W. C. (William Charles) Scully.

Reminiscences of a South African pioneer (1st series--Wanderjahre) online

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and before the arrival of the next. But there was no child's play in
the matter. We had one very tense moment; the boat was flung sideways
in the turmoil, and nearly got taken aback. However, a providential
buffet on the port bow gave us a set in the right direction; once more
our tarpaulin filled, and we drew slowly and laboriously out of the
area of danger. I looked back and saw the angry combers roaring after
us, as though enraged at our escape. As we ran into the harbor, the
people Who were watching cheered themselves hoarse.

Upwards of four months were spent at this purgatorial work. Then
release came unexpectedly. One day I got a letter from the Civil
Commissioner, Mr. Orpen, asking me to call at his office. I went, and
to my amazement he read me a telegram from Captain Mills, who was then
Under-Colonial Secretary, offering me the post of clerk on probation to
the Resident Magistrate of Tarka, with a salary of 120 per annum.

Were I now to be offered the Prime Ministership of the Union my
surprise would hardly be greater than it then was. Curiously enough I
was on the same day offered a post in a mercantile firm, that of Joseph
Walker & Sons, at a salary of 7 per month. But, for family reasons, the
difference of 3 per month was just then an important consideration, so
I accepted the first offer, a step I have ever since regretted.

I had grave doubts as to my ability to do the duties required of me.
While at East London I had worked every day at a copy-book, striving to
improve my handwriting, but my fingers were more at home with the
trigger and the pick than with the pen. Moreover, my spelling was
phonetic and wonderful. Although I knew most of Shakespeare's sonnets
by heart, I did not know a single rule of English grammar. This
ignorance has remained with me to the present day, but I cannot say I
feel it much of a handicap. However, there was no examination to pass,
and my chief would have to put up with my shortcomings for the present.
I had faced lions on the Lebomba and crocodiles in the Komati; why
should I quail before a mere magistrate?

It may be advisable to explain how my appointment came to be offered.
My father and the then Lord Carnarvon, who happened to be Colonial
Secretary, had been friends in the old days. Lord Carnarvon wrote to
Government House, Cape Town, asking that something might be done for
us. My father was beyond the age-limit; I, clearly, was not.
Responsible Government had arrived; nevertheless, a certain amount of
informal patronage was still occasionally exercised.

Thus it was that I, after a strange and varied apprenticeship in some
of the roughest of life's workshops, became cogged down as a little
wheel in that clumsy, expensive, and circumlocutory mill, which,
consuming much grist but producing little meal, is still believed to be
an indispensable adjunct to our civilization.

Here I must break off. But my reminiscences are by no means complete;
some day and I trust before very long they will be brought up to date.

Whether or not the supplementary volume will reach the printer's hands,
depends on how far the public becomes interested in the work of which I
am now writing the last words of the closing chapter.

After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that so long
as the official collar galls my neck, I cannot adequately deal with the
period during which I have been a public servant; I would have to walk
too delicately. [I have since modified this decision.] For one of the
disadvantages of being in the public service lies in the circumstance
that it is impossible to speak or write of experiences gained therein,
without embarrassing reserve.

But the days of my retirement are rapidly drawing nigh; when they
arrive, and the collar drops, I shall have much to say about many
things, for my life as a public servant during six-and-thirty years has
been an interesting one. Most of it has been spent in places as far as
possible from centers where conventionality reigns.

My still unrecorded experiences include, inter alia, war, hunting, the
administration of native tribes in remote areas, rovings under special
commission in those waterless regions to the north-west through which
the boundary common to British and German territory runs and perhaps
most interesting of all, a microscopic study of human infusoria
inhabiting isolated and therefore stagnant towns and hamlets.

I intend to retire soon with a typewriting machine and some beehives,
to a little farm I have acquired in a sleepy locality on the south
coast. There I hope to be spared for some few years to develop the
economic products of the honey-bee, to meditate on the Universal
Postulate, and to watch, from afar, my children cultivating the
difficult fields of Experience. May their task be easier than mine has

Having thus taken the public into my confidence, I will say



As a pack of wolves is the hungry Past;
It hunts Man laden with hopes and fears;
Its bay swells loud with the hasting years,
Till the red fangs sink in his flank at last.

The bay grows louder, the flame ringed een
Glow with greed as the night sinks, black;
Swerve and double still o'er your track
The pitiless, questing nostrils lean.

Mark, O brothers, before I fall,
I fling this sheaf of script to your care;
Take and read it; I fain would share
My scanty gatherings with you all.

With all with the hunted, whose eyes search mine
In vain for the hint of a 'scaping clue;
With those still tranc'd, where the skies bedew
The half-op'd blossoms that round them shine.

Take my sheaf it was gleaned with toil
From fields now dimm'd in a long-sped day;
In a clime where naught but dim shadows stray
Yet its grain may sprout from a kindly soil.



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Online LibraryW. C. (William Charles) ScullyReminiscences of a South African pioneer (1st series--Wanderjahre) → online text (page 15 of 15)