In the darkness, I had only gained a rough idea of the size of Howard Woolf’s farm. Now, in the light of a new day, it looked quite substantial. As well as the two-storied farmhouse itself, there were many smaller outbuildings for cattle and poultry.
Woolf employed two dozen blacks, some of whom lived on the farm with their families. He had provided them with adequate housing-in fact, many an English farmhand led a less enviable existence.
Victoria Woolf had prepared an especially ample breakfast in my honor. We were joined at the table by her brother Vincent, who also lived on the farm. An extremely pleasant young man, he had been too young to take part in the hostilities around the turn of the century.
The Woolfs’ two children, a boy of eight and a girl of six, had already gone to school. Although the school was only a mile away, they had been escorted there and picked up after lessons by Cetewayo, Woolf’s foreman, ever since the white boy’s disappearance.
In that connection, I mentioned the aggressive dog that had stalked us near the Bongers farm.
“Could it possibly be responsible for the disappearance of one or two of the missing persons?”.
“I hadn’t set eyes on the animal until last night,” said Woolf. “It was a big specimen, but it can’t have attacked and disposed of a dozen people. The blacks are absolutely convinced it’s a case of kidnapping.”
“The police have quite another theory,” said his wife. “The sergeant says they’ve joined an organized criminal gang-black youth for the most part, who have banded together out on the veldt and are raiding and thieving from there. He says the only white person missing, young
Walter Meddick, may have been one of their victims.” “Is that what you think, too?” I asked Vincent.
He shook his head. “No. Quite apart from the fact that there’s been no crime wave-nothing but the usual minor thefts that have always occurred-some of the missing blacks are known to us. They come from respectable families. The police are making unfounded allegations to disguise their own incompetence.”
I was aware of the existence of ill-feeling toward the nonwhite population of South Africa, but that it should influence the work of the police was outrageous, and I decided to publish a report on this problem on my return to England. This rendered it absolutely necessary for me to take a closer look at conditions in the area.
Howard Woolf had offered to take me on a tour of his property after breakfast, and I accepted his invitation with alacrity.
The morning temperature was still tolerable, and I much enjoyed the company of my good-humored host, who showed off his fields with justifiable pride. The farm’s principal crop was wheat, as it was throughout the area, but a few parcels of land had been devoted to citrus trees, which were thriving. Woolf had also begun to grow grapes a few years previously. A few sample glasses demonstrated that the wine he produced was light but extremely fruity, and it had already found favor with wine merchants in Cape Town.