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PART II.
Algoa Bay, October 23, 1875.

Two days ago we steamed out of Table Bay on just such a gray, drizzling afternoon as that on which we entered it. But the weather cleared directly we got out to sea, and since then it has carried us along as though we had been on a pleasant summer cruise. All yesterday we were coasting along the low downs which edge the dangerous sea-board for miles upon miles. From the deck of the Edinburgh Castle the effect is monotonous enough, although just now everything is brightly green; and, with their long ribbon fringe of white breaker-foam glinting in the spring sunshine, the stretches of undulating hillocks looked their best. This part of the coast is well lighted, and it was always a matter of felicitation at night when, every eighty miles or so, the guiding rays of a lighthouse shone out in the soft gloom of the starlight night. One of these lonely towers stands more than eight hundred feet above the sea-level, and warns ships off the terrible Agulhas Bank.

We have dropped our anchor this fresh bright morning a mile or so from the shore on which Port Elizabeth stands. Algoa Bay is not much of a shelter, and it is always a chance whether a sudden south-easter may not come tearing down upon the shipping, necessitating a sudden tripping of anchors and running out to sea to avoid the fate which is staring us warningly in the face in the shape of the gaunt ribs or rusty cylinders of sundry cast-away vessels. To-day the weather is on its good behavior; the south-easter rests on its
a?ry nest
As still as a brooding dove;

and sun and sea are doing their best to show off the queer little straggling town creeping up the low sandy hills that lie before us. I am assured that Port Elizabeth is a flourishing mercantile place. From the deck of our ship I can’t at all perceive that it is flourishing, or doing anything except basking in the pleasant sunshine. But when I go on shore an hour or two later I am shown a store which takes away my breath, and before whose miscellaneous contents the stoutest-hearted female shopper must needs baisser son pavilion. Everything in this vast emporium looked as neat and orderly as possible, and, though the building was twice as big as the largest co-operative store in London, there was no hurry or confusion. Thimbles and ploughs, eau-de-cologne and mangles, American stoves, cotton dresses of astounding patterns to suit the taste of Dutch ladies, harmoniums and flat-irons,—all stood peaceably side by side together. But these were all “unconsidered trifles” next the more serious business of the establishment, which was wool—wool in every shape and stage and bale. In this department, however, although for the sake of the dear old New Zealand days my heart warms at the sight of the huge packages, I was not supposed to take any interest; so we pass quickly out into the street again, get into a large open carriage driven by a black coachman, and make the best of our way up to a villa on the slope of the sandy hill. Once I am away from the majestic influence of that store the original feeling of Port Elizabeth being rather a dreary place comes back upon me; but we drive all about—to the Park, which may be said to be in its swaddling-clothes as a park, and to the Botanic Gardens, where the culture of foreign and colonial flowers and shrubs is carried on under the chronic difficulties of too much sun and wind and too little water. Everywhere there is building going on—very modest building, it is true, with rough-and-ready masonry or timber, and roofs of zinc painted in strips of light colors, but everywhere there are signs of progress and growth. People look bored, but healthy, and it does not surprise me in the least to hear that though there are a good many inhabitants, there is not much society. A pretty little luncheon and a pleasant hour’s chat in a cool, shady drawing-room, with plenty of new books and music and flowers, gave me an agreeable impression to carry back on board the ship; which, by the way, seemed strangely silent and deserted when we returned, for most of our fellow-passengers had disembarked here on their way to different parts of the interior.

As I saunter up and down the clean, smart-looking deck of what has been our pleasant floating home during these past four weeks, I suddenly perceive a short, squat pyramid on the shore, standing out oddly enough among the low-roofed houses. If it had only been red instead of gray, it might have passed for the model of the label on Bass’s beer-bottles; but, even as it is, I feel convinced that there is a story connected with it: and so it proves, for this ugly, most unsentimental-looking bit of masonry was built long ago by a former governor as a record of the virtues and perfections of his dead wife, whom, among other lavish epithets of praise, he declares to have been “the most perfect of women.” Anyhow, there it stands, on what was once a lonely strip of sand and sea, a memorial—if one can only believe the stone story, now nearly a hundred years old—of a great love and a great sorrow; and one can envy the one and pity the other just as much when looking at this queer, unsightly monument as when one stands on the pure marble threshold of the exquisite Taj Mahal at Agra, and reads that it too, in all its grace and beauty, was reared “in memory of an undying love.”

Although the day has been warm and balmy, the evening air strikes chill and raw, and our last evening on board the dear old ship has to be spent under shelter, for it is too cold to sit on deck. With the first hours of daylight next morning we have to be up and packing, for by ten o’clock we must be on board the Florence, a small, yacht-like coasting-steamer which can go much closer into the sand-blocked harbors scooped by the action of the rivers all along the coast. It is with a very heavy heart that I, for one, say good-bye to the Edinburgh Castle, where I have passed so many happy hours and made some pleasant acquaintances. A ship is a very forcing-house of friendship, and no one who has not taken a voyage can realize how rapidly an acquaintance grows and ripens into a friend under the lonely influences of sea and sky. We have all been so happy together, everything has been so comfortable, everybody so kind, that one would indeed be cold-hearted if, when the last moment of our halcyon voyage arrived, it could bring with it anything short of a regret.

