H. R. H. appointed Master of the High Court at age of twenty-one — Boers very litigious — Fleeced by lawyers — H. R. H. reforms practice and taxes bills — Much opposition — H. R. H. supported by Judge Kotze — Boer revolt expected — Zulu War threatened — H. R. H. builds house with Cochrane — Jess’s cottage — Sir Bartle Frere — Zulu War — Isandhlwana — Shepstone returns home — Treated shabbily by Government — H. R. H. joins Pretoria Horse — Elected Adjutant — Ordered to Zululand — Orders countermanded — Regiment to defend Pretoria against possible Boer revolt — H. R. H. sent in command of detachment to watch force of 3000 Boers — Exciting incidents but war postponed — Sir Bartle Frere at Pretoria — Estimate of his character — Anthony Trollope — Journeys on circuit with Judge Kotze — Herd of blesbuck — Pretoria Horse disbanded — H. R. H. resigns Mastership of High Court — Buys farm in Natal with Cochrane to breed ostriches.
Not very long after the Annexation the Master and Registrar of the High Court died, and after some reflection the Government appointed me to act in his place. It is not strange that they should have hesitated, seeing that I was barely twenty-one years of age and had received no legal training. Moreover in those days the office was one of great importance.
To put it mildly, the lawyers who frequented the Transvaal courts were not the most eminent of their tribe. Indeed some of them had come thither because of difficulties that had attended their careers in other lands. Thus one of them was reported to have committed a murder and to have fled from the arm of justice. Another subsequently became notorious in connection with the treatment of the loyal prisoners at the siege of Potchefstroom. He was fond of music, and it is said that before two of these unfortunate men were executed, or rather murdered, he took them into a church and soothed their feelings by playing the “Dead March in Saul” over them. He, by the way, was the original of my character of Frank Muller in “Jess.” Even those of the band who had nothing against them were tainted by a common fame: they all overcharged. It was frequently their practice to open their bill of costs with an item of fifty guineas set down as “retaining fee,” and this although they were not advocates but attorneys who were allowed to plead.
In those days the Boers were extraordinarily litigious; it was not infrequent for them to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds over the question of the ownership of a piece of land that was worth little. So it came about that before the Annexation they were most mercilessly fleeced by the lawyers into whose hands they fell. This was the situation which I was called upon to face. Also as Master I held another important office, that of the official Guardian of the estates of all the orphans in the Transvaal.
I entered on my duties with fear and trembling, but very soon grasped the essential facts of the case. One of the first bills that was laid before me was for 600 pounds. I taxed it down by one-half. Then, either over this or some other bill, the row began. The lawyers petitioned against me without avail. They appealed against my decision to the High Court, again without avail, for Mr. Justice Kotze supported me. For a whole day was that bill argued in court, with the result that I was ultimately ordered to restore an amount of, I think, six and eightpence!
Considerable percentage fees were payable to Government on these taxed bills, and for a while I trusted to those who presented the bills to hand over these sums to the Treasury. By an accident I discovered that this was not always done. So I invented a system of stamps which had to be affixed to the bill before I signed it. In short the struggle was long and arduous, but in the end I won the day, with the result that I and my flock became the best of friends. I think that when I left them they were sincerely sorry. I remember that in one case, a very important divorce action which occupied the court for more than a week, the petition was dismissed not because the adultery was not proved but on the ground of collusion. Of this collusion the parties were innocent, but the evidence showed that the petitioner’s solicitor had actually drafted some of the pleas for the defendant’s solicitor and in other ways had been the source of the said collusion, thus causing his client to lose the case. On this ground I disallowed all his bill of costs, except the out-of-pocket expenses. No appeal was entered against this decision.
Of the surviving letters which I sent home at this period of my life several deal with my appointment to the office of Master and Registrar of the Transvaal High Court, and others with public affairs. From these I quote some extracts.
Pretoria: Dec. 18, 1877.
My dearest Mother, — . . . Our chief excitement just now is the Zulu business. It is to be hoped that the Chief will stave it off till April, because the horse-sickness would render all cavalry useless at this time of year. I do not suppose that the Home Government will help, though perhaps they may, the Conservatives being in. If we have to fight by ourselves it will doubtless be at great risk and cost of life. You see, unless public opinion presses, the Home Government is always glad to set a thing of the sort down as a scare, and to let “those troublesome fellows settle it somehow.” But I do not think that this is a matter that can be settled without an appeal to arms and one last struggle between the white and the black races. That it will be a terrible fight there is no doubt; the Zulus are brave men, as reckless about death as any Turk. They are panting for war, for they have not “washed their spears” since the battle of the Tugela in 1856, when the two brothers fought for the throne, and when the killed on one side alone amounted to 9000 men. They will come now to drive the white men back into the “Black Water,” or to break their power, and die in the attempt.
I think I told you that their plan of battle is to engage us in the open for three days and three nights. They say they intend to begin by firing three rounds and then charge in from every side. It will be a magnificent sight to see about twenty thousand of those fellows sweeping down, but perhaps more picturesque than pleasant. However, I have little doubt but that we shall beat them. Besides the thing may blow over. I am going to volunteer this afternoon. . . . I see that Sir Henry is getting unpopular in Natal. All the papers are pitching into him for being too “timid and cautious.” He will be in a terrible way about this Zulu business . . . .
P.S. — I have just “taken the shilling” as a cavalry volunteer.
Pretoria: Feb. 11, 1878.
My dearest Mother, — . . . We are rather in a state of excitement (as usual), as the Boers are making some decided manifestations against us, and even talking of summoning the Volksraad. They think because we are quiet we are afraid. I should not at all wonder if we had a row, and in many ways it would not be a bad thing. Paul Kruger when he came back was entirely with us, but since his return has become intimidated by the blood-and-thunder party and now declares that he considers himself to be still Vice–President of the country. There are some very amusing stories told of him whilst in London: when asked what made the greatest impression on him there, he replied the big horses in the carts, and Lord Carnarvon’s butler! “He was a ‘mooi carle’” (beautiful fellow).
Pretoria: March 4, 1878.
