Tuesday, March 13.--Started at 11 a.m. for another two days in the train. It is tedious -enough, and I need not weary you with it. We had our compartment to ourselves and got through the two days very comfortably. I wrote the whole of my letter for the Magazine--ten pages of close typewriting. We played piquet of an evening, and read a great deal and smoked, and ate grapes and otherwise varied the monotony, and your invaluable tea basket played a considerable part. The refreshment rooms on the Cape line are thoroughly inferior, and sometimes we made our own luncheon instead of going to them. I brought a basket of grapes from Highwick which lasted out the whole week, the last of them being eaten on Wednesday night. Troops in small numbers at many parts of the journey. Reached Cape Town (or rather, Salt River Junction, just outside it) at 8 on Thursday.
Thursday, March 15.--Got home just after their breakfast, but not too late to get some. Sorry to find that my two small boys have both been poorly--the baby specially with bronchitis. In the middle of the morning I got a telegram from the D.A.A.G., offering us passages in the Servia to-morrow--most annoying. This is the second offer of a transport which would have saved us a good deal of expense, and we cannot accept it because of the babies. I went into town in the middle of the day, and made another effort to see Lady Edward Cecil at Groot Schuur, as her father the Admiral had charged me with a letter to her, and then went into town, as she was out, for luncheon, and to see the D.A.A.G., and explain why we could not go by the Servia.
Cape Town, Saturday, March 17.--Went to Kalk Bay to see the Archbishop, who is staying there. We had a long talk over various matters of importance, and then luncheon, at which his younger boy joined us, who has been appointed to the Doris (flagship) as a midshipman. Then I went round to my cousin, who had asked me to go fishing with him on the rocks. I put on disreputable costume--khaki jacket and black trousers--and we sallied forth. However, it was very rough, and I found one could not do much unless one was prepared to get wet from head to foot and plunge into the breakers, and as I had to travel back by train I could not manage this, so I left him to do most of it. His brother-in-law caught a young whale--about 80 lb. weight I should think. They call it steem-brass, or some such name. It is a thing very like the conventional fish made in china! After about an hour of this I returned, sitting next to Sir Henry de Villiers, the Chief Justice, with whom I had a few words.
Thursday, March 22.--Yesterday afternoon I went down to the Docks to say good-bye to Mr. Dent on the Norman. There was an awful crowd, but I succeeded in finding him after a search. I gave him a letter to Nell, as he was kind enough to offer to look through the proofs of the Diary to be published. I was also able to introduce him to Mr. Babington Smith, who came out from the Treasury to advise the Natal Government, and brought a letter of introduction to me from St. Clair Donaldson. His wife is a daughter of Lord Elgin; I used to know her mother in the old St. Andrew's days. Cecil Rhodes went by the same steamer, so of course there was a crowd of jingoes to cheer him. After saying good-bye I went off to do some business in town, and then returned to Kenilworth. There seems no immediate chance of our being able to embark, the doctor shaking his head even as to our chances next week. I fear I must not stay beyond that. To-day I have been sketching in the drive--much the same view as that of which you have a sketch, only to-day the mountain was in a haze, which I thought rather effective, but found that it did not look so in my picture when I brought it into the house. There was more haze than mountain. So I must wait for another day and make it a bit more definite, which means practically repainting it.
Friday, March 23.--The second time I have spent a birthday at Highwick, though I did not expect to be here so long this time. The uncle, as usual, kindly added to my library by giving me two volumes--Adam Smith's "Historical Geography of the Holy Land" and Boyd Carpenter's "Bampton Lectures." Mother gave me Steevens's "From Cape Town to Lady-smith." I sent a telegram of good wishes to Sir Alfred Milner, and got a reply wishing many happy returns to his twin. In the afternoon I went to the Wynberg Hospital to inquire for one of the Seaforth Highlanders--not expecting to find him as they told me that he had probably rejoined his regiment long before this. But he was there, having gone out of hospital and come back again. He was wounded in one leg and afterwards got water in the knee of the other.
After visiting Magersfontein it was rather interesting to see a man who had fought there. He tells me that he and his lot were actually through the Boer trenches in the dark before they knew where they were. I cannot quite understand this, as where I saw them the trenches were continuous, and a man could not get beyond them without falling into them--and that he clearly did not do. But I suppose further on than where I was there must be a gap. This was just before it got light, and it is a marvel that any of them got back again, and indeed from his account very few of them did so. He was wounded when he got across the trenches again and fell within very short range of the trench. Then he had to watch his chance of getting away. Whenever one of our guns fired the Boers in the trenches ducked their heads, and then was his chance. He got up and made a short rush for some twenty yards and dropped again until another such chance, and so by degrees got back out of their range--this with a wounded leg must have been a hard job, and the worst of it was that our shells were killing our own men. One can quite understand how this happened, as at Belmont and Graspan we had had to drive the Boers out of the high kopjes, and no doubt we jumped to the conclusion that we should have the same task at Magersfontein. They did not know that here it was not the top of the kopjes but the bottom that was intrenched, and that the trenches were continued out into the plain a long way to the east of the end of the kopjes. The different battalions seem to have been quite mixed up in the dark. The Black Watch were supposed to be in the front line, but the Seaforths were among them. These night attacks are very risky things except with very small bodies of men on positions which have been thoroughly reconnoitred in the daytime. I could not paint to-day, as it has been what they call here a "Black South-Easter," and the mountain has been in cloud all day.
