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قراءة كتاب South African Memories Social, Warlike & Sporting from Diaries Written at the Time

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‏اللغة: English
South African Memories
Social, Warlike & Sporting from Diaries Written at the Time

South African Memories Social, Warlike & Sporting from Diaries Written at the Time

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

all this then, but before I had been many days on board it was not difficult to discover that much mystery filled the air, and I was greatly excited at arriving in South Africa in such stirring times. There is no such place for getting to know people well as on a sea-voyage of eighteen days. Somehow the sea inspires confidence, and one knows that information imparted cannot, anyway, be posted off by the same day's mail. So those who were helping to pull the strings of this ill-fated rebellion talked pretty freely of their hopes and fears during the long, dark tropical evenings.

I became familiar with their grievances—their unfair taxation; no education for their children except in Dutch; no representation in Parliament—and this in a population in which, at that time, the English and Afrikanders at Johannesburg and in the surrounding districts outnumbered the Dutch in the proportion of about 6 to 1. They laid stress on the fact that neither the Boers nor their children were, or desired to become, miners, and, further, that for the enormous sums spent on developing and working the mines no proper security existed. I must admit it was the fiery-headed followers who talked the loudest—those who had nothing to lose and much to gain. The financiers, while directing and encouraging their zeal, seemed almost with the same hand to wish to put on the brake and damp their martial ardour. In any case, all were so eloquent that by the time our voyage was ended I felt as great a rebel against "Oom Paul" and his Government as any one of them.

Before leaving the Tantallon Castle, however, I must pass in review some of those whose home it had been with ourselves for the best part of three weeks. First I remember the late Mr. Alfred Beit, interesting as the man who had made the most colossal fortune of all the South African magnates, and who was then already said to be the most generous of philanthropists and the kindest of friends; this reputation he fully sustained in the subsequent years of his life and in the generous disposition of his vast wealth. I have often been told that Mr. Cecil Rhodes owed the inspiration of some of his colossal ideas to his friend Mr. Beit, and when it came to financing the same, the latter was always ready to assist in carrying out projects to extend and consolidate the Empire. In these latter years, and since his comparatively early death, I have heard those who still bear the brunt of the battle lament his loss, and remark, when a railway was to be built or a new part of the country opened up, how much more expeditiously it would be done were Mr. Beit still alive.

Other names that occur to me are Mr. Abe Bailey, well known in racing circles to-day, and then reputed a millionaire, the foundation of whose fortune consisted in a ten-pound note borrowed from a friend. Mr. Wools Sampson,[2] who subsequently so greatly distinguished himself at Ladysmith, where he was dangerously wounded, had an individuality all his own; he had seen every side of life as a soldier of fortune, attached to different regiments, during all the fighting in South Africa of the preceding years. He was then a mining expert, associated with Mr. Bailey in Lydenburg, but his heart evidently lay in fighting and in pursuing the different kinds of wild animals that make their home on the African veldt. Dr. Rutherford Harris, then the Secretary of the Chartered Company; Mr. Henry Milner, an old friend; Mr. Geoffrey Glyn and Mr. F. Guest, are others whom I specially remember; besides many more, some of whom have joined the vast majority, and others whom I have altogether lost sight of, but who helped to make the voyage a very pleasant one.

We landed at Cape Town shortly before Christmas Day. As I have since learnt by the experience of many voyages, it is nearly always at dawn that a liner is brought alongside the quay at the conclusion of a long voyage; in consequence, sleep is almost out of the question the last night at sea, owing to the noisy manipulations of the mail-bags and luggage. However, one is always so glad to get on shore that it is of very little import, and on this occasion we were all anxious to glean the latest news after being cut off from the world for so many days. The papers contained gloomy accounts of the markets. "King Slump" still held his sway, and things abroad looked very unsettled; so most of our friends appeared, when we met later, with very long faces. After breakfast, leaving our luggage to the tender mercies of some officious agent, who professed to see it "through the Customs," we took a hansom and drove to the Grand Hotel, en route to the hotel, in the suburb of Newlands, where we had taken rooms. My first impressions of Cape Town certainly were not prepossessing, and well I remember them, even after all these years. The dust was blowing in clouds, stirred up by the "south-easter" one hears so much about—an icy blast which appears to come straight from the South Pole, and which often makes its appearance in the height of summer, which season it then was. The hansom, of the oldest-fashioned type, shook and jolted beyond belief, and threatened every moment to fall to pieces. The streets from the docks to the town were unfinished, untidy, and vilely paved, and I remember comparing them very unfavourably with Melbourne or Sydney. However, I soon modified my somewhat hasty judgment. We had seen the town's worst aspects, and later I noticed some attractive-looking shops; the imposing Houses of Parliament, in their enclosed grounds, standing out sharply defined against the hazy background of Table Mountain; and the Standard Bank and Railway-station, which would hold their own in any city. At the same time, as a place of residence in the summer months, I can well understand Cape Town being wellnigh deserted. Those who can boast of even the most moderate means have their residences in the attractive suburbs of Rondebosch, Newlands, or Wynberg, and innumerable are the pretty little villas and gardens one sees in these vicinities. There the country is beautifully wooded, thick arching avenues of oak extending for miles, interspersed with tracts of Scotch firs and pines, the latter exhaling a delicious perfume under the sun's powerful rays. Everywhere green foliage and abundant vegetation, which, combined with the setting of the bluest sky that can be imagined, make the drives round Cape Town some of the most beautiful in the world. At Newlands, the Governor's summer residence, a pretty but unpretentious abode, Sir Hercules and Lady Robinson then dispensed generous hospitality, only regretting their house was too small to accommodate visitors, besides their married daughters. We stayed at the Vineyard Hotel in the immediate neighbourhood—a funny old-fashioned hostelry, standing in its own grounds, and not in the least like an hotel as we understand the word. There whole families seemed to reside for months, and very comfortable it was, if somewhat primitive, appearing to keep itself far apart from the rush of modern improvements, and allowing the world to go by it unheeded. Only half a mile away, at Rondebosch, was situated then, as now, on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, the princely domain of the late Mr. Cecil Rhodes. At the moment of which I write the house itself was only approaching completion, and I must now record a few particulars of our introduction to this great Englishman and his world-famed home. We drove to Groot Schuurr, or "Great Barn," one afternoon with Mr. Beit. The house is approached by a long avenue of enormously high Scotch firs, which almost meet aloft, and remind one of the nave of some mighty cathedral, such is the subdued effect produced by the sunlight even on the brightest summer day. A slight rise in the road, a serpentine sweep, and the house itself comes into view, white, low, and rambling, with many gables and a thatched roof. The right wing was then hidden by