The exquisite summer of 1901 was drawing to a close.
January and February had been months
of unsurpassed splendour and riotous luxury in fruit
and flowers, each day being more gorgeous than the
last. The glorious sunsets, the mysterious and
exquisitely peaceful moonlight nights were a never-ending
source of joy to our young writer, thrilling her being
with emotions not to be described.
Each morning at 5 o’clock, while
the rest of the idiotic world lay asleep within its
cramped boundary of brick and stone, Hansie revelled
in the beauties of Nature, abandoning herself to at
least one hour of perfect bliss before the toil and
trouble of another day could occupy her mind.
The garden being so situated that
its most secluded spots were far removed from any
sights and sounds which could remind one of the war,
Hansie had no difficulty in turning her thoughts into
more uplifting channels during the peaceful morning
hour, spent, when the weather permitted, in her favourite
corner under the six gigantic willows below the orange
And the weather in those days nearly always permitted!
Most of the entries in her diary she
made in this fair spot, alone, but for the sympathetic
presence of her big black dog. The morning solitude
was amply atoned for by the dozens of young friends
who joined the “fruit parties” every afternoon,
filling the air with their gay voices and wholesome,
Four or five young men and a bevy
of beautiful young girls were amongst the most constant
visitors at Harmony. The girls, often referred
to in Hansie’s diary as the “Four Graces,”
were certainly the most exquisite specimens of budding
womanhood in Pretoria.
There was Consuelo, tall and slender,
our languid “Spanish beauty,” with her
rich brown hair and slumbrous dark-brown eyes; there
was our little Marguerite, fresh and fair as the flower
after which she was named, an opening marguerite
in the dewy daintiness of life’s first summer
morning; there was Annie, spoilt and wilful but undoubtedly
the fairest of them all; and then there was her sister
Sara, Hansie’s favourite, with a girlish charm
impossible to describe. Her creamy white complexion,
her lovely soft brown eyes, her winning smile and
tender voice what could be more delightful
than to sit and watch her as she moved and spoke with
rare, unconscious grace, clad in a snowy dress of
fine white muslin!
One sweet summer morn, a Sabbath,
if I remember correctly, when the air was filled with
the fragrance of innumerable buds and blossoms, Hansie
sat in the accustomed spot, with her diary on her lap.
She was not writing then, but, with a slip of paper
in her hands and a gleam of mischief in her eyes,
she was repeating with evident enjoyment a few catching
“Oh, Carlo, this is lovely!
I must learn these verses and recite them to the girls
when they come this afternoon! Listen, Carlo.”
FROM KITCHENER TO SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR
I am taking measures once
for all to clear my reputation;
I swear to give de Wet a fall
that means annihilation.
A brilliant action by Brabant,
the enemy has fled,
Their loss was something dreadful;
ours one single Kaffir dead.
De Wet is short of food-stuffs,
his ammunition’s done,
His horses are all dying,
and he’s only got one gun.
The cordon draws in round
de Wet; he now has little room,
He only can escape one way by
road to Potchefstroom.
De Wet is now caged like a
rat, he’s fairly in a box,
Around him grouped are Clements,
Clery, Methuen, French, and Knox.
An unfortunate event occurred I
report it with regret,
A convoy with five hundred
men was captured by de Wet.
A Kaffir runner says he saw
de Wet’s men trekking west,
With ammunition for two years,
and food supply the best.
A loyal farmer told our Scouts
de Wet was riding east,
Each man, beside the horse
he rode, was leading a spare beast.
Carlo wagged his tail sympathetically.
Overhead the sky was of the deepest,
richest sapphire blue, paling away to the horizon
to the most delicate tints, against which the distant
hills showed up in bold relief.
“Gentleman Jim,” one of
the native servants, was evidently enjoying his Sunday
too, for he loitered in the garden, plucking up a weed
here and there and watching the bees at work, the
busy bees who know of no day of rest.
