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Swallow: a tale of the great trek   By: (1856-1925)

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SWALLOW

A TALE OF THE GREAT TREK

BY

H. RIDER HAGGARD

Ditchingham, 20th May, 1898.

My dear Clarke,

Over twenty years have passed since we found some unique opportunities of observing Boer and Kaffir character in company; therefore it is not perhaps out of place that I should ask you to allow me to put your name upon a book which deals more or less with the peculiarities of those races a tale of the great Trek of 1836.

You, as I know, entertain both for Dutchman and Bantu that regard tempered by a sense of respectful superiority which we are apt to feel for those who on sundry occasions have but just failed in bringing our earthly career to an end. The latter of these admirations I share to the full; and in the case of the first of them, as I hope that the dour but not unkindly character of Vrouw Botmar will prove to you, time softens a man's judgment. Nor have I ever questioned, as the worthy Vrouw tells us, that in the beginning of the trouble the Boers met with much of which to complain at the hands of English Governments. Their maltreatment was not intentional indeed, but rather a result of systematic neglect to use a mild word of colonies and their inhabitants, which has culminated within our own experience, only, thanks to a merciful change in public opinion, to pass away for ever. Sympathy with the Voortrekkers of 1836 is easy; whether it remains so in the case of their descendants, the present masters of the Transvaal, is a matter that admits of many opinions. At the least, allowance should always be made for the susceptibilities of a race that finds its individuality and national life sinking slowly, but without hope of resurrection, beneath an invading flood of Anglo Saxons.

But these are issues of to day with which this story has little to do.

Without further explanation, then, I hope that you will accept these pages in memory of past time and friendship, and more especially of the providential events connected with a night long ride which once we took on duty together among the "schanzes" and across the moon lit paths of Secocoeni's mountain.

Believe me, my dear Clarke, Your sincere friend, H. Rider Haggard.

To Lieut. Colonel Sir Marshal Clarke, R.A., K.C.M.G.

SWALLOW

CHAPTER I

WHY VROUW BOTMAR TELLS HER TALE

It is a strange thing that I, an old Boer vrouw , should even think of beginning to write a book when there are such numbers already in the world, most of them worthless, and many of the rest a scandal and offence in the face of the Lord. Notably is this so in the case of those called novels, which are stiff as mealie pap with lies that fill the heads of silly girls with vain imaginings, causing them to neglect their household duties and to look out of the corners of their eyes at young men of whom their elders do not approve. In truth, my mother and those whom I knew in my youth, fifty years ago, when women were good and worthy and never had a thought beyond their husbands and their children, would laugh aloud could any whisper in their dead ears that Suzanne Naudé was about to write a book. Well might they laugh indeed, seeing that to this hour the most that I can do with men and ink is to sign my own name very large; in this matter alone, not being the equal of my husband Jan, who, before he became paralysed, had so much learning that he could read aloud from the Bible, leaving out the names and long words.

No, no, I am not going to write; it is my great granddaughter, who is named Suzanne after me, who writes. And who that had not seen her at the work could even guess how she does it? I tell you that she has brought up from Durban a machine about the size of a pumpkin which goes tap tap like a woodpecker, and prints as it taps. Now, my husband Jan was always very fond of music in his youth, and when first the girl began to tap upon this strange instrument, he, being almost blind and not able to see it, thought that she was playing on a spinet such as stood in my grandfather's house away in the Old Colony... Continue reading book >>




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