With 'is Boer bread an' biltong, an' 'is flask of awful dop;
'Is mauser for amusement an' 'is pony for retreat,
I've known a lot o' fellers shoot a dam' sight worse than
Provisions at Setlagoli and in the surrounding districts were now fast running out, and Mrs. Fraser announced to me one morning she had only full allowance of meal for another week. In that colony no meal meant no bread, and it was, in fact, the most important factor in the housewife's mind when thinking of supplies. While on this subject, I must remark what very excellent bread is that made by the Dutch; no matter how poor or dilapidated the farmhouses, large loaves of beautiful, slightly browned bread are always in evidence, baked by the mother or daughters. The non-existence of the railway was beginning to cause much distress, Dutch and English suffering alike. In fact, if it had not been for the locusts, unusually numerous that year, and always a favourite food with the natives, these latter would also have been starving. As every mouth to feed was a consideration, I determined to see if I could personally induce the Boer General to pass me into Mafeking. Under Mrs. Fraser's charge I left my maid, as I did not wish to expose her to any hardships in the laager; and to her I gave the custody of my pony Dop, to whom I had become much attached. After detaining me a prisoner, the Boers returned to Setlagoli specially to secure this animal; they had heard the natives speak of her in terms of high appreciation, and describe her as "not a horse, but lightning." Metelka, with much spirit, declared the pony to be her property, having been given her, she said, in lieu of wages. She further stated she was a German subject, and that if her horse were not returned in three days she should write to the Kaiser. All this was repeated to General Snyman by the awestruck Veldtcornet. After a week spent with the Boers, Dop arrived back at Setlagoli, carefully led, as if she were a sacred beast, and bringing a humble letter of apology from the Commandant.
But I am anticipating, and must return to my solitary drive to the laager, accompanied only by Vellum and another black boy. I took the precaution of despatching a nigger with a note to Mafeking, telling Colonel Baden-Powell of my plan, and that, having heard a Dutch woman called Mrs. Delpoort, in Mafeking, wished to join her friends in the Transvaal, I intended asking General Snyman to exchange me for her. The distance we had to drive was forty-five miles, along villainous sandy roads and under a burning African sun. We outspanned for the second time at the house of De Koker, who had been the first to advise me to visit the laager. His dwelling was situated close to the railway-line, or, rather, to where the railway-line had been. Here there was a great stir and bustle; men were hurrying in and out, nearly all armed; horses were tethered before the door; and, on hearing my cart drive up, the Veldtcornet himself came out to meet me, and gravely invited me to descend. I now saw the interior of a typical Dutch house, with the family at home. The vrow came forward with hand outstretched in the awkward Boer fashion. The Dutch do not shake hands; they simply extend a wooden member, which you clasp, and the greeting is over. I had to go through this performance in perfect silence with about seven or eight children of various ages, a grown-up daughter, and eight or ten men, most of whom followed us into the poky little room which appeared to serve as a living-room for the whole family. Although past ten o'clock, the remains of breakfast were still on the table, and were not appetizing to look at. We sat down on chairs placed in a circle, the whole party commencing to chatter volubly, and scarcely a word being intelligible to me. Presently the vrow brought me a cup of coffee in a cracked cup and saucer. Not wishing to give offence, I tried to swallow it; the coffee was not bad, if one could only have dissociated it from that dreadful breakfast-table. I then produced some cigarettes, and offered them to the male element. They were enchanted, laid aside their pipes, and conversed with more animation than ever; but it was only occasionally