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Title: The Boer in Peace and War
Author: Mann, Arthur M.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Author of _The Truth From Johannesburg_

With Sixteen Illustrations

John Long
6 Chandos Street, Strand





  BOER MOUNTED POLICE (Frontispiece)


















A Boer may know you, but it will take you some time to know him, and
when a certain stage in your acquaintance is reached, you may begin to
wonder whether his real nature is penetrable at all. His ways are not
the ways of other people: he is suspicious, distant, and he does not
care to show his hand--unless, of course, there is some pecuniary
advantage to be gained. He is invariably on the alert for advantages
of that description.

His suspicious nature has probably been handed down to him from
preceding generations. When he first set foot in South Africa he was
naturally chary concerning the native population. He had to deal
firmly with Bushmen, and the latter certainly proved a source of
continual trouble. The Boer set himself a difficult task when he
undertook to instil fear, obedience, and submission into the hearts of
these barbarians--a task that could only be faced by men of firm
determination and unlimited self-confidence.

These characteristics have always inspired the Boer, and although he
may often have been the object of derision, it is to his credit that
the predominant qualities mentioned have enabled him to pull through
the miry clay. Without these qualities, it is patent that the little
band which landed at the Cape long years ago would have succumbed
before the conflicting forces which then existed. And as succeeding
years passed on, and the sun still shone upon the heads of the
pioneers, it is worthy to note that, despite the difficulties which
continually presented themselves, the little band multiplied,
prospered, and evolved an ensample not too mean to contemplate.

The Boer cannot be charged with any incapacity where the mere
treatment of natives is concerned; he can manage that business
perfectly. In the first place, he does not make the too common mistake
of allowing the black populace to insert the thin end of the wedge.
This is a mistake too often fraught with serious results, and the Boer
knows it. A native, no matter if he be Swazi, Zulu, Basuto, or any
other nationality, will always take advantage where such is offered,
and he will follow it up with enough persistence to warrant ultimate
success. In Natal, at the present time, this mistake is very apparent,
and, in consequence, one very seldom encounters a native who is
content to attire himself in any other manner than that adopted by his
master. He demands decent clothing, and, if possible, it must be new
and fashionable. I have known cases where a 'boy' has been presented
with a respectable suit of clothes a little too small for him, and it
is unnecessary to add that he disposed of that suit. People who have
hitherto allowed their children to put their pennies in the Sunday
School Mission box, will perhaps hesitate to continue supporting the
'poor, down-trodden native' when they learn that he is so fastidious,
and perhaps, after all, their spare coppers might be assigned to a
more deserving cause.

The Boer does not treat his black servants in any such fashion--he
knows better. He puts them on a sound footing to begin with, and he
leads them to understand that they must remain there.

This method of treatment where the natives are concerned has, to a
great extent, insured the progress of the Boer in South Africa. He has
laid down certain laws at the outset, and he has rigidly adhered to
those laws. He employs a different method of treatment from that which
is attributed to the Natal farmer and others who employ native
servants. He has never allowed his original attitude towards natives
to become compatible with the British idea; he prefers still to look
upon them as slaves, although he is perforce required to regard them
as servants. The difficulty in Natal with regard to the rapidly
increasing native populace, and how to deal effectually with the
question, might have arisen in the Orange Free State, for instance,
were it not for the fact that the native, in comparison with the white
population, is small. By a Law passed in the Volksraad some few years
ago, it became compulsory for farmers to allow only a limited number
of native families to remain on the farms. This created considerable
dissatisfaction among both farmers and natives, and the result was
that native labour approached the inadequate in a very short time.
Hundreds of native families left the State, and although the Law
ultimately admitted of a wider interpretation, the native populace has
not materially increased. The present attitude of natives in the towns
is not altogether satisfactory since the passing of this Law. Labour
being scarce, they are inclined to take up an independent attitude,
which, if fraught with little danger, is at least calculated to
produce a certain amount of friction between white and black. Added to
this, there is the fact that the education of natives, which is
becoming more general, undoubtedly assists the growth of this
independence. The Boer farmers in this connection adhere to their
pristine view of the matter, namely, that educating natives amounts to
casting pearls before swine; and although this does not tend to
encourage the work of the missionary, there may possibly be a certain
amount of truth in it.

Before the arrival of British subjects at the Cape, the Boer had it
all his own way. He looked upon himself as practically the ruler of
the country, and it was not natural that he should look with favour
upon the advent of a probable rival. He lived peacefully in a
way--that is, when he was not in open conflict with the natives. He
killed his game and cooked it and ate it heartily, and he enjoyed a
measure of happiness. He had found a home; the free-and-easy life
suited him; and if he was not possessed of riches (which would have
been of little value to him then), he had, at least, health and
strength and an abundance of daily food.

But one day the now accursed Englishman crossed his path, and that
made a considerable difference. He perhaps wondered why the English
came there at all, when he was just beginning to develop a great
country. But he did not, of course, know then what he knows now,
namely, that the English are insatiable land-grabbers! He looked upon
their advent more in the light of a huge slice of impertinence. He
knew also that it was dangerous to meddle or contend with them, so he
merely looked on with a suspicious eye. He watched their every
movement, and he also very probably looked for the day of their
departure. But they did not depart; they had come to stay.

The Boer did not like his English neighbours from the start; there was
far too much of the go-ahead persuasion about them. He wanted to jog
along quietly and cautiously, and he very naturally resented the
presence of people in whom the desire for progression was strong. So
long as the Boer was left to himself he was not aware of his own
tardiness. He was very much in the position of a cyclist on the track;
it needed a 'pacer' to show how slowly he was travelling. The 'pacer'
in this instance brought with him no commendation in the eyes of the
Boer; he merely created suspicion and ill-feeling, which ultimately
developed into rancour.

When suspicion lays hold of a man it invariably changes the whole of
that man's character. It did so in the case of the Boer. It debarred
any chance of reconciliation with the English for the future. The Boer
does not know the meaning of compromise, and if he did, it would go
against his grain to entertain it. His nature is stubborn; he cannot
bring himself to look at a question from any other view-point than his
own. He will argue a point for hours, and although he may be in the
wrong, it is a moral impossibility to convince him that he is not in
the right. His consummate ignorance may largely account for this; but
even semi-educated Boers are not much better in this respect.

The Boer makes an excellent pioneer, and when he found that the
English ideas were not compatible with his own, he decided to move
farther north. That is another of his characteristics--independence.
He is not only independent to a degree, he is sensitive; and when he
discovers by accident that he is a much-aggrieved party, his
indignation does not usually take a violent form--he simply clears
out. He may be somewhat different where the Transvaal is concerned--he
may be indignant, but he has no intention in this instance of adopting
the procedure of his forefathers. The latter had not yet dropped into
an inheritance glittering with gold; they were merely agriculturists,
and they desired pastures of their own. Some of them found desirable
pastures in the barren wastes of the Free State, and subsequently the
majority wended their way to the Transvaal.

It is not, of course, my intention to reiterate history. History is
good enough when it is new, but I should only be covering ground which
is already familiar to most readers. My purpose is to present glimpses
of the Boer as he is to-day.


The Boers are very much like the Scotch--they are clannish. Every Boer
has a solid belief in himself, to begin with, and every Boer has a
profound belief in his brother. This characteristic has many
advantages: it not only welds a people together, it is a sufficient
guarantee of success in times of trouble and difficulty, and it has
stood the Boer in good stead. He likes to tell you that no difficulty
is insurmountable in his eyes--nay, further, he does not believe in
the existence of any difficulty which he is not competent to overcome.
Rumours of trouble with natives do not appal him, because he knows
before he slings his gun over his shoulder that he is going forth to
inflict due punishment upon the insurgents. He does not in any
instance entertain the thought of a repulse. He marches to the front
with a firm, determined step, and he does not rest until he has
conclusively settled the matter.

The march to the front is a sort of family concern. I have tried
occasionally to unravel the relations of the numerous families in
certain districts, but it seems to me that the complications are too
great to admit of analysis. For instance, it will be found that the
family of Wessels is closely allied to the family of Odendaals, and
the Odendaals, on the other hand, are related to the De Jagers. This
kind of thing worries and tantalizes a man, and the only safe
conclusion to arrive at is that the entire nation is linked together
in some way or other by family ties. This may account for the fact
that it is seldom necessary to introduce one Boer to another--they are
very well acquainted without such formalities; if they are not, they
very soon strike up an acquaintance.

Of course there are exceptions, and I remember one in particular. The
instance I refer to occurred in a store. One of the gentlemen in
question was leaning heavily against the counter, and one could
observe at a glance that he, at least, had a good opinion of himself.
Presently Boer number two entered. He was small in stature, like the
other man, but there was a note of uncertainty about him which seemed
to betoken that his opinion of himself did not measure up in
proportion to that of the other Boer. Number two looked about him a
bit, and occasionally directed a furtive glance at number one, who, on
the other hand, stolidly regarded the array of goods spread out before
him. Number two seemed to have settled the question in his own mind at
last, for he approached the other party and held out his hand.