With the same chivalrous goodness and courtesy which has taken thought for the comfort of our every movement since we left Dartmouth, our captain insists on seeing us safely on board the Florence (what a toy-boat she looks after our stately ship!) and satisfying himself that we can be comfortably settled once more in our doll’s house of a new cabin. Then there comes a reluctant “Good-bye” to him and all our kind care-takers of the Edinburgh Castle; and the last glimpse we catch of her—for the Florence darts out of the bay like a swallow in a hurry—is her dipping her ensign in courteous farewell to us.

In less than twenty-four hours we had reached another little port, some hundred and fifty miles or so up the coast, called East London. Here the harbor is again only an open roadstead, and hardly any vessel drawing more than three or four feet of water can get in at all near the shore, for between us and it is a bar of shifting sand, washed down, day by day, by the strong current of the river Buffalo. All the cargo has to be transferred to lighters, and a little tug steamer bustles backward and forward with messages of entreaty to those said lighters to come out and take away their loads. We had dropped our anchor by daylight, yet at ten o’clock scarcely a boat had made its appearance alongside, and every one was fuming and fretting at the delay and consequent waste of fine weather and daylight. That is to say, it was a fine bright day overhead, with sunshine and sparkle all round, but the heavy roll of the sea never ceased for a moment. From one side to the other, until her ports touched the water, backward and forward, with slow, monotonous heaving, our little vessel swayed with the swaying rollers until everybody on board felt sick and sorry. “This is comparatively a calm day,” I was told: “you can’t possibly imagine from this what rolling really is.” But I can imagine quite easily, and do not at all desire a closer acquaintance with this restless Indian Ocean. Breakfast is a moment of penance: little G—— is absolutely fainting from agonies of sea-sickness, though he has borne all our South-Atlantic tossings with perfect equanimity; and it is with real joy, that I hear the lifeboat is alongside, and that the kind-hearted captain of the Florence (how kind sailors are!) offers to take babies, nurse and me on shore, so as to escape a long day of this agonizing rolling. In happy unconsciousness of what landing at East London, even in a lifeboat, meant when a bar had to be crossed, we were all tumbled and bundled, more or less unceremoniously, into the great, roomy boat, and were immediately taken in hand by the busy little tug. For half a mile or more we made good progress in her wake, being in a position to set at naught the threatening water-mountains which came tumbling in furious haste from seaward. It was not until we seemed close to the shore and all our troubles over that the tug was obliged to cast us off, owing to the rapidly shoaling water, and we prepared to make the best of our own way in. Bad was that best, indeed, though the peril came and went so quickly that it is but a confused impression I retain of what seemed to me a really terrible moment. One instant I hear felicitations exchanged between our captain—who sits protectingly close to me and poor, fainting little G——, who lies like death in my arms—and the captain of the lifeboat. The next moment, in spite of sudden panic and presence of danger, I could laugh to hear the latter sing out in sharpest tones of terror and dismay, “Ah, you would, would you?” coupled with rapid orders to the stout rowers and shouts to us of “Look out!” and I do look out, to see on one side sand which the retreating wave has sucked dry, and in which the boat seems trying to bury herself as though she were a mole: on the other hand there towers above us a huge green wave, white-crested and curled, which is rushing at us like a devouring monster. I glance, as I think, for the last time, at the pale nurse, on whose lap lies the baby placidly sucking his bottle. I see a couple of sailors lay hold of her and the child with one hand each, whilst with the other they cling desperately to the thwarts. A stout seafaring man flings the whole weight of his ponderous pilot-coated body upon G—— and me: I hear a roar of water, and, lo! we are washed right up alongside of the rude landing-place, still in the boat indeed, but wet and frightened to the last degree. Looking back on it all, I can distinctly remember that it was not the sight of the overhanging wave which cost me my deadliest pang of sickening fright, but the glimpse I caught of the shining, cruel-looking sand, sucking us in so silently and greedily. We were all trembling so much that it seemed as impossible to stand upright on the earth as on the tossing waters, and it was with reeling, drunken-looking steps that we rolled and staggered through the heavy sand-street until we reached the shelter of an exceedingly dirty hotel. Everything in it required courage to touch, and it was with many qualms that I deposited limp little G—— on a filthy sofa. However, the mistress of the house looked clean, and so did the cups and saucers she quickly produced; and by the time we had finished a capital breakfast we were all quite in good spirits again, and so sharpened up as to be able to “mock ourselves” of our past perils and present discomforts. Outside there were strange, beautiful shrubs in flower, tame pigeons came cooing and bowing in at the door, and above all there was an enchanting freshness and balminess in the sunny air.

