Violets To The Bride

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By Frederick Philander In the city magistrate’s court a white magistrate looks over his spectacled nose to announce from a paper his verdict of five accused persons standing in the dock. “You have all been found guilty of breaking the curfew, which is a very serious offence. You are hereby sentenced to one month in prison or a fine of Two Pounds. You may step down,” the colonial magistrate announces before turning his attention to a court sergeant. “Next case.'” The five Black and Coloured men and women are led away. A big bold Herero male, neatly dressed in a suit, forces heads in the public gallery to turn when he enters to take up a seat. Bernard is brought into the courtroom to stand trial… In the township Gloria finally arrives home. Through a small wooden gate, she enters the front yard with a small well-kept garden. She climbs the two steps onto the red cement stoep, which is edged with a low wall and a zinc veranda. She enters and shuts the door. At the public baths Jacob emerges and notices a man putting up a poster against the outside wall. The man walks off and Jacob reads the information on the poster to himself. “Public Notice: Register all properties now. Fair compensation will be paid to those wanting to start a new beginning in Katutura. By order: Location Manager,” he finishes reading and tears the poster off the wall. “Nice try, Jakop observes and walks off. Inside her home Eva attends to an injury at the back of Gloria’s head. The younger woman is seated at the table. Retrieving some heated tree leaves from the stove and wrapping it into a cloth, Eva says: “If only we had balsam and Compiva this wound would have healed in no time. We have to make do with these caster oil tree leaves. It will be just as effective,” says Eva as she expertly ties a cloth around her daughter’s head. “Ma, the wound is not that bad,” Gloria says touching her bandaged head. “Stop pretending, you’re not hurt. You could have been dead. Oh, I almost forgot,” the mother says producing the envelope from her apron pocket. “This letter is for you, from the offices,” Eva says handing her daughter the letter, which Gloria opens and reads. And in the city courtroom Bernard politically defends himself. “… and because of my own convictions, I do not recognise the verdict of this court nor do I acknowledge your laws that have been imposed on us by foreigners …” Bernard says being interrupted by the Afrikaner magistrate. “Ja, ja. Whatever your feelings and political views, this court finds you guilty on both the charges of escaping from police custody and breaking the curfew. You are fined ten Pounds or six months in prison,” the magistrate says matter-of-factly to the accused and to the court sergeant: “Take him away.” * Back in the yard, Job enters the house through the back door carrying his empty mug. “Eva, can I please have some more tea…” he says noticing his stepdaughter. “Gloria, finally you are home. You had us all worried, especially your mother. What happened to your head? he inquires. “Ag, it’s nothing serious, Pa. I’ll get over it,” she replies, showing him the letter. “Rather help me out here. I’m not sure I want to continue serving on the Advisory Board,” she intimates. “If you ask me, I think it would be in the community’s interest if Gloria attends the meeting, don’t you agree Job?” Eva tests the water with her husband. “Gloria has a mind of her own, vrou. She has to decide,” he responds. “But the community expects it from her because most people respect and appreciates what she has been doing for them over the past two years. Things have changed for the better,” Eva defends her stance. “That’s what you think, mother. To tell you the honest truth, I feel like a puppet in the hands of those white people, who never really listen to our people’s advice nor our constant complaints,” says Gloria in her own defence. “But the white people are good …” she manages to say, but is stopped in her tracks by her husband with a hand gesture. “… let Gloria speak,” he demands. Making use of this opportunity Gloria informs her parents about the true situation in the statutory body. “Things have gone from bad to worse. We don’t see eye to eye anymore with the white people. They do things the way they want. I feel like a useless puppet on a string, only good enough to do their dirty work.” Slightly angered, Eva retorts. “You are not even married to him, yet, but you already talk like Bernard.” “Great minds think alike,” Job comments sipping his tea. * On the stairs outside the courtroom Bernard is congratulated by Moses for his political utterances minutes ago in the courtroom. “I am real proud of you telling that white man exactly what we think of