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"A CHRISTMAS IN THE TRANSVAAL": AN ADDITION TO THE NORRIS CANON Robert C. Leitz, III Louisiana State University Nearly four years after he was forced to leave the South African Republic by the Boer government, Frank Norris published a reminiscence entitled "A Christmas in the Transvaal."1 For Norris, the brief episode he witnessed and later narrated not only presented in microcosm the increasing tension between the British and Boer forces, but it also prefigured the ultimate outcome of the Second Boer War: the defiant, swashbuckling British constable demonstrated superiority over a characteristically dull-witted Boer policeman. Once again, Anglo-Saxonism prevailed. Though Norris' article was not lengthy, it was lavishly and creatively displayed in the Sunday Examiner Magazine. The text was set typographically in two diamond-shaped facets, each nearly nine inches in length, which seem to emanate from a huge cut diamond; on top of this stone stand a Zulu warrior and a magnificent adult male lion. No doubt Norris enjoyed this highly romanticized illustration of three of South Africa's most intriguing resources. "A Christmas in the Transvaal" by Frank Norris As I recall it, the first real indications of coming trouble in the Transvaal, in the winter of '96—'97,2 began about Christmas Day. Everybody knew some months' [sic] later that Mr. Hammond3 had on that very day wired to Jameson at Mafeking to "postpone flotations ,"4 and everybody knew some days later that the doctor had not done it. I had chosen that day to visit the Witwatersrand mine,5 out on the road, about three miles outside of town. As long as I had heard of the Transvaal, I had also heard of the Witwatersrand, but in the matter of getting to it, certain inquiries were necessary, and I asked a zarp as to directions. A zarp is a Boer policeman, so called from the initials on his collar, which stand for South African Republic Police.6 The zarp confused the Witwatersrand with a saloon of the same name in Commissioner street—the mine he had never heard of; the second zarp could speak no English, and the fourth refused to answer. So it was always with the Boer officials. They were either stupid or disobliging, or irascible or stolid beyond power of expression . But in the evening, when I had come back from a memorable Christmas dinner with Mr. Hammond, and was about turning in, behold, on a street corner, opposite the hotel, and standing in the light of a street lamp, was a soldier of the B. B. P. (the Buchuanaland [sic] Border Police),7 not at all to be confused with the kind of police who are zarps. It is quite impossible to make any one who does not know prevailing conditions in Johannesburg on that Christmas Day 222Notes of 1896 [sic] understand the veritable thrill the sight of this single enlisted man sent through all who saw him that night. What was he doing there in Johannesburg I never knew; but we did know, and at that very moment, that the body of troops to whom he belonged were at Mafeking, and straining in the leash, which was to be slipped but five days afterwards. While he stood there a zarp came abruptly around the corner, and, before he was aware of it, actually caromed against the trooper. What the zarp said I did not hear, but I did hear what the trooper told him in response. He told him that he was to go to hell. There was that certain fine bullying arrogance about the B. B. P. that every heajthy-minded Anglo-Saxon must admire—even though he pretends to deprecate it—and he made his impression. He seemed to stand for a symbol of another power than that of the South African Republic—stood, as it were, under the shadow of a great hand stretched menacingly over the entire country, the forerunner of empire, the envoy of conquest. He was in uniform, spurred and belted, and carried himself with the vigor and rigidity that come only with the exertion of many dull sergeants, the routine of many barracks and the grim, vigorous schooling of many campaigns...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 221-224
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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