1st, Sunday. The siege as affecting me pecuniarily is becoming expensive. I lose bets at the end of each month as it interminably prolongs.
A quiet day and a flag of truce from the Boers asking us to fetch our dead who were killed in the northern fight the day before. Accordingly wagons under Lieutenant the Honourable Hanbury Tracy and Lieutenant Singleton went north, where they met the Boers, who assisted them to find and recover the bodies. Three men were brought in belonging to Colonel Plumer's column, and Captain McLaren, Lieutenant Crewe, and Troopers Murray and Robinson were reported wounded. It would seem to have been a sharp skirmish between a strong patrol of Colonel Plumer's and a considerably more numerous body of Boers, but as far as we can ascertain Colonel Plumer's main column was not engaged.
Our demonstration against Game Tree resulted in our killing two Boers, and even by their own accounts, numerically our losses were evenly balanced. Fourteen dead horses were seen on the field.
2nd, Monday. Flags of truce from the enemy reporting the death of Captain McLaren.
Regret and sympathy barely express my own feelings, and how many of us are there scattered about the world, who when they see the next polo tournament, will think again of the best of players, the nicest of fellows, whom Hurlingham and the scenes of his many triumphs will see no more.
There seems a chance of another fight this afternoon. The Boers are very restless and galloping about in all directions. I do not suppose they mean to attack us, and, as far as I can make out, are nervous and seem to expect pressure from the east.
Some men were interviewed yesterday who had returned from Natal. They reported the death of Joubert and were far less confident than they have shown themselves heretofore.
3rd, Tuesday. I am heartily glad to say that Captain McLaren is not dead, although severely wounded and a prisoner in the Boers' hands.
A despatch was received from Colonel Plumer this morning stating that he had had an engagement north of the town and that his losses were Captain Crewe (who was buried here this morning), Lieutenant Milligan, killed; Colonel Plumer, Major Weston Jarvis, and Captain Rolt, slightly wounded; non-commissioned Officers and men killed, seven; wounded, twenty-six; missing, eleven. Three missing are known to be dead and the others are wounded in the Boers' hands. Captain McLaren has written from the Boer camp, where he is, we are all glad to hear, going on well and being very well treated by the Boers.
Yesterday afternoon we had a successful brush with the enemy to north-west, no casualties on our side. Their ambulances were seen very busy. To-day everything is so far quiet. . 4th. Early this morning Lieutenant F. Smitheman, Rhodesian Regiment, Colonel Plumer's intelligence officer, arrived through the Boer lines. I met him as he was going to change. He said, " How do you do? I am-glad to be in." I said, " Flow are you? I am very glad to see you, but I should be-glad to be out." However, there is no satisfying everybody. The country was infested by Boers and he had walked twenty-two miles that night accompanied by two natives. He is as a scout facile princeps, and thus eluded the hostile cordon successfully, though he had one anxious moment when he fell into the trench connecting Fort Ayr and the refugee laager, heard native voices, and was for some time under the impression it was the Boer trench. He was second in command of Colonel Plumer's scouts in 1896, and afterwards disappeared into Central Africa for two years, going from Chinde to Blantyre, to Lake Nyassa, then by Lake Bangueolo to the source of the Congo, thence due south through the Mashakalumbwe country to Victoria Falls, and through which country he was the first white man to pass, and from the falls to Bulawayo, where he arrived in December, 1898. Though his journeys then may have been long, arduous, and dangerous, they can scarcely have been more exciting than the short twenty-two miles he walked last night.
4th, Wednesday. A quiet day. Flags of truce pass daily informing us of the condition of the wounded.
5th, Thursday. This morning Smitheman went to the brickfields with the Colonel and was shot at a bit. We all told him that we were afraid we shouldn't be able to find him any entertainment as the Boers are very quiet just now, and he said we needn't trouble. However, as the morning wore on the enemy's sixteen-pounder commenced bombarding us from Game Tree and Jackal Tree and kept on the whole morning, apparently directed by a deserter, Private Hay, Protectorate Regiment, who selected his late fort and the headquarters of the Protectorate Regiment, as his main target. I shouldn't care to be Private Hay after the war as there is £50 on his head, dead or alive, and the Boers are hard up. The afternoon was pretty quiet, and the Boers have now retired all round to extreme musketry range of all the town. They livened up in the evening though, and fired a good deal, landing many bullets in the square.
6th, Friday. The morning began very quietly, and we were afraid that Smitheman would not get his introduction to " Creaky." However, in the afternoon she began, and lie had a full opportunity of learning the meaning of the various sounds of the bell, the joys of the rush to the " dug-out," and the philosophy with which you can see your friends in the distance shelled, when she diverted a certain portion of her fire on Cannon Kopje.
Major Goold-Adams had just shifted into a new office after his former one had been destroyed, and somewhat prematurely, for " Creaky" promptly blew it up with the first shell; fortunately it was empty at the time. They gave us a good doing and stopped for the night.
7th, Saturday. "We were awakened by the big gun, which kept on all day. Smitheman was again lucky He went up to lunch at the kopje, and then they began shelling that, so he had had most of the pleasures of Mafeking compressed into three days. They pall, however, after six months. He seemed to think we were having a harder time than he anticipated, and it is very interesting to have an outside opinion, because we are so thoroughly used to it that we do not know whether it is a bad time or not, being only convinced of two things—that the place can't fall, and that wre will not get hit by a big shell if we can help it. Smitheman returned to Plumer to-night.