Saturday, March 24.--Again the "South-Easter "and no painting. In the afternoon I paid another visit to the hospital, and saw a lot of interesting cases--men from all parts of the globe--Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. They were all nice fellows and very ready to talk about the war and their experiences and feelings. Many of them had been hit at Paardeberg. And then I found one man of the Scottish Rifles (Cameronians) who had been with the 4th Brigade, and so had marched and bivouacked with me when I was with that Brigade. His eyes quite twinkled with interest when he found I had been with them. It certainly is useful in the way of putting one into touch with the men. We talked over our night march to Pretorius' Farm and the sleep on the wet grass and the view from the top of Spearman's Hill as of a promised land from another Pisgah, and the bombardment of the Boer trenches, and the attack on Spion Kop, in which his battalion performed the brilliant feat of getting up the steep and almost precipitous side of that mountain.
One of the Canadians had lost his leg in the last and successful approach to the Boers at Paardeberg. You will have read of how, in the early morning of the 27th February (Majuba Day), the Canadians distinguished themselves by sapping up to within eighty yards of the Boer trenches. He tells me they did more: one of their officers thought they might get closer still, so they advanced again to within about thirty yards, but unfortunately in doing so some one kicked against some empty tins and made a noise, and this at once brought a volley from the enemy in which several of their men fell. He was not hit then, but the officer saw that they were a bit too. near to be able to work at the trenches and so ordered them to fall back to the previous line, and he stooped down into the trench to get his rifle and in getting up was shot at close quarters in the knee, which was so smashed that the leg had to be amputated. But the work they had done in creeping up so close and holding the Boers while the Engineers sapped behind them was the last straw which broke the back of Cronje's resistance, and when daylight came they had the satisfaction of seeing the white flag hoisted and an end put to the pitiful and useless waste of life which had been going on for ten days. It must do wonders in consolidating the Empire for these Colonial Volunteers to be working side by side in healthy competition with our regular troops and thus holding their own. It gives them a new self-respect and a new sense of brotherhood. And all of them--Canadians, and Australians, and New Zealanders--are looking forward tremendously to a visit to England when this is over.
Sunday, March 25.--Went to early Celebration at Claremont; at 11 Cecil and I went to Wynberg Church. It was rather wet and yet close. I am getting a very idle time. I don't think many people know that I am here, so that I have managed so far to escape requests for sermons. In the afternoon I went again to the hospital and went round four or five more wards. I found one more from "my" battalion--a young fellow of the Durham Light Infantry. Then I saw several of the Boer prisoners who are wounded. One of them had been at Ladysmith and had come round by train to reinforce Cronje, but had never reached him, having been engaged by some of our troops before they could join hands. He had been also in the trenches round Potgieter's and at the battle of Spion Kop, though his regular position was on Lombard's Kop. They must have brought nearly all their men down from Lady-smith to oppose us at Spion Kop and Vaal Kranz, which makes one feel, what struck me at the time, that our garrison at Ladysmith might have ventured a little more in the way of cooperation during those battles. His description of Spion Kop makes it all the harder to understand why we had to fall back there. He says they (the Boers) had to climb to the top of the hill to oppose us there, and it was only the mist on the hill that enabled them to do it, and that they had no trenches on the top, but were merely firing from behind stones. If so, why were we driven back? We ought to have been a match for them at that sort of game where the conditions were so equal. Certainly it was their artillery that chiefly compelled us to fall back. I am so sorry that I am away from Natal just now, when we might have had chances of talking it over with those who were there, and perhaps of visiting the spot to see for ourselves just where the respective forces were.
Monday, March 26.--Raining, and mountain in cloud all day, so that no sketching was possible. I wrote and read all the morning, and in the afternoon went again to the hospital, and lent Wilson the book which Mother gave me for my birthday, and which I have already read through, Steevens's last work--"From Cape Town to Ladysmith." Then I went to the men's wards and saw a certain number, a few, here and there, from Natal.
Tuesday, March 27.--A brilliant day after the rain, and I was able to go on with my sketch of the mountain--the same point of view as the one at home. Then I went to luncheon with the Coadjutor Bishop (Gibson). I am booking him for our Synod, when we are to have special services and meetings in connection with the Bi-centenary of the S.P.G. He is a very keen missionary, and will preach and speak well for this object. I shall see if I can take him over some of the battlefields, and so to Troughton's mission, which is not far from Potgieter's, and between that and Ladysmith. Then I went on to town and did some shopping. There was a meeting to present an address to Sir George White before his departure to-morrow.