“Bring me some grapes, please,
Jim,” Hansie called out to him.
“Yes, little missie,”
with alacrity. “What you like? Them
black ones or them white ones?”
“Some of both.”
He walked briskly to the house to
fetch a basket and disappeared into the vineyard,
returning shortly with a plentiful supply of luscious
“Thank you, Jim. Enough
for a week!” Hansie laughed, and he looked pleased
as he went off in the direction of the river.
A few moments later, half concealed
by the shrubs and rank grass with which the lower
part of Harmony was overrun, Hansie noticed two stooping
figures in khaki, moving forward cautiously and then
making sudden dashes at some object, invisible to
the girl. She watched them intently, wondering
who the intruders were and what their game could be,
until they came so near that she was able to distinguish
what it was they nourished in their hands. Butterfly
A pair of harmless Tommies, spending
their Sunday morning in catching butterflies and the
other insects of which there abounded so large a variety
at that time of the year.
They did not catch sight of the girl
until Carlo sprang up barking furiously, and then
they started back in consternation and surprise.
“Lie down, Carlo,” Hansie
commanded sharply. “Good morning,”
to the men.
“Good morning, miss,”
respectfully; “I hope we are not intrudin’.”
“Certainly not. Are you
catching butterflies? Show me what you have got.”
The men produced their spoil with pride.
“Will you have some grapes?”
Hansie asked, handing the basket to one of them, who
helped himself gratefully and then passed it on to
his comrade. The latter, evidently not of a very
sociable disposition, took a bunch and walked off
in pursuit of more butterflies.
The first soldier, however, squatted
down on the ground at some little distance from the
girl and began to talk, as he ate the grapes with
great relish. At this point Carlo raised himself
with the utmost deliberation, yawned, stretched himself,
and sauntering (I cannot call it anything except sauntering)
slowly towards his mistress, laid his full length
on the ground between her and the Tommy. Then
he went sound asleep to all appearances, but his mistress
observed that when the soldier made the slightest
movement, the dog’s ears twitched or an eyelid
Slowly eating his grapes, the man
glanced curiously at the book on Hansie’s lap.
“Are you sketchin’, miss?” he asked.
There was no answer.
“I am one of Lord Kitchener’s
body-guard,” he went on presently. “We
are encamped near Berea Park on the other side of your
fence. We were in Middelburg last week and I
saw one of the Boer Generals, General Botha.”
Hansie’s heart bounded. She looked at the
“Indeed! How was that possible?”
“Quite simple, miss. Lord
Kitchener invited the General into town to have an
interview with him. His brother I think
his name is Christian came with him.
I acted as their orderly.”
“Tell me more, tell me everything,”
the girl’s voice shook with ill-controlled emotion.
“There were five or six other
men with them. They arrived at about nine in
the morning and stayed until half-past four that afternoon.
They had lunch with Lord Kitchener. A fine man
the General is, well set up, big and broad-shouldered.”
“Yes, I know.” Hansie could not
withhold those words.
“You know!” he exclaimed
in great surprise. “Do you know General
“Yes, indeed. And what is more, he is my
The soldier looked at her in ludicrous amazement.
“Are you a Boer? You don’t
look like one, and I never heard any one speak better
“I don’t know whether
what you are saying is meant as a compliment to me,
but I don’t like being told that I don’t
look like a Boer, and I certainly would not be pleased
if you took me for an Englishwoman.”
The poor Tommy looked troubled and
muttered something about “no offence meant,
I am sure.”
“Now please go on and tell me
more about the General. Did you hear anything
of what he said to Lord Kitchener?”
“Nothing, miss, except when
he went away. They shook hands very hearty-like
and the General said, ’Good-bye; I hope you will
have good luck.’ That was all.”
“Good luck! What do you think he could
“We don’t know, miss,
but we think he meant good luck in Natal, for Lord
Kitchener went yesterday and I hear there is some talk
Hansie sat silent for a long time,
turning these things over in her mind.