'I am Britz,' he said laconically, as the other touched the
outstretched hand indifferently.

'Ja!' said number one; 'I am Papenfus.'

The conversation ended here, and number two made a silent departure.


The preliminary salutations of another pair of Boers are probably as
interesting. It was during a prolonged drought, and both gentlemen had
evidently experienced a difficulty in finding a sufficiency of
water for the purposes of ablution. They had not met for a number of
years, but the recognition was mutual.

'Almachtig, Gert, you are still as ugly as ever!'

'Ja!' replied the other readily; 'and you are still alive with that

The Boer is coarse in his conversation, although he prefers to regard
it as wit. He likes to participate in a conversation bristling with
this sort of wit, but when you come to tell him a really good thing,
he fails entirely to grasp the point, and your joke falls flat,
resulting usually in a painful silence.

He is also very chary of complications in the handling of money. He
brings his wool into town once, and sometimes twice, a year, and that
staple comprises the current coin of the country. His clip is weighed
off in due course, and he proceeds to the store and sits down while
the clerk figures up the amount. You may be foolish enough to ask him
if he will buy a plough or a bag of coffee, but he continues to smoke
hard and expectorate all over the floor without giving a definite
reply. He wants to handle the money first, and then he will arrange
about his purchases. Within half an hour he will probably have in his
pocket two or three hundred golden sovereigns (he does not look upon
bank-notes with favour; he wants something hard and substantial), and
he will at once proceed to the matter of buying. At the end of the day
his waggon is loaded up with a variety of household and agricultural
necessities, for which he has paid, say, £150 of the money received
for his wool. This is his way of doing things, and he thinks it is the
right one.

During the Boer War of 1880 merchants in the Free State had a bad time
of it. The Boers were, of course, very much excited, and the English
merchant was looked upon scornfully and contemptuously. One Boer had
already drawn up a memorandum of what he considered should be the
_modus operandi_ in dealing with the storekeepers. Two or three were
to be hanged, and the others were to be tied up in front of their own
buildings and shot down like crows. That was in Harrismith.

The Boer has not much to boast of in the matter of brains, but what he
does possess he is careful not to abuse. A man can abuse his brains in
many ways--by taking to strong drink, for instance. I have been among
Boers for some years, and I can honestly say that I never yet saw a
Boer the worse for drink. He may indulge occasionally, but he very
seldom carries the practice to excess. When he does take it he likes
it strong--as strong as he can get it. He scorns the idea of mixing it
in water. He reckons that he did not go to the canteen or hotel to pay
for water. He wants the full value of his money, and he takes it.

I have said that the Boer is suspicious; he is likewise jealous by
nature. If there happens to be rinderpest on the next farm to his, he
is never contented until he gets his full share. He does not mind if
the visitation plays extreme havoc among his stock so long as he is
not left in the lurch. I remember some time ago hearing of a Boer who
had decided to build a large dwelling-house on his farm in place of
the wretched little building he and his family had hitherto occupied.
This Boer had made some money, and contact with English people in the
towns had resulted in more advanced ideas. He determined, therefore,
to spare no expense on this new project--he even included a bath-room.
The building was scarcely completed, when about a dozen Boers, who
were also capitalists in a way, immediately set about making
arrangements for similar structures. This form of jealousy is, of
course, good where trade is concerned.

If the Boer is nothing else, he is at least talked about. I say
nothing else advisedly, because he is nothing else. In his own country
he is nothing, and out of it he is less, if that were possible. It may
seem out of place on the part of a Scotsman to make such an assertion,
because a Scotsman (and a Yorkshireman, too, by the way) is, in the
eyes of the Boer, a friendly being, and far removed above a mere
Englishman. A Boer will give a Scotsman the best in the house, and put
up his horse comfortably, but an Englishman in the same circumstances
fares differently. It is, of course, unnecessary to say that while
a Scotsman makes no objection to exceptional hospitality, his views of
the Boer do not differ materially from those of any other person of
whatever nationality. He drinks the Boer's coffee, and shakes hands
with him and all his family, but there may be, and usually is, a great
deal of deception mixed up with such extreme good-feeling. I could
never understand, nor has it been explained to me, why the Boer is so
partial towards Scotsmen, unless it be that a great many Scotch words
resemble words in the Dutch language. Perhaps that may in some degree
account for it, although I do not think there is anything to be proud
of on the Scottish side.

[Illustration: A BOER HOMESTEAD]

It is necessary to reside in the Boer Republics to place one in the
position of knowing something of the Boer, and a mere fortnight won't
do it. Of course, there are Boers and Boers, as there are Englishmen
and Englishmen. There are Boers who are competent to rank with any
English gentleman, and whose education and abilities are of no mean
order. Unfortunately, however, these are altogether in the minority.

The Boers are all farmers, and, according to their own statements, a
poverty-stricken people. They plead poverty before an English merchant
because they fancy it will have the effect of reducing prices.
Fortunately, the merchants possess rather an accurate knowledge of
such customers, and in consequence they lose nothing. One would as
soon believe the generality of Boers, as walk into the shaft of a coal
mine. He has a reputation for lying, and he never brings discredit
upon that reputation. When he lies, which, on an average, is every
alternate time he opens his mouth, he does so with great enthusiasm,
and the while he is delivering one lie, he is carefully considering
the next. When he can't think of any more lies, he starts on the
truth, but in this he is a decided failure. He is afraid of being
found out. For instance, a merchant will approach a Boer respecting an
overdue account. The Boer will at once plead poverty, and speculate
on how he can possibly manage to liquidate his liability. If the
merchant knows the ropes sufficiently (and the majority of merchants
do), he will drop the subject for half an hour, at the end of which
time he will ask the Boer if he wants to sell any cattle or produce,
as he (the merchant) can find an outlet for either or both. The Boer's
diplomacy is weak, and he falls into the trap. He has fifty cattle to
dispose of; the merchant buys them, and the overdue account, with
interest, is paid.

The Boers are very superstitious in a great many things. For instance,
they regard locusts as a direct visitation from the Almighty. When the
pest settles down upon ground occupied by Kaffirs, all the available
tin cans and empty paraffin tins are requisitioned, and there is a
mighty noise, that ought to frighten off any respectable locust swarm;
but the Boer, when he sees them coming, goes into his house and lays
hold of his Bible, and reads and prays until he thinks there ought to
be some good result. The Boer is gifted with great and abiding
patience (in such cases only), and, no matter if the locusts stop long
enough to eat up every green blade on his farm, he will continue to
study his Bible and pray. But, as I have remarked parenthetically, it
is only in cases of emergency where he evinces such a display of
patience and exercises such a pious disposition. When he is not
praying, he is putting ten-pound stones in his bales of wool to be
ready for the merchant's scales, and transacting other little matters
of business of a like nature.

The Boer is not particular in the matter of cleanliness. It suits him
just as well to be dirty as to be clean. It is no exaggeration to say
that numbers of Boers do not wash themselves from one week's end to
another; and they wear their clothes until they drop off. It is always
a matter for speculation what the womenfolks do. It is certain that
they do not exert themselves too much, if at all, in their own homes.
They generally do all the cooking and eating in one room, and in the
other end of the house you will probably find a litter of pigs, a
score of hens, etc. And the one room is about as clean as the
other--most people would prefer to sleep alongside the pigs and the

The most painful proceeding is to dine in such a place. Unless you are
blessed with a cast-iron constitution and a stomach of the same
pattern, you are not likely to survive. Usually they put down boiled
meat first, after which comes the soup. The chief regret in your case
is that the soup had not come first, so that you could have disposed
of it right away and had something on top of it. Coffee, of course, is
never forgotten, and it would be a direct insult to refuse it. Coffee
is a great thing with the Boer. He would as soon be without house and
home, as his bag of coffee. Before selling his wool to the merchant,
almost the first thing he asks is: 'What is your price for coffee?' If
a satisfactory quotation is forthcoming, he does not hesitate long in
disposing of his staple, although, of course, at the highest price

The story goes that once upon a time a Boer, whose conscience had
remained dormant from his birth, came to a certain town to purchase
goods in exchange for produce. One of the articles he bought was,
naturally, coffee, and of that he took half a bag. While the clerk was
engaged in attending to some other matters, the Boer quietly and, as
he thought, unobserved, undid the cord which secured the mouth of the
coffee bag, and slipped in a quarter of a hundred-weight of lead which
was lying in the vicinity and which he evidently calculated on finding
useful. The clerk observed this movement without betraying the fact,
and when the order was completed his eye fell upon the coffee bag

'Oh! wait a moment,' he remarked. 'I fancy I have forgotten to weigh
that coffee.'

