Commandant Hasebroek did not succeed in getting through Sprinkhaans Nek with us, as he was too far behind; but he broke through the cordon some days later between Thaba 'Nchu and the Bloemfontein waterworks. Besides this, our ambulances, under Dr. Fourie and Mr. Poutsma, remained behind; but General Knox let them go, and in a few days they were once more in our midst.
Concerning our other losses, it must be noted that the men of one of the Armstrong guns taken at De Wet's Dorp abandoned it, and as the carriage of one of the Maxim-Nordenfeldts broke down, there was no help for it but to leave it behind. Besides these, a few carts and waggons were left behind.
On Saturday, 15th December, towards nightfall we held a service, as the Transvaal Government had fixed that day as a day of prayer and humiliation. The day after was both Sunday and Dingaan's Day. We celebrated the day at Korannaberg, and commemorated the vow made by our forefathers.
Almost a week passed now without our having any trouble from our pursuers. We passed the farm of Mr. Frans Schimper, greatly enjoyed the delicious oranges which we found everywhere, and remained during wet weather, on the 18th and 19th December, on the farm Mexico, belonging to Mr. Jacobus Van der Watt. After this, General P. Fourie proceeded with a portion of the commando in the direction of Clocolan, where we had heard that the English were. The rest of us went with General de Wet to Trommel, as there was another force of English to the left of Leeuw Kop.
On Saturday we were at Rietfontein, the farm of Mr. Stephanus Jacobsz, and on Sunday we held service on the ridge to the south-west. Then we went back from the ridge to Rietfontein.
Meanwhile the enemy were again approaching from Leeuwfontein as well as from Clocolan. General de Wet gave orders that the burghers should take up positions on the hills westward between Rietfontein and Mouton's Nek.
The following day, 24th December, the English, who were advancing, were driven back from Leeuw Kop. But by the unfaithfulness of a Field-Cornet, who deserted his post without the knowledge of the other men, the English coming from the direction of Clocolan got the chance of approaching unobserved. These creeping up a ditch were thus able to fire on our men from behind. The result might have been disastrous. Our burghers, thus fired at, found themselves also attacked in front, and could now do nothing but escape from between the two fires. A son of Commandant Truter was killed there. The burgher Coenrad Labuschagne was taken prisoner. Fortunately all the others escaped, and rallied in the evening at Doornhoek.
The following morning was Christmas. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace!" Thus in the stilly night the angels sang twenty centuries before, and we—after all those centuries, we had not peace on earth, but the sword. Alas! that after these centuries of the preaching of the good news of peace one mortal should still be seeking to take away the life of another, that one Christian people—yes, Christian people; for after Christ, not after Buddha or Confucius, are we named—should strive to destroy the other! In spite of the gospel it was not peace but the sword.
Who really understands Jesus of Nazareth, and who of those who do understand Him are ready to sacrifice all to Him, and to live, whatever they may have to suffer for it, as He lived? There stood Doorn Kop behind us, and Wonder Kop to the right. Alongside their saddles and under the shade of some willows lay the tired burghers. How little of Christmas rejoicing there was in all this.
It was difficult to believe that we had ever enjoyed Christmas festivities. Were not the recollections which surged up in us—recollections of Christmas cheer and Christmas peace—only beautiful illusions rising from a past which never really existed, as we saw it then? The day before, with its roar of cannon, seemed to turn the angels' hymn to irony.
More or less thus had I written in my lost diary, and I had added—But let me not fall into weak meditation; let me rather, as a faithful chronicler, deal with the facts as they occurred.
Ad rem, then. We buried young Hendrik Truter in the burial-place of Mrs. Goosen, on the farm Driehoppen. And there in a quiet grave, over which the poplar leaves restlessly moved soughing in the wind, we laid him to rest, where the wicked ceased from troubling and the weary were at rest.
In the afternoon I held a service under the great shady willows of the farm, taking as text the prophetic words of John, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever." I felt greatly cheered, and it became plain to me that if peace eventually came it would come through long centuries of unrest and of strife. What of that, if only it came at last? But we poor shortsighted creatures, we would measure the course of the kingdom of God by seconds! What is an age to Him for whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day? What are a thousand years to Him who forms the crust of the earth through myriads of years? However long, then, it might last, the day will yet come when the kingdoms of the earth shall become the kingdoms of God and of His Christ, and when He shall reign for ever.
After the service General de Wet said that we were that afternoon to proceed a little farther. Soon we were marching again, and at nine o'clock in the evening we camped to the south-west of Senekal, at the foot of Tafel Kop.