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Title: Campaign Pictures of the War in South Africa (1899-1900) - Letters from the Front
Author: Hales, A. G.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SOUTH AFRICA (1899-1900)***


CAMPAIGN PICTURES OF THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA (1899-1900)

Letters from the Front

by

A. G. HALES

Special Correspondent of the "Daily News"

Cassell and Company, Limited
London, Paris, New York & Melbourne

1901



[Illustration]



Dedication.


This book, such as it is, is dedicated to the man whose kindliness of heart
and generous journalistic instincts lifted me from the unknown, and placed
me where I had a chance to battle with the best men in my profession. He
was the man who found Archibald Forbes, the most brilliant, accurate, and
entertaining of all war correspondents. What he did for that splendid
genius let Forbes' memoirs tell; what he did for me I will tell myself. He
gave me the chance I had looked for for twenty years, and the dearest name
in my memory to-day is the name of


                  SIR JOHN ROBINSON,

            Manager of the _Daily News_, London.



CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE
WITH THE AUSTRALIANS.
  AUSTRALIA ON THE MARCH                             1
  WITH THE AUSTRALIANS                               6
  A PRISONER OF WAR                                 15
  "STOPPING A FEW"                                  29
  AUSTRALIA AT THE WAR                              38
  AUSTRALIA ON THE MOVE                             48
  SLINGERSFONTEIN                                   60
  THE WEST AUSTRALIANS                              69

AMONG THE BOERS.
  IN A BOER TOWN                                    75
  BEHIND THE SCENES                                 83
  A BOER FIGHTING LAAGER                            90
  THROUGH BOER GLASSES                             104
  LIFE IN THE BOER CAMPS                           116

WITH GENERAL RUNDLE.
  BATTLE OF CONSTANTIA FARM                        127
  WITH RUNDLE IN THE FREE STATE                    149
  RED WAR WITH RUNDLE                              159
  THE FREE STATERS' LAST STAND                     174

CHARACTER SKETCHES IN CAMP.
  THE CAMP LIAR                                    194
  THE NIGGER SERVANT                               199
  THE SOLDIER PREACHER                             207

       *       *       *       *       *

PRESIDENT STEYN                                    212
LOUIS BOTHA, COMMANDANT-GENERAL OF THE BOER ARMY   218
WHITE FLAG TREACHERY                               224
THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN                        229
SCOUTS AND SCOUTING: DRISCOLL, KING OF SCOUTS      242
HUNTING AND HUNTED                                 253
WITH THE BASUTOS                                   264
MAGERSFONTEIN AVENGED                              280
THE CONDUCT OF THE WAR                             289
HOME AGAIN                                         299



              Australia's Appeal to England.



          We grow weary waiting, England,
            For the summons that never comes--
          For the blast of the British bugles
            And the throb of the British drums.
          Our hearts grow sore and sullen
            As year by year rolls by,
          And your cold, contemptuous actions
            Give your fervent words the lie.

          Are we only an English market,
            Held dear for the sake of trade?
          Or are we a part of the Empire,
            Close welded as hilt and blade?
          If we are to cleave together
            As mother and son through life,
          Give us our share of the burden,
            Let us stand with you in the strife.

          If we are to share your glory,
            Let the sons whom the South has bred
          Lie side by side on your battlefields
            With England's heroes dead.
          A nation is never a nation
            Worthy of pride or place
          Till the mothers have sent their firstborn
            To look death on the field in the face.

          Are we only an English market,
            Held dear for the sake of trade?
          Or are we a part of the Empire
            Close welded as hilt and blade?
          If so, let us share your dangers,
            Let the glory we boast be real,
          Let the boys of the South fight with you,
            Let our children taste cold steel.

          Do you think we are chicken-hearted?
            Do you count us devoid of pride?
          Just try us in deadly earnest,
            And see how our boys can ride.
          We are sick of your empty praises!
            If the mother is proud of her son,
          Let him do some deed on a hard-fought field,
            Then boast what he has done.

          A nation is never a nation
            Worthy of pride or place
          Till the mothers have sent their firstborn
            To look death on the field in the face.
          Australia is calling to England,
            Let England answer the call;
          There are smiles for those who come back to us,
            And tears for those who may fall.

          Bridle to bridle our sons will ride
            With the best that Britain has bred,
          And all we ask is an open field
            And a soldier's grave for our dead.



I have decided to enclose these verses in my book because some critics
          have pronounced me anti-English in my sentiments. Heaven alone
          knows why; yet the above poem was written and published by me in
          Australia just before war was declared between England and the
          Republics, at a time when all Australia considered it very
          probable that we should have to fight one of the big European
          Powers as well as the Boers.

                                                                A. G. HALES.



                      AUSTRALIA ON THE MARCH.

                                                       BELMONT BATTLEFIELD.


At two o'clock on the morning of Wednesday, the 6th of the month, the
reveille sounded, and the Australians commenced their preparations for the
march to join Methuen's army. By 4 a.m. the mounted rifles led the way out
of camp, and the toilsome march over rough and rocky ground commenced. The
country was terribly rough as we drove the transports up and over the
Orange River, and rougher still in the low kopjes on the other side. The
heat was simply blistering, but the Australians did not seem to mind it to
any great extent; they were simply feverish to get on to the front, but
they had to hang back and guard the transports.

At last the hilly country faded behind us. We counted upon pushing on
rapidly, but the African mules were a sorry lot, and could make but little
headway in the sandy tracks. Still, there was no rest for the men, because
at intervals one of Remington's scouts would turn up at a flying gallop,
springing apparently from nowhere, out of the womb of the wilderness, to
inform us that flying squads of Boers were hanging round us. But so
carefully watchful were the Remingtons that the Boers had no chance of
surprising us. No sooner did the scouts inform us of their approach in any
direction than our rifles swung forward ready to give them a hearty
Australian reception. This made the march long and toilsome, though we
never had a chance to fire a shot. At 5.30 we marched with all our
transports into Witteput, the wretched little mules being the only
distressed portion of the contingent.

At Witteput the news reached us that a large party of the enemy had managed
to pass between General Methuen's men and ourselves, and had invested
Belmont, out of which place the British troops had driven them a few weeks
previously. We had no authentic news concerning this movement. Our
contingent spread out on the hot sand at Witteput, panting for a drop of
rain from the lowering clouds that hung heavily overhead. Yet hot, tired,
and thirsty as we were, we yet found time to look with wonder at the sky
above us. The men from the land of the Southern Cross are used to gorgeous
sunsets, but never had we looked upon anything like this. Great masses of
coal-black clouds frowned down upon us, flanked by fiery crimson cloud
banks, that looked as if they would rain blood, whilst the atmosphere was
dense enough to half-stifle one. Now and again the thunder rolled out
majestically, and the lightning flashed from the black clouds into the red,
like bayonets through smoke banks.

Yet we had not long to wait and watch, for within half an hour after our
arrival the Colonel galloped down into our midst just as the evening ration
was being given out. He held a telegram aloft, and the stillness that fell
over the camp was so deep that each man could hear his neighbour's heart
beat. Then the Colonel's voice cut the stillness like a bugle call. "Men,
we are needed at Belmont; the Boers are there in force, and we have been
sent for to relieve the place. I'll want you in less than two hours." It
was then the men showed their mettle. Up to their feet they leapt like one
man, and they gave the Colonel a cheer that made the sullen, halting mules
kick in their harness. "We are ready now, Colonel, we'll eat as we march,"
and the "old man" smiled, and gave the order to fall in, and they fell in,
and as darkness closed upon the land they marched out of Witteput to the
music of the falling rain and the thunder of heaven's artillery.

All night long it was march, halt, and "Bear a hand, men," for those thrice
accursed mules failed us at every pinch. In vain the niggers plied the
whips of green hide, vain their shouts of encouragement, or painfully
shrill anathemas; the mules had the whip hand of us, and they kept it. But,
in spite of it all, in the chilly dawn of the African morning, our fellows,
with their shoulders well back, and heads held high, marched into Belmont,
with every man safe and sound, and every waggon complete.

Then the Gordons turned out and gave us a cheer, for they had passed us in
the train as we crossed the line above Witteput, and they knew, those
veterans from Indian wars, what our raw Volunteers had done; they had been
on their feet from two o'clock on Wednesday morning until five o'clock of
the following day, with the heat at 122 in the shade, and bitter was their
wrath when they learnt that the Boer spies, who swarm all over the country,
had heralded their coming, so that the enemy had only waited to plant a few
shells into Belmont before disappearing into the hills beyond. That was the
cruel part of it. They did not mind the fatigue, they did not worry about
the thirst or the hunger, but to be robbed of a chance to show the world
what they could do in the teeth of the enemy was gall and wormwood to them,
and the curses they sent after the discreet Boer were weird, quaint,
picturesque, and painfully prolific.

We are lying with the Gordons now, waiting for the Boers to come along and
try to take Belmont, and our fellows and the "Scotties" are particularly
good chums, and it is the cordial wish of both that they may some day give
the enemy a taste of the bayonet together.



                          WITH THE AUSTRALIANS.

                                                                   BELMONT.


Australia has had her first taste of war, not a very great or very
important performance, but we have buried our dead, and that at least binds
us more closely to the Motherland than ever before. The Queenslanders, the
wild riders, and the bushmen of the north-eastern portion of the continent
have been the first to pay their tribute to nationhood with the life blood
of her sons, two of whom--Victor James and McLeod--were buried by their
comrades on the scene of action a couple of days ago, whilst half a dozen
others, including Lieutenant Aide, fell more or less seriously wounded. The
story of the fight is simply told; there is no necessity for any wild
vapouring in regard to Australian courage, no need for hysterical praise.
Our fellows simply did what they were told to do in a quiet and workmanlike
manner, just as we who know them expected that they would; we are all proud
of them, and doubly proud that the men in the fight with them were our
cousins from Canada.

The most noteworthy fact about the engagement is to be gleaned by noting
that the Australians adopted Boer tactics, and so escaped the slaughter
that has so often fallen to the lot of the British troops when attacking
similar positions. Before describing the fight it may be as well to give
some slight idea of the disposition of the opposing forces. Our troops held
the railway line all the way from Cape Town to Modder River. At given
distances, or at points of strategic importance, strong bodies of men are
posted to keep the Boers from raiding, or from interfering with the railway
or telegraph lines. Such a force, consisting of Munster Fusiliers, two guns
of R.H. Artillery, the Canadians, and the Queenslanders, were posted at
Belmont under Colonel Pilcher. The enemy had no fixed camping ground.
Mounted on hardy Basuto ponies, carrying no provisions but a few mealies
and a little biltong, armed only with rifles, they sweep incessantly from
place to place, and are an everlasting source of annoyance to us. At one
moment they may be hovering in the kopjes around us at Enslin, waiting to
get a chance to sneak into the kopjes that immediately overlook our camp,
but thanks to the magnificent scouting qualities of the Victorian Mounted
Rifles, they have never been able to do so. During the night they disperse,
and take up their abode on surrounding farms as peaceful tillers of the
soil. In a day or so they organise again, and swoop down on some other
place, such as Belmont. Their armies, under men like Cronje or Joubert,
seldom move from strongly-entrenched positions.

The people I am referring to as reivers are farmers recruited by local
leaders, and are a particularly dangerous class of people to deal with, as
they know every inch of this most deceptive country. As soon as they are
whipped they make off to wives and home, and meet the scouts with a bland
smile and outstretched hand. It is no use trying to get any information out
of them, for no man living can look so much like an unmitigated fool when
he wants to as the ordinary, every-day farmer of the veldt. I know Chinamen
exceptionally well, I have had an education in the ways of the children of
Confucius; but no Chinaman that I have come in contact with could ever
imitate the half-idiotic smile, the patient, ox-like placidity of
countenance, the meek, religious look of holy resignation to the will of
Providence which comes naturally to the ordinary Boer farmer. It is this
faculty which made our very clever Army Intelligence people rank the farmer
of the veldt as a fool. Yet, if I am any judge, and I have known men in
many lands, our friend of the veldt is as clever and as crafty as any
Oriental I have yet mixed with.

Now for the Australian fight. On the day before Christmas, Colonel Pilcher,
at Belmont, got wind of the assemblage of a considerable Boer force at a
place 30 miles away, called Sunnyside Farm, and he determined to try to
attack it before the enemy could get wind of his intention. To this end he
secured every nigger for some miles around--which proved his good sense, as
the niggers are all in the pay of the Boers, no matter how loyal they may
pretend to be to the British, a fact which the British would do well to
take heed of, for it has cost them pretty dearly already. On Christmas Eve
he started out, taking two guns of the Royal Navy Artillery, a couple of
Maxims, all the Queenslanders, and a few hundred Canadians. Colonel
Pilcher's force numbered in all about 600 men. He marched swiftly all
night, and got to Sunnyside Farm in good time Christmas Day. The Boers had
not a ghost of an idea that our men were near them, and were completely
beaten at their own game, the surprise party being complete. The enemy were
found in a laager in a strong position in some rather steep kopjes, and it
was at once evident that they were expecting strong reinforcements from
surrounding farms. Colonel Pilcher at once extended his forces so as to try
to surround the kopjes. Whilst this was going on, Lieutenant Aide, with
four Queensland troopers, was sent to the far left of what was supposed to
be the Boer position. His orders were to give notice of any attempt at
retreat on the part of the enemy. He did his work well. Getting close to
the kopje, he saw a number of the enemy slinking off, and at once
challenged them. As he did so a dozen Boers dashed out of the kopje, and
Aide opened fire on them, which caused the Boers to fire a volley at him.
Lieutenant Aide fell from his horse with two bullets in his body; one went
through the fleshy part of his stomach, entering his body sideways, the
other went into his thigh. A trooper named McLeod was shot through the
heart, and fell dead. Both the other troopers were wounded. Trooper Rose
caught a horse, and hoisted his lieutenant into the saddle, and sent him
out of danger.

Meantime the R.H. Battery, taking range from Lieutenant Aide's fire, opened
out on the enemy. Their guns put a great fear into the Boers, and a general
bolt set in. The Boers fired as they cleared, and if our fellows had been
formed up in the style usual to the British army in action, we should have
suffered heavily; but the Queensland bushmen had dropped behind cover, and
soon had complete possession of the kopjes; another trooper named Victor
Jones was shot through the brain, and fourteen others were more or less
badly wounded. The Boers then surrendered. We took 40 prisoners, and found
about 14 dead Boers on the ground, besides a dozen wounded. They were all
Cape Dutch, no Transvaalers being found in their ranks. We secured 40,000
rounds of their ammunition, 300 Martini rifles, and only one Mauser rifle,
which was in the possession of the Boer commander. After destroying all
that we took, we moved on, and had a look at some of the farms near by, as
from some of the documents found in camp it was certain that the whole
district was a perfect nest of rebellion. Quite a little store of arms and
ammunition was discovered by this means, and the occupants of the farms
were therefore transported to Belmont. Our fellows carried the little
children and babies in their arms all the way, and marched into Belmont
singing, with the little ones on their shoulders. Every respect was shown
to the women, old and young, and to the old men, but the young fellows were
closely guarded all the time. The Canadians did not lose a single man,
neither did any of the others except the Queenslanders.

Another Boer commando, about 1,000 strong, with two batteries of artillery,
is now hovering in the ranges away to the north-west of Enslin, but Colonel
Hoad is not likely to be tempted out to meet them, since his orders are to
hold Enslin against attack. However, should they venture to make a dash for
Enslin, they will get a pretty bad time, as the Australians there are keen
for a fight.

Concerning farming, it is an unknown quantity here, as we in Australia
understand it. These people simply squat down wherever they can find a
natural catchment for water. There is no clearing to be done, as the land
is quite devoid of timber. They put nigger labour on, and build a
farmhouse. These farmhouses are much better built than those which the
average pioneer farmer in Australia owns. They make no attempt at
adornment, but build plain, substantial houses, containing mostly about six
rooms. The roofs are mostly flat, and the frontages plain to ugliness. They
do no fencing, except where they go in for ostrich breeding. When they farm
for feathers they fence with wire about six feet in height. This kind of
farming is very popular with the better class of Boers, as it entails very
little labour, and no outlay beyond the initial expense. They raise just
enough meal to keep themselves, but do not farm for the market. They breed
horses and cattle; the horses are a poor-looking lot, as the Boers do not
believe much in blood. They never ride or work mares, but use them as brood
stock. This is a bad plan, as young and immature mares breed early on the
veldt, and throw weedy stock. Their cattle, however, are attended to on
much better lines, and most of the beef that I have seen would do credit to
any station in Australia, or any American ranch. They mostly raise a few
sheep and goats; the sheep are a poor lot, the wool is of a very inferior
class, and the mutton poor. I don't know much about goats, so will pass
them, though I very much doubt if any Australian squatter would give them
grass room.

On most of the farms a small orchard is found enclosed in stone walls. Here
again the ignorance of the Boers is very marked; the fruit is of poor
quality, though the variety is large. Thus, one finds in these orchards
pears, apples, grapes, plums, pomegranates, peaches, quinces, apricots, and
almonds. The fruit is harsh, small, and flavourless, owing to bad pruning,
want of proper manure, and good husbandry generally. The Boer seems to
think that he has done all that is required of him when he has planted a
tree; all that follows he leaves to nature, and he would much rather sit
down and pray for a beautiful harvest than get up and work for it. He is a
great believer in the power of prayer. He prays for a good crop of fruit;
if it comes he exalts himself and takes all the credit; if the crop fails
he folds his hands and remarks that it was God's will that things should so
come to pass. He knocks all the work he can out of his niggers, but does
precious little himself. In stature he is mostly tall, thin, and active. He
moves with a quick, shuffling gait, which is almost noiseless. Some of his
women folk are beautiful, while others are fat and clumsy, and are never
likely to have their portraits hung on the walls of the Royal Academy.



                            A PRISONER OF WAR.

                                                     BLOEMFONTEIN HOSPITAL.


I little fancied when I sat at my ease in my tent in the British camp that
my next epistle would be written from a hospital as a prisoner, but such is
the case, and, after all, I am far more inclined to be thankful than to
growl at my luck. Let me tell the story, for it is typical of this peculiar
country, and still more peculiar war. I had been writing far into the
night, and had left the letter ready for post next day. Then, with a clear
conscience, I threw myself on my blankets, satisfied that I was ready for
what might happen next. Things were going to happen, but though the night
was big with fate there was no warning to me in the whispering wind. Some
men would have heard all sorts of sounds on such a night, but I am not
built that way I suppose. Anyway, I heard nothing until, half an hour
before dawn, a voice jarred my ear with the news that "there was something
on, and I'd better fly round pretty sharp if I did not mean to miss it."

By the light of my lantern I saddled my horse, and snatched a hasty cup of
coffee and a mouthful of biscuit, and as the little band of Tasmanians
moved from Rensburg I rode with them. Where they were going, or what their
mission, I did not know, but I guessed it was to be no picnic. The quiet,
resolute manner of the officers, the hushed voices, the set, stern faces of
the young soldiers, none of whom had ever been under fire before, all told
me that there was blood in the air, so I asked no questions, and sat tight
in my saddle. As the daylight broke over the far-stretching veldt, I saw
that two other correspondents were with the party, viz., Reay, of the
Melbourne _Herald_, and Lambie, poor, ill-fated Lambie, of the
_Melbourne Age_. For a couple of hours we trotted along without
incident of any kind, then we halted at a farmhouse, the name of which I
have forgotten. There we found Captain Cameron encamped with the rest of
the Tasmanians, and after a short respite the troops moved outward again,
Captain Cameron in command; we had about eighty men, all of whom were
mounted.

As we rode off I heard the order given for every man to "sit tight and keep
his eyes open." Then our scouts put spurs to their horses and dashed away
on either wing, skirting the kopjes and screening the main body, and so for
another hour we moved without seeing or hearing anything to cause us
trouble. By this time we had got into a kind of huge basin, the kopjes were
all round us, but the veldt was some miles in extent. I knew at a glance
that if the Boers were in force our little band was in for a bad time, as
an enemy hidden in those hills could watch our every movement on the plain,
note just where we intended to try and pass through the chain of hills, and
attack us with unerring certainty and suddenness. All at once one of our
scouts, who had been riding far out on our left flank, came flying in with
the news that the enemy was in the kopjes in front of us, and he further
added that he thought they intended to surround our party if possible.
Captain Cameron ordered the men to split into two parties, one to move
towards the kopjes on our right; the other to fall back and protect our
retreat, if such a move became necessary. Mr. Lambie and I decided to move
on with the advance party, and at a hard gallop we moved away towards a
line of kopjes that seemed higher than any of the others in the belt. As we
neared those hills it seemed to us that there were no Boers in possession,
and that nothing would come of the ride after all, and we drew bridle and
started to discuss the situation. At that time we were not far from the
edge of some kopjes, which, though lying low, were covered with rocky
boulders and low scrub.

We had drifted a few hundred yards behind the advance party, but were a
good distance in front of the rearguard, when a number of horsemen made a
dash from the kopjes which we were skirting, and the rifles began to speak.
There was no time for poetry; it was a case of "sit tight and ride hard,"
or surrender and be made prisoners. Lambie shouted to me: "Let's make a
dash, Hales," and we made it. The Boers were very close to us before we
knew anything concerning their presence. Some of them were behind us, and
some extended along the edge of the kopjes by which we had to pass to get
to the British line in front, all of them were galloping in on us, shooting
as they rode, and shouting to us to surrender, and, had we been wise men,
we would have thrown up our hands, for it was almost hopeless to try and
ride through the rain of lead that whistled around us. It was no wonder we
were hit; the wonder to me is that we were not filled with lead, for some
of the bullets came so close to me that I think I should know them again if
I met them in a shop-window. We were racing by this time, Lambie's big
chestnut mare had gained a length on my little veldt pony, and we were not
more than a hundred yards away from the Mauser rifles that had closed in on
us from the kopjes. A voice called in good English: "Throw up your hands,
you d---- fools." But the galloping fever was on us both, and we only
crouched lower on our horses' backs, and rode all the harder, for even a
barn-yard fowl loves liberty.

All at once I saw my comrade throw his hands up with a spasmodic gesture.
He rose in his stirrups, and fairly bounded high out of his saddle, and as
he spun round in the air I saw the red blood on the white face, and I knew
that death had come to him sudden and sharp. Again the rifles spoke, and
the lead was closer to me than ever a friend sticks in time of trouble, and
I knew in my heart that the next few strides would settle things. The black
pony was galloping gamely under my weight. Would he carry me safely out of
that line of fire, or would he fail me? Suddenly something touched me on
the right temple; it was not like a blow; it was not a shock; for half a
second I was conscious. I knew I was hit; knew that the reins had fallen
from my nerveless hands, knew that I was lying down upon my horse's back,
with my head hanging below his throat. Then all the world went out in one
mad whirl. Earth and heaven seemed to meet as if by magic. My horse seemed
to rise with me, not to fall, and then--chaos.

When next I knew I was still on this planet I found myself in the saddle
again, riding between two Boers, who were supporting me in the saddle as I
swayed from side to side. There was a halt; a man with a kindly face took
my head in the hollow of his arm, whilst another poured water down my
throat. Then they carried me to a shady spot beneath some shrubbery, and
laid me gently down. One man bent over me and washed the blood that had
dried on my face, and then carefully bound up my wounded temple. I began to
see things more plainly--a blue sky above me; a group of rough, hardy men,
all armed with rifles, around me. I saw that I was a prisoner, and when I
tried to move I soon knew I was damaged.

The same good-looking young fellow with the curly beard bent over me again.
"Feel any better now, old fellow?" I stared hard at the speaker, for he
spoke like an Englishman, and a well-educated one, too. "Yes, I'm better.
I'm a prisoner, ain't I?" "Yes." "Are you an Englishman?" I asked. He
laughed. "Not I," he said, "I'm a Boer born and bred, and I am the man who
bowled you over. What on earth made you do such a fool's trick as to try
and ride from our rifles at that distance?" "Didn't think I was welcome in
these parts." "Don't make a jest of it, man," the Boer said gravely;
"rather thank God you are a living man this moment. It was His hand that
saved you; nothing else could have done so." He spoke reverently; there was
no cant in the sentiment he uttered--his face was too open, too manly, too
fearless for hypocrisy. "How long is it since I was knocked over?" "About
three hours." "Is my comrade dead?" "Quite dead," the Boer replied; "death
came instantly to him. He was shot through the brain." "Poor beggar!" I
muttered, "and he'll have to rot on the open veldt, I suppose?"

The Boer leader's face flushed angrily. "Do you take us for savages?" he
said. "Rest easy. Your friend will get decent burial. What was his rank?"
"War correspondent." "And your own?" "War correspondent also. My papers are
in my pocket somewhere." "Sir," said the Boer leader, "you dress exactly
like two British officers; you ride out with a fighting party, you try to
ride off at a gallop under the very muzzles of our rifles when we tell you
to surrender. You can blame no one but yourselves for this day's work." "I
blame no man; I played the game, and am paying the penalty." Then they told
me how poor Lambie's horse had swerved between myself and them after Lambie
had fallen, then they saw me fall forward in the saddle, and they knew I
was hit. A few strides later one of them had sent a bullet through my
horse's head, and he had rolled on top of me. Yet, with it all, I had
escaped with a graze over the right temple and a badly knocked-up shoulder.
Truly, as the Boer said, the hand of God must have shielded me.

For a day and a half I lay at that laager whilst our wounded men were
brought in, and here I should like to say a word to the people of England.
Our men, when wounded, are treated by the Boers with manly gentleness and
kind consideration. When we left the laager in an open trolly, we, some
half-dozen Australians, and about as many Boers, all wounded, were driven
for some hours to a small hospital, the name of which I do not know. It was
simply a farmhouse turned into a place for the wounded. On the road thither
we called at many farms, and at every one men, women, and children came out
to see us. Not one taunting word was uttered in our hearing, not one
braggart sentence passed their lips. Men brought us cooling drinks, or
moved us into more comfortable positions on the trolly. Women, with gentle
fingers, shifted bandages, or washed wounds, or gave us little dainties
that come so pleasant in such a time; whilst the little children crowded
round us with tears running down their cheeks as they looked upon the
bloodstained khaki clothing of the wounded British. Let no man or woman in
all the British Empire whose son or husband lies wounded in the hands of
the Boers fear for his welfare, for it is a foul slander to say that the
Boers do not treat their wounded well. England does not treat her own men
better than the Boers treat the wounded British, and I am writing of that
which I have seen and know beyond the shadow of a doubt.

From the little farmhouse hospital I was sent on in an ambulance train to
the hospital at Springfontein, where all the nurses and medical staff are
foreigners, all of them trained and skilful. Even the nurses had a
soldierly air about them. Here everything was as clean as human industry
could make it, and the hospital was worked like a piece of military
mechanism. I only had a day or two here, and then I was sent by train in an
ambulance carriage to the capital of the Orange Free State, and here I am
in Bloemfontein Hospital. There are a lot of our wounded here, both
officers and men, some of whom have been here for months.

I have made it my business to get about amongst the private soldiers, to
question them concerning the treatment they have received since the moment
the Mauser rifles tumbled them over, and I say emphatically that in every
solitary instance, without one single exception, our countrymen declare
that they have been grandly treated. Not by the hospital nurses only, not
by the officials alone, but by the very men whom they were fighting. Our
"Tommies" are not the men to waste praise on any men unless it is well
deserved, but this is just about how "Tommy" sums up the situation:

"The Boer is a rough-looking beggar in the field, 'e don't wear no uniform,
'nd 'e don't know enough about soldiers' drill to keep himself warm, but 'e
can fight in 'is own bloomin' style, which ain't our style. If 'e'd come
out on the veldt, 'nd fight us our way, we'd lick 'im every time, but when
it comes to fightin' in the kopjes, why, the Boer is a dandy, 'nd if the
rest of Europe don't think so, only let 'em have a try at 'im 'nd see. But
when 'e has shot you he acts like a blessed Christian, 'nd bears no malice.
'E's like a bloomin' South Sea cocoanut, not much to look at outside, but
white 'nd sweet inside when yer know 'im, 'nd it's when you're wounded 'nd
a prisoner that you get a chance to know 'im, see." And "Tommy" is about
correct in his judgment.

The Boers have made most excellent provision for the treatment of wounded
after battle. All that science can do is done. Their medical men fight as
hard to save a British life or a British limb as medical men in England
would battle to save life or limb of a private person. At the Bloemfontein
Hospital everything is as near perfection, from a medical and surgical
point, as any sane man can hope to see. It is an extensive institution. One
end is set apart for the Boer wounded, the other for the British. No
difference is made between the two in regard to accommodation--food,
medical attendance, nursing, or visiting. Ministers of religion come and go
daily--almost hourly--at both ends. Our men, when able to walk, are allowed
to roam around the grounds, but, of course, are not allowed to go beyond
the gates, being prisoners of war. Concerning our matron (Miss M.M. Young)
and nurses, all I can say is that they are gentlewomen of the highest type,
of whom any nation in the world might well be proud.

I have met one or two old friends since I came here, notably Lieutenant
Bowling, of the Australian Horse, who is now able to get about, and is
cheerful and jolly. Lieutenant Bowling has his right thumb shot off, and
had a terribly close call for his life, a Mauser bullet going into his head
alongside his right eye, and coming out just in front of the right ear. His
friends need not be anxious concerning him; he is quite out of danger, and
he and I have killed a few tedious hours blowing tobacco smoke skywards,
and chatting about life in far off Australia. Another familiar face was
that of an English private, named Charles Laxen, of the Northumberlands,
who was wounded at Stormberg. I am told that he displayed excellent pluck
before he was laid out, firstly by a piece of shell on the side of the
head, and, later, by a Mauser bullet through the left knee. He is getting
along O.K., but will never see service as a soldier again on account of the
wounded leg.

I had written to the President of the Orange Free State, asking him to
grant me my liberty on the ground that I was a non-combatant. Yesterday Mr.
Steyn courteously sent his private secretary and carriage to the hospital
with an intimation that I should be granted an interview. I was accordingly
driven down to what I believe was the Stadt House. In Australia we should
term it the Town Hall. The President met me, and treated me very
courteously, and, after chatting over my capture and the death of my
friend, he informed me that I might have my liberty as soon as I considered
myself sufficiently recovered to travel. He offered me a pass _viâ_
Lourenço Marques, but I pointed out that if I were sent that way I should
be so far away from my work as to be practically useless to my paper. The
President explained to me that it was not his wish nor the desire of his
colleagues to hamper me in any way in regard to my work. "What we want more
than anything else," remarked the President, "is that the world shall know
the truth, and nothing but the truth, in reference to this most unhappy
war, and we will not needlessly place obstruction in your way in your
search for facts; if we can by any means place you in the British lines we
will do so. If we find it impossible to do that you must understand that
there is some potent reason for it." So I let that question drop, feeling
satisfied that everything that a sensible man has a right to ask would be
done on my behalf.

President Steyn is a man of a notable type. He is a big man physically,
tall and broad, a man of immense strength, but very gentle in his manner,
as so many exceptionally strong men are. He has a typical Dutch face, calm,
strong, and passionless. A man not easily swayed by outside agencies; one
of those persons who think long and earnestly before embarking upon a
venture, but, when once started, no human agency would turn him back from
the line of conduct he had mapped out for himself. He is no ignorant
back-block politician, but a refined, cultured gentleman, who knows the
full strength of the British Empire; and, knowing it, he has defied it in
all its might, and will follow his convictions to the bitter end, no matter
what that end may be. He introduced me to a couple of gentlemen whose names
are very dear to the Free Staters, viz., Messrs. Fraser and Fischer, and
whilst the interview lasted nothing was talked of but the war, and it
struck me very forcibly that not one of those men had any hatred in their
hearts towards the British people. "This," said the President, "is not a
war between us and the British people on any question of principle; it is a
war forced upon us by a band of capitalistic adventurers, who have
hoodwinked the British public and dragged them into an unholy, an unjust
struggle with a people whose only desire was to live at peace with all men.
We do not hate your nation; we do not hate your soldiers, though they fight
against us; but we do hate and despise the men who have brought a cruel war
upon us for their own evil ends, whilst they try to cloak their designs in
a mantle of righteousness and liberty." I may not have given the exact
words of the President, as I am writing from memory, but I think I have
given his exact sentiments; and, if I am any judge of human nature, the
love of his country is the love of his life.



                            "STOPPING A FEW."


I saw him first, years ago upon a station in New South Wales; a neat, smart
figure less than nine stone in weight, but it was nine stone of fencing
wire full of the electricity of life. He was in the stockyard when I first
saw him, working like any ordinary station hand, for it was the busy
portion of the year, and at such times the squatters' sons work like any
hired hand, only a lot harder, if they are worth their salt, and have not
been bitten by the mania for dudeism during their college course in the
cities. There was nothing of the dandy about this fellow. From head to heel
he was a man's son, full of the vim of living, strong with the lust of
life. The sweat ran down his face, dirty with the dust kicked up by the
cattle in the stockyard. His clothes were not guiltless of mire, for he had
been knocked over more than once that morning, and there was an edge upon
his voice as he rapped out his orders to the stockmen who were working with
him. He did not look in the least degree pretty, and there was not enough
poetry about him just then to make an obituary jingle on a tombstone. I
little thought that day that a time would come when he would prove the
glory of his Australian breeding in the teeth of an enemy's guns on African
soil.

I saw him again--under silk this time--as a gentleman rider. He was the
same quiet, cool little fellow, grey-eyed, steel-lipped, stout-hearted,
with "hands" that Archer might have envied. He rode at his fences that day
as the Australian amateurs can ride, with a rip and a rattle, with the
long, loose leg, the hands well down, and head up and back, and "Over or
Through" was his motto. I did not know him to speak to in those old days.
We were to shake hands under peculiar circumstances away in a foreign land,
in a foreign hospital, both of us prisoners of war, both of us wounded.
That was where and how I spoke to little Dowling, lieutenant in the First
Australian Horse, as game a sample of humanity as ever threw leg over
saddle or loosed a rifle at a foe. He came to my bedside the morning after
I entered the hospital, and standing over me with a green shade over one
eye, and one hand in a sling, said laconically:

"Australian ain't you?"

"Yes, by gad, and I know you." He reached out his left hand, and placed it
in mine.

"Been 'stopping one'?" he remarked.

"Only a graze, thank God," I replied.

Then the matron and the German doctor, as fine a gentleman as ever drew
breath, came along to have a look at me, and he was turned out; but we
chummed, as Australians have a knack of doing in time of trouble, and I
tried hard to get him to talk of his adventures, but he was a mummy on that
subject. He would not yarn about his own doings on the fateful day when he
was laid out, though he was eloquent enough concerning the doings of his
comrades. All I could get out of him in regard to his own part in the fray
was that his men and he had been ambushed, and that he had "stopped one"
with his head, and one with his hand, and another with his leg, his horse
had been killed, and he knew mighty little more about it until he found
himself in the hands of the Boers, who had treated him well and kindly. I
asked the matron about his wounds, and she told me that a bullet had
entered the corner of his right eye, coming out by the right ear, ruining
the sight for ever. Another had carried away his right thumb, and a couple
had passed through his right leg, one just below the groin, another 'just
above the knee. That was what he modestly termed "stopping a few."

After I had been in hospital a little while, the matron gave me leave to
prowl about to pick up "copy," and my feet soon led me into the ward where
the wounded Dutchmen were lying, and there I met a couple of burghers who
had been in the _mêlée_ when Dowling was gathered in. One of them was
a handsome Swede, with a long blonde moustache, that fell with a glorious
sweep on to his chest, as the Viking's did of old. He was an adventurer,
who knew how to take his gruel like a man. He had joined the Boers because
he thought they were the weaker side, and had done his best for them. He
saw Dowling talking to me one day, and asked me if I knew the "little
devil." "Yes," I replied, "we are countrymen." "Americans?" he asked. "No,
Australians." He raised himself on his elbow, whilst I propped his
shoulders up with pillows, and as he remained thus he gazed admiringly at
the slight, boyish figure which limped lazily through the ward. "What a
little tiger cat he is," muttered the recumbent giant. "I thought we'd have
to kill him before we got him, and that would have been a shame, for I hate
to kill brave men when they have no chance." "Tell me about it," I said.
"He won't give me any information himself, only tells me he 'stopped a
few.'" The big, handsome Swede laughed a mighty laugh under his great
blonde moustache.

"Stopped a few, did he? If all your fellows fought it out to the bitter end
as he did, we should run short of ammunition before the war was very old."

A Boer nurse came over and asked us "what nonsense we made one with the
other, that we did laugh to ourselves like two hens clucking over one egg."
The blonde giant turned his joyous blue eyes upon her, and paid her a
compliment which caused her to bridle, whilst the blood swept like a
race-horse in its stride over neck, and cheek, and brow, causing her
dainty, girlish face to look prettier than ever. "Ah, little Eckhardt," he
whispered, and then murmured something in Dutch. I did not understand the
words, but there was something in the sound of the adventurer's voice which
conjured up a moonlit garden, a rose-crowned gate swinging on one hinge, a
girl on one side and a fool on the other. The nurse tossed her pretty head
with its wealth of jet black hair, and as she smoothed his pillows with
infinite care she murmured: "Fighting and making love, making love and
fighting--it is all one to you, Karl. I know you, you big pirate; you are
as a hen that lays away from home." And with that round of shrapnel she
left us.

Karl got rid of a fourteen-pound sigh, which sounded like the bursting of a
lyddite shell. Then he slipped his hand under his pillow and drew forth a
flask of "Dop." "Drink to her," he said. "To whom?" I asked, falling in
with the humour of the man. "To the girl I love," he muttered like a
schoolboy. "Which one, Karl?" I asked, and I laughed as I spoke. He
snatched the brandy from my hand, lifted the flask to his lips, and drank
deeply. Then again his mighty laugh ran through the hospital ward. "Which
one?" he said; "why, all of them, God bless them. But the maid that is
nearest is always the dearest." "Shut up, you Goth," I said, "and tell me
about Dowling, for some day I shall write the story, and I would like to
hear it from the lips of one of his enemies." The Swede lay back upon his
pillow, stroking the golden horns of hair that fell each side of his mouth,
and I noticed that the lips which a little time before had been smiling
into the face of the nurse were now hard set and stern. So I could have
imagined him standing by the side of his gun, or rushing headlong on to our
ranks. A man with a mouth like that could not flinch in the hour of peril
if he tried, for his jaw had the Kitchener grip, the antithesis of the
parrot pout of the dandy, or the flabby fulness of the fool.

"It was in the fore part of the day," he said at length. "We had been
posted snugly overnight on both sides of two ranges of kopjes, for we knew
that your fellows were going to attempt a reconnaissance next day. How did
we know? you ask. Well, comrade, ask no questions of that kind, and I'll
tell you no lies. The truth I won't tell you."

But we knew, and we were ready. We were disappointed when we saw the force,
for we had expected something much bigger, and had made arrangements for a
larger capture. It was only a troop of Australian Horse that came our way,
and 'the little devil' was riding at their head. We bided our time, hoping
that he might be followed by more men, and, above all, we expected and
wanted some guns; but they did not put in an appearance, so we loosed upon
the little troop. They were fairly ambushed; they did not know that a rifle
was within miles of them until the bullets were singing through their
ranks. Horses plunged suddenly forward, reared, lurched now to the near
side, now to the off, then blundered forward on their heads, for many of
our men fired at the chargers instead of at the riders. Dowling's horse
went down with a bullet between the flap of the saddle and the crease of
the shoulder, and the little chap went spinning over his head amongst the
rocks. But a good many saddles were empty. He was up in a moment, yelling
to his men to ride for their lives, and they rode. We charged from cover,
and rode down on the men who had fallen, and as we closed in on them your
countryman lifted his rifle and loosed on us.

