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Chapter 48 - History and Adventures of a Cape Farmer and his Family by Mayne Reid


For several years Von Bloom led the life of an elephant-hunter. For several years the great nwana-tree was his home, and his only companions his children and domestics. But, perhaps, these were not the least happy years of his existence, since, during all the time both he and his family had enjoyed the most estimable of earthly blessings,—health.

He had not allowed his children to grow up without instruction. He had not permitted them to lapse into the character of mere “Bush-boys.” He had taught them many things from the book of nature,—many arts that can be acquired as well on the karoo as in the college. He had taught them to love God, and to love one another. He had planted in their minds the seeds of the virtuous principles,—honour and morality,—without which all education is worthless. He had imbued them with habits of industry and self-reliance, and had initiated them into many of the accomplishments of civilised life—so that upon their return to society they might be quite equal to its claims. Upon the whole, those years of the exile’s life, spent in his wilderness home, formed no blank in his existence. He might look back upon them with feelings of satisfaction and pleasure.

Man, however, is formed for society. The human heart, properly organised, seeks communion with the human heart; and the mind, especially when refined and polished by education, loves the intercourse of social life, and, when deprived of it, will always yearn to obtain it.

So was it with the field-cornet. He desired to return once more within the pale of civilised society. He desired once more to revisit the scenes where he had so long dwelt in peaceful happiness; he desired once more to establish himself among his friends and acquaintances of former days, in the picturesque district of the Graaf Reinet. Indeed, to have remained any longer in his wilderness home could have served no purpose. It is true he had grown very much attached to his wild hunter-life, but it was no longer likely to be profitable. The elephants had completely forsaken the neighbourhood of the camp, and not one was to be found within twenty miles of the spot. They had become well acquainted with the report of the long roer, and knew the dangerous character of that weapon; they had learnt that of all their enemies man was the one to be especially dreaded and shunned; and they had grown so shy of his presence, that the hunters frequently passed whole weeks without setting their eyes upon a single elephant.

But this was no longer an object of solicitude with Von Bloom. Other considerations now occupied his mind, and he did not care much if he should never spoor another of these huge quadrupeds. To return to the Graaf Reinet, and settle there, was now the ultimatum of his wishes.

The time had at length arrived when he would be able to carry out that design; and nothing seemed any longer to stand in the way of its full and complete accomplishment.

The proscription against him had been long since taken off. A general amnesty had been passed by the government, and he had been pardoned among the rest.

It is true his property was not restored to him; but that mattered little now. He had created a new property, as was testified by the vast pyramid of ivory that stood under the shadow of the great nwana-tree!

Nothing remained but to transport this shining pile to a market, and a splendid fortune would be the result.

And Von Bloom’s ingenuity found the means for bringing it to market.

About this time there was dug another huge pit-trap near the pass in the cliffs, in which many quaggas were trapped; and then there were stirring scenes, while these wild creatures were being broken to harness, and trained to “trek” in a wagon.

They were trained however, after a good deal of trouble—the old wheels, still in prime condition, serving as the “break;” and then the body of the wagon was let down from the tree, and once more renewed its acquaintance with its old companions the wheels; and the cap-tent spread its protecting shadow over all; and the white and yellow crescents were stowed; and the quaggas were “inspanned;” and Swartboy, mounting the “voor-kist,” once more cracked his long bamboo whip; and the wheels, well oiled with elephants’ grease, again whirled gaily along!

How surprised were the good people of Graaf Reinet, when, one morning, a cap-tent wagon, drawn by twelve quaggas, and followed by four riders mounted upon animals of the same kind, pulled up in the public square of their little town! How astonished they were on seeing that this wagon was “chuck” full of elephants’ teeth, all except a little corner occupied by a beautiful girl with cherry cheeks and fair flaxen hair; and how joyed were they, in fine, on learning that the owner of both the ivory and the beautiful girl was no other than their old friend, and much-esteemed fellow-citizen, the field-cornet Von Bloom!

A warm welcome met the elephant-hunter in the square of Graaf Reinet, and, what was also of some importance, a ready market for his ivory.

It chanced just at that time that ivory was selling at a very high rate. Some article—I do not remember what—the principal part of which required to be constructed of pure ivory, had come into fashion and general use in European countries, and the consequence was an increased demand for this valuable commodity. It was a fortunate circumstance for the returned hunter, who was at once enabled to dispose of his stock, not only for ready money, but at such a fine price as to yield him nearly twice the amount he had calculated on receiving!

He had not brought it all with him, as there was more than would have loaded any one wagon. A second load had remained, hidden near the nwana-tree, and this required a journey to be made for it.

It was made in due time, and the remainder arrived safely at Graaf Reinet, and was there delivered to the ivory-dealers, who had already purchased it.

The result was a splendid fortune in ready money. The field-cornet was once more a rich man! For the present we can follow his history no farther than to say, that the proceeds of his great hunt enabled him to buy back his old estate, and to stock it in splendid style, with the best breeds of horses, horned cattle, and sheep; that he rose rapidly in wealth and worldly esteem; that the government gave him its confidence; and, having first restored him to his old office of field-cornet, soon afterwards promoted him to that of “landdrost,” or chief magistrate of the district.

Hans returned to his college studies; while the dashing Hendrik was enabled to enter the profession for which he was most fit, and the very one that fitted him, by obtaining a cornetcy in the “Cape Mounted Rifles.”

Little Jan was packed off to school to study grammar and geography; while the beautiful Trüey remained at home to grace the mansion of her honoured father, and look after his household affairs.

Totty still ruled the kitchen; and, of course, Swartboy was the important man about the house, and for many a long year after cracked his great whip, and flourished his jambok among the long-horned oxen of the wealthy landdrost.

But enough for the present,—enough of adventure for one year. Let us hope, boy readers, that before you and I have circled once more around the sun, we shall make a fresh trip to the land of the boors, and again encounter the worthy Von Bloom, his Bushman, and—


The End.

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