Henry Adams.

Perils in the Transvaal and Zululand





We shant be able to proceed any farther to-day, remarked the farmer. The ground will be too soft to travel upon for ten or twelve hours, even under this hot sun. We must make ourselves as comfortable as we can for the night.

The necessary arrangements were accordingly made. The horses were hobbled, and turned out to graze. A fire was lighted, at which supper was cooked; and after the meal the males of the party sat down to smoke their pipes by it, for the night air after the rain was chilly. Mrs Baylen and Clara retired to rest in their waggon.

I should like to hear the history of your life in South Africa, said George, as he threw another log on the fire. I think you said you came into these parts when you were quite a lad, and that, I judge, cannot be less than fifty years ago. You must remember a great many changes, and probably have gone through some strange adventures. If you dont feel disposed for sleep just yet, I wish you would give us the benefit of your experiences. Redgy and I would be greatly interested to hear them.

Father wont object to that, said Wilhelm with a smile. Nothing pleases him better than to tell us stories about his young days.

And theyre worth hearing too, added Ernest. I suppose Ive heard most of em more than once, but I always like to hear them again. I only wish Clarchen were with us. She enjoys them even more than I do.

Chapter Seven

Well, Mr Rivers, began Farmer Baylen, I dont know why I shouldnt gratify your fancy. It is certain that I and mine have been a long time in the colony, and know pretty well all that has happened in it during this century. And what has happened there during this century is pretty nearly all the history it has. Between the time when my mothers ancestors first settled at the Cape, and the time when the English captured it, it can hardly be said to have had any history at all.

It was a period of a hundred and fifty years, though, wasnt it? suggested George.

Yes, but one day was just like another day, and one year like another year, and one generation like another generation all that time. The Dutch occupied the land, and made the natives work for them; and when more land was wanted, they took more land, and enslaved more natives. So they went on, spreading farther into the country, until the English came.

My father I believe his name was Andrew Bailey was a ships carpenter on board one of the line-of-battle ships in Sir Home Pophams fleet. There was very little resistance offered to the English. It was generally believed that when the European wars came to an end the colony would be restored to Holland, as it had been before. Consequently the Dutch regarded the English as visitors, rather than masters.

A good many men got their discharge after the fighting was over, and among them my father. He liked the country, and found plenty of employment, and higher wages than he could get at home.

He was a skilled workman, particularly clever at house-building. An English settler wanted a house built at Stellenbosch, and my father undertook the job. He lodged, while employed in the work, in the house of a Dutch farmer named Van Schuylen, and there he soon became very intimate. The farmer was a kind and hospitable old man, as the old Hollanders for the most part were.

Kind to the whites, that is, interpolated Redgy.

Ay, Mr Margetts, I understand what you mean, and I am afraid there is too much truth in it. There is a prejudice against black blood, which, with all the years that Ive lived in this land, I cannot understand. Black blood! the very words to me seem to be a denial of what the Bible says, that God has made of one blood all the nations of the earth. Yes, you are right about Farmer Van Schuylen. Hed make no more of putting a native to do the most unwholesome work, that might kill him outright, than he would of pitching a stone into a pond. And if they were fractious or lazy, hed stand by and see them flogged with the jamboks the rhinoceros whips, that is till their backs were cut to ribbons. But my father was a free man and an Englishman, and Van Schuylen had none but friendly words for him.

Well, as Ive said, my father became intimate with his family, and by and by fell in love with Rose, the only daughter, and she with him. The old man did not object, but Cornelius Van Schuylen, her brother, did not like the match. He was an out-and-out Hollander. He thought the English had no business in the colony. They were interlopers, he said, and jeered at our ways. He and my father had had some high words, I fancy, about the natives, very soon after they came to Stellenbosch. But Rose, though she was very fond of her brother, took my fathers part. He was a handsome and well-made man of five-and-twenty, and she would have had him, I believe, even if her father had objected. Fortunately Cornelius lived ten or twelve miles away. I say fortunately, for there certainly would have been a hot quarrel between him and his brother-in-law, if he had had any share in the business. My father became a great favourite with the old man, and in a few years nearly the whole management of the farm was left to his son-in-law, who persisted in showing favour to the blacks. He wouldnt overwork them, and wouldnt allow them to be flogged. What was worse, he allowed them to attend the church services, and to have their children baptised.