8th, Sunday. A quiet day. A body of women, who, at Smitheman's instigation, was endeavouring to escape towards Kanya, where food is ready for them, was turned back by the Boers. To the south a similar body was also stopped, and by direction of the Boer in charge each one was stripped, shambokked, and driven back naked to Mafeking. Yesterday there was a desperate fight between a party of our Fingoes engaged in cattle raiding and the Boers; the former were cut off and surrounded in a " pan," where they took what cover they could and defended their lives to the last. Out of a party of some thirty odd, ten or eleven got away when they repulsed the first attack of the Boers. The Boers returned, however, with one hundred more men, and killed all but one man. They had two Maxims and a one-pound Maxim-Nordenfelt. The fight lasted twenty-five hours, and by the account of the wounded survivor, corroborated by the women who returned to-day, the Boers must have suffered severe loss. The survivor escaped by hiding in the reeds, and is now in hospital with a wound in his stomach. The natives were vastly outnumbered, and made a stubborn resistance with their obsolete arms against all the Boers could bring against them. Unfortunate it is that so few of many brave men escaped.
Snyman is becoming remarkably civil in his intercourse, and had sent in a letter saying he was astonished that natives had been employed cattle raiding, as they were such barbarians. They were right gallant barbarians, anyhow. Smitheman has a wonderful insight into native character, and a marvellous grasp of the Baralong. It is curious to note how the Englishman associated with the natives identifies himself with his tribe and becomes a Zulu, Baralong, Fingoe or Basuto with a firm belief that all other natives except his own particular tribe are no good at all and that their methods of fighting are useless. Having heard the point discussed by many of my friends and having witnessed their implicit confidence in their own particular tribe and distrust of the others, one can understand that the foreigner may see something to laugh at in an Englishman's absolute and justified confidence in the English. They call it insularity in Europe. I wonder what they would call its offspring here.
9th, Monday, Runners from the north arrived with the intelligence that Smitheman had passed them well clear of the Boer line, so we hope he is safe. The big gun has been shelling all the morning, and some of her smaller brethren have taken it up this afternoon. Many conflicting rumours, but a force of many men and guns went south on Friday night. "We hope this portends the approach of our expected relief. It would be hard lines indeed, after all this dull work, not to finish the campaign in the Transvaal. The natives say the Boers are going to give us another severe doing to-morrow. The flags of truce exchange much chaff. The Boers say, " Why don't you come out and fight in the open? " and the answer is, " Come and drive us out." The other day the Boers said to our orderly that it was very brutal sending men who had never been to sea to St. Helena, besides what would they do there? "Whether he expected us to find picnic parties for them or not I do not know. I wish I were at St. Helena, one would have a chance of getting somewhere else from there. The orderly said there was plenty to do, but the Boer objected there were no horses for them to ride, and when the orderly said, " Let them ride the turtles," he was very wroth. Again, yesterday, the Boer volunteered that they, the Dutch, were knocking us about in the Free State. The orderly said, " The Free State, where is the Free State?" and the Boer said, "North of the Orange River." On the orderly's answering, " Ah ! You mean New England," the Boer seemed hurt, but they are pretty civil all the same and both sides continually ask after their various friends and get answers.
10th, Tuesday. A fairly quiet day. The high velocity guns shelled our outlying posts on the western border, with occasional shots at the camp, while the big gun and the smaller ones shelled the town. Natives from the south report that the country is at present unsafe for despatch riders as, though there is no commando, there are a considerable number of Boers roaming about the country between here and Vryburg seeking whom and what they may devour and under no immediate control. [Later they themselves were devoured.]
11th, "Wednesday. We were awakened this morning by the big gun and had a very heavy day's shelling. I went out for a ride and up to Fort Ayr. They were shelling from every side in all directions and kept it up till nearly noon. Air. Greenfield is at present doing his month's detachment duty at Fort Ayr. It is not an enlivening spot, being built underground, and as you are continually sniped it is impossible to emerge therefrom except at night or by means of a long rear trench leading to the refugees' laager. It is garrisoned by thirty men, a Maxim and a seven-pounder. On the western front the Boers made an attack on two of our outlying posts. They advanced to within four hundred and fifty yards, but after losing some ten or a dozen men they retired. During the day they planted some thirty shells into the women's laager. To all their heavy bombardment we answered not a shot, but in the evening when they were dismantling the big gun the Hotchkiss opened on her with good effect, apparently wounding or killing several of the crowd round her. She immediately opened fire on the town and struck the Dutch Church with great violence. After she had ceased firing the Hotchkiss opened again and failed to get a further reply. Score:—Hotchkiss four, big gun three.
12th, Thursday. This morning the big gun has disappeared and is supposed to be in McMullin's laager. She has not fired, and with the exception of the five-pounder we have had a quiet day.
Several wagons with escorts have trekked from the laager and they are apparently busily engaged in packing up others.
A pigeon left Colonel Plumer yesterday at noon arriving here in forty minutes, and runners in this morning brought Her Majesty's message to Colonel Baden-Powell and news of Lieutenant Smitheman's safe arrival at Colonel Plumer's camp.
Captain McLaren is, I am glad to say, better, and in the hands of a skilful German surgeon who thinks he will do all right.
The rains have begun again which is fortunate for us. Had it not been for the exceptionally rainy season I do not know what the cattle would have done or how we could have held out.
