Klaradyn

Klaradyn

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

If a young gentleman found himself to be a passenger in the front seat of a dark green government truck, slowly driving from Pretoria in a westward direction, he would have come to a small town by the name of Duikersdrift. The young gentleman would notice the distinctive green government lorry coming to a halt in front of what seems to be the only shop in the town, also serving as the post office on a Tuesday morning. The driver of the lorry would then tell the young gentleman that he indeed arrived at his destination, and would, before delivering the few parcels of mail, greet the farmers on the veranda of the shop, making himself comfortable with a tin cup filled with the strongest of freshly brewed coffees.

The young gentleman on the other hand, would upon his departing from the vehicle, notice that the town of Duikersdrift has the sum total of one shop, in front of which he finds himself standing, a small church, a building which seems to be serving as some sort of magistrates office, and a couple of houses rather far apart from each other. He would, after his observation of his immediate surroundings, embrace the overwhelming characteristics of the town, such as the broad gravel road serving as the only street, the intense and dry heat reflecting on the corrugated iron roofs, and the quietness of the wide open spaces. The quietness of the surrounding being noteworthy, after the hours of exposure to the uncomfortable roaring sound of the government lorry’s loud diesel engine.

It was then in a town such as this, that this young gentleman, found himself as the newly appointed Reverent for the Dutch Reformed Church.

The residents of Duikersdrift, like most farming communities in South Africa, presented themselves in the most decent manner, with a hospitality that was often absent in the larger cities. As was custom, milk tarts and cookies made their way to the residence of the newly appointed reverent, as a token of reverence and respect for a man of such a profession, equaled in hierarchy only by the doctor. As was custom, he was expected to go from house to house, introducing himself, whist through the process acquiring peace of mind that his first Sunday on the pulpit, will not be greeted with empty pews.

It was through these preliminary house visits then, that the newly appointed reverent of Duikersdrift, found himself in the simple living room of one Marina Koch, together with her daughter, Klaradyn.

“I suppose this must be some adjustment for you, Reverent, coming to a town such as ours? I mean, the government has not even considered us for a telegraph line yet!” Marina said, sitting in the fashion of a lady, that is to say on the edge of the chair, before reaching for her tea.

“Please Ma’am, you may call me Chris,” as he specifically introduced himself to all he met as Chris Pieterse. “Yes you may say that, but for some reason I prefer the quiet life for the moment. I think this might be a season in my own life for some reflection, rather than the noise and influences of the masses out there.”

“Oh! Make no mistake, Reverent, make no mistake. This small town has much more activity then you might realize, much more I tell you! Tell me Reverent, do you have any influence in government? Like if we wanted a telegraph line prioritized?”

“Mom!” Klaradyn said in an embarrassing tone. “I’m sure the Reverent doesn’t need to be bothered with trivialities like that for the moment…”

“Oh Klaradyn! Really, what do you know?” Marina, snapped back at her, “Calling such important matters, trivial! The youth of today Reverent, you can’t imagine,” she said, once she turned her gaze to Chris again.

“It’s alright,” Chris smiled in a calming tone, changing his legs for comfort. “Of course I can’t promise anything but I’ll see if we can get someone’s attention back at home. By the looks of it, we might have to wait for the government lorry, only to arrive back here next Tuesday!”

“Don’t mind that Reverent,” Marina still not heeding for his request to call him on his first name. “Say Reverent, while we are on the subject, I take it you are not married yet?”

Chris tried to think what these two subjects had in common, yet answered ever politely that he had not been as fortunate yet. “It is not a matter of religion of course, as you know, I just haven’t seem to have managed to settle yet, so there is no rush…”

“Yes, yes,” Marina interrupted him thoughtfully, “You are still young, no need to rush these matters.”

Though Chris was barely out of university, he proofed himself as a keen observer of people, and his observations lead him to the conclusion that Marina might not have been the easiest person to live under one roof with. Whether it be because of the death of her husband a couple of months prior, or whether from the hardship of the rough country she was brought up in, he was not able to tell. This though was not as peculiar as the observation of her daughter’s smile, which did not reflect at all in the strikingly blue eyes of Klaradyn. The sadness and emptiness in her eyes was noticeable to such an extent, that Chris went to bed that night, wondering what the complexity of that girl’s life holds. She was only about twenty-two years of age, and by far not the most beautiful female Chris has seen in his lifetime, but really not bad looking either.

The Sunday morning church service went much better than Chris anticipated, as the little church was filled to the point that more chairs needed to be brought in and for the sake of ample supply of oxygen, all the windows were opened as wide as was possible. The temperature was uneasily high inside, and Chris, being dressed in his full clerical clothing, wondered why he didn’t rather choose to become a fireman, as it would have been equally throbbing to endure.

His message was simple, filled with humor, light hearted and one of giving hope, rather than the dull and slow sermons of his predecessor. To a community facing a wide range of challenges, it felt like heaven, with even the singing being raised in volume and vigor.

One unfortunate phenomenon in South African Dutch Reformed Churches is the fact that tradition often outweighs emotion and regularly, even common sense. This lead to the unspoken rule and the fact that, it was heavily frowned upon to clap hands or participate in any form or manner of applause in the solemn assembly, but somehow, on that first Sunday, the popularity of the newly appointed reverent, triumphed over tradition, with Chris, humbled as ever receiving a hearty ovation.

Standing full in his sacred duty as Holy man, he individually greeted each and every person by hand, outside the large church doors as the congregation slowly made their way to horse-cart and wagon. Something strange happened however, as Marina and Klaradyn was among the church members being whished a blessing and farewell.

