The conspicuously bright hues of the "Vierkleur" round Hansie's hat attracted the attention of the new-comers in Pretoria, and she was often asked what they represented. In course of time other girls donned their colours, flaunting them in the face of the enemy on every possible occasion.
Now perhaps this was indiscreet, but, after all, what harm could it do?
It was a certain comfort to them, and there could be no objection to their taking a public stand for their own, under British martial law. At least, we thought so. Not so the enemy!
About three weeks after the British entry into the capital, the van Warmelos were told that orders had been issued that no Transvaal burgher in Pretoria would in future be permitted to wear the "Vierkleur."
"Impossible! I do not believe it," Hansie exclaimed.
"What are you going to do?" her mother inquired.
"Go out as usual with my 'Vierkleur' on, and see what happens," she said.
She went out and nothing happened, so she went out again next day, and the next.
In the meantime she heard that dozens of women and girls had been stopped in the streets and marched off to the various Charge Offices, where their colours were forcibly removed and detained as contraband articles of war.
Her mother warned her not to run the risk of losing her precious ribbon, and advised her to put it away, but Hansie was determined to wear it until compelled to submit. For a few days she rode about as usual, accompanied by Carlo, without being molested in any way, and she was just beginning to feel reassured, when, one day, a petty officer rode up to her in the street and ordered her to take off her Transvaal colours. She was on her way to Consul Cinatti's house, and was walking, for the Portuguese Consulate was quite close to Harmony.
With the horse prancing before her, she could not very well proceed on her way. She stopped and looked up at the soldier. She did not like his face at all, and changed her mind about what she meant to say to him.
"Why don't you do as I tell you? Take off that ribbon at once," he commanded.
"Why don't you go and conquer the Transvaal?" she asked.
"I have my orders," he said, with a black look, "and if you don't remove those colours from your hat immediately, I shall send some one to take them off by force."
"Take the Transvaal first," she said persuasively, "then you will be quite welcome to my bit of ribbon."
He wheeled round suddenly and tore off to the Sunnyside Charge Office, lashing his poor horse savagely and looking round at her with a watchful eye every few yards.
Hansie walked faster, and had nearly reached the side gate of the Consulate, when she saw him returning with two other mounted soldiers.
She dived through the gate, and running through the garden, unceremoniously entered the house at a side door.
"Oh, Celeste!" she said to the astonished Miss Cinatti, "there are three men after me!"
"Three men after you! What do you mean?"
"They want my precious 'Vierkleur.' What shall I do?"
"Take it off!"
Here they were joined by Mr. Cinatti, who waved his arms and stamped his feet when he heard the story, and got so excited and indignant that he spluttered even more than usual in his broken English.
"What meant it all? What impudent impertinence was dis? It was nothing but one big mean trick, a prying trap," etc., etc.
When the storm was over (and his storms were usually of brief duration) he asked Hansie, with a gesture of comical despair:
"What are we going to do now?"
"I don't know."
"Will you take off dat ribbon?"
"I will not."
Hugely delighted, he clasped his hands in well-assumed agony of mind.
"Stay here and go home in de dark?"
"No," Hansie laughed.
"I'll tell you. Celeste will give you anudder ribbon to put over dat one."
"Thank you very much," Hansie said. "Yes, that is a good idea."
Miss Cinatti fastened a broad white ribbon over the "Vierkleur," and Hansie bade her an affectionate farewell. The Consul escorted her to the gate, where they found one of the mounted soldiers guarding the entrance, while the second had been stationed at the side gate into which Hansie had been seen to disappear. The man who had addressed her first was nowhere to be seen. Mr. Cinatti glared at the soldier, who backed away from the entrance, and allowed the girl to pass. He did not look triumphant—on the contrary he saluted respectfully; but the other Tommy at the side gate laughed when he saw the white ribbon on her hat, and I am afraid that Hansie felt very much inclined to say, "I've got my 'Vierkleur' on still!" But she wisely refrained, walking on stiffly without so much as a glance at the man. That night she slowly and sadly took off her 'bit of ribbon gay,' replacing it by a black band in token of mourning and bereavement.
There was too much at stake, and she felt it would be better to keep the ribbon in safety at home than to run the risk of being deprived of it by force.
A sympathetic friend afterwards painted two crossed flags, the flags of the Transvaal and the Free State, on her band of black, and this she wore unmolested until the end of the war.