DE LA REY's death changed much. Beyers hesitated. He was afraid; and he did not know how far he was discovered. At de la Rey's funeral he spoke, saying he was loyal to the Government. De Wet, Kemp, and Maritz did not move.
But it warned Botha and Smuts. They now had full details of what was being prepared. They came straight to Pretoria and began quietly but rapidly to prepare.
Hitherto Smuts had looked on the talk of rebellion as more boast and noise than fact. He did not believe his opponents would fight. They were his old friends and comrades. He was out of touch with them, and he did not understand their mentality or outlook.
A friend who went to see him in his house at this time found him like a man lost, now that he was sure of the rebellion. At first he was curt and gloomy. Then he opened out to his visitor. He went down, groping through the labyrinths of his mind, twisting in doubt at each turning. He searched to know why he and his opponents did not see in the same way. They were of the same breed—Dutch South Africans. He wondered if in some way he was not like them, not like the Dutch, whether he had changed and lost their fundamental outlooks and virtues. Or were they the failures? He offered them a high destiny—a united South African Nation with a splendid future. They preferred to follow men like Hertzog, and to follow them back to isolation, disunion, provincial quarrels, petty republics. Were his own people not fit for a high destiny? He thrust the idea savagely away from him, forced himself to believe and to proclaim that they were fit for greatness.
Almost at once Maritz went into revolt. Still Beyers hesitated. His conscience smote him. He was not sure that he was right nor whether he was wise.
A week after Maritz had revolted, Beyers spoke in the Opera House in Pretoria at a celebration of Kruger's birthday. The hall was full of his opponents. They hooted and booed. He grew angry. They attacked the platform where he stood with another defence officer, Japie Fourie by name. Smuts, expecting trouble, was waiting in the Pretoria Club, and sent out reinforcements of police, but could do nothing, as the crowd swept the police aside, shouting that they would kill Beyers. Someone hit Beyers with a stick. Someone else hit Japie Fourie a blow in the mouth.
That decided Beyers. He went mad with rage, and Japie Fourie was searching to kill "the bloody Englishman who had hit him." The two went out that night into the Magliesburg mountains beyond Pretoria, declared a revolt and called up their men, and began to organise them into commandos.
A few days later de Wet came out with his Free State fighters. Botha appealed to Steyn and Hertzog to use their influence to prevent civil war. They refused to interfere.
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