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that he was willing to ride and my arrival, appeared to culminate fetch it, his object being to put it in in this murder. People looked at a mine under one of the threatened each other, and whispered below houses. The mysterious one rode the breath that the Dutch had done for it without success, the store- it to punish the man for telling what keeper not liking to sell it with he had told; and neighbour looked the Boers all about; but he sent at neighbour half in doubt that the us word of the concentration at other was not in the secret. VolunLaing's Nek - information I was teers came in but slowly-each one able to send down to the General had pressing business that prethrough the Free State; so the vented him from joining: The dynamite turned up for a better Landdrost, his office barricaded, his use than was intended.
clerk shouldering a rifle, and the The more tragical events of the townsfolk pestering him for inforsiege began earlier than was ex- mation which he had not, was in pected—indeed, before it was en- despair. So I determined to take tirely declared. Our scouts had the matter into my own hands-at found three men stowed away in a least I was strong enough to enhouse beyond the camp who could force authority, and one head, howgive no satisfactory account of ever small, is better than none at themselves. Two of them, black all. Directing the Landdrost to men, were remanded for further convene a meeting of all the civilinquiry; the third, a half-caste, ians, I got up as martial an appeardressed as a European, said he was ance as possible, called one or two willing to join the volunteers—and senior officers to back me up, and, something being known of his pre- walking up before the assemblage, vious history, he was forthwith proclaimed martial law. “In the taken on as a trooper. When ex- name of her Most Gracious Majesamined by the Landdrost, he gave ty Queen Victoria, whose commissome fairly useful information about sion I bear, and by virtue of the the enemy, and altogether promised power intrusted to me by Sir G. to be an acquisition. The one
The one Pomeroy Colley, the Governor of thing against him was, his face this province, I proclaim the town low-browed, sensual, with puffy and the district of Standerton to be cheeks, and a hang-dog expression under . martial law. This, gentlereally repulsive; otherwise, he was men,” I continued, “gives me abinoffensive enough. That night he solute power to enforce my orders, slept in an empty house in the and I shall do so. If necessary, I town; next morning his body was shall imprison-if occasion requires found in it, the skull driven in it, I shall shoot-any one disobeywith a pickaxe, the throat tightly ing me.” Here a rather unfortunwound round with a strip of bul ate climax to my heroics ensued : lock's hide, the face shamefully one of the crowd, somewhat the lacerated, the murderers having worse for liquor, took a step to the dragged him through a window by front, clapped his hands together which he had probably tried to feebly, as if to back me up, and sang escape. No clue could be found to out in a voice maudlin and shaky, the murderers; but four Makatees, “Bravo, major! I say bravo ! natives of the lowest type, were Give it to them; and quite right too." arrested on suspicion, of whom However, they saw that I was in more anon.
earnest, and before an hour was The excitement in town, which over, every able-bodied man had had been on the increase ever since signed the roll of volunteers, and I had the satisfaction of seeing the was being held three miles away, moody faces clear, and a more hope- to discuss the attack; now their ful spirit growing up. They felt, at vanguard was approaching, and least, they had some one to look up would be on us before we knew it. to in difficulties, and during the Again, a couple of vedettes bad three months martial law reigned been captured, and only escaped in Standerton, only one case calling through the persuasions of an old for exceptional rigour occurred. man who knew them. A farmer
Hardly had the martial law ques- who had come in from his farm, tion been settled when one of in- came up and whispered that his ternational law cropped up in the men were going to the Free State, person of a German explorer and and would take a letter for me. traveller, who sent me a note de- So the letter was written, and manding an interview. I found given with much secrecy to the him in bed in the soda-water farmer, who sewed it up in the manufactory of the town, evidently boy's coat, to turn up, as I heard very seedy--a fine-looking, intelli- long after, all right; as indeed the gent man, but much disturbed in Boers heard too, and threatened mind. He wished to proceed on my farmer's wife for having sent his way; he was laid up by tem- it. And that was the last we got porary indisposition; he had been through for nearly two months. obliged to leave his hotel by the And still came the messengers, troops who now held it; he was a speaking of the menaced attackGerman, and as such he protested very trying, and only to be borne against such treatment--it was by reason of the amount of work on against international law, and he hand to meet it when it came. And should lay it before the tribunal done the work was, the men toiling of nations. I said I hoped he with a will: no red coats nowwould, and would summon me to shirt-sleeves and wideawakes, any attend, as that would take me out costume; any time for meals; filling of the Transvaal ; but at present bags with earth, piling them into that was impossible, as the Dutch their place; sappers cutting holes would not let us start from the in the roofs of the defended houses, town; but if he would do a little for the smoke to escape by if the doctoring for me among the troops firing grew hot; storing water and in case of many being wounded, I provisions; banking up the breaches should take it as a great favour, always falling through in being rather short of medical men. earthen pit; and between whiles So we talked it out, till in the end more messengers with news of the we parted the best of friends; how, attack. This waiting for it was I do not quite understand, for I do far worse than all which followed. not think he took in more than At luncheon, however, on the half I said. However, the knotty 29th December, a report came in that point was amicably settled, and he some hundreds of Boers had collectremained with me throughout the ed in a valley three miles away, and siege without another complaint; showed signs of coming on. So I in fact, when he left on peace being got out my mounted men, some proclaimed, he was most profuse in twenty-five strong—they had only his offers to take down messages or just been formed, and numbered parcels to my friends.
twice that before long-and sent Every now and then a mounted them out to reconnoitre. They man would gallop in with news of looked a serviceable little knot of the Boer advance. Now a meeting men as they crossed the “ drift”
and rode along the road towards
We got our men into a kopNewcastle, their centre led by a pie, the point nearest to the fine soldier, not many years before “drift” which they were making a sergeant-major in the 16th for, and cleared a space of half a Lancers; ahead a couple riding mile round it with our rifles—once slowly; on either flank “look-out” within that circle and they were men, perhaps 400 yards away. safe. The Boers held back when The small party rode steadily along, they heard our bullets; and our keeping their distances as on par- fellows rode in, heads drooping, ade, slanting up the sward towards horses done up completely, and the sky-line, nothing right or left five of their number on the ground. of them, all open veldt for miles Then, balked of the rest, the Boers and miles, till they were mere dots jumped off and opened a long line against the green. In camp all of fire, replied to gallantly, the tall was still ; the men had finished man leading them dismounting, their work, and were lying down; and on his knee delivering fire, of the officers a couple had ridden when the Boer firing at him fung to the town, two more were a mile back and shot no
Two away picking peaches in a deserted wounded men of ours lay by the garden,—when of a sudden—and "drift,” holding their arms up for my
heart gave a great beat-out of help and feebly crying to us, and it a fold of ground that lay behind was a weary time to wait ere them, and on their left, grew out could cross and bring them in. all at once a great cloud of horse- The noble fellow who had gone men, galloping, coming towards us to warn the troop lay dead beyond. as it seemed. Then they caught For months we hoped that he had sight of the scout on the left, not been taken prisoner; but when the far away, and changed their course ground was cleared and we got out a little, making for him, he gallop- across that fatal field, we found a ing for dear life, not towards the skeleton in a sballow grave on the "drift,” where were friends and hillside, a skull at one end, two safety, but right ahead, slanting stockinged feet protruding from the towards his right, waving his car- other; a horse beside the grave bine and shouting, -we could hear shot through the head and another it faintly,—to warn the troop of their facing it å hundred yards farther danger. Another minute and they on; and close to the turfs that covheard him and turned, and with ered up the bones a coat, edged backs bent, and faces towards the with red, faded now, the badge of “ drift,” galloped their hardest, just our volunteers, and one we knew a race for life. It was touch and was his—all that was left of a brave go. The Boers were nearer to the soldier. river, but their mass told against We buried him in the churchthem, and our men gained a trifle, yard among the rest lying in that a few well mounted of the Dutch poor spot, a fort frowning close showing ahead, and threatening to above, and half-a-dozen mounds to cut them off. Then those puffs of mark where others lay—his bones smoke we got to know so well, and followed by every man, soldier or distant shots, and shouts growing civilian, in the place--and fired our more and more distinct—that awful volleys over them, presenting arms, race for life seemed to last for hours, and sounding one last salute upon when indeed it was all over with the bugles: as the townsfolk said in ten minutes, and I was almost when they came back," It was a powerless to help.
The Boers, some 400 of them, both hands at once, lying down missing the mounted men, rode on again quite flat, only he did not fire towards us, and dismounting under any more. Sometimes a horse lay a ridge across the river, about 700 kicking, and the Boers about him yards distant, opened a furious got farther back and did not come fire. How the bullets did whiz and again, till one by one, by twos and fly! I had come back from the threes, by big black lots, the cloud koppie, now no longer wanted, and of them melted away, leaving only stood on a little plateau facing the a dot here and there with its puff Dutch, with the fort in rear, from of smoke. But these died out at which the men, running to their last, and looking at our watch we places, began to fire.
found that we had been listening “Ping" came the bullets hurt- to the bullets for an hour; it was ling through the air, plugging the just that time since they had earth and sending up small clouds missed our mounted men, and it of dust; overhead whistling, sing- had not seemed ten minutes. Time ing, as they passed in their great does fly so fast when occupied — hurry; the hillside opposite white pleasantly or otherwise. with smoke, dotted with dark After the siege was over they things-Dutchmen lying down. told us they had intended to filter My bugler close behind me, waiting across the river and attack the town in readiness to sound; a bullet bodily; but finding our mounted dropped into his boot quite at the men between them, they had to toe—“Glad that wasn't you, sir," ride for them—and so the town was all he coolly said. But it was was saved, and we got very little hot, a little hot. Although there is damage. something not unpleasant in a bul- It was four o'clock in the afterlet fired in anger, when the blood noon, and every one turned up. is up: they don't sound so viciously The peach-gatherers, hearing the as at other times.