He weighed it over again and carefully noted down the figures in his
little book, no doubt much to the chagrin of the silent Boer, who
probably had not reckoned on paying for his lead in the same
proportion as the cost of his coffee per pound.

On another occasion, a Boer, the extent of whose wealth was probably
unknown to himself, found it necessary to dispute certain items in his
account with his storekeeper. This sort of thing, by the way, is the
rule and by no means the exception. It seems natural also when it is
noted that the majority of Boers run twelve-monthly accounts, and by
the time they come to square up, they find a difficulty in recognising
some of the articles purchased eleven or twelve months previously.
This particular gentleman's argument had reference to a pair of spurs,
which he deposed had been given to him as a present by the manager,
and his hitherto good opinion of the clerk who had charged the spurs
in his account was permanently damaged. He said he wasn't a man of
that sort. If he wanted to buy spurs, he could pay cash down for about
fifteen thousand pairs and, in short, he could buy up all the spurs in
the country! He would pay for those spurs now: he wouldn't take a pair
of anything, gratis or otherwise, from that merchant as long as he
lived. He would go home and put eight horses into his wagonette and
drive round the country and tell all his friends about that pair of
spurs, and he wouldn't rest until he had completed the task to his own

The book-keeper tried in vain to calm him down by presenting him with
a bunch of grapes, but he only regarded the peace-offering with
extreme contempt. He wanted to know what else he had been charged
with, and the clerk, in conciliatory tones, proceeded to read over the
several items. He came to 'one pound of tea.' That was the last straw.

'What! a pound of tea--a pound! Almachtig! Ik koop thee bij de zak (I
buy tea by the bag).'

The suspicious nature of the Boer is always in evidence, although the
Englishman must perforce humour it. It would be interesting to learn,
for instance, how many thousands of pounds are sewn up in mattresses
all over the country because the owners are chary concerning the
integrity of bank-managers. They have no doubt whatever but that a
bank is a paying concern (one Boer entered a bank recently and
wanted to see the place where they made the money), but they would
much rather keep their own money out of it, in case it should get
mixed up with the earnings and savings of other people and be lost.
The story runs that one old vrouw journeyed to town in her waggon one
day for the express purpose of depositing £300 with the local bank,
but when she found that they wanted to give her so much for keeping it
(interest) instead of asking her to pay a small amount by way of
compensation for taking charge of her money, she became suspicious and
took her £300 back to the farm and the double grass mattress once
more. It is unnecessary to state that this particular lady never
trusted another banking institution.


And so it is with other things. When once you have aroused suspicion
in the Boer--and it sleeps lightly--you can safely say good-bye to him
for ever. He knows within his heart that the English are bent upon
taking advantage of him, and when a man makes up his mind like that
he is seldom disappointed.

There is one characteristic of the Boer which the most casual observer
cannot fail to notice. It is his entire indifference to personal
appearance. He likes to see his vrouw gorgeous in all the colours of
the rainbow (pink and green being the favourites), and he doesn't mind
if the material costs a little over ninepence a yard; but he evinces
no desire to discard the suit he has himself worn for three or four
years without a change. So long as it holds together, he is content to
wear it, and he does not in the least mind what other people may say
about it. It may be supposed that this applies exclusively to the
poorer classes, but I can assure my readers that I have known it to be
the case with scores of men who could well afford to wear a brand-new
suit every day of the week and every month of the year. And what does
this characteristic indicate? It indicates the man. He has no desire
to advance beyond what he is--what his forefathers were. The latter
manufactured their own clothing; they made their own shoes, and, had
they been presented with a cast-off suit belonging to the Prince of
Wales, they could not possibly have appreciated it, and they certainly
would never have thought of wearing it. The Boer does not care to
dress respectably; he prefers to finger the coin and sit down and
watch the increase in his stock. He would have everything converted
into stock, because that is his great ambition.

Another thing--he lacks taste. His clothes never by any chance fit him
(in the eyes of more refined people), and his boots are always three
sizes too large; but then he thinks he is getting more for his money.
If he must needs buy boots, he takes care that he invests his money in
quantity, not quality, or style.


The Boer would like to lay hands on the man who invented ploughs. Not
that he has any aversion to ploughs as ploughs; he merely objects to
the labour involved by the introduction of these implements into the
market. He sees some sense in an ox, a sheep, a goat, and a horse. Put
these animals on a bit of green veldt, and they do the rest
themselves; they thrive and multiply, and enhance the position of
their owner. But a plough! It means that he requires to take off his
coat and stop doing nothing. The Boer would like to argue that if God
had meant the soil to be disturbed by ploughs and such like, He would
not have left the solution of this problem in the hands of mere
inventors: He would have ordained a means whereby the soil would have
of itself turned over once a year at springtime.

The Boers are a pastoral people--one can hardly say an agricultural
people. They have been that sort of people from the start, and they
will never change. They are used to waggons and oxen and sheep, and
the waggons and oxen and sheep have got quite used to them. There is
abundance of proof in the Dutch Republics to satisfy any ordinary
person that a Boer, no matter if he can count his sovereigns by the
million, would never dream of giving up his farm and turning country
gentleman. He may take no part in the actual work (and this is not
much in his line under any circumstances), but he exercises that
amount of careful supervision necessary to successful farming, and
continues to do so until the end. Even the members of the Volksraad,
who are usually well-to-do farmers, never neglect their crops, albeit
a handsome income is assured in their official capacity.

But does farming in the Dutch Republics pay? Most emphatically, No. I
am not making this assertion because I have tried it myself, I am
simply quoting the dictum of every Boer. I have been careful to
obtain a consensus of opinion on this question for the guidance of
those who may contemplate embarking upon such an unsatisfactory and
dangerous undertaking. Farming does not pay. For my own satisfaction,
I recently questioned a Boer with regard to his average yearly income,
and he was good enough to humour me.

The value of his stock worked out as follows:

     1,000 sheep             say   £ 500
       100 head of cattle     "     1000
        48 horses             "      480

                                              £   s. d.
His yearly clip averaged 10 bales @  £10  =  100  0  0
On an average he sold:
  20 head of cattle               "  £ 8  =  160  0  0
  10 horses                       "  £10  =  100  0  0
  Butter, 1,000 pounds            "   1s. =   50  0  0
  Hides and skin                        say    5  0  0
  Horns                                  "     1  0  0
  Mealies, 60 bags                "  12s. =   36  0  0
  Forage, 5,000 bundles           "   3d. =   62 10  0
  Kaffir corn, 30 bags            "  15s. =   22 10  0
Total average yearly income                 £537  0  0

It must not be supposed for one moment that here we have a rich man. I
am merely citing the case of a farmer who said to me: 'I'd rather be a
book-keeper at twenty-pounds a month.' He had no idea that his annual
income figured up to anything like £537. And yet that same man would
endeavour to make a good bargain in purchasing sixpennyworth of
hairpins because he considered himself a 'poor man.'

There are hundreds of farmers, more particularly in the Free State,
who are unable to realize the extent of their wealth in stock or the
acreage of their own farms. They brand every ox, sheep, and horse that
belongs to them, and it is only by such marks that they are enabled to
recognise their own property when they see it. I have known instances
where hundreds of horses belonging to one man have succumbed in a
single season on account of horse-sickness, and their owner regarded
the loss as a mere trifle, because he knew that such a catastrophe did
not materially affect his position.

Klondyke had its 'millionaires in huts,' Boerland has its millionaires
in hovels. You will find farmers who are worth many thousands of
pounds living in places under whose roofs a Kaffir would certainly
disdain to pass the night. They possess wives and families, too, but
they exhibit no desire to better their domestic surroundings. If the
houses happen to include another room other than the living room, that
extra room is invariably used for storing grain. The women are untidy
and unprepossessing, and the children have not yet learned to
appreciate stockings and shoes. It is almost paradoxical to think of
human beings in a civilized country living such lives, people who have
great possibilities within their reach. The children readily
assimilate the habits and ways of their parents, and grow up into men
and women of a like type, and so on from generation to generation. No
wonder, then, that the Boers are a retrograde race.

[Illustration: A BOER FAMILY.]

It has been made sufficiently plain that when once the Boers have
acquired a country, they allow that country to rest in peace--from
an agricultural point of view only. This is quite apparent when it is
explained that the Free State has an estimated acreage of 7,491,500,
and out of that only 75,000 acres are cultivated. This is not the
fault of the country, but of the Boer himself. He has no sooner
settled down on a bit of land, where there is a plentiful growth of
grass to feed his stock, than he longs for pastures new, his only
reason for staying where he is being that he does not want the
Englishman to step into his homestead.

