Thank God for the early rains!
After the long winter months, dry
and dusty, terrific storms pass over the country,
torrents of rain, lashing hailstones. The beautiful
world is washed clean, and everywhere the moist brown
earth gives promise of a plentiful supply of fresh
young grass, which means food for the weary underfed
horses on commando, and new life, new hopes to the
Only the middle of August and already
the first summer rains are falling!
Thank God again!
The cruel strain of anxious thought
for our heroes in the field can be relaxed for a moment,
and we turn our energies with redoubled vigour and
strengthened faith to the task at our hand. Heaven
knows that we shall require all the courage we possess
to face the impending disasters, of which the shadows
have already fallen on our hearts.
One morning the disconcerting news
reached Harmony that Mrs. Naude’s house had
been surrounded by armed soldiers at break of day and
that she had been taken away with her child, in a
waggon, no one knew where.
The empty house was being closely watched.
Did the enemy really think that the
sagacious Captain of the Secret Service would walk
into the trap some fine evening, there to meet with
certain destruction? Evidently, for the house
was guarded night and day.
August 5th brought new sensation and
fresh material for thought and conversation.
There had been a brief lull in the
adventures, and all were of opinion that as long as
this spell of vigilance lasted no spies would enter
the town. It therefore came as a surprise when
our little friend with the walking-stick was to be
seen coming up the garden path of Harmony, wearing
that air of happy mystery so familiar to his fellow-workers.
The spies had come at last, not the
Captain himself, but his secretary, Mr. Greyling,
with two other men named Nel and Els, on an important
and extremely dangerous mission.
They had arrived too late to be brought
out to Harmony, but they were staying with Mrs. Joubert,
and, if they were successful in obtaining the help
they required, their intention was to leave again that
At this point in the visitor’s
narrative, Hansie, who had been engaged in making
butter, came in with an expectant look. Mr. Botha
motioned her to draw nearer, and in hurried whispers,
although there was no one in the room but themselves,
told them that these men had been sent to procure
a copy of the secret railway time-table, an official
book containing full detailed information of the military
trains, provision and ammunition trains,
in fact, laden with clothing and everything required
by the military. The women looked at one another
and smiled at the audacity of the request. They
had never heard of such a time-table and might as
well have been asked to send the moon to the front.
But their visitor was very grave.
This was no child’s play, but
a very serious matter, for a great deal depended on
the securing of that book.
The horses on commando were in a very
poor condition after the hard winter, and the men
had no clothes to speak of. So it was absolutely
necessary that they should have their stock reinforced
by the capture of some of the enemy’s trains.
Mrs. van Warmelo promised to do her
best, but gave her visitor little hope of success.
Soon after he left, a carriage drove
up with Mrs. Joubert, her son “Jannie,”
and her married daughter, Mrs. Malan.
Their mission was the same as Mr.
Botha’s, the secret time-table, and Mr. Jannie,
as he drew Hansie aside, urged her to do all in her
power to procure a copy of this valuable book.
The same ground was gone over, with the same result,
“We can but try.” That whole morning
was spent in seeing different people, trusted friends,
on the subject, and everywhere Hansie and her mother
were met with the same objections. Most people
had never heard of this time-table, and those who knew
of its existence, were convinced that it would be
quite impossible to get a sight of it, as it was in
the hands of officials only.
The afternoon again was spent in roaming
disconsolately about the streets of Pretoria, weary
Suddenly Hansie exclaimed:
“Oh mamma, how stupid we have
been! Why, we never thought of D. He is the only
one who can help us. Let us go to him.”
Mrs. van Warmelo’s tired face beamed at her
“Of course, but I dare
not go to him direct that would be indiscreet
indeed. Let us send some one for him.”
“F.?” Hansie suggested.
“Yes, he would do.”
They were walking rapidly to an office
on Church Square, when they met the very man they
were in search of.
“This is wonderful!” Hansie
exclaimed. “We were just going to ask F.
to call on you, as we have a great request to make.”
Talking in rapid whispers, the trio
walked across the Square. The man’s face
was inscrutable at first, but his curt and business-like
way soon gave place to a look of thoughtful contemplation.
“This is about the most unheard-of
request that has ever been made to me. I know
the book exists, but I have never seen it I
shall have to think about this. When must you
“Before six o’clock this evening,”
“Will you leave me now?”
he said. “I must think. If by any chance
I am able to procure a copy, you will find it under
your front door between 5 and 6 o’clock.”
Well satisfied, the two ladies proceeded
on their way home, when they were met by Consul Nieuwenhuis,
who invited them to have tea with him at Frascati’s.
Hansie looked at her mother.
“I think we have earned it don’t
Mrs. van Warmelo nodded and laughed.
Arrived at Frascati’s they found
a regular gathering of the Consuls, gaily chatting
while they partook of the good things set before them.
“Oh, mother!” Hansie said
regretfully, when they had parted from their friends.
“What a pity we could not tell them anything!
How they would have enjoyed sharing our sensations!
I can tear the very hair out of my head at having
to keep all these adventures to myself!”
They then went to Mrs. Joubert’s
house to tell the spies that there was just a chance
that one of the people they had seen that day would
get the time-table for them.
Mrs. van Warmelo, with her usual prudent
forethought, asked to see Mr. Greyling only, knowing
that it was safer to deal with one man than with several,
so she was shown into the drawing-room while he was
being brought from some unknown back region, with much
caution and bolting of doors and drawing of blinds.
