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The British Newspaper Archive

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ELIZABETH RUSSEL CAMERON: CHAPTER SIX

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Lindy

Lindy Report 9 May 2004 00:16

A Trip to America. .................................................................................................. Mr. Cameron had been asked to represent the Transvaal at the American Exhibition. He and his wife went from the diggings in a post-cart drawn by oxen which had been taught to trot, and it was surprising how quickly they travelled. Every six miles the animals were changed at relay stations. The post-cart on this occasion was guarded by an armed escort because of the Bapedi, who, under the leadership of Sekukuni, had risen against the Boers in the Transvaal. When the passengers arrived at the first relay station it was strangely quiet and lifeless. No fresh team was awaiting them and there was no sign of a living soul. They pressed on to the next station and there again found the place utterly deserted. After outspanning and letting the oxen rest for a couple of hours, they resumed their journey and reached Krugerspost in the evening. Here, too, all was desolate. On account of the native rising everybody in the neighbourhood had gone into lager, the wagons of which were drawn up some distance away from Glynn's Store, which was the usual way-side hotel and shop combined found at irregular intervals along most of the roads in the Transvaal at that time. Mr. Glynn was fetched to open the store for the hungry travellers, but there was no food-stuff left as it had all been taken to the lager. On one of the shelves Mrs. Cameron discovered a roll of plaited dried peaches which had been overlooked, and this the hungry travellers shared but, of course, it was far too inadequate a meal to appease their hunger. After showing the Camerons, who preferred to stay at the store, to a sparsely furnished bedroom, Mr. Glynn accompanied the other passengers and the escort to the fortified circle of wagons where they spent the night. There was no bedding in the room, as it, too, had all been taken to the lager, so Mrs. Cameron rolled up her coat for a pillow, settled herself on one of the beds (which consisted of a frame-work of wood with cross slats fixed on four poles driven into the mud- floor) and slept soundly until morning. She was too tired to worry about the Bapedi. Her husband had a wakeful night and wondered that she could sleep so calmly when there was every likelihood of the kaffirs attacking them. Next morning, after they had washed in a stream and had eaten the bread and fat pork which had been sent to them by the people in the lager, they felt greatly refreshed. The post-cart, which had been put in the lager overnight, was brought back to the store with horses in place of the oxen. From here the guard returned and the travellers had to continue their journey without an armed escort. After a couple of hours they reached Lydenburg, where the Camerons spent the rest of the day and the night at the home of Mr. Jansen who was the magistrate of the dorp. Here Elizabeth did not sleep for throughout the whole night constant false alarms were brought to the magistrate that the kaffirs were coming to attack the village. The following morning the Camerons continued their journey in one of Cobbs and Company's post-carts which was drawn by six mules and which was packed with passengers bound for Pretoria. A Mr. Pretorius had the postal contract from Lydenburg to the capital, and it was his son's work to ride from one relay station to another to see that everything was in order. When this youth was on his usual round of inspection that afternoon, he found no people nor animals at the different stations. Instead of returning to warn the post-cart he went on to the further stations which were deserted too. When night overtook him he found himself near a lonely, dark farmhouse, the doors and windows of which were all locked. There was no sign of life about the place. After putting his horse in the stable, he hid in a Scotch-cart which he had discovered close to this building. It was the longest and most terrible night he had ever spent as he kept imagining he heard the Bapedi coming as he lay awake crouched down in the vehicle through the seemingly unending hours of darkness. He was afraid to move his cramped limbs lest he should betray his place of concealment to Sekukuni's warriors. Tn the early houra of the morning he heard distinct footsteps and his heart thumped madly until he became aware that the approaching people were speaking Dutch. He yelled out: "Moenie skiet nie" ("Don't shoot",) and then showed himself. He climbed out of the cart to meet the farmer, his wife and children who were returning from some caves in a neighbouring mountain-side where they had hidden every night for safety since the rising of the kaffirs. The road along which the post-cart travelled from Lydenburg to Middelburg, then called Nazareth, went via the farm, Geluk, where, the village, Machadodorp, has since been established. As there were no fresh mules at the relay stations, the travellers pressed on with the same animals until they were too exhausted to go any further. By dusk they had covered close on ninety miles so the driver was compelled to give them a long rest. When he outspanned they made straight for a stream to enjoy a well-earned drink, while the passengers stood in the veld and watched a number of the hostile kaffirs moving about in the light of their beacon-fire on a mountain-top. It was anything but a pleasant journey, as everybody was in a great state of anxiety lest the Bapedi should attack the post-cart. Soon the weary travellers settled down to sleep, some in the long grass, some under the cart, while Mrs. Cameron and another lady spent a most uncomfortable night in the vehicle. When they wished to resume their journey early next morning, they found the mules, still very tired, lying down near the stream, but the driver had no alternative, he had to inspan the poor animals again. Mrs. Cameron was dreadfully sorry for them. After a few hours the party arrived at Bergendal where they enjoyed a good breakfast. They also managed to get a team of horses so, to her great relief, the poor exhausted mules were left behind to enjoy a much-needed rest. That night was spent at Nazareth and early the following morning they set out in one of Cobbs and Co.'s coaches which was drawn by eight horses. After this no fresh team was secured along the way so these animals had to complete the rest of the journey. Late in the evening the coach arrived at Grey's farm which was about twelve or fifteen miles from Pretoria. The passengers decided not to go to the homestead, as there were so many of them, so they slept in the veld again. The horses had travelled a distance of about eighty miles that day, with only the shortest possible outspans on the way, consequently they were almost exhausted when they were unhitched for the night's rest. Great was the surprise of the inhabitants when the travellers reached the capital next day, as rumours had been afloat that the coach had been attacked along the way and that all the passengers had been murdered. Mrs. Cameron felt no fear throughout this dreadful journey. She reckoned that, if it were in the scheme of things that she should die then, nothing could prevent the course of events and she would have to pass out, whereas if the appointed time for her death was not yet due, nothing would happen to bring about her end. Holding this fatalistic belief she did not see cause to feel any fear. She and her husband stayed with her parents in Pretoria and while here they heard that Tucker had joined the burghers to fight against Sekukuni. After an enjoyable sojourn in the capital they set out in one of Cobbs' coaches for Colesberg Kopje, now known as Kimberley. The journey to Colesberg Kopje was uneventful. Between this place and Cape Town they spent one night in a house which had only calico partitions separating the rooms, and Mrs. Cameron kept thinking of the three thousand pounds