13th, Friday. A quiet day. We were only shelled to-day with the five-pounder and the one-pound Maxim and so we are quite quiet. Colonel Baden-Powell has had an erection built on the top of the headquarter house from whence he looks out and can control the Mafeking defences like the captain of a ship, shouting his instructions down a speaking tube to the headquarter bomb proof, which are thence telephoned on to the parties whom it may concern, so that he can personally turn on the tap of any portion of the defences he may think fit.
14th, Saturday. This morning there was quite a lively amount of shelling. One shell burst in Fort Ayr and killed two of its garrison. Personally I started for a ride, but finding it rather livelier than I cared for made it a pretty short one. One must get exercise, but there is no particular object in getting shot unnecessarily. Last night Colonel Plumer's column endeavoured to send us in some hundred head of cattle which we want. It was a moonlight night and the Boers must have been informed of their advent for they -waylaid them very effectually, killing and wounding many, as well as their native drivers, and capturing the rest. This is a bore, but, however, we can get on without them and we shall get them back shortly. In consequence of this diversion they were firing pretty well all night. Easter Day to-morrow. We can do very well without the Easter eggs the Boers send us, and as our hens have ceased to lay we shall get none of our own. Our hot cross buns were represented by a cross being stamped on our scanty bread ration. I rather hope that this is the last feast of airy sort that the garrison of Mafeking will celebrate under siege conditions.
Colonel Vyvyan was very lucky in securing .a beautiful specimen of a sixteen-pounder, Vicker's Maxim, which passed over his head and did not explode. In the scurry for the shell he secured it, as he was mounted. They are using a new sort of one-pound Maxim and not being quite able to reach the women's laager with it they planted six shells in the hospital. Yesterday one of Colonel Plumer's wounded died while undergoing an operation in the Boer camp and they sent his body in last night.
I cannot understand the Boer, and have given it up as a bad job. He appears to have no laws and few instincts, and to be totally irresponsible. Sometimes he behaves exceedingly well, and at other times remarkably ill, and you can never calculate what his conduct will be under any given circumstances. General Snyman is sanctimonious and a hypocrite, and seems to look upon truth as an unnecessary portion of his field outfit. Commandant Botha is a good sportsman, and well liked on their side of the border, and is a kindly dispositioned man. Snyman is a strict disciplinarian as Boers go, whilst Botha seems an easier going man. If Snyman has been away, on his return the more or less quiet existence we have led, thanks to Botha, is immediately disturbed, and heavy shell fire commences. Snyman is not popular in Mafeking, the inhabitants of which look upon him as a combination of liar, fanatic and woman killer, and, generally speaking, an infernal nuisance. The Dutch say he is very venturesome; he will, I believe, venture a lot to obtain cattle, but apparently less to obtain Mafeking. The Boers at the outset could have captured Mafeking for about half the lives they have expended in their various futile attacks. They can never capture it now, and the one ardent desire of the garrison is that they may only endeavour to do so.
15th, Sunday, Easter-day. A quiet day and the big gun still undiscoverable. The various churches were well attended at all the services. In the afternoon we had sports, organized by Captain Cowan and the officers of the Bechuanaland Rifles. They were a great success, and the costume race, won by Mr. Daniel, B. S. A. P., dressed as a hospital nurse, Mr. Dunlop Smith, A. V. D., as the "Geisha" second, Captain Scholefield, B. S. A. P., as a bride third, was a great success, and one of the most amusing contests we have had here.
Yesterday it was indeed bad luck for the poor fellows of Fort Ayr garrison who had remained under cover during shell fire and thought it was all over, for when Troopers Molloy and Hassell came out to get their coffee the last high velocity sixteen-pound shell struck the sand bags overhead, killing Molloy dead and mortally wounding Hassell, breaking both his legs. Mr. Greenfield tells me the way he bore his sufferings was literally heroical, complaining not at all, and only asking for a cigarette.
I have not previously alluded to the "sowen" porridge, which is now a part of the rations, and has for a long time done much to solve the question of the food supply of Mafeking. It was first made by Private Sims out of the husks of oats for the consumption of himself and sundry of his comrades, but on this fact being ascertained by the indefatigable Captain Ryan, Sims was put on to make it on a larger scale for the natives. The European portion of the garrison and inhabitants gladly bought it, and it is now, as I said before, an acceptable portion of the daily rations. The natives, too, have had great windfalls lately in the matter of locusts, which are really not bad eating, and at any rate much appreciated by them. The feeding of the natives, indeed, at all times a difficult question, is, I may say, practically solved, except in the case of the Shangans. These unfortunate devils, who are equally repulsive, morally and physically, as far as I have seen, are detested by the other natives, and consequently it is very hard to look after them property. The Basutos, Zulus, &c, come to be fed naturally, whereas the Shangan is like a wild beast, and only seems to crawl away and die. So much is this so that on Mr. Vere Stent's ordering his Basuto servant to make some soup for a starving Shangan he had picked up, the Basuto indignantly protested that " the Shangans were bad men and killed missionaries," however, the man in question was rescued in time and is still living. They form luckily an insignificant proportion of the native community.
After the siege is over and the Queen has got her own again it is to be hoped that the unswerving loyalty of the Baralongs will not be over-looked. You hear on all sides that the Baralongs are not a fighting race, and the Zulus and any other race you may mention would wipe them out. Incidentally the Zulus tried to in their big trek north, and the wily Baralong, fighting his usual fight, had considerably the best of it.
In more modern times he successfully withstood the Boers, not, however, an attack on the present scale. After the first day's shelling the mouthpiece of the Baralong tribe, Silas Molemo, came up to Mr. Bell, Resident Magistrate, and said to him, u Never mind this we will stick to you and see it through," which they certainly have done. They are not a tribe who would make a dashing attack or to use the expression " be bossed up " to do things they don't particularly want to, but given a defensive position they will hang on to it for all they are worth as they have proved many times during the war in their defence of their stadt. They have had their cattle raided, their out-lying homesteads destroyed, their crops for this year are nil, and all through a time when the outlook to a native mind must have seemed most black they have unswervingly and uncomplainingly stuck to us and never hesitated to do anything they were called upon to do.
I cannot do better than give an account of the unsuccessful attempt to bring in cattle from Colonel Plumer. Mathakong, the leader of the party, had forty men under his command. He and the Baralongs have so far been very successful in getting in cattle; by profession a cattle thief, but only on a large scale, there is nothing mean about Mathakong. Colonel Plumer selected some hundred head of cattle in good condition and it was these that the party endeavoured to bring in. When they were some distance out it was reported to Mathakong that the Boers knew that they were coming and were going to try to intercept them. However, as he had been given to understand that it was desirable to get the cattle in he determined to make the attempt, as at any rate they might get some in, and if he stayed where he was the Boers would probably surround him. The Boers got on both flanks of the cattle, assisted by the Bapulanas (the Rietfontein rebel natives), and heavy firing began. The Baralongs pushed forward with cattle falling all round them and behind the bodies of the cattle kept up a running fight until all their ammunition was gone. They stuck to them till only fifteen head were left, and then when they left, the Boers came up cheering loudly. There were two wounded men amongst the cattle and the Boers according to their custom came up and interrogated them and then shot one and cut the other's throat. The Baralongs then came into Mafeking dragging old Mathakong with them as they could not otherwise persuade him to leave the live cattle. He was much upset by the loss of the cattle, but the fight did not worry him at all, and he said that had the cattle not been in such good condition he would have rushed them along faster and got most of them in. This, however, is only one of the many cases in which, the Baralongs have done, or have endeavoured to do good service. They lost four killed and seven wounded and account for their small loss by the protection afforded them by the herd amongst which they fought their running fight.
16th, Monday. Fairly quiet day. The Boers shelled the western outpost and brickfields. I went down to the brickfields to see Captain Brown, Cape Police, who is in charge and was in charge when he occupied the Boer advanced trench. Since then he has been wounded, but is now back at duty again. He told me that the idea of the Boers was apparently that we should not enter the trench until the morning after they had vacated it, but our doing so the night before and cutting the wire had frustrated their aimable intention of blowing up our men and presumably rushing the brickfields in the confusion. The other day, a Cape policeman met a Transvaal policeman with a white flag (between these forces in times of peace a very good feeling prevails) and chaffed him, saying, " Why don't you blow your mine up." " Ah! " said the latter, " you were too slim for us there." Houndsditch, the old Boer trench, has now been converted into a strong fortification for ourselves, and the brickfields generally are a far more desirable place for residence, the several Boer trenches now being nine hundred to one thousand two hundred yards away. They have some very good marksmen in their trenches however, and make things very warm for our advanced trenches. A Cape Boy exposed himself for a moment two or three days ago and was picked off through the head by a Martini at once, and in the very few open spaces which of course they have got accurately ranged they shoot remarkably close. The brickfields are now garrisoned by the Cape Police and Cape Boys under Captain Brown and Lieutenants Murray and Currie.
The big gun is still conspicuous by its absence, and it is reported to have gone to Pretoria. If that be so it is the greatest sign so far that the Boers feel hopeless about taking the town and the point may be fairly scored off against any point they may have , scored against us yet.
There was a wedding this morning between a private of the Bechuanaland Rifles and a Dutch girl, he cannot talk Dutch nor she English. Let us hope that it is a good omen of the future settlement of South Africa with the British as " Boss."
This morning, too, three ambulances were seen coming in from the North, and an ambulance and five waggons went in that direction, so Plumer may have had a successful "scrap," at any rate, we all hope so.
These high velocity guns seem beautiful weapons, I must confess that in common with the rest of the garrison I should dearly like to see them tried on the Boer. It is all very well to be an expert in artillery, but ours is not the most agreeable way of gaining the experience.
17th, Tuesday. The question of firewood and indeed all fuel has of late been a somewhat serious one to Mafeking, and as the cold season is coming on or rather is beginning, increases in importance daily, consequently Mafeking has had to sacrifice its scanty supply of trees. Probably the residents in their vicinity wish, if they had to be cut down, it had been done at the commencement of the siege, for it seems as if the Boer artillery when having no mark in particular but the town in general had mainly aimed at the trees, at any rate, when they were merely idly shelling the majority of shells fell in their neighbourhood. It will, I fear, put the general appearance of the town back for some years.
