Page images
PDF
EPUB

signal, and do the rest of the dis- noise, I was on tenter-hooks lest tance in skirmishing order, gaining we should be heard. One of them a wall which I intended to line, with a cough was sent back sharp and which lay close under the hill

. to camp. Noses were allowed to What followed would be dictated remain unattended to. When halfby circumstances.

way, the time came to extend ; and, Meanwhile my mounted men, on raising my hand, the two bodies now thirty strong, were to ascend opened outwards, and formed into the hill on its right, and, riding a line of skirmishers as neatly as if along the top, clear it of any lurking it were broad daylight and we were Boers under cover of my fire, when on parade at Aldershot. WhisperI could follow myself and occupying a word of command to a line of the hill. In front of the wall we men two hundred yards in length is were bound for was a farmhouse, not so easy; but the men did all known to be the sleeping-place of they could, and passed it along till the Boer picket which held the they moved on, keeping excellent heights; and we intended to surprise distance and direction Presently a this party in the house, to prevent black hill showed up in front quite them giving the alarm to the main unexpectedly, and I halted the line body.

and went on to see what it was, We set out across the soppy for it had not been there yesterday. veldt, the grass often up to our I had not gone fifty yards when knees. The noise our feet made was the hill turned into a wall, the really astounding, causing me to object of our march-a good high break out at intervals at the men wall, capable of sheltering my men for insisting on marching in step. from any fire. So I went back and Poor fellows; all their service they brought them up, letting them lie had been taught the old way to down just six feet apart. By peerwalk —"right, left, right, left”— ing over I could distinguish the and now they were told not to do house in which the Boer guard it, and habit was too strong for was lying, about a hundred yards them. It was now that I recog- in front; behind it the hillside, nised the enormous difficulty in steep and frowning. It was just making a night attack: the plain half-past three; at four it would we were crossing by daylight had be getting light enough to attack seemed absolutely level, now it was the house. No sentries could be full of holes, drains, and pitfalls; seen; all was still as death. The big stones caught us on the toes, men lay in the long, dank grass and tripped us up with many a which fringed the wall, and hardly smothered cry, each loud enough moved; while I kept my bare head to tell the enemy we were coming, just above it to watch for any sign so it seemed. Every place looked of the enemy. Every minute I exchanged, and but for Stander's Kop pected to see my mounted men on in front, whither we were bound, the top, barely another hundred looming big and black against the yards beyond the house. This, sky, we should have wandered hope- again, was quite quiet; two small lessly.

windows on either side of the door, Everything depended on our all closed with green shutters; a reaching the wall unperceived. second building a little apart, and There were patrols about, possibly the garden between us and them, sentries; all was unknown to us; grey with oats; then the wall, and the men's feet made such a strongly built with piled-up stones, VOL. CXXX.-NO. DCCLXXXIX.

B

and under it those long dark things, steps, his head bent forwards, lookhalf hidden in the grass, beside each ing out; and the men on my right a rifle, shining cold and hard-all where the wall ended could see so very quiet, yet all low-breathing him too, and clutched their rifles, -pent-up life and action waiting and only waited for a word. my word to rise and line that wall Still he rode on, inclining towith fire.

wards the house, and I could see However, that was not to be. now he was dark-faced, almost We had waited an hour, and the black; a little more, and I recognight was going out, objects around nized him as one of my own men growing distinct in shape, less with a rag of red round his hat; ghostly than they had been, when and I stood up and beckoned to there came a sound of galloping, him, and he rode down, holding up the first sound since leaving camp; his carbine in token he was a friend. a great rush of horses, out of sight, He little knew how near death he yet near enough to let us hear had been. He was sent to tell us their hoofs striking the ground. that the mounted men had retreated One minute and I thought it was before a large force of Dutch who the Boers, and felt I had them. were coming on behind the hill. The sound was on our right, and There was nothing for it but to go the way they had to come lay too. My mounted men, just half across my rear towards my left: my force, were in full retreat; close if they only came that road, we above me was the big hill, which, should catch them beautifully. if once occupied, commanded my This was but for a few minutes. line of retreat for a full mile. All Then amid the galloping I heard/ I knew was that a large force was a voice shouting in English, and coming on; that might mean anyI knew it was my own men in full thing, and I had only thirty men. retreat.

