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CHAPTER V.

Capetown; the Capital.

I HAD always heard that the entrance into Capetown, which is the capital of the Cape Colony, was one of the most picturesque things to be seen on the face of the earth. It is a town lying close down on the seashore, within the circumference of Table Bay so that it has the advantage of an opposite shore which is always necessary to the beauty of a seashore town; and it is backed by the Table Mountain with its grand upright cliffs and the Lion with its head and rump, as a certain hill is called which runs from the Table Mountain round with a semicircular curve back towards the sea. The "Lion" certainly put me in mind of Landseer's lions, only that Landseer's lions lie straight. All this has given to Capetown a character for landscape beauty, which I had been told was to be seen at its best as you enter the harbour. But as we entered it early on one Sunday morning neither could the Table Mountain nor the Lion be seen because of the mist, and the opposite shore, with its hills towards The Paarl and Stellenbosch, was equally invisible. Seen as I first saw it Capetown was not an attractive port, and when I found myself standing at the gate of the dockyard for an hour and a quarter waiting for a Custom House officer to tell me that my things did not need examination,-waiting because it was Sunday morning,―I began to think that it was a very disagreeable place indeed. Twelve days afterwards I steamed out of the docks on my way eastward on a clear day,

and then I could see what was then to be seen, and I am bound to say that the amphitheatre behind the place is very grand. But by that time the hospitality of the citizens had put me in good humour with the city and had enabled me to forget the iniquity of that sabbatical Custom House official.

But Capetown in truth is not of itself a prepossessing town. It is hard to say what is the combination which gives to some cities their peculiar attraction, and the absence of which makes others unattractive. Neither cleanliness, nor fine buildings, nor scenery, nor even a look of prosperity will effect this, nor will all of them combined always do so. Capetown is not specially dirty, -but it is somewhat ragged. The buildings are not grand, but there is no special deficiency in that respect. The scenery around is really fine, and the multiplicity of Banks and of Members of Parliament,-which may be regarded as the two most important institutions the Colonies produce, seemed to argue prosperity. But the town is not pleasing to a stranger. It is as I have said ragged, the roadways are uneven and the pavements are so little continuous that the walker by night had better even keep the road. I did not make special enquiry as to the municipality, but it appeared to me that the officers of that body were not alert. I saw a market out in the open street which seemed to be rather amusing than serviceable. To this criticism I do not doubt but that my friends at the Cape will object;-but when they do so I would ask whether their own opinion of their own town is not the same as mine. "It is a beastly place you know," one Capetown gentleman said to me.

"Oh no!" said I in that tone which a guest is obliged to use when the mistress of a house speaks ill of anything at her own table. "No, no; not that."

But he persisted. "A beastly place," he repeated. "But we have plenty to eat and plenty to drink, and manage to make out life very well. The girls are as pretty as they are any where else, and as kind;— and the brandy and water as plentiful." To the truth of all these praises I bear my willing testimony,-always setting aside the kindness of the young ladies of which it becomes no man to boast.

The same thing may be said of so many colonial towns. There seems to be a keener relish of life than among our steadier and more fastidious folk at home, with much less to give the relish. So that one is driven to ask oneself whether advanced Art, mechanical ingenuity, and luxurious modes of living do after all add to the happiness of mankind. He who has once possessed them wants to return to them,--and if unable to do so is in a far worse position than his neighbours. I am therefore disposed to say that though Capetown as a city is not lovely, the Capetowners have as good a time of it as the inhabitants of more beautiful capitals.

The population is something over 30,000,-which when we remember that the place is more than two centuries old and that it is the capital of an enormous country, and the seat of the colonial legislature, is not great. Melbourne which is just two hundred years younger than Capetown contains above a quarter of a million of inhabitants. Melbourne was of course made what it is by gold;-but then so have there been diamonds to enhance the growth of Capetown. But the truth, I take it, is that a white working population will not settle itself at any place where it will have to measure itself against coloured labour. A walk through the streets of Capetown is sufficient to show the stranger that he has reached a place not inhabited by white men,-and a very little conversa

tion will show him further that he is not speaking with an English speaking population. The gentry no doubt are white and speak English. At any rate the members

of Parliament do so, and the clergymen, and the editors -for the most part, and the good-looking young ladies;but they are not the population. He will find that everything about him is done by coloured persons of various races, who among themselves speak a language which I am told the Dutch in Holland will hardly condescend to recognise as their own. Perhaps, as regards labour, the most valuable race is that of the Malays, and these are the descendants of slaves whom the early Dutch settlers introduced from Java. The Malays are so-called Mahommidans, and some are to be seen flaunting about the town in turbans and flowing robes. These, I understand, are allowed so to dress themselves as a privilege in reward for some pious work done,-a journey to Mecca probably. Then there is a Hottentot admixture, a sprinkling of the Guinea-coast negro, and a small but no doubt increasing Kafir element. But all this is leavened and brought into some agreement with European modes of action and thought by the preponderating influence of Dutch blood. So that the people, though idle, are not apathetic as savages, nor quite so indifferent as Orientals. But yet there is so much of the savage and so much of the oriental that the ordinary Englishman does not come out and work among them. Wages are high and living, though the prices of provisions are apt to vary, is not costly. Nor is the climate averse to European labourers, who can generally work without detriment in regions outside the tropics. But forty years ago slave labour was the labour of the country, and the stains, the apathy, the unprofitableness of slave labour still remain. It had a curse about it which fifty years have not been able to remove.

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