Images de page
PDF
ePub

there is the salary and the house, and that is all. In a Crown Colony there is no House of Commons to interfere when this and the other little addition is made. We all know what coals and candles mean at home. The constitutional Governor has no coals and candles.

Wherever I go I visit the post-office, feeling certain that I may be able to give a little good advice. Having looked after post-offices for thirty years at home I fancy that I could do very good service among the Colonies if I could have arbitrary power given to me to make what changes I pleased. My advice is always received with. attention and respect, and I have generally been able to flatter myself that I have convinced my auditors. But I never knew an instance yet in which any improvement recommended by me was carried out. I have come back a year or two after my first visit and have seen that the things have been just as they were before. I did not therefore say much at Capetown;-but I thought it would have been well if they had not driven the public to buy stamps at a store opposite, seeing that as the Colony. pays salaries the persons taking the salaries ought to do the work; and that it would be well also if they could bring themselves to cease to look at the public as enemies from whom it is necessary that the officials inside should be protected by fortifications in the shape of barred windows and closed walls. Bankers do their work over open counters, knowing that no one would deal with them were they to shut their desks up behind barricades.

But I am bound to say that my letters were sent after me with that despatch and regularity which are the two first and greatest of post-official virtues. And the services in the Colony generally are very well performed, and performed well under great difficulties. The roads are bad,

and the distances long, and the transit is necessarily rough. I was taken out to see such a cart as I should have to travel on for many a weary day before I had accomplished my task in South Africa. My spirit groaned within me as I saw it,-and for many a long and weary hour it has since expanded itself with external groanings though not quite on such a cart as I saw then. But the task has been done, and I can speak of the South African cart with gratitude. It is very rough,—very rough indeed for old bones. But it is sure.

I should weary my reader were I to tell him of all the civilized institutions,—one by one,-which are in daily use in Capetown. There is a Custom House, and a Sailors' Home, and there are hospitals, and an observatory, very notable I believe as being well placed in reference to the Southern hemisphere, and a Government Herbarium and a lunatic asylum at Robben Island. Of Mr. Stone, the Astronomer Royal and lord of the Observatory, I must say one word in special praise. "Do you care for the stars?” he asked me. In truth I do not care for the stars. I care, I think, only for men and women, and so I told him. "Then," said he, "I won't bother you to come to the Observatory.

But if you wish

to see stars I will show them to you." I took him at his word and did not then go to the Observatory. This I had said with some fear and trembling as I remembered well the disgust which Agazziz once expressed when I asked permission not to be shown his museum at Cambridge, Massachusetts. But Mr. Stone seemed to understand my deficiency, and if he pitied me he abstained from expressing his pity. Afterwards I did make a special visit to the Observatory,-which is maintained by the imperial Government and not by the Colony,—and was shown all the wonders of the Southern Heavens.

They were very beautiful, but I did not understand much about them.

There is a comfortable and hospitable club at Capetown, to which, as at all colonial clubs, admission is given to strangers presumed to be of the same social standing as the members. The hour of lunch seems to be the hour of the day at which these institutions are most in request. This is provided in the form of a table d'hôte, as is also a dinner later on in the day. This is less numerously attended, but men of heroic mould are thus enabled to dine twice daily.

Capetown would be no city without a railway. The Colony at present has three starting-points for railways from the coast, one of which runs out of Capetown, with a branch to Wynberg which is hardly more than a suburb and is but eight miles distant, and a second branch to Worcester which is intended to be carried up the country to the distant town of Graaf Reynet and so on through the world of Africa. The line to Wynberg is of infinite importance to the city as giving to the inhabitants easy means of access to a charming locality. Capetown itself

is not a lovely spot on which to reside, but the district at the back of the Table Mountain where are Mowbray, Rondebusch, Wynberg and Constantia,-which district is reached by the railway,-supplies beautiful sites for houses and gardens. There are bits of scenery which it would be hard to beat either in form or colour, so grand are the outlines of the mountain, and so rich and bountiful the verdure of the shrubs and timbers. It would be difficult to find a site for a house more charming than that occupied by the bishop, which is only six miles from town and hardly more than a mile distant from a railway station. Beyond Wynberg lies the grape district of Constantia so well known in England by the name of its

wine; better known, I think, forty years ago than it is

now.

All these places, Rondebusch, Wynberg, Constantia and the rest lie on that promontory which when we look at the map we regard as the Cape of Good Hope. The Dutch had once an idea of piercing a canal across the isthmus from sea to sea, from Table Bay to False Bay,in which lies Simon's Bay where is our naval station,— and maintaining only the island so formed for its own purposes, leaving the rest of South Africa to its savagery. And, since the time of the Dutch, it has been suggested that if England were thus to cut off the Table Mountain with its adjacent land, England would have all of South Africa that it wants. The idea is altogether antagonistic to the British notion of colonization, which looks to a happy home for colonists or the protection of natives, rather than the benefit or glory of the Mother Country. But were such a cutting off to be effected, the morsel of land so severed would be very charming, and would demand I think a prettier town than Capetown.

Beyond and around Wynberg there is a little world of lovely scenery. Simonstown is about twelve miles from Wynberg, the road passing by the now growing bathing-place of Kalk bay. It is to Kalk bay that the ladies of Capetown go with their children when in summer they are in search of fresh air, and sea breezes, and generally improved sanitary arrangements. A most delightful spot it would be if only there were sufficient accommodation. The accommodation of course will come as years roll on. Beyond Kalk bay are Simonstown and Simon's Bay, where lives the British Commodore who has the command of these waters. The road, the whole way down, lies between the mountain and the sea. Beyond Simonstown I rode out for six or seven miles

with the Commodore along the side of the hill and through the rocks till we could see the lighthouse at the extremity of the Cape. It is impossible to imagine finer sea scenery or a bolder coast than is here to be seen. There is not a yard of it that would not be the delight of tourists if it were in some accessible part of Europe,— not a quarter of a mile that would not have its marine villa if it were in England.

Before I returned home I stayed for a week or two at an Inn, a mile or two beyond Wynberg, called Rathfelders. I suppose some original Dutchman of that name once kept the house. It is of itself an excellent place of resort, cool in summer, being on the cool side of the Table Mountains, and well kept;-a comfortable refuge to sojourners who do not object to take their meals at a public table; but peculiarly pleasant as being in the midst of mountain scenery. From here there is a ride through the mountains to Hout's Bay,—a little inlet on the other side of the Cape promontory,—which cannot be beaten for beauty of the kind. The distance to be ridden may be about ten miles each way, and good riding horses are kept at Rathfelders. But I did not find that very many had crossed the pass. I should say that in the neighbourhood of Wynberg there are various hotels and boarding houses so that accommodation may always be had. The best known of these is Cogill's Hotel close to the Wynberg Railway Station. I did not stay there myself, but I heard it well spoken of.

Altogether the scenery of the Promontory on which the Dutch landed, the southern point of which is the Cape of Good Hope, and on which stands Capetown, is hardly to be beaten for picturesque beauty by any landskip charms elsewhere within the same area.

I was taken down to Constantia where I visited one

« PrécédentContinuer »