We awoke on Sunday morning with fears of what had happened during the night. It transpired, however, to our infinite relief, that most of the shells had fallen on the soft earth of the Public Gardens. One poor soldier had his leg completely severed from his body, while the escapes of his nonchalant bed-fellows were hairbreadth. A house was set on fire and reduced to ashes. Another missile entered the hospital, but did no great harm beyond rudely extinguishing a lighted lamp. A lady who resided in a house close by went as near to the borders of eternity as was possible without crossing them. She was seated on a folding-chair, and had momentarily altered her position to find a bunch of keys required by her servant when right through the spot on which she would have been still reclining but for the timely intervention of the girl a huge projectile came crashing. The shock was fearful, and though, the missile failed to burst both women had an escape from death unprecedented in its narrowness. A native was seriously injured; and, finally, it was ascertained that a Malay canteen had been invaded, the sequel to which was the destruction of an army of—empty bottles! There was a negative satisfaction in the fact that they were empty which the hapless Malay was not venal enough to appreciate.
In the houses, the streets, the camps, the all-engrossing topics of discourse were the terrors of the week so dramatically closed when churchyards yawned on Saturday. Excited groups were talking everywhere, and questions of hunger and thirst, supremely acute, were subordinated to the more urgent public importance of the new situation, its dangers, and its gravity. The feeling grew, the belief gained strength that the weight of the Siege cross was being officially minimised. The outside world, Lord Roberts included, knew nothing of its actual heaviness. This revelation was tangible and distinct. The gun story narrated by our newspaper only too clearly exemplified the meagre information sent out concerning the public larder, the public health, the parlous pass altogether to which the public had been reduced. No confidence could be reposed in the men at the helm; in pilots who betrayed unwillingness to steer for harbour; who preferred recklessly to exploit their valour for the sake of a selfish notoriety. To these haughty, arbitrary men, accidentally armed with authority, was attributed much that was avoidable. Their conduct stirred our invective powers to rich depths of condemnation. Not that from this candid declamation we expected good to flow; it only served as a salve for our tortured dignity.
It was the last Sunday of the Siege! But no advance ray of light that was to come illumined our mental horizon. We expected nothing; chimeras had ceased to satisfy, and were not the less sternly because tacitly taboo. It was sought indeed to placate us with talk about "imminent developments." They told us that a meeting of leading citizens had been held under the presidency of Mr. Rhodes; that the naked truth of things had been telegraphed to the Commander-in-chief; that the Commander-in-chief had on receipt of the message sent a flying Column to relieve us. All this was circulated to soothe; but it failed abjectly in its purpose. We were not to be fooled "the whole of the time," by cant about flying Columns—whose wings, like those of Icarus, were only too likely to get detached in the heat of the Karoo. Such was the temper, the inflexible pessimism of the people; the much-talked of change that was to come over the scene was voted a delusion and a fraud.
Business was of course entirely suspended; and further projects to ensure immunity from danger for the women and children were being discussed. It was confidently expected that the bombardment would be resumed with surpassing fury at midnight. An underground dwelling had been constructed at the railway station, and under the bridge great walls of sandbags had been erected for the protection of pedestrians. In all parts of the town gangs of men were excavating the debris heaps and converting them into habitations in which thousands, irrespective of colour, social status, or nationality, were henceforth to commingle and waive all distinctions of class. To the redoubts, where wonderful contrivances in the way of chambers had been fitted up, some men brought their families. Shelters and "dug-outs" sprang into being everywhere; and the troubles of the inner man, in reality more poignant than ever before, were relegated for the moment to the limbo of forgotten tribulations. Reliance on relieving expeditions was considered foolish; all our thoughts and energies were centred in a desire to stay the slaughter of the innocents, and thus in a manner to spike the enemy's guns.
