Up before daybreak, but still not early enough, as the Imperial Light Horse and a battery of Natal Artillery had already gone towards Elandslaagte, about sixteen miles from here, at three o'clock.

It was bitterly cold when we started, and for a couple of hours of our journey. About half a mile beyond Modder's Spruit Station we met a man walking along the road in his socks, carrying a pair of heavy boots. He told us he had just escaped from the Boers, after having been, with thirty other miners, their prisoner since Thursday last. His feet were sore from running in the big boots, and he was nearly exhausted.

The Boers had looted the stores, station, and mining office at Elandslaagte, and in addition had looted a lot of luggage taken in the captured train. The evening before he had seen a drunken Boer strutting about dressed in a suit of evening clothes belonging to an English officer. There were a lot of low-class Boers amongst the eight hundred there who spent riotous evenings, getting drunk on the liquor found in the stores; but others of them seemed decent sort of farmers, and all the prisoners were very well treated by General Koch, and were allowed to go about on parole, being merely required to report themselves once a day.

We pushed on, and in the distance could hear the report of cannon. We soon discovered a little artillery duel in progress between the Natal battery and the Boer guns. The Natals were barking away pluckily, but quite ineffectually against their very superior opponents, who were making really excellent practice, and they struck an artillery waggon, blowing it to pieces, and missed the artillery train by barely twenty yards, a shell falling on either side of it. It was clear we could remain here no longer, so the order was given to retire. The guns limbered up, leaving the shattered wreck of the waggon behind, and the trains commenced to move back slowly, keeping pace with the cavalry and artillery. The Boer guns kept firing until out of range, and then there was a desultory pitter-patter of rifle fire at a sufficient distance to be completely ineffectual.

We retired back just behind Modder's Spruit Station and rested there. The sun had now broken through the clouds and poured down hot on the yellow veldt, where we were. A beautiful scene stretched away before us. The veldt was not all yellow, but in low-lying places, after the recent rain, was beginning to be streaked with vivid green. Opposite us, across the flat or gently undulating veldt in the middle distance, were hills and kopjes, while beyond, purple under clouds or light blue in sunshine, rose to the far horizon mountains, pointed, or of that quite flat-topped shape so characteristic of this country.

No one who has been through this day can ever forget the beautiful series of military tableaux, the gorgeous colouring, the constantly varying effects of light and shade, under clear, blue sky, or when piles of great white cumuli were passing, until, darkening with the progress of the fight, an unnatural gloom blackened the heavens, and from the inky clouds torrents of rain poured upon the combatants. The variety of colour, light, and shade was only equalled by the variety of the military movements during the day. A complete series of sketches or photographs would serve for illustrations for a handbook of modern tactics—the reconnaissance in force in the morning—engagement—orderly retreat carried out exactly according to book—march out of main body; advance of main body, cavalry on each flank, skirmishing outflanking movement on the right, etc., etc., on to the cavalry charging through and through retreating and beaten enemy.

At 11.20 two squadrons of cavalry and a battery of artillery arrive, and shortly after another train full of troops is seen approaching in the distance.

Chatting with Colonel Chisholme, of the Imperial Light Horse, I was chaffing him about calling them "light," pointing out a group of giants standing near him; but he agreed that their hearts were light, anyhow, whatever their weight might be. He had commenced his military career when eighteen in the 9th Lancers, and his Imperial Light Horse was embodied on the 9, 9, 99. He was telling how all the important dates of his life had a 9 in them, as Major Douglas Haig galloped up and told him we were going to start. I said, "All these nines clearly point to your living to ninety-nine." "Oh no," he laughed back, cheerily, "I don't wish to live to be as old as that." His wish was gratified.

"Saddle," "Prepare to mount," "Mount." We were going forward again.

At 1.30 we started, after just two hours' rest, in which the main body had come up, so that our entire force now consisted of the 5th Lancers, Imperial Light Horse, two field batteries of Royal Artillery, the Devonshire Regiment, half a battalion of the Manchester, and half a battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. At 1.55 fire opened from the tops of the line of ridges running parallel to the railway line, which were all lined with men. Some of the 5th Lancers have already gone off to the extreme right. At the foot of the first hill, from which firing proceeds, a squadron of the Border Mounted Rifles are dismounting, and now two lines of khaki figures are climbing steadily up the hill. Long before they reach the top the Boers are seen retiring. They have no idea of making a stand yet, and as the khaki figures reach the summit the Lancers, sweeping round from the extreme right flank, join them. During this time the Devons and Manchesters have been pouring out of the train, and are now crossing the veldt in dotted lines towards the ridge of hills.

2.15.—Another train now appears, bringing further reinforcements.

2.30.—Quite a hot fire now opens on the extreme left, and in a few minutes the artillery are ordered forward, and the six guns pass us at a gallop. They are soon lined up and firing shrapnel at some Boers, who scurry away over the brow of a kopje. The guns limber up and jump the railway line—a pretty stiff little obstacle—the narrow gauge metals being on top of a narrow embankment. Then across a level field of veldt, and they commence to ascend a slight depression, which is just behind a shouldering billow of veldt. It is hard work for the artillery horses over this ground, but it is fine the way they tug and strain at their work. The officers urge the men to hurry forward. Already a gun is heard from the Boers. They have opened fire. Two wheelers of an artillery waggon drop down, apparently dead, from exhaustion.

I had just been watching their heavy sweating sides and foam-streaming mouths before they collapsed. Already two spare horses are being brought round to replace them as we hurry forward.

Now, all of a sudden, things become lively, and do not slacken again until the finish. No sooner have the first of the cavalry appeared than the Dutch guns open fire. R-r-r-r rip—a shell drops amongst the artillery and cavalry just ahead of us. The cavalry wheel and spread themselves into more open order none too soon, as now the shells come fast. The Boers have got the range exactly. Bang bursts a shell amongst the Imperial Light Horse near me. A shell bursts quite close, and a piece drops between Bennett Burleigh and me. The life, vigour, and swing of movement of these few minutes when we first came under fire was magnificent, the cavalry wheeling and circling, infantry deploying, the rattle of the artillery waggons, the cracking of the drivers' whips on the backs of the straining, struggling horses, the rending sound of the shells in the air like the tearing of a great canvas mainsail; the loud report when a shell exploded, or the dull thud when they simply buried themselves in the veldt.

How lucky for us so few of them exploded! There would have been terrible damage done, especially by the first few shots, when the cavalry and artillery were massed together. It was now for a while an artillery duel, but the Devons were quietly getting forward for the front attack. The cavalry had swung out on the extreme right flank, and the Manchesters and Gordons were going on to the ridge to take them on their right flank there, while the Devons went up the face.

The Boers changed their artillery fire from time to time; first it was at our artillery and cavalry, then into the Devons as they advanced or as they lay down in the last field of veldt, waiting for the final charge; and then they sent a few shells into a body of cavalry that was on our extreme left. The very last shot they fired was a good one, just when the fight was over, right into our guns.

I saw a little rocky point ahead of me, as if made on purpose for a war correspondent. By running across some open ground I was on to it. There was good if not ample cover on the top. It was in the middle of the angle made by the line of advance of the men along the ridge and the line of the Devons' main advance, and quite close to the hill. Stretching away on our left over a level khaki-coloured sloping field (if I may so call it) of veldt, were the Devons lying behind ant-hills, placed as if on purpose to give scant but welcome shelter to troops advancing under fire. The colour-scheme of the whole stretch was perfect for concealment, and there was Tommy learning more of how to take advantage of scant cover in this half-hour, under the bitter pitter-patter of Mauser bullets, than he would learn at home in years of manœuvres.

That was a trying wait for Mr. Atkins; yet how steadily he stood it—or not exactly stood it, but crouched it, lay it, or mother-earth-hugged it! On our right was the level sky-lined hill, ending in a rounded, precipitous point, on which the Boer guns were stationed. Under that heavy-hanging bank of clouds, yet just behind it, a clear steel-like light was showing. Against this, upon the top of the hill, silhouetted with most delicately accurate sharpness, were the figures of the Manchesters. The Gordons were in the same line over the rounded top of the hill. They advanced at a run, crouched, then swarmed forward again, and again lay low. Then the little runs became shorter, the rests longer, and the fire hotter and more continuous. Were they going to take that hill before complete nightfall, or was it going to be a two-day job, notwithstanding the five hours' hard fighting we had had already? A man near me said to me, "Do you hear the steam escaping? I expect it is the Boers letting it off from the colliery which they took on Thursday." It was the sound of steam, of escaping steam, right enough, but that sound was made by bullets. It went on continuously from the time the final infantry advance took place, and rose in a crescendo of hissing vehemence as we neared the supreme climax of the struggle. How eagerly we watched these creeping figures going forward! Would they succeed? Would they ever reach the point of the hill? How slow it seemed, but steadily, steadily on along the ridge they went.

