R.C. Holter Pub. Co's Publishing Business
(The date is not given, but must have been after February 1911)
Translation by Ingeborg Gorven, Eston, South Africa
(The reason that some pages are short is that these have photographs on them, and they are of different sizes.)
The trip from Bergen to Durban. - By ox-wagon to Zululand. - Missionary Schreuder saves from a snake-bite. - The Zulus wish to buy the authoress. - The leopard and the little lambs. - A tiny grave.
My parents departed from Bergen, Norway in 186O. My father Daniel Nielsen was called to be an assistant in the Norwegian Schreuder Mission in Zululand. (It was actually still the Norwegian Mission Society, from which Bishop Schreuder broke away in 1873. I.G.)
At that time there were no steamers, neither regular sailing-ship communication with South Africa. I was the eldest of two daughters.
When we left Bergen I was not quite three years old and my sister Malle was very little.
We journeyed to Glasgow first. There we had to wait for 6 weeks and at last were able to sail on an old sailing-ship, a coal vessel. After a trip of 3 months we arrived in Durban in the month of August 186O. Where this beauti- ful town now lies, there were at that time only a few little houses. In the streets, which are now paved, one waded in deep, loose sand at that time.
When we landed there was no guest-house, where the tired travellers could rest. No, on the contrary they were directed to a shed with three walls. There they now had to stay until the wagon arrived from Zululand to fetch them to go to Entumeni, where the Norwegian missionary Schreuder lived. Besides the 4 of us there were also another family, Carlsen and his wife and two children, as well as two bachelors (E.R.Ingebrektsen and T.C.Thorsen?),
and a maid (A.C.Elye?), who was going to Mrs. Schreuder. That is, 11 persons.
All these now had to be packed together in one ox-wagon. This had 16 oxen inspanned. The previous year there had been war between the king's sons Cetshewayo and Umbulazi. On account of polygamy in Zululand, King Mpande of course also had a lot of wives. Thus these princes were about the same age and both felt that they had the first right to be Crown Prince, so there was war between them which concluded with Cetshewayo's chasing Umbulazi and his people into the Tugela River which was flooding its banks, and where most of them drowned.
This river our wagon also had to cross, and this time the water was low, so the oxen swam over with the wagon. The Tugela River forms the boundary between Natal and Zululand.
On the other side we passed through the battle-field where there were still bones and skulls lying in abundance. Just imagine what a ghastly sight for the poor city ladies!
Arrived at Entumeni we were directed to a reed hut. As a result of the war there was now a year of famine among the natives, and as we were so many in that one wagon, we hadn't been able to bring with us much in the way of stocks of food.
It wasn't long after our arrival, that my sister Karen was born. Our food supply was by now so bad, that every evening and morning we had to take a dish to get some mealie-meal from Mrs. Schreuder and a little milk. Schreuder had a lot of cattle, over 1OO head. Then Father was able to buy a cow from the natives, but he was not allowed to keep it, as Schreuder was of the opinion, that the cow could of course have come from one of the cattle- pest infected kraals. Father had to slaughter it. How were we to preserve so much meat in such a very
hot climate? One had to corn it, and even so it was spoiled, before one could eat it all. Poor Father, his trials began already at that time.
When Mother was confined she became very tired of eating porridge end- lessly. We had a little Zulu girl, who was hired to look after us children. She was called Petyase. Mother sent her with a coffee cup to some old Zulu women to ask them to give her a little "inkobe". This is dry maize grains, boiled whole. These she lay and chewed, instead of suitable food.
Amongst other things Schreuder had studied medicine and had brought all sorts of medicaments with him. This was now a good thing as far as I was concerned. One Sunday afternoon Mother and Father went for a walk on one of the hills, while Petyase looked after us at home. We went about in the garden and picked some wild berries here and there. Here was a bush! I see a ripe berry and put my little hand in to pick it. Suddenly I give a cry, and my black nurse-girl saw a poisonous snake disappear. She was terrified, took Malle on her arm and dragged me by
one hand. In great haste we ran in to Schreuder, where she related that a snake had bitten my hand.
Schreuder gave me a strong antivenin, and
with a glowing iron burned the snake-bite, then sent for my parents, who came and
carried me home. It was a very poisonous snake called "imamba". Had I not received help so fast, I would have lost my life.
But now after a while I was completely well. That Schreuder could save people from snake-bite, was soon widely known, and not long after this a Zulu chief was bitten by a snake and Schreuder was fetched in haste. He took Father with him and the chief's life was spared. Now it was natural to think that he would be so grateful for it, that he would have given his benefactor a gift, but no; he came one fine day and demanded a woollen blanket. Why should we give you a blanket? Oh yes! You have indeed saved my life, now it belongs to you, and you now have to protect it so it won't freeze to death. Such is the Zulu's gratitude.
The natives have a kind of sugar-cane which they plant among the mealies. This they're very fond of, and can chew a whole lot of it; they swallow only the juice. This sugar-cane is bound into bundles and then they carried these on their heads and brought them for sale. One day a whole crowd arrived. There were five of them, who carried sugar-cane. They wanted Mother to buy it, and she asked what they wanted for it. In those days there wasn't money among the Zulus; they didn't know about it. On the other hand, they traded by exchanging goods, such as blue cotton material, woollen and cotton blankets, glass beads, snuff-pipes, knives and brass rings. When Mother then asked what they wanted for the sugar-cane, yes, can you guess? They wanted to buy me, Mamma's eldest daughter, so I could grow up among them and one fine day a prince would come, with 1OO
head of cattle and buy me as wife, so it would have been a good investment for them. I understood a bit of Zulu, and soon found out, that it was I they were after. Now you could peep under Mother's bed and there you would see a terrified little girl curled up. But naturally Mother did not intend selling her girlie to those black, naked people. Oh certainly not, but they were rather angry about it, and it was a whole set-to Mother had with them before they departed. Zulus always have to pay the bride's father for his daughter, when they wish to marry her. At that time the usual price was 1O head of cattle, and if the husband had a lot of cattle, he could take as many wives as he could pay for, and later sell his daughters, and for their cattle acquire still more wives; these wives support the husband. All he does is hunt and run around the different homes, where he can get home-brewed beer to drink. In the mean time the wives have to hoe the hard ground with hoes and transform this into mealie-gardens, as well as plant sweet potatoes and pumpkins. When these are ripe, they harvest them and carry them in baskets on their heads to the nearest merchant and bring the proceeds to their husband.
But first they naturally put aside their winter provisions. They of course don't need any clothes, as they go almost naked. The men have some strips of skin about the hips, the girls some bead fringes about 3 to 4 inches long, and the married women a short skirt down to the knees, which has been tanned of cowhide and lasts almost a whole life-time. Their bed is a straw mat, which is put on the floor, a wooden block serves as a head pillow and a cotton blanket completes the whole grandeur. Occasionally they may barter something for a yard of cotton material, which they tie around the shoulders, and a snuff-box, which is carried in a hole in the ear-lobe.
We were at Entumeni for two years, and in that time Father built
a large new church. The bricks were made by hand, and the woodwork sawn in the forest by handsaw.
After the two years he was ordered to move to Empangeni. It was far down in a fever district. Pastor Larsen was there at that time, but was to be moved to a new station Nhlazatshe.
But now I must tell you, that my dear parents, as well as the rest of the missionaries received mail only once per annum. Just imagine, waiting for twelve months for letters from their dear parents.
Likewise they got their household provisions only once per annum. The Mission had only one wagon. It had to serve all the missionaries and fetch their supplies in Durban. It took at that time a week's travelling each way. In the summer it couldn't go, because then all the rivers overflowed their banks, and there was at that time neither boat nor bridge over them. So we packed everything and journeyed to Empangeni by ox-wagon. It took 3 days to do the trip. Can you imagine, what it meant to travel in those days? No cleared roads, just foot-paths, up hill and down hill, side hills which sloped so much that all of us had to get out and go on foot for fear of overturning the wagon. It has indeed happened, that wagons have overturned and pulled all the oxen with them down into the depths where they were killed or mutilated.
Father and a Zulu had at such places to fasten long strong leather thongs to the wagon and walk up the hill and with all their strength keep the wagon from overturning. Then we were mired in a marsh so firmly that the oxen couldn't pull the wagon out. Then all our freight or load had to be carried over to dry ground again, and then it could happen that the oxen were able to get the empty wagon out. The rivers often had so much water in them that the oxen had to swim, so all we could
see were the nose and the horns out of the water, and then the water might flood into the wagon to us.
We carried no fodder for the oxen, for which reason we had to outspan and stay put for 1 to 4 hours while the oxen grazed in the field. After 3 days we arrived at Empangeni, where Pastor Larsen and his wife received us in a friendly way. They had no children themselves, but it wasn't long before we children found our way there.
By bartering we acquired some head of cattle here, so we had the necessary milk and butter. Then we also bought some sheep for occasional slaughtering purposes, as a larger animal was too much and the meat would only spoil. Soon the sheep had the most delightful beautiful lambs, which all of us, but especially Malle loved dearly. Everything she got the lambs simply had to see.
Then one Sunday morning, it was Malle's birthday as it happened, and Mother had knitted her some pretty striped stockings, which the lambs of course also had to see. I think she was then 4 years, so she ran up to the sheep's house. Yes, a house they certainly had to have, for it was a dreadful place for animals of prey, which had on occasion killed our sheep. This particular morning Malle came back absolutely terrified and said: "Mamnma! All the sheep are lying on the ground, and there is blood everywhere."
All of us ran off at once and right enough: one or more leopards had broken through the straw roof and killed every single one, only sucked the blood by biting across the throats and then left them lying. - It was only a little foretaste of the trials, which awaited my parents at this place.
It wasn't long after that that the Larsens left us and we were alone. An even worse loss awaited us. Our dear Malle ailed a little one Sunday, but was still outside with us in the field walking and picking wild flowers. It was such a hot, lovely day. But that evening she had a nasty cough, and it appeared that it was croup. At 12 o'clock on Monday she died in Mother's arms during a fit of coughing. My poor Mother, so far away in a heathen land, thousands of miles away from her dear Mother, alone, just she and Father. There was no timber or planks to be had, so the only recourse was to
take a chest which had been brought from Norway with clothes in it, and this was now used as Mallemor's coffin. Alone these two sorrowing parents had to wander to the churchyard, a little place down in the garden which Father had chosen as the burial place, and later fenced in.
Before the Larsens departed, we had been given a little sister who was called Keta. (Sofie uses the name Martine for Keta. Keta, christened Katrine Martine, was born on 25th August l862. She married Anders Gorven in March 1882. He had changed his surname from Gjørven to Gorven by deed poll. I.G.)
Attacked by the Zulus. - The natives' superstition. - Three fever patients.
- One more little grave. - The dead awakes. - A Norwegian divine service.
Among the many difficulties a missionary found, the people's abysmal ignorance was not the least trial. As already stated, they had no understanding of money. Even as servants' wages trade goods were bartered. Of periods of time they have no understanding. They understood when it was summer and winter, but had no seasons or months. A month was reckoned according to the moon and not even then was it right.
Thus: If they were engaged for three months they could easily reckon six weeks as three months and thus demand their pay. It took a long time before they understood, that one month was 3O days. If one wouldn't pay them because only half the time had elapsed, they ran home and gathered an army, which came well-armed singing their war-song and surrounded our house, broke the window-panes with their war-clubs, trampled our flower-beds and otherwise destroyed all that they could. What could Father possibly do alone against so many hundreds of savage warriors? They had no firearms, only clubs (knob- kerries) and spears (assegaais). We withdrew into the house and behind closed doors called on our God for support. He never failed us in the time of need. When therefore the Zulus had so to speak finished raging, Mother would go out to them, and try to talk them to rights. The Zulus in those days had respect for white women. One never hears of the Zulus that they killed
women, except it be during an unusually big instance of war. Thus Mother with her gentle and patient nature could almost always talk them to rights in the end, so they went their way in peace.
There was hardly any progress made by the Gospel in those days. Boys would certainly be allowed to work at the white man's, but they must not dress in European clothing. That would immediately be taken as a sign of defection. But the girls were hardly allowed by the parents to earn; they would of course receive 1O head of cattle for them, when they married. If they became Christians, they thought, they would lose those 1O head of cattle.
Among these black ladies one might fall in love with a young man, who had no cattle. If an old man should come along and have a dozen wives already and have the required cattle, then she was often forced to take the latter. To avoid this they would somtimes try flight. Then there would be a big hunt for her. They would come to the Mission Station as well to see
if she was hidden there. They were so superstitious to boot, that they believed that we could charm her and make her so small, that she could hide in the most impossible places. Mother had brought with her from Norway a clock, one of those with leaden weights hanging on chains and which were wound every day.
Once when they had searched everywhere, knocked with their knobkerries on our beds and on their knees peeped under same, they spotted our clock, and now they perforce had to look inside the clock. We could of course have hidden her inside it!
On one occasion there was a young man, who wished to become a Christian. When they understood this at his home, they came to fetch him, but he wouldn't go. After many attempts they left him in peace. Then some time later there came a man from home. He told "Wanga", that his relatives at home would no longer concern themselves about him, but leave him in peace. Then they talked about this and that, and then the man let "Wanga" accompany him part of the way. That was the last day we saw him. The herdboy came home in the afternoon and related, that not far from the Station, in some bushes, lay a murdered man. The head had been chopped off, likewise the arms and the legs. There had naturally been men lying in wait and who, when the first had lured him with him so far, had attacked him and murdered him. The Zulus have great faith in witchcraft. If one is sick, it is another, who is the cause of it, and then there are "smelling"-wizards, who can smell who the guilty one is. The witchdoctor sits with legs crossed under him, then he throws about the place a whole lot of little birds' claws, small stones etc., and then he strikes the ground with the knobkerrie and shouts: "Izwa! Izwa!" which means: "Hear! Hear!" The spirits are then supposed to show him by means of these little things, where the guilty one is. These "doctors" generally know if the patient or the patient's relatives have one or other bad friend, and this one
then generally gets the blame for the illness. He is then killed together with his wives, his cattle stolen and his daughters taken captive. Yes, even about the weather there is superstition. If there should be a long drought when the grain needs rain most, then someone or other has nailed the clouds down so they cannot yield rain. In addition they are of the opinion that large wooden nails are used which are driven into the ground by some formula or other. We were just suffering a long drought, when a Natal black was sent to Father with a letter. The letter was tied to a reed which the messenger held in his hand. He himself was dressed in a long white shirt. To see a black man in this condition must needs be a sign that he was a wizard. They speedily agreed, that he had nailed down the clouds.
When he therefore started homeward with the reply to the letter he had brought, there was a whole crowd who waited for him. They wanted to drag him off so he could show them, where these nails were, which kept the clouds from yielding rain. As the poor wretch was innocent, it was an impossibility. He tore himself free and returned to Father, but his pursuers were right at his heels. He clung to Father's arm. In vain Father sought to convince them that the messenger was innocent. They just shouted, that he must die. Now they took the man's arm. Father had always been a strong man; he helped the messenger at his side, but suddenly there was someone who struck Father in the face with his knobkerrie, so he fell and lost his grip. When he came to his senses again they were gone and the poor messenger too. He never reached his home, and we neither saw nor heard anything of him again. So it is certain that they took the wretch's life.
We lived, as I mentioned in a fever area. Mother, Karen and I had to go to bed ill, little Keta (born 25.8.1862) was just six months old, and had now to be taken off the breast. Here there was
no place to buy a feeding-bottle and no doctor or nurse to be had. There stood Father now alone with three malaria-fever patients who were soon fantasising in their delirium, and a suckling to care for. For her he got a tin, in which he pierced holes, and with the help of a copper wire succeeded in suspending from the roof, in such a way that he could put our lamp under it. In this way he warmed the child's food and gave it her with a teaspoon. My poor Father, distress and tribulation always followed hard on his heels. Of all those on the mission-field he drained the bitterest chalice.
Here he carried on now alone day and night with all these patients; he himself had to be doctor, nurse, nurse-maid and housekeeper. They would have been unendurable days for him, if he himself hadn't had unusually good health. I was the first one on my feet, but of course couldn't be of any help, as I was only five and a half years old. But it was worse with Mother and Karen. Little Karen's bed stood at Mother's side. Mother was by now so weak, that she couldn't lift her hand.
Father was in the kitchen one day to prepare some food. Mother lies looking at little Karen in her cradle. There she notices a change come over the beloved little being. "Alas my God, must I lose this one too? My little one must die, and I'm not capable of calling her Father." Yes, Death was there, and in a few minutes Karen lay there in a lifeless body, and Mother lost consciousness. Just imagine my father's feelings, when he a moment later comes in, and to his horror finds, as he thinks two dead. A little later Mother regained consciousness, but Karen had wandered Home, where no sorrow or sickness are any more.
What to do now? There were no more clothes' chests large enough. Karen was of course only about two years old. No planks either. What was this severely
tried man do now to bury his little child? Only one thing could he do: wrap the little one in a sheet and after that roll her in a straw mat.
Alone he dug her grave; alone he carried the beloved burden to the grave
and lowered it into its last resting-place. Then back again to the sick
wife and crying suckling.
With God's help Mother at length got on her feet again. Then one day there came a message from Schreuder with their annual mail and letters from the dear ones in the homeland. A ship had again arrived and with it came several new missionary priests. Schreuder wrote that one of these was coming to visit us and also give my parents holy communion. Imagine after so long a time among just black, savage people to see and talk to one of one's own! O, how Mother looked forward to this visit, she decked and cooked, although still very weak.
Saturday evening Pastor LandkjÊr came, (As there never was a "LandkjÊr" in NMS, but there was a Kielland who answers to Sofie's description, and who arrived in Zululand in 1863, it must be he. I.G.) and Sunday was a day of joy for the very sad couple, as they could go to God's table together and afterwards converse about matters both
old and new. Early Monday morning Pastor Kielland returned to Entumeni, where he had a young wife and a little son. There he was now to remain to learn the Zulu language, in order to take over this our Station later as priest.
Mother tidied and put our house in order. By midday she was very tired and lay down on the sofa for an afternoon rest. She fell asleep, and Father let her sleep away some of the afternoon. Then he became a little uneasy, but made her a good cup of coffee, such as she loved. He brought it in when she awoke. "Mama, here is a cup of coffee. Have you slept well?"
She stared at him as if she didn't understand him. Then she reached out her hand for the cup, but was so weak, that she dropped it on the floor. Father who thought, that she wasn't yet properly awake, fetched another cup, but if he hadn't been alert, that too would have gone the same way. Now he became concerned and felt her forehead. It burned as with fever, and her pulse was irregular.
Now he took her and put her to bed. Again he had a very sick patient. How long she was ill, I have forgotten to ask Mother, and now she is with God, where no one can hear from her any longer; but this I know, that one day while Father was in the kitchen again, perhaps he was warming milk for the youngest one. Then a strange feeling came over her, she thought within herself: Alas, now I'm dying. When Father came in again, she was dead. Alas, yes this cross was heavy to bear. He felt the pulse and listened to her heart, he opened the eyelids and put a finger on the pupil, but she was and remained dead.
"O, my God!" sighed Father, "to think that she should breathe her last while I was away. Not a last glance or word, to comfort one. Alas, why was I not at her
side in her last moments! How much, O God, do I still have to bear?"
What could he do now? To carry a child to the grave by oneself was one thing, but an adult woman would of course be another matter, and what was he to do for a coffin? Yes, this time the interleading door will have to be converted into a coffin. But alone! Alas, Zulus came and went every day, but Zulu men in those days never touched a corpse. The women had to perform this duty, and as they afterwards had to remain behind closed doors as unclean, it was unthinkable that they would do any such thing for a stranger.
He would have to see about getting a good runner and send an express message to Schreuder and fetch one of the other assistants. For good pay we got one who promised to run and do the trip in the shortest time. When the messenger reached Entumeni, there was sorrow. Mother was greatly loved. Schreuder had the
church bell tolled. An assistant Mr. Tosland (Tjomsland) was sent down at once on horseback. He arrived in the evening on the third day. In the mean time Father had washed the dear body, and wished to swathe it as best he could. But he couldn't forget, that she breathed her last while he was out of the room. While he was drying her, it seemed to him that a little spot, where the heart lies, wasn't quite like the rest of the body. It seemed to be a bit soft still, while the whole body was cold and dead. A thought rushed through him: Imagine, if she should just be apparently dead! This thought gave him no peace, and when Tjomsland came, he consulted him about, how one could best be sure in this matter.
Finally they agreed to put a drawing-plaster on the chest and the legs. There was Spanish Fly (cantharis) in the house. They made a plaster, and then both waited with fearful hearts. And fancy, after a while blisters really did appear, but no sign of life was to be seen. So they pricked the blister and put a soap plaster on it. This draws very well and on the raw flesh, it must have drawn dreadfully.
O, can you imagine a more anxious hour, than when these two stood there with bated breath and waited. Disheartened they were now on the point of giving up hope, but look! Wasn't that a gentle trembling of the eyelid? No, it was just imagination. Suddenly a cry is heard: "Papa, Papa, save me, the house is burning. Save me!" The cry came from the dead. The eyes were wide open and anxious. Both were as though paralysed by fear. The unexpected came so quickly in the end that they couldn't comprehend it, but then Father went and says to Mother: "No, Mama, it's not the house, which is burning, but this sore here. You have been so very sick that we put Spanish Fly on you and later soap salve." She looked at him thoughtfully; then picked at the plaster with her fingers and then she said quite naturally: "Take this off and put tallow on it, that will cool the sore." From that time she was completely in her right mind. It still took a long time before she grew strong.
From having had to lie on her back for so long she had a big sore as large as a dinner plate low down on her back. She bore the scar of it till her death 44 years later (19O8). As she tired of lying on her side Father had to put pillows on the floor and lift her carefully and put her in a kneeling position by the bed for a little while each day. She improved daily and to our great joy she got so well that she could take over her domestic work.
But there was no long rest for Father. The contagious smallpox broke out among the Zulus. There was now a crowd without parallel. From early in the morning until late in the evening they came to be vaccinated. Papa had a certain amount of vaccine, and afterwards he had to take it from the arms of those, who were vaccinated first. He hardly had time to eat. The Zulus were crazy with fear and now only the white man could help them.
Many who were not vaccinated in time died. Others recovered, but were almost unrecognizable for the scars.
Our old hut was now so dilapidated that it had to be pulled down and
rebuilt. We moved to the school-house, and there in one end we lived,
while the other end was used in the evening as a school for teaching the
Blacks, who worked for us, and the odd one or two who came out of curiosity.
On Sundays meetings for edification were held for the few who wished to
come. In those days the Zulus couldn't use benches to sit on; it was uncomfortable.
They came therefore, naked, as always, and sat
on their haunches. After the smallpox more of both men and women came on Sundays.
Our new house was now ready and we moved in. Not long afterwards Pastor Kielland with his wife and child came and lived in the house Larsen had vacated. Life now became more pleasant for my parents, who now had suitable company and friends.
One Sunday morning we were at Kiellands'. On Sundays to wit these four Norwegians used to gather to read God's word together in their mother tongue; later at 11 o'clock, there was a divine service in the school-house, but in Zulu, of which none of them had a particularly good command. This particular morning we heard a dreadful commotion among the priest's fowls. We were so used to wild animals and snakes, that Father took his gun and ran out to see. When Father arrived there at the fowl-run, he found a huge snake, which was busy covering the fowls with saliva and swallowing them. It already had a swollen stomach. Father shot the snake and then took his pocket knife and slit its stomach open, took out two fowls and threw them towards the yard. Thereupon he dragged the snake away. It was a python, or as we call that kind out there, a boa constrictor. The black servant skinned it; it measured 15 foot 9 inches. I have subsequently seen the same kind of snake 17 foot long. But the amusing part about this adventure was, that when we looked for the two fowls, there was only one remaining, the other one after it had dried out for a while in the sun had come alive again and went there clucking, as though a visit in a snake's stomach was of no consequence. It laid eggs and reared chickens for a long time after this.
At about this time we had another litle sister. We called her Caroline for Mother. Mrs. Kielland who was young and inexperienced, nevertheless did her best to help and
support Mother. We were however not allowed to keep Caroline very long as she already at the age of nine months contracted dysentry. She was soon so ill that there was only very little hope.
O, how Father and Mother prayed to God to let them keep this dear lamb. But the Good Shepherd must have seen that it would be better for her in his Sheepfold, free from all pain. Alas, how often in my chequered life I have thought of her and wished that it had been I who had been allowed to go Home that time.
She died, and as we now had a priest at hand the little churchyard was dedicated and the ceremony of casting earth upon the coffins was performed on all three graves. Already while Caroline was alive Mother contracted the same sickness, and suffered from it for seven long pain-filled years.
3rd Chapter .
In the forest for timber. - A little girl who was cooking potatoes. - The provisions for the whole year stolen. - How we caught beasts of prey. - Fire. - When the ox was being tamed. - Mother builds a house.
Schreuder decided now that Father was to build a church and a new dwelling-house for the priest. To get timber for this one had to travel to a forest far away and fell and saw trees which are all hard, as no spruce, larch or fir trees grow out there.
It would necessitate a two months' stay in the forest. Father thought a change of air would do his sick wife good, likewise Keta, who was not at all strong. So it was decided that we were all going on this forest trip. We had recently received our annual provisions, food and merchandise. We took with us supplies for two months, shut the house, even screwed the doors and windows. Umbube, a servant we had had for a considerable time and whom we trusted, was to remain behind in his own hut close to ours, to mind the house and the livestock. In addition he had the herd-boy. I was now in my ninth year and Keta in her fourth year. When the wagon was packed we set off over totally unmade roads where we again had innumerable dangers and difficulties to go through, but I won't tire the readers by describing these again. I must just relate a little incident which stands out clearly in my memory. It was the afternoon when we were nearly at the journey's goal. It was delightful weather and we came driving down a hill. Everything was
green and beautiful, nothing to warn us that over on the next hill-slope there was a marsh. We drove right to it, but soon the oxen began to sink, thereupon the wagon right under the axles. The oxen could no longer pull, Mother and we children now crawled out of the wagon and stood about on the tufts of turf. Mother and Keta walked carefully over the bog from tuft to tuft and readily reached solid ground again and continued up the hill. I who always wanted to see everything, stood there and gawped, while one with great difficulty got the oxen from the front of the wagon and the wagon-rope fastened under the wagon at the back so the oxen got a foothold again and could pull the wagon out backwards. For a long time the wheels would not budge from the bog and when they did, it was with a jerk. Wagon and oxen were several hundred feet away, before I noticed it. Then I started to run, thought no longer of looking for tufts of grass. Soon I found my legs were in the bog up to my knees. There stood I and shouted and pulled with all my might, got one foot out, but the shoe remained in the bog. Thus I strove without getting any further, until Mother returned and showed me what to do. Then I came out of my distress but had lost both hat and shoe and was covered in mud and clay right up to the knees.
Half an hour later we made a halt at a Zulu kraal. These are laid out like this. First a cattle-kraal is built of poles and branches; it is built in a complete circle with one opening just big enough for one head of cattle at a time. Outside this circle round huts are built with one door or opening just three foot high, so one has to get down on one's knees and crawl in on hands and feet. Outside these huts there is another high fence around the whole. This is as protection against wild animals.
This kraal was quite near to the forest. We hired a hut there and put all our things inside. Father intended using
the wagon and the oxen next day to drive to the forest to chop out a road, as well as find out, where the best timber was and where we should encamp these two months.
We slept in the hut that night, but the trip had strained Mother too much; she took very ill that night, and had to stay in bed next day.
In order not to waste too much time cooking dinner at midday it was decided that a large pot should be filled with sweet potatoes and kindling and firewood should be laid in readiness. At ll o'clock, I was to put a match to it, it was namely on the ground out in the yard. Then I was to add firewood, and with a fork test the potatoes. When these were cooked, I was to use a piece of wood to push the fire away from the pot. It was of course to all appearances a sufficiently easy matter for a nine-year-old girl. All went well until the potatoes were cooked. Then I ran to the door of the hut, knelt down and said to Mother: "Now they are ready, Mamma." Imagine my amazement when Mamma's answer sounded thus: "Child! Child! get away from the hut, why, you're on fire." At that I jumped up and could then see, that the skirt of my dress, which was of cotton was in flames. I ran and shouted and jumped and shouted like a maniac. All the women of the kraal with their children had set out for the fields, the Zulus don't eat a midday meal, just two meals per day, that is in the forenoon towards 9 o'clock and in the afternoon between 5 and 6. The men were out hunting. Just two old men sat outside the enclosure and sunned themselves in the sun, took snuff and made small talk. These two came at my cries and since there was no water, and this was a difficult case, without anymore ado they took and rolled me back and forth in the loose sand in the yard. This extinguished the flame. Afterwards they rubbed the fire out of the rest of the skirt of my dress and my dress sleeves with their bare hands. One of my hands was badly burned, but otherwise
I escaped with my skin intact, as I had home-woven woollen underwear, which didn't catch fire. I sat down, leaned against the fence and there Father found a burned little girl, whom he could hardly recognize. My petticoat was of course full of sand, after the rolling I had had. My dress hung in burnt rags from the waist. My face was sooty and dirty, since I had wept with fright and over the hurting hand. It was bad enough for Father to come home and see me like that, but what must it not have been for my dear sick mother to lie inside the hut and know that I was on fire! She must also of course have been anxious that I might have been too close to the hut with my burning dress. The hut was thatched with grass right down to the ground, so it could easily have happened, that I could have set fire to the whole kraal, and Mother and Keta to boot. God held his protecting hand over us and warded off a greater danger.
When Mother was barely well enough to get up, we moved into the forest. The tent was taken off the wagon and pitched on the ground. This now became our place of abode for the two months, while Father with the black servants felled trees, and with the oxen dragged the logs of timber to a trench over which two poles were laid. The tree trunk was rolled on to these until it lay in the middle the length of the trench. The timber was marked by dipping a cord in soot-water and stretching it along same. Father stood above the pole and a Zulu down in the trench, took then a long saw, the one by the haft above and the other with the handle below. Then they sawed up and down. In this way all the materials were sawn for both the priest's dwelling and the church, not only for the building but for benches for the church, for doors and windows, for pulpit and baptismal font and the altar rail, all of which Father later made.
While Father sawed the driver with the oxen and another Zulu were carrying the planks out to the ground outside the forest, where they were piled up to dry.
By the way it was great fun living here in the Forest. There was bird-song and the insects' constant humming by day, and at night we could hear wild dogs and hyenas howling around us.
The trees in these forests are short, crooked and very hard to work with. One got barely one log from each tree. On the other hand there were many which were extremely thick. There was one, which Father and all of the four Zulus spanned with their arms by holding hands and still they only just reached around the trunk. But now I suppose it was about time that anxieties should knock at the door again. They were never away for long at a time. Thus it was now too. Just as we were having such a pleasant time, a messenger came from Kielland with letters. One of them was from Kielland himself. He had
as said promised to keep an eye on Umbube and our home, while we were away. Now he wrote, that Umbube had led a gang of robbers and broken into the house and robbed us of everything, which was portable, all of our last annual provisions, all our trading-goods which were used instead of money to pay our servants and to buy necessities we needed from the Blacks. All our best clothes and our bedding were stolen. All chests had been broken open, even the bed mattresses had been emptied on the floor and the covers taken away.
When we duly arrived at home it was to see an empty house, windows smashed and the doors open. It was a dreadful trick to play on us. We were paid only once per annum and only once could we get things up from Durban. Now it was necessary to pinch and scrape with the little which remained
from the trip to the forest, patch and darn our clothes until they were like Joseph's coat of many colours. Father hoped that the King would help him to get some of our belongings back, as well as punish the thieves. Since he had an ox, which was broken in for riding, he put his home-made saddle on it, and made a long and cumbersome journey up to the King's kraal. It pains me to think of the sufferings Father must have had to endure on that trip. He couldn't take much food with him on the back of an ox. There he sat under the killing heat of Africa's sun with little or no food and many miles between the times he found water to drink. The night he had to spend alone in the wild or otherwise in a kraal among unknown raw Zulus. After many difficulties he finally reached King Umpande, was given an audience and lodged his complaint. The King was friendy enough and promised help, but all he did was to send a couple of warriors with Father to see Umbube. They had enquired and learnt where he was to be found. They were also able to get hold of him to take him back to the King, but on the way he saw his chance to run away and with that the trip was in vain. Tired, dispirited and sick my father reached home after the long journey with his errand unaccomplished. It was a great disappointment to them. That was a difficult year to make ends meet. As sick as Mother was, who went there dragging herself about with chronic dysentery, she did all her own work to save paying a servant. Yes, she even helped to plant and weed the mealies, which we ourselves later harvested, and ourselves ground to meal in a handmill and used for making bread, porridge and soup.
Leopards and hyenas visited us from time to time and took our young calves, and as Zulu cattle won't allow themselves to be milked without their calves, we thereby forfeited the milk.
Occasionally one was able to catch these bad beasts of prey. A
kind of trap was built of strong poles, which were set in the ground, close together, and looked like a tent, as the poles met at the top. At the back there was a cage, where a goat was placed. At the front there was an opening with a trap-door, which by means of a cord was attached to a spring-trap inside the structure. Then when the beast of prey came and heard the goat, it went around trying to enter to reach the goat. Then when it found the door and went in and touched the cord the door slammed shut, and the wild dog was in the spring-trap too. I shall never forget one I saw, it had in its despair bitten itself till it bled, so it was a gruesome sight. Of course as soon as they were found caught they were shot dead.
Father now had to begin his building operations. First he had to quarry stone for the foundation, then shape bricks and get them put in a kiln and burned; then lay the bricks for the walls, build the roof, thatch the roof with long grass, then plaster and whitewash the walls, thereupon make doors and windows and in the church make benches, pulpit etc..
Now-a-days there are surely not many men who can execute so many trades and do it well too. As far as I can remember, my father was the one who was instructed to do something, when it had to be done first rate. Of course all of this took time, you see, as Father was alone, the Zulus could help only as assistants.
When this work was completed an instruction came from Schreuder as head of the Mission in Zululand that Father was to move back to Entumeni. Since the old hut in which we had lived up there before had long since fallen down, Father first had to travel up on his ox to try to find accommodation for us.
But come to think of it, here I ought to relate something which happened before he departed. I dreamed one night, that we
had a frightful storm. I heard the hailstorm as it lashed the roof. Then I awoke and saw that the whole living-room was light, and that what I in my sleep took to be a hailstorm, was a dreadful crackling and crashing of a fire. At this time we had two Zulus in our employ, one as herdboy and the other to carry water, chop firewood and weed in the garden. These two lived in a hut as they were wont to do at home. These huts have a little depression in the middle of the floor, where they make a fire, when the evening is cold; then they always sleep on the floor. Presumably they fell asleep, while the fire was still burning in the fire-place, then in their sleep approached too close to the fire with their blankets and thus set fire to the hut which was thatched with straw from the ground up.
The fire must have started at the exit, that little three-foot-high door, as they didn't come out. We heard, how they screamed and groaned in pain and desperation. There was no water, as the stream was a fair distance away. Father did what he could to help them, but the fire had gained the upper hand before anyone awoke. Kielland came now too and at last between them they were able to drag the poor creatures out of the flames. But they were dreadfully burned. One died after several days' gruesome suffering and the other carried considerably big marks and scars to the day of his death. My poor sick mother nursed them with care. It was when the latter was healed, that we were to move.
Father rode his ox to Entumeni; but it wasn't easy to find a house. There were several families, which now had adopted Christianity and had then built themselves European-style houses comprising 2-3 rooms. From one of these Father was able to rent a room, where we could stay, while he built our house.
Then he returned, but we could get the wagon
for only one load, and as we ourselves were to sit and likewise sleep in the wagon on the trip, there wouldn't be much room for our furniture. The thieves had naturally had no use for our furniture, but Father had from time to time in his hours of free time made us one or other useful piece of furniture, which we were now loath to leave behind. But how were we to take them with us? Sure enough, Father made a plan. In the five years we had lived there several of our bullocks had grown up and some were already broken to the yoke. When he now could break two more to the yoke, he would have 6 oxen, and if he made a strong sled our furniture could be put on it. I mean of wood, such as would not come to harm if submerged in the rivers. To be sure we had chairs and a sofa, which were upholstered. These had been brought from Norway and these we took with us on the wagon.
Sometimes it is quite easy to break oxen to the yoke, but one of these was a bit too grown-up, and gave them a lot of trouble. Finally the black driver took and fastened a large thornbush to a long rope and let it loose, so it could run and pull this tree until it tired and became tractable. There was a fence around our house and garden. Out on the field there was nothing it could damage.
I was now 1O years old and Keta was only 5, little and sickly she was,
so she was at that time not a suitable play-mate. I often felt so inexpressibly
lonely, that I would wander down to the little churchyard, sit at my sisters'
graves and talk to them: "Why ever have you left me here so alone?
Now I have no one to play with, alas why did you now have to go and die,
so I had to remain so lonesome?" Thus I complained, then I would
slip through the fence out to the field to pick wild flowers to deck the
This particular morning when the ox was let loose, I had again wandered down there and was picking flowers. I hadn't the faintest inkling of danger, before I saw an angry ox right behind me. I rushed towards the fence, but too late! The ox had caught up with me, knocked me over and run over me. The bush, which had two-inch-long thorns, now caught hold of my clothes and I had to go with it willy nilly. Away we went over earth and stones, antheaps and ditches, until I lost consciousness. When I came to myself again, I lay alone far from home, with my dress in tatters. Only when it tore, was I freed from the thorn-tree. My hands and face were full of scratches and blood, where the thorns had pierced and torn me. I went home again now and crawled back under the fence by the churchyard and reached home, just as Mother was wanting to send someone to call me for midday-dinner. But how shocked she was to see me in that condition: "But my dear child! wherever have you been now?" No wonder, I was of course almost unrecognizable with my ragged dress, scratched bleeding face, loose hair and without my hat. It must have remained on the tree because I had lost it in my involuntary haste.
When I had told them, what danger I had been in, my parents were so glad, that I had escaped from it with my life.
For the ox this was a good lesson; it became as tame as a lamb, and was one of our best oxen. We were now almost ready, and this was the last night in our old home.
That evening I saw Father and Mother wander arm in arm to the churchyard. They wished to visit once more the three little graves, where their dear little ones slept their last sleep.
Alas, how often had I not been down there, and found my dear suffering mother sitting weeping on one
of these little graves. Then I would steal up to her and lay my head in her lap and weep with her. Now they went there for the last time. They would prefer to be on their own this time so I stayed at home. Who knows what thoughts and feelings stirred in their hearts on this last evening at the graveside? No one but God knows, their beloved Father. He surely heard the prayers which they sent up to Him that evening.
Next morning we completed our preparations. The sled was loaded with bedsteads, tables, buckets and bath-tubs. The rest on the wagon, then we climbed up and left Empangeni for good.
We crossed the Umhlatuze River, and a little distance further on we stopped for the night. We made a fire and put the kettle over it. Soon the fragrant coffee was ready and we ate supper beneath the clear starry sky, while the will-o'-the-wisps danced from bush to bush and the grasshoppers held their evensong.
We also held our evening prayers, as we all joined in singing Father's favourite hymn: "Nu hviler Mark og Enge." "Now field and meadow rest". Whereupon Father prayed and thanked God who had led us so far and asked Him to protect us from all dangers. Thereupon we crept into bed in the wagon where we were soon sound asleep.
The next morning we were again on the road.
On this trip we passed Eshowe where we stopped and visited that lovable family Pastor Oftebro and his wife. (They were on KwaMondi Mission Station. I.G.) These have now long enjoyed the eternal rest at home with God. There was also another family, a school teacher, Kyllingstad, with whom we became acquainted that time and subsequently became friends for life. They were young at that time and I think hadn't more than two little children. From there it took only one day to reach Entumeni, where we
moved into the room, which Father had rented from a converted Zulu called Benjamin.
Now Father was to build us a house of poles and plaited work, thatched with straw. But first he had to go to the forest to chop poles and switches for plaiting. First he drove the poles into the ground and built the roof which was thatched as soon as sufficient straw had been procured. It wasn't child's play to find enough of it. It didn't grow all in one place; one could get one bundle here and one there, so one covered many miles in order to get a load of it. Poles, saplings, roof-timber and straw, Father's "6 calves" (as Schreuder called our young oxen) pulled home from the forest on a sled. When a man is alone with one Zulu to help him, it isn't fast work to complete everything. When the walls were ready they had to be smeared inside and out with clay, in order to keep wind and rain out.
Now Schreuder had given father just 2 months from the time we received the instruction to move until the time the house had to be ready. Father was a very competent worker but the journeys and the breaking-in of the oxen and the making of the sled and the harness which was made of home-tanned ox-hides, all took time, so I don't suppose there remained more than five weeks for Father to build the house. In this way the two months expired just as the roof had been thatched, standing on poles. A little veranda-room was almost ready, so it could be plastered with clay. But now he got the instruction to go to Eshowe (to KwaMondi) to build a church there.
Deeply disappointed and dejected Father came home and told Mother this. Poor Mother she couldn't sleep that night for grief and vexation. To stay so long at this dreadful person's house was unendurable. Father had to depart now; with a heavy heart she saw him set off, riding on his ox.
Every night the cattle got out; ours were with Benjamin's and he ought to have kept his fence in good repair, but this he didn't do, and his wife always said that it was our cattle, which broke out, although all of them were out. Night after night they thundered on the door: "Mesisi, seziphumile izinkomo." "Madam, the cattle are out," and then followed scolding and oaths beyond compare. With that Mother's sleep was past for that night, and she sorrowed still more over the half-finished house. One night, as she lay awake and thought back and forth, this thought came to her: "But now, Caroline, why shouldn't you be able to finish the house with the help of a Zulu?" No sooner thought, than done. Next day she prepared some food for the day, and with the food-pail in my hand I went with her and Keta over to the house, which was two miles away. Our Zulu servant took the oxen and the sled; they could not take the short cut with us; but had to go a longer way round. We arrived at the house and Mother got the Zulu to make clay and plaster the little room. I had great fun throwing clay on the wall with my hands. Mother had a large plastering-trowel, with which she smoothed. While the wall dried, we went to the forest. Mother took her knitting with her to encourage the Zulu. They don't like working, and if one sends a man alone, then he would rather lie down to sleep. When we reached the forest, the oxen were outspanned and I stayed behind as herd-girl, while Mother and Keta went with the Zulu into the forest. It took almost the whole day to get a load to take home. This time it was the materials for a cattle-fold we were fetching. When we had got our load to the house, then it was time to walk home again. It took many days and many loads, before we had enough. We needed a calf-stall and a sheepfold as well. When we thus had enough, we tackled the cattle-
kraal. This the Zulu could build, while Mother was overseer or manageress. At last it was ready and a day of great joy it was for us, when we could put the most necessary things on the sled and move over to the little room which was by now dry. Over the window-gap we had nailed a piece of white calico and for a door a mat had been hung up.
How we kept the wild animals away. - The fine room. - More about the
Zulus' way of life and customs. - The gun is fired. - Mother's remarkable
Benjamin had a lovely dog called Golida; it was so fond of Mother, that it followed us to "Entembeni", that is in the Zulu language "Hope" and that was the name Mother gave our new home (at Entumeni I.G.). Benjamin came time after time to fetch the dog, but as soon as he let it loose, it always returned, he grew tired of fetching it, and so we were allowed to keep it. We were glad, because there were many wild animals, which came sneaking around at night. While Golida was away they had taken calves from us out of the calf-stall at night. Now that we were allowed to keep it, we no longer sustained so much loss through wild animals. Mother had a tin can standing by the door and an iron rod. Whenever Golida gave the alarm, Mother jumped out of bed and banged with the iron rod on the tin can and this frightened the night-robbers away.
Now that we lived here we got the Zulu to plait more walls and arrange the rest of the house into rooms.
Mother remembered, that she had seen an old window in an out-house at Schreuder's. He had now been consecrated Bishop (in Bergen on 8 July 1866 I.G.), and the Bishop's Lady had a housekeeper by the name of Miss Vedeler. Arrived at the Bishop's, she says to him:
"I came to ask you to do me a favour."
"Say on, if I can, I'll certainly help," said Schreuder.
"It was xxxxxxxxxxxxx this here, the Bishop has an old window lying in the loft of the shed, would you let me have that old window?"
"Why certainly, Madam Nielsen. I have heard how bravely you have taken it upon yourself to complete the house. But how on earth will you get the window in by yourself, which of course is carpentry?"
"Oh, I'll make a plan," said Mother, "I can see nothing through the calico window, I would dearly love to have one of glass. I'm sure to get it in in some way or another, I hope."
"Take it by all means," said the Bishop, "You are a courageous woman, my wife and I will take a walk out there one of these days."
When Mother was ready to go, the Bishop says: "I shall send one of my men to carry the window."
So Mother came home as light at heart as if she had won a great victory.
But when the window came, alas! it was too small. But Mother wouldn't give in. By nailing large pieces of wood to the window-opening, she at last managed to make it so small that the window fitted it after a fashion.
Now we had a window, and the Zulu was sent out to dig white earth which was to be found here and there in furrows, which the rain had washed out.
This was stirred together with water, and then Mother "lime-washed"
our dark walls with it. This made the rooms lighter. It became almost white,
But that hyena! Ugh, what a sinister howl it has. It didn't come near enough to injure us, but it went around not very far from our house. When we heard it howl, we children used to put our heads under the blanket, and then we lay there and trembled and imagined that it could jump on the roof and tear the grass off and jump into
the bed and eat us up, as it had done with our little calves. It was many years before we got over that fear which the howling instilled in us every time we heard it.
In actual fact the Bishop and his Lady and Miss Vedeler really did come over to visit us and when they had looked about, they were greatly astonished. (After his wife's death, the bishop married Miss Vedeler on 1O November 1879. She was an aunt of Ragnhild nÈe HÊrem, first wife of Peder Aage Rødseth).
"Why, Madam Nielsen, you are truly a wonder, the way you have been able to do so much, is more than I understand!"
After further conversation they went home again.
But now we were to have a great joy. Father wanted to visit us. His working hours were from sunrise until sunset. No free day did he have except Sunday. If Father was to visit us, it would have to be by moonlight. By the time he was ready for the trip Saturday evening, it was probably 9 o'clock, and then he had a 6 hours' ride on ox-back, then reached home some time in the early morning. Sunday the much-tried couple had so much to talk about. We walked together to church although the divine service was in the Zulu language. Sunday night he had to leave us, in order if possible to get back to Eshowe (KwaMondi) sufficiently early, so that he could get an hour's sleep, before he had to start work.
Thus he travelled at night both ways and consequently had to wait for full moon for his visit.
Yes, it was fun when Father came home. He was so good at playing with us children; we rode on his back, while he ran around on hands and feet and played horse. Occasionally he was a bear and growled and chased us so we flew over both table and chairs which were in our way. Yes, those were pleasant times.
But then he could also be severe, far too severe. When we had to be disciplined, it wasn't with any light hand that he used the rod.
Mother was a very industrious wife, was never happy unless her fingers were fully occupied. As there were no shops to buy materials, it was sometimes difficult to find enough work. But Mother always found something.
She had brought with her six chairs and a sofa, which were stuffed but the covers were worn-out, and Mother couldn't get proper covers. She liked to keep her house as neat and clean as possible.
We had many little lambskins (of little lambs which died), as well as goatskins. These she had got the servant to work, till they were soft, and now she got them into squares, only two inches each way; then she sewed one white and one black together until they were large enough to cover the chair seat. Now it was edged and tied around the chair legs with tying-tapes. When the six chairs were finished, they looked lovely. Now it was the sofa. For this she used the skins of wild buck, which she had bought cheaply by bartering with the natives. Now she cut these into strips, there was one grey buck and a dark red or brown, one stripe of each. That also was attractive. But what could she do about the floor? Oh yes, she got white and black calfskins. These she cut one foot square and sewed a carpet to cover the whole floor. There remained the plain table. No doubt it was also to be decorated! She had white cotton yarn and of this she crocheted a lovely table-cloth. Now you should have seen what a fine sitting-room it became! The Bishop and his Lady were of the opinion that it was the loveliest room they had seen. When they had guests, these were always brought to see Madam Nielsen's "parlour". It was something so unusual that all had to admire the industry and perseverance which the weak, suffering woman had exhibited. It was not child's play
for the skinny, weak fingers to sew these skins together with needle and thread.
The Mission had now acquired its own Mission ship, which was called "Elieser". Naturally it was only a sailing-ship. When Captain Larsen once visited Entumeni, he was also brought by the Bishop to greet Mother, and see her sitting-room, which he greatly admired. (This same Captain Larsen later settled on Madagascar, and figures in the Debora Expedition of 1879. I.G.)
One couldn't always get servant help, because the Zulus had no need to earn; there was so little that they needed. Of course they didn't wear clothes, just some strips of skin. The girls liked glass beads of all colours. Of these, which they got by barter from the Europeans, they made fringes and bands, and these bands were tied about the forehead, the arms, the legs and the waist. They seemed then, despite their nudity, to be right well decked. The men also wore bead ornaments around wrists, arms and legs, and feathers in the hair. House rents and taxes they had none. There was no one who was a landowner apart from the king, and he permitted the people to build and live where they most wished and hoe their mealie-gardens, where the best land was. Thus a kraal could have mealie-fields in several places, one here and one there, perhaps half a mile apart. These lay quite unprotected and without fences. The herd-boy had to see that the cattle didn't get in there and do damage.
When they build, the men erect the woodwork for the hut the timber for which the women must help to carry home on their heads. When the "skeleton" of the hut is ready, the women have to seek, cut and carry home grass for the thatching. This they have to plait into thick, coarse mats, which are fastened to the hut, beginning from the ground and ending up at the top.
When a new field is to be cultivated, the best soil is generally there, where there is a bit of young forest. The men cut down
the little trees and bushes, but after that the women hoe and plant, reap and sell. When the wife with her child on her back and a hoe over her shoulder goes to work in the morning, the husband follows a while later with his snuff-box and a long stick. He then seats himself in the shade of a tree. In the event of any women being lazy, he goes down and beats them with his stick.
Occasionally he tires of sitting there in the heat of the sun; he then goes home to take a nap. At once all the women sit down, while one of the young girls stands guard. Now they start chattering, snuff-boxes are taken out of the hole in the ear-lobe, the child is loosened from the back; and while the child suckles, the mothers take snuff and talk. The one who is on guard is relieved by another, and as soon as the husband is to be seen in the distance, all of them jump to their feet and work as though it's a matter of life and death.
As I mentioned before, the husband pays 1O head of cattle for his wife. There is no such thing as divorce after marriage. The husband has complete authority over his wife. She is bought and paid for, and is his slave, as long as she lives. When the son wishes to get married there are generally grown-up sisters. These are then sold, and for the cattle which are acquired for the sister, a wife can now be bought for the brother.
It is only when a man has no sister and has inherited no cattle, that he has to go out to work until he gets enough for 1O head of cattle. Before the cattle pest entered the country, cattle were cheap - a man could have 1O to 5O wives. It was more particularly the chiefs who had 2O to 5O wives. The king had several hundred.
The girls are of course permitted to choose the one they like, or even love, as long as he has 1O head of cattle. But if he has none, and an old crabbed fellow with half a dozen comes and wants to buy her, she has to go to the old man. Perhaps he has again sold a daughter and for this one's purchase
price now wants to get himself one more young wife. I told you how a Zulu kraal is built. This is why there are so many huts in a kraal, one hut for each wife, and one for the husband, that one is in the middle. If there are adult sons, they have a separate hut.
I must here tell about a girl, whom I knew. She married and had a son. When her husband died, she became the inheritance of her husband's brother, and became his wife. By him she had a daughter, Nokufa. When Nokufa was 15 years old, her brother was in love with a girl and wished to marry. He was a lazy, heartless fellow. There was also an old, grey-haired man who wished to marry poor little Nokufa. She found this old man downright repulsive and wouldn't have him. The girl has to give her consent, before the cattle are handed over. Since the brother now was absolutely determined to get hold of his sister's purchase price, he pestered his mother so long, that she had to give her consent to forcing little Nokufa to give in.
She was locked in a dark hut, without food and water. Here she lay shut in alone day and night for some days, until hunger and thirst compelled her to do anything whatsoever to get out. Her will was now broken and she became the old man's slave - and the brother got his wife.
Now when the first instalment of cattle has been paid and a young couple is engaged, the girl travels to the man's home to make the acquaintance of his relatives. She throws a piece of thin, blue cotton material over herself as a veil and takes with her a little sister or brother. If it's far to go, she generally has an adult brother as protector on the trip.
Arrived at her prospective father-in-law's hut, she crawls without further ceremony into same, seats
herself on the floor with the little one by her side. The bride mustn't speak to anyone except the little one. The latter must answer the strangers' questions or other conversation after the big sister has whispered in her ear, what she must say. Her fiancÈ comes in and sits on his haunches, takes the hand of the veiled one and gazes at her through the veil, whereupon he again betakes himself off.
When night comes, she lies down to sleep in the same place with her little sister in her arms. Next day she returns home. Now the wedding-day is decided. The women have instructions to brew an immense quantity of "utshwala", beer brewed of "amabele", nativecorn (sorghum). This grain is ground by the women by rubbing it on a large stone with a little round stone which they have under both hands, and while they kneel in front of the larger stone, they put all their weight on the little one and rub back and forth. They have a little mat, which is laid in front of the large stone, and on it the meal falls when it is sufficiently fine, whereupon it is boiled as a soup. This is strained through a kind of bag, plaited of straw. Then yeast is added, and the beer ferments for some days and is then ready to drink. It is dreadfully sour, and they can drink a lot of it before they become intoxicated. When all the beer is ready, an animal is slaughtered, and therewith the preparations for the wedding are finished.
All neighbours can come to the wedding uninvited. Several fires are lit, and the meat is grilled on the embers and carried on serving-dishes plaited of young osiers, so they are as stiff as a tray. They sit on their haunches in groups, and the women serve them beer and roasted meat.
One man in each group is the carver; he carves the meat with his spear, and with his fingers hands a
piece to each of the men sitting around him, who also receives it with his fingers and puts it in his mouth. In those days they had no salt, and no vegetables or potatoes were cooked to be eaten with the meat. Just meat and beer were the wedding refreshments.
When they had eaten for a while, there had to be dancing. Men and women do not dance together in the European way. The guests arrange themselves in a semi-circle, then a couple of warriors jump up in all their war finery: strips of skins, cow tails, feathers and bead ornaments, with his shield, (made of hard untanned oxhides) spear and clubs. With these in his hands each man runs and jumps by himself, while those standing around them hum a sort of song and clap hands in time to it. When one group tires, another jumps into the circle, then comes the women's turn, they fly into the circle and perform the most foolish movements and gestures. One could laugh oneself sick, and it's called dancing.
The girls also get a turn, and towards evening the bride comes into their midst. While she cuts lovely capers the bridegroom bends forward and with a long and sudden jump, seizes the bride and conducts her to his hut. The wedding is held in the man's home. Now the wedding is over, and after the rest of the meat has been eaten and the beer drunk, they break up and each goes to his home, bawling and shouting in order to frighten off the wild animals on their way.
Should anyone visit a kraal in the evening and not be heard singing
or shouting a long distance away, then he is regarded as a thief and a
Now I must say a bit about their faith and superstition. They do not worship any god, they believe there are evil and good spirits. There is also a little snake, it is green, and it is the only one, which is not poisonous, and it is called
"idlozi". They believe that this one has a good spirit in it and one sacrifices to it by occasionally throwing a piece of meat into the hedge. The Zulus believed that there were no other lands besides South Africa. Those who had seen the sea and the beach there, were of the opinion that that was the end of the earth, and when the white people came and didn't understand their language, they believed, that we came straight out of the sea and that the sea water had blocked our ears, so we couldn't hear. When one then learned the language and little by little made oneself understood by them, it was because the sea water had run out of our ears gradually.
Then they also believe, that the world has no beginning, but that it hasn't always been inhabited. The Great Spirit now wished to create people. It therefore let a large reed in the rushes swell and a man and a woman stepped out of it. These multiplied so long that the earth in time would be overpopulated. First it thought that it would be best to let them live to all eternity, and to confirm this, the Spirit decided to send a chameleon to announce this decision to the human race. But when it had departed, the Spirit changed its mind and decided, that Death must come into the world. There are two kinds of chameleons, one large and slow and one small and quick. It was the slow one which was sent first. Now one of the lively, fast-running kind was sent off to proclaim Death. The announcement which reached its destination first would then be the decisive one, and as the little quick one soon overtook the slow one, Death naturally came into the world.
The Zulus despise both kinds of chameleon, because one ran too fast, and the other not fast enough. But all the same they dare not kill them. They were the Spirit's messengers and only misfortune would follow the one, who killed any of them.
Father was eventually compelled to resign as assistant. (According to the official list of NMS missionaries, Daniel Nielsen was in the service of the NMS from 186O to 1867. I.G.) The year's notice had been worked and he had to think of some way to earn his daily bread; but first our house had to be repaired. The wall on the weather side was so bad that, the rain came in. Father made bricks to put up a good protective wall. The straw roof had also rotted, so it had to be thatched again. This time Father thought it was best to buy the straw from the natives, as he had some trading-goods lying there. It was bought in bundles; the natives tied that kind of straw, or as some call it "tambootie" grass, into two kinds of bundles. It is a kind of fine reed which grows here and there in clumps, and in order to handle it better, they first bind small bunches, which are measured by putting both index fingers together and both thumbs. This size is called "isithungu", the grass is called "isiqunga" with a click with the tongue where the "q" is. These little bunches they could then drag with them from clump to clump until they bound them together into "inyanda". This was measured by putting both arms around it, or by embracing them. The price was set accordingly, so many "inyanda", for a blanket or a hoe etc.. Many women and children came with their bundles and got their pay for them.
Among those who cut the grass there was a baptized native. He had in baptism renounced his Zulu name and adopted the name of Eli. Eli came too and wanted to sell grass. He was to cut 5O "inyanda" and Father would fetch them for him with the sled, as he had no one to help him carry the bundles. He came one day, said that he had the grass ready to be fetched home. But when Father with oxen and sled arrived there were only 5O "izithungu". Father says: "This is not right Eli, you promised
5O "inyanda", and you can't get the same pay for 5O "izithungu". So Father returned with an empty sled.
But Eli wouldn't cut more, and still he wanted the pay, they had at first agreed on, which was a woollen blanket. He came every day, demanded and scolded and made such a row, that Mother, who was now so ill that she was bed-ridden, became quite nervous.
Poor Mother, for seven long years she had suffered from the nasty disease. She had become so thin and lean that she was like a skeleton with clothes hanging on it.
In the seven years she had tried all the remedies Schreuder had advised her to use. Advice came from Norway too, everything was tried, but nothing helped. Now she was as I've said in bed, and Father was rather discouraged.
During these days we had no help. We hadn't been able to hire anyone and as the abovementioned wall had been begun it also had to be finished.
I was Father's assistant then. Eli had inconvenienced us as usual.
One evening Father says: "To-morrow I'm taking the gun out on the wall, if Eli comes again, I'll fire over his head, then perhaps he'll take such fright that he stays away."
Mother was very afraid that Father might shoot Eli unintentionally and get into trouble for it. She asked him not to do it. But Father thought something had to be done, in order to rid him of his tormentor. The next forenoon we built the wall so high, that Father had to make himself a scaffold to stand on. There he stood that afternoon. A bucket had been hung on a rope, in this I laid bricks or clay according as Father had need, and then he hoisted it up with the rope. One part of the wall was up to his shoulders and he
was busy with the other end. Then suddenly Eli came running. With one jump he was on the scaffold, took the gun which lay on the highest part of the wall, jumped down and fired everything so fast, that we stood as if petrified. Luckily the shot didn't hit any of us, and as it was an old-fashioned gun, which is loaded at the muzzle, there was only one charge in it, and as he had no more ammunition he contented himself with taking the gun and disappeared among the trees.
"Sofie," said Father, "go at once in to Mother and tell her, what happened, as she heard the shot and will be anxious." So I went in to calm her.
We had only a little piece of wall left that evening when I had to go in to make the evening meal, while Father milked the cows. A little herd-boy we had at that time. That evening Mother was very ill, when I went to her bed to say good-night. She held my hand between her skinny hands and says: "Sofie! I have to-day received faith, that God has answered my prayer. Since I became bedridden and there is in any case no longer any cure for me, I have asked God to fetch me Home. As you see I can no longer be of any help to you and will cause trouble and inconvenience. Now I believe that God will fetch me this night. It was as though someone said to me: Caroline! Your prayers have now been answered! Dear Sofie, be a good girl and be like a little mother to Katrine. Be patient with her. Be good and obedient to Father, and when I have gone, be his comforter. Good-night Sofie, this is surely for the last time."
I burst into tears and embraced her sobbing. "Mamma! Mamma! don't say that. O, what will become of us without you. We cannot spare you, Mamma mine." "Yes, Sofie, God will be with you and help and comfort
you. Let us then meet one day in God's presence. Go now Sofie, you are tired and need rest."
Father always demanded unconditional obedience, and therefore I now went though reluctantly into the next room, where we slept, but, thought I, no one can hinder me from staying awake. Oh yes, for sure One turned up, who also demanded unconditional obedience, and that was Sleep. It shut my tired eyes so tightly that I didn't wake up until the next morning. As soon as I remembered Mother I was out of the bed and wanted to go in to see her, but I was so afraid, at what a sight would meet me in there, that I stood and fumbled with the lock. Mother heard me and called: "Come in Sofie." Her voice was a lot firmer than usual, and there lay so much joy in it, that I stepped inside quickly. There lay Mother smiling in the bed. Before I was able to say anything, she began: "Oh, Sofie, God is great, He kept His word. My prayers have been answered right enough, but not in my way. Instead of taking my life He has given me life. Sofie, last night I was healed. I slept so sweetly all night. (That was the first time in seven years she had slept all night.) I feel it is God who has given me my health back." "Oh! Mother, if only it were so. How delightful that would be!"
"Child! if you have faith, you will see God's miracles."
Father was still the doubting Thomas. He thought, it was the last kindling before the light was extinguished for good.
The weather looked threatening, and we had to go out to finish our wall. It was nearly dinner-time when we came in again.
Imagine our amazement when we came in and Mother fully dressed sat knitting in the easy chair. She had made the bed herself and tidied the room as well, as it hadn't been done for a long time. From that time on she
improved day by day and was steadily better and stronger. At the end of the year God sent us twin sisters, who grew up both of them and each of whom has a large family.
I just want to add, that it was a thorough healing, as Mother lived to become both a grandmother and a greatgrandmother and for neither a day nor even an hour did the sickness ever return.
Two sacks of stockings. - No fun being a herd-girl in Zululand. - Surrounded
by warriors. - English troops march past.
Since father no longer had a salary, times were often hard.
We could at a pinch live on, what we got from our garden, but for clothes and shoes it was worse. We children ran barefoot for the most part, and father patched and repaired our footwear, so we could go to church on Sundays. Mother unpicked old stocking-legs to knit stockings; but soon she had no more usable yarn.
Annually the Friends of the Mission sent large boxes of material, clothes and stockings. Naturally they intended them for the poor naked Zulus; but these naked people wouldn't wear any clothes, and those who were baptized, and who could wear them, were not given them, because they must of course learn to earn their own clothes. Thus boxes upon boxes stood in the attic at the Bishop's; some of it they used themselves, some they used for their servants. They always had 4 to 5 black maids and as many men as servants, to wit. The Bishop's Lady and the white housekeeper never darned stockings, and as the black servants can't darn, the used stockings were washed and packed in a sack.
The Bishop's Lady, who knew about Mother's diligent hands, one day sent two maids to her. Each carried a big sack. They came into the kitchen, put the sacks down and brought greetings from Mrs. Schreuder asking if Mother would accept these.
When Mother emptied them, the contents were solely stockings
with holes in the heels; but Mother didn't see that, she saw only all the lovely yarn she would get out of them, and she was so glad, that she fell on her knees and thanked God. Just think of it, how many petticoats, aprons and stockings she could now knit for us.
In South Africa the cattle graze outside the whole year round, although the winter at Entumeni could be really cold; we sometimes had white frost and a bit of thin ice, but never snow. On account of the many unprotected mealie-fields, which belonged to the natives, it was absolutely necessary to herd the cattle all day.
Zulu cattle gave so little milk, that one had to keep several head in order to have sufficient milk and butter for the household.
The Zulus themselves seldom churn butter, and when they do it is used unsalted to make an ointment, with which they rub the whole body a couple of times per week, every time they take a bath in one of the rivers. Clothes they never wash. When they buy a couple of yards of cotton material or a cotton blanket, these are thoroughly rubbed with fat while they are still new; only then are they warm and air-tight.
Adults use milk only as thick sour milk, sweet milk is for sucklings. Yes, several times I have seen them sit with a 6 weeks' old child and feed it sour milk from a large wooden spoon. It was as large as the child's face, and the sour milk was spilled all over face and chest, as a matter of fact almost the whole little naked body had sour milk on it.
Besides our cows we had our oxen, which by now had increased from 6 to 14 head. The usual span in front of the heavy wagons is 16 to 18 oxen. In addition we had young cattle and calves, about 3O to 4O altogether. That amounted to quite a large herd of cattle to herd. Because there was no herd-boy to be hired for a long time, Mother and I had to take it in turns
to herd. When the weather was fine and warm, Mother took Keta with her and her indispensable knitting. Mother saw to it that Keta turned the herd back if it came too near to a mealie-field. I then stayed home and did the housework. We had to grind our own mealie-meal in a handmill. It was quite hard work, as maize is four times larger than wheat grains, and just as hard. Water had to be carried from the stream, too.
In rain and mist it was my turn to herd, as I was healthy and strong as a bear. Then with one of my father's old overcoats, his felt hat and a good stick, as well as a bit of lunch in my pocket I used to trudge off with the cattle.
But how nasty they were in rainy weather, quite as though possessed. They turned their backs to the weather, and ran like wild ones and went down into the valley, where there was shelter but also mealie-fields, worse luck. And how I had to run! My bare feet were pierced by thorns, or a toe was stubbed against a stone, or I had to go through a marsh to turn the cattle from a field. Hands and face alike were pierced and torn. Not to mention my poor dress. I have run until I almost lost my breath and wept with pain and annoyance, until I could hardly see.
One day, which I recollect better than most of them, was a cold, misty rainy day. The mist was so thick, that I could hardly discern my whole herd. That day too the cattle had run until they had tired themselves out and me as well. At last towards midday they had lain down to rest in the lee of a hill. When the herd had settled, I found a cave, in which I put my frozen and sore feet, and sat down. I was wet and froze like a dog.
Hush! What was that sound through the mist? I lift my head and listen. There it is again, and
this time it is a cry: "Sofie, Sofie! where are you?" At that I jump up, the cold and the loneliness forgotten. What is my dear Mother doing out here in this weather? Again the cry sounds: "Where are you Sofie?" "Here I am, Mother!" Then I follow the sound, and a dim figure appears in the mist - nearer it comes, and here now stands Mother in Father's big raincape, and she has come to bring me a pail of delicious, hot soup and my favourite dish, thin pancakes. O, Mother, my dear Mother, did you ever fully realize how this your good deed warmed not only my cold body, but my heart and soul as well! How it became a lifelong memory, which now too, though I am already a grandmother, stands fresh in my memory like a beacon in my life. There she had wandered about in mist and rain and called and searched, until she found her lonely and frozen girlie. (She was 54-55 at the time of writing. I.G.)
Then I recall another day with horror. There was thick mist, but no rain. That day there was a cow, which was to calve and Father had enjoined me to keep a close watch on her, otherwise she would sneak away somewhere and seek a hiding-place, as there were leopards, hyenas etc. in nearly all the thick scrub and deep valleys.
But it was not possible for one person to be everywhere. Well into the afternoon she became restless, and while I was somewhere else turning some fugitives back, she seized the opportunity to get away, and when I returned to the place where I had last seen her she had gone. We were near a deep valley overgrown with long grass which reached over one's head, together with all kinds of nasty scrub and wild berry-bushes. This valley was so deep, that we called it the abyss. A narrow path led down into it from the place, where I stood, and since I
was afraid of the punishment which awaited me at home without the cow, I tried to go down it by hanging on to the scrub with my hands. I was quite far down but could see no sign of the cow, on the contrary I heard the terrifying sound of a leopard not far away. I turned, and with shaking knees tried to get back again; but it was easier said than done, and I almost had to climb like a sailor from bush to bush and was almost exhausted when I reached the top. I would rather have lain down on the ground to rest, but the terrifying sound behind me gave me new strength. Luckily the cattle had kept still, in my absence, so I soon had them trotting homeward where I let them graze until evening.
As I had to admit that the cow was lost, I got a good scolding, would probably have had even more, if I hadn't recounted that I had gone a little distance into the abyss, and had been frightened by a leopard. At first Father thought that it was an invention; but just then Schreuder's herd-boy came to warm himself on his way home with his herd. I had seen neither him nor his cattle and he didn't know, where I was, but since he had had his herd on the other side of the valley, he had also heard the leopard and spoke of it, while he warmed his hands in the kitchen. Thus it was proof of the truth of my statement. Next morning Father harnessed the pack-ox and made me run ahead, to show him, where I last saw the cow. Arrived at the valley I had to go down it to search for the cow.
Alas, how unhappy I was. Down in the scrub I lay down to cry. "Let Father wait," I thought, "he can now think, what he wishes, that I have gone too far or come to harm; it would be good for him," thought I in my wicked heart. So I lay there, where no one but
God could see me, and I wasn't thinking of Him at that moment. "Alas! if only the leopard would come now and make an end of me, I am surely the most unhappy girl in the world."
Then Father started calling. For a long time I wouldn't answer. He called more and more, and when the wrath had left his voice and anxiety took its place, I answered hesitatingly and started to climb up. It was so steep to crawl back, that it almost took my breath away. Had my lengthy stay made Father anxious or had my tearful and scratched face perhaps aroused sympathy? Suffice it; he was a good comrade the rest of the outing. We took a detour and crossed the river above the waterfall and over to another side, where we wanted to go up a high hill or mountain to reconnoitre. When we had gone part of the way up the mountain we encountered a whole herd of animals or as Father called them wild buck. These fled when they saw us and soon disappeared in the bushes.
On the highest point of the mountain we sat down to get our breath back; from here we could look towards home.
Suddenly I saw an object moving along the footpath leading to our house.
"Father", I said, "focus your telescope on the path leading home. There is something on it."
Father did so, sighed contentedly, and gave me the telescope. Through it we saw our cow and the little calf by her side; now they were on their way home to the cattle-kraal.
"O, but how glad I am, Father. Now we can go home."
"Yes, child, now we're going home."
Quite right. When we reached home the cow stood in the cattle-kraal with her fine new calf hardly twenty-four hours old.
Now Father had to leave us again for a time. He had found work at Eshowe again this time at daily rates.
But as he was now his own master, he took Saturday afternoon off to ride home to visit us. Then he was off again.
When Father had finished at Eshowe he built himself an ox-wagon. The wheels he took down to the Tugela River on the sled, to a wagon-maker and had him put the iron bands on them, as well as taking home with him the rest of the iron-work. Here he also got an order for timber for wagon-making.
Since the forest was free for everyone, Father carted home some timber which he sawed over the saw-pit at home. At times he couldn't get a native, who understood how to handle the long saw from the lower side, and so I was taught; I suppose I was 15 years then. (1872 ?) Many times after that I pulled that saw. When the timber ordered was ready, it was loaded on the wagon and transported to the wagon-builder. The trip there usually took a week each way.
Later Father had to go to another forest, one day's journey away. There he naturally had to keep house in a tent.
Keta, who was now in her eleventh year, was going with him.. She would be of some help, and company in the lonely forest. She would be more sensible than to use her dress to lift the hot lid off the pot and burn herself, as I had done. (Keta was ten in August 1872. I.G.).
The forest to which Father was going was called "Dlinza". (At Eshowe.)
The day came when everything was almost ready for the journey, all that remained to be done was to pack everything well into the wagon. The day Father was busy with this, two Zulus came and begged for ammunition for guns. It was against the law to sell them firearms and ammunition. But in more recent years there were quite a lot of traders from Natal, who travelled in Zululand and bought hides and cattle from the natives. Such people never failed to smuggle firearms into the country.
As a result the natives would often be at a loss for ammunition. Of course Father had some for his own use against wild animals, but he intended abiding by the law and would neither sell nor give any to the Blacks.
When these men, who were total strangers to Father, came and first wanted to buy, later beg ammunition, Father stood by his principle and they got nothing.
But how they pestered him, and how persistent they were. They followed him up and down, back and forth, the whole day, until Father was tired out and fed up. - When one of them even wanted to crawl after Father into the wagon, Father turned round and pushed him down. That was just what they had been waiting for all day, to get Father to lay hands on them, and so now it was enough. The one, who had kept calm, now burst out, as he held his arms on high: "Ha! he has laid his hand on a chief." Father didn't know that he was a chief; there was nothing in his appearance to distinguish him from any other man, and now we were informed that he was a chief and moreover the son of the chief, whom Schreuder and Father in his time had saved from a snake-bite. As stated, only now did a really serious row erupt. If Father didn't give them now all that ammunition as well as an adequate fine, he was certainly going to smart for it!
Father didn't think he had done anything worthy of punishment. He sought to explain that he intended no affront, but that he would not do anything against the law.
"Well, what is the white people's law to us. Now you have broken our law which forbids anyone to lay unfriendly hands on a chief. You must pay your fine!"
"No", says Father. "I have committed no crime, I didn't hit you, I merely pushed you off the wagon where you had no business to be." When darkness fell we were so glad to see them go, and we thought,
that they had given in. Father had engaged a young boy to stay by the wagon to herd the oxen.
Early next morning Keta was sent after this boy. His kraal was a good mile from our home. At breakfast-time Keta returned, running and pale.
"They're coming! They're coming!" she yelled as soon as we could hear her.
"Who are coming, child?" says Father; but we could of course read the answer in each other's faces, we could just about guess it.
"Yes, the Zulus are coming by the hundred! I can tell that by their bawling and war-songs."
"O, Thou dear God, help us and stand by us in our need", my Mother prayed. Then she sent word to Schreuder, asking if he, whom they regarded as another chief, would come over and talk them to rights.
Father had arranged a little room under the roof. The Zulus didn't suspect its existence as their huts are always simple. Father used to sit there on rainy days and patch our footwear.
One man couldn't accomplish anything against several hundred savage warriors, so Mother asked Father to seat himself up there and perhaps the Zulus would then think, that he had gone away. As reluctant as Father was to do this, for Mother's sake and the four children, who could not do without their provider, he had to decide to do this. (Lina and Dina were born on 3 April 1868. I.G.) We locked the doors and the windows and waited anxiously for Schreuder to come to our aid. But in vain.
The wild warriors surrounded our house, shouting and screaming and calling on Father to come out. Then they smashed the window-panes and put their heads in. They saw only Mother and the frightened children.
"He has gone, he isn't here!" we heard them say.
Since they now thought that Father was gone they became calmer and Mother and I went out to "khuluma indaba", "talk business" with them. As I had spent all these years with the Zulus I had learnt their language fluently, so now I could speak it much better than Mother, who of course had learnt it as an adult. And thus I now went out as her interpreter. But it was midday, before we eventually agreed to give them one blanket, some handkerchiefs, and an ox to slaughter, and then they would go home.
Mother was glad to get rid of them, so she gave them what they demanded, and so they all went with shouts and bawls, banging on their shields and swinging their spears off to the cattle kraal, where our cattle still stood, as our herd-boy hadn't dared take them out. But such is their honesty; instead of one ox to kill, they took four and our best cow with her calf, and with these six they rushed away, yelling and shouting. Mother and I were left behind, disappointed and discouraged. Now the herd-boy took the rest of the cattle to the pasture and as we were very hungry I was sent to the field to fetch green mealie cobs for lunch. While I stood and pulled the sheaths off the cobs I was alarmed to see a big decorated warrior standing in front of me; I who thought that all were far away. When he made as if to seize me I swung the big cob by the sheath and struck him on the nose with it, so pieces of it flew; then I ran away as fast as I could. At first I was afraid that he would come after me; but then I remembered that it was a great humiliation for a warrior to meet resistance and be hit by a girl. He would never dare to admit to his comrades, that he a big armed warrior, let himself be struck by a mere girl. Thus I was not amazed to see him slink away crestfallen. When he had gone, I left my
hiding-place and fetched my cobs. I said nothing to Mother about this adventure. Poor Mother had had enough that day.
To our joy the Zulus hadn't taken any of our trek-oxen, so Father inspanned the oxen after midday dinner and began his trip to the forest. That evening as I stood by the window and looked over the next hill, I saw a young ox come running. "Mother, here comes one of the stolen oxen!" "Truly, Sofie?" "Yes, but look there comes another and yet another, indeed three oxen have arrived home again!"
And thus it was. We could imagine, that these hungry warriors had slaughtered one ox at once, and while they grilled the tasty steak on the embers, the remaining three became homesick and broke out of the cattle-kraal.
Naturally they had shut the calf in right away, and the cow wouldn't then forsake her calf.
However it was encouraging that these three oxen returned.
King UMpande had been dead a while, and his son, Cetshwayo, was to be crowned. This time the coronation was to take place after the European manner. (Theophilus Shepstone, Secretary for Native Afairs installed him as king 1873. Encl. Br. I.G.)
The Governor of Natal was to perform the ceremony, and Schreuder, as Bishop and master of the language, was also to be present. I do believe that the Norwegian Mission donated the coronation cape. In any case it was there at Schreuder's, and we were shown it; a fine, black woollen cloth, lined inside with red. I'm positive, that the King preferred to wear it inside out, on account of the beautiful red colour. (Schreuder left NMS in 1873. I.G.)
Several hundred soldiers of the English troops in Natal were to attend
We had never seen a European soldier, far less
a regiment, and we thought it would be fun to see them; but they were not coming our way, worse luck.
What joy there was then, when Father arrived one evening with the ox- sled to fetch us all down to the forest, as the main road passed it, and we would be able to see them march past. We had to set out that same evening, and they were coming the very next day. But it was moonlight and hot, so it was a delightful trip. I still remember the lovely blue arch of sky strewn with innumerable twinkling stars and here and there a light cloud which hurried past the moon. These little clouds always remind me of an evening when Keta was only a little girl. We were sitting on the veranda gazing at the full moon. Just such a cloud crept over the moon and hid it a little while. Keta calls out: "Mamma! The moon went in to his mother to get himself a cup of milk!" We had a good laugh over this, and I have never forgotten it.
Next day at midday we saw the soldiers in their red and black uniforms. We were a little disappointed because they didn't play horn-music.
Then we travelled home again, excited and happy at the memory of this enjoyable trip.
Move to Natal. - When the wagon-wheel broke. - Relatives from Norway.
- War. - The enemy comes and Father is away. - Fleeing. - In jail. - Back
When Mother recovered her health she was often away nursing. Father spent a great deal of time transporting timber, and when our parents were away, an old baptized Zulu woman was hired to keep us company.
As we sat together at the fireside old "Nokuthemba" told us many Zulu fairy-tales, several of these I have in fact written down, as they would certainly amuse children.
When anyone in the service of the Mission had been in the Mission for 1O years they have a right to a free trip home. Father and Mother now thought of availing themselves of this right and returning to Norway. So together they made a trip to Durban; Mother wanted to choose some thick material personally, which was to be used for travelling-clothes. But on the way the thought occurred to them that they would possibly not thrive in the cold North after so many years in the South.
Therefore when they saw a farm in Natal, which was for sale on good
and reasonable terms, they decided to buy it and settle there, and abandon
the trip to Norway.
Sofie doesn't include the following incident which is vouched for by other members of the family: Daniel had Keta with him when they crossed the Tugela into Natal. They camped late one evening just beyond the Zinkwazi River. Keta went off to fill the kettle at the stream to make coffee. The water was put on to boil and the camp was made ready for the night. When Keta tried to pour out the coffee, nothing would come out of the spout. Investigation showed that a frog had been scooped up with the water and had got into the spout.
By this time it was dark, and Daniel, spying a light in the distance, said, "Forget about boiling more water. Let's go to that farmhouse, and see if they will help us."
At the farmhouse they were made welcome and given a meal. The
conversation turned to the reason for the trip and the farmer asked Father
if he thought his delicate wife would stand the climate of Norway after
the years spent in Natal and Zululand. "Why don't you rather buy
the farm next to ours?" he asked. "It is going cheap." Daniel promised
to think it over. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.
When he suggested it to Caroline, she agreed that the cold climate in Norway
would be a trial, and so they decided to buy the farm, about 3OO acres
(The passage between the sets of stars is from Petra Johanson's translation.
As Sofie says she was nearly 17 when she stayed alone on Entembeni, Zinkwazi, it must have been in the year 1874. It seems that the Daniel Nielsens remained at Entumeni for about 7 years after Daniel left the NMS in 1867. I.G.)
The little money Father had saved by trading in timber, was paid off on the farm, and the old people who were selling were prepared to wait for the rest to be paid off in small instalments.
As it would take a bit of time, before we could move, Mother had the idea, that she would trade with the natives.
Instead of material for travelling-clothes she bought goods, which the Zulus sold, skins, hides and cattle. These wares she took with her on the wagon, and when she reached her destination, she sent her servant out to the Zulu kraals to make known that she would buy everything, which they wished to sell, if they would bring it to the wagon at the Station. As I've already said, they took the farm, 2OO acres, and then proceeded to Durban, and from there back to Entumeni.
Now Mother stayed at home, while Father went back to Natal to build us a temporary reed-hut. He built a pigsty as well and bought a couple of pigs from the old people, who had sold us the farm. Their hut was tumbledown, and Father didn't want to live on that part of the farm, therefore he built anew on a different spot.
Then he returned for the first removal load, and now I was allowed to go with him down to see our new home.
When we arrived there, Father saw at once, that the pigs had been neglected by the young boys, he had hired to look after them. One can never depend on the natives unless they are under supervision. As they had neglected the pigs, how much more wouldn't they neglect the cattle, which had to be herded. What to do now? I was now nearly seventeen years old (l874?), so I say to Father: "I'll stay here and look after things, and hold the boys to their duty!"
"Really, will you do that, Sofie? Don't you think you will be afraid here alone and no European neighbours for several miles around?"
"No Father, I'm not afraid and can easily stay here alone."
Well, that's how it was, and Father went home. All the same it was thoroughly lonely, after he had left. One evening I was very afraid. There were many native kraals near us, only five minutes away. (The Blacks in Natal one calls natives.)
I had locked the door and lit the lamp. Suddenly there are the fearfullest cries from our servants' hut; it was as though they were in the greatest life-threatening danger. I heard blow after blow, and with every blow I heard, the cries got worse. Naturally I thought, that my poor native boys were being attacked and murdered. Soon my turn will come, thought I, and stood there with my heart in my throat, staring at the door, which I thought someone would soon smash in. But after a while there was silence, and I ventured out into the dark to see, what was afoot. I looked towards the hut and there sat both the boys quite peacefully by the little fire. Then I asked what the racket was.
"Well, Miss, we made all that noise ourselves to frighten you." The hut door was of tough ox-hide, and they had struck it with their sticks and yelled. It was of course wicked of them, but I was glad, that it was nothing worse.
One week later the wagon brought all my dear ones. Then we started moulding bricks and breaking rubble for our new house. At last we were getting a good brick house. In the mean time Mother had to go off again. This time it was a very long journey. Keta went too, as the dear Larsens dearly wished her to stay with them for a couple of years. Mother was going to a young married woman up near the royal kraal "Mahlabatini." Unfortunately Mother was hindered by a big river, which overflowed its banks, and no way could she cross it, before the water subsided. When she reached "Mahlabatini", the young wife was dead, because she didn't get help in time. It was her second child; both children are still alive, one son and one daughter. From there she went to "Nhlazatshe", Pastor Larsen's Station, where Keta remained. I forgot to mention, that when the twins (born 1868)
were 4 years old, one more sister (Bina) came, Mother took her with her.
On this trip one wagon-wheel broke, and Mother was stranded there for several weeks, because the driver had to take the wheel all the way down to Natal, on a badly made sled which the driver himself had put together.
We were terribly afraid, when we saw the sled, we couldn't see, of course, what lay under the sail-cloth, and the frightful thought went through our minds, that it was Mother's corpse, and that it had been laid on a sled in order to get there faster than with the heavy transport-wagon.
We thanked God that it was only a broken wheel, and Father at once tackled repairing it and sending it back. However, Mother had done good business while waiting; returned with the wagon loaded high with dried hides and a little herd of cattle trotting alongside.
This was sold for a good price in Durban, and the first instalment of the purchase price of the farm was paid by the due date.
In time our large, solid brick house was completed, and Father himself made the necessary furniture. When everything was finished, Father was able to earn a bit by repairing wagons for transport-riders, who drove past, and now he taught himself to be his own blacksmith as well.
From repairing wagons he went on to building new wagons, and I have many a time worked at his side as assistant, I used the saw for hours. He had no son, therefore I, the eldest and strongest, had to be his man.
Two years have now passed. Then a letter came from my father's brother in Norway. Times were very bad for them, and he now asked his brother to help him to bring his family to South Africa. Father, who no longer knew his own brother, as they hadn't been together since Father as a youth left his home in Søndmøre
in order to go to be taught in Bergen, where he married - and subsequently went to Africa, thus didn't know, what a weak, old man this brother now had become, and thus he brought upon himself a heavy cross about his neck. Father had no money, but we now had two spans of oxen. So Father went and sold one span, 18 oxen, and sent the money home to his brother for fares for himself, his wife and three children. Then Father built a house for them, two rooms, on the next hill to ours, and Uncle would be able to cultivte as much ground, as ever he wished, free of charge. Father provided their upkeep and clothes as long as they lived there, and that was until the son married. - There were two boys and a girl. The daughter stayed with the parents while the boys lived with us. They were good boys both of them. The younger, who was only 7 years old then, was my favourite.
Again a few years passed, with both good days and bad. One more sister (Inga, born 21 October 1876) had come, who was now two years old. Now we were 6 sisters living, out of 9.
In 1878 England declared war against Zululand. The King hadn't kept the promises he made to England at his coronation.
In the course of the before-mentioned smelling-out by witch-doctors, many innocent people were condemned to death. If they were so fortunate as to flee and get across the Tugela River, they were at once on English soil and under English protection, and none of the King's people was allowed to touch the fugitive without the permission of the English. But this promise was broken several times, in that the King's soldiers overtook fugitives and killed them.
For sure there were other causes as well; suffice it, that the Zulu War was declared in 1878. Cetshwayo, who was friendly disposed to missionaries, sent all the missionaries out of the country before the war began, as one could not
trust the Zulus in the event of war. Only one missionary remained in Zululand. That was old Larsen and his wife. (Keta had returned before this time.) But at Larsens' there was a young missionary with his wife and child, these were forced to flee on foot and went through many severe trials before they reached safety.
Our home lay only 4 English miles from the Tugela River. The main road passed our home but about two and a half kilometres away; we could see wagons and riders going past.
At Christmas-time in 1878 there was a camp of volunteer soldiers, who came from the Cape Colony. These were encamped by a river called "Nonoti", just two miles away from our home. Our boy cousins went there to sell eggs and butter to the soldiers, and as the little boys were not particularly good at English, they soon became acquainted with a number of officers who were Danish - and it wasn't long, before we were visited by them.
In January 1879 they moved on, and many soldiers passed on the road. In February there was the battle at Inyezane. The English had underestimated the Zulus' bravery and not sent enough soldiers; thus they suffered defeat at Inyezane, and Eshowe was now besieged by the enemy for a whole two months, which were needed after they wrote to England for more soldiers.
Those who had wagons and oxen could at this time earn good money by transporting-riding for the military authorities. Father had only one span of oxen now; thus he was afraid to take the only one we had away from the home. Say the Zulus crossed the Tugela, it was of course only 4 English miles, and they would be at our place. What would we be able to use to flee, in case the enemy came and the wagon was away? Father had a large family to provide for now, our family was 8 strong, and our Uncle's 5, that is 13 mouths to
provide for. For this reason he found it difficult to forego such good earnings.
Mother persuaded him to go all the same, God would assuredly protect us, and the neighbour, who was even closer to the border than we, would surely give the alarm in time, perhaps we would be able to go with them those 12 miles to Stanger, our nearest place of refuge.
Father talked to the neighbour, who lived half-way between us and the Tugela River, and the .....xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.... he went off with the older boy cousin to Durban for cargo, the younger cousin, little Peder, remained with us.
Mother had bestowed on Father a horse, bought with her savings, and when the old pack-ox saw Father ride the horse and no longer use the ox, he lay down by the stream and died. Mother said it was grief; but we were of the opinion of course that it was old age. A few days after this the neighbour comes gallopping on horseback at great speed, and stopped just long enough to tell us, that the enemy had driven the soldiers back, crossed the Tugela River and were now in Natal. His family had already driven to Stanger, and he had to hurry to catch up with them. As far as I can remember this was during February. Now the question was: how were we with Mother, who was by the way not very strong and 4 small children, to traverse the 12 miles to Stanger? Well, there was nothing for it but to set off on foot. We had that one horse, but Mother had as yet never been on horseback, although Keta and I often rode.
We agreed though that she must ride, and little Peder hold the bridle and lead at a walking-pace. Then I tied my two-year-old sister (Inga) on my back, as the Zulus do with their little ones, took the one who was five years (Bina) by the hand; this one had her large doll in her arms - the Zulus mustn't get it. - Keta filled her apron with pineapples, for refreshment on the way;
we were due to bake bread that morning, so we had no bread to take with us.
The twins (Lina and Dina), between 8 and 9 years old and our girl cousin of the same age, then came Uncle and Auntie, each of whom carried a sack full of their most valuable things, our cattle we took with us; our black herd-boy drove them ahead of us.
That little Jakobine with the doll was soon tired, so Keta took the youngest on her back and I took Jakobine on mine, together with the pineapples in my apron. When we had gone two miles, we reached the Nonoti River. The water reached far above our knees, when we waded, and the river-bed was strewn with smooth round stones. I had to lead the horse across; it stumbled several times, when the round stones slipped under its feet. We considered putting the children on the horse and going back and forth with it taking two children at a time. But when the horse was clearly averse to wading at all on such an uneven bottom, I now had to carry the children one at a time, on my back. The current was fairly strong, so I had to support myself with a good stick. In the same way Keta also crossed with the pineapples. One more mile we went in the burning midsummer sun. In Africa the hottest months are January and February.