With the exception of perfunctory shelling in the brickfields, we have had a quiet day and the big gun is still absent. Indeed, now so far have our outlying trenches been pushed that except from the big gun and quick-firers,, we experience but little annoyance in the town itself. During the last week our runners have-been most successfully stopped, but before this we have been fortunate enough to get London papers three months old, and the Court House-has been turned into a reading-room, where the papers are daily eagerly devoured by all conditions of men and women too. Everybody at home seems very pleased with Mafeking,. and we here feel really proud of the way our fellows are fighting in the South and the way everybody is turning up to fight. It should be a fine object-lesson to the Continentals. In many ways they must have had a more amusing time than we have had and fighting on a much larger scale, for this sort of fighting after the first two months is about the dullest sort of entertainment you can well imagine: they so hopelessly overwhelm us in artillery that we cannot get out to have a go at them. Indeed, any sortie must resolve itself into storming one of their forts which we are not strong enough to do, and so the forts on either side face each other, fire at each other, but otherwise leave each other severely alone; and outside their zone of fire their artillery takes up whatever position it thinks fit and shells whatever portion of defences or town it feels inclined to. One advantage in a long dragging performance like this is that neither side seems in any particular hurry and a very wet day generally means a certain immunity from fire. Yesterday we had a heavy thunderstorm, and the first flash of lightening exploded one of our mines in front of the brickfields simultaneously with the thunderclap. I felt the ground shake and thought it was a particularly heavy clap of thunder. The mine which was charged with ten pounds of captured nitro-glycerine blew a tremendous hole in the ground, and was, generally speaking, a great success, so what would have happened had their carefully prepared two hundred and fifty pound mine gone off, or what would have been left of Mafeking, I do not like to think. The mine is now recharged and repaired, but I am afraid the Boers have a nasty suspicious disposition which will prevent them from sampling it.
The Cadet Corps have been lately doing their messages mounted on donkeys captured from the Boers. Like the other mounted corps, however, their ranks are gradually being depleted for the soup kitchen. This corps is formed of all the boys of Mafeking, ranging from nine years upwards. It does all the foot orderly work, thereby sparing several more men for the trenches, and is dressed in khaki with "smasher" hats and a yellow puggarree. It is commanded by a youth, Sergeant-Major Goodyear, the son of Captain Goodyear, who was wounded in the brickfields, and is directly supervised by Lord Edward Cecil. It drills regularly, and the boys are wonderfully smart.
Our acetylene search lights on the principle of the duplex heliograph repeat the signals from a central station to the stations all round the outposts, and answer very well. These and all the signalling arrangements are under the charge of Sergeant-Major Moffatt, late Carbineers, who has been very successful on several occasions in tapping the Boers' helio messages. He has also invented a new acetylene signalling lamp, which he has patented, and which he claims can be worked (instead of the helio) on a cloudy day as well as at night. From what I have seen of the lamp I think his claims are well founded.
18th, Wednesday. Desultory shelling. Last night eleven native women tried to get out, nine were killed and two were wounded. This, in spite of repeated protests of Colonel Baden-Powell, who has pointed out that Snyman continually shells the native village, and that when the women try to escape they are flogged by day and shot by night. Botha, on hearing of the occurrence, expressed his great regret and promised to look after the wounded. Last night, too, the Boers were blowing up the line to the south, about five miles out.
19th, Thursday. The Boers are continually blowing up the line southward, and great activity prevails around all the laagers, more particularly at McMullins's. Straws show which way the wind blows, and we hope this renewed liveliness portends the approach of relief. A quiet day. The recent heavy rains have caused a lot of fever here, but in spite of that the health of the garrison is on the whole good.
20th, Friday. Runners arrived with papers and a letter giving an account of the murder of young Dennison at Vryburg. He, it appears, was wounded, and the Boers-shot him in cold blood. In the same papers we read accounts of the excellent treatment received by Cronje and the other Boer prisoners, and the infamous treatment accorded to Colonial prisoners of war by the Boers. Having contravened every known law of war, except perhaps poisoning wells, it would seem only reasonable that they should be treated judicially, as they claim to be a civilized race, and given a chance of explaining their breaches of the Geneva Convention. Failing to do this they should be accorded the justice for which they are always clamouring. It appears to ine less important to conciliate the rebel Dutch than to avoid stirring up the indignation which is expressing itself very freely amongst the loyal Colonials at the ridiculously lenient way in which the rebels are treated, and as the Bond Attorney-General cannot see his way to proceed against them, it would surely be possible to replace him by an official who was not an avowed sympathiser of theirs. The rebels, so far, apparently have had really a very good time of it. They have looted their loyal neighbours' property, and harried their cattle and farms, murdering them, when so inclined, to their hearts' content, and now are apparently neither going to be asked to pay for their amusement or even disgorge their plunder. You do not as a rule expect the conquered to be satisfied with the victor's settlement of a war, but apparently in our case we are going to pacify our enemies at the expense of our friends. However, I suppose the matter will square itself, and the Colonial troops will not trouble to take prisoners to undergo a farce of a trial.
21st, Saturday. Lord Roberts's message was received yesterday, stating that owing to unforeseen delays the relief column would not be able to reach us by May 18th as originally promised, and asking us to husband our provisions beyond that date. The news had no depressing effect on the town or garrison, and everybody is resolved to undergo anything sooner than surrender. As regards the healthy portion of the garrison the task is a fairly easy one, but for the sick (which are daily increasing in number), the women and children, and the native population to subsist on gradually decreasing rations is indeed hard. Luxuries are, of course, a thing of the past, and it is only with the utmost economy of the necessities of life that our supplies will be equal to the task. However, by the time you get this, the matter will be settled one way or another, but as long as the Union Jack is still flying, any privations will be cheerfully welcomed. The rations now are a quarter-pound of bread, half-pound of meat, supplemented with horseflesh and " sowen " porridge. It is due to the care of the authorities, and mostly so to Captain Ryan, A.S.C., whose skilful, painstaking, and unwearied manipulation of supplies in the way of calculation, storage, development, and their issue, that we are able even now to live in comparative comfort. He has organised his butcheries and bakeries most admirably. I went round the stores the other day, and paid a visit to his sieving-room, where he has constructed large sieves to sift the fine oatmeal for bread purposes from the husks which are used for making "sowen" porridge, (one hundred pounds of oats producing twenty pounds of fine meal). There I found a dozen or so coal-black individuals under the superintendence of an Englishman, sifting whilst grinning through their covering of flour, and constituting an interesting and very comical spectacle. There is nothing wasted. We eat the fine meal and the "sowen" porridge, the horses eat the refuse from the "sowen" porridge, while we again eat the horses. As a local poet remarks—
Till the Queen shall have her own again, for the flag we have always flown, If we cannot live on the fat of the land, we'll fight on the horse and ' so wen.' "
To-day Mrs. Winter and her little boy, aged six, walked to the edge of the town, where recently it has been quiet, but the sight of a petticoat in fancied security was too much for the Boers, for they immediately sniped at her, fortunately, however, without effect.
They were shelling the brickfields to-day, but were otherwise quiet. They, however, nearly hit Colonel Baden-Powell with a shell when he was in that quarter.
22nd, Sunday. A quiet day. The concert in the afternoon was a great success, and Colonel Baden-Powell as usual "brought down the house" in his musical sketches. On reading some old papers I see the Boers have the consummate impudence to protest against our conduct of the war. Now I wish clearly to point out that I do not try to saddle the whole Boer nation with the conduct of some of their worst characters, but the lower class Boer is, in many cases, no better than a savage and sometimes, in the case of educated Kaffirs, considerably worse. I am not trying to pile up atrocities against them, but a propos of the subject generally, the following facts are somewhat interesting. - George Umfazwi, the head Fingoe, a Christian, is a leading member of the Rev. W. H. Weekes's congregation in the native location. One night he went out cattle-raiding, in charge of a mixed party of Fingoes and Baralongs. These parties, as I have said before, go out on their own initiative, and sell their plunder to the Government. Soon after starting they came upon the body of a Baralong woman, who, when endeavouring to escape, had had her throat cut. Naturally the Baralongs were more than annoyed, and vowed to kill all the Dutch women they might come across. Umfazwi, however, told them that if they persisted in their intentions he and the Fingoes would have nothing more to do with them. In the course of their raid they occupied a Dutch homestead, from which they were fired upon by Dutchmen. In the house were three Dutch women, whom the natives did not touch, only taking the cattle and returning to Mafeking. In the next raid, Umfazwi and his Fingoes were surrounded, as I told you in a former account, and, after a hard fight, were all killed—no quarter being given. I was talking yesterday to Major Anderson, E.A.M. C, and he said, in the course of the conversation, that he preferred a savage warfare, for then you knew what to expect, and that if he had to go out again, he would sooner not take a Red Cross flag, as on each occasion on which he had done so, it had drawn the fire; whereas, when he went out without, he only took his chance with the rest.
23rd, Monday. To-day they shelled the town, doing no damage. They employed a new sort of nine-pounder shell, which will make a nice lamp stand. Two deaths from fever last night, and I fear there will be another death to-day. These late rains have brought out a sort of typhoid malaria.
A most interesting account, from a private soldier's point of view, has been contributed by Private G-. Hyslop, Bechuanaland Rifles, to The Glasgow Weekly Herald, and though his sources of accurate information are naturally somewhat limited, it is a most fair and intelligent account of the siege.
24th, Tuesday. We received glorious news last night, but it seems almost too good to be true, namely, that Lord Roberts had surrounded the Boers at Kronstadt, and had given them twenty-four hours to surrender, and that Lord Methuen had reached Klerks-dorp. It is quite possible, but still one does not like to believe it before it is verified, and it is after all a rumour. On the face of it, it seems probable, and that it is a continuation of his turning movement. If so, the Boers in these parts are nicely out-manoeuvred, and we look for our Relief Column following Methuen's tract as far as Border Siding, and then coming up the line. Automatic relief, so glibly talked about in some papers, will not be of much use to us, for what we most require is provisions. I saw it stated in an article in The Times that Kimberley and ourselves were of no strategical importance in the campaign, but I totally disagree with this idea. Had Mafeking and Kimberley fallen at first, or had Cronje been able to disregard these two isolated places and swept down south, the Colony, to a great extent, would have fallen into his hands. The troops in the South would have had a far greater extent of country to reconquer, and Mafeking at any rate must have eventually fallen. The natives would have lost confidence, the Boers would have retained possession of the line and the rolling stock from the Yaal River to the north, Rhodesia would have been open to attack, and the whole conditions of the war entirely changed, and not changed in our favour. I suppose this also holds good of Lady smith, but there, of course, the Boers would have left a considerable force in their rear. I think it was the half-heartedness of the Boers in only partially invading the Colony and Natal and remaining to nibble at the tempting baits of apparently two unprotected towns, which gave the troops coming out an advantage which they never would have had had the Boers made one dash for Capetown. And even now, though in a very much less degree, I consider this town of strategical importance. We keep a large number of Boers in our proximity, and the Boers in the neighbouring districts are more concerned about preventing our relief than in opposing the force from which the really imminent danger threatens. And if it be true that Lord Methuen is at Klerksdorp, the Boers in these parts will have no earthly weight in the decisive portion of the campaign. Why they should wish to take Mafeking except to score one trick, as all other advantages they have gained they have since lost, it is hard to say. Their chance of invading Rhodesia is gone, the crossings of the Vaal River are in our hands. There are no stores now in Mafeking and beyond the bare temporary possession, they would gain nothing at all, added to which I should have thought that by this time they might have learnt that they were not going to have even a temporary possession.
