Uninterrupted communication had once
more been established between the conspirators, and
all was going well.
So it seemed!
But the Prince of Darkness was at
work. And with him an accursed band of Judas-Boers.
How can I tell the tale? How
force into the background of my mind and soul the
unspeakable horror with which all my being is filled
when I contemplate this aspect of the war, in order
to collect my thoughts sufficiently to find the words
That week the town was full of spies.
Captain Naude had come in on Thursday
night and was to leave again on Saturday night.
Another spy, young Delport, a brave and reckless youth,
was also in the capital, “recruiting” men
to take out with him to commando.
That Saturday night, as Mr. Botha
was on the point of leaving his home for the Captain’s
place of refuge, from where he had to “see him
off,” as arranged, Mrs. Krause arrived at his
house in some agitation and said that her husband
had just come in and wished to see Mr. Botha.
Krause was suffering from an exceedingly painful whitlow
in the thumb of his left hand, she said, and he had
come to see a doctor and to have the whitlow cut.
She implored Mr. Botha and his neighbour Mr. Hocke
to come without delay, and to be present when the operation
had to be performed.
With all the speed he could Mr. Botha
hurried to the house in which Captain Naude was waiting,
explained the case of Krause to him and took a warm
and hearty leave, kneeling with him for a few moments
first, as was his wont, in earnest prayer to God for
the protection of the traveller.
He then called for Mr. Hocke, and
the two men hurried to Mr. Krause’s house in
Prinsloo Street, where they found the doctor (a man
initiated in all the mysteries of Boer espionage and
a trusted friend) on the point of performing the small,
though painful operation.
When it was over, Mr. Botha, prompted
Heaven only knows by what foreshadowing of disaster,
gave his friend a serious lecture on the dangers of
“How can you go about the town
so much in broad daylight, whenever you come in?”
he asked. “Always on that bicycle of yours!
Surely you must know that you expose yourself to untold
“Oh, I could not always stay
indoors! The house is far too close,” the
patient exclaimed, nursing his lacerated thumb.
Mr. Botha urged him to leave on Sunday
night, not to remain longer than was necessary, and
to take with him a young German, who had been wounded
and was now convalescent, after having been concealed
and nursed for many months by trusty friends in town.
And another warning he impressed upon
him with unusual earnestness:
“Whatever you do, Krause, don’t
associate yourself with the party leaving under young
Delport’s guidance. I fear that there is
something terribly wrong. He is going out with
far too large a number, fifty men in all, he told
me yesterday, and something warns me that amongst the
men there are detectives on the English side.
Delport is young and very reckless, and the thought
of the great number going out with him this time has
made me more anxious than I can say.”
Krause produced his revolver from
an inside pocket, and declared that before he surrendered
himself a prisoner more than one British soldier would
be killed or wounded by him.
With a heavy heart and many sad forebodings,
Mr. Botha left him. For he remembered, with increasing
anxiety, a visit he had had from Delport, when the
latter had asked for his assistance in getting his
men fifty, as he had said safely
through the town.
Mr. Botha had refused at the time,
pretending that he had never taken part in such proceedings,
and warning the young man that the game he was about
to play was hazardous in the extreme.
“If you must go out with
those men, leave on Monday night, when the others
have escaped in safety,” was his last advice
Unfortunately, Fate decreed that Krause
and Delport should meet accidentally on Sunday morning,
the day after Mr. Botha’s warning to Krause.
Together the two men, flinging caution
to the winds, or perhaps in their enthusiasm entirely
forgetting the wise counsel of their friend, laid
their heads together, and agreed to meet at a certain
point that night, Krause with the wounded German and
two or three of his most faithful friends, and Delport
with his party of fifty men.
As Mr. Botha, with strange intuition,
had predicted, there were dastardly traitors in that
group of fifty men Judas-Boers who,
under the pretence of seeking an opportunity of joining
the burgher forces, had persuaded Delport to allow
them to accompany him. That he was innocent
in this black crime of hideous treachery, no one who
knew him ever had a doubt.
