At this time the procuring of passes
and permits became the order of the day, and it is
inconceivable the amount of red-tape that had to be
gone through in the process.
For women living alone and having
no menfolk to send to the offices, this was especially
Hours were spent in waiting, and applicants
were frequently sent from one official to another,
and from one department to another, on unimportant
This brought Hansie into touch with
the very men whose society she had resolved to avoid.
It took her three or four hours to
get a permit for her bicycle and as many days to get
permission to retain her Colt’s pocket-pistol,
for the officers in charge of the rifle department
refused to let her keep it and she eventually decided
to go straight to head-quarters, viz. the Military
Governor, General Maxwell.
Orders had very rightly been issued
that all firearms should be delivered to the military
authorities, but in this case Mrs. van Warmelo thought
an exception should be made, because two unprotected
women, living in an isolated homestead, could hardly
be considered safe in times of such great danger unless
sufficiently armed and able to defend themselves.
Other matters, of minor importance,
could be overlooked, but it was to this question of
retaining weapons that she and her daughter owed their
acquaintance with the charming and affable Military
The two women were received with great
courtesy, and when they had explained that they had
a Mauser rifle in their possession, a revolver, and
a pistol, begging to be allowed to keep them for self-defence,
General Maxwell instantly granted them permits for
the revolver and pistol, but asked them to give up
their rifle. He gave them a written promise,
signed by himself, that the rifle would be returned
to them after the war which promise, I may
add, was faithfully kept. General Maxwell asked
many questions about their fighting relatives, and,
when they were departing, said he hoped they would
come straight to him if at any time they got into trouble.
This kindness opened the way to many
subsequent visits, and brought about a friendly understanding
between the officials in the Governor’s Department
and Mrs. and Miss van Warmelo.
The latter, upon whom naturally devolved
the task of procuring the necessary passes and permits,
was always well received, and never kept waiting,
although she made no secret of her feelings towards
the British, and frankly gave vent to her opinions
on every subject connected with the war. This
state of affairs was brought about all the more easily
by the fact that General Maxwell and his A.D.C., Major
Hoskins, invited her opinions on every possible occasion.
Mutual respect, and a sincere desire
to alleviate the suffering caused by the war, formed
the basis of the somewhat incongruous friendship between
the high British official and the Republican girl,
especially as time went on and the appalling problem
of the concentration camps presented itself.
Then it was that General Maxwell, pacing up and down
in his office, his brow drawn with care, and every
movement betraying his distress, frankly discussed
the situation with Hansie and invited her confidence.
As she had no secrets of importance at this time,
these interviews were marked by a spirit of mutual
understanding, and she learnt more and more to admire
and respect the Governor for his humanity and nobility
of character; but the time was soon to come when the
demands of her land and people called her to more dangerous
fields of labour, and then it became difficult, well-nigh
impossible, to meet the searching eye of the Military
Her visits became less frequent, of
her own free will, and in time ceased altogether.
Soon after the rifle incident Hansie
had to call on General Maxwell, as Secretary of the
Pretoria Ladies’ Vocal Society, for a permit
to hold rehearsals. She found him alone and disengaged,
for a wonder, and so evidently pleased to see her
again that she entered into conversation with him
After she had explained the object
of her visit and apologised for troubling him about
such a trifle, she told him that she had been informed
in other Departments that as there was no institution
for granting permits to hold rehearsals, she would
have to get a special permit from the Military Governor.
“Why,” he exclaimed in
surprise, “can you not rehearse without a permit?”
“No,” Hansie answered
laughingly. “Do you not know that two or
three may not gather together except in the name of
the Governor under the new regulations and since the
execution of Cordua? Why, we may be conspiring
against your life instead of rehearsing our songs,
and at the present moment we can hardly put our noses
out-of-doors without being asked whether we have permits
“You are right,” he answered;
“I did not think of this. Well, you may
have your permit on condition that you promise to talk
no politics and to be in your own homes before 7 p.m.”