that I caught a word I could understand; the sentence "twee tozen Engelman dood" recurred with distressing frequency, and enabled me to grasp their conversation was entirely about the war. I meanwhile studied the room and its furniture, which was of the poorest description; the chairs mostly lacked legs or backs, and the floor was of mud, which perhaps was just as well, as they all spat on it in the intervals of talk, and emptied on to it the remains of whatever they were drinking. After a short time a black girl came in with a basin of water, with which she proceeded to plentifully sprinkle the floor, utterly disregarding our dresses and feet. Seeing all the women tuck their feet under their knees, I followed their example, until this improvised water-cart had finished its work. The grown-up daughter had a baby in her arms, as uncared for as the other children, all of whom looked as if soap and water never came their way. The men were fine, strong-looking individuals, and all were very affable to me, or meant to be so, if I could but have understood them. Finally four or five more women came into this tiny overcrowded room, evidently visitors. This was the finishing stroke, and I decided that, rested or not, the mules must be inspanned, that I might leave this depressing house. One of the young burghers brought me the pass to General Snyman, the caligraphy of which he was evidently very proud of; and having taken leave of all the ladies and men in the same peculiar stiff manner as that in which I had greeted them, I drove off, devoutly thankful to be so far on my journey. About four in the afternoon we came to a rise, and, looking over it, saw the white roofs of Mafeking lying about five miles away in the glaring sunlight. Then we arrived at the spot where General Cronje's laager had been before he trekked South, marked by the grass being worn away for nearly a square mile, by broken-down waggons, and by sundry aas-vogels (the scavengers of South Africa) hovering over carcasses of horses or cattle. Mafeking was now only three miles distant, and, seeing not a solitary soul on the flat grass plains, I felt very much tempted to drive in to the native stadt; but the black boys resolutely declined to attempt it, as they feared being shot, and they assured me that many Boer sharpshooters lay hidden in the scrub. Thinking discretion the better part of valour, I regretfully turned away from Mafeking by the road leading up an incline to the laager, still several miles distant. The cart was suddenly brought to a standstill by almost driving into a Boer outpost, crouched under a ruined wall, from which point of vantage they were firing with their rifles at the advance trenches of the town. The officer in charge of this party told me I must stay here till sundown, when he and his men would accompany me to headquarters, as he averred the road I was now pursuing was not safe from the Mafeking gun-range. I therefore waited their good pleasure for an hour, during which time the firing from all round the town went on in a desultory sort of way, occasionally followed by a boom from a large Boer gun, and the short, sharp, hammering noise from the enemy's one-pounder Maxim. The sun was almost down when the burgher in charge gave the signal to bring up their horses, and in a few minutes we were under way. This time I was attended by a bodyguard of about eighteen or twenty burghers, and we went along, much to my annoyance, at a funereal pace. On our way we met the relieving guard coming out to take the place just evacuated by my escort. When seen riding thus more or less in ranks, a Boer squadron, composed of picked men for outpost duty, presented really a formidable appearance. The men were mostly of middle age, all with the inevitable grizzly beard, and their rifles, gripped familiarly, were resting on the saddle-bow; nearly all had two bandoliers apiece, which gave them the appearance of being armed to the teeth—a more determined-looking band cannot be imagined. The horses of these burghers were well bred and in good condition, and, although their clothes were threadbare, they seemed cheerful enough, smoking their pipes and cracking their jokes.
