I came on shore on a very fine day, but the weather changed, and we had a fortnight of cold and damp and S.W. wind (equivalent to our east wind), such as the 'oldest inhabitant' never experienced; and I have had as bad an attack of bronchitis as ever I remember, having been in bed till yesterday. I had a very good doctor, half Italian, half Dane, born at the Cape of Good Hope, and educated at Edinburgh, named Chiappini. He has a son studying medicine in London, whose mother is Dutch; such is the mixture of bloods here.
Yesterday, the wind went to the south-east; the blessed sun shone out, and the weather was lovely at once. The mountain threw off his cloak of cloud, and all was bright and warm. I got up and sat in the verandah over the stoep (a kind of terrace in front of every house here). They brought me a tortoise as big as half a crown and as lively as a cricket to look at, and a chameleon like a fairy dragon - a green fellow, five inches long, with no claws on his feet, but suckers like a fly - the most engaging little beast. He sat on my finger, and caught flies with great delight and dexterity, and I longed to send him to M-. To-day, I went a long drive with Captain and Mrs. J-: we went to Rondebosch and Wynberg - lovely country; rather like Herefordshire; red earth and oak- trees. Miles of the road were like Gainsborough-lane, on a large scale, and looked quite English; only here and there a hedge of prickly pear, or the big white aruns in the ditches, told a different tale; and the scarlet geraniums and myrtles growing wild puzzled one.
And then came rattling along a light, rough, but well-poised cart, with an Arab screw driven by a Malay, in a great hat on his kerchiefed head, and his wife, with her neat dress, glossy black hair, and great gold earrings. They were coming with fish, which he had just caught at Kalk Bay, and was going to sell for the dinners of the Capetown folk. You pass neat villas, with pretty gardens and stoeps, gay with flowers, and at the doors of several, neat Malay girls are lounging. They are the best servants here, for the emigrants mostly drink. Then you see a group of children at play, some as black as coals, some brown and very pretty. A little black girl, about R-'s age, has carefully tied what little petticoat she has, in a tight coil round her waist, and displays the most darling little round legs and behind, which it would be a real pleasure to slap; it is so shiny and round, and she runs and stands so strongly and gracefully.
Here comes another Malay, with a pair of baskets hanging from a stick across his shoulder, like those in Chinese pictures, which his hat also resembles. Another cart full of working men, with a Malay driver; and inside are jumbled some red-haired, rosy-cheeked English navvies, with the ugliest Mozambiques, blacker than Erebus, and with faces all knobs and corners, like a crusty loaf. As we drive home we see a span of sixteen noble oxen in the marketplace, and on the ground squats the Hottentot driver. His face no words can describe - his cheek-bones are up under his hat, and his meagre-pointed chin halfway down to his waist; his eyes have the dull look of a viper's, and his skin is dirty and sallow, but not darker than a dirty European's.
Capetown is rather pretty, but beyond words untidy and out of repair. As it is neither drained nor paved, it won't do in hot weather; and I shall migrate 'up country' to a Dutch village. Mrs. J-, who is Dutch herself, tells me that one may board in a Dutch farm-house very cheaply, and with great comfort (of course eating with the family), and that they will drive you about the country and tend your horses for nothing, if you are friendly, and don't treat them with ENGELSCHE HOOG-MOEDIGHEID.
Oct. 19th. - The packet came in last night, but just in time to save the fine of 50L. per diem, and I got your welcome letter this morning. I have been coughing all this time, but I hope I shall improve. I came out at the very worst time of year, and the weather has been (of course) 'unprecedentedly' bad and changeable. But when it IS fine it is quite celestial; so clear, so dry, so light. Then comes a cloud over Table Mountain, like the sugar on a wedding-cake, which tumbles down in splendid waterfalls, and vanishes unaccountably halfway; and then you run indoors and shut doors and windows, or it portends a 'south-easter', i.e. a hurricane, and Capetown disappears in impenetrable clouds of dust. But this wind coming off the hills and fields of ice, is the Cape doctor, and keeps away cholera, fever of every sort, and all malignant or infectious diseases. Most of them are unknown here. Never was so healthy a place; but the remedy is of the heroic nature, and very disagreeable. The stones rattle against the windows, and omnibuses are blown over on the Rondebosch road.
A few days ago, I drove to Mr. V-'s farm. Imagine St. George's Hill, and the most beautiful bits of it, sloping gently up to Table Mountain, with its grey precipices, and intersected with Scotch burns, which water it all the year round, as they come from the living rock; and sprinkled with oranges, pomegranates, and camelias in abundance. You drive through a mile or two as described, and arrive at a square, planted with rows of fine oaks close together; at the upper end stands the house, all on the ground-floor, but on a high stoep: rooms eighteen feet high; the old slave quarters on each side; stables, &c., opposite; the square as big as Belgrave Square, and the buildings in the old French style.
We then went on to Newlands, a still more beautiful place. Immense trenching and draining going on - the foreman a Caffre, black as ink, six feet three inches high, and broad in proportion, with a staid, dignified air, and Englishmen working under him! At the streamlets there are the inevitable groups of Malay women washing clothes, and brown babies sprawling about. Yesterday, I should have bought a black woman for her beauty, had it been still possible. She was carrying an immense weight on her head, and was far gone with child; but such stupendous physical perfection I never even imagined. Her jet black face was like the Sphynx, with the same mysterious smile; her shape and walk were goddess-like, and the lustre of her skin, teeth, and eyes, showed the fulness of health; - Caffre of course. I walked after her as far as her swift pace would let me, in envy and admiration of such stately humanity.