“But what is all this accursed
war about, miss? We soldiers know nothing except
that we have to fight when we are ordered to do so.”
“Of course you know nothing.
An English soldier is nothing but a fighting machine,
not allowed to think or act for himself. Discipline
is a grand thing, but Heaven protect a man from the
discipline of the British army. The war?
I will tell you if you want to know. The war is
a cruel and unjust attempt to rob us of our rich and
independent land, and England is the tool in base
and unscrupulous hands. You suffer too, I know,
and all my heart goes out in sympathy to the bereaved
and broken-hearted Englishwomen across the seas.
Their only comfort is their firm belief that their
heroes died a noble death for freedom and justice.
Did they but know the truth! They died to satisfy
the lust for gain and greed of gold of mining magnates
on the Rand.”
“Suffer, miss! As long
as I live I will not forget that march from the colony,
through Bloemfontein to Pretoria. Fighting nearly
every day and marching at least thirty miles a day,
on one biscuit. There was no water to
be had! Will you believe that for three days not
a drop of water passed my lips? And I heard the
other fellows say, not once, but a thousand times,
‘Would to God that a bullet find me before night!’
Our tongues were hanging from our mouths and our lips
were cracked ”
“Stop!” Hansie cried,
putting her hands to her ears. “I do not
want to hear another word. These things cannot
be helped, and your officers suffered too!”
“The officers! When at
last the water-carts came, we had to stand aside and
watch while bucketsful were being carried into the
tents for their baths!”
There was silence again.
“If I were an English soldier, I would run away,”
“I’ve had enough, God
knows, and when I get home I mean to leave the Army
and take up my old work carpentering.
The war can’t last very long. England is
mighty but I wish the bloomin’ capitalists
would come and do the fighting, if they want this
country and its gold-mines.”
“There are only a ‘few
marauding bands’ left, so the English say,”
Hansie answered bitterly. “But remember
what I tell you now. South Africa will be soaked
in blood and tears, and a hundred thousand hearts
will be broken here and in your country, before the
mighty British Army has subdued those ‘few marauding
The soldier’s face grew troubled once again.
It was a good, strong face a
patient face and it bore the marks of much
suffering, endured in silence and alone.
He rose and took off his cap.
“You’ve been very good
to me, miss. I wish I could be of some use to
“Run away from Lord Kitchener!”
she said, laughing. “I would be very sorry
indeed if you fell by the hand of one of my brothers.”
He looked at her sympathetically.
“How many brothers have you in the field?”
“God only knows,” she
answered sadly. “There were two left when
last we heard of them. The third has been made
The soldier took his leave and Hansie lost herself
And when at last she roused herself, she wrote with
“Two Tommies have been
in our garden, catching butterflies ”
We know the rest.
That afternoon about ten or twelve
young people assembled in the garden and were later
joined by several members of the Diplomatic Corps Consul
Cinatti, Consul Aubert, and Consul Nieuwenhuis, the
most frequent visitors at Harmony.
The topic of conversation was
connected with General Botha’s visit to Lord
Kitchener in Middelburg, and when Hansie told her friends
what she had heard from the soldier that morning,
they expressed their conviction that every word he
said must have been true.
And the latest official war
news, in rhyme, the dispatch from Kitchener to the
Secretary of State for War, came in for its share of
attention, occasioning no small amount of merriment.
Oh, happy afternoon! Oh, memories
sweet! Oh, long departed days of good fellowship
and mutual understanding! Bright spots of gold
and crimson in our sky of lead!
Mrs. van Warmelo never at any time
encouraged evening visitors. They were all early
risers at Harmony and their life could not be adapted
to the artificial, the unnatural strain of modern civilisation.
So the quiet evenings were spent by
the mother in reading and writing, while the daughter
gave herself up to the indulgence of her one great
passion, music. Scales and exercises, Schubert
and Chopin, and invariably at the end before
retiring for the night Beethoven, the Master,
the King of Music.