"One of our fellows took a flying shot at him at close quarters, for his
rifle was talking the language of death, and that is a tongue no man likes
to listen to. The bit of lead took him in the eye and came out by his ear,
and down he went. But he climbed up in a moment, and his rifle was going to
his shoulder again, when I fired to break his arm, and carried his thumb
away--the thumb of the right hand, I think. The rifle clattered on to the
rocks, but as we drew round him he pulled his revolver with his one good
hand, and started to pot us. He looked a gamecock as he stood there in the
sunlight, his face all bathed in blood, and his shattered hand hanging
numbed beside him. So we gave him a couple in the legs to steady him, and
down by his dead horse he went; but even then he was as eager for fight as
a grass widow is for compliments, and it was not until Jan Viljoens jammed
the butt of his rifle on the crown of his head that he stretched himself
out and took no further part in that circus. We carried him into our lines,
and handed him over to our medical man, though even as we gathered him up
our scouts came galloping in to tell us that a big body of British troops
were advancing to cut us off from our main body. But we knew that if we
left him until your ambulance people found him, it was a million to one
that he would bleed to death amongst the rocks, and he was too good a
fighter and too brave a fellow to be left to a fate like that. Had he shown
the white feather we might have left him to the asvogels."

"And so," said I, "that is how little Dowling, son of Australia, came, as
he said, 'to stop a few' for the sake of his breeding. If I live, the men
out in the sunny Southland shall hear how he did it, and his name shall be
known round the gold-hunters' camp fires, and be mentioned with pride where
the cattle drovers foregather to talk of the African war and the men who
fought and fell there."



                        AUSTRALIA AT THE WAR.

                                                               ENSLIN CAMP.


Lately I have been over a very considerable tract of country in the saddle.
I might remain at one spot and glean the information from various sources,
but do not care to do my business in that manner, simply because one is
then at the mercy of one's informants. I find it quite hard enough to get
at the truth even when it is personally sought for. It is really astounding
how lies increase and multiply as they spread from camp to camp. At one
spot a fellow ventilates an opinion that a big battle will be fought next
day at a certain spot; some other person catches a portion of the
conversation, and promptly tells his neighbour that a big battle has taken
place at the spot mentioned. A little later a passing train pulls up at
that camp, and a party possessing a picturesque and vivid imagination at
once informs the guard that a fearful fight has occurred, in which a
General, a Colonel, twelve subs., and six hundred men have been killed on
our side, with fourteen hundred wounded and nine hundred prisoners. The
Boer losses are generally estimated at something like five times that
number.

The guard tells the tale later on to some traveller, who embellishes it,
and passes it along as a fact. He goes into details, tells harrowing
stories concerning hair-raising escapes from shot and shell. He splashes
the surrounding rocks with gouts of blood, and then shudders dismally at
the sight his fancy has conjured up. When the thrilled listener has
refreshed the tale-teller from his whisky flask, the romancist takes up the
thread of his narrative once more, and tells how the Lancers thundered over
the shivering veldts in pursuit of flying hordes of foemen, and for awhile,
like some graveyard ghoul, he revels in the moans of the dying and the
blood of the slain. Another pull at the flask sets him going again like
clockwork, and he makes a vivid picture out of the thunder of the guns as
our gallant (they are always gallant) fellows bombarded the enemy from the
heights.

Then he switches off from the artillery, and tells a blood-curdling tale of
Boer treachery and cowardice. He tells how the enemy held out the white
flag to coax our men to stop firing. Then, in awe-inspiring tones, he sobs
forth a tale of dark and dismal war, how our soldiers respected the white
flag and rested on their arms, only to be mowed down by a withering rifle
fire from the canaille who represent the enemy in the field. Having got so
far, he does not feel justified in stopping until he has thrown in some
flowery language concerning a Boer cannonade upon British ambulance
waggons, full of wounded; from that he drifts by easy and natural stages to
Dum-Dum bullets, and the robbing of the wounded, and insults to the slain.
And that is very often the person who is quoted in newspaper interviews--as
a gentleman who was an eye-witness, and etc., etc., etc.

And yet, for some reason which I have been unable to gauge, the military
authorities talk of sending all correspondents away from the front. It
seems to me that it would be far better to give _bonâ fide_ newspaper
men every reasonable opportunity of discovering the truth instead of
hampering them in any way. I fail to see why Great Britain and her Colonies
should be kept in the dark concerning the progress of the war, for all the
foreign Powers will be well supplied with information from the Boer lines;
and, if we are blocked, some at least of the British newspapers will most
assuredly go to foreign sources for news, if they are not allowed to obtain
it for themselves. Others will content themselves with news gathered
haphazard, and the last state of the Army, as far as the public mind is
concerned, will be far worse than the first.

Colonel Hoad, who commands the Australians at Enslin, has offered the seven
hundred and sixteen men, who up to date have acted as infantry, to the
authorities as mounted infantry, and the offer has been accepted, much to
the delight of the men, all of whom are very eager to get into the saddle,
as they imagine that when their mounts arrive they will get a chance to go
into action. They have been practising horsemanship during the day, and did
fairly well, as many of them are expert riders, many more are fair; but a
few of them are more at home on a sand-heap than in a saddle. There are not
many of the latter kind, however. They will soon knock into shape, for
Colonel Hoad hates the sight of a slovenly horseman as badly as a duck
hates a dust storm. He is an untiring rider himself, and will work the
beggars who cannot ride until they can.

After the arrival in Capetown of the two celebrated soldiers, Lords Roberts
and Kitchener, I made it my business to converse with as many Boers as
possible in regard to the two Generals, and was astonished to find how much
they knew concerning them. How, and from whom, they get information passes
my comprehension, but the fact remains that they knew all over the country
as soon, if not sooner, than we did that our great leaders had arrived.
They do not seem to fear them, though they invariably speak of them as
wonderful soldiers. "God and Oom Paul Kruger will look after us," is their
creed. Their faith in President Kruger is simply boundless. Not only do
they fancy that he is a man of dauntless courage, great sagacity, and
indomitable will, but they really seem to think that he has God's special
blessing concerning this war.

He is to the Boers what Mahomet was to the wild tribesmen of Arabia, and it
is as impossible to shake their faith in him as it would be to shake their
faith in the story of Mount Calvary. It is all very well for a certain
class of writers to attempt to cast unbounded ridicule upon these men and
their leader, but it is not by ridicule that they can be conquered. It is
not by contemptuous utterances or by untrue reports that they can be
overcome. It is not by belittling them that we can raise ourselves in the
eyes of the men of to-day or ennoble ourselves upon the pages of history.
It would be conduct more in accordance with the traditions of a great
nation if we gave them credit for the virtues they possess and the courage
they display.

It is hard to drag any sort of information from a Boer, whether bond or
free, but from what I can pick up they are perfectly satisfied with what
they have done up to date. They think that President Kruger has astonished
the world, and they wag their heads, and give one to understand that the
same old gentleman has a good many more surprises in store for us. It is
impossible to get a direct statement of any kind from them, but by patching
fragments together I incline to the opinion that they really count on Cape
Colony rising when Kruger wants a rising. Personally, from my own limited
observations, I would not give a fig of tobacco for the alleged loyalty of
the Cape Colony. If I am correct, this "surprise" will give the enemy an
additional force of 45,000 men, most of whom will be found able to ride
well and shoot straight.

It is nonsense to say that they will only form a mob destitute of
discipline and unprovided with officers. They will not be a mob, they will
be guerilla soldiers of the same type that the North and South in America
provided, and they will take a lot of whipping at their own peculiar
tactics. As for officers--well, up to date, they have not gone short of
them. It is true they do not bear the hallmark of any modern university,
but they know how to lead men into battle, all the same. They wear no
uniforms, neither do they adorn themselves with any of the stylish
trappings of war, but they are brainy, resourceful men, highly useful if
not ornamental. Like Oliver Cromwell's hard-faced "Roundheads," they are
the children of a great emergency, not much to look at, but full of a "get
there" quality, which many school-bred soldiers lack entirely.

I rode down to Belmont a couple of days ago, and had a look at the
Canadians and Queenslanders, who are quartered there. They are all in
excellent health and spirits, and seem to be just about hungry for a fight.
The Munsters, who are quartered there, are simply spoiling for a brush with
the enemy, and seem to be as full of ginger as any men I have ever seen.

And every one of them with whom I conversed--and I chatted with a good many
of the burly young Irishmen--expressed a keen desire to meet in open fight
the Irish brigade now fighting on the side of the Boers. Should it ever
come to pass during the progress of the war, I devoutly hope that I may be
handy to witness the struggle. It will not be a long-range fight if I am
any judge of men and things; it will be settled at close quarters, and the
"baynit and the butt" will play a prominent part in the _mêlée_.

A few of our New Zealand fellows got to close quarters with the enemy
recently up Colesberg way, and they did just as we knew they would when it
came to the crossing of steel. The Boers stormed the position, and the New
Zealanders joined in the bayonet charge which drove them back. Our men had
a couple killed and one or two wounded. The enemy left a goodish number of
dead on the field when they retired, about thirty of whom met their fate at
the bayonet's point. The British losses were small. There was nothing
remarkable about the behaviour of the New Zealanders in action; they simply
did coolly and well what they were ordered to do, and proved that they are
quite as good fighting material as anything the Old Country can produce.
The gravest misfortune which has yet befallen any of the Australians
happened at the same locality, when eighteen New South Welshmen allowed
themselves to be pinned in a tight place. Eight escaped, but the others are
either prisoners or killed. We do not like the surrender business, and
would rather see our men do as their fathers and grandfathers used to
do--bite the motto, "No surrender," into the butts of their rifles with
their teeth, and fight their way out of a hot corner. There has been a good
deal too much of this throwing up of arms during the present campaign, and
I hope that we shall hear less of it in the future.

We had a nasty night here at Enslin. Word reached our headquarters that
three thousand mounted Boers were on the move towards our camp, which, for
strategic purposes, is the most important between Methuen's column and De
Aar. If the enemy could take Enslin they could make things very awkward for
General Methuen, because they would then have him between two fires. As
soon as the news came our fellows, with the Gordons, were ordered to occupy
the surrounding heights. All night long, and well on into the day, we held
them until we learned that the enemy had decided not to attack us. Had they
done so they would have paid bitterly for their rashness, for the place is
practically impregnable. A thousand resolute and skilful men, who knew how
to use both rifle and bayonet, could hold the place against 20,000 of the
finest troops in the world, providing the defenders were not hopelessly
crushed by an immense artillery force.

General Hector Macdonald went through here the other day to take the
command of the Highland Brigade, in the place of the late General Wauchope.
The "Scots" who were with us lined up and gave the General a thrilling
welcome, whilst our fellows, who are not usually demonstrative, crowded
around the railway line to get a look at the brilliant soldier who, by
sheer merit, dauntless pluck, and iron resolution, forced his way from the
ranks to the high place he holds. The Australians had expected to see a
gaunt, prematurely aged man, war-worn and battle-broken, and were surprised
to see a dashing, gallant-looking man, who might in appearance comfortably
have passed for five-and-thirty. The grey-clad men, in soft slouch hats,
from the land of the Southern Cross, lounging about with pipes in their
teeth, did not break into hysterical cheering--they are not built that way;
they simply looked at the man whose full history every one of them knew as
well as he knew the way into the front door of a "pub." But their flashing
eyes and clenched hands told in language more eloquent than a salvo of
cheers that this was their ideal man, the man they would follow rifle in
hand up the brimstone heights of hell itself, if need be; aye, and stand
sentry there until the day of judgment, if Hector Macdonald gave the order.



                         AUSTRALIA ON THE MOVE.

                                                                  RENSBURG.


A complete change has come to the Australians who are in Africa under
Colonel Hoad. We have left General Methuen's column, and joined that of
General French. Formerly we were at Enslin, within sound of the guns that
were fired daily at Magersfontein; now we are two hundred and twenty miles
away, and are within easy patrolling distance of Colesberg.

Before we left Methuen's column we had one small night affair, which,
however, did not amount to a great deal, though it has been very much
exaggerated in local newspaper circles, and will, I fear, be unduly boomed
in some of the Australian journals. The whole affair simply amounted to
this. One hundred of the Victorian Mounted Rifles went out to make a
demonstration towards Sunnyside, in Cape Colony, where a number of rebels
were known to congregate. A hundred Queenslanders and Canadians were with
them, when a corporal and a trooper of the Victorians saw an unarmed Boer
and a nigger riding towards them in the twilight. The Boer, as soon as he
was challenged, wheeled his horse and rode off at a gallop; our men rode
after the runaway, but would not fire upon the white man because they
thought he was simply a farmer who had got rather a bad scare at meeting
armed men.

The Boer, however, played a deep game; he rode for a bit of a rise composed
of broken ground, where, unknown to our scouts, a party of rebels lay
concealed. As soon as the flying rebel was in safety the Boers opened fire,
shooting Peter Falla, the trooper, twice through the arm, one bullet
entering a few inches below the shoulder, the other shattering the bone a
little way above the elbow. The corporal got away safely, taking his
wounded comrade with him. Our fellows rode out and swept the veldt for
miles, but saw no more of the enemy. So ended what has grandiloquently been
termed "an Australian engagement," which, I may add, is just the kind of
flapdoodle our troopers do not want. What they most desire on earth at
present is an opportunity to show what they are made of. They don't want
cheap newspaper puffs, nor laudatory speeches from generals. They want to
get into grip with the enemy, and, as an Australian, let me say now that
Imperial federation will get a greater shock by keeping these fine fellows
out of action than by anything else that could happen under heaven. They
did not come here on a picnic party, they did not come for a circus; they
don't want a lot of maudlin sentiment wasted on them whilst they stay out
of the firing line to mind the jam, or give the African girls a treat.

Mr. Chamberlain has made a good many mistakes in regard to the war,
mistakes that will live in history when his very name is forgotten, but he
need not add to them by alienating Australian sentiment by coddling men who
came across the Indian Ocean to prove to the whole world that on the field
of battle they are as good as their sires. Our fellows have got hold of a
rumour (the prophets only could tell whence camp rumours originate) that
instructions have been received from England that they are to be kept out
of danger, and a madder lot of men you could not find anywhere between here
and Tophet. They wanted to send a petition to Lord Roberts asking to be
allowed to face the enemy, but though the officers are quite as sore as the
men, they could not permit such a breach of discipline. So now the men ease
their feelings by jeering at each other.

"What are we here fer, Bill?"

"Oh, get yer head felt; any fool knows why we are here. There's a blessed
marmalade factory somewhere about, and we are going to mind it whilst the
British Tommy does the fighting."

"Marmalade be d----!" chirruped a voice down the lines. "Think they'd trust
us to look after anything so important?"

"Oh, you're a blessed prophet, you are," snarls the little bugler. "P'raps
you'll tell us what our game is."

"Easy enough, little 'un. Our officers 've got to practise making mud maps
in the dust with a stick, and we've got to fool around and keep the flies
away."

"I suppose they'll keep us at this till the war's over, and then send us to
England, 'nd give us a bloomin' medal, 'nd tell us then we are gory,
crimson heroes. Ugh!" grunts a big West Australian with a face like a
nightmare, and a voice that comes out of his chest with a sound like a
steam saw coming through a wet log.

"Don't know about England 'nd the medal, 'Beauty,'" chirrups a Sydney
gunner, "but I know what they'll give us in Australia if we go back without
a fight."

"P'raps it'll be a mansion, or a sheep station, or a stud of racehorses,"
meekly suggests a tired-looking South Australian, with a derisive twist of
his under lip.

"No, they won't present us with a racing stud," lisps the gunner, "but, by
G----, they'll shy chaff enough at us to keep all the bloomin' horses
between 'ere and 'ell, and the girls will send us a kid's feedin' bottle,
as a mark of feelin' and esteem, every Valentine's Day for ten years to
come, because of the glorious name we made for Australia on the bloody
fields of war in Africa."

"Fields o' war--fields o' whisky 'nd watermelons! Oh, d---- it! I'm going
ter stop writing ter my girl before she writes ter tell me that a white
feather don't suit a girl's complexion in Australia."

He lifts his bugle, and sounds "Feed up" so savagely that the horses strain
on their leg ropes and kick themselves into a lather as hot as their
riders' tempers, the long, loose-limbed troopers move off, cursing
artistically in their beards at the very thought of the roasting they will
get from the witty-tongued, red-lipped girls of Australia, when--


          They cross the rolling ocean,
          Back from the fields of war,
          To show the British medal
          They got for guarding a store.

          To show the British medal
          On stations, towns, and farms,
          They got for guarding the marmalade,
          Far away from war's alarms.

          To show the British medal,
          With a blush of angry shame,
          For which they went to risk their lives
          In young Australia's name.

          To show the British medal,
          With a sneer that's half a sob,
          Ere they pawn it to their uncle,
          And go and drink the "bob."


When we received notice to move away from Enslin down the line through
Graspan, Belmont, Orange River, to De Aar, our fellows were naturally very
wrathful; they had done splendid work for many weeks up that way; they had
dug trenches, sunk wells, drilled unceasingly; they had watched the kopjes
and scoured the veldt, and all that they were told to do they did like
soldiers--readily and uncomplainingly. The cold nights and the scorching
days, the monotonous drudgery, found them always ready and willing, because
they believed that when the order came for a great battle at Magersfontein,
or an onward march to Kimberley, they would be in the thick of it. But for
some reason, known only to those who gave the order, they were sent away
from the front, and they felt it keenly. From De Aar they were sent on to
Naauwpoort, and from this latter place they were forwarded on to Rensburg.

At Naauwpoort nearly all the Australians were mounted, and now acted as
mounted infantry. The horses supplied are Indian ponies, formerly used by
the Madras Cavalry. They are a first-class lot of cattle, well suited to
the work that lies before them, and have evidently been selected by someone
who knows his business a good deal better than a great number of his
colleagues. General French inspected the men at Rensburg during the first
day or two, and seemed fairly well satisfied with them, though, of course,
they did not make a first-class show in their initial efforts on horseback.
A great number of them rode well, but very few of them had ever gone
through a course of mounted drill, and it will take a week or two to knock
them into shape for this work; though, when once out of the saddle, they
are not in any way inferior to the best British regiments I have seen. But
they are keen to learn, and very willing, so that I expect to see them make
wonderfully rapid strides towards efficiency as mounted men. They seem to
feel that their only chance to get a fight is to become high grade
soldiers, and to that end they will stand all the work that can be crowded
into them. I have no idea what their future movements will be, nor do I
think anyone else connected with the regiment has; but one thing seems
certain, that sooner or later they will fall foul of the enemy in small
skirmishing parties, as the kopjes for a length of twenty miles are
infested by little bands of Boers, who have a knack of disappearing as soon
as a British force draws near them, only, however, to crop up again in a
fresh place, a short distance away.

For the Boer is a past master in this kind of warfare, and knows how to
play his own game to perfection. What the Goorkha is in Indian warfare, so
the Boer is in Africa. He does not fight in our style, but that does not
say that he cannot fight, neither does it argue that he is devoid of
courage. As a matter of fact, the more I have seen of this country, and
note what the Boers have done in opposition to all the might of Great
Britain, the more I am impressed with the idea that our alleged
Intelligence Department wants cutting down and burning root and branch, for
it must have been absolutely rotten, or unquestionably corrupt. We were led
by members of this Department to believe that the Boer was a cowardly kind
of veldt pariah, a degenerate offshoot of a fine old parent stock. Well,
the Boer is nothing of the kind. He is not in any way degenerate. He is a
good fighting man, according to his lights. He does not wear a stand-up
collar, nor an eyeglass, nor spats to his veldtschoon. He does not talk
with a silly lisp or an inane drawl. Therefore, the useless fellows whom
Britain trusted with the important task of watching him and sizing him up
counted him as a boor as well as a Boer--a mere country clod. But now, from
the rocky hills, these clods, these sons of semi-white savages, laugh at us
derisively, and answer our jeers with rifles that know how to speak in a
language that even the bravest of our troops have learnt to understand--and
respect.

I have a keen recollection of the last Franco-Prussian War. I remember how
the English newspapers ridiculed the French military authorities because,
whilst the Germans had accurate maps of every province within the French
borders, the French themselves were grossly ignorant of their own
territory. Now we can eat our own sarcasms and enjoy the bitter fruit of
our own irony, for, thanks to the Intelligence Department connected with
the War Office in Great Britain, we to-day stand precisely in the same
position towards our African enemy as France did towards Prussia. A glance
at the country through which I have recently passed shows only too clearly
that, whilst Paul Kruger and his advisers knew our full strength to a man,
we, on our part, knew nothing about him or the men, money, or ordnance at
his command. We knew nothing of the country which had been patiently
fortified by the best skilled military engineers in Europe. We know nothing
of his rocky, well-fortified country, which lies behind that which we have
already attacked. Our generals, instead of being supplied with maps
covering every inch of country within the enemy's borders, have to gather
information at the bayonet's point at a loss to the Empire in men, money,
and in prestige. If our commanders blunder, who is to blame but the
criminally negligent officials who have supplied them with false or foolish
data to work upon? The Empire has been betrayed, either wilfully or through
crass idleness upon the part of men who have dipped deeply into the
Empire's coffers, and the nation should demand their impeachment, apart
from their position, place, or power, and punishment of the most drastic
kind should follow speedily in the footsteps of impeachment.

The failure of General Buller to relieve Ladysmith was not due to any want
of sagacity on the part of that General. It was not due to any want of
bravery on the part of his troops. The General is worthy of his rank, and
worthy of the confidence of the nation, and his troops are as good as the
men who, under the same flag, taught the Russians to respect the power of
Britain. The cause of the failure lay mainly in the want of knowledge on
our part concerning the strength of the country the Boers held, and the
strength of the country they had to fall back upon when hard pressed.

That information the "Intelligence" Department ought to have been able to
place in the hands of General Buller before he moved forward to the relief
of the beleaguered garrison in Ladysmith. But they could not give what they
had never possessed.

Right up to the present moment, when the Boers have been forced to meet our
troops at close quarters, they have been found to possess no other arms
than the rifle. This has given truth to the belief that the enemy as an
attacking force is next door to useless, as no men, no matter how brave and
determined, could do very much damage to first-class troops armed with the
bayonet.

However, there is a whisper in the air that the Boers are not deficient in
side-arms; it is rumoured that the President of the Boer Republic has
immense supplies of offensive as well as defensive weapons safely placed
away until they may be required Right up to date his war policy has been to
remain passive, excepting in a few isolated positions, allowing the British
to attack his generals in almost impregnable positions, and by so doing put
heart into the burghers, and dishearten our forces. But should the tide of
war continue to roll onward in his favour he may attempt to put in force
the oft-told Boer threat, and try to sweep the British into the sea. Should
that day dawn, it is rumoured that the enemy will be found well supplied
with side-arms and with mercenaries trained to their use in one of the best
schools that modern times have known. Where do these rumours come from?
Well, a Boer prisoner, taunted perhaps by a guard, loses his temper and
drops a hint, or a Boer farmer, exultant over the latest news of his
countrymen's success, lifts the veil a little, and a jealously-guarded
secret drops out; or, again, a Boer's wife or daughter, flinging a taunt at
a cursed "Rooinek," allows her temper to run away with her discretion.
There are a hundred ways in which such things get about; only straws,
perhaps, but a straw can point the way windward. A talkative Kaffir who has
been reared on a Dutch farm will at times give things away that would cost
him his life if the length of his tongue was known to his master;
especially will the nigger talk if his mouth be judiciously moistened with
Cape smoke brandy.

Information that comes to a war correspondent's hand is of many colours,
shapes, and sizes, but if he is born to the business he pieces the whole
together and picks out what seemeth good to his own soul at the finish.
Sometimes, at the end of a week's hard work, he finds himself possessed of
a patchwork of information like unto Joseph's coat of many colours, but it
is hard fortune indeed if he cannot find something in the lot to repay him
for his earnest endeavours.



                          SLINGERSFONTEIN.

                                                                  RENSBURG.


Scarcely had I returned from posting my last letter when the camp was in a
commotion, caused by the news that the West Australians were in action at
Slingersfontein, distant about twelve miles from Rensburg. To saddle up and
get out as fast as horseflesh would carry a man was but the work of a very
short period of time, for the gallop across the open veldt was not a very
laborious undertaking. I soon found that the stalwart sons of the great
gold colony were in it, and enjoying it.

Slingersfontein is an important position on the right flank of French's
column. It is not only an important but a very hard position to hold on
account of the nature of the country. Here there is but very little open
veldt; mile after mile is covered by small kopjes that rise in countless
numbers, until the whole country looks as if it were covered with a
veritable forest of hills. Once inside that labyrinth of rocky
excrescences, an army might easily be lost, unless every individual man and
officer knew the place thoroughly. The Boers know the lay of the land, and,
consequently, shift from post to post by paths that are unknown to anyone
else with marvellous dexterity and incredible swiftness. Our forces hold a
small plain, which is like the palm of a giant's hand, with the surrounding
kopjes representing the digits. We hold those kopjes also. The shape of the
camp is in the form of a horseshoe, all around the little basin great hills
rise, and from those hills England's watch-dogs keep a sharp look-out on
the movements of the foe; and well they need to, for, in ground which suits
him, the African farmer is as 'cute and cunning as a Red Indian. Behind our
position, or, rather, outside of it, there is another small tract of open
country, but beyond that, lapping around our stronghold like a crescent, is
rough, hilly ground. None of those hills is worth dignifying with the title
of mountain, but all of them are big enough to shelter a hundred or two of
the enemy, and it is there that they play their game of hide and seek,
which is so trying to the nerves of young troops. The Boers hold that rough
country entirely, and the outer edge of their semi-circle is not, at any
given point, more than four miles from our centre at Slingersfontein.

The outer line of kopjes which skirt their stalking ground are bigger than
the hills on the inner side, so that they have an excellent opportunity to
conceal their movements from the observation of our most astute pickets,
and the only way in which our commanding officer can locate the enemy with
any degree of certainty is by making a reconnaissance in force, and, if
possible, drawing their fire. If the Boers fall into this trap they
invariably pay dearly for the slight advantage they gain over the
investigating force, for our guns soon make any known position untenable.
The Boer leaders know this, however, and are very loth to allow temptation
to overcome discretion; but at times, either through the impetuosity of
their troops or through errors in generalship, they give themselves away
entirely, and that is precisely what they did upon this occasion.

By means only known to those high up in authority, our people had become
acquainted with the fact that the enemy intended to try to extend their
line on our right flank, and so threaten us not only upon the left flank,
the direct front, and right flank, but also in the rear. Could they succeed
in doing this they would have us in a peculiarly tight place, as, once
posted in force well down on our right flank, they would then at least be
able to harass us badly in our communications with Rensburg, which is our
main base of operations. It is there that the General has his headquarters;
it is from there that we keep in touch, per medium of the railway and
telegraph lines, with the rest of the British Army in South Africa. It is
from there that we draw all our supplies of fodder and ammunition. It is
from there we should draw all our additional force if we needed
reinforcements in case of a general assault by the enemy upon our position
at Slingersfontein, and it is from there that we should be strengthened
should we decide to make a forward move on the Boers' position. Therefore
it behoved us to keep that line of communication intact, no matter what the
cost. All these things were as well known to the Boer leader as to us, and
that is why they were as keen to get the position as we were, and why we
are keen to stop them from accomplishing their object.

It was for the purpose of ascertaining just what the enemy intended to do,
and how many men they had to do it with, that Major Ethoran ordered out the
West Australian Mounted Infantry, consisting of about 75 men, under Captain
Moor, an Imperial soldier in the pay of the West Australian Government, and
a small body of Inniskilling Dragoons and Lancers, with a section of the
Royal Horse Artillery and two guns. The men moved out of Slingersfontein on
Tuesday about midday, and at once proceeded towards a farmhouse located
right under the very jowl of an ugly-looking kopje.

This farm was known as Pottsberg, and was well known as a regular haunt of
the most daring and dangerous rebels in the whole district. The farm
consisted of the usual white stone farmhouse of five or six rooms, a small
orchard, surrounded by rough stone walls from three feet six to four feet
in height, and about two feet thick, a small cluster of native huts, and a
kraal for cattle, made of rough, heavy stones, topped by cakes of sun-baked
manure, stored by the farmers for fuel. Some little distance from the back
of the farmhouse a stout stone wall ran down from the kopjes on to the
plain. This wall was between four and five feet in height and half a yard
across in its weakest place--an ugly barricade in itself--behind which a
few resolute men with quick-firing rifles, which they know how to use,
could make a good stand against vastly superior numbers advancing upon them
from the open veldt.

When our fellows trotted out from camp, Captain Moor received orders to
distribute his men in small bodies all along the edge of the kopjes between
Pottsberg farmhouse and Kruger's Hill, a small kopje lying almost in a line
with our camp, on the right. The men were ordered to go as close as
possible to the enemy's position, to see as much as they could possibly see
in regard to the numbers of troops in the hills held by the enemy. If they
succeeded in discovering the rebels in large bodies they were to draw their
fire and immediately retreat at full speed. In the meantime the two guns
belonging to the Royal Horse Artillery were beautifully placed in a dip in
the veldt, where they could play upon the Boers should they attempt to rush
the West Australians at any given point. The Lancers and Dragoons were
placed in charge of some kopjes behind the guns, in order to protect them
should a concerted onslaught be made upon them by the mounted Boers, who
were shrewdly suspected to be in hiding in strong force behind the first
row of hills, which screened the enemy's position.

The Australians rode out steadily, and took up their positions with an
amount of coolness that startled older soldiers. This was absolutely their
first trial on real fighting service, and everybody connected with them was
anxious to see how they would comport themselves in the face of the enemy.
Not only was it their first fighting effort, but it was their début in the
saddle, as until a week previous they had been simply infantrymen, and not
a dozen of them had ever been in the hands of a mounted drill instructor.
It was a big task to set such green men, but they proved before the day was
out that they were worthy of the confidence reposed in them. Captain Moor,
Lieutenant Darling, and Lieutenant Parker each took a small section into
action; the others were under the immediate control of their sergeants.
They split up into small parties, and swept the very edge of the kopjes,
peering into gullies, climbing the outer hills, working along the ravines
with a courage and thoroughness that would have done credit to the oldest
scouts in all the Empire. Yet nothing came of their investigations for
quite a long time. The enemy did not mean to be drawn, and remained
passive, so that the West Australians at last became a little bit reckless,
and were consequently not so guarded as they might have been. All at once a
body of scouts ran upon a large body of the enemy near Pottsberg Farm, in a
deep and shady ravine. The enemy were trying to evade notice, but that was
now impossible. In a moment rifles were ringing on the air, and after that
first volley the little band of Australians wheeled and galloped for the
open country. To have remained there would have meant certain death to
every one of the half-dozen who comprised the picket, so they did their
duty--they fired and rode for the veldt. In a few seconds Boers were
dashing out of the kopjes on all sides, trying to cut the small band of
Australians off or shoot them down. But the Australians knew their game;
they opened out, so that each man was practically riding alone.

The Boers could do little with them. Those who stood by the guns noticed
that very large numbers of men in the Boer ranks were either niggers or
half-castes, and it was also very noticeable that they knew but little
about the use of the rifle. They fired high and wide, and notwithstanding
the fact that they poured their ammunition away in wholesale fashion, they
did little harm worth mentioning, although many of them fired at little
more than pistol range. They were simply crazed with excitement, and did
not succeed in cutting off a single member of that adventurous band.
Whenever an Australian found himself in a tight place he simply dug his
spurs into his horse's flanks, lifted his rifle, and blazed into the ranks
of the foe. If his horse was shot dead under him he coo-eed to his mates,
and kept his rifle busy, and every time the coo-ee rang out over the
whispering veldt the Australians turned in their saddles, and riding as the
men from the South-land can ride, they dashed to the rescue, and did not
leave a single man in the hands of the enemy. Many a gallant deed was done
that day by officers and men. Captain Moor gave one fellow his horse, and
made a dash for liberty on foot, but he would have failed in his effort had
not Lieutenant Darling, a West Australian boy, ridden to his aid, and
together the two officers on the one horse got back to the shelter of the
guns. The enemy still blazed away in the wildest and most farcical fashion.
Had they been Boer hunters or marksmen very few of the West Australians
would ever have got across that strip of veldt alive. As it was, only two
of them got wounded, none were killed, one or two horses were shot dead,
and then the big guns got to work in grim earnest.

A party of Boers, however, got round one of the kopjes, where some of the
Lancers were posted, and now half a dozen of those brave fellows are
missing, and I fear they are to be counted amongst those who will never
return again. Sergeant Watson, of the R.H., was killed, and several of his
men and a few of the Lancers were wounded, but the R.H. guns soon swept the
plain clear of the enemy, and they retired, carrying their dead and wounded
with them. The work for the day was done, and well done, for the enemy had
shown his hand. We knew his position and his strength, and next day we went
out in force to have a word with him, but the wily Boers kept strictly
under cover, and refused on any terms to be drawn again.



                         THE WEST AUSTRALIANS.

                                                                   BETHANY.


I was feeling miserable as I sat in the hospital garden, and I rather fancy
I looked pretty much as I felt, for a cheery-faced Boer nurse, with her
black hair, blacker eyes, and rose-blossom lips, came up to where I sat,
bringing with her two or three slightly wounded Boers. "I have brought some
Boers who know something of your countrymen, Mr. Australian," she said. "I
thought you would be glad to hear all about them." "By Jove! yes, nurse. If
I were not a married man, I should try to thank you gracefully." "Oh, yees;
oh, yees," she answered, tossing back her head; "that is all right. You say
those pretty things; then, when you go away from here, you tell your wife,
and you write in your papers we Boer girls are fat old things, who never
use soap and water. All the Rooibaatjes do that." And off she went,
laughing merrily, whilst my friends the enemy grinned and enjoyed the
little comedy. So we fell to talking, and-half a dozen wounded "Tommies"
gathered round and chipped into the conversation, which by degrees worked
round to a deed which the West Australians did; and as I listened to the
tale so simply told by those rough farmer men, I felt my face flush with
pride, and my shoulders fell back square and solid once more, whilst every
drop of blood in my veins seemed to run warm and strong, like the red wine
they grow on the hillside in my own sunny land; for the story concerned men
whom I knew well, men who were bred with the scent of the wattle in the
first breath they drew, men who grew from childhood to manhood where the
silver sentinel stars form the cross in the rich blue midnight sky. My
countrymen--Australians--men with whom I had hunted for silver in the
desolate backblocks of New South Wales; men with whom I had scoured the
interior of West Australia seeking for gold; men who had been with me on
the tin fields and opal fields. I had never doubted that they would keep
their country's name unsullied when they met the foe on the field of war,
yet when I heard the tale the enemy told I felt my eyes fill as they have
seldom filled since childhood, for I was proud of the western diggers,
proud of my blood; and at that moment, with British "Tommies" sprawling on
the grass at my feet, and the Boer farmers grouped amongst them, I would
sooner have called myself an Australian commoner than the son of any peer
in any other land under high heaven.

I will take the story from the Boer's mouth and tell it to you, as I hope
to tell it round a hundred camp fires when the war is over, and I go back
to the Australian bush once more. "It happened round Colesberg way," he
said; "we thought we had the British beaten, and our commandant gave us the
word to press on and cut them to pieces. Our big guns had been grandly
handled, and our rifle fire had told its tale. We saw the British falling
back from the kopjes they had held, and we thought that there was nothing
between us and victory; but there was, and we found it out before we were
many minutes older. There was one big kopje that was the very key of the
position. Our spies had told us that this was held by an Australian force.
We looked at it very anxiously, for it was a hard position to take, but
even as we watched we saw that nearly all the Australians were leaving it.
They, too, were falling back with the British troops. If we once got that
kopje there was nothing on earth could stop us. We could pass on and sweep
around the retiring foe, and wipe them off the earth, as a child wipes dirt
from its hands, and we laughed when we saw that only about twenty
Australians had been left to guard the kopje.

"There were about four hundred of us, all picked men, and when the
commandant called to us to go and take the kopje, we sprang up eagerly, and
dashed down over some hills, meaning to cross the gully and charge up the
kopje where those twenty men were waiting for us. But we did not know the
Australians--then. We know them now. Scarcely had we risen to our feet when
they loosed their rifles on us, and not a shot was wasted. They did not
fire, as regular soldiers nearly always do, volley after volley, straight
in front of them, but every one picked his man, and shot to kill. They
fired like lightning, too, never dwelling on the trigger, yet never wildly
wasting lead, and all around us our best and boldest dropped, until we
dared not face them. We dropped to cover, and tried to pick them off, but
they were cool and watchful, throwing no chance away. We tried to crawl
from rock to rock to hem them in, but they, holding their fire until our
burghers moved, plugged us with lead, until we dared not stir a step ahead;
and all the time the British troops, with all their convoy, were slowly,
but safely, falling back through the kopjes, where we had hoped to hem them
in. We gnawed our beards and cursed those fellows who played our game as we
had thought no living men could play it Then, once again, we tried to rush
the hill, and once again they drove us back, though our guns were playing
on the heights they held. We could not face their fire. To move upright to
cross a dozen yards meant certain death, and many a Boer wife was widowed
and many a child left fatherless by those silent men who held the heights
above us. They did not cheer as we came onward. They did not play wild
music, they only clung close as climbing weeds to the rocks, and shot as we
never saw men shoot before, and never hope to see men shoot again.

"Then we got ready to sweep the hill with guns, but our commandant,
admiring those brave few who would not budge before us in spite of our
numbers, sent an officer to them to ask them to surrender, promising them
all the honours of war. But they sent us word to come and take them if we
could. And then our officer asked them three times if they would hold up
their hands, and at the third time a grim sergeant rose and answered him:
'Aye, we will hold up our hands, but when we do, by God, you'll find a
bayonet in 'em. Go back and tell your commandant that Australia's here to
stay.' And there they stayed, and fought us hour by hour, holding us back,
when but for them victory would have been with us. We shelled them all
along their scattered line, and tried to rush them under cover of the
artillery fire; but they only held their posts with stouter hearts, and
shot the straighter when the fire was hottest, and we could do nothing but
lie there and swear at them, though we admired them for their stubborn
pluck. They held the hill till all their men were safe, and then, dashing
down the other side, they jumped into their saddles and made off, carrying
their wounded with them. They were but twenty men, and we four hundred"

A "Tommy" sitting at the speaker's feet looked up and said: "What are yer
makin' sich a song abart it far? Lumme, them Horstraliars are as Hinglish
has hi ham!"



                            IN A BOER TOWN.

                                                                   BETHANY.


