At present the Van Reenen Railway ends at Harrismith, an arid but cheerful little town at the foot of the great cliffs of the Plaatburg. It boasts its racecourse, golf-links, musical society, and some acquaintance with the German poets. The Scotch made it their own, though a few Dutch, English, and other foreigners were allowed to remain on sufferance. Now unhappily the place is almost deserted, and Burns himself would hardly find a welcome there. In the Free State every resident may be commandeered, and I believe forty-eight hours counts as “residence.” You see the advantage of an extended franchise. The penalty for escape is confiscation of property, and five years’ imprisonment or L500 fine, if caught. The few British who remained have had all their horses, carts, and supplies taken. Some are set to serve the ambulance; a few will be sent to watch Basutoland; but most of them have abandoned their property and risked the escape to Natal, slipping down the railway under bales or built up in the luggage vans like nuns in a brick wall. In one case the Boers commandeered three wool trucks on the frontier. Those trucks were shunted on to a siding for the night, and in the morning the wool looked strangely shrunk somehow. Yet it was not wool that had been taken out and smuggled through by the next train. For Scot helps Scot, and it is Scots who work the railway. It pays to be a Scot out here. I have only met one Irishman, and he was unhappy.
But for the grotesque side of refugee unhappiness one should see the native train which comes down every night from Newcastle way, and disappears towards Maritzburg and safety. Native workers of every kind—servants, labourers, miners—are throwing up their places and rushing towards the sea. The few who can speak English say, “Too plenty bom-bom!” as sufficient explanation of their panic. The Government has now fitted the open trucks with cross-seats and side-bars for their convenience, and so, hardly visible in the darkness, the black crowd rolls up to the platform. Instantly black hands with pinkish palms are thrust through all the bars, as in a monkey-house. Black heads jabber and click with excitement. White teeth suddenly appear from nowhere. It is for bread and tin-meats they clamour, and they are willing to pay. But a loaf costs a shilling. Everything costs a shilling here, unless it costs