Klaradyn, instead of the customary and appropriate handshake, took Chris’s hand with both her hands, combining it with a light shake. He immediately, without realizing felt a folded piece of paper in his hand, which he instinctively and without anyone noticing, put in the pocket of the right side of his trousers. Her hands then, let go of his hand, half a second longer then was appropriate, half stroking his hand with the letting go, but what troubled Chris the most, was the person he saw when he looked into her eyes. It was not Klaradyn looking at him. It was someone else, as if Klaradyn was not to be found. Chris felt the immense sensation of those eyes speaking to him. “I know who you are,” the look conversed. “You are not welcome here,” the person in her eyes seemed to have said.

Now Chris gathered himself to be a decent fellow. Never before has he experienced something as vivid as this, and he kept making it out to himself that he was imagining things which could easily be categorized as ridiculous and perhaps just his nerves getting the better of him. And in his mind, right he was, as the small note he opened, recited only one sentence, and that not of hostility but rather of a person with an innocent request.

‘I need to see you as a matter of urgency. Klaradyn’ the note read, in simple, clear handwriting.

Chris didn’t think much of it, but his mind kept going back to those eyes. And he surely didn’t imagine the extended holding of hands, and found the whole incident a little more than just strange. Chris’s thoughts were temporarily erupted by the pleasant town society who invited him to a Sunday lunch in the form of a picnic under the willow trees, next to the river some distance from town.

He was entertained with stories of a wedding that was held through a thunderstorm one afternoon, right there on the grass, small dash-hounds chasing cows, the disappearing of a famous peacock, and even the unexplained death of a cattle rancher who had a scar on his right cheek not too long ago. But Chis kept feeling the note in his pocket, and kept on thinking about the bizarre incident with Klaradyn. It was with those thoughts that Chris went to bed that night, firmly resolute to grant her, her wish by making an appointment with her the very next day.

One can indulge oneself in the most pleasant of walks in the city, but it is not the same as having the freedom of a morning stroll in a small town like Duikersdrift. There is a quietness and freshness of air, that reminded Chris of the Garden of Eden, starkly in contrast with the Train station in Pretoria, which in his own words, reminded him of “Lucifer’s court.” Where Chris was being reprimanded for his crude and direct language, he argued that the smell of burning coal and people crying whilst saying goodbye to their loved ones, does not exactly remind him of heaven, which in his mind was a fairly valid point.

With these thoughts, his extended Monday morning stroll did not yet reach half a mile out of town, spontaneously in the direction of where they enjoyed the previous day’s picnic, when a sudden shout behind him almost made him jump from fright.

It was Klaradyn. As unexpected as the British troops invading Transvaal again.

“Klaradyn?” Chris asked perplexed.

“Good morning!” she said with the broadest of smiles, which turned into a sudden frown. “Aren’t you glad to see me?”

“Mmm… surprised would be a more accurate word,” Chris said raising his eyebrows.

“Did you read my note then?” she asked, very well knowing what the answer is.

“Yes I did.”

They stood there just looking at each other for a moment, before she decided to take the lead.

“And?” she said with a child-like smile.

“Listen Klaradyn, I’m having my morning stroll here and was planning on coming by to your place later today, so perhaps we could go our separate ways and meet up, say at tea time?”

“I didn’t want you to come to our place, there are too many ears listening there, you see?” She answered with a voice that clearly portrait her state of self-pity. “I want to show you something, come with me!”

“Klaradyn, how did you know I would be walking here so early in the morning?”

“Oh! I was taking a stroll to, you know?” not making much effort to proclaim her innocence.

“No I don’t know Klaradyn,” Chris’s voice becoming all the more firm, “You live on the other side of town.”

“Oh don’t exaggerate, the town is only so big… and in any case, my favorite place is just up ahead! You see? Over by them Willow trees.”

Chris stood looking at her, weighing up his options. She really did spoil his calm state of mind, yet on the other hand, he was planning to see her, so he might just as well get it over and done with.

“All right then,” he said in the most firm manner ever, “Tell me what is so urgent that you needed to discuss with me.”

Once they reached the brook, circling through the lush green willow trees, she fell down on the grass, starring at Chris, who in turn did not feel the particular need to place himself on the ground as well.

“Are you not going to join me?” she asked in the voice of a little child.

“I’m quite at my leisure standing, thank you. Now you said you wanted to see me, as an urgent matter,” him rising his right eyebrow while uttering the word ‘urgent.’

“I’ve never had a boyfriend you know…” she paused to see his reaction, but seeing no response, continued, “you know you can kiss me if you like?”

“Klaradyn…”

“Wait! I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said rapidly. “We don’t get many new people in town you know?”

“Klaradyn, I don’t know you and I’m sure you would figure it out, but you know that I cannot partake in any such conduct. You understand that right?” Chris said with a soft gentleness in his voice.

“Oh!” she said while standing up, reaching to place her arms around him, “you don’t know what it is like!”

He firmly pushed her away from him, “You are right. I don’t know what it is like, but I can assure you that what you are suggesting is not the answer.”

She skillfully turned herself out of his grip and reach, and with the quickest of actions kissed him on the mouth, with him stepping back as an equal quick reaction.

“I think,” Chris replied angrily, “It is time for you to go home now.”

“You think I’m ugly, don’t you!” She tried one last time.

Chris turned around and made his way back to town at twice the pace he came, hearing in the background a rather hateful voice as she screamed, “You can have me any time you want, you know!”