No exhibition of national prejudice is intended when I say that were
the Dutch Republics sprinkled with a few hundred Scottish farmers,
these countries would assume a more fertile and healthy aspect in two
or three years. The soil is good; all that is wanted is concentrated
hard work, and the countries would surprise several people--the Boers,
for instance--by the extent of their agricultural wealth. There are,
of course, climatic disadvantages to contend against--prolonged
droughts are of common occurrence--but, as in other countries, the
farmer must take the bad with the good. The great thing with the Boer
is stock, and plenty of it. He does not care about anything else until
the rinderpest comes.

Comparisons are odious, but let us compare the Boer with the English
farmers. Should the harvests of the latter be destroyed (as in the
case of an entire county of farmers in England at one time), ruin
stares them in the face, showing that stock is of little moment. It is
different in the case of the Boer. Take his stock away from him, and
you deprive him of his daily bread. Of course, the facilities for
successful cultivation in England are different from those in the
Dutch Republics; at the same time, there is such a thing as
irrigation, and were this resorted to more generally, and a larger
area of land put under cultivation, the Boer farmer would be on a more
stable footing.

A somewhat erroneous deduction has been gleaned by many people from
guide-books, in which particulars are given respecting the limited
extent of arable land available, but guide-book makers mostly prefer
to guess at the figures rather than go to the trouble of ascertaining
the truth. Without further reference to the guide-books, it is
noteworthy that the possibilities of both the Transvaal and Free State,
from an agricultural point of view, are greatly under-estimated, the
fact being that a very small proportion of arable land is cultivated at
all. In a number of cases water facilities are entirely ignored.

Wool is the current coin of the country with the Boer farmers, and the
merchant who is desirous of continuing his business must have a
certain amount of capital behind him, because the farmer likes to see
money at least once a year. Things have changed somewhat now. In the
olden days it was different. It was absolutely necessary then to put
down a cheque for the full amount, but the average farmer is becoming
less suspicious in transactions of this nature.

The life of the merchant during the wool season is not exactly a happy
one. He likes to please his customers, but he does not always
succeed. The average farmer who comes in with a load of wool has the
appearance of a man whose primary intention is to buy up all the
stores (although he may go away with a bag of coffee only), and
afterwards consider with great deliberation the question of acquiring
the whole town. All this is based upon the fact that he has a load of
wool for sale. The merchant would rather give him five shillings than
fivepence per pound, because it would be a certain sign that the good
times had arrived. No matter, however, what price the merchant offers,
your average farmer can always obtain more. He does not say where; he
prefers to keep that up his sleeve. He also advances by farthings and
halfpence, because he is chary about entering into the intricacies of
eighths. He, moreover, strongly objects to accepting a lower price
than that given to his neighbour. His neighbour may be an excellent
man, and he may be in possession of very good sheep, but that his wool
should be more valuable is not so apparent--is, in fact, most
improbable. Every farmer has implicit faith in the merits of his own
particular clip, and if differences really exist, he is prepared to
state emphatically that the advantage is on his side.


There has been a good deal of speculation as to why the Boers are such
experts with the rifle, but that is easily and naturally explained. In
the first place, they know their own country, and that is a decided
advantage where bare veldt is concerned. An Englishman on the same
ground would make mistakes, and probably sight his rifle at 200 yards;
but the Boer puts his up to 500 yards and kills his game, whilst the
Englishman, with his imperfect knowledge of the country, misses it.
When the Dutch first settled in South Africa, they were compelled
either to shoot their dinner or go without. So they began straight
away by shooting their dinner--and they have been able to shoot it
ever since. In warfare, too, they know exactly how to proceed. They
know that it is policy to shoot the Englishmen and save their own
skins. So they get behind large stones and shoot the Englishmen. They
know, further, that the best guarantee of success is to wait
patiently. They know nothing about military discipline, and they don't
want to know anything about it. According to their idea, this is how
the crack British regiments proceed: They march up in a body--close
order--and when they come within range of the Boers the commanding
officer gives the following commands: 'Halt! Attention! Present!
Fire!' And by the time the commanding officer has given the word
'Fire!' the Boers, comfortably stationed behind stones, have shot
those regiments down! There is, perhaps, some truth in this.

But the Boer, after all, believes in peace. It suits him better to be
on his farm, with a pipe in his mouth, and Kaffirs to do all the work,
while he walks around his acres and finds fault. They stick to their
country, and they fight for their country; but they don't like
fighting much. I came across one particular Boer who had been at
Majuba, and who was perfectly clear in his own mind that he did not
care much about it; and he did not entertain favourably the idea of
further warfare. He explained that he quietly got behind the customary
stone, and shot round the corners. During the time he was thus amusing
himself, the stone was struck by fifteen English bullets, and he did
not calculate on waiting to see what effect number sixteen would have,
so he left that stone. The Boers are always very reticent where the
number of their killed is concerned. In English circles it is
jocularly asserted that only one Boer was killed at Majuba, and all
the other Boers went into mourning for him. It is not known, and never
will be known, how many were killed at Krugersdorp by Jameson's men.
There is one thing, however, which goes to prove that a good number
must have succumbed on that occasion. It is rumoured that the Boers do
not want any more fighting with men who shoot as straight as those
comprising Jameson's Horse.

[Illustration: MAJUBA HILL.]

Defence in the Transvaal and Orange Free State is provided for
principally by the burghers, who are liable to be called upon for
active service between the ages of eighteen and sixty. The mounted
police force in both Republics is comparatively small, and the
permanent corps of artillery in each case is also small. The Boers do
not, as a matter of fact, repose much confidence in artillery at any
time, and they regard the mounted police force as valuable only in
time of peace. The burghers themselves comprise the entire force. In
the Free State alone there are 17,000 burghers liable to be called up
on commando at a moment's notice.

The country is divided into districts, and each district is under the
charge of a Commandant and a Field-cornet. The duty of the latter is
to warn the burghers on receipt of instructions from his Chief, and he
may also call a meeting of burghers in his district should any crisis
of a serious nature be imminent. On the whole, the Field-cornet's life
is not a happy one; and although he has numerous opportunities of
making himself objectionable and disagreeable, he usually prefers to
perform his onerous duties in a humble and unassuming spirit. In times
of peace those duties are few. In the first place, he must satisfy
himself that all the burghers in his district are in possession of
rifles and ammunition; and in the second place, he must call the
burghers together once a year for inspection. The good old times are
now over when a score of burghers could with impunity produce one and
the same rifle. In those days it was customary for burghers to appear
for inspection when convenient to themselves, and in these
circumstances it was not a difficult matter to borrow your neighbour's
rifle and present it as your own. But this little game was found out,
and an order was at once issued to the effect that all burghers must
assemble at one particular hour. The weapons used are of different
kinds, but they must all be breech-loaders. Every burgher must
likewise be in possession of thirty rounds of ammunition, and in time
of war the Government supply unlimited ammunition. Should the burghers
be called out to action, they must supply themselves with provisions
to last fourteen days. This might be difficult to carry out, but the
explanation is simple. The provisions consist solely of biltong--that
is, dried meat, generally venison. The sustenance contained in even an
inch of this is such that the fourteen days' provision amounts to but
little in bulk. It is said that if a Boer has a rifle, ammunition, and
a piece of biltong in his pocket, he will fight till further orders.

It is surprising how quickly the burgher forces can be levied. This
was made very apparent when Dr. Jameson marched into the country on
December 29, 1895. It is also well known that news travels quickly,
even in the outlying districts, and in this respect the Boers appear
to be quite as remarkable as the Kaffirs.

All this military discipline might seem to be only good in itself,
were it not for the fact that the Boers still retain their reputation
for being good shots. Even the young men are not behind their fathers
in the masterly manipulation of their rifles; in fact, while a large
number of Englishmen are reputed to be born with silver spoons in
their mouths, the birth-right of every Boer is undoubtedly the rifle.

Both in the Transvaal and Free State there exists a healthy spirit of
rivalry between Englishman and Boer in the shooting line. Competitions
are very frequently arranged; it is to the credit of the colonial
Englishman that he can give a good account of himself, and at the same
time hold his own against any Boer. This is fortunate, because the
Boer always respects a man who can record as many bull's-eyes as
himself, no matter what his nationality may be. The great opportunity
the Boer had of giving vent to his contempt for the English was when
the latter appeared on the battlefield in compact regiments, and
afforded the best possible target for shooting at from behind the now
proverbial stone.

In these times of universal political difficulties it may be
interesting to survey the position of the Orange Free State now that
war has actually broken out with Great Britain. There is a patriotism
lurking in the breast of the Boer which would indicate that his great
aim was the overthrow of the hated Englishman. It would not be
advisable to quote the opinion the generality of Boers have of the
poor Englishman; needless to say it is strong, emphatic,
comprehensive, and by no means complimentary. Obviously the origin of
such opinion concentrates in the fact that the Englishman is too
persevering in other people's countries, and, moreover, shows an
aptitude for developing the said countries which, in the opinion of
the Boer, is altogether too progressive. It is, of course, a pity that
the Englishman cannot accommodate himself to the antiquated ideas of
the Boer, because if he could, he would probably exonerate himself in
the Dutch eyes, and at the same time find himself away back in the
eighteenth century. But in this advanced age he is too much for the
Boer, and this is probably the explanation of the existing friction.

