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and one table, filling up the entire space. The bottoms of the doors are on a level with the yard, and the windows are mere holes, with, I think, four squares of glass in each. In summer these terrible single-brick, iron-roofed ovens are simply maddening. I have known the heat in them to exceed 160° at night, and their fourteen or eighteen occupants were provided with only one tub for their joint use— a circumstance suggestive of every kind of discomfort. On the iron roof pigeons take morning walks, feeding on mealies, rattling, tearing, and scraping, cooing and fluttering, to the utter banishment of sleep. In that part of the yard on which the doors opened, there were, and of course are, two stables and the kitchen, which, being only 9 feet by 5, compelled most of the work to be done in the yard by eight or nine blacks, some of whom were coolies and raw Kafirs, who filled the air constantly with yells, curses, profanity, and the sounds of fight. Behind the terrible row of sleeping-rooms was, and still is, actually joined on to them, with its fatal stench penetrating under all their roofs, an unfinished, half-opened, untrapped water-closet, a fruitful source of the most horrible odours conceivable. In the back-yard, which is undrained, is a small open sewer, leading from a filthy and unclean hen-house, crowded with birds. On a summer evening the smell from the whole concern is noticeable for 150 yards in every direction. £3, 10s. per week is charged for accommodation at this delicious establishment. I need not say where it is. The owner—his wife, otherwise a most excellent woman and good hostess— with all the boarders, frequenters, and friends of the establishment, will recognise the sketch at a glance. If a man wants to travel in comfort, he must procure the means of cooking quickly, and under almost any conceivable circumstances of damp fuel. The plan I have found best may suit others. Get a common iron tar or oil drum, empty; put a grating through it, so that when it is standing on one end the grating will be a little below its middle. Below this, cut in the side of the drum a blast-hole about one-third the circumference, and at most three inches high. The bottom is left in, but the top is knocked out. With the smallest bit of dry grass, paper, or rag on the grating, a fire can be set
A NARROW ESCAPE. 195
going even with comparatively wet wood; and if the blasthole is turned towards the wind, that fire can be kept up easily. If a couple of strips of thin hoop-iron are twisted so as to sit on this machine, they will support a kettle or a pot, and allow plenty of room for the escape of smoke and flame, and the continuation of the fire-feeding process. This twoshilling stove can be carried hung on to the waggon, on one of the side hooks, and has been found of the greatest value, as it cooks quickly, and by its use the danger of grass-fires may be avoided. These fires are serious things. I have repeatedly known frightful accidents occur through them— many families ruined, and even many persons burned to death. Indeed I had once myself, with a party of men, a very narrow escape from, if not death, serious loss. We had a cannon drawn by bullocks, but which, from the smallness of its wheels, could not do over two and a half miles an hour; and along with it some shells, thirty-six powder-charges for the gun, and a couple of rockets. We were making our way through high grass and scrubby bush, in a place where there was no road and never had been one. We had no water, and there was none near us. Suddenly, from twenty different directions came fire; and before ten minutes had elapsed, on every side the flames—sixteen and twenty feet in height where they had caught the bushes, but everywhere as high as a man—came rushing on us. With very great exertion, with knives and swords, a little clear place was made for the gun. We then set fire all round its outside edge, and so close was the shave, that we had to follow it almost the instant it was lighted, our boots and the hoofs of our horses burning and throwing up a frizzling smell for the moment. The new burn—that is, our clearing—was not thirty paces wide when it met the outer circle of flame, charging us in all directions. The rushing and roaring sound made by the furious fire can hardly be conceived. I do not think we could ever have forced our horses through it; and but for the speed with which we set up fire to fight fire, we must certainly have lost the bullocks, gunpowder, and shells, if not the gun. As it was, the shirts of the gunners, and the hair of both horses and men, were scorched and shrivelled. We had then eight miles to march over the ash-covered and still smouldering desert before we reached water; and short as was the distance, several of the men fell down. Relief-parties of mounted men with water had to be sent a couple of hours later to bring them in. Travellers will please remember that grass-fires are so dangerous, that nothing can excuse any want of caution by which they are occasioned. I have often heard men ask, “Is there not a great danger of cattle and horses being stolen?” To this I would answer there is not, but both may stray if they are neglected. Bullocks never stray while they are empty; but many of them, the moment they are fed full, begin to step further and further in search of sweeter morsels: the rest follow the leaders, who are soon out of sight, and unless turned, will undoubtedly get away, and perhaps travel to the very place where they were reared, no matter how distant it be. This can only be provided against by vigilance, and by checking all such tendencies at the outset. If it is necessary for any cause to let bullocks feed at night, they must be watched; and the moment they begin to scatter, wander, or any of them show signs of being full and satisfied by lying down, all must be driven to, and carefully tied up in, their usual places along the waggon-chain, where they will sleep just as well and much more securely than elsewhere. Horses and cattle are also likely to stray in cold winds and chilly rainy weather. Sometimes they go for shelter; but I have known them to run for days against the wind, apparently without any cause. This accident originates in the carelessness of the herd, who, being human, and feeling the cold very much, curls himself up somewhere out of the rain and wind, frequently sleeping, to the utter neglect of his trust. It is well to keep one horse fastened up to the waggon in bad weather. I have once known a very alarming incident to occur from cattle being neglected by the herds. We were lying, in company with the waggon of Mr Spencer Drake, in mid-winter 1870, near the Rhenoster Spruit. The bullocks, forty-eight in number, got mixed with the “wild” in a strong wind, and set to work, in company with the whole troop of game, to run as hard as they could straight away from us into the wind's eye. Some of the horses got away
at the same time, and it finally cost four men a chase of eight hours before the fugitive animals were recaptured and driven home. Another thing I will here mention which is too much neglected. Animals should not be under the saddle or in the yoke at sun-up unless they have previously had a full night's rest. Oxen especially fret and become miserable when this is the case. If you must travel at night, outspan in the earliest dawn. The beasts will sleep standing about wherever the sun catches them, and this morning rest in the first warmth of the day seems to make up to them for a whole night's toil. Deprived of this, however, they speedily become weary, and show the effects of their labour more than inexperienced people would think possible.
Misleading articles—A self-contradictory historian—The battle of Boomplaatz—Our bitter beer—Slavery—Zulus and Basutos—A startling fact.
Most Englishmen gather their information, such as it is, about the colonies from books and newspapers.' Trade books, as a rule, are not made by workers and thinkers, but by professional public writers, who, with pens and ink, and a tolerable amount of conceit in their own powers, have taken to rushing round continents, and across states and countries, to jot down their impressions for the benefit, not of the public, but of their own pockets. Few of these persons' books will be valued by the next generation. At best they are chroniclers of chit-chat, and may succeed in fairly writing down the impression made upon their own minds by the prejudiced small-talk of the circles to which their limited knowledge of the languages and customs of the countries they visit, compels them to confine their garrulous curiosity. Newspapers are sometimes still worse teachers. A few, written presumably for colonies only, are entirely unworthy of respect, even as mere chronicles of fact. Witness the extraordinary error into which “The Colonies’ (a weekly summary published in London) rushed the other day, in the course of an essay on currency, in which it said that great inconvenience was occasioned to African trade by the existing confusion of Dutch and English money, both of which it supposed to be in circulation. South Africans, though of course not thinking it worth their while to correct every palpable and impertinent absurdity written about