Kipling's regard for "Tommy Poetry"--Our English as it was set up by Boer compositors.
"THE FRIEND" was an afternoon paper published at three or four or five o'clock in the evening, according as the Dutch compositors chose to get it out. We editors went to our tiny editorial room between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, and worked until lunch time--one o'clock--writing, seeing visitors, correcting proofs, and reading manuscripts. What I have called "seeing visitors" mainly consisted in turning away private soldiers who came for copies of the paper. Though we posted notices that ours was the editorial room, and that papers were to be had at Barlow's stationery shop, "Tommy" would insist upon coming to us; therefore we gave up a large part of our time to sending him away, now yelling at him, now bursting into expletives, and anon pleading most politely that we were neither newsboys nor railway bookstall keepers.
What I have called "reading manuscripts" was largely the work of examining the poetry of this same Mr. Atkins, who, fired by the genius of Mr. Kipling, is sometimes a better poet than you would think, sometimes a worse poet than you can imagine, but is generally a poet--of one sort or another.
We had good "Tommy" poets in our ranks; wherefore, when Mr. Kipling came, he insisted that all soldier poetry should be religiously read, and the best of it published. He pored over miles of it. At the idea of re-writing and improving Tommy's verse he was pained, and when Mr. James Barnes, on one occasion, spent half a day in putting a "Tommy" poem into Queen's English, Mr. Kipling was righteously indignant, and spent an hour in getting it back to Tommy's vernacular. But we are coming to Mr. Kipling presently.
The rest of the time of all except the man who wrote the leader of the day was spent in correcting the typographical errors of the Dutch compositors, who, by the way, could make more numerous and more dreadful mistakes in type than ever an intelligence officer made in getting news of the enemy. The consequence was that we often took up the first paper that reached us from the presses, and with a sigh assured each other that it was almost wholly given up to bad verse and printers' errors.
At noon during these early days one of us would gather up all the proofs that we could get from the printers, and march over to Lord Stanley's office to have them censored. He was so considerate and liberal that this soon proved a mere formality. I think he must have regarded the eccentric but interesting journal as a child of his own, or at least as one whose parentage he would be too polite to dispute if Lord Roberts claimed it. We used to hear how very much the great Field Marshal, also, was interested in it; how eagerly he secured his copy every day, and how much he liked all that it contained. A visitor at the Residency told us that one afternoon Lord Roberts saw an officer reading THE FRIEND, and called to one of his staff: "I see a man in there reading THE FRIEND. How is it I have not had my copy?" The officer's paper proved to be a copy of an earlier number, so that the Field Marshal's wounded pride was healed. But we liked that story; we liked it very much indeed.
Our fifth number, published on March 21st, began with Mr. Gwynne's hearty leader on Rudyard Kipling, who was expected to reach Bloemfontein on that day. Mr. Gwynne also wrote one of his characteristic satirical articles on "The Soberest Army in the World." Mr. Landon contributed a lively and picturesque narrative of the principal feat our despatch riders had performed up to that time, and I perpetrated a modest bit of reporting on South Africa's attractions--an article of greater interest here and now than it was then and for our army readers.
We had made it known that private soldiers would be charged only a penny for the paper, the original threepence being demanded solely of officers. In this way we hoped to earn a greater profit than by shutting out of our trade the humble private, to whom a threepence (a "ticky," as it is called in Africa) sometimes appears as big as a cart-wheel. But our new plan brought us a lot of trouble--especially of the kind you feel when you know you are being done out of something and yet cannot help yourself. The fact was that the officers encamped at a distance sent in their servants for their papers, and these messengers, being privates, only paid a penny for each paper. Then, again, the officers were dressed so nearly like the men that the newsboys and assistants in Barlow's shop could not distinguish them apart, and charged many of the officers the penny of the private. This annoyed us, because we were intent upon making as much money as possible in order to turn over a handsome sum to a soldier charity when we should end our stewardship--for not a penny did we mean to keep for ourselves. Mr. Landon wrote a strenuous appeal to the officers to help us to get our just dues. To the same paper Mr. A. B. Paterson, of the Sydney Herald, contributed a very clever bit of verse, entitled, "Fed up." He was one of the contributors of whom we were most proud--and justly so.
