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Aletta A Tale of the Boer Invasion   By: (1855-1914)

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Aletta, by Bertram Mitford.




The delegate from Pretoria was in full blast.

The long room was packed full full of male Boers of all ages: that is to say, from those in earliest manhood to the white bearded great grandfathers of the community Boers of every type, Boers hairy, Boers shaven, moleskin clad and collarless Boers, and Boers got up with near approach to European neatness; Boers small, dark, and wiry, still, after generations, preserving the outward characteristics of their Huguenot and French ancestry; Boers tall, large limbed, fair, of Saxon aspect and descent.

What sitting accommodation the room held was absorbed by the older of those present, for the patriarchal tradition is very strong among that old world and conservative race. The residue stood in a closely packed mass, literally hanging on the words of the orator.

The latter was a tall, elderly man, all fire and energy both as to speech and words. His face, strong and bronzed and lined, was of the Roman type, and the brown of his short beard was just beginning to show threads of grey. Standing there in his suit of black broadcloth, his sinewy figure seemed hardly in keeping with such attire. It seemed to demand the easier and more picturesque hunting costume of the veldt. Andries Erasmus Botma was his name, and he ranked among his fellow countrymen as a "Patriot," second to none as deserving their closest attention and deepest veneration.

On the table before him stood two lighted candles, throwing out the lines of his strong, rugged countenance, and between them a ponderous Dutch Bible, upon the closed cover of which one great hand constantly rested. On one side of him sat "Mynheer," as the local predikant , or minister, is commonly known among his flock; on the other Jan Marthinus Grobbelaar or Swaart Jan, as he was popularly termed the owner of the farm on which the gathering was taking place. The minister was a puffy, consequential looking man, with long, shaven upper lip and a light beard cut after the pattern of that worn by the world famed President, a white tie, reaching nearly from shoulder to shoulder, standing aggressively forth from the clerical black. The farmer was a wizened individual, with a pronounced stoop, and, at first sight, of retiring temperament; but a long nose and deep set eyes, together with two teeth projecting tusk like from each corner of the mouth out upon a lank, grizzled beard, imparted to him an utterly knowing and foxy aspect, in keeping with the reputation "Swaart Jan" actually held among his kinsfolk and acquaintance.

The delegate from Pretoria was in full blast. The meeting, which had opened with long prayer by the predikant and a long speech of introduction and welcome from Swaart Jan Grobbelaar, was now just beginning to become of intense interest to the meeting itself. Beginning far back, with the insurrection under Adrian van Jaarsveldt and the capitulation of the Cape by General Janssens, the orator had hitherto been rather academical. Even the emancipation of the slaves, with its wholly farcical system of compensation, did not appeal over much to a younger generation, to whom it was all ancient history of rather too ancient date. But when he came to the Slagter's Nek tragedy, he had got his finger on a chord that would never cease to vibrate. The tense attitude of his listeners was that of one mind, of one understanding.

"Brothers," he went on. "Brothers and sons for many are here to night who are the men of the future the men of the very near future to whom the one long life struggle of their fathers in days of old is but a name; to whom, however, the righting of the wrongs of their fathers is bequeathed; to whom life yea, even life itself, has been given and allowed by the Lord above that they may carry out the solemn bequest of righteous vengeance which their fathers have handed down to them; that they may have ever before them, ever in their thoughts, the deliverance of this their dear land, their splendid fatherland, from the hated English yoke... Continue reading book >>

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