My dearest Mother, — . . . At home you seem rather alarmed about the state of affairs here, and it is not altogether reassuring. The Zulu business hangs fire, but that cloud will surely burst. Luckily the action Sir Henry Bulwer has taken has thrown much of the future responsibility on his shoulders. . . . It is not for a moment to be supposed that Cetewayo will be bound by any decree given against him. . . . Our most pressing danger now is the Boers. They really seem to mean business this time. From every direction we hear of their preparations, etc. According to the latest news they are coming in on the 16th inst., or else on the 5th of April, five thousand strong, to demand back the Government. This of course will be refused. Then they are going to try to rush the camp and powder magazine and, I suppose, burn the town. I am still sceptical about it: not that I doubt that they would like to do it. I dare say they will be tempted by the small number of troops here (we have only 250 men). . . . I am one of the marked men who are to be instantly hung on account of that Secocoeni article I wrote. Some spiteful brute translated it into Dutch with comments and published it in the local papers. The Boers are furious; there are two things they cannot bear — the truth and ridicule. . . . It is precious little I care about them and their threats. . . . The abuse showered on the heads of the unfortunate English officials here is something simply awful. You would not know me again if you could see me as I appear in the Volkstemm leaders. However, it amuses them and does not hurt us. We only hope that when the Chief comes back (we expect him next Monday) he will take strong measures. He has been too lenient, and consequently they have blackguarded him up hill and down dale.
P.S. I have a pleasing duty to perform early tomorrow — go and see a man executed.
Very well do I remember the experience alluded to in this postscript. The individual referred to was a Kaffir chief of high blood, I think the Swazi who was responsible for the killing of Mr. Bell in order to avoid the payment of taxes. I cannot recall his name. He was a most dignified and gentlemanlike person. At the execution the interpreter asked him if he had anything to say before he died. He began to repeat his version of the affair with which we were already acquainted, and on being stopped, remarked, “I have spoken; I am ready.”
In the grey morning light he was then led to the scaffold erected in the prison yard. He walked to it and examined the noose and other arrangements. The executioner proved to be hopelessly drunk; a black Christian preacher wearing a battered tall hat prayed over the doomed man. The High Sheriff, Juta, overcome by the spectacle, retired into a corner of the yard, where he was violently ill. The thing had to be done, and between the drunken executioner and an overcome High Sheriff it devolved upon me. So I stood over that executioner and forced him to perform his office. Thus died this brave Swazi gentleman.
Pretoria: Sunday, March 31, 1878.
My dear Father, — Very many thanks for your long and kind letter of 20th Feb. 1878 and all the advice it contained. With what you say I to a very great extent agree. I had some idea of shifting, but recent events have considerably altered my plans. I think that unless something unexpected occurs I am now certain of the Master and Registrarship here, which will be worth 400 pounds a year — with a probable increase of pay in two or three years. It will also make me a head of Department, which at the age of twenty-one is not so bad. However, experience has taught me that it is foolish to count one’s chickens before they are hatched, so as I have not actually been appointed the less said about it at present the better. Even supposing I do not get it I am not sure that I should change unless I got the offer of something very good. This is a new country where there are very few above me, and a country which must become rich and rising — also the climate is good. However, I shall of course be guided by circumstances, and if I should do so I am sure you will understand that it will be because I thought it on the whole best.
Of course the lawyers are making a desperate stand against my appointment, but with very little effect. It does not at all suit their book. They want to get in a man of the old clique who would not be above a “consideration.” When first I acted one of them tried it on indirectly with me, wanted to pay me double fees for some Commissioner’s work, but I think I rather startled him.
The next letter runs as follows:
Pretoria: April 7, 1878.
My dear Father, — I have to tell you what I am sure you will be glad to hear, namely, that I have won the day with reference to my appointment as Master and Registrar. I have seen H.E.‘s minute to Sec. to Govt., so I am certain about it now. The last question has also been settled in my favour, i.e. whether I was to receive 300 or 400 pounds per annum. I believe I am by far the youngest head of Department in South Africa. I have also the satisfaction of knowing that my promotion has not been due to any favouritism. My connection with the Chief has been against me rather than otherwise, because people in his position are very slow about doing anything that can be construed into favouritism. He was good enough, I believe, to speak very kindly about me when he settled the matter of my appointment this morning, saying that “he thought very highly of me and was sure that I should rise.” This turn of affairs to a great extent settles the question of my going anywhere else. I am very glad to have got the better of those lawyers who petitioned against me, and also to have held the office so much to the satisfaction of the Government as to justify them in appointing so young a man. When I began to act eight months since I had not the slightest knowledge of my work, a good deal of which is of course technical, and what is more there were no records, no books, indeed nothing from which I could form an idea of it, nor had I anyone to teach me. In addition I had to deal with a lot of gentlemen whose paths were the paths of self-seeking, who did their utmost to throw obstacles in my way. These difficulties I have, I am glad to say, to a great extent overcome, and I intend to make myself thoroughly master of my position. Of course the very fact of my rapid rise will make me additional enemies, especially the five or six disappointed candidates, but I don’t mind that . . . .
Pretoria, Transvaal: June 2, 1878.
My dear Father, — . . . I could not help being a little amused at the alarm everybody seems to be in at home about us here. The crisis which frightened you and which was really alarming at the time has long since passed, and I remain unhung. [I cannot remember to what crisis this refers. — H. R. H.] There is however a still blacker cloud over us now. Sir Garnet’s famous thunder-cloud of thirty thousand armed Zulus is, I think, really going to burst at last. It must come some time, so I think it may as well come now. We shall have to fight like rats in a corner, but we shall lick them and there will be an end of it. I do not think a Zulu war will be a long one: they will not hide in kloofs and mountains, but come into the open and fight it out.
In a letter I got from you nearly a year ago you said that if I wanted 500 pounds and the trustees would consent, you thought it might be advanced to me. If you still think so, and it could be done without inconvenience to anybody, it would be useful to me now to invest. I would guarantee 6 per cent. on it. Of course I only ask for it if it can be done without hampering you or my mother. I am going, as I told you, to build a nice house with Cochrane. In a place of this sort it is a great thing to have a pleasant home, and it will also be a very sound investment. I have bought two acres at the top end of the town for this purpose, where land will soon become very valuable . . . .
H. Rider Haggard.
This house I built. We named it “The Palatial,” and it has since become well known as “Jess’s Cottage.” It was a funny little place consisting of two rooms, a kitchen, etc., and having a tin roof. I remember how tiny it looked when the foundations were dug out. I believe that it still stands in Pretoria. At any rate an illustration of it was published in the issue of South Africa dated February 4, 1911, but if it is really the same building it has been much added to and altered. The blue gums in the picture are undoubtedly those we planted; they are very big trees now, I am told. I suppose the vineyard we made in front of the house has vanished long ago, and indeed that streets run across its site.