The Orange Free State has all along evinced a helping-hand where
Transvaal broils have occurred. This is not surprising, considering
that the Free State is governed by a Volksraad wholly in sympathy with
the mighty Oom Paul. In the time of President Brand things were
slightly different, although even his Volksraad held him in check and
exercised its own influence. But President Brand had sense enough to
see that participation in Transvaal difficulties could in no way
benefit the Free State, and, in fact, that interference was not
desirable or advisable. When the previous Boer War broke out, he
intimated that no commandeering would be enforced in the Free State,
but that those burghers who chose to engage in warfare might do so. He
would take no active steps until the independence of the Free State
was endangered.

His successor in office, President Reitz, was not credited with
anything in particular, but it was understood that should the
Volksraad decide to co-operate with the Transvaal in any instance, he
would willingly give his consent. This was confirmed when Dr.
Jameson's entrance into the Transvaal was made known. Three
districts of the Free State were promptly commandeered, and burghers
swarmed to the border.

[Illustration: A BOER ENCAMPMENT]

About the same time President Reitz vacated his office, and President
Steyn is now at the head of affairs. President Steyn has now
conclusively shown his sympathy with the Transvaal, and his occasional
interviews with Oom Paul were presumably for the purpose of ratifying
the compact from time to time. This is confirmed by the fact that the
Volksraad some considerable time ago proclaimed that, when hostilities
broke out in the Transvaal, the burghers were to hold themselves in
readiness to proceed to the border. This was not merely with the
object of protecting the border, but to render assistance to those
across the border, and now they have joined their neighbours in
invading Natal.

The feeling amongst Englishmen in the Free State was, of course,
strong, but Englishmen are not considered in the matter at all. If
they are burghers of the State, they must perforce conform to the
laws thereof, and fight to the death even against their own relations.
If they refuse to go to the front, it is not certain what would

There is another aspect of the question, and a serious one, too. When
the Free State burghers were called to the border, and war was
actually declared, they feared that they would return to their homes
only to find that their wives and children had been murdered, their
cattle stolen, and their property burnt to the ground. This new and
terrible danger came from Basutoland. The Basutos have a grudge
against the Boers, and they were only waiting an opportunity to wipe
out that grudge for ever. They are a warlike race, they are well
supplied with arms, and their horsemanship is notorious. They like the
Englishman, but they look upon the Boer as something to wipe off the
face of the earth. Of course, their discrimination between English and
Dutch when the time comes for them to take action, if it ever does
come, will not save the Englishmen in the Free State.

The Basuto question may not have escaped the notice of the Volksraad
in their anxiety to assist their brethren in the Transvaal, but their
action would seem to indicate that it had. Had they been wise, they
would have left their sister country to settle its own affairs, and
have looked nearer home for something to do; but this view, although
now too late, may already have engaged their attention.

Apart from the Government of the country, it may be interesting to
reflect upon the opinions of the burghers themselves, i.e., the Dutch
burghers. The majority of the young men originally favoured the action
of the Volksraad. They had not tasted war; they had only heard about
it; and their contempt for the English race generally suggested a
trial. Their enthusiasm was undoubtedly great, and the idea of lending
a helping-hand to another country evidently fascinated them. But their
elders have now come to look upon interference as bad policy, and they
dread the possibility of handing over their possessions to the wily
Basuto. The feelings of the Free State Boers towards their English
friends were scarcely so vindictive as in the Transvaal, but perhaps
that is because there are no gold mines in the Free State.


It must not be supposed that the intelligent Boer is non-existent;
but, as I have said, he is in the minority. He reads the newspapers,
and he has a great deal to say on both sides. He has very few personal
prejudices; his whole concern is concentrated in a desire to further
the progress of the country. His mind is developed; he does not regard
the Englishman as an interloper; he wants 'to live and let live.'

There is, unfortunately, the other element, a most undesirable
one--the Boer who is continually stirring up ill-feeling. You will
find him everywhere, and he is always at it. If his own brother
happened to be an educated man, he could not get on with him; his
nature is despicable. President Kruger thinks that race hatred will
gradually disappear, for 'wherever love dwells, prosperity must
follow.' Can anyone imagine love existing in the nature of the man I
have cited? President Kruger himself is an educated man, an able man
in his own sphere. If he practises the art of brotherly love to the
same extent that he preaches it, why does he not make some arrangement
by which it would be possible to instil a portion of the sentiment
into some of his erring children? Then we should have no more racial
hatred to concern ourselves with; we should have instead the inspiring
spectacle of a reclaimed Dutchman falling upon the neck of his English
next-door neighbour and weeping.

At the same time, however, even supposing Oom Paul's influence were
capable of producing such picturesque results, it would be well
meantime if a little fundamental education could be introduced. This
may seem impracticable at the first blush, considering that the
population is so widely scattered, but no doubt there is some hidden
solution. Ignorance is accountable in a great measure for the
ill-feeling which exists between Dutch and English, and rancour cannot
be removed until ignorance is ordered out through the back-door.


There is also the fact that the generality of the people exhibit
little or no interest in the leaders of their Government. It is said
that the perusal of biography ennobles and develops the mind. This is
also the case when a man follows with interest and profit the mature
reasoning and diplomatical tact of some of our present-day
politicians. I say some of them, because not all of them exhibit that
intellectual refinement which characterized the great Plato. Still, a
great many people might acquire a tolerable education if they applied
themselves to the perusal of newspapers in this way, and it is my firm
belief that the Boers would benefit by such a course.

The average Boer does not know exactly the meaning of the word
'politics,' except that in most things he prefers to be conservative.
He likes to move along very quietly, without any outside
interference. He knows full well that he has sent his representative
to Parliament, and he leaves that member severely alone. Sometimes the
member calls a public meeting of his own accord, and the Boer attends
that meeting, not because he is anxious to bring forward any matter
affecting the welfare of his country or district, nor because the
member has failed to satisfy him, but merely because he is desirous of
meeting his fellow-men and discussing crops and Kaffirs and oxen and
sheep and wool--in short, anything outside of politics, in which he
professes no interest whatever. He is not interested in general
measures for the benefit of the whole country; his attention is fully
occupied with the affairs of his own particular piece of land, and so
long as he himself prospers, he does not trouble about the prosperity
or otherwise of his neighbours.

Oom Paul is the leading light, and should he elect to do this or that,
he need exercise no discretion concerning the probable feeling of the
country. He is the man at the wheel, and the crew have such implicit
faith in him that he can practically steer where he wills. He may
sometimes experience a little opposition in the House, but he is
long-headed as well as hard-headed, and he invariably holds the trump
card. He is not a Boer in the ordinary sense of the word; he is only a
Boer in the sense that he smokes hard and prefers coffee. He lives in
a very ordinary dwelling-house, and it is even stated that his vrouw
starches and irons his dress-shirts, but this may only be surmise. At
all events he does not allow these trifles to worry him, his renowned
diplomacy being directed chiefly to the management of his cosmopolitan
children, who are apt occasionally to wax troublesome and exceed the
bounds of caution.


When a Government assumes a more or less aggressive attitude, or
something tantamount, it is safe to predict that such a Government
will encounter difficulties. It may be a good Government; but it will
not be a successful one. The actions of any Government reflect upon
the country, adversely or otherwise. In a country like the Transvaal,
the Government is a weighty concern which does not so much consider
the voice of the people as the preservation of its own individual
sanctity. The presidential chair represents the universal criterion
either for good or for evil, although it is not usually associated
with evil. It practises the art of cabling--with Mr. Chamberlain for
preference. The voice of the people is duly represented, but it is a
very weak and halfhearted voice. There is not that hearty ring in it
which is so marked when, for instance, a crowd of Englishmen greet
their Queen. President Kruger represents the Transvaal burghers, and
the requisitions which are published previous to the Presidential
election are sufficient and convincing proof that he is a popular and
highly respected man. These requisitions usually refer in a general
way to the numerous difficulties through which Oom Paul has so ably
piloted the country. According to such requisitions innumerable
difficulties have assailed the poor country on all sides, and the
general tone throughout would imply that they were insidious and
uncalled for. The country had done nothing; the people had gone about
their business innocently, and attended church regularly, and no
thoughts of intrigue or anything resembling it had existed in their
bosoms. Their desire was to govern the country honestly and with a
view only to its prosperity, adopting precautions at the same time
which would exclude the participation of foreigners--Englishmen, for
example. They didn't believe in the English element; it was too
dangerous. The President all the while tried to make out that he liked
the English; but he didn't. Of course, a great Power like the
Transvaal must keep up appearances. The German Emperor, for instance,
doesn't say straight out that the English are a bad lot, and therefore
Oom Paul must not display official ignorance by doing that which the
German Emperor does not do. A man may not exactly be born a King, or a
President, but he can learn a lot of useful little formalities by
watching the other Kings and Presidents. It will be observed,
therefore, that the Transvaal has all along been very docile and
consequently very badly used. And because it has displayed the best
and noblest qualities and on all occasions endeavoured to obviate
friction with other people, it has been unjustly assailed and trampled