But still it was firing, left them and came in first; too hot.
the volunteers in hot haste; a crowd So I got as many men as could of blacks, quite a hundred of them, be spared and led them at the crawling on their stomachs, and Boers, creeping and running, tak- making a rush past the sentries ing what cover there was. into the fort, where they hid bemember some of the men got in hind boxes, and were not to be got behind a tent now lying flat-a fold out by threats or entreaties till the of linen to stop a bullet; but then firing was over. the British soldier is very credu- Thinking a fresh attempt was to lous. And we crept down still follow, we got in some cold beef nearer, and found a wall, part of and a few bottles of beer, and ate the old cattle laager, and pointing a hasty dinner inside, the volunteers over it, let the Dutch have it mer- accepting an offer to finish the fragrily. “ Fire a bit higher, lads : ments most willingly, and doing so you're underneath them; can't you to the last crumb. see them striking the bank ?”—and But the Dutch contented themthey fired a bit higher, and we saw selves with occupying a koppie it caused some slight commotion, above us, across the river, and peltand one of our friends here and ing us with a few stray shots, while there pulled in his horse and they established their patrols all mounted him, and galloped off; round us like the leaden horses in and then more followed, and here the race-game of children. and there one gave a funny wave, Night fell at last, and with it
fresh anxiety. Half the men were months. No wonder that we got put on the walls till midnight, the tired of it, or that I had to punish other half in relief till three in the the men at times for unduly exposearly morning, when all turned out ing themselves to fire; in three in readiness for our enemies—and months one gets wonderfully callous that was kept up for eighty-eight to a bullet. days. An extract from the diary On the 4th January I made my I kept during the siege will show first essay against an enemy in the better than anything how things open. There was a rocky hill, went with us during the time. Stander's Kop, a little over a mile There was little to vary the entries from the fort, which the Dutch had from day to day, except that to- occupied, and from which their fire wards the end of February the fire began to be somewhat galling; so I from the Dutch became much more resolved to have a turn at it, and slack, owing either to want of am- show them two could play at that munition, or to the discovery that game. it was only so much waste against On the night before, I called for such obstinate fellows.
volunteers, and got together thirty, “ Dec. 30th.-At daybreak, parties all to be ready at 3A.m. next morning. observed on koppies across the river It was my first attempt in command tracing and marking out something against the enemy, and I confess apparently a fort. 7 A.M.- Vedettes that I felt a bit anxious; failure fired on by rebels crossing the drift'
meant disaster, and I did not know below the camp. A party of Boers but what my head might desert me occupied Stander's Kop, and another large body was reported advancing on
at the critical moment. It is easy the Heidelberg road. Brought in Vol- enough to go out under orders, but unteer Anderson wounded yesterday, to be yourself the head and tail and occupied the 'drift’in strength. means more than people think; and 8 A.M.—200 advancing against the I did think, but nothing would town, but passed, and went behind have turned me from my purpose koppie north of it. 10.30 A.M.-Sent
now I had determined to attempt it. patrol out south to find what force was holding ground in that direction
That night went slowly, and I supported them with skirmishers; slept but little; indeed at two returned, having seen nothing. 1 o'clock, when a man came in to call P.M.-Party 60 strong advanced from me, four of us lay on hospital stretchkoppie down donga, and opened fire, ers in an open shed in the fort. I bullets falling over laager; we returned it with sharpshooters, and had come.
was only too glad to find the time soon silenced it. 2 P.M.—Body 60
a cold, damp morning, strong advancing on west of town, turned off and passed to Stander's Kop. fairly dark, and my thirty volunContinual fire from stony koppie and teers of last night were none too donga; two mules shot; returned fire smart in turning out. It looked with sharpshooters,' and silenced it. better business then than now, but 5 P.M.—Enemy opened fire from koppie I got them fallen in outside after south of Stander's Kop, the bullets some delay. Then I found every striking huts and ricocheting over laager; sent out some skirmishers and sergeant in the garrison had fallen in silenced it. One man hit in the face too, and at the last moment I had to with splinter; myself on the back of send them back, keeping only two, right thigh with nearly spent ball. --rather an unpleasant task. Then Midnight.--Volley fired into laager I explained to the men what I was from south, answered by us and soon about. We were to advance in silenced; three mules shot."
column for a certain distance, when And so
on for the next three all would silently extend on a given