So I gave the word, and we turned And what from? If from the back, leaving the wall we had won Boers, what was I to do? I did so well, and moved towards the fort. not like to go back at once after We had gone about eighty yards, getting so near them, yet I could and opened the neck of land lying not afford to lose my men; and for between the big hill we had faced a bit I had an anxious time of it. and a second one lying on its left,

About five minutes we waited in when the Boers rode into it in a suspense. The_galloping died out black crowd, perhaps two hundred behind us; no Boer picket showed yards away. up from the house ; all was very I think we saw each other at the still

, when a single horseman rode same moment; from which side cautiously into sight, coming to- came the first shots I am not sure. wards where we lay from the right. I faced my men half round and It was just light enough to see that took up the fire as soon as I saw he was in civilian clothes, wearing them, and the sudden sight of a broad-brimmed hat such as the thirty rifles puffing in the grass Boers affect, and in his hand held checked them effectually. How a carbine ready. Was he friend or those Dutchmen galloped !-just a Boer ? the advance-scout of the whiff of smoke here and there when Dutch who had sent our men back? one dismounted, fired, and was off He still rode on very cautiously, again. How the rifles flashed out, peering about, his carbine, as it bright and sharp, our own bullets seemed, always half-way to his racing past me as I stood directing shoulder, his horse picking his them, answered by the thud of those that sought us out upon the of the friends we left behind us turf!

at our safe return; happier still to The Boers made for the second count our men and find that thirty hill, where was good cover in the went and the same came back again kraals of the long-since-departed untouched. And that was our first Makatees, about four hundred yards turn in the open against the Dutch from us, and dismounting, opened who were investing us. a hot fire from behind the stones. Up to this time our wounded How their bullets did tear the grass men had been in a sort of hospital up, casting up little clouds of dust in the fort formed out of a tin store in the men's faces kneeling down which had been pulled down to to fire back! Not a man winced; meet the military exigencies of the they knelt and fired as cool as if at time, the roof remaining only; but exercise, putting up their sights it was exposed to the fire of the quite cheerily when I told them the rebels, and was hot and confined. distance. I had to shout to them So in place of it I took possession to make them keep on retiring: of the Dutch church in town, a they quite enjoyed the fun.

spacious stone building, which This lasted about ten minutes, when the benches and reading-desk and then a line of fire on my right were removed, was capable of holdopened, and I felt that we had ing two rows of beds, fifteen in come within our own lines again. each, with ease. The 58th had orders to come out The Dutch who still remained and protect my flank if it was at- in the town tried to get up a small tacked, and the brave fellows were demonstration about the misapprothere, lining the further slope be- priation of their church by the tween us and the Dutch, and keep- rooi batjees, but after bit ing down their fire. And this was calmed down at the sight of the furious for five minutes more, and sad faces that soon occupied it. formed a pretty sight for the towns- The prayer and hymn books, all people roused out of bed by the in Dutch, fared worse than the incessant shots, and safe a mile .or benches, as a couple of soldiers, more away, as they told us after- seeing them in the deserted buildwards. We were

on a hillside ing, calmly took them away, for above them, and they could see the what reason never appeared, the little figures skirmishing, dotted books being utterly unsaleable, and with puffs of smoke, like dolls out the British soldier not given to playing; and beyond that again the studying hymns, especially when hill, the Dutch were on it amid written in a language of which he a blaze of fire and shrouding smoke. cannot understand one word.

After a bit the Boer fire slack- One of the difficulties of the ened as it had done before, and we siege was to check robberies by got their range and turned them the men and volunteers; and if out; not easily, only by threes ever temptation to steal existed, it and fours, making gaps in their was during the siege of Standerton. line from which no fire came, each Many houses had been deserted by widening till the hill was quiet their owners, and left with doors once again, and in the distance and windows open, the families a tiny-looking crowd galloping having set off full speed for the away. A short half - hour, and Free State on the commencement we were safe in the fort, taking of the war. Later on, when fuel the cup of coffee waiting for us, ran short, I had to go through these and receiving the congratulations houses in search of wood, and was

a

of *

surprised to find how much furni- remind them that the deceased ture and effects were in them, and leaves a grandmother, a child, and how little had been touched under fourteen small wives to mourn their the circumstances. Rooms stood loss. We suggest they start a subjust as they had been left,—the scription-list.” While a Mr. Polchairs round the table, the clock glase remarks that “as starvation on the mantelpiece, the beds un- is imminent he has raised the price made as the good people last slept

* and bacon"—the stars in them, even the cooking-pots in standing for “three-star brandy,” a the kitchen. Liquor of course had common form of nourishment with disappeared, as was natural, but thirsty colonists. little else.