A wild craving to spike them in a more concrete fashion pervaded the minds of hundreds. The cavil against the Colonel abated not a jot; the epithets hurled at his devoted head were as picturesque as of yore. But side by side with this domestic hostility there had developed a deeper, less noisy feeling of resentment against the dear Boers themselves. Volunteers in plenty were ready for any deed of daring that would enable them to give back blow for blow. Not the least enthusiastic in this regard were the Regular soldiers; they wanted to destroy or capture the gun at Kamfers Dam, recking not the wildness, the impracticability of the enterprise, but eager for a try—to be heroes in the strife. Colonel Kekewich was waited on for his sanction; but he argued that the expedition would entail certain destruction for half of the proposed attacking force, and would result in failure. The fortifications of the enemy, he maintained, were too strong, the gun was too well guarded. In the excitement prevailing a practical view of this kind was apt to be misconstrued, as indeed it was. The Colonel's position was a delicate and responsible one; but, ignoring that, his refusal to countenance the proposed assault lowered him in the minds of individuals bursting to do something desperate, as well as in the valorous estimation of others who merely wanted to see it done.
It was the last Sunday of the Siege! It was not stated; no credence would have been accorded to the suggestion. The day advanced, and blood-curdling legends—appertaining to the arrival of batteries from the north, to assist in the completion of Kimberley's subjugation—abounded on all sides. The rumour-monger excelled himself; not one but four six-inch guns were to sing on Monday; our past experiences were to be proved but a foretaste of worse things in store. The Mines had been talked of as a place of refuge, and when the hour at which we lunched (when luncheons were) was reached the dead walls of the city were placarded with great posters, inviting all women and children who desired perfect security to take up their residence in the caverns of De Beers! The drastic nature of the prophylactic was objected to; it was feared by the quidnuncs that the treatment might prove more injurious in its ultimate effects than the ills it was intended to ward off. But this element was silenced, and soon was witnessed a procession of people with bundles of bedding and crockery on their shoulders wending their way (in a thunderstorm) to their deep-level homes. From all parts of the city streams of families were converging towards the "Kimberley" and the "De Beers" mines. There were a few bejewelled dames whose ideal of good form and adoration of the convenances would not allow them to entertain such a "fall"; it was asking too much; what would Mrs. Grundy say? There was again a timid set whose notions of a pilgrimage to the bowels of the earth were peculiar; who associated with it all the dangers attending a balloon adventure—plus the probability of asphyxiation. But as time wore on the crowds grew thicker and thicker, until the outstanding minority began to feel lonely, then to waver, and finally to take their places as martyrs in the "Lift" that was to lower them into regions infernal. It was a striking ensemble that mustered at the mouth of the mines. All grades of society were there, and specimens of almost every European nation, mingled with the Kafir the Zulu, the Hottentot and the countless shades and depths of duskiness that make up the coloured classes. The process of lowering the "Lift" began at four o'clock. It was tedious work. Only eight or nine persons could be let down at a time, and some of the trippers had so many rugs, mattresses, cushions, antimacassars, and like lumber along with them as to make the downward flight of eighteen hundred feet a pleasure-trip distinctly modern. With exemplary patience the emigrants waited, until it suddenly dawned on them—so slow was the progress made—that there was every possibility of the dread hour of twelve anticipating them. And then the pushing and the shoving commenced. It was past eleven, and there were yet hundreds to go down when "house full" was shouted. Arrangements were hurriedly made to domicile the surplus in the debris heaps. Midnight came; not a gun was heard. Morning dawned; and the weak and young were safe from the ravages of shot and shell. Thus had closed the last, eventful Sunday of thraldom. The work achieved did much to ease men's minds, to revivify their hope, and to strengthen their readiness to immolate themselves, if need be, on the altar of duty.