Oom Paul is a very good man, but he kicks at the traces a great deal.
He likes to go out of his way to find out what other people are saying
about him, and he displays, moreover, another undesirable
characteristic--he is suspicious. It is in the family; it is in the
whole people. He is continually working himself up into the condition
of a man whose highly-strung nerves convince him that the whole world
is against him. He always imagined that everybody was working out
plans of campaign by which it would be possible to annex the Transvaal
to the British Empire. Fortunately there were other matters and other
countries to consider, and if Oom Paul would just study a map of the
world for a few weeks and reflect, he would probably find his position
less irksome. But Oom Paul has a great deal to think about--he must
think for the whole nation. The 'unfortunate affair which occurred
after 1895' seems to trouble him a great deal. Despite the fact that
the country was well paid for it, this incident seems fated to crop up
at least every six months, and it will be handed down to generations
untold, so that it may ever be kept green. It will be nurtured and
well looked after, and the one regret will be that it does not bring
in an annual income in proportion to the original amount.

[Illustration: PRESIDENT KRUGER.]

The Boer's politics are summed up in the single word 'Defence.' He is
not aggressive, but he is strong on Defence. Possession with him is
ten points of the law--it is everything. Let the independence of his
country be threatened, and he is at once a man of action. He
figuratively converts his ploughshare into a sword, although the uses
of that weapon are unknown to him. At the time of the Jameson Raid it
may safely be asserted that there did not exist a single Boer--young
or old--who was not in possession of a serviceable firearm and the
full complement of ammunition. The Kantoors--i.e., the Government
offices--were daily besieged by eager men as eager to possess
themselves of the instruments and munitions of war. Every man was
ready; farmers were no longer farmers, but soldiers, prepared to face
the worst in the defence of their only love--their country.


The Boer is not what one would call a sentimental person; he is
practical in all his ways. If he sees a thunderstorm approaching, he
does not go into raptures over the magnificence of the lightning; he
watches that thunderstorm calmly and philosophically. And if he had
anything to do with the order of the elements, he would have that
thunderstorm come his way, and he would detain it exactly three days
over his particular farm, so that the rain should leave a lasting
impression upon his mealies and forage. The Boer likes wet weather,
probably because he gets so little of it.

I have said that the Boer is practical in all things; he is even so in
love. The old story concerning the 'opzit' candle may have applied in
former days, but the Boer of the present day does not waste his time
in any such fashion. He has probably become cognisant of the
match-making methods practised by other nations, and he has,
therefore, abandoned that affected by his forefathers. It is still a
common thing, however, to see him astride a horse with a sleek skin
and noble appearance and plenty of life in it, cantering gaily towards
the residence of his beloved or intended. Sometimes, too, in order,
perhaps, to add more lustre to his own appearance, he is to be seen
suffering untold agony under the unyielding brim of a tall, white felt
hat, trimmed with green veiling. He likes to look imposing, and so he
gets under that hat. This in many instances may account for the
restiveness of his steed, which is as yet unaccustomed to the weight
of a person with such a grotesque headgear.

The Boer has several methods of courting. There is one thing he
objects very strongly to, however--he doesn't like courting in a
drawing-room; he prefers a dark and quiet corner on the veranda. Let
us picture a little scene in this connection. Observe young Piet,
dressed in his best Sunday suit, and wearing a worried look in
addition, sitting on one end of a long form that stands on the veranda
of the house; and observe also a fair young damsel, who has just been
initiated into the art of doing her hair up on top, sitting on the
other extreme end of that form. The night may be dark and only the
stars visible, or the moon may be shining brightly overhead, casting
shadows awry here and there, and endeavouring to catch a furtive
glimpse of the lovers under cover of the veranda.

A painful silence takes the place of conversation at the outset, and
young Piet occasionally coughs in an apologetic manner. When he does
sum up sufficient courage, the moon has travelled a considerable
distance; but then Piet is not so sentimental as to make any reference
whatever to the moon.

'That's a fine horse your father has bought of Dirk Odendaal,' says
Piet, in a tone which suggests that his new paper collar, purchased
for the occasion, is choking him.

A two minutes' pause ensues.

'Ja! Piet,' agreeably assents the maiden after an interval which Piet
reckons must be at least half an hour--and he has forgotten about the
new horse altogether.

'Your father's oxen are looking well after the rain,' continues Piet
some minutes later; and this time he has reduced the space between
himself and the maiden by about three inches.

After the lapse of another few minutes, the maiden, who is evidently
bashful, ventures again, 'Ja! Piet.'

Piet's eyes wander away across the open veldt in front of him, and
gradually from the observation of kopjes, they wander upwards towards
the pale moon; but, as has already been remarked, that luminary
suggests no new theme in the mind of Piet.

'The last Nachtmaal was very good.'

With this he once more edges away from his end of the form and covers
an additional three inches.

'Ja! Piet.'

Another person would have become exasperated at this stage, but not so

'The new minister preaches very well,' is followed up by an advance of
three more inches.

'Ja, Piet!'

The form may be an inconveniently long one, and this naturally hampers
Piet somewhat, because by the time he has covered half the distance,
his stock of remarks may be exhausted. But he gets close up in time,
by the exercise of perseverance, and when he is at last in a position
to manipulate his left arm in connection with the maiden's waist, he
does so with a sigh of relief.

'I think I love you a great deal,' is what he says when he has placed
his arm to his satisfaction. The maiden whispers 'Ja, Piet!' and the
thing is done.

But the young Boer does not attach so much importance to pleasant
features and agreeable dispositions, as he does to the worldly
standing of the lady's parents. If there is the slightest prospect of
a handsome dowry in the shape of one or two farms, the inducement to
enter into married bliss is, of course, greater than in the case of
the young lady who merely brings with her a nice set of false teeth
and a pleasant countenance. Young widows are in great demand
throughout the country, because, as a rule, they are in possession of
farms and stock which require the undivided attention of a responsible
man, and that man must be a husband.

Such an instance occurred only the other day. This very fortunate
young man, before his betrothal, could conveniently count his riches
on the fingers of his left hand--in pence! But he is happy now,
because he can bring in a load of wool every year with his own waggon
and oxen, and talk to the merchant with all the swagger and assurance
of a full-blown capitalist.

It must not be supposed that such occurrences are uncommon; they
happen almost every week, which would seem to indicate that rich young
widows are very plentiful.

In these latter days a Boer wedding is arranged on a very grand scale.
No matter if the young couple reside fifty miles from the nearest
town, they all come in to church to get fixed up. Friends and
relations arrive, with great ostentation, in conveyances drawn by
four, six, and sometimes eight, horses, the number depending on the
wealth of the families. They come from far and near. You can see them
coming to town when they are yet miles away across the veldt--that is,
if the day is bright. The dresses of the women-folks flash gaily in
the sun, and the old vrouw would not change places with the Queen of
Holland as she proudly surveys her offspring seated around her in the
wagonette. The old man presides unctuously at the ribbons, and he
cracks his whip every now and then just to let his team know that he
is there, and that he is a very capable person.


The generality of weddings are uninteresting, but occasionally
something unique is introduced. In the town of Harrismith a very long
time ago, a transport-rider decided to take unto himself a fair
partner. He was a practical sort of person, and in cases of this kind
he did not believe in allowing business to become a secondary
consideration. Transport-riding in those days paid very handsomely,
and the intervention of side issues might have meant a serious loss.
Accordingly, this particular gentleman (who had meantime been loading
up coal) repaired to his tent-waggon at the appointed hour, and
proceeded to attire himself in the conventional black suit. In order
to economize time, he pulled his best clothes over his working
garments, and hastily rubbing his face and hands with a coarse towel,
he hurried towards the church. Within ten minutes he was back again
loading up coal, his better half being occupied in preparing dinner.

The Dutch are not a musical nation, and for convincing proof it is
only necessary to attend Divine service in any of their churches.
Their rendition of psalm-tunes reminds me of A.K.H.B.'s story
regarding the lonely Italian, who, passing the Iron Church in
Edinburgh one Sunday morning while the congregation were engaged in
praise, and on inquiring of the beadle 'What that horrible noise was?'
remarked very sorrowfully, 'Then their God must have no ear for
music' It is strange, nevertheless, that no matter how poor a Boer may
be, he will have an organ in his house. There are instances
innumerable where the only respectable piece of furniture in the house
is an organ. It does not, of course, follow that every Boer is a
musician, but it is a fact that nearly every Boer knows how to produce
at least one tune, even if it is only the Volkslied or national
anthem. They will come into the stores, and the first thing they do is
to sit down at an organ and show people generally what they can do. In
the meantime the English merchant and his clerks fume around and vow
all sorts of things under their breath, but the indefatigable Boer
knows nothing of all this, and he would not care if he did.