That was no offence, I suppose, sir, said Redgy.

On the contrary, it was one of the greatest he could commit, said Baylen. By the Dutch law, all baptised Christians were free. Therefore baptising a native was the same thing as setting him free, and the presence of free blacks in the colony was what they could not endure. There had been differences with the English authorities on this subject; but little had come of them, because the English were only holding the colony for a time. Two or three years after my fathers marriage, however, there came the downfall of Napoleon, and a general peace. To the surprise and indignation of the Dutch, the colony was not restored to Holland, but given permanently over to the English.

Well, said George, I must say they had some right to complain of that. I heard what Moritz said about it, and I couldnt help agreeing with him.

I think the English would have acted more wisely if they had retained simply a naval station, with a fort or two to guard it, said the farmer. Well, when it was seen that the occupation of the English was to be permanent, and that the English discouraged slavery, and allowed the baptism of the natives, there was great discontent, which occasionally broke out into rebellion. Cornelius was among those who were hottest against the English. It was with the greatest difficulty he was kept from joining the rebels. But his father sent for him, and threatened him with his curse if he did, and the Dutch mind what their fathers say, more than any people I know. In 1834, however, when the English Government made a proclamation absolutely forbidding slavery, he could bear it no longer.

1834, repeated George. That was the year, was not it, when they put down slavery in the West Indies?

Yes, and it lowered the value of the property there as well as here. I dont say the English Government oughtnt to have done it. Slavery is wrong, beginning, middle, and end, in my eyes. But it might have been done gradually, instead of all at once. Any way, the Dutch wouldnt have it, and they resolved to leave the country rather than submit. Great numbers emigrated: some northwards, into what is now the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal, but more into Natal. Cornelius was one of those who removed to Natal, and my father went there too. He didnt want to go, but my mother had been always so attached to Cornelius, that he saw it would break her heart if they were parted. So, like a good husband, he went too.

Wasnt it rather rash, sir? suggested George. Why, to say nothing of the loss of money, Natal must be a good seven hundred miles from Stellenbosch, and it was at that time quite a new country.

It is more than eight hundred, I believe, for the matter of that, and there were very few whites in it; but the state of things wasnt so bad as you suppose. In the first place, my father took his time in selling his land. As he wasnt a Dutchman, people knew that he wasnt one of those who were mad to go, and would take anything that was offered for it. He got a very good price for it. Then, again, he knew a great deal about Natal. Lieutenant Farewell, who had obtained a large grant of land from King Chaka, came to Stellenbosch, and made large offers to the farmers there. My father closed with him, and got a large farm, and very good land, where my son is now living, for very little money.

Who was Lieutenant Farewell? asked Margetts.

I believe he was an English officer, who had been sent to survey the country, and had a fancy for founding a colony at Natal. He had been murdered by the natives before we went there; but my father had got all his information from him the previous year. Then, again, his move to Natal was well managed. His farm lay on the south side of Stellenbosch, only a short distance from Simons Bay. A large vessel was lent him by one of his friends, which took him and his family, his waggons, his household furniture, and such of his stock as he wished to take with him, to Natal, at a small cost, and in a few days.

Your father knew what he was about, Mr Baylen.

I think he did, sir. I remember well our arrival at Hakkluyts Kloof. We lived in the waggons till he and his men had run up the house and farm buildings. We soon found we had made a very good bargain.

That was in King Chakas time, wasnt it, father? asked Walter Baylen.

No, Walter. It was Chaka who granted the land, or rather, leave to settle on the land, to Lieutenant Farewell. But he had been dead a year or two, and his brother Dingaan was king when we arrived there.

I have heard a good deal about Chaka, observed Margetts, and I should like to hear more. I suppose you know all about him, Mr Baylen?

More than I can tell you to-night, sir, answered the farmer with a smile. You shall hear all about it another time if you like it. But its getting late. We must go to sleep now, as we shall be stirring early to-morrow.

At daybreak the journey was resumed. The ground was still soft from the heavy rain in some places, but a few hours hot sun dried it. The air was fresh and balmy. It was with a sense of exhilaration that George and Redgy mounted their horses, and scented the fresh morning air. Nothing could be more delicious than their journey in the early hours of the day. Aromatic shrubs, graceful sugar bushes, delicate heaths, wild-flowers of every imaginable colour, such as in England would be accounted the rare beauties of the conservatory, grew in profusion on either side of the track they followed. The air was rich with a thousand fragrant scents. In the middle distance, Kaffir hovels or white-gabled farmhouses occasionally presented themselves, each surrounded by orange or palm groves; and the white-peaked mountains, set in their frame of the richest blue, formed a perfect background to the lovely picture.

