There were so many events of importance
during the month of July 1901 that there is great
difficulty in choosing the right material from Hansie’s
No wonder that that period seems to
have been in a state of chaos, for the things to which
we attached the greatest importance “ended in
smoke,” and seemingly small incidents assumed
gigantic proportions before the glorious spring broke
over the country.
Hansie was busy preparing for her
tour of inspection through the Camps, though to tell
the truth she rather dreaded it, because she was far
from strong, but she realised that this was an opportunity
not to be despised.
General Maxwell frequently impressed
it on her that she was the only exception, that no
one else who had applied for leave to visit the Camps
had been granted permits it was against
the regulations, and he was only sending her because
he knew he could depend upon her. He wanted to
know the truth, and she, with her knowledge
of the country and people, would be better able to
draw up reports than any one else he knew.
Very flattering, but Hansie’s
heart sank when she thought of Irene.
What awaited her on this tour?
On July 27th, when she paid him her
last visit in connection with her passports, he asked
her, as she was on the point of leaving him, whether
she did not think the Boers ought to surrender now.
Now, Hansie had firmly made up her
mind not to be drawn into argument with him again,
but this question took her so much by surprise that
she flared out with:
“Don’t you think the English
ought to give in? Why should the Boers give in?
We are fighting for our own, and England is fighting
for what belongs to another. Why should England
not give in?”
With some asperity he answered:
“I suppose it is a question
of ‘Eendracht maakt Macht,’ or whatever
you call it.”
“Eendracht maakt Macht?”
she exclaimed. “I really fail to see the
“Well,” he answered, “isn’t
Might Right all the world over?”
“No, indeed!” she cried
vehemently. “Might is right in England,
and your motto is an apt one, but in South Africa
might is not right. Our motto, ‘Eendracht
maakt Macht,’ means ‘Unity is Strength.’”
The General seemed much surprised
and did not look pleased at her assurance that he
had been misinformed as to the correct translation he
had been told on “good authority” that
the Boer motto was the same as the English.
“If might had been right,”
she continued, “the war would have been over
long ago our poor little forces would have
been crushed but unity is glorious strength,
an inspired strength.”
Alas, alas, that she was so soon to
find out how a want of unity can bring disaster and
“It is very stupid to argue
with him. Surely he cannot expect to find my
views changing on account of the duration of the war!”
Now, whether this unfortunate conversation
had anything to do with the next developments I do
not know. I do not think so, for the Governor
was a broadminded and just man, not to be deterred
from his purpose by any small consideration, but the
fact remains that Hansie received a curt note from
him four days later, informing her that he had changed
his mind about allowing her to inspect the Camps, and
that all her permits had been cancelled. No word
of apology or regret, but a curt request to return
to him the passports and letters of introduction she
had received from him.
“Serves you right,” her
mother said, “for showing your enemy your hand.”
“Oh no,” Hansie said,
“I am positive that has nothing to do with it;
in fact, I don’t believe General Maxwell is responsible
for this at all. He is acting under orders, and
if I am not mistaken Lord Kitchener is at the bottom
of it. He has put down that awful foot of his,
mother, and there is nothing more to be done.”
van Warmelo looked grave “perhaps
they have found out something. I have often wondered
at finding myself still at large after the commotion
made about the petitions and the report of the Consuls.
I can’t forget how critical things seemed to
me when three Consuls came to Harmony late at night,
while you were at Irene, to warn me that the whole
detective force was on the track of the petitioners.
Poor Mr. Cinatti was frightfully excited and said that
it was his duty to see that his petitioners’
names did not become known. He warned me that
everything would be done to find us out, traps would
be set for us, and he advised me, if ever any one came
to Harmony and said that my name had been revealed,
I was to say No! No!! No!!! and he danced
about the room, striking his left hand with his clenched
right fist at every ‘No!’”
Hansie laughed and said, “There
is no fear of your being found out. The petitioners
won’t talk of that, you may be quite sure, and
all the Consuls are to be trusted.”
