Scot, Monday, Feb. 26.--Woke with a bad headache again. This time over the right temple instead of the left as usual. It was very bad. I went to matins at St. Cyprian's and had breakfast with Johnson, but could hardly eat. Then after breakfast it began to work off a bit, though it left me shaky. After going to the Union Office about the ticket, and to the market to get a box of pineapples and bananas to take with me, I took a rickshaw for the Point at 10.15. Tug supposed to start at 11. Brooke Lambert came down also in a rickshaw to see me off, so my friends have played up well. I found Major Fortescue going also. He is one of the officers of Colonel Stuart Wortley's battalion with whom I stayed the night at Frere. His own regiment is the (3rd) 60th Rifles with which I was in Lyttelton's Brigade. He has had influenza and is ordered to the Cape for a change, so he is going just for the voyage and hopes then to be well enough to go back to the front. He, too, knows Dent, so we have foregathered and got places next to each other at table. I on the captain's left hand, a lady from the Cape and her husband, with whom I travelled in the same ship in 1893, being on his right. I have got the cabin next to the one in which I came out in 1893 and exactly corresponding to No. 1 in which I went home in 1897, only on the port side instead of the starboard. The ship sailed between 2 and 3 o'clock. There was a little motion, but not very much--only I was much afraid that my headache would make me seasick, however smooth it was. However, I was all right. In the night it got rough a bit, and once we shipped a big wave which came right into my porthole and hit me in the face and drenched my pillow; I was too sleepy to take much notice, and only turned the pillow and went to sleep again. I am none the worse so far for the damp bed. This never happened in either of my three voyages in the same cabins before, so I suppose for a moment or two it must have been pretty rough.
Tuesday, Feb. 27, Shrove Tuesday and Majuba Day.--We reached East London just at breakfast time, and there we got the news that Cronje had this very morning surrendered. We have, of course, been expecting it every day, but there is many a slip, and one is much relieved to know that it is a. fait accompli. We hope now that the tide has turned and will begin to flow in fast. In the evening the captain proposed the Queen's health and further success. We lay off East London all day. We neither of us went ashore, and we sailed about 10 p.m. or a little later.
Ash Wednesday, Feb. 28.--Reached Port Elizabeth about 10 a.m. I did not go ashore. It does not interest me, and I prefer the quiet and rest and opportunity for writing on board. So the day passed without much incident. We got papers giving particulars of the prisoners and guns taken at Paardeberg.
Off Port Elizabeth, Thursday, March 1.--News this morning that Ladysmith is relieved. We gave great cheers when a tug reported it, and the ships are dressing themselves with bunting. I only hope it is a true report. The first intimation we got was from a transport that was sailing out. As she passed she let off two or three rockets. As we watched the shore we saw through glasses large crowds of people gathering. And then the ships lying in the bay sent up their flags one after another, and a tug which came out told us it was true, and then at last our bunting went up too. Later on, the people who had been ashore came back--at luncheon time--and brought special slips of the newspapers, telling us that on Tuesday night--still Majuba Day--General Buller had gained Pieter's Hill, and with it practically the approach to Ladysmith, and that his forces had entered yesterday. It is an immense relief--how great you can hardly realize unless you have felt the continual strain of these checks we have suffered, and of the fear, not so much for the whole garrison (for we thought they could hold out), but for the sick, who had no proper remedies or food.
In the evening there were great demonstrations. We went up on to the boat deck, or rather the bridge above that again, and from there we had a fine sight of the whole illuminated town and the fireworks which were going up from all quarters--from the ships as well as from the shore. We ourselves joined in with signalling lights and rockets. We fired off a lot of explosive rockets which were really rather alarming, as they not only make a loud report when fired out of a mortar, but another bang when they explode in the air, and as some of them were out of condition they exploded at wrong times, some after they had fallen, and it would have been a little awkward if they had fallen on the deck. Then we retired to quiet life again. But some of our young men on board were so excited with the news that they kept up songs in the smoking room (which is close to my cabin) till past midnight. They sang very nicely, but it was bad for sleep.
Friday, March 2.--An uneventful day, lying in the anchorage. I wrote and read and played quoits and piquet at night. A lot of people came off to luncheon, the occasion evidently being the leaving of the company's agent, as I heard them proposing his health afterwards.
Saturday, March 3.--The tug came off with the passengers from here at 11, and we started punctually at 12. A brilliant day and fairly quiet sea, though a bit of a swell. Every hope that we may arrive early to-morrow, as the Scot is doing better than usual, seventeen knots an hour.
