There has been a good deal of speculation as to why the Boers are such experts with the rifle, but that is easily and naturally explained. In the first place, they know their own country, and that is a decided advantage where bare veldt is concerned. An Englishman on the same ground would make mistakes, and probably sight his rifle at 200 yards; but the Boer puts his up to 500 yards and kills his game, whilst the Englishman, with his imperfect knowledge of the country, misses it. When the Dutch first settled in South Africa, they were compelled either to shoot their dinner or go without. So they began straight away by shooting their dinner—and they have been able to shoot it ever since. In warfare, too, they know exactly how to proceed. They know that it is policy to shoot the Englishmen and save their own skins. So they get behind large stones and shoot the Englishmen. They know, further, that the best guarantee of success is to wait patiently. They know nothing about military discipline, and they don’t want to know anything about it. According to their idea, this is how the crack British regiments proceed: They march up in a body—close order—and when they come within range of the Boers the commanding officer gives the following commands: ’Halt! Attention! Present! Fire!’ And by the time the commanding officer has given the word ‘Fire!’ the Boers, comfortably stationed behind stones, have shot those regiments down! There is, perhaps, some truth in this.
But the Boer, after all, believes in peace. It suits him better to be on his farm, with a pipe in his mouth, and Kaffirs to do all the work, while he walks around his acres and finds fault. They stick to their country, and they fight for their country; but they don’t like fighting much. I came across one particular Boer who had been at Majuba, and who was perfectly clear in his own mind that he did not care much about it; and he did not entertain favourably the idea of further warfare. He explained that he quietly got behind the customary stone, and shot round the corners. During the time he was thus amusing himself, the stone was struck by fifteen English bullets, and he did not calculate on waiting to see what effect number sixteen would have, so he left that stone. The Boers are always very reticent where the number of their killed is concerned. In English circles it is jocularly asserted that only one Boer was killed at Majuba, and all the other Boers went into mourning for him. It is not known, and never will be known, how many were killed at Krugersdorp by Jameson’s men. There is one thing, however, which goes to prove that a good number must have succumbed on that occasion. It is rumoured that the Boers do not want any more fighting with men who shoot as straight as those comprising Jameson’s Horse.
[Illustration: Majuba Hill.]