Archive for July, 2016

The Painted Wall


A Kiang-si gentleman, named Meng Lung-tan, was lodging at the capital with a Mr. Chu, M.A., when one day chance led them to a certain monastery, within which they found no spacious halls or meditation chambers, but only an old priest in dishabille. On observing the visitors, he arranged his dress and went forward to meet them, leading them round and showing whatever there was to be seen.

In the chapel they saw an image of Chih Kung, and the walls on either side were beautifully painted with life-like representations of men and animals. On the east side were pictured a number of fairies, among whom was a young girl whose maiden tresses were not yet confined by the matron’s knot. She was picking flowers and gently smiling, while her cherry lips seemed about to move, and the moisture of her eyes to overflow. Mr. Chu gazed at her for a long time without taking his eyes off, until at last he became unconscious of anything but the thoughts that were engrossing him. Then, suddenly he felt himself floating in the air, as if riding on a cloud, and found himself passing through the wall, where halls and pavilions stretched away one after another, unlike the abodes of mortals.

Here an old priest was preaching the Law of Buddha, surrounded by a large crowd of listeners. Mr. Chu mingled with the throng and after a few moments, perceived a gentle tug at his sleeve. Turning round, he saw the young girl above-mentioned, who walked laughing away. Mr. Chu at once followed her and passing a winding balustrade, arrived at a small apartment beyond which he dared not venture farther. But the young lady, looking back, waved the flowers she had in her hand as though beckoning him to come on. He accordingly entered and found nobody else within. Then they fell on their knees and worshipped heaven and earth together,’ and rose up as man and wife, after which the bride went away, bidding Mr. Chu keep quiet until she came back.

This went on for a couple of days, when the young lady’s companions began to smell a rat and discovered Mr. Chu’s hiding place. Thereupon they all laughed and said, “My dear, you are now a married woman, and should leave off that maidenly coiffure.” So they gave her the proper hair-pins and head ornaments, and bade her go bind her hair, at which she blushed very much but said nothing. Then one of them cried out, “My sisters, let us be off. Two’s company, more’s none.” At this they all giggled again and went away.

Mr. Chu found his wife very much improved by the alteration in the style of her hair. The high top-knot and the coronet of pendants were very becoming to her. But suddenly they heard a sound like the tramping of heavy-soled boots, accompanied by the clanking of chains and the noise of angry discussion. The bride jumped up in a fright, and she and Mr. Chu peeped out. They saw a man clad in golden armor, with a face as black as jet, carrying in his hands chains and whips, and surrounded by all the girls. He asked, “Are you all here ?”

“All,” they replied.

“If,” said he, “any mortal is here concealed amongst you, denounce him at once, and lay not up sorrow for yourselves.” Here they all answered as before that there was no one. The man then made a movement as if he would search the place, upon which the bride was dreadfully alarmed, and her face turned the colour of ashes. In her terror she said to Mr. Chu, “Hide yourself under the bed,” and opening a small lattice in the wall, disappeared herself. Mr. Chu in his concealment hardly dared to draw his breath; and in a little while he heard the boots tramp into the room and out again, the sound of the voices getting gradually fainter and fainter in the distance. This reassured him, but he still heard the voices of people going backwards and forwards outside; and having been a long time in a cramped position, his ears began to sing as if there was a locust in them, and his eyes to burn like fire. It was almost unbearable. However, he remained quietly awaiting the return of the young lady without giving a thought to the why and wherefore of his present position.

Meanwhile, Meng Lung-tan had noticed the sudden disappearance of his friend, and thinking something was wrong, asked the priest where he was. “He has gone to hear the preaching of the Law,” replied the priest.

“Where ?” said Mr. Meng.

“Oh, not very far,” was the answer. Then with his finger the old priest tapped the wall and called out. “Friend Chu ! what makes you stay away so long?” At this, the likeness of Mr. Chu was figured upon the wall, with his ear inclined in the attitude of one listening. The priest added, “Your friend here has been waiting for you some time;” and immediately Mr. Chu descended from the wall, standing transfixed like a block of wood, with starting eyeballs and trembling legs. Mr. Meng was much terrified, and asked him quietly what was the matter. Now the matter was that while concealed under the bed he had heard a noise resembling thunder and had rushed out to see what it was.

Then they all noticed that the young lady on the wall with the maiden’s tresses had changed the style of her coiffure to that of a married woman. Mr. Chu was greatly astonished at this and asked the old priest the reason.

He replied, “Visions have their origin in those who see them: what explanation can I give ?” This answer was very unsatisfactory to Mr. Chu; neither did his friend, who was rather frightened, know what to make of it all; so they descended the temple steps and went away.




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JOHN ADAMS Sr. (1735-1826) American

2nd US President


Son of a farmer and a deacon he was born to a modest family. His father expected him to become a minister, but Adams had doubts. After graduating in 1755, he decided to become a lawyer and studied law in the office of James Putnam, a prominent lawyer in Worcester. He was on the rise in his practice when Revolution intervened. He was 39 when he took his seat n the first Continental Congress (1774)and 66 when he finally returned to private life. One of his important contribution to the nation was to steer the Declaration of Independence* through congress. He served as Vice President under George Washington and later as the Second President of the new Nation, more or less continued Washington’s policy. He made the presidency the example of republican values and stressing civic virtue he followed his lead in staying out of the French and British war. Some historians consider his worst mistake was in keeping the old cabinet, which was controlled by Hamilton, instead of installing his own people, confirming Adams’ own admission he was a poor politician because he “was unpractised in intrigues for power.”