Chris knew that encountering some difficulties with the newly appointed post, was to be expected, yet not in ten lifetimes did he imagine himself to be facing such chanches of occurrence . He has through the ministry, seen lonely people, frustrated wives, rebellious children, even naughty couples, but this? This was different. Her mood changed in an instant and her motives, without doubt beyond sinister.

If Chris thought that his encounter with Miss Koch was the sum total of his entrance into the community, then he was gravely mistaken. That Monday night plagued him with nightmares of a severe kind, having him tossing and turning in his bed, only to be woken up several times, soaked in his sweat. The government lorry arrived again the next day, and the thought of that lorry seemed for a fracture of a moment like the ticket to his freedom. A freedom he more and more wanted, for he spotted Klaradyn at several intervals per day, under a big tree, behind the fence at the back of his house. She didn’t seem to hide and almost went out her way to make her presence known. He tried to ignore her, but her expression on her face clearly portrayed the message that he was not going to get rid of her. So much so that he was unwavering resolute on having a rather serious discussion with her mom the following day.

Fearful of bumping into her again, Chris decided to postpone his beloved walk the Wednesday morning, by rather have a decent breakfast at home before heading over to the Koch house. Whilst contemplating, over a bowl of porridge, the previous night’s ordeal with nightmares that just wouldn’t go away, he thought about the dilemma and what exactly he was going to say to Klaradyn’s mother. It is not the easiest of subjects to raise when trying to establish new relationships,  especially since barely a week has gone by since his arrival in the farming cummunity of Duikersdrift.

A knock on the door brought him back to his senses, and as the top half of the kitchen door was already open, he could see a stately dressed man in formal clothing asking him if he can have a word.

“Of course, of course, come in,” Chris said welcoming the man in with his hand. “I was just going to pour me some coffee, do you want some?”

“No thanks, I’m fine,” the man replied in a tone less friendly. His clothing looked impeccably neat, parallel tot he preciseness of his dark hair.

“I’m truly sorry, I forgot your name…”

“It is Hans. Hans van der Heever.”

“Of course… Hans! Now I remember, have a seat! What do I owe the pleasure to?”

“Reverent…”

“Please call me Chris, everyone does,” Chris said, remaining as friendly as ever.

“No, I think I’ll call you Reverent.” He gave a pause and then continued, “I have something of grave importance to discuss with you.”

“Yes Hans, what can I help you with?”

“Grave importance,” Hans repeated as if Chris did not hear him the first time, and to somehow make his authority over the matter more prominent. “I am, as you know the magistrate in town, but I also see myself as a sort of guardian of the wonderful folks of this community.”

Hans paused once again to render some dramatic effect of some kind, and Chris for the moment thought that it might be a good thing he only preaches on Sundays, leaving him with all the time in the world to heed to the senseless power plays of various people.

“As I said, a guardian of sorts… And whenever a problem arises among the town folk, the people of this town, have absolute freedom to come and talk to me, about anything.”

Hans, looked at Chris, raising his eyebrows.

“About anything! You understand?”

Chris, neither smiling nor frowning, just nodded.

“They trust me. Trust has to be earned, he said in his pompous manner while Chris patiently waiting for him to come to the point.

“We received a complaint of the most serious kind, Reverent, the most serious kind.”

Chris now changed his gaze into a poker face, looking straight into the serious eyes of the ever so stately  Hans van der Heever.

“You,” Hans continued in his narrative, “have been conducting yourself toward Miss Koch, in a way inappropriate for a man of your stature. I would have thought that a man of your understanding would at least wait until he is settled in! But you? You throw yourself at the first opportunity that comes along, exploiting a young girl still grieving for her father she has lost!”

Chris’s blood started to boil and hoped that Hans didn’t notice the redness in his face.

“Now I wouldn’t elaborate on the specific details of the complaint, but I can tell you this Reverent, it is serious enough to have any man arrested, especially young reverends who think they can prey on the innocent young girls of a community like ours.”

For a moment, it looked like Mr Magistrate has lost his tongue, which helped Chris get the better of himself and calmed down extensively.

“So,” Hans came to his long thought conclusion. “I have decided, to give you a choice, and believe you me, you can thank me that you are in the fortunate position to be receiving a choice in the matter!” Another pause which lead to him looking very pleased with his choice of words, while all this time Chris possessing the wisdom to keep his mouth shut. “You either silently pack your bags, and with the next turn of the government lorry, without any fuss, make your way back to where you come from, with no questions asked and no answers given. Or, if you, against better judgement and in your impious folly decide to stay and remain in your shame, we will undoubtedly lodge a formal complaint with the Dutch Reformed Synod, resulting in your days as a respected Reverent numbered. I, myself will in that case have the personal satisfaction of detaining you by court of law, untill I see fit.”

With these words, Hans got up from the table, fastened his overcoat and as a closing statement said: “I’ll expect your answer by Monday.”

Chris, having taken the beating with not so much as raising an eyebrow, tried to keep his voice steady.

“May I ask, where this alleged inappropriate deed was supposed to have taken place?”

“Why!” Hans said in dismay, while turning around facing the door, “you mean to tell me that you didn’t force yourself onto Miss Koch outside town by the Willow trees next to the stream on Monday morning?”

“And I assume you have witnesses?”

Hans hesitated for a moment, and then mumbled a quick “yes” as he exited through the kitchen door.

