The Noisemaker

By Nikolas Ridout

Historical fiction, Young adult

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6 mins


Book One in the Trilogy
The Angels Shall Sing

Nikolas Ridout

Copyright 2010 Nikolas Ridout
Ridout & Son Publisher

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This book is based on factual events names have been changed to protect those families.

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218-224

To Olivia and Alecia
Without whom there would be nothing

The Town Square, Cradock, (The Cape Colony), South Africa.
Friday, 8.50 am, 12th July, 1901.
If dark clouds were on the horizon this morning, even darker clouds had been shadowing events in this corner of the world for the past two years. Never before, in recent history, had so many been gathered to destroy so few. Just under a half a million men of the supposedly best and most advanced army the world had ever seen were shipped from England to South Africa to subdue slightly more than fifty thousand farmers; that is a ratio of 100 to 1, inconceivable military odds.
At the other end of the Town Square, the feint shout of commands, boots stamping, and palms slapping on rifles filtered through the early morning chirp of the birds in the nearby trees.
The cost in lives, in English blood, was astounding. At the end of the war over one hundred thousand men of Queen Victoria’s Imperial Forces, were dead or injured, mostly young men in the prime of life. Sadly, of the 107,000 Boer woman and children, under the age of sixteen, interned in concentration camps almost 30,000 died of disease and starvation. The 63,000 farms and houses destroyed and 40 towns rendered useless, attested to the ruthlessness of the campaign. The indigenous people were also hard hit, it is estimated that 19,000 were interned, nobody knew how many were missing or killed, who was counting, they were only blacks. The English Army, at this stage of the war, were still losing men at the rate of seven to one, a loss no nation could sustain for any length of time. A bugle call scattered the birds; orders rang out, fall in, line up, in columns of three. Horses snorted, trotting onto the square, kicking up little dust clouds.
Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, the hero of Omdurman, who’s Army, a few years earlier, had slaughtered thousands of Arabs, destroying town after town and killing all inhabitants, including woman and children, had taken control in South Africa, with direct orders from the London War Office to “clean up.” Nobody even guessed, at that stage, that the war would drag on for months and would deteriorate into a bitter guerrilla war, with claim upon counter claim of brutal atrocities. They could not have chosen a better broom, Lord K of K, was, to the South African Boers, Seth reincarnate, the Lord of Chaos, mentioned in the ancient texts of the Egyptians Book of dead in 1200 BC. He was as cold hearted and utterly ruthless as Alaric, the sacker of Rome, he was perfect for the job. The voices and the noise of approaching people could now be plainly heard, many people whispering, walking.
Meanwhile back at home, in London, the Press and the popular voice were all shouting at the cost of maintaining such a force 6000 miles away. This cost was equally astounding. The exchequer was spending over a million and half pounds a week at this stage, a phenomenal sum of money then. The Government of the day where having to lend money to finance the war. Little did the anxious families, eating breakfast thousands of miles away, know that this Sethian broom was going to sweep thousands of their young men into early graves and later, thousands of ounces of Boer gold into British coffers.
The townspeople of Cradock slowly gathered in the Town Square, hushed, silent, they had not had much choice in the matter. A printed order signed by the Commandant had been handed out the day before, shutting all businesses and shops and demanding that all persons assemble. Those that showed any unwillingness were sorted out and subtlety prodded into the Town Square by a detachment of determined Guards, with fixed bayonets. There was to be a hanging, the hastily erected wooden gallows stood at the West end of the Town Square, squat, evil, and ugly.
A scotch cart, wobbled onto the square, drawn by four bandits from the local jail, which even had a black flag flying at half-mast, arrived precisely on time. The young man on the back, hastily pushed, made to stand, as the scotch cart creaked to a stop. The local Dominee, Dominee de Klerk, (Dutch Reformed Church Minister) in his black gown and white tie walked up to one side. The young man, who had only been told the night before by Dominee de Klerk that he was due to hang today, was blanched white and pale with fear.
The handle bar moustached Sergeant Major, walked slowly up the steps and read out the death warrant. The young man dressed in dirty khaki was now half dragged, half pushed up the steps, tripping and falling with terror, he looked totally bewildered, Dominee de Klerk followed, trying to help, hand gently on the young man’s arm. The Sergeant Major put the noose around his neck. Dominee de Klerk, now visibly upset, feeling the boys legs shaking and not knowing whether to administer the last rights, and not wanting to, decided to recite “The Apostles’ Creed” his voice rang with emotion as he began, speaking Dutch;
‘Ik geloof in God, de Almachtige Vader…’ (I believe in God, the Father Almighty)
