After her brothers’ departure,
described in Chapter I, Hansie fastened her “Vierkleur,”
a broad band of the Transvaal colours, round her hat,
and announced her intention of going into town to see
the British troops come in.
Her mother thought it a most unseemly
proceeding, and declined to accompany her wilful daughter,
but the latter did not wish to miss what she knew
would become an historical event of great importance,
and rode away on her bicycle, accompanied by her faithful
The thought of the conspicuous band
of ribbon round her hat, in green, red, white, and
blue, gave her a certain feeling of comfort and satisfaction.
At least none of the friends she might
chance to meet that day could suspect her of being
in town to welcome the enemy.
The air was charged with the electricity
of an excitement so tense, so suppressed, that it
struck her like some living force as she rode through
the thronged, though silent streets.
In the heart of the town, as she neared
Government Square, a change was noticeable a
change that she could not define until it was borne
in upon her that it originated in the attitude of the
black and coloured part of the community.
They had come out in their thousands the
streets literally seethed with them, the remarkable
part of this being that they were all on the pavements,
while their “white brothers” walked in
the middle of the road.
For the sake of the uninitiated I
must explain that under the Boer regime no black or
coloured person was allowed on the pavements, nor
to be out at night, nor to walk about without a registered
pass. There was no “black peril”
This noisy, unlawful demonstration
was an expression of joy on their part at the prospect
of that day being set free from Boer restrictions,
a short-lived joy, however, for they became so lawless
and overbearing that it was found necessary, within
a very few days, to re-enforce the Boer laws and regulations.
In perfect order, but weary unto death,
the British troops marched in. Thousands and
thousands of soldiers in khaki, travel-stained, footsore,
and famished, sank to the ground, at a given command,
in the open square facing Government Buildings.
Some of them tried to eat of the rations
they had with them, others, too exhausted to eat,
fell into a deep sleep almost at once, and one old
warrior, looking up into the face of the girl standing
above him, said, in a broken voice, “Thank God,
the war is over.”
Hansie bent towards him and answered,
in a voice vibrating with passionate feeling, “Tommy
Atkins, the war has just begun.”
He looked at her in puzzled surprise,
and sighing heavily, closed his eyes.
Ah, unknown soldier, did you in after
years, I wonder, remember the prophetic words spoken
by the lips of a girl that day?
At three o’clock that afternoon
the Union Jack was hoisted on Government Buildings!
Those of my readers whose love of
home, kindred, traditions, ideals patriotism belong
to other countries can draw a mental picture of what
a similar experience would mean to them. One day
to be full of hope that a beloved country and independence
would be restored to its people, the next with those
hopes laid low in the dust, shattered, destroyed for
ever, by the sight of a small, unfamiliar flag standing
out against the blue sky.
In time of great shock or crisis,
merciful Providence numbs our keenest sensibilities
and the brain acts and thinks mechanically. The
inevitable comes, however, and we wonder at finding
ourselves still breathing, after passing through that
fire of mental agony.
Our young patriot’s heart was
torn and bleeding, but her sufferings then were as
nothing compared to those she endured in later months
and years, when the incidents of that winter’s
day would pass in review across her brain, haunting
her sleeping and waking thoughts like some hideous
It is not for me to describe the scene:
the cheering of the multitude, the parade of haggard
troops the soul-sickening display of imperial
As if ashamed of having witnessed
it, the sun, suddenly grown old and grey, hid himself
behind a passing cloud, and in the shadows which enveloped
her the girl seemed to feel the hand of Nature, groping
for hers, to convey its silent message of sympathy.
The crowds dispersed and the troops
withdrew to the outskirts of the town to pitch their
tents for the night.
When Hansie arrived at Harmony she
found all the open space around it occupied by troops,
and camps erected at the very gates, while, all along
the roads and railway lines, fires were burning and
soldiers were engaged in tending their horses and
preparing their rations.
The air was so heavy with smoke and
dust that it seemed as if a dense fog were resting
on the town, but an order and discipline prevailed
which could not be surpassed.
Mrs. van Warmelo was standing at the
gate with a loaded revolver in her hands, keeping
the entire British army at bay with a pair of blazing
She had already spoken to the officer
in command, who, on hearing that two unprotected ladies
were living alone on the property, had immediately
issued orders that no man was to enter Harmony on any
pretext whatever. Somewhat reassured, mother and
daughter retired into their stronghold, barricading
doors and windows and ordering Carlo, the good watch-dog,
to preserve an extra vigilance that night.
Brave old Carlo! from that moment
he seemed to understand that his duty was to protect
his beloved mistresses from their mortal foe, and
nothing could equal his dislike and distrust of anything
connected with the unwelcome visitors around his hitherto
peaceful abode. For a long time, he valiantly
withstood temptation in the form of titbits offered
him by soldiers, not at any time responding to the
many advances made by them, and my reader will agree
with me, as this story unfolds itself, that no dog
could have developed more useful qualities.
The first few weeks after the occupation
of Pretoria were spent in settling down and finding
accommodation for the thousands of British officers
and men, and it soon became evident to the inhabitants
of Harmony that Sunnyside had been chosen as a suitable
suburb for the more important members of the military
To give the reader some idea of how
Harmony was hemmed in by troops on every side, I have
drawn the annexed chart, and, though some alterations
were made as the months went by, this was practically
the position of our heroines during the greater part
of the war.