At the appointed place the two men
met. Farther on they were joined by the wounded
German and his comrades; still farther, beyond the
boundary of the town, under a cluster of trees, well
known to them as a secret trysting-place, the large
party had assembled one by one and was awaiting the
arrival of its leaders.
The latter, seeing in the distance
a group of moving figures which they took to be their
friends, walked boldly and serenely forward to
find themselves a moment later in a most deadly trap!
The conflict must have been a desperate one!
He who played so brave a part in it,
Krause, the only armed man on his side, shot down
his opponents one by one, until they closed on him,
and then, overpowered by the fearful odds and battered
beyond recognition by heavy blows from the butt-ends
of their guns, he was at last pinioned to the ground
by his infuriated captors.
Three men were taken, Krause, Venter
(a mere boy, the son of a widow in Pretoria), and
one other who must be nameless here.
Of the rest some fled into the open
veld, while others, hopelessly ignorant of their surroundings
or of the route to take, wisely returned to town under
cover of the darkness of the night.
With one exception. Fritz W.,
the wounded German, lost his way and was unable to
go back to town before the curfew-bell, the hour at
which every resident was supposed to be indoors.
Finding himself near a small camp
of soldiers in the vicinity of the Pretoria West Station,
he cautiously crept into one of the tents, where he
found a solitary soldier, sound asleep. Without
a moment’s hesitation, he stretched himself
down on the ground beside him, thinking over the tragic
events of that awful Sunday evening and dozing off
at intervals, from sheer exhaustion of mind and body.
During the night another soldier,
evidently returning from duty as guard or outpost,
entered the tent and lay beside him on the other side.
So he spent the night between two
British soldiers, and with the first approach of dawn
he cautiously and stealthily extricated himself from
his perilous position and made his way to town.
Three or four days after the perfidious
betrayal of the Secret Service men the Committee was
staggered with the tidings of the execution of their
comrades, Krause and Venter, in the prison-yard of
the old Pretoria jail.
The third, the nameless one, had,
it was said, saved himself by turning King’s
Of their last days on earth nothing
will ever be known, but those of us blessed or cursed
with the divine and cruel gift of imagination see
in our mind’s eye two men in prison-cells in
solitary confinement, one a broken-hearted husband,
the other the beloved son of a widowed mother.
Wounded and suffering they lie on
their last bed of pain. Friendless and alone
they await the untimely end of their brief but glorious
career. Longing, with all the weakness of the
human heart, for one last look of love, one reassuring
clasp from a tender woman’s hand, they prepare
themselves to meet the death they have faced so often
and so manfully in their heroic struggle for liberty
No a thousand times, No!
Could there have been fear or despair
in the hearts of those two men, with the knowledge
beating in their brains that they held their lives
in their own hands, that one word from them of information
against their fellow-workers could avert their doom,
and that they, and they alone, could save themselves
at the sacrifice of honour and fidelity?
How in the end they met their fate
we do not know we can but dimly guess.
The painful task of acquainting Mrs.
Krause with the fate of her husband fell to the lot
of Mr. Botha and Mr. Hocke.
As she would probably be destitute,
the two men decided to collect a sum of money before
approaching her with their evil tidings, and this
they had to do by stealth, in order not to bring suspicion
They were successful in obtaining
over L34 for the bereaved wife in a very short time,
from friends and sympathisers as poor as they themselves,
and later, from the same source, in the same unostentatious
way, a far larger amount was collected in order to
send the widow to her relatives in Germany.
These details, mundane though they
may appear after the stirring acts of heroism described
above, are significant of greater things self-sacrificing
generosity, unswerving loyalty, and a compassionate
desire to atone, in some practical and helpful way,
for their share in the disaster brought on innocent
and helpless womanhood.