From Boatshed to Battlefields 21 Employed

End of 20th Entry: “…… here’s Mr Van Zijl’s place.”

Entering an attorney’s office the boys were shown into an inner room where a tall grey haired gentleman rising shook hands with them and told them to take chairs.

A few questions to Mick elicited the facts that he was strong, healthy and could speak a little Dutch, couldn’t ride, knew nothing about farming, and failed twice his matriculation and had just left in the middle of his third attempt. However he was willing to work at anything.

“All right Osmond call round at four this afternoon, and we’ll go out to the farm. I can’t pay you anything until you are useful to me, but you will get your board and lodging, and as I’m starting on a virgin piece of country you’ll have a golden opportunity of learning farming.”

Emerging from the lawyers office Zack suggested calling on one or two English residents. Zacharias De Wet was the youngest brother of three of the wealthiest Ostrich farmers in the district and he and Mick had been schoolmates. Zach, with a Dutchman’s honest pride in his home place, was intent on showing the city youth that Straun small as it was possessed inhabitants of culture besides the native worthies. Leading the way the young Boer first led his chum to the rectory where he introduced him to a kindly Anglican parson who greeted both boys warmly; then to a charming little house to proudly make Mick known to a tall sweet faced English lady and two pretty, merry looking girls.

Leaving Mick with his countryfolk the Boer sauntered off to call on relatives, Mick accepting a kindly invitation to lunch settled down to entertain the ladies. Time passed quickly until three o’clock when with many thanks for a most enjoyable time Mick departed to get his luggage together and bid farewell to Zach’s people. Punctually at four Mr Van Zijl drove up in a Cape cart, loading on his kit Mick climbed in and with waving hat made his adieux to the De Wets.

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For two hours the cart drove amongst hills and glens whilst Van Zijl drew his young pupil out or answered an endless stream of questions.

“I have sold my practice and am giving up the law for farming.” He said. “I knew your father very well – what South African lawyer doesn’t? And am very glad to have a son of his with me – its a hard life farming Mick but it makes men strong and healthy. Mrs Van Zijl will look after you and if you like the life perhaps your Dad might like to buy a portion of the farm for you.”

Mick grinned as he thought of any proposal to Mr Osmond regarding the buying of land. A Civil Servant even though a departmental head was not usually in a position to invest ready cash in farming, and in his case there were three sisters and two brothers in the family. Besides themselves, were relatives who had to be helped – Irish families are usually large and his grandmother’s people were of exceptionally prolific stock – Blood they had in plenty, titled cousins and distinguished ones – but Money – No – that was the only thing in the world they hadn’t got.

But a Celt will never confess himself to be but an ordinary average man – few but have distant kin who have been lost somewhere in Australia, Africa or America – there is always the chance that one having amassed a fortune had thought of Terence who was named after him or Norah who married Patrick or that back in Ireland itself estates or wealth had by the miracle of fate fallen to a younger branch.

So Mick began to question his employer, conveying a strong impression that Mr Osmond was keenly interested in the question of buying Mick a farm, and that there was money a plenty waiting if only Mick well treated and happy took a liking to the life.

Shortly after sunset the farm was reached where the two were welcomed by a large stout lady of fair complexion.

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