The pluck of the man who goes out alone, unobserved and unapplauded, and at the risk of his life, is surely equally great.
The Boers used field spies freely against us in South Africa.
One English-speaking Boer used to boast how, during the war, he made frequent visits to Johannesburg dressed in the uniform taken from a British major who had been killed in action. He used to ride past the sentries, who, instead of shooting him, merely saluted, and he frequented the clubs and other resorts of the officers, picking up such information as he required from them first hand, till evening came and he was able to ride back to his commando.
On our side various methods were adopted of conveying information in the field. My spies employed native runners (especially the most astute cattle-thieves) to take their despatches to me.
A SECRET MESSAGE.
[Illustration: These hieroglyphics contain a secret message which can be easily read by those who know the semaphore signalling code. This signalling consists of swinging two arms in different positions, either singly or together. The dots indicate where the letters join. For example: The semaphore sign for N consists of both arms pointing downwards at an angle of 90 degrees ^. The letter I is shown by both arms pointing to the left at the same angle >. The next N is shown again, and the letter E is a single arm pointing upwards on the right at an angle of 45 degrees /.
In each word you start at the top of the signs and read downwards.
This form of secret message was frequently used in the South African War.]
These were in every case naturally written in cypher or secret code, in Hindustani written in English characters, and so on. They were rolled up into pellets and pressed into a small hole bored in a walking-stick, the hole being then plugged with clay or soap. Or they were put into the bowl of a pipe underneath the tobacco, and could thus be burnt without suspicion if necessary, or they were slipped in between the soles of the boots, or stitched in the lining of the bearer’s clothing. These natives also understood the language of smoke-fires—signalling by means of little or big puffs of smoke as to the enemy’s moves and strength.
The native despatch-runners whom we sent out to make their way through the enemy’s lines carried the letters tightly rolled up in little balls, coated with sheet lead, such as tea is packed in.
These little balls they carried slung round their necks on a string. The moment that they saw an enemy coming near they dropped the balls, which then looked like so many stones, on the ground, and took bearings of the spot so that they could find them again when the coast was clear.