Monday was awaited with calmness and a determination to meet the worst with fortitude. The carnage predicted, and painted in such sanguinary colours, was slow to begin. It was not until the respectable hour of seven that a commencement was made. Several untenanted houses were damaged; four were set on fire at Kenilworth, and though the Brigade were on the spot as fast as they could be conveyed from Kimberley, the conflagration was inextinguishable, the houses were burned to the ground. The intervals between the coming of the shells were much longer than heretofore. This was due to the fact that a number of our best marksmen had at length managed to make themselves felt. They had gone out on the Sunday night and secured cover so close to Kamfers Dam as to necessitate the exercise of caution on the part of Long Tom's manipulators. The "snipers" lay alert, invisible, and ready when they saw a head to hit it. It was alleged that the polls in which the marksmen were interested had the Red Cross—a useful talisman—waving over them, the better to enable the gunners to devastate Kimberley with impunity. Whether this was true is not certain; at any rate, the finesse did not deceive; every cranium that loomed upon the horizon received a volley. Sometimes the gun would be fixed partially into position, and, as the bullets whistled by, lowered, jerked up again, and fired. Even these hide and seek tactics did not long nonplus the "snipers"; their adaptability was equal to the occasion. Rumour spread it that two or three of the Kamfers Dam gunners had fallen; one victim was certainly vouched for by a number of people who had seen him throw up his hands, in the very act of firing, and disappear from view. The success of the "snipers" was the talk of the city. It was tactlessly conveyed to the bottom of the mines and made some of the women anxious to get to the top—to breathe gunpowder in preference to brimstone. Reports went to show, however, that all was as well down below as could be expected in a "settlement" so new and so congested.
What a spectacle the town presented! Business, as I have stated, had been entirely suspended since the Friday; but it was not until Monday that the last vestige of life appeared to have passed away from Kimberley. Meandering the streets for curiosity or in futile search of corporal sustenance, it was not until then that the hush of the thoroughfares struck one in its full intensity. The whole machinery of man's work and operations was at a standstill. The shops were closed; no car rattled o'er the stony street; no throb of life was anywhere. A belated cat, a stranger to milk and mice, and with tail still erect as a lamp-post to accentuate the body's decay, would now and then cross the tile-line. The houses wore a funereal aspect. The cabs, enrobed in Red Crosses, awaited an unwelcome fare—a mangled pedestrian. Spectral horseman rode hither and thither in pursuit of shells, to aid the victims of their wrath. A stillness, weird, uncanny, hovered like a pall above the Diamond City.
... now the sounds of population fail,
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale,
No busy steps the grass-grown footway tread,
For all the bloomy flush of life is fled.
The plucky manner in which "we" had risked our necks for our readers' sakes had won golden enconiums for the Diamond Fields' Advertiser. Monday's issue was awaited with unwonted eagerness, interested as we were in the gauntlet flung at Lennox Street. But the gauntlet had been taken up; there was no paper forthcoming; it was suppressed; the "Military Situation" proscribed its freedom. This was not altogether unexpected; but a more prudent counsel would have let the Press alone. Several stories appertaining to Saturday's outburst were in circulation. One was that the Editor had been handcuffed and conveyed to gaol—presumably for seditious libel. But Mr. Rhodes, it was said, had intervened and offered himself as a "substitute." He would take responsibility for the famous article; if anybody was to be punished he would act as criminal. The story ran, however, that he was let off with a caution—a sentence at once magnanimous and supremely prudent.
Another night assault had been considered probable, but there was no firing until Tuesday morning when the bombardment was briskly resumed. Throughout the day the attack was well sustained, despite the strategy of our "snipers." Shells crashed in close proximity to vacated houses; half a dozen were broken into; and the Sanatorium, where a strong impenetrable fort had been constructed, was well attended to. But there was really a better chance of finding Rhodes in the open, for he peregrinated here, there and everywhere, too much of a fatalist, or too fond of fresh air to be intimidated by what was flying in it. It was rumoured that the heel had been knocked off one of his boots; and fabulous sums were forthwith offered in the souvenir market for the heel. The story had no foundation in fact—though not for lack of likely heels; they were as numerous as the pieces of shell that had killed George Labram. The multiplicity of these fatal fragments was one of the marvels of the Siege. A single piece had struck Mr. Labram, but the commercial legend pointed to a score!