Chris did not take long to realize that he was in the most difficult position in his life. He was new and such a matter would cripple his work in a town such as this. To come up with an excuse for his premature departure from this town would have its challenges, but to endure this kind of hostility was not part of the training. And hostility he did endure. News travels fast in such a community. His house visits was promptly met with people to busy, and even buying milk and bread in the shop became a battle of avoiding the deepest of unreceptive and judgmental looks. He had nothing to do but be a prisoner in his house, as the atmosphere in a town like this can quickly turn into a suffocating grip. A grip that will make you dread the task of giving a sermon the Sunday coming. But he had a job to do, and the Sunday morning’s sermon was delivered with no interruptions whatsover. The lack of interruptions as the result of a total attendance of only three people, sitting in the front row that morning. Chris knew there and then, why Hans, the stately Magistrate, gave him until Monday to answer on the limited options Hans gave him. Hans knew that the sight of an empty church would be a final stab in the heart.

Dark blue clouds were covering the sky that Tuesday morning, with slow, heavy drops hammering on the corrugated iron roof of the shop, where Chris sat on the veranda. Waiting for the green government lorry, and with packed suitcases on either side of him, he considered asking the shop owner for a coffee, but realized that with his current reputation, even that would be excessively heavy to bear.

Starring at the raindrops hitting the hard soil on the gravel road in front of him, kicking up dust from the ground, he felt an unexplained excitement and a sudden heaviness lifted from his shoulders. He hounestly did not know where the feeling of relief came from.  He was totally unaware that the recent events experienced, saved his life. He was unaware of the fact that the cattle farmer with the scar on his cheek, was, not far from the brook  outside town, murdered by his own daughter whom he molested for so many years. Chris did not know that after his departure, many more murders would follow, which served as punishment for a town who turned a blind eye, to such atrocities in their midst.

As the government lorry pulled away, it was almost as if Chris could see in the rearview mirror, a young lady by the name of Klaradyn Koch, standing in the middle of the road, her hair and dress, soaking wet from the rain, with a smile that looked like a special kind of wickedness.

 

*****

Bernard’s answer

Bernard’s answer

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

It was one of those peaceful evenings again. Outside the farm house, the hot humid air filled the heart of every living creature, and the low-veld quietness would have overwhelmed anybody taking a stroll in the moonlight.

The energy inside the homestead however proved to be quite the opposite. At least to Bernard Langford that was.

Bernard found himself at his writing desk in his bedroom, putting forth every attempt to write a letter which was due for some time now. His attention was with the light hearted conversation at the dining table though. The voices were that of his uncle and aunt stopping over for the night on their way to Swaziland. Accompanying them was two missionary friends of theirs, Johan and Magda, who thought it wise to make themselves at home in Bernard’s residence for the duration of the evening.

By entertaining his tiresome, almost unwanted guests for the most part of the afternoon, Bernard felt that he fulfilled his duty and retired to his room for a while before dinner. He couldn’t evade them for too long, as the dishes were being brought in and to make the guests wait would have been very rude.

From what he heard, the conversation ran in the lines of interesting places to visit in the area and the missionaries work as evangelists closer to the border. Neither a topic of interest to Bernard, and so it didn’t take much effort to let the dialogue run its due course.

And it was sort of pleasant and comfortable. Bernard didn’t say much and everyone around the table delighted themselves in expressing their different opinions over various topics.

After dinner the coffee was brought in and the prospect of a calm and undisturbed evening was insight. Bernard had a nice book in mind, and would, for the remainder of the evening, be doing a fair amount of reading.

And then it happened.

The question aimed right at his heart. Bernard didn’t know whether Magda, as well-intentioned as a missionary can be, asked the question just out of curiosity, or if she just thought the discussion needed to change to a more sinister direction. But she did ask. And whether it was his imagination or not, Bernard did detect a hint of sarcasm around the corners of her mouth. The tone, in which she conveyed her speech, was without a doubt in dire need of some optimism.

“Bernard,” she said. “Do you have someone in your life at the moment? Do you not think it is about time for you to start thinking about getting married? It must be really lonely on the farm here all by yourself.”

The thoughts flashed like lightening through Bernard’s mind. ‘…about time?’ she has the nerve to tell him ‘It’s about time!’

As good mannered as he is, Bernard stayed calm and paused for a moment, very carefully formulating his words.

All eyes were on him, and for a moment he hesitated, but then the words started flowing from his mouth, as firm and as full of authority as he looked Magda straight in the eyes and said;.

“To answer that question, I’ll have to start by telling you about a certain lady. This lady goes by the name of Bryarly Thompson. She has blond hair and a beautiful smile. We liked each other since the day we met, and understood each other in a very unique way. During our two year relationship, we never fought. Not once. We had a couple of arguments but we respected each other so much, and forgave each other so quickly, that fighting never occurred. At first I thought it might be a problem, because couples do fight occasionally, but later realized that it is not at all a defect in the relationship.

I loved her with all my heart, and when I would come back from a journey abroad, she would greet me with bucket loads of tears. We would hold each other so tight and not let go. We truly loved each other. She was a real lady in more ways than I could ever mention.

She was slightly shy and had an excellent sense of humor. Her intelligence was of the highest degree and her writing resembles that of superb creativity, professionalism and perfection.

She had a special love for cats and we had a mutual interest in many aspects including books, films and writing. There was also a big difference in many of our interests, and one might even say that the contrast in our personalities was of such a nature that we do not belong together at all.

And in fact, there were people that informed me that we do not actually belong together, upon which I ask myself the question, ‘why is it then that I remember more good times then bad?’ And believe you me, bad times there was.

You see, I wanted a better life in Christ, and it was then that a man of God told me that my relationship with Bryarly was holding me back from my true desire. And I believed him. I still do.

