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|Letter Reference||Steyn Papers: Emily Hobhouse (Olive Schreiner) 156/3/12/5
|Archive||Free State Archives Repository, Bloemfontein
|Letter Date||5 November 1903
|Address From||Hanover, Northern Cape
|Who To||Emily Hobhouse
The manuscript of this letter by Olive Schreiner belongs to the Archive referenced above; its ownership of the original should be acknowledged by referencing the letter as indicated: Copyright transcription: © Olive Schreiner Letters Project. This transcription can be freely used as long as copyright is acknowledged and it is referenced using the following citation: ‘Olive Schreiner to Emily Hobhouse, 5 November 1903, Free State Archives Repository, Bloemfontein, Olive Schreiner Letters Project transcription’. Please also supply letter line numbers for specific quotations.
The Project is grateful to the Free State Archives Repository for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of their collections. The letter exists in the form of a handwritten copy made by Emily Hobhouse; the original cannot be traced.
1: From Olive Schreiner. Copy.
4: Novbr 5, 1903
6: Dear Miss Hobhouse,
8: How must I wish I could have had just one long talk with you. I don't
9: know what becomes of my letters, they are often weeks in reaching
10: their destinations or never reach them at all.
12: With regard to Mrs Nienaber and the machine, we thought of the very
13: thing you suggest, sending it to Bethulie if she could not use it. But
14: the poor woman cried so and seemed so cut up at the thought of not
15: having it, that I have let her have it on the condition that, if she
16: breaks down utterly, and can do nothing more, then I send it to
17: Bethulie or some other orphanage. She did some washing with it, but
18: was in bed again all last week. This week she is up and at work.
20: Your plan about sending groceries from a shop is good. It's what I
21: always do with her. To some people it is best to give your money (such
22: people as the Cilliers) as you know they will spend it exactly where
23: most needed, but Mrs Nienaber has a miserable sister in law who
24: sponges on her, does nothing and gets what we give her (Mrs N.). So we
25: none of us in the village ever give her money, we send her food in
26: small quantities, (see enclosed a/c of things I have just sent her)
27: and clothes, pay her doctor's bill &c: we could do so much more for
28: her & the children & the old father if it was not for this sister in
29: law who will live with her, yet will not touch the washing or ironing
30: or do anything to help her. But you know enough of these little
31: difficulties. I shall keep the £10 to send her small supplies of
34: Friday. I saw Mrs Nienaber last night. It is arranged she goes away to
35: the sea-side with the two youngest children. The Doctor thinks that
36: may help to cure her. Your money will be of immense help.
38: With regard to the Cilliers. The money comes in most opportunely.
39: David Cilliers has bought a cart & mules on credit. We have got him
40: the contract for riding in the sand for the new school building, which
41: will give him work for some months. But the first instalment of
42: payment for the cart and mules comes due on the 14th of this month and
43: he has not the money to pay for it & would have had to borrow again.
45: I went down to their cottage at half past six this morning. I found
46: Mrs Cilliers in the kitchen kneading the bread. I told her first about
47: the £2.10.0 which you had sent her. She stood with her two hands full
48: of dough & the tears started into her eyes, (the first I have seen
49: after all the terrible things she has gone through) she said "This is
50: too much, too much kindness."
52: Then I took out the £20 cheque for David and said you had sent this
53: to him because you had heard how terribly he had suffered & how
54: bravely he had stood. The poor thing turned deadly white, and said,
55: "Oh! its too much that this good should come to us! Aren't there
56: others whose need is even greater than ours? I can't understand that
57: this has come to us".
59: She seemed quite overpowered & she is such a strong calm woman - the
60: bravest strongest Boer woman with two exceptions that I know. What
61: that woman has gone through would make a wonderful chapter in the
62: history of the War - all because a train was taken near her farm! And
63: she has never uttered a complaint, always been brave and smiling &
64: working hard. I am sure the money could not be better spent, that none
65: of the money you have given away has gone better. It is these people
66: who are battling to keep their heads up who really ought to be helped.
67: The other £5 I am going to spend as you suggested in sending them
68: meal &c.
70: I am writing you this long letter because I thought perhaps you would
71: like to know. There are some people it is so unsatisfactory to try and
72: help, the more you give the more they demand, and you never seem able
73: to help them on to their ^own^ feet! With the Cilliers it's so different.
75: Mrs Cilliers is going to write you a note, but you know letterwriting
76: is quite an undertaking with them, so the letter will not be ready
77: till tomorrow.
79: I wish I could come down to see you before you go, but fear I can't.
81: Yours ever
82: Olive Schreiner
84: I think the work you have done in the Colony has been almost more
85: useful than the first time you came, because it is important that
86: England should know that she is not doing the wonders for the unhappy
87: people in this Country which she is told she is doing.