The verdict of the court martial which tried Lieutenant Murchison for the murder of Mr. Parslow and sentenced him to death, has come back confirmed by Lord Roberts, who, however, has commuted the sentence to one of penal servitude for life. Murchison was at one time a major in the Royal Artillery, and so far as I know him personally, I do not consider him responsible for his actions.
The Rhodesian postal authorities notified us to-day that press telegrams (owing to the congestion of the lines) would be taken off the wires at Umtali, sent by train to Beira, and then be re-telegraphed to London via Lorenzo Marques. The press has naturally protested strongly, as their course of action will probably entail a delay of a week. The postal arrangements throughout the campaign have been most infamous; whether the fault lies at Cape Town or Bulawayo I know not, but in any case some abominably careless official should be hauled over the coals. We have consistently got letters out from here which have been received at home, and it simply means total imbecility or inexcusable idleness on the part of responsible authorities if we are unable to receive letters in the same way. Most people here naturally say it is the fault of the Bond Government, and though they have deserved hanging many times over, I do not think this particular crime can be laid at their door, though the absence of our guns certainly may. Mr. Schreiner has, I see, protested against the Boers being sent to St. Helena. I am unaware if he has protested against our being detained here. He also states that people misjudge him and he seems annoyed. He has only been judged by his actions, which here, as well as elsewhere, are deplored. However, this savours of politics, and is therefore somewhat out of my province.
25th, Wednesday. Last night we received warning from native sources that the Boers intended to make an attack on the town to-day, and that it was to be a personally conducted tour by young Eloff, who had been sent from Pretoria to take Mafeking or die in the attempt. He is, or ought to be, very much alive, for his operations were conducted from a safe distance and the town is much as usual. Of late we have been so dull here, that a considerable amount of fictitious enthusiasm was boiled up over this impending attack. Mr. Hamilton of The Times thought it was good enough to sleep in the advanced trench, but the more wary and possibly less enthusiastic, amongst which I include myself, considered a good bed was preferable to an indifferent one. However, I looked out cartridges and laid out weapons when I went to bed, but didn't wake any earlier next morning, and was roused by Ronny Moncreiffe shouting out, "Get up, there is a battle going on." I vainly tried to persuade him to allow me to remain in bed until the enemy were near enough to be dangerous, but he insisted that I should get up and look on. I decided there was no immediate necessity for weapons, and rode off to the nearest telescope to find the enemy. At the B. S. A. P. fort I found the officers of the Protectorate Regiment just coming off the roof, yawning and looking very bored. They told me what had happened up till my arrival, and I went and looked through the telescope for a bit-at our friends the enemy whom we could clearly see. They were firing their guns-and maintaining a heavy musketry fire, though in somewhat purposeless manner about one thousand five hundred yards from our advanced trench. A gentleman on horseback, presumably the dashing Eloff, galloped out from the western laager, and with many gesticulations and fruitless haranguing endeavoured to get them to advance, but they were obdurate. They pitched one or two shells up by the fort,, which were promptly annexed by piccaninnies, as the majority did not burst, and they killed a nigger, and a ricochet hit old Whitfield in the stomach, but, owing to the width of his figure,, the bullet did not penetrate. I think what put them off most was our absolute silence. We did not fire at all except some twenty rounds at some Boers that had been ambushed in the culvert, which had the effect of driving them into some bushes, where they hid for a couple of hours. I really think the people surrounding us here have honestly had enough of it, and it will take a better man than young Eloff to bring them up to the scratch, though there are certainly more Boers about here than there have been for some time. The object of this particular attack was to draw our fire and make us disclose our positions on the western front, and the result was a most conspicuous failure. We refused to be drawn b}' the feint, and so the real attack, which was supposed to be concealed elsewhere, was never able to develop. Apparently the plan was good, like General Trochu's, but it has at any rate so tired them that they have been unable to do anything since.
26th, Thursday. Received my first letters since this abominable isolation commenced. One from Weston-Jarvis and another from Smitheman. Weston is very cheerful. Smitheman, extravagant as regards paper, and rather sparing of words and ink; I also received some Morning Posts, and see that I have successfully established communication, which is satisfactory.
27th, Friday. More runners, but thanks to the usual breakdown of the Beira-Salisbury line, dates and news are so mixed, and the contending forces seem so extraordinarily and intricately involved with each other, that Ave have given up trying to understand how things really are going. It doesn't very much matter, as the result is a foregone conclusion, and at the worst can only be shortly delayed. One thing is amusing, and that is to see the various reasons different countries give for not offering to mediate.