In this day's paper there were seventeen notices of horses lost--presumably stolen, but a close scrutiny of all horseflesh was in progress, and in the same column with the wails of the robbed was a notice of the recovery of twenty-one horses--none of them being the same as any of the lost that were advertised for. The Provost-Marshal, Major R. M. Poore, on this day announced that every native with a horse must carry a certificate proving that the animal was his own. He also declared that every person possessing any property of the Orange Free State Government--horses, mules, oxen, or anything else--must quickly hand it up.
Lord Roberts reviewed the Naval Brigade on the preceding day, and we had a report of it showing how splendidly Captain Bearcroft's command appeared. The late Admiral Maxse, out there on a visit, witnessed the review, and said that it was the first one he had attended since the Crimea, when he acted as naval A.D.C. to Lord Raglan. This review gave us all one of our rare chances of seeing Lord Roberts, for he went out but little, and even at such times hurried directly to his destination, returning with as little loss of time. Every man, of every rank, saluted him, and he was scrupulously careful to return the salute even of the bugler boys. It was said to be surprising to note how many men he knew of all ranks, and how watchful and observant he was. "You managed that very cleverly," he would say to a man in conflict with unruly horses; or he would reprove a soldier for untidiness in dress. Nothing escaped his restless eyes.
He wore no decorations of any kind, and I have even heard it said that not every coat of his was decked with gilt buttons--though this I repeat only upon hearsay. I can testify, however, that no man more modest and making less of his rank was in his army. I always saw him in plain khaki with that badge of mourning upon one sleeve which gave us all a keener thrust in our emotions than even the hardest felt losses of comrades and acquaintances which befell us all so frequently.
(Edited by the War Correspondents with Lord Roberts' Force.)
BLOEMFONTEIN, MARCH 21, 1900.
EDITORIAL BY H. A. GWYNNE.
To-day we expect to welcome here in our camp the great poet and writer, who has contributed more than any one perhaps towards the consolidation of the British Empire. His visit is singularly appropriate. He will find encamped round the town not only his friend Tommy Atkins, but the Australian, the Canadian, the New Zealander, the Tasmanian, the volunteer from Ceylon, from Argentine, and from every quarter of the globe. He will see the man of the soil--the South African Britisher--side by side with his fellow colonist from over the seas. In fact, Bloemfontein will present to him the actual physical fulfilment of what must be one of his dearest hopes--the close union of the various parts of the greatest Empire in the world. His visit, therefore, will have in it something of the triumph of a conqueror--a conqueror who, with the force of genius, has swept away barriers of distance and boundary, and made a fifth of the globe British, not only in title, but in real sentiment.
We, belonging to that portion of the Press to which is assigned the duty of witnessing and chronicling the deeds which make history, extend to the illustrious writer a welcome, sincere and whole-hearted. We feel, all of us, that his brush alone can do complete justice to the wonderful pictures of war which we have been privileged to see. We, who have been with Tommy Atkins on many a hard campaign, have long ago come to love him for his quiet, unostentatious courage and his patient endurance of hardships; but we feel that Mr. Kipling alone can translate to the world the true inwardness of Tommy's character. We feel sure that the Mulvaneys, the Learoyds, and the Ortherises will welcome him as heartily as we do, and we are hopeful that this fresh meeting of Tommy Atkins and perhaps the only man who rightly understands him, will be productive of fresh pictures of the British soldier.
THE SOBEREST ARMY IN THE WORLD.
BY H. A. GWYNNE.
The force which, under the command of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, left Enslin and occupied Bloemfontein will undoubtedly be known in history as the "Sober Army." Never before in the history of campaigning has there been known such an absence of excess in the way of drinking--and eating too, as far as that is concerned. Some people have dared to cast aspersions on the British army by insinuating that drunkenness is not unknown among its members. They have even gone further and declared that officers and men are very fond of their "tot" or their "pint" or their whisky and soda. I only wish some of these calumniators could have accompanied Lord Roberts' force. They would have recanted on the spot, and returned home convinced that the British army was not only the finest but the soberest in the world.