Notwithstanding the heat, several casualties occurred, in consequence of the recent rains. Sometimes they descended into dongas, where the suns rays had not penetrated, and there the wheels would sink several inches into the ground, and it needed all the strength of the party to extricate them. Levers had to be applied on both sides, and the unlucky oxen were lashed with rhinoceros whips, until they presented a pitiable spectacle. On one occasion, as they were passing along a gully between two steep rocky banks, they came upon another ox-waggon journeying in the opposite direction. There was not room to pass by two or three feet. At first it seemed as if there was no mode of overcoming the difficulty, except by taking one waggon to pieces. But at this juncture they were met by a man, who came up riding a stout Cape horse, and who seemed to be well known to the farmer and his sons.

Ah, Hardy, exclaimed Baylen, you have come just in time to help us! Weve neglected to keep a bright look-out, and have got into this mess.

The newcomer dismounted, and, joining the rest of the party, made a careful examination of the banks on both sides of the pathway. Presently Hardys voice was heard.

Here you are! he cried. Here, Baylen, Matamo, heres a soft place in the bank which we can dig out, and it will be deep enough to hold the waggon. Bring the picks and spades here.

All the party, more than a dozen in number, went to work with a will, and presently a hollow place of three or four feet deep was dug out, into which Baylens waggon was drawn, just sufficient room being obtained in this manner to allow the other waggon to go by. This contretemps caused a delay of several hours, and instead of outspanning on the bank of the Mooi river, as they had intended, they were obliged to stop some miles short of it.

It was not a bad place, though, for a halt. The oxen were outspanned, and turned out to graze on the veldt, care being taken to prevent their straying. The fires were lighted and supper for nine got ready, Hardy having agreed to join the party.

As they sat down, George took a good view of the newcomer. He was a strong, weather-beaten fellow, not much short of fifty, but still in the full vigour of life, with a face expressing sense and resolution. He had a good deal of the soldier in his appearance and demeanour; and George learned from Ernest Baylen that he had served in India, and under Lord Napier and Sir Garnet Wolseley. He had settled in South Africa as a land-surveyor and architect, though he combined some farming with it. He was a friend and frequent visitor of the Baylens, who were evidently pleased at his arrival. As soon as the supper was finished, and the pipes lighted, Margetts asked the farmer to give him the promised account of King Chaka.

I want to learn all I can about him, he said; I have heard some strange stories of him.

I dont know what the stories may have been, Mr Margetts, rejoined Baylen, but certainly enough might be told about him to startle any one. He was the first person who brought the Zulus into notice. I dont know whose son he was, or who was king before him; nobody does seem to know. But it was about the year 1820 that he first began to attract attention. The Zulus had been an insignificant tribe before that. But soon after the beginning of his reign, he set about forming a large army, which he developed and disciplined in a manner that had been quite unknown to African chiefs before his time. There is a strange story as to what put this fancy into his head. If I dont mistake, Hardy, it was you who told it to me.

Very likely, said Hardy. I know what I heard from some French soldiers in India. They had been in Africa, and had known Chaka.

What was it, Mr Hardy, if I might ask? inquired Margetts.

Why, these men told me they had been the servants of some French officers, who, after the close of Napoleons wars, travelled in South Africa, and became King Chakas guests. Chaka was fond of inquiring about what had happened in Europe. One of the officers told him a good deal about the Emperor Napoleon his splendid army, the vast number of men he had collected under his standard, the perfect discipline to which he had reduced them, and their unbounded devotion to his service. By their help, Napoleon had conquered nation after nation, until nearly the whole of Europe had been subjected by him. That was something like a king, Chaka had remarked, and from that day he began forming his famous army.

Well, I can believe that, observed Baylen, because his action corresponded very accurately to it. He got together a force of nearly a hundred thousand men, of whom fifteen thousand were always at his immediate command. He subjected his soldiers to severe and continual discipline. He built large barracks, in which they lived quite by themselves, not being allowed to marry until they were elderly men. The least hesitation in obeying his orders was instantly punished by the most cruel of all deaths, impalement. With this army he attacked and conquered his neighbours in all directions, until he became an object of universal terror.

