If I may dare to hope that there are,
among my readers who have followed me with so much
patience through this book, some sufficiently interested
in the heroine to desire information on what befell
her in her future lot, I should wish to give to them
just a glimpse or two into scenes as totally different
from the events recorded in this volume as night is
from day. And to do this freely, unreservedly,
I must endeavour to forget my close connection with
the heroine, a connection the thought of which has
hampered and restricted me, from first to last, in
choosing and rewriting the material from her diary.
Her diary, as I have said before,
had ended soon after her last adventure with the spies,
never to be resumed again.
I do not, however, write from memory
in this brief chapter on her subsequent experiences,
for I have before me for reference a pile of letters
from her to her mother.
Almost her last word when she left
her native land was an injunction to her mother to
preserve her letters for the future, “for
when I am married, mother dear, you will be
Hansie’s health gave way.
Not in a week or a month, not in any
way perceptible to those around her, but stealthily,
treacherously, and relentlessly the fine constitution
was undermined, the highly strung nervous system was
shattered. This had taken place chiefly during
the desolate and dark hours of the night, when, helpless
in the grip of the fiend Insomnia, the wretched girl
abandoned herself to hopelessness and despair.
And the time was soon to come when
she feared those dreadful waking hours even less than
the brief moments of fitful slumber which overcame
her worn-out, shattered frame, for no sooner did she
lose her consciousness in sleep than she was overpowered
by some hideous nightmare, and found herself, shrieking,
drowning in the black waters of some raging torrent,
or pursued by some infuriated lunatic or murderer,
or enveloped in the deadly coils of some hideous reptile.
Shuddering from head to foot after
each of these most awful realities of the night, she
was soothed and comforted by the tender hands of her
distressed and anxious mother.
Something had to be done, of that
there was no doubt. Not even the strongest mind
could have endured such a strain for any length of
time, and that Hansie’s reason was preserved
at all I put down to the fact that she had never once
throughout the war entertained the idea, the possibility,
of the loss of her country’s independence.
The blow, when it came, found her
so far from the scenes of her recent sufferings, as
we shall see presently, that she was able to endure
it, as one, far removed from the death-bed of her
best beloved, is spared the crushing details, the
cruel realities of that last parting scene.
The thought of the strong heart across
the seas, waiting to receive her, would have been
of more support to her in those days had she known
by experience what it could mean to a woman,
tried as she had been, to place herself and all her
grief in the protecting, understanding love of a good
and noble man.
But even this comfort was denied to
her; in fact, the thought of her uncertain future,
and her fear that the step she was about to take might
prove to be a great mistake in her abnormal condition,
were an added burden to our sorely tried and now completely
Plans were made to send her out of the country.
Her sister, Mrs. Cloete, who had for
some months been trying to procure a permit to visit
the Transvaal, was, after great trouble and inconvenience,
successful in her endeavours and arrived at Harmony
on Saturday, March 29th, 1902.
What words from my poor pen can describe
the emotions of that meeting?
Even Hansie’s diary has nothing
to say except “let us draw the veil,”
but memory is strong and the bands of love and kinship
are unbreakable, even under the adversities of long
and bitter years nay, rather are they strengthened
by the threads of common woe, woven into their very
fibre at such a time of bitter trial.
The mother spent hours with her elder
daughter, happy beyond power to express, relating
her experiences and adventures, comparing notes and
making plans for their future.
All that month of April was filled
with rumours of an early peace, and hopes were buoyed
up with the certainty that “peace with honour”
would and could be the only termination to the peace
conferences. Incredible as it may seem to some
of my readers, the Boer opinion was that England was
about to end hostilities and that, under certain terms,
the independence of the two Republics would be assured.
No reliable information reached our
friends at Harmony, for the activities of the Secret
Service had ceased entirely at least, as
far as the town was concerned.
Uncertainty, excitement, expectation
filled the air, reaching their height on April 12th,
when the news of the Boer leaders’ arrival at
the capital spread like wild-fire through the town.
Steyn, Botha, de Wet, de la Rey, Reitz,
and a host of others were amongst “their own”
again, under circumstances of unique importance.
They were not allowed to mix freely with the crowd,
but kept in a state of highly honoured captivity in
the beautiful double-storied house known as “Parkzicht,”
opposite Burghers Park, well guarded night and day
by armed patrols, who kept the crowd at bay with a
friendly “Move on, please,” when they
touched the limit of their beat.