The relationship was that of a sinful nature. I prayed to be relieved from the bondage of sin and God relieved me of this burden. Bryarly and I were separated. And that brings me to the answer to your question, Magda. First of all, I have not, in the past two years, met any lady, with a spark of connection, not even remotely, in areas regarding emotion, intellect, love, physical desire, humor and wit, brightness in personality and strength in character, as was the case with Bryarly.

And secondly, it is God who answered my prayer, by freeing me from sin. It is God who enables me to be telling you this story tonight. Is God not then able to provide me a wife with whom I can share the same, if not more, goodness and fullness I had with Bryarly? Is it not to God then to whom I turn my prayers and Him who fulfill my every need?

My answer to you, Magda is this in that I’ll advise you to not open your mouth any longer than you’ve done already. Do not speak of matters you know nothing of, for anything you further more utter regarding these issues, will only result in the very overtly display of your foolishness.”

Complete silence filled the room.

Not a single word was said until the following morning when the company departed.

*****

Coffee cups

Coffee cups

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

In life, there are just certain things a man needs to hide. Especially in this part of the Eastern Free State.

Like for instance your neighbour’s cattle that incidentally came strolling on to your farm as a result of a broken fence down by the poort. Or perhaps the collection of Martini-Henry rifles, taken from the Kakies in the Anglo-Boer war, now buried under a poplar tree not far from your home.

According to the law these rifles are still government property but few of us farmers here in the Clocolan district agree with the new government or their policies. If it were up to us, we would still be fighting the English. I figure the only reason we didn’t go over to conquer Britain is that we are not interested in an island where the farms are the size of our own backyards.

I, on the other hand did not feel the least bit of remorse about my stubborn neighbour, Pieter Wiese’s cattle on my farm and I felt even less guilty about the English rifles that I had taken. I was however, ashamed about the fact that next to me, in my voorkamer, sat a very lovely and splendid looking lady by the name Susan, and I could not even offer her a cup of coffee. The reason for my predicament starts with a whole different story that took place on the farm just before the war ended.

Chris Serfontein, together with five of us Boers was ordered to ambush the Kakies by the poort at a time when it was still his farm. We waited in the tree line until rather late at night and were much exited to see the English officers coming through the poort, but became more and more concerned about our own well fare when we saw that they were accompanied by little less than a regiment.

The six of us has seen some tough battles in the past few years but somehow we didn’t seem very enthusiastic about starting a fight with a whole regiment. So it came to that without any need for words or hand gestures, we quietly drew back to Chris Serfontein’s farmstead for a cup of coffee and a bit of rest from the long day’s waiting.

Kobus Bosman mentioned that if we had one or two more men, we would have walked right over that regiment. He did mention it however while sitting comfortable on a riempies chair in the leisure and safety of Chris Serfontein’s farm house.

We didn’t have time for much conversation, for some of the solders from the regiment broke away and decided to investigate the one and only building on the farm. Chris Serfontein’s house.

Naturally all candles and lanterns were put out but even with the moon shining, we couldn’t make out the exact number of solders kneeling down some distance from the house. It was very quiet and the slight breeze that we felt against our cheeks earlier the evening disappeared as well.

Then, suddenly as vicious  as thunder, came the order from an English officer for all of us to come out and present ourselves with our hands held up high, or they will (to put it in his words) blow the house up with shells that even the residents of Kimberley will hear.

We thought it very arrogant of this officer to be giving orders like that. We knew for a fact that Kimberley is at least four hundred miles away and without the slight breeze, or any wind for that matter, the sound will not reach even the church in Clocolan.

We also knew that the population of Kimberley are so deep in a hole, hauling out diamonds, they wouldn’t hear canon fire, even fired from the kerkplein right in the middle of Kimberly. Based on the foolish words of the officer, we decided not to listen to a rooinek that doesn’t know what he was talking about, and just laid low on the kitchen floor.

In the end the English didn’t blow up the house like they said they would. They only sent what seemed like an endless amount of bullets through the corrugated iron roof for their thoughts must have lead them to the conclusion that we can not be anywhere else but in the ceiling of the house.

To us who were keeping our heads low, it sounded worse than a hail storm coming down, and I more than once wondered if there were any corrugated iron roofs in Heaven, seeing that I was about to meet a few Biblical figures that very evening. I did not make it to heaven.

Instead, all six of us fled through the kitchen window at the back of the house and decided there and then that our families must be missing us very much and that it would be best to return to our homes, at least for a while. Those of us that didn’t have any family left felt the same in the way that their cattle must be longing to see them.

Soon afterwards, Chris Serfontein made a big mistake by cutting the points of his bullets, making them dum-dum bullets and was executed right in front of his home. Not before he said some harsh words to the English officer about how dumb-witted he think the English were for shooting hundreds of holes through his roof and that Igor, his pig had more brains then all of these solders put together.

The war ended and I eventually took over Chris Serfontein’s farm with holes in the roof remaini for quite some time. Money was scarce and most of us had to rebuild our farms all over again. A fixed roof was considered a luxury.

The trouble with a leaking roof is, I said to Susan, is that all my coffee cups are occupied in preventing the water falling on the wooden floor.

Susan, sitting next to me, gave a shy smile and it is amazing how a smile like that can fix one’s mind on matters other than protecting a floor. By candle light, her red lips and dark brown hair caught my attention to such a degree that I never noticed the cups getting fuller and fuller as the rain came pouring down on the house.

Like the cattle of Pieter Wiese on my farm and the English rifles buried under the poplar tree, the happenings of that evening with just the two of us in my voorkamer is something else I need to hide, particularly from the new Dutch Reformed reverend in town.

