Frederick Marryat.

The Mission online

. (page 4 of 25)
Online LibraryFrederick MarryatThe Mission → online text (page 4 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

There were about 350 regular troops and a small force of Hottentots in
Graham's Town, and fortunately a few field-pieces. The Caffres rushed to
the assault, and for some time were not to be checked; they went up to
the very muzzles of the field-pieces, and broke their spears off short,
to decide the battle by a hand-to-hand conflict.

"At this critical moment, the field-pieces opened their fire of grape
and canister, and the front ranks of the Caffres were mowed down like
grass. After several rallyings under Mokanna, the Caffres gave way and
fled. About 1400 of the bravest remained on the field of battle, and as
many more perished from their wounds before they could regain their
country. Mokanna, after using every exertion, accompanied the Caffre
army in their flight."

"It certainly was a bold attempt on the part of the Caffres, and showed
Mokanna to be a great man even in the failure."

"It was so unprecedented an attempt, that the colonial government were
dreadfully alarmed, and turned out their whole force of militia as well
as of regular troops. The Caffre country was again overrun, the
inhabitants destroyed, without distinction of age or sex, their hamlets
fired, cattle driven away, and when they fled to the thickets, they were
bombarded with shells and Congreve rockets. Mokanna and the principal
chiefs were denounced as outlaws, and the inhabitants threatened with
utter extermination if they did not deliver them up dead or alive.
Although driven to despair, and perishing from want, not a single Caffre
was to be found who would earn the high reward offered for the surrender
of the chiefs."

"The more I hear of them, the more I admire the Caffres," observed
Alexander Wilmot; "and I may add - but never mind, pray go on."

"I think I could supply the words which you have checked, Mr. Wilmot,
but I will proceed, or dinner will be announced before I have finished
this portion of my history."

"The course adopted by Mokanna under these circumstances was such as
will raise him much higher in your estimation. As he found that his
countrymen were to be massacred until he and the other chiefs were
delivered up, dead or alive, he resolved to surrender himself as a
hostage for his country. He sent a message to say that he would do so,
and the next day, with a calm magnanimity that would have done honor to
a Roman patriot, he came, unattended, to the English camp. His words
were 'People say that I have occasioned this war: let me see if my
delivering myself up will restore peace to my country.' The commanding
officer, to whom he surrendered himself, immediately forwarded him as a
prisoner to the colony."

"What became of him?"

"Of that hereafter; but I wish here to give you the substance of a
speech made by one of Mokanna's head men, who came after Mokanna's
surrender into the English camp. I am told that the imperfect notes
taken of it afford but a very faint idea of its eloquence; at all
events, the speech gives a very correct view of the treatment which the
Caffres received from our hands.

"'This war,' said he, 'British chiefs, is an unjust one, for you are
trying to extirpate a people whom you have forced to take up arms. When
our fathers and the fathers of the boors first settled on the Zurweld,
they dwelt together in peace. Their flocks grazed the same hills, their
herdsmen smoked out of the same pipe; they were brothers until the herds
of the Amakosa (Caffres) increased so much as to make the hearts of the
Dutch boors sore. What those covetous men could not get from our fathers
for old buttons, they took by force. Our fathers were men; they loved
their cattle; their wives and children lived upon milk; they fought for
their property; they began to hate the colonists, who coveted their all,
and aimed at their destruction.

"'Now their kraals and our fathers' kraals were separate. The boors made
commandoes for our fathers; our fathers drove them out of the Zurweld,
and we dwelt there because we had conquered it; there we married wives;
there our children were born; the white men hated us, but could not
drive us away; when there was war, we plundered you; when there was
peace, some of our bad people stole; but our chiefs forbade it.

"'We lived in peace; some bad people stole, perhaps; but the nation was
quiet; Gaika stole; his chiefs stole; you sent him copper; you sent him
beads; you sent him horses, on which he rode to steal more; to _us_ you
only sent _commandoes_. We quarreled with Gaika about grass; - no
business of yours; you send a commando; you take our last cow; you leave
only a few calves, which die for want, and so do our children; you give
half the spoil to Gaika; half you kept yourselves.

"'Without milk; our corn destroyed; we saw our wives and children
perish; we followed, therefore, the tracks of our cattle into the
colony; we plundered, and we fought for our lives; we found you weak,
and we destroyed your soldiers; we saw that we were strong, and we
attacked your headquarters, and if we had succeeded, our right was good,
for you began the war; we failed, and you are here.

"We wish for peace; we wish to rest in our huts; we wish to get milk for
our children; our wives wish to till the land; but your troops cover the
plains, and swarm in the thickets, where they can not distinguish the
men from the women, and shoot _all_. You wish us to submit to Gaika;
that man's face is fair to you, but his heart is false; leave him to
himself; make peace with us: let him fight for himself; and we shall not
call upon you for help; set Mokanna at liberty, and all our chiefs will
make peace with you at any time you fix; but if you still make war, you
may indeed kill the last man of us, but Gaika shall not rule over the
followers of those who think him a woman.'

"If eloquence consists (as it does not in the English House of Commons)
in saying much in few words, I know no speech more comprehensive of the
facts and arguments of a case than the above. I am sorry to say it had
no effect in altering the destination of Mokanna, or of obtaining any
relief for his countrymen, who were still called upon to deliver up the
other chiefs _outlawed_ by the government."

"I before remarked the absurdity of that expression," said Mr. Swinton;
"we outlaw a member of our own society and belonging to our own country;
but to _outlaw_ the chiefs of another country is something too absurd; I
fear the English language is not much studied at the Cape."

"At all events, every attempt made to obtain possession of these
_outlawed_ chiefs was unavailing. After plundering the country of all
that could be found in it, leaving devastation and misery behind, the
expedition returned without obtaining their object, but with the
satisfaction of knowing that by taking away 30,000 more cattle, they
left thousands of women and children to die of starvation. But I must
leave off now. The results of the war, and the fate of Mokanna, shall be
the subject of another meeting."

"We are much obliged to you, Mr. Fairburn, for the interesting narrative
you have given us. It is, however, to be hoped that you will have no
more such painful errors and injustice to dwell upon."

"As I before observed, Mr. Wilmot, it requires time for prejudice and
falsehood to be overthrown; and until they are mastered, it can not be
expected that justice can be administered. The colonial government had
to contend with the whole white population of the colony who rose up in
arms against them, considering, from long habit, that any interference
with their assumed despotism over the natives was an infringement of
their rights.

"You must also recollect how weak was the power of the colonial
government for a long time, and how impossible it was to exert that
power over such an extensive country; and to give you some idea of this,
I will state what was the reply of some of the Dutch boors to the
traveler La Vaillant, when the latter expressed his opinion that the
government should interfere with an armed force to put an end to their
cruelty and oppression.

"'Are you aware,' said they, 'what would be the result of such an
attempt? - Assembling all in an instant, we would massacre half of the
soldiers, salt their flesh, and send it back by those we might spare,
with threats to do the same thing to those who should be bold enough to
appear among us afterward.' It is not an easy task for any government to
deal with such a set of people, Mr. Wilmot."

"I grant it," replied Alexander; "and the conviction makes me more
anxious to know what has been since done."


The following morning the wind was very slight, and before noon it fell
calm. Two sharks of a large size came under the stern of the vessel, and
the sailors were soon very busy trying to hook one of them; but they
refused the bait, which was a piece of salt pork, and after an hour they
quitted the vessel and disappeared, much to the disappointment of both
passengers and ship's company, the former wishing very much to see the
sharks caught, and the latter very anxious to cut them up and fry them
for their suppers.

"I thought that sharks always took the bait," observed Alexander.

"Not always, as you have now seen," replied Mr. Swinton; "all depends
upon whether they are hungry or not. In some harbors where there are
plenty of fish, I have seen sharks in hundreds, which not only refused
any bait, but would not attempt to seize a man if he was in the water;
but I am surprised at these Atlantic sharks refusing the bait, I must
confess, for they are generally very ravenous, as are, indeed, all the
sharks which are found in the ocean."