Sunday, March 4.--No suggestion of any service, partly with the view of arriving early, I suppose. I do not care to suggest it if no one else does. I never care about their having a service on purpose to please the clergyman. So we packed our things, and I had my matins quietly in my cabin. Strong head wind, so that we have not made as much progress as we hoped. Cape Hanglip in sight all the morning, and then, across False Bay, the Table Mountain range. But a curious mist making the view hazy.
We passed Cape Point about 2 or before, but from that point the whole land was entirely veiled in mist, and we saw nothing of the "Twelve Apostles." About 3 we steamed right into a bank of fog, and from that moment had to slow down, and as the fog only got thicker, to stop altogether, screaming with a fog-horn from time to time, a wheezy sound like a monster trying to scream in its dreams, and only very partially succeeding. It was very annoying, and we watched the wall of mist around us, hoping every moment that it would lift. It did once, and we saw the horizon. But no sooner had we got under way, and steamed about a mile, than into it we went again. There was no chance of making the entrance to Table Bay in this, especially as just now the Bay is crowded with transports. There are over a hundred, so there is very little room. There was also the possibility of an outward-bound ship bearing down on us, so we had to keep a sharp look-out and scream a good deal. Daylight dwindled until we knew that our chances of getting ashore to-night were gone. After dark, the fog cleared, and we steamed into the Bay, but a long way out, on account of the numerous ships. There we dropped anchor and went sadly to bed.
Monday, March 5.--At 6 we began to move. I went up on deck, as I always enjoy seeing the old mountain again. But to-day he was still quite invisible. We were inside, and moored alongside the dock by about 7; but it was no good going ashore without breakfast, so we had to wait till 8.30. Then there were no cabs at the wharf. So I went ashore and walked to meet a cab. I met none for so long (not till I was well out of the Docks) that I thought I might as well go on and do my business first, and so avoid having to put my luggage in the cloak-room. So I took a cab, when I got one, to Government House; then I went back to the dock and got my luggage and caught a train at 11 for Wynberg. As we turned into Mains Avenue I saw my wife on the Stoep, and my Mother with her and the baby. So I knew the house. Then I found that I was to stay at Highwick, so I took Cecil up into the cart, and we drove on. They had given me up, and thought I could not after all have come by the Scot. Tom has wonderfully advanced in his talking, and is evidently proud of the accomplishment. I did not see him at the time, because he was out with Miss Wood, but he came round with Mother soon after.
Cape Town, Wednesday, March 7.--After posting my diary I went to Government House to make sure that my pass to Kimberley was all right, and finding that, went on to see Mr. Dent at the Mount Nelson Hotel about our journey. We are arranging to start to-morrow night. I went back to Government House to luncheon, as Sir Alfred had invited me. There were several officers there. I sat next to him, and had a little chat, though, as he was very busy, I took my leave directly after luncheon, as did the others.
Thursday, March 8.--I went to buy things for the trip--some tinned meats in case we should have a difficulty in getting food, Kimberley being probably still a little short. I also bought a khaki jacket to ride in, as I had found my black rather too hot at the front before. Then I went to luncheon with Dent at the Mount Nelson. There are any number of smart London ladies about, and not a few loud people from Johannesburg, altogether a very unattractive lot. It is like London or Brighton. We sat at a table with the colonel and another officer of the South Wales Borderers (Militia), who is going to Kimberley to-morrow, so we may see him again. He offered us any hospitality he could give. After more purchases, I returned to the train. On my way back I got out at Rondebosch Station and called at Groot Schuur--Mr. Rhodes's house--as Lady Edward Cecil is there, and Walrond had told me she was kind enough to express a wish to see me. However, she was out, and so was Rhodes. Then dinner, and then Cecil and I drove to Kenilworth Station, where we said good-bye, and I went into town in good time to catch the 9 o'clock train for Kimberley. They had reserved us a compartment. A newspaper man came and asked to be allowed to have one of the berths in our carriage, but we demurred, and told him the compartment was reserved, and then he tried to get the conductor to give him a berth here. However, we were able to satisfy the man that the carriage was reserved, although he had not been told about it. A seasonable tip made things right, and we were not afraid of being disturbed again. We have had a fairly good night, but the first is always the worst, and it was very hot, so that we took a long time to get to sleep. We have laid in a good supply of literature, and we have various other comforts for the journey, as well as the very precious tea basket. So I think we shall do, even if we have to camp out.
Friday, March 9.--Breakfast at Matjesfontein. But it was not till 10 o'clock, and we had been expecting to get there a great deal earlier. However, we got a cup of indifferent coffee at Tows River. Luncheon was at Fraserburg Road. But as it was past 3 o'clock, and dinner at Victoria West would not be till after 10, I made this my dinner, and we made ourselves a very fair high tea with Mr. Dent's chocolate and milk. We had biscuits and potted meat. As I have often before described the Karoo I need not dwell on it again. It is a desolate region, calculated to send one into the blues if one were condemned to live there. And the whole day we were passing through it with its wide expanse of treeless flat, varied only by stony kopjes--no grass, but only the little tufts of bush. We settled in for sleep after a game of piquet.
Saturday, March 10.--An excellent night's sleep, but notwithstanding I have a threatening of headache. We had a long stop at De Aar, about 4 to 5 a.m., but I slept through most of the time, only getting up to go to the telegraph office to send a telegram to Archdeacon Holbeach, at Kimberley, to tell him I am arriving to-night. He would think it strange if he met me unwarned in the streets of Kimberley, and I also thought he would probably want me to preach to-morrow, after being shut up there for three months of siege. Breakfast was at Orange River. It is strange that the Boers never broke this splendid bridge over the great river. They had plenty of chances of doing so during the earlier days of the siege, before the troops from England arrived. From this point on there were more signs of war; encampments of our troops guarding the lines of communication at various points. We supposed we were going to get luncheon somewhere, but it turned out that we were left to our own resources. In the middle of the morning we came to Belmont, where there were many marks of shot and shell; the station buildings had suffered considerably. Behind the station, a little to the east, were the kopjes up which our men charged the Boers. In one way it is a worse country, and in another a better, than Natal. It has far less cover, being very smooth grass or karoo; but, on the other hand, the hills are not so high as those at Colenso and Dundee which we had to scale.
At Belmont there were some Munster Fusiliers and Engineers, and I had a little talk to a medical officer, and there one or two of the R. A.'s about the station. Then on again to Graspan, where also we could see the kopjes with their trenches from which the Boers were driven. I had started with the idea that we might be able to ride over all these positions, but I find the distances between all these various battlenelds are too great for us to be able to do this with the time at our disposal, and without our own ponies. But, on the other hand, short of actually going into the trenches, we can see it all pretty well from the train. Then about 2 or 3 o'clock we came to the Modder River. Here the bridge had been broken down, though it is nearly complete again. The train, however, still goes down a steep cutting to nearly the level of the river, and then crosses on a temporary bridge built on heaps of stones. I was surprised to find the country so flat. I had expected it to be more like the Tugela at Colenso, but it is very different. Instead of the hills which frown down on the river here, there is a very gradual slope, and except for the river banks themselves there is very little cover. It was not easy to tell from the train where the Modder River battle ended and where the Magersfontein one began. But perhaps we may get a chance of a closer view before we leave.
Our long journey of forty-four hours came to an end at 5. At the station we found the good Archdeacon, so I did well to telegraph to him, as otherwise we should have been rather at a loss as to what to do. However, the Archdeacon drove on to the club to find out'whether they could take us there, and as soon as we could get a cart we followed. It seemed that the Union Company's agent had also telegraphed to the club on our behalf, and when the secretary understood that we were the people referred to in the wire, he gave us the two last rooms. The whole place is just seething with officers, and we are lucky to have a place to lie down in.
Then I went off with the Archdeacon to Evensong, which was then in progress. The church showed very vivid signs of the siege. A shell had passed through the roof just where it joined the wall-plate, and had burst by the concussion, and the fragments had made holes in every direction through the west wall, cutting large bits of the wood and iron. They had a daily service of intercession during the siege, at 12, and they came out at 12.30, and this shell entered at i o'clock. Then we passed a house in the main road that had been burnt down by a fire ignited by a shell. The Archdeacon had passed the spot only a few yards when this shell fell. It is marvellous, when one hears the number of narrow escapes, that not more were killed. A woman had her head blown off just outside the club, and in the hole which the shell made in the ground some vegetation has already begun to spring up in the midst of the hard pavement. There is a big hole in a photographer's wall just opposite here where a shell went through, and parts of it knocked the cross off the Roman church which is next door here, and broke part of the balustrade of the club verandah. After a most delightful bath we had dinner. The Judge, Mr. Justice Hopley, asked us all to dinner, and the party included Admiral Maxse and a Canadian Surgeon-Colonel. I was very glad to meet the Admiral, as I was so much interested in his clever daughter, Lady Edward Cecil. I sat next to him at dinner, and found him a very interesting old gentleman. We smoked our cigars on the verandah where the shell had struck, and enjoyed a very pleasant chat.