The happenings of that evening of which the details will be left to your imagination, is also something that I am not the least bit sorry about. It was only the next morning that my attention was drawn to my wooden floor, ruined beyond what I can describe in words.
 

*****

Meisie van Clocolan

Meisie van Clocolan

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

It was at a time when quite the whole world was expecting a miracle. The British had lost many a solder in the war, and the Afrikaners seem to have lost their President in a country not so close to the republic as they’re thoughts would allow them to imagine.

Yet I couldn’t help thinking about the yellow leaves falling down from the poplar tree by the broken hedge, landing as if to cover up all the sorrow and bitterness, which was so integrated with being part of the Boer nation. It was then that I saw the first and only tear, running down the cheek of a young lady, whom few people was ever delighted to see.

Christo Le Roux and I both had farms in the Lydenburg district, however after joining the commando at Lydenburg, it was not as profitable to return to our farms as it was after the first Boer war.

Most of the burghers understood the impact of military conflict and sympathized with us, some of them themselves not being able to return under the circumstances. Yet I knew that if Christo only had taken care of his workforce like the rest of us boers, that is with a whip and a veldtskoen kick ever so often, as was custom, they would have kept his farm intact, waiting on his return, not allowing the Venda’s to steal half of his cattle.

Everybody knew that a Venda will only come at night, taking a Brahmaan perhaps if he had the wits to do so, but with Christo, during our lack of presence they would, not bothering with cut fences, gently lead the cattle right through the main gate, all before tea time on a Monday morning. Now he had quite a few theories about my way of farming too, but all so ridiculous that it’s hardly worth mentioning. I was a hard worker without a doubt. It was just co-incidence that I was sitting on the stoep, smoking my pipe, gazing over the veld every time he dropped by.

We were trekking to the Clocolan district as we learned that a niece of Christo was in trouble due to her husband’s injury, and needed some assistance with the harvesting season to come. Some residence in town, including Dominie Louw’s wife, however speculated that we were running away from our troubles just as we were running away from the kakies.

What these dorpsjapies seemed to have missed is the fact that whenever we were on the battlefield, our veldkornet was running in the opposite direction to welcome the re-enforcements, (who very seldom turned up) and it only made sense that he needed some protection.

Therefore Christo and I always volunteered, without even considering the risk of being hit by a strayed bullet. The battles usually took some time and we usually, simultaneously agreed that in addition, attending to the horses behind the sandstone ridges would be part of our commando duty too.

On the trek, stopping over at a spruit near Lindley, I was busy scrapping some cow dung of my shoe when Christo made a remark about how far we could have been if it wasn’t for me being quite at my leisure that morning, under a Kiepersol that I found rather relaxing. “Johannes,” he said: “ More dou voor dag val ons in die pad, want by die tyd wat jy eendag rigting kry, het ons al teen die Indieers ook geveg voordat ons ‘n enkele morg geploeg het.”

I didn’t take offence at his remarks for I was more concerned about the smell of my shoe and I also knew that his literacy was somewhat limited.

How could he have known that it would take the Indians twice as long to reach Capetown then it did the British, and with their why of thinking they would sell the mausers to us rather than fight with them. What I didn’t care to mention was that with Christo’s way of farming, he’s not going to plough a morg even if the Indians went out of their way to help him.

There was how ever another reason why he was somewhat in a hurry.

The reason had a peculiar effect, even on myself. The reason had slightly pale cheeks, long dark hair and I have until today, not seen a pair of brown eyes matching her’s.

It would take no more than just a glance to bring to mind an odd but lovely restlessness when only she intended to ask how much sugar you want in your coffee. She had a casual way of dealing with people, as if to tell the world that nobody and nothing can even as much as touch her, let alone hurt her in any sense. Nobody knew why but for some strange reason, she was fascinated by bees, and would spend hour upon hour, strolling through the flowers in the veld, in order to get a glimpse of the black and yellow insects.

Not that I gave it much thought. I was more concerned with her name. An ordinary name, but she gave the name a whole new meaning.

Elizabeth.

Christo met her once, where she was joining his niece for a Sunday lunch after the nagmaal.

The politics between the British and the boers were quite tense before the war, and you could have imagined the tension in the voorkamer that afternoon. Given her name, she was as English as the Martini-henry rifle that caused the hole in my left veldtskoen.

Yet, she has done more for the boers then most can remember. Fortunately or not, the friction in relations didn’t stop Christo from taking a rather sincere interest in her. The few words between them, at the time was just a memory though.

If you knew Christo in his younger days you would have taken him for a stately, but shy young man. Whether his big nose and large feet had anything to do with it, I can’t tell, but the few words ever spoken, came mostly from her lips. He just nodded his head every time she asked him about the draught and the rinderpes and the way the cold and merciless southern wind comes from over the Witteberge.

As I said, all it became was a single memory; they never saw each other ever again. Neither did Christo, after leaving Lydenburg, see another morg again. That is to plough with at least.

As was the plan, we had one more stop before reaching the farm and it so happened that on the last stretch, making our way through the eastern Freestate, one of the wheels on the kakebeen came undone just as we were sliding over the ridge at Sekondela’s hoed.

We were forced to outspan the oxen right in the kloof, where any Sangoma will tell you is by far the coldest place to be camping, winter or summer. Christo became more and more moody where he was sitting on a rock, chewing on a piece of biltong.