On the eastern side were encamped
the Military Mounted Police; on the west, on the banks
of the Aapies River and adjoining the Berea Park,
lay Kitchener’s bodyguard; on the south were
established the Montmorency Scouts; and on the north,
commanding the principal entrance to Harmony, the
Provost-Marshal, Major Poore, had taken up his abode
in the comfortable residence of the ex-Mayor of Pretoria,
Sir Johannes van Boeschoten, who was knighted on the
occasion of the recent visit to South Africa of the
Duke of Connaught.
Opposite the Provost-Marshal, in a
house belonging to Mr. B.T. Bourke, the War Office,
as we called it, was established; and still a little
farther north, in the British Agency, vacated by Sir
Conyngham and Lady Lily Greene when martial law was
proclaimed, Lord Roberts and his staff were installed,
until better quarters could be found for them.
The Military Governor, General Sir John Maxwell, then
took possession of the British Agency and remained
there, as far as I know, until the end of the war.
During the first half-year after the
British entry into Pretoria Harmony’s front
gate was blocked by the tent of the military post
office, the ropes of which had been fastened to the
posts of the gate. Although the inhabitants of
Harmony found it inconvenient to squeeze through the
small opening at the side of the gate, Mrs. van Warmelo
made no objection to the arrangement, because it safeguarded
the property to some extent from possible intruders.
Other houses in the immediate neighbourhood
of Harmony were occupied at different times by Lord
Kitchener of Khartoum, the Duke of Westminster, and
many other distinguished personages, with their staffs.
From this it will readily be understood that in the
whole of Pretoria no spot could have been more completely
hemmed in by the vigilant military than Harmony.
How this vigilance was evaded by two
Boer women, and how Harmony became the centre of Boer
espionage as time went on, will be the theme of this
story; but I wish my reader clearly to understand that
from beginning to end there was no treachery, no broken
promises of peace and good behaviour.
It was simply taken for granted that
the two women in question were hopelessly cut off
from all communication with their friends in the field,
and utterly helpless and incapable of assisting their
There were no conditions attached
to the privilege of remaining undisturbed in their
home, and, though it was well known that their menfolk
were among the fighting burghers and that they themselves
entertained the strongest feelings of antagonism towards
the British, they were quietly left in peace.
Whether the fact that Mrs. van Warmelo’s
elder daughter was married to Mr. Henry Cloete, of
Alphen, Wynberg, had anything to do with this unexpected
and altogether undeserved leniency, I do not know.
It certainly could not be put down to the credit of
our heroines that Mr. Cloete had at one time been
Acting British Agent at Pretoria, nor that he had
shown the British Government such services as earned
for him the distinction of having the Order of Companion
of St. Michael and St. George conferred upon him.
All I can say is that if the van Warmelos
owed their security to these facts, we can only look
upon that as one of the fortunate circumstances of
war over which we had no control. Other Boer
residents in Pretoria fared less fortunately.
A great many “undesirable”
families were put over the border at once; and of
the remaining burghers, some took the oath of allegiance
for purposes of their own, on which I am not in a
position to pass judgment, others, the greater majority,
took the oath of neutrality, and a few, in some mysterious
way or other, avoided both these oaths, and remained
in the capital, without pass, without permit, until
time and occasion presented themselves for a sudden
and unaccountable disappearance. In another chapter
I shall endeavour to describe the dangers and difficulties
under which one of these men escaped from British
martial law to the free life of the Boer commandos.
Although houses were “commandeered”
right and left, and officers quartered on private
families, as is the custom in every well-conducted
war, Harmony was left in peace, only one mild attempt
being made a few days after the occupation of Pretoria,
by the officer in command of the Montmorency Scouts,
to obtain entrance for himself and fellow officers
at Harmony’s inhospitable door.
“Only three officers,”
he said “no men; and we shall give
It was Hansie’s duty to refuse,
and refuse she did, firmly, patiently, without betraying
her inmost fear that he could, and probably would like
the American darkie preacher, who announced to his
flock that a certain meeting would take place “on
Friday next, de Lord willin’, an’ if not,
den on Sat’dy, whedder or no” take
possession of her home, “whedder or no”
she gave her consent.
It is still a source of surprise that
he did not, that, instead, he descended to argument,
“Our tents are bitterly cold
at night,” he said at last. “Let us
at least sleep in the house.”
“My brothers in the field have
no tents,” Hansie answered, “they sleep
under the open sky. Do you think that we are going
to allow British officers to sleep in their beds?
Allow me to tell you that we are red-hot Republicans.”
He departed, and, though Mrs. van
Warmelo and Hansie lived in some trepidation for the
next few days, no second attempt was made to commandeer
The incident of the large number of
side-saddles found in the British camp at Dundee had
given Hansie food for much thought, and had caused
her to plan her own future line of action long before
the British officers entered Pretoria.
“They will want to enjoy themselves
with our girls,” she told her mother.
“They will be found at tennis-parties,
at social evenings, and at concerts. They will
want us to go out riding and driving with them, but,
mother, I vow I shall never be seen with a khaki officer
as long as our men are in the field.” And,
as far as she was able, she kept her word until the
war was over.
This was not always easy, for many
temptations were brought in her way, and she soon
found it necessary to give up riding and tennis altogether
in order to keep to her resolution.