Mrs. van Warmelo and her two daughters,
like so many other citizenesses, lost no opportunity
of walking in the neighbourhood of “Parkzicht,”
and they were fortunate beyond their wildest hopes
in being greeted by the Generals on more than one
One day as they were passing they
observed the familiar figure of General Botha on the
They waved their handkerchiefs and
there was no doubt about his recognition, for he took
off his hat and waved it, kissing both his hands to
(General Botha it was who, after the
war, said to Mrs. van Warmelo, clasping her hand and
looking earnestly into her eyes:
“You have done and risked what
even I would not have dared.”)
After six or seven days in Pretoria
the Boer leaders left for their commandos, to deliberate,
with what result Hansie did not know until nearly
two months later in mid-ocean, where at a distant isle
the news of the declaration of peace was made known
The three women at Harmony now turned
their thoughts into another channel.
The mother being far from well herself,
arrangements had to be made to leave her in the companionship
of some suitable and congenial woman, until her “boys”
came home one from the front, if he were
still alive, the other from captivity. A girl
friend offered to take Hansie’s place at Harmony
and promised not to leave Mrs. van Warmelo until the
country was in a settled state again.
This was Hansie’s only crumb
of consolation during those last days at home.
Many difficulties were made about
her permits when she applied for leave to go to Holland,
and many were the questions asked, her interview with
General Maxwell being the least unsatisfactory when
she told him of her approaching marriage.
“You may go with pleasure,”
he had said; but a few days afterwards Hansie received
a letter from the Provost-Marshal, saying that “the
present regulations do not allow burghers or their
families to leave South Africa.”
Hansie wrote to Lord Kitchener, but
received no reply, and it was nearly the middle of
May, after some weeks of uncertainty, harder far to
bear than trouble of a more decided character, when
she and Mrs. Cloete left the capital for Cape Colony.
Hansie’s last words in her diary are:
“There is quite a history connected
with the procuring of my permits, which I shall relate
another time. I am too tired now.”
Words significant of what the girl
had endured in parting from her mother and leaving
her beloved country at a time so critical!
On an ocean-steamer she found herself
at last alone, for in that crowd there
was no face familiar to her to be seen.
She mixed freely with the crowd; she
sought, in the games with which these voyages usually
are passed, to forget to forget; but the
nights of sleeplessness remained her waking
terror, with which she was consumed.
Two men there were who proved sympathetic,
one a Scotchman, the other an Englishman both
anti-Boer and sadly misinformed when first she met
them, both “converts” by the time they
reached their native shores.
Sitting at table she listened intently
to the conversations on the war the war,
the never-ending war. On no occasion did she breathe
a word of what she knew, of what she
felt, until one day at dinner a young English lieutenant,
“covered with glory” and returning home
a hero of the war, enlarged on the services rendered
by one brave officer, well known by name to Hansie.
“It is not only what he achieved
with so much success in the field,” he continued.
“I am thinking now of those two years he spent
in the Pretoria Forts before the war, as a
common labourer, doing menial work with other men,
and secretly making plans and drawing charts of the
Pretoria fortifications. Every detail was made
known to our military before we went to war.”
Exclamations of surprise, a murmur
of admiration, ran along the table.
Hansie waited until there was a lull,
and then she asked:
“The work carried out by him,
was it done under oath of allegiance to the Transvaal
There was one moment’s painful
silence before the young lieutenant answered, with
“Of course; it could not possibly
have been done otherwise but all is fair
in love and war.”
“War?” Hansie exclaimed “I
thought you said that this was done some years before
“Yes, but we all knew what things were leading
This incident was the first hint among
the passengers that she was not one of them.
At first they looked at her askance,
but as the days went on and the girl steadfastly avoided
every allusion to the war, refusing to express her
opinions to any one, except the two men mentioned above,
the feeling of discomfort passed, and she was once
again included in the pastimes of the ship’s
As they were nearing Teneriffe the
longing for news, for the latest cables from England
and South Africa, possessed every soul on board and
now I find that, search as I will, within the recesses
of my mind, for words with which to describe adequately
such scenes, brain and hand are powerless.
There was peace in South Africa peace
“with honour” for England, peace and
defeat for the Boers!
In a moment the ship’s crew
went mad, as the wild cheering rolled over the waves.
Hansie stood stupefied until (and
strange it is that at a time like this an insignificant
detail should stand out in sharp relief against the
background of her dulled sensibilities) an hysterical
woman ran up to her with outstretched hands, crying:
“Oh, my dear, my dear, let me
congratulate you! Let us shake hands!”
