“Was there no fear of betrayal
through the servants at Harmony?” I have often
been asked since the war, and this reminds me that
a short introduction to the other inmates of the property
will be necessary for the reader’s benefit and
The lower portion of Harmony, through
which the Aapies river runs, was occupied by Italian
gardeners, who employed a varying number of Kaffir
labourers in the extensive fruit and vegetable gardens.
The upper part, on which the house
stood, was entirely under Mrs. van Warmelo’s
management. No white servants were kept, the domestic
staff consisting of native gardeners, a stable-boy,
and a house-boy, neither was there a single female
domestic, either white or black, on the place.
One day a small white son of the soil
presented himself and asked for work.
Mrs. van Warmelo looked him up and
down and said she did not farm with children.
“What is your name?” Hansie asked.
There was no answer, and then she
noticed that the little stranger was staring straight
in front of him, while two great tears rolled slowly
down his cheeks.
This touched her, and she repeated
her question persuasively.
“Flippie,” he answered brokenly.
“Where is your mother?”
“And your father?”
“Fighting, with five sons.”
Then Hansie felt inclined to take
him in her arms and kiss him for his dead mother and
brave father and brothers.
She turned to her mother and whispered:
“Let Flippie stay. Make
some agreement with him and let us try him as errand-boy
or general help in the house and garden.”
Mrs. van Warmelo nodded and turned
again to him. The conversation which passed between
them is not recorded in Hansie’s diary, but
Flippie stayed, and within a week the Harmonites wondered
how they had managed to exist without him for so long.
He was as sharp as a needle, and,
though only thirteen years of age, he proved to be
a perfect “man” of business, rising early
every day to go to the morning market and gardening
with surprising energy and ambition.
This pleased Mrs. van Warmelo so much
that she gave him a plot of ground to cultivate for
himself, and he immediately set to work to plant vegetables,
spending every spare moment of the day in his
When Hansie laughingly said that she
hoped to be his first customer, he protested vehemently
against the idea of selling anything to her, and time
showed that he meant to keep his word.
All he had was given away with large-hearted
generosity and when he had nothing more to give, he
took all he required from other people!
Yes, I am afraid Flippie’s ideas
of honesty were curious in the extreme. He had
no idea of “mine and thine,” as we say
Arguments were of no avail, for Flippie
was the scornfullest little boy I ever came across
and knew everything better than his superiors.
Hansie set to work to study him, but
found it necessary to reconstruct her ideas of him
every day. Flippie baffled her at every turn.
One day she thought he would turn
out to be a genius, the next she declared positively
that he would come to the gallows, and the third she
wondered helplessly whether he could by any chance
Flippie could lie and deceive with
the most angelic face and could melt into tears on
the least provocation or whenever it suited his book
to do so.
A phrenologist would have delighted
in the study of that remarkable head.
The forehead receded and went on receding
until there was nothing left of it but a great lump
at the back of the head, and the little nose tilted
up at one in the most impertinent manner, which was
given the lie to by the drooping corners of the sensitive
mouth. What delighted one most was the sunny
temperament, the ringing, infectious laugh, the cheery
Surely Flippie was the merriest and
one of the most lovable little souls one could find
anywhere, and his ruling virtue always seemed to be
his unswerving loyalty and constant fidelity.
His heart seemed to be torn between
his sense of duty to the fearful and wonderful old
grandmother, who had taken the place of his dead mother
in what bringing-up he ever had, and his sense of gratitude
to his protectors at Harmony.
My story would not be complete without
a short sketch of this grandmother, for she played
a part of some importance in the events recorded here,
and was at all times a sore trial to the inmates of
We have no proof, but we think
that Flippie’s grandmother had a hand in the
undoing of the security and peace which reigned supreme
at Harmony before she came upon the scene.
Not that she ever lived on the property;
no, her home was a small tent, one of a number which
had been erected some little distance to the south
of Harmony on Avondale, on the property of Mr. Christian
Joubert, on the way to the “Fountains.”