In about an hour “Capting Florence” (as G—— styles our new commander) calls for us and takes us out sight-seeing. First and foremost, across the river to the rapidly-growing railway lines, where a brand-new locomotive was hissing away with full steam up. Here we were met and welcomed by the energetic superintendent of this iron road, and, to my intense delight, after explaining to me what a long distance into the interior the line had to go and how fast it was getting on, considering the difficulties in the way of doing anything in South Africa, from washing a pocket-handkerchief up to laying down a railway, he proposed that we should get on the engine and go as far as the line was open for anything like safe traveling. Never were such delightful five minutes as those spent in whizzing along through the park-like country and cutting fast through the heavenly air. In vain did I smell that my serge skirts were getting dreadfully singed, in vain did I see most uncertain bits of rail before me: it was all too perfectly enchanting to care for danger or disgrace, and I could have found it in my heart to echo G—— ’s plaintive cry for “More!” when we came to the end and had to get off. But it consoled us a little to watch the stone-breaking machine crunching up small rocks as though they had been lumps of sugar, and after looking at that we set off for the unfinished station, and could take in, even in its present skeleton state, how commodious and handsome it will all be some day. You are all so accustomed to be whisked about the civilized world when and where you choose that it is difficult to make you understand the enormous boon the first line of railway is to a new country—not only for the convenience of travelers, but for the transport of goods, the setting free of hundreds of cattle and horses and drivers—all sorely needed for other purposes—and the fast-following effects of opening up the resources of the back districts. In these regions labor is the great difficulty, and one needs to hold both patience and temper fast with both one’s hands when watching either Kafir or Coolie at work. The white man cannot or will not do much with his hands out here, so the navvies are slim-looking blacks, who jabber and grunt and sigh a good deal more than they work.

It is a fortunate circumstance that the delicious air keeps us all in a chronic state of hunger, for it appears in South Africa that one is expected to eat every half hour or so. And, shamed am I to confess, we do eat—and eat with a good appetite too—a delicious luncheon at the superintendent’s, albeit it followed closely on the heels of our enormous breakfast at the dirty hotel. Such a pretty little bachelor’s box as it was!—so cool and quiet and neat!—built somewhat after the fashion of the Pompeian houses, with a small square garden full of orange trees in the centre, and the house running round this opening in four corridors. After lunch a couple of nice, light Cape carts came to the door, and we set off to see a beautiful garden whose owner had all a true Dutchman’s passion for flowers. Here was fruit as well as flowers. Pineapples and jasmine, strawberries and honeysuckle, grew side by side with bordering orange trees, feathery bamboos and sheltering gum trees. In the midst of the garden stood a sort of double platform, up whose steep border we all climbed: from this we got a good idea of the slightly undulating land all about, waving down like solidified billows to where the deep blue waters sparkled and rolled restlessly beyond the white line of waves ever breaking on the bar. I miss animal life sadly in these parts: the dogs I see about the streets are few in number, and miserably currish specimens of their kind. “Good dogs don’t answer out here,” I am told: that is to say, they get a peculiar sort of distemper, or ticks bite them, or they got weak from loss of blood, or become degenerate in some way. The horses and cattle are small and poor-looking, and hard-worked, very dear to buy and very difficult to keep and to feed. I don’t even see many cats, and a pet bird is a rarity. However, as we stood on the breezy platform I saw a most beautiful wild bird fly over the rosehedge just below us. It was about as big as a crow, but with a strange iridescent plumage. When it flitted into the sunshine its back and wings shone like a rainbow, and the next moment it looked perfectly black and velvety in the shade. Now a turquoise-blue tint comes out on its spreading wings, and a slant in the sunshine turns the blue into a chrysoprase green. Nobody could tell me its name: our Dutch host spoke exactly like Hans Breitmann, and declared it was a “bid of a crow,” and so we had to leave it and the platform and come down to more roses and tea. There was so much yet to be seen and to be done that we could not stay long, and, laden with magnificent bouquets of gloire de Dijon roses and honeysuckle, and divers strange and lovely flowers, we drove off again in our Cape carts. I observed that instead of saying “Whoa!” or checking the horses in any way by the reins, the driver always whistles to them—a long, low whistle—and they stand quite still directly. We bumped up and down, over extraordinarily rough places, and finally slid down a steep cutting to the brink of the river Buffalo, over which we were ferried, all standing, on a big punt, or rather pontoon. A hundred yards or so of rapid driving then took us to a sort of wharf which projected into the river, where the important-looking little tug awaited us; and no sooner were we all safely on board—rather a large party by this time, for we had gone on picking up stragglers ever since we started, only three in number, from the hotel—than she sputtered and fizzed herself off upstream. By this time it was the afternoon, and I almost despair of making you see the woodland beauty of that broad mere, fringed down to the water’s edge on one side with shrubs and tangle of roses and woodbine, with ferns and every lovely green creeping thing. That was on the bank which was sheltered from the high winds: the other hillside showed the contrast, for there, though green indeed, only a few feathery tufts of pliant shrubs had survived the force of some of these south-eastern gales. We paddled steadily along in mid-stream, and from the bridge (where little G—— and I had begged “Capting Florence” to let us stand) one could see the double of each leaf and tendril and passing cloud mirrored sharp and clear in the crystalline water. The lengthening shadows from rock and fallen crag were in some places flung quite across our little boat, and so through the soft, lovely air, flooded with brightest sunshine, we made our way, up past Picnic Creek, where another stream joins the Buffalo, and makes miniature green islands and harbors at its mouth, up as far as the river was navigable for even so small a steamer as ours. Every one was sorry when it became time to turn, but there was no choice: the sun-burned, good-looking captain of the tug held up a warning hand, and round we went with a wide sweep, under the shadows, out into the sunlight, down the middle of the stream, all too soon to please us.