The girl, thus taken by surprise in
all that crowd, recoiled in shuddering distress, while,
with hands clasped convulsively behind, she murmured:
“Oh, I could not I could
A wave of deep resentment passed over
the ship’s passengers, and hostile eyes looked
on her frowningly.
That night, as the good ship was ploughing
the waters on her way once more, a solitary figure
stood on the deserted decks.
In the saloons great bumpers of champagne
were passing round, while the strains of “God
save the King” and “Rule Britannia”
floated over the ocean waves.
A man in search of her, fearing perhaps,
I know not what, approached the drooping figure of
the girl, and pressed her hand in silent sympathy.
“There is no peace!” she
said. “Do you think I believe these lying
cables? The Boers will never yield.
If you knew what I know, you would take these reports
for what they are worth. I have been trying to
think what it all can mean, and this is the conclusion
I have come to. If it be true that peace has
been proclaimed, then the Boers have preserved their
independence, and this last fact has been excluded
from the cables in view of the approaching Coronation.
But my own conviction is that there is no peace at
all, but that these cables have been sent to reassure
the English public, and to make it possible to celebrate
the crowning of the King in a splendour unclouded by
the horrors of the South African war. Believe
me, when the Coronation is over you will hear of a
mysterious renewal of hostilities.”
The man was silent, troubled.
He had not the heart to argue with the girl, perhaps
he thought, and rightly thought, that this strange
illusion of the brain, this confident belief in her
own convictions, would help to tide her over the first
days to follow.
“I cannot understand,”
he said, “how Mrs. could
have asked you to shake hands with her.”
“Oh, I was wrong,” Hansie
said. “She meant it kindly. How could
she understand? I will apologise to-morrow.”
It had been arranged that Hansie should
spend a few days in London to see some friends before
proceeding to Holland.
She found the mighty metropolis in
the throes of preparation for an event of unparalleled
Every sign of splendour and rejoicing
was a fresh sword through the heart of our sorely
tried young patriot.
The people with whom she stayed, old
Pretoria friends, had not an inkling of what was passing
in her mind.
Their warm and loving greetings, their
loud expressions of delight that the war had come
to an end at last, were so many pangs added to her
“You will come with us to the
Coronation?” her hostess said; “we have
splendid reserved seats, and this event will be unparalleled
in the history of England.”
Again the unfortunate girl found herself
recoiling, taken by surprise; again she said:
“Oh, I could not! Not to save my
“Not go to see the Coronation!
I am surprised at you. Very few South African
girls are lucky enough to benefit by such an opportunity.
I must say I think it very narrow-minded of you.
You disappoint me. The war is over now, and while
we are all trying to promote a feeling of good-fellowship
you nourish such an unworthy and narrow-minded spirit.”
The iron entered deep into her soul;
and when she looks back now and takes a brief survey
of what she suffered throughout those years, that
moment stands out as one into which all the fears,
the hopes, the agonies of one short lifetime had been
Sometimes the human heart, when tried
beyond endurance, will reach a point where but a trifling
incident, an unkind word, is needed to break down
This point our heroine had reached.
Something passed out of her soul,
an undefinable something of which the zest for life
is made, and as she felt the black waters of despair
closing over her she almost gasped for breath.
She turned away.
“You will never understand.
I think it very kind of you to make such plans for
my enjoyment, but to the Coronation of the
English King I will not go. Leave me here I
have some writing to do no need to be distressed
on my account. My one regret is that my presence
here, at such a time, should be a source of so much
painfulness to us both.”
With cold courtesy the subject of
the approaching Coronation was dropped, until the
next day, when the appalling, the stupefying news
of the postponement of the Coronation spread through
the hushed streets of the great metropolis.
The King was dying, was perhaps already
dead. The King had undergone a critical operation
and his life still hung in the balance.
The King could not be crowned.
Already the black wings of Death seemed
to be stretched over the mighty city, with its millions
and millions of inhabitants. The multitude was
waiting in hushed expectancy, in breathless suspense.
Hansie, walking through the streets
with one of the men whose sympathy on board had been
of such unspeakable comfort to her, never felt more
unreal in her life. Her mind was in a maze, she
groped about for words with which to clothe her thoughts,
but groped in vain, for even the power of thought
had been suspended for a time.
Her companion, glancing at her face,
asked suddenly, curiously:
“Would you be glad if King Edward were to die?”