The Cochrane alluded to in the letter is Mr. Arthur H. D. Cochrane, who came to the Transvaal with Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Sergeaunt, one of the Crown Agents, who was sent out by the Home Government to investigate its finances. We struck up a close friendship which has endured unimpaired through all the succeeding years. I am thankful to say he is still living, a man of almost exactly my own age.
During the period covered by these letters home I was overtaken by a very sore trouble. The love affair to which I have alluded earlier in this book unexpectedly developed, not at my instance, with the result that for some little space of time I imagined myself to be engaged and was proportionately happy. Then one day the mail cart arrived and all was over. It was a crushing blow, so crushing that at the time I should not have been sorry if I could have departed from the world. Its effects upon me also were very bad indeed, for it left me utterly reckless and unsettled. I cared not what I did or what became of me. Here I will leave this subject of which even now I find it painful to write, especially after a morning spent in the perusal of old letters, some of them indited by the dead.
In the autumn of 1878 Sir Bartle Frere, the High Commissioner for South Africa, had arrived in Natal; and towards the end of the year — I think it was in November — he issued his famous ultimatum to the Zulus.
Respecting Sir Bartle as I do, and agreeing with him generally as I do, and sympathising with him from the bottom of my heart as to the shameless treatment which he received from the British party politicians after his policy seemed to have failed and the British arms had suffered defeat, I still think, perhaps erroneously, that this ultimatum was a mistake. Although the argument is all on his side, I incline to the view that it would have been wiser to remonstrate with the Zulus and trust to the doctrine of chances — for this reason: neither Cetewayo nor his people wished to fight the English; had Cetewayo wished it he would have swept Natal from end to end after our defeat at Isandhlwana. But what I heard he said at the time was to this effect: “The English are attacking me in my country, and I will defend myself in my country. I will not send my impis to kill them in Natal, because I and those who went before me have always been good friends with the English.” So it came about that he forbade his generals to cross the boundary of Natal.
Whichever view may be right, the fact remains that the ultimatum was issued and from that moment war became inevitable. Our generals and soldiers entered on it with the lightest hearts; notwithstanding the difficulties and scarcity of transport they even took with them their cricketing outfit into Zululand. This I know, since I was commissioned to bring home a wicket that was found on the field of Isandhlwana, and return it to the headquarters of the regiment to which it belonged, to be kept as a relic. The disaster at Isandhlwana I for one expected. Indeed I remember writing to friends prophesying that it would occur, and their great astonishment when on the same day that they received the letter the telegraph brought the news of that great destruction. This far-sightedness, however, was not due to my own perspicacity, but to the training that I had received under those who knew the Zulus better than any other men in the world.
One of these, Mr. Osborn, who afterwards was appointed Resident in Zululand, was so disturbed by what he knew was coming that, after a good deal of reflection he wrote a solemn warning of what would occur to the troops if their plan of advance was persisted in, which warning he sent to Lord Chelmsford through the officer commanding at Pretoria. It was never even acknowledged. I think that I saw this letter, or, if I did not not, Osborn told me all about it.
The disaster at Isandhlwana occurred on January 22, 1879. A night or two before it happened a lady whom I knew in Pretoria dreamed a dream which she detailed to me on the following day. I am sorry to say that I cannot remember all this dream. What I recall of it is to the effect that she saw a great plain in Zululand on which English troops were camped. Snow began to fall on the plain, snow that was blood-red, till it buried it and the troops. Then the snow melted into rivers of blood.
The lady whom it visited was convinced that this dream portended some frightful massacre, but of course it may have sprung from the excited and fearful feeling in the air which naturally affected all who had relatives or friends at the front.
A stranger and more inexplicable occurrence happened to myself. On the morning of the 23rd of January, which was the day after the slaughter, I saw the Hottentot vrouw who washed our clothes in the garden of “The Palatial” and went out to speak to her. The fat old woman was in a great state of perturbation, and when I asked her what was the matter, she told me that terrible things had happened in Zululand; that the “rooibatjes,” that is, redcoats, lay upon the plain “like leaves under the trees in winter,” killed by Cetewayo. I inquired when the event had occurred, and she replied, on the previous day. I told her that she was speaking falsehoods, since even if it were so no horse could have brought the news over two hundred miles of veld in the course of a single night. She stuck to her story but refused to tell me how it had been learned by her, and we parted.
The old woman’s manner impressed me so much that I ordered a horse to be saddled and, riding down to the Government offices, repeated what I had heard to Mr. Osborn and others. They too said that it was not possible for the tidings to have come to Pretoria in the time. Still they were uneasy, thinking that something might have happened at an earlier date, and made inquiries without results. I believe it was twenty hours later that a man on an exhausted horse galloped into Pretoria with the evil news.
How did the old Hottentot woman learn the truth? It could not have been called from mountain-top to mountain-top after the Kaffir fashion, since the intervening country was high veld where there are no mountains. I have no explanation to offer, except that the natives have, or had, some almost telegraphic method of conveying news of important events of which the nature is quite unknown to us white men.
The consternation at Pretoria was very great, especially as the news reached us in a much-exaggerated form. No wonder that we were perturbed, since there were few who had not lost some that were dear to them. Thus one of Sir Theophilus’s sons was killed, and for a while he thought that three had gone. Afterwards his skeleton was recognised by some peculiarity connected with his teeth. Osborn had lost a son-inlaw, and so on. Personally I knew many of the officers of the 24th who fell, but the one I mourned most was the gallant Coghill, with whom I had become very friendly when he was at Pretoria as aide-decamp to Sir Arthur Cunynghame. He was a peculiarly light-hearted young man full of good stories, some of which I remember to this day.
As the reader will remember, he and Melville died back to back in a vain attempt to save the colours of the regiment, which colours were afterwards recovered from the bed of the river. I would refer any who are interested in this sad history to “The True Story Book,” published by Messrs. Longmans in 1893, where I have told the tale of Isandhlwana and Rorke’s Drift. That account may be taken as accurate, for two reasons: first, I was well acquainted with the circumstances at the time and saw many of those concerned in the matter, and, secondly, I sent the proofs to be checked by my friend Colonel Essex, who was one of the three or four officers in the camp who survived the disaster, as subsequently he did those of Laing’s Nek and Ingogo.
I remember that I asked Essex, a man with a charmed life if ever such a gift was granted, what he thought of during that terrible ride from the Place of the Little Hand to the Buffalo River. He told me that all he could remember was a kind of refrain which came into his mind. It ran, “Essex, you —— fool, you had a chance of a good billet at home, and now, Essex, you are going to be killed!” The story has a certain grim humour; also it shows how on desperate occasions, as I have noted more than once in life, the stunned intelligence takes refuge in little things. Everything else is beaten flat, like the sea beneath a tornado, leaving only such bubbles floating in the unnatural calm.
