The following story was related to
Hansie by her mother soon after her return from the
Irene Camp, and must be repeated here for its connection
with subsequent events.
One afternoon in June Mrs. van Warmelo
had been visited by a young friend, Miss F., with
a man whom she introduced as her brother, an unexpected
arrival from Europe.
“Indeed!” Mrs. van Warmelo
exclaimed. “What a delightful surprise it
must have been to you!”
“Yes, but he is leaving again
very, very soon. In fact” here
Miss F.’s manner became mysterious “he
is here on a mission and we shall see very little
Mrs. van Warmelo expressed her regret
at this, and the conversation naturally turned to
the general topic, the war.
Leading questions were put to Mrs.
van Warmelo, and she felt that her assistance was
required for some purpose or other; but being too
discreet to invite her visitors’ confidence,
After beating about the bush a good
deal, Miss F. remarked:
“You know the Zoutpansberg District
very well, do you not?”
“Yes,” Mrs. van Warmelo
answered; “we lived there formerly.”
“Then you will perhaps know
trustworthy people in Pietersburg, people on whom
one can thoroughly rely in these days.”
Mrs. van Warmelo answered hesitatingly:
“Yes there is one, at least, on whom
I can depend.”
“Would there be much risk and
difficulty in communicating with General Botha through
such a person?” Miss F. inquired.
“General Botha!” Mrs.
van Warmelo exclaimed. “But he is not in
the north. He is on the High Veld, somewhere
south-east of Transvaal, and much easier to communicate
with than if he had been in Zoutpansberg.”
“How could one get a message
through to him?” Miss F. asked, and her hostess
decided to beat about the bush no longer.
“Do you not think it would be
better to trust me and tell me what you wish to do?
I would be better able to answer and help you.”
Miss F. then turned to her brother and said:
“Mrs. van Warmelo is quite right.
Tell her everything.” Upon which the young
man explained that he had been sent out on a secret
mission connected with a consignment of dynamite which
lay buried on the eastern frontier. News had
been received in Europe that there was a dearth of
explosives and, consequently, a temporary cessation
of adventures on the railway lines, and it was for
the purpose of communicating the fact that this consignment
had arrived that he had travelled to Pretoria via
the East Coast and over Durban. How to get into
touch with some reliable person in Pretoria who was
in direct communication with the Boer forces had been
his greatest problem, and he was grateful indeed for
Mrs. van Warmelo’s guarded promise of assistance.
“I cannot tell you anything
now,” she said, “but if you will leave
the matter in my hands I promise that you will hear
from me to-morrow morning.”
Mr. F. then told her that he had brought
with him a small quantity of the dynamite, made up
into two separate parcels, non-explosive apart, but
dangerous when mixed together in a certain way.
He had been deputed to instruct the Boers how to mix
He had with him, too, a large prospecting
hammer, the long handle of which was bound with leather
and closely studded with nails. But the handle
was hollow and contained a number of detonators,
to be sent out to the Boers for blowing up trains
and for damaging the railway lines and bridges.
One other article of interest he had brought with
him, a huge Parisian hat for his sister, and he told
Mrs. van Warmelo how the polite inspector of goods
on the frontier had held the lovely headpiece up,
admiring the pink roses nestling in black lace and
chiffon, and little dreaming that he was handling many
yards of dynamite fuse.
“A lovely hat!” he exclaimed
when he put it back into the box, without having noticed
the weight, which alone would have betrayed
it to any one familiar with ladies’ headgear.
Early next morning Mrs. van Warmelo
sallied forth to the house of her confederate, Mr.
Willem Botha, at the other end of the town. He
listened to her story attentively and said, “There
are spies in town at this very moment, and they are
leaving for the General’s commando to-night.”
This was good news indeed, and Mrs.
van Warmelo immediately made an appointment with Mr.
Botha to meet Mr. F. at Harmony that afternoon.
On her way home she called at Miss
F.’s house, informing her of the appointment.
That afternoon at Harmony a map was
closely studied by the two men and the exact spot
pointed out where the dynamite lay buried, while Mrs.
van Warmelo packed the detonators one by one in cotton
wool in a small box, which was conveyed to Mr. Hattingh’s
house, where the spies were being harboured.
In the meantime the entire crown and brim of the lovely
Parisian hat had been unpicked, and that night the
dynamite fuse, wound closely round the body of a spy,
went out to the commandos, with the small box of detonators.
Soon after this Mr. F. returned to
Europe as he had come, via Natal and Delagoa Bay,
well satisfied that his mission should have been accomplished
with so much ease.
What became of the sample of dynamite
my reader will see in the next chapter.