Hansie was one of those unfortunate
women who cannot cry, but I believe she cried that
night when the awful strain was over, the house quiet
and deserted, and the feeling of “nothing to
do but wait” creeping over her.
She and her mother lay for hours listening
for sounds of commotion in the suburb, following in
spirit the brave men on their route to the free veld,
so perilous and insecure, watching and praying for
At last Hansie fell into a heavy,
unrefreshing sleep, from which she was roused in the
early dawn by her mother’s voice, hurried and
“Hansie, Hansie, come here quick!”
“Where, mother? Where are you?”
“In the dining-room! Come at once, come
Hansie sprang out of bed, alarmed
and now thoroughly roused, and ran into the dining-room,
where she found her mother concealing herself behind
the lace curtains and cautiously looking out of the
window to the Military Camp.
She half turned as her daughter approached
and said in a whisper: “Don’t show
yourself. Look, Hansie, we have been betrayed.
Our house is suspected. See how it is being watched.”
Hansie looked and looked again.
There was no doubt of it.
The sergeant was in excited conversation
with a man on horseback, well known to Hansie by sight
as a detective in plain clothes. Here and there
the soldiers were grouped around other private detectives,
on horseback and on foot, talking and gesticulating
and pointing to the house in wild excitement.
What struck Hansie as almost ludicrous, even at that
moment, was the unbounded astonishment betrayed
Their looks and gestures spoke as
plainly as the plainest words: “Can it
be possible? Has that been going on under our
noses? And pray, how long?”
“There is no doubt about it.
We and our house have been betrayed. But cheer
up, mother; forewarned is forearmed. Oh, silly
fools, to give away their game like that!”
“They have not seen us yet,
Hansie. They think we are asleep.”
“Even so, the servants are about. Oh, mother!”
“Go and get dressed, Hansie,
and let us behave exactly the same as usual.
All we can do now is to see that we do not betray that
we know we have been betrayed. How do
you think this has come about?”
“The crowd under the willows last night?”
They looked at one another inquiringly and slowly
shook their heads.
Good reader, after more than ten years,
when they talk about this period of their lives, they
still look inquiringly at one another and slowly shake
Who could it have been? How did it come about?
When Hansie went out into the garden
an hour or so later to gather roses for the table,
Harmony was flooded with the exquisite morning sun,
the birds were twittering and bickering among themselves,
and Carlo sprang up to meet her, barking an affectionate
“good morning,” as he playfully capered
round his mistress.
As she stooped down to pat him she
glanced through her hair to the camp, where some of
the men were bending over their camp-fires and others
were rubbing down and feeding their horses.
Will you believe it? At the first
sight of the girl every man dropped his work, stood
up straight and stared at her in open-mouthed astonishment
as if he had never seen her before. They even
got together again in little groups of twos and threes
and began talking rapidly to one another. Their
amazement, their consternation was so obvious that
Hansie found it difficult to pretend that she saw nothing
unusual in their behaviour, and when she joined her
mother at the breakfast-table and told her what a
commotion her appearance had created, Mrs. van Warmelo
said: “It is the same with me. Wherever
I show myself under the verandahs or in the garden,
I am met with stares that can only be described as
“And that, after all the months
they have spent within earshot of all that went on
at Harmony! Why, mother, those men have never
lifted their heads when we have passed them for a
year and more, they had got so used to us, but now !”
She went on more seriously:
“We can never be thankful enough
that you found this out in time. The members
of the Committee must be warned not to come to Harmony,
but we must invite lots of other people. Let
us give a few fruit parties and musical evenings for
the young people, and above all, let us invite the
Consuls and their families.” Hansie was
feeling hopeful, buoyed up by the unlooked-for privilege
of having been put on her guard, but Mrs. van Warmelo
was silent and depressed.
“I am thinking about the spies,”
she said at last. “How can we ever harbour
them here again? How can we let them know that
Harmony is being watched? How shall we get through
the anxiety and suspense when we begin to expect them
again? Naude’s last words to me were, ’We
shall be with you four weeks from now, when the moon
is young again.’”
Hansie looked thoughtful, but brightened
up again immediately.
“We have always the sign on
the gatepost to fall back on, you know, mother dear,
but I hope it won’t be necessary to put that
up. In the meantime let us watch developments.
We have nothing to be anxious about yet, and
when the time comes we shall know what to do.
Just think how terrible it would have been if this
had happened yesterday while Naude was in the house!”
But poor Mrs. van Warmelo could not
shake off her gloom, and Hansie, who, strange to say,
was usually most hopeful and strong in the presence
of depressed folk, but pessimistic and downhearted
when others were most bright, sighed for once and
allowed herself to be cast down by her mother’s
They realised that an anxious time
was before them, their worst fear being that Naude
and his companions had been captured the previous
night and that some time would probably elapse before
they knew with any certainty what his fate had been.
That they were safe in his hands they
never doubted for a moment, but there were too many
others, practically unknown to them, concerned in
this enterprise, and every conspirator more added to
the list made their own position less secure.
“I think I must go to Mrs. Joubert
this afternoon, mother, to see if I can get hold of
van der Westhuizen. Perhaps he can throw
some light on the subject. At any rate he will
be able to tell us whether he parted from Naude under
favourable conditions last night.”
“Do that,” Mrs. van Warmelo
answered, “if you can make sure beforehand of
not being watched. Don’t go to that house
if you have any reason to think you are being followed.
