The negotiation of February 7, between Kitchener and Louis Botha, was read out to us at Tafelkop. The burghers were unanimous in condemnation of Kitchener’s conditions, and were fully satisfied with Botha’s short, vigorous answer. Had we indeed fought so long and so fiercely only to become an English colony, and not to be allowed to carry arms unless we had a license? And for the Kaffirs to be eventually allowed to vote? The men who were attached to their families and farms, but preferred losing all to becoming ‘hands-uppers,’ were unanimous in declaring Kitchener’s conditions unacceptable, and all were ready to fight to the bitter end. We often spoke of the terrible suffering of our women and children in the refugee camps, and sometimes doubted whether it were not better for their sakes to give in. We did not know whether patriotism were worth the shedding of so much innocent blood. It cost us more than we can tell to remain firm and brave in our undertaking.
At that time we also heard of De Wet’s retreat from Cape Colony, but not officially. It was broken to us gently, and at first as if he had been successful, so that we all thought peace was to follow soon.
How we rejoiced!
But a few days later De Wet’s official report was read out to us, and then our courage sank indeed. What was the good of our fighting if the Colony would not help us?
The disappointment was not great enough to make us lay down our arms, but we knew it would be many a long day before peace was in the land. How long should we still be chased from place to place? When would there be rest for our exhausted bodies? And how we longed for our dear ones, if only we should find them alive!
BATTLE OF STOMPIES—IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY
We stayed fully three weeks at Tafelkop. I was appointed commissary of the Krugersdorp commando, and rode round to all the farms to procure the needful for our commando. As General De la Rey had been camping close by at Rietfontein for some time, there was not much left to commandeer, unless we deprived the women whose husbands were in the veld of the necessaries of life.
Our lager was moved from Tafelkop to Rietpan, from whence a few hundred of our horsemen started with some guns and a few trolleys for Groot Kafferkraal, in Hartbeestfontein district. General De la Rey had come over to organize the expedition in person, and accompanied General Kemp. I went with a man called Jooste to the neighbourhood of Lichtenberg and Klein Kafferkraal to commandeer cattle. There I heard many tales of the enemy’s behaviour as they passed through a week before.