It was all over by a quarter-past three. The Dragoon Guards, who had been trying to cover the retreat, galloped back, one or two horses galloping riderless. Under the Red Cross flag the dhoolies then began to go out to pick up the results of the battle. For an hour or so that work lasted, the dead and dying being found among the ant-hills where they fell. Then we all trailed back, the enemy shelling our line of retreat from three sides, and we in such a mood that we cared very little for shells or anything else.
November 4, 1899.
This morning Sir George White sent Joubert a letter by Major Bateson, asking leave for the non-combatants, women and children to go down to Maritzburg. The morning was quiet, most people packing up in hopes of going. But Joubert’s answer put an end to that. The wounded, women, children, and other non-combatants might be collected in some place about four miles from the town, but could go no further. All who remained would be treated as combatants. I don’t know what other answer Joubert could have given. It was a mistake to ask the favour at all. But the General advised the town to accept the proposal. At a strange and unorganised public meeting on the steps of the Ionic Public Hall, now a hospital, the people indignantly rejected the terms. Leave our women and children at Intombi’s Spruit—the bushy spot fixed upon, five miles away—with Boers creeping round them, perhaps using them as a screen for attack! Britons never, never will! The Mayor hesitated, the Archdeacon was eloquent, the Scotch proved the metaphysical impossibility of the scheme. Amid shouts and cheers and waving parasols the people raised the National Anthem, and for once there was some dignity in that inferior tune. Everybody’s life was in danger for “The Queen.” The proposal to leave the town was flung back with defiance. Rather let our homes be flattened out!
To-night my grey-haired Cape-boy and my Zulu came to me in silence and tears. They had hoped for escape. They longed for the peace of Maritzburg, and now, like myself, they were bottled up amid “pom-poms.” Had I not promised never to bring them into danger—always to leave them snug in the rear? They were devoted to my service. Others ran. Them no thought of safety could induce to leave me. But one had a wife and descendants, the other had ancestors. It was pitiful. Better savages never loomed out of blackness. In sorrow I promised a pension for the widow if the old man was killed. “But how if you get pom-pom too, boss?” he plaintively asked. I pledged the Chronicle to take over the obligation. The word “obligation” consoled him. The lady’s name is Mrs. Louis Nicodemus, now of Maritzburg. For the Zulu’s ancestry I promised no provision.
TRAGEDY AND COMEDY
Sunday, November 5, 1899.