I don't know whether this letter will ever reach you, but I shall post it as usual in hopes that it may, although I am writing in all the din of the warning of an attack. I think however, by God's mercy, we are all safe and well defended. Meanwhile, railway lines are torn up and wires cut, and everywhere we hear of atrocities around us. We are cut off from north and south at present, but I do hope that won't last more than a week or two. The Town Hall is a laager for women and children--possibly we may have to sleep there in the course of a week. I heard from A. (her sister-in-law) a few days ago; the last letter I expect for long enough. She said they were all well and she hoped safe.
The Boers had commandeered H. (her brother).
If this letter ever reaches you, it will be long after you know all. I shall go on writing every week, for I can't help hoping that runners may take letters sometimes, and as soon as I can I shall cable if there is anything to say.
Meanwhile, this is all the good-bye I can give you, perhaps, for many weeks. Do not think we are either of us anything but safe.
H. is a Free State Burgher as well as a British subject, and I am safe as a nurse as well as a Sister. The time of war will probably be very short.
October 23d.--Here is the tenth day in a beleaguered city. The time has seemed horribly dull and long, with no telegrams, no letters, and very little news. We are constantly hearing rumours which are contradicted the next day. All the smaller places round have surrendered to the Boers without resistance. . . . Mafeking, which is really the key to the north, is making a noble stand, but one cannot but greatly fear. As I write Mr. Judge has come to give us news of a great victory in Natal.
The Boers are constantly coming round us here, approaching as if they meant to attack, and then withdrawing; but we have 4000 men, laagers prepared, forts built all round, guns, shells, maxims, everywhere. Just in front of our windows is the look-out; it is built on the top of the big hauling gear of the mine, and not so very much lower than the high chimney of the main shaft near it. The great red danger signal floats from it, and very often indeed a little blue flag, which shows the Colonel is there, too. All day men are standing there with telescopes, incessantly looking first to one side, then another, and I believe the searchlights which rake the country for miles every night are directed from there too. Of course the place is under martial law; new courts are formed, and are all day trying offenders against the Colonel's proclamations--for using water for gardens, for trying to enter the place or leave it without a pass, for having an unregistered weapon.
So far water is holding out well, I believe; it is only turned on for two hours a day, and we have had a couple of showers.
One great thing martial law has done. As soon as ever there was a chance of scarcity, and no more provisions could get in, shopkeepers began to make capital out of other people's sorrows; paraffin rose in one day from 16s. 6d. per ten gallons to £3, and everything else in proportion. In two days' time there was a proclamation fixing the price of all necessaries.
I forgot last week, in all the din and screeching and galloping and tramping as the Boers came on, to tell you that our last Free State wires told of the death of our poor Bishop at Maseru. It seems a lonely death, but he is taken away from all the sorrow that war brings in its wake, especially civil war. . . .
We are all well and fairly comfortable, with plenty to eat and drink. Of course, there is no news of H., but he can easier get letters to you than to me. I expect he is all safe, but I doubt if they have anything left but the clothes they stand upright in.
November 5th.--Here we are, still shut up--three weeks to-day. I do so hope you have got the cablegram I sent last Monday telling you we were safe, and asking you to write to Miss Watkins' relations at Nailsworth, telling them. Being under strict martial law, the town is wonderfully quiet; no one is allowed out of doors without a special pass, except between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. All shops and bars and restaurants are closed at 5.30, and when the hooters and whistles go everyone has to go to their homes. The whole town is fortified. Three days running now the hooters have sounded for an expected attack.
The other day I was watching our men returning after they had routed the Boers in a skirmish. First the troops, looking pale and exhausted enough; then the wounded, ambulance after ambulance; then the covered carts with the dead. But our losses hitherto have only been ten or twelve men--nothing compared to the awful bloodshed in Natal.