their laws,” says Moses, who hugs the younger man. “Let this be a warning to the colonialists.” “Thanks, Moses,” Bernard responds loosening himself from the big man’s grip. “I need to go find out whether Gloria got home safely.” “That’s what I would have done myself. Hurry along, but don’t forget the committee will meet this afternoon, same place, the barbershop,” Moses informs him.” “You can count on me. I’ll be there,” Bernard replies, walking off to his parked vehicle and driving off. * At home Job is in conversation with his stepdaughter. “Well, I might not be as learned as your husband-to-be, but I think you have to follow your own mind. I am sure you will take the right decision about serving or not on the Advisory Board,” the older man says. “But right now I need to go work again,” he says putting down the mug. As Job exits. “I think I already know what I’m going to do, Pa.,” Gloria calls after him. “Whatever you decide, don’t be too hasty. The community looks up to you. In the meantime go lie down a bit. I’ll clean up this mess,” the mother says, looking out the window. “Talk of the devil and he is sure to appear. It’s Bernard in his car, outside,” she gesticulates to her daughter. “Tell him I’m in my room,” Gloria says entering her bedroom. Shortly hereafter Bernard enters the need bedroom and sits on a chair next to the bed. “I think we should postpone the wedding, just for a while. Look at you, you are in pain,” Bernard suggests. Shocked to the core Gloria momentarily pauses. “Well, if you really love me, you wouldn’t be talking like this, Bernard. I’m fine. We have both been looking forward to this day. We cannot stop now because of a little head injury. Too much preparation has already gone into it; my dress, the church, the invitations, the reception, the band …” she explains to him. “Okay, if you insist,” he says getting up from the chair. “I’ll come around later and if you are better, together we’ll go see how far they are with the new house. Take a nice rest,” he proposes. “It’s fine with me. I’ll also go to the school dance with you tonight. Remember you bought two tickets?” Gloria reminds her husband-to-be. “Yes, I do remember, but don’t exert yourself too much before tonight. See you later,” he says exiting with Gloria turning around in the bed to sleep. * Early in the following morning a Dodge convertible stops and hoots in the street outside the gate. Eva appears from around the corner of the house. An Afrikaner blonde white woman alights from the vehicle. “Good morning, miesies Lombaard,” Eva happily greets. “Morning, Eva. Well, don’t just stand there. Come and help me with your daughter’s wedding cake,” the white woman says opening the booth of the car. Out comes a three-layered white cake, which they carry into the house. Somewhere in the township Bernard drives his car across an open space. He stops at some youths blocking the way of a couple carrying a few domestic possessions. He gets out of the Dolfin. “What seems to be the problem, uncle?” Bernard politely inquires from the elderly man. “These young people don’t want us to leave for the new location,” the man says seated on his belongings. “Go back to your home,” one of the youths shouts.’ It’s the wife’s turn to defend their decision. “We cannot go back. The Boers said they will beat us if we don’t move to the new location,” she says. “Well, if you move now, you play right into their hands. This is exactly what they want us all to do, move away from this place where we can already smell our own freedom. They want to evict us so that they can come and live here,” Bernard pronounces himself, joined by Jakop. Jakop addresses the couple in a more political, harsh way. “The man is right. The Boers are selfish. They have always taken what is best for themselves,” he tells the woman and then turns to the husband. “Come here’ Look down there. Down there, that’s where the Whites live in comfort. They want to expand their white city. For that, they need space and they have chosen this place. That is why they want us out of here and move us to the new location, over there,” Jakop says, pulling the man to show half-built houses of Katutura in the distance. “Can you see what they are trying to do to us?” Bernard chimes in. “I have never thought about it that way,” the old timer says. “Now you know. I am warning you: in the new location you will suffer more because you will be forced to pay higher rent and more bus fares,” Bernard spells it out clearly. The old man talking to his wife. “I think they are right. Let’s go back home,” he says picking up their belongings and they both turn back into the township under applause from the youths.” With a clenched fist Jakop celebrates their first political achievement. “Power to the people.'”