Besides the everlasting worry of keeping the English community in
hand, the Boers have been visited by other plagues, such as
rinderpest. In 1897 such a calamity befell them, and although the rich
farmers did not suffer materially, the poorer class experienced
reverses sufficient to discourage them for life. The mistake made was
simply this (and it is characteristic of the Boers): every individual
farmer and owner of stock exercised his own judgment throughout, and
the most drastic results followed as a consequence. Temporary
excitement naturally took the place of clear judgment. A man may be
possessed of all his faculties and yet lack that knowledge which would
save 95 per cent. of his cattle. The desire to save the cattle was
there, but the farmers were too prone to accept the first method
which turned up. Without even considering thoroughly the merits and
demerits of any particular method, they rushed at it with the same
prospect of success as might be attributed to a blind man going in
search of the North Pole. Of course the system would 'either kill or
cure.' That was how the majority of them put it. The veterinary
surgeons received very little encouragement. If a Boer makes up his
mind that his cattle are going to die, he likes to have all the honour
of killing them himself, and he does not want any vet. about his
place, propounding advanced theories which he does not understand.
Added to this, it appears that when the disease first made its
appearance in the country, certain vets, made themselves so ridiculous
in the eyes of the farmers who invited them to inspect sick cattle,
that distrust immediately took the place of suspicion, and confidence
was never established.


The farmers who managed to save a considerable number of cattle were
not slow to make hay while the sun shone, and some of them may
probably have turned up their noses at the mere mention of the Yukon
goldfields. Prospecting for gold is a somewhat risky business, but the
Boer looks upon transactions in salted oxen as eminently satisfactory,
more especially where the buyer negotiates the risks. Nothing affords
him more pleasure than to hand over twenty or thirty oxen, and receive
in exchange twenty-five pounds per head. But, unlike the English
problem, rinderpest is not always with the Boer.

In this connection there is a story to the effect that a certain Boer
farmer discovered one day that his cattle had contracted a very
serious disease, and he was advised by the Government vet., who
happened to be passing that way, to inoculate immediately, and after
the lapse of ten days to repeat the process. When the vet. returned a
few weeks later he was surprised to learn that the majority of the
cattle had died.

'But that was impossible if you acted on the instructions I gave
you,' he said to the farmer.

'Ja!' answered the latter, 'that may be, but I didn't do what you told
me; I only inoculated once.'

'And why didn't you do it a second time?' pursued the vet.

'Oh,' replied the Boer, 'because the vrouw said I hadn't to.'


The Boer seldom does anything without first consulting his wife, and it
is hinted that the wives made a very bad job of the rinderpest. The
vrouw steers the ship. It is so when the whole family goes to town to
make the half-yearly purchases. In the stores the husband will be found
in deep and earnest conversation with his better half, relative perhaps
to the quantity of barbed wire or coffee or woolpacks--anything and
everything required at the time. All this would seem to point to a
plain fact, namely, that the vrouw not only excels in physical
proportions, but also in the matter of brains. There can be no doubt
about the first mentioned, and there seems to be little question about
the other as well. It is authoritatively stated that at the time of the
Boer War the women were so bitter against the English that they spurred
on the men to do things which they themselves deemed foolhardy. This
anti-English feeling seems to have been intensified since then, and it
is often jocularly remarked by Englishmen in the country that so long
as an enemy makes things square with the womenfolk they need have no
fear of the men. The women may have the reputation of knowing and doing
more than the men, but they are certainly not thrifty. They are kind to
travellers (provided they come on horseback and not on foot); but their
kindness is too often spoiled by the dirt and general undesirability of
the atmosphere within their dwellings. A traveller can appreciate a cup
of coffee after a long ride; but he likes to have it in a clean dish,
and it rather damps his ardour when he finds that he is expected to
take the mud along with it.


In this connection there is still another story. This story is related
by a commercial traveller, and in order to establish its
authenticity it is only necessary to remark that it has been related
by at least six different commercial travellers, and in every case the
incident has occurred within the experience of each and all.

The commercial gentleman (no matter which one) having been overtaken
on the road by a severe thunderstorm, and arriving at a spruit which
he found he could not then cross with safety, put back to a small
farmhouse near by. After much parley on both sides, the Boer who owned
the place agreed to give the traveller and his driver shelter for the
night, provided they would sleep in an outhouse, where the horses
could also be put up. Being only too glad to obtain shelter of any
sort, the traveller readily accepted the offer. At this point each
traveller who has told the story breaks into a graphic description of
how he passed the night, and how many rats he and the driver killed,
and how much of his clothes they devoured, and how he couldn't sleep
because of the presence of pigs and fowls in addition, which seemed
to resent the invasion. Then comes the dawn of another day, and, which
is more important (before its appearance), breakfast. A cloth was
spread on a box in the mud-floor dwelling, and eggs and coffee placed
thereon. The commercial was evidently expected to eat the eggs anyhow,
so long as he did eat them; for there was nothing visible in the shape
of a spoon. The Boer and his vrouw did not put in an appearance at
breakfast, no doubt disdaining to look upon an Englishman any more
than was absolutely necessary. He had almost concluded this rude and
somewhat unsatisfactory meal when the vrouw entered. She was fat and
dirty, and her clothing had apparently been renewed from time
immemorial by much mending. She now rested her great hands on her
hips, and calmly surveyed the English party and the breakfast-table
for a few seconds. Then she spoke, in Dutch; but he understood--too

'Have you finished?'

'Yes,' he replied in the 'lands taal'; 'but surely you are in a very
great hurry. I will pay you well for the food and shelter.'

'That's nothing,' continued the vrouw in a business-like tone; 'I only
want the tablecloth so that I can get the bed made.'


The Boer is a pious person, who prays to God when he wants rain, and
forgets to pray when his mealie crop proves a success. Unlike other
people, he does not believe in thanksgiving when he shells one hundred
bags of mealies where he only expected twenty. He has no 'harvest
home.' He simply stores his mealies until such time as he can bring
them to town and obtain the best possible price. But let the rain stop
away too long and the sun wither up his crops, and he is a very
different man. In every Boer house there is a large Bible, and that
Bible is systematically read and re-read when the fates are unkind.
The very low class Boer is, of course, unable to read his Bible, but
he takes it over to his nearest neighbour, whose education may not
have been neglected to the same extent.


The Boer journeys to town once every three months with his family in
order to attend Divine Service. These occasions are known as
Nachtmaal. He brings his waggon with him, and outspans on some open
space within the town. When he cannot arrange for a room or rooms
gratis, he sleeps in his tent waggon. He very seldom goes to a hotel,
unless this course is absolutely necessary. If he does go to a hotel,
he engages a room only, and dines alongside his waggon or else he goes
to his particular storekeeper and indulges in sardines and sweet
biscuits He is great on sardines, and his only regret perhaps, is that
the tin is not edible also.

A Dutch Nachtmaal in the olden days was a sight quite equal to any
Lord Mayor's show. The costumes were unique; but in the present day
the womenfolk in particular have learned to ape the English, and the
colours are therefore less conspicuous. Formerly the young ladies wore
short dresses of many colours, and the display of white stockings was
very general. The men appeared in black felt hats with huge brims,
and frock-coats (most of them bordering on green) were the order of
the day. Veldschoens of home manufacture were never wanting, but in
these latter days veldschoens are regarded with contempt.

The man who probably suffers most at Nachtmaal-time is the organist,
for organs are now regarded as indispensable. An organist is usually a
man of a sensitive nature, and on such occasions his ideas of good
music are apt to be completely demoralized. Nevertheless, he gets
along as best he can, and even if he happens to be dragging a
congregation numbering three hundred voices seven whole notes behind
his instrument, he continues to suffer nobly and silently.

The services commence at 7 a.m., and continue throughout the day until
9.30 p.m. Baptisms occupy a few hours during the afternoon, and the
most common names for youthful burghers are Gert, Barend, Paul, Piet,
and such like. The Boers do not believe in departing from the
time-honoured names of their forefathers. Piet suggests the immortal
name of Piet Retief, and Paul--well, there is Oom Paul.

Before the marriage ceremony can be performed in a Dutch Reformed
Church, the minister must satisfy himself that the contracting parties
have previously been confirmed. Great preparation for the confirmation
is engaged in by the young people a week before Nachtmaal Sunday, on
which day, in presence of the whole congregation, they are received
into the bosom of the Church.

