Ladysmith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 183 pages of information about Ladysmith.

By a piece of good fortune we succeeded in crossing the frontier in an open coal-truck.  The border-line runs about six miles north of Majuba and Laing’s Nek, the last Boer village being Volksrust, and Charlestown the first English.  The scenery changes rapidly; the high, bare veldt of the Southern Transvaal is at once left behind, and we enter the broad valley of Natal, sloping steadily down to the sea and becoming richer and more tropical as it descends.  All regular traffic had stopped three days before, but now and then a refugee train came up to the frontier and transhipped its miserable crowd.  Fugitives of every nation have been hurrying to the railway in hopes of escape.  The stations far down into Natal are constantly surrounded with patient groups, waiting, waiting for an empty truck.  Hindoos from Bombay and Madras with their golden nose-rings and brilliant silks sit day and night waiting side by side with coal-black Kaffirs in their blankets, or “blue-blooded” Zulus who refuse to hide much of their deep chocolate skin, showing a kind of purple bloom like a plum.  The patient indifference with which these savages will sit unmoved through any fortune and let time run over them, is almost like the solemn calm of nature’s own laws.  The whites are restless and probably suffer more.  Many were in extreme misery.  Three or four young children died on the journey.  One poor woman became a mother in the train just after the frontier, and died, leaving the baby alive.  At the border I found many English and Scotch families, who had driven across the veldt from Ermelo, surrendering all their possessions.  All spoke of the good treatment the Boers had shown them on the journey, even when the waggon had outspanned for the night close to the Boer camp.  I came down to Newcastle with a Caithness stonemason and his family.  They had lost house, home, and livelihood.  They had even abandoned their horses and waggon on the veldt.  The woman regretted her piano, but what really touched her most was that she had to wash her baby in cold water at the lavatory basin, and he had always been accustomed to warm.  So we stand on the perilous edge and suffer variously.

CHAPTER II

AT THE BRITISH FRONT

     Ladysmith, Natal, Wednesday, October 11, 1899.

Ladysmith breathes freely to-day, but a week ago she seemed likely to become another Lucknow.  Of line battalions only the Liverpools were here, besides two batteries of field artillery, some of the 18th Hussars, and the 5th Lancers.  If Kruger or Joubert had then allowed the Boers encamped on the Free State border to have their own way, no one can say what might have happened.  Our force would have been outnumbered at least four to one, and probably more.  In event of disaster the Boers would have seized an immense quantity of military stores accumulated in the camp, and at the railway station.  What is

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Ladysmith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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