The shells continued to tear up the streets until mid-day; after which all was peace for some hours. The information reached the ears of the ladies in the mines; and the inevitable consequence was an exodus of the bolder spirits therefrom, to get a glimpse of the sky; for (as the poet says):—
... the sky we look up to, though glorious and fair,
Is looked up to the more because Heaven lies there;
and had a superlative fascination for people doomed to deplore their nearness to "another place." The ladies granted interviews with almost disconcerting alacrity; their narratives of life down below, its joys and drawbacks, its good intentions, its climatic conditions and difficulties, were glowing and diversified. Some were happy and cheerful, while others, fastidious and accustomed to feathers, would never be happy until they were—dead! The chorused howling of so many young ladies and gentlemen, ranging in ages from a fortnight to three or four (years, not fortnights) kept reasoning people awake o' nights, it was protested; and other inconveniences like the water—tributaries of the Styx—in the mines made the atmosphere, and the blankets sometimes, rather humid. These little discomforts, however, were felt only on one or two floors; and the fair sex in the main were grateful for the efforts made to make things cosy for everybody. Sanitation was of course the paramount difficulty; but altogether to their eternal credit must redound the indomitable energy and labours of the floor managers, the mine employees generally, and even the directors, in their new sphere of caterers for half the population. It was a heavy task, all things considered, but it was done. Through the long, sweltering day the men wrought and perspired. Many a missile hissed near them; many a risk they ran; but they went on doing their duty with unflinching devotion. What was chivalrous in their nature was stirred, and the good, latent in most men, shone out brilliantly in all. The ladies acknowledged it freely. Unexpected little dainties—sent down in the "Lift"—were supplied them to strengthen their toleration of a home in a warm corner. Baskets, with the "compliments" of Mr. Rhodes, bunches of grapes, more precious (and softer, too) than the encrusted gems around, were relished down in the mines and worth going still deeper for.
The horrisonous whiz of the ostrich eggs from Kamfers Dam was heard again, and back to the "Lift" flew the ladies. Not a few preferred to wait until 'night was again descending' to descend along with it. One or two sturdy amazons refused point blank to be terrorised into descending at all; they expressed a preference for surface risks. This attitude was not by any means unintelligible. The babel down below was incessantly audible; as was the subdued roar of machinery; the heated competition entailed in the pegging out of claims; the high words excited by the petty larceny of pilferers who borrowed utensils to break, or keep as souvenirs. Yet no wayward fragment of shell contributed its quota to the perpetual din of gem-land. Better still, no exterior sound could be heard; no boom, no faint intonation of the shocks that blighted the earth's surface ever ruffled its centre. It was the solitary advantage the centre (as a residence) had over the surface; but it was a substantial advantage, though rather testily appreciated.
The town was as hushed as a cemetery; and it was not easy to gather knowledge of the damage done, or of its extent. The hospital was the recipient of a grant-in-aid, which a gentleman resident in its vicinity participated in—his face getting chopped by some startled pebbles. One young lady who had left the mine, who could better hear the shells above than the confusion of tongues below, was penalised with a gash— happily slight. A little boy was wounded in the leg. A number of empty houses were battered; and the headgear of the "Kimberley Mine" was hit by a passing missile, which occasioned not a little consternation among the families who, finding no room at the bottom, were quartered at the top of the shaft. The Opera House was again struck; and at the Presbyterian Church a dextrous effort was made to discover the "lost chord," which resulted in the organ's being for ever incapacitated to shed the soul of any music whatsoever. The caves dug out of the debris heaps were all inhabited; the teething community never let us forget it. A number of the mine emigrants had returned to their native land and joined their friends in the debris heaps. The protection of the debris heaps was not quite so good as that afforded by the mines, and the music of the cannon the troglodytes had always with them. But there was more liberty and comfort in the caves, which were dry as dust and—no slang intended—not too dusty.
Signs and portents of the approaching revolution were not wanting. Rumours transcended in sensationalism all past products of inventive fertility; but though men of weight were beginning to respect the fama the populace hi the mass were too "ware" to fondle her. With the women hi the mines it was different; their newly-acquired appreciation of "Home, sweet home" had induced symptoms of their primeval predisposition to believe all they heard—and they heard all sorts of loving lies. The enemy, it was noticed, evinced signs of uneasiness at last; he cast furtive looks behind him, as if some danger lurked unseen. The traditional stoicism of the Boer was perturbed, and an air of violent agitation was conspicuous in the portion of the cordon nearest to Modder River. The "star" shining down on the Free State suggested an undesirable destiny; it was filled with reconnoitring Britons. For ourselves, we noted the point from which the balloon had ascended, and the obvious confusion in the Boer ranks, with curiosity; and though we still resolutely adhered to belief in the folly of expecting relief, instinct whispered nil desperandum. From out the camp at Alexandersfontein the enemy appeared to be clearing—all of which phenomena were the more mysterious because of the silence that prevailed.
The next day to dawn was Saint Valentine's (Wednesday). The valentines were delivered by an early post, but the intended recipients had happily changed their addresses and were not at home to be caricatured. The Sanatorium received a batch of compliments—as a kind of satire on its pretensions to salubrity—one of which played havoc with its bakehouse, and, what was still more serious, a batch of bread in process of baking. The City Fathers, as per immemorial custom, were not forgotten. One of them had his house and furniture damaged; another missile struck Mr. Bennie's dwelling; while, at Beaconsfield, the beauty of Councillor Blackbeard's verandah was marred, as also nearly were the persons of half a dozen workmen close by. A few shells shot appallingly close to the bugler perched on the summit of the headgear. The "sniping" still went on, but the Boers at Kamfers Dam appeared to be little affected thereby, or by the signs of alarm betrayed by their fellow-besiegers at other camps. There was, alas! to be yet one more fatality ere emancipation was to burst upon us like a thunderbolt. In the afternoon, while making his ablutions at a tap outside his bakehouse door, an unfortunate baker was struck down and killed.
Meanwhile proceedings pregnant with meaning were taking place at Alexandersfontein. The evacuation of the position was going on apace, and was being watched with bated breath by the Beaconsfield Town Guard. The numbers of the enemy ensconced at Alexandersfontein had diminished so materially that Major Rodger with a picked force of one hundred men ventured to try conclusions with the residue. A sharp, decisive fight ensued; the few Boers left to defend the place were so startled that they soon fled, leaving bag and baggage behind them. A few on the Boer side were killed (or wounded) and half a dozen were taken prisoners. Of the Major's men, two were injured. Despatches found in the pocket of a prisoner went to show that Alexandersfontein had been used partially as a women's laager; and I regret to have to record that a woman and a young child were severely wounded in the battle.
But it was the sequel to this remarkable fight that roused the people from their torpor. Large quantities of provisions were found not only in the camp but in the hotel and houses of the neighbourhood. The news spread like wildfire, and a great paean of triumph went up from a thousand throats. From the various redoubts the citizen soldiers, regardless of risk, hastened in carts to the scene of confiscation. The early birds got butter! there was no doubting it, for however impaired may have been our sense of taste, our dilated eyes were right. Some folk carried away large sacks of meal and flour—satisfied to enjoy carte blanche in bread without butter. Others, again, bore off bags of potatoes in contented triumph; while not a few went home with onions in their pockets and a tear and a smile in their eyes. And when later in the day a drove of half a hundred oxen, horses, and mules, with their forage behind them, entered Kimberley they were greeted with a tumult of applause never meted out to royal pageant or conquering biped coming! A little whiskey, it was said, had been unearthed; but there was no evidence, circumstantial or oscillatory, to confirm this. Minor windfalls in the way of half-sovereigns, five pound notes, Kruger coins, and trousers buttons had also been picked up and appropriated as a matter of course.
When Major Rodger had officially apprised the Colonel of his glorious victory, gyps and re-inforcements were immediately despatched to assist in the holding of the acquired position. It was soon strongly garrisoned, and though theatrical preparations for its recovery were not wanting, no serious attempt was made to re-take it. From the adjacent ridges (a mile off) an odd shell came hurtling; and thus was an avenue opened up for the Column that was always coming, and never came. Cheering auguries there were in plenty, but we guardedly declined to be cheered, and pretended to snigger sceptically at the auguries. It might be that the Boers had been "driven out of Colesburg," but we did not believe it, on principle. From the same source we learned that Cronje was a prisoner; but he was not! so that our incredulity was in a measure justifiable to the end. It was conceded, it was being made manifest daily that the housing of so many people for any length of time in the over-crowded mines was opt of the question. But that was a consideration to which the "Military Situation" could not resonably be expected to play second fiddle.
Despite, therefore, the concrete evidence of impending developments; despite the distant dust-clouds which only Cavalry, and a good many of them, could cause; despite the chaos reigning in Boer circles—we still declined to be hoodwinked on the never-to-be-forgotten morning of Thursday, the fifteenth of February. On the night previous the sounds of a heavy musketry duel had been heard. A force had been sent out to frustrate Boer encroachments and the fury with which (as per expectation) the lost Alexandersfontein was to be regained. This force effected a coup, and by a series of tricks alarmed the enemy contiguous to Alexandersfontein into a belief that a bayonet charge in strength was contemplated, the consequence being that they (the Boers) beat the air with bullets for full three hours. Three guns had been trained on our new "possession." To dislodge its garrison, however, more vigorous measures were called for; and desperate though they continued to grow, the Boers had no bayonets, without which it was hardly possible for them to achieve their purpose. Long Tom at Kamfers Dam was too far off to communicate with the proud usurper; it had perforce to content itself with the city streets, into which the shells kept falling for some hours in the forenoon—until positively the last of the missiles ended its blaze with a groan at eleven o'clock! That the bombardment would be resumed when the gun had "cooled" nobody thought of doubting for an instant; and when three hours had sped, when the gun had had time to become a veritable cucumber, the rumour-monger, positive, superior, laconic to the last, attributed its silence to a "loose screw!" But, for us, the screw was never tightened; Kimberley had indeed heard the last of Long Tom. Our scepticism, however, remained robust, and would not permit us to treat with aught but ridicule the vaunted wonders with which the day was to be fraught.
The Colonel and his staff still comported themselves with Patrician dignity (as befitted their station), only condescending occasionally to utter unofficial words of cheer. But these utterances were taken for what they were worth, and the experience of four months had taught us to estimate their value at rather less than nothing. When, therefore, towards two o'clock in the afternoon the unfolding of a tale descriptive of an approaching body of eight thousand cavalry had begun, we derisively snapped our fingers at the story. With amazing persistence the narrative was shouted aloud, and with a positiveness which such angry retorts as "Am I a fool!" "Don't come it on me!" "You're a liar!" etc., could not subdue. Undaunted the heralds of the oncoming Column carried their message to every ear, to be accepted or rejected. The bulk of the people stipulated to "see" the Column, and then they "might" believe; and it was hard even to induce them to get on to the roof for a view. The ladies in the mines, who, uncomfortable as they were, had a horror of being fooled any more, also perversely refused to stir until they saw the Column; it was not easy to persuade them that an adjournment to the surface of dull earth was an indispensable preliminary to the testimony of their eyes. Courier after courier arrived with the grand and glorious news; and when men on the conning tower were observed to cheer frantically, wave hand-kerchiefs, and gesticulate insanely, our flinty nature humbly condescended to soften. When all in turn beheld the huge body of cavalry drawing nearer and nearer to Kimberley, the tears began to roll and the pent-up emotion of four weary months was freely given way to! From verandahs, from windows, redoubts, and debris heaps the roars of welcome were sent across the veld. Advance-stragglers, exhausted and travel-stained, presently arrived, to have their buttons cut off their coats, the feathers plucked from their hats, their arms wrenched from their sockets, and to be hugged with merciless and enervating tenderness in the wild paroxysm of an ultra-Irish cead mile failte! The Siege was raised! The suspense and sorrow were over! The lowering, ever-darkening cloud had broken—turned inside out to dazzle with the sheen of its lining our unaccustomed eyes. We were free again; to revel in pastry and jam, and ham and eggs, in chops and steaks, in mealies, butter, bread, and pate de foie gras; at liberty to drink, to mix our drinks, to risk "swelled head" and indigestion if we so willed, as we most certainly did. It was over; we had fought a good fight; and in the conviction that it was worth going through it all for the ineffable delight of the final emergence we sent our hats into the air with an abandon and disregard of the proprieties that was very, very rude.