One danger which lurked in the Nonoti River was crocodiles, which often seized people and animals. For this reason too it was a piece of daring to wade across; who knows if the horse's restlessness was due to its sensing the proximity of crocodiles? Animals can always sense their nearness before a human being sees them. Many a native has been dragged off by this monster, and not long after this, just as a man had reached the bank and was getting out, one of these monsters caught up with him and took his foot off in its frightful jaw.
After we had gone one mile on the other side,
we reached an intersection, and along the other road, we saw an ox-wagon approaching and going in the same direction as we were going.
The children as well as Mother were exhausted from the dreadful heat of the sun, and when we saw, that the wagon was empty, we asked the driver for a lift.
We knew, that it would be difficult to get accommodation in Stanger, so I jumped on the horse and rode ahead. When I arrived there, the place swarmed with wagons and people, who had all fled from their homes, but nearly all lived closer than we. The few who lived a bit further away had had horses and wagons and had thus stolen a march on us.
There was no proper fortress; but there was a prison, and around it
a yard, surrounded by a high wall. On top of the wall broken pieces
of bottles were embedded in cement, so the prisoners wouldn't try to climb
over; the usual prisoners were natives, who for the most part were half-naked
and always barefoot. In case the enemy threatened our lives, all
fugitives, who lived outside the wall in their wagons and tents, were in
an emergency to come inside this wall, while the battle lasted, as the
enemy possessed no cannons, which could destroy the wall.
We found some fugitives, who lived a couple of miles from Stanger and like us had fled on foot. Since these could get no shelter for the night, and there were at that time only a few prisoners in the jail, the latter had been put into a back cell, and the rest of the cells were utilised by these homeless fugitives. When we arrived, it was late in the afternoon, and all possible places of refuge had been taken. The wagon, which we met, was proceeding to Durban, and my sisters and Mother had to alight, and now sat there on the ground.
When we have an unusually hot day in South Africa it is usual, that a sudden storm gathers, lightning and thunder.
And so on this afternoon as well dark skies formed, and the least one could expect was a shower of rain. Thus it looked bad for Mother and all the 6 little ones, to spend the night in rain and darkness.
The magistrate knew my father and I went into the council chamber and mentioned my name and told him our need.
"No, Miss, every nook is now taken; here are people who sleep here in the council chamber on the floor, the tables and the benches, I no longer know of any place where you could find shelter." "O, kind Mr. Jackson, my mother and the little ones will definitely take ill, if they have to spend the night out in the rain, which is now starting to fall. If we can't lie down, we shall be satisfied with sitting up all night, as long as we can come under a roof." When I had said this, he turned to a man at his side, and after they had consulted softly, he says: "Well, Miss Nielsen, there is a cell, which we are using as a store-room for provisions in case we are besieged. It is stacked to the roof with cases, but in the middle of these there is an empty place; it is now the only hole I can think of. You could perhaps find room to stand together."
"Thank you, thank you, Mr. Jackson, we will gladly avail ourselves of it."
And now I flew off to get them in, after a man had first shown me the cell.
We thronged into it. Uncle and Auntie with their sacks took a little more space. When we looked around, we saw, that the boxes were of different sizes, the big ones on the floor and a smaller row above it, and so on right up to the roof. This formed a couple of steps on each side, along the length of the room, which was probably 1O or 11 feet long. Uncle and Auntie used their sacks as pillows and took up the floor space. It was just wide enough for one person. Uncle lay down first,
then Auntie laid her sack at Uncle's feet. Mother with the youngest lay on the first shelf or step, and the cousin with Jakobine on the next shelf. At Mother's feet lay little Peder.
On the other side first I myself with Keta at my feet, then both the twins on the next shelf. On these hard and narrow couches we all managed to fall asleep. The day's events and toil had made us all sleepy. I suppose we had slept an hour, when a heavy body suddenly fell on me and from there rolled on, and with a thud fell down on Uncle, who was awakened out of his sleep in great terror. It proved to be one of the 9-year-old twins, who in her sleep forgot that she wasn't at home in her bed and wanted to turn over, and consequently fell off her narrow couch.
When Uncle recovered from his fright and found the child on top of him, he wasn't at all pleased, but we couldn't help laughing - we laughed ourselves nearly sick, while he scolded and growled.
We got her back on her bunk again, and again slept peacefully. Then a body suddenly came down over Keta and on to Auntie on the floor. As she could go no further she lay there until we got hold of her and put her up again. I wonder what the occupants of the cell next-door thought of us, who consequently giggled and laughed in the middle of the night while others slept.
Our cattle had spent the night in some bushes and the herd-boy minded them by day. Next morning I borrowed a pail and went to milk. Then we found a baker and bought bread. Bread and milk constituted our meals that day.
In the mean time the occupants of the cell next-door had decided to go home, as they didn't have a long distance to
come back should anything happen. We were therefore shown that cell, which was completely empty. The cell had cement walls and a cement floor, which was ice-cold to sit and lie on; several of the children caught colds, as we didn't have anything at all to put under them on the cold cement, that first night.
One never sees a woman milking among the natives in South Africa, and one gets so used to that custom, that even Europeans made fun of me, when on the following morning I again brought my milk in. The cows, which now felt more at home, had yielded more milk that morning. When we had had what we needed for breakfast, Mother took the pail and went into a large tent outside the fortress. This was used as a hospital, and several sick and wounded soldiers lay there. Mother knew, that they didn't get anything but condensed milk in tins. Therefore she went from bed to bed and gave each of them a cup of milk to drink, and the patients were sincerely grateful.
Mother even had some milk left, so she gave the pail to a man, who was a nurse and explained to him, where he should send the pail.
We were sitting on the floor eating our lunch, when he himself came with the pail, which he delivered, as he said: "Thank you so much, dear Madam, it is a long time since the patients got such a delicious drink. Unfortunately we don't get any fresh milk here. May I now ask, Madam, if you live here with your little children?"
"Yes worse luck", replied Mother, "we certainly do. My husband was absent, when we had to flee, so we had no wagon at home; we live 12 miles away and could carry nothing with us on foot."
"And do you mean to say, that you must sleep without any protection whatsoever against the cold of the cement floor?"
"Yes, we found it rather cold last night, and some
of the children caught bad colds, but there is nothing that can be done about it, we have to wait until my husband comes past here on his return journey."
He looked down thoughtfully, shook his head and said: "Too bad, too bad!" With that he turned round and left.
It was just a little while after that, that he returned, accompanied by two men who were loaded with as many brand new woollen military blankets as they could carry.
These he ordered the bearers to throw down on the floor and when they had left, says he, whom we now heard was the quarter-master:
"There you are, Madam, use these as long as you are here, you are very welcome to them, and the children can now sleep warm."
He smiled, when he saw our faces light up with thankfulness.
When he had gone Mother folded her hands,
"Thank You, thank You, Thou good God. You don't want your maidservant to suffer need! Blessed be Your name for all eternity!"
Yes, Mother was a true, living Christian, a humble and patient woman, a woman of prayer, a heroine of the Faith. Prayer and faith were her life. Every evening and every morning she committed us all to the Lord's care.
The milkmaid was greeted in a very friendly way after this, and daily the patients got their drink of sweet milk. In Stanger there wasn't much to be bought in those days, and we had no place, where we could cook anything; thus it was mostly bread and milk, which eventually became quite monotonous.
Inside the fortress, or rather the prison courtyard, was a pump, where the military cook fetched water every day. He was a good-natured old man, and as he
came past, while we sat on the floor eating our milk and bread, he threw us many a sympathetic look.
At lunch-time one day he stopped at our door and somewhat embarrassed he raised his hat, greeted us and said: "Dear Madam, don't take me amiss, I have several times noticed that you are always eating milk and bread, and I know you have no place to cook; therefore I have taken the liberty of bringing you a pail of our hot beef soup; I thought it would be a little change in the diet for you." With that he put his hand down into the water- bucket and brought out a smaller pail of delicious beef soup. Oh! how glad we were. Mother thanked him heartily, and I'm sure he felt well rewarded by the little children's happy looks.
And that delicious soup! Has anything ever tasted so good before, as this tasted after several days' diet of bread and milk?
After this he came every lunch-time with the little pail. If it wasn't soup, then it was a fragrant stew. The children got into the habit of peeping around the corner, when the time came that he was expected.
Fancy, we never found out his name; he never stayed longer than to deliver the pail, and he probably didn't know our name either. Yes thus it was, that the Nielsen family spent 8 days in jail.
When Father came, we drove home with him and found that everything was the same as when we left it.
We had quite a lot of fun out of this trip, when we were with friends we would say to them, that we also had been in jail. Then they opened their eyes and ears, and we then had to tell them this incident - or experience. The Zulus had indeed been across the Tugela that day, but it was up at Rorke's Drift, where they set fire to the soldiers' hospital and did much other harm. But the handful of brave soldiers who were there,
at last got the better of the enemy and forced them to retreat. They also saved the poor wounded soldiers who were in the burning hospital. It was the same day as the soldiers in Zululand at a fort called Isandhlwana were misled by the enemy into going out to meet them. While most of them were lured away on a false errand, the Zulus came and took the fort and killed a whole regiment, the 24th Regiment, as well as others, among whom were many both Norwegians and Danes - in all over 12OO.
Herewith ends the account of my parents' sufferings and disappointments
in South Africa. For many years after this they lived in peace and
comfort at Entembeni. The children grew up with discipline and in the admonition
of the Lord.
(Daniel and Caroline's tenth and last daughter Joakime - Kima - was born on 27th July l879, the day the Zulu War ended. Caroline had turned 44 on 6th March 1879. Presumably Sofie was married later the same year. I.G.)
The authoress's love-story. - The Dane who didn't drink. - A wedding
in the wilderness. - Emigrants from Norway. - A violent ride.
The first part of this book closes by relating, that war had broken out between England and Zululand. The British had underestimated the natives' courage and strength. They suffered a dreadful defeat.
Then a message was sent to England that more soldiers were needed.
As already mentioned there were Scandinavian men as well in the British army, and several of these became acquainted with Daniel Nielsen and his family.
It was while they were waiting for help from England that the authoress of this book became acquainted with a Danish soldier, by name Hans Norgaard. The English won a large tract of South Africa in this war, and Hans Norgaard, who had come there to help them, won a Norwegian girl as his wife.
One day Assistant Nielsen had driven to the British camp to deliver some sugar. He asked his daughters Sofie and Keta if they would like to go with him. Of course they were more than willing to do this. It was naturally fairly monotonous for the young women out there in the wilderness. While the father carried out his business and the two girls stood there looking around, several of the Danish and English soldiers came walking past. They especially noticed a particularly fine young man, who walked up and down on guard duty, with his gun over his shoulder.
"He doesn't look as if he's English," says the authoress.
"No," answered Keta. "He is either Danish or Norwegian."
Right then a couple of gentlemen came past. They were on their way down to the public-house to get a glass of beer. As one of them passes the guard, he says: "Aren't you coming with us, Norgaard?"
"No thank you, Mr. Holm knows very well that I don't frequent such places," came the reply in Danish.
"Did you hear, Keta, they spoke Danish and he wasn't afraid to say that he didn't drink. That is a Dane we haven't seen before."
Mrs. Nielsen was a strict teetotaller and Sofie shared her view. She had read a whole lot of abstinence stories. Small wonder then that the young woman gained high respect for the fine Danish teetotaller.
Afterwards father and daughters ate at Captain Sullivan's. When the father after a while was ready for the return home, and the daughters went to meet him, who should be standing at his side but Norgaard. Nielsen says: "This is Sergeant Norgaard; he served me as interpreter, when I couldn't find out about cartage tariffs and couldn't understand those, who spoke English. Norgaard helped me and I got everything sorted out, so now we can soon go, but first I have promised to visit Norgaard's tent."
So they went there, and Norgaard treated them to milk. Sofie picked
up a Danish book and began to turn the pages. Then Sergeant Norgaard
says: "Do you like reading, Miss Nielsen?" "Yes," she answered, "I
am fond of reading, when I can get Norwegian or Danish books; but it is
quite difficult, and I don't understand English well enough to read English."
"You are welcome to take it home, Miss Nielsen, perhaps I may permitted to ride over to visit you (plural) one day. Then perhaps I may borrow a bit of reading matter from you."
In this homely way this love-story began down there in South Africa.
When the war was over, Norgaard remained in South Africa - and in due course there was a wedding.
One of the Assistants, who came out in the same ship as the Nielsens was called Ingebrektsen. He had one daughter and two sons. The daughter Louise was the authoress's only childhood girl friend. Ingebrektsen lived on a farm in the vicinity of Hermannsburg and the two families visited one another at times. Louise was to be bridesmaid and the parents guests. One of the sons had died in an accident. The other is a minister in Norway. (Lovise married Olaus Skjerve, and their daughter, Hanna Stabell 31-O3-19O3 to April 1964, was a greatly loved piano teacher and the organist in the Norwegian Lutheran Church in Durban, until she and her family went to Norway to live. I.G.)
Two days before the wedding these guests arrived, as they had to travel by ox-wagon. One could never know, when the rivers would be full. The rest of the guests were neighbours.
The bridegroom came on the 14th. The next day a missionary priest was to come and Mr. Nielsen took two horses to meet him down at the Tugela River.
From here we'll let the authoress herself continue.
Hans and I stood on a little rise near the house, from where we could
see along the wagon-road. They came there riding fast. But alas!
what was that? Father's horse stumbles, it put a foot in a hole,
and as it stumbled Father was thrown off. O, how afraid I was.
Were we to have sorrow instead of a wedding? Father lay there.
The pastor jumped off his horse and went to help him. They were nearly
home, when this happened, and Mother got there before us. - Thanks be to
God, Father got up, and with help he reached home and went to bed.
He had no injury other than a severe shock, so when the table was set for supper, he was well enough to come to table with the rest of us.
The wedding-day dawned with sunshine and heat. At 11 o'clock we had the marriage ceremony in our parlour. Two hours passed with speeches and verse and toasting in tea and coffee - and all sorts of pleasant conversation.
At 3 o'clock the minister conducted the communion service in the parlour, in which all the adults took part; but this service was barely over, before the skies darkened with clouds, lightning played and thunder rolled and rain came pouring down in torrents.
The bridal pair and the guests were of course supposed to leave the next day, but now there was a hitch in the plans. The next morning we were informed, that all the rivers were overflowing their banks, so no one could travel. Now the minister, the bridal couple and all the guests had to stay there so long. We had a very pleasant time. The minister, who was young, was a master at organizing all kinds of amusing games, so the time wasn't at all long. Eight days passed, before the rivers had gone down so much, that wagons could cross. Father and Mother were to take a business trip to Pietermaritzburg, and as that was the same way as far as Durban, they were to travel with us in the ox-wagon.
When all the wagons had their oxen inspanned, all of us struck up the hymn: "O, tÊnk nÂr engang samles skal de frelstes menighed," (O, think when the congregation of the saved will gather one day) and when we had sung it, the wagons started moving and each went his way.
The Nonoti River was more or less all right, though there was more water than usual.
But when we came to the big Mvoti River, there was just enough for the
oxen to swim. Up the sides of the wagon, there where the tent begins,
a bed was hanging. And on this everything which could be damaged
by water was put. Then we gripped the tent, and put our feet on the side of the wagon, to avoid getting wet, as the water came over the whole of the floor of the wagon. All that we could see of the oxen were the horns and the noses, which they kept out of the water, while they swam.
At about this time the English authorities decided to form a Norwegian settlement down by the Umzimkulu River. Each family had permission to bring one male and one female servant free. In this way a number of single people came to Natal with these Norwegian emigrant families. When the families landed (August 1882 I.G.) they had neither use for them nor the means to keep such white servants. So by ones and twos these Norwegian men and women came to Durban. Among the emigrants there was also an old friend of my father. He knew, that I was married and lived in Durban. By that means these young men and women, who couldn't yet speak English, came direct to us. My husband helped the men as well as he could, and one by one they found work. The girls I had to take care of, go with them to the new place of service and agree on the wages etc.. When they had a day off, they came to me; if they were unemployed, they came home to me, and I helped them to a new job.
All of them started to call me their mother, although some were older than I was. But all of them behaved well, were well liked as servants, even much more so than the English. Soon it was commonplace to see in advertisements in the daily paper: "Maid wanted, Norwegian preferred."
One of those, who rented a room from us was an engineer, called Hesselberg. (Was he the Hesselberg who arrived on the Debora in 1879? I.G.)
There was a lot of talk about a new railway-line, which was to be built from Pietermaritzburg to Ladysmith.
We were told what good money one could earn with small contracts on the railway. Hans's salary was only
just enough for our daily subsistence. The house rent was high, and we wished we could save or earn so much together, that we could get our own house some time. Thus it was a great temptation to Hans, when Hesselberg said, that if Hans would go with him, they would be sure to get some good contracts. So it was decided that Hesselberg would go to Pietermaritzburg to enquire. As soon as the prospects were bright, he would write to Hans, who then would give a week's notice there where he was working, and then take the couple of shillings we had in the savings bank to buy provisions and tools.- Hesselberg departed, and soon a letter came, that Hans was to come. As he had to give a week's notice, it took a little over a week before Hans reached Pietermaritzburg, and to his great disappointment he found that Hesselberg had bested him. The fact is that he had accepted a very advantageous offer to go as engineer and surveyor, and he had neglected to write or telegraph to stop Hans, who couldn't take a contract by himself, and thus stood there with a whole lot of provisions and tools, for which he hadn't the least use. He had to sell these at half price and look for work. - But in Pietermaritzburg there wasn't anything for one, who had learnt no trade.
It was lucky for me, that I had tenants and boarders, so I could pay the rent and my own keep.
As Hans could get no work, he had to take the first on offer, namely to travel with surveyors and be like a kind of servant, cooking, looking after the tents, shopping etc.. Hans told them, that he was married, and they were then of the opinion, that if I wished, I could go as well as cook, and then both of us would be paid.
There were 8 men to cook for. Hans wrote
to ask if I would like to come. As long as Hans was alone, he was to get £4, ($2O) per month and board. But when I came and took over the cooking, I was also to get £4. There would of course not be any expenses for us, and £8 per month for us both, would of course be a nice little sum in 6 months' or so.
I decided to go, but first I had to give a month's notice on the house, so it was five weeks or so before I was ready to join my husband. I had sold most of the furniture; my little organ, a gift from my husband, I got a friend to look after for me.
Wallace was the name of the chief engineer. He had told Hans, that we would be living in a tent for only a month, that he had rented a farm building and that there was a nice little house, we could live in. Thus I thought that a month in a tent would just be fun.
First I had to catch the train to Maritzburg - from there I was to try
to go on by post-cart. It took only mail, but there was room for 4 passengers,
two and two back to back. I would spend only one day on the post- cart
therefore I couldn't go with it unless it so happened that there was a
vacancy at the last minute, there being not enough passengers going the
whole way. For this reason I couldn't get a ticket, but had to be at the
post-house every morning ready to leave. If there was a vacant seat
I would get it, if there was none, I would have to go home again.
I lived half a mile away from the post-house, at the home of an acquaintance.
Morning after morning I was
there with my heavy canvas-bag, and time after time I went away disappointed, as there were four passengers who were going the whole way.
At last one Sunday morning there was room for me. There was only one gentleman, who was going that day.
We sat back to back. I began to get an inkling of what kind of a drive this would be, when the driver grabbed a thick, broad leather strap with a hook at either end, and attached it to the cart. On both sides it was stretched in front of my chest, another was attached in the same way across my back. These were to prevent our being thrown out of the cart in the course of the drive. Imagine six frisky horses, harnessed to such a cart with only two wheels which ran a foursome over unmade roads, up hill and down hill, over sticks and stones, over furrows and ant-heaps. Every second hour we found fresh horses standing ready, so they just had to be harnessed - it didn't take five minutes. Then we were off again at a flying speed. One had to grip the cart tightly with both hands. Even so one was bumped about, so that one's head hit the tent-frame, so one got lumps, or one was bumped backwards, so one knocked heads with one's fellow-traveller, until everything went black before one's eyes.
Such a frightful drive I have had neither before nor since then. My fingers went numb and the sinews in my arms stiffened. One sat with "one's life in one's throat", as they say. Because often it looked as though we would overturn the cart and end at the bottom of a precipice. - At lunch-time there was half an hour's stop so we could get something to eat.
It was with great difficulty, that I got my stiff limbs down from the cart to go in for lunch, and even worse to get back into the cart again, to be bumped and thumped again for a whole 4 hours longer.
At about 4 o'clock we reached a place called Weston. Here I was to alight. My husband was there to receive me, and happy was I, who thought that I had reached my destination. We had a bit to eat at the hotel.
Then Hans says: "Well, now we must be off, or it will be dark for us on the road!"
"O Hans, surely we don't still have far to go?"
"Yes, I'm afraid we still have four English miles to go to the camp."
My courage sank, I was so tired, sore and battered. How was I to manage four miles on foot? I took my husband's arm, and we set off. There proved to be not even a footpath. Across the fields in long grass we went. In South Africa we have no twilight. As soon as the sun has gone down it is dark almost at once. Now darkness descended, before we were half-way, and we had no lantern. Stones, tufts and holes hid themselves in the long grass. Here I stumbled over a stone, and there I sank into a hole. A strong wind arose, which blew right against us, so we almost lost our breath. It whipped my dress around my legs, so I could hardly make headway. We could see the fire in camp a long way off and towards it we steered our course in the dark.
At last completely exhausted I reached our tent, and with thankfulness threw myself on the bed made up on the floor. I couldn't move any more that evening. Hans went out and managed to get a cup of tea and a plate of hot beef soup. Up country at this time of year, which was our winter, it could be so cold, that there was ice on the water.
The next morning of course I was to begin as cook, but I was far too sick.
That trip was far too strenuous, and I developed a painful illness. O, what pains I was in! I thought for sure that I was dying. My husband nursed me as well as it could be done. There was no doctor closer than Maritzburg, nor medicine. At night it was cold, and we didn't have sufficient
blankets. So Hans got hold of some canvas, which he sewed together. When we put this over the rest of the bedclothes, it was somewhat warmer. As soon as I recovered sufficiently to sit on the transport-wagon, everything was loaded on it and we moved camp. We reached Harding, where we stayed about 3 weeks, and now I had to tackle my work. It was indeed not easy. All the cooking had to be done in iron pots on open ground, as there was neither kitchen nor stove. A little tent was pitched to store the food supplies and a large packing-case was my table. A nice large tent was pitched for these gentlemen to eat in, and a fine square tent was arranged as a sitting-room, where they sat in the evening, smoking and talking.
They had to have their dinner every evening, of course, and sat at table for a couple of hours, while we had to either freeze in the store-tent or sit outside by the fire-place and wait until they had finished - in order to serve coffee in the sitting-room tent and then get all the tableware washed and put away. Then I also had to wait on their guests, who came at short intervals, and stayed in another square tent, which was furnished as the finest bed-room.
Hans had all the sleeping-tents, except the last-mentioned one, to keep in order, as well as keeping me supplied with enough water and firewood etc..
Then we had to move again. We asked one of the gentlemen, if this would be to the farm now. "Oh no," he opined, "it will be a while yet, before we get to the farm. Now we are going down to the Bushman's River to camp."
On the banks of this river there was a little village (Estcourt? I.G.), and we came there one Saturday evening and were to stay until the Monday. We booked a room at the hotel. One of our road engineers was married, and his wife and two children lived here. They were called Martin. On the Sunday we went over to call on Mrs. Martin. She had a son and a daughter.
The daughter, who was the younger, was probably four years old, and was the most beautiful child I have ever seen. In the village she was just called "that pretty child". On the Monday we moved off along the river downstream. As usual we got as far away from people as possible. The tents were pitched and our daily struggle began.
How monotonous and lonely this life was! The proud engineers hadn't
a friendly word for us. We were regarded as mere servants. Even Hesselberg,
who once had been glad to live in our home, and mix with us on an equal
footing, even he had become so proud, that he could barely say Good-morning
even. He no longer knew us, and that after we as a result of his advice
and good promises had had to lose steady employment and a cosy home. -
No, now we had become his servants, and were not worth noticing.
On Sundays I became melancholic and just wanted to cry. - It had been so
enjoyable in Durban: in church twice, and visits from friends in the afternoon
or we ourselves went out for a walk and called on our friends. On
other evenings we usually had songs and music, or we went for a walk and
boarded one or other of the many Norwegian ships, the captains of which
we got to know at the meeting-house. And now! Here one had no place
to go, even in the tent it was almost unbearable, as the midday sun burned
so hot, that we had to keep hats on even when inside. In the middle
of the day one was roasted by the heat of the sun, at night one froze with
The only joy we had was the mail, when it brought us letters from parents, siblings and friends.
Now spring was approaching, and that is when the sudden thunderstorms, which come practically without warning, start. Nearly always these come in the afternoon.
I, who was expected to have a good hot dinner ready in the evening, was often in a dilemma. While I was cooking on
the ground and had no roof over the fire-place, these sudden storms could come with lightning, thunder and hail, and pouring rain. They lasted about a couple of hours, then the sun would shine brightly again, but of my dinner there would be no sign; everything had gone with the rain-water into the river. All the firewood would then be wet and it was a slow and difficult job to get the fire to burn again and the food ready by the right time. Because as far as those gentlemen were concerned, there was no excuse. Everything had to be ready at the right time. -
One Sunday afternoon my husband came and looked very serious and reported, that "that pretty child", had drowned in the Bushman's River.
"Oh no, Hans, is it true? How could it possibly have happened? Poor Mrs. Martin, how dreadful."
"Yes, she was out for a walk with her parents. They sat down for a while to chat. In the mean time the little girl ran about and looked for wild flowers, which she brought to her mother - the first ones she brought, which she had picked, were too short, and when she saw, that her mother couldn't hold the little bouquet, she ran off to find others.
"The parents sat a while longer, and then thought it was time to turn homewards and started calling. When they couldn't see her and got no reply, they became disturbed and went each his way to search.
"The mother approached the river-bed; there was one of these pools, which remain full of water after the river has been full and has receded again, and there, on the bad, smelly water she finds the little one's hat. She lets out a piercing scream and faints. When the father reached her, he also saw the hat, and by examining the pool, he found the little body quite dead."
That poor mother! I got permission to go in the next day. Never have I seen such dreadfully desperate grief. She was almost off her head, complained and wailed that she could see the little one's hat the whole time. Then she reproached herself for not keeping a better eye on her little one. Yes, it was dreadful, and it made me almost ill to be a witness of it.
When the little one had been buried, we returned to our camp.
We had lived there for 4 months, during which we had put up with a lot of unpleasantness. Then instructions came that we were at last to move to the farm. We were glad; now we would come under cover; then naturally we'd have a proper kitchen. Besides Wallace had said, that there was a little house at our disposal. Perhaps we would get a bit of comfort at last. - The wagons were loaded, and we had instructions to go with them to the farm. The gentlemen remained in the village Estcourt and were to come on horse-back the next day. - Well, there were then only 3 gentlemen, Wallace - the chief and his secretary, as well as a sick friend, who had lived with them in the camp for a long time already. We found a large single-storey building. The farmer and his family had one half, that part of the house, where the kitchen was. Wallace had rented the other half, and there was no kitchen. We asked the farmer, where the little house was which was intended for us. He pointed down the yard: "It must be that native house there, he is thinking of, but no white person can live there, before it is renovated."
We went down to look at it. The floor, which had been earth, had been hoed, presumably in order to make a new one, but now large lumps lay there like a ploughed field. In the windows the panes were smashed, and the door hung on one hinge and had no lock. The walls were smeared with all sorts of horrible things. As the farmer had
told us, no one could move in, as it was now. We went back and asked the farmer, what he would advise us to do; we certainly had to sleep somewhere. He said: "There is a little veranda-room. I should think that Wallace will let you stay there, while the little house is put in order."
So we got our bedding into it and slept quite well. Next morning we were up early and off-loaded all the furniture from the wagon and got it put in place in the rooms. In the late afternoon the three gentlemen arrived, and Mr. Wallace showed that he was well satisfied with everything. But then he came to the little veranda-room, where our bedding still lay. He frowned then he called one of his natives: "Jim, open the window and throw those things into the yard." "But Mr. Wallace," said I, "Where are we to sleep?" "There", says he and points to the native house. "Does Mr. Wallace know, what it looks like?" "Yes, that I do." "Do you really know, that the floor lies like a ploughed field?" "O yes." "Do you know, that there is no glass in the window, no hinges and lock for the door?" "You can fix that yourselves later on." "But where are we to live in the mean time?" "You will have to live there or else pitch the tent again." We chose the latter. But to pitch a tent on good hard earth, is one thing, and to pitch it where the ground is like loose sand, because it had been cultivated for many years, turned out to be another thing. First of all one could hardly get the wooden pegs, by which the tent is tightened, to hold in the loose soil, thereafter one couldn't keep a furrow open around the tent to catch the rain. As the soil was loose, it filled just as soon, as it was dug.
It was the rainy season. Soon there came several days' rain, and when the loose mould had absorbed as much as it could, the water came above the surface, and went in streams, filling our tent. We had driven the posts
into the ground and made ourselves a kind of frame for a bed, so that it at least was dry. But it lasted a long time, this spell of rainy weather. It lasted for two weeks, and there was over a foot of water in the tent, so we had to jump from box to box to get into bed dry.
As was to be expected I couldn't stand such a life for long, so I took ill. Another thing, which I've neglected to mention, was that I again had to cook outside. We got a sort of lean-to over the fire-place, but I myself got wet going back and forth.
No workmen came to repair our house, and Hans was fully occupied and had no time, so we thought that it was best to go back to Durban. Of course we thought that we had a nice little sum in store for us. But we had nothing in writing about our wages, and we had not drawn any of it, as we had had no need of it. And we thought we could get it, all at once.
Now, when we wanted to leave him, he got mad, and when Hans went for our wages, he got the wages for only one person. One of us had worked all those five months for nothing, it didn't help, that we reminded him of his promise; we were not getting any more. It was a great disappointment for us - instead of £4O, we now had only 2O. That wouldn't last long, should Hans be unemployed for a time in Durban.
We hired an ox-cart and got our things to the nearest house, alongside the main road, in order to wait there, until one or other transport-wagon came past, which could take us with it.
When we had waited there for some days, there came a wagon loaded with oat hay in trusses, which were to be sold in Pietermaritzburg.
We were allowed to lie and sit on top of the load. After a couple of days we came to Pietermaritzburg, and from there we caught the train to Durban.
Keta was working as house-keeper for an English family, and she was
overjoyed to have us in town again. First we had to rent a house.
While Hans looked for a suitable house, I travelled up to my parents for
a week's holiday.
(As Keta was married in l882 this must have been before that date. I.G.)
My husband goes to the gold mines. - Receive message, that he was left
dying. - Was it his ghost which appeared? - How he returned. - The gold
mines at Johannesburg.
When we had lived in Durban for a time, there came the rumour that gold had been discovered in Barberton and three other gentlemen prevailed upon Hans, so he again gave up his work, borrowed some money to supplement what we had saved. To get to Barberton in those days was an awkward journey. There was no train and no postal connection, no trading-stores, so the gold-diggers had to take everything with them. - One of them was Norwegian and was called Greenstad, the others were the brothers Bengstrøm, Swedes.
I had a bit of money left; but one would of course pick up lumps of gold, as one picks berries, so he would soon send me money enough. The day of departure came soon. One would take a little coastal steamer and go by sea, as far as Delagoa Bay. - From there one would hire black bearers to carry the travel goods, and walk for seven days.
I accompanied them down to the wharf. With a heavy and sad heart I saw them leave. Then I went home alone again. - The weeks passed; I was in straitened circumstances.
For six weeks, which for me were like six months, I heard not a word from the travellers. Then one morning a strange gentleman comes. He stops, and asks if I was Mrs. Norgaard. I answered: "Yes!" and since he stood hesitating and embarrassed, I began to think
that it was an odd gentleman, and I was glad that we were standing in the yard, so old Madam van Damme could see us. But then it slipped out of him: "I have just returned from the Barberton gold-field." "O, have you? Perhaps you met my husband there?"
"Yes, I saw them up there!"
"Alas! Have you perhaps a letter for me?"
"No, Madam, I have greetings from the older Bengstrøm, that your friend Greenstad died of fever seven days after their arrival!"
"Oh no! To think that Greenstad is dead; that is indeed sad." I stood for a while and thought of the fine, big young man, who recently was in the best of health, and now was buried; but suddenly I thought: But my husband! Why didn't he send me a letter? Why does this gentleman avoid mentioning him? "O, tell me, what's wrong with my husband? Why didn't you get a letter from him to me? O! is he also perhaps dead?" "The younger Bengstrøm lay dangerously ill when I left!" "But for goodness' sake, man! can't you answer my question! Is my husband sick too?" "Yes, Madam, he was dying, when I left; it is now 1O days ago, so he is probably dead by now!"
"O Thou great God! My beloved husband dead up there alone in the bushveld and I who wasn't even able to nurse him. But listen here, how can you be so sure that he is dead?"
"Well Madam, there was no hope, that we could see. He lay there in a little tent in the bushveld. There was no doctor at all, no medicine and no nursing, besides John Bengstrøm, who had his brother to nurse as well. Greenstad died right by his side." Alas! my heart was close to breaking. My beloved spouse! shall I never
see you any more, never hear your voice, not even be able to tend your grave?
When I had had a good weep, I went down and told Madam van Damme, and she was very sad. In her French language she said: "My God! such a good young man."
My sister was now married (March 1882) in Durban and Mother had unexpectedly come to visit her. I asked the old lady for permission to go to my sister's house for a while. "Yes, do go, you poor woman, go!" - At my mother's breast I could again weep and tell her all this. She knew how to give good comfort. "Don't lose courage so soon, Sofie. This gentleman hadn't actually seen him dead. As long as there is life there is hope. If he is dead, Bengstrøm is sure to write as soon as there is a chance. Just don't give up hope, before you're quite sure of your case. There is nothing impossible with God, Sofie. He can easily heal him, even if all hope is gone in the sight of men. Cast your sorrow on Him, He will do all things well. Just hope for the best!"
Greatly comforted by my mother's sensible words I turned back to my lonely house, where she soon visited me. But when she had gone, everything was gloomy and empty.
Day and night I thought of my husband, and hoping against hope I waited longingly for a letter; but no letter came. I began to think, that John Bengstrøm had got fever as well, and then he would not be able to write. In this way a month passed in the most tormenting uncertainty.
One morning towards 9 o'clock - I was about to repair some clothing, but the work fell out of my hands and I sank into musing.
In this room the window and the door were in one and the same wall. If anyone came, they had first to pass
the window in order to reach the door. As I sat lost in musings, a strangely familiar shadow darts past the window, and in the door with an almost empty sack over his shoulder, stands what once was my fine, young husband. I was so shocked, that it seemed almost as if it was his ghost. I couldn't move and couldn't say a word - just sat and stared at him. "Sofie, don't you recognize me?" Yes, it was he, his well-known voice. Now I came to life with such eagerness, that later he would tell our friends jokingly, that I wanted to throw him out of the door. "O Hans, Hans, I thought it was your ghost. I had heard that you were dead." "Yes, Sofie, that wasn't far from the case." But I didn't want him to talk yet. "Sit down in the armchair, while I boil a cup of coffee and you get something to eat."
When he had eaten, and both of us were somewhat quieter, he told me the following:
"After that gentleman, who came here, had left Barberton, we were both very sick, Alf Bengstrøm and I; but I was undoubtedly the worse. While I was sick, I had such a frightful longing for home, and when I raged in feverish fantasies, I called for you unceasingly. I thought you would never come to me, even though I was so sick. Then some travellers passed the tent. Bengstrøm found out that one was a doctor and asked him to come in and give his opinion of the patients. When they went outside again, Bengstrøm said: 'The one with the fair hair, says he wants to go home. That wagon, which is standing there, is going back soon, and he wants to go with it. What does the doctor think?'
"He - travel! Yes, indeed he'll do that; but he's going another way; you may just as well look around, to see if there is anything here to make a coffin of."
With that the doctor went on his way. But Hans had been in his right mind, and when he heard, that he was dying, a strong will-power arose in him. "No, I won't die, I am going home to my wife." But he said nothing to the others, but watched out for an opportunity, when Bengstrøm was away from the tent, to get on his hands and knees and crawl out of the tent to the wagon-driver, who was standing there. They would soon be ready to leave. Hans begged and beseeched the black driver so piteously to lift him up into the wagon and take him with them. For a long time he wouldn't, but at last he and the leader took him and lifted him up into the wagon.
Then he sent the driver in to get his travelling-bag, which hadn't even been opened since they arrived there and therefore was ready packed. Later Hans lay half dead on the wagon. When they got so far up on the highveld, that they got a change of air, he began to feel better and improved daily. After a few weeks they reached a Boer village, called Utrecht. Here he had a relapse and became very sick. The wagon left him there in the hotel and went on. There was no train and no post-cart. When he after a whole week began to think of going on, there was no means of travel. It had cost a fair amount at the hotel, so his money was almost finished.
At last he heard of an old Boer, who had two horses, which were both going to Dundee. He asked him if he could ride one horse that far. "How much will you pay?" "My money is almost finished, I haven't more than one pound ($5) left!" "Well, give me that pound, as well as that new travelling- bag and those high boots there, then you may ride it." This was a shameless price, but this sort of thing one can expect of Boers of the lower class. It was only a day's
journey. And the horse was going there in any case. It wasn't as though he had hired it specially. They arrived at Dundee - another Boer country town - and from here Hans was able to come with a wagon which was going to Pietermaritzburg. On the way down he was lucky enough to meet an acquaintance, a Dane, who was travelling the opposite way. The latter lent him enough money to catch the train from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. His clothes he had had to put in a mealie-bag, and this was what he had on his shoulder, when he stood like a ghost in the doorway.
Yes, here he was now, with broken-down health and no money, moreover
we owed the money, he had borrowed, when they went up there. But I didn't
think of any of this at the time, I was just overjoyed, that I had him
In the afternoon, when he had rested, we took a walk to my sister Keta. Believe me, she and her husband were amazed to see Hans alive.
But that night the fever recurred, it resembles Madagascar fever, with this difference, that Hans became delirious. He no longer knew that he was at home and that I was with him. He was again alone in the tent out in the bushveld and unutterably plaintively the cry came time after time: Sofie! My Sofie, why won't you come to me. What have I done, that you won't come? Sofie, oh, come! While the tears rolled down my cheeks, I patted his face and head, told him that I was with him, that he was now at home with me. But he thought it was John for he pushed me away and complained:
"Go away, I want Sofie to come, oh Sofie do come." I couldn't leave him and fetch a doctor, and I had no one to send. Thus I had to sit
at his side unable to do anything but just listen to his complaining.
Next morning, as soon as Madame van Damme was up, I called down to her, asking if she would send her native for the doctor. When he came Hans seemed to be better. He knew me, and remembered that he was at home. He recognized Dr. Schultze and was able to tell him, how he felt.
The doctor told me, that I must prepare myself for many such turns, as that kind of fever would hang on for many years. In between he would feel fairly well and would perhaps be able to work, if he got work but these turns would come at ever lengthening intervals for several years.
This was hardly encouraging, but we would just have to accept it.
After two months' tiring job-hunting, he at last got a position on the railways again, but the fever came often and kept him at home for a couple of days at a time, so we were afraid that he would finally lose his job.
Old Doctor Schulze was a good man, he spoke to the foreman asking him to find Hans a place on the railways in Pietermaritzburg, where the air was better.
Soon he was transferred to Pietermaritzburg.
Again we had to leave a comfortable home and many dear friends in Durban and begin a new life among total strangers.
During the time we lived in Durban, there was for a time a famous English
minister who was a splendid speaker, and we had at times gone to hear him,
and had got to know him personally. He had received a better call
in Pietermaritzburg and the first Sunday we were there, we looked up Pastor
Russell's church. There were hardly any
Norwegians in Pietermaritzburg, thus we attended the English church as long as we were there. As soon as the service was over the Pastor came over and greeted us and bade us welcome. Then he introduced us to several of the best people in the church, to whom he said that we were friends from Durban who had come here to live. He asked some of the ladies to visit us during the week, which they did, and it wasn't long before we had many good, Christian friends. Every year the minister's wife paid a fairly long visit to her relatives in Durban. Then both of us moved down there, so that I could run his house for him and the children. As we had no children as yet, I was of course free and available, and could help at all church celebrations, and join the women's society. These became very happy days, I dare even say, that they were the happiest two years of my whole life. My little pupils became fond of me, and their child-like love was a great joy to me. But Fate will never let me be happy for long at a time. Thus after two years' stay the Johannesburg goldfields were discovered. Some of the wealthy church members soon became mine owners. One of them offered Hans twice the pay he was getting on the railways, if he would go up to their mine, which was called Stanhope and work there. We would get a free house and firewood as well.
The pay he had in Pietermaritzburg was rather low; one could only just live on it, when one had no extra expenses.
But here I must tell about a child, I had taken to foster. When we left Madame van Damme in Durban a young Norwegian family came in our place. They were from the emigrants who came to the Umzimkulu. (1882 Marburg settlers.) The wife had her sister's daughter with her. Her husband suffered
from tuberculosis, and we hadn't been in Pietermaritzburg long, before we heard that he had died. It was probably gallopping consumption. The wife got it as well, and not long afterwards she died. Little Sofie stood there then quite alone, without friends and relatives, who could take care of her. She was then only seven years old. A saloon-keeper wanted to take her, so she could grow up to be a barmaid, serve spirits in a public bar. But when we heard this by letter, we decided to take her ourselves.
As I've said Hans accepted the offer, and we were soon to leave this place, where we had been so sincerely happy, leave the dear friends and worst of all part from my Sunday School children.
The railway went only as far as Ladysmith - from there Hans was to take the post-cart.
The Johannesburg goldfield is truly a field, because unlike most gold mines there are no mountains, not even proper hills, right on the flat field they had found reefs protrude here and there. No trees as far as the eye can see, except where they had been planted by one or other Boer home.
It was with a heavy heart and an inkling of troubles, that I accompanied Hans to the railway station. O, how unwillingly I was leaving this place, where both of us had been so happy. I felt as though we would never again be so well satisfied at any other place. (The authoress later follows her husband in the company of an English family. It was an exceedingly unpleasant journey. Norgaard lost his job, as the manager had a whole lot of his own countrymen to give work to. In the mean time the former's daughter was born. The Norgaards had bought a property and kept 24 boarders.)
One Sunday morning we were awakened by Sofie vomiting violently and being feverish. The doctor was called at once, but she continued to get worse, we called another doctor, but neither of them could do anything. The fever turned into inflammation of the brain and she had severe pains.
Already on the Tuesday she was delirious and didn't know any of us.
With an infant on my arm, 24 boarders and the patient to nurse, it became quite exhausting. At that time I had a native to do the coarser kitchen-work, but he certainly was no cook. Some of the neighbouring women came and sat with the patient by day, while I attended to food-making and served the boarders. We also got a bit of help with night-duty, but as there was no other room to lie down in, it was impossible for me to sleep in the same room as my dear, suffering girlie. Already on the Thursday the doctors gave up hope. They were of the opinion that she would not live until 12 o'clock that night. We sat with her all night. Only once did she show a gleam of intelligence. She opened her eyes and looked at me quite intelligently: "Mother, why are you weeping?" That was all. The eyes remained open, but the light of intelligence had gone again. In this position she lay the whole of the Friday, and the following night. Not until 11 o'clock on the Saturday, did the Angel of Peace come and loose the bands and take the pure little soul home to Himself, where there is no more sorrow, no sickness and want. Blessed is he who dies in the Lord. She was a lovable little soul and is with God, for sure. Alas if only I too had got leave of absence that time. How much sorrow, need and want, I should have been spared. But as gold is purified in the fire, thus sorrow and adversity chasten us. As previously remarked, those sorrows which have crushed and pained the most, are not mentioned in these pages.
In that hot climate the corpse was buried already
on the Sunday. She was beloved of all, who knew her, and there was a large following at the grave.
O! how I missed that friendly little soul - it was so empty and desolate without her. Little Trine was 6 months at that time and Sofie used to say: "O Mother, what fun it will be, when little Trine can walk, and she and I can go out into the field and pick wild flowers together!" But nothing came of that for her here on earth.
Journey to Matabeleland. - By ox-wagon 14OO miles. - Visit Boers. -
Hans too can learn something. - By the Crocodile River. - Come across a
dying white man.
It was at about this time that Matabeleland came into the possession of the English, and large farms were sold to those who were prepared to venture into the middle of Southern Africa. A friend of my husband in Johannesburg wrote that he had bought a farm of 3OOO acres from one of the Bertelsen brothers from the Cape Colony. Now, since he was a bachelor and didn't want to go so far to settle alone, he asked, if we would like to come with him. I would manage the house-keeping and my husband would work on the farm with him. He would pay all the expenses of the trip, so we would have no outlay at all.
We accepted the offer, but had to wait, as one cannot cross the rivers in the rainy season of summer. There were no bridges at all and no boats or ferries on this journey, neither railway. We were to take that long 4 months' journey by ox-wagon.
Your winter here (U.S.A.) is our summer out there and in April the ox-wagon came to fetch us to Johannesburg first where Mr. Jensen would provision the wagon and come with us.
The driver and the leader, who brought the wagon down, left us there. He hadn't the courage to take such a long journey, and the leader went with him.
Oxen, like horses, have their specific places in the team. It depends
especially much on the leaders and the oxen at the back. But when we at
last were able to hire a native, who wasn't a driver, they did of course
not know which oxen were used to go as leaders, or which were used to the
Consequently the oxen were wrongly placed in the team. The few pieces of furniture we had acquired were sold by auction - nothing but bedding, and our clothing was taken with us.
We had driven half a mile, when we had to cross a nasty stream. It was stony and full of holes, and now it would depend on the leaders if they held their places, then the rest of the oxen would pull. But as soon as the leaders pulled the rope taut, they turned round sharply and came back to the wagon. The team consisted of 16 oxen, so one can easily imagine that now there would be confusion and all the harness get entangled. The oxen tugged both the thongs and the straps to pieces, and it was with great difficulty that we managed to get them into order again, and eventually continue the journey. It was afternoon when we left Standerton, and now it would soon be dark, so we outspanned for the night.
I won't tire you with too many repetitions. You already know from the first part of my story, how many difficulties there are when travelling by ox-wagon. Only two occurrences of this sort I'll now mention here. Into the second day we reached a river, which had to be crossed by wading. There were only between two and three feet of water in it; but the descent and the ascent were considerably steep. We came down to the river, and when the wagon was halfway into the water, a wheel struck a stone. When the leaders were supposed to help pull, they went mad like the day before, and came wading and splashing back towards the wagon. This time it turned out really bad, as my husband and the native, who held the rope of the leaders had to
splash about in water high above the knees. A couple of natives, who came along, helped to get the team of oxen into order again, and then both of them gripped the rope. On an ox-wagon there is always a rope from the two leading oxen, and one native holds it and leads the oxen the whole time to keep them on the right road. But as soon as the oxen were supposed to pull, they turned right round, dragged both natives with them as though they were mere flies; they lay struggling and blowing in the water, so one could hardly stop oneself laughing, it looked so funny. On the other side there was a Boer family, and the husband, who saw that we were in a fix, came with his long whip to help. When now there was a long whip on either side, and the two strangers hung on to the rope again, there was such a cracking of whips and such shouting, that the oxen took fright, pulled the wagon out of the water and up the steep bank before we knew what was happening. It was now late and we stopped for the night on the Boer's farm.
Perhaps here some would like to hear a bit about the Boers. There
are two kinds of Boers. The word Boer comes from "Bure" which simply means
farmer, not solely agricultural farmer but breeders of horses and sheep
That kind of Boer comprises those, who descend from the first Dutch and French Huguenots, who in their time fled Holland and France during the persecution of Christians. (After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in l685. I.G.) These came by ship, to seek new countries, and now were living in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, as they called their country.
For many generations here no schools were established, and the children learned neither to read nor to write. They became so used used to the black servant help, that the wives became dreadfully lazy, and nearly all of them exceedingly fat from so much sedentary, idle living. The men took up the breeding of sheep and horses and cattle, very seldom does one find any cultivation of the soil at these Boer homes. They sell their
wool and their horses to buy what they need for the household. Thus all the work that the husband has to do is to ride around on a good horse and look after the livestock, as also shear the sheep. They cultivate no fodder for their livestock.
Then there is a better class of Boers, those who in later years have come from Holland, who have had good schools, and who make sure that the children have governesses and are schooled properly. General Cronje belonged to this kind. He had his home not far from Standerton, where he reared sheep. Boers have several thousand acres of land each, and the natives, who lived on their land were a kind of slave. If these offended their landlord in the slightest, they were often bound to a wagon-wheel and whipped until they bled.
While we lived in Standerton, we heard, that Cronje had whipped two young girls, so both died of it; but that was nothing under Boer laws; had it occurred under the English flag, Mr. Cronje would have been marched off to give an account therefor.
When the Boers set out to war against the native black tribes, they always brought young men and women back as captives, and these were later shared among the different farmers, who kept them as slaves.
The farmer we met here at the river belonged to the first kind of Boer. These were more good-natured and religious. They were like a kind of Quaker. They called their congregation "Doppers", to which congregation President Kr¸ger also belonged. The women always wear black outfits. The dress has a loose jacket, and the skirt is made of 4 - 5 widths of material, which is gathered right round the waist. On their heads they wear a kind of sunbonnet, of black material. When we first saw President Kr¸ger in Johannesburg,
he wore perfectly ordinary clothes, bare feet in home-sewn veldskoen.
The better class of Boers had nice houses and fruit orchards, but the first kind lives in turf huts, almost all of them. We were invited in by the Boer who helped us out of the river. He wanted us to greet his "vrouw", wife. We went for a little walk with him, and as this home is just the same kind, as at all these Doppers, whom we have seen, it can serve as an example. The hut was of turf. The roof, which was almost flat, was of iron sheets; these were not nailed down, but had a lot of stones put on them, so the wind would not blow them away. Inside the hut there was only one room. The turf walls were in their natural state, no lime to make them lighter. At one end of the hut stood a home-made bed. Blankets and pillows lay heaped higgledy-piggledy; on top of these grubby clothes, shoes, an old overcoat, some dried sheepskins, tobacco leaves in bundles, mealie cobs etc. had been flung. There were only two chairs. The son took one of them and the old man took the other, then he said, that we could sit on the bed. Then the wife came in in her black outfit and bonnet and greeted us, taking each of us by the hand, even our little two-year old son.
At the other end of the hut was a fire-place, and the wife lit the fire to boil the kettle. The table was so full of cups and dishes, that one couldn't find room for anything.
Outside the hut was a little dam, where a whole lot of ducks and geese lay and splashed, and to it the wife went with the coffee-pot and the coffee-bag to wash them. Naturally she wanted to treat us to coffee, but we didn't wait that long; it would be late for the little one who was sleepy, and we couldn't be sure, that the native, who was
a stranger, wouldn't run away and perhaps rob us. So we excused ourselves and left.
But now you mustn't think that these Doppers were poor. He had much land, several thousand sheep, several hundred horses and cattle etc..
The next morning early we departed. Towards midday we reached another Boer farm. He had a beautiful farm, lovely water everywhere, and he had planted a little garden of potatoes. We wished to buy some potatoes from him; but he was too lazy to lift them out of the ground, so we had to lift them ourselves and take them over to him and pay him.
We rested here for a few hours, while the oxen grazed, and towards evening we inspanned in order to go on. It was dim moonlight, and the road was good and flat, so we decided to drive into the night.
Late in the evening, when the children were asleep, we suddenly landed in the "Slough of Despond". The wagon had gone on one side of the vlei, so two wheels on the same side sank down as far as the axles. We thought the wagon would overturn, so we got out of it in a hurry each with a child, and then my husband and the native sought the best way to outspan the oxen, and these now had to splash about in the mud and the water until they reached firm ground. Then we found a tuft each and took one child each on our knees and sat down to await the dawn. We knew that we'd never find the ford at night, unless we were lucky enough to get help from some traveller. There we sat on an antheap, which was both round and hard. The clock struck 1O - ll -l2; at long last we heard the welcome sound of the cracking of a whip. Yes, now we're sure to get help.
In South Africa it is common custom and usage that
travellers help other travellers, who need help, and never is payment mentioned.
The arriving ones turned out to be Boers with empty transport-wagons on their return from Johannesburg. How amazed we were, when their first question was: "How much will you pay to get out of the vlei? We'll pull you out for ten shillings." (2* dollars)
"No thanks, we can sit here a bit longer, then a more reasonable traveller is sure to come!"
"Oh I don't suppose that's so serious. You can surely pay us five shillings!" We thought about the fact that there were several hours to wait, the children were sleepy, we were tired and the antheap was anything but a comfortable seat, so we opined that it was best to pay him the five shillings and get a few hours' rest. It didn't take ten minutes for him to pull our wagon backwards, then attach his span in front and pull the wagon over the right crossing.
We paid the man and were glad to be able to crawl into the wagon and get a bit of sleep.
After several similar set-tos we at last reached Johannesburg, where Mr. Jensen was expecting us.
Here we stayed for a week, while the wagon was loaded with everything necessary for the journey, as well as the most necessary things to start farming.
We had been told, that there were no fowls for sale in Matabeleland. Jensen wanted to take a cart, which was to be used on the farm. This was adapted as a little fowl-coop, and then we bought a few fowls to take with us up there.
My husband had brought his horse with him. The natives in Matabeleland had no horses, thus one could get a good price for the horse, if one later ......xxxxxxxxxx ..... to sell it.
In the same manner we brought several dogs with us, and two cats.
So we were almost like a Noah's Ark. In Johannesburg we hired a driver for the oxen and now all went well until we reached the Transvaal capital, Pretoria. There we joined forces with an acquaintance, who was called Mr. Ritson and had 1O wagons with cargo for Bulawayo in Matabeleland.
The first night we spent a little distance outside Pretoria. That night the driver ran away and stole Jensen's new raincoat.
From Ritson's natives we heard, that our driver had become afraid to continue the journey, as he had been told that we were to travel among crocodiles and lions and other wild animals.
So my husband had to go back to Pretoria to seek another driver. He found one who professed to be a driver, but in fact understood nothing of it. So now there was again trouble with the oxen. For the most part an ox-driver has to go on foot, first on one side and then on the other side, and crack the long whip and shout at the oxen, and mind the brake, which has to be screwed at the end of the wagon. Therefore it was not easy work for an unaccustomed white man.
From Pretoria one has four days' journey through desolate bare stretches of land. Not a tree or a bush to be seen as far as the eye could see, but vleis in abundance. All the same we didn't get bogged down for long anywhere now, as Ritson's wagons were always ready to help us out.
On the fifth day we reached the bushveld, through which we travelled for a couple of months without a break. Now it was up hills and down hills, and the road which was untrodden, had a wealth of round stones, over which the wagons crunched until the sparks flew from the wheels. Often it was the case that the wagon could scarcely get through between the trees, and often the wheels
stuck tight, so the axe had to be brought out to chop the tree down, before we could carry on.
The thorn-trees caught fast in the tent, which was thus torn to pieces. Or the cart of fowls overturned. This was fastened to the back of the wagon.
Yes, those fowls! a man once said to me that one can teach fowls nothing, but here the opposite was proved. When we outspanned at midday, we stayed put for several hours as the oxen had to graze. We then let the fowls out, while we still drove on the desolate road. When we were ready to leave again, we got some of the drivers to surround them and crack whips, while they shouted Hok! Hok! Hok! and got them into the cart. After a few days we merely had to crack a whip and shout Hok! to get all the fowls running and jumping up a little ladder, which was put in the front of the cart, so they could get up into it. We lost nary a hen, and we let them out every day even in the bushveld.
When the oxen grazed the leader always had to go with them to see that they didn't get lost in the bush. Sometimes it happened though, that the leader lay down to sleep, and the oxen got lost, so we had to wait a few days, while one sought them.
The soil in this forest was sandy, and after so many wagons following in one and the same track, the sand became so loose, that the wagon sank down to the axle and two, yes even three spans of oxen had to be inspanned to pull the wagon through. At times the stretches of sand were so long, that one couldn't carry on in this way of putting one span after the other in front, and often the road was so narrow and the forest so thick, that an extra span of oxen couldn't pass. In such a case half a dozen drivers came and shouted and yelled and beat the poor oxen, which at last in sheer desperation exerted themselves to the uttermost and got through.
Alas, how many a time I have wept at the sight of such cruelty to animals. On such occasions we went on foot behind the wagon to lessen the load by our weight.
Naturally we suffered a shortage of water where the ground was like this. Only at long intervals could one find pools of water, stagnant water, covered with green, evil-smelling slime. This water we had to use for both people and livestock, and be thankful to boot. Some oxen got gall-sickness and died of it. After a few weeks we reached Pietersburg, the last town on our 3 months' long journey. It is in the Transvaal and belongs to the Boers. There was a tribe of black natives, against which the Boers were warring at this time, as they were not able to pay the land-tax to the Boers. These natives lived among rocks and in caves. To one very big underground cave, in which there were several hundred of these poor black people, especially children - the Boers came and placed one of their cannons at the opening and fired into the cave and killed the poor innocent women and children.
Here our driver deserted us again, and now we were not able to get another. My husband and Jensen therefore had to drive turn and turn about, as best they could. A few more travellers joined our retinue, so there were now 14 wagons in the party. One of these was the famous lion-hunter, called Bissett.
Come to think of it, the natives had a kind of king over them, who was called Mahodo. - His general was Malabok. Mahodo escaped and fled, but the Boers got hold of Malabok. - They took many young people captive, who later became slaves on the different Boer farms. The shortage of water was again bad after we left Pietersburg. We had travelled many long troublesome miles without finding water. Then suddenly we came upon a turning on the road to a huge rock, it was as white
as the finest marble. It weighed several tons, and was round and smooth. How it got there is a wonder, never has a human hand had anything to do with it. Under this huge rock a fountain rippled. A lonely merchant lived there, who traded with the natives. At the fountain he had built a dam, which was filled by the fountain, and here the poor, thirsty oxen drank, against payment to the owner of one shilling (24 cents) for every span; one span is 16 to 18 oxen. They say that all rivers which run westwards dry up in winter, when there is no rain, while those, which run eastwards always have a lot of water.
The Crocodile River was the last river with running water on our journey. We still came to many more rivers, which in summer had water to a depth of 15 to 2O feet, and in winter are so dry, that one has to dig in the sand for a drop of water. We were approaching lion territory, and now there was no human dwelling at all for long stretches.
We reached the Crocodile River, as I said. There was quite a lot of water, and two spans of oxen were put before the wagon. This river is notorious for the many crocodiles, and we were afraid to let our dogs swim over, so we got them all into the wagon. But our big Karo wouldn't stay in the wagon, but tugged himself free and jumped into the middle of the stream. Yes, that's the end of him, thought we, as he was carried far downstream by the current. But no, Karlo came ashore on the other side in good shape - and were we glad!
The water went over the wagon floor and right into our cases. But the fowls? The cart was a good deal lower than the wagon, so the water reached halfway in the fowl-cage, and the poor fowls would surely have drowned, if the river had been a few ell wider. It was a pitiful sight to see them,
when we reached the bank, they were so wet and bedraggled. It was a good thing for them that it was midday, and the sun shone hot, so their wet feathers were soon dry.
One evening we came to an empty stable, and we were told that the stable was built in order that one here should have horses and post-carts, which one by this means sought to get going between Pretoria and Bulawayo. But the lions had killed all the horses, and one had had to give up the enterprise. Here lay some empty wagons, which were on their way back from Bulawayo. We saw only some natives. The white man, who was owner of the wagons, lay sick of fever in one of the wagons. Bissett had a considerable lot of medicines with him, and he went to the patient with some medicine; but whether or not he ever recovered, we don't know, as each of us went his own way.
Alone in the ox-wagon with two children and surrounded by lions. - Lion-hunting.
- The rivers are dry. - "Here's water!" - A little bit about the Matabeles'
morals and customs.
Here I got fever. But as I got proper medicine in time, we prevented any serious sickness. A few days' journey from here we approached the very largest river of the whole trip. It was called Shashi River and was 75O yards wide; but at this time of the year it was almost dry. On our journey this was the first of those which run west.
That afternoon it was my husband's turn to ride in front of the wagon and lead the rest of the horses. The other men of our party had also brought horses, and they took turns to ride and lead the rest. While he, without any inkling of danger, rode along the road, he heard a sinister sound, first on one side and then on the other. Soon he was convinced that it was lions, which went in the bushes and snorted. He stopped and went nearer to the wagon-party. Soon we came to the banks of the Shashi River and here we stopped for a while. There was at this time no water in it, but the sand was deep and heavy; therefore three spans of oxen were put before a wagon. There were 13 wagons and a cart, our wagon was the 13th, and as we had only one wagon, we had to wait till last. A couple of the heaviest transport-wagons had to use 4 spans, so all the oxen had gone with the first 4 wagons which went down into the river. It was now night, the moon shone dimly.
(A photograph of Sofie and Hans takes up this page. I.G.)
Well we knew, that we were now among lions, but they thought that in such a large train and with so many drivers, who shouted simultaneously to urge the oxen on, and so many whip-cracks, one wouldn't be in danger of any attack by lions, and it was imperative to get the wagons over in the cool night-air, as the heat of the sun by day in this wide river would be unbearable, yes, even the sand would be hot. But the two children and I sat there alone; no human being near us to protect us. - But one thing I knew, of course, that God is everywhere, and that He is mighty to protect, when it pleases Him. But at times He certainly permits misfortune to befall us, so it was with fearful forebodings, and a thumping heart that I sat there alone in the forest - my little son in my lap, and Trine, who clung to my arm. - Now the bush concert began in earnest; the lions roared full-throated. Hyenas and wild dogs joined in with their hideous and nerve-racking howls and the jackals joined in with their ugly barking. In the forest the moonlight was dim and we could see the thickets move and hear the rustling in the bushes, but couldn't see, which object it was which caused these movements. Thus we came to think, that it was either lion or leopard, and I held my breath, as I expected any moment that one of these would jump on the wagon and make an end of us. Subsequently I have thought, that it was jackals and wild buck, which presumably were fleeing from their enemies.
But a dreadful night it was for a lonely woman with two little ones.
Three times the spans of oxen returned before it was our turn at last. It took four hours from the time the first wagons left us, and until our turn came. My husband didn't return, because they had asked him to stay at the
wagon on the other side, and with the help of a native to get a fire going for our evening meal.
It was decided to stay here the next day so the oxen could rest and refresh themselves with the clear water, which ran like a little stream on one side of the river, only a few inches deep. We also needed to bake bread and do some washing of clothes.
Jensen had equipped the wagon generously, so we had lots to eat on this journey, and when my husband was able to shoot some birds, then we had a meal fit for a gentleman.
The bank down to the river was quite steep, as was reasonable, when one considers that in summer the water reaches a depth of 18 to 2O feet. As there is no human dwelling for hundreds of miles from here, there was neither boat nor ferry, and one therefore had to travel in winter.
This was also the last clean water we got for several months.
Towards afternoon on the next day we inspanned. On account of the heat by day, we hadn't yet given up night travel. But this evening trip was also the last for some time.
We were going down a hill, when the brake on one wagon broke. The wagon ran into the oxen which keep the pole up, and one ox got a leg caught under the wheel, so it fractured. As soon as possible we stopped and freed the poor ox.
As soon as we came down on tolerably flat ground, the wagons were outspanned, and as soon as the oxen were free of the yoke and tied to the wagon-rope for the night, all the menfolk, both white and black, went back to the injured ox. They had namely decided to slaughter it, and the natives went too to carry the meat.
Again I sat alone in the wild forest with my two little ones. These I soon got to sleep in the wagon and lay down fully dressed by their side to await my husband's return. I had probably waited a couple of hours. Ugh, whatever is this? The oxen become restless. I could feel that they pulled the riems and the wagon-rope, which was a long iron chain, rattled. Then suddenly there was a bellow, as if an ox had got a fatal blow, and then all was quiet again.
An hour later the absent ones returned and the first I said when I saw my husband's face in the tent opening was that there had been something near the oxen. Hans returned and reported that an ox was missing and with the help of the lantern he had seen where the lion had dragged it away.
"Indeed! so that was where the lion went while we waited for it in vain," said he. "As you know, we were to slaughter the ox, Bissett, the lion-hunter, was with us. Although it was dim moonlight, we had the lantern with us, to flay the ox by its light. But when we got there, there was no ox to be seen. It so happened, that I was carrying the lantern, one of those like the police use and which one can shut off. When we didn't see the ox, we naturally thought, that it had dragged itself further away to lie down in the undergrowth under the trees. I opened the lantern and went ahead under the shadow of the trees, where it was fairly dark.
"Suddenly with a roar and much noise in the undergrowth a large lion jumped up and rushed off into the bushes. It wasn't 1O feet away from me. We were all taken aback and the natives soon climbed up among the branches of the trees for safety. But we five whites went on to the place, where the lion had been, and there, as we suspected, the ox lay dead. The lion had killed it and
was now having its evening meal. Bissett knew, that when all was quiet, the lion was sure to return. So he bade the natives keep perfectly quiet, there where they sat among the branches. Then our men also found a couple of trees nearer the ox, and turned the lantern off so it was completely dark. Thus they waited for a while, at last they heard the lion pull at the ox; but Bissett couldn't take certain aim in the dim moonlight, so he bade me open the lantern, so a ray could show him just where the lion was standing. But as soon as ever it saw the light, whoops! it was gone again. Still we waited; this time longer, and the lion returned. But when we again tried the lantern, it ran away again. The third time we waited, but now it didn't return. It was then that it fooled us and came here and got another ox."
Bissett now had a great desire to shoot a lion, while he was here in the midst of them, so it was decided to stay here a few days. They had found the other ox as well and Bissett was of the opinion that the lion would surely come back every night, as long as there was any meat left. So he made a kind of platform in a tree near the ox, where the men now kept watch for three nights. In the mean time they had pulled all the wagons together, and the natives were sent to collect all the firewood they would need to keep several fires going around the wagon. As it was a well-known thing, that lions were afraid of fire. The day after the oxen were killed, we heard the natives talk about the lion they had seen and waited for on the previous evening. "Yes," said one, "it was the lantern which chased it, it thought that it was fire." So I asked the speaker: "Why is the lion, which is such a powerful animal, afraid of fire?" "Oh yes, Mesisi, they say that not so very long ago the lions were so daring, that they
went to neighbouring districts and would even jump in amongst the natives, as they sat by the open fire-place - and often they took some of these natives off with them.
"Then there was an old, sensible man, who gave them this advice: 'Find a lot of long, dry wooden sticks and keep them ready every evening. Then when it's evening, put one end of these sticks in the fire, so that they burn. Then when the lion comes, each of you take a burning stick and poke and burn the lion, wherever you can reach it'. This was done and it wasn't right long, before the lions left them in peace. That's why, Mesisi, all lions are afraid of fire."
This was what yon native told me.
For two evenings Bissett waited for the lion, but had neither seen nor heard it, despite the fact that we saw footprints on the road and could tell by the ox, that the lion had satisfied itself on it. Now Bissett decided to get the lion another way.
There were only three guns in the party. These were loaded, and towards evening they were laid out in such a manner, that they aimed at the way, the lion always went; a cord from each gun was stretched across the path and fastened in such a way, that when anything touched it, the shot would go off. When this was in order, and it was nearly dark, Bissett and a couple of other gentlemen were at their post in the tree. Towards midnight a shot was heard, a little later another one - and still a third. Say, was anything shot, or did the guns shoot wild? They didn't dare descend before daylight, as nothing is as dangerous as a wounded lion. By the light of day they saw a large, old wild dog, which lay dead - further away they saw the track of the lion, likewise blood marks. Now the dogs were fetched. These followed the scent of blood and led our hunters
further into the forest, where a lion lay dead. The lion was flayed, and they said, that it was the largest lion skin, they had seen for a long time -all the claws were also taken. I have a brooch, which is made of two little lion claws.
We had an acquaintance, who was called McNee, he had left Pretoria a week before us, and until this time we hadn't seen or heard anything of him. When on the fourth day we continued our journey, we met some empty wagons, which were on the way back from Bulawayo. Now we heard news of McNee. These people had met him a few days earlier, and he had just had a harrowing lion adventure. It was early one afternoon, perhaps 3 o'clock, (the natives have no idea of time by the clock, when they are telling anything). Well then, at about 3 o'clock, while they were travelling peacefully onwards, still among wild forest and undergrowth, a large lion jumped out of the bushes and took one of the oxen McNee had walking free, at the side of the team. Everybody was so frightened that they didn't gather their wits before the lion and the ox were gone. One day when I was telling this story a lady said to me: "How can a lion overpower an ox which is so much bigger, and perhaps stronger, surely it offers resistance?" "Yes, that's just it, the ox has no time or opportunity for any resistance. Like a monstrous cat the lion jumps on the back of the ox, grabs one horn with one paw, and with the other the snout of the ox, and in no time it has twisted the neck, and pulling it away the lion does just as easily, like a cat with a large rat."
This was the first we understood, that a lion can be dangerous by day too. Hitherto we had felt safe by daylight, and now we no longer drove later then into the afternoon, and then we outspanned early so the natives could gather firewood for those fires, which were to protect
humans and livestock from lions' attacks at night. Of course the oxen had to graze among the bushes, but when our natives heard this story, we couldn't get them to go out of sight of the wagons. So when the oxen went too far, Jensen sometimes had to go to turn them back towards the wagons. One day at lunch-time, while Jensen was away to turn the oxen in the forest he saw a big lion, which rose in a leisurely fashion from its place in the bushes and quite calmly went further into the bush. Jensen hid behind a tree and watched it. It didn't see him.
When we had passed the worst lion district, we happened to travel on a road, where there was no water. Oxen and humans alike suffered from the lack of water. We thought now that we could again use the evening for travel, as it was too hot by day for the poor animals, which pulled the wagons, and so we continued the journey early in the morning.
Merry meals in the middle of virgin forest. - One in our party in contact
with a poisonous plant. - Arrive at Bulawayo after 13OO miles' journey.
- Inquisitive women.
At last one morning came the welcome cry: "Here's water!" How lovely, we thought. We could almost taste, how good a drink of water would taste. But alas! When the native brought the water, it was dirty and thick like the worst floor-washing water, after one has scrubbed the floor. "O Jim, isn't there better water than this?" "No Mesisi, it is the best we can get, it isn't a river, just a large vlei." To drink this water was impossible, we had to boil it and make tea or coffee with it. "Shall we make tea or coffee, Hans?" I asked my husband. "Oh, you had better make coffee, then we can't see what colour the water is!"
We had to drink this coffee to quench our thirst, but definitely not with pleasure. After we had gone further the men began to hunt for birds and our hunter Bissett shot a large antelope.
Of course I was the only woman in the party. The other three men had only natives to cook for them, and as long as it was coffee and bread, that was all right; but when there was meat or birds to prepare and roast, that was beyond the natives' culinary ability. Thus the spoils of the hunt were brought to our wagon. And when I had
prepared the dishes to the best of my ability and set the table on a cloth, which was spread out on the ground under one or other shady tree, the guests were called.
It was fun, each of them brought his own knife and fork, tin mug and iron plate as well as something to sit on. Bissett had a proper camp stool; but one man brought a water bucket, which was the arch to sit on, and another brought a washing-dish, on which he sat.
Picture this curious dinner-party there in Africa's wild forest. The hostess on her knees beside the cloth, at her side a large iron pot, from which she serves the guests. But it was fun! The food tasted good, and we chatted, joked and laughed, so the forest rang with the echo.
As I've already said we had five horses in our retinue. We expected a high price for these, when we could sell them in Bulawayo.
But whether there was anything in the air, or it was the unhealthy water, I don't know. Suffice it, the horses took ill, and one by one they died.
Our good brown horse had to go the same way. - Hans, who knew a good deal about caring for horses did everything possible to save its life; but nevertheless it died. Even the dogs took ill and died, most sorry we were at losing our lovely Karlo.
Along the roadside here there grew a cactus plant. The natives used its milky juice, which ran out, when one broke off a branch, as drawing-plaster on lame cattle. This juice could draw just as well as Spanish Fly on people.
This juice could also be poisonous when merely touched.
One of our fellow-travellers had through carelessness got some of the juice on his hand. He washed his hands at once in both cold and hot water, scrubbed it off with ashes and soap, so he reckoned that all the poison had gone. There were no ill effects on his hands; but when he washed his face the next morning, there must have been enough poison left still to cause a dreadful pain in his eyes. The poor man was half-crazy from these cruel pains. He was otherwise a strong and fine man; but these pains had him lying on the ground, where he wailed and writhed in pain. Nothing helped in the slightest to alleviate the pain.
It was evening before it was better, and the next morning it was completely past. And strangely enough, after such severe pains we were afraid that he would lose his eyesight; but his eyes were totally unharmed.
After a time we entered a quite different landscape. Now, for nearly three months without interruption we had travelled through forest and thickets on both sides, as far as the eye could see, and the road had mostly been uniform, except those stretches of deep sand, as mentioned before.
But now it was as though we had come into a hilly region. The road which was barely wide enough for one wagon at a time, wound in and out and around gigantic boulders.
Here we saw a lot of monkeys of all sizes tumbbling about on top of blocks of rock, which stood one on top of the other to a dizzy height. Many times it looked as though these monkeys would slide down the rocky slopes and be crushed below. But no! they got back again in good shape.
We were approaching Bulawayo, which at that time was the only European town in Matabeleland.
The kind of trees thereabouts were almost impossible as building materials, and there was no railway at that time, thus it was not a speedy matter to build a town, as all building materials, timber and iron sheets, had to be transported up there by these slow ox-wagons.
Consequently the town consisted for the most part of a house here and there around among the mopane trees. On a vacant building plot we stopped for a couple of days. We were now parting company with our fellow-travellers, as the latter had now reached their destination, while we still had 75 miles to go on an unfrequented road, in order to reach Jensen's farm. We had now covered about 13OO miles. Our oxen began to be both skinny and tired. Alas, how we dreaded this long journey, where we knew that no traveller would come to our aid, if we were to meet an emergency en route.
We had many stretches of sand to plough through and many sandy rivers to cross.
The first of these was Bembezi, there we got stuck. Now the cart was a boon. The chicken-run was put on the ground and the cart was loaded with goods from the wagon, and in this way we managed, after several trips with the cart, to get the wagon-load to the other bank. The oxen could then cope with the wagon. While I made a fire and boiled coffee, the oxen were outspanned, while Hans and Jensen again loaded the wagon. We stayed there for a few hours, as the oxen needed to rest after such exertion. Not far from here was a mission station, where Pastor Rees and his wife had worked for 3O years without any fruit. Only one boy had been baptized, and when the war broke out later, he left the missionary, threw off his clothes and joined the heathen again.
There is hope for human races, which worship idols.
These feel a need of God, and when they have their eyes opened, that their gods are useless, and get to know the only true God, then they can become true Christians. But the Matabele people have no idolatry whatsoever, they live just like animals, without need of or faith in any god whatsoever. for this reason Christianity has made almost no progress among them. Everything that the missionary told them about God, was lovely fairy-tales, and nothing could induce them to perceive, that they as people need a divine worship or God. The only thing they believed in was "hereri" or witchcraft. All misfortune which befell them was caused by one or other of their enemies getting power over them to bewitch them.
When we had gone a few days'journey further on and had stopped to graze the oxen, the first Matabele women, whom I'd seen so far, came with their children. Some herd-boys had seen that there was a white woman and children, and now they came to look at us.
I found their language about the same as Zulu. How amazed they were, when I addressed them in their own language.
None of them had seen little white children, and it seemed as if they could hardly believe, that my children were flesh and blood like the blacks. The Zulus call white people abelungu - but the Matabele say anokiwa, plural and ikiwa - one person. They had to feel my little son's hands and feet, such a little ikiwa no one had seen before. I even had to take his shoes and socks off his feet, so they could see if he had toes like themselves, and they couldn't admire the soft little toes enough, as their children run barefoot as soon, as they can walk, so the feet soon become hardened.
Some of the little children I treated to a spoon
of sugar, which I poured into the little black fists. Immediately all the women came and with the tip of a finger they all had to taste this amazing white sand. Thereupon they opened their eyes wide with surprise, calling out the while: "Ha, sinyosi impela!" (Oh, it's honey indeed.) They behaved in such an immensely ridiculous fashion, that we had to laugh at them.
After many difficulties we at last reached Jensen's 3OOO-acre-farm (3OOO morgen in Dutch measure is 6OOO acres in English), on the banks of the Shangani River.
As previously mentioned Jensen bought the farm from two brothers Bertelsen from the Cape Colony.
Their old father, Captain Bertelsen, as he was still called on account of his having spent a long time at sea as a ship's captain, now lived on one of the farms, which bordered ours. His wife, three sons and a nephew were also in Matabeleland.
When we were in Bulawayo we had met one of the sons. He had left home in order to earn some money for his parents' support, while Leo, another son, had gone to Mashonaland in order to earn enough to permit of their spending the summer on the farm, ploughing, planting and building proper houses. Karl, son of Captain Bertelsen's brother, was also a grown man and remained on the farm to protect and care for the old couple. There were also two daughters, but as these had not yet finished school, they were to spend time at the home of Mr. Thesen, their uncle who lived in Knysna, Cape Colony. If I'm not mistaken, I have recently seen in South African newspapers, that Mr. Thesen was elected as a member of parliament. Should his eyes ever see these lines, I can greet him, as the only white woman who was the last to see his sister, brother-in-law and his brother's son alive.
Conditions at the Norwegian family Bertelsen's. - Solomon's gold mines.
- Picture. - The Kaffer was hopeless at roasting coffee beans. - Some snake
stories. - Amusing stories about the native women.
(As it soon became evident, that there could not be proper farming on this place, where there was drought nine months of the year, Jensen decided to let the farm lie and return to Bulawayo, and the Norgaards went with him. It was with great sorrow that the Bertelsens saw them leave. Later we shall relate this family's sad end.)
With sorrow we prepared to undertake the difficult journey to Bulawayo. Sad for these dear folks, who we feared would again come to suffer need.
Poor folks, little did they suspect the fate, which awaited them within 8 months.
And little did we suspect, what awaited us.
On a building plot in Bulawayo we pitched a tent. The wagon and most of the oxen Jensen was soon able to sell. He made a tent on the cart and kept 4 oxen to pull it. But the oxen were not allowed in the town at night. Jensen drove the cart out of the town to mind his oxen, and there he slept every night in the cart. Jensen was an outstanding carpenter and master builder, so he soon got work in Bulawayo.
My husband's craft was more suited for a mine, as he was used to mine-
machinery. So while Hans week after week seeks an appointment, I'll here
tell a little bit about Matabeleland and its people.
Nature researchers and travellers have come to the conclusion, that it was from this place that gold and ivory were fetched for the Temple, which King Solomon built. There are old ruins, which are built in an old style, and no one in the whole country knows how the ruins came, and the same with the gold mines. Many of these were once worked thousands of years ago, and in many places old smelting-ovens have been found. The Matabele have no written language or books, can't build anything but the simplest huts. Besides they know of old traditions, that when the first Matabele came there, there were no other living human beings there in the country.
Tradition says, the Matabele descended from the Zulu people, who at the time when prince strove against prince to inherit the throne, the prince called Mzilikazi and who had been defeated took his people with their women and children and cattle and emigrated from Zululand. They travelled for many months, until they finally came to an uninhabited country. Here they settled, but soon found, that the rivers ran dry in winter, so the inhabitants had to dig holes in the damp sand and scoop their water out with a ladle. So they chose a new name for themselves - as a tribe. Indebe is a scoop or ladle. Amandebele is the plural for dippers or scoopers. The Europeans call them Matabele, but the correct term is Amandebele.
These Amandebele became an indolent nation, which cultivated almost nothing at all. They soon discovered that another tribe lived in the neigh- bouring country, called Mashonaland, where an industrious tribe lived.
(A picture of the abovementioned ruins fills this page. I.G.)
So these Amandebele began brigandage to Mashonaland and plundered the inhabitants there, took from them grain and cattle and abducted women and children as slaves. Thus about half the population was free and half slaves.
The Mashona people asked the English for help against these brigands, and it was then that Cecil Rhodes went with a small army and thrashed the Matabele and opened the country to white settlers and miners.
At that time their king was called Umbengula. The English have made it out to be Lobengula, and his chief kraal was called Kwabulawayo, which means "where one slaughters". Believe me there was slaughtering enough. The bones of the slaughtered cattle and the skulls lay in huge heaps by the site of the immense kraal, for of course it was burnt down during the war. The natives mostly eat meat roasted on glowing embers, thus it is cut off the bones without chopping them up, as we do.
The European town was established not far from here and called Bulawayo.
After almost 3 weeks' arduous work-seeking, my husband got an appointment as machinist on a mine 35 miles out of Bulawayo.
At that time the mine was just at its beginning. Here too gold had been dug once before; but in olden days one probably didn't have hoisting- or pumping-apparatus for the digging stopped as soon as water was seen.
One had now continued the digging in these old mines, but had acquired modern lifts with big pumping-machinery. The pump had to be kept going continuously day and night to keep the mine free of water.
The houses on the mine were just ordinary huts - the walls were crooked and plastered or smeared with black clay, the roof was thatched with straw, the floor just earth. Between the wall and the roof there was a gap of 4 to 6 inches right around the hut. Through this opening and a hole in the wall, which had a piece of calico nailed across it instead of a glass pane, we got our light in the hut. When we had to close the door on rainy days, it became rather depressing.
Instead of a bedstead 4 poles were driven into the floor and our spring mattress laid thereon. 4 other poles were driven down and to a simple frame attached to this an ox-hide was fastened and a straw mattress laid thereon for the children.
There was a canteen, where the white mining population ate. This was
also the same kind of hut, just that there were glass panes in the window
and two doors to it. The man who owned the catering business was
a young gentleman of 19 years; but he himself was no cook, and had trouble
getting a proper cook. Besides he had a butchery. There were
over 1OO black labourers at the mine, these had to have fresh meat, and
then there were the prospectors around, who came in for meat, as well as
what one used in the catering. Thus he had enough to do without being troubled
with the feeding.
He now asked if I would like to earn a bit by managing this business.
We had of course thought, that when the farm failed, we would try to stay as long as possible, and earn as much as possible, in order to go back later to Natal and buy ourselves a house of our own.
Thus I was glad to help my husband to earn a bit more, and I accepted the offer.
I employed a native to help with the coarsest work. There was no kitchen or stove; I had to cook everything in pots; but as I was fairly experienced in that kind of cooking, it wasn't too bad. I had 2O boarders and had to bake all the bread myself. I was given one hut to use to store the provisions. The coffee beans we had to roast ourselves, before we could grind them.
The heat of the sun here could be almost killing. Some iron bars were laid over some stones, and on these the pots and pans sat during the cooking, and as one stood over the heat of this huge fire frying rissoles or pancakes for so many people and the heat of the sun struck one from above, things often went black before one's eyes.
Daylight didn't come before 6 o'clock, and I had to ring the bell for breakfast then. I had to rise between 4 and 5 o'clock in order to prod my servant and lay the fire, while I set the table by lantern light. We lay in the bed and heard the lions snorting and roaring around our camp, at around two o'clock. We lived right in the middle of the scrub forest, and how easily the lions could be in the vicinity, when I went back and forth between the dining-hut and the fire-place in the morning. God kept His hand over me, that's plain enough.
This native could truly try one's patience. First of all, one had to teach him everything, from washing a pot to cleaning knives.
Then he could go off to fetch water just as one was needing it at once and stay away for an hour - sit and talk to the wood-choppers, or he was supposed to fetch firewood and lay down to sleep. The food was to be ready on the stroke of the hour, so I could feel totally unhappy at having to wait in this way. If he had to look after the fire, while I had something else to do, then he either let the fire go out altogether or he burned everything to coal.
Undabaningi had by now been with me for a couple of months and had watched me every week stirring the coffee beans around to brown them in the pot.
One day there was something I had to do in the pantry, and gave him the wooden ladle, with which we stirred and said, that he must just stir round and round continuously, so the coffee beans could brown evenly. I was away only a couple of minutes and when I went over to him and was looking to see if the beans would soon be ready, imagine my amazement at seeing that he had half-filled the pot with water! I had to strain all the water off and start all over again with the browning. Everything like this is enough to try one's patience.
Here were many dangers on this place. Apart from the lions the poisonous snakes were our greatest danger, and then there was danger from spiders, scorpions and centipedes. Then one had a great plague of large red, but especially the white ants (termites). These ate holes in our wooden chests. If one hung clothes on the wall and took them down after a couple of days, the side next to the wall was completely eaten by termites. If one left footwear on the floor, the leather uppers would be completely eaten up. The roof of the hut was thatched with straw. Large rats had their nests in there, and at night they came down and ran races around on our blankets in bed and rushed over our faces. But we had brought two cats with us. These were now allowed to sleep in the hut with us, and every morning the floor lay strewn with dead rats. The rest took fright, and our hut became more or less free of the plague of rats. But in the workers' huts it wasn't uncommon to hear gunshots. By asking, what was afoot, one generally got the following answer: "Just rats! Brown is lying in bed shooting rats in the roof!"
Several times we had contact with different kinds of poisonous snakes. Later we just about got used to them; but
the first few weeks it was a bit sinister and therefore these occurrences fixed themselves in the memory.
One day I went out to our litle fowl-run to look for eggs. There sat a hen, which looked as though she was broody. I was on the point of feeling under her with my hand to see if she had eggs, but changed my mind and lifted her off the nest. Imagine, how amazed I was. There lay a thick, fat puffadder curled up, it had sought warmth under the hen's wings. Just think if I had put my hand under and could have been bitten by this poisonous thing. I let go of the hen and ran for a club to kill the beast; but when I returned, it had disappeared.
One Sunday, it had been an exceptionally hot day, and I had no appetite,
just an irresistible need for a few minutes' rest in the cool hut, where
we lived. The table boarders had gone, so I made room on the table, and
got the two children to sit up. When they were finished the native
would take out all the table-setting wares, cups and dishes to wash them.
When the children had been served, I went to our hut. I had hardly been there a couple of minutes, when my little Trine came running, with a face as white as chalk.
"Mamma, Mamma, there is a big snake on the floor in the dining-hut!" I ran off at once and called to a worker who stood by his hut.
Alas my little son, thought I, say he is frightened and crawls down off the bench and gets in the way of the snake. He was only a little over 3 years old you see. But when I reached the door of the dining-hut, I could barely refrain from laughing. My little son had been frightened of the creeping monster, but had had enough sense to crawl higher up. There he sat now among cups and dishes right in the middle of the table. A large meat ashet was empty, and it had so
happened, that it stood in his way, so he came to be kneeling in the middle of this large dish. His dear child's eyes were opened wide with fright at the snake, and he looked immeasurably comical, as he sat there. In the opposite door stood several natives armed with different kinds of weapons, empty bottles, stones, firewood, broom and clubs. There they stood with fear written on all their black faces, but not one had the courage to tackle the snake.
That mine-worker, whom I had called, soon took the largest club from one of the natives, and with it he soon made an end of the snake, which he then pulled away to the engine-room with his club and threw it into the fire under the locomotive. This snake was one of the most dangerous. One doesn't live many minutes, if one is bitten by it. There it is called an imamba.
On the Monday of the same week, I stood at the dining-table ironing some clothes. I had to go outside to the fire-place to change the iron. When I came back a snake eighteen to twenty inches long lay on my ironing-blanket. It must have fallen down from the straw roof. This one I myself killed, and carried on ironing.
There was no coal to be had to fire the locomotive, so there were a whole lot of wood-choppers, who did nothing else but provide firewood for this purpose. These had a white man as foreman. He had lost one arm, so it was suitable work for him.
But he had fever. The manager gave him medicine, but I saw to it that he got suitable nourishment.
On the Tuesday, this same week I was going over to him with a bowl of soup. When I approached his hut, I turned back abruptly in fear, there outside lay an imamba. But when it didn't move, I saw that it was dead. How on earth had the dead snake got there?
I went in to the sick man, who lay across the bed and looked like a corpse. I thought that he had fainted, but when I spoke to him, he could answer me.
I asked him if he was worse, or what was wrong.
"Oh, I've had such a dreadful experience, Madam. I lay and dozed, and when I opened my eyes I caught sight of a large snake. It was hanging by its tail from the roof timber, and it tried to reach my face with its tongue. It was only one foot away from my face. At first I got such a fright that I couldn't move. But then I closed my eyes and carefully rolled off the bed. I always keep a stick by the bed. I took it and slew the snake with it. Then I pulled it outside and could hardly get back to bed."
So that was how the snake came to be outside the door. When one considers that the poor man didn't have more than one arm and was sick, then one can well understand, that it was a dreadful experience.
One more snake story, then it must suffice, but it belongs to the same week.
A couple of days afterwards, when I had got the children to sleep in the evening, I was sitting down to sew, as there wasn't much of it done by day. But I felt so tired and lonely. My husband was on night-duty that week, and so he had to sleep by day and now he was at his post at the machine. So I listened; the engine-room was so close, that one could hear when the lift was running. Then one couldn't disturb the one, who controlled the machinery. But after all the night-workers had been lowered, there was always a period of time, when it stood still, while the steam-pump went continuously, in order to keep water out of the mine.
When I heard that the lift had stopped, I took a walk down to talk to my husband for a while. Soon I went home again, and Hans says: "I'm going with you to get something to read, as time hangs rather heavy in the long interim periods, when one hasn't much to do, just to check the steam which drives the pump." He walked in in front of me, and kept his felt hat on, as he was going again at once. As he went towards the corner of the room, where newspapers and books lay on a packing-case, which I had decked to use as a cupboard, he puts his hand to his nose and says: "What's this, it isn't raining surely," and as soon as he had said this, his eye fell on a monster of a snake, which lay on top of the wall, there where the roof overhung it, and where there was an opening around the whole hut: "Sofie, quickly find a club, so I can kill the snake. I don't dare take my eyes off it, as otherwise I shan't be able to find it again." I ran hither and thither, but found nothing. Then Hans came to find something, and when he went in again the snake had disappeared. We thought that it had glided down on the outside and got away in the bush. We got a lantern to look for it, but saw nothing. The machine bell rang for hoisting, so Hans took to his heels, and I was alone again.
When first we saw the snake it was right above the heads of my children, who both slept with me, when Hans was on night-duty. Ugh, I thought, just imagine if it had glided down on the children and bitten them to death. The walls were smeared with black clay, and we had only a little oil-lamp, so it was quite dismal and dim inside there. I seated myself at the table and intended trying to sew, but my thoughts were continually with the snake. What had become of it? In this uncertainty I couldn't go to bed. When I had sat fully an hour, I happened to cast my gaze
over to the box with reading-matter. What is that round shadow like a bow on the wall? I stared at the dark corner until my eyes hurt. The shadow grew bigger and bigger. Ugh! there on the edge of the case a head appears, and the ugly tongue went in and out. I ran to the door. The lift was in full swing. I dared not disturb my husband, it was now late at night, and everybody, who wasn't on night-duty, had gone to bed. I looked for the snake; it had nearly reached the floor. The nearest hut was the blacksmith's. I ran over there and banged on his door. "Brown! Brown! Please come at once with your gun, there is a snake inside my hut. Oh, hurry, Brown!" Then I ran back when I had his reply, and wanted to keep an eye on the snake. It had turned towards the bed. Oh, if only Brown would come quickly! Yes, there he is. He lifted the gun to shoot, but then looked towards the children. "Won't the children be afraid?" "Oh no, they hear so much shooting with explosives in the mines - it'll be fine!" I seated myself on the bed and leaned over to place my hands over the children's ears in order to diminish the sound of the gunshot. He fired - and struck it the first time; but the snake shot into the air and fell over my feet. How afraid I was, I didn't know yet if it was dead.
Brown had it pulled outside the door, where it lay until the next morning.
Brown had told the men about my adventure, so all of them came over to see the snake. It measured seven foot and three inches, and in the Boer language is called rinkhals. It always seeks first to blind its victims by spewing a kind of fluid into their eyes. It was this fluid which struck my husband's soft felt hat and wet his nose, that time when he said: "What's this, it isn't raining surely!"
Had he taken his hat off, there is scarcely any doubt that, the fluid would have got into his eyes.
Matabele women are not nearly as cleanly as Zulu women, and not at all neat in their attire, such as it is. While the Zulu woman, when she is a wife, has a skirt of tanned cow-hide, which is rolled up and hung about the loins quite neatly, most Matabele women use only two goat skins, just as they come off the goat - with the skin of all the legs. Two of the legs are used to tie with, one skin is tied behind like an apron, and the other is tied in front, like another apron; the rest of the ends of skin, which belong to the rest of the goat legs hang and dangle about their legs like four tails. The women hereabouts had never met a white woman, who could speak their language. And constantly several women strangers came simply to see the children and to hear a European woman speak their language.
When I had answered some of their questions, they would look at one another and exclaim: "Ha! she is truly a human being." They don't recognize Europeans as people, it is only themselves. We are only "anokiwa". So this meant that they were complimenting me by saying: "She is a human being."
One afternoon I had a few hours free from food preparation and sat in my hut and sewed, some women and chidren came, came right into the hut and seated themselves on the floor, the children were also there. "Trine, let them see your doll!" With that she went off and took out the doll, which she showed them.
But as soon as ever they saw the natural face of the doll, they clapped their hands before their eyes and shouted: "Maye! Maye! Uyathakatha!" "Woe to us! woe to us! She practises witchcraft!" and then they ran towards the door and got outside screaming.
They were so comical all these naked people, big and small, and to flee from a doll, made us all laugh heartily. Finally when I had finished laughing I went to the doorway and asked, what they were afraid of. "Oh, Mesisi, it is witchcraft." "Rubbish!" say I. "It is just what your children call isithombe (doll), only we white people can make them so lovely for our children!" Well, they only just believed me. But after several visits they became familiar with the doll.
Then there was another day. A whole crowd of naked women and children
sat on the floor. I tried to tell them something about God and salvation.
But they wouldn't listen for long. "Yes, Mesisi, those are lovely
fairy- tales the European people have, they are the same as the missionary
Rees at Inyati has told us all these years." No, one couldn't get
them to take it seriously. They have no idols and therefore they have no
need of any kind of god.
The day was hot and as they seldom bath, but rub their bodies with fat, the odour of sweat could become almost unendurable. I wondered, how I could get them to go out, without insulting them. Then I remembered the day with the doll, how quickly I emptied the hut.
After thinking about it for a while I happened to notice our mirror, which hung on the wall.
I took it down and said: "Come now, here you'll see something."
All of them crowded around me at once; and when they saw all these black
faces, which moved in the glass, they clapped both hands together with
a smack and shouting: "Maye! Maye! Maye!" they made for the
door, where they were in such a hurry, that some of them stuck, as two
at a time wanted to go through
at the same time. That day I thought I'd be sick with laughter. Anything as comical as that one seldom sees.
But I didn't want them to go home with the opinion, that I had practised witchcraft, so I went outside after a while and asked them, if they had never seen their image in calm water. Yes, they had. Now then, white people have invented glass, so that they can always see their image there, same as you in the clear water.
They didn't come in again that day, but another day when we were together, an old woman says: "Mesisi, may I see that thing, which shows our image?" I took the mirror down and let her have it in her hands. But then there was fun again. The old woman looked earnestly at her image in the mirror, then burst out: "Ha! Ha! Ha! How hideous I am. Yes I am now quite worn-out and am no longer a human being. Wou! Wou!" (Ugh! Ugh!)
A girl now wanted to borrow the mirror. "Why, I am beautiful, I am" etc. From that day they no longer feared the mirror. One of the women who came most often, and who had formed a true friendship with the children and me, was a slave. In order for her to earn a few little things, I asked her to come to clean the hut every Saturday.
When this was done, she might demand either a brass snuff-box, a few glass beads, or a strip of cotton material. Occasionally she would just take a handful of salt or sugar. When the mealie-cobs were ripe she brought me a basketful once per week as a gift, then she was given salt or sugar. Later she brought me water-melons, and finally she gave her own life for me and mine, which I shall relate later in its right place.
The native mine labourers ill-treated. - Get letter from my mother.
- Dr. Jameson tries to attack Johannesburg. - The natives arm themselves
to attack all the whites.
As earlier mentioned there were over lOO black labourers on the mine. In the beginning they came fairly willingly, as they found that the money earned by the work would provide them with blankets and other things which they liked.
But after some had been injured in the mine and the rest had been cuffed and kicked on their naked bodies by the European miners, they would rather be free. That resulted of course in a shortage of labourers. The government reckoned that if a tax was put on the huts in their homes, then they would have to work to pay it. But that didn't take long, and then they stayed at home again. Now one had to send to the Zambezi River for labourers from there. It is an entirely different tribe, and they are more sensible and diligent. One called them Zambezi.
The Matabele labourers were often bound to a tree close to the manager's office and a Cape boy, so called because they came from the Cape Colony, and were civilized, had to whip the naked body with a sjambok, a whip which is cut out completely, both the haft and the lash, from a thick and tough hippo- hide.
Hitherto this scourging had befallen those, who were descended from the slaves. The manager had
the custom that the flogging was to take place in the evening, when day- and night-shift change took place among the workers. These were all, those who came from day-shift and those, who were going on night-shift, everybody had to gather to watch the punishment, so it could be a warning. These spectators were very wrath with the manager, as the poor prisoner had done nothing blameworthy according to their reckoning; but as long as it fell on one of slave descent, there was this comfort: "He is only a dog," they opined. But soon there came the turn of the free-born Matabele, and then they became furious. Only two examples I'll adduce, which I know about personally.
An Englishman, called Hamilton, had established a trading business with the kinds of goods which the natives bought for preference, what we called native trade.
The manager and his secretary got it into their heads that they too could make money by native trade.
So they established a trading-store and hired a functionary. But here came the rub. The manager ordered all the mine-workers to buy from his store, and those, who bought from Hamilton would be punished.
A short time passed, but then one day there was a free-born Matabele, who received his pay. He said to his friends: "This is my money, I have toiled and moiled for. Now I have the right to use it as I wish and where I wish. I like Hamilton's store best, and I shall shop there."
He did so. But the manager had a Cape boy to watch and spy, and when the customer came out to the road, this Cape boy came and took him and escorted him to Mr. Pallet, the manager.
That evening I again saw all the workers run scolding and clicking. When they are offended they click with their tongues. When I went to see what was afoot,
the poor fellow was bound to the tree and a Cape boy stood waiting for the instruction to begin the flogging. I couldn't help thinking of the slave-owners told about in Uncle Tom's Cabin - except that they were bought slaves and so in a way were the property of their tormentors. These were a free, independent people, who had never been slaves. Yes, I thought, it is a good thing that they have no kinds of weapons here on the mine, and that they are shut in at night.
In order to prevent the natives or Matabele from running home before the fixed time, for which they had been hired, a palisade or fence of poles had been erected which they couldn't get over. Their sleeping-quarters and some outbuildings were inside this palisade. There was only one gateway or exit, and at it a Cape boy was placed as gate-keeper. There was no proper gate to close, just this Cape boy. On the mine we had the son of a chief, who had come there to work, and in view of his rank, was made foreman over the mine labourers, who were on day-shift. He was called Zibi and had two cousins, Unjamane and Usomkeli. Unjamane went down with fever, and Usomkeli, his brother, was permitted by Mr. Pallet to move him out of the large sleeping-quarters inside the palisade, to an empty hut which stood outside. There was so much noise both night and day in the large sleeping-quarters, that the sick man couldn't stand it. Usomkeli now asked permission to sleep in the hut with his brother to care for him at night; but it was denied him, so the sick man had to lie in the hut alone.
As soon as breakfast had been eaten in the morning at 6 o'clock, Usomkeli had to start work. When he awoke this particular morning he went to the gate to ask this Cape boy if he could go to his brother for a few minutes before breakfast. This one wasn't there, and as the gate was open in any case, he went through it and in to Unjamane, who was rather sick and lonely. Shortly afterwards the Cape boy found out that Usomkeli had gone out without permission, so he went after him into the hut, and while Usomkeli stands bent over the patient, the Cape boy hits him over the naked shoulders with the sjambok. Usomkeli turns offended, pushes the other one in front of himself out of the hut and throws him into a thorn-bush.
That evening just as the evening meal was almost ready and Buchanan, who had already come to eat stood there and waited for the rest of the table-boarders, we saw all the black labourers running to the fateful tree.
"What is afoot again now," I say to Buchanan - this is the name of the man I was working for. - "Well, Mrs. Norgaard, it's that poor Usomkeli this time." Then he told me the morning's happening.
"And are you telling me, Buchanan, that they now intend flogging the cousin of a chief, because he went in to see his sick brother without prior permission?"
"Yes, it looks like it, Mrs. Norgaard. Look! there you see!" I went out of the door, and there stood Usomkeli bound to the tree.
"Oh, what injustice! Has that man Pallet no human feelings at all?
"I'll tell you one thing, Mr. Buchanan. This way of doing things won't do for long. These people who are not slaves, will come to hate the white people, and one fine day we'll all be murdered. If only they had their weapons, we wouldn't be safe for a single night."
"Yes, I'm of the same opinion, Mrs. Norgaard. But we'll just have to hope for the best."
"No, just look, Mr. Buchanan, there they are returning, look how angry they are. Oh, look there the blacks are spitting towards Mr. Pallet.
You'll see there'll be bad consequences after this conduct. Just imagine, flogging one of their nobility like a dog!" Buchanan then left me to give out the fresh meat, which the black workers were given once per week. If there is anything a black really loves, then it is fresh meat. But that evening not one would come to receive his meat. That was proof positive, how offended they were.
One evening, some days after this, as we sat outside our hut and watched an eclipse of the moon, one of the black workers stood looking at us. I wanted to know, what these ignorant people think of an eclipse of the moon.
"Umakala, what's wrong with the moon to-night?"
"Oh Mesisi, don't you know? We say that it means war. The moon has built itself a fortress. Look, now it will soon be inside it. It is a definite sign that war will come over the country and come soon."
This unexpected explanation made me uneasy. I, who knew the black people so well, knew, that this wasn't said without a purpose. I believed that Umakala knew more than he dared say. I didn't think that it necessarily meant war, as the word "ukulwa" is used for war and insurrection alike. I was inclined to think that it was a warning about rioting here on the mine, where our blacks had suffered so much injustice, and that we who lived on the mine were in danger.
One evening one of the black workers was given permission to go to the nearest native kraal to spend the night.
These workers were of course beginning in a small way to be civilized, so this one must surely have wished to show his folks at home, that he too could dress like a European. As he didn't have anything but a shirt and a hat, he borrowed a pair of red socks from a friend, and
from another a pair of yellow shoes. Trousers he didn't seem to think necessary. Rather proud of himself, he set off and would be back the next morning at starting time.
But the next morning he didn't come, nor at midday. One was considerably amazed, because if he had had it in mind to flee from the mine, he wouldn't have borrowed his friends' property, likewise he would have taken his blanket and his little possessions with him.
While folks sat around their midday meal, some people came past. They stopped and were given a meal with those who were eating. In the course of conversation there arose the subject of lions, which now more than usually roared around us at night. "Yes," says one, "it's dangerous to be out after dark."
One of the strangers bursts out: "Yes, I should think so. We saw evidence of it a little while ago. See that little dip in the bushes between that kraal over there and this mine, there we came across the remains of a human body. Someone who must have been killed this morning."
"Oh!" some of them cried in dismay. "What did he look like?" "That we couldn't possibly say, as all that remained of him was a pair of feet, with red socks and yellow shoes. We thought it must be someone from the mine here, as no one at home dresses in clothes."
"Oh no," one man complained, "my poor lovely socks." "And my shoes," complained another, "why was I so stupid as to lend them. Now I've lost them for ever."
Yes, the heathen are like this. He was neither brother nor cousin, and so their cheap possessions were lamented more than that poor comrade, who had died in such a dreadful way.
One could now understand, that he had been on his way back early in the morning. It was of course quite dark
until towards 6 o'clock, when we had breakfast by lamplight. I had also been awakened at about 2 o'clock by the lions outside.
On the 8th March, we had an unexpected visit from Emil Bertelsen. He brought me a letter from his mother.
We had a long conversation with him. He told us, that when we left them, it was even more lonely for the old couple than before. It was such a disappointment to lose those neighbours they had looked forward to having.
The food-supply we had brought them, was depleted in time, likewise the trade-goods. Karl was lucky with his little garden, as the vegetables and later the potatoes were the only things, which stood between the old people and starvation.
There was a couple of English brothers called West, who had set up a native-trade a few miles away from the Bertelsens'. They went to town more often, and therefore they had been asked to bring the Bertelsens' post. Emil often went down there to see if there were letters from the absent sons, and also from the daughters and friends in the Cape Colony.
When it looked as though the potatoes would come to an end, before help came from the sons, Karl decided to leave home and either find work or find one of the cousins. He was of the opinion that one could at the very least save his potatoes, so they would last a bit longer.
When the need was greatest, help was close at hand. Emil finally had a letter from the Wests and it appeared that it was from Leo, who also sent money. For this they could now buy their provisions from West Brothers, and better times dawned for the sorely tried couple.
Some months after that Leo himself had come, likewise the other brother and Karl. These had now ploughed and planted and were staying at home to build new houses,
as the old huts were full of rat-holes in the straw roof, where rain came streaming through.
I wrote a long letter to Mrs. Bertelsen, but whether she ever saw it or her Emil again, is very doubtful, as will be seen later.
I just want to add here, that Emil who hadn't been away from the farm since he first went there, had now had a trip to Bulawayo, 75 miles on foot, with a couple of blacks who were to carry what he bought to take home from Bulawayo. As he had heard, that Queen's Reef wasn't far out of his way, he had on his return journey taken that road in order to visit us and deliver his mother's letter in person. Poor Emil. God alone knows what befell you on the return trip.
There was an Englishman called Jameson, one
usually calls him Dr. Jameson, by the way, whether he was a doctor of medicine or theology, I don't know. Suffice it, that he headed a conspiracy, with the intention of attacking Johannesburg. What was really the purpose of this attack - which failed - I don't know either. Suffice it, that he gathered all the men in Matabeleland who could carry arms - white men of course.
The government had installed 7OO Europeans as mounted police throughout the country in order to control the black people, who quite recently had been conquered and could easily take it into their heads to rebel against the Europeans. All these 7OO European policemen Dr. Jameson took with him in his army. Instead of them 7OO wild, naked Matabele armed with good firearms were installed as policemen. Has anything so insane been done before? Arm one's enemies and train them in the art of shooting, which later made them capable leaders in their own army against the Europeans.
These availed themselves of the opportunity, practised shooting and gathered as much ammunition as possible. When Jameson with his army was safely away, and no one but traders, bookkeepers, artisans, farmers and miners were left in the land, and the nearest railway was about l65 miles away, so we couldn't expect help from there for a long time, the Matabele decided to start war.
But there was to be no declaration of war, all was to happen quietly. One would secure Bulawayo town, make it the capital, after they had killed all the men and the older women, the younger ones were to be taken captive.
In order to be even more sure of Bulawayo and make its conquest easier, they were to prevent the town from getting
help from the surrounding farmers and miners by killing them all quietly and murdering all white people everywhere in the country. As they lived so far apart, it was hardly possible for anyone to hear anything from anyone else.
Thus began that dreadful murdering of all settlers and miners in Matabeleland in 1896.
Vague rumours reached Queen's Reef about this one and that one who had been murdered. It was mentioned to the manager that we were possibly in danger, but he just laughed about it.
"Even if there is truth in the rumours, it's just been personal revenge by the Matabele, and has nothing to do with us." "Yes," thought I, "I don't suppose you have any cause to expect any personal revenge."
In Bulawayo they had by some means or other been better informed; but as we were 35 miles away out in the bush and often didn't send for post for 3 weeks at a stretch, we didn't know more. Contributing to making the hatred of Europeans even greater it so happened that that great cattle-pest began at that time and cattle, which are the black people's wealth died by the hundred everywhere in the country, yea, by the thousand. The Matabele blamed the Europeans for having brought the pest into the land with their ox-wagons. The pest had already come to Queen's Reef among the oxen and Buchanan's slaughter cattle.
If we should find ourselves in danger and the oxen were dead, what would we then use to flee?
There was one of these Cape boys, who was a real man......xxxxxxxxx......He was called John and was married to a Matabele woman. These two had built themselves a hut outside the camp. I mean beyond all the mine buildings. One evening John came to me. "Mesisi, what do you think, that black ostrich feather means, which the Matabele have started to wear in their hair?"
"No John, what does it mean then?"
"It means war, Mesisi. These rumours we have heard undoubtedly mean rebellion across the whole country, and I believe we are all in danger here now."
"Oh! John, I hope not. We have the pest among the oxen now as you know, how are we to flee when they are all dead?"
"This is why I came and spoke to you, who understand our language so well. Can't you talk to the manager, that we may get away, before it's too late?"
"No John, that's not likely to help, but I shall get my husband to tell this to Mr. Pallet."
Mr. Pallet just laughed at us. "There is no danger to fear." But a little later, towards dark John comes again. This time he is terribly agitated.
"Mesisi, Mesisi! What did I say before - we are all in great danger. That old woman Unongenisa has just been to our hut. She intended to come here to you, but when she saw that she was being pursued, she managed to whisper this message hastily to my wife: 'Go to my Mesisi and tell her, Unongenisa came to save her and the children by warning them in time. But now the people at home know how much I love my Mesisi, and now they wanted to prevent me from seeing her. Tell her she must flee at once, as everybody on the mine will be murdered on Saturday at midnight. Tell her, she mustn't die, she must get away to Bulawayo.'
"Oh, Mesisi, when she had said this, her pursuers were upon her and began at once to pull her away while beating her with a stick, and a bit further away they killed her. If what she said to my wife wasn't true
they would not have followed and overtaken her. They must have thought that they were in time and that Unongenisa hadn't managed to warn you. What do you think now?"
"Oh, John what shall we do? This Mr. Pallet is so stubborn, he will not let us take the wagon and the oxen. What can we do without them, 35 miles with little children is almost impossible."
Again we went to Mr. Pallet with the news, but he wouldn't do anything. He himself had a young wife and two little children, we had hoped that he for their sakes would take Unongenisa's warning, for which she had paid with her own life.
My husband told everything to the Europeans who were on the mine, and they were of the opinion that one should heed the warning. They also took out whatever guns there were among them and prepared them for self-defence. Besides this they decided, that none of those who were not working that night would go to bed that night, but stay on guard. Who could tell, if Unongenisa's attempt to reach me wouldn't hasten the time of the attack on us. Personally I was so restless, that I didn't dare to go to bed, but fell asleep a bit towards morning with all my clothes on. Little did I suspect that it would be 4 months, before I again could go to bed properly or even sleep in a bed.
The Zambezi boys had been put to wood-chopping and nearly all the Matabele had work in the mines, night- and day-shift.
The flight to Bulawayo. - The natives pursue the fugitives. - The wagon
breaks and the enemies approach. - Conditions in the town which was now
surrounded on all sides.
The next day towards 12 o'clock, midday a messenger with a large letter arrived. It was sent from Bulawayo to order the manager immediately to bring all Europeans as soon as possible, as the whole country was up in arms and many had been killed, and we were in great danger. The town was besieged on three sides, and the army from our part was expected to defend the fourth side. In all haste a fortress had been prepared and all the residents of the town had by now spent two nights in the fort.
Only now did Mr. Pallet come alive. Immediately someone was sent out into the field to fetch the oxen. The Zambezis who were chopping wood, were themselves in danger like us, so they were called together and paid and given instructions to flee for their lives. Those Matabele, who had worked at night, lay sleeping, inside the palisade, which was now guarded, so no one would get out to warn the enemy. Those down in the mine would come up for dinner midday. Hans had day-shift that week. He was given the instruction not to hoist anyone up before we were ready to leave. As soon as the oxen were inspanned the best wagon drove over to Pallet's hut, where every possible thing of value was loaded on it. The second one was brought over among the rest of the huts. I got this message: "Pack all the stocks of food and take a couple of pillows and blankets as well as a change of clothing for each of you, more than that you are not allowed to take,
as all the Europeans have to travel on the same wagon, and each will have a bundle of bedding and a travelling-bag of clothes." I was always used to obeying, even now I toed the line and did as I was directed. Our change of clothing was packed in a little tin trunk.
When the wagons were loaded and Mr. Pallet with his family had driven past us towards the road, Hans was given the order to hoist the mine-workers up. Zibi came up first. The mine was wet, as the walls in it dripped water incessantly and the Matabele worked down there completely naked. When Zibi came up, the Manager says: "We are going to town for a few days, and I would like to pay you the money we owe." But Zibi didn't even wait to hear this, but ran just as he was, after first beckoning with his hand to the rest of the workers. As though they were being lashed all of them now ran off to the nearest native kraals to gather the army for pursuit. It was fortunate for us that a definite time had been set for the attack, and that the Matabele in the interim had been free to go where they wished, and thus would be dispersed considerably and not easy to gather in a hurry.
Well, we were then off, many of the oxen were sick, so progress was not good.
Mr. Pallet with the best oxen and wagon was soon out of sight. Anxiously we spied around in the dense dark bush, in case the enemy should appear.
A little distance on the way we passed another mine. It seemed to be forsaken, if one excepts a couple of Cape boys, who were busy inspanning an almost empty ox-wagon, which was going the same way as we. When we had covered almost half the distance, it was late in the evening and we reached a pool of water. The driver averred, that the oxen could go no further without a drink and a rest. As unwilling as we
were, we nevertheless had to stop, and the oxen were outspanned. We boiled a cup of coffee, as all the men were complaining of hunger, since they had had no supper or lunch.
As soon as it was possible, the oxen were inspanned again, and we drove
on till 3 o'clock. Then suddenly a wheel fell off the wagon and broke into
splinters, so nothing but a new wheel could replace it. What to do
now? The miners reckoned that we still had 12 English miles left
to reach Bulawayo. These now took each his bundle of bedding on his shoulder
and his travelling- bag in his hand, and off they went on foot. The driver
loosed the oxen from the wagon and drove them on with indifference.
But what were we to do? Trine, a little over seven years old, could
hardly bear to go twelve miles on foot, the boy who was over three years
we could perhaps take turns to carry. But where is that empty wagon,
which came behind us. It must be here presently, so it's probably
best to wait. Besides there was danger from lions, if we set out on the
road in the dark, as we with children could not possibly keep up with the
mine-workers, who strode off as fast as they could.
The damaged wagon could still be a protection against the lions.
Trine had slept on the wagon. Now she sat with her father on the wreck of the wagon. Hans had a revolver, and with it he sat on guard.
My little son became fretful and sleepy, it was also cool now towards morning. So I seated myself on the ground in the lee of the wagon and put him to sleep in my arms.
One couldn't see far, as the country was practically flat and thickly covered with mopane trees. Thus one never knew, how close danger could be, or how far away that wagon was.
We expected to hear it come at any minute. We had long since arrived at the conclusion, that those who were on that wagon suspected no danger, but had gone to sleep for the night.
As soon as it was light, we decided to set out on the road. The footpath
was so dim and narrow that one couldn't find it before daylight came.
In the mean time Hans made a cup of coffee; if we were to make such a fatiguing effort, we needed to strengthen ourselves with a little to eat.
At last we heard the wagon come and got up into it, got our bedding, and the little iron box with our clothes, and then we were off.
We heard now that these Cape boys didn't know that the danger was so great and had laid themselves down to sleep in the wagon, while the oxen rested. Now they had already travelled some distance, and when after we had driven for 6 miles, we came to a river, the driver was determined to outspan, so the oxen could drink and graze a little. We told him that it was far too risky, that the enemy now had had time to catch up with us, although they owned no horses. But the fellows reckoned there was no danger; the white people are so afraid, that they flee, when they see their own shadow.
The leader took the oxen to the field, and the driver helped to make a fire, as he wanted to cook himself some food. I was permitted to put my coffee-pot alongside; but when I had filled it from the stream and came towards the fire-place, I stopped, and simultaneously the driver jumped up and stared at the oxen, which raised dust as they ran back, and the leader hurried them on, calling to us the while:
"Hurry, hurry, inspan as soon as possible. The Matabele are coming! I hear war-cries as
they march ahead. They can't be half a mile away."
"Is this our shadow," I couldn't help remarking to the driver. "No, no, Mesisi, just get yourself and the children into the wagon, while we inspan." It must surely be seldom that oxen have been inspanned so quickly, and the leader ran with the rope in front, while the driver on one side and Hans on the other, chased the oxen with whips. On this wagon without springs we sat, while the trip went pell-mell over sticks and stones, furrows and ant-heaps, until one was so shaken that one thought there was no longer an unbroken bone in one's body; but this was still not enough.
One of those sudden thunderstorms broke loose. There was no tent on this wagon, and the lightning played, the thunder rolled and the rain came streaming down. Soon we were wet right to the skin, and it turned cold. All our blankets were soaked through, and our raincoats we had left at Queen's Reef.
In this condition we sat there on the wagon, while the poor oxen were almost worn-out. Two miles from the town a rider came towards us. In there they had built a kind of tower of timber. From the top of it they had noticed our wagon. The manager had arrived early in the morning and a little later all the mine-workers, so by now they had just about given up all hope of seeing us again. From the tower they had noticed the enemy, who were still almost half a mile behind us. This rider was sent out to hurry us on, for they knew well that in the bush we couldn't see far.
But however much one shouted and chased the oxen they couldn't run faster, on the contrary rather more slowly. So when we finally entered Bulawayo shaking with fright and cold it was only fifteen minutes, before
the town was besieged on all sides, and with only an indifferent food supply and little ammunition, and few men really sufficiently trained to bear arms we were now invested. They had sent a message to the Cape Colony and Natal, likewise a telegram had been sent to England for soldiers, but it would take two months, before these could be up here.
The wagon had stopped, when we came into the town and off-loaded our things. There we stood now cold and wet. The clothes hung on us, as though we had been pulled up out of the sea.
Hans ran around and was able to hire a little empty room. There we went in and changed our wet clothes for dry. What a good thing it was, that I had used the little iron box, because our clothes were dry.
It was evening, by now and we slept there in the room on the floor without bedding, everything was wet of course.
The next morning we were able to hang out some blankets. My husband went up the street and met people, who came into the fort. There he now heard that it was against martial law in the town, for any European to spend the night outside the fort.
He also brought the sad news, that all the Bertelsens had been killed by the enemy, likewise the West brothers, five men, who stopped on the Inyati mission station were also murdered, likewise six men at the Bembezi River, where there was a public bar, only three miles from the Queen's Reef mine. Pastor Rees and his wife had escaped, as they left their station in time.
For one to understand the following better, I must explain a bit about the fort.
When the government in the English colonies founds a town, where there are settlers and farmers, the first thing it builds at the expense of the government is a large market-hall. In the middle there is a large hall or room, the whole length of the building, on both sides are long tables.
Off the sides of the hall are smaller rooms, which are used as offices.
When a farmer has anything to sell, he can bring or send it to the Market Master. The latter takes care of the goods until the next morning. Every morning there is then an auction, and eggs, butter, potatoes or vegetables are sold to the highest bidder. When baskets, boxes and sacks are empty, they are sent back to the farmer; if they go by rail, they are sent free of charge, and in a letter a cheque is sent for the things sold. Thus the farmer has no trouble selling his wares.
As this market-hall was the largest building in the town, they decided to build the fort around it. First the tent-wagons were drawn there and placed one behind the other in a square around this market-hall. In these wagons lived the one, who owned it. Then all the wagons without tents were pulled up outside these first ones and put together like a wall in the same manner. Outside this a trench was dug, so all the earth was thrown on the inner side. On top of this earth a wall was built of sacks, which were filled with sand and laid on top of one another to make a high, wide wall. Behind this intrenchment all the men had to lie with their weapons, while the guard went up and down, day and night.
Inside the large hall all tables were taken out, and the floor thoroughly cleaned. The women of the town were then ordered to go there every evening and spend the night on the floor, bringing a blanket and a pillow as taking many things would take up too much room. Some of the ladies of the town were installed as manageresses, to see that everything was done in an orderly fashion. After the first night everyone had to take the very same place and not a foot more than absolutely necessary. In the middle a narrow aisle was left, so the manageress could go up and down.
It was Saturday afternoon when we entered Bulawayo, and this was Sunday. In the foremoon I was very surprised to see one of our wood-choppers from the mine. "Well, but how did you come here, and when?"
"I came yesterday, a little while after you, and shortly before the Matabele."
"But didn't you go with the rest of the wood-choppers, when you were paid on Friday?"
"Yes, Mesisi, I did; but we ran straight into the arms of the Matabele, who took us back to Queen's Reef. There they started to kill us, I was so lucky that I managed to hide. From my hiding-place I could see nearly everything that happened. One of my companions was killed right by the fire-place, where Mesisi has so often cooked."
"Oh no, but that was terrible, Jim. But then what happened?" "Well, when that was over, I saw from another direction a lot of women and young boys, these came to plunder the huts and carry off the spoils. When they had finished with that, I heard them assemble to consult. The natives always speak so loudly, that I could hear most of their discussion. It was by now late, and they wanted to know, if they should pursue the wagons. The chief then said: 'No, there's no hurry, they have only oxen, and besides that they are not likely to travel after dark, as they surely know, that the lions are bad now. For the same reason it is best that we stay here. We'll set off as soon as it is light, then we'll catch up with them easily enough.'
"They then distributed themselves among the different huts, and when they were all asleep, I found myself a shelter as well, I was also afraid of the lions.
"On Saturday morning early they broke up after having eaten of that, which was found on the mine; but first they set fire to all the huts, which now lie in ashes.
"I now ran for all I was worth through the bush ahead of them. When they came to the wagon, which you wrecked, they were glad and danced a war-dance: 'Ha! Ha! now we'll soon get them, for now they are on foot; they have small children and can't get there so quickly.'
"But one thing I've forgotten, Mesisi. I'm sure you remember that European, who wouldn't go with you, because he reckoned there was no danger. He wanted to go down to the public bar 3 miles away. But the Matabele got him, before he had gone half a mile. They bound him to the trunk of a tree, and then practised throwing spears at him."
On the Sunday evening I took my blanket and went with the children to the fort to find a place to sleep.
Hans who you must know had been in three wars against blacks before,
was immediately armed and sent behind the barricade. When I went
into the market-hall, all the women and the children lay on the floor,
packed together like sardines.
The manageress sought a little place for us; but it was impossible. They were packed so tightly, that they couldn't be packed more tightly. So the only thing was to go outside and seek a place under one of the wagons; but there was no room there either, people lay like bees everywhere inside and under the wagons. We stood there a while in the open yard, then the children got tired. We put the blanket down right where we stood, then I seated myself, while the children laid their little heads in my lap and were soon asleep. Towards nightfall, I also became sleepy, laid the children to rights and lay by their side till next morning.
This was repeated every single evening and morning for over two months. Each evening we lay there in the yard under the open skies. Each morning we went to our room, to cook our food there outside on the ground.
We had strict orders, that when the alarm trumpet sounded by day, we were to drop everything, take the children and run to the fort. This happened a couple of times every week and oftener. Often the alarm sounded just as my dinner was on the fire, or my bread stood on the fire baking in a pot, and whether it was wholly or half raw, I had to leave it and flee.
As mentioned earlier the houses in the town were scattered about in the mopane forest, and it wasn't easy to see where the enemy was. If he came too close, women and children were sent to the fort, and the men, some to defend the fort, others to go out to drive the enemy back.
One night we were in a tight spot. Hans lay at the fort. For the children I had got a narrow, single mattress, which I rolled up by day and laid in under a wagon, while the one, who slept there, was away. On this mattress the little ones lay, heads at either end and feet towards each other.
When they built the rampart, they hadn't made drainage holes, so water could escape. In Matabeleland it generally rains only during the three summer months, and the other nine are totally without rain; but whether it was caused by so much canon-shooting or by other causes, I don't know. As you know, we had a nasty, unexpected rainstorm the day we arrived and now, two weeks later, we had another. As I said, the children lay on the narrow mattress, and I on the blanket by their side. At about 12 o'clock at night it started pouring with rain. I woke the children, got the mattress rolled up as high as possible, and sat on top of it like a tailor, with legs crossed. Then I took one child on each knee, pulled the blanket over
all our heads, so it was like a tent over the children.
My husband became uneasy about us, when one saw how the water in the yard of the fort rose. He asked for a few minutes' leave of absence and came to see how we were. He had to wade through water, and when he reached us, the mattress on which I sat was under water, besides that the water reached over my loins, where I sat. We had nowhere to go. Hans tried to see if we could go down to our room; but no, it was against martial law, which forbade anyone to leave the fort, before the gate was opened for everyone in the morning. We were wet, but the way we were sitting we were warm, as the blanket kept the steam from our bodies in.
Now they had to busy themselves making an outlet for the water, and after a few hours it had all run out, but mud and slush remained of course, so our clothes looked disgusting. The next morning, when we had to walk through the street with so many of the fine folks, who had slept in the market-hall and were both clean and dry, I was able to borrow a raincoat from a gentleman, to hide my muddy dress. The rain had by now stopped completely, and the sun shone brightly.
But neither the wet earth nor the mattress got dry that day. That same day Hans was promoted to quartermaster sergeant. His work was now to hand out rations, ammunition etc. by day.
He was excused lying at the barricade. When evening came that day, we wondered what we should do that night. If we went to the fort and slept on the wet ground, we could be quite certain to bring sickness upon ourselves.
The town still surrounded. - Panic at the fort. - Food stocks diminish
and prices rise. - Attempt to help some white families who lived in the
country. - The English soldiers are coming!
If we stayed there in our room, it might of course happen, that the Matabele came that very night. Several houses on the outskirts of the town had already been plundered and burnt down. But then of course there were several nights when one had been unharmed. The Matabele don't love the night, so it wasn't often that they plucked up courage and attacked us at night. The end result was this, that since we now could keep Hans with us, we would stay in the room for this one night, then the ground would be much drier the next evening. My husband had his gun, and I had the big revolver with six chambers in it. In case they approached too close, we put the chopper on that box which served us as a table. And when the children were asleep, we sat down fully dressed on each his empty case with backs against the wall. We had had no sleep the night before, so we fell asleep even in this uncomfortable position. Some time after midnight someone thundered on the door, and someone called our name: "Come, wake up! The Matabele have taken the Boer fort and will soon be here at this one. Hurry and get into the fort". It was a friend's voice, a single gentleman who always remained in his tent until the last minute. Now he was gone, and we stood there frightened and peeped through the door. It was dark and a good step to the fort. Already we heard a running and a riding back and forth,
and as one couldn't see the other in the dark, one could just as easily be brought down by one's own people as by the enemy. The children slept so well. "Oh pshaw! we stay where we are! If the enemy has truly come to storm the fort they won't have time to look around, in what they believe to be empty houses."
So Hans got the door ajar, so the mouth of his gun could go through. The curtain we had for the only window, I stuck up at one corner, and there I stood with the pistol and peeped out into the dark and listened. We heard shots frequently, both canon- and rifle-shot. With dread in our hearts we listened and waited for several hours, but no danger came near us. After a long time it was all quiet.
I should have mentioned earlier, that in case the fort was attacked at night, all women and children who slept on the floor in the market-hall, were to get up, and in other ways make room for the women who slept in and under the wagons outside, and who came in for protection. As the enemy had no canons, only guns and assegaais and the market-hall was of brick, one would be more or less safe. Males were strictly forbidden to force their way in.
In the morning we heard the sequence of the disturbances of the night.
There were two forts in the town. One was called the Boer fort, because the Boers, who lived in and around the town had prepared it for themselves and their people.
The one in which we were was the English fort. So the Boer fort had been attacked, but the canon-shots had frightened the enemy, who had never been used to such fire-arms, and they had withdrawn. But one had of course thought that our fort would be attacked, and thus one had awakened the
sleeping women in the market-hall, so they could get up and make room for those outside.
Despite the prohibition that no males were to force their way in there, some Jews had nevertheless burst through the door, and as the hall was already as tightly packed as it could be, these Jews caused a lot of injury. Several children were hurt by the trampling, two were trampled to death, several women were injured, so they had to stay in bed for several weeks.
When I heard this, I was glad, that we had remained in our room, otherwise I would certainly also have been in the crush, and perhaps had my dear little ones hurt.
After that night we slept in our old place again, and I had my husband's revolver in my belt, and a bag of ammunition. If the fort were attacked, I would find myself a place by the walls of the market-hall and stay there. If my children were in danger, I would defend them to the end. There were many more such frightening nights, but the canons always drove the enemy off the field. We spent the days in our room. We had to be ready to flee as often as the signal sounded. I remember one day I was baking bread. I had put the pot on the fire with the bread in it to bake, then the alarm sounded, people ran in the greatest haste. Mothers with a child on the arm and another by the hand, often without a hat, not even shutting the door, off they went. While the men rode off at a gallop to meet and drive the enemy back.
When I returned to my room, both the bread and the pot were gone, and I never saw them again.
This was rather annoying, as we had a time of high prices in the town. Flour was now two shillings and sixpence (7O cts) per pound, and there were at least five pounds of flour
in that bread. Rice was three shillings (85 cts), sugar one dollar per pound. Potatoes were no longer to be had, and certainly not milk and butter.
But prices would have been much higher, if the merchants had had control. But the first thing our government did was, to commandeer all victuals. That means, they paid the traders a reasonable amount, and then the government sold to the people for the price as it then was, and the prices went no higher. One could buy only a certain quantity at a time, just what one considered necessary, otherwise the moneyed people would have bought up everything, and we others would have got nothing.
One Sunday forenoon, there was an alarm again, and off we went to the fort. A little troop of our men went to drive back the enemy. They had a Maxim gun, but when they were to use it, the mechanism was out of order, and they couldn't get it to work. As our troop was so little, against thousands of the enemy, they had depended on this Maxim, a quick-firing machine-gun.
Soon the enemy found out that something was wrong among the English, and now the enemy pressd in on them with guns and spears.
Our people were forced to withdraw, several had fallen under the enemy's fire.
One young man called Pearson, was badly wounded and fell off his horse. Everybody had gone on ahead. Only one comrade noticed that Pearson fell. He stopped his horse and tried to help his comrade; but as the latter was heavy and couldn't help himself in the slightest, the other hadn't the strength to get him back on his horse.
The enemy was almost upon them, and Pearson asked his friend to save himself. "Go Will, you can't save me by giving your own life. Remember all the helpless ones
inside the town. Every life which is taken, means one less to defend them. I shall die in any case. Go, but put my hat over my eyes, so I'm spared seeing the black faces, when they come to make an end of me." It was difficult for the friend, to leave his comrade, but by giving his own life he couldn't save Pearson. So he had not a minute to spare, as the enemy were very close.
The enemy pursued them for a little distance, but turned round, when they came within the range of the canon, which stood in the fort. The next morning a troop went out to fetch and bury their dead. They found poor Pearson with 18 assegai-wounds in his body, quite dead of course. But he was brought in and buried with the rest.
One was at a loss for firewood. Mopane trees won't burn. One had to have dry wood to burn. When one could see from the look-out that the enemy had retreated, a lot of black servants were sent out to gather firewood. One forenoon great confusion arose in that end of the town where we lived. People ran hither and yon. I asked a passerby, what was now afoot. He said, that six firewood-seekers had been killed by the enemy, who had hidden themselves in the bush. When one heard that the enemy was as close as that, the fear became unusually great. Women fainted, children cried, men growled and all was confusion. Then the alarm sounded that we had to hurry to the fort.
Pregnant women developed pains before the time, and had to be carried on bed or mattress, over to the market-hall, where the smaller rooms, which had been offices before, were prepared for sick women and children.
Such a confusion one can't easily describe, so that one can really understand the misery.
From captives which one occasionally got hold of, one
heard, that there were still some settlers alive. One knew that if the enemy left them in peace, they would die of hunger in any case.
One hundred of our men ventured through the enemy's frontiers in order to bring in the three families, which were still thought to be alive. Their Captain was called Brand.
First they found a man and his wife, who had wandered about in the forest among lions and other animals for several days, without food other than rats and foliage. There are no wild berries in these parts of Matabeleland.
These poor famished people they now took with them. They related, that the enemy had come to kill them; but they had seen them in time and slipped out by a back-door and hidden themselves in the forest. They had seen their home burnt down - since then they had wandered about day and night.
The next one they found was a young girl. She alone had escaped by a back-door, while all of the rest of the family were murdered and the house burned. Completely alone she too had wandered in the forest, she was also considerably the worse for fear, hunger and fatigue. They took her with them as well.
Now there was only one family, of which one had heard nothing. They were called Cunningham. One morning one approached so close, that one could see the buildings. They had thus not been burned. And there! There's smoke issuing from the chimney-top. They are still alive.
With joy our men rode closer, and with light hearts jumped off their horses and walked towards the house. But alas! What a sight met their eyes! There stood the table set for breakfast, around it on the floor lay the whole family murdered, and that a matter of only a couple of hours earlier. The bodies were still warm, and the smallest of six children was still alive, but breathed the last breath shortly thereafter. Besides
the six children there were a man and his wife and a grandmother. The wife, the children's mother, those bloodthirsty monsters had cut open and taken a coffee cup from the table, filled it with her blood and put it on the table as a greeting to our men, whom they had seen coming that morning. The men were both disappointed and angry. They could do nothing now, other than bury the dead and embark on the return journey.
On the way back they met several bands of the enemy and had many clashes.
Not far from the town they came to a pass, and here they were surrounded by the enemy. They fought, until it looked as though they would run out of ammunition and food. One man managed to get through and went to the town for help. But when these were out of the town a little distance, they met our returning men. They had fought their way through the pass and were now almost home. But of one hundred only fifty returned, wounded and hanging helpless on the horses and the gun-carriages. One man it was terrible to see. He had a white horse and his arm had been shot off, and the blood stained the white horse red on one side. Such a sight one never forgets.
Now there was a water-shortage in the town. There was a river which flowed close to the town, where we until then had got our water; but like all rivers up there at this time of year, it was dry apart from some pools.
The horses took ill, likewise the people, so the doctors examined this water and found that it was poisoned.
There were only a very few private wells in the town, to these we now had to resort, and now we had to pay to draw water.
For example: For us two adults and the two children we had to pay 1O shillings ($2.5O) per month, on
condition that I personally drew the water and didn't spill any. Many would send natives, and these are always clumsy and would spill half of it.
But the government put labourers to work digging wells, thus the water situation soon improved. There was now a lot of sickness and death in the town.
The hospital was long since full, and the hotel and the club were equipped as hospitals. Apart from sicknesses there were of course many wounded brought in every week.
Only the authorities knew the death toll. One sought to keep it as quiet as possible, in order not to alarm the population. When one becomes really afraid of sickness one can the more easily become a victim of it.
It happened often that the funeral procession was on its way out to the cemetery, and word came that one couldn't go further, as the enemy had come so close, that it was between it and the town.
Hastily a grave was dug in the town itself on one of the building plots, and the corpse sunk there temporarily to be moved from there, when the war was over.
At about this time a crowd of Matabele and their families came into the town under a white flag. They explained that they were tired of the war, that they now wished to join the Europeans, and live in peace with them. These were received in a friendly manner by the English and a camping-place was assigned to them.
There was not much food in the town, so these black women were permitted to go to the outskirts of the town and gather mealie-cobs. The fields concerned had not been harvested on account of the outbreak of the war. Lentils are always planted with the mealies.
The native women seldom bother about a basket or a sack. They pull out some long grass and twist it into cords, which are laid carefully on the ground;
thereupon sugar-cane is chopped, when there is any, otherwise mealie-stalks are also used. These are laid in layers on top of the cords. Then the cobs are picked and laid one next to the other along the sugar-cane, and when one has enough cobs, a layer of sugar-cane is laid on top and the cords are tied together. In this way they brought mealies in day after day and we got used to seeing long queues of women with these long loads on their heads.
Their menfolk who of course had been disarmed stayed in the town and were not permitted to go outside.
One day as I stood outside at the fire-place I caught sight of a queue of these women coming back with their loads. When they had passed close in front of a native-store, the young shop assistant stood on the veranda. He wanted to have a bit of fun with a Matabele girl, and put his hand out suddenly, and knocked her load off her head. As it fell to the ground the grass cords broke, and now there was a to-do. Instead of mealie cobs her load was full of assegaais. All loads were examined and none had mealies, all had spears, which they had fetched from the enemy, who didn't dare risk a confrontation with our canons, and who now wanted to take us by cunning. When all of them had been well armed, the town was to be attacked unawares - from within. The inhabitants were very enraged about this. A palisade was built of iron sheets, and no one, neither women nor men was allowed to go out any more.
If anyone was found sneaking around without a good reason, they were hanged on the nearest tree.
The first, who came to our relief were the volunteer soldiers from Natal and the Cape Colony. These built small forts on their way, where a few men with canons were left behind to keep the road open. These forts were built along the whole road after one entered the enemy's country.
Travel to Natal. - The difficult journey. - Relatives believed them
dead. - A bit about parents and siblings. - Reach America.
There was jubilation in the town, when the first people came to our relief. The Matabele had no understanding of mail and telegrams. Thus it was an enigma to them, how we had sent a message for help, and for this reason the road hadn't been particularly well guarded. They weren't thinking of anyone, who could come, what they watched over was, that no one should slip out. In order to get provisions up as soon as possible, the post-cart, which now got going, was loaded with flour and all post, except letters was left behind in Mafikeng. And on top of that a reward was offered to those, who would bring wagons loaded with flour. Just imagine 25 cents per pound for flour for cartage alone. And further to protect the owner from loss: If his wagon or donkeys fell into the hands of the enemy, the government would pay double for them.
There would have been enough of those who would avail themselves of this offer, but all oxen had now died of the pest. One had to use donkeys and mules and there were not many of them, as one had to import them by ship from Texas and from Buenos Aires in South America.
There was only one firm of merchants in Mafikeng, which was the nearest railhead from the Cape Colony. We travelled from Pretoria on our journey up, and that was the nearest railhead on the 13OO-mile road.
All the soldiers from England would land in the Cape and
come that way, where there was the longest stretch of railway transportation and only something over 6OO miles to march from there. Thus this merchant was able to buy all the donkeys and mules there were to be had in the Colony and sent off two wagons with flour with the message, that the whole journey up they had to do with the same donkeys; but in the mean time he would send more donkeys up and leave them at different places, so they could change draught-animals in the same way as the post-cart changed horses. There was a considerable number of deaths among children in the town, even among those we knew personally five children died in one week. We became anxious about our children and wished we could get out of the town.
When these two wagons arrived with the first load, and we heard they expected to change draught-animals along the way and in this manner expected to cover the distance in 3 weeks, we decided to go with them to Mafikeng, from which place one could get to Natal by railway by changing trains several times.
(It would make this book too big if a passably detailed description is given of the long journey back to Natal. First they went off in the ox-wagon over roads full of loose sand - 17 persons were crushed together in one wagon. One was exposed to enemy attacks and wild animals by day and night. On the way they met troops of English soldiers, who were going up to the besieged town. At long last they reached Mafikeng and went by train the rest of the way. A letter was sent to the Nielsen family with the message that the daughter with her family was on her way back. They should have arrived five weeks earlier. No wonder that the Nielsens feared that one or other misfortune had befallen them. We again let the authoress continue.)
One Saturday afternoon we reached Boyburg (? Booysens) in Johannesburg. There we had to change trains again. Came one Tuesday morning to a little station on the outskirts of Durban (Berea Road Station I.G.), which was the nearest to my sister Keta's home. Fancy, there on the platform stood my dear old father, who for nearly 4 weeks had grieved thinking us dead. Poor Mother hadn't been able to leave home. What the dear old people had endured in that time, when they thought the enemy had pursued and killed us, God alone knows. My youngest sister (Kima, born 27 July 1879) who was now (1898?) a grown-up girl, had come with him from the farm, 75 miles away in the country. Keta's husband, Anders (Gorven) was also there, and all of us went together to my sister's home. A little way down from the station Keta herself came towards us. She now had many children and had been delayed. (If this was 1897 she had 7, if 1898 she had 9, as twin boys were born 8 July l898. One of these, Stanley, is still alive March l998. The other one, Victor, died shortly after their 99th birthday. Her tenth and last child, Frank, was born in 1899. I.G.) At the sight of that sister who was closest to me in age, and with whom I had grown up and spent childhood and youth, I almost collapsed. My eyes filled with tears and my voice was hoarse with restrained weeping, so I couldn't speak. It was only then, that I felt to the full, what I had endured and everything was past, and I was home again with my beloved Keta.
We rented a house, and Hans began the difficult seeking for work.
A while later our youngest daughter was born, who was named for my friend Louise (Lovise Skjerve, nÈe Ingebrektsen I.G.). But I was not allowed to keep this lovely little flower for long; already at 6 weeks of age God took her to Himself, where she and my mother and father are waiting for us.
Before I end my account by telling a bit about my parents and sisters and us ourselves, I must write about my male cousins. One of them was married and settled in the Norwegian settlement. The younger had
moved his parents down there and provided for them. The younger we always called Nikolay at home, but when he grew up and mixed with the English, he got the name shortened to Nick, and so now he called himself Peder, which also was his first name. Peder was one of the boarders we had in our home. He worked in the town. He belonged to the Volunteers.
Peder had stepped into a brother's place in my life, as I had always missed a brother. When he as a sickly
little seven-year-old boy came to live with us at home, I was a girl of 19 years (1876), and I accepted him at once as my brother. He gave me a brother's love. We were of course parted for a time, when I married, but when he was sufficiently grown to seek work, he came to us in Johannesburg for a couple of weeks, before my eldest daughter came. Now when we returned from Matabeleland he again lived with us. He was a good boy; every Sunday we went together to the house of God. While he stayed with us he became engaged to a girl in the neighbourhood.
Then the Boer War broke out quite unexpectedly (Oct. 1899 I.G.). The English were quite unprepared, while the Boers had been getting ready for several years. There were only the ordinary English soldiers in the country, who were there always, and that was only a handful.
One afternoon came the fateful message: "Volunteers are called up, must depart this evening by train, the Boers have invaded Natal and must be prevented from getting much further." Immediately Peder began to get ready. But a voice said to me, that I would never see my brother again.
Near Ladysmith there was a battle with the Boers. Peder was in the front line, where all lay on the ground and fired. When the battle was over they found Peder lying in the same position, gun aimed at the enemy and his hand on the trigger. One of the enemy's bullets had struck the clean, white forehead, and his soul had gone to God.
Even in death he became his old parents' provider, as the English government gave them a pension, which they kept until their death and never lacked anything for life's sustenance. They were sad tidings for me, but how much worse for his little fiancÈe.
She developed a serious illness, which kept her in bed for many, long weeks.
The English in Johannesburg had to leave everything and flee - some to Capetown. A lot of them came to Durban, so many, that one couldn't find shelter for them. They had to pack themselves into warehouses and other sheds. My husband and I went to one of these warehouses to greet them and see, if we could possibly do anything for them. We didn't have the means to do much, we were merely ordinary working people. There they sat on the floor in groups among their packets and travelling-bags, each family by itself.
One group we came to, husband, wife and a child of one and a half years, and the poor young wife was expecting one more shortly. What would become of her, if she took ill here among so many strange men, women and children. I took my husband aside and said: "Listen Hans, we have the little veranda-room empty, what if we let these three have it, then I can nurse her during her delivery and mind this little one."
"Yes Sofie, I was thinking the same myself, go and find out if they will accept the offer."
I went over to the sorrowful, young wife and told her the only thing we could do for her. The room was on the small side, but it would be better than here, and by day they could use our living-room.
To see their grateful looks, especially the wife's, it was as if a heavy burden had rolled off her shoulders, was more than sufficient reward. We asked them to gather their things, then we would call a couple of rickshaws, (light little carts which natives ran about with seeking passengers, same as the cabs in London).
Their name was Bell.
The English did what they could to provide all
these strangers with work and accommodation, and in time they were dispersed in the town, and now we made many dear friends among them.
Personally I never felt a call to go out among the heathen to do mission work, but I soon found, that there is mission work right at our doors, if only we would open hearts and eyes to it. When we took in Miss Bang (Would this be Amanda, the sister of the Severin Bang who married Bina Nielsen, and who sailed to Toliari, Madagascar, on the Debora in l879? I.G.) it was the beginning of our mission. Many more young strangers found a home and a welcome at our house, and we opened several ways for God. Mrs. Bell wasn't the only one.
We helped those, who remained in the warehouse as long as they had to stay there. We shared our food with them, and helped them as best we could. Many a fish my husband has given away.
When Christmas (1899 ?) came we decided not to spend it at my sister Keta and family's as usual, but to look about us to see if there wasn't someone we ourselves could gladden.
My husband was always willing to do such things.
We found out where some poor families lived, who would have no Christmas cheer. We didn't buy gifts for those friends, who would reciprocate, but with our savings we took some baskets and packed into them as much Christmas cheer as we could afford. Took the baskets after dark and went over and put them outside the doors of these poor people. Then we knocked hard on the door, ran round the corner into a rickshaw and were away just as we saw them come out and look amazed at the basket and its contents. That was by now several years ago, but the recipients never found out, who the givers were. - "Let not your left hand know, what the right hand is doing."
One day my husband asked if I would like to drive out to see the Boer town, which the English government
had built for the Boer women, children and old men.
But here I think I must explain, that immediately the war began the Boers sent all their women and children down to Natal in order to get protection and support from the English government.
So we drove out there, and never have I been more amazed. It was a large town. Street after street of nice timber houses, with sheet-iron roofs.
A big school had also been built, where all the children were taught by competent English women teachers. Some of the pupils were grown-up children, who had never seen a school before. And then there was a lovely, clean airy and comfortable hospital, where the sick enjoyed the best of nursing by competent, neat nurses with their white caps and large aprons.
Each family even had a black servant to launder and do other rough work. Many of these women had never had it so good and comfortable before. There were police to see, that no men went there and did the Boers mischief. The railway passed close by, and they had free passes to go in and out to Durban as often as they wished.
There were several towns of the same kind, where the English government
did everything for the good of these fugitives for the three years that
the war lasted.
Their sod houses, which they had abandoned, were burned down during the war, because the Boers misused them. A whole lot of armed men would hide in these houses and put out a white flag, the flag of truce, and when the English troops approached in good faith, on account of the white flag, they were suddenly shot down, without any chance to defend themselves. This enraged the English and all houses within reach of the war
were burned down. But when the war was over, nice houses were built by the Englishmen. The Boers were given cattle and seed and farming-tools, so they could get started again.
Now in closing a word about my sisters. Keta (Gorven) still lives in Durban with her good-looking, kind children. She was widowed (in 19O5) a couple of years after we reached America.
The twins (Dina Hagemann and Lina Theunissen, born 3 April l868) are both married and have large families, they have farms and are comfortably off. (They must have been born at Entumeni. The move to Entembeni, Darnall which seems to have been in 1874. I.G.)
Lina's eldest son is now Inspector of (Zulu-medium) schools in Natal.
The other twin, Dina (Hagemann), also has a farm; but on this one there
is also a mission for the natives, and all young missionaries go there
and stay free of charge, while they learn the (Zulu) language. Her eldest
daughter (Louise) is to marry a young missionary (David Erikson) this year.
(19ll or 1912 ?)
The next one, Bina, married (Severin) Bang, who is also a missionary. They live far away in the country near the Tugela River. (This is the Severin Bang who as a 14-year-old sailed from Norway to Tulear - now Toliari-, Madagascar, in the galut, the Debora, in 1879. He later came to Natal.)
Inga's husband is also a minister and a missionary; he is Swedish. (Ingeborg born 21 October l876 - at Entembeni? - married K.J. Johanson.) They established a new mission station (Betania?) near the Norwegian Settlement, (Marburg, Port Shepstone), built a nice, large house and planted a lovely garden, were loved by everybody there.
My youngest sister Kima (born at Entembeni on 27 July 1879) also married a missionary (Robert Wilson from England). They went to Mombasa, East Africa, where Roosevelt recently went hunting.
But after Kima married, it became lonely for our parents, whose health was beginning to fail; it was several miles to the nearest neighbour, so if one of them had to go to bed sick, it would be difficult for them.
It was then that the heroine Inga and her equally good husband decided to apply to their mission society to be transferred. As you know there was a mission station and a chapel at our home. Inga would now give up her lovely home,
the many dear friends and move up to the old folks, there with a large family of children which increased every two years to undertake to care for the old people and be at hand. Three years ago she nursed Mother through a very painful illness, until she died. Subsequently when Father collapsed of sorrow over Mother, she has faithfully nursed and cared for him. When her husband was absent in the course of his service as a missionary, she has tied her youngest on her back to free both arms to support Father in his unsteady walking.
Johan, her husband, is a true servant of God, with untiring patience he helped Inga, when he was in the house, helped Father, washed him, dressed and undressed him,
and did everything as well as the very best son could have done for a dear father.
On the 9th February 1911 Father fell asleep quietly and peacefully. In his will he has given the farm, 2OO acres, to the mission society to which Inga's husband belongs. (Helgelseforbundet, the Swedish Holiness Union Mission. I.G.)
Kima was subsequently transferred to Johannesburg, where they do mission work among the thousands of natives, who work on the gold mines.
So now my story is ended. We came here 8 years ago, because my husband had brothers and a sister here, who wrote about the glories of America. But only God and the green pines know, how many bitter tears America has cost me. My daughter is married here, and my son is a big, clever, good boy, whom I regret to say we out here in the wild west didn't get a chance to give the schooling and learning, which he needed.
My husband is palsied through arthritis, and I have often had to earn our necessary bread myself by nursing the sick. Thus America has treated us. But if we could sell the farm and get to a warmer State, everything could still be fine. My mother's greeting to me on her death-bed was this:
"But it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light." (Zech. l4:7 KJV)