“ Our paper" could be in earnA newspaper, “The Standerton est also, the editor writing : “We Times,' was started by some of the opine that the curious would have civilians, and lasted for the first to search well the pages of history month, when it fell through, partly to find a parallel for the state of from want of time on the part of feeling in Standerton during the the editor-who, as a volunteer, was present siege. A visitor dropping wanted more than he expected on down in our midst would scarcely the defences—and mostly, I fancy, be able to realise the fact that the from the difficulty of finding new town is completely invested by a and interesting matter in a sinall band of ruthless rebels. Civilians community shut off from all com- and military men, and women and munication with the outside world. children, appear, now that the grim Advertisements were its strong reality of the position has come point—those breathing much fire home to them, to have determined and smoke predominating. So we to be self-sacrificing and cheerful. read of the baker and confectioner When these troublous times are who “turned out the finest chain- past, those who here with us have shot pies ever supplied in Stander- taken part in them will be able to ton. Artillerymen supplied gratis." look back with feelings of pride to The butcher being of a hopeful the parts they have played in the turn, tells his customers that “every- drama. It was touching to note body can't have under-cut, as he at our musical gathering how the has smelt out the column." While pathos of the songs of home chime Erasmus and Co., well-known Boer in with the sterner sounds of the malcontents fighting against us, an

war-strains; and it is encouraging to nounce that "they are selling off note the cordiality existing between their entire stock of Dutch courage officers and men, between soldier and Dutch pluck at greatly reduced and volunteer. Of the behaviour prices, to make room for a large stock of the women we need say nothing. of English Lead shortly expected." Courage, which is especially sup

The local and general column posed to be the attribute of man, is was open to funny bits such as found here, as at Lucknow, Paris, this, headed “A' Long Shot:” and Richmond, to be blended in “ We hear that a gallant Swash- the women with that other noble buckler potted a Boer lately at quality, patience. We trust this 1416 yards. This shows that our state of feeling will continue, for it mounted comrades have sonue capi- is calculated to stand us in good tal shots among them; but we must stead."

(To be continued.)

REMINISCENCES OF PRISON-LIFE.

[ocr errors]

In the days of our grandfathers led into a high-walled yard, where the prison was built according to a hundred ruffians are taking their the wisdom of the local magnates exercise under the government of of the district, guided by an archi- four or five officers. This exercise tect who was as ready to plan a is taken by rapid walking round house or a church as a place of and round on circular pavements. detention and punishment. The The number trained at exercise on triumphs of science and uniformity each of these stone circles correshave, however, now reached this ponds with a circle of pegs. If any gloomy region of architectural skill. tendency towards association A group of ground-plans, on the noticed—if any are seen advancing last accepted model, would show us towards those in front, or loitering buildings radiating from centres, so as to be joined by companions in like so many great wheels. The the rear, there is a call of “Halt !” officers in charge are arrayed in the and then each convict must stop uniform of honour, the prisoners in at the peg immediately in front the uniform of shaine. Where the of him. regulation is perfect, it is held that This phenomenon, like many in every cell everything should others peculiar to prison-life, exoccupy the same place, from the emplifies and illustrates one of the sleeping-bed or hammock to the strange mysteries in the criminal towel and the piece of soap. It is character. Much of course is done said that this uniformity of con- by sheer force or terror to subdue ditions, great and small, not only the prisoner to the exigencies of neutralises the prisoner's plea of his lot; but much, too, is accommistake in the commission of any plished by the facilities—the amipetty irregularity, but at once puts able facilities they might be called the new officer at home when he is of the criminal nature. An drafted from one prison to another. officer in the service, addicted to It

may be noted, as of some histor- cynical remarks, used to maintain ical interest, that the same idea that his birds, and others of the once prevailed in a nobler sphere. same class, were the only perfect Uniformity was an avowed object human beings to be found in the in the Roman system of castrameta- world. In sobriety and the other tion, so that the soldier transferred cardinal virtues they were models. from Spain or Italy to Britain, Regularity, method, tidiness, punccould find his proper place in the tuality, and all the petty accomintrenched camp even if he reached plishments and restraints that go it during night.

to make

up

the virtuous and worthy Among the uniform features of member of society, they practised the conventional prison of the day, to perfection. And there was one is the circular airing-yard. This peculiarly charming attribute of arrangement has had a moral in- their daily conduct in life, that one fluence in exemplifying the mar- always found them at home when vellous power of discipline. The calling on them. stranger is often seen visibly to There is something, however, start when a door opens, and he is deeper than such trifling peculiari

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »