I forgot, in describing my journey, the regal-looking Caffre housemaid at Eerste River. 'Such a dear, good creature,' the landlady said; and, oh, such a 'noble savage'! - with a cotton handkerchief folded tight like a cravat and tied round her head with a bow behind, and the short curly wool sticking up in the middle; - it looked like a royal diadem on her solemn brow; she stepped like Juno, with a huge tub full to the brim, and holding several pailfuls, on her head, and a pailful in each hand, bringing water for the stables from the river, across a large field. There is nothing like a Caffre for power and grace; and the face, though very African, has a sort of grandeur which makes it utterly unlike that of the negro. That woman's bust and waist were beauty itself. The Caffres are also very clean and very clever as servants, I hear, learning cookery, &c., in a wonderfully short time. When they have saved money enough to buy cattle in Kaffraria, off they go, cast aside civilization and clothes, and enjoy life in naked luxury.
I can't tell you how I longed for you in my journey. You would have been so delighted with the country and the queer turn-out - the wild little horses, and the polite and delicately-clean Moslem driver. His description of his sufferings from 'louses', when he slept in a Dutch farm, were pathetic, and ever since, he sleeps in his cart, with the little boy; and they bathe in the nearest river, and eat their lawful food and drink their water out of doors. They declined beer, or meat which had been unlawfully killed. In Capetown ALL meat is killed by Malays, and has the proper prayer spoken over it, and they will eat no other. I was offered a fowl at a farm, but Choslullah thought it 'too much money for Missus', and only accepted some eggs. He was gratified at my recognising the propriety of his saying 'Bismillah' over any animal killed for food. Some drink beer, and drink a good deal, but Choslullah thought it 'very wrong for Malay people, and not good for Christian people, to be drunk beasties; - little wine or beer good for Christians, but not too plenty much.' I gave him ten shillings for himself, at which he was enchanted, and again begged me to write to his master for him when I wanted to leave Caledon, and to be sure to say, 'Mind send same coachman.' He planned to drive me back through Worcester, Burnt Vley, Paarl, and Stellenbosch - a longer round; but he could do it in three days well, so as 'not cost Missus more money', and see a different country.
This place is curiously like Rochefort in the Ardennes, only the hills are mountains, and the sun is far hotter; not so the air, which is fresh and pleasant. I am in a very nice inn, kept by an English ex-officer, who went through the Caffre war, and found his pay insufficient for the wants of a numerous family. I quite admire his wife, who cooks, cleans, nurses her babes, gives singing and music lessons, - all as merrily as if she liked it. I dine with them at two o'clock, and Captain D- has a TABLE D'HOTE at seven for travellers. I pay only 10S. 6D. a day for myself and S-; this includes all but wine or beer. The air is very clear and fine, and my cough is already much better. I shall stay here as long as it suits me and does me good, and then I am to send for Choslullah again, and go back by the road he proposed. It rains here now and then, and blows a good deal, but the wind has lost its bitter chill, and depressing quality. I hope soon to ride a little and see the country, which is beautiful.
The water-line is all red from the iron stone, and there are hot chalybeate springs up the mountain which are very good for rheumatism, and very strengthening, I am told. The boots here is a Mantatee, very black, and called Kleenboy, because he is so little; he is the only sleek black I have seen here, but looks heavy and downcast. One maid is Irish (they make the best servants here), a very nice clean girl, and the other, a brown girl of fifteen, whose father is English, and married to her mother. Food here is scarce, all but bread and mutton, both good. Butter is 3S. a pound; fruit and vegetables only to be had by chance. I miss the oranges and lemons sadly. Poultry and milk uncertain. The bread is good everywhere, from the fine wheat: in the country it is brownish and sweet. The wine here is execrable; this is owing to the prevailing indolence, for there is excellent wine made from the Rhenish grape, rather like Sauterne, with a SOUPCON of Manzanilla flavour. The sweet Constantia is also very good indeed; not the expensive sort, which is made from grapes half dried, and is a liqueur, but a light, sweet, straw-coloured wine, which even I liked. We drank nothing else at the Admiral's. The kind old sailor has given me a dozen of wine, which is coming up here in a waggon, and will be most welcome. I can't tell you how kind he and Lady Walker were; I was there three weeks, and hope to go again when the south-easter season is over and I can get out a little. I could not leave the house at all; and even Lady Walker and the girls, who are very energetic, got out but little. They are a charming family.
