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Home -> Mark Twain -> Following the Equator -> Chapter 68

Following the Equator - Chapter 68

1. Contents

2. Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 9

11. Chapter 10

12. Chapter 11

13. Chapter 12

14. Chapter 13

15. Chapter 14

16. Chapter 15

17. Chapter 16

18. Chapter 17

19. Chapter 18

20. Chapter 19

21. Chapter 20

22. Chapter 21

23. Chapter 22

24. Chapter 23

25. Chapter 24

26. Chapter 25

27. Chapter 26

28. Chapter 27

29. Chapter 28

30. Chapter 29

31. Chapter 30

32. Chapter 31

33. Chapter 32

34. Chapter 33

35. Chapter 34

36. Chapter 35

37. Chapter 36

38. Chapter 37

39. Chapter 38

40. Chapter 39

41. Chapter 40

42. Chapter 41

43. Chapter 42

44. Chapter 43

45. Chapter 44

46. Chapter 45

47. Chapter 46

48. Chapter 47

49. Chapter 48

50. Chapter 49

51. Chapter 50

52. Chapter 51

53. Chapter 52

54. Chapter 53

55. Chapter 54

56. Chapter 55

57. Chapter 56

58. Chapter 57

59. Chapter 58

60. Chapter 59

61. Chapter 60

62. Chapter 61

63. Chapter 62

64. Chapter 63

65. Chapter 64

66. Chapter 65

67. Chapter 66

68. Chapter 67

69. Chapter 68

70. Chapter 69

71. Conclusion


None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its
cussedness; but we can try.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

The Duke of Fife has borne testimony that Mr. Rhodes deceived him. That
is also what Mr. Rhodes did with the Reformers. He got them into
trouble, and then stayed out himself. A judicious man. He has always
been that. As to this there was a moment of doubt, once. It was when he
was out on his last pirating expedition in the Matabele country. The
cable shouted out that he had gone unarmed, to visit a party of hostile
chiefs. It was true, too; and this dare-devil thing came near fetching
another indiscretion out of the poet laureate. It would have been too
bad, for when the facts were all in, it turned out that there was a lady
along, too, and she also was unarmed.

In the opinion of many people Mr. Rhodes is South Africa; others think he
is only a large part of it. These latter consider that South Africa
consists of Table Mountain, the diamond mines, the Johannesburg gold
fields, and Cecil Rhodes. The gold fields are wonderful in every way.
In seven or eight years they built up, in a desert, a city of a hundred
thousand inhabitants, counting white and black together; and not the
ordinary mining city of wooden shanties, but a city made out of lasting
material. Nowhere in the world is there such a concentration of rich
mines as at Johannesburg. Mr. Bonamici, my manager there, gave me a
small gold brick with some statistics engraved upon it which record the
output of gold from the early days to July, 1895, and exhibit the strides
which have been made in the development of the industry; in 1888 the
output was $4,162,440; the output of the next five and a half years was
(total: $17,585,894); for the single year ending with June, 1895, it was

The capital which has developed the mines came from England, the mining
engineers from America. This is the case with the diamond mines also.
South Africa seems to be the heaven of the American scientific mining
engineer. He gets the choicest places, and keeps them. His salary is
not based upon what he would get in America, but apparently upon what a
whole family of him would get there.

The successful mines pay great dividends, yet the rock is not rich, from
a Californian point of view. Rock which yields ten or twelve dollars a
ton is considered plenty rich enough. It is troubled with base metals to
such a degree that twenty years ago it would have been only about half as
valuable as it is now; for at that time there was no paying way of
getting anything out of such rock but the coarser-grained "free" gold; but
the new cyanide process has changed all that, and the gold fields of the
world now deliver up fifty million dollars' worth of gold per year which
would have gone into the tailing-pile under the former conditions.

