I should like to bring home the little Madagascar girl from Rathfelders, or a dear little mulatto who nurses a brown baby here, and is so clean and careful and 'pretty behaved', - but it would be a great risk. The brown babies are ravishing - so fat and jolly and funny.
One great charm of the people here is, that no one expects money or gifts, and that all civility is gratis. Many a time I finger small coin secretly in my pocket, and refrain from giving it, for fear of spoiling this innocence. I have not once seen a LOOK implying 'backsheesh', and begging is unknown. But the people are reserved and silent, and have not the attractive manners of the darkies of Capetown and the neighbourhood.
Yesterday Captain D- gave me a very nice caross of blessbok skins, which he got from some travelling trader. The excellence of the Caffre skin-dressing and sewing is, I fancy, unequalled; the bok- skins are as soft as a kid glove, and have no smell at all.
In the afternoon the young doctor drove me, in his little gig-cart and pair (the lightest and swiftest of conveyances), to see a wine- farm. The people were not at work, but we saw the tubs and vats, and drank 'most'. The grapes are simply trodden by a Hottentot, in a tub with a sort of strainer at the bottom, and then thrown - skins, stalks, and all - into vats, where the juice ferments for twice twenty-four hours; after which it is run into casks, which are left with the bung out for eight days; then the wine is drawn off into another cask, a little sulphur and brandy are added to it, and it is bunged down. Nothing can be conceived so barbarous. I have promised Mr. M- to procure and send him an exact account of the process in Spain. It might be a real service to a most worthy and amiable man. Dr. M- also would be glad of a copy. They literally know nothing about wine-making here, and with such matchless grapes I am sure it ought to be good. Altogether, 'der alte Schlendrian' prevails at the Cape to an incredible degree.
If two 'Heeren M-' call on you, please be civil to them. I don't know them personally, but their brother is the doctor here, and the most good-natured young fellow I ever saw. If I were returning by Somerset instead of Worcester, I might put up at their parents' house and be sure of a welcome; and I can tell you civility to strangers is by no means of course here. I don't wonder at it; for the old Dutch families ARE GENTLEFOLKS of the good dull old school, and the English colonists can scarcely suit them. In the few instances in which I have succeeded in THAWING a Dutchman, I have found him wonderfully good-natured; and the different manner in which I was greeted when in company with the young doctor showed the feeling at once. The dirt of a Dutch house is not to be conceived. I have had sights in bedrooms in very respectable houses which I dare not describe. The coloured people are just as clean. The young doctor (who is much Anglicised) tells me that, in illness, he has to break the windows in the farmhouses - they are built not to open! The boers are below the English in manners and intelligence, and hate them for their 'go-ahead' ways, though THEY seem slow enough to me. As to drink, I fancy it is six of one and half a dozen of the other; but the English are more given to eternal drams, and the Dutch to solemn drinking bouts. I can't understand either, in this climate, which is so stimulating, that I more often drink ginger-beer or water than wine - a bottle of sherry lasted me a fortnight, though I was ordered to drink it; somehow, I had no mind to it.
27th. - The cart could not be got till the day before yesterday, and yesterday Mrs. D- arrived in it with two new Irish maids; it saved her 3L., and I must have paid equally. The horses were very tired, having been hard at work carrying Malays all the week to Constantia and back, on a pilgrimage to the tomb of a Mussulman saint; so to-day they rest, and to-morrow I go to Villiersdorp. Choslullah has been appointed driver of a post-cart; he tried hard to be allowed to pay a REMPLACANT, and to fetch 'his missis', but was refused leave; and so a smaller and blacker Malay has come, whom Choslullah threatened to curse heavily if he failed to take great care of 'my missis' and be a 'good boy'. Ramadan begins on Sunday, and my poor driver can't even prepare for it by a good feast, as no fowls are to be had here just now, and he can't eat profanely-killed meat. Some pious Christian has tried to burn a Mussulman martyr's tomb at Eerste River, and there were fears the Malays might indulge in a little revenge; but they keep quiet. I am to go with my driver to eat some of the feast (of Bairam, is it not?) at his priest's when Ramadan ends, if I am in Capetown, and also am asked to a wedding at a relation of Choslullah's. It was quite a pleasure to hear the kindly Mussulman talk, after these silent Hottentots. The Malays have such agreeable manners; so civil, without the least cringing or Indian obsequiousness. I dare say they can be very 'insolent' on provocation; but I have always found among them manners like old-fashioned French ones, but quieter; and they have an affectionate way of saying 'MY missis' when they know one, which is very nice to hear. It is getting quite chilly here already; COLD night and morning; and I shall be glad to descend off this plateau into the warmer regions of Worcester, &c. I have just bought EIGHT splendid ostrich feathers for 1L. of my old Togthandler friend. In England they would cost from eighteen to twenty-five shillings each. I have got a reebok and a klipspringer skin for you; the latter makes a saddle-cloth which defies sore backs; they were given me by Klein and a farmer at Palmiet River. The flesh was poor stuff, white and papery. The Hottentots can't 'bray' the skins as the Caffres do; and the woman who did mine asked me for a trifle beforehand, and got so drunk that she let them dry halfway in the process, consequently they don't look so well.
Oh, such a journey! Such country! Pearly mountains and deep blue sky, and an impassable pass to walk down, and baboons, and secretary birds, and tortoises! I couldn't sleep for it all last night, tired as I was with the unutterably bad road, or track rather.
Well, we left Caledon on Friday, at ten o'clock, and though the weather had been cold and unpleasant for two days, I had a lovely morning, and away we went to Villiersdorp (pronounced Filjeesdorp). It is quite a tiny village, in a sort of Rasselas-looking valley. We were four hours on the road, winding along the side of a mountain ridge, which we finally crossed, with a splendid view of the sea at the far-distant end of a huge amphitheatre formed by two ridges of mountains, and on the other side the descent into Filjeesdorp. The whole way we saw no human being or habitation, except one shepherd, from the time we passed Buntje's kraal, about two miles out of Caledon. The little drinking-shop would not hold travellers, so I went to the house of the storekeeper (as the clergyman of Caledon had told me I might), and found a most kind reception. Our host was English, an old man-of-war's man, with a gentle, kindly Dutch wife, and the best-mannered children I have seen in the colony. They gave us clean comfortable beds and a good dinner, and wine ten years in the cellar; in short, the best of hospitality. I made an effort to pay for the entertainment next morning, when, after a good breakfast, we started loaded with fruit, but the kind people would not hear of it, and bid me good- bye like old friends. At the end of the valley we went a little up-hill, and then found ourselves at the top of a pass down into the level below. S- and I burst out with one voice, 'How beautiful!' Sabaal, our driver, thought the exclamation was an ironical remark on the road, which, indeed, appeared to be exclusively intended for goats. I suggested walking down, to which, for a wonder, the Malay agreed. I was really curious to see him get down with two wheels and four horses, where I had to lay hold from time to time in walking. The track was excessively steep, barely wide enough, and as slippery as a flagstone pavement, being the naked mountain-top, which is bare rock. However, all went perfectly right.