Not very long after this terrible event Sir Theophilus Shepstone was summoned home to confer with the Colonial Office respecting the affairs of the Transvaal, and well do I remember the sorrow with which we parted from him. I remember also that before this time, when all was going well, in the course of one of those intimate conversations to which he admitted me I congratulated him upon what then appeared to be his great success, and said that he seemed to have everything before him.
“No, my boy,” he answered, shaking his head sadly, “it has come to me too late in life,” and he turned away with a sigh.
As a matter of fact his success proved to be none at all, for he lived to see all his work undone within a year or two and to find himself thrown an offering to the Moloch of our party system, as did his contemporary, Sir Bartle Frere. And yet after all was it so? He did what was right, and he did it well. The exigencies of our home politics, stirred into action by the rebellion of the Boers, appeared to wreck his policy. At the cost of I know not how many English lives and of how much treasure, that policy was reversed: the country was given back. What ensued? A long period of turmoil and difficulties, and then a war which cost us twenty thousand more lives and two hundred and fifty millions more of treasure to bring about what was in practice the same state of affairs that Sir Theophilus Shepstone had established over twenty years before without the firing of a single shot. A little more wisdom, a little more firmness or foresight, and these events need never have occurred. They were one of Mr. Gladstone’s gifts to his country.
But the very fact of their occurrence shows that Shepstone, on whose shoulders everything rested at the time, was right in his premises. He said in effect that the incorporation of the Transvaal in the Empire was an imperial necessity, and the issue has proved that he did not err. I say that the course of history has justified Sir Theophilus Shepstone and shown his opponents and detractors to be wrong, as in another case it has justified Charles Gordon and again proved those same opponents and detractors to be wrong. On their heads be all the wasted lives and wealth. I am sure that the future will declare that he was right in everything that he did, for if it was not so why is the Transvaal now a Province of the British Empire? Nothing can explain away the facts; they speak for themselves.
How shocking, how shameless was the treatment meted out to Shepstone personally — I presume for purely political reasons, since I cannot conceive that he had any individual enemies — is well shown by the following letter from him to me which through a pure accident chances to have been discovered by my brother, Sir William Haggard, amongst his own papers.
July 6, 1884.
My dear Haggard, — I am afraid that I cannot take much credit to myself this time for giving you practical proof that I think of you by writing you a letter, for although I do as a matter of fact think of you both, almost as often as old Polly the parrot calls me a “very domde Boer,” an expression which you taught the bird and which it has not forgotten, yet this is essentially a selfish letter written with selfish ends; but let me assure you that it is nevertheless leavened, as strongly as ever, with the same old love.
The fact is that the Treasury at Home have made a fierce and ungenerous attack on my Transvaal accounts, and threaten to surcharge me with all items to the extent of several thousand pounds for which receipts or vouchers of some sort are not forthcoming. Among these are two small payments to you: one they call a gratuity of 25 pounds, an acknowledgment of your services to the mission for which you received no pay, and the other 20 pounds as compensation for a horse that died on your journey as Commissioner to Sikukuni; and I want you to be good enough to send a certificate acknowledging the payment of each of these items and stating that you signed a receipt for each when it was paid. They are under the impression that Colonel Brooke, who kept the accounts, never took care to get receipts: the fact being that he was most careful on this point; but that the vouchers and some of the accounts also were, most of them, lost during the siege of Pretoria.
The officers of the Treasury have reflected upon my personal honesty, and Mr. Courtney has amused himself by writing some facetious paragraphs; this has of course furnished more or less amusing reading for the society journals. The Colonial Office defended me very vigorously, but I have strongly resented such treatment and shown the injustice and untruthfulness of it, or any foundation for it, in a memo. to the Secretary of State. Meanwhile the Treasury withhold my pension.
This letter is horribly egotistical so far, but I could not help it, as I explained on the first page.
As things have turned out, it was a fortunate thing that you left this country when you did. Our condition as Englishmen, or rather the condition of our Government in regard to this country, reminds me strongly of the craven soldiers under Baker Pasha when they were beaten by the Arabs at Teb: they are described as meekly kneeling to meet their fate. That is exactly what the British Government have been doing, since Majuba, in Africa. The Boers have now taken possession of Central Zululand, and they are quite right to do so. The Government allowed anarchy to run rampant on their [the Boer’s] border; and then publicly declared in the House of Commons that they intended to leave the Zulus to settle their affairs in their own way, and they called in the Boers to settle them for them on the promise of giving them land. They have made the boy Dinizulu king, and have helped the Usutu party to destroy Sibelu, who was made independent by the British Government within boundaries formally assigned and pointed out to him. This was part of their bargain. Now they [i.e. the Boers] are negotiating for the land they are to get, and as the king’s party have got all they wanted to get out of the Boers, I shall not be surprised if some difficulty should arise between them. It was at one time feared that the Boers might not respect the Reserve, and so bring on a collision between them and the Government, and that would of course mean a very serious difficulty in the whole of South Africa; but I hope that there is no fear of this for the present at any rate.
Poor old Osborn seems to be quite worn out by all the worry that he has had ever since he left the Transvaal, and I do not wonder at it; he has not been allowed to rule, and yet has been required to interfere, so in the eyes of the Zulus, as indeed in those of everyone else, he is neither fish, flesh nor good red herring. . . . Sir Henry Bulwer has a very bad time of it; he sees and says what ought to be done, but there is no response, and things are left to drift, until some eddy or other in the stream strands them. I am very sorry, often, for him; and I [think] that if it were not for his sense of loyalty to the Government at home he would throw up. . . . I have had a serious illness since I came back from England, congestion of liver; but am well again. With much love to you both,
Can anything be more piteous than the tale the aged statesman tells in the above epistle? He, of all men the most spotless and upright in character, to have reflections made upon his “personal honesty,” and by the servants of the Government which he had served with such signal faithfulness throughout a long life! Only a very little while before this letter was written those who, or whose masters, were seeking to brand him as a common thief had come to him for help in their difficulties, asking him once more to visit Zululand and further their tortuous and wretched policy by carrying out the restoration of Cetewayo. I believe that the annexation of the Transvaal, which cost a million to surrender and two or three hundred times that sum to reconquer, was effected at an expense of about 10,000 pounds in all. It was this comparatively insignificant sum that, nearly seven years subsequently to its disbursement, was subjected to the microscopic examination of the Treasury clerks. Vouchers, as he says, were lost or destroyed during a prolonged siege, and here was a great opportunity of throwing mud at an honoured name, and of causing its owner, already sinking towards the grave, to spend his last years in poverty by depriving him of the pension that he had earned.
