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being closely surrounded by mountains. The sheep, however, had in most places given way to ostriches,-feathers at present ruling higher in the world than wool. I could not but hope as I saw the huge birds stalking about with pompous air, which as you approached them they would now and again change for a flirting gait, looking back over their shoulders as they skipped along with ruffled tails;--I have seen a woman do very much the same;that they might soon be made to give place again to the modest sheep.

Oudtshoorn,-a place with a most uncomfortably Dutch name,—is an uninteresting village about two miles long; which would, at least, be uninteresting were it not blessed with a superlatively good hotel kept by one Mr. Holloway. Mr. Holloway redeems Oudtshoorn, which would otherwise have little to say for its own peculiar self. But it is the centre of a rich farming district, and the land in the valleys around it is very fertile. It must be remembered that fertility in South Africa does not imply a broad area of cultivated land, or even a capacity for it. Agriculture is everywhere an affair of patches, and frequently depends altogether on irrigation. Near Oudtshoorn I saw very fine crops, and others which were equally poor, the difference having been caused altogether by the quantity of water used. The productiveness of South Africa is governed by the amount of skill and capital which is applied to the saving of rain when rain does fall, and to the application of it to the land when no rain is falling. How far the water sent by God may, with the assistance of science, be made sufficient for the cultivation of the broad plains, I, at least, am unable to say. They who can measure the rainfalls, and the nature of the slopes by which the storms and showers may be led to their appointed places, will after a while

tell us this. But it is patent to all that extensive cultivation in South Africa must depend on irrigation.

I had come to Oudtshoorn chiefly to see the Cango Caves. I wish some of my readers would write the name of the village in order that they may learn the amount of irritation which may be produced by an unfortunately awkward combination of letters. The Cango Caves are 24 miles distant from the place, and are so called after the old name of the district. Here too they make brandy from grapes,-called euphoniously "Old Cango." The vituperative have christened the beverage Cape Smoke. "Now I'll give you a glass of real fine Old Cango," has been said to me more than once. I would strongly advise weak-headed Europeans, not to the manner born, to abstain from the liquor under whatever name it may make its appearance. But the caves may be seen without meddling with the native brandy. We brought ours with us, and at any rate believed that it had come from France.

The road from the village to the caves is the worst, I think, over which wheels were ever asked to pass. A gentleman in Oudtshoorn kindly offered to take us. No keeper of post horses would let animals or a carriage for so destructive a journey. At every terrific jolt and at every struggle over the rocks my heart bled for our friend's property, of which he was justly proud. He abstained even from a look of dismay as we came smashing down from stone to stone. Every now and then we heard that a bolt had given way, but were assured in the same breath that there were enough to hold us together. We were held together; but the carriage I fear never can be used again. The horses perhaps with time may get over their ill usage. We were always going into a river .or going out of it, and the river had succeeded in carry

ing away all the road that had ever been made. Unless the engineers go seriously to work I shall be the last stranger that will ever visit the Cango Caves in a carriage.

I have made my way into various underground halls, the mansions of bats and stalactites. Those near Deloraine in Tasmania are by far the most spacious in ascertained length that I have seen. Those at Wonderfontein in the Transvaal, of which I will speak in the next volume, may be, and probably are, larger still, but they have never been explored. In both of these the stalactites are much poorer in form than in the caves of the Cheddar cliffs,-which however are comparatively small. The Mammoth Caves in Kentucky I have not visited; but I do not understand that the subterranean formations are peculiarly grand. In the Cango Grottoes the chambers are very much bigger than in the Tasmanian Caves. They also have not been fully explored. But the wonderful forms and vagaries of the stalactites are infinitely finer than anything I have seen elsewhere. We brought with us many blue lights,—a sort of luminary which spreads a powerful glare to a considerable distance for three or four minutes, without which it would be impossible to see the shapes around. The candles which we carried with us for our own guidance had little or no effect.

In some places the droppings had assumed the shape of falling curtains. Across the whole side of a hall, perhaps sixty feet long, these would hang in regular pendent drapery, fold upon fold, seeming to be as equal and regular as might be the heavy folds protecting some inner sacred chapel. And in the middle of the folds there would be the entrance, through which priests and choristers and people might walk as soon as the machinery had been put to work and the curtain had been with

drawn. In other places there would hang from the roof the collected gathered pleats, all regular, as though the machinery had been at work. Here there was a huge organ with its pipes, and some grotesque figure at the top of it as though the constructor of all these things had feared no raillery. In other places there were harps against the walls, from which, as the blue lights burned, one expected to hear sounds of perhaps not celestial minstrelsy. And pillars were erected up to the ceiling, -not a low grovelling ceiling against which the timid visitor might fear to strike his head, but a noble roof, perfected, groined, high up, as should be that of a noble hall. That the columns had in fact come drop by drop from the rock above us did not alter their appearance. There was one very thick, of various shapes, grotesque and daring, looking as though the base were some wondrous animal of hideous form that had been made to bear the superstructure from age to age. Then as the eye would struggle to examine it upwards, and to divide the details each from the others, the blue light would go out and the mystery would remain. Another blue light would be made to burn; but bats would come flitting through, disturbing all investigation;—and the mystery would still remain.

There were various of these halls or chambers, all opening one to another by passages here and there, so that the visitor who is never compelled to travel far, might suppose them all to be parts of one huge dark mansion underground. But in each hall there were receding closets, guarded by jutting walls of stalactite breast high, round which however on closer search, a way would be found,—as though these might be the private rooms in which the ghouls would hide themselves when thus disturbed by footsteps and voices, by candles and

South Africa. I.


blue lights from above. I was always thinking that I should come upon a ghoul; but there were inner chambers still into which they crept, and whither I could not follow them.

Careful walking is necessary, as the ground is uneven; and there are places in which the ghouls keep their supply of water,-stone troughs wonderfully and beautifully made. But except in one place there is no real difficulty in moving about, when once the visitor to the Caves has descended into them. At this place the ascent is perplexing, because the ground is both steep and slippery. I can imagine that a lady or an old man might find it difficult to be dragged up. Such lady or old man should either remain below or allow his companions to drag him up. There is very little stooping necessary anywhere. But it has to be borne in mind that after entering the mouth of the cave and reaching the first chamber, the realms I have described have to be reached by an iron ladder which holds 38 steps. To get on to this ladder requires some little care and perhaps a dash of courage. The precautions taken, however, suffice, and I think I may say that there is no real danger.

We called at a Dutch Boer's house about a mile from the Caves, and were accompanied by three members of the Boer's family. This is usual, and, I believe, absolutely necessary. I paid one of the men a sovereign for his trouble, which sum he named as his regular price for the assistance provided. He found the candles, but some of our party took the blue lights with them. Nothing I could have been seen without them.

From Oudtshoorn I travelled back through the Outiniqua mountains by Robinson's pass to Mossel Bay, and thence returned by steamer to Capetown.

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