The cyanide process was new to me, and full of interest; and among the
costly and elaborate mining machinery there were fine things which were
new to me, but I was already familiar with the rest of the details of the
gold-mining industry. I had been a gold miner myself, in my day, and
knew substantially everything that those people knew about it, except how
to make money at it. But I learned a good deal about the Boers there,
and that was a fresh subject. What I heard there was afterwards repeated
to me in other parts of South Africa. Summed up--according to the
information thus gained--this is the Boer:

He is deeply religious, profoundly ignorant, dull, obstinate, bigoted,
uncleanly in his habits, hospitable, honest in his dealings with the
whites, a hard master to his black servant, lazy, a good shot, good
horseman, addicted to the chase, a lover of political independence, a
good husband and father, not fond of herding together in towns, but
liking the seclusion and remoteness and solitude and empty vastness and
silence of the veldt; a man of a mighty appetite, and not delicate about
what he appeases it with--well-satisfied with pork and Indian corn and
biltong, requiring only that the quantity shall not be stinted; willing
to ride a long journey to take a hand in a rude all-night dance
interspersed with vigorous feeding and boisterous jollity, but ready to
ride twice as far for a prayer-meeting; proud of his Dutch and Huguenot
origin and its religious and military history; proud of his race's
achievements in South Africa, its bold plunges into hostile and uncharted
deserts in search of free solitudes unvexed by the pestering and detested
English, also its victories over the natives and the British; proudest of
all, of the direct and effusive personal interest which the Deity has
always taken in its affairs. He cannot read, he cannot write; he has one
or two newspapers, but he is, apparently, not aware of it; until latterly
he had no schools, and taught his children nothing, news is a term which
has no meaning to him, and the thing itself he cares nothing about. He
hates to be taxed and resents it. He has stood stock still in South
Africa for two centuries and a half, and would like to stand still till
the end of time, for he has no sympathy with Uitlander notions of
progress. He is hungry to be rich, for he is human; but his preference
has been for riches in cattle, not in fine clothes and fine houses and
gold and diamonds. The gold and the diamonds have brought the godless
stranger within his gates, also contamination and broken repose, and he
wishes that they had never been discovered.

I think that the bulk of those details can be found in Olive Schreiner's
books, and she would not be accused of sketching the Boer's portrait with
an unfair hand.

Now what would you expect from that unpromising material? What ought you
to expect from it? Laws inimical to religious liberty? Yes. Laws
denying, representation and suffrage to the intruder? Yes. Laws
unfriendly to educational institutions? Yes. Laws obstructive of gold
production? Yes. Discouragement of railway expansion? Yes. Laws heavily
taxing the intruder and overlooking the Boer? Yes.

The Uitlander seems to have expected something very different from all
that. I do not know why. Nothing different from it was rationally to be
expected. A round man cannot be expected to fit a square hole right
away. He must have time to modify his shape. The modification had begun
in a detail or two, before the Raid, and was making some progress. It
has made further progress since. There are wise men in the Boer
government, and that accounts for the modification; the modification of
the Boer mass has probably not begun yet. If the heads of the Boer
government had not been wise men they would have hanged Jameson, and thus
turned a very commonplace pirate into a holy martyr. But even their
wisdom has its limits, and they will hang Mr. Rhodes if they ever catch
him. That will round him and complete him and make him a saint. He has
already been called by all other titles that symbolize human grandeur,
and he ought to rise to this one, the grandest of all. It will be a
dizzy jump from where he is now, but that is nothing, it will land him in
good company and be a pleasant change for him.

Some of the things demanded by the Johannesburgers' Manifesto have been
conceded since the days of the Raid, and the others will follow in time,
no doubt. It was most fortunate for the miners of Johannesburg that the
taxes which distressed them so much were levied by the Boer government,
instead of by their friend Rhodes and his Chartered Company of
highwaymen, for these latter take half of whatever their mining victims
find, they do not stop at a mere percentage. If the Johannesburg miners
were under their jurisdiction they would be in the poorhouse in twelve

I have been under the impression all along that I had an unpleasant
paragraph about the Boers somewhere in my notebook, and also a pleasant
one. I have found them now. The unpleasant one is dated at an interior
village, and says--

"Mr. Z. called. He is an English Afrikander; is an old resident, and has
a Boer wife. He speaks the language, and his professional business is
with the Boers exclusively. He told me that the ancient Boer families in
the great region of which this village is the commercial center are
falling victims to their inherited indolence and dullness in the
materialistic latter-day race and struggle, and are dropping one by one
into the grip of the usurer--getting hopelessly in debt--and are losing
their high place and retiring to second and lower. The Boer's farm does
not go to another Boer when he loses it, but to a foreigner. Some have
fallen so low that they sell their daughters to the blacks."