I have no doubt that Dr. Shea was right, and that one must leave the coast to get a fine climate. Here it seems to me nearly perfect - too windy for my pleasure, but then the sun would be overpowering without a fresh breeze. Every one agrees in saying that the winter in Capetown is delicious - like a fine English summer. In November the southeasters begin, and they are 'fiendish'; this year they began in September. The mornings here are always fresh, not to say cold; the afternoons, from one to three, broiling; then delightful till sunset, which is deadly cold for three-quarters of an hour; the night is lovely. The wind rises and falls with the sun. That is the general course of things. Now and then it rains, and this year there is a little south-easter, which is quite unusual, and not odious, as it is near the sea; and there is seldom a hot wind from the north. I am promised that on or about Christmas-day; then doors and windows are shut, and you gasp. Hitherto we have had nothing nearly so hot as Paris in summer, or as the summer of 1859 in England; and they say it is no hotter, except when the hot wind blows, which is very rare. Up here, snow sometimes lies, in winter, on the mountain tops; but ice is unknown, and Table Mountain is never covered with snow. The flies are pestilent - incredibly noisy, intrusive, and disgusting - and oh, such swarms! Fleas and bugs not half so bad as in France, as far as my experience goes, and I have poked about in queer places.
I get up at half-past five, and walk in the early morning, before the sun and wind begin to be oppressive; it is then dry, calm, and beautiful; then I sleep like a Dutchman in the middle of the day. At present it tires me, but I shall get used to it soon. The Dutch doctor here advised me to do so, to avoid the wind.
When all was settled, we climbed the Hottentot's mountains by Sir Lowry's Pass, a long curve round two hill-sides; and what a view! Simon's Bay opening out far below, and range upon range of crags on one side, with a wide fertile plain, in which lies Hottentot's Holland, at one's feet. The road is just wide enough for one waggon, i.e. very narrow. Where the smooth rock came through, Choslullah gave a little grunt, and the three bays went off like hippogriffs, dragging the grey with them. By this time my confidence in his driving was boundless, or I should have expected to find myself in atoms at the bottom of the precipice. At the top of the pass we turned a sharp corner into a scene like the crater of a volcano, only reaching miles away all round; and we descended a very little and drove on along great rolling waves of country, with the mountain tops, all crags and ruins, to our left. At three we reached Palmiet River, full of palmettos and bamboos, and there the horses had 'a little roll', and Choslullah and his miniature washed in the river and prayed, and ate dry bread, and drank their tepid water out of a bottle with great good breeding and cheerfulness. Three bullock-waggons had outspanned, and the Dutch boers and Bastaards (half Hottentots) were all drunk. We went into a neat little 'public', and had porter and ham sandwiches, for which I paid 4S. 6D. to a miserable-looking English woman, who was afraid of her tipsy customers. We got to Houw Hoek, a pretty valley at the entrance of a mountain gorge, about half-past five, and drove up to a mud cottage, half inn, half farm, kept by a German and his wife. It looked mighty queer, but Choslullah said the host was a good old man, and all clean. So we cheered up, and asked for food. While the neat old woman was cooking it, up galloped five fine lads and two pretty flaxen-haired girls, with real German faces, on wild little horses; and one girl tucked up her habit, and waited at table, while another waved a green bough to drive off the swarms of flies. The chops were excellent, ditto bread and butter, and the tea tolerable. The parlour was a tiny room with a mud floor, half-hatch door into the front, and the two bedrooms still tinier and darker, each with two huge beds which filled them entirely. But Choslullah was right; they were perfectly clean, with heaps of beautiful pillows; and not only none of the creatures of which he spoke with infinite terror, but even no fleas. The man was delighted to talk to me. His wife had almost forgotten German, and the children did not know a word of it, but spoke Dutch and English. A fine, healthy, happy family. It was a pretty picture of emigrant life. Cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry, and pigeons innumerable, all picked up their own living, and cost nothing; and vegetables and fruit grow in rank abundance where there is water. I asked for a book in the evening, and the man gave me a volume of Schiller. A good breakfast, - and we paid ninepence for all.
This morning we started before eight, as it looked gloomy, and came through a superb mountain defile, out on to a rich hillocky country, covered with miles of corn, all being cut as far as the eye could reach, and we passed several circular threshing-floors, where the horses tread out the grain. Each had a few mud hovels near it, for the farmers and men to live in during harvest. Altogether, I was most lucky, had two beautiful days, and enjoyed the journey immensely. It was most 'ABENTHEUERLICH'; the light two-wheeled cart, with four wild little horses, and the marvellous brown driver, who seemed to be always going to perdition, but made the horses do apparently impossible things with absolute certainty; and the pretty tiny boy who came to help his uncle, and was so clever, and so preternaturally quiet, and so very small: then the road through the mountain passes, seven or eight feet wide, with a precipice above and below, up which the little horses scrambled; while big lizards, with green heads and chocolate bodies, looked pertly at us, and a big bright amber-coloured cobra, as handsome as he is deadly, wriggled across into a hole.