Now, as I am involved in this matter — to the extent of 45 pounds sterling — I had better defend myself, lest in due course reflections should be made upon my honesty as well as upon that of my Chief. The 25 pounds was, I believe, given to me to cover certain out-of-pocket expenses, I being at the time totally unpaid. The 20 pounds was compensation for a horse of more than that value which died when I was serving with the Secocoeni Commission upon a somewhat arduous business. In after years the Treasury wrote to me direct about this said horse. I answered that, so long a time having elapsed, I could not carry the details of the loss in my mind, but that to save the trouble of further correspondence I should be happy, if they wished it, to send them a cheque for the amount. To this proposal I am still awaiting a reply.
Such is the treatment that the greatest Empire in the world can mete out to its servants if their services chance to have proved inconvenient to the political prospects of the party in power. Well, as Gunnar said in the immortal Saga, when one whom he trusted refused to help him in his uttermost need and gave him to his death, “Every one seeks honour in his own fashion.” It would appear that the fashion of party hacks, however exalted or successful, does not always agree with the tradition and practice of the average English gentleman. But over such a matter it is easy to lose one’s balance and write without a desirable moderation. So I will leave the facts to speak for themselves. It seems to me that no words of mine can make them blacker than they are, nor indeed do I wish to dwell upon them more. To me, at least, they are too painful. Let history judge.
After the Zulu disaster a mounted corps, which was christened the Pretoria Horse and composed for the most part of well-bred men, was enrolled in that town. In the emergency of the times officials were allowed to join, a permission of which I availed myself. At a preliminary meeting of the corps I was elected adjutant and one of the two lieutenants, the captain being a Mr. Jackson, a colonial gentleman of great experience.
I was, and indeed still am, very proud of the compliment thus paid to me by my comrades while I was still so young a man. We were ordered to proceed to Zululand with Weatherley’s corps. As it chanced, at the last moment these orders were countermanded, which perhaps was fortunate for us, since otherwise in all human probability our bones would now be rotting beneath the soil of Zululand in company with those of the ill-fated Weatherley’s Horse.
The reason for this change of plan was that of a sudden the Boers, seeing the difficulties of the English Government and knowing that the Zulus were not now to be feared, as their hands were full, began to threaten rebellion so vigorously that it was deemed necessary to retain us for the defence of Pretoria. To the number of about three thousand men they assembled themselves upon the high veld at a distance of thirty miles from Pretoria and here formed a semi-permanent armed camp. I was sent out in command of six or eight picked men to an inn that I think was called Ferguson’s, situated a few miles from this camp. We were unarmed except for our revolvers, and the object of my mission was to watch the Boers. I had my spies in the camp, and every night one or other of these men crept out and reported to me what had taken place during the day and any other information he could collect. This I forwarded to Pretoria, by letter if I thought it safe, or, if I had reason to fear that my messenger would be stopped and searched, by means of different-coloured ribbons, each of which had a prearranged significance. At different points along the road I had horsemen hidden day and night, and, as my messenger galloped up, the relief emerged to meet him, took the despatch or the ribbon, and in his turn galloped away to the next relief. In this fashion I used to get in news to the military authorities very quickly, covering the twenty-five miles of rough country in about an hour even on the darkest nights. Cochrane, I remember, was nearly killed by his horse falling with him in the blackness when engaged upon this dangerous and exciting duty.
I gather from the following document scribbled in pencil by my captain, but undated, that somehow has survived to this day, that my letters were very hurriedly written. Here it is:
Dear Haggard, — Your last safely to hand. The only thing meant in my last about writing clearly was that we could hardly make out some of the words. Colonel Lanyon10 said he could see that you had written in too great a hurry. It is better to take a minute longer in writing to prevent any word being misread here, which might lead to fatal results. Would you like me to send a good stock of food? It was no fault of mine that it was not taken with you. The Landdrost’s instructions were imperative that the men should take nothing. Parents are wiring into me now and say they hear their sons are starving. Would you like any of the men relieved? I should not ask, but do it, only they seem to have got so very nicely into the thing that I would prefer them staying on unless you think I should send some fresh ones. I think that for the next few days it will not be necessary to send very often. However I leave this to you. We are not having all beer and skittles here. What with guards and fortifying, our time is well taken up. I have sent down for your letters, also Cochrane’s.
Yours very sincerely,
10 Colonel (afterwards Sir Owen) Lanyon succeeded Sir T. Shepstone when he went home.
After a while the Boers in the camp got wind of my proceedings, and a large party of them, from thirty to fifty men I should say, rode to the inn fully armed, with the avowed intention of shooting us. In this emergency I, as the officer in command, had on the instant to make up my mind what to do. To attempt flight would, it seemed to me, betray the truth as to the reason of our presence. Moreover we should almost certainly have been captured. So I determined that we should stop where we were.
They came, they dismounted, they stormed and threatened. I on my part gave orders that no man was to suffer himself to be drawn into a quarrel or to do anything unless we were actually attacked, when all had liberty to sell their lives as dearly as they could. I can see them now, standing about and sitting round the large room of the inn with their rifles between their knees. I sat in my little room surveying them through the open door, pretending to understand nothing and to be engaged in some ordinary occupation, such as reading or writing.
After an hour or two of this things came to a climax, and I began to wonder whether we had another five minutes to live. It was then that the ready resource of one of my sergeants, a fine young fellow called Glynn, saved the situation. One of the Boers paused in a furious harangue to light his pipe, and having done so threw the lighted match on to the floor. Glynn, who was standing amongst them, stepped forward, picked up the match, blew it out, and exclaimed in tones of heartfelt gratitude and relief, “Dank Gott!” (Thank God).
The Boers stared at him, then asked, “For what do you thank God, Englishman?”
“I thank God,” answered Glynn, who could talk Dutch perfectly, “because we are not now all in small pieces. Do you not know, Heeren, that the British Government has stored two tons of dynamite under that floor? Is this a place to smoke pipes and throw down matches? Do you desire that all your wives should become widows, as would have happened if the fire from that match had fallen through the boards on to the dynamite beneath? Oh! thank the Lord God. Thank the Lord God!”
Now the Boers of that day had a great terror of dynamite, of the properties of which they were quite ignorant.