When we at last drew up at headquarters, I was fairly startled to find what an excitement my appearance created, about two or three hundred Boers swarming up from all over the laager, and surrounding the cart. The General was then accommodated in a deserted farmhouse, and from this building at last issued his secretary, a gentleman who spoke English perfectly, and to whom I handed my letter requesting an interview. After an interminable wait among the gaping crowd, the aforementioned gentleman returned, and informed me I could see the General at once. He literally had to make a way for me from the cart to the house, but I must admit the burghers were very civil, nearly all of them taking off their hats as I passed through them. Once inside the house, I found myself in a low, dark room, and in the farthest corner, seated on a bench, were two old gentlemen, with extra long beards, who were introduced to me as General Snyman and Commandant Botha. I was at once struck by the anything but affable expression of their countenances. They motioned to me to take a chair; someone handed me a bowl with a brown mixture—presumably coffee—which I found very embarrassing to hold during our conversation. This was carried on through the secretary, and the General got more and more out of temper as he discovered what my request was. I informed him I had come at the suggestion of his Veldtcornet; that all my relations were in England, except my husband, who was in Mafeking; that there was no meal in the colony where I had been living; and that I was prepared to ask Colonel Baden-Powell to exchange me for a Dutch lady whom I heard wished to leave, if he (General Snyman) would accept the exchange. He promptly and with much decision refused. Then it occurred to me this old gentleman meant to keep me as a prisoner of war, and my heart sank into my shoes. The only concession I could obtain was that he would consider my case, and in the meantime he ordered that I should be accommodated in the field hospital. Accompanied by the secretary, and leaving the staring crowd behind, I drove off to a little house, about half a mile away, where we found our destination. I was shown into a tiny room, smelling strongly of disinfectants, which from the large centre-table I at once recognized as the operating-room, and here I was told I could sleep. I was too tired to care much. There was no bed, only a broken-down sofa, and in the corner a dilapidated washstand; the walls and windows were riddled with bullets, denoting where the young burghers had been amusing themselves with rifle practice. The secretary then informed me that they had to search my luggage, which operation lasted fully half an hour, although I had but one small portmanteau and a dressing-case. The latter two Dutch nurses were told off to look through, which, I am bound to say, they did most unwillingly, remarking to me they had not contemplated searching people's luggage as part of their already onerous duties. I had even to undress, in order that they might reassure the officials I had no documents on my person. Meanwhile the men examined my correspondence and papers almost microscopically. Needless to say, they found nothing. They had barely finished their researches, when a messenger came from the General to say, if Colonel Baden-Powell would exchange me for a Dutchman imprisoned in Mafeking, a certain Petrus Viljoen, he would consent to my going in. I found, on inquiry, that this man had been imprisoned for theft several months before the war, and I told them plainly it was manifestly unfair to exchange a man and a criminal for a woman; further, that I could not even ask Colonel Baden-Powell officially to do such a thing, and could only mention it, as an impossible condition, in a letter to my husband, if they chose to send it in. To this they agreed, so I indited the following letter, couched in terms which the secretary might peruse:
"December 2, 1899.
"MY DEAR GORDON,
"I am at the laager. General Snyman will not give me a pass unless Colonel Baden-Powell will exchange me for a Mr. Petrus Viljoen. I am sure this is impossible, so I do not ask him formally. I am in a great fix, as they have very little meal left at Setlagoli or the surrounding places. I am very kindly looked after here."
I then went to sleep in my strange surroundings, with small hope of any success from my application to Mafeking. The next day, Sunday, was observed by both parties as a day of rest. About seven one of the nurses brought me a cup of coffee, and then I proceeded to dress as best I might. So clearly did that horrid little room imprint itself on my memory that I seem to see it as I write. The dusty bare boards, cracked and loose in places, had no pretence to any acquaintance with a scrubbing-brush, and very little with a broom. A rickety old chest of drawers stood in one corner, presumably filled with hospital necessaries, from the very strong smell of drugs emanating from it, and from the fact that the nurses would bustle in and rummage for some desired article, giving glimpses of the confusion inside. On the top of the drawers were