"I can tell you, sir, why they refused the bait," said the boatswain of
the vessel, who was standing by; "it's because we are now on the track
of the Brazilian slavers, and they have been well fed lately, depend
upon it."

"I should not be surprised if you were correct in your idea," replied
Mr. Swinton.

"There are many varieties of sharks, are there not?" inquired Wilmot.

"Yes, a great many; the fiercest, however, and the largest kind is the
one which has just left us, and is termed the white shark; it ranges the
whole Atlantic Ocean, but is seldom found far to the northward, as it
prefers the tropics: it is, however, to be seen in the Mediterranean, in
the Gulf of Lyons, and is there remarkably fierce. In the English
Channel you find the blue shark, which is seldom dangerous; there is
also a very large-sized but harmless shark found in the north seas,
which the whalers frequent. Then there is the spotted or tiger-shark,
which is very savage, although it does not grow to a large size; the
hammer-headed shark, so called from the peculiar formation of its head;
and the ground shark, perhaps the most dangerous of all, as it lies at
the bottom and rises under you without giving you notice of its
approach. I believe I have now mentioned the principal varieties."

"If a man was to fall overboard and a shark was nigh, what would be the
best plan to act upon - that is, if there would be any chance of escape
from such a brute?"

"The best plan, and I have seen it acted upon with success, is, if you
can swim well, to throw yourself on your back and splash as much as you
can with your feet, and halloo as loud as you can. A shark is a cowardly
animal, and noise will drive it away.

"When I went out two or three years ago, I had a Newfoundland dog, which
was accustomed to leap into the water from almost any height. I was very
partial to him, and you may imagine my annoyance when, one day, as we
were becalmed along the Western Islands, and a large shark came up
alongside, the dog, at once perceiving it, plunged off the taffrail to
seize it, swimming toward the shark, and barking as loud as he could. I
fully expected that the monster would have dispatched him in a moment;
but to my surprise the shark was frightened and swam away, followed by
the dog, until the boat that was lowered down picked him up."

"I don't think the shark could have been very hungry."

"Probably not; at all events I should not have liked to have been in
Neptune's place. I think the most peculiar plan of escaping from sharks
is that pursued by the Cingalese divers, and often with success."

"Tell me, if you please."

"The divers who go down for the pearl oysters off Ceylon generally drop
from a boat, and descend in ten or twelve fathoms of water before they
come to the bed of pearl oysters, which is upon a bank of mud: it often
happens that when they are down, the sharks make for them, and I hardly
need say that these poor fellows are constantly on the watch, looking in
every direction while they are filling their baskets. If they perceive a
shark making for them, their only chance is to stir up the mud on the
bank as fast as they can, which prevents the animal from distinguishing
them, and under the cover of the clouded water they regain the surface;
nevertheless, it does not always answer, and many are taken off every

"A lady, proud of her pearl necklace, little thinks how many poor
fellows may have been torn to pieces to obtain for her such an

"Very true; and when we consider how many pearl-fisheries may have taken
place, and how many divers may have been destroyed, before a string of
fine pearls can be obtained, we might almost say that every pearl on the
necklace has cost the life of a human creature."

"How are the pearls disposed of, and who are the proprietors?"

"The government are the proprietors of the fishery, I believe; but
whether they farm it out yearly, or not, I can not tell; but this I
know, that as the pearl oysters are taken, they are landed unopened and
packed upon the beach in squares of a certain dimension. When the
fishing is over for the season, these square lots of pearl oysters are
put up to auction, and sold to the highest bidder, of course 'contents
unknown;' so that it becomes a species of lottery; the purchaser may not
find a single pearl in his lot, or he may find two or three, which will
realize twenty times the price which he has paid for his lot."

"It is, then, a lottery from beginning to end; the poor divers' lottery
is shark or no shark; the purchasers', pearls or no pearls. But Mr.
Fairburn is coming up the ladder, and I am anxious to know what was the
fate of Mokanna."