Elected by the Federalist he was more in tune with Thomas Jefferson (who was his vice President) than with Hamilton. His refusal to be drawn into a war with France while the Federalists were anti-French, cost him a second term as the president.


Declaration of Independence

On June 7, 1776, Adams seconded the resolution of independence introduced by Richard Henry Lee that “these colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states,” and championed the resolution until it was adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776.

He was appointed to a committee with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman, to draft a Declaration of Independence. Although Jefferson primarily wrote the document It was Adam’s vigorous defense and efforts that got it passed in the Congress. Many years later, Jefferson hailed Adams as “the pillar of [the Declaration’s] support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered.”

 Trivia: He was the first President to occupy the White House.



(For the portrait of the President see My latest Portraits posted earlier in the day-b)

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Akbar the Great

Abbas I of Persia

Jon Adams Sr. Second President of the US


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KING ABDULLAH I   (1882-1951) Jordan


 Abdullah I bin al-Hussein is considered the founder of modern Jordan belonged to the Hashemite that had ruled Mecca under Ottoman suzerainty. From 1909 to 1914, Abdullah sat in the Ottoman legislature, as deputy for Mecca, but allied with Britain during World War I. Between 1916 to 1918, working with the British guerilla leader T. E. Lawrence, he played a key role as architect and planner of the Great Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule.

He was the ruler of Trans-Jordan* first as Emir under a British Mandate from 1921 to 1946, then as King of an independent nation from 1946 until his assassination.

Abdullah, considered a moderate by the West did not sign a separate peace agreement with Israel due to the Arab League’s militant opposition. Because of his dream for a Greater Syria comprising Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the British Mandate for Palestine under a Hashemite dynasty many Arab countries distrusted Abdullah and in return, Abdullah distrusted the leaders of other Arab counties.

On 20 July 1951, Abdullah, while visiting Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, was shot dead by ‘a Palestinian from the Husseini clan’.


When French forces captured Damascus at the Battle of Maysalun and expelled his brother Faisal, Abdullah moved his forces with a view to liberating Damascus, where his brother had been proclaimed King in 1918. Having heard of Abdullah’s plans, Winston Churchill persuaded Abdullah not to attack Britain’s allies, the French. Abdullah agreed and was rewarded when the British created a protectorate for him, which later became a state: Trans-Jordan. With the help of the British, Trans-Jordan declared independence on 25 May 1946 as the Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan (renamed Jordan in 1949).

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Abbas the Great




Abbas of the Safavid dynasty, the third son of Sultan Mohammed Shah, came to the throne in 1588, at a critical time. He had to restore internal security and reassert the authority of the monarchy.

The Turkmen tribes (known as the Red heads or Kizilbash) constituted the backbone of Safavid military strength and they proved unreliable. They were in the matter of time, counterbalanced by the standing army of his ghulams (slaves) mainly of descendents of Georgians, Armenians and Circassians who had been brought to Persia by his predecessors. They were appointed governors of crown provinces.

He was the first king to create a standing army. Next he strove to expel Ottoman and Uzbek troops from Persian soil. In 1598 Uzbeks were defeated and Khorasan was annexed. From 1602 onwards he waged successful wars against the Ottomans and recovered the territory lost to them. After his victory over Uzbeks, he transferred the capital from Kazvin to Isfahan. He made the city one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

His reign was a period of intense commercial and diplomatic activity. It also marked a peak of Persian artistic achievement. The production and sale of silk was a monopoly of the crown. Under his patronage carpet weaving became a major industry. Fine Persian rugs were exported to Europe along with other items like textiles, brocades and damasks of unparalleled richness of colour and design.Paintings, illumination of manuscripts, ceramics the works of his period  make his rule exceptional.

He was courageous and energetic ruler with a zeal to justice and welfare of his subjects. He showed unusual religious tolerance, granting privileges to many Christian groups. Notwithstanding he tarnished his reputation by the murder and mutilation of many members of his family.

His traumatic childhood left him with a morbid fear of conspiracy. As time went that obsessive fear increased which caused him to put to death or to blind any member of the royal family who gave him anxiety in this regard. In this way one son was executed, two were blinded*.

His reforms contained within them the seeds of the future decay of both dynasty and state.

*Note: In the East blinding was a common practice,in the case of princes likely to be troublesome to the crown prince at a future date. A deep perpendicular incision was made down each corner of the eyes;the lids were lifted and the balls were removed by cutting the optic nerve and the muscles. Later under Caliphate passing a red hot sword close to the orbit or a needle over the eyeball sufficed. (ack: Burton’s Alf Laylah wa Laylah-footnote/vol .1)


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I have completed Marginalia the book at last. Writing the basic ideas in a book form took some three months but it took almost one year before I could say,’I am done with it.’ It has some 75,000 words, with additional Notes and Glossary at the end.

I shall give a description in 250 words or so.


Christianity has been bedevilled by controversies from the Apostolic Age to the present. Among the early converts those who came from Judaism favoured an interpretation that sat well with their Jewish upbringing. It was like putting the new religion in the old wine skins so to speak. The World Ecumenism of our own times would have the light of knowledge of the Word under a bushel.

Either way it is less than the divine Intent.