On close inspection, one could see that this was a nice looking young man. He was stout and of muscular build, a shortish young man with a compact body. He was well known and well liked in the town.
‘Maker of heaven and earth.’
The young man stood on the gallows his face turning left and right as though seeking, searching for something, someone.
‘And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.’
His eyes were large as he stared around the town square, the people below were quiet, you could have heard a pin drop.
‘Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.’
In the middle of the crowd of downcast faces, a young boy slowly raised his dusty veldt hat and held his head up. A shock of golden blond hair tumbled out, bleached white in spots by the sun, it framed his face, almost shoulder length, long tousled curls; he immediately stood out from the crowd.
‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate.’
The young boy was tall and spare of build with deep blue eyes. He looked more like a chocolate box portrait than real. Bright red lips and rosy cheeks completed the picture. Dressed in khaki shorts and a white shirt, he looked more like an English school boy than a Boer boy. He waved his veldt hat slowly over his head.
‘Was crucified, dead, and buried.’
The young man on the gallows eyes locked down on the boy and immediately his entire face lit up as though some unknown god had beamed down a celestial light. Tears began to flow now and he mouthed some urgent words across the square to his friend below, desperately trying to communicate with him.
‘He descended into Hell and on the third day, He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven…and, and, sits on the right hand of the Father Almighty…from thence…thence…thence.
’Dominee de Klerk was now openly crying, struggling to compose himself, looking at the Sergeant Major; literally begging him with his eyes. The Sergeant Major, thinking the Dominee had finished, not understanding the language, stood forward hastily and struggled with the young man, pulling the black hood of death over his head. He had literally only just stood back when the trap door slammed down with a crash; the entire crowd recoiled, sighing in horror.
Unfortunately, the training provided by Her Majesties Army did not include the niceties of hanging. They had no understanding of the necessity of a proper fall and a correct length of rope to ensure that the person’s neck broke properly. It took almost five minutes of thrashing and struggling for the fit and strong young man to choke to death on the end of that rope; a dark stream spreading in his dusty khaki pants as he pissed himself in agony, confirming the fact that he was dying.
No one in the crowd moved, too shocked, almost transfixed, by the evil deed that they had been forced to watch. The clouds now moved in and it began to rain, gently at first as through the Gods were at work trying to wash the iniquity that was there away. The young blond haired boy stood, the rain mingling with his tears. He was rigid with fright, horror-filled blue eyes turned to the grey dark sky as though beseeching God.
The time was now 9.15 and the Sergeant Major came down off the gallows, cursing the rain and checked with his superior officer standing beneath. Colonel Revington-Smythe had a smirk on his face; his dark little eyes glinted. The local doctor approached the gyrating body on the rope; stethoscope to ears. The Sergeant Major put a hand out, steadying what was now a slack corpse by the shoulder. He swung it around. The rope creaked. Blood was seeping down from under the black hood, most bite their tongue off. The blood flowed down the dirty khaki shirt, dripped onto the ground, and slowly mingled with the puddles of rain, turning the water all frothy and pink. The blonde haired boy watched in abject horror, face slack, absolutely immobilized by hopeless revulsion. He seemed to come alive suddenly and now started to run, tripping almost, his shoulders shaking; he started pushing, struggling, barging, though the crowd; who were moving away. In the distance, thunder crashed, heralding a thunderstorm. The local Dutch doctor, turned, unable to speak, his mouth set with anger, nodded his head at the Colonel; the Colonel nodded back and smiled. Christopher van Heerden was dead, exactly one week to the day, after his sixteenth birthday.

The British Newspaper ‘Morning London’
(the court) ‘…which had only the most elementary of evidence. There was obviously no adequate evidence on which to convict him. He was a wry young man neither ruffian not brigand and clearly in no sense a ringleader. His death is quite incomprehensible unless we are to hang all rebels as such.’
(Snyman: Rebelverhore p61)

‘the poor, misguided young fellow who has gone to the gallows as a common murderer.’
(The editorial remarking on the execution. Midland News)

‘…all subjects of His Majesty and all person residing in the Cape Colony who shall, in districts thereof in which martial law prevails, be actively in arms against him, or who shall actively aid or assist the enemy or commit any overt act by which the safety of His Majesty forces or subjects is endanger, shall immediately on arrest be tried by court martial, convened by my authority, and shall on conviction be liable to the severest penalties of the law.’
(General Lord Kitchener, April, 22nd, 1901.)



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