once on board their ship.
Herbert Rhodes, now in sorry case, was incarcerated in the fortress.
This, in the seventies, was a horrible place in which to be confined.
The cells were small, dark, and verminous; the flagged passages full of
man-traps in the form of unexpected steps. I do not know what part of
the building the prisoner was confined in, but if his cell were
anything like the one from which, in 1874, I helped to carry the dead
body of my poor friend Pat Foote, he was not to be envied. However, the
durance apparently did not last long. The captive probably made himself
disagreeable a thing he could do most effectively. He was, perhaps,
found to be an embarrassment. Possibly that potent solver of
difficulties, palm-oil, may have greased the bolts of his dungeon so
effectively that they slipped back some dark, convenient night. At all
events he got away after a comparatively short imprisonment. Nothing
has been recorded as to what became of the pint of diamonds.
Herbert Rhodes came to a terrible end. A few years after the event just
related, he was living in a hut on the shores of Lake Nyassa. One
night, accompanied by a friend, he returned from a journey. Desiring
refreshment he found none available except some Johanna rum in an
unopened keg. This liquor is extremely strong and highly inflammable.
Rhodes knocked in the bung; some of the spirit spurted out and became
The keg burst and the contents wrapped the unhappy man in a sheet of
flame. After this had with difficulty been quenched, a messenger was
dispatched to Blantyre, some forty miles away, to call for medical aid.
I believe it was Dr. Jane Waterston, now of Cape Town, who came to the
sufferer's assistance. But he died in great agony shortly after her
Big gambling - Von Schlichmann - Norman Garstin - The painter of St.
Michael's Mount - Start for the gold fields - "I am going to be hanged"
Plentifulness of game - Snakes in an anthill - Nazareth - Game in the High
Veld - Narrow escape from frost-bite - A shooting match - Lydenburg - Painful
tramping - "Artful Joe" - Penalty for suicide - Pilgrim's Rest - Experiences of
"a new chum" - Tent-making - Explorations - The Great Plateau - Prospect of the
Low Country - Elands.
I was told the following tale on good authority. Three men held a claim
jointly in the "New Rush" mine. They worked it for about six months,
and found a considerable number of diamonds. The weather grew hot and
the camp unhealthy; many were dying of fever. Duststorms raged, and the
flies became almost intolerable. All three wanted to get away; they
longed for the coast and the cool sea-breezes. One of the partners
proposed that two of them should go away on a visit and the third stay
behind to keep the claim going, the question as to who should stay
being settled by lot. Another proposed, as an amendment, that they
should toss "odd man out" who was to own the claim; then each could
please himself. No sooner said than done. Three coins spun into the
air, and two third portions of a claim, worth even then about 2,000,
were lost and won within the space of ten seconds.
As might be imagined, gambling was very rife. I well remember one night
looking on, awe-struck at the magnitude of the stakes, at a game of
loo. The play took place at an eating-house called "The Gridiron," the
proprietor of which was an ex-cavalry man named Richardson. The
building was of the usual eating-house type; it had a wooden frame
covered with canvas. At right angles to a central passage were tables
with benches at each side, the tables being cut off from each other by
At the game in question there were four players: Richardson (the
proprietor), H. B. Webb (a noted diamond dealer), his partner Joe
Posno, and the celebrated Ikey Sonnenberg. Some idea of the magnitude
of the stakes may be formed when it is stated that at one time 1,700
was in the pool.
A man I knew fairly well was Von Schlichmann. He had been secretary to
Count Arnim when that unfortunate nobleman was German Ambassador to
France. When Arnim fell, the possibilities of the diplomatic career,
for which his secretary had been intended, were destroyed. Von
Schlichmann was a man of extraordinary strength, and was remarkably
handsome in both face and figure. His curled yellow hair was thick,
long, and silky in texture. One of his favorite ways of showing his
strength was to get four men to grasp handfuls of his locks, each with
one hand, as firmly as they could. He would then sway his head round
with a jerk, and the four would fall, sprawling, in different
I think it was in 1875 that Von Schlichmann went north and entered the
military service of the Transvaal. It was, I know, when preparations
were being made to attack Sekukuni. I was one of those enrolled in the
expedition that escorted the arms and ammunition for that campaign from
Delagoa Bay to Pretoria in the latter part of 1874. So far as my memory
serves me, Von Schlichmann arrived early in the following year. But he
was killed in one of the attacks on Sekukuni's stronghold. When leading
his men a bullet pierced his lungs. He lay exposed on the flat rock on
which he fell, waving his sword and encouraging his men to advance to
the attack, until blood choked his utterance. One of my best friends, a
man named Macaulay, was shot on the same occasion. He received a bullet
in the brain from which he, unfortunately, did not die until after
several hours of great agony. Macaulay was noted at Pilgrim's Rest as
the first in the locality who used dynamite in mining operations.