This concise guide to the Bible is presented from two standpoints of God the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit has set these two as single narrative where the Will or Intent of God is shown as coming from the Son since he is the Image of the ‘Invisible God’(Col.1:15). Coherence in the Scripture is the work of God the Spirit and maintained so the Son of man ‘is before all things and by him all things consist’. Adam is thus an antitype of Jesus who is qualified as the last Adam. He is the spiritual rock; and bread from heaven. The entire scriptural unity testifies this: the Bible is from God to man.

Jesus Christ of whom we read as thus ‘ it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell (Col.1:19) is also the Word. In short Marginalia : a concise guide to the Bible favours a faith based approach to understand the word of God. Faith as St.Paul says comes from ‘hearing by the word of God (Ro.10:17).


Key Features

  1. Time element The book reconciles God’s Time with many other time frames that cover the history of Israel, earthly ministry of the Son of man etc., This has a direct bearing on understanding the significance of the other two points (2 Pe.3:8)
  2. Focus is on Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit achieves this by using typology. Thus creation account of Eve predicts the death of Jesus and the founding of Church. Adam is antitype for Jesus. The tabernacle in the wilderness prefigures New Jerusalem in the last book. Christ as the head and the Church as his body.
  1. Articulated prophecies: The book offers a more coherent explanation of prophecies than other books. God set Jonah as a sign for Nineveh. Unknown to the prophet he was also a sign for Jesus as to the type of death he would undergo. Prophecies are articulated by which there is bar placed as in the east of Garden, cherubims holding a flaming sword. These are signs that demarcate time frames from God’s Time.


Finally choice of the title Marginalia is to highlight the manner God the Spirit has reorganized two narratives from the Father and from the Son. It is like supplying marginal notes on the Will of God. Holy Spirit also places markers as it were, which we find from the following example. In the upper room where the Apostles cast lots for a substitute St. Peter quotes from the Psalms 69:25. Another way the Spirits clarifies passages is by placing signposts for other passages. The best explanation on the nature of a spiritual body can be found in the sign God gave Gideon (Jud.6:36-39)

Healing of the bitter waters has a bearing on Prophet Elisha healing the land with ‘salt in a new cruze’. Here the emphasis is on regeneration whereas at Marah the wood is a token for the cross. This in turn leads to the living waters, which Jesus promises the Samaritan woman. It speaks of abundant life. It is a clear proof while the scriptures are written by human hands under varying circumstances, period of time the Prime Mover is the same: Spirit is the Inspirer (2Ti.3:16-17).



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The Soldier’s Peaches- Stuart Cloet (1897-1976)



Mrs. Brennen took snuff. She got it out of her grandson’s store; going in and helping herself from the big tin on the second shelf. It was a habit her family deplored. Mrs. Brennen did not like snuff much. It was one of the things she had got over. It made her cough. But the fact that her family deplored her taking it prevented her from giving it up completely. She drank a little too. Not much; just enough to get “tiddly.” That was what she called it, “I’m a little tiddly to-day,” she’d say, and the family didn’t like that either. Nor did she, save for the fun of shocking them and the interest outwitting them gave her.

An old woman did not have much fun, and she had her reputation as a character to keep up. Sometimes she wished she was not a character.

“Mad,” people called her behind her back; “eccentric,” to her face. “Dear Mrs. Brennen, you would do that. You are so eccentric.” “Mad” she would not agree to; “eccentric,” yes; if it was eccentric to like sitting on the stoep in the sun and only talking when you wanted to. There was too much talk in the world. Sometimes she would go for days without talking. “One of her spells,” they called it. Oh, yes, she knew what they said: “Old Mrs. Brennen is having one of her spells.” But she was too busy thinking to worry about what people thought. “Let ’em talk,” she said. “If they’d seen what I’ve seen, they’d stay silent. If they’d seen what I’ve seen, they’d have something to think about. Lot of damned old women! That’s what they are, men and all.” Her family made her laugh with their goings-on. When they reached her age, if they ever did, they’d know that nothing mattered very much. She took another pinch of snuff. Some of it slipped between her fingers on to her black alpaca dress. She flicked it off with the back of her fingers and fumed to watch a span of oxen pull up to the store.

The voorloper bent down to pick up some clods to throw into the faces of the oxen. The driver whistled and turned the handle of the brake. The big wheels locked, dragged on a yard or two and stopped. Taking off his hat, the driver went into the store. The voorloper sat in the dust under the horns of the leaders.

Mrs. Brennen wondered how many wagons she had seen pull up like that since she had come to Brennen’s Store as a bride. Thousands and thousands of wagons. Thousands of men, too–white men, Kaffirs, men on foot, in Cape carts, in spiders, or riding, and now they came in motor-cars. Mrs. Brennen did not like motor-cars. Of course they saved time. But what did one do with the time one saved? No one could tell her that. She chuckled. They couldn’t tell her, because they didn’t know.

She had seen two wars and some native troubles. Once when Brennen was away, the store had been burned by Kaffirs. She had just escaped. A friendly native had warned her. She had hidden in the bush. She had taken Susie with her–a sweet little dog. She had never had another dog like Susie-black and white, as soft to touch as silk, with a wet pink nose. Generally, black-and-white dogs had black noses, but Susie’s had been pink. As she crouched among the rocks, the Kaffirs had come quite near her. Susie had tried to bark and she had held her between her knees and strangled her. Then the Kaffirs had gone and she had buried Susie. The road had been moved since then, and the new store built. Susie was buried about where the wagon stood now. She looked at her hands. They were very frail, veined, knotted and lumpy with gout. Once they had been beautiful. Brennen had said she had beautiful hands. Once they had strangled a pet dog while wild Kaffirs swarmed round her.