A Boer town is not laid out on systematic lines, as one sees towns in
America, or Canada, or Australia. The streets seem to run much as they
please, or as the exigencies of traffic have caused them to run. I doubt if
the plan of a town is ever drawn in this country. People arrive and settle
down in a happy-go-lucky manner, and straightway build themselves a home.
Their homes are places to live in; not to look at. There is an almost utter
absence of architectural adornment everywhere. My eyes range over a large
number of dwellings. They are nearly all alike--plain, square structures,
plastered snow white. There is a double door in the centre of the front,
and a window at each side of the door. A stoep, about six feet wide, rises
a foot from the pathway, and there is nothing else to be seen from the
outside front. These houses look bare and bald, and are as expressionless
as a blind baby. To me most houses have an expression of their own. In an
English town a quiet walk in the dawning, making a survey of the
dwelling-places, always leaves the impression that I have gleaned an
insight into the character of the dwellers therein. The cheeky-looking
villa, with its superabundance of ornament, is a monument in masonry to the
successful mining jobber on a small scale. The solemn-looking, solid
dwelling, standing in its own grounds, where every flower bush has its
individual prop, where the lawn is trimmed with mathematical exactitude,
and not one vagrant leaf is allowed to stray, speaks with a kind of
brick-and-mortar eloquence of virtue that has never grasped the sublime
fulness of the Scriptural text which saith: "The way of transgressors is
hard!" That is the home of the middle-aged Churchman, whose feet from
infancy have fallen amidst roses. He has never erred, because he has never
known enough of human sympathy and human toil and struggle to feel
temptation. The coy little cottage further on, surrounded by climbing roses
and sweet-smelling herbs, where the gate is left just a little bit open, as
if inviting a welcome, seems to advertise itself as the home of two maiden
sisters, who, though past the giddy girlhood stage, still have hopes of
being somebody's darling by-and-by.

But in a Boer town most of the piety is knocked out of a man. You stare at
the houses, and they stare back at you dumbly. There is nothing pretentious
or rakish about any of them; no matter how riotous a man's imagination
might be, he could never conjure up a "wink" from a Boer house, though I
have seen houses in other parts of the world that seemed to "cock an eye"
at a passing traveller and invite him to try the door.

They have only two styles of roofing their dwellings--either the
old-fashioned gable roof, or the still older kind of "lean-to," the latter
being nothing but a flat top, high at the front and running lower towards
the back, in order that the rain water may carry off rapidly. They paint
their doors and windows a sober reddish brown, for your true Boer has an
utter contempt for anything gaudy or gay. He leaves that sort of thing to
his nigger servants, who make up for their master's lack of appreciation in
the matter of colour by rigging themselves out in anything that is
startling in the way of contrasts, for if the white master is a Puritan in
such things, the nigger servant, male and female, is a perfect sybarite.

Right opposite where I am sitting a family group, or all that is left of
the family, is sitting, as the custom is at evening, out on the stoep. On
the side nearest me is a young widow. I have made inquiries concerning her.
Her husband was killed fighting against our troops at Graspan. She, poor
thing, is dressed in deepest mourning. Her dress is made of some heavy
black material, and has no touch of white or any colour anywhere to relieve
its sombre shades. On her head she wears a jet black cap, which rises high
and wide, and falls around her neck and shoulders. The cap is fashioned
much after the style of the sun bonnets worn by the peasant women of
Normandy, but hers is black, black as the grave. She has rather a nice
face, a good woman's face, pale and refined by suffering. No one looking at
her can doubt that she has suffered, and suffered as only such women can,
through this brutal, bloody war. I thought of the widows away in our own
land as I looked at her sitting there, so silently and sadly, with her thin
white hands clasped on the black folds of her lap. On one hand I plainly
saw the gold circle shining, which a few months ago had meant so much to
her; now, alas! only the outward and visible sign of all she had been and
of all that she had lost. Behind her the snow-white wall of the house,
sparkling in the red rays of the setting sun; at her feet only the white
slate of the stoep. And well enough I knew that under the proud Empire flag
many a widow as young and as heart-broken as this Dutch girl would watch
the sun go down as hopelessly as she, and I could not help the thought
which sprang to my soul--God's bitter curse rest on the head of the man, be
he Boer or Briton, who brought about this cruel war.

On the street in front of the house where the widow sat I noticed a group
of niggers. Some of them were merely local "boys," who worked for the
townspeople. They were dressed in the usual nigger fashion, in old store
clothing, patched or ventilated according to the wearer's taste. One fellow
had on a pair of pants that had at some former stage belonged to a man
about four times his size. The portion of those pants which is usually
hidden when a man is sitting in the saddle had been worn into a huge hole,
which the nigger had picturesquely filled by tacking on a scarlet shawl. As
the pants were made of navy blue serge the effect was unquestionably
artistic, especially as the amateur tailor had done his sewing with string,
most of the stitches running from an inch to an inch and a half in length.
Still, he was only one of many in similar case, so that he did not feel in
the least degree lonely. There were other niggers there--"boys" belonging
to the mule-drivers of the army. These "boys" nearly all sported a military
jacket and some sort of field service cap, which they had picked up somehow
in camp. The "side" these niggers put on when they get inside odds and ends
of military wearing apparel is something appalling. They swagger around
amongst the civilian niggers, and treat them as beings of a very inferior
mould, whilst the lies they tell concerning their individual acts of
heroism would set the author of "Deadwood Dick" blushing out of simple
envy.

The nigger girls cluster round these black veterans like flies around a
western water hole in midsummer, and their shrill laughter makes the air
fairly vibrate as they bandy jests with the cheeky herds. The girls are
rather pleasing in appearance, though far from being pretty. As a rule,
they wear clean print dresses and white aprons; they never wear hats of any
kind, but coil a showy kerchief around their heads in coquettish fashion.
They are not particular as to colour, red, blue, yellow, or pink, anything
will do as long as it is brilliant. The skins of the girls are almost as
varied as the headgear. The Kaffir girl is very dark, almost black. The
bushman's daughter is dirty yellow, like river water in flood time. Some of
the other tribes are as black as the record of a first-class burglar, but
they have bright black eyes, which they roll about as a kitten rolls a ball
of wool in playtime.

But whether they are black, brown, or coffee-coloured, they are all alike
in one respect--every daughter of them has a mouth that is as boundless as
a mother's blessing, and as limitless as the imagination of a spring poet
in love. When they are vexed they purse that mouth up into a bunch until it
looks like a crumpled saddle-flap hanging on a hedge. When they are pleased
the mouth opens and expands like an indiarubber portmanteau ready for
packing; that is when they smile, but when they laugh their ears have to
shift to give the mouth a chance to get comfortably to its destination.
They have beautiful teeth, the white ivory showing against the black
foreground like fresh tombstones in an old cemetery on a dark night. It is
amusing to watch them flirting with the soldier niggers. They try to look
coy, but soon fall victims to the skilful blandishments of the
vain-glorious warriors, and after a little manoeuvring they put out their
lips to be kissed, a sight which might well make even a Scotch Covenanter
grin. They suck their lips in with a sharp hissing breath; then push them
out suddenly, ready for the osculatory seance, the lips moving as if they
were pushed from the inside by a pole. The "boys" enjoy the picnic
immensely. As a matter of fact, these "boys" always seem to me to be doing
one of four things. They are either eating, smoking, sleeping, or making
love; and they do enough love-making in twenty-four hours to last an
ordinary everyday sort of white man four months, even if he puts in a
little overtime. One of the most charming things noticeable about a Boer
town is the plenitude of trees in the streets. They are often ornamental,
always useful for purposes of shade. There is no regularity about their
distribution; they seem to have been planted spasmodically at odd times and
at odd positions. There is little about them to lead one to the belief that
they receive over much care after they have been put into the soil. I have
found a very creditable library in pretty nearly every Boer town that I
have visited, and it is a noteworthy fact that all of our most cherished
authors find a place on their book-shelves. One other thing I have also
noticed, which, though a small thing in itself, is yet very significant. In
nearly every hotel, and in many of the public places, portraits of our
Queen and members of the Royal Family have been hanging side by side with
portraits of notable men, such as Mr. Gladstone, Lord Salisbury, Mr.
Chamberlain, and Mr. Rhodes. During the course of the war all kinds and
conditions of Boers have had free access to the rooms where those portraits
were to be seen, but now I find that no damage has been done to any of
those pictures, excepting those of Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Chamberlain. This has
not been an oversight on the part of the Boers, for I defy any person to
find a solitary picture of the two last-named gentlemen that has not been
hacked with knives. But the Queen and Royal Family photos have in every
case been treated with respect.



                             BEHIND THE SCENES.

                                                                 STORMBERG.


I am writing this from Stormberg, a tremendously important military
position, which was taken on Monday, the 5th, by General Gatacre, without a
blow, the enemy falling back cowed by the British general's tactics. Had
they remained here another twenty-four hours Gatacre would have had them in
a ring of iron, but the Boer general is no fool. He saw his danger, and,
like a wise man, he dodged it. Gatacre's generalship was simply superb. Let
the idiotic band of critics who sit in safety in England howl to their
heart's content; Gatacre deserves well of his country. Had he dashed
recklessly into this hornet's nest he would have sacrificed four-fifths of
his gallant officers and a host of his men. Had I to write his military
epitaph to-day I should say that "he won with brains what most generals
would have won with blood."

Strangely enough, I was a prisoner in the very room where I am penning this
epistle only last Saturday night. I left here in the centre of a Boer
commando, with a bandage over my eyes, on Sunday morning, and returned to
the spot surrounded by British "Tommies" a few days later.

All the glory of this bloodless victory does not rest with the general who
commands the column. To Captain Tennant no small meed of praise is due.
This officer was here on secret service before hostilities commenced, and
he did his work so thoroughly that the country is as familiar to him as
paint to a barmaid. He is one of those men, unfortunately so rare in the
British Army, combining dash and dauntless pluck with a cool, level head.
If he gets his opportunity, England will hear more of this officer. I have
been intensely struck by the class of officers by whom General Gatacre is
surrounded. They all look like soldiers. I have not seen a single dude, not
one of those wretched fops of whom I have seen only too many in South
Africa. They speak like soldiers too. No idiotic drawl, no effeminate lisp,
no bullying, ill-bred, coarseness of tongue; they are neither drawing-room
dandies nor camp swashbucklers, but officers and gentlemen--and, I can
assure you, the terms are not always synonymous, even under the Queen's
cloth. I have seen mere lads in this country leading men into action who in
point of brains were not fit to lead a mule to water, and others who, in
regard to manners, were scarcely fit to follow the mule. But, thank God,
the Boers have taught our nation this, if they have taught us nought
else--that it needs something more than an eye-glass, a lisp, a pair of kid
gloves, and an insolent, overbearing manner to make a successful soldier.

But let me get amongst the Boers. I was only a prisoner in their hands for
about a month, yet every moment of that time was so fraught with interest
that I fancy I picked up more of the real nature of the Boers than I should
have done under ordinary circumstances in a couple of years. I was moved
from laager to laager along their fighting line, saw them at work with
their rifles, saw them come in from more than one tough skirmish, bringing
their dead and wounded with them, saw them when they had triumphed, and saw
them when they had been whipped; saw them going to their farms, to be
welcomed by wife and children; saw them leaving home with a wife's sobs in
their ears, and children's loving kisses on their lips. I saw some of these
old greyheads shattered by our shells, dying grimly, with knitted brows and
fiercely clenched jaws; saw some of their beardless boys sobbing their
souls out as the life blood dyed the African heath. I saw some passing over
the border line which divides life and death, with a ring of stern-browed
comrades round them, leaning upon their rifles, whilst a brother or a
father knelt and pressed the hand of him whose feet were on the very
threshold of the land beyond the shadows. I saw others smiling up into the
faces of women--the poor, pain-drawn faces of the dying looking less
haggard and worn than the anguish-stricken features of their womanhood who
knelt to comfort them in that last awful hour--in the hour which divides
time from eternity, the sunlight of lusty life from the shadows of
unsearchable death. Those things I have seen, and in the ears of English
men and English women, let me say, as one who knows, and fain would speak
the plain, ungilded truth concerning friend and foe, that, not alone
beneath the British flag are heroes found. Not alone at the breasts of
British matrons are brave men suckled; for, as my soul liveth--whether
their cause be just or unjust, whether the right or the wrong of this war
be with them, whether the blood of the hundreds who have fallen since the
first rifle spoke defiance shall speak for or against them at the day of
judgment--they at least know how to die; and when a man has given his life
for the cause he believes in he is proven worthy even of his worst enemy's
respect. And it seems to me that the British nation, with its long roll of
heroic deeds, wrought the whole world over, from Africa to Iceland, can
well afford to honour the splendid bravery and self-sacrifice of these
rude, untutored tillers of the soil. I have seen them die.

Once, as I lay a prisoner in a rocky ravine all through the hot afternoon,
I heard the rifles snapping like hounds around a cornered beast. I watched
the Boers as they moved from cover to cover, one here, one there, a little
farther on a couple in a place of vantage, again, in a natural fortress, a
group of eight; so they were placed as far as my eye could reach. The
British force I could not see at all; they were out on the veldt, and the
kopjes hid them from me; but I could hear the regular roll and ripple of
their disciplined volleys, and in course of time, by watching the actions
of the Boers, I could anticipate the sound. They watched our officers, and
when the signal to fire was given they dropped behind cover with such speed
and certainty that seldom a man was hit. Then, when the leaden hail had
ceased to fall upon the rocks, they sprang out again, and gave our fellows
lead for lead. After a while our gunners seemed to locate them, and the
shells came through the air, snarling savagely, as leopards snarl before
they spring, and the flying shrapnel reached many of the Boers, wounding,
maiming, or killing them; yet they held their position with indomitable
pluck, those who were not hit leaping out, regardless of personal danger,
to pick up those who were wounded. They were a strange, motley-looking
crowd, dressed in all kinds of common farming apparel, just such a crowd as
one is apt to see in a far inland shearing shed in Australia, but no man
with a man's heart in his body could help admiring their devotion to one
another or their loyalty to the cause they were risking their lives for.

One sight I saw which will stay with me whilst memory lasts. They had
placed me under a waggon under a mass of overhanging rock for safety, and
there they brought two wounded men. One was a man of fifty, a hard old
veteran, with a complexion as dark as a New Zealand Maori; the beard that
framed the rugged face was three-fourths grey, his hands were as rough and
knotted by open air toil as the hoofs of a working steer.

He looked what he was--a Boer of mixed Dutch and French lineage. Later on I
got into conversation with him, and he told me a good deal of his life. His
father was descended from one of the old Dutch families who had emigrated
to South Africa in search of religious liberty in the old days, when the
country was a wilderness. His mother had come in an unbroken line from one
of the noble families of France who fled from home in the days of the
terrible persecution of the Huguenots. He himself had been many
things--hunter, trader, farmer, fighting man. He had fought against the
natives, and he had fought against our people. The younger man was his son,
a tall, fair fellow, scarcely more than a stripling, and I had no need to
be a prophet or a prophet's son to tell that his very hours were numbered.
Both the father and the lad had been wounded by one of our shells, and it
was pitiful to watch them as they lay side by side, the elder man holding
the hand of the younger in a loving clasp, whilst with his other hand he
stroked the boyish face with gestures that were infinitely pathetic. Just
as the stars were coming out that night between the clouds that floated
over us the Boer boy sobbed his young life out, and all through the long
watches of that mournful darkness the father lay with his dead laddie's
hand in his. The pain of his own wounds must have been dreadful, but I
heard no moan of anguish from his lips. When, at the dawning, they came to
take the dead boy from the living man, the stern old warrior simply pressed
his grizzled lips to the cold face, and then turned his grey beard to the
hard earth and made no further sign; but I knew well that, had the
sacrifice been possible, he would gladly have given his life to save the
young one's.



                      A BOER FIGHTING LAAGER.

                                                              BURGHERSDORP.


Many and wonderful are the stories written and published concerning the
Boer and his habits when on the war-path. Most of these stories are written
by men who take good care never to get within a hundred miles of the
fighting line, but content themselves with an easy chair, a cigar, a bottle
of whisky, and carpet slippers on the stoep of some good hotel in a pretty
little Boer town. To scribes of this calibre flock a certain class of
British resident, who is always full to the very ears of his own dauntless
courage, his deathless loyalty to the Queen and Empire, his love for the
soldier, and his hatred of the Boer. This gallant class of British resident
has half a million excuses ready to his hand to explain why he did not take
a rifle and fight when the war summons rang clarion-like through the land.
Then he grits his teeth, knits his eyebrows, clenches his hands in
spasmodic wrath, throws out his chest, and tells his auditors, in a voice
husky with concentrated wrath and whisky, what he intends to do the next
time the damnable Boer rises to fight. The old British pioneer may have
whelped a few million good fighting stock in his time, but this class of
animal is no lion's whelp; it is a thing all mouth and no manners, a
shallow-brained, cowardly creature, always howling about the Boer, but too
discreet to go out and fight him, though ready at all times to malign him,
to ridicule him as a farmer or a fighter, and it is a perfect bear's feast
to this hybrid animal to get hold of a gullible newspaper correspondent to
tell him gruesome tales relative to Boer fighting laagers.

I had one of this peculiar species at me the other day in Burghersdorp, and
he painted a Boer laager so vividly, between nips at my flask, that if I
had not seen a few laagers myself I should have felt bad over the matter.
He pictured the smell of that laager in language so intense, with gestures
so graphic, that some of his auditors had to hold their nostrils with
handkerchiefs, whilst they stirred the circumambient atmosphere with
cardboard fans, and I could not help wondering, if the portrait of the
smell was so awful, what the thing itself must be like. Flushed with
success, the narrator pursued his subject to the bitter extremity. He
conjured up scenes of half-buried men lying amongst the rocks surrounding
the laager: here a leg, there an arm, further on a ghastly human head
protruding from amidst the scattered boulders, until I had only to close my
eyes to fancy I was in a charnel-house, where Goths and Huns were holding
devilish revelry. The B.R. paused, and dropped his voice two octaves lower,
and the crowd on the balcony craned their heads further forward, so that
they might not miss a single word. He told of the women in the laagers, the
wild, unholy mirth of women, who moved from camp fire to camp fire, with
dishevelled hair streaming down their backs, with tossing arms, bare to the
shoulders, and blood besmeared, not the blood of goats or kine, but the
blood of soldiers--our soldiers. Thomas Atkins defunct, and done for by the
she-furies.

He waded in again when the shudder which shook the crowd had died away, and
hinted, as that class of shallow-souled creature loves to hint, of orgies
under the dim light of the stars, or between the flickering light of
smoking camp fires, until the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah seemed to be
crowding all around us in a peculiarly beastly and uncomfortable fashion.
Then he lay back in his chair and sighed; but anon he sprang upright, and,
with flashing eyes and extended arms, wanted to know what the ---- Roberts
meant by offering peace with honour to such a people. "Mow them down!" he
yelled. "Shoot them on sight--no quarter for such devils! Kill 'em off!
kill 'em off! kill 'em off!" and he half sobbed, half sighed himself into
silence, whilst the audience gazed on him as on one who knew what war,
wild, red, carmine war, was. I broke in on his stillness, as newspaper men
who know the game are apt to do, for I wanted data, I wanted facts, and I
had not swallowed his yarn as freely as he had swallowed my whisky.

"Born in this country?" I asked.

"Yorkshire," he answered laconically.

"Been in Africa long?"

"'Bout five years."

"Where did you put in most of your time before
the war?"

"Johannesburg."

"Mines?"

"No."

"Merchant?"

"No."

"Hotel-keeper, perhaps?"

"No."

"Shopkeeper?"

"No."

"What was your calling, or profession, or business, or means of
livelihood?"

"General agent, sharebroker, correspondent for some local papers."

H'm; I knew the class of animal well--general jackal; do the dirty work of
any trade, and master of none.

"Where were you when the war broke out?"

He scowled savagely: "Johannesburg."

"Have the same hatred for the Boers before the war as you have now?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't you pick up a rifle and have a hand in the fighting?"

"I'm not a blessed 'Tommy,' sir! Do you take me for a d---- 'Tommy,' sir?"

"No; oh, no, I assure you I did nothing of the kind. But--er, have you been
in the hands of the Boers since the war started?"

"Yes, until our troops marched in here a day or two ago."

"H'm. Did they rob you?"

"No."

"Did they ill-treat you--knock you about, and that sort of thing?"

"No."

"Why do you hate them so bitterly, then?"

"Oh, I can't stand a cursed Boer at any price. Thinks he's as good as a
Britisher all the time, and puts on side; and he's a cursed tyrant in his
heart, and would rub us out if he could."

"Yes, the Boer thought himself as good a man as the Britishers he met out
this way," I replied, "and he backed his opinion with his life and his
rifle. Why didn't you do the same if you reckoned yourself a better man?"

"Why should I; don't we pay 'Tommy' to do that for us?"

"Perhaps we do; but, concerning those Boer laagers you have been telling us
about: where, when, and how did you see them; what was the name of the
place; who was the Boer general in command, or the field cornet, or
landdrost? I did not know the Boers gave British refugees the free run of
their war laagers, and I'm interested in the matter, being a scribe myself
and a man of peace. Just give me a few names and dates and facts, will
you?"

"No, I won't," he snarled. "You seem to doubt my word, you do, and I'm as
good a Britisher as you are any day, and you think you can come along and
pump information out of me for nothing; but I'm too fly for that--they
don't breed fools in Yorkshire."

"Well, sir, as it seems to suit your temper," I said as sweetly as I could,
"I'll make it a business proposition. I'll bet you fifty pounds to five you
have never put your head inside a Boer laager in war time in your life. If
you have, just name it and give me a few facts."

The B.R. rose wrathfully and muttered something about it being a d---- good
job for me that I was a wounded man and had one arm in a sling, or he'd
show me a heap of things in the fistic line which I should remember for the
rest of my life; but as I only laughed he slouched off, and now, when we
meet in the street, we pass without speaking. But I got his history, all
the same, from one of the Cape Police, who told me the beggar had refused
to join a volunteer regiment when the war broke out, and had remained the
whole time in a quiet little Boer village as a British refugee, and had not
seen the outside, let alone the inside, of a Boer fighting laager in all
his lying life. Yet such cravens at times help to make history--of a kind.

Possibly it may interest Englishmen--and women, too, for that matter--to
know what a fighting laager is like, and as I have seen half a dozen of
them from the enemies' side of the wall, a rough pen and ink sketch may not
be amiss. In war time the Boer never, under any circumstances, makes his
laager in the open country if there are any kopjes about. No matter how
secure he may fancy himself from attack, no matter if there is not a foe
within fifty miles of him, the Boer commander always pitches his laager in
a place of safety between two parallel lines of hills, so that no attack
can be made upon him, either front or rear, without giving him an immense
advantage over the attacking force, even if the enemy is ten times as
strong in numbers. By this means the Boers make their laagers almost
impregnable. If they have a choice of ground, they pick a narrow ravine, or
gully, with a line of hills front and rear, covered with small rocky
boulders and bushes. They drive their waggons along the ravine, and make a
sort of rude breastwork across the gully with the waggons. In between these
waggons the women are placed for safety, for it is a noticeable fact that
very large numbers of women have followed their husbands and fathers to the
war, not to act as viragoes, not to play the wanton, not to unsex
themselves, not to handle the rifle, but to nurse the wounded, to comfort
the dying, and to lay out the dead. I have heard them singing round the
camp fires in the starlight, but it was hymns that they sang, not ribald
songs. I have seen them kneeling by the side of men in the moonlight, not
in wantonness, but in mercy, and many a man who wears the British uniform
to-day can bear me witness that I speak the truth.

The Boer never, if he can help it, allows himself to be separated from his
horse; and these hardy little animals, mostly about fifteen hands high, and
very lightly framed, are picketed close to the spot where the rider
deposits his rifle and blankets. If they allow them to graze on the
hillsides during the day, they run a rope through the halter near the
horse's muzzle, and tie it close above the knee-joint of the near fore-leg.
By this means the horse can graze in comfort, but cannot move away at any
pace beyond a slow walk, and so are easily caught and saddled if required
in a hurry. The oxen and sheep to be used for slaughtering purposes are
driven up close to the camp; a waggon or two is drawn across the ravine
above and below them, and they cannot then stampede if frightened by
anything, unless they climb the rocky heights on either side of them, which
they have small chance of doing, as the Kaffir herdsmen sleep on the hills
above them. Having pitched his laager, the commander sends out his scouts;
some amble off on horseback at a pace they call a "tripple"--a gait which
all the Boers educate their nags to adopt. It is not exactly an amble, but
a cousin to it, marvellously easy to the rider, whilst it enables the nag
to get over a wonderful lot of ground without knocking up. It also allows
the horse to pick his way amongst rocky ground, and so save his legs, where
an English, Indian, or Australian horse would be apt to cripple himself in
very short order. As soon as the mounted scouts set off on their journey,
holding the reins carelessly in the left hand, their handy little Mauser
rifles in their right, swaying carelessly in the saddle after the fashion
of all bush-riders the world over, the foot scouts take up their positions
amongst the rocks and shrubs on the hills in front and rear of the laager.
Each scout has his rifle in his hand, his pipe in his teeth, his bandolier
full of cartridges over his shoulder, and his scanty blanket under his left
arm. No fear of his sleeping at his post. He is fighting for honour, not
for pay; for home, not for glory; and he knows that on his acuteness the
lives of all may depend. He knows that his comrades and the women trust
him, and he values the trust as dearly as British soldier ever did. No
matter how tired he may be, no matter how famished, the Boer sentinel is
never faithless to his orders.

When the scouts are out the laager is fixed for the night--not a very
exhaustive proceeding, as the Boers do not go in for luxuries of any kind.
Here a tarpaulin is stretched over a kind of temporary ridge pole, blankets
are tossed down on the hard earth, saddles are used for pillows, and the
couch is complete. A little way farther down the line a rude canvas screen
is thrown over the wheels of a waggon, and a family, or rather husband and
wife, make themselves at home under the waggon; whilst the single men
simply throw themselves at full length on the ground, wrap their one thin,
small blanket round them, and smoke and jest merrily enough, whilst the
Kaffirs light the fires and make the coffee. There is scarcely any timber
in this part of Africa, and the fuel used is the dried manure of cattle
pressed into slabs about fifteen inches long, eight inches wide, and three
inches thick. The smoke from the fires is very dense, and soon fills the
air with a pungent odour, which is not unpleasant in the open, but would be
simply intolerable in a building. The coffee is soon made, and the simple
meal begins; it consists of "rusks," a kind of bread baked until it becomes
crisp and hard, and plenty of steaming hot coffee. I never saw any people
so fond of this beverage as the Boers are. The Australian bushman and
digger loves tea, and can almost exist upon it; but these Boers cling to
coffee. They live, when out in laager, like Spartans, they dress anyhow,
sleep anyhow, and eat just rusks and precious little else. Talk about
"Tommy" and his hard times, why a private soldier at the front sleeps
better, dresses better, and eats better than a Boer general; yet never once
did I hear a Boer complain of hardships. After tea the Boers sit about and
clean their rifles; the women move from one little group to another,
chatting cheerfully, but I saw nothing in their conduct, or in the conduct
of any man towards one of them, that would cause the most chaste matron in
Great Britain to blush or droop her eyes. There is in the laager an utter
absence of what we term soldierly discipline; men moved about, went and
came in a free and easy fashion, just as I have seen them do a thousand
times in diggers' camps. There was no saluting of officers, no stiffness,
no starch anywhere. The general lounges about with hands in pockets and
pipe in mouth; no one pays him any special deference. He talks to the men,
the striplings, and the women, and they talk back to him in a manner which
seems strange to a Britisher familiar to the ways of military camps. After
the chatting, the pridikant, or parson, if there is one in the laager,
raises his hands, and all listen with reverent faces whilst the man of God
utters a few words in a solemn, earnest tone; then all kneel, and a prayer
floats up towards the skies, and a few moments later the whole camp is
wrapped in sleep, nothing is heard but the neighing of horses, the lowing
of cattle, the bleating of sheep, and the occasional barking of a dog.
There is no clatter of arms, no ringing of bugles, no deep-toned challenge
of sentries, no footfall of changing pickets.

At regular intervals men rise silently from the ranks of the sleepers, pick
up their rifles noiselessly, and silently, like ghosts, slip out into the
deep shadows of the kopjes, and other men, equally silent, glide in from
posts they have been guarding, and stretch themselves out to snatch slumber
whilst they may. At dawn the men toss their blankets aside, and spring up
ready dressed, and move amongst their horses; the Kaffirs attend to the
morning meal, the everlasting rusks and coffee are served up, horses are
saddled, cattle are yoked to waggons, and in the twinkling of an eye the
camp is broken up, and the irregular army is on the march again, with
scouts guarding every pass in front, scouts watching (themselves unseen) on
every height. They travel fast, because they travel light; they use very
little water, because they find it impossible to move it from place to
place. Many critics charge them with habits of personal uncleanliness. It
is true that in their laagers one does not see as much soap and water used
as in our camps, but this is possibly due to want of opportunity as much as
to want of inclination. In sanitary matters they are neglectful. I did not
see a single latrine in any of their laagers, nor do I think they are in
the habit of making them, and to this cause and to no other I attribute the
large amount of fever in their ranks. They do not seem to understand the
first principles of the laws of sanitation, and had this season been a wet,
instead of a peculiarly dry one, I venture to assert that typhoid fever
would have wrought far more havoc amongst them than our rifles.

I saw no literature in laager except Bibles. I witnessed no sports of any
kind, and the only sport I heard them talk about was horse-racing. I saw no
gambling, heard no blasphemy, noticed no quarrelling or bickering, and can
only say, from my slight acquaintance with life in Boer laager in war time,
that it may be rough, it may be irksome, it may not be so fastidiously
clean as a feather-bed soldier might like it, but I have been in many
tougher, rougher places, and never heard anyone cry about it.



                         THROUGH BOER GLASSES.

                                                              BURGHERSDORP.


I had a good many opportunities of chatting with Boers during the time
which elapsed between my capture and liberation, and had a long talk with
the President of the Orange Free State, Mr. Steyn; also with several of his
ministerial colleagues. Their ministers of religion, whom they call
pridikants, also chatted to me freely, as occasion offered. I had more than
one interview with their fighting generals. Medical men in their service I
found very much akin to medical men the world over. They patched up the
wounded and asked no questions concerning nationality, just as our own
medicos do. Personally, I must say that I found the Boers first-class
subjects for Press interviews. They did not know much about journalists and
the ways of journalism. Possibly had they had more experience in regard to
"interviews," I should not have found them quite so easy to manage, but it
never seemed to enter their heads that a man might make good "copy" out of
a quiet chat over pipes and tobacco. One of their stock subjects of
conversation was their great General, the man of Magersfontein--General
Cronje.

"What do you Britishers and Australians think of Cronje?" was a stock
question with them. "Do you think him a good fighter?"

"Well, yes, unquestionably he is a good fighting man."

"Do you think him as good as Lord Roberts?"

"No. We men of British blood don't think there are many men on earth as
good as the hero of Candahar."

"Do you think him as good a man as Lord Kitchener?"

"No. Very many of us consider the conqueror of the Soudan to be one who, if
he lives, will make as great a mark in history as Wellington."

At this a joyous smile would illuminate the face of the Boer. He would
reply, "Yes, yes; Roberts is a great man, a very great man indeed. So is
Kitchener, so is General French, so is General Macdonald, so is General
Methuen. Yet all those five men are attempting to get Cronje into a corner
where they can capture him. They have ten times as many soldiers as Cronje
has, ten times as many guns; therefore, what a really great man Cronje must
be on your own showing."

That was before the fatal 27th of February on which Cronje surrendered.

I often asked them how they, representing a couple of small States, came to
get hold of the idea that they could whip a colossal Power like Great
Britain in a life or death struggle; and almost invariably they informed me
that they had expected that one of the great European Powers would take an
active part in the struggle on their behalf, and, furthermore, they had
been taught to think that Britain's Empire was rotten to the core, so much
so that as soon as war commenced in earnest all her colonies would fall
away from her and hoist the flag of independence, and that India would leap
once again into open and bloody mutiny. They expressed themselves as being
dumbfounded when they heard that Australian troops were rallying under the
Union Jack, and seemed to feel most bitterly that the men from the land of
the Southern Cross were in arms against them. "We fell out with England,
and we thought we had to fight England. Instead we find we have to fight
people from all parts of the world, Colonials like ourselves. Surely
Australia and Canada might have kept out of this fight, and allowed us to
battle it out with the country we had a quarrel with."

"The Canadians and Australians are of British blood."

"Well, what if they are? Ain't plenty of the Cape Volunteers who are
fighting under President Kruger's banner born of Dutch parents? Yet,
because they fight against Englishmen, you call them all rebels, and talk
of punishing them when the war is over, if you win, just because they lived
on your side of the border and not on ours. Would you ask one Boer to fight
against another Boer simply because he lived on one side of a river and his
blood relation lived on the other? You Britishers brag of your pride of
blood, and draw your fighting stock from all parts of the world in war
time, but you have no generosity; you won't allow other people to be proud
of their blood too."

I tried to persuade them that I did not for one moment think that Britain
would be vindictive towards so-called rebels in the hour of victory, and
pointed out that, in my small opinion, such a course would be foreign to
the traditions of the Motherland; and was often met with the retort that if
England did so the shame would be hers, not theirs. Many a time I was told
to remember the Jameson raid and the manner in which the Boers treated not
only the leaders of that band of adventurers, but the men also. "Look
here," said one old fighting man to me, as he leant with negligent grace on
his rifle, "I was one of those who helped to corner Jameson and his men,
and I can tell you that we Boers knew very well that we would have been
acting within our rights if we had shot Jameson and every man he had with
him, because his was not an act of war--it was an act of piracy; and had we
done so, and England had attempted to avenge the deed, half the civilised
world would have ranged themselves on our side; but we did not seek those
men's blood; we gave them quarter as soon as they asked for it, and after
that, though we knew very well they had done all that men could do to
involve us in a war of extermination with a great nation, we sent their
leader home to his own country to be tried by his own countrymen, and the
rank and file we forgave freely. We may be a nation of white savages, but
our past does not prove it, and if Britain wins in the war now going on she
will have to be very generous indeed before we will need to blush for our
conduct."

"Why should not the white population of South Africa be ready to live under
the protection of Britain? The yoke cannot be so heavy when men of all
creeds, colours, and nationalities who have lived under that rule for years
are now ready to volunteer to fight for her, even against you, who have
admittedly done them no direct wrong?"

"Why should we live under any flag but our own?" replied the old fighting
man passionately. "We came here and found the country a wilderness in the
hands of savages; we fought our way into the land step by step, holding our
own with our rifles; we had to live lives of fearful hardships, facing wild
beasts and wilder men; we won with the strong hand the land we live in. Why
should we bow our necks to Britain's yoke, even if it be a yoke of silk?"
And as he spoke a murmur of deep and earnest sympathy ran through the ranks
of the Boers who were standing around him.

"You, of course, blame all the Colonials, Australians and others, for
coming to fight against you?" I asked. "I don't know that I do, or that my
people do, in a sense," the veteran replied. "It all depends upon the
spirit which animated them. If your Australians, who are of British blood,
came here to fight for your Motherland, believing that her cause was a just
and a holy one, and that she needed your aid, you did right, for a son will
help his mother, if he be a son worth having; but if the Australians came
here merely for the sake of adventure, merely for sport, as men come in
time of peace to shoot buck on the veldt, then woe to that land, for though
God may make no sign to-day nor to-morrow, yet, in His own time, He will
surely wring from Australia a full recompense in sweat and blood and tears;
for whether we be right or wrong, our God knows that we are giving our
lives freely for what we in our hearts believe to be a holy cause."

"What do you fellows think of Australians as fighters?"

I asked the question carelessly, but the answer that I got brought me to my
bearings quickly, for then I learnt that more than one gallant Australian
officer dear to me had fallen, never to rise again, since I had been taken
prisoner. The man who spoke was little more than a lad, a pale-faced,
slenderly built son of the veldt. He had tangled curly hair, and big,
pathetic blue eyes, soft as a girl's, and limbs that lacked the rugged
strength of the old Boer stock; but there was that nameless "something,"
that indefinable expression in his face which warranted him a brave man. He
carried one arm in a sling, and the bandage round his neck hid a bullet
wound. "The Australians can fight," he said simply. "They wounded me,
and--they killed my father." Perhaps it was the wind sighing through the
hospital trees that made the Boer lad's voice grow strangely husky;
possibly the same cause filled the blue eyes with unshed tears.

"It was in fair fight, lad," I said gently; "it was the fortune of war."

"Yes," he murmured, "it was in fair fight, an awful fight--I hope I'll
never look upon another like it. Damn the fighting," he broke out fiercely.
"Damn the fighting. I didn't hate your Australians. I didn't want to kill
any of them. My father had no ill-will to them, nor they to him, yet he is
out there--out there between two great kopjes--where the wind always blows
cold and dreary at night-time." The laddie shuddered. "It makes a man doubt
the love of the Christ," he said. "My father was a good man, a kind man,
who never turned the stranger empty-handed from his door, even the Kaffirs
on the farm loved him; and now he is lying where no one can weep over his
grave. We piled great rocks on his grave. My cousin and I buried him. We
had no shovels; we scooped a hole in the hard earth as well as we could, a
long, shallow hole, and we laid him in it. I took his head and Cousin
Gustave carried his feet. We folded his hands on his breast, laid his old
rifle by his side, because he had always loved that gun, and never used any
other when out hunting. Then we pushed the earth in on him gently with our
hands, breaking the hard lumps up and crumbling them in our palms, so that
they should not bruise his poor flesh. He had always been so kind, we could
not hurt him, even though we knew he was dead, for he had been gentle to
all of us in life; even the cows and the oxen at home loved him--and now
who will go back and tell mother and little Yacoba that he is dead, that he
will come to them no more? Oh, damn the war," the lad called again in his
pain. "I don't know--only God knows--which side is right or wrong, but I do
know that the curse of the Christ will rest on the heads of those who have
made this war for ambition's sake or the greed of gold, and the good God
will not let the widow and the orphan child go unavenged; blood will yet
speak for blood, and it must rest either on the heads of Kruger and Steyn,
or Chamberlain and Rhodes."

"Tell me, comrade, of the Australians who fell. They were my countrymen."

"It was a cruel fight," he said. "We had ambushed a lot of the British
troops--the Worcesters, I think, they called them. They could neither
advance nor retire; we had penned them in like sheep, and our field cornet,
Van Leyden, was beseeching them to throw down their rifles to save being
slaughtered, for they had no chance. Just then we saw about a hundred
Australians come bounding over the rocks in the gully behind us. There were
two great big men in front cheering them on. We turned and gave them a
volley, but it did not stop them. They rushed over everything, firing as
they came, not wildly, but as men who know the use of a rifle, with the
quick, sharp, upward jerk to the shoulder, the rapid sight, and then the
shot. They knocked over a lot of our men, but we had a splendid position.
They had to expose themselves to get to us, and we shot them as they came
at us. They were rushing to the rescue of the English. It was splendid, but
it was madness. On they came, and we lay behind the boulders, and our
rifles snapped and snapped again at pistol range, but we did not stop those
wild men until they charged right into a little basin which was fringed
around all its edges by rocks covered with bushes. Our men lay there as
thick as locusts, and the Australians were fairly trapped. They were far
worse off than the Worcesters, up high in the ravine.

