صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

areas of land attached to each farm, your nearest neighbour might be five or ten miles away, and the South African Boer's true ideal in this respect was realised; he was lord of all he surveyed, and his eyes were not offended by seeing even the blue column of his neighbour's smoke.

Difficult of access as it was then, and as it remained while Mr. Molteno resided there, and isolated as was his life, being shut off from the society of his fellow-men to a very large extent, there was nevertheless but little danger of rustingnature offered too many combats to an active character. The wild animals carried on an unceasing war at every point against the flocks and herds, and the depredations of a twelvemonth totalled up to alarming figures.

The larger game began to move away before man, and the defenceless sheep took its place, and was called upon to supply food to the vast number of carnivora which were in occupation of the country. The lambs were carried off in numbers by the jackals, the wolves and hyenas made away with the grown sheep, the tiger would descend from his rocky fastness, and in one night would indulge his love of slaughter and his thirst for blood by destroying twenty or thirty of your most valuable sheep, merely drinking their blood at the throat, and leaving them otherwise untorn. At another time, desiring a change of diet, your promising foal was carried off, and your calves were dealt with in a similar manner.

In the old days of muzzle-loaders accidents frequently took place at tiger-hunts. The farmer carried his own gun, accompanied by his native servants with spare fire-arms; when the tiger appeared, the native servants were wont to disappear, the white man being left to contend as best he could with the tiger, relying on a single shot; and a hand-to-hand encounter often then ensued, as the first discharge would probably only wound the tiger, and not disable him. Many a limb and many a life were lost in this way.

The country was in a state of nature. There was no homestead, there were no roads, no land prepared, no weirs across the river for irrigation purposes. In this and many other ways nature had to be combated, and for this life Mr. Molteno left the mercantile desk and the rush of business. His disposition worked best in facing and overcoming obstacles. For five years he devoted himself to such work until he had reduced order out of chaos.

On his first arrival his neighbours laughed at the young Englishman who knew nothing of their occupation of sheep farming, and prophesied a speedy failure. His knowledge of the sheep was on a par, as they said, with the sheep's knowledge of him ; but with his accustomed energy and determination of character he attacked the problem before him. He feared no hardship and no toil. He camped out in a tent for long periods together. His overseer who had managed the land remained in charge of the animals. At the end of five years he had so arranged the affairs of his farms that he was able to leave the details of the work in the hands of his overseers, giving early evidence of his capacity for administration. Throughout life he arranged that he should do no work which someone else could do as well, thus leaving himself leisure for the problems of general management.

A severe blow visited him within a year of his taking up his residence at Nelspoort; his wife and her young child died on the 15th of July, 1845. Mr. Molteno felt this very severely. Thus far, as we have seen, his mercantile operations had not been crowned with success, and now he lost his wife. He wrote to his mother as if he had lived his life already and no happiness were left :

I, too, have had struggles and difficulties to contend with of which perhaps you have very little idea. I, however, always try to feel thankful for the many blessings which it has pleased God to leave me in the enjoyment of, the chief of which is good health, and when I come to look around me at the thousands, or I may

say at the millions, of my fellow-creatures so much worse off in every respect than myself, my heart overflows with gratitude towards that God who has favoured one so utterly undeserving. That it is good to be afflicted we know, and as to anything like happiness in this world, young, comparatively speaking, as I am, I have long since given up all hope of it. The Christian's life is but a struggle, a warfare, and this is not his home.

He was not the man, however, to allow the dead past to hinder the work of the present; he threw himself more energetically than ever into the development of the land which he had acquired, and into his various projects—the construction of irrigation works, building of sheepfolds, the erection of dwelling houses, the excavation of water furrows and dams, and the development of agriculture. No one who has not seen a country of this character has any conception of the utter want of appliances; no labour had ever been expended on it, all had to be done from the very beginning. There were no roads, no bridges, the whole of the country was as nature left it. All materials had to be carried from the coast by the ox-waggon over virgin country and great mountain ranges.

Mr. Molteno was an extremely early riser, and all about him had to accommodate themselves to this habit. He worked with such energy that he met with complaints from his servants that they were being worn out by his ceaseless activity. His was a nature which delighted in trials of strength of all kinds; he battled with nature and grew stronger from the contest. He delighted in training and subduing the wildest and most fiery horses. They recognised his power, and to him alone they bowed, suffering none other to sit them.

Among the miscellaneous native population who afforded a supply of labour to the farmers there were many who had drifted into devious ways—lifting stock and practising other evil habits. Mr. Molteno recognised that in many cases this

was really owing to the perversion of a character more active than the common. Frequently he would take these men into his service, treating them in such a manner, and obtaining such an ascendency over them, that he generally succeeded in reclaiming and making them self-respecting and worthy members of society. At first, however, the neighbours regarded with serious concern his harbouring these men about him, feeling as they did that they themselves could never have succeeded in such a work, while evil consequences might result from their presence.

Then as always he hated waste of every kind; whether of human material in unsuited positions, or of his own, his friends', or the public money.

He was in no sense ungenerous or niggardly, but regarded waste of any kind as sinful. A friend tells an amusing story illustrative of his care of the least trifles. Staying at his house while he was absent at the Kaffir war, his wardrobe was being turned over. Among the various articles was a very ancient coat, and it was suggested in the hearing of his manager, Mr. Ross, that it should be disposed of by presenting it to one of the native servants. The manager, with evident concern, immediately said in the most determined tone, 'You shall do no such thing. Mr. Molteno will certainly ask for it on his return.' A commanding presence and powerful character, as well as his energetic habits and forcible expression of his will, impressed his influence powerfully on the neighbours, while it had the usual effect on the natives, who are good judges of character, and who yielded to him a ready obedience.

In a large measure he was thrown on his own resources. Great distances separated him on all sides from his neighbours, while many of them were hardly fitted, from training or intellectual abilities, to afford him congenial society. He feared no hardship. He frequently journeyed to Cape Town alone on horseback, a distance of 360 miles.





War Breaks Out- Volunteers as a Burgher-March to Frontier-Appointed

Commandant - Disaster at Burns-hill-Retreat from Beka-Incompetency of Military-Demoralisation of Troops - Burgher Forces called out-Joins Sir A. Stockenstrom-Relief of Block Drift-Attack on Kaffirs-Operations against Kreli-Operations in the Amatolas-Bad treatment of BurghersDu Toit's Narrative- Burghers lose all their Horses—Description of Hardships—Burgher mode of Fighting-Return to Nelspoort—Visits EnglandSecond Marriage - Resides at Beaufort-Leasing of Crown Lands—Member of Municipal and Divisional Councils-Mercantile Pursuits-Establishes a Bank-Represents Beaufort in first Parliament.

MR. MOLTENO was making rapid strides towards the accomplishment of the object which he had set before himself of gaining a practical knowledge of sheep farming when the Kaffir war of 1846 suddenly burst upon the country. His flocks and horses had largely increased since 1843, and were in need of skilled management; when therefore Mr. Alexander Ross, his overseer, was commandeered to go to the front, Mr. Molteno rightly judged it better for the former to remain where he was, while he himself volunteered to take his place among the Beaufort burghers, called out on conmando, and he accepted the position of a burgher. He was at an age when the charm of novelty and adventure would attract him to this service, while it would still further tend to make him forget his recent loss.

The force rapidly assembled, under the command of their commandant Mr. Andreas Du Toit, a farmer, but a highly intelligent one, under whose charge many of the neighbours were glad to place their sons. Some of these men were dressed in complete suits of leather clothes ("crackers,' as

« السابقةمتابعة »