Images de page
PDF
ePub

at both of them the same thing prevailed. Here there were large vineyards, and oranges in lieu of ostriches. At one beautiful spot, just under the mountains, there was a grove of 500 orange trees from which, the proprietor told me, he had during the last year made a net profit of £200 after paying all expenses. £200 will go a long way towards the expenditure of a Dutch farmer's house. Of course there was no rent to be paid as the whole place belonged to him,—and had probably belonged to his ancestors for many generations. He was lord also of a large vineyard which he told me had cost a great deal of labour to bring to its present perfection of cleanliness and fertility.

of

Here too we were taken into the house and had wine given to us, wine that was some years old. It certainly was very good, resembling a fine port that was just beginning to feel its age in the diminution of its body. We enquired whether wine such as that was for sale, but were told that no such wine was to be bought from any grower grapes. The farmers would keep a little for their own use, and that they would never sell. Neither do the merchants keep it,-not finding it worth their while to be long out of their money,--nor the consumers, there being no commodity of cellarage in the usual houses of the Colony. It has not been the practice to keep wine, and consequently the drinker seldom has given to him the power of judging whether the Cape wines may or may not become good. At dinner tables at the Cape hosts will apologise for putting on their tables the wines of the Colony, telling their guests that that other bottle contains real sherry or the like. I am inclined to think that the Cape wines have hardly yet had a fair chance, and have been partly led to this opinion by the excellence of that which I drank at Great Draghen

stern,-which was the name either of the farm or of the district in question.

As we had wandered through the grove we saw oranges still hanging on the trees, high up out of reach. The season was over but still there were a few. It is a point of honour to keep them as long as possible,-so that towards December they become valuable treasures. I had one given to me when we started, as being the oldest of the party. It was scrupulously divided, and enjoyed no doubt very much more than had we been sent away with our cart full.

[ocr errors]

Here too the house was exceedingly picturesque, being surrounded by oak trees. There was no entrance hall, such as has been common with us for many years; but the rooms were lofty, spacious, and well built, and the neighbouring wilderness of a garden was wonderfully sweet with flowers. The owner was among the vines when we arrived, and as he walked up to us in the broad place in front of his house, he informed us that he was "jolly old This he said in Dutch. His only word of English was spoken as we parted. "Good bye, old gentleman," he holloaed out to me as I shook hands with him. Here as elsewhere there was no breadth of cultivation. The farm was large, but away from the house, and on it there were only a few cattle. There can be no cultivation without irrigation, and no extended irrigation without much labour. Like other farmers in South Africa jolly old

complained that his

industry was sadly crippled by want of labour. Nevertheless jolly old seemed to me to be as well

off as a man need be in this world. Perhaps it was that I envied him his oaks, and his mountains, and his old wine, and the remaining oranges.

We visited also a wool-washing establishment which

had just been set up with new fashioned machinery, and then we had seen all that The Paarl had to shew us in the way of its productions. I should perhaps say that I visited the stores of a great wine company, at which, in spite of the low price of the article in which they deal, good dividends are being paid. At the wine stores I was chiefly interested in learning that a coloured cooper whom I saw at work on a cask,‚—a black man,--was earning £300 a year. I enquired whether he was putting by a fortune and was told that he and his family lived from hand to mouth and that he frequently overdrew his wages. "But what does he do with the money?" I asked. "Hires a carriage on Sundays or holy days and drives his wife about," was the reply. The statement was made as though it were a sad thing that a coloured man should drive his wife about in a carriage while labour was SO scarce and dear, but I was inclined to think that the cooper was doing well with his money. At any rate it pleased me to learn that a black man should like to drive his wife about; and that he should have the

means.

I was very much gratified with The Paarl, thinking it well for a Colony to have a town and a district so pretty and so prosperous. The population of the district is about 16,000, and of the town about 8000. It is, however, much more like a large village than a small town, —the feeling being produced by the fact that the houses all have gardens attached to them and are built each after its own fashion and not in rows.

From this place I and the friend who was travelling with me went on by cart to Ceres. It would have been practicable to go by railway at any rate to the Ceres Road Station, but we were anxious to travel over two of the finest mountain roads in South Africa, Bain's Kloof,

and Mitchell's Pass, both of which lay on the road from The Paarl to Ceres. To do so we passed through Wellington and Wagon-maker's valley, which lay immediately under the Hottentot mountains. I have described grapes and oranges as being the great agricultural industries of The Paarl district;—but I must not leave the locality without recording the fact that the making of Cape carts and wagons is a specialty of The Paarl and of the adjacent country. It is no more possible to ignore the fact in passing through its streets than it is to ignore the building of carriages in Long Acre. The country up above The Paarl has been called Wagonmaker's valley very far back among the Dutch of the Cape, and the trade remains through the whole district. And at Wellington there is I believe the largest orange grove in the country. Time did not allow me to see it, but I could look down upon it from some of the turns in the wonderful road by which Mr. Bain made his way through the mountains.

Rising up from Wellington is the Bain's Kloof road which traverses the first instalment of the barrier mountains. It is the peculiarity of these hills that they seem to lie in three folds, so that when you make your way over the first you descend into the valley of the Breede River,--and from thence ascend again on high, to come down into the valley of Ceres, with the third and last range of the Hottentots still before you. Bain's Kloof contains some very grand scenery, especially quite at the top;—but is not equal either to Montague Pass,— or to Mitchell's Pass which we were just about to visit. Descending from this we crossed at the fords two branches of the Breede River,—at one of which the bridge was impassable, there never having been a bridge at the other, and immediately ascended Mitchell's Pass. The

whole of the country north and east of Capetown as far as the mountains extend is made remarkable by these passes which have been carried through the hills with great engineering skill and at an enormous cost to the Colony. It has chiefly been done by convict labour,—— the labour of its own convicts-for the Colony, as my reader will I hope remember, has never received a convict from the Mother Country. But convict labour is probably dearer than any other. The men certainly are better fed than they would be if they were free. Houses have to be built for them which are afterwards deserted. And when the man has been housed and fed he will not work as a freeman must do if he means to keep his place. But the roads have been made, and Mitchell's Pass into the valley of Ceres is a triumph of engineering skill.

To see it aright the visitor should travel by it from Ceres towards the Railway. We passed it in both directions and I was never more struck by the different aspect which the same scenery may bear if your face be turned one way or the other. The beauty here consists of the colour of the rocks rather than of the shape of the hills. There is a world of grey stone around you as you ascend from the valley which becomes almost awful as you look at it high above your head and then low beneath your feet. As you begin the ascent from Ceres, near the road but just out of sight of it, there is a small cataract where the Breede runs deep through a narrow channel,narrow that a girl can jump from rock to rock. Some years since a girl was about to jump it when her lover, giving her a hand to help her, pulled her in. She never lived to become his bride but was drowned there in the deep black waters of the narrow Breede.

SO

Ceres is one of those village-towns by which this part

« PrécédentContinuer »