It was at the time when the northern
territories were being swept by the enemy for the
first time that Mrs. van Warmelo heard that a relative
of hers had been put over the border, and was staying
with her husband at the Grand Hotel in Pretoria.
She therefore asked Hansie to call
at the hotel to inquire whether she could be of any
assistance to them in their trouble, and Hansie donned
her prettiest frock that very afternoon on her “calling”
expedition, Carlo walking with unusual sedateness
by her side.
“We’ll go and see General
Maxwell too this afternoon, Carlo,” she said,
“and see whether we can get that permit.
Always put on your best clothes when you go to the
Military Governor, my boy. You’ll find that
Tommy Atkins never keeps you waiting then.”
Arrived at the hotel, she suddenly
remembered that she had forgotten her young relative’s
name, and did not know whom to ask for.
She was waited upon by a hall-porter,
who watched her with a face of stolid patience while
she searched her memory for the forgotten name.
At last she said: “The
lady I want was a Miss Mare, but she has married an
Englishman since last I saw her, and I have forgotten
his name. Can you tell me whether there is a
young couple with a baby, from Zoutpansberg, staying
at the hotel?”
“I’ll find out, miss.”
He came back with the information
that there were four young couples from Zoutpansberg,
each with a baby.
Hansie wondered that he did not smile.
“Are they all in?” she asked.
“Some are in and some are out,” he said.
Suddenly he seemed to wake up.
“Would it be any help if I told you their names?”
“Yes, indeed,” she exclaimed;
“I would know the name at once if I heard it.”
He brought her the book in which the
names of visitors were entered, and read one name
after the other slowly.
“That’s it,” Hansie said. “Knevitt!
Is Mrs. Knevitt in?”
“No, miss, she is out, and I
happen to know that she is leaving again soon.
They only arrived yesterday. They were put over
the border by the Boers.”
“I don’t understand,” Hansie answered.
“Don’t you see, miss?
The Boers are still in possession of Pietersburg,
and Mr. Knevitt, as a British subject, has been put
over the border.”
“Oh yes, I see. Well, will
you please give these cards to Mrs. Knevitt when she
Once on the street, Hansie again addressed
herself to her faithful companion:
“It is not hard to believe that
the world is turning round, Carlo, when one has to
believe that Pretoria is the other side of one’s
own border. I wonder what our next sensation
is to be.”
She was soon to find out.
The Military Governor was engaged,
and she was shown into the office of an under official,
a tall, fair man whose name she did not catch.
She was politely asked to take a seat
and the nature of her business inquired into.
The tall, fair man bent over some
papers he had before him and toyed with a gold pencil,
while she stated her case as clearly and concisely
as she could.
He asked her a few questions, with
long pauses in between, and again bent over his papers,
making pencil marks and turning the pages over slowly.
The silvery chime of a tiny clock
told the hour of five.
“You er will have some
“No, thank you,” surprised.
A moment’s silence, then he
pressed an electric bell at his right hand.
An immaculate “Buttons” instantly appeared.
“Tea for two,” the officer commanded,
without raising his head.
Buttons disappeared, to return in
an incredibly short time, bearing aloft a well-appointed
When he had withdrawn, the hospitable
officer, of whom it could well be said that “he
had a teapot in his soul,” poured out two cups
of tea with an abstracted air, pushed one towards
Hansie with his right hand, while he slowly stirred
his own with his left.
“Have some tea,” he said persuasively.
There was no answer, and he again
bent over the work with which he was occupied.
Hansie got up quietly and left the
room, but she had not gone many yards in the long
corridor before she became aware of hurried footsteps
It was the tall officer, very straight
now, who called out to her:
“Stop, stop a moment. Where are you going?”
Without turning round she replied:
“To General Maxwell. He
never keeps me waiting,” and walked on
“Don’t go,” he implored.
“Come back to my office. I have your permits
quite ready for you. I was busy with them all
She turned round slowly and walked
back with him to his office.
“Thank you very much,”
she said as she took the papers from his hand.
He opened the door for her with exaggerated
courtesy, and she went on her way, brimming over with
“I missed two teas this afternoon,
but I got my permits and came off with flying colours,”
she confided to her dumb companion. “Let
us go home and tell the mother all about it, Carlo