They were off-loading the wagon. Mealier. Her grandson, George, was buying them, then. He would pay too much for them. He always paid too much for everything. She thought of a horse he had bought once. That must have been twenty years ago. Like all horses said to be salted, it had died of horse sickness. She had told him it wasn’t salted. Anyone could see it was not salted. A salted horse had a look. You couldn’t explain it. You just knew the look it had.

George came out of the store now. A stupid boy. He always had been stupid.

“Don’t pay ten shillings a bag!” she shouted. “Don’t pay more than eight; and sample them!” If it wasn’t for me, I don’t believe he’d sample them, she thought. She watched him drive a knife with a hollow groove into the bags, emptying the pips into his hand. Some chickens ran out to pick up the fallen mealiest One of them picked a tick from the heel of the near wheeler–a big red and white ox that was chewing its cud.

Mrs. Brennen closed her eyes. Sometimes they forgot who she was. Yes, sometimes they forgot that it was still her store. That she was Cecelia Brennen, the mother of them all. The mother of a multitude of fools. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. It was hard to keep track of them now. Each year they came to show her the new babies they had bred. She thought of her first grandson. She had been so pleased with him. She looked at George; he had been the first grandson. He was leaning against the door of the store. Babies were like everything else; when there were so many of them, they became commonplace. It was hard to remember their names or even their mothers’ names. She liked the Kaffir babies best–black like puppies, and pleasantly nameless. The Kaffir women who brought them to her to admire did not expect her to remember anything; all they wanted was a smile and a present. But that was what most people wanted, when you came to think of it–a smile and a present.

She nodded her head. They thought her memory had gone; but she knew more than the whole pack of them put together. Knew everything that was worth remembering. Ninety-three, and the pattern of her life trailed out like a cloak behind her–her loves and hates, that had once been so hot and cold, all meaningless now–just part of the fabric; brilliant threads that had been woven through it. Remember–she remembered all right. The things she forgot, like the names of her great-grandchildren, and of the women her grandsons had married, were not important. What did it matter if she did not recognise them all, so long as they knew her? Besides, women all looked the same now. They had no character–short curly hair, red lips, red nails and no shape.

She watched the wagon go. The driver shouted and clapped his whip. The voorloper trotted in front of the running oxen. The hind wheels were still locked, and dragged. That was like a Kaffir, to start his span with the brake on. The driver clapped his whip again and took off the brake, then he ran forward and jumped on to the disselboom. She remembered a man being brought into the store who had been run over that way. He had slipped and the wheels had gone over his legs. Empty of ballast, the wagon moved noisily. One wheel let out piercing squeaks. Grease, Mrs. Brennen thought. George should have noticed it and sold him some grease.

She stared down the road. It was red, unmetalled, dusty, and wide enough to turn a span. Part of it was bordered with big blue gums; grey foliaged untidy trees whose bark hung in torn white ribbons from the trunks. There was the bottle store, the chemist’s, the Standard Bank, the coolie store, and the usual white houses with red roofs that got smaller and more disreputable as the road went on. The best part of the dorp was behind her. That was where the doctor lived, and the bank manager, and Mr. Fairburn. No one knew quite what Mr. Fairburn did or where he got his money. That was where George wanted to live. He thought it was common to live opposite the store. He wanted to drive down to it in his new car each day, as if he was a professional man.

She laughed. Perhaps that was it, or perhaps he wanted her tucked away safely where she could not see everything that went on. But the store was her life. It did not change, like the children. It did not die. It did not go away. It grew, but it grew slowly and precisely. You knew which way it was going to grow. Seventy years was a long time to sit in one place. She had been asked why she did not travel! Travel. Why go and look for life when it was going on all around you if you had eyes to see and waited long enough? She thought of the story of the two hunters. One had walked for miles, looking for game. The other had sat near a water-hole. The first had killed nothing. The second had taken what he wanted. It was better and less exhausting to let things come to you than to go and search for them. The store was like a water-hole–everyone had to come to it in the end. If they wanted a needle or a plough, they came to Brennen’s.

She saw a car. What a dust it threw up! It came from Pretoria. It was many years since she had been there. They said Church Square was now a garden. It had been the outspan. They had often outspanned there in the old days. Sometimes there had been two hundred wagons, Lying wheel to wheel. But the great days were gone, and where were the men to day who could compare with the men she had known then? Men like the old president, Joubert, De Wet, De la Rey, Cecil Rhodes, or Doctor Jim. Men like Brennen her husband. That was another reason she sat in the store all day. Brennen was with her. She could feel his company.

She looked at George. He had not moved. George was fat. She hated fat men. A fat woman was comfortable, but a fat man an abomination.

The car stopped at the store. A young man got out; he had a letter in his hand. He looked at the notice outside the store. Then he went up to George and gave him the letter. She would find out what was in it later. A man in a car bringing George a letter.

George was bringing him over. He looked like an Englishman. There was even something familiar about him. The turn of his head or the way he walked.

“She may know,” she heard George say, “but she’s difficult. She has spells.”