These tents were largely occupied
by “handsuppers” and their families, amongst
whom were found a few Judas-Boers Boers
of the most dangerous type. That the life of
the loyal Boers in their midst was anything but a
bed of roses can very well be imagined, and we know
that bitterness and strife reigned supreme, for it
was an open secret that renegades, hirelings of the
enemy, held their dreaded sway over the inmates of
that small colony.
Flippie and his grandmother did not
belong to that degraded set, but the one was a thoughtless
child and the other an exceedingly suspicious and
inquisitive old woman, and that they were both used
as unsuspecting tools by their more designing fellows
I have not a shadow of doubt.
Mrs. van Warmelo and Hansie soon gave
the old granny the name of “Um-Ah,” for
her tongue had been paralysed by a “stroke”
twenty years back, and “Um-Ah,” was all
she was ever heard to say. It stood for yes and
no and for every imaginable question, being only varied
by the tone of voice in which it was said. Sometimes,
when she became excited or impatient, it was fired
off four or five times in quick succession.
This formidable old dame ruled Flippie
with a rod of iron, appropriating the whole of his
small salary every month and refusing to give him
so much as a sixpence. When Mrs. van Warmelo found
this out she stealthily added half a crown to his
earnings for his own use, and this the generous lad
regularly spent on sweets, cakes, and gingerbeer for
Even the chocolates and other good
things to which kind-hearted soldiers treated him
were laid as “trophies of the war” at his
granny’s feet, after he had vainly tried to induce
Hansie to partake of them.
“Um-Ah” had an inconvenient
way of dropping in at Harmony at all hours of the
day, ostensibly to see if Flippie was doing his work
well, but in reality to keep a watchful eye on the
other inmates. She seemed to be always looking
for something, and the time was soon to come when
this unpleasant propensity should become a source of
real danger to the van Warmelos.
Besides Flippie, there were two other
permanent members on the domestic staff a
gigantic native named Paulus, and a young Zulu who
went by the name of “Gentleman Jim” on
account of his dandified appearance and the aristocratic
“drawl” affected by him. American
darkies say, “Dere’s some folk dat is slow
but shua, and some dar is dat’s jes’
slow!” Well, Gentleman Jim was “jes’
slow.” He was the only one on the premises
who steadfastly refused to speak one word of Dutch,
although he perfectly understood everything said to
The result was that the dialogues
carried on between mistresses and servant were in
Dutch on one side and in English on the other, it
being one of the rules at Harmony to address all natives
either in their own tongue or in Dutch, never in English.
I may say here that even at the present
time it is customary with many Dutch South Africans
to employ no English-speaking natives, but rather
to engage the “raw” material, i.e.
those speaking neither Dutch nor English, because
they are, in nine cases out of ten, still unspoilt
by civilisation and have lost none of the awe and
respect with which they, in their native state, regard
the white man.
Gentleman Jim was the only exception
ever known at Harmony, and there was no lack of respect
in his manner; on the contrary, the flourish
with which he took off his hat and his slow and dignified,
“Good morning, little missie,” were well
worth seeing and a constant source of amusement to
Paulus, that magnificent specimen
of manhood in its natural state, was by no means the
least remarkable of the trio, and there was something
tragic too about his rugged personality.
He had been taken by the English in
the neighbourhood of Pretoria and brought into town
on the false suspicion of having been employed by
the Boers as a spy.
There being nothing found against
him in proof of this, he was set free in town and
allowed to seek employment, but, though he pleaded
hard, he could not obtain permission to return to his
home, where wife and children had been left in complete
uncertainty as to his fate.
This native was a converted heathen,
semi-civilised, but with the noblest instincts within
him developed on natural lines to a remarkable degree.
I have often longed to meet the missionary in whose
hands the moulding of this rare product of nature had
been carried out with so much success. Patience,
faith, devotion, and an awe amounting to veneration
for his white mistresses were among the most striking
qualities Paulus possessed.
