The cyclists of the Mount Nelson Light Horse trundled out of camp with some show of bravery. They had left Cape Town 100 strong. The journey from Hanover Road to Britstown had reduced their numbers by fifty per cent. The bare fifty still with the brigade were the survival of the fittest after a week of rain at Hanover and another week of struggling with Karoo tracks ankle-deep in dust. But the men tried to show something of a front as they pedalled out of camp. Their captain was an enthusiast. He had, however, but poor material into which to infuse his enthusiasm; and at any time South African roads are as demoralising to wheel-men used to a macadamised surface as the bouldered bed of a stream would be to a traction-engine. These same cyclists were the men who had scorched up to the Picquetberg Passes when ten men and a boy threatened Cape Town with invasion; and the memory of the wave of military enthusiasm which convulsed the great seaport from Greenpoint to Simon's Town was still worth something to them as, over-weighted, they struggled with the Karoo.
"You may not think it," said the brigadier, as he wrestled with the mutton, which is the staple food of the veldt breakfast-table, "but I am anxious about those fellows,—d——d anxious. But it is no use having cyclists if they are only to loaf about in camp. I use them much in same spirit as an inexperienced pyramid player breaks up the balls at the beginning of a game. I trust that out of the crowd just one may get home. The captain is a hearty fellow, and will probably make his way into Strydenburg; but he is about the only one that it would be worth betting upon. I should be sorry to lose him, for I like enthusiasts; but as for his gang, I would willingly present the lot to 'brother.' I had some cyclists down Calvinia way. I found that on a down gradient they were terrors, but when any climbing came their way they afforded 'brother' any amount of fun. The cyclist, to be any use in war, must have roads and luck; otherwise, as Scout or messenger, he is valueless. It is all very well for faddists to prophesy a future for them. I like to see them working out their own salvation: pictures of dismounted cyclists behind stacks of bicycles prepared to receive cavalry fill me with delight. I like to anticipate the glee of the cavalry which has forced them to dismount for action at some disadvantageous spot, and then, while they are doubling up their machines as a chevaux de frise, shoots them from the cover of a hay-stack at a thousand yards."
Brigade-Major. "But surely, sir, there must be some use in cycles for military purposes. The French, for instance, use them almost exclusively for carrying messages in their manœuvres!"
Brigadier. "True for you. But then in France they have roads. Though even with the best of roads there is a limit to their utility. Behind an army they are excellent; in front of an army their value is still problematical. Even down in Calvinia, where Burghers were scarce and main roads fair, they rarely carried a message as safely and as quickly as a mounted Kaffir. They are vulnerable all round from other causes than the hazards of war. Machine vulnerable, man vulnerable, and in a country like this, where the roads are not masked by hedgerows, they furnish a kind of 'running-deer' to every Burgher observation-post, and, as far as I can judge, an observation-post is to be found on every kopje!"...
It will be seen from the above that the brigadier had no intention of undertaking the wild-goose chase which had been proposed to him. The missive which he had sent to Strydenburg had been cunningly constructed. It ran: "Local information indicates that the invaders have doubled back to the north, evidently with the object of recrossing the Orange River. I am moving with all reasonable despatch upon Hopetown. I was in touch with scattered parties of enemy last night. Have just sufficient supplies to take me into Hopetown." The message was addressed to Chief, Pretoria, and repeated to the lieutenant-general commanding the operations to suppress the invasion. Knowing that the cyclists might draw blank at Strydenburg, a second copy of the message was sent by the hand of a Kaffir, to be delivered at the telegraph office in Britstown. As events turned out it was the cyclists' telegram which went, and, as intended, upset the apple-cart which the general subsequently tried to drive over the brigadier's prostrate form. In the strict letter of the military law which, in so many cases, subordinates individual initiative and sound judgment, the action taken by the brigadier was indefensible. But as a matter of fact the mutiny was not so terrible as it at first appears. Setting aside the common-sense issue which ought to guide officers in senior commands when accepting orders from a superior, it should be remembered that the brigadier had only been directed to co-operate with the officer who had now taken unto himself the position of supreme command. Lord Kitchener himself, at the meeting on the De Aar platform, had given the brigadier a roving commission, to be controlled only by orders from Pretoria and the lieutenant-general at De Aar. Consequently he resented his free action being clogged by a senior whose only object seemed to be a desire to hug him and his force as closely as possible for self-protection against imaginary dangers. The brigadier, who was in every way as capable a soldier as any in South Africa, had not spent eighteen months in following, or being followed by, Boers, without arriving at a very shrewd estimate of their tactics. The lore of the chase in which he was engaged, as he read it, pointed to a break back on the part of the main body of the invaders in the direction of the Orange River; and having balanced his conception of the situation with his conscience, he considered that the most serviceable move he could make was to place himself and his brigade upon the railway at Hopetown. And so having sent the cyclists to smell out the land of Strydenburg, the New Cavalry Brigade, working in three parallel columns, fringed round the east end of the Beer Vlei and struck north-east, with the backs of its rear-guard turned on the Karoo for ever.