Before we left East London, however, there was one more great work to be glanced at, and accordingly we paid a hasty visit to the office of the superintendent of the new harbor-works, and saw plans and drawings of what will indeed be a magnificent achievement when carried out. Yard by yard, with patient under-sea sweeping, all that waste of sand brought down by the Buffalo is being cleared away; yard by yard, two massive arms of solidest masonry are stretching themselves out beyond those cruel breakers: the river is being forced into so narrow a channel that the rush of the water must needs carry the sand far out to sea in future, and scatter it in soundings where it cannot accumulate into such a barrier as that which now exists. Lighthouses will guard this safe entrance into a tranquil anchorage, and so, at some not too far distant day, there is good hope that East London may be one of the most valuable harbors on this vast coast; and when her railway has reached even the point to which it is at present projected, nearly two hundred miles away, it will indeed be a thriving place. Even now, there is a greater air of movement and life and progress about the little seaport, what with the railway and the harbor-works, than at any other place I have yet seen; and each great undertaking is in the hands of men of first-rate ability and experience, who are as persevering as they are energetic. After looking well over these most interesting plans there was nothing left for us to do except to make a sudden raid on the hotel, pick up our shawls and bags, pay a most moderate bill of seven shillings and sixpence for breakfast for three people and luncheon for two, and the use of a room all day, piteously entreat the mistress of the inn to sell us half a bottle of milk for G—— ’s breakfast to-morrow—as he will not drink the preserved milk—and so back again on board the tug. The difficulty about milk and butter is the first trouble which besets a family traveling in these parts. Everywhere milk is scarce and poor, and the butter such as no charwoman would touch in England. In vain does one behold from the sea thousands of acres of what looks like undulating green pasturage, and inland the same waving green hillocks stretch as far as the eye can reach: there is never a sheep or cow to be seen, and one hears that there is no water, or that the grass is sour, or that there is a great deal of sickness about among the animals in that locality. Whatever the cause, the result is the same—namely, that one has to go down on one’s knees for a cupful of milk, which is but poor, thin stuff at its best, and that Irish salt butter out of a tub is a costly delicacy.

Having secured this precious quarter of a bottle of milk, for which I was really as grateful as though it had been the Koh-i-noor, we hastened back to the wharf and got on board the little tug again. “Now for the bridge!” cry G—— and I, for has not Captain Florence promised us a splendid but safe tossing across the bar? And faithfully he and the bar and the boat keep their word, for we are in no danger, it seems, and yet we appear to leap like a race-horse across the strip of sand, receiving a staggering buffet first on one paddle-wheel and then on the other from the angry guardian breakers, which seem sworn foes of boats and passengers. Again and again are we knocked aside by huge billows, as though the poor little tug were a walnut-shell; again and again do we recover ourselves, and blunder bravely on, sometimes with but one paddle in the water, sometimes burying our bowsprit in a big green wave too high to climb, and dashing right through it as fast as if we shut our eyes and went at everything. The spray flies high over our heads, G—— and I are drenched over and over again, but we shake the sparkling water off our coats, for all the world like Newfoundland dogs, and are all right again in a moment. “Is that the very last?” asks G—— reluctantly as we take our last breaker like a five-barred gate, flying, and find ourselves safe and sound, but quivering a good deal, in what seems comparatively smooth water. Is it smooth, though? Look at the Florence and all the other vessels. Still at it, seesaw, backward and forward, roll, roll, roll! How thankful we all are to have escaped a long day of sickening, monotonous motion! But there is the getting on board to be accomplished, for the brave little tug dare not come too near to her big sister steamboat or she would roll over on her. So we signal for a boat, and quickly the largest which the Florence possesses is launched and manned—no easy task in such a sea, but accomplished in the smartest and most seamanlike fashion. The sides of the tug are low, so it is not very difficult to scramble and tumble into the boat, which is laden to the water’s edge by new passengers from East London and their luggage. When, however, we have reached the rolling Florence it is no easy matter to get out of the said boat and on board. There is a ladder let down, indeed, from the Florence’s side, but how are we to use it when one moment half a dozen rungs are buried deep in the sea, and the next instant ship and ladder and all have rolled right away from us? It has to be done, however, and what a tower of strength and encouragement does “Capting Florence” prove himself at this juncture! We are all to sit perfectly still: no one is to move until his name is called, and then he is to come unhesitatingly and do exactly what he is told.