The Siege was raised! by French—not Methuen; Codlin was the friend, not Short! The enthusiasm never slackened, and when late in the afternoon the General with some of his officers visited the Kimberley Club, the climax was reached. Cheer after cheer rent the air and shook the trees. The hand-shaking crusade shook the spheres. Nine o'clock struck; but much we cared; the warning notes had lost their terrors; they startled not the joyous groups crowding the streets, laughing, whistling, singing, crying, dancing, or hilariously toasting French (in the saloons) on Siege soda-water! Not the least pathetic feature of it all was the length and wryness of our deliverers' faces when they sought to buy refreshments—a tin of something—cup of anything—and the loud laugh that spake the vacant wares of the gay restaurateur as he brokenly explained the Permit Law with all its "tape" and pomps. The exodus from the mines was necessarily slow, and midnight had long passed ere the last of the refugees was restored to the glimpses of the moon.
In the meantime our friends the Boers had taken to flight. Their guns (including Long Tom) had vanished, and Long Cecil kept barking furiously to expedite their departure. The Boer positions were soon occupied by British troops; large quantities of provisions and forage which had been left behind were duly confiscated; while French's ordnance was substituted for the guns that had so long intensified the heat of a Kimberley summer. In town all was bunting and gladness. The red, white, and blue bedecked the houses, the lamp posts, the tram-cars, the barrel-organs, the monkeys, the dogs, and the horseflesh! The relief of Kimberley was an accomplished fact. The issue of the campaign was no longer in doubt.
Little now remains to be told. There is no need to speak of the rapidity with which railway communication was restored, or of how amid general rejoicings a train steamed into the city and steamed out again choc-a-bloc with passengers in cattle trucks. Nor need I pity the lot of the postal officials when the sorting of a million letters had begun. It is not for me to tell of the joy of reading them; to dwell on the Dronfield fight; the evacuation of Magersfontein; the tableau at Paarderberg, of its chastening effects on the "Military Situation." Nor may I speculate on how well or wisely we ate and drank when gormandism was again in consonance with law-abiding citizenship. All these things were after the Siege.
For the rest, the citizens had responded to the call of duty with a spontaneity worthy of the highest praise. They had "roughed it" in their tents uncomplainingly (sulking only on occasions, like Achilles). All honour, all gratitude to the good men and women who had spent themselves so unselfishly for the common good. The De Beers Corporation merit a meed of commendation for the manner in which they rose to a recognition of their responsibilities. An expression of regret is due to the Commanding-Officer for the impatience with which we had treated his proclamations and chafed under Martial Law. Our attitude had been oftentimes unfair. But the Colonel's regency had in the main been conspicuous for high ability, considerateness, and a firmness that could have scarcely been dispensed with. Finally, Mr. Rhodes—by virtue of his beneficent, unceasing labours on behalf of the beleagured population—stood higher than ever in the affections of the people among whom had been spent so many years of his life. This narrative may be fittingly closed with a peroration of his—since it reflects the feeling of the citizens as a whole, which has been my aim throughout. "When we look back" said the Colossus, "upon the troubles we have gone through, and especially all that has been suffered by the women and children, we have this satisfaction, that we have done our best to preserve that which is the best of commercial assets in the world—the protection of her Majesty's Flag."