We are on the black list now, but that makes it all
the more necessary for us to protect our friends.”
“Yes, mother; but the Jouberts
have been under suspicion so long and have so successfully
escaped detection that I am sure their names have
long since been removed from the black list.”
“Don’t be too sure.
Jannie’s transportation was not a sign of the
cessation of hostilities. The enemy is not asleep,
but merely slumbering, as far as they are concerned that
is, if this thing” (waving her hand over Harmony)
“has not roused him completely.”
All day long, and in fact for many
days after, an unusual commotion was apparent in the
Detectives could be seen coming and
going, little groups of soldiers clustered together,
and even “Judas-Boers” made their appearance
on the lower portion of Harmony, examining the ground
and following the tracks made by the spies in their
escape from the town.
Beyond that the van Warmelos could
not follow their investigations, and whether they
found conclusive evidence in the marks made by the
men at the closely barbed and netted drift, under the
railway bridge, will never be known, but there was
reason to believe that the last remaining route of
the spies had been discovered. Brave hearts sank
at the thought of their probable fate when they tried
that route again.
But, thank God! the birds had flown for
the time at least.
That afternoon, when Hansie cycled
to Mrs. Joubert’s house, the streets were quiet
and practically deserted. She was quite sure that
no one followed her, for she dropped her handkerchief
once and had suddenly to turn and pick it up.
Carlo was some way ahead of her and
did not notice the interruption until she was on her
bicycle again, when he came tearing back to find out
what had happened, furious with himself for having
missed the smallest piece of excitement. After
that he did not leave her side again, but trotted
quietly along, watching her every moment from the
corner of his eye.
When Hansie entered the house in Visagie
Street, Carlo stretched himself as usual beside her
bicycle, ostensibly to sleep, but in reality on guard
and alert with every nerve in his quick body.
Hansie was thankful to find van der Westhuizen
in; in fact, he was expecting her and wished to see
her, but did not think it advisable to go to Harmony.
“Tell me all about last night,”
she said. “Tell me everything, and then
I have something to tell you too.”
“Well,” he said, and the
inscrutable face was for once turned to her in frank
confidence, “after we left Harmony last night
things did not go as smoothly as we expected.
It was all right as long as we were in the bush, and
we were able to get our heavy parcels through safely,
but when we came to the drift we found it strongly
guarded. We retreated at once without a sound
and lay down in the thick shrubs to wait. The
men were nervous and impatient, and after a little
while Brenckmann borrowed my residential pass from
me and walked on ahead to see if the coast were clear.
“He soon came back and said
it was impossible to get through.
“After a short consultation,
Naude advised me to come home. They would stay
in the bush and wait until the moon went down, he said.
I hated leaving them in such a plight, but Naude insisted,
and I only came away when he said he thought there
would be more chance for them to get through unobserved
if they were fewer in number. How they managed
without residential passes and handicapped by those
parcels, I do not know.”
“God only knows how they do
manage,” Hansie answered sombrely. “Well,
I have nothing good to relate either.”
She told him in a few words what had
happened at Harmony, and the steadfast face opposite
her, so calm and strong, grew more grave as she proceeded.
“This is very serious,”
he said at last; “then the fact of their being
in town, and the route they had taken, must have been
known to the enemy yesterday. That is why we
found the drift guarded. But do not be downcast.
I am sure they got through unharmed, for there has
been no commotion of any sort in town. I always
know when prisoners have been taken. We must
be thankful they were not discovered in your house.”
Hansie nodded, and the quiet voice went on:
“You are in no danger now ”
But the girl broke in impetuously:
“Oh, that does not trouble me
at all, but I would give my life to know that those
men were with General Botha now. I am only anxious
“I am not,” he answered.
“The Captain is a man of vast experience.
This was not his first visit to Pretoria. Venter
has been five times in Pretoria and nine times in
Johannesburg under the same conditions. Brenckmann,
too, can speak of unique experiences but
I can bet you anything that he will never come
“Oh, he had an awful time here.
There are khakis and handsuppers living all round
his house, to some of whom he is well known by sight.
It was found necessary to conceal him, and for three
days and two nights the poor boy was stowed away in
a tiny attic, just under the corrugated-iron roof
and hardly large enough to hold a man. There
he lay in the suffocating heat of those endless days,
only coming out at night for a few hours like the
bats and owls. No, he won’t trouble us
Before she left she told him what
had been arranged about a sign on the gatepost and
asked van der Westhuizen to warn her friends of
the “inner circle” that Harmony was no
longer a safe place to visit, begging them to keep
this information to themselves, “because,”
she added, “the enemy must not know that we
know.” Later on she hoped to see him again
when the time approached for Naude to come again, but
she advised him not to visit Harmony unnecessarily,
as much would depend on him in the event of a raid
on Harmony and the transportation of its inhabitants
to other regions.
I can only say in conclusion of this
chapter that the friends of the “inner circle,”
Mrs. Malan, Mrs. Joubert, Mrs. Armstrong, Mrs. Honey,
and a few others, bravely scorned the idea of avoiding
“Why should we not come?”
Mrs. Armstrong asked, with her cheerful, ever-ready
laugh; “don’t other people come here still?”
“Oh yes, but ”
“Then why not we? The more
the better, say I! Surely we cannot all
be arrested and sent away!”