There is not enough hydrochloric or pepsine left in the town to make a true extract of horse, but by boiling and evaporation the strength is raised till every pint issued will make three pints of soup. A punkah is to be fitted to make the evaporation more rapid, and perhaps my horse will ultimately appear as a jelly or a lozenge. But at present the stuff is nothing but a strong kind of soup, and at the first issue to-day the men had to carry it in the ordinary camp-kettles.
Every man in the garrison to-night receives a pint of horse essence hot. I tasted it in the cauldron, straight from the horse, and found it so sustaining that I haven’t eaten anything since. The dainty Kaffirs and Colonial Volunteers refuse to eat horse in any form. But the sensible British soldier takes to it like a vulture, and begs for the lumps of stewed flesh from which the soup has been made. With the joke, “Mind that stuff; it kicks!” he carries it away, and gets a chance, as he says, of filling—well, we know what he says. The extract has a registered label:—
[Illustration: Superior Ladysmith
“The Iron Horse”]
Under the signature of Aduncus Bea and Co. acute signallers will recognise the official title of Colonel Ward.
Since the beginning of the siege one of the saddest sights has been the Boer prisoners lounging away their days on the upper gallery of the gaol. They have been there since Elands Laagte, nearly four months now, with no news, nothing to do, and nothing to see except one little bit of road visible over the wall.
The solitude has so unnerved them that when the shells fall near the gaol or whiz over the roof the prisoners are said to howl and scream. On visiting them to-day I found that only seven real prisoners of war are left here, the others being suspects or possible traitors, arrested on suspicion of signalling or sending messages to the enemy. Among them is the French deserter I mentioned weeks ago. The little man is much reduced in girth, and terribly lonely among the Dutch, but he appears to grow no wiser for solitude and low living.
Among the twenty-three suspects it was pleasant to see one new arrival who has been the curse of the town since the beginning of the siege, when he went about telling the terrified women and children that if they were not blown to bits by the shells the Boers would soon get them. So he has gone on ever since, till to-day Colonel Park, of the Devons, had him arrested for the military offence of “causing despondency.” He had kept asking the Devons when they were going to run away, and how they would like the walk to Pretoria when Ladysmith surrendered. There are about thirty Kaffirs also in the prison, chiefly thieves, but some suspects. They are kept in the women’s quarters, for the kind of woman who fills Kaffir gaols has lifted up her blankets and gone to Maritzburg or Intombi Camp.