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A BORDER BANÇUET. 239
At 7 P.M., with military punctuality, General Cunynghame, accompanied by Captains Clarke and Coghill, arrived; and in due time—the Landdrost in the chair—dinner was got through. I say got through advisedly; for I must confess, the cook, though an artist and a Frenchman, was a horrible failure. The soup was too sweet, and blood followed the knife whether turkey or sucking-pig was attempted to be dissected. In fact the food was raw, and had it not been for the really excellent wines placed upon the table, the whole affair would have been frightful. But the good wines and the good old Irish whisky, with the good-humour of our guests, made up for all deficiencies. There were speeches and jokes. Some of the jokes were bad, and some of the speeches were dreary; but, on the whole, we spent a pleasant evening, Sir Arthur being socially and as a speaker the success of the hour. He had a nice delivery, and rarely finished a sentence without attracting applause. In the beginning of his speech he mentioned “the Highlands of Lydenberg;” before he reached the middle, he spoke of the “golden Highlands of Lydenberg;” half-way down he came to the “golden Highlands of our very beautiful Lydenberg;” and then he got as far as the “fertility of the golden Highlands of our very peculiarly beautiful district; ” and he repeated this, and, with the skill of a popular orator, worked it up again and again into the thread of his narrative, until at each recurrence of the flattering words the majority of the faces present glowed and flushed with pleasure as if every listener felt himself individually complimented on his own good looks and golden prospects. One thing the General said—one expression he let fall that did honour to his head and to his heart: he spoke of the Lydenberg Volunteers, and said that he and “her Majesty's army knew that they had done their duty with courage and honour.”
This was the only recognition the poor fellows ever got from Government; and to General Cunynghame's outspoken appreciation of their services is to be attributed the fact that a majority of them are now serving under the English flag. All the captains spoke. The Landdrost made his maiden speech, and very well he made it. Long after the General had gone home, songs rang upon the night air, and “Auld Lang Syne” was chanted in a most enthusiastic manner every ten minutes, until daylight brought wheelbarrows in not unnecessary profusion. The same sort of reception, but colder, was accorded to Sir Theophilus Shepstone on his arrival six weeks afterwards. He had not the sportsman's jollity, the winning ways, the hearty manner, or the golden tongue of her Majesty's military representative. He was a crafty-looking and silent man, who never used an unnecessary word or gesture. He was undemonstrative, and, rightly or wrongly, the people believed him to be utterly insincere. Had he not been accompanied by that jovial officer and good comrade, Captain Carrington, with his troop of converted infantry, Dr Ash, 13th P.A. Light Infantry, and Lieutenant Brown, his Excellency's visit would have been an utter failure. As it was, it seemed to mark the beginning of an era of disaster and discontent, the end of which has not yet been reached. It was certainly unfortunate that Sir Theophilus had no hope to give either Lydenberg or the Gold Fields, and that his presence in our district should have so shortly preceded the murder of poor Bell. Judge Coetzee, though not the subject of any public demonstrations, was admired as a justice and respected as a gentleman: he was the last of our distinguished visitors. His judgments were received by all with unhesitating approval; and one of them, in the case of James v. Breytenbach, tended much to restore harmony between English and Dutch. Coetzee, it must be remembered, however, owed his office to the wisdom of the Republic, and was not a nominee of the new Government.
SECOND OR PRESENT WAR.
A wily savage—An intelligent native—Mapoch and the sheriff—Murder of Bell—The new police–The outbreak—Evacuation of Fort Weeber—The fever of 1878—Massacre at Masselleroom—Fort Mamalube.
ON Sir Theophilus Shepstone's first arrival in Pretoria he had received a message from Secocoeni, which more than anything proves that the Republic had entirely succeeded in overcoming this chief's resistance. It was delivered by Makoropetse, and ran thus: “Great chief, come and save me; the Boers are killing my people, and I know not for what.” Subsequently, in consequence of some contradiction having arisen as to the proper meaning of certain articles in the peace contract, a joint commission of English and Dutch was sent to the chief. As English commissioners there went Captain Clarke, R.A., supposed to be peculiarly inti
mate with Kafir ways, having been for three years resident magistrate in Natal; and a Mr Haggard, now in Government employment in the Transvaal. Secocoeni told them “that he had no crops, that he had lost fourteen of his own family and 2000 of his people; ” in fact, that he lay helplessly at the feet of the Republic. This statement is to be found in the Blue-books. Secocoeni, with his wily savagery, pretended to welcome the British as his fathers and saviours; whilst he really, knowing that he was on his last legs, only sought to humbug them into giving him what we should never have given him—too long a rest, so that he might recruit his forces in place of making complete submission. Hence the present war.