A black Napoleon, in fact, returned Redgy, what he wanted to be.

He was curiously like him, remarked Baylen, allowing for the differences of race. I have heard that Napoleon never spared any soldier who showed want of courage in carrying out an order. That was Chakas policy certainly, though he pursued it after a somewhat different fashion. After one of his campaigns, he would assemble his soldiers, and cause every regiment to pass before him. As it halted in front of his seat, he would call out, Bring out the cowards, and any man who had not been as forward as the others was straightway dragged out and killed. The shrub, under which he usually sat in this manner to review his soldiers, was known as the cowards bush.

Didnt he overrun Natal, father? asked Wilhelm Baylen.

Yes, and made it a desert for the time. Before his invasion it was densely populated, and in a most thriving condition. But the carnage caused by his troops was so great, that the population was reduced, I believe, to a few hundreds. That was one reason, probably, why he was willing for the English to settle there.

But he was dead before you arrived in Natal, wasnt he? asked Ernest.

Yes. I told you he had been dead some years, and his brother Dingaan was on the throne. Dingaan, who was quite as bloody, and even more treacherous than Chaka, caused him to be assassinated while he was sitting in his kraal, and then was made king in his place. But Dingaan was not his brothers equal in ability or force of character, and he lost a great deal of the power which Chaka had acquired.

Did you ever come into contact with him, sir? asked Wilhelm.

He never sent his soldiers to attack us, but he was continually threatening us with his displeasure, and making demands, which we were obliged to comply with as well as we could. A Zulu Impi would have been no joke to encounter. We must have all fled for our lives, and our houses would have been burnt and our cattle driven off at the least.

How long did he reign? asked Redgy.

About twelve years. In the year 1836 the discontent of the Boers at Cape Town grew so great, that they too moved off to Natal some five or six thousand of them. That, of course, made a great difference to our position. We could only have mustered a few hundreds to oppose Dingaan, if we had gone to war with him. But now it would be a few thousands.

And men who knew how to fight the Zulus, too, remarked Walter.

Yes. Dingaan found that out in 1837, when a war broke out between him and the Boers. Then the Zulus suffered for the first time a disastrous defeat. They rushed upon the Boers with their assegays, but the moment they came within range they were shot down like a flight of birds. They hardly got within hurling distance, and the stout leathern doublets of the Dutch repelled such assegays as did reach them. Not a single man, I believe, was so much as wounded. But it was an unfortunate victory in some ways. It caused Dingaan, instead of using force, to resort to treachery treachery which was very nearly being the death of me, though in the end things turned out well.

Ah, now you are going to tell us the story of how you first got acquainted with mother, said Wilhelm, laughing.

Well, I daresay it will interest Mr Rivers to hear it, said Baylen. But, to be sure, it is a shocking history. It happened forty years ago, or one couldnt speak so coolly of it.

I daresay, Mr Rivers, you have heard of Peter Retieff any way you have, Hardy the man, I mean, who founded Maritzburg. I knew him well. He was a brave, honest, kindly man kindly even to the natives, which is not a common feature in a Dutchmans character. There was a treaty with Dingaan which obliged us to send back to him all the natives, who had fled into Natal from his tyranny. There were great numbers that did this; and all who were so returned were instantly put to death with most barbarous cruelty. Peter Retieff would not consent to carry this out, and paid a visit to Dingaan, to try to get him to cede Natal to the Dutch as an independent kingdom. He knew the danger of such an attempt; but he was a brave man, and trusted to the justice of his cause. He invited several of his neighbours to take part in his mission. Among others, my father and myself agreed to go. I was a lad between seventeen and eighteen at the time.

We were received with unexpected civility, and my father and myself lodged at the house of Emilius Scheren, a Dutch missionary, whom Dingaan allowed to live at his kraal, but over whom he kept a very jealous watch regarding him half as a spy on his actions, and half as a hostage for the good behaviour of his countrymen. He was a widower with one little girl, about twelve years old, named Wilhelmine. Mr Scheren told me some terrible stories of Dingaans cruelty and rapacity. He had himself, he said, long been anxious to escape from the country. But he was most closely watched, and were he to attempt flight, would most certainly be caught and put to death. He would not mind it so much if it were not for his motherless little girl.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28