There was a long pause, while the girl strove to analyse
At last she answered slowly, simply, truthfully:
“No; I would be sorry.”
And in these words, good reader, when
I think of them, I find a certain solution to the
problem of her behaviour on many occasions when brought
into close contact with her country’s enemies.
There was never anything personal
in the most bitter feelings of resentment and hatred
of her country’s foes, and never at any time
did she belong to the ranks of those among her fellow-patriots
who deemed it an unpardonable crime to recognise and
appreciate the good qualities possessed by them.
A love of fair-play characterised
her, even as a child, and it is certain that the cruel
circumstances of the war developed this sense of justice
to an abnormal extent, often bringing upon her, in
later years, misunderstanding and distrust from those
who should have been her friends.
It is June 28th, a glorious, cloudless summer’s
Speeding swiftly, almost silently,
cutting its way through the calm, blue waters of the
English Channel, a passenger-boat is fast approaching
The hour is early, and of the few
figures moving on the pier, one stands apart, watching
intently, as the ship draws near.
He waves his hat, he has recognised
the figure of the girl who stands on deck and waves
her handkerchief in response to his greeting.
His strong hand clasps hers; and now
the discreet reader need not avert his eyes no
need here to “draw the veil” for
Hansie had written from London to this tall, broad-shouldered
“What is left of me is coming
to you now, but we must meet as friendly acquaintances,
until we are both certain of ourselves.”
How long this “friendly acquaintance”
lasted it is difficult to say, for there is a difference
of opinion on the point.
She says, not less than sixty minutes.
He asserts, not more than thirty-five!
The exquisite serenity of her father’s
native land, especially on such a perfect day in midsummer,
had never seemed to her so sweet.
Here, indeed, she felt that peace
could come to her at last.
But not yet not yet.
Strong emotions of a different kind
awaited her, the meeting of beloved friends and relatives,
after seemingly endless years of pain, proving no
less trying than the introduction to a large circle
of future relatives and friends.
Hansie had to be “lionised”
as heroine of the war, and this was done in a whole-hearted,
generous way which was a constant source of wonder
She was “carried on the hands,”
as the Dutch saying goes, by all who had the remotest
claim on her.
Functions were arranged for her, receptions
held, to which white-haired women and stately venerable
men came from far to shake her hand, because she was
a daughter of the Transvaal, nothing more not
because of what she had done and endured, for this
was known to only one or two.
Old friends from South Africa there
were in scores, and for the time the State of Holland
was transformed into a colony of Boers, which seemed
complete when the Boer leaders, Botha, de Wet, and
de la Rey, arrived with their staffs. Then it
seemed as if the people of Holland lost their heads
entirely, and scenes such as those which took place
daily in the streets are never to be forgotten by those
who witnessed them.
All this, though wonderful, was not
the best thing for our heroine, who was “living
on her nerves,” though in a different way, as
surely as she did during those cruel years of war.
Added to this she was frequently tried
beyond endurance by the questions:
“Why did the Boers give in?
How could the Boers give in and lose their
One conversation in particular was
burnt into her brain.
“Was it the Concentration Camps?”
“No,” the answer came
slowly, “no, it was not the Concentration Camps.
The high mortality was past, the weakest had been taken,
and there was no cause for anxiety for those remaining
in the Camps. Their rations had been increased
and improved there was no more of that
first awful suffering.”
“What was it, then? The arming of the natives?”
The answer came more slowly:
“No, it was not the arming of
the natives. Their forces were more scattered,
for they were chiefly employed in guarding the railway
lines, in protecting stock and guarding block-houses.
Though their addition to the British ranks undoubtedly
weakened our strength to some extent, their inborn
respect for the Boer would have prevented them from
ever rendering valuable services to the English.
How we laughed, my sister and I, when, on the railway
journey from Pretoria to Cape Town, we saw the line
patrolled by hundreds of these natives, with gun in
hand, stark naked except for a loin-cloth and a bandolier!
So much waste of ammunition! No, the arming of
the natives would have been the last thing to induce
the Boers to surrender.”
“Then it seems to me incomprehensible!
surely death were preferable to defeat!”
“Yes, a thousand times; but
you forget the National Scouts the Judas-Boers.
They broke our strength. Not by their skill
in the use of arms, not by their knowledge of our
country and our methods no!”