"How about Zwingelspan?" queried the brigade-major, remembering the written instructions in the general's missive.
"Let it rip," was the laconic reply from the brigadier. "With this crowd of Vermaas's hanging about I am not going to risk patrols other than cyclists, and I am certainly not going to push on in force!" This was final, and the extended front of the brigade opened out across the veldt, throwing out its feelers like the tentacles of some slowly crawling monster. Through highland and lowland it wound, rummaging the isolated farmsteads, ploughing through ravine and mealie patch. But though wild-fowl rose chattering, and, scolding bitterly, circled round the scouts, though springbok trotted leisurely away from the front of each several column, though sullen girls and gaping Kaffirs peered from beneath the eaves of farmsteads, no sign of hostility was to be found in all this life. It was the same old monotonous drudgery of the veldt again. The same merciless sun, the same sapless and parched surroundings. As the day wore on men longed for the crack of a rifle to ease the burden of the monotony. The country, too, grew more hilly, and fearing that he might be attacked in detail, the brigadier reduced his front, till by four in the afternoon the brigade to all practical purposes had concentrated. Then it was that the advance-guard struck a great white road, ankle-deep in dust. This veldt track was so rigid in its alignment, that for the moment it might have been taken for a turnpike road fallen upon decadent days. But the local colour of its surroundings did not support the comparison, and the reason of its being loomed up gauntly in the middle distance. A great square of whitewashed building, which, strange to relate, was overshadowed by quite a number of trees, giving it an appearance not unlike the first attempt which a Bengali merchant makes at a country residence, when success in commerce renders it imperative that he should improve the circumstances of his dwelling. But though in the first instance the general appearance of the farm was forbidding, yet, on examination, it presented several qualities which are valuable to the soldier. An infant barrage closing the drainage slope in a depression formed an artificial water-pan of no mean dimensions. A pair of zinc-fanned windmills worked two artesian wells with such success that the purest drinking-water abounded; and the result of all this moisture was the nearest attempt at a lawn that any single man in the brigade has seen in the length and breadth of South Africa outside Cape Town and its suburbs. A great stack of forage added to the military assets of the locality, and the brigadier just looked at the water and the lawn, and said, "A land flowing with milk and honey,—this is where I shall camp. I could not resist camping in such a spot even if I had old man De Wet dead beat a furlong from home!" And it was indeed an entrancing spot to the Karoo-worn warrior. Just one of those delightful oases which do exist, but which do not abound in Cape Colony. Upon them stand the best and oldest farms, for when the forebears of the present owners first struck them, they had no need to good farther afield in search for a desirable anchorage. If more of these enviable spots had abounded, even the barbarity of British rule would not have driven the voortrekkers into wholesale emigration across the soapy waters of the Orange River.
After the usual worries of settling into camp—mule-drivers leading animals to water in the drinking reservation, and commanding officers making themselves disagreeable—there was time to turn one's attention to the inmates of the roadside mansion. The great whitewashed bungalow seemed to be alive with inhabitants. The Intelligence officer went about his business with the air of an expert, and in two minutes the head of the house, a fine old specimen of the patriarchal Boer, and his son, a poor slip of a man, were standing before him, hat in hand, while women-folk of all ages and fulness of costume peeped from every convenient crevice in the background. The general attitude of the household was that of humility, in contrast to the usual reception which the column had experienced in the majority of Karoo farms. And presently the cause for the deference became apparent. The gaping children in the main entrance were thrust aside, and a woman of magnificent proportions pushed in between the two humble men. The old man mumbled something about his daughter-in-law, while his callow son looked, if possible, more sheepish than at first. The Intelligence officer for his part could hardly keep his countenance. The lady had donned her best. Her ample form was swathed in the rustling folds of a magnificent silk gown which had evidently been cut in the days of the crinoline attachment. Her hair, showing signs of the rapidity with which its present gloss had been applied, was knotted somewhere adjacent to the neck; and not satisfied with nature's adornment, this prehistoric beauty had fixed a great white ostrich feather in her well-greased tresses, which drooped down upon her neck and shoulder. The Intelligence officer bowed deeply in order to keep his feelings in due subordination. The lady was not slow to introduce herself. Dropping one armful of a skirt that was so voluminous that it had to be held in both hands, she limply took the officer's hand.