After the annexation, at the end of April 1877, Captain Clarke, who had been appointed Commissioner in the northeast, was so satisfied that the Kafirs could be possessed of but the most friendly feelings towards his Government, that he caused the volunteers to be disbanded without obtaining any guarantees for the maintenance of peace by Secocoeni, or for the payment of the war indemnity. Fort Burgers, the most advanced position in the north-east, was virtually evacuated, there being only left in it an assistant native commissioner, with his orderly. Fort Weeber, the advanced position on the west side of the Lulu Mountains, was abandoned to an assistant native commissioner, with his flag. Nothing possibly could have been more fatal than the extraordinary and utterly groundless faith that Captain Clarke and his employers had in the promises of the Bapedi nation, and their pretended veneration for the British flag. They would not believe the Dutch and other officials who told them to expect war as soon as the enemy had got food, so they persisted in a total dismissal of the irregulars. How these volunteers to whom I have referred were treated on their disbandment has been dealt with elsewhere. . It is enough to say that the disbandment was completed on the 18th of June 1877. The cannons and muskets, with all war material, were sent off to Pretoria, two hundred miles from any possible enemy, and the border line of the north-east was left more utterly defenceless than it had ever been.
Before going on to deal with the few important transactions of the succeeding eight months, I may as well here remark that the Republic had been faithfully served by many tribes living within and without the border, chiefly Mapoch, Masselleroom, Zebedela, and the Amaswazi. Mapoch constantly furnished men for labour and for the field; while the Amaswazi sent at least one Commando to help the Boers. On peace being finally concluded, and before the forts had been abandoned, the farmers went back to live in the farms between Lydenberg and the extreme border, not to the extent of occupying all the farms, but at all events going into the profitable and improving occupation of some seventy of them. The Waterfall River valley was to a great extent reoccupied, Mr Parker of Lydenberg and others
SIGNS OF DISTURBANCE. 243
making expensive improvements. Many houses were rebuilt that were burnt during the war; and an English family, named Wainwright, went to live on a new acquisition of theirs in the Origstadt valley, which I have previously mentioned as being a place abandoned by the Boers because of its unhealthiness. In the beginning of August last year, even the Commissioner found that Secocoeni was endeavouring to avoid payment of the indemnity, and that while professing extreme friendship for the British Government, he had yet only sent in 170 head of poor and sickly beasts in fulfilment of his contract. Besides this, messengers had been noticed passing from Zululand to Secocoeni, and vice versá. Signs that the peace would likely be disturbed became noticeable very soon after the disbandment of the volunteers. They evacuated Fort Burgers, leaving it, as I have mentioned elsewhere, in charge of Mr George Eckersley and an orderly, on the 13th of June, on the 18th of which month they were paid off in Lydenberg. On the 20th, Captain Diedricht heard through native sources and reported that Masselleroom had taken cattle from Pogwani and Logrillo, British subjects living close to Fort Weeber. Captain Clarke, with Mr Schultz, had to go there and patch up matters, which they succeeded in doing after such a fashion as soon led to a renewal of hostilities. I at that time heard a conversation which is of no little interest. Makropetse, one of Secocoeni's “Indunas,” or counsellors, was talking, as Kafirs will, about the power of his master. A resident of Lydenberg said to him: “The English are not like the Boers; they have soldiers who live only to fight, and can send regiment after regiment to support their flag, the presence of which, Captain Clarke knows, hanging over the Steelport Fort, has as much influence as a thousand men.” The old Kafir laughed, and said, “If Secocoeni read the newspapers, he might, no doubt, be afraid of the tales Englishmen write about their own strength and glory; but he would feel much more afraid of a hundred wild dogs than of millions of paper soldiers.” While such were the Kafir opinions, all aid was refused to the defenceless inhabitants of Lydenberg, and those who