Ladysmith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 223 pages of information about Ladysmith.
soda-water, made with enteric germs.  The Irishman drinks the rinsings of his old whisky bottles.  One man gave L5 yesterday for a bottle of whisky, but then he was a contractor, and our necessity is his opportunity.  Of our necessity the Colonial storekeepers and dealers of all kinds are making their utmost.  Having spent their lives hitherto in “besting” every one on a small scale, they are now besting the British nation on the large.  Happily their profit is not so easily made now as in the old days of the Zulu war, when a waggon-load of food would be sold three times over on the way to the front and never reached the troops at all in the end.  A few days ago one contractor thought the Army would have to raise its price for mealies (maize) to 30s. a sack.  He at once bought up all the mealies in the town at 28s., only to discover that the army price was 25s.  So, under the beneficent influence of martial law he was compelled to sell at that price, and made a fine loss.  The troops received this morning’s heavy news with cheerful stoicism; not a single complaint, only tender regrets about the whisky and Christmas pudding we shall have to do without.

     December 18, 1899.

How is one to treat an indeterminate situation?  The siege is already too long for modern literature.  It was all very well when we thought it must end by Christmas at the furthest.  But since last Sunday we are thrown back into the infinite, and can fix no limit on which hope can build even a rainbow.  So now the only way to make this account of our queer position readable will be to dwell entirely in the glaring events of adventure or bloodshed, and let the flat days slide, though the sadness and absurdity of any one of them would fill a paper.

We have had such luck in escaping shells that we grow careless.  The Bulwan gun began his random fire, as usual, before breakfast.  He threw about fifteen shells, but most of us are quite indifferent to the 96lb. explosive thunder-bolts dropping around us.  Indeed, fourteen of them did little harm.  But just one happened to drop in the Natal Carbineer lines while the horses were being groomed.  Two men were killed outright and three mortally wounded.  A sapper was killed 200 yards away.  Three others were wounded.  Eleven horses were either killed or hopelessly disabled.  All from one chance shell, while fourteen hit nobody!  One man had both legs cut clean off, and for a time continued conscious and happy.  Five separate human legs lay on the ground, not to speak of horses’ legs.  The shell burst on striking a horse, they say (it was shrapnel), and threw forwards.  While the Carbineers were carrying away one of their dead another shell burst close by.  They rightly dropped the body and lay flat.  The only fragment which struck at all almost cut the dead man in half.  Another shell later in the day killed a Kaffir woman and her husband in a back garden off the main street.  Several women have died from premature childbirth owing to shock.

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Ladysmith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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