Frau. "Good morning. I am Mrs Van Herden; this is my man (indicating the meek son of the house). We are glad to see you. Will you have some coffee?" (And as she spoke a microscopic Kaffir maid appeared with the inevitable coffee on a tray.)
Intelligence Officer. "Thank you, madam, but I must first search the house and outhouses."
F. "You are welcome to do that. We are perfectly loyal. Have you not heard what the Van Herdens did in the Kaffir wars, and my grandfather was Scotch."
I. O. "It is only a matter of form, madam. Any one could see that you were loyal!"
F. "Are you a general, mister?"
I. O. "No; I ought to be if I had my deserts; but I am the next best thing. I'm the general's secretary." (Thereupon the old man grunted approval, while the chorus of gaping maids nodded an endorsement behind him.)
F. "Can I see the general, Mister Secretary?"
I. O. "That depends upon the information which you give me now. Why do you wish to see him?"
F. "My children have never seen an English general; besides, this is the first time that the English have ever been to the house; we should like to cook a dinner for the English general!"
I. O. "But your children have seen Burgher generals?"
F. "Oh, yes; they are nothing. We had Commandant Brand here yesterday!"
I. O. "When did he leave?"
F. "Early this morning!"
I. O. "Which way did he go?"
F. "He went out on the veldt; they took the Strydenburg road. But they were Free Staters; you cannot say where they were going. They would tell us Strydenburg, and then go somewhere else. You see, they knew that you were close!"
I. O. "How many men had he with him?"
F. "Only a few. It was a small horse commando, perhaps twenty. All Free Staters!"
The old patriarch, who had been fumbling in his pocket, now produced a slip of paper which he presented to the Intelligence officer. The writing on the paper ran as follows:—
"O.V.S. Receipt for Property Commandeered.
"Taken from Jan Van Herden, of Melk Kraal, Cape Colony, two sacks of mealies, 500 bundles of oat forage, two mules, four sheep, for the use of O.V.S. commando.
"This receipt to be presented for repayment at the end of the war to the O.V.S. Government.
(Signed) "Adrian Fischer,
Corporal, O.V.S. Forces.
Dated "February ——."
I. O. "Who is Fischer?"
F. "He is Brand's adjutant!"
I. O. "I thought that you said there were only about twenty in the commando. They and their horses must have been hungry to eat four sheep and 500 bundles of oat hay. I should say that there must have been more like fifty of them!"
F. "That may be, we did not count them. But can we ask the general to dinner?"
I. O. "That depends. First, I must go through your rooms."
Followed by the whole family, the Intelligence officer passed through to the various rooms, furnished and upholstered in the stereotyped Dutch fashion, till they came to the end of the long house. Here a closed door barred their way.
I. O. "What is in there?"
F. "Nothing—it is only my daughter and her 'man'; they have only been married a few days, so we let them live apart. (Throwing the door open.) You may go in, of course. We are jingoes, we have nothing to conceal."
The Intelligence officer entered the room to find an overbearded young man and a very touzled, plump young lady sitting sheepishly hand-in-hand. They rose as he entered and stared vacantly at him. The man was a mean specimen of the Dutchman, tall and thin, narrow chest, and sloping shoulders. An aggressive red beard for one so young, growing backwards after the fashion prevailing with the Sikhs. A cadaverous wretched creature, yet doubtless with strength enough in his forefinger to make the seven-pound pull of a rifle.
The Intelligence officer's eyes ranged the room, which was bare enough to have satisfied the most ascetic of honeymooning couples. Half a glance was sufficient to prove to him that the frau had been speaking the truth, so he turned upon the pair and shot at the man a question so sharply that he started, "Do you know the road to Zwingelspan?" The man recovered himself slowly, and then affected that look of imbecility which is invariably the Dutchman's effort at self-protection when he is cornered by a question which he does not wish to answer. But his new-found mother-in-law was evidently anxious that nothing should occur to irritate the visitor, for she blandly answered his question herself. "Of course he knows the way to Zwingelspan. Why, he lives there himself!"
I. O. "Then he is the very man I want. (To the man) You must come along with me over to my cart and wait there in case the general wants a guide to Zwingelspan between this and midnight."