“What are you going to do about
this?” her mother asked, touching the General’s
“Oh, I am going to wait a few
days to make him ‘feel bad’ and then, I
suppose, I must return my passports to him.”
She waited three days, and then the
General’s behaviour strengthened her in her
belief that he was not to blame for the shabby way
in which he had treated her.
He was most penitent, begged her to
forgive him for having caused her so much inconvenience,
and said he had been “very weak” in entertaining
the idea of her visiting the Camps.
They talked about certain improvements
which Hansie had suggested, and on which she had intended
to lay much stress in her reports.
He promised that everything in his
power would be done to arrest the high mortality,
and, encouraged by his sympathetic attitude, she pleaded
for “poor Middelburg.”
“I have just been told that
there were 503 deaths in that Camp during last month
[July]. Can that be possible?”
“I am afraid it is only too
true,” he answered, sighing heavily. “The
people on the High Veld are very badly off during this
“Will you allow me to send the
warm clothing and blankets which I intended to distribute
in the Camps?” she asked.
“Certainly, the more the better.
Every facility will be afforded you in this.”
Hansie felt happier after this conversation
with the Governor, more convinced that something would
be done to alleviate the sufferings in the Camps.
Now, if our heroine had been allowed
to carry out her tour of inspection, she would have
been out of “mischief’s way” for
many months, and much of what I am about to relate
would not have taken place at all.
“Fair play is bonny play,”
and a breach of faith is bound, at some time or other,
to be followed by undesirable consequences.
Hansie made up her mind to serve her
country in another, perhaps better way, and in this
she was assisted by the resistless hand of Fate, as
we shall see in the following chapters.
That she was never “caught”
is a marvel indeed, for she was most reckless of danger.
There were a number of intimate and
trusted friends with whom she came into frequent contact,
but who had no idea of the work which was being carried
on at Harmony.
To these friends, however, she went
with her “reliable war news” (more especially
news brought into town by the spies, of the Boer victories)
when anything of importance became known, and in time
her friends found out that her news could always be
depended upon as reliable indeed, although they had
no inkling of the source whence it had been derived.
There was danger of her becoming altogether too “cocksure,”
when she was one day pulled up sharply by the following
Captain Naude was in town again, was,
if I remember rightly, under her very roof, when she
visited a man for whom she entertained feelings of
great affection and esteem, with the object of gladdening
his heart with news of a particularly gratifying nature
from the front.
He listened attentively, he asked
a number of questions, nodding with the greatest satisfaction
at her direct and definite replies.
“I must go,” Hansie exclaimed
suddenly, “I only came in for a few moments.
We have to see some friends off to-night.”
“Ah! Just wait a minute, please, will you?”
He hastened from the room, returning
shortly with a parcel which he placed in her hands
without a word.
“What is this?” she asked curiously.
“Five pounds of the best Boer tobacco.”
“For me?” in amazement.
He approached her and whispered in her ear:
“For the spy!”
Hansie fled from that house, laughing
as she went, and patting her parcel of tobacco rapturously.
“Oh, mother, wasn’t it funny of him?”
“Yes, but when will you learn
to be more careful? Hansie, you are frightfully
reckless. You will not listen to reason, I suppose,
until we find ourselves across the border and Harmony
The Captain was delighted with the
present and willingly added the extra five pounds
weight to his cumbrous and heavy burdens.
Somebody, leaving the country for
Holland, offered to take documents and letters from
the van Warmelos to the President on condition that
they could guarantee that he would not be “found
This offer came at a most opportune
moment, for there was information of the greatest
importance to be sent to Mr. W.T. Stead.
For some weeks past Mrs. van Warmelo
had been anxious to smuggle through to him copies
of the two petitions to the Consuls and a copy of
their report on the Concentration Camps. For this
the White Envelope was not considered satisfactory
enough the documents were too bulky and
the post during those days not to be depended upon.
The information, therefore, was written
on tissue paper (the usual method) and packed in a
small bottle of Dr. Williams’s Pink Pills, to
be handed to a relative of Mrs. van Warmelo’s
in Holland, with instructions that he should read
the contents and forward them without delay to Mr.
Stead for publication in the Review of Reviews.
The “medicine” was faithfully
delivered in Holland, but alas! the recipient, with
unheard-of presumption, after having read the documents,
decided in his own mind that they were not of sufficient
importance to be published in London and quietly kept
them to himself!
Kept them to himself, at a time when
their publication to the world would have been of
inestimable value to the Boers and would perhaps have
saved thousands of lives!
Of course this breach of trust was
not known at Harmony for many months not,
in fact, until so long after it took place that the
war was drawing to a close, and it was too late to
repeat the attempt.
When one thinks that but for one man’s
indifference to duty the report of the Consuls would
have been published in London at a time when all England
was shaken with the revelations made by Miss Hobhouse
and the agitation of the pro-Boers was at its height,
then one cannot help realising the futility of fighting
Not yet had the time of salvation
arrived for the victims of the Concentration Camps not
yet not until the toll of life had been
paid to the uttermost.
Other schemes for supplying that section
of the British public, desirous of being acquainted
with the truth, with trustworthy information
from South Africa, met with greater success, and I
relate the following instance for the sake of the
interesting circumstances connected with it, not for
its own sake, for obvious reasons.
Many of my readers will remember the
case of Mr. Spoelstra, a Hollander, which caused such
a commotion in the Transvaal during the war.
He wrote a long letter for publication
in Holland on the hardships and ill-treatment to which
the Boer women were subjected in transit from their
farms to the Concentration Camps, by the soldiers (chiefly,
I may mention here, the Canadian Scouts and Australian
Bushrangers, who were, however, all regarded as British
soldiers, these distinctions not being sufficiently
clear to the average South African).
This lengthy document Spoelstra confided
to the care of a man who was about to leave for Holland.
On the borders of Natal, the man,
on being cross-questioned by the inspector of goods,
became so confused and agitated that he brought suspicion
on himself, with the result that he was detained while
his luggage was thoroughly overhauled.
The unfortunate letter was found,
Spoelstra was arrested and immediately imprisoned
in the Pretoria Jail.
The Dutch Consul, Mr. Domela Nieuwenhuis,
on being appealed to, insisted on a public trial,
which was granted after some delay, Spoelstra being
allowed three days in which to procure his witnesses,
in Pretoria and in the small Camp in one of
the suburbs, not in Irene.
Notwithstanding the shortness of the
time and the restrictions placed upon him, he succeeded
in getting nearly thirty women to give evidence on
his behalf, and at his trial, which was publicly held,
revelations of a very startling nature were made.
The greatest indignation was felt
and freely expressed by the Dutch community when,
in spite of having proved his accusations beyond a
doubt, Spoelstra was fined L100 and sentenced to one
The fine was immediately paid by his friends.
Now, there was a brave Englishwoman,
Mrs. Bodde, married to a Hollander, who was shortly
leaving for England, who offered her services to Mrs.
van Warmelo if the latter wished to make the circumstances
of the case known to Mr. Stead. This was an exceedingly
plucky thing to do, for the examinations on the frontier
were much more severe than usual, after the discovery
of Spoelstra’s letter. Mrs. van Warmelo
therefore promised to take extra precautions in concealing
the articles she wished to send. After a great
deal of trouble she succeeded in getting a full report
of the Spoelstra trial, sixty large pages of closely
typed evidence on tissue paper, and with this valuable
material to dispose of Mrs. van Warmelo realised that
it would be necessary to exert the utmost ingenuity.
She asked her friend Mrs. Bodde whether
she would be taking a lunch-basket.
Certainly she would.
“Well,” Mrs. van Warmelo
said, “I will give you something for your lunch-basket,
if you will promise not to open it until you get to
She promised, and Mrs. van Warmelo
bought a tin of cocoa, a one-pound tin, unfastened
the paper wrapper carefully, then damped the paper
round the lid until it could be folded back without
being damaged, removed the lid and pulled out the
paper bag containing the cocoa. This bag she
unfastened at the bottom, shook out fully two-thirds
of the cocoa and filled up the empty space with the
tightly rolled packet containing the documents, replacing
the whole in the tin, cocoa side up, of course, and
pasting down the paper wrapper over the lid to make
it look like new.
Although there was very little cocoa
in the tin, it was found to weigh exactly one pound
Arrangements were then made with Mrs.
Bodde for her future correspondence on the subject
with Mrs. van Warmelo, and in due time the latter
received a note from Mrs. Bodde announcing her safe
arrival in London and saying that her friend Mrs.
Brown (Mr. Stead) had received her (the documents)
with open arms. She was not going to live in
Mrs. Brown’s house as she had intended (the documents
would not be published in the Review of Reviews),
but she was going into a house of her own (they would
appear in pamphlet form).
This was good news indeed, and now
my readers know how it came about that the sensational
Spoelstra case was published in London in pamphlet
form (in three successive pamphlets, for the evidence
was found to be too bulky for one) during the war.
The first pamphlet reached Harmony in safety through
the post, the second and third, though duly dispatched,
failed to reach their destination, but nobody at Harmony
minded. The great object had been achieved.
Hansie, going to the post one day,
took out of her letter-box a small flat book, addressed
to “Mrs. Wentworth, Box 56.”
She was about to throw it back into
the Post Office, with “not 56”
scribbled on it, when her eyes fell on the English
postmark, Tunbridge Wells, and she stayed her hand
Tunbridge Wells was the address of
the brave Englishwoman, the great pro-Boer, and the
package when opened was found to contain a copy of
Methuen’s Peace or War in South Africa,
which was first “devoured” at Harmony
and by other people in Pretoria and was then sent out
to the commandos by the spies, to be read and reread
by the burghers until there was nothing left of it
except a few tattered pages.
Soon after the publication of the
Spoelstra case there was some excitement in Pretoria
about the appearance in the Westminster Gazette
of a long article on the Irene Concentration Camp.
The writer, who gave each detail with great accuracy,
seemed to have personal knowledge and experience of
the Camp, and it was not surprising that Hansie should
have been taxed with it on every side.
The Consuls spoke to her direct, advising
her to be more careful of her facts, and Mr. Cinatti,
when she assured him of her innocence (?), said with
huge delight, in his funny, broken English:
“Never mind, my dear little
sing, you need not confess to us but
are you good at guessing riddles?”
“Well, dis one won’t
trouble you much. What is dis? It is
small and oblong and white, and it was laid by a hen?”
“An egg,” Hansie answered innocently.
He shouted with laughter.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, we are just as sure dat
Miss van Warmelo wrote dat article. And if you
want to see your work in print I’ll bring it
round dis very afternoon.”
“I should like very much to see it,” she
That afternoon, just before Mr. Cinatti
was expected, Gentleman Jim killed a big snake in
his room, and Hansie, thinking to give her funny friend
a fright for misdoubting her word, “arranged”
the corpse on the steps of the front verandah, hiding
the mutilated head under the leaves of the violet
But the Consul came late, and other
visitors before him heralded their arrival by shrieks
and jumps, to the great delight of the mischievous
“You are a very pranky little
sing,” Mr. Cinatti said, flourishing the Westminster
Gazette before her eyes, “and den you want
us not to believe dat you wrote dis.”
And indeed, when Hansie glanced through
the article, she found it difficult to maintain that
she had not written it, for there were all her “pet”
cases of overcrowding and underfeeding, her statistics,
and the very terms she was in the habit of using when
speaking of the volunteer nurses. She called
them a “set of agitators,” in sarcastic
imitation of the Commandant’s favourite expression.
The only explanation to the affair
could be that Mr. Stead, or perhaps Mrs. Bodde, had
made use of the facts contained in one of Hansie’s
smuggled letters, and in that case she could naturally
be held responsible. She was advised by loving
friends to keep her boxes ready packed for a speedy
departure, “for when the warning comes you will
not be allowed much time to pack.”
But she disregarded all warnings,
except to take extra precautions for the safety of