Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
going into action used to wash themselves and do their hair. A Zulu looks down on many of the neighbouring tribes and calls them mere “Kaffirs” because they are dirty and take no pride in themselves.
I believe; too, it is one of the points that make the Boy Scouts popular with the public, they generally appear so clean and bright – even grubby knees are scrubbed before going on parade, as well as faces and hands.
The railway runs through rocky gorges which are crowned with modern forts into Pretoria, a city with wide streets and handsome public buildings.
It is difficult for me to believe that when I first came here I had to come over 250 miles in a cart; there was no railway, and what is now the Central Square with its handsome House of Parliament, Government offices, and hotels, was then the market place surrounded by whitewashed cottages with thatched roofs and hedges of rose bushes. And I used then to think what a wonderful change that was from the time when my uncle saw it some years previously, when it was only a camp with a laager or fort made of waggons for protection against the natives. He himself went elephant shooting in the neighbouring Megalisberg Hills.
Pretorius was at that time the Commandant of the Boers, and he it was who had guided them to this splendid land and who had led them successfully against their powerful native opponents, the Matabele under Mosilikatze. When things settled down and the town was built, it was rightly named after this leader, and was called Pretoria.
It was here that I first met Paul Kruger, the President of the Transvaal Republic, and I had a very great admiration for him as a man of strong character, in many ways like our Oliver Cromwell of England. But Cromwell looked far ahead into the future and far afield in the world, outside the boundaries of his own time and country; that is where Kruger failed, and this finally led to his downfall in the war of 1899.
Thirty miles to the south-west of Pretoria lies the city of Johannesburg. This is the biggest centre of gold mining in the world.
Not only is Johannesburg itself a big city, bigger than the capital of the Transvaal, Pretoria, but it is the central link in a long chain of small mining towns and villages which run for over fifty miles in length. Tall chimneys, mine head-works, great white dump heaps, looking like snow mountains in the distance, mark the presence of mines for miles and miles. And the air is full of a low murmur like distant thunder which comes from the stamp batteries, that is the steam hammers which pound up the rock brought up from below and mix it with water, so that it flows off like liquid mud over zinc tables or “plates.” Here the grains of gold, being heavier than other minerals, sink and get caught on the plates from which they are collected.
To look at all these miles upon miles of mines and machinery and the thousands of men at work, one would imagine that in a week enough gold would be produced to supply the whole world for a very long time, but that is not the case. They go on working all the year round, and yet the value of gold does not go down; a sovereign remains a sovereign, and we all want a few of them just as much as we ever did!
Johannesburg, in addition to its gold, produces another article which is even more valuable than gold, and that is good, efficient Boy Scouts. These made a fine show, and gave some very good demonstrations of their work. They also had a most cheery camp fire, at which they showed a good deal of talent.