Under date of another South African town I find the note which is
creditable to the Boers:

"Dr. X. told me that in the Kafir war 1,500 Kafirs took refuge in a great
cave in the mountains about 90 miles north of Johannesburg, and the Boers
blocked up the entrance and smoked them to death. Dr. X. has been in
there and seen the great array of bleached skeletons--one a woman with
the skeleton of a child hugged to her breast."

The great bulk of the savages must go. The white man wants their lands,
and all must go excepting such percentage of them as he will need to do
his work for him upon terms to be determined by himself. Since history
has removed the element of guesswork from this matter and made it
certainty, the humanest way of diminishing the black population should be
adopted, not the old cruel ways of the past. Mr. Rhodes and his gang
have been following the old ways.--They are chartered to rob and slay,
and they lawfully do it, but not in a compassionate and Christian spirit.
They rob the Mashonas and the Matabeles of a portion of their territories
in the hallowed old style of "purchase!" for a song, and then they force
a quarrel and take the rest by the strong hand. They rob the natives of
their cattle under the pretext that all the cattle in the country
belonged to the king whom they have tricked and assassinated. They issue
"regulations" requiring the incensed and harassed natives to work for the
white settlers, and neglect their own affairs to do it. This is slavery,
and is several times worse than was the American slavery which used to
pain England so much; for when this Rhodesian slave is sick,
super-annuated, or otherwise disabled, he must support himself
or starve--his master is under no obligation to support him.

The reduction of the population by Rhodesian methods to the desired limit
is a return to the old-time slow-misery and lingering-death system of a
discredited time and a crude "civilization." We humanely reduce an
overplus of dogs by swift chloroform; the Boer humanely reduced an
overplus of blacks by swift suffocation; the nameless but right-hearted
Australian pioneer humanely reduced his overplus of aboriginal neighbors
by a sweetened swift death concealed in a poisoned pudding. All these
are admirable, and worthy of praise; you and I would rather suffer either
of these deaths thirty times over in thirty successive days than linger
out one of the Rhodesian twenty-year deaths, with its daily burden of
insult, humiliation, and forced labor for a man whose entire race the
victim hates. Rhodesia is a happy name for that land of piracy and
pillage, and puts the right stain upon it.

Several long journeys--gave us experience of the Cape Colony railways;
easy-riding, fine cars; all the conveniences; thorough cleanliness;
comfortable beds furnished for the night trains. It was in the first
days of June, and winter; the daytime was pleasant, the nighttime nice
and cold. Spinning along all day in the cars it was ecstasy to breathe
the bracing air and gaze out over the vast brown solitudes of the velvet
plains, soft and lovely near by, still softer and lovelier further away,
softest and loveliest of all in the remote distances, where dim
island-hills seemed afloat, as in a sea--a sea made of dream-stuff and
flushed with colors faint and rich; and dear me, the depth of the sky,
and the beauty of the strange new cloud-forms, and the glory of the
sunshine, the lavishness, the wastefulness of it! The vigor and
freshness and inspiration of the air and the sunwell, it was all
just as Olive Schreiner had made it in her books.

To me the veldt, in its sober winter garb, was surpassingly beautiful.
There were unlevel stretches where it was rolling and swelling, and
rising and subsiding, and sweeping superbly on and on, and still on and
on like an ocean, toward the faraway horizon, its pale brown deepening by
delicately graduated shades to rich orange, and finally to purple and
crimson where it washed against the wooded hills and naked red crags at
the base of the sky.

Everywhere, from Cape Town to Kimberley and from Kimberley to Port
Elizabeth and East London, the towns were well populated with tamed
blacks; tamed and Christianized too, I suppose, for they wore the dowdy
clothes of our Christian civilization. But for that, many of them would
have been remarkably handsome. These fiendish clothes, together with the
proper lounging gait, good-natured face, happy air, and easy laugh, made
them precise counterparts of our American blacks; often where all the
other aspects were strikingly and harmoniously and thrillingly African, a
flock of these natives would intrude, looking wholly out of place, and
spoil it all, making the thing a grating discord, half African and half

