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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner: Extracts of Letters to Cronwright-Schreiner MSC 26/2.16/173
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeExtract
Letter DateSaturday 27 August 1904
Address FromBedford, Eastern Cape
Address To
Who ToS.C. (‘Cron’) Cronwright-Schreiner
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 249
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Extracts of Letters to Cronwright-Schreiner were produced by Cronwright-Schreiner in preparing The Life and The Letters of Olive Schreiner. They appear on slips of paper in his writing, taken from letters that were then destroyed; many of these extracts have also been edited by him. They are artefacts of his editorial practices and their relationship to original Schreiner letters cannot now be gauged. They should be read with considerable caution for the reasons given. Cronwright-Schreiner has written the date and where it was sent from onto this extract, and that ‘Kwaai means stern, determined, angry & ^some^ such like quality, & is not used according to the context. Hers is used lovingly & half-jocularly.’. There are some differences between this transcription and the version that appears in The Letters….
1 …We arrived here at dawn this morning… The saloon carriage which
2Will has arranged to meet us here will not arrive till Monday or
3Tuesday. We shall put father’s coffin into the luggage part of the
4saloon & Ettie & I will have compartments & it will be fixed to a
5goods train at Cradock at Cookhouse & so we shall go up…
6
7 Am longing to see the mierkats & the dogs & the family. But the great
8hunger is for the old “quai” chap with the iron grey hair & the
9dear eyes...
10
11 My darling, that morning in the dawn light, when I was looking at
12father’s hard iron-coloured bones lying there in black earth, it
13came over me with such a strange realisation, how in a few years I and
14you would be lying so too & how beautiful we must make the little time
15left to one another. I will tell you about all that happened when I
16come. In the dawn light before any of the work-men had come, Ettie & I
17went down to the graveside where we had placed the old coffin in the
18new one & removed a little of the earth that had fallen in & covered &
19we saw the back of the dear dear head resting so peacefully on the
20earth & the arms & feet, not one bone was moved, all resting embedded
21in the earth. We put flowers on it & covered it all up before any one
22could come, so that no one but we saw it. But it was beautiful to me
23that the sun rose just them & the early morning sunlight shone so
24beautiful on it, the sunlight he loved so, after 28 years. The coffin
25rested on two big rocks & surrounded by sandstone & round hard stones
26embedded in the sandstone, & for four days we were working it out with
27picks at first but the last two days with hand chisels for fear of
28injuring anything. It was a much greater strain than I had expected.
29That agonised watching each movement of the tools lest they should
30injure something. When it was all over & we had the dear body safe in
31the our waggon, a great reaction seemed to come over me, & I was a bit
32prostrate, but I have been wonderfully well, no asthma, no cough! Not
33even since the night I was in Craddock. Can’t the old “quai”
34chap come with me to Cape Town? I don’t want to be away from him. Or
35can’t he, when I am returning, meet me at Beaufort West & let us see
36some of his constituents then… I am bringing you back some Kat River
37mangoes & such lemons! Like the lemons I remember in my childhood….
38Isie Smuts wants us to come up (to Pretoria) to Oom Paul’s funeral &
39she says she will keep a bedroom for you & me in the house, however
40full it may be. Goodbye husband. Tell Chomanie I am so glad to hear he
41is such a good boy. It’s curious how I long to see that little
42nigger…
43
44 Goodbye, Pal...
45
46