That was another of George’s delusions–that she was deaf. She hated being shouted at, but it was worth letting them think it for the asides she heard.

“This is Mr. Vane,” George said, putting his mouth to her ear. “He has come from England, Ouma.”

She put out her hand. “I can see he comes from England,” she said. “Look at his boots.” Mrs. Brennen wondered if she would take snuff now or later. He seemed a nice young man, fresh complexioned, very clean and shiny, with reddish hair.

“Sit down,” she said.

He sat down.

“How much did you pay for those mealies, George?” she asked.

“Nine shillings.” He would go in a minute and leave her with the young man. George got up. “I said you weren’t to pay more than eight.”

She looked him up and down. Once she had had great hopes of George.

“I’II be going,” George said. “See you later.”

“Thank you,” the Englishman said. “I do hope I’m not being a nuisance, Mrs. Brennen.”

“Nothing is a nuisance now,” she said.

She got her snuff-box. “Take snuff?” she asked. “No, thank you.”

“Quite right, young man. A filthy habit. He”–she pointed to George’s back–“thinks I am a disgrace to the family.” She chuckled. “But I bred them. If it wasn’t for me, there’d be no family–and the store is mine. That’s what they don’t like. They’d like to sell the store and go into something else–too grand for Brennen’s general store. Ride round in motor-cars. That’s what they want to do–just ride round and round. There’s no sense in riding round and round.” She looked at her visitor. He seemed a little bewildered. Never seen anyone like me before, she thought.

“Never seen anyone like me, have you?” she asked. “And you won’t again, young man; I’m one of the last of them. Real people, we were. Men and women. Real,” she said. She closed her eyes. “What do you want?” she asked. “Why did you come here? Who gave you a letter to George? No good having a letter to George. He’s a fool. He’s my grandson, and I know.”

“It’s a long story.” Francis Vane lit a cigarette. He wondered how to begin. “It’s my father,” he said. “You see, his father–my grandfather–was killed near here with the Three Hundred and First, and I wondered if anyone could tell me about it. They sent me to George Brennen. I had a letter to him.”

“No good sending anyone to him,” Mrs. Brennen said.

“Do you remember them coming here?” Vane asked. “It was in November 1880.”

“Of course I remember,” Mrs. Brennen said. “John–that’s George’s father–was ill then. We thought he would die, and then they came. ‘Kiss me Mother . . . kiss your darling daughter’–that’s the tune they played as they marched in. They had a doctor with them–a Captain Bull. He saved John’s life and we gave him a cage of wild birds. . . . But what do you want to know? she asked.

“I want to know how it happened. You see, my grandfather commanded the Three Hundred and First. He was killed. They said it was his fault That he was incompetent. My father is very old now and he broods about it. He wants to know where his father is buried. He wants to know what happened. He’s very old,” he said again.

“I’m very old,” Mrs. Brennen said, “and I know; I brood too. Thinking, I call it. Your grandfather. Then that’s it. That’s why I thought I’d seen you before. I danced with him that night. He danced well. We gave them a dance in the old store.” She nodded to the warehouse behind the present building. “We cleared everything out. Ploughs, harrows, soft goods and all. We put buck sails over them and gave the officers a dance. They had come from Lydenburg and were going to Pretoria. They didn’t think there’d be a war. They said it would be a massacre if it came–Boars against trained troops like them. The Three Hundred and First,” Mrs. Brennen said. “Yes, the Three Hundred and First.”

Francis Vane leaned forward.

Mrs. Brennen saw it all. She saw them march in. “Kiss me, Mother . . . kiss your darling daughter.” The drum-major tossed his stick, caught it, twirled it; men in red–an endless stream of sunburnt young men in red-mounted officers, rumbling transport, mules, baggage, wagons drawn by oxen, dogs that followed the battalion with lolling tongues.

For a day Brennensdorp had been gay, populated with soldiers. They had swarmed everywhere–walking about in pairs, standing in groups, or Lying on their backs in the shade of the gum trees–they had been small then and their shade thin. She saw them washing in buckets, their young chests bare, their hair wet, their eyes wrinkled against the soapy water. She had propped Johnny up so that he could see the soldiers. And it had been hot. It was not hot like that now. It had been so hot that the sheets of corrugated iron on the roof cracked as they pulled at the nails. The trees had danced up and down on the veld and the road was wet with mirage water. The red jackets of the troops had made it seem hotter. Wherever you looked there were red jackets. How they worked to empty the store! Everyone had helped. They had thrown mealie meal on the floor to make it fit for dancing.

The colonel had come to thank her. “Thank you, Mrs. Brennen,” he had said. “It is very kind of you to entertain us like this.”

Colonel Vane had admired her. She had seen it in his eyes. “I hear your little boy is ill” he said. “Perhaps we can help you. Would you like to see Captain Bull, our doctor?”

She had seen him. A kindly man. He had come at once in his dusty boots. Brennen had given him beer. The bottles were kept cool in a canvas bucket that hung from the roof. “I’ll stay with him, Mrs. Brennen,” the doctor said, and he had stayed watching at the bedside.

The dance had been an event. Boys had been sent out to call in the countryside–all that were loyal, that is–and they had come, every man and woman and girl for miles round. Both sides of the street had been full of their Cape carts and buggies. The regimental band played tune after tune. The doorway was filled with watching Tommies. The dust and mealie flour had risen off the floor in clouds. It clung to the dresses of the girls, to the clothes and moustaches of the men. Music, laughter and some kissing.