“Allemagte!” said one of them. “Allemagte!” echoed the others.
Then they rose in a body, fearing lest we had some devilish scheme to blow them up. In a few minutes not one of them was to be seen.
Shortly after this dynamite incident I was relieved by my co-lieutenant, a very nice fellow whose name, I think, was Fell. I returned to Pretoria on a beautiful stallion which I had named Black Billy. I remember that Black Billy took me from the inn to the town in very little over the hour. Here with the rest of the corps I was stationed at the Government mule stables, not far from the nek through which I believe the Natal railway now runs.
A few nights later things grew more serious. Our pickets and scouts, to say nothing of natives, announced that the Boer laager, which, by the way, was now pitched much nearer to the town and practically besieging it, had broken up, and that the Boers to the number of several thousand were marching on Pretoria. So indeed I believe they were, but something, probably the news that we were more or less prepared to receive them, caused them to change their minds at the last moment, with the result that the attack was never actually delivered. Of this, however, we knew nothing in our mule-stable. All we knew was that at any given moment we must expect to bear the first brunt of the onslaught of several thousand men, which would first impinge upon our position. For some reason which I cannot recollect, my commanding officer, Captain Jackson, was away that night; I think that he had been sent on a mission by the Government and taken the other lieutenant with him, leaving me in command of the corps.
Well, I did my best. A few candles were all that I allowed, set at intervals on the floor of the long building, that they might not shine through the loopholes and draw the enemy’s fire. I posted my best shots, Cochrane among them, upon the upper platform, and the rest at the loopholes we had prepared upon the ground floor and upon the little external bastions. Our extemporised pikes were also laid handy for immediate use.
Till dawn we waited thus, growing rather weary at the last; indeed I never remember a longer night. Then came the news that the Boers had drawn off, leaving Pretoria unmolested, after which we went to bed feeling as flat as ditch water.
However, all these operations were postponed for two years, for the reason that so many British troops were pouring into South Africa in connection with the Zulu War that the Boers came to the conclusion that the time was not opportune to rebel. With their usual good sense they waited till, with our usual folly, we had shipped almost all the troops back to England and Sir Garnet Wolseley had sent the last cavalry regiment out of the country, and allowed (or perhaps it was Lanyon who allowed it) three hundred volunteers, nearly every man of whom was a loyalist, to be recruited there for service in the Basuto War. Then their chance came, one of which they made the most. Then, too, the Pretoria Horse, under a slightly altered name, had its full share of fighting, losing, I think, about a quarter of its number in killed and wounded. But, alas! at that time I was no longer there to command a squadron. I was on the Natal side of the Berg, listening to the guns thundering at Ingogo and Majuba.
Sir Bartle Frere, after interviews with the Boer leaders in their camp, reached Pretoria in the middle of April 1879, and remained there a fortnight as Colonel Lanyon’s guest at Government House. I remember that I commanded the guard of honour which met him in the veld and escorted him into the town, a duty which gave rise to a good story that I will tell at my own expense.
By this time the Pretoria Horse was a very smart body of mounted men divided into two squadrons. I regret to say, however, that although I was, I believe, efficient enough in other respects, owing to a lack of military training I was not well acquainted with the ceremonial words of command. When the High Commissioner appeared I ordered the corps to present arms, which they did in fine style. But arms cannot always be kept at the “present,” and in due course it became necessary that they should be returned to their original position. Then arose my difficulty. I had either neglected to provide myself with or had forgotten the exact words that should be used. Yet the occasion was urgent: something had to be done. So I shouted in stentorian tones — or so at least my military friends used to swear afterwards when they wanted to chaff me, though to this hour I do not believe them — “Put ’em back again!” Well, it served. The Pretoria Horse grinned and the arms went back.
I saw Sir Bartle a good many times while he was in Pretoria, being brought in touch with him not only as an official but because he and my mother had been friends when they were young together in India. He was a tall, refined-looking man of about sixty-five, who always seemed to me to be employed in collecting first-hand information, questioning everyone whom he met on the chance of extracting something of value. I think that occasionally the Colonial officials and others rather resented his continual cross-examination. Indeed there is a trace of this in a report that he wrote to the Colonial Office as to Shepstone’s character, dated February 1879, in which document he complained that he could not get as much out of Sir Theophilus as he would have wished. Now knowing my Chief as well as I did, my conclusion is that he did not altogether like being pumped, especially as he was not sure what use would be made of the information or if it would be correctly assimilated. Shepstone was always open enough with those whom he thoroughly knew and trusted, but these, I admit, were not very many in number. Sir Bartle describes him as “a singular type of an Africander Talleyrand, shrewd, observant, silent, self-contained, immobile.” So he may have appeared to him, but I doubt whether he ever really understood the man or with what keys to unlock his heart.
In short, I imagine that when he was in Frere’s company Shepstone always remained more or less on the defensive. Whatever may be the truth of this matter, Sir Bartle makes one undoubted mistake in the paper from which I have quoted. He says that Shepstone had no sort of sympathy with the Boers. This was not the case, as I know from many talks with him. He was full of sympathy for the Boers, and understood them as few men did. Moreover he appreciated all their good points, and most of them admired and were attached to him personally. Had this not been so he could never have annexed the Transvaal with such comparative ease. Moreover it should be remembered that all the acute troubles with the Boers arose after his departure from that country.
In my opinion, if I may venture to give it, Sir Bartle Frere was a great administrator and almost a great man. But I do not think he was suited to the position in which he found himself. Had Lord Carnarvon been a better judge of men and of character, he would not have appointed Frere to the High Commissionership of South Africa. Frere imported into South Africa the methods of the great Indian administrators, and attempted to apply to peoples as far apart in all essentials of habit and of character as is the North Pole from the Tropics the policy that he had learned in the training and traditions of the East.
Had he been a younger man he might have adapted himself, and without altering his principles, which were just and good, changed the manner of their application. But age had already overtaken him when he landed at the Cape. He looked upon the Zulus as though they had been some Indian clan whom he, the Satrap, had only to lift his hand to sweep away in the interests of the mighty and remote Dominion which he served. He overlooked the wide divergence of the circumstances of the two lands and of the complications introduced by the existence in South Africa of two white peoples — the English and the Dutch — hereditary foes, who only awaited the removal of a common danger to spring at each other’s throats. I do not believe that he ever grasped the problem in its entirety as, for instance, Shepstone did. He saw the Zulu war cloud looming on the frontier of Natal and determined to burst it even if it should rain blood. But he did not see that by this act of his, which, after all, might perhaps have been postponed, he was ensuring the rebellion of the Transvaal Dutch. His Indian traditions came into and dominated his mind. Yonder was a savage people who threatened the rights of the Crown and the safety of its subjects. Let them be destroyed! Fiat justitia ruat coelum!