Their excessive sobriety and wonderful self-restraint in the face of temptation rather tempts one to delve deep down for the psychological reasons. I have myself made inquiries, but I must confess that I am at a loss for a real reason. My firm belief is that the British soldier is so actuated by a deep sense of duty that, having come to the conclusion that hard drinking and hard fighting were incompatible, he promptly dropped the former and devoted all his energies to the latter. It would have been expected that at the end of a long, dusty march the men would have, immediately after being dismissed, made a rush for the canteen. Nothing of the sort. They sat down to tea and coffee and left the canteen waiters kicking their heels doing nothing. It is true one or two soldiers have told me that they couldn't find the canteen; but the majority of the men chose, of their own free will, to ignore its existence, and actually never looked for it. But this noble continence, this splendid self-restraint has been very nearly spoilt by the folly and wickedness of some of the authorities. They actually issued rum to the men at intervals. Now one of Tommy's greatest virtues is obedience. He was ordered to drink rum and he did it--just as he advanced against a kopje spitting forth lead when he was ordered. But the task of swallowing the hateful stuff was distasteful in the extreme. I have seen him take his mug and get his tot and then look at his officer as much as to say, "Must I really take it?" The officer's answering glance was invariably a command which poor Tommy could not disobey, and he tossed off the liquor with one gulp to get it over all the quicker, and then held his mug upside down to show he had done the deed.
One would have thought, indeed, that this wonderful self-restraint would be destroyed in the wild rush of joy with which the army was filled the night that Cronje surrendered. Not a bit of it. The men lying on the soaking ground never touched a drop of alcohol, although many would say that the victory of our arms deserved an alcoholic celebration. But that night the canteens were as deserted as ever. One man, and one man only, fell. He was an officer's servant, and was discovered gloriously happy, delightedly drunk. His comrades kept hitting and punching him and asking him where he had found the liquor, it evidently being their firm intention to destroy it. He refused, however, to answer a word until his master found him and, seizing him by the shoulder, shook him, and exclaimed with eager face, "Good Heavens, Jones, where the devil did you get it?" And Jones answered drunkenly to an eager crowd of expectant officers and men, "Meth'lated Shpirits, Shir. I'sh found it in waggon."
Whereupon ten eager voices asked--
"Is there any left?"
"No; finished whole blooming lotsh."
And then his comrades gently kicked him for a cur.
To the Editors of "THE FRIEND,"--GENTLEMEN,--I have read with much of interest one article in one of your last issues touching the steal at the horses.
As a veteran of the war of 1870, I think that this would be of interest towards much of your abonnés if I should write some words of my proper experiences.
It appears by the article in the number of THE FRIEND of the 19th that the writer desires to carry to the observation of those who themselves find in authority, that by their proper negligence he has been forced to become that which you other English call jail-bird.
Now I have made the war of 1870. I was dragon. I have suffered the same privations and I have smelt the same difficulties on the question of horses, but never I not have failed of myself to find without horse of war. This without myself to boast.
I not desire to blame the author of this article praiseworthy, who, as he appears to wish to himself efface, in myself offering as counsellor, but since, as to myself seems that he wishes to hold one sale of his animals that it is all this that he has of most imbecile of to announce on the roofs his crime.
An officer of dragons in 1870, I was having at the month of the June twenty horses of the first quality, grand, strong, majestic animals, worthy of to carry one officer of dragons in battle against those canailles of Prussians.
At the month of September after Sedan he not me was remaining nothing, and I not was having not even the means of me to save in Belgium.
What to do!--Officer French not is able not to render himself. Ah! not know I not the anguish of himself to find without horse. What have I done? To steal, no! This was indignant of officer. To buy, no! I of it not was having not of what. I was aperceiving in the distance one horse of officer of the Estate Major. This was the horse of my poor friend Gu-gu, evidently killed or gravely blessed. If if not, why not was he not, the brave gar, mounted on his horse, directing the flight? In one instant I myself was launched thereon without hesitation. To save the horse favourite of my poor friend dead Gu-gu was my first thought. In rending to his corpse this little service I was rending to my patrie one service again more grand. I myself was reserving for one death more épouvantable. Then, since that he is possible of to find the horses of friends blessed, for what himself to submit at the stigma of to be accused of to be thief. More late, when one wishes to sell the horses, one himself finds in face of one difficulty inextricable, if the proper proprietor himself finds upon the market.
Gu-gu I have found more late in Paris, it is true, but we have eaten the good horse together like good comrades.
Agree my compliments most respected,
M. VOL AU VENT.
(The Editors, for obvious reasons, divest themselves of any responsibility for the opinions held by our distinguished Gallic friend.)
