Page images

greatest beauty is in the clear blue eyes, which are chased in his head in a way that might teach something to the best sculptors in the world. Neither is there any want of expression in these fine features, although, indeed, they are very far from conveying the same ideas of power and penetration which fall from the overhanging shaggy eyebrows of his brother."



after the last entry quoted from Scott, the Earl was gathered to the fathers who had been the glory of his life. He was buried at Dryburgh, and Sir Walter had the satisfaction of attending the funeral of one who had hoped to outlive him. "His lordship's funeral," he writes in his diary under April 25, "took place in a chapel amongst the ruins. His body was in the grave with its feet pointing westward. cousin Maxpopple was for taking notice of it, but I assured him that a man who had been wrong in the head all his life would scarce become right-headed after death." And then in a kinder vein :


"I felt something at parting with the old man, though but a trumpery body." Elsewhere, Sir Walter had sketched the character of the dead. He had a Tory dislike of the Erskine politics, and in particular he could never abide the Lord Chancellor, so it is possible that his judgment of the Maecenas who was so unlike the others is more tolerant than critical.

"Lord Buchan is dead," he wrote; "a person whose immense vanity, bordering upon insanity, obscured or rather eclipsed very considerable talents. His imagination was SO fertile that he seemed really to believe the extraordinary things he delighted in telling.

The two

great lawyers, his brothers, were not more gifted by nature than I think he was; but the restraints of a profession kept the eccentricity of the family in order. Henry Erskine was the best-natured man I ever knew— thoroughly a gentleman and with but one fault: he would not say 'No,' and thus sometimes misled those who trusted him. Tom Erskine was positively mad. I have heard him tell a cock-and-bull story of having seen the ghost of his father's servant, John Barnett, with as much gravity as if he believed every word he was saying. Both Henry and Thomas were saving men, yet both

died very poor the latter at one time possessed £200,000; the other had a considerable fortune. The Earl alone has died wealthy. It is saving, not getting, that is the mother They all had wit. The of riches. Earl's was crack-brained, and sometimes caustic. Henry's was of the very kindest, best - humoured, and gayest sort that ever cheered society; that of Lord Erskine moody and muddish. But I never saw him in

his best days."

in a

So wrote Sir Walter in his sick and weary latter years, and it is, in the main, the truth. We cannot sum up our comic Chesterfield save bundle of paradoxes. He had the mad Erskine blood and a more than Scots thriftiness. He was magnificent, but with a prudent aim; a lover of letters with little real aptitude and an uncertain taste; a Radical with the soundest Tory instincts; a Scot, but itching always to be esteemed cosmopolitan; a parochial magnate, yet with an eye on the two hemispheres. A laughing-stock to his contema bore to his poraries and friends, his egotism shielded him from pain, and he lived happily among his books and prints and stuccoed gardens. JOHN BUCHAN.



THE strategic movement to retreat: the same impulse originated by Lord Roberts affords an example of the superiority of strategy over tactics. It was aimed at vital point in the enemy's armour, his capital: that pierced, other resistance must fail. The


success of his aim depended on the ability of the mounted division to interrupt the communications between the Boer army in the west and its base.

It has been said that strategy is a permanent science, the principles of which are immutable, while tactics vary with every change of weapons or power of movement. Lord Roberts followed principles which have held through all ages; the Boers followed those forced on them by modern firearms, and by their ability to take the field all together mounted. They could not adapt their action to those older principles of which they were ignorant; but their tactics, which relied on recent improvements, were sufficient to cope with those of an earlier period. General French was only just in time to gain his objective, owing to the difficulty of keeping such an extensive movement secret in an enemy's country; but his object once attained, Magersfontein was rendered impossible for the Boers, and the rest followed. Kimberley was automatically relieved, because Cronje had no alternative but


made itself felt in the investing army round Ladysmith, which began to melt away in hopes to save its capital and succour Cronje-an instance more striking than the first, as the Boers' communications were not threatened, while the prize they had been fighting for during four months seemed almost within their grasp.

The success of the movement depended on the ability of General French to head off Cronje's retreat: thus it was a question of mobility, which does not consist in one soldier walking or riding faster than another soldier. Both forces were mounted: as the writer of the "military situation" in the Times' says, "The mobility of the British force was greater than the Boers, because the latter depended on trek-oxen, while Lord Roberts had at his disposal a large number of mules." Waggons were necessary, because both sides must eat, must carry a blanket and spare ammunition: thus transport is an integral part of mobility. So when men talk of Boer mobility and mounted infantry as the only antidote, ask them to organise their transport, and not interfere with the backbone of all armies - the infantry.

That the relief of Kimberley was none too soon is told by Lord Roberts :—

2 P


"As far back as the 10th inst. the enemy continued to shell the town heavily, and did not cease till late at night their object was unquestionably to do as much damage to the town as possible. On the 16th they continued firing heavily, and threw 100-pounder shrapnel-shells into the town. When the relieving column was within eight miles the besieged sent a message, The Boers are shelling the town,' and on entering soon afterwards, it found that the people had been eating horse-flesh and living in burrows under the heaps of minerefuse, rations being served out in the market-square under the shellfire of the enemy, whose guns opened on it when the people assembled."

