Ladysmith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 183 pages of information about Ladysmith.
upon the town, especially upon the Convent, which stands high on the ridge, and is used as a hospital.  His shells went crashing among the houses, but happily land is cheap in South Africa still, and the houses, as a rule, are built on separate plots, so that as often as not the shells fall in a garden bush or among the clothes-lines.  Only two Indian bearers were wounded and a few horses and cattle killed.  Things went pretty quietly through the morning, except that there was a good deal of firing—­shell and rifle—­on the high ridge south-west, where the Manchesters are.  About two o’clock I started for that position, and being fond of short cuts, thought I would ford the river at a break in its steep banks instead of going round by the iron bridge.  Mr. Melton Prior was with me, for I had promised to show him a quiet place for sketching the whole view of the town in peace.  As we came to the river a shell pitched near us, but we did not take much notice of it.  In the middle of the ford we took the opportunity of letting the horses drink, and they stood drinking like the orphan lamb.  Suddenly there was something more than the usual bang, crash, scream of a big shell, and the water was splashed with lumps and shreds of iron, my hat was knocked off and lay wrecked in the stream, and the horses were dashing this way and that with terror.  “Are you killed?” shouted Mr. Prior.  “I don’t think so,” I said.  “Are you?” And then I had to lash my horse back to the place lest my hat should sail down-stream and adorn a Queen’s enemy.  There is nothing like shell-fire for giving lessons in horsemanship.

[Illustration:  THE DRIFT AND WATERING PLACE]

The Manchesters had been having an uncomfortable time of it, and I found Sir George White and his staff up on their hill.  As we walked about, the little puffs of dust kept rising at our feet.  We were within rifle-fire, though at long range.  Now and then a very peculiar little shell was thrown at us.  One went straight through a tent, but we could not find it afterwards.  It was a shell like a viper.  I left the Manchesters putting up barbed-wire entanglements to increase their defence, and came back to try to find another runner.  The shells were falling very thick in the town, and for the first time people were rather scared.  As I write one bursts just over this little tin house.  It is shrapnel, and the iron rain falls hammering on the roof, but it does not come through.  Two windows only are broken.  Probably it burst too high.

     November 8, 1899.

Fairly quiet day.  The great event was the appearance of a new “Long Tom” on the Bulwan.  He is to be called “Puffing Billy,” from the vast quantity of smoke he pours out.  Nothing else of great importance happened.  Major Grant, of the Intelligence, was slightly wounded while sketching on the Manchesters’ ridge.  Coolies wandered about the streets all day with tin boxes or Asiatic bundles on their heads.  Joubert had sent them in as a present from Dundee.  They were refugees from that unhappy town, and after a visit to Pretoria, they are now dumped down here to help devour our rations.  Some Europeans have come, too—­guards, signalmen and shopkeepers—­who report immense reinforcements coming up for the Boers.  Is there not something a little mediaeval in sending a crowd of hungry non-combatants into an invested town?

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Ladysmith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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