The Cavalryman's Growl.
BY A. B. PATERSON.
I ain't a timid man at all, I'm just as brave as most;
I'll take my turn in open fight and die beside my post.
But riding round the whole day long as target for a Krupp,
A-drawing fire from koppies--well, I'm quite Fed Up!
There's not so many men get hit--it's luck that pulls us through,
Their rifle fire's no class at all--it misses me and you;
But when they sprinkle shells around like water from a cup
From that there bloomin' pom-pom gun--well, I'm Fed Up!
We never gets a chance to charge--to do a thrust and cut--
think I'll chuck the Cavalry and join the Mounted Fut.
But, after all, what's Mounted Fut? I saw them t'other day,
They occupied a koppie when the Boers had run away.
The Cavalry went ridin' on, and seen a score of fights,
But there they stuck, those Mounted Fut, for seven days and nights--
For seven solid days and nights--with scarce a bite or sup,
So when it comes to Mounted Fut--well, I'm Filled Up.
And trampin' with the Footies ain't as pleasant as it looks--
They scarcely ever sees a Boer, except in picture books.
They make a march of twenty mile, which leaves 'em nearly dead,
And then they find the bloomin' Boers is twenty mile ahead!
Each "Footy" is as full of fight as any bulldog pup,
But walking forty miles to fight--well, I'm Fed Up!
So, after all, I think that when I leave the Caval-ree
I'll have to join the Ambulance, or else the A.S.C.
There's always tucker in the plate and coffee in the cup;
But bully beef and biscuits--well, I'm fair Fed Up!
There appears to be some general misapprehension as to the authenticity of the letter written by "Miss Bloemfontein" in our issue of yesterday. The Editors wish to state that the communication in question was written by a lady, a member of a well-known family in this city, and undoubtedly reflects with wit and frankness the feeling of many of those to whom the abandonment of this place to the British forces has been a bitter disappointment.
THE GREAT RIDE.
BY PERCEVAL LANDON.
The newspapers of the world published a notice of the surrender of Bloemfontein on the evening of Thursday, March 15th.
The Boers had wrecked the telegraph line to the south of the town; to the west the field telegraph was useless; yet perhaps not one reader in ten millions stayed a moment to wonder how the news had reached them.
When Lord Roberts left Doornboom the entire expedition was en l'aire. Telegraphic communication was at the mercy of the passing ox or the malicious passer-by, rain and wind were almost equally destructive, and the inevitable breakdown occurred. The wire, aërial or earth-borne, was useless in forty-eight hours, and, so far as outer communication was concerned, Bloemfontein and all around and within it might have been Tristan d'Acunha.
But the London papers published the full account of the surrender on the second day after the capitulation.
The manner in which news was sent to the English papers may perhaps be of interest. It must be remembered that there was then no communication with the south. It was impossible to pick up the cut wire north of Norval's Pont. The line from Kimberley to Boshof lies, even as we write, in a cat's cradle on the veldt. There was no option--the telegrams must be sent through Kimberley and by despatch riders.
Perhaps it is truer to say that one or two London papers did so, for a certain number relied--and with justice--on the recuperative powers of Captain Faussett and his myrmidons of the wire.
To ride a hundred miles across the veldt against time, and against at least two other competing riders, through the enemy's country, and at a moment's notice, is not the least exciting occupation that can be chosen by a light-weight searching for a new sensation.
It combines the certainty of hardship and discomfort with the possibility of being shot; and over and above all is the pressing need of saving every minute of time.
Three despatch riders set out from Bloemfontein during the evening of Tuesday or the earliest dawn of Wednesday. First in order of starting was the Times messenger, second that of Reuter's Agency, third came the "angelos" of the Daily Mail.
From Bloemfontein to Kimberley is, as we have said, a distance of a hundred miles. It is best understood by a Londoner by suggesting the comparison that he should be compelled to ride to Hereford every time he wished to despatch a telegram.
Out from the isolated city the messengers went, making their way in the darkness or in the dawn over the red slushing tracks that had suffered the steady downpour of the night's rain, till, by whichever road they had moved out of Bloemfontein, they met at the battle-ground of Driefontein.
