite well that whether Mr. Rhodes is the
lofty and worshipful patriot and statesman that multitudes believe him to
be, or Satan come again, as the rest of the world account him, he is
still the most imposing figure in the British empire outside of England.
When he stands on the Cape of Good Hope, his shadow falls to the Zambesi.
He is the only colonial in the British dominions whose goings and comings
are chronicled and discussed under all the globe's meridians, and whose
speeches, unclipped, are cabled from the ends of the earth; and he is the
only unroyal outsider whose arrival in London can compete for attention
with an eclipse.
That he is an extraordinary man, and not an accident of fortune, not even
his dearest South African enemies were willing to deny, so far as I heard
them testify. The whole South African world seemed to stand in a kind of
shuddering awe of him, friend and enemy alike. It was as if he were
deputy-God on the one side, deputy-Satan on the other, proprietor of the
people, able to make them or ruin them by his breath, worshiped by many,
hated by many, but blasphemed by none among the judicious, and even by
the indiscreet in guarded whispers only.
What is the secret of his formidable supremacy? One says it is his
prodigious wealth--a wealth whose drippings in salaries and in other ways
support multitudes and make them his interested and loyal vassals;
another says it is his personal magnetism and his persuasive tongue, and
that these hypnotize and make happy slaves of all that drift within the
circle of their influence; another says it is his majestic ideas, his
vast schemes for the territorial aggrandizement of England, his patriotic
and unselfish ambition to spread her beneficent protection and her just
rule over the pagan wastes of Africa and make luminous the African
darkness with the glory of her name; and another says he wants the earth
and wants it for his own, and that the belief that he will get it and let
his friends in on the ground floor is the secret that rivets so many eyes
upon him and keeps him in the zenith where the view is unobstructed.
One may take his choice. They are all the same price. One fact is sure:
he keeps his prominence and a vast following, no matter what he does. He
"deceives" the Duke of Fife--it is the Duke's word--but that does not
destroy the Duke's loyalty to him. He tricks the Reformers into immense
trouble with his Raid, but the most of them believe he meant well. He
weeps over the harshly--taxed Johannesburgers and makes them his friends;
at the same time he taxes his Charter-settlers 50 per cent., and so wins
their affection and their confidence that they are squelched with despair
at every rumor that the Charter is to be annulled. He raids and robs and
slays and enslaves the Matabele and gets worlds of Charter-Christian
applause for it. He has beguiled England into buying Charter waste paper
for Bank of England notes, ton for ton, and the ravished still burn
incense to him as the Eventual God of Plenty. He has done everything he
could think of to pull himself down to the ground; he has done more than
enough to pull sixteen common-run great men down; yet there he stands, to
this day, upon his dizzy summit under the dome of the sky, an apparent
permanency, the marvel of the time, the mystery of the age, an Archangel
with wings to half the world, Satan with a tail to the other half.
I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a
piece of the rope for a keepsake.
I have traveled more than anyone else, and I have noticed that even the
angels speak English with an accent.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
I saw Table Rock, anyway--a majestic pile. It is 3,000 feet high. It is
also 17,000 feet high. These figures may be relied upon. I got them in
Cape Town from the two best-informed citizens, men who had made Table
Rock the study of their lives. And I saw Table Bay, so named for its
levelness. I saw the Castle--built by the Dutch East India Company three
hundred years ago--where the Commanding General lives; I saw St. Simon's
Bay, where the Admiral lives. I saw the Government, also the Parliament,
where they quarreled in two languages when I was there, and agreed in
none. I saw the club. I saw and explored the beautiful sea-girt drives
that wind about the mountains and through the paradise where the villas
are: Also I saw some of the fine old Dutch mansions, pleasant homes of
the early times, pleasant homes to-day, and enjoyed the privilege of
And just before I sailed I saw in one of them a quaint old picture which
was a link in a curious romance--a picture of a pale, intellectual young
man in a pink coat with a high black collar. It was a portrait of Dr.
James Barry, a military surgeon who came out to the Cape fifty years ago
with his regiment. He was a wild young fellow, and was guilty of various
kinds of misbehavior. He was several times reported to headquarters in
England, and it was in each case expected that orders would come out to
deal with him promptly and severely, but for some mysterious reason no
orders of any kind ever came back--nothing came but just an impressive
silence. This made him an imposing and uncanny wonder to the town.
Next, he was promoted-away up. He was made Medical Superintendent
General, and transferred to India. Presently he was back at the Cape
again and at his escapades once more. There were plenty of pretty girls,
but none of them caught him, none of them could get hold of his heart;
evidently he was not a marrying man. And that was another marvel,
another puzzle, and made no end of perplexed talk. Once he was called in
the night, an obstetric service, to do what he could for a woman who was
believed to be dying. He was prompt and scientific, and saved both
mother and child. There are other instances of record which testify to
his mastership of his profession; and many which testify to his love of
it and his devotion to it. Among other adventures of his was a duel of a
desperate sort, fought with swords, at the Castle. He killed his man.
The child heretofore mentioned as having been saved by Dr. Barry so long
ago, was named for him, and still lives in Cape Town. He had Dr.
Barry's portrait painted, and gave it to the gentleman in whose old Dutch
house I saw it--the quaint figure in pink coat and high black collar.
The story seems to be arriving nowhere. But that is because I have not
finished. Dr. Barry died in Cape Town 30 years ago. It was then
discovered that he was a woman.
The legend goes that enquiries--soon silenced--developed the fact that
she was a daughter of a great English house, and that that was why her
Cape wildnesses brought no punishment and got no notice when reported to
the government at home. Her name was an alias. She had disgraced
herself with her people; so she chose to change her name and her sex and
take a new start in the world.
We sailed on the 15th of July in the Norman, a beautiful ship, perfectly
appointed. The voyage to England occupied a short fortnight, without a
stop except at Madeira. A good and restful voyage for tired people, and
there were several of us. I seemed to have been lecturing a thousand
years, though it was only a twelvemonth, and a considerable number of the
others were Reformers who were fagged out with their five months of
seclusion in the Pretoria prison.
Our trip around the earth ended at the Southampton pier, where we
embarked thirteen months before. It seemed a fine and large thing to
have accomplished--the circumnavigation of this great globe in that
little time, and I was privately proud of it. For a moment. Then came
one of those vanity-snubbing astronomical reports from the Observatory-
people, whereby it appeared that another great body of light had lately
flamed up in the remotenesses of space which was traveling at a gait
which would enable it to do all that I had done in a minute and a half.
Human pride is not worth while; there is always something lying in wait
to take the wind out of it.