Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

supply of this heavenly gift here than in other parts of the colony, where irrigation is absolutely requisite,

The same complaint existed in Grahamstown as in other parts of the colony-of the scarcity and bad quality of servants. The most of them are lazy, untrustworthy, and liable to quit without notice. Female domestic servants seldom remain in the houses of their employers during the night, but retire to their own dwellings after sunset, and return in the morning. This is certainly a bad custom, both for employers and employed; subjecting the former to much inconvenience, and withdrawing the latter from a wholesome control. The above refers to Hottentots and other coloured persons, the usual labourers in this sphere; with respect to emigrant handmaidens, these generally prefer a husband to service, and seldom remain longer in place than a very brief courtship. Mechanics-as blacksmiths, cabinetmakers, masons, &c.at the time of my visit, were earning from 5s, to 78. a day.

The general, and with many the almost exclusive topic of conversation, was now “the Caffres." On various grounds, symptoms, surmises, and overt acts, a general impression pervaded the public mind that these barbarians were on the eve of an outbreak; and many who had been personally engaged, and severely suffered in the conflict of 1834–5, shuddered at the idea of a repetition. Others, who knew nothing of Caffre warfare save descriptively, or were of a more hardy and hopeful nature, relied confidently on the power and preparation of the colony to prevent all hazard of invasion, and seemed to make light of the subject. The prevalent opinion, however, manifested itself in the preparations making for defence: soldiers were seen moving about in small parties; the whole adult male population were getting themselves armed and arranged in companies; ammunition was served out; and places of rendezvous appointed.

JOURNEYINGS AROUND PORT FRANCES, BATHURST, &c. On the 21st of March, I (now companionless) left Grahamstown on a visit to Port Frances, at the mouth of the Cowie River. Several houses were passed, but most of them were deserted, or at least dismantled, in consequence of the threatened invasion. At a snug little farm at which I called, I found two brothers from the west of Scotland, renting a few hundred acres; and here they not only kept sheep and cattle on a limited scale, but grew oats, barley, potatoes, melons, pumpkins, and onions; reared bees; and were, for the first time in the district, attempting the culture of hemp. Their farming was indeed quite exemplary, and showed what could be done by clever industry alone-their head and hands being the only capital they had to begin with. Arrived at Port Frances, I found the mansion of Mr- standing on the west bank of the Cowie, near the sea, at the verge of an extensive grassy slope falling to the south

west. From the eminence on which the house stands, there is a short rapid descent to the bed of the river, which appears an irregular continuation of pools, expanding and contracting with the rise of the tide. Both banks are rather abrupt and lofty, in some places precipitous, and infested throughout with bush and timber. Mr C.'s villa is a square, flat-roofed, rather ponderous structure; but commodious, well-finished, and furnished with the conveniences and elegances of life. Its situation gives it a delightful view of pastoral and sylvan scenery: the river can be traced inland beyond its visible waters by the woody ravine marking its winding course; on the opposite heights the pretty village of Bathurst is seen nestled in the vast thicket; and the ocean extending to the south-east, gives change to the scene. The Cowie discharges very little fresh water; the influx and efflux of the tide being the sole source of its current, save an occasional freshet from the rains. It has, in consequence, been unable to clear a passage of much depth for itself through the sea-board sands; but the bed widens and deepens within, so as to form a large natural harbour (Port Frances). Mr C. has strenuously attempted to aid nature in opening & passage through the strand, of dimensions suitable for large vessels; but all his labours have hitherto failed, nor is it likely that the enterprise and resources of any private individual will ever be able to achieve so extensive an undertaking.

