A Late Night Visit

Posted on June 26, 2014 by Cape Rebel

From Commando – Of Horses and Men 
by Deneys Reitz

After about an hour, I heard the sound of a hymn and the wheeze of a harmonium, such as stands in almost every Dutch farmhouse, and knew that I was nearing friends. When I knocked at the door, there was a hush at first, for in these disturbed times a visit late at night meant military requisition, but then I heard a shuffle of feet and the door opened.

A whole family was peering from within. When I told them who I was, they almost dragged me into the house, so eager were they to help. I must have looked very dishevelled, for the women wept with pity while removing the boot from my sore foot, and during the more painful process of extracting a thorn, nearly an inch long, that had run into the palm of my hand when I was thrown from my horse that afternoon. They fetched hot water and tore up clean linen for bandages; a meal was laid, with coffee, and the kindly people almost quarrelled for the right to serve me, so keen was their sympathy, although they knew that it might mean for them fines and imprisonment. Having attended to my wants, they took further counsel. It was agreed that I could not remain here, for even if the continuous patrols did not ferret me out, my presence was certain to be reported by the coloured farm labourers, who all over the Cape sided with the British. As I assured them that I was well able to walk, it was decided that I must continue westward on the off chance of coming up with General Smuts ... I made ready to start as soon as my boot had been sufficiently repaired.

The head of the family, a patriarch of seventy, insisted on acting as my guide during the first stage of the journey, and firmly refused to waive the right in favour of his sons, who offered themselves. A grain-bag was packed with food and, after an affecting leave-taking, the old man and I set out. We trudged along, hour after hour, until his strength gave out and I made him turn back, his voice shaking with emotion as he wished me God-speed. ...

 At last, as day was breaking, I heard the whicker of a horse and, going forward carefully, found all seven men asleep beneath the trees. They were astonished to see me, as they had been certain that I was either dead or taken.

Posted in English