Among other things, Mr. Willem Botha
warned his friends at Harmony against having a single
incriminating document in the house.
“Detection means death for all
concerned,” he said one day, “but without
written evidence the worst the enemy can do is to send
you out of the country or to a Concentration Camp.
Destroy every paper of a dangerous nature you may
have, as I have done, and then you need never feel
This wise counsel was all very well,
but Hansie had a mania for “collecting,”
and she could not make up her mind to destroy what
might become a valuable relic of the war.
She therefore had her diaries and
white envelopes removed to some safe hiding-place
and began a new book for future use.
In this book, in everyday pen and
ink, she entered the ordinary events of the day, but
in another she wrote in lemon-juice her adventures
with the spies and all information of an incriminating
character. Both books lay open on her writing-table the
“White Diary,” as she called it, with
its clean and spotless pages, with only here and there
an almost invisible mark to show how far she had got,
and the misleading record in pen and ink to throw
the English off their guard in the event of an unexpected
search of the house.
The white diary gave a sense of security
and satisfaction at the thought of the secrets it
contained for future reference, and it was only after
eight years that portions of the writing became visible
to the naked eye.
A few hours’ exposure to the
sun’s rays, and the application of a hot iron
here and there, made it sufficiently legible to be
rewritten word for word, and it is to the existence
of this diary that we owe our accurate information
of what otherwise would have been lost for ever.
I may add here that it was only the
re-reading of the White Diary after so many years,
and the surprising amount of half-forgotten information
Hansie found in it, that suggested the idea to her
mind of publishing its contents in the form of a story.
It was on the morning of July 17th,
1901, that Mr. Botha was seen coming up the garden
path between the rows of orange trees at Harmony,
with his jauntiest air, by which it was evident that
he was the bearer of news from the front. Briefly
he informed our heroines that two spies had come in
the previous night and wished to see Mrs. van Warmelo
about certain communications sent out by her to General
Botha a few weeks back. They were staying with
Mrs. Joubert, widow of the late Commandant-General
P.J. Joubert, and were leaving again the next
night with dispatches.
In the interview with them at 9 o’clock
the next morning Hansie made her first acquaintance
with Captain Naude, who plays the principal part in
the story here recorded, and whose courage and resource
gave him an unquestioned position of leadership.
Good reader, do you know what it means
to be an unwilling captive in the hands of your enemy
for more than a year, and then to find yourself in
the presence of men, healthy, brown, and hearty, your
own men, straight from the glorious freedom of
their life in the veld? Can you realise the sensation
of shaking hands with them for the first time and
the atmosphere of wholesome unrestraint and unconscious
dignity which greeted you in their presence? Well,
I do, and it would be useless trying to tell any one
what it is like, for those who know will never forget,
and those who don’t will never understand.
In Mrs. Joubert’s drawing-room
they were waiting for their visitors next day, Captain
Naude and his private secretary, Mr. Greyling the
former a tall, fair man, slightly built and boyish-looking
and with a noble, intelligent face, the latter a mere
youth, but evidently shrewd and brave.
The first eager questions naturally
were for news of Fritz, the youngest of the van Warmelos
and the last remaining in the field since the capture
of his brother Dietlof in April of that year.
Mr. Greyling said that he had seen
Fritz a few weeks back in perfect health and in the
best of spirits, but barefoot and in rags. His
trousers were so tattered that he might as well have
been without, and Mr. Greyling had provided him with
another pair. With unkempt beard and long hair
he seemed to justify the jest about a “gorilla”
war with which some of our enemies amused themselves.
When the merriment occasioned by this
description of the young warrior had subsided, the
conversation turned on more serious matters.
The Captain had with him a full report
of the last conference held by the generals, and a
copy of the resolution passed by them and President
Steyn, a unanimous determination to stand together
until their independence had been secured. What
the ultimate destination of these documents was I
am not at liberty to say, but copies of them were
despatched, smuggled through in one way or another
to President Kruger.
Captain Naude also brought greetings
from General Botha and told Mrs. van Warmelo how pleased
the General had been with the news she had sent him
on a previous occasion.
In order to explain the nature of
the business which had brought the Captain into Pretoria
again, it will be necessary to turn our attention
for a moment to the matters referred to in the previous
chapter in connection with which he had once more risked
the dangers of a visit to the capital.
“Yes,” in answer to his
inquiries, “the dynamite has arrived and is at
Delagoa Bay. A sample will be brought to this
house to-day, with instructions for mixing it.”
This was glad news for the two men,
and Hansie soon after took her leave, promising to
come back in the course of the morning with the dynamite.
Her manner was rather mysterious,
and she took some unnecessary turns, to make sure
of not being followed, before she reached the house
where the dangerous article had been hidden. There
a brown-paper parcel was handed to her with a brief,
“Read the instructions and destroy them,”
and she was left alone in a quiet drawing-room.
On opening the parcel she found a
small bottle of yellowish powder, ostensibly a remedy
for colic, to be used in the way prescribed, and a
pot of paste purporting to be an excellent salve for
chapped hands. The two, when mixed together in
a certain way, made up one pound of dynamite and had
passed safely through the hands of the inspector of
goods on the frontier.
As Hansie was cycling back to Mrs.
Joubert’s house with her precious parcel, she
had to pass the Military Governor’s offices on
Church Square, and the thought occurred to her that
this was a fitting opportunity to interview General
Maxwell regarding her tour of inspection to the Concentration
Camps, and at the same time to procure a permit for
the Vocal Society to hold a charity concert.