I must admit that I was a bit temperamental myself, but only because he himself decided that he had to get the bigger piece of the biltong. Especially because it was our last biltong for the trip. At the time I didn’t think it necessary to tell him about the bottle of brandy I had in my suitcase, guaranteed that with the low temperatures the bottle wouldn’t last too long. Indeed did the fact that we could have been on the farm with a person he was very much looking forward to see, contribute to his moodiness.

Nothing could have been done however, for as soon as he went lying next to the camp fire, he realized that the stinging feeling in his shoulder must have either be a scorpion, or a thorn from an Acacia. Since neither of us saw any Acacia trees standing about, we both new that he wouldn’t make it very far.

Even after the bottle of brandy, which I only after then thought right to be shared, he couldn’t lift his head and never saw daylight again.

His last words, with me lying on the ground next to him, kept drumming in my ears and were as clear as the water in the kloof down below. He kept going on and on about that “meisie van Clocolan”. At first I thought it strange for him to be repeating the words like that. According to my knowledge they hardly knew each other.

It was only at the funeral, where I realized that through all these years, their correspondence never came to a halt.

It was right there, where the yellow leaves from the poplar tree were falling on the grave of Christo Gerhard Le Roux, where I saw the first and only tear, running down the cheek of Elizabeth.

She was after all, looking forward to his coming, just as much as he was longing for her lips, for even though there were only a few spoken words between them, after that Sunday lunch, next to the broken hedge, they shared a kiss that, to a large extent, tasted like honey.

*****

The conversation

The conversation

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

“I have said it all you know. I have seen it all too!”

Those were the words Bernard Langford was ranting at the thought of the current literature going about, telling people how and what life ought to look like. He just finished reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and reflected on how most entertainment flourishes on romance, and that in reality romance could never amount to anything more than just an illusion. Bernard might have had very different reflections on such matters, were it not for a few recent and unfortunate events he found himself intertwined with, shaping his views dramatically on the nature of these subjects.

“The reason why the modern day Afrikaner don’t struggle with these sort of issues could most easily be explained by the total and utter lack of intelligence,” Bernard continued. “The sum total of the inner conflict within an Afrikaans speaking Boer starts and stops with Afrikaans grammar. If a person cannot even properly read and write in his home language, how can one expect that very same man to read the works of Tolstoy, Dickens and Shakespeare, and on top of that expect from him to understand it all?”

The early morning heat was thoroughly setting in on the mining town of Barberton, and one would not have been wrong to suspect the high humidity as culprit to influence several people in talking and arguing with themselves, such as Bernard was active in doing. The content of this self talk didn’t vary a great deal as most people streaming into the newly found, fast growing Daisy town of a community had one thing on their mind and that was gold. Even the cattle farmers in the district had their conversations altered by the minerals giving the town a very distinct sort of energy.

Bernard however, being a cattle farmer himself, did not pay much attention to all the new faces appearing on a weekly basis, and kept himself occupied with what he so fondly referred to as ‘progressive improvements’ on his farm. He read the term in an agricultural book from England, immediately took the words to heart and in his mind, distinguished himself from the rest of the farming community. This also then led to his outspoken and unpopular opinion about the illiterate Afrikaner. He would have been less outspoken on such matters if he had known about the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War the following year.

The doors of the hardware store in front of which Bernard had been waiting has just opened and without hesitation, Bernard, dismounted from his horse and headed straight for the entrance, walking with a brisk pace into the lobby. The open doors and large wooden frame windows gave the room an unusual air of delight.

At first he didn’t see anyone, but a movement on his left drew his attention. On the far side, behind the counter sat a young woman who, upon hearing the noise of boots on the wooden floor, lifted her gaze.

Bernard took a step in her direction and noticed that she was writing in a notebook of sorts. He also noticed her very neat red hair and facial features many would regard as exceptionally attractive.

Without further delay, he greeted her with an optimistic ‘Good morning!’

“Hi,” she friendly greeted him back.

“I’m looking for Wilma, is she around?” he said keeping his focus on her blue eyes.

“She’s not in at the moment. Can I perhaps be of some assistance?”

Bernard struggled keeping a smile from his mouth as her talking drew all his attention to her very red lips, but kept calm and continued the conversation. “I’ll be all right thanks. I ordered some corrugated iron and it should be ready for collection… “

“O.K,” she sayd. “I might have not been able to help you with that. I’m here for only a day or two, on some legal business.”

“I see,” Bernard said not sure of what else to say. “Which company do you work for?”

“Zietsmans Attorneys. We’re in Johannesburg,” she replied, still with a friendly tone. “You must come and visit when you’re in the area.”

“I’ll be glad to do that. I hope you enjoyed your visit here in Baberton…” Being conscious of his every move, and just before he turns around to walk out, takes one last glance in her direction and says, “Sorry, I didn’t get your name?”

“Henriëtte.”

“I’m Bernard. Bernard Langford.” He paused for a moment, then with a firm voice and calculated hand gesture drew to a close; “Henriëtte, it was a pleasure meeting you, and all the best.”

“Ta for now.”

Bernard turned around and walked out. He gave himself a minute before returning his thoughts to the surprisingly lovely lady he just met.

‘Wow!’ he thought to himself. ‘For one, it’s a pity I don’t have any connection whatsoever with Johannesburg or anyone living there. What’s worse is that I doubt my thoughts for the rest of the day will return to a rational state of mind.’

Trying to process the incident, he stood next to his horse while staring straight into the ground, trying to get a hold on his thoughts. ‘Goodness me, she is beautiful… just plain remarkably gorgeous!’