"Our field cornet gave the order to cease firing, and called on them to
throw down their rifles or die. Then one of the big officers--a, great,
rough-looking man, with a voice like a bull--roared out, 'Forward
Australia!--no surrender!' Those were the last words he ever uttered, for a
man on my right put a bullet clean between his eyes, and he fell forward
dead. We found later that his name was Major Eddy, of the Victorian Rifles.
He was as brave as a lion, but a Mauser bullet will stop the bravest. His
men dashed at the rocks like wolves; it was awful to see them. They smashed
at our heads with clubbed rifles, or thrust their rifles up against us
through the rocks and fired. One after another their leaders fell. The
second big man went down early, but he was not killed. He was shot through
the groin, but not dangerously. His name was Captain McInnerny. There was
another one, a little man named Lieutenant Roberts; he was shot through the
heart. Some of the others I forget. The men would not throw down their
rifles; they fought like furies. One man I saw climb right on to the rocky
ledge where Big Jan Albrecht was stationed. Just as he got there a bullet
took him, and he staggered and dropped his rifle. Big Jan jumped forward to
catch him before he toppled over the ledge, but the Australian struck Jan
in the mouth with his clenched fist, and fell over into the ravine below
and was killed.

"We killed and wounded an awful lot of them, but some got away; they fought
their way out. I saw a long row of their dead and wounded laid out on the
slope of a farmhouse that evening--they were all young men, fine big
fellows. I could have cried to look at them lying so cold and still. They
had been so brave in the morning, so strong; but in the evening, a few
little hours, they were dead, and we had not hated them, nor they us. Yes,
I could have cried as I thought of the women who would wait for them in
Australia. Yes, I could have shed tears, though they had wounded me, but
then I thought of my father, and of the mother, and little Yacoba on the
farm, who would wait in vain for _him_, and then I could feel sorry
for those, the wives and children of the dead men, no longer."



                        LIFE IN THE BOER CAMPS.

                                         HEADQUARTERS, ORANGE RIVER COLONY.


It is an article of faith with many people that a Boer commando is a mere
mob, that its leaders exercise no control over men in laager or on the
field, and that punishment for crimes is a thing unknown. But this is far
from being the case. It is quite true that a Boer soldier does not know how
to click his heels together, turn his toes to an acute angle, stiffen his
back, and salute every time an officer runs against him. He could not
properly perform any of the very simplest military evolutions common to all
European soldiers if his immortal welfare depended upon it. That is why he
is such a failure as an attacking agent. Still, in spite of these things,
the Boer on commando has to submit to very rigid laws. The penalty for
outrage, or attempted outrage, on a woman is instant death on conviction,
no matter what the woman's nationality may be. For sleeping on sentry duty
the punishment is unique; it is a punishment born of long dwelling in the
wilderness. It is of such a nature that no man who has once undergone it is
calculated ever to forget. When a clear case is made out against a burgher
by trial before his commandant the whole commando in laager is summoned to
witness the criminal's reward. He is taken out beyond the lines to a spot
where the sun shines in all its unprotected fierceness. He is led to an
ant-hill full of busy, wicked, little crawlers; the top of the ant-hill is
cut off with a spade, leaving a honeycombed surface for the sleepy one to
stand upon (not much fear of him sleeping whilst he is there). He is
ordered to mount the hill and stand with feet close together. His rifle is
placed in his hands, the butt resting between his toes, the muzzle clasped
in both hands. Two men are then told off to watch him. They are picked men,
noted for their stern, unyielding sense of duty and love for the cause they
fight for.

These guards lie down in the veldt twenty-five yards away from the victim.
They have their loaded Mausers with them, and their orders are, if the
prisoner lifts a leg, to put a bullet into it; if he lifts an arm, a bullet
goes into that defaulting member; if he jumps down from his perch
altogether, the leaden messengers sent from both rifles will cancel all his
earthly obligations. The sun shines down in savage mockery; it strikes upon
the bare neck of the quivering wretch, who dare not lift a hand to shift
his hat to cover the blistering skin. It strikes in his eyes and burns his
lips until they swell and feel like bursting. The barrel of his rifle grows
hotter and hotter, until his fingers feel as if glued to a gridiron. The
very clothes upon his body burn the skin beneath. He feels desperate; he
must shift one arm, for the anguish is intolerable. He makes an almost
imperceptible movement of his shoulder, and glances towards his guards. The
man on his right front lays his pipe quickly in the grass, and swiftly
lifts his Mauser to his shoulder. The wretch on the ant-heap closes his
eyes with a groan, and stands as still as a Japanese god carved out of
jute-wood. The guard lays down his rifle and picks up his pipe.

The sun climbs higher and higher, until it gleams down straight into the
ant-heap; the scorching heat penetrates into the unprotected cells, and
enrages the dwellers inside. They swarm out full of fight, like an army
lusting for battle. Their home has been ravished of the protection they had
raised with half a lifetime of labour, and in their puny way they want
vengeance. They find a foe on top, a man ready to their wrath. They crawl
into his scorched boots, over his baked feet, guiltless of stockings; they
charge up the legs, on which the trousers hang loosely, and as they charge
they bite, because they are out for business, not for a picnic. The very
stillness of their victim seems to enrage them. The first legion retires at
full speed down into the ant-heap again. They have gone for recruits. In a
few seconds up they come again, until the very top of the heap is alive
with them. They climb one over another in their eagerness to get in their
individual moiety of revenge. Down into the veldtschoon, up the bare, hairy
legs, over the hips, round the waist, over the lean ribs, along the spine,
under the arms, round the neck, over the whole man they go, as the
Mongolian hordes will some day go over the Western world. And each one digs
his tiny prongs into the smarting, burning, itching poor devil on top of
their homestead. He shifts a leg the hundredth part of an inch. The guard
on the left gives his bandolier a warning twist, and glances along the long
brown barrel that nestles in the hollow of his left hand.

The commandant comes out of the circle of burghers, looks at the victim,
sees that the eyes are bloodshot and protruding far beyond the normal
position. He is not a hard man, but he knows that the culprit has
endangered the lives and liberties of all. "You will remember this," he
says sternly; "you will not again sleep when it is your turn to watch."
"Never, so help me God!" gasps the prisoner. "Stand down, then; you are
free." Quicker than a swallow's flight is the movement of the liberated
man. He drops his rifle with a gasp of relief, tears every stitch of
clothing from his body, throws the garments from him, and pelts his
veldtschoon after them. Some sympathetic veteran, who has possibly, in
earlier wars, been through the ordeal himself, runs up with a drink of
blessed water. He does not drink it; he pours it down his burning throat,
then sits on the grass, drawing his breath in long, sobbing sighs, all the
more terrible because they are tearless. From head to heel he is covered
with tiny red marks, just like a schoolboy who has had the measles; in
three days there will not be a mark on him, but he won't forget them, all
the same, not in thirty-three years, or three hundred and thirty-three, if
he happens to have a memory of any kind at that period.

This mode of punishing recalcitrant persons was picked up, I am told, from
one of the savage tribes. I do not know if this is so or not, but there is
no doubt that the niggers know all about it, because one day, when I found
that one of my niggers had been helping himself lavishly to my tobacco, I
promised to stand him on an ant-heap as soon as I had finished shaving.
Five minutes later my other nigger, Lazarus, came into my tent and informed
me that Johnnie had bolted. I went out, and by the aid of my glasses I
could just espy a black dot away out on the veldt, making a rapid and
direct line for the land of the Basutos; and that was the last I ever saw
or heard of tobacco-loving, work-dodging, truth-twisting Johnnie.

There is a distinctly humorous side to the Boer character, which crops out
sometimes in his methods of dealing out justice to those who have done the
thing that seems evil in his sight. If there is a fellow in laager who is
not amenable to orders, one of those malcontents who desires to have
everything his own way--and there generally is one of these cherubs in
every large gathering of men all the world over--the commandant first calls
him up and warns him that he is making himself a pest to the whole
commando, and exhorts him to mend his manners. As a general thing the
commandant throws a few slabs of Scripture appropriate to the occasion at
the disturber's ears, and mixes it judiciously with a good deal of worldly
wisdom, all of which tending to teach the fellow that he is about as
desirable as a comrade as a sore eye in a sand-storm. Should the
exhortation not have the desired effect, and the offender continue to stir
up strife in laager, as a lame mule stirs up mud in midstream, then the
commandant sends a guard of young men to gather in the unruly one. He is
captured with as little ceremony as a nigger captures a hog in the midst of
his mealy patch. They strip him bare to the waist, and put a bridle on his
head; the bit is jammed into his mouth, and firmly buckled there, and then
the circus begins. One of the guards takes the reins, usually a couple of
long lengths of raw hide; another flicks the human steed on the bare ribs
with a sjambok, and he is ordered to show his paces. He has to walk, trot,
canter, gallop, and "tripple" all around the laager several times, amidst
the badinage and laughter of the burghers, and he gets enough "chaff"
during the journey to last the biggest horse in England a lifetime.

It is bad enough when there are only men there, but when there are, as is
often the case, a dozen or two of women and girls present his woe is served
up to him full measure and brimming over. The men roar with laughter, and
pelt him with crusts of rusks, but the women and girls make his life an
agony for the time being. They smile at him sweetly, and ask him if he
feels lonely without a cart, or they pull up a handful of grass and offer
it to him on the end of a stick, making a lot of "stage aside" remarks
concerning the length of his ears the while, until the fellow's face
crimsons with shame.

They are wonderfully patriotic, these Boer girls and women, and are
merciless in their contempt for a man who will not do his share of
fighting, marching, and watching cheerfully and uncomplainingly. The
hardships and privations they themselves undergo without murmuring, in
order to assist their husbands, brothers, and lovers, is worthy of being
chronicled in the pages of history, for they are the Spartans of the
nineteenth century. They are swift to help those who need help, but
unsparing with their scorn for those who are unworthy. The treatment meted
out to the grumbler and mischief-maker usually presents more of the
elements of comedy than anything else, and it is his own fault if he does
not get off lightly. But if he cuts up rough, tries to strike or kick his
drivers or tormentors, or if he goes in for a course of sulks, and flops
himself down, refusing to be driven, then the comic element disappears from
the scene. Out come the sjamboks, and he is treated precisely as a vicious
or sulky horse would be treated under similar circumstances. As a rule, it
does not take long to bring a man of that kind to his proper senses. Should
he talk of deserting or of avenging himself later on, he is watched, and a
deserter soon learns that a rifle bullet can travel faster than he can. As
for revenge, the sooner he forgets desires or designs of that kind the
better for his own health.

For minor offences, such as laziness, neglecting to keep the rifle clean
and in good shooting order, attempting to strike up a flirtation with a
married woman, to the annoyance of the lady, or any other little matter of
the kind, the wayward one is "tossed." Tossing is not the sort of pastime
any fellow would choose for fun, not if he were the party to be tossed,
though it is a beanfeast for the onlookers. They manage it this way. A
hide, freshly stripped from a bullock, smoking, bloody, and limber as a
bowstring, is requisitioned; the hairy side is turned downwards, two strong
men get hold of each corner, cutting holes in the green hide for their
hands to have a good grip; they allow the hide to sag until it forms a sort
of cradle, into which the unlucky one is dumped neck and crop. Then the
signal is given, the hide sways to and fro for a few seconds, and then,
with a skilful jerk, it is drawn as taut as eight pairs of strong arms can
draw it. If the executioners are skilful at the business the victim shoots
upwards from the blood-smeared surface like a dude's hat in a gale of wind.
Sometimes he comes down on his feet, sometimes on his head, or he may
sprawl face downwards, clutching at the slimy surface as eagerly as a
politician clutches at a place in power. But his efforts are vain; a couple
more swings and another jerk, and up he goes, turning and twisting like a
soiled shirt on a wire fence. This time he comes down on his hands and
knees, and promptly commences to plead for pity, but before he can open his
heart a neat little jerk sends him out on his back, where he claws and
kicks like a jackal in a gin case, whilst the more ribald amongst the
onlookers sing songs appropriate to the occasion, but the more devout chant
some such hymn as this:

                    Lord, let me linger here,
                    For this is bliss.

A man is very seldom hurt at this game, though how he escapes without a
broken neck is one of the wonders of gravitation to me. One second you see
the poor beggar in mid air, going like a circular saw through soft pine.
Just when you are beginning to wonder if he has converted himself into a
catherine-wheel or a corkscrew, he straightens himself out horizontally,
remains poised for the millionth part of a second like a he-angel that has
moulted his wings; then down he dives perpendicularly like a tornado in
trousers, skinning forehead, nose, and chin as he kisses the drum-like
surface of the hide. No, on the whole, I do not consider it healthy to try
to fool with a married woman in a Boer fighting laager, apart altogether
from the moral aspect of the affair. If some of the amorous dandies I wot
of, who claim kindred with us, got the same sort of treatment in Old
England, many a merry matron would be saved much annoyance.

For rank disobedience of orders, brutality of conduct, cowardice in the
face of the enemy, flagrant neglect of the wounded, or any other very
serious military crime, the punishment is sjamboking, which is simply
flogging, as it existed in our Army and Navy not so many years ago. On
board ship they used to use the "cat," a genteel instrument with a handle
attached. The Boer sjambok is a different article altogether; it has not
nine tails, but it gets there just the same. The sjambok dear to the Boer
soul is that made out of rhinoceros hide. It is a plain piece of hide, not
twisted in any way; just clean cut out and trimmed round all the way down.
It is about three feet long, and at the end which the flogger holds it is
about two and a half inches in circumference, tapering down gradually to a
rat-tail point. It is a terrible weapon when the person who wields it is
bent on business, and is not manufacturing poetry or mingling thoughts of
home and mother with the flogging. Truth to tell, I don't think they do
much flogging--not half as much as they are credited with--but when they do
flog, the party who gets it wants a soft shirt for a month after, and it's
quite a while before he will lie on his back for the mere pleasure of
seeing the moon rise.



                           BATTLE OF CONSTANTIA FARM.

                                                                THABA NCHU.


The Battle of Constantia Farm will not rank as one of the big events of
this war, but it is worthy of a full description, because in this battle
the Briton for the first time laid himself out from start to finish to
fight the Boer pretty much on his own lines, instead of following
time-honoured British rules of war. Before attempting to portray the actual
fighting, I think a brief sketch of our movements from the time we left the
railway line to cross the country will be of interest to those readers of
_The Daily News_ who desire to follow the progress of the war with due
care.

The Third Division, which had been at Stormberg, and had done such
excellent, though almost bloodless, work by sweeping the country between
the last-named place and Bethany, rested at the latter place, and built up
its full strength by incorporating a large number of men and guns. General
Gatacre, who had retrieved his reverse at Stormberg by forcing Commandant
Olivier to vacate his almost impregnable position without striking a blow,
and later by his masterly move in swooping down on Bethulie Bridge and
preventing the Boers from wrecking the line of communication between Lord
Roberts and his supplies from Capetown, only remained long enough with his
old command to see them equipped in a manner fit to take the field, and
then retired in favour of General Chermside. It was under this officer that
we marched away from the railway line across country known to be hostile to
us. Almost due east we moved to Reddersburg, about twelve and a half miles.
We had to move slowly and cautiously, because no living man can tell when,
where, or how a Boer force will attack. They follow rules of their own, and
laugh at all accepted theories of war, ancient or modern, and no general
can afford to hold them cheap. A day and a half was spent at Reddersburg,
and then the Third Division continued its eastward course in wretched
weather, until Rosendal was arrived at. This is the spot where the Royal
Irish Rifles and Northumberland Fusiliers had to surrender to the Boers. We
had to camp there for the best part of three days on account of the
continuous downpour of rain, which rendered the veldt tracks impassable for
our transport. To push onward meant the absolute destruction of mules and
oxen, and the consequent loss of food supplies, without which we were
helpless, for in that country every man's hand was against us, not only in
regard to actual warfare, but in regard to forage for man and beast.

Here we were joined by General Rundle with the Eighth Division, which
brought our force up to about thirteen thousand men, thirty big guns, and a
number of Maxims. When the weather cleared slightly we moved onward slowly,
the ground simply clinging to the wheels of the heavily laden waggons,
until it seemed as if the very earth, as well as all that was on top of it,
was opposed to our march. Our scouts constantly saw the enemy hovering on
our front and flanks, and more than once exchanged shots with them. General
Rundle, who was in supreme command, thus knew that he could not hope to
surprise the wily foe, for it was evident to the merest tyro that the Boer
leader was keeping a sharp eye upon our movements, and would not be taken
at a disadvantage. We expected to measure the enemy's fighting force at any
hour, but it was not until about half-past ten on the morning of Friday,
the 20th of April, that we were certain that he meant to measure his arms
with ours, though early on that morning our scouts had brought in news that
a commando, believed to be about two thousand five hundred strong, with
half a dozen guns, commanded by General De Wet, was strongly posted right
on our line of march. Slowly we crept across the open veldt, our men
stretching from east to west for fully six miles. There was no moving of
solid masses of men, no solid grouping of troops; no two men marched
shoulder to shoulder, a gap showed plainly between each of the khaki-clad
figures as we moved on to the rugged, broken line of kopjes. There was no
hurry, no bustle, the men behaved admirably, each individual soldier
seeming to have his wits about him, and proving it by taking advantage of
every bit of cover that came in his way. If they halted near an ant-hill,
they at once put it between themselves and the enemy.

Slowly but steadily they rolled onward, like a great sluggish, but
irresistible, yellow wave, until we saw the scouts slipping from rock to
rock up the stony heights of the first line of hills. Breathlessly we
watched the intrepid "eyes of the army" advance until they stood
silhouetted against the sky-line on the top of the black bulwarks of the
veldt. Then we strained our ears to catch the rattle of the enemy's rifles,
but we listened in vain; and we were completely staggered. What did it
mean? Was it a trap? Was there some devilish craft behind that apparent
peacefulness? Trap or no trap, we had not long to wait. The long, yellow
wave curled inwards from both flanks, the men going forward with quick,
lithesome steps. The mounted infantry shot forward as if moved by magic,
and, before the eye could scarcely grasp the details, our fellows held the
heights, and men marvelled and wondered whether the Boers had bolted for
good. But they soon undeceived us, for the hills shook with the
far-reaching roar of their guns, and shells began to make melody which
devils love; but they did no harm. Not a man was touched. Then came the
short, sharp word of command from our lines. Officers bit their words
across the centre, and threw them at the men. The Horse Artillery moved
into position, some going at a steady trot, others sweeping along the
valleys as if they were the children of the storm. The left flank swung
forward and encircled the base of an imposing kopje. The men swarmed up
with tiger-like activity, quickly, and in broken and irregular lines; but
there was no confusion, no wretched tangle, no helpless muddle. They did
not rush madly to the top and stand on the sky-line to be a mark for their
foes. When they almost touched the summit they paused, formed their broken
lines, and carefully and wisely topped the black brow; and as they did so
the Boer rifles spoke from a line of kopjes that lay behind the first. Then
our fellows dropped to cover, and sent an answer back that a duller foe
than the Boers would not have failed to understand. The Mauser bullets
splashed on the rocks, and spat little fragments of lead in all directions;
but few of them found a resting-place under those thin yellow jackets.
By-and-by the shells began to follow the Mauser's spiteful pellets, but the
shells were less harmful even than the little hostile messengers; for,
though well directed, the shells never burst--they simply shrieked, yelled,
and buried themselves. Our gunners got the ground they wanted, and soon gun
spoke to gun in their deep-throated tones of defiance. The Boers were not
hurting us; whether we were injuring them we could not tell.

In the meantime our whole transport came safely inside a little
semi-circular valley, and arranged itself with almost ludicrous precision.
The nigger drivers chaffed one another as the shells made melody above
their heads, and made the air fairly dance with the picturesque terms of
endearment they bestowed upon their mules, between the welts they bestowed
with their long two-handed whips. When two of their leaders jibbed and
refused to budge, they howled and called them Mr. Steyn and Ole Oom Paul;
but when they got down solid to their work they laughed until even their
back teeth were showing beyond the dusky horizon of their lips, and endowed
them with the names of Cecil Rhodes and Mistah Chamberlain, which may or
may not appear complimentary to the owners of those titles--anyway, the
mules did not seem to be offended. One thing was made manifest to me then,
and confirmed later on, viz., the nigger is a game fellow; give him a
little excitement, and he is full of "devil"--it's the doing of deeds in
cold blood that finds him out. After seeing the way the transport was
handled, I moved along to look at the ambulance arrangements, and found
them practically perfect. The medical staff was cool and collected, the
helpers were alert and attentive to business; the waggons, with their
conspicuous red crosses, were all well and carefully placed--though in such
a fight it was a sheer impossibility to dispose them so as to render them
absolutely immune from danger, for shells have a knack of falling where
least expected, and when they burst he is a wise man who falls flat on his
face and leaves the rest to his Creator and the fortune of war. My next
move was to secure a position on the top of a kopje, to try to gather some
idea concerning the actual strength of the Boer position. It needed no
soldier's training to tell a man who knew the rugged Australian ranges
thoroughly that the enemy had chosen his ground with consummate skill. To
get at the Boers our men had either to go down the sides of the kopjes in
full view of the clever enemy, or else make their way between narrow
gullies, where shells would work havoc in their packed ranks. After they
had reached the open, level ground, they had to cross open spaces of veldt
commanded by the Boer guns and rifles, whilst the Boers themselves sat
tight in a row of ranges that ran from east to west, mile after mile, in
almost unbroken ruggedness. If we turned either flank, they could promptly
fall back upon another line of kopjes as strong as those they held. Away
behind their position the grim heights of Thaba Nchu rose towards the blue
sky, solemn and stately. Far away to the eastward, a little south of east
perhaps, I could see the hills that hid Wepener, distant about eighteen
miles from the Boer centre. There we knew, and the enemy knew, that the
Boers held a British force pinned in. They knew, and we knew, that
Commandant Olivier, with eight or nine thousand men and a lot of guns, held
the reins in his hands; and the men our force were engaging knew that
unless they could keep us in check Olivier would soon be the hunted instead
of the hunter.

By-and-by the rifle fire on our left flank grew weaker and weaker--our guns
were searching the kopjes with merciless accuracy--and before sundown it
died away altogether, and we had time to collect our wounded and ascertain
our losses, though we could not even guess how the Boers had fared Our
wounded amounted to eight men all told, none of them dangerously hurt; of
dead we had none, not one. When their fire slackened the enemy doubtless
expected to see an onward dash of troops from our position, but it was not
to be. General Rundle had decided to play "patience" and save his men;
there was no necessity for him to rush on and force the Boer position, and
he chose the better part. Steadily our fellows were worked into position,
until every bit of ground that could bear upon the foe was lined with
British troops. Every available point, front or flank, where a gun could be
placed to harass the foe was taken advantage of; nothing was left to
chance, nothing was rashly hurried. Carefully, methodically the work was
done. There was to be no carnival of death on our side, no trusting to the
"luck of the British Army," no headlong rush into the arms of destruction,
no waving line of bayonets. The Boer was to play a hand with the cards he
loves to deal. He was to be shelled and sniped. If he wanted straight-out
fighting, he had to come out into the open and get it. He was to have no
chance to sit in safety and slaughter the British soldiers like shambled
deer, as he had so often done before. As the sun went down our men
bivouacked where they stood, and nothing was heard through the long, cold
night except at intervals the grim growling of a gun, the sentinels' swift,
curt challenge, or the neighing of horses as steed spoke to steed across
the grass-grown veldt.

At the breaking of the dawn I was aroused from sleep by the simultaneous
crashing of several of our batteries. It was Britain's morning salutation
to the Boer. I hurried up to a spot on the kopje where a regiment of
Worcesters lay amongst the broken ground, and saw that the battle was just
about to commence in deadly earnest. It was a huge, flat-topped kopje where
I located myself. The outer edges of the hill rose higher than the centre,
a little rivulet ran across tiny indentations on the crown of that rampart,
and there was ample space for an army to lie concealed from the eyes of
enemies. If the Boers were strongly posted, so were the British. Away past
our right flank Wepener range was plainly visible in the clear morning
light, and just behind Wepener lay the Basuto border, with its fringe of
mountains. About two thousand yards away, directly facing our centre, a
white farmhouse stood in a cluster of trees. This farmhouse gave the
battlefield its name, Constantia Farm. The enemy could be seen by the aid
of glasses slipping from the kopjes down towards this farm and back again
at intervals. Cattle, horses, goats, and sheep went on grazing calmly, the
roaring of the guns doubtless seeming to them but as the tumult of a storm.

Turning my eyes towards the valley behind our position, I saw that we
intended to try to turn the enemy's left flank. Little squads of mounted
men, 95 in each group, swept along the valley at a gallop. They were the
Yeomanry and mounted infantry, and numbered about 600. A more workmanlike
body of fellows it would be hard to find anywhere. They sat their horses
with easy confidence, and looked full of fight. Some of them carried their
rifles in their hands, muzzle upwards, the butt resting on the right thigh;
others had their guns slung across their shoulders. Group after group went
eastward, and the Boers knew nothing of the movement, because we were for
once employing their own tactics. I watched them out of sight, and then
turned my attention to the guns. There was very little time wasted by our
people. The gunners on our left flank poured in a heavy fire, the centre
took up the chorus, and the guns on the right repeated it. For miles along
their front the Boers must have been in deadly peril. We seldom saw them.
Now and again a group of roughly clad horsemen would flash into view and
disappear again as if by magic, with shells hurtling in their wake. Our
artillery could not locate their main force with any degree of certainty,
nor could they place us properly. They were not idle; their guns, of which
they had a decent number, sought for our position with dauntless
perseverance. Their shells soon began to drop amongst us, but they did no
harm at all. They fell close enough to our troops in many instances, but
they were so badly made that they would not explode, or if they did they
simply fizzed, and were almost as harmless as seidlitz powders.

The spiteful little pom-poms cracked away and kept us on the alert, until
one grew weary of the everlasting noise of cannon. At mid-day, tired of the
monotony of the game, I turned my horse's head towards camp, and, in
company with three other correspondents, soon sat down to a lunch of
mealies and boiled fowl; but we were destined not to enjoy that meal, for
before the first mouthful had left my plate there came a wailing howl
through the air, then a strange jarring noise, and a shell plunged into the
earth forty yards away from the tent. A few minutes later another visitor
from the same direction crashed on top of one of the transport waggons
within a stone's throw of our tent. That decided me; in a few seconds I had
scrambled up the side of a kopje, with the leg of a fowl in one hand and a
soldier's biscuit in the other. The shells had not burst, but no man could
say when one would, and I had no particular interest in regard to the
inside of any shell myself. I was not the only one who made a hasty exit
from the camp; in ten seconds the side of the kopje was alive with men. The
shells continued to fall right amongst the waggons every few minutes for
over two hours; yet only one man was killed, a negro driver being the
victim, a shell dropping right against his thigh. The range of the Boer gun
was absolutely perfect, but the shells were mere rubbish. Had they been as
good as ours, half our transport would have been in ruins. The British
gunners manoeuvred in all directions in order to locate that particularly
dangerous piece of ordnance. They blazed at it in batteries; they tried to
find it by means of cross-firing; they lined men up on the sky-line of
kopjes to draw the fire; they limbered up and galloped far out on the
veldt, until the enemy's rifle fire drove them in again; but all in vain.
The Boer leader had placed his gun with such skill that the British could
not locate it, and it kept up its devilish jubilee until the night set in.

That day our scouts captured one Free State flag from the enemy; the
Yeomanry and mounted infantry did not succeed in their efforts to turn the
Boers' left flank, but they checked the enemy from advancing in that
direction, which was an important item in the day's work. We did not want
the Boer left to overlap our right; had they done so they could then get
behind us and harass our convoys coming from the direction of Bethany
railway station. We had very little dread of them turning our left flank,
because we knew that General French was moving towards us on that side from
Bloemfontein, with the object of getting the Boers on the inside of two
forces, and so giving them no chance of escape. We had only a few men
wounded, one petty officer of the Scouts killed, and a negro driver killed,
which was simply marvellous when one considers the terrible amount of
ammunition used during the day. That night all the correspondents had to
sleep, or try to sleep, with the transport. It was a wretched night; we
knew the Boers had the range, and we fully expected to get a hot shelling
between darkness and dawn, but, curiously enough, the foe kept their guns
still all the night But the suspense made the night a weary one.

The following day was Sunday, and at a very early hour our scouts informed
us that the Boers had made a wide detour towards Wepener, and had
overlapped our right flank. They slipped up into a kopje, which would have
enabled them to enfilade our position in a most masterly manner; but before
they could get their guns there our artillery was at them, and the kopje
was literally ploughed up with shells. It was too warm a corner for any man
on earth to attempt to hold, and they soon took their departure, falling
back in good order, and leaving no dead or wounded behind them. The
Yeomanry had advanced on the kopje, under the protection of the shell
firing, and when close to the position they fixed bayonets and dashed up
the hill; but when they topped it they found that the Boers had retired. It
was a quick bit of work, neatly and expeditiously done. Had the Boers held
the hill long enough to get their guns in position they would have played
havoc with us, for they could then have swept our whole line. From morning
until night-fall we kept at them with our big guns; whenever a cloud of
dust arose from behind a range of kopjes we dropped shells in the middle of
it; wherever a cluster of Boers showed themselves for a second a shell
sought them out. No matter how well they were placed, they must have had a
lively time of it. During the Sabbath they scarcely used their guns at all,
but they opened on our troops with rifle fire as soon as they made a
forward move at any part of the line, showing clearly that they were
watching as well as praying. The day closed without incident of any
particular character; we had a few wounded, but no deaths, and could form
no idea how the Boers were faring. Now and again during the night one or
another of our guns would bark like sullen watchdogs on the chain, but the
Boer guns were still.

Monday morning broke crisp and clear, and once more the big-gun duel began,
only on this occasion the Boers made great use of a pom-pom gun This
spiteful little demon tossed its diminutive shells into camp with painful
freeness. They knocked three of the Worcesters over early in the day,
killing two and badly damaging the other. As on all other occasions in this
peculiar engagement, the Boer gunnery was simply superb; but their shells
were worthless. Shells grew so common that the "Tommies" scarcely ducked
when they heard the report of a gun they knew was trying to reach them, but
smoked their pipes and made irreverent remarks concerning things made in
Germany. About midday a party of Boers, who had somehow dodged round to our
rear, made a dashing attempt to raid some cattle that were grazing close
under our eyes; but they had to vanish in a hurry, and were particularly
lucky in being able to escape with their lives, for a party of scouts
darted out after them at full gallop on one side, whilst another party of
mounted infantry rode as hard as hoofs could carry them on the other side
of the bold raiders. They unslung their rifles as they dashed across the
veldt, and the Boers soon knew that the fellows behind them were as much at
home as they were themselves at that kind of business.

Late on Monday evening the Boers located a little to the left of our centre
moved forward a bit. Though with infinite caution, and commenced sniping
with the rifle. It was an evidence that they were growing weary of our
tactics, and would greatly have liked us to attempt to rush their position
with the bayonet, so that they could have mowed our fellows down in
hundreds. But this General Rundle wisely declined to do; it was victory,
not glory, he was seeking, and he was wise enough to know that a victory
can be bought at far too high a price in country of this kind against a foe
like the wily Boer. On Sunday night our strength was augmented by the
arrival of three regiments of the Guards, and on Monday night we, knew for
a certainty that General French was close at hand. The Boer was between two
fires, and he would need all his "slimness" to pull him out of trouble.
During a greater part of the night our guns continued to rob sleep of its
sweetness, and the enemy's pom-pom mingled with our dreams. On Tuesday
morning news came to us that Wepener had been relieved by Brabant and Hart,
and that the Boers who had invested that place were drawing off in our
direction, so that our right flank needed strengthening. The Boers
displayed no sign of quitting their position, though they must have known
that Brabant and Hart would be on their track from the south-east, and
General French from the north-west. They held their ground with a grim
stubbornness against overwhelming odds of men and guns, and dropped shells
amongst us in a way that made one feel that no spot could be labelled
"absolutely safe."

At about 7 p.m. we sent a force out south, consisting of about 4,000 men,
under General Boyes. Amongst that force were the West Kents, Staffords,
Worcesters, Manchesters, all infantry. The Imperial Yeomanry and mounted
infantry also accompanied the expedition. But there was little for them to
do except hold the enemy in check, which they did. There were some
phenomenally close shaves during the day. On one occasion the enemy got the
range of one of our guns with their pom-pom, and the way they dropped the
devilish little one-pound shells amongst those gunners was a sight to make
a man's blood run chill. The little iron imps fell between the men, grazed
the wheels, the carriage, and the truck of the gun; but

          He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps.

Nothing short of angel-wings could have kept our fellows safe. The men knew
their deadly peril, knew that the tip of the wand in the Death Angel's hand
was brushing their cheeks. One could see that they knew their peril. The
hard, firm grip of the jaw, the steady light in the hard-set eyes, the
manly pallor on the cheeks, all told of knowledge; yet not once did they
lose their heads. Each fellow stood there as bravely as human flesh and
blood could stand, and faced the iron hail with unblenching courage and
intrepid coolness. Had those khaki-clothed warriors been carved out of
bronze and moved by machinery, they could not have shown less fear or more
perfect discipline. The pom-pom is a gun which I have been told the British
War Office refused as a toy some two years back. I have had the doubtful
pleasure of being under its fire to-day, and all I can say is that I would
gladly have given my place to any gentleman in the War Office who happens
to hold the notion that the pom-pom is a toy.

Somehow the enemy got hold of the position where General Rundle and staff
were located, and all the afternoon they swept the plain in front of the
tents, the hills above, and the hill opposite with shells; but they could
not quite drop one in the little ravine itself. Half an hour before sundown
I had to ride with two other correspondents to headquarters to get a
dispatch away. We got across safely, but had not been there five minutes
before a grandly directed shell sent the General and his staff off the brow
of the hill in double quick time. We delivered our dispatches, and were
getting ready for a gallop over the quarter mile of veldt, when, _pom,
pom, pom, pom_, came a dozen one-pounders a few yards away right across
our track. It made our hearts sit very close to our ribs, but there was
nothing for it but to take our horses by the head, drive the spurs home,
and ride as if we were rounding up wild cattle. I want it to stand on
record that I was not the last man across that strip of veldt. There was
not much incident in the day's fighting; there seldom is in an artillery
duel, carried on by men who know the game, in hilly country. Once during
the afternoon the big gun belonging to the Boers became so troublesome that
half a dozen of ours were trained upon it, and for best part of an hour it
sounded as if a section of Sheol had visited the earth, so deadly was the
fire, so fierce the bursting missiles, that not a rock wallaby, crouching
in its hole, could have lived twenty minutes in the location. We heard no
more from that gun.

As I rode from position to position our fellows greeted me with the cry:
"Any news, sir? Heard if we are going to have a go at 'em with the spoons
(bayonets)?" One midget, a bugler kiddie, so small that an ordinary
maid-of-all-work could comfortably lay him across her knee and spank him,
yawned as he knelt in the grass, and desired to know when "we was goin' ter
'ave some real bloomin' fightin'. 'E was tired of them bloomin' guns, 'e
was; they made his carmine 'ead ache with their blanky noise. 'E didn't
call that fightin'; 'e called it an adjective waste of good hammunition. 'E
liked gettin' up to 'is man, fair 'nd square, 'nd knockin' 'ell out of
'im." He meant it, too, the little beggar, and I could not help laughing at
him when I considered that lots of the old fighting Boers I had seen could
have dropped the midget into their lunch bags, and not have noticed his
weight.

The Yeomanry did a lot of useful work, and are as eager for fight as a bull
ant on a hot plate. They are as good as any men I have seen in Africa, full
of ginger, good horsemen, wear-and-tear, cut-and-come-again sort of men.
They adapt themselves to circumstances readily, are jolly and good-humoured
under trying circumstances. Their officers are, as a rule, first-class
soldiers, equal to any emergency. On Tuesday the Boers kept their guns
going at a great rate, and we really thought that they had made up their
minds to see the thing right out at all costs. Personally I did not for a
moment think that they were ignorant of General French's rapid advance. I
do not believe it possible for any large body of hostile troops to move in
South Africa without the Boers being thoroughly cognisant of every detail
connected with the move, partly because they are the most perfect scouts in
the world, and partly because the scattered population on every hand is
positively favourable to them. Our artillery dropped a storm of shells
during the day, and that night it was whispered in camp that there was to
be a general attack next morning. On Tuesday evening General French
advanced right on to the Boer rear, and some smart fighting took place, the
enemy suffering considerably, though our losses were small.

At dawn on Wednesday we moved forward rapidly, and in a few hours' time our
infantry were standing in the trenches and upon the hills that the Boers
had occupied the day before. Our mounted men rode at a gallop through the
gullies, but nothing was to be seen of the foe except a few newly dug
graves. The Boers had vanished like a dream, taking all their guns with
them. Louis Botha, the commander-in-chief, had come in person to them, and
the retreat was carried out under his eyes. We followed to Dewetsdorp, and
from there on to Thaba Nchu (pronounced Tabancha).

On Friday night the enemy exchanged a few shots with us from the heights
beyond, but no harm was done on either side. The Third Division, to which I
had attached myself, under General Chermside, has been ordered towards
Bloemfontein. French is in command, and, judging by his past performances,
I fully expect we shall have some busy times, though French may go away and
leave the Eighth Division under General Rundle.



                     WITH RUNDLE IN THE FREE STATE.

                                                         ORANGE FREE STATE.


Since the Boers bolted from Constantia Farm we have done but little beyond
following them from spot to spot through the Free State, in the conquered
territory along the Basuto border. At Constantia Farm they gave us a
gunnery duel, which, though incessant and continuous, did little real
damage to either side. After that, when General French joined issue with
us, the Boers shifted their ground with consummate skill. We moved on to
Dewetsdorp, and there the Third Division, under Chermside, parted company
with us. We moved onward to Thaba Nchu, Brabant keeping well away towards
the Basuto border with his flying column. At Thaba Nchu it looked day by
day as if we were in for something hot and hard, the Boers having, as
usual, taken up a position of vast natural strength. But Hamilton was the
only one to get to close quarters with the veldt warriors, when executing a
flanking movement. I have since learned that the enemy suffered very
severely on that occasion.

They can give some of the British journalists a wholesome lesson in regard
to manliness of spirit, these same rough fellows, bred in the African
wilds. Speaking to me of the charge the Gordons made, when led by Captain
Towse, they were unstinted in their praises. "It was grand, it was
terrible," they said, "to see that little handful of men rush on fearless
of death, fearless of everything." It was bravery of the highest kind, and
they admired it, as only brave men do admire courage in a foeman. The
people of Britain who read extracts taken from Boer newspapers, extracts
which ridicule British pluck and all things British, must not blame the
Boers for those statements. In nearly every case the papers published
inside Burgher territory are edited by renegade Britons, and it is these
renegades, not the fighting Boers, who defame our nation, and take every
possible opportunity of hitting below the belt.