“Why not go in now?” she
thought. “There is some fun in going to
see the Governor with one pound of dynamite in one’s
hands, and it would save me the trouble of coming
into town again. Another thing: if I am
being watched or followed, I am sure there can be nothing
like a visit to Government Buildings to disarm the
Arrived at the Governor’s office,
she noticed with some amusement that the urchin at
the door wrote on the card, under her name, “Nature
of business: permission to have a consort.”
(This was indeed to come later!)
The German Consul was engaged with
General Maxwell and Hansie had a long time to wait,
and when at last she was shown in she found the affable
Governor in a very bad temper and his A.D.C., Major
Hoskins, looking anything but comfortable.
The former shook hands and greeted
her with a curt, “Well, what is the matter with
“That is very unkind of you, General,”
“Why?” he demanded.
“Oh, because it sounds as if I trouble you every
“Well,” he answered, smiling slightly,
“what can I do for you?”
“That’s better, thank
you,” exclaimed Hansie cheerfully, and straightway
plunged into business.
With her mind dwelling on explosives
and Secret Service men, she reminded him of a promise
he had given her soon after her return from the Irene
Camp, that she should visit all the Camps in the Transvaal
and write reports for him, to be sent to London if
necessary, for publication in the Blue books.
“I have come to arrange with you about my tour,”
“Yes,” he answered.
“I have thought about it and will give you the
necessary permits and every facility. You will
travel at Government expense, and I will do all I
can to make your way easy, on one condition.
You must promise to give me a full and true report
of things exactly as you find them.”
Hansie was deeply touched by his confidence
in her truth, which she knew was not misplaced, and
gladly gave the promise he asked from her.
“What you are undertaking,”
he continued, “will not only be difficult, but
dangerous. The accommodation in the Camps will
probably be very bad, and what would you think of
a charge of dynamite under your train?”
Hansie glanced down at the parcel
on her lap and said something about thinking she would
The conversation was taking an unexpected
turn, and she longed to get away, but the Governor
still had much to say to her.
“You can safely visit all the
Camps except those in the north, in the Zoutpansberg
and Waterberg districts, and the one in Potchefstroom.”
("Boers ahead!” was Hansie’s mental comment.)
“And I don’t think you ought to go alone.
Have you thought of any one who could accompany you?”
“Yes,” Hansie replied.
“A friend of mine, Mrs. Stiemens, who nursed
with me at Irene, would like to go with me. She
is the right woman for such an undertaking, strong
and healthy and very cheerful.”
This suggestion meeting with the Governor’s
approval, it was arranged that they should visit the
camp at Middelburg first, and while they were preparing
for the tour he would notify their visit to the various
commandants and arrange about the permits.
Permission to hold a concert was instantly
granted, and she was on the point of leaving, when
he asked her whether she had heard of President Steyn’s
Yes, she had heard something, but
would like to know more about it.
With evident enjoyment he proceeded
to relate how the President had slept in Reitz, a
small, deserted village in the Free State, with twenty-seven
men, how they had stabled their horses and made themselves
generally comfortable for the night, how they were
surrounded and surprised by the English, who took all
their horses before the alarm could be given, how
the President escaped on a small pony, which was standing
unnoticed in the back yard, and how all the other
men were captured, General Cronje (the second), General
Wessels, General Fraser, and many other well-known
and prominent men. The President must have fled
in the open in nothing but a shirt, because all his
clothes and even his boots were left behind. In
his pockets were many valuable letters and documents.
Altogether this event must have given
the English great joy, but I think they forgot it
in their chagrin at the President’s escape, for
when Hansie openly rejoiced and blessed the “small
unnoticed pony,” expressing her great admiration
for the brave President, the Governor suddenly turned
crusty again and said he could not understand how any
one could admire a man who had been the ruin of his
“Poor old General!” Hansie
mused as she cycled slowly up to Mrs. Joubert’s
house, where the spies were waiting for her. “I
have never known him so quarrelsome and unkind.
I wonder what it could have been! The German
Consul’s visit or the President’s escape?
What a mercy that he knew nothing of ”
She cycled faster, suddenly remembering that it was
late and there was still much to do before the two
men could begin their perilous journey that night.
After she had handed the parcel over
to them, with verbal instructions for its use, she
bade them good-bye and went home to lunch.
That evening Mrs. van Warmelo took
important documents, of which we speak later, and
European newspaper cuttings to the Captain, with some
money for her tattered son, and a letter for him in
a disguised hand. No names were mentioned, and
in the event of the spies falling into the hands of
the enemy, nothing found on them could have incriminated
They were about to leave when she
arrived at Mrs. Joubert’s house.
Their preparations were conducted
in perfect silence, except for an occasional whispered
command, while outside, guard was kept by an alert
figure, slender and upright, the figure of the aged
hostess of the spies, who, it is said, was never visible
to the spies and never slept by day or night as long
as these men were being sheltered under her roof.
A brave and dauntless woman she was,
knowing no fear for herself, but filled with concern
for the fate of the men whose capture meant certain
death, for it was whispered in town that on the head
of Koos Naude, Captain of the Secret Service, a price
of L1,000 had been fixed.
The men left Pretoria that night for
the “nest” of the spies in the Skurvebergen,
west from Pretoria, and from there they proceeded to
where they expected to find the Generals.