Hansie gave the promise on behalf
of the vocal society, and yet another war-permit was
added to her curious collection! With all the
friendliness existing between the Governor and herself,
I do not for a moment think that they ever trusted
one another completely. Were they not both good
patriots? Hansie knew by the questions he asked
her that he was trying to extract information from
her, and the Governor only told her as much as he
thought she could use to his own advantage.
On this particular occasion, when
he parted from her, he asked in a fatherly, I-take-such-an-interest-in-you
way whether she ever heard from her brothers.
“No,” she exclaimed in
innocent surprise. “How can I?” (and
at the time she spoke truth). Whereupon he sympathetically
murmured something about “a very trying time
Permits everywhere and for everything!
Men were stopped in the streets to
show their residential passes, private carriages were
held up and the occupants requested to produce their
permits for vehicle and horses, and cyclists had to
dismount a dozen times a day at the sign of some khaki-clothed
figure patrolling the streets.
The first British officers to cross
Harmony’s threshold as visitors and equals were
a colonel and a young captain, who both came from
Wynberg with letters of introduction from Mrs. van
Warmelo’s daughter, Mrs. Henry Cloete.
After the long months of irregular
correspondence, always severely censored, it was such
a relief to get news direct that the bearers were
They called again, and the dignified
presence of the Colonel soon became a familiar sight
at Harmony. With him it was quite possible to
converse, for he avoided every painful topic with the
utmost tact and good-breeding, but the Captain was
a veritable firebrand, and many were the heated arguments
carried on during his visits.
As the weary, weary months dragged
on, and the most sanguine could not see the end of
the terrible war, it seemed as if feeling grew stronger
and the power of endurance lessened.
Even the occasional visits of the
British officers became trying to the van Warmelos,
and one day her mother asked Hansie to request the
Captain not to come again, valiantly retreating to
the garden when next he called, and leaving her daughter
to fight it out with him alone.
“I am very sorry,” he said, “but
what have I done?”
“Nothing,” Hansie answered,
“but you see it is against our principles, and
we would like you to wait until the war is over ”
The hateful task was over, and the Captain took his
departure, not to return again.
Hansie refused obstinately to go over
the same ground with the Colonel. He came so
seldom, and he was such a kind and courteous old gentleman,
that it seemed unnecessary to put an end to his visits,
and in time his own good feeling told him to discontinue
It was in the summer of 1901, when
the days at Harmony were spent in the fruit-laden
garden and great jars of apples, pears, peaches, and
figs were being canned and preserved for winter use,
that thoughts strayed most lovingly and persistently
to the two hungry brothers in the field.
“Where are they, I wonder?”
was a frequent exclamation. “Did they ever
reach the Boer commandos, and oh, when shall we hear
Great were the rejoicings when Dr.
Mulder, who was on his way to Holland, and had got
permission from the British to pass through Pretoria
from the Boer lines, arrived at Harmony with the news
that he had seen the two van Warmelos in the English
camp at Nooitgedacht, after its capture by the Boers
under General Beyers. They were well and in good
spirits then, and the delight their mother and sister
experienced at seeing some one direct from the Boer
lines can only be appreciated by those who know what
it means to a Boer to be a captive under British martial
At this time Pretoria was almost completely
surrounded by the Boers, and every precaution was
being taken against a possible attack. Deep trenches
were dug all round the town, electric wires put up,
while the hills bristled with cannon and searchlights
played from the forts incessantly at night.
The realities of war were forced upon
one by the increased activity on the Eastern Railway
line to Delagoa Bay, plainly visible from the side
verandah at Harmony, and, daily, train loads passed
of armed soldiers, or Boer women and children being
brought in from the devastated farms.
Armoured trains and Red Cross carriages
steamed in and out, horses, cattle, provision loads everything
that could remind one of the fierce strife raging
throughout the land.