“Pass up the baby!” is the first order which I hear given, and that astonishing baby is “passed up” accordingly. I use the word “astonishing” advisedly, for never was an infant so bundled about uncomplainingly. He is just as often upside down as not; he is generally handed from one quartermaster to the other by the gathers of his little blue flannel frock; seas break over his cradle on deck, but nothing disturbs him. He grins and sleeps and pulls at his bottle through everything, and grows fatter and browner and more impudent every day. On this occasion, when—after rivaling Léotard’s most daring feats on the trapeze in my scramble up the side of a vessel which was lurching away from me—I at last reached the deck, I found the ship’s carpenter nursing the baby, who had seized the poor man’s beard firmly with one hand, and with the finger and thumb of the other was attempting to pick out one of his merry blue eyes. “Avast there!” cried the long-suffering sailor, and gladly relinquished the mischievous bundle to me.

Up with the anchor, and off we go once more into the gathering darkness of what turns out to be a wet and windy night. Next day the weather had recovered its temper, and I was called upon deck directly after breakfast to see the “Gates of St. John,” a really fine pass on the coast where the river Umzimvubu rushes through great granite cliffs into the sea. If the exact truth is to be told, I must confess I am a little disappointed with this coast-scenery. I have heard so much of its beauty, and as yet, though I have seen it under exceptionally favorable conditions of calm weather, which has allowed us to stand in very close to shore, I have not seen anything really fine until these “Gates” came in view. It has all been monotonous, undulating downs, here and there dotted with trees, and in some places the ravines were filled with what we used to call in New Zealand bush—i.e., miscellaneous greenery. Here and there a bold cliff or tumbled pile of red rock makes a landmark for the passing ships, but otherwise the uniformity is great indeed. The ordinary weather along this coast is something frightful, and the great reputation of our little Florence is built on the method in which she rides dry and safe as a duck among these stormy waters. Now that we are close to “fair Natal,” the country opens out and improves in beauty. There are still the same sloping, rolling downs, but higher downs rise behind them, and again beyond are blue and purpling hills. Here and there, too, are clusters of fat, dumpy haystacks, which in reality are no haystacks at all, but Kafir kraals. Just before we pass the cliff and river which marks where No-Man’s Land ends and Natal begins these little locations are more frequently to be observed, though what their inhabitants subsist on is a marvel to me, for we are only a mile or so from shore, and all the seeing power of all the field-glasses on board fails to discern a solitary animal. We can see lots of babies crawling about the hole which serves as door to a Kafir hut, and they are all as fat as little pigs; but what do they live on? Buttermilk, I am told—that is to say, sour milk, for the true Kafir palate does not appreciate fresh, sweet milk—and a sort of porridge made of mealies. I used to think “mealies” was a coined word for potatoes, but it really signifies maize or Indian corn, which is rudely crushed and ground, and forms the staple food of man and beast.

In the mean time, we are speeding gayly over the bright waters, never very calm along this shore. Presently we come to a spot clearly marked by some odd-colored, tumbled-down cliffs and the remains of a great iron butt, where, more than a hundred years ago, the Grosvenor, a splendid clipper ship, was wrecked. The men nearly all perished or were made away with, but a few women were got on shore and carried off as prizes to the kraals of the Kafir “inkosis” or chieftains. What sort of husbands these stalwart warriors made to their reluctant brides tradition does not say, but it is a fact that almost all the children were born mad, and their descendants are, many of them, lunatics or idiots up to the present time. As the afternoon draws on a chill mist creeps over the hills and provokingly blots out the coast, which gets more beautiful every league we go. I wanted to remain up and see the light on the bluff just outside Port d’Urban, but a heavy shower drove me down to my wee cabin before ten o’clock. Soon after midnight the rolling of the anchor-chains and the sudden change of motion from pitching and jumping to the old monotonous roll told us that we were once more outside a bar, with a heavy sea on, and that there we must remain until the tug came to fetch us. But, alas! the tug had to make short work of it next morning, on account of the unaccommodating state of the tide, and all our hopes of breakfasting on shore were dashed by a hasty announcement at 5 A.M. that the tug was alongside, the mails were rapidly being put on board of her, and that she could not wait for passengers or anything else, because ten minutes later there would not be water enough to float her over the bar.