Mr. Fairburn, who had come on deck on purpose to continue the narrative,
took his seat by his two fellow passengers and went on as follows: -

"I stated that Mokanna had been forwarded to the Cape. You must have
perceived that his only crime was that of fighting for his native land
against civilized invaders; but this was a deep crime in the eyes of the
colonial government; he was immediately thrown into the common gaol, and
finally was condemned to be imprisoned for life on Robben Island, a
place appropriated for the detention of convicted felons and other
malefactors, who there work in irons at the slate-quarries."

"May I ask, where is Robben Island?"

"It is an island a few miles from the mainland, close to Table Bay, upon
which the Cape Town is built.

"Mokanna remained there about a year, when, having made his intentions
known to some Caffres who were confined there with him, he contrived out
of the iron hoops of the casks to make some weapons like cutlasses, with
which he armed his followers, rose upon the guard and overpowered them;
he then seized the boat, and with his Caffres made for the mainland.
Unfortunately, in attempting to disembark upon the rocks of the
mainland, the boat was upset in the surf, which was very violent;
Mokanna clung some time to a rock, but at last was washed off, and thus
perished the unfortunate leader of the Caffres."

"Poor fellow," said Alexander; "he deserved a better fate and a more
generous enemy; but did the war continue?"

"No; it ended in a manner every way worthy of that in which it was
begun. You recollect that the war was commenced to support Gaika, our
selected chief of the Caffres, against the real chiefs. The Caffres had
before been compelled to give up their territories on our side of the
Fish River; the colonial government now insisted upon their retiring
still further, that is, beyond the Keisi and Chumi rivers, by which
3,000 more square miles were added to the colonial territory. This was
exacted, in order that there might be a neutral ground to separate the
Caffres and the Dutch boors, and put an end to further robberies on
either side. The strangest part of the story is, that this territory was
not taken away from the Caffre chiefs, against whom we had made war, but
from Gaika, our ally, to support whom we had entered into the war."

"Well, it was even-handed - not justice, but injustice, at all events."

"Exactly so; and so thought Gaika, for when speaking of the protection
he received from the colonial government, he said, 'But when I look upon
the large extent of fine country which has been taken from me, I am
compelled to say, that, although protected, I am _rather oppressed_ by
my _protectors_.'"

"Unjust as was the mode of obtaining the neutral ground, I must say that
it appears to me to have been a good policy to put one between the

"I grant it; but what was the conduct of the colonial government? This
neutral ground was afterward given away in large tracts to the Dutch
boors, so as again to bring them into contact with the Caffres."

"Is it possible?"

"Yes; to men who had always been opposed to the English government, who
had twice risen in rebellion against them, and who had tried to bring in
the Caffres to destroy the colony. Neither were the commandoes, or
excursions against the Caffres, put an end to: Makomo, the son of Gaika,
our late ally, has, I hear, been the party now attacked. I trust,
however, that we may soon have affairs going on in a more favorable and
reputable manner; indeed, I am sure that, now the government at home
have been put in possession of the facts, such will be the case.

"I have now given you a very brief insight into the history of the Cape
up to the present time. There are many points which I have passed over,
not wishing to diverge from a straightforward narrative; but upon any
questions you may wish to ask, I shall be most happy to give you all the
information in my power. I can not, however, dismiss the subject
without making one remark, which is, that it is principally, if not
wholly, to the missionaries, to their exertions and to their
representations, that what good has been done is to be attributed. They
are entitled to the greatest credit and the warmest praise; and great as
has been the misrule of this colony for many years, it would have been
much greater and much more disgraceful, if it had not been for their
efforts. Another very important alteration has been taking place in the
colony, which will eventually be productive of much good. I refer to the
British immigration, which every year becomes more extensive; and as
soon as the British population exceeds and masters that of the old Dutch
planters and boors, we shall have better feeling in the colony. Do not
suppose that all the Dutch boors are such as those whose conduct I have
been obliged to point out. There are many worthy men, although but few
educated or enlightened.

"I know from my own observation that the failings and prejudices against
the natives are fast fading away, and that lately the law has been able
to hold its ground, and has been supported by the people inhabiting the
districts. The Dutch, with all their prejudices and all their vices,
will soon be swallowed up by the inundation of English settlers, and
will gradually be so incorporated and intermingled by marriage that no
distinction will be known. Time, however, is required for such
consolidation and cementation; that time is arriving fast, and the
future prospects of the Cape are as cheering, as you may think, from my
narrative, they have been disheartening and gloomy."