At this time it became evident that
a thief or thieves were helping themselves at night
to thoroughbred fowls and fruit at Harmony, and Mrs.
van Warmelo asked the sergeant-major of the Military
Mounted Police to consult with her about catching
She suspected Kaffirs certainly
not the troops encamped about the place, for a more
orderly set of soldiers it would have been hard to
find. Their behaviour was always so exemplary
that they were now and then rewarded with baskets
of fruit and vegetables from Harmony’s overflowing
It was therefore perfectly natural
that the sergeant-major should hurry over to the house,
indignant and sympathetic, to listen to Mrs. van Warmelo’s
grievances and to lay plans for the capture of the
That he came at dawn seemed evident,
for though the police watched every night, they never
caught sight of him, and yet there were fowls missing
every morning. Things were beginning to look rather
suspicious when, in spite of the vigilant watch kept
by the police, there were only nineteen fowls left
of the sixty. Mrs. van Warmelo made up her mind
to watch for herself.
Early next morning, when a fine white
cock had disappeared, she set out with one of the
native servants, and, following the track made by
the white feathers the bird had lost in its struggles,
she came upon the thieves’ den. An ideal
spot in a little hollow by the riverside, surrounded
by trees and shrubs! A small fireplace, a few
old sacks and tins and a mass of feathers and bones
told their own tale, and Mrs. van Warmelo went home
The sergeant-major, when he heard
her story, said he thought it would be better to catch
the thief red-handed in the fowl-run than to surprise
him in his den, and the police were set to watch again
In the morning two fine hens were
missing! The remarks then made at Harmony on
the vigilance of British soldiers in general and Military
Mounted Police in particular were complimentary in
Then Mrs. van Warmelo sent the boy
to reconnoitre, and he soon came running back in great
excitement, with the news that the thief, a young
Kaffir, was sitting beside a fire, eating fowls.
Armed to the teeth, the police set
forth to capture him, and soon returned with the miscreant.
Such a sight he was! Glistening with fat and
covered with feathers, and, as one of the soldiers
remarked, “with a corporation like the Lord
Mayor.” He was handcuffed and taken to
the police camp, while the men had their breakfast
before escorting him to the Charge Office.
Suddenly there was a fearful commotion.
The culprit had slipped off one of
his handcuffs, crept through the wire fence unobserved,
and was flying like the wind through the garden towards
After him, in wild confusion, jumping
over shrubs and furrows, followed half a dozen soldiers,
a couple of natives, Carlo, and I don’t know
how many other dogs.
He was captured by the brave corporal
as he was dashing up the bank on the other side of
the river, and brought back to the camp, with his
hands tied securely behind.
One month’s imprisonment only
and a change of diet were prescribed for him at the
Charge Office that day.
This incident, though exciting at
the time, would not have been worth recording here
were it not for its connection with what happened
Whatever suspicions the military may
have had of intrigues at Harmony, these must have
been removed by the fact of their having been requested
by the inmates themselves to keep a watch over the
So the way was being unconsciously
prepared for subsequent events.
As fruit was also being stolen from
time to time, the soldiers maintained their watch
over the garden, well knowing that their vigilance
would be rewarded by a full share of the good things,
while they would be the losers if the pilfering were
allowed to continue.
When it became evident, a few months
later, that another thief was helping himself to her
fowls, Mrs. van Warmelo made up her mind to catch
him red-handed, without the assistance of the Military
She decided that he would not come
back at once, and gave him two days to digest his
spoil, and on the third day she got up very early in
the hopes of being on the scenes before him, ready
to receive him when he came.
She had only been in the garden a
few moments when she saw some one, in a stooping posture,
running swiftly towards the fowl-run. A moment
later and he had seen her. He turned and ran in
the opposite direction, Mrs. van Warmelo following
closely on his heels, loading her revolver as she
ran and calling out, “Stand, or I fire.”
On being warned a second time he stopped and turned
round. Mrs. van Warmelo demanded what he was
doing on her property, and he answered in good English
that he had lost his way, upon which Mrs. van Warmelo
offered to show him the way, and ordered him to march
on ahead. With the loaded revolver between his
shoulders, the culprit was forced to obey, and Mrs.
van Warmelo had the satisfaction of handing him over
to the sergeant-major “all by herself.”
To save himself, the wily thief turned
Queen’s evidence and offered to conduct the
police to a place where drink for natives was brewed
and sold, but the soldiers, not relishing the idea
of his escaping scot-free, first gave him a good thrashing
before handing him over to be further dealt with by