But I have allowed myself to run ahead too fast, so must hark back to
Kimberley, as "New Rush" had now come to be called.
One of my most intimate friends was Norman Garstin, a man whom to know
was to love. Once he nearly frightened me to death. He had a habit of
sleeping with his eyes wide open, but of this I was quite unaware.
Returning home late one night I struck a match and saw him lying on his
back, his eyes fixed and glassy. I seized him by the shoulders and,
much to his disgust, dragged him into a sitting posture. Garstin was
an accomplished draughtsman. His caricatures, which were never
ill-natured, and his black and white "parables" brought him wide
popularity in the days when we foregathered.
The Cape Times was started by Garstin in conjunction with the late Mr.
F. Y. St. Leger. I forget exactly when this happened, but I think it
was in the late seventies. After he had severed his connection with the
Cape Times, Garstin went to Europe, where he studied serious art for
several years. I was his guest at Newlyn, Penzance, in 1899; at the
time of my visit he was patriarch of the well-known artist colony
there. Garstin's pictures, although they have never been "boomed," and
have consequently not reached public favor, are thought very highly of
by other artists. To record that they have been hung in the Royal
Academy is like saying of an author's books that they have been on sale
in a railway bookstall. Two very beautiful examples of his work which I
specially recall are "The Scarlet Letter" and "The Lost Piece of
Garstin told me a very significant tale. He kept an art school at
Newlyn. One day an intelligent young Cornish miner came and asked to be
received as a pupil; he at once paid a quarter's fees in advance. Then
he informed Garstin that he wanted to learn to paint pictures of St.
Michael's Mount. Garstin, finding that his pupil was ignorant of the
very rudiments of painting, endeavored to explain that some preliminary
training was necessary; but the young man would not argue the point.
St. Michael's Mount, and nothing else, was to be the subject; all he
wanted Garstin to do was to show him how to begin, and afterwards give
him an occasional direction.
Canvas, easel, brushes, and paints were all purchased according to a
list which Garstin supplied him with. He wanted, he said, everything of
the best. A pupil is a pupil, especially when he pays in advance, and
when pictures are not as saleable as they should be, so Garstin did all
he could to further this particular pupil's desire. The latter was very
apt; after a comparatively short time he was able to turn out some
daubs, the meaning of which could be more or less recognized.
When he had outraged St. Michael's Mount from one side, Garstin's pupil
attacked it from another. St. Michael's Mount at early morning, at high
noon, at dewy eve, and at all intermediate hours; St. Michael's Mount
in spring, in summer, in autumn, and in winter; St. Michael's Mount
lapped by a calm sea, or smitten by spuming waves. He made uncanny
progress. Before the second quarter was at an end this remarkable pupil
had produced several presentments of the celebrated Cornish
excrescence, which were not much worse than average lodging-house
oleographs, and were quite as suggestive of their subject as is
Turner's celebrated masterpiece. When the quarter came to an end, the
pupil announced that he considered he had now learnt enough.
Accordingly he left.
Shortly afterwards Garstin was astonished to hear that his former pupil
had set up a studio on his own account at St. Ives, a few miles away.
It was quite true. Here he sat all day long, painting pictures of St.
Michael's Mount in assorted sizes. I forget how many pictures he
finished each week, but the output was large. This is the explanation;
Johannesburg at the time contained many Cornishmen; to the average
Cornishman St. Michael's Mount is what Mecca is to the Moslem.
Garstin's shrewd disciple had his daubs framed and sent to the Rand.
Here they were all absorbed, fetching prices which left an average
profit of 5 each. And all this time Garstin's own beautiful creations
were wanting purchasers.
