CHAPTER I THE BURSTING OF THE STORM
A group of excited men were gathered in front of the Stock Exchange at Johannesburg. It was evident that something altogether unusual had happened. All wore anxious and angry expressions, but a few shook hands with each other, as if the news that so much agitated them, although painful, was yet welcome; and indeed this was so.
For months a war-cloud had hung over the town, but it had been thought that it might pass over without bursting. None imagined that the blow would come so suddenly, and when it fell it had all the force of a complete surprise, although it had been so threatening for many weeks that a considerable portion of the population had already fled. It was true that great numbers of men, well armed, and with large numbers of cannon, had been moving south, but negotiations were still going on and might continue for some time yet; and now by the folly and arrogance of one man the cloud had burst, and in thirty hours war would begin.
Similar though smaller groups were gathered here and there in the streets. Parties of Boers from the country round rode up and down with an air of insolent triumph, some of them shouting "We shall soon be rid of you; in another month there will not be a rooinek left in South Africa."
Those addressed paid no heed to the words. They had heard the same thing over and over again for the past two months. There was a tightening of the lips and a closing of the fingers as if on a sword or rifle, but no one replied to the insolent taunts. For years it had been the hope of the Uitlanders that this would come, and that there would be an end to a position that was well-nigh intolerable. Never before had a large body of intelligent men been kept in a state of abject subjection by an inferior race, a race almost without even the elements of civilization, ignorant and brutal beyond any existing white community, and superior only in the fact that they were organized and armed, whereas those they trampled upon were deficient in both these respects. Having no votes, these were powerless to better their condition by the means common to civilized communities throughout the world. They were ground down by an enormous taxation, towards which the Boers themselves contributed practically nothing, and the revenue drawn from them was spent in the purchase of munitions of war, artillery, and fortifications, so enormously beyond the needs of the country, that it was no secret that they were intended not only for the defence of the republic against invasion, but for a general rising of the Boer population and the establishment of Dutch supremacy throughout the whole of South Africa.
The Boer government was corrupt from the highest to the lowest. The president and the members of his family piled up wealth to an enormous amount, and nothing could be done without wholesale bribery. The price of everything connected with the mining industry was doubled by the supply being in the hands of monopolists, who shared their gains with high state officials....