Maritzburg, Tuesday, Nov. 14.--In the morning I did a round of paying bills--the work I generally leave to my wife! One interesting discovery was my reward. I find that a shopkeeper here came out from Nottingham four years ago, where he had been for twenty years past. It was very nice to get the English mail this morning. In the afternoon I went down for the afternoon paper, and then called at Government House, where I was presented to Prince Christian Victor; and the Governor kindly asked me to dinner. I was glad to meet General Hildyard, whom I had seen so little of at Estcourt. He was very pleasant, and seemed to have been rather struck by my saying that he was far too busy to be bothered with any more people, and would therefore say "How do you do" and "Good-bye." That seemed to be more considerate than most people are. We had a pleasant evening. General Hild-yard said that they might be very glad to ask for my services again, as all the military chaplains were shut up in Ladysmith. I think if they want me I ought to go. When a third of the adult male population of Natal is under arms, at the sacrifice of business and safety, I think we ought not to be behindhand if we are really wanted. Only I don't want to go if I am not sure that it is a real call of duty. If it is, I do not think it would do for the leader to send his lieutenants and stay at home himself in ease and safety.
Wednesday, Nov. 15.--We have more bad news to-day, as no doubt you have heard--the armoured train from Estcourt has come to grief. We are far too innocent for these wily Boers. These armoured trains seem only to be death-traps, and I cannot see that they do much good. The scouting is far better done by mounted men, who are not limited to the one iron line, but can scamper away anywhere if they find the enemy approaching. I do not know yet who has been killed or taken prisoner.
Only three days ago I was among them, and chatting over this armoured train business as if it were merely an exciting day's sport. The Volunteers were in it too, so there will be great lamentations in Durban. Although troops are now arriving, I am afraid there is as yet no artillery; and even if there is I fear that, if all our guns are like those we already have out here, they are outclassed by the Boers and will not be able to hold their own. It looks still very grave. I have been visiting the wounded men in the Legislative Buildings.
Friday, Nov. 17.--Since the disaster to the armoured train there has been little news or excitement. Troops have been passing through to-day, including three batteries of artillery, which is good news. In the afternoon I called on General Clery, who is to command the division from here till Sir George White is relieved; but they said he was engaged, so I left a card. I visited the College, which has been turned into a hospital. They are taking the patients out again, and bringing them back to the Camp Hospital. It seems there is not room enough at the College, and the only reason why they were removed was in case there should be fighting here, and I suppose they think now that danger is past. (That depends!) I sent off a tremendous budget by the mail to-day, nearly enough to make an ordinary number of the Strand Magazine. My friends have remembered me again since Natal became such an interesting place, and the mails have been bringing big budgets. In the evening I went in to Miss Walker's Soldier's Institute opposite, and talked to a few of the men, including one lifeguardsman, servant to Mr. Cavendish, who is signalling officer to General Clery.
Saturday, Nov. 18.--This morning Mr. Gedge, a new Army Chaplain who has arrived with General Clery, came to call. I asked him to stay here, so he came to luncheon, and his soldier servant brought his goods and established him in our spare room.
In the afternoon I took him to call at Government House, where we heard that the Boers had shown up at Estcourt and been fired at and driven away by the naval gun. I am always a day or two too soon!
Sunday, Nov. 19.--Gedge and I went to the Garrison Church at 8.
The English mail arrived just before I started for church, but I actually had the strength of mind not to open any of the letters.
In the afternoon, after luncheon, at which Johnson of St. Cyprian's had joined us--he is taking a holiday, being rather run down, and having an episcopal curate in the person of my brother of Pretoria--I devoured the letters, and from them it seems certainly more likely than it has ever seemed before that the Mother will come out.
Monday, Nov. 20.--Just before I started for early service at the Cathedral I got a line from Major Kennedy to say that he finds he was mistaken in thinking the 2nd Devons are to stop here on the way through, and that they went to Mooi River in the night. So I am sorry I have missed Taylor this time. But probably I shall be going up some time soon. Very likely I shall take a service at Mooi River, though one does not know a day ahead what the movements will be. They keep everything very dark, because of spies, who are all round us. I have been doing all my housekeeping in a fairly regular way. Have been round paying all my bills and ordering meat, etc. In the afternoon I took Gedge down to see the Volunteer Hospital at the Legislative Building. The only officer of the regulars there is young Danks. He is getting better, though his head is still bound up. I have asked him to come and stay with me when he is better and allowed out. Then, after sending a telegram to the Cape to welcome the Mother, for I had a telegram this morning to say they were safe at the Cape, Mother included, we went to tea at the Twemlows. I also wrote to Mother. What a surprising thing it is that she should really have made such a plunge and at such a time. However, I am heartily glad, and am sure she will have a most delightful time at Highwick. The flowers and fruits must be lovely now--the loquats and peaches and soon the grapes. And it is seldom uncomfortably hot at the Cape as far as my knowledge goes. I shall urge them to stay on there for a good long time, till the heat both of the summer and of the war is over. Twemlow had not come back from Est-court, but was proposing to come in the night train due here at 3.30 a.m. I think he will have had his desire and seen something of the Boers, for they not only came within range of our guns at Estcourt, but we see they are all about Highlands and Willow Grange, the stations this side of Estcourt. They are evidently bent on trying to cut the line there too, and so to isolate the force at Estcourt. I am sorry to see they are on Mr. George Turner's farm, Warley Common, where I have so often stayed, and Mr. Cope's, where there is a girls' school. I wonder whether all the girls have gone to their homes. I expect they have. I think the Boers will soon find they are getting a little too bold and will begin to draw back. At least I hope so. I think unless we make a big blunder, they must have reached the end of their tether. It is getting a little hard to bear to see them visiting one after another of one's friends and carrying off all their cattle and horses. They have been to the Woodgates, where we stayed, and where we climbed Tafel Kop. I see his brother, Colonel Woodgate, is coming out as brigadier of a brigade in the new division which Sir Charles Warren is to command.