There was a tale she had heard about a clown who had made jokes while his little son was dying. She felt like that clown. She kept going in to look at Johnny. The doctor put his finger to his lips and motioned her away. She had gone away. . . .

“May I have the pleasure of this dance, Mrs. Brennen?”


“How well you dance, Mrs. Brennen.”

“How light you are, Mrs. Brennen.”

What did they expect, she wondered. It was strange how one could go on saying and doing all the right things when one was feeling nothing. It was as if one stood some way off watching oneself. She had noticed this, time and again. That cannot be me. This cannot be me. Cecelia Brennen could not be doing this. But Cecelia Brennen was doing it. Her place was with her son; her place was at the dance. She was Mrs. Brennen, the wife of John Brennen, of Brennensdorp. It was her place to entertain the soldiers of the Queen.

There had been a great killing of beasts and fowls, a great baking, a great emptying of casks of wine and brandy. She had seen to it all, and to her sick child as well. She had worn cyclamen taffeta with a bustle and hoops.

Her hair hung in ringlets round her neck. A pretty young thing–the belle of the ball and the mother of a dying child. But he had not died. If only Johnny can grow up strong and healthy, like these officers, she thought. If only— Excusing herself, she ran to see him. Captain Bull was asleep; the child slept, too, his hand in that of the soldier. How tired he looked!

In the morning Johnny was better. “He’ll come through,” the doctor said. He made up medicine for him in a whisky bottle. She and Brennen had wondered what they could give him. They could not give money. “Give him my cage of birds,” Johnny said. They were beautiful birds; little finks of every colour–rooibekkies, blouvinks, kingvinks. They were all tame, and sang and twittered on their perches. She had taken them to Captain Bull. “A present from Johnny,” she said. Brennen had come at that moment with a Kaffir carrying a case of champagne. The champagne and the birds had been stowed in the doctor’s cart. The case of wine on the bed, and the cage slung from the roof and lashed to the sides, so that it should not swing.

“Good morning, Mrs. Brennen.” Colonel Vane rode up. “I am glad to hear your little boy is better.”

Behind the colonel there was a donkey wagon loaded with yellow peaches. It had just come in and the soldiers were crowded round it, eating peaches and stuffing them into their haversacks to eat on the march. The colonel was laughing.

“Fruit’s good for them,” he said.

“It’s a good year for peaches. And the trees in the district are weighed down with them,” she said.

Then the bugles sounded. The colour-sergeants shouted, “Fall in.” The markers were waiting. The men, fully accoutred, ruddy with sleep, ran out. Transport drivers cursed as their hubs bumped. The Three Hundred and First was going. They had come and they were going.

“Kiss me, Mother . . . kiss your darling daughter”–the band struck up again. Like a red snake the regiment swung out of the dorp in a cloud of dust. Then the dust fell. To-night they would lie in Pretoria.

The Three Hundred and First had gone and Johnny would get well. She was sitting with Johnny when it happened. A man came galloping down the street. A private soldier, wounded, riding an officer’s charger. It was streaked with sweat, its chest splashed with foam, its eyes were wild. She recognised the horse. It was Colonel Vane’s horse. The big bay she had patted as he said good-bye.

The soldier pulled up and almost fell from the saddle.

“What is it?” she said. “Oh, what is it?” She knelt beside him in the dust.

“The doctor sent me to get help! They are all finished!” he said. “They’re cut to hell–the whole bloody lot! We walked into it! The colonel’s dead! I took his horse!” He began to cry. “They got us–they got us fair! It was murder!”

He was only a boy. She held him in her arms and the blood from the wound in his neck ran on to her shoulder. Suddenly he sat up. “Bandages,” he said, “and brandy . . . and food! That’s what the doctor said! We’ve got no bandages! They’re all bleeding, and nothing to stop it! Oh, God, Mrs. Brennen, nothing to stop it! I must get back!” He dragged the horse towards him and tried to mount.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“I don’t know, but I must go back. I can’t stay here.”

“Where is it? Where did it happen?”

“At the little river–they were all round us.”

“The Spruit?”

“That’s what they call it.”

Brennen was inspanning already, loading up the Cape cart. That would be the quickest; the wagons could follow. It was not very far. She ran into the house for sheets, towels, bedding, mattresses, blankets, brandy; the house and store were emptied of everything that might be useful.

She climbed into the cart beside her husband. He had put in four horses instead of two.

“Trot the oxen, Jan!” he shouted to the driver who was inspanning.

“They cannot trot so far, baas!

“Trot them and be damned!” Brennen said.

And then they were off at a gallop, rocking first on one wheel and then on the other as they hit the bumps in the road. Hardly checking for the drift, they splashed through the water. Brennen hit the horses as they slowed up to pull out of it. She had never seen him hit a horse before. They sprang into the traces again with such a jerk that she thought the swingletree would break loose. She looked at the pole. Brennen had tied it with a double riem. They were on the flat now. The horses were bolting. Let them bolt. Nothing could go wrong with a strong cart and good gear on a straight road unless one of the horses fell. The whip clapped like a pistol as Brennen urged them to greater speed. The four reins were like live things in his hands as he cried out the horses’ names: “Bles! Charlie! Klinkie! Chaka!” Chaka was a new black horse. Brennen had put him on the off lead, where he could get at him best with his whip. “Come, Bles! . . . Come, Charlie!” She gripped the arms of her chair. What a drive it had been. She smelt the dust in her nostrils.