“When shall we be able to get over the bar?” I asked dolefully.

“Not until the afternoon,” was the prompt and uncompromising reply, delivered through my keyhole by the authority in charge of us. And he proved to be quite right; but I am bound to say the time passed more quickly than we had dared to hope or expect, for an hour later a bold little fishing-boat made her way through the breakers and across the bar in the teeth of wind and rain, bringing F—— on board. He has been out here these eight months, and looks a walking advertisement of the climate and temperature of our new home, so absolutely healthy is his appearance. He is very cheery about liking the place, and particularly insists on the blooming faces and sturdy limbs I shall see belonging to the young Natalians. Altogether, he appears thoroughly happy and contented, liking his work, his position, everything and everybody; which is all extremely satisfactory to hear. There is so much to tell and so much to behold that, as G—— declares, “it is afternoon directly,” and, the signal-flag being up, we trip our anchor once more and rush at the bar, two quartermasters and an officer at the wheel, the pilot and captain on the bridge, all hands on deck and on the alert, for always, under the most favorable circumstances, the next five minutes hold a peril in every second. “Stand by for spray!” sings out somebody, and we do stand by, luckily for ourselves, for “spray” means the top of two or three waves. The dear little Florence is as plucky as she is pretty, and appears to shut her eyes and lower her head and go at the bar. Scrape, scrape, scrape! “We’ve stuck! No, we haven’t! Helm hard down! Over!” and so we are. Among the breakers, it is true, buffeted hither and thither, knocked first to one side and then to the other; but we keep right on, and a few more turns of the screw take us into calm water under the green hills of the bluff. The breakers are behind us, we have twenty fathoms of water under our keel, the voyage is ended and over, the captain takes off his straw hat to mop his curly head, everybody’s face loses the expression of anxiety and rigidity it has worn these past ten minutes, and boats swarm like locusts round the ship. The baby is passed over the ship’s side for the last time, having been well kissed and petted and praised by every one as he was handed from one to the other, and we row swiftly away to the low sandy shore of the “Point.”

Only a few warehouses, or rather sheds of warehouses, are to be seen, and a rude sort of railway-station, which appears to afford indiscriminate shelter to boats as well as to engines. There are leisurely trains which saunter into the town of D’Urban, a mile and a half away, every half hour or so, but one of these “crawlers” had just started. The sun was very hot, and we voyagers were all sadly weary and headachy. But the best of the colonies is the prompt, self-sacrificing kindness of old-comers to new-comers. A gentleman had driven down in his own nice, comfortable pony-carriage, and without a moment’s hesitation he insisted on our all getting into it and making the best of our way to our hotel. It is too good an offer to be refused, for the sun is hot and the babies are tired to death; so we start, slowly enough, to plough our way through heavy sand up to the axles. If the tide had been out we could have driven quickly along the hard, dry sand; but we comfort ourselves by remembering that there had been water enough on the bar, and make the best of our way through clouds of impalpable dust to a better road, of which a couple of hundred yards land us at our hotel. It looks bare and unfurnished enough, in all conscience, but it is a new place, and must be furnished by degrees. At all events, it is tolerably clean and quiet, and we can wash our sunburned faces and hands, and, as nurse says, “turn ourselves round.”

Coolies swarm in every direction, picturesque fish-and fruit-sellers throng the verandah of the kitchen a little way off, and everything looks bright and green and fresh, having been well washed by the recent rains. There are still, however, several feet of dust in the streets, for they are made of dust; and my own private impression is, that all the water in the harbor would not suffice to lay the dust of D’Urban for more than half an hour. With the restlessness of people who have been cooped up on board ship for a month, we insist, the moment it is cool enough, on being taken out for a walk. Fortunately, the public gardens are close at hand, and we amuse ourselves very well in them for an hour or two, but we are all thoroughly tired and worn out, and glad to get to bed, even in gaunt, narrow rooms on hard pallets.