In 1873 rich alluvial gold was reported to have been struck in the
Lydenburg district, which was then the extreme limit which civilization
had reached in the north-eastern Transvaal. I decided to go and try my
fortune at the scene of the discovery. While passing through Pretoria I
met a man in the street whose face I thought I knew. He advanced
towards me with outstretched hand. Yes, it was Cooper the man during
whose wedding festivities the big circus-tent had been blown down. He
greeted me with great effusion, a circumstance I thought remarkable, as
I had not known him well. The day was warm, so I suggested that we
should have a drink together. He agreed with alacrity, so we adjourned
to the nearest bar.
"Well, Cooper," said I, "how are you getting on here?"
At once his face fell.
"Very badly indeed," he replied, and heaved a sigh.
"Why, what is the matter?"
"Well, the fact is, I am going to be hanged."
I thought he was joking, but it was not so; he was actually under
sentence of death. He had gone on the spree and started painting
Pretoria red some months previously. When a constable attempted to
arrest him, he drew a revolver and shot the unfortunate officer
fatally. In due course he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be
hanged by the neck until dead.
"But, Cooper," I queried, "why don't they hang you?"
"Well," he replied, "they don't like hanging white men up here, and
just now President Burgers is laying out a rose-garden. I understand
that kind of thing, so I go down every day and attend to the work. I
was just taking a stroll when I met you."
"Look here, Cooper," I said with emphasis, "if I were you I would clear
out without delay. The State Attorney may change his mind; some new man
may take on the job a man with strict ideas. Clear out while you can."
"Oh, I don't think there's any danger," replied Cooper, but he looked
"Was it a white man or a black man that you shot?"
"It was a white man, right enough."
"Then clear out while there is still time," said I.
Some months afterwards I met a Pretoria man named Brodrick at Pilgrim's
Rest. I inquired about Cooper. What Brodrick told me proved the
soundness of my advice. The Executive Council had suddenly awakened to
a sense of its duty, and decided to allow the law to take its course.
Fortunately Brodrick and some others got wind of this, so they managed
to get the culprit out of gaol. Mounted on one horse and leading
another, Cooper rode for his life westward towards Bechuanaland,
pursued by the Transvaal police. However, he escaped. I have never
heard of him since.
Game was plentiful at certain places along the road. I remember a
locality called "Leeuw Dooms" where blesbuck, wildebeeste, and quagga
were in almost incredible abundance. As far as the eye could reach the
veld was dappled with herds of these and other animals. So far as I can
remember, this place was about three days' wagon journey beyond
Before reaching Pretoria we outspanned near the winkel of a man named
Jacobi, a former resident of Cradock. This was within a few miles of
where Johannesburg stands today. I remember Jacobi telling me that a
nugget of gold had been found in the drift of a river close to his
house. Here I had an adventure.
I took my rifle and strolled down the riverbank after some reedbuck,
which I had been told were to be found there. I wounded a buck; it
hobbled away with difficulty. I ran after it, but the grass was long,
and I had a difficulty in keeping the animal in sight. In my course
stood an ant-hill about four feet high. Endeavoring to get within view
of the buck, I sprang to the top of the ant-hill, but it was hollow,
and the crust collapsed under me. I looked down and found that several
snakes were crawling and writhing about my feet. I had some difficulty
in getting out, for as soon as I got foothold on the edge it broke
under my weight. The weather was cold, and the snakes had taken refuge
in the cavity.
I reached the town of Nazareth (now called Middelburg ) early one
morning. The houses numbered, I should say, from thirty to forty, and
stood somewhat wide apart from each other. In making my way to a shop
which stood about in the middle of the township, and which had a very
high stoep, I noticed that the streets were full of game spoors. I
spoke of this to the storekeeper.
"Oh, yes," he replied, "the game comes in here every night. Look
I glanced in the direction indicated. Just beyond the outskirts of the
town were herds of wildebeeste, blesbuck, and quagga grazing quietly
about, like so many herds of cattle. But they were not so tame as they
looked, as I found later in the day, when I went towards them with my
In passing through the High Veld, as the country to the north-east of
Nazareth was called, I first saw the spoor of a lion. I left the wagon,
which had been obliged to make a very wide detour for the purpose of
avoiding swampy ground, and was making straight across country towards
a point close to which I knew the road passed. On my left was a very
large leegte, a shallow, nearly level valley. For miles of its course
this was filled with swamp, out of which tall reeds grew.