Even at this distance of time it is difficult to speak of the treatment meted out to this most upright public servant and distinguished man, who, be it remembered, had only accepted his office at the urgent prayer of the British Government, without using words of burning indignation. By the Liberals he was of course attacked, since his action gave them a convenient stick wherewith to beat the Government. This was to be expected. What was not to be expected was the lack of, or rather the half-hearted nature of the support which he received from his official superiors. About this time Lord Carnarvon resigned the Colonial Secretaryship owing to some difference of opinion between himself and his colleagues on other matters, which, in view of the state of South African affairs, many people will think he might have overlooked, and Sir Michael Hicks Beach filled his place.
The next step in the persecution of Sir Bartle Frere was to attack him through his pocket, as Shepstone was afterwards attacked in the same way. A certain special allowance of 2000 pounds a year, which he had made one of the conditions of his acceptance of office, was publicly withdrawn from him. This was done by Lord Kimberley, the Liberal Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1880, and as even then Frere would not allow himself to be goaded into resignation over a money matter, a few months later the sacrifice was completed. He was recalled with ignominy, no other word seems to meet the case. He retired to England to die, as thought many of his friends, of a broken heart. Thus did Britain reward her faithful servant whose greatest crime was an error of judgment, if indeed he really erred, a matter that may well be argued. Well, he took with him the love and respect of every loyal man in South Africa, and when all these squalid party turmoils are forgotten, his name will shine on serene and untarnished in the sky of history.
To return to my personal reminiscences of this great Governor. During the year 1877, in an unguarded moment I wrote an article descriptive of my visit to Secocoeni, which was published in an English magazine. In the course of this article I gave an accurate and lively account of the menage of an ordinary Transvaal Boer, in the course of which I was so foolish as to say that the ladies were, for the most part, plain and stout. I do not think that I signed the paper, but from internal evidence it was traced back to me, and, needless to say, translated into Dutch by the journals of the Cape Colony. Then a great hubbub arose, and ultimately, two years later, the matter came to the ears of Sir Bartle Frere.
He sent for me and very rightly reproached me for my indiscretion. In defence I replied that I had written no word that was not the strict and absolute truth.
“Haggard,” he said in his suave voice, “do you not know that there are occasions on which the truth is the last thing that should be uttered? I beg you in future to keep it to yourself.”
I bethought me of Talleyrand’s saying that language was given to us to conceal our thoughts, but did not, I think, attempt to cap the argument by its quotation. In fact, his censure was well deserved. As St. Paul teaches us, all things may be lawful, but all things are not expedient, and at this juncture it was certainly inexpedient to make little jokes about the uncountable fleas in Boer bedsteads.
Another noted man who visited us was Mr. Anthony Trollope, who rushed through South Africa in a post-cart, and, as a result, published his impressions of that country. My first introduction to him was amusing. I had been sent away on some mission, I think it was to Rustenberg, and returned to Government House late one night. On going into the room where I was then sleeping I began to search for matches, and was surprised to hear a gruff voice, proceeding from my bed, asking who the deuce I was. I gave my name and asked who the deuce the speaker might be.
“Anthony Trollope,” replied the gruff voice, “Anthony Trollope.”
Mr. Trollope was a man who concealed a kind heart under a somewhat rough manner, such as does not add to the comfort of colonial travelling.
I think that my most pleasant recollections of the Transvaal are those connected with my journeys on circuit in company with Judge Kotze. Generally we travelled in an ox-waggon from town to town, and employed our leisure as we went in shooting, for at that time parts of the Transvaal veld were still black with game. Then at night we would sit by our camp fire eating the dinner which I always cooked — for I was very expert at the culinary art — or, if it were wet and cold, in our waggon, where we read Shakespeare to each other till it was time to go to bed.
One such night I remember well; it was on the high veld somewhere in the neighbourhood of Lake Chrissie, where the duck-shooting was magnificent. We read “Romeo and Juliet” and went to sleep in due course. At dawn I poked my head between the curtains of the waggon, and in the dense mist that rolled around us saw a great herd of blesbuck feeding all about the waggon. I woke the Judge, and reaching down our rifles, we opened fire. He missed his blesbuck but I killed two at one shot, a thing I had never done before. Truth compels me to add that the Judge claimed one of them, but on that point I was unable to accept his learned decision.
On one of these journeys I nearly came to a bad end. On a certain morning before breakfast I wounded a bull wildebeest, breaking one of its hind hocks, and mounting a famous hunting horse that I had, named Moresco, started to ride it down. But that wildebeest would not be ridden down, at least for a very long while. Being thin, notwithstanding its injury it went like the wind, and finally led me into a vast company of its fellows: I think there must have been three or four hundred of them. When once he began to gallop game, Moresco was a horse that could not be held; the only thing to do was to let him have his head. Into that herd he plunged, keeping his eye fixed upon the wounded beast, which in the end he cut out from among them.
On we went again and got into a great patch of ant-bear holes. Some he dodged, some he jumped, but at length went up to his chest in one of them, throwing me on to his neck. Recovering himself with marvellous activity, he literally jerked me back into the saddle with a toss of his head, and we proceeded in our wild career. The end of it was that at last the bull was ridden to a standstill, but I could not pull up Moresco to get a shot at it. He went at the beast as though he were going to eat it. The bull charged us, and Moresco only avoided disaster by sitting down on his tail. As the beast passed underneath his head I held out my rifle with one hand and pulled the trigger; the bullet went through its heart and it dropped like a stone. Then I tied my handkerchief to its horn in order to scare away the aasvogel, and rode off to find the camp in order to get assistance.
All that day I rode, but I never found the camp on those vast, rolling plains. Once towards sunset I thought that I saw the white caps of the waggons five or six miles away. I rode to them to discover that they were but white stones. A tremendous thunderstorm came on and wetted me to the skin. In the gloom the horse put his foot upon a rolling stone that gave me a terrible fall that bruised and nearly knocked the senses out of me.