The two following days were spent in looking after and collecting our cumbrous array of boxes and baskets. Tin baths, wicker chairs and baskets, all had to be counted and recounted, until one got weary of the word “luggage;” but that is the penalty of drafting babies about the world. In the intervals of the serious business of tracing No. 5 or running No. 10 to earth in the corner of a warehouse, I made many pleasant acquaintances and received kindest words and notes of welcome from unknown friends. All this warm-hearted, unconventional kindness goes far to make the stranger forget his “own people and his father’s house,” and feel at once at home amid strange and unfamiliar scenes. After all, “home” is portable, luckily, and a welcoming smile and hand-clasp act as a spell to create it in any place. We also managed, after business-hours, when it was of no use making expeditions to wharf or custom-house after recusant carpet-bags, to drive to the Botanic Gardens. They are extensive and well kept, but seem principally devoted to shrubs. I was assured that this is the worst time of year for flowers, as the plants have not yet recovered from the winter drought. A dry winter and wet summer is the correct atmospheric fashion here: in winter everything is brown and dusty and dried up, in summer green and fragrant and well watered. The gardens are in good order, and I rather regretted not being able to examine them more thoroughly. Another afternoon we drove to the Berea, a sort of suburban Richmond, where the rich semi-tropical vegetation is cleared away in patches, and villas with pretty pleasure-grounds are springing up in every direction. The road winds up the luxuriantly-clothed slopes, with every here and there lovely sea-views of the harbor, with the purpling lights of the Indian Ocean stretching away beyond. Every villa must have an enchanting prospect from its front door, and one can quite understand how alluring to the merchants and business-men of D’Urban must be the idea of getting away after office-hours, and sleeping on such high ground in so fresh and healthy an atmosphere. And here I must say that we Maritzburgians (I am only one in prospective) wage a constant and deadly warfare with the D’Urbanites on the score of the health and convenience of our respective cities. We are two thousand feet above the sea and fifty-two miles inland, so we talk in a pitying tone of the poor D’Urbanites as dwellers in a very hot and unhealthy place. “Relaxing” is the word we apply to their climate when we want to be particularly nasty, and they retaliate by reminding us that they are ever so much older than we are (which is an advantage in a colony), and that they are on the coast, and can grow all manner of nice things which we cannot compass, to say nothing of their climate being more equable than ours, and their thunderstorms, though longer in duration, mere flashes in the pan compared to what we in our amphitheatre of hills have to undergo at the hands of the electric current. We never can find answer to that taunt, and if the D’Urbanites only follow up their victory by allusions to their abounding bananas and other fruits, their vicinity to the shipping, and consequent facility of getting almost anything quite easily, we are completely silenced, and it is a wonder if we retain presence of mind enough to murmur “Flies.” On the score of dust we are about equal, but I must in fairness confess that D’Urban is a more lively and a better-looking town than Maritzburg when you are in it, though the effect from a distance is not so good. It is very odd how unevenly the necessaries of existence are distributed in this country. Here at D’Urban anything hard in the way of stone is a treasure: everything is soft and friable: sand and finest shingle, so fine as to be mere dust, are all the available material for road-making. I am told that later on I shall find that a cartload of sand in Maritzburg is indeed a rare and costly thing: there we are all rock, a sort of flaky, slaty rock underlying every place.

Our last day, or rather half day, in D’Urban was very full of sightseeing and work. F—— was extremely anxious for me to see the sun rise from the signal-station on the bluff, and accordingly he, G—- and I started with the earliest dawn. We drove through the sand again in a hired and springless Cape cart down to the Point, got into the port-captain’s boat and rowed across a little strip of sand at the foot of a winding path cut out of the dense vegetation which makes the bluff such a refreshingly green headland to eyes of wave-worn voyagers. A stalwart Kafir carried our picnic basket, with tea and milk, bread and butter and eggs, up the hill, and it was delightful to follow the windings of the path through beautiful bushes bearing strange and lovely flowers, and knit together in patches in a green tangle by the tendrils of a convolvulus or clematis, or sort of wild passion-flower, whose blossoms were opening to the fresh morning air. It was a cool but misty morning, and though we got to our destination in ample time, there was never any sunrise at all to be seen. In fact, the sun steadily declined to get up the whole day, so far as I knew, for the sea looked gray and solemn and sleepy, and the land kept its drowsy mantle of haze over its flat shore; which haze thickened and deepened into a Scotch mist as the morning wore on. We returned by the leisurely railway—a railway so calm and stately in its method of progression that it is not at all unusual to see a passenger step calmly out of the train when it is at its fullest speed of crawl, and wave his hand to his companions as he disappears down the by-path leading to his little home. The passengers are conveyed at a uniform rate of sixpence a head, which sixpence is collected promiscuously by a small boy at odd moments during the journey. There are no nice distinctions of class, either, for we all travel amicably together in compartments which are a judicious mixture of a third-class carriage and a cattle-truck. Of course, wood is the only fuel used, and that but sparingly, for it is exceedingly costly.