When we left Thaba Nchu, General French left us, as did also Hamilton and
Smith-Dorien. Brabant hugged the Basuto border, and swept the land clean of
everything hostile. General Rundle (the flower of courtesy and chivalry)
kept the centre; General Boyes looked after our left wing; General Campbell
picked up the intermediate spaces as occasion demanded; and so we moved on,
trying, but trying in vain, to draw a cordon round the ever-shifting foe.
There was no chance for a dashing forward move; the country through which
we passed was lined by kopjes, which were simply appalling in their native
strength. What prompted the Boer leaders to fall back from them, step by
step, will for ever remain a mystery to me. It was not want of provisions,
for we knew that they had huge supplies of beef and mutton, whilst there
were in their possession almost inexhaustible stores of grain. It was not
want of fodder for their horses, for the valleys and veldt were covered
with beautiful grass, almost knee-deep. Water was plentiful in all
directions, and they apparently possessed plenty of ammunition. Prisoners
assert that Commandant Olivier was absolutely furious when compelled to
fall back, by order of his superiors. It is also asserted that he is now in
dire disgrace on account of his refusal to obey promptly some of his
superior's commands. It is further stated that he is to be deposed from his
command, and will cease to be a factor of any importance in the war. It is
hard to fathom Boer tactics. It does not follow because a line of kopjes
are abandoned to-day that the burghers have retreated; they fall back
before scouting parties; their pickets watch our scouts return to camp,
knowing that they will convey the news to headquarters that the kopjes are
empty of armed men. Then, with almost incredible swiftness, the light-armed
Boers swarm back by passes known only to themselves, and secretly and
silently take up positions where they can butcher an advancing army. If
General Rundle had been a rash, impetuous, or a headstrong man, he could
comfortably have lost his whole force on half a dozen occasions; but he is
not. He is essentially a cautious leader, and pits his brain against that
of the Boer leaders as a good chess player pits his against an opponent. He
may believe in the luck of the British Army, but he trusts mighty little to
it. Better lose a couple of days than a couple of regiments is his motto,
and a wise motto it is. Had he flung his men haphazard at any of the
positions where the Boers have made a stand, he would have been cut to
pieces.

Rundle plays a wise game. When the enemy looks like sitting tight, Rundle
at once commences a series of manoeuvres directed from his centre. This
keeps the enemy busy, and gives them a lot of solid thinking to do, and
whilst they are thinking he moves his flanks forward, overlapping them in
the hope of surrounding them. The Boer hates to have his rear threatened,
and invariably falls away. His method of falling back is unique. As soon as
he smells danger, all the live stock is sent off and all the waggons. Cape
carts are kept handy for baggage that cannot be sent with the heavy convoy.
Most of the big guns go with the first flight; one or two, which can easily
be shifted, are kept to hold back our advance, and the deadly little
pom-poms are dodged about from kopje to kopje. The pom-pom is not much to
look at, but it is a weapon to be reckoned with in mountain warfare. It
throws only a one-pound shell, and throws it from the most impossible
places imaginable. The beauty of the pom-pom is that it drops its work in
from spots from which no sane man ever expects a shell to come.

When the Boer finds that his position is untenable on account of a flanking
move, the horses are hitched up to the light Cape carts, the loading is
packed, and off they fly at a gallop, and the guns follow suit; whilst the
rifles hold the heights. That is why we so seldom get hold of anything
worth having when we do take a position. Our losses have been paltry,
because the Boer is a defensive, not an offensive, fighter. He waits to be
attacked, he does not often attack; and our general is a man who does not
throw men's lives away. He believes in brains before bayonets, and England
may be thankful for the possession of General Rundle. Had he been a madcap
general, there would have been a few thousand more widows in the old
country to-day than there are. At the same time, he is a man of immense
personality. Should he ever get a chance to engage the enemy in a pitched
battle, he will prove to the world that he is capable of great things.
There will be no half-hearted work in such an hour. If he has to sacrifice
men on the altar of war, he will surely sacrifice them, but not until he is
compelled to do so. Brabant is a wild daredevil, who rushes on like a
mountain torrent Boyes is brainy; careful, and yet dashing.

I want to state here that I have never lost a single opportunity, whilst
travelling through the enemy's country, of looking at the "home" life of
the people--and I may say that I have been in a few back-country homes in
America, in Australia, and in other parts of the world--and I want to place
it on record that in my opinion the Boer farmer is as clean in his home
life, as loving in his domestic arrangements, as pure in his morals, as any
class of people I have ever met. Filth may abound, but I have seen nothing
of it. Immorality may be the common everyday occurrence I have seen it
depicted in some British journals, but I have failed to find trace of it.
Ignorance as black as the inside of a dog may be the prevailing state of
affairs; if so, I have been one of the lucky few who have found just the
reverse in whichsoever direction I have turned. After six months', or
nearly six months', close and careful observation of their habits, I have
arrived at the conclusion that the Boer farmer, and his son and daughter,
will compare very favourably with the farming folk of Australia, America,
and Great Britain. What he may be in the Transvaal I know not, because I
have not yet been there; but in Cape Colony and in the Free State he is
much as I have depicted him, no better, no worse, than Americans and
Australians, and as good a fighting man as either--which is tantamount to
saying that he is as good as anything on God's green earth, if he only had
military training.

Ask "Tommy" privately, when he comes home, if this is not so--not "Thomas,"
who has been on lines of communication all the time--but "Tommy," who has
fought him, and measured heart and hand with him. I think he will tell you
much as I have told you. For "Tommy" is no fool; he is not half such a
braggart, either, as some of the Jingoes, who shout and yell, but never
take a hand in the real fighting; those wastrels of England, who are at
home with a pewter of beer in their hands--hands that never did, and never
will, grip a rifle.

Whilst at Trummel I took advantage of a couple of days' camping to go out
three miles from camp to have a look at a diamond mine. I found a
red-whiskered Dutchman in charge, who knew less English than I knew Dutch,
and as my Dutch consists of about twelve words we did not do much in the
conversational line; but I made him understand by pantomimic telegraphy
that I wanted to have a look round, to size up things. He took me to a
"dump," where the ore at grass was stored, and converted himself into a
human stone-cracking machine for my benefit, until I had seen all that I
wanted to see in regard to the "ore at grass." He was very much like mine
managers the world over--very ready to play tricks on anyone he considered
"green" at the business. It was not his fault that he did not know that I
had been a reporter on gold, silver, copper, lead, tin, and coal mines for
about twenty years.

Thinking, doubtless, that I was like unto the ordinary city fellow who
comes at rare intervals to look at a mine, he made me a present of a piece
of rock with some worthless garnets in it, also a sample of country rock
pregnant with mundic; the garnets and the mundic glittered in the sunshine.
I rose to the bait, as I was expected to do, and intimated that I would
like a lot of it. This delighted the Dutchman, and he beamed all over his
expansive face, all the time cursing me for the second son of an idiot, as
is the way with mine managers. But he stopped grinning before the afternoon
wore out, for I set him climbing and clambering for little pieces of mundic
and tiny patches of garnets in all the toughest places I could find in that
mine, and went into ecstasies over each individual piece, until I had quite
a load of the rubbish. Then I intimated gently that I would be back that
way when the war was over, and would surely send my Cape cart for them if
he would be good enough to mind them for me. I fancy an inkling of the
truth dawned in that Dutchman's soul at last, for he made no further
reference to either garnets or mundic. I satisfied myself with a sample of
the matrix in which diamonds are found, and also with a specimen of the
country rock for geological reference, but the garnets are on the heap
still.

The mine, which is named the "Monastery," is very crudely worked;
everything connected with it is primitive. A huge quarry, about 600 feet in
circumference, and about 40 feet deep, had been opened up. There was
nothing in it in the shape of lode or reef, but a large number of
disconnected "stringers," or leaders of rocky matter, in which diamonds are
often found. At the bottom of the quarry the water lay fully eight feet
deep, owing to the fact that the mine had lain unworked during the war. A
vertical shaft had been sunk a little distance from the quarry to a depth
of 150 feet, but there was a hundred feet of water in it, so that I am
unable to say anything concerning the Monastery diamond mine at its lower
levels. One or two tunnels had been drawn from the quarry into the
adjoining country on small leaders, and from what I could gather from my
guide diamonds had been discovered. Whilst I went below, I left my Kaffir
boy on top to pick up what he could in the shape of rumour or gossip from
the natives, and he informed me that the niggers had been the cause of the
opening of the mine, they having found diamonds near the surface in some of
the leaders, which consisted of a rock known in Australian mining circles
as illegitimate granite. The white folk, fearing that the poor heathen
might become debauched if they possessed too much wealth, had gathered
those diamonds in--when they could--and later had started mining for the
precious gems, with what success the heathen did not know. I tried the
Dutchman on the same point, but I might as well have interviewed an oyster
in regard to the science of gastronomy. He dodged around my question like a
fox terrier round a fence, until I gave him up in despair. But, for all
that, I rather fancy they have found diamonds round that way, only they
don't want the British to know anything about it.



                             RED WAR WITH RUNDLE.

                                                              NEAR SENEKAL.


In our rear lies the little village of Senekal, a shy little place,
seemingly too modest to lift itself out of the miniature basin caused by
the circumambient hills. Khaki-clad figures, gaunt, hungry, and dirty,
patrol the streets; the few stores are almost denuded of things saleable,
for friend and foe have swept through the place again and again, and both
Boer and Briton have paid the shops a visit. At the hotel I managed to get
a dinner of bread and dripping, washed down with a cup of coffee, guiltless
of both milk and sugar. But, if the bill of fare was meagre, the bill of
costs made up for it in its wealth of luxuriousness. If I rose from the
table almost as hollow as when I sat down, I only had to look at the
landlord's charges to fancy I had dined like one of the blood royal.
Opposite the hotel stands the church, a dainty piece of architecture, fit
for a more pretentious town than Senekal. It is fashioned out of white
stone, and stands in its own grounds, looking calm and peaceful amidst all
the bustle and blaze of war. Someone has turned all the seats out of the
sacred edifice, preparatory to converting it into a hospital. The seats are
not destroyed; they are not damaged; they are stacked away under a
neighbouring verandah.

I do not think it wrong so to utilise a church. It is the only place fit to
put the wounded men in in all the town. The great Nazarene in whose name
the church was erected would not have allowed the sick to wither by the
wayside in the days when the Judean hills rang to the echo of His magnetic
voice, nor do I think it wrongful to His memory to convert His shrine into
an abiding place for the sick and suffering.

Far away on our left flank the enemy hold the heights, and watch us moving
outward, whilst between them and us, stretching mile after mile in a line
with our column, ripples a line of scarlet flame, for the foe has fired the
veldt to starve the transit mules, horses, and oxen. Like a sword
unsheathed in the sunlight, the flames sparkle amidst the grass, which
grows knee-deep right to the kopje's very lips. Birds rise on the wing with
harsh, resonant cries, flutter awhile above their ravished homes, then
wheel in mid-air and seek more peaceful pastures. Hares spring up before
the crackling flames quite reach their forms, and, like grey streaks in a
sailor's beard on a stormy day, flash suddenly into view, and as suddenly
disappear again. Here and there a graceful springbok dashes through the
smoke, with head thrown back and graceful limbs extended, his glossy,
mottled hide looking doubly beautiful backed by that red streak of fire.
The wind catches the quivering crimson streak, and for awhile the flames
race, as I have seen wild horses, neck to neck, rush through the saltbush
plains at the sound of the stockman's whip. Then, as the wind drops, the
flames curl caressingly around the wealth of growing fodder, biting the
grass low down, and wrapping it in a mantle of black and red, as flame and
smoke commingle.

Here and there a pool of water, hidden from view until the fire fiend
stripped the veldt land bare, leaps to life like a silver shield in the
grim setting of the bare and blackened plain. Small mobs of cattle stand
stupidly snuffing the smoke-laden air, until the breath of the blaze
awakens them to a sense of peril; then, with horns lowered like bayonets at
the charge, with tails stiff and straight behind them as levelled lances,
they leap onward, over or through everything in front of them, bellowing
frantically their brute beast protest against the red ruin of war. The
flames roll on; they reach the stone walls of a cattle pen, and leap it as
a hunter takes a brush fence in his stride; onward still, until a Kaffir
kraal is reached. The soft-lipped billows kiss the uncouth mud wall, and
for a moment transfigure them with a nameless beauty, the beauty that
precedes ruin. Only a moment or two, and then the resistless destroyer
flaunts its pennons amidst the reed-thatched roofs; the sparks leap up, the
black smoke curls towards the sky, whilst on the neighbouring hills the
negro women, with their babes in their arms, wail woefully, for those rude
huts, with all their barbarous trappings, meant home--aye, home and
happiness--to them. The flames roll onward now in two long lines, for the
Kaffir encampment had sundered them, and now they look, with their
beautifully rounded curves sweeping so gracefully out into the unknown,
like the rich, ripe lips of a wanton woman in the pride of her shameless
beauty. All that they leave behind is desolation, darkness, despair, ruin
unutterable, only blackened walls, simmering carcases, weeping women, and
wailing children.

Away on our right flank we can just make out the skeletons of what a few
hours before had been a cluster of smiling farmhouses. They do not smile
now; they grin horribly in the sunlight, grin as the fleshless skulls of
dead men grin on a battlefield after those sextons of the veldt the
grey-hooded, curved-beaked vultures have screamed their final farewell to
the charnel-houses of war--noble war, splendid war, pastime of potentates
and princes, invented in hell and patented in all the temples of sorrow.

As we look on those grim relics of this dreary time we catch the maddening
sound of distant guns. The chargers prick their ears, and quiver from
muzzle to coronet. The khaki-clad figures on the plain throw up their heads
and turn their eyes towards the sound; the tired shoulders square
themselves, each foot seems to tread the blackened plain with firmer,
prouder tread. The sound of guns is like the rush of wine through sluggish
veins, and men forget that they are faint with hunger, weary to the verge
of wretchedness with ceaseless marching. The sound of guns bespeaks the
presence of the foe, and those gaunt soldiers of the Queen are galvanised
to life and lust of battle by the very breath of war. A ripple runs along
the line, the farthest flanks catch the gleam of the sun on distant rifle
barrels. An order rings out sharp and crisp; the column stands as if each
man and horse were carved in rock.

The infantry lean lightly on their guns, the cavalry crane forward in their
saddles. We pause and wait until we see the green badge of O'Driscoll's
scouts on the hats of the advancing riders. O'Driscoll rides towards the
staff with loosened rein, and every spur in all his gallant little troop
shows how the scouts had ridden. We strain our ears to catch the news the
Irish scout has brought. It comes at last Clements has met the foe, and
death is busy in those distant hills.

Rundle sits silently, hard pressed in his saddle--a gallant figure, with
soldier and leader written all over him. We wait his verdict anxiously, for
on his word our fate may hinge. We have not long to wait--Clements can hold
his own; Brabant will outflank the Boers. Forward, march! The men droop as
wheat fields droop in the sultry air of a seething day. They are tired,
deadly tired; not too tired to fight, but weary of the endless marching
from point to point to keep the enemy from breaking through their lines and
striking southward.

Away in front of us we note the snow-crowned hills which girdle Basutoland,
snow crowned and sun kissed; every hilltop sparkling like a giant gem, and
over all a pale blue sky, curtained by flimsy clouds of gauzy whiteness,
through which the sun laughs rosily, the handiwork of the Eternal. And
underfoot only the deep dead blackness of the blistered veldt, ravished of
its wondrous wealth of living green, the rude, rough footprint of the god
of war--sweet war; kind, Christian war!

Now, overhead, betwixt the smoking earth and smiling sky, flocks of
vultures come and go, fluttering their great pinions noiselessly. To them
the sound of guns is merriest music; it is their summons to the banquet
board. Foul things they look as the float over us, silent as souls that
have slipped from some ash heap in Hades, grey with the greyness that grows
on the wolf's hide; their feathers hang upon them in ridges, unkempt,
unlovely, soiled with blood and offal. They float above our heads, they
wheel upon our flanks.

A horse drops wearily upon its knees, looks round dumbly on the wilderness
of blackness, then turns its piteous eyes upward towards the skies that
seem so full of laughing loveliness; then, with a sob which is almost human
in the intensity of its pathos, the tired head falls downwards, the limbs
contract with spasmodic pain, then stiffen into rigidity; and one wonders,
if the Eternal mocked that silent appeal from those great sad eyes, eyes
that had neither part nor lot in the sin and sorrow of war, how shall a man
dare look upwards for help when the bitterness of death draws nigh unto
him? The grey lines above, on flank, and front, and rear, were with greedy
speed converging to one point, until they flock in a horrid, struggling,
fighting, revolting mass of beaks and feathers above the fallen steed, as
devils flock around the deathbed of a defaulting deacon. A soldier on the
outer edge of the extended line swings his rifle with swift, backhanded
motion over his shoulder, and brings the butt amidst the crowd of carrion.
The vultures hop with grotesque, ungainly motions from their prey, and
stand with wings extended and clawed feet apart, their necks outstretched
and curved heads dripping slime and blood, a fitting setting amidst the
black ruin of war. The charger now looks upward from eyeless sockets; his
gutted carcass, flattened into a shapeless streak, shrinks towards the
earth, as if asking to be veiled from the laughter of the skies. But there
is neither pity from above nor shelter from below as the red wave of war,
like the curse of the white Christ, sweeps over the land. God grant that
merry England may never witness, on her own green meadow lands, these
sights and sounds which meet the eye and ear on African soil.

Oh, England, England, if I had a voice whose clarion tones could reach your
ears and stir your hearts in every city and town, village and hamlet,
wayside cot and stately castle, in all your sea-encircled isle, I would cry
to you to guard your coasts! Better, it seems to me, writing here, with all
the evidences of war beneath my eyes, that every man born of woman's love
on British soil should die between the decks, or find a grave in foundering
ships of war, than that the foot of a foreign foe should touch the
Motherland. Better that your ships be shambles, where men could die like
men, sending Nelson's royal message all along the armoured line; better
that our best and bravest found a grave where grey waves curl towards our
coastline, than that our womanhood should look with woe-encircled eyes into
the wolfish mouth of war. Better that our strong men perished, with the
brine and ocean breezes playing freshly on the gaping wounds through which
their souls passed outward, than that our little maids and tiny, tender
babes should face the unutterable shame, the anguish, and the suffering of
a war within our borders.

Do not laugh the very thought to scorn and brand the thing impossible, for
fools have laughed before to-day whilst kingdoms tottered to their fall You
who stay at home miss much that others know--and, knowing, dread. If
England at this hour could only realise what manner of men control her
destinies, then all the lion in the breed would spring to life again. I do
not know if lack-brains of a similar strain control the supplies for
England's Navy; but if, in time of war, it proves to be the case, then God
help us, God help the old flag and the stout hearts who fight for it.

Lend me your ears, and let me tell you how our army in Africa is treated by
the incompetent people in the good city of London. I pledge my word, as a
man and a journalist, that every written word is true. I will add nothing,
nor detract from, nor set down aught in malice. If my statements are proven
false, then let me be scourged with the tongue and pen of scorn from every
decent Briton's home and hearth for ever after, for he who lies about his
country at such an hour as this is of all traitors the vilest. I will deal
now particularly with the men who are acting under the command of
Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Rundle. This good soldier and courteous
gentleman has to hold a frontage line from Winburg, _viâ_ Senekal,
almost to the borders of Basutoland. His whole front, extending nearly a
hundred miles, is constantly threatened by an active, dashing, determined
enemy, an enemy who knows the country far better than an English
fox-hunting squire knows the ground he hunts over season after season. To
hold this vast line intact General Rundle has to march from point to point
as his scouts warn him of the movements of the tireless foe. He has
stationed portions of his forces at given points along this line, and his
personal work is to march rapidly with small bodies of infantry, yeomanry,
scouts, and artillery towards places immediately threatened. He has to keep
the Boers from penetrating that long and flexible line, for if once they
forced a passage in large numbers they would sweep like a torrent
southwards, envelop his rear, cut the railway and telegraph to pieces, stop
all convoys, paralyse the movements of all troops up beyond Kroonstad, and
once more raise the whole of the Free State, and very possibly a great
portion of the Cape Colony as well.

General Rundle's task is a colossal one, and any sane man would think that
gigantic efforts would be made to keep him amply supplied with food for his
soldiers. But such is not the case. The men are absolutely starving. Many
of the infantrymen are so weak that they can barely stagger along under the
weight of their soldierly equipment. They are worn to shadows, and move
with weary, listless footsteps on the march. People high up in authority
may deny this, but he who denies it sullies the truth. This is what the
soldiers get to eat, what they have been getting to eat for a long time
past, and what they are likely to get for a long time to come, unless
England rouses herself, and bites to the bone in regard to the people who
are responsible for it.

One pound of raw flour, which the soldiers have to cook after a hard day's
march, is served out to each man every alternate day. The following day he
gets one pound of biscuits. In this country there is no fuel excepting a
little ox-dung, dried by the sun. If a soldier is lucky enough to pick up a
little, he can go to the nearest water, of which there is plenty, mix his
cake without yeast or baking-powder, and make some sort of a wretched
mouthful. He gets one pound of raw fresh meat daily, which nine times out
of ten he cannot cook, and there his supplies end.

What has become of the rations of rum, of sugar, of tea, of cocoa, of
groceries generally? Ask at the snug little railway sidings where the goods
are stacked--and forgotten. Ask in the big stores in Capetown and other
seaport towns. Ask in your own country, where countless thousands of
pounds' worth of foodstuffs lie rotting in the warehouses, bound up and
tied down with red tape bandages. Ask--yes, ask; but don't stop at
asking--damn somebody high up in power. Don't let some wretched underling
be made the scapegoat of this criminal state of affairs, for the taint of
this shameful thing rests upon you, upon every Briton whose homes,
privileges, and prosperity are being safeguarded by these famishing men.
The folk in authority will probably tell you that General Rundle and his
splendid fellows are so isolated that food cannot be obtained for them. I
say that is false, for recently I, in company with another correspondent,
left General Rundle's camp without an escort. We made our way in the
saddle, taking our two Cape carts with us, to Winburg railway station;
leaving our horseflesh there, we took train for East London. Then back to
the junction, and trained it down to Capetown, where we remained for
forty-eight hours, and then made our way back to Winburg, and from Winburg
we came without escort to rejoin General Rundle at Hammonia. If two
innocent, incompetent (?) war correspondents could traverse that country
and get through with winter supplies for themselves, why cannot the
transport people manage to do the same? These transport people affect to
look with contempt upon a war correspondent and his opinions on things
military; but if we could not manage transport business better than they
do, most of us would willingly stand up and allow ourselves to be shot. We
are no burden upon the Army; we carry for ourselves, we buy for ourselves,
and we look for news for ourselves; and we take our fair share of risks in
the doing of our duty, as the long list of dead and disabled journalists
will amply prove.

It is not, in my estimation, the whole duty of a war correspondent to go
around the earth making friends for himself, or looking after his personal
comfort, or booming himself for a seat in Parliament on a cheap patriotic
ticket. It is rather his duty to give praise where praise is due, censure
where censure has been earned, regardless of consequences to himself. Such
was the motto of England's two greatest correspondents--Forbes and
Steevens--both of whom have passed into the shadowland, and I would to God
that either of them were here to-day, for England knew them well, and they
would have roused your indignation as I, an unknown man, dare not hope to
do. But though what I have written does not bear the magical name of
Steevens or of Forbes, it bears the hallmark of the eternal truth. Our men
on the fields of war are famishing whilst millions worth of food lies
rotting on our wharves and in our cities, food that ought with ordinary
management to be within easy reach of our fighting generals. Britain asks
of Rundle the fulfilment of a task that would tax the energies and
abilities of the first general in Europe; and with a stout heart he faces
the work in front of him, faces it with men whose knees knock under them
when they march, with hands that shake when they shoulder their
rifles--shake, but not with fear; tremble, but not from wounds, but from
weakness, from poverty of blood and muscle, brought about by continual
hunger. Are those men fit to storm a kopje? Are they fit to tramp the whole
night through to make a forced march to turn a position, and then fight as
their fathers fought next day?

I tell you no. And yours be the shame if the Empire's flag be lowered--not
theirs, but yours; for you--what do you do? You stand in your music-halls
and shout the chorus of songs full of pride for your soldier, full of
praise for his patience, his pluck, and his devotion to duty; and you let
him go hungry, so hungry that I have often seen him quarrel with a nigger
for a handful of raw mealies on the march. It is so cheap to sing,
especially when your bellies are full of good eating; it costs nothing to
open your mouths and bawl praises. It is pleasant to swagger and brag of
"your fellows at the front;" but why don't you see that they are fed, if
you want them to fight? Give "Tommy" a lot less music and flapdoodle, and a
lot more food of good quality, and he'll think a heap more of you. It is
nice of you to stay in Britain and drink "Tommy's" health, but there would
be far more sense in the whole outfit if you would allow him to "eat his
own" out here.



                       THE FREE STATERS' LAST STAND.

                                                                SLAP KRANZ.


At last the blow has fallen which has shattered the Boer cause in the Free
State. There will be skirmishes with scattered bands in the mountain gorges
beyond Harrismith, but the backbone of the Republic has been broken beyond
redemption. Sunday, the 30th of July, was big with fate, though we who sat
almost within the shadow of the snow enshrouded hills of savage Basutoland
at the dawning of that day knew it not. It was a joyful day for us, though
pregnant with sorrow for the veldtsmen who had fought so long and well for
their doomed cause, for on that day our generals reaped the harvest which
they had sown with infinite patience and undaunted courage. General Hunter,
to whom the chief command had just been given, was there, surrounded by his
staff, a soldierly figure worthy of a nation's trust; Clements, keen faced,
sharp voiced, with alertness written in each lineament; Paget, whose fiery
spirit spoke from his mobile face, his blood, hot as an Afghan sun,
flashing the workings of his mind into his face as sunlight flashes from
steel; and Rundle, hawk-eyed and stern, no friend to Pressmen, but a
soldier every inch, one of those men whose hands build empires. Had he been
stripped of modern gear that day, and placed in Roman trappings, one would
have looked behind him to see if Cæsar meant to grace the show; but Cæsar
was not there.

One of the greatest soldiers since the world began was missing from our
ranks, the hero Roberts, whose great intellect had planned the _coup_
which his generals had carried to maturity. Yet, though Lord Roberts
planned each general move, an immense amount of actual work was left to the
generals. The country they had to pass through was rugged and inhospitable.
The foe they had to fight was brave, resourceful, and well supplied with
all munitions of war; a single mistake on the part of any one of them would
have wrecked the magnificent plan of the Commander-in-Chief. But no
mistakes were made; each general worked as if his soul's salvation depended
upon his individual efforts. Where all are good, as a rule it is hard to
make a distinction; but in this instance one man stands out above his
fellows, and that man is General Sir Leslie Rundle, the commander of the
Eighth Division. His task from the first was herculean. He had to hold a
line fully one hundred miles in length; day after day, week after week, the
enemy tried to break that line and pour their forces into the territory we
had conquered. Had they succeeded, they would have shaken the whole of
South Africa to its very centre. This task kept Sir Leslie Rundle busy
night and day. Wherever he camped, spies dogged his footsteps; black men
and white men constantly upon his track. His every move was rapidly
reported to our ever-watchful enemies. But, quick as the enemy undoubtedly
were in all their movements, General Rundle nullified their efforts by his
rapidity. So terribly hard did he work his men that they nicknamed him
"Rundle, the Tramp." How the men stood it I cannot understand. I know of no
other men in all the world who would have gone on as they did, obeying
orders without a murmur or a whimper. They were savage at times over the
food they got, and small blame to them, but they never blamed their
general. They knew that he gave them plenty of the class of food that he
could lay hands upon. Had the general's supplies been in this part of the
country, instead of being tied up in red-tape packages on the railway line,
General Rundle would have kept his Division fully supplied. The only food
which he could command, beef and mutton, he gave without stint. Had the War
Office authorities attended to their end of the work with the same
commendable zeal, half the hardships of the campaign would have been
averted.

If ever war was reduced to an absolute science, it was upon this occasion.
On the one hand, some six thousand Boers on the defensive, armed with the
handiest quick-firing rifle known to modern times, with from eight to ten
guns, well supplied with food and ammunition, and backed by some of the
most awful country the eye of man ever rested upon--a country which they
knew as a child knows its mother's face. On the other hand, an attacking
force of 30,000 men and guns. To read the number of the opposing forces one
would think the Boer task the effort of madmen, bent upon national
extinction; but one glance at the country would upset those calculations
entirely. Every kopje was a natural fortress, every sluit a perfect line of
trenches, and every donga a nursery for death.

To attempt to go into every move made by our troops during the months of
May, June, and the early parts of July would only prove wearisome to the
average reader; suffice it to say that finally we got the burgher forces
into the Caledon Valley. This valley is about twenty-eight miles in length,
and from fourteen to fifteen miles across its widest part. Properly
speaking, it was not a valley at all, but a series of valleys interspersed
by great kopjes, nearly all of which presented an almost impregnable
appearance. The valley had a number of outlets, which the Boers fondly
believed our people to be unacquainted with. These outlets were known as
"neks," and were, without exception, terribly rough places for a hostile
force to attack. Commando Nek was upon the south-east, facing towards
Basutoland. This was merely a narrow pass, running up over a jagged kopje,
with two greater kopjes on each side of it. The hills all round it were so
placed that a number of good marksmen, hidden in the rocks, could easily
sweep off thousands of an enemy who attempted to take it by storm. But that
pass had to be taken before we could claim to hold the Free State in the
hollow of our hand. Slabbert's Nek was merely a huge gash in the face of a
cliff. It was the Boers' causeway towards the north, their highway to
safety. Retief's Nek lay to the westward, and formed a grinning death trap
for any general who might try the foolish hazard of a single-handed attack
Naauwpoort Nek, ugly and uninviting, faced south-east towards Harrismith.
Golden Gate, named by a satirist--or a satyr--was merely a narrow chasm
worn by wind and weather through the girdle of mountains. It looked towards
the east, and was a mere pathway, which none but desperate soldiers, driven
to their last extremity, would think of using.

The Boers never dreamed that it was possible for our troops to move with
such machine-like precision as to hold every nek at our mercy. But whilst
Rundle held the ground to the south, and kept the Boers for ever on the
move by his restless activity, Clements and Paget moved on Slabbert's Nek,
Hunter swept down on Retief's Nek, Naauwpoort Nek was invested by Hector
Macdonald, Bruce Hamilton closed in upon Golden Gate, and the great net was
almost perfect in its meshes. The enemy did not realise their danger until
it was too late for the great bulk of their force to escape. Commandant De
Wet saw the impending peril at the eleventh hour, and tried hard to get his
countrymen to follow him in a dash through Slabbert's Nek; but very few of
the burghers would believe that the sword of fate was hanging by so slim a
thread over their heads. In vain this able soldier of the Republic
harangued them. Vain all his threats and protestations. They could not and
would not believe him. Sullenly they sat in their strongholds and watched
Rundle--they could see him, and that danger which was present to their eyes
was the only danger they would believe in; and day by day, hour by hour,
the cordon of Britain's might drew closer and closer, until every link in
the vast chain was practically flawless. Then Commandant De Wet gathered
around him about 1,800 of his most devoted followers, and with Ex-President
Steyn in their ranks they passed like ghosts of a fallen people through
Slabbert's Nek on towards the Transvaal. How they managed to elude the
incoming khaki wave some other pen must tell. It was a splendid piece of
work on the Republican Commandant's part, and history will not begrudge him
the full measure of praise due to him. Had General Prinsloo and his
burghers been guided by him, these pages had never been written, for where
De Wet took his 1,800 burghers he could as easily have taken 6,000.

Scarcely had De Wet made his escape ere the truth was borne in upon the
burghers with an iron hand that their doom was sealed. General Rundle's
force, which all along had been essentially a blocking force, and not a
striking force, made a move on the 23rd of July. All day the cannons spoke
to the burghers from Willow Grange, all day long the rifles rippled their
leaden waves of death. We could see but little of the enemy; they lay
concealed behind the loose rocks, and our men had little else to do but
lift their rifles and pull the trigger, trusting to the powers that rule
the destinies of war to speed the bullets to some foeman's resting place.
But we knew they were there if we could not see them, for the snap and
snarl of the Mauser rifles came readily to our ears, and the booming of
their guns answered ours, as hound answers hound when the scent grows
hottest. We pounded them with shrapnel and pelted them with common shell
until the air around them rained iron. Our guns were six to one, yet those
brave veldtsmen held their own with a stubborn courage worthy of the
noblest traditions in all the red pages of war. They gave us a parting shot
at sundown, and at night, when the thick mists from the snow-draped
mountains behind us came down upon the land and added to the darkness of
the winter's night, they moved their gun and fell back with it to a place
where they could renew the battle on the morrow. And at the dawning they
testified their vitality by dropping a couple of shells right into the
midst of the Imperial Yeomanry camp.

Whilst we were busy at Julies Kraal, drawing the Boers' attention from
other points, feinting as if we intended to push right on into Commando
Nek, General Sir Archibald Hunter made a dash at Relief's Nek with his
force, and our cannon were busy at almost every point around the valley
where the Boers were stationed. General Prinsloo, who was in supreme
command of the enemy's forces, had no means of knowing where the British
really meant to strike. In vain he pushed men to anticipate Rundle's
threatened move, vainly he turned like a trapped tiger towards Hunter's
marching men. Turn where he would, the khaki wave met him, rolling
resistlessly inward and onward. Hunter broke through with small loss, for
the force which should have checked him at Retief's Nek was waiting at
Commando Nek for Rundle and the Eighth Division. It was a master stroke,
for when once Hunter was upon the inside of the valley he was in a position
to threaten the rear of the Boer forces at Commando Nek, and that was a
state of affairs which the enemy could not stand upon any terms. A number
of them, under clever Commandant Olivier, slipped away through Golden Gate.
They did not face the more open country even inside the big valley, but
made their way through a piece of ground known as Witzies Hoek, and thence
through a ravine which almost beggars description. Later on I went with
Driscoll's Scouts in search of the tracks of these men, and followed along
the same road they had taken. The ravine was a long, narrow gap between
mountain ranges of immense height. The sides of the mountains were covered
with loose boulders, sufficient to protect the whole Boer army from our
artillery fire. The only track which a horseman could possibly follow wound
in and out alongside the face of the cliffs, so narrow that even the horses
bred in the country found it difficult to keep their feet upon it, and
could only proceed, at funeral pace, in single file. A handful of men could
have held that place against an army. With De Wet and Olivier gone, half
our task was over. The Boers made a blind rush, first to one nek, then to
the next, only to find that Britain's sons guarded them all. Small bodies
of men might escape, but the vast supplies of mealies, waggons, guns, and
all the cumbrous appliances of war, without which an army is useless, were
penned in. The hand of the Field-Marshal was on them. The blocking forces
held the neks, and now those forces which had to strike were ordered to
move. No sooner did General Rundle receive his orders to advance than he
rolled forward with the impetuosity of a storm breaking upon a southern
coast. They on the spot knew that all the enemy's hopes lay centred round a
town in the middle of the valley. This town was Fouriesburg. The general
who could strike that town first would deal the death blow to the Boer
forces in the Free State. Rundle was furthest from the town; the pathway
his troops would have to pursue was rougher and more rugged than that which
lay open to the rest of the forces.

But Rundle knew his men; he knew their mettle; he had tried them with long,
weary marching, and he knew that they were worthy of his trust. He gave his
orders. The Leinsters and the Scots Guards, tall, gaunt, hunger-stricken
warriors, whose ribs could be counted through their ragged khaki coats,
swung out as cheerily as if they had never known the absence of a meal or
the fatigue of a dreary march. The Irishmen chaffed the Scots, and the
Scots yelled badinage back to the sons of Erin, and onward they went,
onward and upward, over the rock-strewn ground, through the narrow passes,
fixing their bayonets where the ground looked likely to hold a hidden foe,
ready at a moment's notice to charge into the blackness that lay engulfed
in those dreary passes. But the enemy did not wait for them. As the Eighth
Division advanced, making the rocky headlands ring with the rhythm of their
martial tread, the Boers fell back like driven deer, and the bugle spoke to
the Scottish bagpipe until the silent hills gave tongue, and echo answered
echo until the wearied ear sickened for silence. Onward we swept, until
Commando Nek lay like a grinning gash in the face of nature far in our
rear. When we did halt the men threw themselves down on the freezing earth,
and wolfed a biscuit; then, stretching themselves face downwards on the
grass, they slept with their rifles ready to their hands, their greatcoats
around them, and above only the stars, that seemed to freeze in the
boundless billows of eternal blue. Onward again, before the silver
sentinels above us had faded before the blushing face of the dawning. With
faces begrimed with dirt, with feet blistered by contact with flinty
boulders, with tattered garments flapping around them like feathers on
wounded waterfowl, officers and men faced the unknown, as their fathers
faced it before them. Meanwhile Hunter was pressing towards Fouriesburg
from Relief's Nek, his scouts--the well-known "Tigers," under Major
Remington--well in advance of his main column.

Rundle gave an order to Driscoll, Captain of the Scouts, who had done such
good service to the Eighth Division. What passed between the general and
the Irish captain no man knows, probably no man will ever know. But when
Driscoll rode up at the mad gallop so characteristic of the man there was
that in his hard, ugly, wind-tanned face which spoke of stern deeds to be
done. He did not ride alone, this Irish-Indian Volunteer captain--Rundle's
own _aide_, Lord Kensington, of the 15th Hussars, was on his right
hand, and on his left Lieutenant Roger Tempest, of the Scots Guards, for a
squad of the Scots Guards who had been learning scouting under Driscoll
were to accompany Driscoll's Scouts. That little group was characteristic
of the future of the British Empire. Two aristocrats riding shoulder to
shoulder with a wild dare-devil, whose rifle had cracked over half the
earth. England, Ireland, and Scotland rode alone in front of the
adventurous band that day. It was a reckless ride; the captain, on his grey
stallion, half a length in front. They darted through gullies, drew rein
and unslung rifles up hill, now standing in the stirrups to ease their
cattle, now sitting tight in the saddle to drive them over the open veldt,
taking every chance that a dare-devil crew could take, pausing for nothing,
staying for nothing. Right into the town of Fouriesburg they galloped, down
from their saddles they leaped, up went the rifles; the foe poured in a few
shots, and, appalled by the devilish audacity of the deed, fled before a
handful. It was a proud moment then, when, in the last stronghold of the
foe in all the Free State, Kensington, the _aide_ of the General of
the Eighth Division, with a little band of officers grouped around him,
with the Scouts and Scots Guards lying behind cover, rifle in hand, pulled
down the Orange Free State flag in the very teeth of the foe. Only a little
band of officers--Kensington, Driscoll, Davies, and Tempest. May their
names be remembered when the wine cups flow!

On the night of the 28th of July Colonel Harley, Chief Staff Officer Eighth
Division, led two companies of the Leinsters and the full strength of the
Scots Guards in a night attack on De Villier's Drift, which was to clear
the way for the whole of the Eighth Division towards Fouriesburg. The
movement had been well and carefully planned, and was neatly and
expeditiously carried out. The following day we advanced in open order over
the rolling veldt; now and again a man paused, lurched a little to one
side, staggered and fell, as shot and shell dropped amongst us, but the
march forward never ceased, never paused Paget and Hunter were with us now,
and the lyddite guns seemed to drive all the fight out of the foe. They
would not stand. Paget's artillerymen dashed forward, unlimbered, and
loosed on the enemy with a recklessness of personal safety that was almost
wanton.

Every branch of the Service was vying with its neighbour to see who could
take the most chances in the game of war, and the very recklessness of the
men was their safeguard, for their dash whipped the foe, who now seemed to
realise that their evil hour had at last dawned. They sent in a flag of
truce, asking for the terms on which they might surrender.

On the evening of the 29th July we knew that the enemy were negotiating for
terms of peace, though things were kept as secret as possible until the
following day. Then we saw General Prinsloo ride in with his _aide_
and surrender. He met General Rundle first, and a few minutes later General
Hunter, and the three leaders rode through the lines together. They were
closeted closely for some hours before the final agreement could be arrived
at. Prinsloo wanted terms for his men which the British generals would not
concede, the final agreement being that the burghers were to ride in and
throw down their arms under our flag. They were to be allowed a riding hack
to convey them to the railway station, and each man was to remain in
possession of his private effects. More than this General Hunter would not
concede upon any terms. At one period of the negotiations things became so
strained that hostilities were almost renewed, but the Hoof Commandant was
wise enough to realise that destiny had decided against him and his burgher
band. He came from the conclave at last, and gave an order in Dutch to his
_aide_, and in a moment the horseman was flying towards the Boer
laager with the news that, so far as they were concerned, the great war of
1899 and 1900 was at an end.

