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Cecil Rhodes by  Ian D. Colvin


 

 

HOW RHODES DIED AND WAS BURIED

THUS, indeed, union was to come; but Rhodes was not to see it. The fatal heart disease now made rapid progress. He was still a young man; he had led a clean, healthy, virtuous, open-air life; in all his habits he was temperate, even frugal; but he had never spared himself, never taken care of himself; he had never married, and there was no woman's love to watch over him. His last days were indeed tormented, and his disease aggravated, by cruel persecution by a woman of the baleful and desolating order. The true story of this miserable affair is told in Mr. Jourdan's work, which, as I gather [81] from other sources, is to be relied upon in every detail. Poor Rhodes, nearing his end and defenceless by reason of his chivalry, was hunted and then slandered. His good name was sullied without a shadow of justification, and the climax came with the forging of Rhodes's name to a series of bills which were taken up in Cape Town and made a trial for forgery necessary. Rhodes was then in England; but insisted on returning to give his evidence. The journey was too much for his failing strength; he gave his evidence at the preparatory examination, but did not live to see his name completely cleared by the trial. He retired to die in the little seaside village of Muizenburg. There in a little cottage, with the sound of the league-long rollers of the Indian Ocean in his ears, with its spume in his nostrils, he faced at last an enemy too strong for him.

"It was most heartrending," says Jourdan, "to see him sit on the edge of his bed with one limb resting on the floor and the other akimbo in front of him on the bed, at one moment gasping for breath, and at another with his head sunk so low that his chin almost touched his chest." He was surrounded by his friends, and that to Rhodes was the greatest of comforts. Sir Edmund Stevenson, Dr. Jameson, Dr. Smartt, both as friends and doctors did for him what could be done. Sir Charles Metcalfe, his old Oxford friend, and his right-hand man in Rhodesia, and a few other intimates, were constantly with him. To the end he was brave, cheerful, and unselfish, and even in death, as Jourdan says, and as the death-mask testifies, "he looked determined, dignified, and masterful."

[82] "On the afternoon of Wednesday, the 26th March," says Sir Lewis Michell, "I sat for a while by his bedside, while Dr. Jameson, worn out by persistent watching day and night, took a short rest. The patient was restless and uneasy. Once he murmured, 'So little done, so much to do,' and then after a long pause I heard him singing softly to himself, maybe a few bars of an air he had once sung at his mother's knee. Then, in a clear voice, he called for Jameson."

The end came within an hour.

Rhodes was buried as he wished, in a grave cut in the granite on a summit of the Matoppos—"The World's View" he had called it. Beneath and around his grave, stretches the great land he had given to the Empire.


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