Life at Pretoria was at this time
far from pleasant for the Boers who remained loyal
to their cause.
Most people who had the means, or
were not bound to the country by the closest ties,
let their houses and went to Europe until the war was
over. Many of those who did not leave of their
own free will were sent away to the coast, where they
were considered safe from plotting against the British,
and the few remaining Boer families were apparently
on their best behaviour, above all dreading the fate
of their fellow-countrymen.
The inmates of Harmony, perhaps more
than any other Boers, feared being sent away, because
they knew that watching events from afar would be
a thousand times worse than enduring the restrictions
of English martial law, and that banishment would
make it impossible for them to render their fighting
men any services. But they found the time of
inactivity terribly trying, so much so that they began
to cast about in their minds for work, for mischief for
anything, in fact, to relieve the daily, deadening
suspense and the dread, of what they knew not, with
which they were consumed.
Very galling was the severe censorship
of their letters. Mrs. van Warmelo’s high
spirit rebelled against the continued surveillance
of her correspondence and she determined to outwit
Then began an exciting period of smuggling
and contriving, which led to the most complete independence
on their part of the services of Mr. Censor, and ended
in a well-organised and exceedingly clever system of
communication with friends in every part of the world.
On one occasion a sympathiser, leaving
the country for good, offered to smuggle through to
Mrs. Cloete any document Mrs. van Warmelo might wish
There was nothing ready at the time,
but Mrs. van Warmelo decided to make use of this opportunity
for some future occasion, and wrote to her daughter
on a tiny piece of tissue-paper, “Whatever you
may receive in future, marked with a small blue cross,
This was smuggled through in some
way unknown to the sender and safely delivered to
Mrs. Cloete, for people were leaving Pretoria daily,
and it was not difficult to find suitable envoys.
Hansie had and has to this
day in her possession as a priceless memento of the
war a small morocco case with a maroon velvet
lining, which travelled backwards and forwards between
Harmony and Alphen until some better way of communication
was contrived. With a sharp instrument Mrs. van
Warmelo had removed the entire tray-like bottom of
the case, packed two or three closely-written sheets
of tissue paper in the opening, and pressed the little
tray firmly down in its place again. A tiny blue
cross carelessly pasted on the bottom of the case
carried its own message to the conspirator at Alphen.
A few weeks later the case came back
to Harmony with an antique gold bracelet for Hansie
and a long uncensored letter, in the snug hiding-place,
for Mrs. van Warmelo.
The next adventure was with a charming
lady, whom we shall call “the English lady,”
she was so very English. (If the truth were
known, she was not really English, but Cape Colonial,
and, as is often the case, more English than the English
themselves, and more loyal than the Queen.)
She unwisely said to a friend of Hansie’s,
who naturally repeated her words to Hansie, that she
would take good care not to convey letters or parcels
for the van Warmelos when she left for England, as
she shortly intended doing, because she was quite
sure they “smuggled,” or, if she did consent
to take anything, she would examine it thoroughly
and destroy whatever it contained of a doubtful character.
When this reached Hansie’s ears
she made up her mind that “the English lady,”
and no other, would be her next messenger to Alphen.
She dismissed the morocco case from her mind as unsuitable
for the occasion, and deliberated long with her mother.
At last she was sent to town to buy three medium-sized
It did not matter much what kind of
dolls they were, but they had to have hollow porcelain
heads, and they were to be bought from one man only,
an indispensable fellow-conspirator in one of the principal
stores in Church Street.
When she came home with the dolls
her mother seemed pretty well satisfied with the heads;
they looked fairly roomy from the outside, and so
they were found to be when one of them had been carefully
steamed until the glue melted and the head dropped
Hansie had been writing, without lifting
her head, while her mother prepared the doll.
The sheets of paper, rolled up into pellets, were
then forced through the slender neck, and the dolls
weighed to see if the difference in weight were noticeable.
It was not. The head was glued on again, a blue
cross was marked on the body, and the dolls were neatly
wrapped in a brown-paper parcel.
“The English lady” soon
after came to pay her farewell call. After the
usual formalities had been exchanged she remarked that
she hoped to visit Alphen soon after her arrival in
Mrs. van Warmelo was charmed and delighted,
and asked whether she would be good enough to take
a parcel of three dolls for Mrs. Cloete’s little
There was just one moment’s
hesitation, then “the English lady rapidly made
up her mind.” “Yes, with pleasure,
but I must have the parcel to-morrow, because my trunks
have to be closed and sent on ahead.”
Mrs. van Warmelo turned to her daughter
in grave consultation. “Let me see, it
is too late now, the shops will be closed, but you
can perhaps go to town on your bicycle early to-morrow
morning to buy the dolls and have them sent straight
to Mrs. ’s house.”
