“Mrs van Tonder, her snow white hair and deeply lined face defying her indefatigable spirit and faith in God helps Marta to obtain a couple of extra British military blankets from the supplies tent to supplement the blankets they have brought with them. The blankets are old and thin and the two women and four children, as well as Ardrina and Dorthea, will have to share them but her success in wrangling them from the camp staff, with the help of Mrs van Tonder, feels like a small victory.
Marta quickly realises that Mrs van Tonder, or Ouma Lettie, is wily and has already learned how to manipulate the system, whenever possible, to her own advantage.
“I have been on God’s earth for over seventy years and I have learned to always ask for things, rather than suffer in silence. God helps those who help themselves,” she smiles conspiratorially.
“I was living in a women’s laager with my husband, Sarel, before it was attacked by the Khakis. Sarel was one of twenty men living in the laager. They were all too old to go on commando and had been appointed to help protect us.
“We were travelling with thirty wagons and carts and two hundred cattle and had been living on the veld for seven months before the attack by the British soldiers that landed me here. Various Boer commandos had been providing us with weapons, tents, food and clothing.
“About a month ago, a convoy of Khakis came across our laager and attacked it. They burned all the wagons, food and tents and we were forced to watch.”
A distant look comes into the older woman’s eyes as she remembers that day. “The soldiers set fire to the wagons first.” She describes how the yellow and orange flames had spread out delicately, tasting the dry tinder of the frames, and how the bright sparks had flown upwards, fanned by puffs of the bitter wind, and settled on the canvas wagon covers which instantly burst into flames. As the wagons and tents burned, black smoke had billowed into the bright blue sky, rising upwards to a tremendous height where it was whipped to shreds by the wind.
“What happened next?” asks Marta, forcing Mrs van Tonder to return her wandering mind to the present. “When they considered the destruction to be sufficiently complete, they marched our elderly guards, and the few boys of twelve years and older, away as prisoners of war. The women and the rest of the children were brought here.”
“Were you scared?” Marta asks.
“No,” Mrs van Tonder’s lips forms a thin, straight line and she pushes back her shoulders as if in defiance. “The Lord has always preserved me until now and He will continue to do so.””
This is an extract from my new WIP about the Second Anglo Boer war, it will be a supernatural historical novel. It is currently nameless as I am not sure with my current re-write if A Ghost and his Gold will continue to work.
This is posted for Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt which you can join in here: https://scvincent.com/2019/10/24/thursday-photo-prompt-balefire-writephoto/