2

In general, cattle farmers (or any farmers for that matter) are not what one would call the most brilliant of mathematicians. They do however possess an ability to predict outcomes by way of estimating the odds of something happening. This ability comes by way of many years experience involving weather conditions, working with the land and earth and a certain understanding regarding the common temperament of both Afrikaner and Native working people.

Bernard could for instance without much effort tell that Oom Pierre Laubscher, the manager on the neighbouring farm would be the one stealing the chickens from the homestead. Bernard would also predict, based on the heavy rain that this will without any doubt happen on the following Wednesday evening, and Oom Pierre were more than likely to blame Abraham, one of the farm labourers. Abraham, being hundred percent Ndebele, has trouble understanding Afrikaans and therefore the odds are in the favour of Oom Pierre, as the matter would turn out undisputed with Abraham facing the consequences and penalty.

There is no science behind predicting odds. That might have been the primary reason why Bernard miscalculated his chances of going to Johannesburg. Especially miscalculating his odds of visiting Johannesburg no more than three weeks after he met this splendid woman he can’t seem to get out of his mind.

Bernard thus found himself standing in the corridor of a rather large building, located in the central business district of Johannesburg. On the outside, big letters spelled out “Zietsmans Attorneys” and Bernard’s reason for visiting was to do with a dispute between a goldmine in Baberton and the community of farmers.

Bernard had in fact already seen the appropriate person and was now standing in front of a dark brown office door. On the door the printed name stated; “Henriëtte Van Helsdingen,” and underneath the name, “Events coordinator.”

He found himself to be high spirited and loaded with jest. It was then with this very good mood that he knocked on the door which after a couple of seconds opened in to a rather small office.

His eyes fell immediately on her face and he recognised her lovely features at once.

“Hello!” Bernard greeted her, with a descend smile, honestly glad to see her.

“Hi, how are you?” she greeted back.

Bernard then noticed how small the office really is, with her desk to the left of the door, and only one other chair available in the office. He didn’t want to march in so stood in the doorway and waited for an invitation to come in.

“I was in the neighbourhood and thought I’d drop by and say hello,” He said still taking very much notice of her blue eyes.

“Oh, that’s nice of you…” she said smiling.

“Yes…” Bernard continued without really knowing what to say, “Do you know anything on the Goldmine dispute in Baberton?”

“No, not really.”

Still no invitation to come in.

“You should actually speak to my boss, Gerald Morrison. He should be able to help you.”

Right there Bernard realised Henriëtte does not know that he already had a lengthily conversation with her boss and thought he would make light of the matter. “Oh that’ll help a lot, would you be as kind as to introduce me to him?”

It looks like she realised she might have gone over the top with those words and quickly corrects herself; “Oh… he’s a very busy man, I don’t think I’ll be able to get you an appointment with him on such a short notice…”

“Oh do try… would you?”

“It’s not that easy,” she said looking slightly nervous. “We as personal on this level do not even speak to him. We arrange meetings and the like through his secretary, you see…”

“Wouldn’t you try for me? Please?”

Hesitantly she picked up the receiver and prepared herself to ask for the operator. Just then Bernard gave a soft laugh and prevented her from making the connection.

“I’ve already spoken to him, it’s all right. I’m only joking.”

“So you’re all right then with the necessary information? “ She smiled widely, and Bernard not being sure if that smile is a result of relief for not needing to make the call or if she also found the situation as light hearted as he did.

“Yes, I’m all sorted thanks!”

“All right…” She says hesitant. “So you have all you need then?”

“I have all I need and what’s more, I’ll be dining and lodging with Mr Morrison tonight,” Bernard says smiling even more when he sees her surprised face.

“Oh, o.k…”

“Yes…”

And it happened. Suddenly neither Henriëtte nor Bernard had anything more to say. There was no invitation for him to enter in to the office, which he found unpleasantly peculiar but realised it only afterwards. She was not unfriendly, disgusted or indifferent even. It only seemed that no matter how hard Bernard tried, she could not find any means to relate to him.

Not wanting the conversation to be to awkward, Bernard mentioned that he will, before dinner tonight go and have some tea at ‘The Harold & Koch Lounge’ which was just around the corner from her office. Her replay was that she never went there and that she didn’t like the people there.

‘What on earth am I to say to that?’ Bernard immediately thought.

In the end, there really was not much else to converse about. He politely and as charming as ever, ended the conversation and left it at that.

While having tea at The Harold and Koch, he focused all his attention on the conversation and came to the conclusion that it might be possible for her to have the wit, social intelligence and thinking capacity of Oom Pierre Laubscher. There is of course nothing wrong with that, but he himself does not spend much time with Oom Pierre for a very specific reason.

Bernard sat at the table, so lost in thought that he did not even appreciate the tea which he was so very fond of. He then took out a brown, leather covered journal from his brief case, and wrote;

27 August 1898

And so he saw the most splendid and gracious lady. She had the perfect smile and the expression on her face was most inviting. After some time, the opportunity presented itself for him to pay her a quick visit in the city where she lived. He knocked on the door, the door opened and there she was, beautiful as ever. His heartbeat kept climbing and his eyes revealed the energy generated through his whole being.

And then it happened.

She opened her mouth.

Bang!

She couldn’t help it and she was not even aware of the fact that to him, her intelligence, or lack thereof was unattractive to the point of utter shock and total devastation. There was nothing she said or did that seemed inappropriate or embarrassing even, yet it took less than a two minute conversation for him to realize that if he did not move along swiftly, he will face very challenging consequences. To her however, life went on as usual.

Bernard Langford once again reflected on how most entertainment flourished on romance, and that in reality romance could never amount to anything more than just an illusion.

*****