A complete silence overtook the whole group after the Intelligence officer had delivered himself of this speech. It seemed as if he had inadvertently upset some plan. But the only thing he noticed at the moment was that the pale face of the bride, as she stood limply in front of him, grew a shade paler, and that her great blue eyes filled with tears, which poised a moment on her eyelashes and then trickled down her cheeks. If, as the Intelligence officer was only too ready to surmise, he had upset an elaborate ruse to shield one of Brand's special envoys, then the girl was an accomplished actress; but if, as possibly was the case, she was moved to weeping in anticipation of peril to her husband or lover, then she had adopted a course most likely to serve her purpose with the man about to place himself between her and the man she loved. There are few British officers who can persevere in a distasteful task in face of the reproach furnished by a silent weeping woman.
I. O. (softening the authoritative tone in his speech) "You need not be distressed. I promise you we will not take him farther than Zwingelspan, even if we take him there at all."
Weeping Bride. "If you take him, how shall I ever know what you will do with him? You say here that you are going to Zwingelspan; but we know that you are not going there. You would not tell us if you were. Besides, the British were at Zwingelspan this morning, and you are following the Boers."
F. "Oh leave her, Mr Secretary, she is only a child, and she loves her 'man.' She is afraid that you will take him, and that the Boers will catch him with you and treat him as a traitor!"
The Intelligence officer led the man out to hand him over to the Tiger, when the latter returned from "noseing" round the outhouses. Though perplexed in his mind as to the real attitude of the inmates of the farm, yet he had elicited something, namely, that information would be sent to the nearest armed Burghers that the column was not bound for Zwingelspan, and that a British force had been at Zwingelspan that morning. The latter was important, since the only force which could have been at the pan was the main force, which meant that the general had been up to time in his advance on Strydenburg, while the New Cavalry Brigade had failed in the tryst.
The brigadier's comments on the intelligence surmises were short and quaint. "Quite so. But I am not here to sweep up De Wet's red-herrings. The old man will probably strike half-a-dozen of Brand's or Vermaas's men when he reaches Strydenburg, if my cyclists haven't turned them out. We, crossing the trail to-night in our journey north, may strike something big. Anyway, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that we are playing the game every time. And that being the case we will let the old fat frau cook us a dinner to-night!" The brigadier, who had estimated De Wet's movements with consummate foresight, did not of course know that the replenished Plumer had picked up the guerilla's back trail from Strydenburg, and was, at the moment that the New Cavalry Brigade was bivouacking, practically running him in view....
It was, all considered, a very creditable repast which the good lady of Melk Kraal prepared for the brigadier and his staff. But on occasions such as this it is the custom of the hosts to sits round the walls of the dining-hall while the honoured guests feed alone at a table in the centre. In this case the ladies and children of the household lined the walls, taking an active interest in the serving, which was at the hands of a couple of Kaffir girls. There were no courses. The whole of the dinner was put upon the table at once, and it consisted of boiled mutton hacked into hunks and swimming in a greasy slop; fowls so boiled that the flesh had lost its resistance and become a mere pulp; a mess of ochre-coloured boiled pumpkin, boiled mealie cobs, and boiled coffee of the consistency of treacle. In fact, everything boiled and boiled to death. A repast truly characteristic of the Dutch, who are most carnivorous in their choice of food, and far too feckless and lazy to spend time and trouble over such a common function as eating. It was the meal of a people devoid of imagination and artistic taste. None the less it was the best that the house could produce; and as the guests had taken the precaution to bring their own liquor, it was a change from the tinned delicacies of the modern active service meal. The banquet closed with a quaint incident. The Intelligence officer had brought in his pocket a bottle of crême-de-menthe. The hosts were invited to drink from the brandy-bottle, which they did with the relish of experts in the art of neat spirit drinking. To the hostesses was shown the consideration due to their sex, and they were offered the green concoction of peppermint. There is little of that coyness in the Dutch composition which is met with in the civilisation of the West: each lady of the household received her glass demurely and tossed off the contents, pouring it, after the manner of Dutch spirit-drinkers, ungracefully far into the mouth. The old Frau smacked her lips. "But it is good," she said naïvely, and then taking the bottle from the table she poured out the whole contents into a tumbler and emptied it with one gulp down her capacious throat.
The brigadier was equal to the occasion. Raising his glass, he said, "Madam, may I be permitted to drink your health and to thank you for your hospitality." Madam smiled blandly, in no wise inconvenienced by the severity of the potion which she had absorbed!...