The Boer is very conscientious in the matter of religion. For
instance, should he be on bad terms with any of his friends or
relations, he will not attend Divine Service. He argues that a man who
is not at peace with his fellow-men cannot hope for reconciliation
with his God until the difference has been amicably settled.

It may be observed that the order of service in a Dutch Church is very
similar to that in vogue in a country church in Scotland. The minutest
details have much in common, but perhaps I had better not enlarge
upon such a coincidence. Before each service the menfolk linger in
front of the church door, with their hands stuck deep down in their
pockets and the inevitable pipe between their teeth. They talk about
almost everything except religion--the crops, their petty difficulties
with Kaffirs, the last hailstorm and the havoc it worked, and so on.
The Boers never enter into theological arguments. Each and all place
implicit faith in the Scriptural teachings, and they take for granted
everything from the beginning to the end of their Bibles. Consequently
the teachings of Scripture are not very firmly impressed on their

When the organ begins to peal forth the voluntary, the worshippers
troop into their seats. During the choral part of the service the
congregation remain seated, and they rise when the minister prays. The
elderly gentlemen very promptly go to sleep when the text is given
out, and they lean back in their respective corners with the full
assurance that they will not be disturbed for at least an hour.
Occasionally they may be gently aroused by their wives or children,
whose supply of sweets has been exhausted. By the way, every Boer in
the country has one particular weakness, and that is a desire after
sweets. The young men recklessly walk into a store whenever they come
to town, and devote a portion of their capital to the purchase of
'Dutch mottoes,' to which the ladies are very partial. The elderly men
are not so particular in this respect.

When the benediction is about to be pronounced, there is a general
scramble after hats, and the last Amen has scarcely been uttered when
there is a rush for the doors. It seems to amount to a sort of
competition as to who will be first in the street.

It may be interesting to pause for a moment and look at the
collections. The poorer classes besiege the stores on Saturday with
anxious inquiries for 'stickeys,' i.e., threepenny-pieces. To a poor
man with a large family of church-goers this matter of church
collections is a serious business unless he can get four mites out of
a shilling, as coppers are not used in the Transvaal; but I have
known men of good standing inquire as eagerly for the despised
threepenny-piece. When special collections are called for, in aid of a
new organ fund, for instance, the results are rather surprising. In
one instance the combined special collections on a Nachtmaal Sunday
amounted to a little over £500, with a congregation of only 400. This
points to the fact that there is money enough in the country, and it
only requires a church collection to prove it.

It is to be regretted that the Boer does not devote a little more
attention to the education of his children. If there happens to be a
school anywhere near his farm, he does not mind taking advantage of
this with a view to 'teaching the young idea how to shoot'; but
perhaps he takes too literal a view of this adage. His chief care is
to see that his boys are taught to shoot straight, and he does not
attach so much importance as he might to the three R's. The Boer who
can afford such luxuries engages a tutor for his children, but tutors
are mostly of the English persuasion. They have not yet learned to
appreciate the language of the country, and this constitutes a serious
barrier. Again, one does not expect much of a country school, and the
majority of the men who preside over these institutions in the Dutch
Republics are there simply because they can obtain no more lucrative
an occupation. A number of Free State farmers invariably 'trek' to
Natal with their families and stock during the winter months, and this
affords an opportunity for placing the children at more advanced
schools; but then again the objection is serious--the masters are

[Illustration: BLOEMFONTEIN.]

In the town of Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, where the Volksraad
thunders forth its mighty convictions, there is a model Young Ladies'
College. It seems that one day recently the members of the Raad found
themselves in want of debatable motions, and it fell to the lot of one
of their number to save the situation. That member directed the
attention of his brethren to a certain question affecting the proper
conduct of the Young Ladies' College aforesaid. It had come to his
knowledge that the Principal of the College had granted, to certain
of the pupils who desired it, permission to pray to Almighty God in
the English language. The member forcibly contended that this
lamentable state of affairs should not exist, but that every pupil in
the College should be compelled to pray to God in the language of the
country! A general discussion followed, but it was ultimately allowed
that this matter did not come within the jurisdiction of that Raad.


Every town has its Landdrost, and every town has its Landdrost's
clerk. Usually the clerk does all the work, and the Landdrost, in his
capacity of chief magistrate, passes all the sentences and issues all
the instructions. But, then, Landdrosts, as a rule, are very agreeable
people, possibly because they are educated and intelligent men, and
have nothing in common with the Boer.

I have one particular Landdrost in my mind as I write. He was a dear
old man, but he was dead against Kaffirs and natives generally. His
father had been killed by Kaffirs, and this fact probably rankled in
his bosom and ruled his judgments to a great extent. When he wanted to
show a little bit of leniency, as, for instance, after an
extraordinarily good breakfast, he would bind the culprit over to
serve in his own kitchen for a period of one year without
remuneration. But he never did get a native to serve the full time,
because the native preferred to break the law once more and go to
'tronk' instead. Hard work was not in his line.

He is dead now, poor man! but he was a regular type of a Landdrost. He
lived a very quiet life, and the brunt of the work fell to the lot of
the ever-willing and conscientious clerk, which arrangement allowed
the Landdrost sufficient leisure to attend to a somewhat large garden.
There were fruit trees in that garden which in the fruit season
incited every boy in town to deeds of valour, the said deeds
consisting in being able to carry away as much fruit as possible
without being caught in the act. For the Landdrost exercised a
watchful eye over that fruit. It was currently reported, however, that
his was the first garden to be literally left desolate before the
season had far advanced, and it was usually his misfortune to be
deprived of his fruit just after he had retired for the night, after
having prowled about with an empty gun in his hand from sunset till
late in the evening. It was even reported that one evening, after the
old man had retired as usual, a certain person who had a strong
predilection for other people's fruit approached the Landdrost's
garden with a handcart and a lantern, and assisted himself freely
before taking his departure.

In conclusion, and as an illustration of the moral tendencies of young
Boers generally, I shall now quote a little scene which was written
some time ago for another purpose.

In a mealie-field close to a certain farm, which shall be nameless, a
curious scene was being witnessed by a very stout Dutch lady. She was
standing at the edge of the field. Above her head myriads of locusts
floated in a darkening mass. The mealie stalks were only a foot or so
high, but the locusts knew that they were green, and therefore good to
eat, so they hovered around. The mealies were in rows, and between
these rows galloped half-a-dozen horses carrying half-a-dozen very raw
natives. The latter were making such a hideous noise, that it seemed
to point to remarkable staying powers on the part of the locusts,
inasmuch as they still persisted in trying to gain a footing. But the
Kaffirs cantered their steeds faster, and the noise waxed more
hideous, and the fat vrouw continued to urge them to renewed and
increased effort. Round the edges of the patch four or five Kaffir
women walked, each at a different point, and each in possession of a
five-gallon empty paraffin tin and a stick, with which to strengthen
and augment the noisy defence. The locusts were reinforced every
minute, and they made repeated and determined efforts to sample the
young mealies, but the horsemen and the paraffin tins were too much
for them.

A small white boy was standing near the fat lady, watching the
proceedings with a critical eye. His dress was very primitive, and his
home-made veldschoens were very large, but he was a healthy-looking

'Ma,' he said at length, looking up into the fat lady's face, 'I see

This was rather a peculiar remark to make, because undoubtedly he must
see something, not being blind.

'Yes,' returned his 'ma,' without taking her eyes off the mealie
patch, 'what do you see, son?'

'I won't tell you, ma.'

'Ma' paid no particular attention to this decision on the part of her
small son, but he continued to look into his 'ma's' face as if
uncertain about something.

'Ma, I won't tell you what I see,' he continued, coming up closer to
the stout lady and catching hold of her hand.

'Why won't you tell me, son?' asked 'ma,' looking down affectionately
upon the white head of her boy.

'Not until you promise me something, ma.'

'Well, what must I promise you?'

The boy hesitated for a minute before replying. He had apparently
grave doubts as to whether 'ma' would concede even if he did ask her.

'Ma, I want to shoot Witbooi with my gun.'

Witbooi was a Kaffir umfaan, who had no particular liking for his
young Baas.

'I can't promise you that until your pa comes home, Gert,' said his
'ma,' patting him lovingly on the head, and at the same time lending
her critical eye to the mealie business.

The boy left his mother's side and walked away a few yards, evidently
disgusted with unsympathetic 'mas.' Then, apparently changing his
mind, he ran towards her again, and clung to her dress, meantime
looking up in her face.

'I'll tell you, ma--I'll tell you,' he said laughingly.

'That's a good boy,' said 'ma,' again patting him on the head.

'I see waggons coming; that's it!' exclaimed the boy, running away
playfully, and observing with evident satisfaction the look of
surprise on his mother's face, as if it atoned somewhat for the
disappointment regarding the fate of Witbooi.

Billing and Sons, Printers, Guildford

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