Tuesday, Nov. 21.--Nothing much new today. The weather yesterday and to-day has been intolerable--thundery, close, and damp heat, so that one was in a bath of perspiration all day long. Up to now we have been having it quite cold. I kept indoors most of the day. Twemlow came back and reported his experiences. He had reached Estcourt just too late to see the naval gun fired. He stayed with the Dublins, sleeping on a blanket on the floor of their warehouse mess, which he found very hard. He did what I did--rode round the outposts. But they put him on a horse which ran away with him, and he was in danger of being shot by our own men--if the horse had carried him into the Surrey lines he might have been. Gedge has decided that Twemlow shall go to Estcourt meanwhile--till the column starts--and that he, Gedge, will go to Mooi River, where there are now a good many troops. When they start, they may want a third--that is, a chaplain for each brigade. Then, to serve Maritzburg, he has telegraphed at my suggestion to Thompson, from Johannesburg, who is now in Durban, and he is inclined to accept.
Wednesday, Nov. 22.--This morning we hear that the Boers have cut the line this side of Estcourt. So I fear Twemlow will not be able to get to Estcourt according to Gedge's plan. They have raided all the farms and taken the line near Highlands Station. So Estcourt is invested as well as Ladysmith. It seems about time that we began to do something. I suppose they really will begin to act soon. Coming back from the Cathedral this morning before breakfast, I saw a lot of officers of the staff in what looked like heavy marching order, so perhaps some are already on the move. I see in the paper that the Boers have been to P. D. Symonds's farm, the Natal Stud Company, where there are a lot of valuable racehorses and stallions, and they have carried off £"15,000 worth.
An uneventful day. In the afternoon I visited the Legislative Buildings Hospital. The more one talks with the fellows who were wounded in the armoured train, the more wonderful it appears that any of them got away alive. I was talking to half-a-dozen of them this afternoon, all more or less badly wounded, one of them a railway man, whom I have met at Dundee, a platelayer who was in the train. He got crushed by the trucks turning over. There was Sergeant Todd, who helped to save Captain Wylie by placing him behind boulders after he was hit. There was one poor fellow who was hit by a piece of a shell in the thigh. It began spurting blood, an artery evidently having been cut. He said the one doctor who was with them came to stop the bleeding, and bound it up, though his hands were shaking all the time, as the shot and shell crashed and snapped all round them. It stopped a bit, and then the engine came along, and he was afraid it would go on and leave him to the Boers, so he struggled after it, and got hold of the buffer and dragged himself half on to the foot-plate, and so held on till they got to Frere, and in doing this burst his bandage, and the blood began to spurt again. One wonders how a man can live through that sort of thing. Danks is better, though not out yet. They are well looked after in the hospital. I found the officers eating strawberries and cream, with a rather pretty girl making tea for them. I don't know who she is, but she seems to have taken up the post of general consoler!
In the evening Captain and Mrs. Morgan came to dinner. Rather bold for me as a bachelor to be giving dinner-parties with two native servants. But they did well and we managed quite right. "Jeremiah" decorated the table as he had seen Miss Wood do it. I superintended the laying of the cloth, etc., as they cannot quite be trusted. We went up afterwards to sit on the verandah, but a slight rain began which drove us in. It has been awfully hot for three days, but the rain is now beginning to make things more tolerable. We still wait as patiently as we can for movement on the part of the troops. Meanwhile the Boers get more and more daring. To-day they have been shelling our camp at Mooi River, and looting considerably south of that, getting comparatively near to Maritzburg. They have visited the Dargle, which is a bicycle ride from here--you will remember my riding down from there.
Thursday, Nov. 23.--Still we wait. There are small skirmishes about, but nothing of any importance. The Dean came to luncheon, and Twemlow to meet Gedge. Twemlow is very happy at the prospect of getting to the front. I don't know if they will want me as well, but perhaps I may go and have a Sunday with them anyhow. Gedge and Twemlow have decided to start to-night for Mooi River, and Twemlow is to go on to Estcourt as soon as it is possible to get there. But I doubt if that can be till General Clery's whole column starts, as there seems little chance of our driving the Boers away till we take the offensive on a big scale.
In the afternoon Gedge and I took a walk round the Park on the way to the College Hospital. There I visited several in the big ward while Gedge went to the small wards. The first two I spoke to belonged to the 2nd Devon, the battalion in which Nell's friend Taylor is. They had only just got to the front, so it is quick work for them to be back here wounded. They had only been at Mooi River about two nights when they were shot at in the dark while they were on picket duty. Some Boers came into them in the dark and the officer of the picket called them to arms, and the voice showed the Boers where to aim, and they fired, with the result that one of these chaps was wounded in the hand and the side, and another was killed, shot through the lung. One of the men to whom I was talking came himself from Kentish Town and knew Lynd-hurst Hall. The other was a real Devon, and came from Exeter. The Kentish Town man was not wounded; he has a sprained ankle. At another place I found a man in Thorney-croft's Mounted Infantry who had been wounded in Sunday's fight about Mr. Turner's. He comes from Inverness, but his real home was Glenelg, where his father, Fraser, was schoolmaster. I felt quite a fellow-feeling for a man from Glenelg. Gedge left at 9.30 in a torrent of rain. So again silence reigns in this lonely house.
A Happy Christmas and New Year to you all in spite of all.