The rich and abundant herbage of Mr C.'s pasture-grounds readily fattens cattle, but is apt to engender disease; and unless under the greatest caution, is not well suited for sheep. The frequent appearance of the asfogel, or country vulture, rising lazily from the pastures, proved too well the mortality that was going on among neglected herds. With much beauty, and many natural advantages, the locality suffers from the want of good water that in use being bitter and brackish. Hemp, I have said, has been attempted ; and in Mr C.'s garden several species of cotton were in a thriving condition, and furnished fine samples of their downy produce. The successful cultivation of both these articles demand too many hands, in the present state of the colonial labour market, to be remunerative, and can only be regarded as experiments for ulterior development and prospective gain. My entertainer seemed in a very uneasy state from the present aspect of frontier affairs; and the arrival of his son from Grahamstown, with the government order for the rural population to assemble in suitable places of rendezvous, and put themselves in a posture of defence, did not tend by any means to quell his fears.

Acting on the government suggestion, and afraid to proceed further eastward, I turned inland to the first place of rendezvous, Mr M‘Luckie's farm, where I found already assembled several of the neighbouring farmers, with their wives, children, chattels, and cattle. The greatest commotion prevailed from

his increase of numbers to the usual establishment, particularly f women and children ; and in the course of the evening several resh arrivals took place, so that ere bedtime twelve wagons had rawn up before the house-part of the travellers by which were ivouacked about them, and part found shelter within doors. M'Luckie's house had been selected from its central situation, its

ize, and particularly on account of its zinc roof, which was proof against the brand-lit assagai of the Caffre. This assemblage of the distant farmers afforded a specimen of the class, both as tenants and proprietors; together with their servants, white and coloured. They were altogether a strange-looking set, and offered great contrasts to each other both in manners and dress— some being respectable in these matters, others being ragged and rude. The coloured portion of the assemblage were Hottentots and Fingoes, and their dresses varied from the common sheep-skin kaross to a cast-off soldier's coat-of whose martial cut and colour they were quite vain. The talk was generally boisterous and boastful, and conducted in barbarous Dutch, such as is spoken by the coloured people; even the children, of whom a precious lot were here gathered together, preferred the Dutch patois to their mother tongue, and indeed, though both father and mother were English, could not speak a word of their parents' language. Each family kept its separate cooking and its own table; I, as a stranger, sat at that of the landlord of the house, but had pressing invitations to share the hospitality of the others. As the exact state of matters was not very well known, a watch was set in the evening to guard against surprise. Four whites and one coloured person took this by two-hour turns; and to insure impartiality, lots were drawn. I shouldered a musket, and took my turn as sentinel, considering it my duty to do so, though, as a visitor, I would have been excused. The night turned out wet and cold; but with musket in hand, and a blanket by way of military cloak, I paced my appointed round, and by trial knew somewhat of the troubles of a frontier farmer.

Next morning, after an early repast, I took the road for Port Elizabeth, crossing the country by the villages of Farmerfield, Salem, and Sidbury. Large herds of cattle, and some flocks of sheep, were now seen moving westward from the frontier districts to places of greater safety, and in general accompanied by the Fingoe herds and their families. In these removals the women always had the chief share of the drudgery-carrying immense bundles on their heads, with the frequent addition of an infant cross-legs on their side; while the “lords” took it easy, and did not carry so much as a finger's load. The habit among the Fingoe women of balancing burdens on their heads, gives them an erect, stately carriage, which a duchess might justly envy. After various mishaps by the way, the heaviest of which was the thorough breakdown of my poor over-ridden animal, which I was obliged to exchange at considerable loss, I arrived at Port Elizabeth, where I found dreadful havoc going on among the vessels in the bay. Three had been driven on shore, and totally wrecked, but fortunately with small loss of life: these were the “Black Aller" of Glasgow, the“ Jim Crow" and the “Susan" of London. The latter bore me to Africa, and thankful I was that she had delivered her outward cargo in safety before suffering this catastrophe. Most of the harbours in the colony are exposed to seaward gales at certain seasons of the year; and the colonists indirectly pay for all the wrecks and loss of property, induced by the want of good havens, in the shape of high premiums of insurance and dear-priced importations. Whilst the sun is north of the equator, the prevailing winds on the coast are south-east; and when the sun crosses the line, these change to the north-west. At the period of change in the months of March and April, they get unsteady, and are apt to blow with great fury; and thus it was at the conclusion of the south-easters that the Susan and her luckless companions were cast on shore. After the north-west winds are fairly set in, on and after April, Algoa Bay is usually safe for several months.