It was amusing, when he entered the room, to see him
going straight up to Mrs. Joubert and shaking her
heartily by the hand. As a matter of fact, these
enterprising young men enjoyed her hospitality, slept
under her roof, and partook of the food she secretly
prepared for them without ever setting eyes on their
She was not supposed to know of their
existence, and as she was close and silent as the
grave, no one ever got anything in the way of information
out of her.
It was good to see Mr. Greyling again.
He said that Captain Naude was with
General Botha near the Middelburg line and had been
prevented from coming into town that month.
Very little fighting was being done
on account of the poor condition of their horses after
the severe winter. The men were in splendid health,
and the same spirit of determination and courage which
had always characterised them possessed them still.
Mr. Greyling and his comrades had
come in under some difficulties. They had been
escorted on horseback as far as Eerste Fabrieken on
the North-east Railway, when they had nearly run into
the enemy’s lines. They altered their course
and rode to Irene, hiding themselves and fastening
their horses in a clump of thorn trees, where they
remained until nightfall.
On their way to Pretoria in the darkness,
Mr. Greyling’s horse fell into a hole, throwing
him out of the saddle, but his foot caught in the
stirrup and he was dragged about forty yards, bruising
his head and severely wrenching his ankle. Although
by no means fit for the journey, he was determined
to go back that night, because the friends who were
waiting for him with his horse did so at the utmost
risk of their lives. The best news he brought
was that the Boers had retaken the Skurvebergen and
that it was again the centre of the Secret Service.
Three of the Boers had fallen there during the fight.
Although he fully appreciated the
obstacles in the way of procuring a time-table, he
said he felt he could hardly go back to the commandos
without it. His instructions had been very explicit.
Whether she found the time-table at
Harmony or not, Hansie promised to come back that
evening, with the European and Colonial newspaper-cuttings,
so eagerly sought after by the men on commando.
Arrived at Harmony at about 5.15,
Hansie could conceal her impatience no longer, but,
running up the garden-path, she threw open the front
door with a flourish, and behold, a small flat parcel
on the floor, a book wrapped carelessly in a bit of
white paper! The secret time-table!
She only had it in her hands for a
moment, but one thing she will ever remember, the
slate-coloured cover and the thick red letters heavily
For the use of officers
and officials only.
The excited women looked at it as
if fascinated, turning the leaves over slowly and
murmuring blessings on his head.
“Look here,” Mrs. van
Warmelo whispered, “here we have the meanings
of the different signals, and here the different engine-whistles
are explained. Every ‘toot’ has a
meaning, Hansie ” But Hansie
had flown to her room to don her cycling dress, and
was soon on her way, guarded by her faithful dog.
On reaching her destination she was again shown into
the drawing-room, but Mrs. Joubert came to her and
asked in a whisper whether she would not like to go
to the room.
Need I say that she jumped at the suggestion?
Away with caution, to the winds with
prudence and reflection! Was not the mother safe
at Harmony and her wise counsels forgotten?
Hansie was led silently through mysterious
corridors into the open back-yard, by a mute figure
This figure pointed to a door and
disappeared, and at the same time another figure rose
from Hansie knew not where, and stood sentinel over
the gate leading into the street.
She ran up the steps and rapped smartly
at the door, turning the handle after a moment and
walking in, to the evident consternation of the three
young men inside. There was a general scuffle,
followed by a laugh of relief, when her figure became
visible through the heavy clouds of smoke which filled
Mr. Greyling came forward to meet
her and introduced the other men, who shook her hand
until it ached.
It was quite evident that the sight
of a young lady was a wonderful and most welcome thing
Hansie took Mr. Greyling aside and
handed him the packet with strict injunctions not
to mention her name on commando, for it was a well-known
fact that there were traitors in the field, who lost
no opportunity of conveying information to the British.
She did not tell him how the book had come into her
possession, although his surprise and curiosity were
plainly visible, and the worst that could have happened,
had he fallen into the hands of the enemy and turned
King’s evidence, would have been the betrayal
of her name.
The other men were clamouring for
a hearing, so she turned to them and inspected the
huge brown-paper parcels containing clothing, etc.,
to which they drew her attention and which they were
about to convey to the commandos.
One of them, with a look of comical
despair, was shaking his head, while he counted the
parcels on his fingers. The other showed Hansie
how impossible it was for him to fasten his coat and
waistcoat, for he had on three woollen shirts and
three pairs of trousers, of different sizes.
So had the other two, and Hansie could not refrain
from expressing her amazement at their being so heavily
laden on an expedition so perilous.
But, in high spirits, they laughed at her fears.
They had done the same thing before.
One said it was his seventh visit, another said it
was his third, and they so evidently enjoyed their
adventures that one felt they were to be envied rather
They parted in fun and high good-humour,
but Hansie’s heart was wrung with many a pang,
and many a deep and earnest prayer for their protection
was sent up by her that night.
“I wish you could have seen
that room, mother,” Hansie exclaimed as they
sat in their cosy dining-room, discussing the events
of the day. “It was filled with so much
smoke that I could hardly breathe, and it was littered
with papers and cups and plates. They wanted me
to sit down and chat with them.”
“I am surprised you did not,” her mother
“Well, you see, I had no lamp
and I was afraid I should be arrested, and besides,
you would have been terrified to death, thinking I
was in the hands of the English with that precious