"I trust in God that such will be the case," replied Alexander. "If this
wind continues, in a few days we shall be at the Cape, and I shall be
most anxious to hear how affairs are going on."

"I had a letter just before I set out from England, stating that the
Zoolu tribes, to the northward of the Caffres, are in an unquiet state;
and as you must pass near to these tribes on your journey, I am anxious
to know the truth. At all events, Chaka is dead; he was murdered about
two years back by his own relations."

"Who was Chaka?" inquired Alexander.

"That I have yet to tell you; at present we have only got as far as the
Caffres, who are immediately on our frontiers."


The wind continued fair, and the vessel rapidly approached the Cape.
Alexander, who had contracted a great friendship for Mr. Swinton, had
made known to him the cause of his intended journey into the interior,
and the latter volunteered, if his company would not be displeasing, to
accompany Alexander on his tedious and somewhat perilous expedition.

Alexander gladly accepted the offer, and requested Mr. Swinton would put
himself to no expense, as he had unlimited command of money from his
grand-uncle, and Mr. Swinton's joining the caravan would make no
difference in his arrangements.

After it had been agreed that they should travel together, the continued
subject of discourse and discussion was the nature of the outfit, the
number of wagons, their equipment, the stores, the number of horses and
oxen which should he provided; and they were busy every day adding to
their memoranda as to what it would be advisable to procure for their

Mr. Fairburn often joined in the discussion, and gave his advice, but
told them that, when they arrived at Cape Town, he might be more useful
to them. Alexander, who, as we have before observed, was a keen hunter,
and very partial to horses and dogs, promised himself much pleasure in
the chase of the wild animals on their journey, and congratulated
himself upon being so well provided with guns and rifles, which he had
brought with him, more with the idea that they might be required for
self-defense than for sport.

At last, "Land, ho!" was cried out by the man who was at the mast-head
in the morning watch, and soon afterward, the flat top of Table Mountain
was distinctly visible from the deck. The _Surprise_, running before a
fresh breeze, soon neared the land, so that the objects on it might be
perceived with a glass. At noon they were well in for the bay, and
before three o'clock the _Surprise_ was brought to an anchor between two
other merchant vessels, which were filling up their home cargoes.

After a three months' voyage, passengers are rather anxious to get on
shore; and therefore before night all were landed, and Alexander found
himself comfortably domiciled in one of the best houses in Cape Town;
for Mr. Fairburn had, during the passage, requested Alexander to take up
his abode with him.

Tired with the excitement of the day, he was not sorry to go to bed
early, and he did not forget to return his thanks to Him who had
preserved him through the perils of the voyage.

The next morning Mr. Fairburn said to Alexander -

"Mr. Wilmot, I should recommend you for the first ten days to think
nothing about your journey. Amuse yourself with seeing the public
gardens, and other things worthy of inspection; or, if it pleases you,
you can make the ascent of Table Mountain with your friend Swinton. At
all events, do just as you please; you will find my people attentive,
and ready to obey your orders. You know the hours of meals; consider
yourself at home, and as much master here as I am. As you may well
imagine, after so long an absence, I have much to attend to in my
official capacity, and I think it will be a week or ten days before I
shall be comfortably reseated in my office, and have things going on
smoothly, as they ought to do. You must therefore excuse me if I am not
quite so attentive a host at first as I should wish to be. One thing
only I recommend you to do at present, which is, to accompany me this
afternoon to Government-house, that I may introduce you to the governor.
It is just as well to get over that mark of respect which is due to him,
and then you will be your own master."

Alexander replied with many thanks. He was graciously received by the
governor, who promised him every assistance in his power in the
prosecution of his journey. Having received an invitation for dinner on
the following day, Alexander bowed and took his leave in company with
Mr. Fairburn.

On the following day Alexander was visited by Mr. Swinton. Mr. Swinton

Online LibraryFrederick MarryatThe Mission → online text (page 4 of 25)