arranged a multitude of medicine-bottles, half full and half empty, cracked and whole. The broken old washstand had been of valuable service during the night, as with it I barricaded the door, innocent of any lock or key. When I was dressed, I walked out on to the tiny stoep, surrounded by a high paling. My attention was at once attracted to a woman in a flood of tears, and presently the cause of her weeping was explained, as an elderly man came round the corner of the house with both his hands roughly tied up with bandages covered with blood—a sight which caused the young woman to sob with renewed vigour. After a little talk with the man, who, in spite of his injuries, seemed perfectly well, the latter went away, and I entered into conversation with the weeping female, whom I found to speak good English, and to be the daughter of the wounded warrior, Hoffman by name and German by birth. They were Transvaal subjects, and her father had been among the first of the burghers to turn out when hostilities threatened. She then proceeded to tell me that she and her mother and a numerous collection of young brothers and sisters had trekked in from their home in the Transvaal to spend the Sunday in the laager with their father. On their arrival early that morning, they learnt, to their horror, that he had been wounded, or, rather, injured, late the night before, as the mutilated state of his hands arose from a shell exploding in the high-velocity Krupp gun just as he was loading it. She told me her father was one of the most valued artillerymen on the Boer side, and that he was also an adept in the art of making fireworks, his last triumph in this line having been at Mafeking on the occasion of the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Fully appreciating the value of his services, the Transvaal authorities had from the commencement given him the most arduous tasks, and always, she indignantly added, in the forefront of the battle. As regarded the present accident, she said her father had repeatedly told the authorities these particular shells were not safe to handle. Apparently the safety-bolt was missing from all of them, making them when loaded as brittle as an eggshell. This young lady and her mother were certainly very anti-Boer in their sympathies, though terribly afraid of allowing their feelings to be known. All that day and the next they spent in the laager, looking after the injured père de famille, whom, by the way, I got quite friendly with, but who, I think, was rather relieved to see his family depart. I rather regretted them, as Miss Hoffman used to bring me a lot of gossip overheard in the laager, where she assured me public opinion was running very strongly against me, and that all were of opinion the General should certainly not allow me to join my friends in Mafeking.
The morning dragged on. It was a hot, gusty day, and I found the shelter of my poky little room the most comfortable resting-place, although instead of a chair I had but a wooden case to sit on. About eleven I saw a clerical gentleman arriving, who I rightly concluded was the parson coming to conduct the service. Presently the strangest of noises I have ever heard arose from the back-premises of the tiny house. It is difficult to conceive anything so grotesque as some Dutch singing is. Imagine a doleful wail of many voices, shrill treble and deep bass, all on one note, now swelling in volume, now almost dying away, sung with a certain metre, and presumably with soul-stirring words, but with no attempt to keep together or any pretensions to an air of any kind, and you will have an idea of a Dutch chant or hymn. This noise—for it cannot be called a harmony—might equally well be produced by a howling party of dogs and cats. Then followed long prayers—for only the parson's voice could be heard—then more dirges, after which it was over, and all trooped away, apparently much edified. One of the nurses brought me some lunch and spread it on the rickety table, with a dirty napkin as a tablecloth. As regards the food, which these young ladies told me they took it in turn to cook, it was very fair; only one day we got no meat and no meal; the other days they gave me eggs, very good beef, splendid potatoes, and bread in any quantity. Besides this, I was able to buy delicious fruit, both figs and apricots. As beverages there were tea and coffee, the latter, of course, being the Transvaal national drink—that is to say, when "dop" cannot be had. Beer is almost unknown, except the imported kinds of Bass and Schlitz, for what is known as "Kaffir beer" is a filthy decoction. About midday I received a formal reply from Gordon, as follows:
"MAFEKING," December 3, 1899.
"MY DEAR SARAH,
"I am delighted to hear you are being well treated, but very sorry to have to tell you that Colonel Baden-Powell finds it impossible to hand over Petrus Viljoen in exchange for you, as he was convicted of horse-stealing before the war. I fail to see in what way it can benefit your captors to keep you a prisoner. Luckily for them, it is not the custom of the English to make prisoners of war of women.