Our troops had been drawn up in long parallel lines, up over the slopes,
over the crest, and along the edge of "Victory Hill." They formed a lane of
blood and steel, down which the conquered veldtsmen had to march. Their
guns were on their flanks, the generals grouped in the centre. Everything
was hushed and still; there was no sign of braggart triumph, no unseemly
mirth, no swagger in the demeanour of the troops. They had worked like men;
they carried their laurels with conscious power and pride, but with no
offensive show. It was a sight which few men ever behold, and none ever
forget. The glory of the skies, where everything that met the eye was
brightest blue, edged with stainless whiteness, was above us; and beneath
our feet, and to right and left, were great valleys--not smiling like our
English vales, where sunlight runs through shadows like laughter through
tears, but vast uncultivated gaps that grinned in sardonic silence at
conqueror and conquered, as though to remind us that we were but puppets in
a passing show. Kopjes and valleys may have looked upon many a grim page in
war's history. Savage chiefs, backed by savage hordes, have swept across
them many a time and oft. Possibly, if the rocks had tongues, they could
tell us much of ancient armies, for this land of Africa is old in blood and
warlike doings. But few more remarkable sights than this upon which my eyes
rested upon the 30th July, 1900, have ever graced even this land of many
wonders.

I looked along our lines, and saw our soldiers standing patiently waiting
for the curtain to fall. I was proud of them, and of the men who led them,
for they had won without one cruel stroke. No single human life had
wantonly been wasted, no dishonourable deed had smirched their arms, no
smoking ruins cried aloud to God for retribution, no outraged women sobbed
dry-eyed behind us, no starving children fled before the khaki wave; and in
this last hour, an hour pregnant with humiliation and pain to our enemies,
there was the steady manliness which spoke of the great dignity of a great
nation. Out from the stillness a bugle spoke from the lines of the
Leinsters; the Scottish bagpipes, far away down the hillside, took up the
note with a shrill scream of triumph, like the challenge of an eagle in its
eyrie. A rustle ran along the lines. We caught the hum of many voices, then
the tramp of horses' hoofs. A soldier slipped towards the spot where our
country's flag was furled and ready; a moment later the Union Jack spread
out and hugged the breezes. Our foemen rode towards the flag between the
lines of those whose hands had placed it there, and when they came abreast
of it they dropped their rifles and their bandoliers, and with bent heads
passed onwards.

Some were boys, so young that rifles looked unholy things in hands so
childlike; others were old men, grey and grizzled, grim old tillers of the
soil, who looked as hard as the rocky boulders against which they leant,
many were in the pride of manhood; but old or young, grey beard or no
beard, all of them seemed to realise that they were a beaten people. All
day, and for many days, they came to us and laid their arms aside, until
fully 4,000 men had owned themselves our prisoners. We gathered in the
flocks and herds which had been held by them as army stores, and then we
set to work to give the Free State peace and peaceful laws. Our next step
was to march upon Harrismith, which was merely an armed promenade, for the
real work of the campaign had been completed when, on Victory Hill, near
Slap Kranz, Commandant Prinsloo surrendered with all his forces, excepting
the few who fled with De Wet and Olivier. Our flag is the symbol of victory
in every village and town. May it always be the symbol of even-handed
justice, for no power in all the world, unless backed by wise and pure
laws, will hold Africa for twenty years.

I have never before attempted to express an opinion upon the future of
Africa, yet now, when I have been nine months at the front, when I have
marched through the Free State from border to border, noting carefully the
demeanour of the people we have conquered, and the conduct of our troops
towards those people, I may be allowed by the more tolerant of the British
public to express an opinion. I do not see "white winged peace" brooding
over this country. I see a people beaten, broken, out-generalled, and
out-fought. I see a people who, even when whipped, maintain that the war
has been an unholy war, brewed and bred by a few adventurers for sordid
motives; and in my poor opinion there is little in front of us in South
Africa but trouble and storm, unless someone with a cleaner soul than the
ordinary politician remains in Africa to represent our nation. Only one man
seems to me to stand out as fitted by God and nature with the high
qualities which the ruler of Africa should possess. He is a man who has the
gift of leadership as few men--ancient or modern--ever possessed it, a man
whose word is known to be unbreakable, whose hands are clean, whose record
is stainless--the Field-Marshal, Lord Roberts. The man who is to rule South
Africa must be a great soldier, not a tyrant, not a martinet, not a bundle
of red tape tied up with a Downing Street bow and adorned with frills. The
negro trouble is looming large on the African borders, and the negro chiefs
know that in Lord Roberts they have their master. We must not pander to
them to the injury of the Dutch, or how are we to weld Dutch and British
into a national whole? Our generals have so conducted this campaign,
especially this latter part of it, that not only does the Dutchman know
that we can fight, but he knows that we can be generous with the splendid
generosity of a truly great people. Our generals, with few exceptions, have
left that record behind them, for which a nation's thanks are due; and few
have done more than the commander of the Eighth Division, Sir Leslie
Rundle, who can say that not only did he never lose an English gun, but
that never did the enemy of his country succeed in breaking through his
lines. Few men, placed as he was, week after week, month after month, would
have been able to make so proud a boast.

These are possibly the last lines I shall ever write in connection with the
Eighth Division. Their work is practically over here. My own is done, for
my health is badly broken, and I shall follow this to England. But if I
cannot march home with them, when they come back in triumph to receive from
a grateful country the praise they have won, I can at least have the
satisfaction of knowing that for many months I shared their vicissitudes,
if not their glory.



                      CHARACTER SKETCHES IN CAMP.

                            THE CAMP LIAR.


In the days of my almost forgotten boyhood I remember reading in the Book
of all books that the Wise Man, in a fit of blank despair, declared that
there were several things under heaven which he could neither gauge nor
understand, viz., "The way of a serpent upon a rock, and the way of a man
with a maid," and I beg leave to doubt if Solomon, in all his wisdom, could
understand the little ways of a camp liar in his frisky glory. Whence he
cometh, whither he goeth, and why he was born, are conundrums which might
tax the ingenuity of all the prophets, from Daniel downwards, to solve. I
have sought him with peace offerings in each hand, hoping to beguile him
from his sinful ways, and have located him not. I have risen in the chilly
dawn, and laid wait for him with a gun, but have not feasted mine eyes upon
him. I have lain awake through the still watches of the night planning
divers surprises for him, but success has not come nigh unto me. I have
cursed the camp liar with a fervour born of long suffering, and I have
hired a Zulu mule-driver to curse him for me; but my efforts have come to
nought, and now I am sore in my very bones when I think of him. All men
whose fate it is to dwell under canvas know of his work, but no man hath
yet laid hand or eye upon him. A man goeth to his blankets at night time
feeling good towards all mankind, satisfied in his own soul that he has
garnered in all the legitimate news that he is in any way entitled to
handle for the public benefit; and lo! when he ariseth in the dawning he
finds that the camp liar has neither slept nor slumbered, for the very air
is full of stories concerning battles which have not been fought and
victories which have not been won. From mouth to mouth, all along the
lines, the stories run as fire runs along fuse, and no man born of woman
can tell whence they came or where they will stop. Each soldier questioned
swears the tale is true, because "'twas told to him by one who never lied."
Yet, at evening, when the weary wretch who works for newspapers returns to
his tent, with his boots worn through with fruitless search for the author
of the "news," he learns that once again he has been the dupe of the "camp
liar"; and he may well be forgiven if he then heaps a whole continent of
curses on the invisible shape which, forming itself into a lie, is small
enough to enter a man's mouth, and yet big enough to permeate a whole camp.
What is a camp liar? It is not a man, neither is it a maid, neither is it
dog nor devil. It is a nameless shadow, which flits through the minds of
men, fashioned by the Father of Evil to be a curse and a scourge to war
correspondents. A mining liar is an awful liar, but he takes tangible form,
and one can grapple with him when he appears upon a prospectus. A political
liar is a pitiful liar, and vengeance finds him out upon the hustings, and
eggs and the produce of the kitchen garden are his reward. A legal liar is
a loquacious liar, but he is bounded by his brief and the extent of his
fees. But the camp liar has no bounds, and is equally at home in all
languages, at one moment dealing with an army in full marching order, and
the next battening festively upon one man in a mudhole. There is no height
to which the camp liar dare not ascend, there is nothing too trivial for it
to touch. It has neither sex nor shape; but, like a fallen angel ousted
from Heaven, and not wanted in Hades, it flits through camp a mental
microbe, spawning falsehoods in the souls of soldiers.

The camp liar concocts a story of a fearful fight, and fills the air with
the groans of the dying, and makes a weird picture out of the grisly,
grinning silence of the ghastly dead. Kopjes are stained a rich ripe red
with the blood of heroes, and arms, and legs, and skulls, and shattered jaw
bones hurtle through the air midst the sound of bursting shells, like
straws in a stable-yard when the wind blows high. The very poetry of lying
is touched with a master hand when charging squadrons sweep across the
veldt and the sunlight kisses the soldier's steel. Then comes the pathos
dear to the liar's soul--the farewells of the dying, sobbed just seven
seconds before sunset into comrades' ears; the faltering voice, the
tear-dimmed eyes, the death rattle in the throat, the last hand clasps, the
last deep-drawn breath, in which--mother--Mary--and Heaven are always
mingled; and then the moonlight and the moaning of the midnight
wind!----The war correspondent leaps from the tent, springs into his saddle
with his note-book in his mouth and an indelible lead pencil in each hand,
and rides over kopje and veldt ten dreary miles to gaze upon the scene of
that awful battle, and finds--one dead mule, and a nigger driver, dead
drunk. Then, if he has had a religious education, he climbs out of the
saddle, sinks on his knees, and prays for the peace of the camp liar's
immortal soul. But if, as is often the case, he has had a secular
upbringing, he spits on the dead mule, kicks the nigger, slinks back to
camp by a roundabout route, and swears to everyone that he has been forty
miles in another direction in a railway truck.

Four or five days later, just at that hour in the morning when a man clings
most fondly to his blankets, another rumour breaks the early morning's
limpid silence, a rumour of a battle of great import raging eighteen miles
away, just within easy riding distance for a smart correspondent. But the
man of ink and hardships chuckles this time. He has been fooled so often by
the imp of camp rumours; so murmurs just loud enough to be heard in heaven,
"That infernal camp liar again," and rustles his blankets round his ears
and drops cosily back into dreamland; but when, later on, he learns that an
important battle has been fought, and he has missed it all because he did
not want to be fooled by the camp liar, then what he mutters is muttered
loud enough to be heard in a different place, and the folk there don't need
ear trumpets to catch what he says either.



                      CHARACTER SKETCHES IN CAMP.

                         THE NIGGER SERVANT.


It is raining outside my tent. It has rained for three days and nights, and
looks quite capable of raining for three days more; everything is simply
sodden. You try to look around you at the men's camps. At every step your
boots go up to the ankle, squelch, in the black mud. You slip as you walk,
and go down on your hands and knees in the slimy filth; that brings out all
the poetry in your nature. If you have had a Christian training in your
youth, you think of David dodging Saul, and your sympathies go out towards
the stupid king. The mud is everywhere; the horses have trodden it to slime
in many places, in others the feet of the soldiers have transformed it to
batter. Everything is cold, dreary, dismal; even the tobacco is damp, and
leaves a taste in a man's mouth like the receipt of bad news from home. I
look at the soldiers hanging around like sheep round a blocked-up shed in a
snow-storm, and I feel sympathetic. Their puttees are wet, and there is a
suggestion of future rheumatism in every fold that encircles their calves;
I can't see much more of them except their weather-beaten faces. They wear
their helmets and their blue-black overcoats, but both are wet. They don't
look happy, and the cause is not hard to find: they have slept out for
three nights without tents. Their blankets are like sponges that have been
left in a tub. Each blanket seems to hold about three gallons of water.

I arrived at this computation by watching the men wringing their bedding.
Two men got hold of a blanket, one at each end; they twist it different
ways, and the water runs out in a stream. The soldiers relapse into
language. Most of their adjectives have a decidedly pink tinge, and I
shouldn't wonder if they became scarlet if this sort of weather continued.

My nigger slops along through the slush and tells me that my lunch is
ready. He is not a happy-looking nigger by any means. A white man looks bad
enough in the mud and cold, but a nigger presents a pitiful spectacle. His
face goes whitish green, with an undercurrent of slatey grey running
through it. The brilliancy leaves the coal-black eyes, and they become as
lifeless and limp as a professional politician at a prayer meeting. The
mouth goes agape, the thick lips become flabby, and fall away from the
teeth. The mouth does not seem to fit the face, but hangs on to it like a
second-hand suit on a backyard fence. My nigger is no better, and no worse,
than the rest of them. He looks like a chapter in Lamentations, and is
about as much at home in the sodden camp as a bar of wet soap in a sand
heap. Just now he is good for nothing except to sing doleful hymns in a key
sad enough to frighten a transit mule away from a bag of mealies. When he
is not singing sadly he is quoting Scripture and thinking about his
immortal soul. When the sun comes out to-morrow and the day after, he will
be dancing a most unholy dance or be making love to "Dinah," filling in the
intervals by cursing in three different languages stray horses that steal
our fodder.

It is really astonishing what a difference the weather makes to the morals
of the South African nigger. Give him plenty of sunshine, and he forgets he
ever had a soul, and throws slabs of blasphemy, picked up from the Tommies
around him, with painful liberality. When he gets tired of English oaths,
he drops into Cape Dutch, and some of the curses contained in that language
are solid enough to hurt anything they hit. Later on he drifts into his
native tongue, raises his voice a couple of octaves, and streaks the
atmosphere with multi-coloured oaths, until you imagine you are listening
to a vocal rainbow. But take away the sunshine, give him a wet hide and a
wet floor to camp on, and he straightway becomes all penitence and prayer.
His face, peering out dismally between the upturned collar of his
weather-stained coat and the down-drawn brim of his battered hat, looks
like a soiled sermon, and he is altogether woeful.

When the weather is warm he decks himself out in any piece of gaudy finery
he can lay hands upon. He loves to wear a glaring yellow roll of silk or
cloth around his hat, a blue or green 'kerchief about his throat, and a
crimson girdle encircled about his loins. Then he thinks he is a midsummer
sunset, and swaggers round like a peacock in full plumage, looking for
something to "mash." He has no sense of the eternal law of averages. It
does not trouble him if the whole seat of his most important garment is
represented by a hole big enough to put a baby in, if he only has the
artistic decorations I have mentioned above. Nor does he see anything out
of the way in the fact that one of his feet is encased in an officer's top
boot and the other in a remnant of a Boer farmer's cast-off veldtschoon.
His soul yearns towards feathers. He will pluck a grand white plume from
the tail of an ostrich if he gets a favourable opportunity, and place it
triumphantly in his torn and soiled slouch hat, or he will pick up a
discarded bonnet from a dust pile and rob it of feathers placed there by
feminine hands, in order that he may look a black Beau Brummell.

His manners, like his morals, change with the weather. When the barometer
registers "fine and clear," you may expect a saucy answer if you rate him
for a late breakast; when it registers "warm, and likely to be warmer," you
may consider yourself lucky if you get a morning meal at all. But when it
indicates "hot," and the mercury still rising, you know that the time has
arrived for you to climb out of your coat and commence cooking for
yourself, unless you feel equal to the task of spreading a saucy nigger in
sections around the adjacent allotments. It is not always healthy to adopt
the latter plan, especially if your "boy" happens to be a Basuto or a Zulu.
Should he belong to either of those tribes, threaten him as much as you
like, but don't hurry to put your threats into practice; or the nigger may
do the scattering, and you may do the penitent part of the business. You
may bully him as much as you like when the barometer is falling, for then
the life is all out of him, and he has not sufficient spirit left in him to
resent any sort of insult.

Even "Tommy" knows this, and on a cold day will call a big Zulu servant by
a name which implies that the Zulu's father and mother were never legally
married. The Zulu will only smile dismally, and tell "Tommy" that he will
pray for the salvation of his soul. Three days later, when the air is
dancing in the heat-rays, if Mr. Atkins, emboldened by former success,
repeats the speech, the Zulu will rise and confront him with blazing eyes,
showing at the same time a wide range of beautiful white teeth, set in a
savage snarl, and give Mr. Atkins a choice of titles which it would be hard
to improve upon even in a Dublin dockyard, and he will not be slow to back
his mouth with his hands should the argument become pressing, as more than
one of her Majesty's lieges have found out to their deep and lasting
humiliation.

When a combination of rain and religion has depressed him the nigger
servant is one of the most abject-looking mortals that ever wore clothes,
and makes as sad a spectacle as a farmyard fowl on a front fence in a
thunderstorm. But he must not be judged altogether by his appearance on
such occasions. He can be loyal to his "boss," and when fit and well he
will fight when roused as a devil might fight for the soul of a deacon. He
loves to ride or drive a horse, but he is not fond of horses, as I
understand the term. He has no idea of making a pet of his charge. A horse
is to him merely something to get about upon, and he cannot understand our
fondness for our equine friends. I have noticed the same trait in the Boer
character. To a Boer a horse is usually merely a means of transit from spot
to spot; not a comrade, not a companion. I was not astonished to find this
feeling amongst the niggers, because I have noticed it among the natives in
every colony in Australia, and even amongst such inveterate horsemen as the
Sioux Indians of America and the Maories of New Zealand; but I was
surprised to note how little sympathy existed between the Boer and his
equine helper.

The nigger servant is a sporting sort of party, and never loses an
opportunity to indulge his tastes in this direction. I had an excellent
chance the other day to note how fond he is of a bit of hunting. We had
camped before sundown in a rather picturesque position, and I was watching
the effect of the declining sun on the gloomy kopjes, when I noticed a
commotion in all the camps, in front, at the rear, and on both flanks. In
ten seconds every nigger in the whole camp had deserted his work and was
frantically dashing out on to the veldt. They uttered shrill cries as they
ran, and every man had some sort of weapon in his hand, either a tomahawk,
a billet of wood, or a rock. With marvellous celerity they formed a huge
circle, though what they were after was a puzzle to me. I fancied for
awhile that one of their number must have run "amuck," and the rest meant
to send him to slumber. Quickly they narrowed the circle, the whole body of
them moving as if linked together and propelled by unseen mechanism. When
the circle got about the third the size of an ordinary cricket ground I saw
what they were after. A brace of hares had caught their eyes, and this was
their method of capturing the fleet-footed, but stupid, "racers of the
veldt." First one nigger and then another detached himself from the circle,
and, darting in, had a shy at the quarry with whatever missile he had with
him. If he missed--and a good many of them missed--the speedy little bit of
fur, he returned crestfallen to the circle again, amidst jeers and laughter
from the rest. The hares darted hither and thither in that ever narrowing
circle of foes, until a couple of well-aimed shots, one with a rock as big
as a cricket ball, and one with a tomahawk, laid them out, and they became
the prize of the successful marksmen. The nigger "boy" has to be paid one
pound a week and his "scoff," and, taking him all in all, in spite of his
faults, which are many, I verily think he earns it.



                        CHARACTER SKETCHES IN CAMP.

                          THE SOLDIER PREACHER.

                     (Written at Enslin Battlefield.)


He was standing at eventide facing the rough and rugged heights of Enslin.
The crimson-tinted clouds that emblazoned the sky cast a ruddy radiance
round his head and face, making him appear like one of those ancient
martyrs one is apt to see on stained-glass windows in old-world churches in
Rome or Venice. His feet were firmly planted close to the graves of the
British soldiers and sailors who had fallen when we beat the Boers and
drove them back upon Modder River.

In one hand he held a little, well-worn Bible; his other hand was raised
high above his close-cropped head, whilst his voice rang out on the sultry,
storm-laden air like the clang of steel on steel:

"Prepare ter meet yer God!"

No one who looked at the neat, strong figure arrayed in the plain khaki
uniform of a private soldier, at the clean-shaven, square-jawed face, at
the fearless grey-blue eyes, could doubt either his honesty or earnestness.
Courage was imprinted by Nature's never-erring hand on every lineament of
his Saxon features. So might one of Cromwell's stern-browed warriors have
stood on the eve of Marston Moor.

"Prepare ter meet yer God!"

To the right of him the long lines of the tents spread upwards towards the
kopje; to the left the veldt, with its wealth of grey-green grass, sown by
the bounteous hand of the Great Harvester; all around him, excepting where
the graves raised their red-brown furrows, rows of soldiers lounged,
listing to the old, old story of man's weakness and eternal shame, and
Christ's love and everlasting pity. On the soldier preacher's breast a long
row of decorations gleamed, telling of honourable service to Queen and
country. Before a man could wear those ribbons he must have faced death as
brave men face it on many a battlefield. He must have known the agonies of
thirst, the dull dead pain of sleepless nights and midnight marches, the
tireless watching at the sentry's post, and the onward rush of armed men up
heights almost unscalable. On Egypt's sun-scorched plains he must have
faced the mad onslaughts of the Dervish hosts, and rallied with the men who
held the lines at Abu Klea Wells, where gallant Burnaby was slain. The
hills of Afghanistan must have re-echoed to his tread, else why the green
and crimson ribbon that mingled with the rest? His eyes had flashed along
the advancing lines of charging impi, led by Zulu chiefs. Yet never had
they flashed with braver light than now, when, facing that half-mocking,
half-reckless crowd, he cried:

"Prepare ter meet yer God!"

Rough as the thrust of a broken bayonet was his speech, unskilled in
rhetoric his tongue, his periods unrounded as flying fragments of shrapnel
shell; yet all who listened knew that every word came from the speaker's
soul, from the magazine of truth. Some London slum had been his cradle, the
gutters of the great city the only University his feet had known, the
costers' dialect was native to his tongue; yet no smug Churchman crowned
with the laurels of the schools could so have stirred the blood of those
wild lads, fresh from the boundless bush and lawless mining camps beneath
Australian suns.

"Prepare ter meet yer God!"

And even as he spoke we, who listened, plainly heard the rolling thunder of
our guns as they spoke in sterner tones to the nation's foes from Modder
River. It was no new figure that the soldier preacher placed before us. It
was the same indignant Christ that swept the rabble from the Temple; the
same great Christ who calmly faced the seething mob in Pilate's judgment
hall; the same sweet Christ who took the babes upon His knee; the same
Divine Christ who, with hyssop and gall, and mingled blood and tears,
passed death's dread portals on the dark brow of Calvary. The same grand
figure, but quaintly dressed in words that savoured of the London slums and
of the soldier's camp, and yet so hedged around with earnest love and
childlike faith that all its grossest trappings fell away and left us
nothing but the ideal Christ.

Once more we heard the distant batteries speak to those whose hands had
rudely grasped the Empire's flag, and every rock, and hill, and crag, and
stony height took up the echo, like a lion's roar, until the whispering
wind was tremulous with sound. Then all was hushed except the preacher's
voice.

"Prepare ter meet yer God! I've come ter tell yer all abart a General whose
armies hold ther City of Eternal Life. If you are wounded, throw yer rifles
down, 'nd 'e will send the ambulance of 'is love, with Red Cross angels,
and 'is adjutant, whose name is Mercy, to dress yer wounds. Throw down yer
rifles 'nd surrender. No rebels can enter the City of Eternal Life. You
can't storm ther walls, Or take ther gates at ther point of ther baynit,
for ther ramparts are guarded 'nd ther sentries never sleep. When ther
bugles sound ther larst reville you will ever 'ear, 'nd ther colonel, whose
name is Death, gives the order ter march, you'll have nothink to fear
abart, if yer bandoliers are full o' faith 'nd yer rifles are sighted with
good works. Yer uniforms may be ragged, and you may not even have a
corporal's stripe to show; but if yer can pass ther sentries fearlessly,
you'll find a general's commission waitin' for yer just inside ther gate.
But yer earn't fool with my General. Remember this: ther password is,
'Repentance,' 'nd nothink else will do. The sentry on duty will see you
comin' and will challenge you. 'Who goes there?' 'Friend!' 'Advance,
friend, 'nd give ther counter-sign!' If you say, 'Good works,' you'll find
'is baynit up against yer chest. If yer say you forgot to get it, you'll be
in ther clink in 'ell in ther twinklin' of an eye; but if yer say, loud 'nd
clear, 'Repentance,' 'e will lower 'is baynit 'nd say, 'Pass, friend. All's
well!'"



                              PRESIDENT STEYN.


Out on the veldt, far from the wife and home he loves so well, he stands,
our country's bold, unyielding foe. And even as he stands he knows that the
finger of Fate has written his own and his country's doom in letters large
and deep on the walls of time. Yet, with unblenching brow, he waits the
falling of the thunderbolt, a calm, grand figure, fit to live in history's
pages when every memory of meaner men has passed into oblivion, M.T. Steyn,
President of the shattered Free State of South Africa. Around this man the
human jackals howl to try with lying lips to foul his memory. Yet, as a
rock, age after age, throws back with contemptuous strength the waves that
break against its base, so every action of his manly life gives the lie to
tales which cowards tell.

He is our foe, no stabber in the dark, moving with stealthy steps amidst
professions of pretended peace, but in the open, where the gaze of God and
man can rest upon him, he stands, defiant, though undone. He staked his
country's freedom, his earthly happiness, and his high position in the
great game of war; staked all that mortal man holds dear; staked it for
what? For love of gain! May he who spawned that lie to stir our people's
hearts to boundless wrath against this falling man live to repent in
sackcloth and in tears the evil deed so done. . . . Staked it for what? To
feed his own ambition! I tell you no; the undercurrent which brought forth
the deed sprang from a nobler and a higher source. His country stood
pledged in time of peace to help in time of war a sister State, and when
the bond fell due he honoured it, though none knew better than this noble
man that when he loosed the dogs of war he crossed a lion's path.

Now he is tottering to his fall, amidst the ruins of a crumbling State,
forsaken by the Powers that egged him on with covert promises of armed
support, abandoned to the tender mercies of his foes by those on whose
behalf he drew the sword. Yet, even now, the dauntless spirit of the man
rises above the wreckage of disaster. A little band of heroes ring him
round. Though every man in all that fearless few is England's foe, yet we,
who boast the Vikings' blood in every vein, can we not honour them? So did
our forefathers stand round Harold when Norman William trod with armed heel
on English soil. So stood our fathers when Blucher's laggard step hung back
from Waterloo. Are we not great enough to look with pride upon a gallant
foe? Or has our nation fallen from its high estate, has chivalry departed
from our blood, and left us nothing but the dregs which go to make a nation
of hucksters? If so, then let us leave the battlefields to better men, and
train our children solely for the market-place. But these are idle words,
born of the spleen which such a thought engenders. Full well I know the
temper of our people, terrible in their wrath, but swift to see the
nobleness in those who face them boldly.

And these be noble men, my masters. They rally round their chief, as you
and yours would rally round a British leader if foreign hordes swept with
resistless might over England's historic soil. All that they loved they've
lost, and nothing now remains to them but honour and a patriot's grave; and
in the grim game of war it is our stern task to give them what they seek--a
soldier's death beneath the doomed flag which, in their stubborn pride,
they will never forsake. But even whilst we hem them round with bristling
bayonets, ready for the last dread act in this red drama, let us pay them
the tribute due to all brave men; for he who gives his life to guard a
cause he holds most dear is worthy of our admiration, though he be ten
thousand times our foe. What should we think of men who, left to guard the
Kentish fields, threw down their arms and sued for peace to any leader of
an invading host because our cause seemed lost? Should we not curse them as
a craven crowd, and teach our lisping babes to mock their memory? Would any
fair-faced girl in all the British Isles wed any man who would not fight
until the sinews slackened with slaying in defence of the homeland? If so,
they are not fashioned of the metal of which their granddames were made.

And what we honour as the prince of virtues in a Briton shall we condemn as
vice in this little band of Free State Boers and their leader, loyal to a
lost cause? No, England, no! It is not you that shriek anathemas to the
weeping skies because the foe dies hard. The gutter gamin and the brutal
lout who never owned a soul fit to rise above the level of the kettle
singing on the hearth may brand the name of Steyn and his stout burghers
with infamy; but the clean-souled people of the Motherland, the people from
whose ranks our greatest fighters and thinkers spring, will not endorse
that cry. No, not though every slanderous throat shall shriek until they
cannot wail an octave higher.

It is not from such great men as Roberts that we hear these pitiful tales
concerning those who give us battle. He who has been a man of war from
childhood to old age would never stoop to soil his manly lips to woo the
fleeting favours of a mob, and he has proved himself as wise in council as
upon the death-strewn fields of war. So wise, so brave, so loyal to his
word, that even those whom he, at his country's call, has had to crush,
lift their hats reverently at the mention of his name, because he wears
upon his hero soul the white flower of a blameless life. Would Kitchener,
whose dread name strikes terror to the heart of every burgher, would he
befoul his foeman's fame? I tell you no, though whilst a foe remains in
arms he strikes with all a giant's force and spares not; but when the blow
has fallen, he of all men would preserve his enemies' fair fame intact. So
it should be whilst those who stand in arms against our country and our
country's flag refuse the terms we offer. We should make war so terrible
that every enemy should dread the sound of British bugles as they would
dread the trump of doom. When once the country's voice has called for war,
then war should sweep with resistless might over land and sea, until sweet
peace should seem a boon to be desired above all earthly things by those
who stand in arms against us. If Steyn and those who with heroic hearts
hedge him round refuse to bow to destiny and the God of Battles, then he
and they must fall before the bayonets of our soldiery as growing corn
falls before the sickle of the reaper. But even in their fall they can
claim as their heaven-born heritage our nation's deepest admiration for
their dauntless devotion to their love of country, home, and kindred. And
we will but add laurels to the renown our soldiers have won if we, with
unsparing hand, mete out to them the praises due to manly foes. Ours be the
task to slay them where they stand; not ours the task to rob them of the
glory they have won.



                             LOUIS BOTHA,
                      COMMANDANT-GENERAL OF THE
                              BOER ARMY.


Louis Botha, who has cut so deep a mark in the pages of history, is only a
young man yet, being about seven-and-thirty years of age. He is a "fine
figure of a man," standing in the neighbourhood of six feet in his boots.
His face is handsome, intellectual, and determined; his expression kindly
and compassionate. The razor never touches his face, but his brown beard is
always neatly trimmed, for the young Commandant-General is particular in
regard to his personal appearance in a manly way, though in no respect
foppish. He is now, and always has been, an excellent athlete, a good rifle
shot, and a first-class horseman; not given at any time to indoor pastimes
over much, though fond of a quiet game of whist. He was born in Natal, of
Dutch parents, and married to Miss Emmett, a relative of Robert Emmett, the
Irish Revolutionist. Young Botha was educated at Greytown, and though a
good, sound commercial scholar, he gave no evidence in his schoolboy days
of what was in him. No one who knew him then would have dreamed that before
he was forty years of age he would be the foremost soldier of his country.
His folk were moderately well off, but the adventurous spirit of the future
general sent him inland from Natal when a large number of Natal and Free
State Boers enlisted under the flag of General Lucas Meyer, who was bent
upon making war upon a powerful negro tribe in the neighbourhood of
Vryheid. During the fighting young Botha was his general's right-hand man,
displaying even at that early age a cool, level head and a stout heart.
When the Boers were firmly settled upon the land Vryheid was declared a
Republic, and Lucas Meyer was elected first President. But the new Republic
lasted only about three years, and was then, by mutual consent, merged into
Transvaal territory, and both Lucas Meyer and Louis Botha were elected
members of the Volksraad. Louis Botha retained his seat right up to the
time hostilities broke out between Great Britain and the Republics under
Mr. Kruger and Mr. Steyn.

During the many stormy scenes which preceded the actual declaration of war
Louis Botha proved that he possessed the coolest and most level head in the
Volksraad. He opposed the war, and, with prophetic eye, foresaw the awful
devastation of his country which would follow in the footsteps of the
British army. But when the time came, and his country was irretrievably
pledged to war, he was not the man to hang back. He was one of those who
had much to lose and little indeed to gain by taking up arms against us,
for, by honest industry, he had become a wealthy farmer and stockbreeder.
At the first call to arms he threw aside his senatorial duties, and took up
his rifle, rejoining his old commando at Vryheid as commandant under
General Lucas Meyer. It is said that at the battle of Dundee General Meyer,
feeling convinced that the God of Battles had decided against him and his
forces, decided to surrender to the British, but Louis Botha fiercely
combated his general's decision, and point-blank refused to throw down his
arms or counsel his men to do so. What followed all the world knows, and
Botha went up very high in the estimation of the better class of fighting
burghers. At the Tugela, before the first big battle took place, General
Meyer was taken ill, and had to retire to Pretoria, and Louis Botha was
then elected assistant-general, and the planning of the battle was left
entirely to him.

It was a terribly responsible position to place so young a man in, for he
was face to face with the then Commander-in-Chief of the British army, Sir
Redvers Buller, a general of dauntless determination and undoubted ability.
Experience, men, and all the munitions of war were in favour of the British
general; but the awful nature of the country was upon the side of the newly
fledged Boer leader, and he made terrible use of it. The day of Colenso,
when Sir Redvers Buller received his first decisive check, will not soon be
forgotten in the annals of our Army. A man of weaker fibre than the British
leader would have been daunted by the disasters of that day, for there he
lost ten guns and a large number of men. But Buller carried in his blood
all the old grit of our race, and the heavier the check the more his soul
was set upon ultimate victory. I have been over that battle ground, and
have looked at the positions taken up by Louis Botha. They were chosen with
consummate skill, born of a thorough knowledge of the nature of the country
and inherent generalship.

I have looked at the country Sir Redvers Buller had to pass through to get
at his wise and skilful adversary. The man who dared make the attempt that
Buller made must have had nerves of steel, and a soul that would not blench
if ordered to storm the very gates of Hades. The worst fighting ground that
I saw in all the Free State was but a mockery of war compared to the ground
around Colenso, and I have seen some terrible places in the Free State. But
a man has to see the ground Buller fought in to realise the magnitude of
the task the Empire set him at the beginning of the war. Great as Lord
Roberts is, I doubt if he would have done more than Buller did under the
same circumstances.

That battle of Colenso made young Louis Botha famous, and from that hour
the eyes of the burghers were turned towards him as the one man fit to lead
them. At Spion Kop, when the Boer leader, Schalk Burger, vacated the
splendid position he had been ordered to take up, Louis Botha's genius
grasped the mighty import of the situation, and he at once realised that
Schalk Burger had blundered terribly, and it was he who retook those
positions with such disastrous consequences to our forces. His fame spread
far and near, and his name became a thing to conjure with. When the
Commandant-General of the Boer Army, General Joubert, lay dying, he was
asked who was the best man to fill his place. And he, the grey veteran, did
not hesitate for a second, but with his dying breath gasped out the name of
Louis Botha. The Boer Government promptly appointed him to the position,
and from that day to this he has been the paramount military power in the
Boer lines. He is not the only one of his line fighting under the Transvaal
flag. There are four other brothers in the field, one of whom, Christian
Botha, is now a general, and a good fighter. As a soldier Louis Botha has
proved himself a foeman worthy the steel of any of our generals; as a man
his worst enemy can say nothing derogatory concerning him, for in all his
actions he has borne himself like a gentleman. He is generous and courteous
in the hour of victory, stout-hearted and self-reliant in the time of
disaster--just the type of soldier that a great nation like ours knows how
to esteem, even though he is an enemy in arms against us.



                          WHITE FLAG TREACHERY.


Few things have astonished me more during the progress of this war than the
number of charges levelled against our foes in reference to the treacherous
use of the white flag. Almost every newspaper that came my way contained
some such account; yet, though constantly at the front for nine months, I
cannot recall one solitary instance of such treachery which I could vouch
for. I have heard of dozens of cases, and have taken the trouble to
investigate a good many, but never once managed to obtain sufficient proof
to satisfy me that the charge was genuine. On one occasion I was following
close on the heels of our advancing troops, and had for a comrade a rather
excitable correspondent. When within about fourteen hundred yards of the
kopjes we were advancing to attack, the Boers opened a heavy rifle fire;
and, though we could not see a solitary enemy, our fellows began to drop.
It was very evident that the enemy were secreted in the rocks not far from
a substantial farmhouse, from the roof of which floated a large white flag
(it turned out later to be a tablecloth braced to a broom handle).

"There's another case of d---- white flag treachery," shouted my companion.
"I wonder the general don't turn the guns on that farm and blow it to
Hades."

"What for?" I asked.

"What for! Why, they are flying the white flag, and shooting from the
farmhouse. Isn't that enough?"

"Quite enough, if true," I replied. "But how the devil do you know they are
shooting from the farmhouse?"

"They must be shooting from the farmhouse," he yelled. "Why, I've been
scouring all the rocks around with my glasses, and can't see a blessed Boer
in any of 'em. No, sir, you can bet your soul they are skulking in that
farm. They know we won't loose a shell on the white flag---the cowards!"

I did not think it worth while to argue with a man of that stamp, but kept
my glasses on that farm very closely during the fight that followed. Right
up to the time when our men rushed the kopjes and surrounded the farmhouse
I did not see a man enter or leave the house, and when I rode up I found
that two women and three children were in possession. Furthermore, on
examination, I soon discovered that, as the doors and windows faced the
wrong way, it would have been impossible for a Boer to do much shooting at
our men, unless the walls at the gable end were loopholed, which they were
not, I know, for I examined them minutely. Fortunately for the credit of
the British Army, most of our generals are coolheaded men who do not allow
the irresponsible chatter of the army to influence them. Otherwise our guns
would have been trained upon many a homestead on charges quite as flimsy
and groundless as the one quoted above.

I suppose that cases of treachery have really occurred during the war. In a
mixed crowd like that which composes the burgher army, there are sure to be
some mortals fit to do any mean trick, just as sure as there are men fit to
do or say anything in the British Army, But I cannot, and I will not,
believe that the great bulk of these men are such paltry cowards as to make
the "white flag" act a common one. It may be news to British readers to
know that the burghers complain of the behaviour of our troops as bitterly
as we complain of theirs; and I think, from personal observation, that
their charges are as groundless as are some charges made by the same class
of hysterical individuals, though of different nationality. Their pet
hatred, when I was a prisoner in their hands, was the Lancers. They used to
swear that the Lancers never spared a wounded man, but ran him through as
they galloped past him. I was told this fifty times, and each time told my
informant flatly that I declined to believe the assertion, and should
continue to disbelieve it until I had undeniable proof, for it would take a
good deal to convince me that a British soldier would strike a fallen foe
even in the heat and stress of battle. One day they asked me to come and
look at the dead body of one of their field cornets, whom they alleged to
have been done to death whilst wounded by our Lancers. I went and saw the
man, and at a glance saw that the wounds were not lance wounds at all, but
ripping bullet wounds. He had been sniped by some Australian riflemen from
a high kopje whilst in a valley. I tried to explain this to the excited
burghers, but they only sneered at me for my trouble, until one of their
own doctors coming along had a look at the corpse, and promptly verified my
statements. That calmed them considerably, and they looked at the thing in
cooler blood, and soon saw that it was really absurd to put the blame of
the man's death on the shoulders of the Lancers, though they stoutly
maintained that our cavalry were at times guilty of such monstrous conduct.
I have often heard them solemnly swear never to give a Lancer a chance to
surrender if they once got him within rifle range.