After lying a while I recovered. Mounting again, I remembered that when I left the waggons the rising sun had struck me in the face. So I rode on towards the west until utter darkness overtook me. Then I dismounted, slipped the horse’s reins over my arm, and, lying down on the fire-swept veld, placed the saddle-cloth over me to try to protect myself against the cold, which at that season of the year was very bitter on this high land. Wet through, exhausted, shaken, and starved as I was — for I had eaten nothing since the previous night — my position was what might be called precarious. Game trekked past me; I could see their outlines by the light of such stars as there were. Then hyenas came and howled about me. I had three cartridges left, and fired two of them in the direction of the howls. By an afterthought I discharged the third straight up into the air. Then I lay down and sank into a kind of torpor, from which I was aroused by the sound of distant shouts. I answered them, and the shouts grew nearer, till at length out of the darkness emerged my Zulu servant, Mazooku.
It seemed that this last shot saved me, for really I do not know what would have happened if I had lain all night in that wet and frost, or if I should ever have found strength to get on my horse again in the morning. Mazooku and other natives had been searching for me for hours, till at length all abandoned the quest except for Mazooku, who said that he would go on. So he wandered about over the veld till at length his keen eyes caught sight of the flash from my rifle — he was much too far away to hear its report. He walked in the direction of the flash for several miles, shouting as he came, till at length I answered him.
So, thanks to Mazooku, I escaped from that trouble, and, what is more, took no harm, either from the fall or the chill and exhaustion. He was a very brave and faithful fellow, and, as this story shows, much attached to me. I think that some instinct, lost to us but still remaining to savages, led him towards me over that mighty sea of uninhabited veld. Or of course it may have been pure chance, though this seems improbable. At any rate he found me and through the darkness led me back to the camp, which was miles away. The vituperation of Kaffirs is a common habit among many white men, but in difficulty or danger may I never have a worse friend at hand than one like the poor Kaffir who is prepared to die for the master whom he loves.
Ultimately the Pretoria Horse was disbanded. So many British troops had been poured into Africa that the Boers, with their usual slimness, thought the time inopportune to push matters to the point of actual rebellion, and therefore dispersed to their homes to await a more favourable hour. This came later when Sir Garnet Wolseley, who, whatever his gifts, was not blessed with foresight, had, as I have said, despatched all the cavalry back to England. At this time no local assistance was required in the Zulu War. So it happened that my soldiering came to a sudden end, for which I was sorry, for I had found the occupation congenial. Also I was, as I have said, restless and reckless, and since Sir Theophilus had left Pretoria everything seemed changed. Most of my colleagues had departed this way and that, and one of them, old Dr. Lyle, was dead. He had built a house near the town, purposing to settle there, but was seized with some frightful liver complaint. I went to say good-bye to him, and never shall I forget this last farewell. At the door of the death-chamber I turned round. He had raised himself on his arms and was looking after me, his dark eyes filled with tenderness, shining large and round in a face that had wasted to the size of that of a child. In a day or two he was gone, a martyr to his own goodness if all the tale were told.
Cochrane and I took it into our heads that we would shake off the dust of Government service and farm ostriches. As a beginning we purchased some three thousand acres of land at Newcastle in Natal from Mr. Osborn, together with the house that he had built when he was Resident Magistrate there. We had never seen the land and did not think it worth while to undertake the journey necessary to that purpose, as it lay two hundred miles away. In this matter our confidence was perfectly justified, since my dear friend Osborn had scrupulously undervalued the whole estate, which was a most excellent one of its sort.
I forget what we paid him for it, but it was a very modest sum. Or rather we did not pay him at the time, as we wished to keep our working capital in hand, nor do I think that he demanded any security in the shape of mortgages or promissory notes. He knew that we should not fail him in this matter, nor did we do so.
On my part it was a mad thing to do, seeing that I had a high office and was well thought of; yet, as it chanced, the wisest that I could have done. Had I stopped on at Pretoria, within two years I should have been thrown out of my employment without compensation, as happened to all the other British officials when Mr. Gladstone surrendered the Transvaal to the Boers after our defeat at Majuba, or at any rate to those of them who would not take service under the Dutch Republic, as I for one could never have consented to do.
I find among my papers the letter accepting my resignation. It is as follows:
Colonial Secretary’s Office,
Pretoria: May 31, 1879.
Sir, — I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 29th inst. tendering the resignation of your office as Master and Registrar of the High Court, and to inform you by direction of his Excellency that he regrets that the Government should lose the services of an officer who has performed difficult duties so satisfactorily.
I have the honour, sir, to be
Your obedient Servant,
I find also the following letter from Mr. Kotze, the Chief Justice.
Pretoria, Transvaal: May 24, 1879.
My dear Haggard, — Before you leave Pretoria I desire to record my regret at losing your services as Master and Registrar of the High Court of this territory.
For two years you have discharged the duties of this office with the greatest ability and satisfaction, and I have every reason to believe that you carry with you the good wishes of all who have known you here. Although I regret that you thought it fit to resign your post, I think you have not acted indiscreetly in so doing. The salary (400 pounds) attached to the office of Registrar and Master is only really equivalent to 200 pounds in England or the Cape Colony, and although there exists the possibility of an increase thereof, such possibility is very remote.
The Civil Service in the Transvaal offers no inducement for young men of ambition or ability, and hence farming if properly conducted affords a far better prospect to those willing and able to work.
Wishing you every success in your future undertaking,
Very faithfully yours,
J. G. Kotze.
Here, while I am speaking of Kotze, an able judge and an upright man, who ultimately did take service under the Boers and met with no good treatment either from them or subsequently from the British Government, I will record a curious instance of his memory.
About twenty years later he came to England and stayed with me at Ditchingham. On his arrival I took him to the cloak-room to hang up his overcoat. On the next peg was an old frieze ulster of mine which had survived from my early life — and, I may add, still survives, for to this day I sometimes wear it.
“Why, Haggard,” he said, “that is the coat you used to wear when we went on circuit together after the Annexation.”
It is curious that a man should remember a garment after so many stormy years, especially so as he only saw it hanging on a hook. Indeed such an incident makes one wonder whether we ever really forget anything.
So my life at Pretoria came to an end. Cochrane and I rode away one morning to a Boer stead somewhere in the neighbourhood of where Johannesburg now stands, and bought and paid for our ostriches. I think that Cochrane must have driven them down to Hilldrop, our new home near Newcastle in Natal, for I have no recollection of assisting in the business. Nor do I remember ever visiting Hilldrop until I came thither eighteen months or more later with my wife.
From that day to this I have never seen Pretoria or the Transvaal, nor do I wish to see them. All is changed there, and I should find nothing but graves. I prefer to remember them as they were when I was young.
But of Natal I was destined to see a good deal more, as I hope to tell in the next chapter, which will deal with my life there at the time of the Boer rebellion.
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