I shall not try to give a description of the works of the machinery that moved mechanically to the Magalies Mountains, for I should have to guess at the particulars in this historical little tale. Mechanical I call the journey, for there were days and nights in which we were numbed, body and soul, exhausted by hunger and thirst and want of sleep.
When we were at Bethany, a convoy of the enemy was seen moving in the direction of Commandonek. When it noticed our guard, it dragged its curved body with great zeal through the pass. I think the khakies also must have been bored to death on those long, fruitless journeys. We left Bethany towards evening, and reached the Magalies Mountains the following morning after a tiring journey in the night past Sterkstroom, through the Kromriverskloof to the foot of Onuapadnek, or Boschfonteinnek. (I learnt the names from the inhabitants.) In the kloof we passed the burnt remains of the convoy that was taken by Commandant Boshoff—who joined De la Rey after having taken Steyn to his destination—and his brave little troop of burghers. They were obliged to abandon the convoy, however, on the arrival of reinforcements for the enemy. A sickening stench came from the corpses that they had left unburied in their flight.
We rested a few hours at the top of the steep nek. On descending on the other side we came, to our mutual surprise, upon De la Key’s lager at the foot of the mountain on Barnard’s farm.
BATTLE OF NOOITGEDACHT
We were busy all evening baking vet-koek (a kind of scone fried in lard), as we had received the order to be ready to leave the following morning at one o’clock, and to take provisions sufficient for two days. Although our officers were beginning to see the advisability of keeping their plans secret, we were able to guess that we were going to attack General Clements’ camp, an hour’s ride further east at Nooitgedacht—particularly as the chances of success, in case of an eventual attack, were being discussed by some of the officers. The general opinion was that Clements’ force was 5,000 strong.
We left quite three-quarters of an hour later than the fixed time in the early morning of December 13, 1900, and recrossed the steep, narrow neck, took a way to our right in the Kromriverskloof, making a sharp turn to Elandskrans, where a strong outpost had been placed by the enemy on the Magalies Mountains.
That was the crust through which we had to bite to get at the dainties of the booty. It cannot be denied that victory and booty, in our impoverished circumstances, were very close together in our thoughts. The enemy’s camp lay at the foot of the long, high cliff that forms a precipice on that side of the mountain, while the slope of the mountain on our side was not steep, and there were a great many footholds and boulders. The artillery had been left in