This ‘biography’ of Allemann is, in fact, an entertaining account of social life at the Cape during the mid-18th century. The topics range from the structure of the military forces to the life of slaves and the revolt of Etienne Barbier to shipwrecks and the financial prospects of young women.
EXTRACT FROM THE TEXT
|70 Life of R. S. Allemann.||Becomes Wealthy. 71|
|[…] Mistress Meijboom: “If this is the case, I await Your Excellency’s commands.”
The Governor: “It is not in the least a command! Give me your hand upon it that you will not refuse me.” She gave him her hand and he held it fast. Then he went on: “Listen, Mistress Meijboom; I have a parti for you; he is a fine young gentleman, ‘galant,’ a man of understanding; he occupies a position of honour, and I am well disposed towards him and will see that he is promoted. What have you to say to this?”
Mistress Meijboom: “If this be your request, may I humbly beg to be informed who he is?”
The Governor: “It is Ensign Allemann. I am sure that it is a match you ought not to refuse.”
Mistress Meijboom: “If that is Your Excellency’s opinion, I will not oppose it, provided that Ensign Allemann seeks my hand of his own free will and not simply because of Your Excellency’s command.”
The Governor: “Heel wel gesproocken!”
Hereupon he opened the window and shouted: “A man from the guard I” A Rapportgänger came running up, and the Governor shouted to him: “Ensign Allemann is to come to me at once.” Herr Allemann presented himself without delay, and, having paid his respects to the Governor, greeted the assembled company. Meanwhile the Governor continued to keep Mistress Meijboom beside him, holding her fast by the hand.
The Governor: “Ensign, I have to-day played the part of matchmaker on your behalf. I have proposed for you to Mistress Meijboom, and she has promised to give you her hand if you seek it, not through any command of mine, but because of your own inclination. What do you think about it?”
Herr Allemann: “Edel Heer, I should esteem it the greatest possible honour and happiness. All my life long I should regard your gracious recommendation with humble gratitude, and I would strive on all occasions to make myself worthy of it.” Then, turning to Mistress Meijboom, he went on: “Dearest lady, I offer you my heart and hand. Ever since I have had the privilege of knowing you I have regarded you with the utmost respect and affection; -but I should probably never have dared on my own account to make the proposal that His Excellency
|has been so exceedingly kind as to make for me. I entreat you most earnestly to complete my happiness by assenting to this proposal. Say ‘Yes!’”
Mistress Meijboom: “Yes! But,” she added, with a smile, “there is something that you too must promise—to forget what is past!”
Herr Allemann: “I know of nothing to forget! I love you from the bottom of my heart; here is my hand.”
The Governor then released her hand; she extended it to Herr Allemann who took and kissed it. “Op de beck! Op de beck!” cried the Governor. Herr Allemann complied, and Mistress Meijboom returned his salute. The Governor then called for wine and the whole company drank the health of the newly-engaged couple. Then the Governor asked what it was that Mistress Meijboom wanted Herr Allemann to forget, so Madame Valck told him the story of the bed in the kitchen. The Governor pretended to be very stern and declared that as a punishment Mistress Meijboom must, after her marriage, let Herr Allemann sleep in her own bed. There was much laughter at this; but the Kampanjemeester carried the joke further still by advising the culprit that if she wanted to appeal against the sentence, she had better do so quickly, before she was married. Mistress Meijboom was embarrassed, but Madame Valck took her part and said that since she had long ago recognised, and repented of, her fault, she would not appeal against the sentence, but would regard it as valid whenever, after three weeks had gone by, Herr Allemann took possession of the quarters assigned to him.
After the company had been amused for a while with this joke, the Governor sent a messenger round to the principal gentlemen and servants of the Company, inviting them, together with their wives and grown-up sons and daughters, to attend a ball that was to be held that day in the Castle. The trumpeters and six hautbois players from the Garrison were summoned, and the guests appeared without delay. The Governor announced the engagement, and congratulations were showered upon the pair. Then the Governor opened the ball with Mistress Meijboom, and led her to Herr Allemann. Supper was at eight o’clock, and during dessert the Governor addressed Mistress Meijboom as follows:
“My dear young lady, don’t for a moment imagine that I have made this match in order that your future husband might be supported by your means. On the contrary, I have helped him to a position of honour, and to a bride, […]