February 25, 1900.
Nearly all the patients who have passed through the field hospital during the fortnight have been poor fellows shot by snipers in arms or legs. Except when their wounds are being dressed, they lie absolutely quiet, sleeping, or staring into vacancy. They hardly ever speak a word, though the beds are only a foot apart. On my left is the fragment of the sergeant gunner whom I took for a drive. His misfortunes and his cheerful indifference to them make him a man of social importance. He shows with regret how the shell cut in half a marvellous little Burmese lady, whose robes once swept down his arm in glorious blues and reds, but are now lapped over the bone as “flaps.”
Another patient was a shaggy, one-eyed old man, between whose feet a Bulwan shell exploded one afternoon as he was walking down the main street. Beyond the shock he was not very seriously hurt, but his calves were torn by iron and stones. He said he was the one survivor of the first English ship that sailed from the Cape with settlers for Natal. He was certainly very old.
On the night of the 22nd a man was brought into the hospital where I lay—also attacked by sunstroke—his temperature 107 degrees, and all consciousness happily gone. It was Captain Walker, the clever Irish surgeon, who has served the Gordons through the siege as no other regiment has been served, making their bill of health the best, and their lines a pleasure to visit. His skill, especially in dysentery, was looked to by many outside the Gordons themselves. Nothing could save him. He was packed in cold sheets, fanned, and watched day and night. For a few moments he knew me, and reminded me of a story we had laughed over. But yesterday evening, after struggling long for each breath, he died—one of the best and most useful men in camp.
If it was fated that I should be laid up for a fortnight or more of the siege it seems that this was about the best time fate could choose. From all the long string of officers, men, telegraph clerks, and civilians, who, with unceasing kindliness have passed beside my bed bringing news and cheering me up, I have heard but one impression, that this has been the dullest and deadliest fortnight of the siege. There has been no attack, no very serious expectation of Buller’s arrival. The usual bombardment has gone wearily on. Sometimes six or seven big shells have thundered so close to this little chapel, that the special kind of torture to which I was being subjected had for a time to be interrupted. Really nothing worthy of note has happened, except the building by the Boers of an incomprehensible work beside the Klip at the foot of Bulwan. About 300 Kaffirs labour at it, with Boer superintendents. It is apparently a dam to stop the river and flood out the town. No doubt it is the result of that German specialist’s arrival, of which we heard.