28th, Saturday. Nothing doing. Preparing for the tournament to-morrow. My Kaffir wishes to go and join Plurner. He doesn't approve of the food supply of Mafeking. I thought I should never get rid of him. Thank goodness the brute has gone now. He has been a sort of "old man of the sea" to me. I only kept him because he appeared generally in small health, but when he flung his rations into the middle of the square yesterday, I thought it was high time for him to be off. The last few days the enemy has been more busy on the northeastern front, and established themselves in a sniping trench seven hundred yards from our advanced trench, and made themselves rather a nuisance. We, however, made it so warm for them that they are concluded to have withdrawn, but everywhere else, since the 25th, they have been fairly quiet.
29th, Sunday. A most successful tournament, and almost up to Agricultural Hall form. Most regiments in the service represented, and the sword mounted and bayonet dismounted both particularly good. It was trying work judging on half rations, but well worth it to see such good sport.
What a funny little Frenchman that Prince Henri d'Orleans must be? His compliments to a French comic paper on caricatures of the English would almost entitle him to a prominent position on its staff, where, at any rate, he would score a greater success than posing as an unemployed patriot. By the bye, was he not once attached to the British Army, .and if so, whence this venom? But of tea-table tacticians and sofa strategists you must, indeed, have more than enough. Beading the papers from home one sees excellent persons with presumably nothing to do, recommending people generally to turn the other cheek to the smiter; personally, I and, indeed, most of my neighbours, think that the smiter has had quite sufficient chances at our entire carcasses during the last few months, and if they feel themselves so imbued with an overflowing Christian spirit, I should suggest their taking a turn themselves. I do not love the Boer, and I don't think I shall until the Boer loves me. There is only one way to obtain his respect and even toleration, and that is by proving yourself the better man. There will then be peace in the country which, at the present moment, there is not. I do think, too, that people at home should not be so free in their comments upon intelligence from this part of the world. For many years I have read Mr. Baillie Grohmann's letters on big game shooting with much interest. I have also tried to shoot big game and Boers with about equally moderate success. I do assert most emphatically that the Boers use explosive bullets. I have seen the bullets, heard the bullets, and picked up the base of bullets with fulminate caps in them. They were not Mauser bullets, they were not expanding bullets, they were explosive bullets pure and simple, and the Boers have confessed to their use. Therefore, I think it would only have been fair had Mr. Baillie Grohmann waited to know on what grounds people out here have made these assertions, before writing a somewhat conclusive letter in which the main point appeared to be that there was no such thing as an explosive Mauser bullet. It is rather hard on some hundreds of thousands of Englishmen who happen to be serving their country out here, that because they are on that service they should be immediately considered to be destitute of that sense of fair play with which the race generally is credited, and I am sure that Mr. Baillie Grohmann himself, would be the first to admit it. We don't expect much more from a Boer than a bullet, and as far as we know have not particularly grumbled at their using explosive ones, but it is hard lines to be told they didn't when we mention the fact. I personally felt a sense of great disappointment that I was not reading Mr. Baillie Grohmann's usual letters to The Field, instead of this one in The Morning Post.
We are threatened with another attack to-morrow. I hope it will be more productive of bloodshed than the last, because we can then clear them off a bit, and I hate feeling hungry, as do most of us.
Colonel Baden-Powell has just received a missive from young Eloff, in which he states that he sees in a Bulawayo Chronicle that we have concerts, balls, tournaments, and cricket matches on Sundays, and it will be very agreeable to his men to come in and participate as they find it dull outside. Colonel Baden-Powell has answered that he thinks perhaps the return match should be postponed until we have finished the present one and that as we are now two hundred not out, and Snyman, Cronje, etc, have not been successful he would suggest a further change of bowling. With such mild japes we pass the time away, but we shot a Dutchman this morning all the same. A bad joke in these times is worth more than a good pint of porridge, as the former will go round whereas the latter will certainly not. It is very edifying work trying to get fat on laughter and sleep, but hunger is not a very amusing form of entertainment. They have recently manufactured brawn of horse hide. It doesn't sound very appetising but the stock disappeared with marvellous rapidity. One cannot help thinking that after all even though we be hungry out here, yet we have the glamour of war over us, whereas at home in the Metropolis one knows hundreds of men are worse off than ourselves. It is to be hoped that our impotent sympathisers will feed the people they can reach, who, after all want it just as much as we do.
30th, Monday. Very tired and stiff after the tournament. I feel as if all the competitors had been beating me with big sticks. Talking of sticks and Doctor Leyds, which always seem associated in my mind, I bought half a dozen very nice ones yesterday. I hope Dr. Leyds is having a good time now. I fancy he will have a moderate one when the war is over, as most people directly blame him for any discomforts they may have undergone. It is only natural for a Dutchman to fight, but for the man who pulls the strings and risks other people's skins with the utmost heroism seven thousand miles off,, you do not feel a great amount of affection or respect, more particularly when he is living on the fat of the land and you are rather hungry. Besides, the fellow is an infernal thief; he has battened on these unfortunate peasants for many years, and at the first pinch of fighting flies and leaves them. I have no use for a creature like that. I was rather amused to hear Sergeant Cooke, of the Bechuanaland Rifles, report having slain a Dutchman this morning. He wasn't in the least elated, and in a shamefaced sort of way said he was afraid it wasn't a sporting shot. He couldn't have been more upset if he had shot a hen pheasant sitting, but to anyone else the episode was distinctly amusing.