“They broke our strength by
breaking our ideals, by crushing our enthusiasm, by
robbing us of our inspiration, our faith, our hope ”
With averted eyes, and seemingly groping
for one last ray of light, the man continued:
“But where were your heroes your
heroes of Magersfontein, Spion Kop, and Colenso?”
“Where were our heroes?”
the girl echoed bitterly. “In their graves in
our hospitals in captivity! Ever foremost
in the field one by one they
fell ’But the remnant that
is escaped of the house of Israel shall again take
root downward and bear fruit upward.’
“Although, under the shadow
of this great national calamity, we cannot see it
now, there is hope for our sad South Africa. It
is too soon to speak of a united race, but the time
will surely come when, in the inter-marriage of our
children and our children’s children, will be
formed a nation great and strong and purified.”
Through all those weeks our heroine
never slept. It seems incredible that the frail
form of a girl should be endowed with so great a power
of endurance, and that the human mind can stand the
strain of smiling self-control by day, abandonment
of grief by night.
Those nearest to her, divining something
of what she was passing through, lavished countless
proofs of tender sympathy on her, innumerable acts
of loving care for her personal comfort, and well-thought-out
plans for drawing her away from herself into the charmed
circle of the B Labouchere house.
And when her marriage-day drew near
she turned away with a superficial glance at the array
of costly presents, to devour once again the cables
from South Africa, the telegrams from her Generals,
the letter and the photograph of her beloved President,
inscribed in his illegible hand, “For services
rendered during the late war.”
Last, but not least, there came to
her official-looking documents from Het Loo, the personal
congratulations of the Queen, the Prince Consort,
and the Queen-mother and the ancient blood
of Holland coursed more swiftly through her veins
as she thought of Wilhelmina, the dauntless young
Queen of the Netherlands, now her Queen.
In all the ranks of the “Petticoat
Commando” there was not one woman who had dared
more, risked more, than the brave Queen of Holland
when she dispatched her good man-of-war to bear away
from the shores of Africa the hunted President of
the South African Republic, to the refuge of her hospitable
Flowers, flowers everywhere, first
in baskets, then in cartloads, then in waggon-loads,
they were deposited at the doors until they overflowed
from the reception-rooms into the halls and staircases,
and even the verandahs chrysanthemums and
roses in riotous profusion, nestling violets, rarest
orchids, bright carnations, heavy with the richest
Each flower had a separate message
for the bride. They understood, and they enveloped
her with their unspoken sympathy.
Some there were adorned with her beloved,
her most tragic “Vierkleur,” and over
them she lingered long, breathing a prayer to merciful
Heaven to still her beating heart for ever.
Not in the wild beauty of the Swiss
scenery did she find rest, not by the calm lakes of
sapphire blue in which she saw reflected the rugged
mountains, soul-satisfying in their majestic grandeur,
not in the soundless, the mysterious regions of the
eternal snows but in the north of Holland,
where she found herself when autumn fell, Hansie slept.
Languid and more languid she became;
drooping visibly, she sank into oblivion in that northern
village home, conscious only in her waking hours of
the cold, the driving sleet, the howling wind, the
ceaseless drip, drip of the swaying trees.
As the long winter months crept by,
her sleep became more and more profound, less haunted
by the hideous nightmares of the past, and though
she at first rebelled, ashamed of her growing weakness,
she was soon forced to yield to the resistless demands
of outraged nature.
In this she was supported by her husband,
who, unknown to her, was acting on the advice of the
famous nerve-specialist who had watched her unobserved.
“Let her sleep, if need be for
a year, and in the end you will find her normal and
restored, of that I am convinced,” he had said;
and in these words her husband found his greatest
comfort, as he tucked his little dormouse in and tip-toed
from the darkened room.
Hansie lost count of time, but there
were two days in the week of which she was quite sure the
day on which the South African mail reached her and
the day on which it was dispatched. In between
she slept, as we have seen, but when she woke she
always knew that her enfranchised spirit had been
to her native land.
A full year had gone by, fifteen months,
and when the first breath of winter once more touched
the land she gradually became aware of voices calling
to her, insistent, imperative voices from across the
“I must go,” she said.
“What am I doing here? South Africa is calling.
My people want me there. You and I must go.
There is a great work for us both.” And
he, no less ardent and enthusiastic, yielded to her
prayers, bade farewell to home and fatherland, sailed
away with her to the unknown.
“In all the world,” she
said, “there is no pain to be compared with
the pain of being born a patriot; but a patriot in
exile may Heaven protect me from
the tragedy of such a fate!”