Game was very abundant. I shot several blesbuck and wildebeeste, I am
sorry to say, for the gratification of mere lust of slaughter, as I
could not possibly carry away the meat. In passing over a graveled
ridge I noticed a dried drop of blood. I looked more closely and found
the tracks of some large animal. This I followed, in the direction of
the reeds, until I reached some sandy ground. Then I saw that the track
was undoubtedly that of a lion. The animal had evidently killed during
the previous night and carried the meat to its lair among the reeds.
But this was a mere guess; I did not pursue my investigations.
Next day I left the wagon long before daylight, and started for another
tramp this time along a course I had mapped out the previous afternoon.
It was bitterly and unseasonably cold. There was no wind, but the
hoar-frost lay almost as thick as if a fairly heavy shower of snow had
fallen. I was wearing veldschoens, but had no socks. As I trampled
through the grass the frost spicules from the tussocks I brushed
against filled the spaces between the leather and my feet.
I began to suffer excruciating pain. I thought day would never break.
My feet felt as though they did not belong to me. Soon they ceased to
be painful, but the pain-area had traveled up my legs. Having heard of
frost-bite and its serious effects, I became much alarmed.
Day broke at length. There was so far no game in sight. I thought of
kindling a fire, but could find no fuel. Just ahead a low, narrow dyke
crossed my course. I crept to this on my hands and knees, and peered
through the stones. Yes, there stood a small herd of blesbuck; they
were not more than eighty yards away. With great difficulty, for the
light was still bad and I was shaking like an aspen, I got my bead on
the largest buck. I fired; the animal sprang into the air and rolled
over. I hobbled forward to where the creature lay. It was stone dead;
shot through the heart. I pulled the carcass up to a convenient stone,
cut it open with my hunting knife and thrust my feet into its interior.
During the ensuing half-hour I think I suffered more intense physical
agony than I have ever endured in the same period of time. My feet must
have been very nearly frost-bitten, and the process of circulation
being restored was exquisitely painful. I verily believe that my life
was saved through the accident of those blesbucks being behind the dyke
and close enough for me to be able to kill one. The sun was high in the
heavens before I was able to resume my journey.
One day I came across an encampment of Boer hunters. Tired of killing
game, they were indulging in the diversion of a shooting-match. I was
cordially welcomed, and invited to join in the competition. The farmers
had brought their families with them; some dozen or so wagons had been
outspanned together, and several tents had been pitched.
Girls, some of them very pretty, dispensed coffee in kommetjes to the
competitors. The competition was arranged on very peculiar lines. The
targets were circular, and could not have measured more than about five
inches in diameter. The range was a hundred paces. Each competitor lay
on a feather-bed, which was covered with a kaross, and rested his rifle
on a pile of pillows. The price of a lootje that is to say, the fee for
entry was sixpence, and each could take as many lootjes as he liked.
The number of shots fired in each case was five, and these were fired
in succession. The prizes were sheep, sacks of meal, and small casks of
In spite of the smallness of the target there were but few misses.
Shots were judged to a hair's-breadth, and the judging was perfectly
fair. Strangely enough I managed to win a sack of meal and a barrel of
vinegar. As these were of no use to me, I exchanged them for fifteen
shillings and a hundred Westley Richards cartridges. My shooting caused
me to find favor in the eyes of these farmers; I was cordially invited
to remain and hunt with them for as long as I liked. I might have done
worse than accept; the life they were leading was a lordly one.
However, I had to bid them a regretful farewell. Then I tramped on
after the wagon.
The people with whom I was traveling did not go beyond Lydenburg, so
from there I had to tramp to Pilgrim's Rest, my destination, a distance
of about forty miles. I tied my worldly possessions into a "swag" a
process in which I was skillfully assisted by an old miner, with whom I
casually foregathered. Then I set forth with three companions, likewise
casual acquaintances. We all belonged to that despised class known as
"new chums" that is, men who were without practical experience in the
art of goldmining.