“Yes, mother, I’ll do
that with pleasure, but I won’t have them sent.
I’ll take them to her myself to be quite sure
that she will have them before twelve o’clock.”
The next morning Hansie took the dolls
to her fellow-conspirator behind the counter and had
them made up into an unmistakably professional-looking
parcel, tied and sealed with the label of the shop.
Thus were the suspicions of “the
English lady” lulled to rest. For her comfort,
should this ever reach her eye, I may say that there
were no dangerous communications in the doll’s
head, and should she feel resentful at having been
outwitted, she should have known better than to dare
one of her country-women under martial law.
On other occasions sympathetic friends
were willingly made use of, and the methods of smuggling
were so carefully planned in every case that none
of the bearers ever got into trouble, with one exception.
A foreign gentleman of high position,
through his own carelessness, found himself in a difficult
and unpleasant situation. He was leaving for
Europe and expressed his willingness to take letters
or documents, provided they were packed so carefully
that there would be no danger of their being discovered.
Mrs. van Warmelo asked him if he could
let her have any little article in daily use and which
he was in the habit of carrying about in his pockets.
He said that he would think about it, and sent her,
next day, a silver cigarette-case with a watered-silk
lining. It did not take long to remove the lining
and to pack the letters under it. When the lining
was replaced and the cigarettes lay in neat rows against
it, the most careful observer could not detect anything
unusual. These letters were destined for Mr.
W.T. Stead and contained a full account of the
condition of the Irene Concentration Camp.
In addition to this, Hansie gave her
friend a photo of herself in a sturdy frame, containing
a hidden letter for Mrs. Cloete, whilst instructing
him to destroy the epistle if he could not hand it
over to Mrs. Cloete personally, moreover, not to remove
the letter from the cigarette-case until he arrived
At Cape Town he met at the hotel a
man who professed to be a great pro-Boer and with
whom he soon became so friendly that he, finding it
impossible to go out to Alphen himself, indiscreetly
entrusted Mrs. Cloete’s letter into the hands
of this stranger, with the result that it was taken
direct to the military authorities.
Our friend was arrested the next day
as he was boarding the ocean liner, and was kept under
strict surveillance while his luggage was being overhauled.
We were told afterwards by friends
who witnessed the scene that, during the process,
he sat on deck with the utmost unconcern, smoking
cigarettes and toying with a silver case! No further
evidence having been found against him, he was allowed
to sail away in peace, and Mrs. Cloete too escaped
without so much as a warning, perhaps because the
contents of the letter were not considered sufficiently
Mr. Stead received the documents hidden
in the cigarette-case in due time and made full use
of their contents in his monthly magazine, The
Review of Reviews.
Although, surprising to relate, no
steps were taken against the conspirators at Harmony,
they soon noticed an extraordinary increase in the
vigilance of the censor, so much so, that the most
harmless communications failed to reach their destination,
and when by chance anything was allowed to pass through
it was mutilated beyond recognition, whole sentences
being smirched with printer’s ink or pages cut
away by the ruthless hand of the censor.
It may seem a small thing now, but
this state of affairs, when letters and papers were
the only consolation one had, became a source of such
keen annoyance and distress that Hansie decided to
approach the censor and ask him the reason for such
The head censor being away at the
time, she was shown into the presence of a man whose
very appearance excited her strongest antipathy.
In the first place he had a purely Dutch name, and
she knew that he could not occupy a position of so
much trust under the British without being a traitor
to his own countrymen.
Secondly, he seemed to derive much
pleasure from her visit and, when she told him who
she was, had the audacity to say:
“I always enjoy your letters
very much, Miss van Warmelo; they quite repay me for
When taxed with confiscating and mutilating
them, he was all concern and innocence personified.
No, indeed, he could never be guilty
of such a breach of gallantry and etiquette, the fault
must lie elsewhere; he was her friend, and if she
would promise to bring all her letters to him personally,
he would see that they were passed.
“Miserable Renegade!” she thought, with
Instantly it flashed through her mind
that it would be foolish indeed to make an enemy of
this man. Her whole manner changed.
“How very kind of you!”
she said. “Yes, I shall come myself if you
are sure I shall not be giving you too much trouble.”
“A pleasure, I assure you,”
bowing with great gallantry, and Hansie went home
to tell her mother what had happened.
After this interview with the censor,
he allowed their letters to pass with unfailing regularity.
True to her promise, Hansie took her
European mail to him herself every week, and this
brought her into contact with him frequently.
He was always affable (hatefully affable) and obliging,
and the thought of this man made it more and more
difficult for her to write, especially those letters
destined for the north of Holland.
One day she asked her mother to think
of some plan by which she could use the censor for
her own purposes, without his knowledge, and this
set Mrs. van Warmelo’s active mind and resourceful
brain working, with what result we shall see in our