For ten days we searched the neighbourhood, and finally met one of the Commandant-General's despatch-riders, who informed me of their whereabouts, which they were obliged to keep secret for fear of treachery. We met the whole party on William Smeet's farm near the Vaal River, every man on horseback or on a mule, without a solitary cart or waggon. It was a very strange sight to see the whole Transvaal Government on horseback. Some had not yet got used to this method of governing, and they had great trouble with their luggage, which was continually being dropped on the road.
General Spruit and myself undertook to escort the Executive Council through the Ermelo district, past Bethel to Standerton, where they were to meet the members of the Orange Free State Government. I had now with me only 100 men, under Field-Cornet R. D. Young; the remainder I had left behind near Bethel in charge of General Muller and Commandants Viljoen and Groenwald, with instructions to keep on the alert and to fall on any column that ventured a little ahead of the others.
It was whilst on my way back to them that a burgher brought me a report from General Muller, informing me that the previous night, assisted by Commandants W. Viljoen and Groenwald, he had with 130 men stormed one of the enemy's camps at Wilmansrust, capturing the whole after a short resistance on the enemy's part, but sustaining a loss of six killed and some wounded. The camp had been under the command of Colonel Morris, and its garrison numbered 450 men belonging to the 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles. About 60 of these were killed and wounded, and the remainder were disarmed and released. Our haul consisted of two pom-poms, carts and waggons with teams in harness, and about 300 horses, the most miserable collection of animals I have ever seen. Here we also captured a well-known burgher, whose name, I believe, was Trotsky, and who was fighting with the enemy against us. He was brought before a court-martial, tried for high treason, and sentenced to death, which sentence was afterwards carried out.
Our Government received about this time a communication from General Brits, that the members of the Orange Free State Government had reached Blankop, north of Standerton, and would await us at Waterval. We hurried thither, and reached it in the evening of the 20th of June, 1901. Here we found President Steyn and Generals De Wet, De la Rey, and Hertzog, with an escort of 150 men. It was very pleasant to meet these great leaders again, and still more pleasing was the cordiality with which they received us. We sat round our fires all that night relating to each other our various adventures. Some which caused great fun and amusement, and some which brought tears even to the eyes of the hardened warrior. General De Wet was then suffering acutely from rheumatism, but he showed scarcely any trace of his complaint, and was as cheerful as the rest of us.
Next day we parted, each going separately on our way. We had decided what each of us was to do, and under this agreement I was to return to the Lydenburg and Middelburg districts, where we had already had such a narrow escape. I confess I did not care much about this, but we had to obey the Commandant-General, and there was an end of it. Meanwhile, reports came in that on the other side of the railway the burghers who had been left behind were surrendering day by day, and that a field-cornet was engaged in negotiations with the enemy about a general laying down of arms. I at once despatched General Muller there to put an end to this.
We now prepared once more to cross the railway line, which was guarded more carefully than ever, and no one dared to cross with a conveyance of any description. We had, however, become possessed of a laager—a score of waggons and two pom-poms—and I determined to take these carts and guns across with me, for my men valued them all the more for having been captured. They were, in fact, as sweet to us as stolen kisses, although I have had no very large experience of the latter commodity.