Yet there are Englishmen who demand admiration for the man -Cronje-under whose orders such unmanly acts were perpetrated.

With the appearance of a field army, which the organising talents of Lord Kitchener had created, "kopje tactics" disappeared, and Lord Roberts was able to select his point of attack. The mobility of our columns was equal to that of the Boers, and railways were relegated to their Remarkproper place in rear. ing on this, a Boer commandant taken prisoner in Cronje's laager said they were quite convinced that we should be unable to follow any other line of advance except that afforded by the railway. "It was un-British for General French to start off across the Reit to trek to the Modder." The Boer believes that he has invented and appropriated "trekking," and that only a Dutchman can hope to interfere with his monopoly. An ordinary Boer passes one-half of his life on the trek. No sooner did he land at Durban than he

trekked northwards to the Umgeni, where he stayed long enough to found Maritzburg; to the then he trekked on Tugela. Laws and civilisation followed him, and his next trek brought him to the Vaal, but there was no rest here, so he pushed on to the Limpopo, where he still is: he would continue his trek to the Zambesi,

but Mr Rhodes has put up a fence.

Trekking is patriarchal and cheap, and allows him to enjoy the solitude of the veldt. He carries his family under a tilt in the forepart of the waggon, his goods in the hinder part; he sits and smokes beside the driver, taking an occasional spell at the whip; at the outspan his Kaffirs light the fire, his vrow boils the coffee, if he is in the humour he strolls after a buck which will provide supper; when that is eaten, he crawls under the waggon and sleeps with the Kaffirs. His only relaxations are a wayside store with "square-face," and a veldt town once a month, where he can outspan for the nacht-maal and more “squareface."

More than all, trekking will introduce him to the drift, and the acquaintance once made will last him a lifetime. Africa is profuse in drifts, and they assert themselves. Go outside any town and your drift will meet you: whatever road you choose, it has been appropriated by a drift. They have not been lost sight of in the war: De Kiel's drift saved Cronje's guns, and those at the Tugela all but starved out Ladysmith.

white baas has galloped on, and you will see him standing in his boots and slouch-hat, gesticulating. The drift is there: the oxen know it and switch their tails, the driver straightens out his lash, the time is coming! The Kaffirs break into rough language, meant to coax Oystermaan! Deutschmaan! Eengleeshmaan! need to be encouraged: the ramp down is reached, and the team lumbers into a trot, the whip insinuating, and down they go, lobbing, the waggon swaying after to a symphony of yells and Kaffir blasphemy; the baas joins in; a dash, a splash, and the drove is half-way over, the water foaming past their many legs. Now it is critical-if that trot will only last to the other bank

To find a drift you must find a river, and then the paradox emerges-the more insignificant the stream the more difficult the drift. Smaller rivers and streams usually flow between high banks, so close to one another that the waggon does not get sufficient way on when it reaches the bottom to carry it up the opposite side. There is such a one at Sandspruit, which crawls across the northern end of the valley closed by Ladysmith on the south, and will give our army trouble if it goes that way to Pretoria. I drove across it one night in a "spider," myself and the driver. We had been feeling our way between the hills,-they might have been trees, or cities, or anything in the moonlight, when of a sudden the six a sudden the six but no! those oxen know the ponies in front disappeared, the game, and shake their heads : spider" and ourselves remain the string of them sway, now ing. "Sandspruit!" grunted up, now down the stream, while Welsh, the driver, catching out the waggon begins to fill; the for his whip, and we followed, wheels on one side in a rut, the holding on, for it was very load just toppling; the row resteep, the road threading two doubles, whips crack like thunwalls of earth that crumbled. der just before the final roll; Where the stream should have the driver flings off his sack, been was no stream the full dress, and dances wildly; water would not have come the foreloeper tugs at the leadover my boots-and then the ing span, and because their six ponies were overhead and heads don't come off, misses his scrambling. They should have footing and goes under; Oystertoppled over, but they did not: maan lies down, mid-stream, Welsh's uncouth noises and the and begins to chew the cud; whip encouraged them, and we the rest shut their poor patient got up. That was Sandspruit. eyes waiting for the whip. But Forty miles on we came to the tugging, screaming, cracking Vaal, a mighty stream, second whips, and a babel of all lanonly to the Orange river, and guages won't move that span: we drove across in comfort, the they have looked at what is "spider" taking it without a before them, and they have jerk. made up their minds not to do There is a drift in front. The it, and they won't, for the ox,


[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


seem a bit the worse,-just a rehearsal for the next drift.

As soon as Cronje had been disposed of, Lord Roberts shifted his headquarters to Osfontein, seven miles up the Modder from Paardeberg, where it was reported that the Boers who had been called up to his aid had got themselves together, to

the number of perhaps 10,000. Most of those on the south bank had come from the Stormberg and Colesberg commandos, which had now retreated across the Orange river, while a large number had formed part of the force investing Ladysmith. They had taken up a position about fifteen miles long the

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »