Durban, Thursday, Dec. 21 (St. Thomas's Day).--Went to Durban at 8.45 with Johnson for the opening of the new Church of St. Thomas this evening. Arrived at 1.30 and had luncheon at the club. Read the papers and then drove up with Mrs. Dale to the Berea. We called at the church, where they are working up to the very last moment to be ready. As a matter of fact the electric light was connected about 7.15 for the service at 7.30, which was running it as fine as they could. I preached to a crowded congregation, and there were a fair number of clergy present--Archdeacons Hammick and Temple (refugee from the Transvaal), Goodwin, Bromilow, W. Bibby, and Jones. I preached without the help of such glow as makes preaching a pleasure, but all the same the serious nature of the times through which we are passing saves any service and sermon from -being altogether dull and commonplace. I think they listened with a sense of reality in the words, which is something. They all knew that I had just come from the front and had been burying their own friends.
Maritzburg, Saturday, Dec. 23.--I went in to see the new batch of wounded men in the Volunteer Hospital. They were mostly doing well, all indeed. That is one comfort, that so many of these Mauser bullet wounds are very slight. It is curious what sort of people one finds among the privates in these irregular corps. There were five fellows sitting together on the bed of one of them--who had all been in one tent at the front--several of them gentlemen, and two or three of them old schoolfellows from St. Andrew's, Grahamstown, the diocesan school there. One of them was a great elephant hunter, and had come down from Portuguese territory to the Transvaal, not knowing that there was war. He had been promptly arrested and put over the border, and then had joined Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry. My friend Tylor, the man who had been at Magdalen and Leeds Clergy School, is getting on well; so now I think we may hope he is going to live. I am to have a Celebration for them on Christmas morning.
Sunday, Dec. 24.--Holy Communion at the Garrison Church at 8. At 11 I had to institute and induct Mr. Gardner to St. Peter's. After the second lesson I went in front of the altar and invited the prayers of the congregation for him, and then he made his declarations and I read his licence and then after more prayers the service proceeded. I preached on the strange Christmas we were having this year, and showed that the comings of Christ were to be progressive, and that this year He came to us not in the old way of our childhood with the holly and the ivy and the Christmas-tree, but from the battlefield and the big guns and the bloodshed and the desolated homes, showing us that all this was not strange to Him, but that it was through bloodshed that He bought us the peace which is the proclamation of the Herald Angels. I feel that everyone thinks more seriously just now: may the thoughts remain.
The Governor and Brooke were there. Afterwards H. E. stopped me in the churchyard and asked me to present Mr. Gardner, and invited me to luncheon to meet Mr. Winston Churchill, who arrived here last night after his escape from Pretoria. I was glad to meet him after all I had heard in his praise from the wounded men. It seems there was one particular moment when the sentries happened to be in a position in which neither of them could see a particular angle of the wall, and that was his chance. But it did not occur again, and so two other officers, who were to have joined him, and for whom he waited an hour or more in Meyers's garden, did not get away. From the prison (which was the racecourse) he walked through the streets of Pretoria without disguise, and then got away by means of goods trains: sometimes walking, sometimes riding. He got on to them in the dark while in motion or in a siding, and waited till they went on. He was nine days on the road from Pretoria to Delagoa Bay. He will have grand material for a book, which ought to be as exciting as one of Anthony Hope's or Stanley Weyman's, with the additional advantage of being true. Captain Percy Scott of the "Terrible," the Commandant of Durban, was also at luncheon. I had not met him before.
Monday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day.--A strange Christmas, with half the place in the hands of the enemy and half the people either mourning lost ones or anxious as to those who are shut up. I went down to the Legislative Building at 8, as Leary had arranged for a Celebration of Holy Communion. It was a doubtful experiment, as so few of these fellows are likely to be communicants. However, a fair number came, and of them about ten communicated, including two nurses. I gave a very short address at ii. I preached at St. Saviour's, Mr. Banks from the Transvaal acting as my chaplain. In the afternoon I went down to the Orphanage really to see a Miss Saunders, a new worker who has lately joined the Sisters. She was a "Grey Lady" from Blackheath, and was commended to me by the Bishop of Southwark. But I was glad I had gone down on this day, as the children were all having their Christmas-tree and entertainment, and toys were galore. It really seemed a little like Christmas, which it had not done before. Another English mail came in yesterday, so that we have had three within one week: this is annoying, as one gets into arrears with the papers, and then we have a long gap again before the next comes. This afternoon Sir Charles Warren is expected, and I am going up to meet him. . . .
He and a large staff arrived about 7. As there was some difficulty in finding quarters for all his staff, and as one of them, Major Capper, is a great friend of Heath's, I asked him to come and stay here, which he was glad to do. I was sorry that we had no kind of Christmas dinner. However, he was glad to get a comfortable bedroom and night's rest, as they had been rattled about up to De Aar and back again to Cape Town, and then round here. It was a hot day, but a pleasant evening on the verandah, and we smoked and discussed the situation and all possible methods of circumventing these Boers. But all agree that we have got a very hard nut to crack to get at Ladysmith.
Tuesday, Dec. 26.--There is a great lull in all the excitement, and I don't think I shall have much to record for the next few days (I am now writing on Friday, and there has been little of moment all the week). The several forces--Buller's here, Gatacre's at Stormberg, and Lord Methuen's at Modder River--seem all lying on their oars till fresh reinforcements come. I have visited the hospitals once or twice. The young fellow who had his leg off is doing well, and I should hope all danger of mortification setting in above the amputation is now past. I gave a look in, too, to the officers who are in the cavalry mess. They are getting on well, though some of the wounds are rather bad.
Thursday, Dec. 28.--I sent a telegram of birthday wishes for my boy Tom, three years old to-day. Most startling was the news of Mr. Escombe's death. It seems he died quite suddenly of heart disease. He is a great loss to the Colony, one of the most able men we have. No one, I think, had any idea that he was at all delicate. He looked a very strong man, and one would have said that he had many years of life and work before him. I would have gone down to the funeral if I had known in time. I see that the Bishop of Pretoria buried him. The Bishop's son married Escombe's daughter. I have had a busy week, with a great deal to write for the Diocesan Magazine and Church News, and all the house-bills to pay.
Friday, Dec. 29.--I had a call this afternoon from Mr. Babington Smith, who came to me with an introduction from St. Clair Donaldson. He is in the Treasury, and is out here on Natal's financial business. I telegraphed to Prior this morning, to see how he is situated with regard to Sunday, as now that all Sir Charles Warren's Division is at Estcourt they need more help. But I have no reply from him, and, as I am engaged to give a "Straight Talk" to the Y.M.C.A., I am afraid it is now too late to make any alteration for this week. So Prior must do the best he can, and if the troops are still there next week perhaps I shall go up.
Saturday, Dec. 30.--The usual round of Saturday letters and sermons. In the afternoon I bicycled out for a little exercise, and, overtaking Major Heath and Mr. Munro, his junior, on horseback, I accompanied them for some distance till the hill got too steep. And then it began to rain, so I scorched home, a thing which the Spectator said a Bishop should not do! The English mail, which was promised us by the newspapers yesterday, has not come.
Sunday, Dec. 31.--Mr. Thompson, the acting-chaplain, came in last night to say he was not well, and asking me to celebrate for him, which I did this morning. At 11 I went to St. Peter's, where the new incumbent, Mr. Gardner, was preaching. I was glad to have the opportunity of hearing him. In the afternoon I gave my "Straight Talk" at the Y.M.C.A. Mr. Bale, the Attorney-General, took the chair. It is exactly a year ago to-day since I gave the last, when Colonel Hay was presiding, only that was Jan. 1 instead of Dec. 31.
Monday, Jan. 1, 1900.--I can't think how people pass from 1800 to 1900 so calmly. They say it is only a number, and that one day is very like another. I don't agree a bit. It seems to me a stupendous thing to have done for ever with the 1800s which we and our fathers and our grandfathers wrote, and to have begun that new and undiscovered tract of the 19003s I went to early service at 7 at the Cathedral, and prayed for a new-century frame of mind. Then back to breakfast and a not very eventful day. The town seems quite deserted, everyone being-out, I suppose, on picnics. It makes one feel a little bit of a humbug for people at home to be writing about the terrible distress and anxiety of Natal and all that we are suffering, when one looks out of window and sees brakes of holiday-makers starting out for a day in the country. All seems to have gone on just as if there were no Boers in Grobler's Kloof. At the same time I cannot help feeling there is something almost indecent in taking holiday and enjoying oneself, when there are so many who have just laid down their lives and so many more who are going to do so. In the afternoon I went to the College Hospital, which is full up again since Colenso. The majority of the wounded men are from the Irish Brigade. They had it hottest of all--the Connaught Rangers, the Dublin Fusiliers, the Irish Fusiliers. But there are plenty of the Devons and the Queen's (West Surrey) and others, and several of the men of the ill-fated batteries which were taken, the 14th and the 66th. I took them up some papers which have been sent me from St. Luke's Mission. Then General Wolfe Murray came to tea with Heath, and they went for a ride.
Tuesday, Jan. 2.--Last evening, at last, we got the mail which the newspapers had promised us last Friday, and even then only the letters, not the papers. In the afternoon I visited the hospital again--the camp one this time. But the camp is full of hospitals, half the ordinary barrack rooms being turned into hospitals, so that one can only visit two or three wards at a time.
I had a nice lot of papers sent me from one of the bookshops here for the men, and I took a certain number up to-day. The wounds in some cases are very remarkable. There was one man hit in the side of the head, and the bullet is supposed to be there still, in his brain, as one would think, yet he seems happy. There was another who was hit just above the hip, and the bullet was found just under the skin above the breast-bone on the other side. He has the bullet, and he shows you the dark mark where the bullet was lodged in him. It must have been a spent one, or it would have gone clean through. It is a wonder that it missed all vital organs. From all accounts the men behaved splendidly, marching as steadily through that awful fire-zone as on parade. Some of the men, I was told, were put under arrest for leaving the ranks, and the reason was that they would go and pick up bits of shell to keep, while shot and shell were raining on them--dear innocents! One of the wounded men yesterday told me that after he was hit in the leg a Boer came down and rode over him, the horse standing on his damaged leg and grazing the other. He did not blame the Boer, however, as "he thought he did not see him"! And then they came and took off all his clothes--boots and all--and left him in the blistering sun naked. They hurt him considerably in taking off his boot.
Wednesday, Jan. 3.--In the afternoon I visited the hospital again. There are now so many wards all over the place that it takes a long time to get round them all, and I have not done so yet. It is not very much one can do where the men are all so close together and there is no privacy. No wonder they are a bit shy of talking about any but ordinary affairs. I should be so myself. I took a lot of literature that has been sent me.
Thursday, Jan. 4.--Major Heath started directly after breakfast, by train, but taking his pony, too, to ride the rest of the way, the Grey-town railway being open only as far as New Hanover. I had been planning a Sunday at Richmond, having nothing specially to keep me here. But a telegram came to-day from Gedge asking if I would help Hill this Sunday at Frere. That is not quite the front, as it is five or six miles from Chieveley. But it is pretty near. I have telegraphed to say I will, and have wired to put off the Richmond plan. I don't know whether the battle is very near. If it is I may perhaps stay for it. Mr. Hill telegraphs to say that General Lyttelton will entertain me, which is very kind, and saves me from troubling about how to get rations. I shall borrow Major Heath's camp-bed and other utensils. I hope to start on Saturday morning.
Friday, Jan. 5.--I was busy getting various things for my trip, and in case I should stay on I am taking a few more things than last time. This morning I have set Jeremiah to pick as many of our grapes as he can find ripe enough, with a view to taking them up to the hospital if there are enough. He has come in with quite a large basket full. Our vines are doing well this year--a tremendous quantity of grapes, but very few are ripe yet. I am afraid when they are, they will be stolen by all the small boys of the neighbourhood, for they hang so close to the road as to be a sore temptation!