It is a week to-day since the Boers of the Transvaal and Free State began their combined invasion of Natal. So far all action has been on their side. They have crept down the passes with their waggons and half-organised bands of mounted infantry, and have now advanced within a short day’s march of the two main British positions which protect the whole colony. It will be seen on a map that North Natal forms a fairly regular isoceles triangle, having Charlestown, Majuba, and Laing’s Nek at the apex, the Drakensberg range separating it from the Free State on the one side, and the Buffalo River with its lower hills separating it from the Transvaal on the other. A base may be drawn a few miles below Ladysmith—say, from Oliver’s Hoek Pass in the Drakensberg to the union of the Tugela River with the Buffalo. Newcastle will then lie about thirty miles from the apex of the triangle, nearly equi-distant from both sides. Dundee is about twelve miles from the middle point of the right side, and Ladysmith about the same distance from the middle point of the base. Evidently a “tight place” for a comparatively small force when the frontiers to right and left are openly hostile and can pour large bodies of men through all the passes in the sides and apex at will. That is exactly what the Boers have spent the week in doing, and they have shown considerable skill in the process. They have occupied Charlestown, Newcastle, and all the north of Natal almost to within reach of the guns at Dundee on the west and Ladysmith on the east and centre. Yet as far as I can judge they have hardly lost a man, whereas they have gained an immense amount of stores, food and forage, which were exactly the things they wanted. “Slim Piet” is the universal nickname for old Joubert among friends and enemies alike, and so far he has well deserved it. For the Dutch “slim” stands half way between the German “schlimm” and our description of young girls, and it means exactly what the Cockney means by “artful.” Artful Piet has managed well. He has given the Boers an appearance of triumph. Their flag waves where the English flag waved before. The effect on the native mind, and on the spirits of his men is greater than people in England probably think. Before the war the young Boers said they would be in Durban in a month, and the Kaffirs half believed it. Well, they have got nearly a third of the way in a week.
But to-day they are brought within touch of British arms, and the question is whether they will get any further. So far they have been unopposed. Their triumphs have been the bloodless capture of a passenger train, the capture of a few police, and the driving in of patrols who had strict orders to retire. So far we have sought only to draw them on. But here and at Dundee we must make a stand, and all yesterday and this morning we have thought only of one question: Will they venture to come on? They have numbers on their side—an advantage certainly of three to one, possibly more.