But the good-humoured revelling of the dinner-table was shortly to be changed for the stern reality of war. The brigadier and his staff had barely bid farewell to their happy hostess and returned to their bivouac when the voice of a tired and excited man was heard calling to be directed to headquarters. It was the captain of cyclists who had started that morning before daybreak for Strydenburg. The man's face was a study when, having flung himself clear of his machine, which was clanging like a teuf-teuf, he presented himself in the solitary tent which during halts served the headquarters of the little column as a living and sleeping apartment. In the dim light of a flickering candle, it seemed that he was swathed in a sheet, so thick and white was the crust of dust which covered him from head to foot. He staggered into the mess-tent, swayed a moment, tried to salute, and then dropped in a heap on to the camp chair offered to him.
Brigadier. "Give him some brandy."
After a long drink from the brandy-bottle the little captain of cyclists recovered sufficiently to smile at his own weakness.
Brigadier. "Well, have you been fighting—where's your crush?"
Cyclist Captain. "Fighting—there never has been such fighting in this war, it has been simply bloody!"
B. "Sanguinary, my boy; well, are you the last survivor? You rather remind me of the last man of the poet's imagination."
C. C. (dejectedly) "It has been a long, sad, and terrible day. Harvey of Damant's is mortally wounded, and I have had a man wounded!"
B. "The devil you have. I thought at least that you must have been annihilated. Where are the rest of you, then?"
C. C. "Lost or captured, I am afraid. Seventeen were captured in succession at the top of one rise. I only got through by the skin of my teeth and the luck of there only being three Boers at the top of the hill."
B. (unconcernedly) "Horrid adventure! What luck there were not four Boers! But give me a detailed story. Have you been into Strydenburg? have you seen any of the staff of the other column?"
The following is a paraphrase of the story which was eventually elicited from the cyclist captain:—The cyclists, who broke down on the heavy roads at the rate of about four an hour, kept up a steady pace until they were some five miles from Strydenburg. Here going up a steep rise they tailed out somewhat, and seventeen were captured in rotation by three burghers ensconced in the nek over which the up gradient passed. The captain and five others all came up together, and in the scuffle he and three of his men succeeded in getting through. Later on they were fired at by Boers just outside Strydenburg, into which town they rode simultaneously with an advance-guard of Damant's Guides. The Boers, who, with the exception of the rear-guard under Vermaas, had left and gone north on the preceding day, just as the Brigadier had surmised, had destroyed the telegraph office, but the local operator, who had hidden away an instrument, by attaching the broken wire to a piece of garden fencing was able to get through to De Aar, and in half an hour the brigadier's "Clear the line" message was ticking off in Pretoria. This all happened three hours before the co-operating general entered the town. In the meantime the advance-guard of Damant's Guides, as soon as they heard that the New Cavalry Brigade was not on the road, pushed out to occupy the Tafelkop Hills outside the town. Harvey took the cyclists with him. And a very gallant little fight they had, in which three of the Guides, though sorely wounded, held up and captured the five men who had wounded them. Owing to his lust for blood it was late in the day before the cyclist captain was able to find the general. This officer had a despatch ready for him to take back to his own brigadier. The return journey had been effected without other mishap than that of extreme fatigue, which difficulty the captain alone had been able to surmount: the rest of his cyclists, if not prisoners, were spread-eagled over the veldt at such spots where death had overtaken their machines.
Now what was written in the despatch which the cyclist officer had brought is not known to the chronicler of the adventures of this brigade. But it was evidently couched in not over friendly language, for the brigadier's face worked with annoyance as he read it. Having read it he tore it up into very small pieces and sat for a moment or two staring steadfastly at the candle.
"Anything serious, sir?"
Brigadier. "No; the old man is peevish,—says that my disobedience of his orders has caused us to lose De Wet. That he has washed his hands of me, and that it only remains to report me to a higher authority. To be philosophical, he has some grounds for his peevishness if he really believes that he has ever been nearer to De Wet than the latter gentleman desired. But you get no return in an argument with seniors—they have the whip hand of you every time; so here, ole man Baker, bring out your stilus and tablets and write out brigade orders. Two hours hence we march direct on Hopetown. Mr Intelligence, mark out a route, and mind you have a good guide. Everything on a night like this will depend on your guiding." Such is the history of a transformation scene which is of common occurrence when men make war. A camp sleeping heavily and peacefully at midnight, in a couple of hours may have disappeared, to be found sorrowfully toiling along in the dark on some venture bent....
The Intelligence officer had reason to congratulate himself that he had already got his guide held by the ear by the Tiger, as it is a big undertaking to conjure up guides on notice only given an hour before midnight. The guide himself was not best pleased, and aped that air of imbecility which on occasions similar to this is the Dutch form of passive resistance. But the Tiger took him in hand, primed him with a few simple truths and the history of some imaginary executions, so that he waxed more communicative when he found himself in the centre of the advance-guard of twelve dismounted dragoons with fixed bayonets, with which the brigadier when night marching was accustomed to head his advance-guard.
There is a limit to the fascinations of a night march if you have to make many of them, especially if it is undertaken without the definite promise of a fight on the following day. Men and horses dog tired, yearning for sleep; the hundred and one irregularities which would find no place in daylight. The weary waiting that intervals may be corrected, the hitch with the advance-guard, the difficulty of loading the supply-waggons. The irritability of the chief, growing in intensity as he strikes match after match against his watch dial. Semi-mutinous resistance of orders on the part of Irregulars; lamentations from the major of the battery, whose horses have been standing hooked-in for the last half hour. How impossible it all seems,—how heartbreaking; yet everything shakes down eventually, and the great dark caterpillar, bristling with armed men like a woolly-bear, creeps forward into the veiled uncertainty of night.
The advance-guard has moved off, the brigadier is just waiting to see the baggage fairly started, when a sudden spark gleams out from a knoll above the camp which the falling-in night picquet has just evacuated. A bullet whirrs noisily overhead. "Martini," conjectures the brigadier. "I wonder what that means!" Two minutes later another spark flashes out from the same spot, and a leaden messenger buries itself with a skirr and a thud, within ten yards of the little group of officers.
"Not bad for a chance shot—we'll see if they are going to persevere!" Swish, came a third shot singing away harmlessly overhead.
"Sniping!" said the brigadier. "I would hang that beast if I could catch him. Look here, gallop down to the officer in command of the rear-guard and tell him to send a couple of quick-witted fellows to stalk that sniper. I will give five pounds if he is brought in alive."
The messenger galloped out into the darkness, and as the last of the waggon transport turned into the right track, the staff cantered northwards in the direction of the head of the column, reckless of the solitary bullets which at intervals whistled through the still night air.
Considerable tension attaches to the head of a night-marching column, especially when moving through an unreconnoitred country. And in spite of the little text-books with smart covers, it is more often in unreconnoitred country that the soldier is called upon to operate than otherwise. Consequently the Intelligence officer forgot all about the sniping incident, and busied himself with being ready to answer the many queries of an imaginative major in command of the advance-guard. Five miles of the journey had perhaps been made—at least it was at the third halt that word was passed up that the brigadier wanted to see the Intelligence officer. The brigadier had dismounted at the head of the battery.
"Hulloo, Mr Intelligence, we have got the sniper—and it would beat a very Solomon to give judgment in a like case. Strike a match."
The little flame burned up and declared to the astonished view of the Intelligence officer the face and figure of his guide's weeping bride. There was no sign of tears now. The girl stood with her hands clasped behind her back, her mouth firmly closed, and looked her captors full in the face. It was a fine figure, seen for a moment in the uncertain light of the lucifer shaded from the wind. Cappie blown back behind her head, ill-concealing the wealth of glistening hair, pale determined face, full of defiance, and thrown-out chest across which the leather bandolier still hung in damnatory evidence. How different to the limp and weeping woman of the afternoon. A second and the little slip of pinewood had burnt out.
Brigadier. "What do you make of it?"
Intelligence Officer. "Magnificent woman—damnable undertaking."
Bystander. "Magnificent she-cat!"
Prisoner. "You steal my husband, and because I would do my best to stop you, when the men were afraid to attack and offered you food instead, you call me names. Give me back my husband and let me go, or if you would shoot me, shoot and be finished with it."
Brigadier. "My dear young lady, no one will hurt you or call you names. You shall have your husband back as soon as we have finished with him. Until that time, I am afraid that you must stay with us, but you shall be properly looked after. I cannot afford to let you again be as naughty as you have been to-night. Hand her over to the supply officer,—he's acting provost-marshal, is he not? (Then turning to his staff) What a little vixen! That gives you a very considerable insight into the temper of these loyal Cape colonists: to think that while we were supping with this young lady's mamma she was planning a little sniping party, as a revenge against us for breaking in upon her honeymoon!"...
 Dutch method of describing a woman's husband.
 British cavalry at this period of the campaign were armed with rifle and bayonet.