Nottingham Road, Friday, Dec. 1.--Major Heath kindly went over to the Brigade Office before breakfast to get me a warrant, which means a free ticket by the railway. I have left the two native boys to take care of my guest. I hope they will. One of them, Harli, wants to go. I objected, as I had raised his wages on condition that he should stay; but his old mistress has written to say he wants to go back to her, and as one of my old boys has turned up and says he wants to come back to me in three weeks' time, it works out all right. I started at 8.45, though the train was really later. The station was very busy with the arrival of the Connaught Rangers (drawn up outside) and another battalion of the Dublin Fusiliers. These form part of the Irish Brigade (the 7th, I think), which is to be under General Hart. Meanwhile these seem to be stopping in Maritzburg.
I travelled with Mr. Hill, the newly arrived chaplain. We had a compartment to ourselves. Major Gardner, who was in the next carriage, joined us part of the time. He is going up to Hidcot, to Lloyd's Farm, to see in what state it has been left since the Boers occupied it. This was where the Willow Grange fight was last week. At Hilton Road we talked to a sergeant of the South African Light Horse. This is another irregular regiment which has been raised at Cape Town from Uitlanders and others. They have sent them on here, presumably because we are so short of mounted men. They are at Hilton Road just now, but some of them (one squadron, I think) are marching to-day as far as Balgowan. We passed them soon after at Dargle Road. They wear the regulation khaki which regulars and Volunteers alike are fitted with. But in their slouch hats they have black cockfeathers.
At Nottingham Road I found there was time to go on to Mooi River, have an hour and ten minutes there, and come back here by 3 o'clock. So I did this. Hill and I walked up the hill to General Lyttelton's tent, and I explained to him that I had been put into orders as acting-chaplain to his brigade, but that Mr. Hill had turned up unexpectedly and cut me out. I found him at lunch with three staff officers in a little wood and iron house close to their tents: whether put up on purpose or happening to be there I don't know, but probably the latter. He seemed to think there might still be work enough for both of us if I liked to stay, but I told him it had been arranged that I should go to Nottingham Road for this Sunday. So then we went back to the station and had luncheon at the hotel, and then I got the down train at 2.10 and reached Nottingham Road again at 2.50.
I went to call on the Colonel of the Somerset Light Infantry. He is Colonel Gallwey, brother of the Colonel Gallwey, R.A.M.C., who is living next door to me in Maritzburg, and cousin of Sir Michael, the Chief Justice. He introduced me to his adjutant, Captain Swayne, and we fixed up the hour of service to-morrow. And I found he had already been arranging about hymns; they have something of a band, and he had got hold of a certain number of books--many more than we had either at Estcourt or Dundee. Then I asked him to let me know if there would be any communicants if I had a service at 7.30 in the hotel. He promised to find out, and later on he sent me word that there would be three at the least. Then the Colonel and I walked up to the cricket ground, where the regiment was playing a match against the farmers. The latter have been called out as scouts for the last fortnight and have to-day been disbanded for the present by the General's orders, so as to allow them to look after their farms till they are wanted again. I met several I knew. They are really as useful as any, as they are, like the Boers, good riders, good shots, and know the country. I find this regiment, the Somerset Light Infantry, came out on the "Briton." They won their match by ten runs.
Advent Sunday, Dec. 3.--I had arranged for Holy Communion in a sitting-room of the hotel. About a dozen officers and men turned up, so that with Mrs. Tucker and young Mitchell-Innes (who lives at Elandslaagte and is also a refugee) the little room was crammed. We had arranged for the church parade to be ii. I suggested that the sun might be rather powerful then, but they did not think it would matter, and it gave the country people round the chance of coming in. I woke this morning with a sore eye and a threatening of headache. I robed in the Colonel's tent, and then walked to the three-sided square they had formed with drums in the middle. The sun was so strong that I wore my white sun helmet all through the service. Even so the bright light made my sore eye water badly. I had to hold my hand in front of it part of the time. The service went well--there was a large muster of men and some ten or a dozen civilians. I preached from the Epistle for the day,. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand," etc. We had two hymns, and finished up with "God save the Queen." My eye was so sore that I let one of the medical officers look at it. He put in a cocaine tabloid and put on a wet pad and a bandage, so I went away looking as if I had been in action.
One of the men came up to me directly after service, and asked if I would hold an evening service. I said I would gladly, if we could get the little Presbyterian chapel, which is the only place of worship here. (We use it alternately with them.) After luncheon two of the officers came to ask the same question. It was nice to find they wished it. So I went round to the adjutant and asked him to announce that it would be at 5.30. Then I went back to try and sleep, for my head was very bad and it was very hot. It was a nuisance to have a headache on what would otherwise have been so satisfactory a day. At 5.30, unfortunately, the band came to play in front of the hotel, which proved a counter-attraction to the service. Besides which, many of the officers and civilians had not heard of the service. Still, in spite of all this, the little chapel was quite full, about fifty soldiers turning up, not a single woman or civilian. We had three hymns which I started, and I preached from the second lesson, on our Lord's washing the Disciples' feet.
Then I came back and chatted with some of the men, who were sitting in scores on the grass in front of the hotel listening to the band. I am very glad I came up, seeing the way the men responded.
Monday, Dec. 4.--After breakfast, went round to the hospital tents. But very few of them were inhabited. The South African Light Horse moved on this morning, but left two of their number in hospital, and there were five of the Somersets. None very bad. They send all they can off to Maritzburg. It is wet this morning, and having to walk through long grass to the tents made it necessary to get shoes and gaiters dried before the return journey.
Luncheon in the hotel, and then at 2.45 started back to Maritzburg. Just before we started an up train arrived, carrying a detachment of naval men from H.M.S. Terrible with four guns. I spoke to one of the officers. It is rumoured that General Duller starts to-night, which means, if true, that there will be a big battle very soon. I found out afterwards that it is not quite true. His baggage is going up, but he not yet. However, I fancy nearly all the troops have arrived now. I had the carriage to myself nearly all the way down. Wet all day. Arriving at home, I found that Major Heath had got on all right in my absence. There were letters waiting for me.