Now all the great orchestra of battle was playing—from behind us on the right our artillery were firing at the hill in advance of the Manchesters and Gordons—in one minute that I timed with my watch I counted sixteen discharges. How the shells shrieked and whirled over us! I found myself somehow humming the "Ride of the Valkyrie," which these shells had suggested; then the Maxims would play a few bars, or a sharp volley ring from the left. The rocky kopje was vocal with rattling echoes, while with piccolo distinctness the air above and about us sang with the sharp Mauser notes.

It was now a quarter to six. Rapid movements could be seen amongst the Boers on top of the hill; some were beginning to gallop off, over the sky line, but others galloped in the opposite direction. Our artillery fire had now reached a nicety of deadly accuracy. They were firing impact shells. I had my glasses on one horseman who appeared to me to be firing from his saddle, and fighting stubbornly. There was no sign of running away about him. As I looked the figure became a little cloud of smoke—the smoke cleared—horse nor rider was any longer there. Chancing to look at another, who was darting about irregularly, as if confused and not knowing which way to fly, a fountain of smoke flew up in front of his horse as a shell burst. When the smoke cleared he and the horse were lying on the ground, and immediately after to a third exactly the same thing happened.

The crescendo of battle had now reached a climax in a perfect roar of sound. The bugles sounded the charge. God bless the man that wrote these heart-cheering notes. Forward—rattling, stumbling, falling over the rocks, cheering, swearing, forward anyhow—formation be hanged!

How the Devons climbed these rocks! Following in the right of the Devons' wake, passing their wounded across that slopy field of veldt, and the flat to the base of the hill, it was a sweating, breathless climb up; the men were already cheering on the top above my head. The first sign of mortality on the Boer side I encountered was a hairy little black pig lying on his side bleeding proverbially—then a tall Boer lying headlong down the rocks. On the top—what confusion! Tommy, drunk with delight of battle. Prisoners, wounded, Gordons, Manchesters, Devons—all mixed inexplicably. A Boer gun still in position was a centre for gathering. In another place the ground was strewn with rugs, broken provisions, empty and half-empty bottles, saddles galore.

"'Av a 'oss, guv'nor, 'av a 'oss?" said a dirty-faced, sweaty, but generous Tommy to me, as he led a black Boer steed by the bridle. Not liking to take his capture from him, I went off to where he told me several were standing, and picked out a likely-looking grey. Darkness was now rapidly falling. A Tommy came up and led off another horse.

"I'm taking this for the Colonel; me and the old man don't get on well. The old buffer is always down on me whenever I takes a drop, but I'm going to make him a present of a 'oss this night, that I am." He went off in the darkness, towing the present by the bridle.
At this moment very few officers were at this point of the hill; the Gordons, for instance, had lost thirteen. I came then upon General French, who had come along the ridge in the fighting line with the Manchesters and Gordons, and was glad to have so early a chance of offering him my heartiest congratulations on the day. The last time I had met him was when the artillery on both sides were hard at it; he appeared then more like a man playing a game of chess than a game of war, and was not too busy to sympathise with me on the badness of the light when he saw me trying to take snapshots of the Boer shells bursting amongst the Imperial Light Horse near us.

General French is deservedly very popular with officers, men, correspondents, and all who meet him, and we were all glad at the brilliant ending of this hard-fought day.

The 5th Lancers and 5th Dragoon Guards were now pursuing the retreating Boers. The Dragoons carried lances, which may account for the credit which was equally due to them with the Lancers being unduly given to the latter. Another hour or half-hour of light and they would have played the very mischief with the retreating Boers. The Dragoons chased them past a Red Cross tent, where a man was waving a Red Cross flag. They respected those gathered about the tent; but one ruffian, waiting until they came abreast, shot point-blank at a private. As he fell dead from the saddle Captain Derbyshire rode at his slayer and shot him dead with his revolver. A big Dragoon would put his foot to the back of a Boer and tug to get his lance out. Some of the Boers stood firing till the cavalry came within twenty yards. The ground was broken veldt with patches of outcropping stones, which, added to the fading light, made it terrible ground for charging over. Already Tommy on top of the hill and down its sides was groping for the wounded. Tommy had behaved magnificently throughout the long fight, and now Tommy was finishing the day by behaving well to the Boer wounded. A rug here and a drink there, and later on the best place near the camp fire. In the previous five hours, Tommy's respect for the enemy had risen enormously; now he was treating his wounded with a rough but genuine kindness positively chivalrous. One might write for days upon the incidents of this glorious day, into which the events of a stirring lifetime seem crowded. Our artillery got a good chance, and showed up magnificently. The dauntless bravery of English officers we seem to take for granted as a national heritage; but in something stronger than admiration—in positive love—my heart goes out to Tommy Atkins—sweating, swearing, grimy, dirty, fearless, and generous—Tommy is a bit of "all right."