There were hundreds of his stamp on
the farms all over the country, natives brought up
by the Dutch farmers and trained as useful servants
in their homes and in the fields, but it was rare indeed
for one of them to find his way into the towns.
Fate had been unkind in separating him from his dear
ones for so many months, and Paulus went through days
of melancholy and despair.
One day, when Hansie heard him sigh
more heavily than usual, she asked:
“Are you thinking of your wife and children,
“Oh yes, Nonnie, I am always
thinking of them, but I was thinking also how sad
it was to forget all my learning. I was getting
on so well with my reading and writing, and now I
find it so hard to go on by myself.”
“Oh, if that is all, Paulus,”
Hansie said cheerfully, “I can help you a lot.
Bring me your books this evening and let me hear you
The poor fellow’s look of gratitude
was touching to behold. He needed no second invitation,
and appeared that evening in his Sunday suit, with
a new shirt on, and his hands and face scrubbed with
soap and water until they shone like polished ebony.
A Dutch Bible, a book of hymns and
psalms, and a small spelling-book were all he possessed,
but Hansie found him further advanced than she had
expected, and wonderfully intelligent, and she soon
added a few simple reading-books to his small store.
Now and then she instructed him for
a short hour, and it was a pleasure to see the change
which came over him within a few weeks. Learning
became the joy of his life, and in his ambition to
get on he forgot much of his anxiety and distress
at the enforced separation from his wife and children.
One evening when Hansie had gone into
the kitchen to look over his work, there was a sudden
fumbling at the door and “Gentleman Jim”
stumbled in with a campstool under one arm and a slate
and Bible, an English one, under the other.
“Coming to learn too, little
missie,” he said, grinning from ear to ear and
settling himself comfortably on the stool.
Paulus bent over his writing and said
never a word. Hansie nodded uncomfortably.
That this self-invited pupil was unwelcome
was evident, but he himself seemed serenely unconscious
of the fact.
There was no love lost between Paulus
and “Gentleman Jim” not that
there had ever been an open rupture, but Paulus despised
the dandified Zulu, and “Jim” looked down
(figuratively speaking, for he was quite a foot shorter
in stature) on Paulus’s rugged simplicity.
They systematically ignored one another,
and were only heard to exchange brief sentences, in
English from Jim and in Dutch from Paulus, when necessity
compelled them to address one another, for Jim could
speak no Sesuto and Paulus knew neither Zulu nor English.
Their antipathy to one another was
so marked, in fact, that “Gentleman Jim”
refused to have his meals with Paulus and had built
a small kitchen apart for himself, under one of the
big willows. On this occasion Hansie did not
feel pleased at “Jim’s” appearance
either, for it was one thing to teach the self-contained
and reverent Sesuto, and quite another to instruct
the flippant “Gentleman Jim.”
But Hansie did not know what to say
and asked Jim to let her hear him read. He began
laboriously, floundering hopelessly over the long
“Fruits, meat and repentance,"
he read with painful uncertainty, when Hansie interrupted
him with a laugh:
“That will do, Jim; you are
wonderful, and you need not come again.”
Other natives on the premises were
of the shiftless, wandering type, changing hands continually,
and many were the instances of their simplicity, not
to say rank stupidity.
On one occasion a “raw”
Kaffir, on being ordered to take a heavily laden wheelbarrow
from one part of the garden to the other, was found
half an hour later, still in the same place, vainly
trying to place the wheelbarrow on his head!
I believe it was the same native who,
when told to empty the contents of a waste-paper basket
on a burning heap of rubbish in the garden, returned
without the basket, and when asked what he had done
with it, pointed, with an air of injured surprise,
to its smouldering remains on the heap of rubbish.
Indeed, the patience of the housewife
was often sorely tried. A relative of Mrs. van
Warmelo’s coming into the kitchen one morning,
found one of these new “hands” before the
stove in a sea of hot water, desperately trying to
fill a small kettle by the spout, from a large