We started early in the afternoon. Our pilgrimage was a painful one; my
swag was heavy, and the straps galled my unaccustomed shoulders. After
walking about fifteen miles we camped in a small grove of trees. Here
we shivered through an apparently interminable night around an
inadequate fire. None of us were experienced bushmen, and we had
neglected to gather sufficient fuel. The wind was cold, and I had not
then acquired that toughness of fiber and insensibility to extremes of
heat and cold which long wanderings and many hardships afterwards gave
Two only of my companions are worth recalling. One was an ex-larrikin
from Melbourne, who went by the name of "Artful Joe"; his real name I
never learnt. Joe had been the victim of a horrible accident in the
Kimberley mine about a year previously. He had fallen from one of the
"roads" sixty feet sheer on to a sorting table at the bottom of the
claim. Both his legs had been broken in several places. I was not
present when the accident occurred, but I witnessed the tedious and
terrible process of hoisting the injured man out of the pit and
conveying him to the hospital. With the exception of a slight lameness,
and of being more or less bandy-legged, Joe had not suffered much
He sang many comic songs to cheer us up during that night of dolor,
filling the intervals between the ditties with anathemas against his
South African luck and realistic stories of his Australian experiences.
He had lived, he told us, for several years by earning pennies in the
Melbourne streets. Outside the sculleries of the large hotels, or where
banquets had been held, barrels of 'feast fragments used to be set. In
these barrels the street-public were allowed to "dab" with a fork, at
the rate of a penny a time, for discarded fragments of food.
Occasionally a rich reward would fall to the enterprising "dabber."
Joe's most dazzling stroke of luck happened once when he dabbed out a
whole fowl (feaoul, he called it). This must have been rendered
possible through some extraordinary lapse of culinary carefulness.
The description was so appetizing that I am sure the wraith of that
long-digested bird hovered over our meager banquet.
The second pilgrim was a Jew named L.
He was extremely short of stature, but wore the biggest boots I have
ever seen; literally, they covered him to the waist. L, never having
previously roughed it, was the greatest sufferer; his misery was so
great that he wept bitterly, refusing to be comforted. He sickened us
through his utter want of grit. When, towards morning, he slept, I took
his boots and hid them behind a bush some distance away. His
lamentations on missing them were long and loud.
The third of my companions was a mere tramp, sodden with drink a man
utterly without significance, except as an example of what to avoid.
Some months afterwards, at Pilgrim's Rest, L attempted to commit
suicide by hanging himself. He was cut down before life was extinct,
and on recovery was prosecuted for felo-de-se. At the time Major
Macdonald, the Gold Commissioner, happened to be away, his place being
temporarily filled by Mr. Mansfield, the postmaster. The terms used by
the latter in sentencing L caused great amusement.
They were as follows:
"As you have been guilty of an attempt only, I will fine you 5, but if
you had succeeded I should have felt bound to pass a much more severe
"Artful Joe" and I were the only two members of the party who were fit
to travel next day, so after leaving the others the largest share of
our joint stock of provisions (meal and tea), and restoring the boots
to their disconsolate owner, we went on. We abandoned the road and
traveled by a footpath across country in the compass direction of our
objective. It was in the middle of a calm, sunny afternoon that we
reached the eastern edge of the mountain plateau overlooking the Blyde
River Valley. The prospect was a magnificent one. North and south the
great mountain ranges rolled away, seemingly to infinity. Before us,
winding down through the range on the opposite side of the valley, lay
Pilgrim's Creek, the goal of our long endeavor.
Between two and three miles from where the creek flowed into the Blyde
River lay the little township. Among the farther sinuosities of the
valley were groups of tents. With the eye of imagination we could
almost detect the nuggets gleaming at the bottom of the stream. We had
not yet learnt the gold-diggers' variant of a well-known proverb:
"Nothing is gold that glitters."
We scrambled down the steep mountain-side, between patches of forest
and over reefs of quartz. The latter had a special interest for us; we
were now in the land of gold and who could tell where the clues of
Fortune were not to be picked up? That afternoon the world was full of
We waded across the Blyde River drift and ascended the slope towards
the town, which nestled behind a stony rise. Soon, with light hearts