One Sunday in King William's Town a score of colored women came mincing
across the great barren square dressed--oh, in the last perfection of
fashion, and newness, and expensiveness, and showy mixture of unrelated
colors,--all just as I had seen it so often at home; and in their faces
and their gait was that languishing, aristocratic, divine delight in
their finery which was so familiar to me, and had always been such a
satisfaction to my eye and my heart. I seemed among old, old friends;
friends of fifty years, and I stopped and cordially greeted them. They
broke into a good-fellowship laugh, flashing their white teeth upon me,
and all answered at once. I did not understand a word they said. I was
astonished; I was not dreaming that they would answer in anything but

The voices, too, of the African women, were familiar to me sweet and
musical, just like those of the slave women of my early days. I followed
a couple of them all over the Orange Free State--no, over its capital
--Bloemfontein, to hear their liquid voices and the happy ripple of their
laughter. Their language was a large improvement upon American. Also
upon the Zulu. It had no Zulu clicks in it; and it seemed to have no
angles or corners, no roughness, no vile s's or other hissing sounds, but
was very, very mellow and rounded and flowing.

In moving about the country in the trains, I had opportunity to see a
good many Boers of the veldt. One day at a village station a hundred of
them got out of the third-class cars to feed.

Their clothes were very interesting. For ugliness of shapes, and for
miracles of ugly colors inharmoniously associated, they were a record.
The effect was nearly as exciting and interesting as that produced by the
brilliant and beautiful clothes and perfect taste always on view at the
Indian railway stations. One man had corduroy trousers of a faded
chewing gum tint. And they were new--showing that this tint did not come
by calamity, but was intentional; the very ugliest color I have ever
seen. A gaunt, shackly country lout six feet high, in battered gray
slouched hat with wide brim, and old resin-colored breeches, had on a
hideous brand-new woolen coat which was imitation tiger skin wavy broad
stripes of dazzling yellow and deep brown. I thought he ought to be
hanged, and asked the station-master if it could be arranged. He said
no; and not only that, but said it rudely; said it with a quite
unnecessary show of feeling. Then he muttered something about my being a
jackass, and walked away and pointed me out to people, and did everything
he could to turn public sentiment against me. It is what one gets for
trying to do good.

In the train that day a passenger told me some more about Boer life out
in the lonely veldt. He said the Boer gets up early and sets his
"niggers" at their tasks (pasturing the cattle, and watching them); eats,
smokes, drowses, sleeps; toward evening superintends the milking, etc.;
eats, smokes, drowses; goes to bed at early candlelight in the fragrant
clothes he (and she) have worn all day and every week-day for years. I
remember that last detail, in Olive Schreiner's "Story of an African
Farm." And the passenger told me that the Boers were justly noted for
their hospitality. He told me a story about it. He said that his grace
the Bishop of a certain See was once making a business-progress through
the tavernless veldt, and one night he stopped with a Boer; after supper
was shown to bed; he undressed, weary and worn out, and was soon sound
asleep; in the night he woke up feeling crowded and suffocated, and found
the old Boer and his fat wife in bed with him, one on each side, with all
their clothes on, and snoring. He had to stay there and stand it--awake
and suffering--until toward dawn, when sleep again fell upon him for an
hour. Then he woke again. The Boer was gone, but the wife was still at
his side.

Those Reformers detested that Boer prison; they were not used to cramped
quarters and tedious hours, and weary idleness, and early to bed, and
limited movement, and arbitrary and irritating rules, and the absence of
the luxuries which wealth comforts the day and the night with. The
confinement told upon their bodies and their spirits; still, they were
superior men, and they made the best that was to be made of the
circumstances. Their wives smuggled delicacies to them, which helped to
smooth the way down for the prison fare.

In the train Mr. B. told me that the Boer jail-guards treated the black
prisoners--even political ones--mercilessly. An African chief and his
following had been kept there nine months without trial, and during all
that time they had been without shelter from rain and sun. He said that
one day the guards put a big black in the stocks for dashing his soup on
the ground; they stretched his legs painfully wide apart, and set him
with his back down hill; he could not endure it, and put back his hands
upon the slope for a support. The guard ordered him to withdraw the
support and kicked him in the back. "Then," said Mr. B., "'the powerful
black wrenched the stocks asunder and went for the guard; a Reform
prisoner pulled him off, and thrashed the guard himself."

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