There was still much to be done by the afternoon—many visitors to receive, notes to write and packages to arrange, for our traveling of these fifty-two miles spreads itself over a good many hours, as you will see. About three o’clock the government mule-wagon came to the door. It may truly and literally be described as “stopping the way,” for not only is the wagon itself a huge and cumbrous machine, but it is drawn by eight mules in pairs, and driven by a couple of black drivers. I say “driven by a couple of drivers,” because the driving was evidently an affair of copartnership: one held the reins—such elaborate reins as they were! a confused tangle of leather—and the other had the care of two or three whips of differing lengths. The drivers were both jet black—not Kafirs, but Cape blacks—descendants of the old slaves taken by the Dutch. They appeared to be great friends, these two, and took earnest counsel together at every rut and drain and steep pinch of the road, which stretched away, over hill and dale, before us, a broad red track, with high green hedges on either hand. Although the rain had not yet fallen long or heavily, the ditches were all running freely with red, muddy water, and the dust had already begun to cake itself into a sticky, pasty red clay. The wagon was shut in by curtains at the back and sides, and could hold eight passengers easily. Luckily for the poor mules, however, we were only five grown-up people, including the drivers. The road was extremely pretty, and the town looked very picturesque as we gradually rose above it and looked down on it and the harbor together. Of a fine, clear afternoon it would have been still nicer, though I was much congratulated on the falling rain on account of the absence of its alternative—dust. Still, it was possible to have too much of a good thing, and by the time we reached Pine Town, only fourteen miles away, the heavy roads were beginning to tell on the poor mules, and the chill damp of the closing evening made us all only too thankful to get under the shelter of a roadside inn (or hotel, as they are called here), which was snug and bright and comfortable enough to be a credit to any colony. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to be told that this inn was not only a favorite place for people to come out to from D’Urban to spend their holiday time in fine weather (there is a pretty little church in the village hard by), but also that it was quite de rigueur for all honeymoons to be spent amid its pretty scenery.

A steady downpour of rain all through the night made our early start next day an affair of doubt and discouragement and dismal prophecy; but we persevered, and accomplished another long stage through a cold persistent drizzle before reaching an inn, where we enjoyed simply the best breakfast I ever tasted, or at all events the best I have tasted in Natal. The mules were also unharnessed, and after taking, each, a good roll on the damp grass, turned out in the drizzling rain for a rest and a nibble until their more substantial repast was ready. The rain cleared up from time to time, but an occasional heavy shower warned us that the weather was still sulky. It was in much better heart and spirits, however, that we made a second start about eleven o’clock, and struggled on through heavy roads up and down weary hills, slipping here, sliding there, and threatening to stick everywhere. Our next stage was to a place where the only available shelter was a filthy inn, at which we lingered as short a time as practicable—only long enough, in fact, to feed the mules—and then, with every prospect of a finer afternoon, set out once more on the last and longest stage of our journey. All the way the road has been very beautiful, in spite of the shrouding mist, especially at the Inchanga Pass, where round the shoulder of the hill as fair a prospect of curved green hills, dotted with clusters of timber exactly like an English park, of distant ranges rising in softly-rounded outlines, with deep violet shadows in the clefts and pale green lights on the slopes, stretches before you as the heart of painter could desire. Nestling out of sight amid this rich pasture-land are the kraals of a large Kafir location, and no one can say that these, the children of the soil, have not secured one of the most favored spots. To me it all looked like a fair mirage. I am already sick of beholding all this lovely country lying around, and yet of being told that food and fuel are almost at famine-prices. People say, “Oh, but you should see it in winter. Now it is green, and there is plenty of feed on it, but three months ago no grass-eating creature could have picked up a living on all the country-side. It is all as brown and bare as parchment for half the year. This is the spring.” Can you not imagine how provoking it is to hear such statements made by old settlers, who know the place only too well, and to find out that all the radiant beauty which greets the traveler’s eye is illusive, for in many places there are miles and miles without a drop of water for the flock and herds; consequently, there are no means of transport for all this fuel until the days of railways? Besides which, through Natal lies the great highway to the Diamond Fields, the Transvaal and the Free States, and all the opening-up country beyond; so it is more profitable to drive a wagon than to till a farm. Every beast with four legs is wanted to drag building materials or provisions. The supply of beef becomes daily more precarious and costly, for the oxen are all “treking,” and one hears of nothing but diseases among animals—“horse sickness,” pleuro-pneumonia, fowl sickness (I feel it an impertinence for the poultry to presume to be ill), and even dogs set up a peculiar and fatal sort of distemper among themselves.

But to return to the last hours of our journey. The mules struggle bravely along, though their ears are beginning to flap about any way, instead of being held straight and sharply pricked forward, and the encouraging cries of “Pull up, Capting! now then, Blue-bok, hi!” become more and more frequent: the driver in charge of the whips is less nice in his choice of a scourge with which to urge on the patient animals, and whacks them soundly with whichever comes first. The children have long ago wearied of the confinement and darkness of the back seats of the hooded vehicle; we are all black and blue from jolting in and out of deep holes hidden by mud which occur at every yard; but still our flagging spirits keep pretty good, for our little Table Mountain has been left behind, whilst before us, leaning up in one corner of an amphitheatre of hills, are the trees which mark where Maritzburg nestles. The mules see it too, and, sniffing their stables afar off, jog along faster. Only one more rise to pull up: we turn a little off the high-road, and there, amid a young plantation of trees, with roses, honeysuckle and passion-flowers climbing up the posts of the wide verandah, a fair and enchanting prospect lying at our feet, stands our new home, with its broad red tiled roof stretching out a friendly welcome to the tired, belated travelers.
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