The road was always dusty, but now it had been made worse by the passing of a thousand men and their transport. The dust rose in clouds, obliterating everything, so that sometimes she could see only the horses’ ears and their tossing manes. The reins went down to nothing. They disappeared into the dust. She could see no road. That they kept on it was a miracle.

And then they got there. The horses shied and pulled across the road as the leaders almost ran into an overturned wagon.

The dust fell slowly.

“You’ve come.” It was the boy on the colonel’s horse. “I was coming back to find you,” he said.

They got out of the cart. Some soldiers took the horses out. She saw it all–the undulating ground, the bush, the trees by the road–many of them scored by bullets. There was blood everywhere. It ran down the sloping road into pools.

They helped the doctor to move the men, to bandage, to cut more bandages. Tents were pitched, food cooked, great cauldrons of hot water got ready to dress the wounded. She had gone in to Colonel Vane. His legs were off. While she was with him, Frantz Joubert, the Boer commandant, had come in.

“Will you drink with me, Commandant?” the colonel said. “And you, too, Mrs. Brennen.” It was the champagne her husband had given the doctor. They drank. Joubert said, “Here’s to Queen Victoria. May she live long and take her soldiers from the Transvaal.”

They had wrapped the dead in blankets and buried them where they fell along the side of the road, on the veld where they had taken up their positions. Beside almost every body there were peaches; they had fallen from the hands of the men as they were ambushed. Their pipe-clayed haversacks still bulged with them. The dead of the Three Hundred and First were buried with their peaches where they lay.

She saw Johnny’s cage of birds. It was broken and the birds were free. The wild birds were free once more and the men were dead.

“Yes,” she said, looking up, “that’s what happened to the Three Hundred and First. The birds were free and the men were dead, and buried where they fell.”

“But–” Vane said.

She had not spoken. She had sat for nearly half an hour with her head sunk on her breast.

She looked accusingly at her grandson. “And they think I can’t remember. I can remember everything. I can even remember the names.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” George Brennen said–“one of her spells.”

They were silent, staring at the old woman; her head was lowered again.

Suddenly, from the next house, a woman screamed at a child.

“Didn’t I tell you not to eat so many peaches? Peaches–you guzzle peaches all day, and then bring them home at night, so that you can eat more. You’ll be sick, I say. Where did you get them? Did you steal them?”

“I didn’t steal them, Mother. They’re the soldiers’ peaches. We drove ova there to get them. They’re wild peaches.” The child was crying.

Mrs. Brennen got up. “Let her have the peaches. Let her have all she wants. The soldiers’ peaches never hurt anyone.” Mrs. Brennen sat down again. “The soldiers’ peaches,” she said–“that grew out of their pockets.”

Tears ran down her cheeks. They followed the lines of her face and dripped on to the snuff-stained alpaca dress. She made no effort to stay them.


“Out of their pockets?” Vane said.


“She means their haversacks.”


“Then there are peach trees?”


“Yes, there are trees–plenty of them.”

“And they buried them where they fell? Do you know the place well?” Vane asked.

“Everyone knows it well. All the children get peaches from them. They grow like this.” George Brennen traced a pattern on the dust of the stoep with his finger. “Here is where there are the most. . . . That was where the main body got it. . . . They were buried on both sides of the road . . . and out here is where the scouts fell.” He made scattered dots.

“Then there were scouts out,” Vane said. “And it wasn’t my grandfather’s fault.”

“It was nobody’s fault,” Brennen said. “The Boers were hidden and they held their fire.”

Vane laughed. “Can we go over there to-morrow?” he asked. “I’ll make a map of it for my father. Poor father,” he said. “If only he had known this years ago! He nearly came once, and then he was afraid to come–afraid of what he’d find.”

“We call them the soldiers’ peaches,” George Brennen said. “And I wish she had told you the story–I have heard it hundreds of times–but she’s old; she has spells.”

His grandmother looked up. “I remember as well as anyone,” she said. She pointed to Vane. “I remember his grandfather. A fine man. There were some fine men in those days.”

Brennen took Vane’s shoulder. “Come along to my place. Spend the night and we’ll drive over there to-morrow.” END




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Faith and Quantum Tunnelling


In the previous post Quantum World in Nature we had discussed how quantum tunnelling could connect two worlds albeit being of different worlds. An electron belongs to the world atoms and of quantum realm. It can pass through a material to jump from point A to point B in a way that seems to bypass the intervening space. How in matters of faith (I speak from Christian perspective) quantum tunneling holds out a clue  for us. Using scientific ideas it is possible how God and man could connect. Direction of science is by empirical method for example from fossil evidences to reconstruct bygone era.

In case of God time is of no consequence. He is omnipresent.

Let us examine this line from the post. ‘The electron can only make this leap through the so-called quantum tunnel if the bond is vibrating with just the right energy’. Faith can only be instilled in a reader who comes to the Word in the right spirit. Entanglement of two fundamental particles is across space while God has no space to restrict his Will being done.

When the electron leaps to the other site on the receptor as in the case of smell, it could trigger a chain reaction that ends up sending signals to the brain that the receptor has come into contact with that particular molecule.

