“A pipe of Boer tobacco ’neath the blue, A tin of meat, a bottle, and a few Choice magazines like Harmsworth’s or the Strand— sometimes think war has its blessings too.”
But one wearies of the safest rabbit-hole in an afternoon tea-time, and I rode to the other end of the town trying to induce my tenth or twelfth runner to start. So far, three have gone and not returned, one did not start, but lay drunk for ten days, the rest have been driven back by Boers or terror.
As I rode, the shells followed me, turning first upon Headquarters and then on the Gordons’ camp by the Iron Bridge, where they killed two privates in their tents. I think nothing else of importance happened during the day, but I was so illusioned with fever that I cannot be sure. Except “Long Tom,” the guns were not so active as yesterday, but some of them devoted much attention to the grazing cattle and the slaughter-houses. We are to be harried and starved out.
December 2, 1899.
To me the day has been a wild vision of prodigious guns spouting fire and smoke from uplifted muzzles on every hill, of mounted Boers, thick as ants, galloping round and round the town in opposite directions, of flashing stars upon a low horizon, and of troops massed at night, to no purpose, along an endless road. But I am inspired by fever just now, and in duller moments I am still conscious that we have really had a fairly quiet day, as these days go.
“Long Tom” occupied the morning in shelling the camp of the Imperial Light Horse. He threw twelve great shells in rapid succession into their midst, but as I watched not a single horse or man was even scratched. The narrowest escape was when a great fragment flew through an open door and cut the leg clean off a table where Mr. Maud, of the Graphic, sat at work. Two shells pitched in the river, which half encircles the camp, and for a moment a grand Trafalgar Square fountain of yellow water shot into the air. A house near the gaol was destroyed, but no damage to man or beast resulted.
Soon afterwards, from the highest point of the Convent Hill, looking south-west over the Maritzburg road by Bluebank, I saw several hundred Boers cantering in two streams that met and passed in opposite directions. They were apparently on the move between Colenso and Van Reenen’s Pass; perhaps their movements implied visits to lovers, and a pleasant Sunday. They looked just like ants hurrying to and fro upon a garden track.