Of course I was grievously disappointed, but at the same time I had really expected no other answer, as I informed Mr. Brink (the General's second secretary), who had brought me the letter. He was gravely apologetic, and informed me the General and Commandant were holding a Kriegsraad early on the following morning, when my case would receive their full consideration. In the afternoon we had the excitement of seeing the Pretoria coach drive up to the laager with much horn-blowing and whip-cracking. Later some newspapers were brought across, and I was able actually to peruse a Transvaal paper only two days old. The General's other secretary, who presented them to me, made some astounding statements, which he said had just come up on official wires—namely, that England and Russia would be at war before that very week was out, in what locality he did not know; and that Germany had suddenly increased her fleet by many ships, spending thereon £10,000,000. To this I ventured to remark that the building of those ships would take four or five years, which would make it almost too late to assist the Transvaal in the present war. I also reminded him casually that Germany's Emperor and Empress were, according to their own papers, then paying a visit to Queen Victoria, which did not look as if that country was exactly unfriendly to England. To this he had nothing to reply, and I saw that this imperial visit was a sore subject with my entertainers. For this reason I made a point of referring to it on every possible occasion. As I was eating my solitary supper, Mr. Brink appeared with a letter from Colonel Baden-Powell as follows:
"December 5, 1899.
"DEAR LADY SARAH,
"I am so distressed about you. You must have been having an awful time of it, and I can't help feeling very much to blame; but I had hoped to save you the unpleasantness of the siege.
"However, I trust now that your troubles are nearly over at last, and that General Snyman will pass you in here.
"We are all very well, and really rather enjoying it all.
"I wrote last night asking for you to be exchanged for Mrs. Delpoort, but had no answer, so have written again to-day, and sincerely hope it will be all right.
"Hope you are well, in spite of your troubles.
I then learnt from another letter that Mrs. Delpoort, who had originally expressed the wish to leave Mafeking, where she was residing with many other friends in the women's laager, had changed her mind, or her relatives did not encourage her to leave the shelter of the town; for the Staff had experienced some difficulty in persuading her to agree to the exchange, even if General Snyman allowed the same. I asked if an answer had been returned to the Colonel's letter, and Mr. Brink replied in the negative. Very indignant, I said that I did not mean to be kept in my present wretched quarters indefinitely, and that, if no exchange could be effected, I would request a pass to return to Setlagoli, and risk the scarcity of food. He looked rather confused, and said somewhat timidly that no doubt the General would allow me to go to Pretoria, where I should find "pleasant ladies' society." Seeing my look of angry surprise, he hastily added that he only wished he had a house of his own to place at my disposal. I saw it was no use venting my annoyance on this young man, who was civility itself, so I merely remarked I had no intention of visiting their capital, and that the present was certainly not a time for an English lady to travel alone in the Transvaal. To this he gushingly agreed, but added that, of course, the General would give me a proper escort. These words were quite enough to denote which way the wind was blowing. I would not for an instant admit they had a right to detain me or to send me to any place against my will, having come there voluntarily, merely to ask the General a favour. I was therefore conveniently blind and deaf, and, begging my amiable young friend to submit Colonel Baden-Powell's suggestion to the Kriegsraad on the following morning, and to apprise me of the result, I wished him good-night, and went to bed once more on the wretched sofa, in anything but a hopeful frame of mind. However, as is so often the case, my spirits revived in the morning, and, on considering the situation, I could not see what object the Transvaal authorities could have in detaining me a prisoner. I was certainly very much in the way of the hospital arrangements, and I fully made up my mind to refuse absolutely to go to Pretoria, unless they took me by force. I also determined to leave them no peace at the headquarters till they gave me a definite reply. The day dragged on; the flies simply swarmed in my poky little room. Never have I seen anything like the plague of these insects, but the nurses assured me that at the laager itself they were far worse, attracted, doubtless, by the cattle, horses, and food-stuffs. At length I received a letter in an enormous official envelope, saying General Snyman had wired to Pretoria about me, and expected an answer every minute, which reply should be immediately communicated to me. By my own free will I had put myself completely in their power. This did not prevent me, however, from speaking my mind freely on what I termed "the extraordinary treatment I was receiving," to both of the secretaries, to the nurses, and to the patients. The latter, being men, were very sympathizing; the nurses, though kind and attentive, were not quite so friendly, and seemed somewhat suspicious of my business. Neither of these, I ascertained, had gone through any previous training, but had volunteered their services, as they thought it "would be a lark." Whether their expectations were realized was doubtful, as they told me they were worked off their legs; that they had to cook, wash their clothes, and clean out the wretched little rooms, besides looking after the patients. In addition to these two girls there was a "lady doctor," the first of her species I had ever come across, and with whom I was not favourably impressed. Very untidy in her appearance, her head covered with curls, her costume composed of the remnants of showy finery, this lady had been a handsome woman, but her personality, combined with a very discontented expression of countenance, did not exactly form one's idea of a substitute for the skilful, kind, and cheerful hospital doctor that we know at home. In fact, she looked singularly out of place, which I remarked to several people, partly from the irritation I felt on hearing her addressed as "Doctor." No doubt these remarks were repeated to her, and this accounted for her black looks.
I must not omit a few words about the patients and visitors of the hospital, with all of whom I was most friendly. One and all were exceedingly civil, and I never encountered any rudeness whatever. Even the burghers of no importance, poorly clad, out at elbow, and of starved appearance, who came to the hospital for advice and medicines, all alike made me a rough salutation, evidently the best they were acquainted with. Those of more standing nearly always commenced to chat in very good English; in fact, I think a great many came up with the purpose of observing the captured rara avis, an Englishwoman. We did not actually discuss the progress of the war and what led to it, sticking more to generalities. One hope was universally expressed, that it would soon be over, and this I heartily re-echoed. I told one of them I thought they had been foolish to destroy all the railway-line, as it had left their own people so terribly short of food; to this he replied that such minor matters could not be helped, that they must all suffer alike and help each other; also that they were well aware that they were taking on a very great Power, and that every nerve must be strained if they could hope for success. So another day and night passed. I continued to send down letters without end to headquarters; but it was always the same answer: they were waiting for the reply from Pretoria. One afternoon we had a very heavy thunderstorm and deluges of rain, the heaviest I had seen in South Africa; the water trickled into my room, and dripped drearily on the floor for hours; outside, the stream between the hospital and laager became a roaring torrent. No one came near us that afternoon, and I really think communication was not possible. Later it cleared and the flood abated; a lively bombardment was then commenced, on the assumption, probably, that the Mafeking trenches were filled with water and uninhabitable. It was trying to the nerves to sit and listen to the six or seven guns all belching forth their missiles of death on the gallant little town, which was so plainly seen from my windows, and which seemed to lie so unprotected on the veldt. Just as I had barricaded my door and gone to rest on my sofa about nine o'clock, the big siege gun suddenly boomed out its tremendous discharge, causing the whole house to shake and everything in the room to jingle. It seemed a cruel proceeding, to fire on a partially sleeping town, but I did not know then how accustomed the inhabitants were to this evening gun, and how they took their precautions accordingly.
I must say I disliked the nights at the hospital exceedingly. It was insufferably hot and stuffy in the little room, and the window, only about 2 feet above the ground, had to be left open. The sentries, about six in number—doubled, as I understood, on my account—lay and lounged on the stoep outside. Instead of feeling them anything of a protection, I should have been much happier without them. It must be recollected that these burghers were very undisciplined and independent of authority, only a semblance of which appeared to be exercised over them. They included some of a very low type, and it appeared to be left to themselves to choose which post they would patronize. It was remarked to me they preferred the hospital, as it was sheltered, and that the same men had latterly come there every night. Their behaviour during their watch was very unconventional. They came on duty about 6 p.m., and made themselves thoroughly comfortable on the stoep with mackintoshes and blankets. Their rifles were propped up in one corner, and the bandoliers thrown on the ground. There were a couple of hammocks for the patients' use, and in these two of them passed the night. Before retiring to rest, they produced their pipes and foul-smelling Boer tobacco, proceeding to light up just under my windows, meanwhile talking their unmusical language with great volubility. At length, about ten, they appeared to slumber, and a chorus of snoring arose, which generally sent me to sleep, to be awakened two or three hours later by renewed conversations, which now and then died away into hoarse whispers. I always imagined they were discussing myself, and devising some scheme to step over the low sill into my room on the chance of finding any loot. I complained one day to the nurses of the fact that their extreme loquacity really prevented my sleeping, and, as she told me that the patients suffered in the same way, I advised her to speak to the sentinels and ask them to be more quiet. She told me afterwards she had done so, and that they said they had been insulted, and would probably not come again. We both laughed, and agreed it would not matter much if this calamity occurred.
The next day I was still put off, when I requested to know what had been decided about my fate. I was getting desperate, and had serious thoughts of taking "French leave," risking Boer sentries and outposts, and walking into Mafeking at night; but it was the fear of being fired on from our own trenches that deterred me. Fortunately, however, assistance was at hand. On the afternoon of the fifth day that I had spent at the laager, a fine-looking burgher rode up to the hospital, and I heard him conversing in very good English. Presently, after staring at me for some time, he came up and said he had known Randolph Churchill, who, he heard, was my brother, and that he should so like to have a little talk. He then informed me his name was Spencer Drake, to which I said: "Your name and your conversation would make me think you are an Englishman, Mr. Drake." "So I am," was his reply. "I was born in Norfolk. My father and grandfather before me were in Her Majesty's Navy, and we are descended from the old commander of Queen Elizabeth's time." To this I observed that I was sorry to see him in the Boer camp amongst the Queen's enemies. He looked rather sheepish, but replied: "Our family settled in Natal many years ago, and I have ever since been a Transvaal burgher. I owe everything I possess to the South African Republic, and of course I fight for its cause; besides which, we colonials were very badly treated and thrown over by the English Government in 1881, and since then I have ceased to think of England as my country." As he seemed well disposed toward me, I did not annoy him by continuing the discussion, and he went on to inform me that he was the General's Adjutant, and had been away on business, therefore had only just heard that I was in the laager, and he had come at once to see if he could be of any service. I took the opportunity of telling him what I thought of the way in which they were treating me, pointing out the wretched accommodation I had, and the fact that they had not even supplied me with a bed. He was very sympathetic, and expressed much sorrow at my discomforts, promising to speak to the General immediately, though without holding out much hope of success, as he told me the latter was sometimes very difficult to manage. After a little more talk, during which I made friends with his horse, described by him as a wonderful beast, he rode off, and I was full of renewed hope. A little later the young secretary came up again to see me. To supplement my messages through Mr. Drake, I requested this young man to tell the General that I could see they were taking a cowardly advantage of me because I was a woman, and that they would never have detained a man under similar circumstances. In fact, I was on every occasion so importunate that I am quite sure the General's Staff only prayed for the moment that I should depart. That afternoon I had a long talk to two old German soldiers, then burghers, who were both characters in their way. Hoffman, before alluded to, had been a gunner in the Franco-German War, and was full of information about the artillery of that day and this; while the other had been through the Crimea, and had taken part in the charge of the Light Brigade, then going on to India to assist in repressing the Mutiny. He had evidently never liked the service into which he had been decoyed by the press-gang, and had probably been somewhat of a mauvais sujet, for he told me the authorities were glad enough to give him his discharge when the regiment returned to England. He had married and settled in the Transvaal, making a moderate fortune, only to be ruined by a lawsuit being given against him, entirely, he naively admitted, because the Judge was a friend of the other side. In spite of this he remained a most warm partisan of the corrupt Boer Government, and at sixty-seven he had gladly turned out to fight the country whose uniform he had once worn. Whenever I found we were approaching dangerous ground, I used quickly to change the conversation, which perhaps was wise, as I was but one in a mighty host.
Two thousand Englishmen dead.
Not to be confounded with General Louis Botha.