While lingering at Port Elizabeth, news arrived that the governor, Sir P. Maitland, had resolved to visit the eastern frontier, and in person superintend the direction of affairs. The confirmation of this report, by his excellency's departure from Cape Town, gave much satisfaction to his eastern subjects, and inspired them with new courage and confidence. Although affairs were in a critical state, it was now expected that no immediate rupture would take place; and wearied with a state of inactivity, and hearing nothing of the emigrant ship “Recorder," whose arrival I was waiting, I resolved to face the danger, and make another excursion into the interior. A party had been from the Scotch location of Baviaan's River and Mancazana to the bay with their wool, and receiving a warm invitation to accompany them homewards, I agreed to join them, and share the hazards and hospitalities of life in the wilds.

FROM PORT ELIZABETH TO THE EASTERN FRONTIER. On Tuesday, 31st March, the wagons of our party were despatched under the superintendence of one of the young Pringles -nephew to the well-known poet of that name. His brother, another young man, and I, followed on horseback next afternoon. Heavy rains had fallen during the morning, by which the progress of the wagons had been retarded, and we came up to them about sixteen miles from town, where we bivouacked for the night. In travelling by wagon one gets on slowly: twenty miles a day is reckoned moderate travelling, sometimes thirty; but the latter distance, in the ordinary state of the roads, is too long to be continued day after day : two miles and a-half an hour is the usual rate of progress, and three or four hours a long enough stage at a time. “No expense is incurred for food to the

sxen, as they are turned loose at "outspanningo" to pick up their own support. In some places, government lands have been reserved for outspanning stations; but little difficulty occurs where no such provision has been made, for scarcely a farmer will refuse pasturage for the oxen of a traveller. Provisions are carried along with the wagon for the persons who accompany it, and usually consist of mutton, bread, rice, coffee, and sugar. If the stock gets low, a sheep or goat is bought at a farm in passing, and country bread can usually be purchased at the same place. Cooking utensils—as a kettle, gridiron, and pot-accompany the wagon, together with a few little jugs, and a keg for water. Bedding is also a part of the travelling appurtenances, and is either made up in the body of the wagon or in the open air, according to the state of the weather and inclination of the parties. The first thing to be done after unyoking the bullocks, and turning them out to graze, is to procure wood, and light a fire; then water must be brought, the kettle made to boil, and coffee prepared—this beverage being an accompaniment of almost every travelling meal, and frequently the only preparation. The stewing or broiling of meat may at the same time be going forward; and if not cooked with the skill of a Soyer, it is at least abundant and substantial. Wagon travelling is thus independent and unexpensive; quite a family conveyance too, where one may enjoy all the charms of a nomadic life within the usual domestic circle, and even more cheaply than in a settled home. In fact, a whole family may travel with more comfort, and at less expense, in a bullock wagon than a single traveller on horseback is able to do, provided time be no object.

It was in this fashion that our party now proceeded across the country. At Sunday River we were detained two days till its rain-swollen waters had subsided sufficiently to allow the passage of our wagons; and there we had the company, for one night, of a detachment of the 27th regiment, who were proceeding eastward with ammunition and military stores. After fording the river, we held across the Zuurberg, a wild high range, almost impenetrably covered with bush, intersected by numerous r'avines, and thinly, or not all peopled. What houses we passed were deserted; and no wonder, seeing that the Caffres had now possession of the Zuurberg, from whose bush they could carry on their depredations and attacks with the most perfect security. We nowo" treked” and “outspanned" with the greatest circumspection; and glad we were when we emerged from the bush, and entered upon the Karoo,* or Spring-Bok Flats beyond. These Flats are traversed by the Somerset road, along which we now held, and reached that village on the evening of the 9th of April. The place is finely situated at the foot of the Bush

* Karoo pasture consists of low shrubby plants, fig-marigolds, and others of a nutritive quality, and is generally tenanted, as in the present case, with thousands of the spring-bok; hence the above designation.

« ForrigeFortsæt »