One unpleasant sight here is the skeletons of horses and oxen along the roadside; or at times a fresh carcase surrounded by a convocation of huge serious-looking carrion crows, with neat white neck-cloths. The skeletons look like wrecks, and make you feel very lonely on the wide veld. In this district, and in most, I believe, the roads are mere tracks over the hard, level earth, and very good they are. When one gets rutty, you drive parallel to it, till the bush is worn out and a new track is formed.
January 17th. - Lovely weather all the week. Summer well set in.
Till this last week, the weather was pertinaciously cold and windy; and I had resolved to go to Worcester, which lies in a 'Kessel', and is really hot. But now the glorious African summer is come, and I believe this is the weather of Paradise. I got up at four this morning, when the Dutchmen who had slept here were starting in their carts and waggons. It was quite light; but the moon shone brilliantly still, and had put on a bright rose-coloured veil, borrowed from the rising sun on the opposite horizon. The freshness (without a shadow of cold or damp) of the air was indescribable - no dew was on the ground. I went up the hill-side, along the 'Sloot' (channel, which supplies all our water), into the 'Kloof' between the mountains, and clambered up to the 'Venster Klip', from which natural window the view is very fine. The flowers are all gone and the grass all dead. Rhenoster boschjes and Hottentot fig are green everywhere, and among the rocks all manner of shrubs, and far too much 'Wacht een beetje' (WAIT A BIT), a sort of series of natural fish-hooks, which try the robustest patience. Between seven and eight, the sun gets rather hot, and I came in and TUBBED, and sat on the stoep (a sort of terrace, in front of every house in South Africa). I breakfast at nine, sit on the stoep again till the sun comes round, and then retreat behind closed shutters from the stinging sun. The AIR is fresh and light all day, though the sun is tremendous; but one has no languid feeling or desire to lie about, unless one is sleepy. We dine at two or half-past, and at four or five the heat is over, and one puts on a shawl to go out in the afternoon breeze. The nights are cool, so as always to want one blanket. I still have a cough; but it is getting better, so that I can always eat and walk. Mine host has just bought a horse, which he is going to try with a petticoat to-day, and if he goes well I shall ride.
I like this inn-life, because I see all the 'neighbourhood' - farmers and traders - whom I like far better than the GENTILITY of Capetown. I have given letters to England to a 'boer', who is 'going home', i.e. to Europe, the FIRST OF HIS RACE SINCE THE REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES, when some poor refugees were inveigled hither by the Dutch Governor, and oppressed worse than the Hottentots. M. de Villiers has had no education AT ALL, and has worked, and traded, and farmed, - but the breed tells; he is a pure and thorough Frenchman, unable to speak a word of French. When I went in to dinner, he rose and gave me a chair with a bow which, with his appearance, made me ask, 'MONSIEUR VIENT D'ARRIVER?' This at once put him out and pleased him. He is very unlike a Dutchman. If you think that any of the French will feel as I felt to this far-distant brother of theirs, pray give him a few letters; but remember that he can speak only English and Dutch, and a little German. Here his name is CALLED 'Filljee', but I told him to drop that barbarism in Europe; De Villiers ought to speak for itself. He says they came from the neighbourhood of Bordeaux.
The postmaster, Heer Klein, and his old Pylades, Heer Ley, are great cronies of mine - stout old greybeards, toddling down the hill together. I sometimes go and sit on the stoep with the two old bachelors, and they take it as a great compliment; and Heer Klein gave me my letters all decked with flowers, and wished 'Vrolyke tydings, Mevrouw,' most heartily. He has also made his tributary mail-cart Hottentots bring from various higher mountain ranges the beautiful everlasting flowers, which will make pretty wreaths for J-. When I went to his house to thank him, I found a handsome Malay, with a basket of 'Klipkaus', a shell-fish much esteemed here. Old Klein told me they were sent him by a Malay who was born in his father's house, a slave, and had been HIS 'BOY' and play-fellow. Now, the slave is far richer than the old young master, and no waggon comes without a little gift - oranges, fish, &c. - for 'Wilhem'. When Klein goes to Capetown, the old Malay seats him in a grand chair and sits on a little wooden stool at his feet; Klein begs him, as 'Huisheer', to sit properly; but, 'Neen Wilhem, Ik zal niet; ik kan niet vergeten.' 'Good boy!' said old Klein; 'good people the Malays.' It is a relief, after the horrors one has heard of Dutch cruelty, to see such an 'idyllisches Verhaltniss'. I have heard other instances of the same fidelity from Malays, but they were utterly unappreciated, and only told to prove the excellence of slavery, and 'how well the rascals must have been off'.
I have fallen in love with a Hottentot baby here. Her mother is all black, with a broad face and soft spaniel eyes, and the father is Bastaard; but the baby (a girl, nine months old), has walked out of one of Leonardo da Vinci's pictures. I never saw so beautiful a child. She has huge eyes with the spiritual look he gives to them, and is exquisite in every way. When the Hottentot blood is handsome, it is beautiful; there is a delicacy and softness about some of the women which is very pretty, and the eyes are those of a GOOD dog. Most of them are hideous, and nearly all drink; but they are very clean and honest. Their cottages are far superior in cleanliness to anything out of England, except in picked places, like some parts of Belgium; and they wash as much as they can, with the bad water-supply, and the English outcry if they strip out of doors to bathe. Compared to French peasants, they are very clean indeed, and even the children are far more decent and cleanly in their habits than those of France. The woman who comes here to clean and scour is a model of neatness in her work and her person (quite black), but she gets helplessly drunk as soon as she has a penny to buy a glass of wine; for a penny, a half-pint tumbler of very strong and remarkably nasty wine is sold at the canteens.
I have many more 'humours' to tell, but A- can show you all the long story I have written. I hope it does not seem very stale and DECIES REPETITA. All being new and curious to the eye here, one becomes long-winded about mere trifles.
One small thing more. The first few shillings that a coloured woman has to spend on her cottage go in - what do you think? - A grand toilet table of worked muslin over pink, all set out with little 'OBJETS' - such as they are: if there is nothing else, there is that here, as at Capetown, and all along to Simon's Bay. Now, what is the use or comfort of a DUCHESSE to a Hottentot family? I shall never see those toilets again without thinking of Hottentots - what a baroque association of ideas! I intend, in a day or two, to go over to 'Gnadenthal', the Moravian missionary station, founded in 1736 - the 'bluhende Gemeinde von Hottentoten'. How little did I think to see it, when we smiled at the phrase in old Mr. Steinkopf's sermon years ago in London! The MISSIONARIZED Hottentots are not, as it is said, thought well of - being even tipsier than the rest; but I may see a full-blood one, and even a true Bosjesman, which is worth a couple of hours' drive; and the place is said to be beautiful.