Treat Trinity as in a Quantum realm: Word and the Spirit can exist as two entities; disappear and reappear as God as One. One day science might come up with an answer to the mysterious process of faith owes to Quantum effect. ‘Faith from the Word (Ro.10:17)

Hearing in a believing heart is powerful because heart and emotions are all engaged. When Apostle Peter addressed the crowd after the outpouring of the Spirit they were stirred up to ask,”Men and brethren what shall we do?(Ac.2:37)” Like quantum effects in the molecular centers for photosynthesis the Word and Spirit instill faith in a listener by working at multi-levels.

Quantum superposition may speed up the process of photosynthesis in a plant but faith requires conscious choice to accept the Word as true.

For those who are interested in the nature of Triune God here is my view.

God is One (De.6:4). Think of it as Will or Thought that is expressed. How shall be expressed so man may understand it? It has to be spelt out, is it not? It is the Word that accomplishes it. He is as a son who is obeying his earthly father. Since we are talking about heavenly things we shall rephrase the above as thus: God the Son obeys the Will of God, the Father. He is begotten but not created of God.

The Thought is self-conscious. God reveals to Moses as I AM THAT I AM(Ex.3:14). It has a direction. In narrative of the Bible we see it connects the nation of Israel, and gentile nations as well.

The ministry of the Word is only for man and not for angels. So in interpreting the Bible it is the Will and its focus we need to catch on. So we have God the Spirit as Inspirer and as Paraclete, the Helper. If my speech cannot be understood by others I am more like a barbarian of whom St Paul speaks as thus: ‘If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian…’(1 Co.14:11). So role of God the Spirit is to help us understand the Will of God through the medium of the Word. Jesus manifested in the world to fulfill the Will of his Father. Jn.3:16



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Scientists tell us that the way things work at quantum level are unlike what we experience in our visible world. In macroscopic world “classical” physics of Newton et al rules the roost.

Fundamental particles of the quantum realm behave in seemingly impossible ways: they can exist in two places at once, or disappear and reappear somewhere else instantly. It is so weird that ‘spooky science’ fits the label under which they operate.

Quantum processes may occur not quite so far from our ordinary world as we once thought. Quite the opposite: they might be at work behind some very familiar processes, from the photosynthesis that powers plants – and ultimately feeds us all – to the familiar sight of birds on their seasonal migrations. Quantum physics might even play a role in our sense of smell.

A well-trained human nose can distinguish between thousands of different smells. But how this information is carried in the shape of the smelly molecule is a puzzle. Many molecules that are almost identical in shape, but jigger with one by swapping around an atom or two shall have very different smells. Vanillin smells of vanilla, but eugenol, which is very similar in shape, smells of cloves. Some molecules that are a mirror image of each other – just like your right and left hand – also have different smells. But equally, some very differently shaped molecules can smell almost exactly the same. Luca Turin, a chemist at the BSRC Alexander Fleming institute in Greece observes that there are inconsistencies.

He argues that the molecule’s shape alone isn’t enough to determine its smell. He says that it’s the quantum properties of the chemical bonds in the molecule that provides the crucial information.

According to Turin’s quantum theory of olfaction, when a smelly molecule enters the nose and binds to a receptor, it allows a process called quantum tunnelling to happen in the receptor.

In quantum tunnelling, an electron can pass through a material to jump from point A to point B in a way that seems to bypass the intervening space. For the same reason in photosynthesis of plants how electrons achieve efficiency in photosynthesis owes to the same tunneling. As with the bird’s quantum compass, the crucial factor is resonance. A particular bond in the smelly molecule, Turin says, can resonate with the right energy to help an electron on one side of the receptor molecule leap to the other side. The electron can only make this leap through the so-called quantum tunnel if the bond is vibrating with just the right energy.

When the electron leaps to the other site on the receptor, it could trigger a chain reaction that ends up sending signals to the brain that the receptor has come into contact with that particular molecule. This, Turin says, is an essential part of what gives a molecule its smell, and the process is fundamentally quantum.

The strongest evidence for the theory is Turin’s discovery that two molecules with extremely different shapes can smell the same if they contain bonds with similar energies.

Turin predicted that boranes – relatively rare compounds that are hard to come by – smelled very like sulphur, or rotten eggs. He’d never smelt a borane before, so the prediction was quite a gamble.

He was right. Turin says, “Borane chemistry is vastly different – in fact there’s zero relation – to sulphur chemistry. So the only thing those two have in common is a vibrational frequency. They are the only two things out there in nature that smell of sulphur.”

While that prediction was a great success for the theory, it’s not ultimate proof.


Whether or not nature has evolved to make use of quantum phenomena to help organisms make fuel from light, tell north from south, or distinguish vanilla from clove, the strange properties of the atomic world can still tell us a lot about the finer workings of living cells.

(To be concluded)

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My heart wakes to a nauseating sound:

My eyes as though from some shock electric

Reacting cannot but stare at him in front

Crouching, Oh it’s my hound Patrick;

‘Tis not like tabbycat with his mice

A share from spoils of his field chase

He lays at my feet,- Patrick has his way

To bulldoze my reverie and get away;

Why fawning tongue work all over me

As though its glad oil has charm

O’er the most supine master into alacrity?

What freezes my blood is sepsis, its harm

Shall outpace your fidelity, Patrick

I shall throw this ball and wish it gone

And chasing it to hell that is a trick

I wish you had taken up-Begone!



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