February 1, 1900.
How we should have laughed in November at the thought of being shut up here till February? But here we are, and the outlook grows more hopeless. People are miserably depressed. It would be impossible to get up sports or concerts now. Too many are sick, too many dead. The laughter has gone out of the siege, or remains only as bitter laughter when the word relief is spoken. We are allowed to know nothing for certain, but the conviction grows that we are to be left to our fate for another three weeks at least, while the men slowly rot. A Natal paper has come in with an account of Buller’s defeat at Taba Nyama on the 25th. We read with astonishment the loud praises of a masterly retreat over the Tugela without the loss of a single man. When shall we hear of a masterly advance to our aid? Do we lose no men?
To-day the morning was cold and cloudy, as it has been since Monday, but the sun broke out for an hour or two, in the afternoon, and official messages could be sent through by heliograph. For information and relief we received the following words, and those only:—
landed Delagoa Bay pledges himself to dam up
Klip River and flood Ladysmith out.”
That was all they deigned to tell us.
February 2, 1900.
After a misty dawn, soaked with minute rain, the sky slowly cleared at last, letting the merry sunshine through. At once the heliograph began to flash. I sent off a brief message, and soon afterwards the signal “Line clear” was sent from Zwartz Kop over the Tugela. The “officials” began to arrive, and we hoped for news at last. Three or four messages came through, but who could have guessed the thrilling importance of the first? It ran:—
“Sir Stafford Northcote, Governor of Bombay, has been made a peer.”
The other messages were vague and dull enough—something about the Prince of Wales reviewing Yeomanry, and the race for some hunt cup in India. But that peerage! To a sick and hungry garrison!
We were shot at rather briskly all day by the enemy’s guns. The groups of wandering horses were a tempting aim. The poor creatures still try to get back to their lines, and some of them stand there motionless all day, rather than seek grass upon the hills. The cavalry have made barbed-wire pens, and collect most of them at night. But many are lost, some stolen, and more die of starvation and neglect. An increasing number are killed for rations, and to-day twenty-eight were specially shot for the chevril factory. I visited the place this afternoon. The long engine-shed at the station has been turned to use. Only one engine remains inside, and that is used as a “bomb-proof,” under which all hands run when the shelling is heavy. Into other engine-pits cauldrons have been sunk, constructed of iron trolleys without their wheels, and plastered round with clay. A wood fire is laid along under the cauldrons, on the same principle as in a camp kitchen. The horseflesh is brought up to the station in huge red halves of beast, run into the shed on trucks, cut up by the Kaffirs, who also pound the bones, thrown into the boiling cauldron, and so—“Farewell, my Arab steed!”