Personally, I could never see just what the Boers would gain by the white
flag business. As a rule, our troops did not want coaxing into rifle range;
they marched within hitting distance readily enough, and did not require a
white flag to lure them into a tight place, so that the object to be gained
by the enemy by such disgraceful tactics never seemed to me to be too
apparent. If they had ever by such means been able to entrap an army, or to
bring about the wholesale slaughter of our men, I could understand things a
bit better; but they had little to gain and an awful lot to lose by such
tactics. There is no slight risk attached to the act of firing on an
advancing army treacherously under cover of the white flag. Such a deed
rouses all the slumbering devil in the men, and the foe found guilty of
such a deed would get more bayonet than he would find conducive to his
health when it came to his turn to be beaten.



                     THE BATTLE OF MAGERSFONTEIN.

                                                             MAGERSFONTEIN.


The Australians, after relieving Belmont from the Boer commando, suddenly
received orders to march upon Enslin, as the Boers had attacked that place,
which was held by two companies of the Northamptonshires under Captain
Godley; the latter had no artillery, whilst the enemy, who were over 1,000
strong, had one 12-pounder gun with them, but the sequel proved that the
Boer is a poor fighter in the open country. He is hard to beat in hilly and
rocky ground when acting on the defensive, but he is not over dangerous as
an attacking power. Let him choose his ground, and fight according to his
own traditions, and the best soldiers in the world will find it no sinecure
to oust him. As soon as the Boers put in an appearance at Enslin,
Lieutenant Brierly, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who is attached to the
Northamptons, made his way to a kopje, which had formerly been held by Boer
forces, and a mere handful of men fairly held the enemy in check at that
point for over seven hours. The enemy made frantic efforts to dislodge this
gallant little band, but failed dismally, and they had not the heart to try
to take the kopje by storm, though there were enough of them around the
hill to have eaten the little band of Britishers. In the meantime Captain
Godley and his men held the township. Again and again the enemy threatened
to rush the place, but their valour melted before the determined front of
the besieged, and they drew off, taking their gun with them, their scouts
having warned them that the Australians, with a section of the Royal Horse
Artillery and two guns, were coming upon them from the direction of
Belmont, whilst a body of the 12th Lancers and a battery of artillery were
dashing down from Modder River. The Australians, who are now 720 strong,
the New South Wales Company of 125 men having joined Colonel Head's forces,
remained at Enslin, and entrenched there in order to keep open the line of
communication between General Methuen's army and Orange River; a section of
Royal Horse Artillery and two guns is with them. On half a dozen occasions
the Boers have threatened to sweep down upon them from the hilly country
adjacent, but up to the time of writing nothing serious has occurred.

On Sunday last we heard the sound of heavy firing coming from the direction
of Modder River; scouts coming in informed us that an engagement between
General Methuen's force and the enemy, under the astute General Cronje, had
commenced. Seeing that Australia was liable to remain idle for the time
being, I determined to push on with my assistant, Mr. E. Monger, of
Coolgardie, West Australia. When we arrived at Modder River we found the
fight raging at a spot about four and a half miles beyond Modder River
bridge. Our forces were in possession of the river and the plain beyond;
but General Cronje had entrenched himself in a line of ranges stretching
for several miles across the veldt. So well had the Boer general chosen his
ground, and such good use had he made of the natural advantages of his
position, that the British found themselves face to face with an African
Gibraltar. The frowning rocks were bristling with rifles, which commanded
the plain below, trenches seamed the hillsides in all directions, and in
those trenches lay concealed the picked marksmen of the veldt--men who,
though they know but little of soldiering from a European point of view,
yet had been familiar with the rifle from earliest boyhood; rough and
uncouth in appearance, dressed in farmers' garb, still under those
conditions, fighting under a general they knew and trusted, amidst
surroundings familiar to them from infancy, they were foemen worthy of the
respect of the veteran troops of any nation under heaven.

At every post of vantage Cronje, with consummate generalship, had posted
his artillery so that it would be almost impossible for our guns to silence
them, whilst at the same time he could sweep the plains below should our
infantry attempt to storm the heights at the point of the bayonet. At the
bottom of the kopjes, right under the muzzle of his guns, he had excavated
trenches deep enough to hide his riflemen, but he had thrown up no
earthworks, so that our guns could not locate the exact spot where his
rifle trenches lay. All the earth from the trenches had been very carefully
removed, and the low blue bush which covers these plains completely
screened his trenches from view. In front of the trenches, and extending
some considerable distance out in front of the veldt, the clever Boer
leader had placed an immense amount of barbed wire entanglement, so
fashioned that no cavalry could live amongst it, whilst even the very
flower of our infantry would find it hard work to charge over it, even in
daylight. The Boer forces are variously estimated at from 12,000 to 15,000
men. The number and nature of their guns can only be guessed at, but that
the enemy's men are well supplied in that respect there can be no question.
Our forces I estimate at about 11,000 men of all arms, including the
never-to-be-forgotten section of the Naval Brigade, to whom England owes a
debt of gratitude too deep for words to portray; for their steadiness,
valour, and accuracy of shooting saved England from disaster on this the
blackest day that Scotland has known since the Crimea.

Our troops extended over many miles of country. Every move had to be made
in full view of the enemy upon a level plain where a collie dog could not
have moved unperceived by those foemen hidden so securely behind
impregnable ramparts. During the whole of Sunday our gunners played havoc
with the enemy, the shooting of the Naval Brigade being of such a nature
that even thus early in the fight the big gun of the bluejackets, with its
42-pound lyddite shell, struck terror into the hearts of the enemy. But the
Boers were not idle. Whenever our infantry, in manoeuvring, came within
range'of their rifles, our ranks began to thin out, and the blood of our
gallant fellows dyed the sun-baked veldt in richest crimson.

During the night that followed it was considered expedient that the
Highland Brigade, about 4,000 strong, under General Wauchope, should get
close enough to the lines of the foe to make it possible to charge the
heights. At midnight the gallant, but ill-fated, general moved cautiously
through the darkness towards the kopje where the Boers were most strongly
entrenched. They were led by a guide, who was supposed to know every inch
of the country, out into the darkness of an African night. The brigade
marched in line of quarter-column, each man stepping cautiously and slowly,
for they knew that any sound meant death. Every order was given in a hoarse
whisper, and in whispers it was passed along the ranks from man to man;
nothing was heard as they moved towards the gloomy, steel-fronted heights
but the brushing of their feet in the veldt grass and the deep-drawn
breaths of the marching men.

So, onward, until three of the clock on the morning of Monday. Then out of
the darkness a rifle rang, sharp and clear, a herald of disaster--a soldier
had tripped in the dark over the hidden wires laid down by the enemy. In a
second, in the twinkling of an eye, the searchlights of the Boers fell
broad and clear as the noonday sun on the ranks of the doomed Highlanders,
though it left the enemy concealed in the shadows of the frowning mass of
hills behind them. For one brief moment the Scots seemed paralysed by the
suddenness of their discovery, for they knew that they were huddled
together like sheep within fifty yards of the trenches of the foe. Then,
clear above the confusion, rolled the voice of the general--"Steady, men,
steady!"--and, like an echo to the veterans, out came the crash of nearly
a thousand rifles not fifty paces from them. The Highlanders reeled before
the shock like trees before the tempest. Their best, their bravest, fell in
that wild hail of lead. General Wauchope was down, riddled with bullets;
yet, gasping, dying, bleeding from every vein, the Highland chieftain
raised himself on his hands and knees, and cheered his men forward. Men and
officers fell in heaps together.

The Black Watch charged, and the Gordons and the Seaforths, with a yell
that stirred the British camp below, rushed onward--onward to death or
disaster. The accursed wires caught them round the legs until they
floundered, like trapped wolves, and all the time the rifles of the foe
sang the song of death in their ears. Then they fell back, broken and
beaten, leaving nearly 1,300 dead and wounded just where the broad breast
of the grassy veldt melts into the embrace of the rugged African hills, and
an hour later the dawning came of the dreariest day that Scotland has known
for a generation-past. Of her officers, the flower of her chivalry, the
pride of her breeding, but few remained to tell the tale--a sad tale truly,
but one untainted with dishonour or smirched with disgrace, for up those
heights under similar circumstances even a brigade of devils could scarce
have hoped to pass. All that mortal men could do the Scots did; they tried,
they failed, they fell. And there is nothing left us now but to mourn for
them, and avenge them; and I am no prophet if the day is distant when the
Highland bayonet will write the name of Wauchope large and deep in the best
blood of the Boers.

All that fateful day our wounded men lay close to the Boer lines under a
blazing sun; over their heads the shots of friends and foes passed without
ceasing. Many a gallant deed was done by comrades helping comrades; men who
were shot through the body lay without water, enduring all the agony of
thirst engendered by their wounds and the blistering heat of the day; to
them crawled Scots with shattered limbs, sharing the last drop of water in
their bottles, and taking messages to be delivered to mourning women in the
cottage home of far-off Scotland. Many a last farewell was whispered by
pain-drawn lips in between the ringing of the rifles, many a rough soldier
with tenderest care closed the eyes of a brother in arms amidst the tempest
and the stir of battle; and above it all, Cronje, the Boer general, must
have smiled grimly, for well he knew that where the Highland Brigade had
failed all the world might falter. All day long the battle raged; scarcely
could we see the foe--all that met our eyes was the rocky heights that
spoke with tongues of flame whenever our troops drew near. We could not
reach their lines; it was murder, grim and ghastly, to send the infantry
forward to fight a foe they could not see and could not reach. Once our
Guards made a brilliant dash at the trenches, and, like a torrent, their
resistless valour bore all before them, and for a few brief moments they
got within hitting distance of the foe. Well did they avenge the slaughter
of the Scots; the bayonets, like tongues of flame, passed above or below
the rifles' guard, and swept through brisket and breastbone. Out of their
trenches the Guardsmen tossed the Boers, as men in English harvest fields
toss the hay when the reapers' scythes have whitened the cornfields; and
the human sheaves were plentiful where the British Guardsmen stood. Then
they fell back, for the fire from the heights above them fell thick as the
spume of the surf on an Australian rock-ribbed coast. But the Guards had
proved to the Boers that, man to man, the Briton was his master.

In vain all that day Methuen tried by every rule he knew to draw the enemy;
vainly, the Lancers rode recklessly to induce those human rock limpets to
come out and cut them off. Cronje knew the mettle of our men, and an ironic
laugh played round his iron mouth, and still he stayed within his native
fastness; but Death sat ever at his elbow, for our gunners dropped the
lyddite shells and the howling shrapnel all along his lines, until the
trenches ran blood, and many of his guns were silenced. In the valley
behind his outer line of hills his dead lay piled in hundreds, and the
slope of the hill was a charnel-house where the wounded all writhed amidst
the masses of the dead; a ghastly tribute to British gunnery. For hours I
stood within speaking distance of the great naval gun as it spoke to the
enemy, and such a sight as their shooting the world has possibly never
witnessed. Not a shell was wasted; cool as if on the decks of a pleasure
yacht our tars moved through the fight, obeying orders with smiling
alacrity. Whenever the signal came from the balloon above us that the enemy
were moving behind their lines, the sailors sent a message from England
into their midst, and the name of the messenger was Destruction; and when,
at 1.30 p.m. of Tuesday, we drew off to Modder River to recuperate we left
a ghastly pile of dead and wounded of grim old Cronje's men as a token that
the lion of England had bared his teeth in earnest.

Three hundred yards to the rear of the little township of Modder River,
just as the sun was sinking in a blaze of African splendour on the evening
of Tuesday, the 13th of December, a long, shallow grave lay exposed in the
breast of the veldt. To the westward, the broad river, fringed with trees,
ran murmuringly, to the eastward, the heights still held by the enemy
scowled menacingly, north and south, the veldt undulated peacefully; a few
paces to the northward of that grave fifty dead Highlanders lay, dressed as
they had fallen on the field of battle; they had followed their chief to
the field, and they were to follow him to the grave. How grim and stern
those dead men looked as they lay face upward to the sky, with great hands
clenched in the last death agony, and brows still knitted with the stern
lust of the strife in which they had fallen. The plaids dear to every
Highland clan were represented there, and, as I looked, out of the distance
came the sound of the pipes; it was the General coming to join his men.
There, right under the eyes of the enemy, moved with slow and solemn tread
all that remained of the Highland Brigade. In front of them walked-the
chaplain, with bared head, dressed in his robes of office, then came the
pipers, with their pipes, sixteen in all, and behind them, with arms
reversed, moved the Highlanders, dressed in all the regalia of their
regiments, and in the midst the dead General, borne by four of his
comrades. Out swelled the pipes to the strains of "The Flowers of the
Forest," now ringing proud and high until the soldier's head went back in
haughty defiance, and eyes flashed through tears like sunlight on steel;
now sinking to a moaning wail, like a woman mourning for her first-born,
until the proud heads dropped forward till they rested on heaving chests,
and tears rolled down the wan and scarred faces, and the choking sobs broke
through the solemn rhythm of the march of death. Right up to the grave they
marched, then broke away in companies, until the General lay in the shallow
grave with a Scottish square of armed men around him, only the dead man's
son and a small remnant of his officers stood with the chaplain and the
pipers whilst the solemn service of the Church was spoken.

Then once again the pipes pealed out, and "Lochaber No More" cut through
the stillness like a cry of pain, until one could almost hear the widow in
her Highland home moaning for the soldier she would welcome back no more.
Then, as if touched by the magic of one thought, the soldiers turned their
tear-damp eyes from the still form in the shallow grave towards the heights
where Cronje, the "lion of Africa," and his soldiers stood. Then every
cheek flushed crimson, and the strong jaws set like steel, and the veins on
the hands that clasped the rifle barrels swelled almost to bursting with
the fervour of the grip, and that look from those silent, armed men spoke
more eloquently than ever spoke the tongues of orators. For on each
frowning face the spirit of vengeance sat, and each sparkling eye asked
silently for blood. God help the Boers when next the Highland pibroch
sounds! God rest the Boers' souls when the Highland bayonets charge, for
neither death, nor hell, nor things above, nor things below, will hold the
Scots back from their blood feud. At the head of the grave, at the point
nearest the enemy, the General was laid to sleep, his officers grouped
around him, whilst in line behind him his soldiers were laid in a double
row, wrapped in their blankets. No shots were fired over the dead men
resting so peacefully, only the salute was given, and then the men marched
campwards as the darkness of an African night rolled over the
far-stretching breadth of the veldt. To the gentlewoman who bears their
General's name the Highland Brigade sends its deepest sympathy. To the
mothers and the wives, the sisters and the sweethearts, in cottage home by
hillside and glen they send their love and good wishes--sad will their
Christmas be, sadder the new year. Yet, enshrined in every womanly heart,
from Queen Empress to cottage girl, let their memory lie, the memory of the
men of the Highland Brigade who died at Magersfontein.



                          SCOUTS AND SCOUTING.

                        DRISCOLL, KING OF SCOUTS.

                                                       ORANGE RIVER COLONY.


I have a weakness for scouts. Good scouts seem to me to be of more
importance to an army in the field than all the tape-tied intelligence
officers out of Hades. They don't get on well with the regular officers as
a rule, because scouts are like poets--they are born, not manufactured.
They are people who do not feel as if God had forsaken them for ever if
they don't get a shave and a clean shirt every morning, they are just a
trifle rough in their appearance and manners; but they ride as straight as
they talk, and shoot straighter than they ride. They have to be built for
the business. All the training in the world won't make a scout unless
nature has commenced the job; mere pluck is not worth a dog's bark in this
line of life, though without pluck no scout is worth a wanton woman's
smile. A good scout wants any amount of courage; he wants a level head--a
head of ice, and a heart of fire. He wants to know by instinct when to rush
onward and chance his life to the heels of his horse and the goodness of
God, and he wants to know with unfailing certainty when to crawl into cover
and hide. He must understand how to ride with no other guide than the lay
of the country, the course of the sun, or the position of the stars. He
must have eyes that note every broken hill, every little hollow, every
footprint of man or horse on the veldt.

He must be an excellent judge of distance, of time, of numbers. He must be
able to tell at a glance whether a cloud of dust is caused by moving troops
or by the action of the elements. Above all, he must be truthful, not given
to exaggeration of his friends' strength or his enemy's weakness. When he
makes his report it should need no corroboration. If a scout is worth his
salt, his advice should be accepted and acted upon promptly.

I often go out with the scouts; they are the eyes of the army. A man who
knocks around with scouting parties knows more, sees more, hears more of
the real state of affairs than nine-tenths of the staff officers ever know,
hear, or see. Men fresh from the Old Country seldom make good scouts. Take
the Yeomanry, for instance. They are plucky enough, but not one in a
hundred of them has the making of a scout in him. All his fathers and his
grandfather's and his great-grandfather's breeding trends in other
directions, and there is an awful lot more in the breeding of men than most
folk imagine. The American makes a good scout. If he knows nothing of the
life, he soon picks it up. So does the Australian, and the Canadian, and
the Colonial-born South African. Something in the life appeals to them.
They get the "hang" of it with very little trouble. There are some
English-born men, however, who develop into rattling great scouts. These
men are mostly adventurous fellows, who have roamed about the world, and
had the corners knocked off them. I have two of them in my mind's eye just
at present. One of them is an Irishman named Driscoll, Captain of the
Scouts who are the eyes and ears of Rundle's army. The other is an
Englishman named Davies, a captain in the same gallant little band. The
first lieutenant is a Cape colonial of English extraction, named Brabant, a
gallant son of a gallant general. Captain Driscoll is a typical Irishman,
just such a man as the soul of Charles Lever would have revelled in, a man
of dauntless daring, with a heart of iron, and a face to match. Strangely
enough, the captain does not pride himself a bit on his pluck, but he
thinks a deuce of a lot of his beauty. As a matter of fact, he has the
courage of ten ordinary men, but he would not take a prize in a first-class
beauty show. (Lord send I may be far from the reach of his revolver when
this reaches his eye.) He has that dash of vanity in his composition which
I have found in all good Irishmen, and he prides himself far more on the
execution his eyes have done amidst the Dutch girls than of the work his
deadly rifle has wrought in the ranks of the Dutch mea Yet, if you want to
know if Driscoll can shoot, just go to Burmah, where for ten years he held
the position of captain in the Upper Burmah Volunteer Rifles. That was
where I heard of him first, as the most deadly rifle and revolver shot in
all the East.

The Boers know him now as the prince of rifle shots and the king of scouts.
He is standing in the wintry sunlight just in front of my tent as I am
writing, one hand on the bridle of his horse, rapping out Dutch oaths with
a strong Cork accent to a nigger who has not groomed his pet animal
properly. The nigger is very meek, for past experience has told him that
Irish blood is hot, and an Irishman's boot quick and heavy. He is a
picturesque figure, this Celtic scout leader, just such a picture as Phil
May could bring to life on a sheet of paper with a few strokes of his
master hand. He is about eleven stone in weight, and, roughly, five feet
eight, clean cut and strong, with a face which tells you he was born in
Cork, and had knocked about a lot in tropic lands; eight-and-thirty if he
is a day, though he swears at night around the camp fire that the pretty
Dutch girls have guessed his age as twenty-seven. He wears a slouch hat,
around which a green puggaree coils lovingly. In his right hand his rifle
rests as if it felt at home there. His coat is worn and shabby, khaki in
colour; riding pants of roughest yellow cords, patched in places
unspeakable, leggings around his sinewy calves, and feet planted in neat
boots make up the whole man. He is clean shaven except for a moustache,
dark brown in colour, which sprouts from his upper lip.

In his softer moments Driscoll tells us that it used to "cur-r-r-l" before
he had the "faver" in Burmah, and on such occasions we assure him that it
"cur-r-rls" even yet. It is more polite to agree with him than to cross
him--and a lot safer. He is as full of anecdote as heaven is of angels, and
I mean to use him in the sweet days of peace, unless some stay-at-home
journalist niches him from me in the meantime. Driscoll and Davies are fast
friends. The Englishman is not such a picturesque figure as the Irishman.
Englishmen seldom are, somehow; but he is a man, a real white man, all
over. He is rather a good-looking, well set-up young fellow, who always
looks as if he had just had a bath; not a dude by any manner of means, but
a fellow with a soft eye for a pretty ankle, and a hard fist for a foe--one
of those quiet chaps a man always likes to find close beside him in a row.
Driscoll almost weeps over him to me sometimes. "He's the devil's own at
close quarters," says the Irishman. "Never want a better chum when it comes
to bashing the enemy. If he could only shoot a bit 'straighther and talk a
bit sweether to the colleens he'd be perfect." All the same, I have, and
hold, my own opinion concerning the "talking." Many a smile which the
gallant Celt appropriated to himself as we rode out of a conquered town
seemed to me to belong of right to the rosy-faced Welsh lad on the
off-side. To hear these two men chatter over a glass of hot rum in my tent
at night one would think they had never faced danger. Yet never a day goes
by but one or the other of them has to run the gauntlet of Boer rifles;
whilst Jack Brabant, who is death on cigars or anything else that will emit
smoke, and who curls up and says little, has been near death so often that
it will be no stranger to him when it comes in all its finality.

Driscoll was in Burmah when the news came of the first disaster to the
Irish troops in South Africa. He threw up his business as lightly as a
coquette throws up a midsummer lover, and started for the war. At Bombay he
was stopped by a yard or two of red tape, and had to go back to Calcutta,
where he used his Irish tongue to such purpose that he got a permit to
leave India, and made his way to the scene of trouble. He first joined
General Gatacre as orderly officer. Later he was attached to the Border
Mounted Rifles as captain, and did splendid service at the battles of
Dordrecht and Labuschagne's Nek In the latter place he was the first man to
gallop into the Boer laager before the fight had ceased. Captain, then
Lieutenant, Davies was as close to his side as a shadow to a serpent, and
they only had fourteen men with them at the time. After this Driscoll,
whose skill as a scout had been remarked on all sides, was ordered to form
a body of fifty scouts to act as the very eyes of the rapidly moving
Colonial Division under General Brabant. This was promptly done, most of
the men picked being Colonial-born Britishers. Soon after the formation of
his band, Driscoll, with fifty men, attacked Rouxville from four sides at
once. Dashing in, he demanded surrender of the place, as if he had an army
at his back to enforce his demands, a piece of Irish impudent valour that
would have cost every man amongst the little band his life had the Boers
known that he was unbacked. But they did not know it, and consequently
surrendered, and he hoisted the British flag and disarmed the residents--a
really brilliant piece of work, for which Driscoll's Scouts have up to date
received no public credit.

The Scout and his men took a warm part in the, very warm fight at Wepener,
where many a good Briton fell. He had lost a good few fellows in the many
fights, but Driscoll's name soon charmed others to his little band. At
Jammersberg Drift the Scouts were so badly mauled that over a fourth of
their number were counted out, but the places of the fallen men were soon
filled, and to-day the number is almost complete. Driscoll has one
especially good quality. He never speaks slightingly of his enemy unless he
well deserves it. Few men have had so many hand-to-hand encounters with the
burghers as he has; few men have held their lives by virtue of their steady
hand on a rifle as frequently as this wild, good-natured, merry Irishman
has done. Yet of the Boer as a fighter he speaks most highly. "He don't
like cold steel, and shmall blame to'm," says Driscoll, "but for the clever
tactics he's a devil of a chap, 'nd the men who run him down are mostly the
men who run away from him. They're not all heroes, any more than all women
are angels. Some of 'em are fit only for a dog's death, but most of 'em are
good men; and if I wasn't an Irishman I wouldn't mind being a Boer, for
they've no call to hang their heads and blush when this war is over."

I asked him if he had ever of his own knowledge come into contact with
anything savouring of white flag treachery. "Once I did," said the great
scout, and for a while his eyes were filled with a sombre fire which spoke
of the volcano under the genial human crust. "Onct," and he lapsed into the
brogue as he spoke; "only onct, and there's a debt owin' on it yet which
has got to be paid. It was at Karronna Ridge. I was out wid me scouts, 'nd
I saw a farmhouse flying the white flag--a great flag it was, too, as big
as a bed sheet. I'm not sure that it was not wan, too. I rode towards it,
thinking the people wanted to surrender, and sent two of me men, two young
lads they were--good boys, eager for duty. I sent 'em forward to ask what
was the matther inside; and when they got within fifteen paces of the house
the Boers inside opened fire from twenty rifles, and blew 'em out of the
saddle. I had to ride with me little troop for dear life then, for the
rocks all around us were alive with rifles. That house still stands; but if
Driscoll's name is Driscoll it's going to burn, and the cur who flew the
white flag in it, if I can get him, for the sake of the dead boys out on
the veldt there. That's the only dirty trick I knew them play, and they
must have been a lot of wasters, not like the general run of their
fighters."

Three nights ago Driscoll, Davies, Brabant, and twenty men camped in a
farmhouse a long way from the British lines, for these men scour the
country for many miles in all directions. The night was cold and rough, a
bleak wind whistling amidst the kopjes half a mile away. Just as the scouts
were sitting down to supper, the farmer's wife rushed in, and said to
Driscoll, in a voice between a sob and a scream, "Do you know, sir, that
our burghers are in the kopjes, and are watching the farm?" and as she
spoke she wrung her hands wildly. The Irish scout rose from the table and
bowed, as only an Irish scout can bow, for the "vrow" was about thirty
years of age, and pleasing to the eye beyond the lot of most women. "I am
awfully glad to hear it, madam," he said in his execrable Dutch. "I've been
looking for that commando for a week past. As they have doubtless sent a
message by you, please send this back for me. Tell their officers, if they
will accept an offer to come and dine with Driscoll's Scouts here to-night,
they shall be made welcome to the best we have in the way of kindness. For
it must be cold waiting outside in the wind. Tell them they shall go as
they come, unmolested and unwatched, and in the morning we'll come out and
give 'em all the fight they want in this world." Then, sweeping the floor
with a graceful wave of his green puggareed soft slouch hat, Driscoll bowed
the astonished dame out of the dining-room, whilst his officers and men
nearly choked themselves with their hot soup, as they noticed him
surreptitiously drawing a pocket mirror from his breeches pocket. For well
they knew that the dare-devil leader was thinking far more of the effect
his looks had had on the Dutch housewife than of the effect of his message
on the enemy. Yet, at the first promise of dawn, he unrolled himself from
his blanket on the hard floor, and was the foremost man to show in the
open, where the enemy's rifles might reach him. But no rifles sounded, for
the Boers had declined the invitation both to supper and breakfast.



                         HUNTING AND HUNTED.

                                                       ORANGE RIVER COLONY.


There is a funny side to pretty nearly every kind of tragedy if one only
has the humorous edge of his nature sufficiently well developed to see it.
Not that the humour is always apparent at the time--that comes later. I am
led to these reflections as I watch Lieutenant "Jack" Brabant, of the
Scouts, dancing a wild war dance round our little camp fire. He is a
picturesque figure in the firelight, this thirty-year-old son of the
renowned General Brabant, ten stone weight I should say, all whipcord and
fencing wire, rather a hard-faced man; no feather-bed frontiersman this,
but a tough, hard-grained bit of humanity, who has fought niggers and
hunted for big game at an age when most young fellows are thinking more of
poetry and pretty faces than of hard knocks and harder sport. I know him
for a rattling good shot at either man or beast, a fine bushman, and a
dandy horseman. He is a rather quiet fellow, as a rule, but all the
quietness is out of him to-night, and he only wants to be stripped of his
tight yellow jacket, cord breeches, leather gaiters, soft slouch hat with
green puggaree, and then, given a coat of black paint, he would pass well
for some warrior chief doing a death dance in the smoke. He is boiling with
passion, his left fist, clenched hard as the head of an axe, moves up and
down, in and out, like the legs of a kicking mule midst a crowd of
cart-horses. In his right he swings his Mauser carbine, and a man don't
need to be a descendant of a race of prophets to know that something has
gone gravely wrong with the lieutenant, otherwise he would not be making a
circus of himself in this fantastic fashion.

I lay my pencil aside for a minute or two to catch what he is saying, and
when I have got the hang of the story I don't wonder he feels as mad as a
wooden-legged man on a wet mud-bank. He had been out all day since the very
break of dawn with a couple of scouts, searching the kopjes for a notorious
Boer spy, whose cleverness and audacity had made him a thorn in our side.
If there was a man in the British lines capable of running the "slim" Boer
to earth, that man was Lieutenant Jack Brabant. It had been a grim hunt,
for the spy was worthy of his reputation, and the pursuers had to move with
their fingers on their triggers, and a rash move would have meant death.
All the forenoon he dodged them, in and out of the kopjes, along the
sluits, up and down the dongas; sometimes they pelted him at long range
with flying bullets, sometimes he sent them a reminder of the same sort.
And so the day wore on; but at last, towards evening, they fixed him so
that he had to make a dash out across the veldt. He was splendidly mounted,
and when the time came for a dash he did not waste any time making poetry.
Neither did Brabant and his two men; they galloped at full speed after the
fleetly flying figure, and when they saw that a broad and deep donga ran
right across his track, cutting him off from the long line of kopjes for
which he was making, they counted him as theirs. He only had one chance, to
gallop into the donga, jump out of the saddle and fire at them as they
closed in on him; and, as they rode far apart, it was a million to one on
missing in his hurry in the fading light. But the gods had decided
otherwise, for the whiplike crack of rifles suddenly cut the air, and the
bullets fell so thick around the pursuers that the three men could almost
breathe lead. Half a mile away, on the far side of the donga, appeared a
squad of Yeomanry, blazing away like veritable seraphs at Brabant and his
men, whilst they let the flying Boer go free. Brabant whipped out his
handkerchief, and waved it frantically; but the lead only whistled the
faster, and he had only one chance for his life, and that was to wheel and
ride at full speed for the nearest cover, where he and his men hid until
the Yeomen rode up. Then Brabant hailed them, and asked them what the devil
they meant by trying to blow him and his men out of the saddle.

There was a pause in the ranks of the Yeomen, then a voice lisped through
the gathering gloom, "Are you fellahs British?"

"Yes, d--n you; did you think we were springbok?"

"No, by Jove, but we thought you were beastly Booahs. Awfully sorry if
we've caused you any inconvenience. What were you chasing the other fellah
foah, eh?"

"Oh!" howled the disgusted backwoodsman with a snort of wrath, "we only
wanted to know if he'd cut his eye tooth yet."

"Bah Jove," quoth the Yeoman, "you fellahs are awfully sporting, don't yer
know."

"Yes," snarled the angry South African, "and the next time you Johnnies
mistake me for a Booah and plug at me, I'll just take cover and send you
back a bit of lead to teach you to look before you tighten your finger on a
trigger."

Talking of the Yeomen brings back a good yarn that is going round the camps
at their expense. They are notorious for two things--their pluck and their
awful bad bushcraft. They would ride up to the mouth of a foeman's guns
coolly and gamely enough, but they can't find their way home on the veldt
after dark to save their souls, and so fall into Boer traps with a
regularity that is becoming monotonous. Recently a British officer who had
business in a Boer laager asked a commander why they set the Yeomen free
when they made them prisoners. "Oh!" quoth the Boer, with a merry twinkle
in his eye, "those poor Yeomen of yours, we can always capture them when we
want them." This is not a good story to tell if you want an _encore_,
if you happen to be sitting round a Yeoman table or camp fire.

But it is time I got back to the subject which lay in my mind when I sat
down to write this epistle. The lieutenant's war dance took me off the
track for a while, but I thought his story would come in nicely under the
heading of "Hunting and Hunted." Camp life gets dull at times, so does camp
food, the eternal round of fried flour cakes and mutton makes a man long
for something which will remind him that he has still a palate, so when one
of the scouts came in and told me that he had seen three herds of
vildebeestes, numbering over a hundred each, and dozens of little mobs of
springbok and blesbok, within ten miles of camp, away towards Doornberg, I
made up my mind to ride out next day, and have a shot for luck. My friend
Driscoll, captain of the Scouts, rammed a lot of sage advice into me
concerning Boers known to be in force at Doornberg. I assured him that I
had no intention of allowing myself to drift within range of any of the
veldtsmen, so taking a sporting Martini I mounted my horse and set forth,
intending to have a real good time among the "buck." At a Kaffir kraal I
picked up a half-caste "boy," who assured me that he knew just where to
pick up the "spoor" of the vildebeeste, and he was as good as his boast,
for within a couple of hours he brought me within sight of a mob of about
fifty of the animals, calmly grazing. I worked my way towards them as well
as I could, leaving the "boy" to hold my horse; but, though I was careful
according to my lights, I was not sufficiently good as a veldtsman to get
within shooting distance before they saw me or scented me. Suddenly I saw a
fine-looking fellow, about as big as a year-and-a-half-old steer, trot out
from the herd. He came about twenty yards in my direction, and I had a
grand chance to watch him through my strong military glasses. He looked for
all the world like a miniature buffalo bull, the same ungainly head and
fore-quarters, big, heavy shoulders, neat legs, shapely barrel, light loin,
and hindquarters, the same proppy, ungainly gait. I unslung my rifle to
have a shot at him, when he wheeled and blundered back to the herd, and the
lot streamed off at a pace which the best hunter in England would have
found trying, in spite of the clumsiness of their movements. The half-caste
grinned as he came towards me with the horses, grinned with such a glorious
breadth of mouth that I could see far enough down his black and tan throat
to tell pretty well what he had for breakfast. This annoyed me. I like an
open countenance in a servant, but I detest a mouth that looks like a mere
burial ground for cold chicken. We rode on for a mile or two, and then saw
a pretty little herd of springbok about eighteen hundred yards away on the
left. Slipping down into a donga, I left the horse and crawled forward,
getting within nice, easy range. I dropped one of the pretty little
beauties. I tried a flying shot at the others as they raced away like magic
things through the grass, which climbed half-way up their flanks, but it
was lead wasted that time.

My coffee-coloured retainer gathered up the spoil, and paid me a compliment
concerning my shooting, though well I knew he had sized me up as a
"wastrel" with a rifle, for his shy eyes gave the lie to his oily tongue.
We hunted round for awhile, and then from the top of a little kopje I saw a
beautiful herd of vildebeestes one hundred and sixteen in number, lumbering
slowly towards where we stood. The wind blew straight from them towards us,
so that I had no fear on the score of scent. Climbing swiftly down until
almost level with the veldt, I lay cosily coiled up behind a rock, and
waited for the quarry. They came at last, Indian file, about a yard and a
half separating one from the other, not a hundred and twenty yards from
where I lay. I had plenty of time to pick and choose, and plenty of time to
take aim, so did not hurry myself. Sighting for a spot just behind the
shoulder, I sent a bit of lead fair through a fine beast, and expected to
see him drop, but he did nothing of the kind. For one brief second the
animal stood as if paralysed; then, with a leap and a lurch, he dashed on
with his fellows. I fired again, straight into the shoulder this time, and
brought him down; but he took a third bullet before he cried
_peccavi_. I had a good time for pretty near the whole of that day,
and was lamenting that I had not brought a Cape cart and pair of horses
with me to bring home the spoil, when, happening to look into the face of
my brown guide, I saw that his complexion had turned the colour of blighted
sandalwood. He did not speak, but swift as thought ripped out his knife,
and cut the thongs which bound the springbok and other trophies of the
day's sport to his saddle, letting everything fall in an undignified heap
on to the veldt. Then, without a word of farewell, or any other kind of
word for that matter, he drove his one spur into the flank of his wretched
nag, and fled round the bend of a kopje, which, thank Providence, was close
handy, and as he went I saw something splash against a rock a dozen yards
behind him. I had glanced hurriedly over the veldt the moment I caught that
queer expression on the saffron face of my assistant, but as far as the eye
could reach I could see nothing. Now, however, looking backwards, I saw
three or four men riding out of a donga two thousand five hundred yards
away.

Twenty-five seconds later I had caught and passed my fleeing servant, who
was heading for some kopjes, which lay right in front, about a mile and a
half away. As I passed him he yelled, "Booers, baas, Booers! Ride hard,
baas, ride hard; there are three hundred in the donga." When I heard that
item of news I just sat down and attended strictly to business, and I am
free to wager that never since the day he was foaled had that horse covered
so much ground in so short a space of time as he did by the time he reached
the kopjes. My servant had adroitly dodged into a sluit which hid him from
view, and I knew that he could work his way out far better than I could.
Besides, if they captured him, the worst he would get would be a cut across
the neck with a sjambok for acting as hunting-guide to a detested
Rooitbaaitje; whilst as for me, they would in all probability discredit my
tale concerning the hunting trip, and give me a free, but rapid, pass to
that land which we all hope to see eventually, but none of us are anxious
to start for; because a correspondent has no right to carry a rifle during
war time, a thing I never do unless I am out hunting. I gave my tired horse
a spell, whilst I searched the veldt with my glasses, then slipping through
a gully I made my way out on to the veldt, got in touch with a donga that
ran the way I wanted to travel, got into its bed, gave my horse a drink,
and rode on until dark; then I made my way into camp, and religiously held
my peace concerning the doings of that day, because I did not want the life
chaffed out of me. A few days later I happened to call at the Colonial
camp, and was asked to dine by one of the officers.

"Like venison?" he asked cheerily.

"Yes, when it comes my way," I replied.

"Got some to-day," he said. "It's nicely hung, too; not fresh from the
gun."

"Shoot it yourself, eh?"

"Well, no, not exactly; was out on patrol on Monday, and saw a couple of
lousy Dutchmen. They didn't think we were round, so were enjoying
themselves shooting buck. We nearly got one of 'em with a long shot."

"Didn't they show fight?" I asked innocently.

"Fight?" he said, with scorn unutterable in his accent. "Not a bit of it.
They dropped their game, and cleared as if a thousand devils were after
them. I never saw men ride so fast."

"Positive they were Dutchmen?" I ventured.

"Yes," he laughed; "why, I'd know one of those ugly devils five miles off."

That settled me, and I said no more.



                            WITH THE BASUTOS.


When the Eighth Division was skirting the borders of Basutoland I thought
it would not be a waste of time to cross the border, and if possible
interview one of the chiefs. My opportunity came at last. Our general
decided to give his weary men a few days' rest, so getting into the saddle
at Willow Grange I rode to Ficksburg, and there crossed the River Caledon,
whose yellow waters, like an orange ribbon, divide Basutoland from the Free
State. At this point the river runs between steep banks, and when I crossed
it was about deep enough to kiss my horse's girths, though I could well
believe that in the flood season it becomes a most formidable torrent. An
artificial cutting has been made on both sides to facilitate the passage of
traders, black and white, but even there the ford is so constituted that
the Boers on the one side and the blacks on the other could successfully
dispute the passage of an invading army with a mere handful of men.

Once across the river one soon felt the influence of Jonathan, the "black
prince." The niggers, naked except for the loin cloth, swaggered along with
arms in their hands, and grinned with insolent familiarity into our faces.
They may have an intense respect and an unbounded love for the British--I
have read scores of times that they have--but I beg leave to doubt it.
Physically speaking they are a superb race of men, these sable subjects of
our Queen. Their heads sit upon their necks with a bold, defiant poise,
their throats are full, round, and muscular, their chests magnificent,
broad and deep, tapering swiftly towards the waist. Their arms and legs are
beautifully fashioned for strong, swift deeds. Strip an ordinary white man
and put him amongst those black warriors, and he would look like a human
clothes rack. They walk with a quick, springy step, and gave me the
impression that they could march at the double for a week without tiring.
But they are at their best on horseback. To see them barebacked dash down
the side of a sheer cliff, plunge into the river, swim their horses over,
and then climb the opposite bank when the face of the bank is like the face
of a wall is a sight worth travelling far to see.

There are many things in this world that I know nothing at all about, but I
do know a horseman when I see him, for I was bred in a land where
nine-tenths of the boys can ride. But nowhere have I seen a whole male
population ride as these Basuto warriors ride, and the best use England can
make of them is to turn them into mounted infantry. Give them six months'
drill, and they will be fit to face any troops in Europe. I never saw them
do any fighting, but they carry the fighting brand on every lineament--the
bold, keen eye, the prominent cheek-bone, the hard-set mouth, the massive
jaw, the quivering nostril, the swing and spring of every movement, all
speak the fighting race.

And their women; what of them? From the back of the head to the back of the
heel you could place a lance shaft, so straight are they in their carriage.
Their dress is a bunch of feathers and the third of a silk pocket
handkerchief, with a copper ring around the ankle and another around the
wrist. They do most of the daily toil, such as it is, though I know of no
peasant population in any other part of the world who get a living as
easily as these folk. The men allow the women to do most of the field
labour, but when the grain is bagged the males place it in single bags
across the back of a pony, and so take it to market. They walk beside the
tiny little ponies and balance the grain slung crosswise on the animal's
back, and when the grain has been sold or bartered they bound on to their
ponies and career madly homewards, each one trying to outdo his neighbour
in deeds of recklessness in the hope of winning favour in the eyes of the
dusky maidens. They are mean in regard to money or gifts, and know the
intrinsic value of things just as well as any pedlar in all England.
Judging the "nigger" merely as a human being, irrespective of sentiment,
colour, and so forth, I can only say that in my estimation he and his are
far better off in every respect than the average white labourer and his
family in England. These folk have plenty to eat, little to do, and are
very jolly. They would be perfectly happy if they only had a sufficient
number of rifles and a large enough supply of ammunition to enable them to
drive every white man clean away from their borders.

When I arrived at Jonathan's village that warrior was away with a band of
his young men, so that I could not see him, though I saw his son at a
wedding which was being held when I reached the scene. I was taken through
rows of naked, grinning savages, of both sexes, to be introduced to the
bride and bridegroom, whom I found to be a pair of mission converts. When I
saw the pair the shock nearly shook my boots off. The bride, a full-blooded
young negress, was dressed in a beautiful white satin dress, which fitted
her as if it had been fired at her out of a gun. It would not meet in front
by about three inches, and the bodice was laced up by narrow bands of red
silk, like a foot-baller's jersey. In her short, woolly hair she had pinned
a wreath of artificial orange blossoms, which looked like a diadem of snow
on a mid-winter mudheap. Down her broad back there hung a great gauzy lace
veil, big enough to make a fly-net for a cow camel in summer. It was not
fixed on to her dress, nor to her wreath, but was tied on to two little
kinky curls at each side of her head by bright green ribbons, after the
fashion of a prize filly of the draught order at a country fair. Her hands
were encased in a pair of white kid gloves, man's size, and a pretty big
man at that, for she had a gentle little fist that would have scared John
L. Sullivan in his palmiest days.

When I was introduced to the newly shackled matron she put one of those
gloved hands into mine with a simpering air of coyness that made me feel
cold all over, for that hand in the kid glove reminded me of the day I took
my first lesson from Laurence Foley, Australia's champion boxer, and he had
an eight-ounce glove on (thank Heaven!) on that occasion. In her right hand
the bride carried a fan of splendid ostrich feathers, with which she
brushed the flies off the groom. It was vast enough to have brushed away a
toy terrier, to say nothing of flies, but it looked a toy in that giant
fist.

The groom hung on to his bride's arm like a fly to a sugar-stick. He was a
tall young man, dressed in a black frock coat, light trousers, braced up to
show that he wore socks, shoes, white gloves, and a high-crowned hat. He
carried his bride's white silk gingham in one hand, and an enormous bunch
of flowers in the other. He tried to look meek, but only succeeded in
looking sly, hypocritical, and awfully uncomfortable. At times he would
look at his new spouse, and then a most unsaintly expression would cross
his foxy face; he would push out his great thick lips until they threw a
shadow all round him; open his dazzling white teeth and let his great
blood-red tongue loll out until the chasm in his face looked like a rent in
a black velvet gown with a Cardinal's red hat stuffed in the centre. He may
have been full of saving grace--full up, and running over--but it was not
the brand of Christianity that I should care to invest my money in. When he
caught my gaze riveted upon him, he tried to look like a brand plucked from
the burning; he rolled his great velvet-black eyes skyward, screwed up the
sluit which ran across his face, and which he called a mouth, until it
looked like a crumpled doormat, folded his hands meekly over his breast,
and comported himself generally like a fraudulent advertisement for a
London mission society.

From him I glanced to his "Pa," who had given him away, and seemed mighty
glad to get rid of him. "Pa" was dressed in pure black from head to
heel--just the same old suit that he had worn when he struck this planet,
only more of it. He was guiltless of anything and everything in the shape
of dress except for a large ring of horn which he wore on top of his head.
He did not carry any parasols, or fans, or geegaws of any kind in his great
muscular fists. One hand grasped an iron-shod assegai, and the other
lovingly fondled a battle-axe, and both weapons looked at home where they
rested. He was not just the sort of father-in-law I should have hankered
for if I had been out on a matrimonial venture; but I would rather have had
one limb of that old heathen than the whole body of his "civilised" son,
for with all his faults he looked a man. A chum of mine who knew the ways
of these people had advised me to purchase a horn of snuff before being
presented to the bride and groom, and I had acted accordingly.

When the ceremony of introduction was over, and I had managed to turn my
blushing face away from "Ma" and the bevy of damsels, as airily clothed as
herself, I offered the snuff box to the happy pair. The groom took a tiny
pinch and smiled sadly, as though committing some deadly sin. The bride,
however, poured a little heap in the palm of her hand about as big as a
hen's egg, regardless of her nice white kid gloves. This she proceeded to
snuff up her capacious nostrils with savage delight, until the tears
streamed down her cheeks like rain down a coal heap. Then she threw back
her head, spread her hands out palm downwards, like a mammoth duck treading
water, and sneezed. I never heard a human sneeze like that before; it was
like the effort of a horse after a two-mile gallop through a dust storm.
And each time she sneezed something connected with her wedding gear ripped
or gave way, until I began to be afraid for her. But the wreck was not
quite so awful as I had anticipated, and when she had done sneezing she
laughed. All the crowd except the groom laughed, and the sound of their
laughter was like the sound of the sea on a cliff-crowned coast.

A little later one of the bridesmaids, whose toilet consisted of a dainty
necklace of beads and a copper ring around one ankle, invited me to drink a
draught of native beer. The beer was in a large calabash, and I felt
constrained to drink some of it. These natives know how to make love, and
they know how to make war, but, as my soul liveth, they don't know how to
make beer. The stuff they gave me to drink was about as thick as
boardinghouse cocoa; in colour it was like unto milk that a very dirty maid
of all work had been stirring round in a soiled soup dish with an unwashed
forefinger. It had neither body nor soul in it, and was as insipid as a
policeman at a prayer meeting. Some of the niggers got gloriously merry on
it, and sang songs and danced weird, unholy dances under its influence. But
it did not appeal to me in that way, possibly I was not educated up to its
niceties. All I know is that I became possessed of a strange yearning to
get rid of what had been given me--and get rid of it early.

The wedding joys were of a peculiar nature. Bride and bridegroom, linked
arm in arm, marched up and down on a pad about twenty yards in length, a
nude minstrel marched in front, and drew unearthly music from a kind of
mouth organ. Girls squatting in the dust _en route_ clapped their
hands and chanted a chorus. The groom hopped first on one leg and then on
the other, and tried to look gorgeously happy; the bride kicked her satin
skirts out behind, pranced along the track as gracefully as a lady camel in
the mating season; behind the principal actors in the drama came a regiment
of youths and girls, and the antics they cut were worthy of the occasion.
Now and again some dusky Don Juan would dig his thumb into the ribs of a
daughter of Ham. The lady would promptly squeal, and try to look coy. It is
not easy to look coy when you have not got enough clothes on your whole
body to make a patch to cover a black eye; but still they tried it, for the
sex seem to me to be much alike on the inside, whether they dress in a coat
of paint or a coat of sealskin.

By-and-by the groom took his bride by the arm, and made an effort to induce
her to leave her maids of honour and "trek" towards the cabin which
henceforth was to be her home. The lady pouted, and shook his hand off her
arm; whilst the maidens laughed and clapped their hands, dancing in the
dust-strewn sunlight with such high kicking action as would win fame for
any ballet dancer in Europe. The young men jeered the groom, and incited
him to take charge of his own. He hung down his ebony head and looked
sillily sullen, and the bride continued to "pout." Have you ever seen a
savage nigger wench pout, my masters? Verily it is a sight worth travelling
far to see. First of all she wraps her mouth in a simper, and her lips look
like a fold in a badly doubled blanket. Then slowly, she draws the corners
towards, the centre, just as the universe will be crumpled up on the Day of
Judgment. It is a beautiful sight. The mouth, which, when she smiled,
looked like a sword wound on the flank of a horse, now, when the "pout" is
complete, looks like a crumpled concertina. The groom again timidly
advanced his hand towards the satin-covered arm of his spouse, and the
"pout" became more pronounced than ever. The white of one eye was slyly
turned towards the bridesmaids, the other rolled with infinite subtlety in
the direction of him who was to be her lord and master; and the "pout" grew
larger and larger, until I was constrained to push my way amidst the maids
to get a look behind the bride, for I fancied the back of her neck must
surely have got somehow into the front of her face. When I got to the front
again the "pout" was still growing, the rich red lips in their midnight
setting looking like some giant rose in full bloom that an elephant's hoof
had trodden upon. So the show proceeded. At last one of the bridesmaids
stepped from amidst her sisters, and playfully pushed the bride in the
direction of her home. Then the "pout" gave way to a smile, the white teeth
gleaming in the gap like tombstones in a Highland churchyard. I had been a
bit scared of her "pout," but when she smiled I looked round anxiously for
my horse. After a little manoeuvring, the blissful pair marched cabinwards,
with the whole group of naked men and maids circling round them, stamping
their bare feet, kicking up clouds of dust like a mob of travelling cattle.
The men yelled some barbarous melody, flourished their arms, smote upon
their breasts, and anon gripping a damsel by the waist circled afar like
goats on a green grass hill slope. The maids twisted and turned in
fantastic figures, swaying their nobly fashioned bodies hither and thither,
whilst they kept up a continuous wailing, sing-song cry. So they passed
from my sight into the regions of the honeymoon, and the clubbings and
general hidings which follow it.

I only stayed a few days amongst these savages, but, short as my stay was,
I arrived at the conclusion that the sooner they are disarmed the better.
There are hundreds of white women living upon isolated farms within easy
riding distance of the Basuto villages, and as we are disarming the
husbands and brothers of these women it is our solemn duty to see that the
savage warriors have not the means within their reach to injure or outrage
those whom we have left practically defenceless. It is true that these
women are the wives, daughters, and sisters of our enemy, but surely in all
England there does not breathe a man so poor in spirit as to wish to place
them at the mercy of a horde of barbarians. Ours is a grave responsibility
in regard to this matter. Just at present the native warriors are quiet in
their kraals, but a day will surely dawn when the younger and more
turbulent fighting men will lust for the excitement of war. They look upon
the Boer farmers who dwell near their borders as so many interlopers, whose
title deeds were signed by the rifle, and they long for the time to come
when they can sweep them backwards with the strong arm. They never speak of
the land close to their border as the Free State. They call it with deadly
significance the "conquered territory," and the idea of reconquest is
strong in their minds. Of old time the Boer farmers stood ever ready to
defend what they had conquered with the rifle, and the nigger had learned
to dread the Dutch rifle as he dreads few things in this world. To-day he
knows that the Boer is helpless, and is unsparing in his insolence to his
old-time foe. Later on friction between the white man and the black is
certain to ensue, and if he has the upper hand the black man will not stop
at mere insolence.

I don't know how the Imperial Parliament may feel about it, but I do know
that if there is wrong done the Boers by the blacks, the South African
farmers of British blood will rise like one man to defend the men and women
of their own colour. They will never permit the black man to dominate the
white, and that will cause friction between the Colonists and the Imperial
Government. There is more in this than may meet the eye at the first
glance, for if the Colonists rise to battle with the blacks the Imperial
troops will have to assist them whether the Government of the day likes or
dislikes it, or else we shall see the Colonists of our own blood clamouring
for the withdrawal of British rule in South Africa, and we shall hear again
the cry for a South African Republic. Not a "Dutch" South African Republic
next time, but a blended nationality, and Colonial Britons and Colonial
Dutchmen will be found fighting side by side under one flag, for one common
cause.

Surely, if it is not wise to allow the whites to carry arms, it is not wise
or right to allow sixty thousand fierce fighting men to remain fully
equipped and mounted. To me it seems that now, whilst we have two hundred
and fifty thousand fighting men in Africa to overawe and intimidate the
warriors, we should take from them, by force if necessary, everything in
the shape of warlike weapons. White men are not permitted in any of our
Colonies to ride or strut about the country armed to the teeth. Therefore,
I ask, why should these negroes be privileged to do what Australians or
Canadians are forbidden to do? They have no valid excuse for being in
possession of weapons of war. They have now no enemies capable of attacking
them upon their borders. There is no animal life of a savage or dangerous
character near them, and their armament is a menace to the public safety.
If their young men will not settle down to the peaceful calling of
husbandmen, tillers of the soil, and breeders of stock, let them be drafted
into our Army for service abroad. If there is not enough for the more
elderly men to do in the farming line, let them turn their energies towards
the development of the diamond mines and gold mines that lie within their
borders--mines which at present they will not work themselves nor allow any
white man to work.

I have spent a good many years of my life exploring new mineral territory,
and have seen much of the best auriferous country known to modern times;
but that Basuto country, presided over and held by a mere gang of black
barbarians, ought, in my estimation, to be one of the richest gems in the
British diadem. That good payable gold-bearing rock exists there I know
beyond question. I also know beyond all doubt that diamonds are to be
easily won from the soil, and I am thoroughly cognisant of the fact that at
least one, and I believe many, quicksilver mines can be located there.
Others who know the country well have told me of coal and tin and silver
mines, and samples have been shown to me which made my mouth water. Yet,
all this wealth, which nature's generous hand has scattered so liberally
for the use of mankind, is jealously locked away year by year by men who,
in their savage state, have no use for it themselves, yet will not, upon
any consideration whatever, grant a mining concession to a white man, no
matter what that white man's nationality may be. Verily, the heathen badly
want educating, and we have now 250,000 of the right kind of schoolmasters
within handy reach of them.



                       MAGERSFONTEIN AVENGED.

                                                                THABA NCHU.


When, a few months ago, I stood upon the veldt almost within the shadow of
the frowning brow of Magersfontein's surly heights, and looked upon the
cold, stern faces of Scotland's dead, and listened to the weird wailing of
the bagpipes, whilst Cronje gazed triumphantly down from his inaccessible
mountain stronghold upon his handiwork, I knew in my soul that a day would
dawn when Scotland would demand an eye for an eye, blood for blood. I read
it written on the faces of the men who strode with martial tread around the
last sad resting-place Of him they loved--their chief, the dauntless
General Wauchope. Vengeance spoke in the sombre fire that blazed in every
Scotsman's eye. Retribution was carved large and deep on every hard-set
Scottish face; it spoke in silent eloquence in the grip of each hard,
browned hand on rifle barrels; it found a mute echo in each knitted brow,
and leapt to life in every deep-drawn breath; it sparkled in each tear that
rolled unheeded and unchecked down war-scarred cheeks, and thundered in the
echo of the men's tread across the veldt, right up to Cronje's lines, as
they marched campwards. The Highland Brigade had gazed upon its dead; and
neither time, nor change, nor thought of home, or wife, or lisping babe,
would wipe the memory of that sight away until the bayonet's ruthless
thrust gave Scotland quittance in the rich, red blood of those who did that
deed.

That hour has come. The men who sleep in soldiers' graves beside the
willow-clad banks of the Modder River have been avenged. Or, if the debt
has not been paid in full, the interest owing on that bond of blood has at
least now been handed in. It was not paid by our Colonial sons; not from
Australian or Canadian hands did the stubborn Boers receive the debt we
owed. They were not Irish hearts that cleared old Scotland's legacy of hate
on that May Day amidst the African hills; it was not England's yeoman sons
who did that deed. But men whose feet were native to the heather, men on
whose tongues the Scottish burr clung lovingly--the bare-legged kilted
"boys" whom the lasses in the Highlands love, the gallant Gordons.

Let the tale be told in Edinburgh Town; let it ring along the Border; let
the lass, as she braids the widow's hair, whisper the story with
love-kissed breath; let the lads, as they come from their daily toil, throw
out their chests for the sake of their breeding; let the pessimist turn up
the faded page of history, written when the world was young, and find, if
he can, a grander deed done by the sons of men since the morning stars sang
together.

So to my tale. It was the 1st of May. We had the Boers hard pressed in
Thaba Nchu in a run of kopjes that reached in almost unbroken sequence
farther than a man's eye might reach. The flying French was with us,
chafing like a leashed greyhound because he could not sweep all before him
with one impetuous rush. Rundle, too, was here, with his haughty, handsome
face, as keen as French, but with a better grip on his feelings. Six
thousand of the foe, under Louis Botha, cool, crafty, long-headed,
resourceful, have held the kopjes. Again and again we manoeuvred to trap
them, but no wolf in winter is more wary than Botha, no weasels more
watchful than the men he commanded. When we advanced they fell back, when
we fell back they advanced, until the merest tyro in the art of war could
see that a frontal attack, unless made in almost hopeless positions, was
impossible. So Hamilton swept round their right flank, ten miles north of
Thaba Nchu, and gave them a taste of his skill and daring, whilst Rundle
held their main body here at Thaba Nchu. Rundle made a feint on their
centre in strong force, and they closed in from both flanks to resist him.
Then he drew off, as if fearing the issue. This drew the Boers in, and they
pounded our camp with shells until one wondered whether the German-made
rubbish they used would last them much longer. Then we threatened their
left flank quickly and sharply, giving Hamilton time to strike on their
right; and he struck without erring, whipping the enemy at every point he
touched, driving them out of their positions, and holding them firmly
himself, so threatening their rear and the immense herds of sheep and oxen
they have with them, making a footing for the British to move on and cut
Botha off from his base at Kroonstad.

Whether he will now stand his ground and fight or make a break for the main
army of the Boers is hard to calculate, for the Boer generally does just
what no one expects he will attempt to do. It was during Hamilton's
flanking effort that the Gordons vindicated their character for courage.
Captain Towse, a brave, courteous soldier and gentleman, whom I had had the
pleasure of meeting at Graspan, and whose guest I had been on several
occasions, was the hero of the hour. He is a fine figure of a man, well set
up, good-looking, strong, active. He was, I think, about the only soldier I
have seen who could wear an eye-glass and not lose by it. In age he looked
about forty. I remember snapping a "photo" of him as he was "tidying up"
the grave of gallant young Huddart, an Australian "middy," who lay buried
on the veldt; but the Boers collected that portrait from me later on, worse
luck. On this fateful day Captain Towse, with about fifty of the Gordons,
got isolated from the main body of British troops, and the Boers, with that
marvellous dexterity for which they are fast becoming famous, sized up the
position, and determined upon a capture. They little dreamt of the nature
of the lion they had snared in their toils. With fully two hundred and
fifty men they closed in on the little band of kilted men, and in
triumphant tones called upon them to throw down their arms and surrender.
It was a picture to warm an artist's heart. On all sides rose the bleak,
black kopjes, ridge on ridge, as inhospitable as a watch-dog's growl. On
one hand the little band of Highlanders, the picturesque colours of their
clan showing in kilt and stocking, perfect in all their appointments, but
nowhere so absolutely flawless as in their leadership. Under such leaders
as he who held them there so calm and steady their forbears had hurled back
the chivalry of France, and had tamed the Muscovite pride, and they were
soon to prove themselves men worthy of their captain.

On the other side rose the superior numbers of the Boers. A wild and motley
crew they looked compared with the gem of Britain's army. Boys stood side
by side with old men, lads braced themselves shoulder to shoulder with men
in their manhood's prime, ragged beards fell on still more ragged shirt
fronts. But there were manly hearts behind those ragged garments, hearts
that beat high with love of home and country, hearts that seldom quailed in
the hour of peril. Their rifles lay in hands steady and strong. The Boer
was face to face with the Briton; the numbers lay on the side of the Boer,
but the bayonet was with the Briton.

"Throw up your hands and surrender." The language was English, but the
accent was Dutch; a moment, an awful second of time, the rifle barrels
gleamed coldly towards that little group of men, who stood their ground as
pine trees stand on their mountain sides in bonny Scotland. Then out on the
African air there rang a voice, proud, clear, and high as clarion note:
"Fix bayonets, Gordons!" Like lightning the strong hands gripped the ready
steel; the bayonets went home to the barrel as the lips of lover to lover.
Rifles spoke from the Boer lines, and men reeled a pace from the British
and fell, and lay where they fell. Again that voice with the Scottish burr
on every note: "Charge, Gordons! Charge!" and the dauntless Scotchman
rushed on at the head of his fiery few. The Boer's heart is a brave heart,
and he who calls them cowards lies; but never before had they faced so grim
a charge, never before had they seen a torrent of steel advancing on their
lines in front of a tornado of flesh and blood. On rushed the Scots, on
over fallen comrades, on over rocks and clefts, on to the ranks of the foe,
and onward through them, sweeping them down as I have seen wild horses
sweep through a field of ripening corn. The bayonets hissed as they crashed
through breastbone and backbone. Vainly the Boer clubbed his rifle and
smote back. As well might the wild goat strike with puny hoofs when the
tiger springs. Nothing could stay the fury of that desperate rush. Do you
sneer at the Boers? Then sneer at half the armies of Europe, for never yet
have Scotland's sons been driven back when once they reached a foe to
smite.

How do they charge, these bare-legged sons of Scotia? Go ask the hills of
Afghanistan, and if there be tongues within them they will tell you that
they sweep like hosts from hell. Ask in sneering Paris, and the red records
of Waterloo will give you answer. Ask in St. Petersburg, and from
Sebastopol your answer will come. They thought of the dreary morning hours
of Magersfontein, and they smote the steel downwards through the neck into
the liver. They thought of the row of comrades in the graves beside the
Modder, and they gave the Boers the "haymaker's lift," and tossed the dead
body behind them. They thought of gallant Wauchope riddled with lead, and
they sent the cold steel, with a horrible crash, through skull and brain,
leaving the face a thing to make fiends shudder. They thought of Scotland,
and they sent the wild slogan of their clan ringing along the line until
the British troops, far off along the veldt, hearing it, turned to one
another, saying: "God help the Boers this hour; our Jocks are into 'em with
the bay'nit!"

But when they turned to gather up those who had fallen, then they found
that he whose lion soul had pointed them the crimson path to duty was to
lead them no more. The noble heart that beat so true to honour's highest
notes was not stilled, but a bullet missing the brain had closed his eyes
for ever to God's sunlight, leaving him to go through life in darkness; and
they mourned for him as they had mourned for noble, white-souled Wauchope,
whose prototype he was. They knew that many a long, long year would roll
away before their eyes would rest upon his like again in camp or bloody
field. But it gladdened their stern warrior hearts to know that the last
sight he ever gazed upon was Scotland sweeping on her foes.

And when our noble Queen shall place upon his breast the cross which is the
soldier's diadem, their hearts will throb in unison with his, for their
strong hands on that May Day helped him to win what he is so fat to wear;
and when our Sovereign honours him she honours them, and well they know it.
And when the years have rolled away, and they are old and grey, and spent
with wounds and toil, fit for nothing but to dandle little grand-babes on
their knees, young men and maids will flock around, and pointing out the
veteran to the curious stranger say, with honest pride, "He was with Towse
the day he won the cross."



                         THE CONDUCT OF THE WAR.

                                                       ORANGE RIVER COLONY.


There are hundreds of men lying in unmarked graves in African soil to-day
who ought to be alive and well, others who have been done to death by the
crass ignorance, the appalling stupidity, the damnable conceit which will
brook no teaching. I have seen men die like dogs, men who left comfortable
homes in the old land to go forth to uphold the power and prestige of our
nation's flag. I have seen them gasping out their lives like stricken
sheep, just in the springtide of their manhood, when the glory and the lust
of life should have been strong upon them I have watched the Irish lad with
the down upon his brave boyish face pass with the last deep-drawn quivering
sob over the border line of life, into the shadows of the unsearchable
beyond, a wasted sacrifice upon the grim altar of incapacity. I have seen
the kilted Scottish laddie lie, with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes, waiting
for the whisper of the wings of the Angel of Death. I have seen the death
damp gather on his unlined brow, and watched the grey pallor creep upwards
from throat to temple; until my very soul, wrung with anguish unutterable,
has risen in hot revolt against the crimes of the incapable.

I have knelt by England's fair-faced sons, the child of the cities, the boy
from the fens, the youth from the farm, and watched the shadows creeping
over eyes that mothers loved to look upon. I have seen the wasted fingers,
grown clawlike, plucking aimlessly at the rude blankets as if weaving the
woof of the winding-sheet, and have listened with aching heart to the
aimless babbling of the dying, in which home and friends were blended,
until the tired voice, grown aweary with the weight of utterance, died out
like the crooning of a lisping child, as the soul slipped through the
golden gateway that leads to the glory beyond the grave. I have watched
them pile the earth above the last home of Cambria's sons, the gallant
children of the old Welsh hills. I have seen them laid to sleep, as harvest
hands will lay the sheaves in undulating rows when the summer shower has
passed; and over every shallow grave I have sent a curse for those whose
brutish folly caused the flower of Britain's army to wither in the pride of
their peerless boyhood.

For the men who fall in battle we can flush our tears with pride, and
though our hearts may ache for those we love, yet is there an undercurrent
of hot joy to know they fell as soldiers love to fall, face forward to the
foe. But for those who die, as more than half of Britain's dead have died
in this last war, stricken by pestilence brought about by ignorance and
indolence, we have only sorrow and tears and prayers, blended with hate and
contempt for the triple-dyed dandies and dunces who robbed us of those who
should have been alive to-day to be the bulwark of the Empire, the pride of
the nation, and the joy of many homes.

Why did they die, these strong young soldiers of our Queen? Was it because
their hearts failed them in the presence of hardship and danger? I tell
you, No. The hardships of the campaign only roused them to greater
exertions. Bravely and uncomplainingly they answered every call of duty,
ready by night or day to go anywhere, or do anything, if only they were led
by men worthy of our Queen's commission, worthy of the cloth they wore. Why
did they die? Was it because of poisoned or polluted water, left in their
path by the enemy whom they were fighting? Not so. No, not so. The Boers
left no death-traps in our path. Why did they die? Was it because the
country through which we marched lent itself climatically to the
propagation and dissemination of fever germs? No, England, no! In all the
world there is no finer climate than that in which our gallant soldiers
died like rotting sheep. Wherever else the blame may lie, no truthful man
can lay the blame of those untimely graves upon the climate or the country
of our enemies.

I will tell you why they died, and tell you in language so plain that a
wayfaring man, even though a fool, cannot misunderstand me, for the time
has arrived when the whole Empire should know the truth in all its native
hideousness. Those men were done to death by wanton carelessness upon the
part of men sent out by the British War Office. They were done to death
through criminal neglect of the most simple laws of sanitation. Men were
huddled together in camp after camp; they were allowed to turn the
surrounding veldt and adjacent kopjes into cesspools and excreta camps. In
some camps no latrines were dug, no supervision was exercised. The
so-called Medical Staff looked on, and puffed their cigarettes and talked
under their eye-glasses--the fools, the idle, empty-headed noodles. And
whilst they smoked and talked twaddle, the grim, gaunt Shadow of Death
chuckled in the watches of the night, thinking of the harvest that was to
follow.

Then the careless soldiers passed onward, leaving their camp vacant, and
later came another batch of soldiers. Perhaps the men in charge would be
men of higher mental calibre; they would order latrines to be dug, and all
garbage to be burnt or buried. But by this time the germs of fever were in
the air, the men would sicken and die, just as I have seen them sicken and
die upon a score of mining fields away in the Australian bush; and all for
the want of a little honest care and attention, all for the want of a few
grains of good, wholesome, everyday common sense. Had proper care been
taken in regard to these matters, four-fifths of those who now fill fever
graves in South Africa would be with us, hale and hearty men, to-day.

But, England, you must not complain. "Tommy" is a cheap article; he only
costs a few pence per day, and if he dies there are plenty more ready and
willing to take his place. Don't think of him as a human being. Don't think
of him as some woman's husband and breadwinner. Don't think of him as some
grey-haired widow's son, whose support he has been. Don't think of him as
some foolish girl's heart's idol. But think of him as a part of the
country's revenue. Think of him as "One-and-fourpence a day."

What excuse can or will be made by the authorities for the wholesale murder
of our men I know not. Possibly those high and haughty personages will
sniff contemptuously and decline to give any explanation at all. And you,
who hold the remedy in your own hands, what will you do? Will you at
election times put a stern question to every candidate for the Commons, and
demand a straight and unqualified answer to your questions. Remember this:
You supply the men who do the fighting; the nation at a pinch can do
without a Roberts, a Duller, or a Kitchener, but, as my soul liveth, it
cannot do without "Tommy."

If you want Army reform, you must commence with the "Press gang"; you must
stand in one solid mass firmly behind those war correspondents who have not
feared to speak out plainly. You must send men to the Commons pledged to
stand behind them also, men who will not flinch and allow themselves to be
flouted by every scion of some ancient house; for if you do not support the
war correspondents of the great newspapers, how are you ever to know the
real truth concerning the doings of our armies in the field? I tell you
that you have not heard one-millionth part of the truth concerning this
South African enterprise, and now you never will know the truth. Had the
abominable practice of censorship been abolished prior to this war, most of
the abuses which have made our Army the laughing stock of Europe would have
been set right by the correspondents, for they would have pointed out the
evils to the public through the medium of their journals, and an indignant
people would have clamoured for reform in a voice which would brook no
denial. As things are at present, the military people during the progress
of the war have their heel upon the necks of the journalists, and the
public are robbed of what is their just right, the right of knowledge of
passing events; only that which suits the censor being allowed to filter
over the wires. Had it been otherwise, hundreds of young widows in Ireland,
Scotland, England, and Wales would be proud and happy wives to-day.

But do not let me rouse your phlegmatic blood, my Britons; sit down, with
your thumbs in your mouths, my masters, and allow a coterie to flout you at
will, whilst the Frenchmen, the Germans, the Russians alternately laugh at
and pity you. Pity you, the sons of the men who chased their fathers half
over Europe at the point of the blood-red bayonet! Have you grown tame,
have you waxed fat and foolish during these long years of peace? Is the
spirit that swept the legions of France through the Pyrenees and carried
the old flag up the heights of Inkerman in the teeth of Russian
chivalry--is it dead, or only sleeping? If it but slumbers, let me cry,
Sleeper, awake, for danger is at the gates! Not the danger due from foreign
foes, but a greater danger--the danger of unjust government, for where evil
is hidden injustice reigns.

Our military friends tell us that censorship of Press work is necessary for
the welfare of the Army. They urge that if we correspondents had a free
hand the enemy might gain valuable information regarding the movements of
our troops. To us who for the greater portion of a year have been at the
front there is grim irony in that assertion. Fancy the Boer scouts wanting
information from us which might filter through London newspapers! That
flimsy, paltry excuse can be dismissed with a contemptuous laugh. That is
not why the military people want our work censored. The real reason is that
their awful blunders, their farcical mistakes, and their criminal
negligence may not reach the British public. Just try for one brief moment
to remember some of the "censored" cables that have been sent home to you
during the war, and then compare it with such a cable as this, which would
have come if the Press men had a free hand:

                           "Kruger's Valley, Jan. 12.

      "The ---- Division, under General ----, arrived at
    Kruger's Valley four days ago. No latrines have been
    dug ... weather terribly hot, with rain threatening.
    This Division moves out in about a week. Its place will
    be taken by troops just arrived at Durban from England.
    Should we have rain in the meantime half the new draft
    will be down with enteric fever before they are here a
    week, and the death rate will be simply awful. General ----
    and staff will be responsible for those deaths."

The military folk would, doubtless, designate such a telegram "a piece of
d----d impudence."

But the latrines would be dug, the camp would be kept free from foulness,
and the new draft would not die untimely deaths, but would live to fight
the enemies of their country.

Why the camps in South Africa were not models of cleanliness passes my
comprehension. There was no need to harass "Tommy" by setting him to do the
work. Every Division was accompanied by swarms of niggers, who drew from
Government £4 10s. per month and their food. These niggers had a
gentleman's life. They waxed fat, lazy, and cheeky. Four-fifths of them
rode all day on transport wagons, and never earned a fourth of the wages
they drew from a sweetly paternal Government. Why could not those men have
been used in every camp to make things safe and comparatively comfortable
for "Tommy," who had to march all day, with his fighting kit upon his back
march and fight, and not only march and fight, but go on picket and sentry
duty as well? Those niggers ought to have, been turned out to dig and fill
in latrines for our soldiers, they ought to have been compelled to do all
the menial work of the camps; but they never did anything of the sort
"Tommy" was treated for the most part like a Kaffir dog, whilst the saucy
niggers led the lives of fightingcocks, and to-day any ordinary Army
Service nigger thinks himself a better man than "Tommy," and doesn't
hesitate to tell you so. It would be instructive to know the name of the
genius who fixed the scale of nigger wage at £ 4 10s. per month, with
rations. Fully half that sum could with ease have been saved the British
taxpayer, and the nigger would have taken it with delight, and jumped at
the chance of getting it. As a matter of fact, the nigger has had a huge
picnic, and has been well paid for attending it. He has never been kept
short of food. He has never had to march until his feet were almost falling
off him. He has not had to fight for the country that fed and clothed him.
Poor "Tommy!"



                                 HOME AGAIN.


I stood where Nelson's Column stands--a stranger, and alone. Alone amidst a
mighty multitude of men and maids. I saw a people drunk with joy. I looked
from face to face, and in each flashing eye, and on each quivering lip, a
nation's heart lay bared to all the world, for England's capital was but
the throbbing pulse of England's Empire. Our nation spoke to the nations
that dwell where the sea foam flies, and woe to them who do not heed the
tale that the city told. There was no sun, the city lay enveloped in
silvery shadows, like some grey lioness that knows her might and is not
quickly stirred to wrath or joy, like meaner things. I looked above, and
saw the monument of him whose peerless genius gave us empire on the seas. I
looked below, and saw, far as my eyes could range, a seething mass of men,
as good, as gallant, and as great of heart as those who fought and fell
beneath his flag, and in my blood I felt the pride of empire stirring, and
knew how great a thing it is to call one's self a Briton.

I looked along that swaying mass of human flesh and blood, and saw the best
that England owns waiting to welcome, with heart-stirring cheers, the
gallant lads whose lion hearts had carried London's name and fame along the
rough-hewn tracks of war. I saw the cream of Britain's chivalry and
Britain's beauty there. Men and women from the countryside, from Ireland
and from Scotland, all eager to pay tribute to the London lads who had so
proudly proved to all the world that it was not for a soldier's pay, not
for the love of gain, but for a nation's glory that they had risked limb
and life beneath an African sun. Then, as I looked, I caught a distant hum
of voices--a far-off sound, such as I have heard amid Pacific isles when
wind and waves were beating upon coral crags, and foam-topped rollers
thrashed the surf into the magic music of the storm-tossed sea. It was the
roar of London's multitudes welcoming home her own; and what a sound it
was! I have heard the music of the guns when our nation spoke in the stern
tones of battle to a nation in arms; I have heard the crash of tempests on
Southern coasts when ships were reeling in the breath of the blast, and
souls to their God were going; I have crouched low in my saddle when the
tornado has swept trees from the forest as a boy brushes flowers with his
footsteps. But never had I heard a sound like that. It was the voice of
millions, it was the great heart-beats of a mighty nation, it was a welcome
and a warning--a welcome to the descendants of the 'prentice lads of Old
London, a warning to the world. I caught the echoes in my hands, I hugged
them to my heart, I let them pour into my brain, and this is the tale they
told: "Sluggish we are, ye people, slow to wake, strong in the strength of
conscious might. Jibe at us, jeer at us, flout us and threaten us; but
beware the day we turn in our strength. We have sent forth a few of our
children, but they were but as a drop in the ocean. All Britain sent two
hundred and fifty thousand strong men to Africa; London, if need be, can
send five hundred thousand more to the uttermost parts of the earth. Aye,
and when they have died, as these would have died if need be, we can open
our hearts and send five hundred thousand more, and yet be strong for our
home fighting." It was a nation speaking to the nations, and that is the
tale it told. Let the nations take heed and beware, for the language was
the language of truth.

I listened; and lo! through the storm of cheering, through the cries of
women and the strong shouting of men in their prime, I caught another
sound, a sound I knew and loved--the sound of marching men. Music hath
charms to stir the blood and make men mad, but there is no music in all the
earth like the trained tread of men who have marched to battle. I knew the
rhythm of that tread; I knew that the "boys" of Old London were coming, and
my nostrils seemed filled with the fumes of fighting. I looked again, and,
saw them, hard faced, clean limbed, close set, as soldiers should be who
have faced the storm and stress of war, as proud a band as Britain ever
had, soldier and citizen both in one, fit to be a nation's bulwark and a
nation's trust; and in the crowd around them there were a thousand thousand
men as good, as game, as gritty, as they, for they were the children of the
people, the men of the shop-counter, the men of the city office, the men of
every artisan craft, the very vitals of London. They had sprung from the
womb of the city, and the city could give birth to a million more if need
be.

I saw them pass amidst a storm of cheers, and I, who had seen them out on
the African veldt under the foeman's guns, lifted up my voice to cheer them
onward, for well I knew that there was nothing in the gift of England that
they were not worthy of, those children of the "flat caps," those offspring
of the 'prentice lads of London. I knew how they had starved; I knew how
they had suffered through the freezing cold of the African winter; I knew
how gallantly, how uncomplainingly, they had marched with empty bellies and
aching limbs, ready to go anywhere, to do anything, ready to fight, and, if
it were the will of the great God of Battles, ready to lay down their young
lives and die. I knew those things, and, knowing them, gave them a cheer
for the sake of Australia, for the sake of the kinship which binds us as no
bonds of steel could bind us and them. I heard a voice at my knee
whimpering, the voice of a gutter kid, who had dodged in there out of the
way of the police. I looked at his ragged clothes, looked at his grimy
face, looked at his hands, which looked as if they had never looked at
soap, and I said: "What are you yelping for, kiddie?" And he, looking up at
me through his tears, fired a voice at me through his sobs, and said: "I'm
yelping, mister, because I'm only a little 'un, and can't see me mates come
home from the war." Then I laughed, and tossing him up on my shoulder let
him jamb his dirty fist on the only silk hat I possess, whilst he looked at
his "mates" march home; for they were his mates--he was a child of London,
and some day--who knows?--he may be a general.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed by
Cassell & Company, Limited, La Belle Sauvage,
London, E.C.
10.101.





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