From that point onwards the struggle became keen, and the breakdown of a horse meant a delay that might perhaps be reckoned in days rather than hours. The public that glances casually at the telegrams of their morning papers does not often realise the importance of a few minutes to the correspondents whose work they are reading. In this case, besides the ordinary delay, the lonely riders that were making way across the veldt had to spur them on the risk of finding the Field Telegraph repaired before they could reach the Diamond City, and the cable blocked with messages sent over their heads from Bloemfontein.
Early in the great race the Times rider met with disaster. The horse he rode fell, and, though the injury seemed slight enough at the time, never properly recovered itself, causing a delay of some hours before the next relay could be reached.
But the Daily Mail was still more unlucky. Starting last of all, the well-known light-weight who carried the fortunes of the "largest circulation of this earth" made his way forward through the fading light of Wednesday, gaining rapidly on his predecessors, and, confident in the excellent provision made for him, was getting out of his mount the last pound of pace, when a cut corner flung him against a barbed wire fence, which so terribly lacerated his leg that further riding was out of the question.
Binding up his scratches as best he might, he found himself compelled to walk back thirty-five miles to Bloemfontein, unable to ride, and at the journey's end almost unable to stand.
So the Times and Reuter--each armed with a duplicate despatch from the Commander-in-Chief--were left to compete for the contingent advantage of getting first into Kimberley.
And now was done a notable achievement. Browning, in his poem, "How we brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix," has chosen, by an odd accident, exactly the distance which divides Kimberley from Bloemfontein; but we can rest assured that the "good news" of the capture of the Boer capital sped on as fast as ever went the news across the flat plains of Flanders.
Over the grey sage-brush of the veldt, over the high, dry grass, under the rare shade of poplar trees, where the horse was watered, along the red crumbling road or the mere beaten wheel track where a thousand waggons and twenty thousand animals had worn a temporary track, the hurrying hoof of the courier's mount lessened the long distance between the capital of the O.F.S. and the end of that wire of which the other lies in the capital of the world.
In the afternoon of Wednesday three bullets whistled past the rider of the Agency, and the newspaper's courier had a similar experience at the same spot as he passed a little later.
It soon became obvious that there was no possibility of getting into Kimberley in time to send the despatches before the office closed for the day, and the Times despatch rider took the latter stages of the journey more easily. Reuter's man, however, continued his ride at his utmost speed, and actually achieved what will long remain a record, travelling the entire distance on three horses in twenty hours and twenty minutes.
[Footnote 1: Gilbert H. Stevens.]
The need for such lengthy despatch riding luckily seldom occurs, as the expense is one of the heaviest items that can be incurred by newspaper representatives on behalf of their papers; only in the very exceptional circumstances in which the war correspondents found themselves at the capture of Bloemfontein would the enormous expenditure be justified.
[Illustration: Who the deuce set this hash up. Find out. RK Proper names ought to be capped throughout but it's no use with this staff.
FABLES FOR THE STAFF.
THE ELEPHO[A]NT AND THE LARK'S NEST.
A discriminating b[B]oer having laid a nestful of valuable and infy[o]rming eggs, fled across the horizon under pressure of necessity ler[a]ving his nest in a secli[u]ded spot where it was discovered by a disinterested observed[r] who reported the same to an i[I]ntee[l]liga[e]nce o[O]fficer. The latter arriving at his leisure with a great pompositey said "s[S]ee me hatch![;]" A[a]nd sitting down without reserve convo[e]rted the entire output into i[a]n unnecessaru[y] omelette. After the mess was removed, the disinterested obso[e]rver observed:--"h[H]ad you approached this matter in anu[o]ther spirit you might hu[a]ve obtained valuable information." "That," [quote] replied the i[I]ntelligence o[O]fficer, "sho[ow]s your ne[a]rrow-minded prejudice. Besides I am morally certain that those eggs co[a]me out of a my[a]re's nest." "It is now too late to enquire" said the disinterested observer, "i[a]nd that is a pity." "But am I not an intelligent officer?" S[s]u[a]id the i[I]ntelligence o[O]fficer. "Of that there can be no twe[o] opinions," said the disinterested observer. Whereupon he was sent down.
Moral. Do not teach the i[I]ntelligence to hatch [suck] eggs
A Corrected "Proof" by Rudyard Kipling.
(Giving a glimpse of the struggle between the editors and the Dutch compositors.)]