Of course water is allowanced; it was from the first. Then meat was allowanced; our butcher alone has been accustomed to kill fifteen to seventeen oxen and forty to fifty sheep daily, he tells me; now only sixteen oxen are allowed to be slaughtered in the whole town. Of course butter has come to an end, but we still get two and a half pints of milk daily, which I carefully keep for tea. No white bread is allowed; all bread has to be two-thirds brown flour and one-third white. The health of the town would suffer if by-and-by in the extreme heat there was only coarse bread, and all the flour is exhausted. The Boers are all round us, and we expect to be shelled early to-morrow, but we have every hope of holding out. We have Mrs. Hutton and her baby here, from S. Augustine's parsonage. Their house with all their pretty things has to be left just as it is, except for the clothes they have brought away, and both house and Church will most likely be taken down; it is hard on them to leave their dear little home and garden and all their treasures, but they are thankful to be safe themselves. It is so hard to wait day after day expecting relief and day after day to pass without getting it. This is the twenty-second day, and they say we may be eighty days more. We go on all day just the same as usual, but the strain tells on one as the days go on. There are more cross words and offences taken in the house in a day now, than we generally had in a month. I pity the nurses in enforced idleness very much; few people can afford to have a nurse now. All the richer people are gone, and our country cases, of course, are out of reach. We are not wanted for the wounded at present, as they all go to the Hospital; in Natal they have enough of their own army nurses, and of course innumerable trained male nurses, so unless some great illness breaks out, which Heaven forbid, amongst the troops, we are not likely to be wanted for soldiers; but if we are .shut up much longer there must be a great deal of illness here, with all the crowding of refugees, the difficulty of sanitary matters, the bad and stale water, the insufficient food in many cases, and inferior food in all.
The behaviour of people is wonderfully good, chiefly, I think, because of the resolute and wise conduct of Col. Kekewich in all these municipal matters, and his great patience and gentleness in all private matters brought before him. A weak or wavering commander and the town would have gone mad.
There are plenty of noble actions on the part of our men. Many at Talana Hill gave their water to wounded Boers, and in a skirmish here the other day a gunner, wounded in the foot, a volunteer, went on at his maxim sponge until he dropped with loss of blood. A lad who was driving the gun, jumped off his seat and seized the sponge (which is attached to a heavy iron rod and thrust into the barrel of a maxim, soaked in water incessantly and drawn up and down just in the turn of the handle, partly to cool the gun and partly to clean it; it is so heavy that it is in practice looked on as work for the strongest men in the artillery). This lad of sixteen, who a year or two ago was an acolyte at S. Alban's, worked it until he fainted. ... It is easy to talk about war, but one feels what a horrible thing it is when one is in the midst of it; the streets full of armed men, maxims, ambulance wagons and gun-carriages going up and down; when one sees the wounded and the dead taken past, and when any moment might bring a shell on the roof; when one wakes up with a joyful surprise every morning that one has been kept safe through the night. Well, next week I hope we may have better news.
November 26th.--I have not written the last two Sundays, for it seemed no use accumulating letters at the Post Office, and indeed there is not much to say.
A siege is a terribly dull business, but we have good hopes now on the forty-third day of the siege that before another Sunday comes we may have been relieved. The loss to the enemy throughout the siege has been tremendous. They have sent over a thousand shells into the town, costing £10 each. I suppose they thought they did tremendous execution, for after two or three days of it they sent in to our Commander to offer him an eight hours' armistice to bury his dead. Absolutely no one and nothing had been hurt then. Since, however, a coloured woman has been killed in the street, and there have been marvellous escapes. A shell went bang into S. Cyprian's Church, and exploded just after people had gone out from the ordinary noonday service. Another exploded in a little room where a baby lay asleep, and it was not touched or scorched; another into the storeroom of a big hotel just after the housekeeper had gone out; all the tins and bottles burst with the concussion, and everything is mixed up. One of our Sisters was going home one day from Church when there had been no shelling for some hours, when someone screamed out: "Look out, forward, forward!" She flung herself forward, and the shell whizzed past just behind her. Poor thing! her nerves were quite shattered for a day or two.
Of course, we are absolutely without news from outside, either of our own people or the enemy. I do wish we could hear of H. The Archdeacon thinks they would take him to look after their wagons and horses, and clean their guns, and so on.
November 27th.--We have had a very nice newspaper this morning. A despatch rider has got in with news of the reinforcements being only some thirty miles off, but alas! Col. Keith Falconer and Mr. Wood both killed in a sortie; both such promising men and fine fellows. Some little English news (very depressing indeed with regard to the intentions of the Government in the future), and on the Boer prisoners bits of newspapers have been found, which of course give us news; most of them were Dutch papers giving accounts of more and more weariness of the war on the part of the Boers.
Sunday, December 3d.--Forty-ninth day of the siege. We have had a trying week. On Monday last the Boers planted a hundred-pounder over the town, and our brave fellows were all mad to go at it. On Tuesday afternoon some 750 cavalry went out; they took three redoubts, a large quantity of ammunition, destroyed a lot of food and brought in the limber of the big gun. They went up to the fourth redoubt, hoping to get the gun itself, when a perfect hail of bullets poured on them, darkness fell, and they were obliged to retire, bringing twenty-seven wounded along with them.
Col. Turner fell dead at almost the first shot; he was an immensely tall man of splendid presence. In the morning they went back for their remaining wounded, and found the Boers had been out and murdered them all. One man had forty bullets in him, many had eight and ten--twenty-four killed in a sortie. While I live I shall never forget seeing the three carts loaded with dead pass here about 1.30 p.m. in the awful heat and dust. They must have had terrible work at the Hospital, but by five the funeral passed, all in beautiful order, and although no one is allowed to water gardens and the heat is cruel, there were loads of flowers. Some few were Imperial soldiers, but the mass were our own townspeople, with their friends following the military part.
This week we are expecting an awful battle; they are preparing 500 beds for wounded. We are to take twenty in the Mission Hall . . . the officers tell me they may have to commandeer the Town Hall and the schoolrooms as well; they are bringing 400 trained nurses up with the Relief Column. A runner got in last night with the news they had crossed Modder River, and were coming slowly on, having had two big battles in the last few days, losing few of our men but with awful slaughter amongst the Boers. Lord Methuen has brought every instrument with him that science and art can make up.
Our food and water are holding out well; we still get beef daily, such as it is, and the reservoir is half full. We have in our stores some butter and tinned milk, but few people have, and there is plenty of jam, cocoa, tea and meal. The Commander stopped white bread very soon, and all cakes and biscuits are forbidden. The white flour is husbanded in every way for fear of dysentery in the town if there was only coarse flour. All necessary food has been commandeered from the shops and paid for, and is now sold out again at cost price to the store-keepers, who are only allowed to sell at fixed rates. Horses are only allowed a fixed rate of forage, hay, etc., and everyone who sells anything has to send in a complete register of his sales every day to the departmental officer.
No amusements are allowed except the teas and concerts the various officers give in the various forts. There are barricades to every road, and no one passes without a permit from headquarters. Major O'Gorman told me yesterday that three days after the town is relieved we may hope for mails and supplies, for as they come up they mend the lines and build redoubts every six miles, each one covering the next. Well, I hope this Advent Sunday is the last siege Sunday I shall ever know.
December 10th.--Fifty-seventh day of the siege. I have little more to tell you. Here we still are, with no news except a despatch from Mafeking, saying they are still bombarding the town, a hundred-pounder sending shells in constantly all day.
Food is getting fearfully short; no more food for horses is to be sold now. People can use what they have, and then run their cattle out on a public grazing ground, which is nothing but bare dust, under charge of the soldiers. All forage and mealies is wanted for soldiers' horses. Such numbers of children are dying for want of milk in the intense heat--indeed, it is very difficult to know what to give people. Meat is very scarce, so are all vegetables; fowls are from 6s. 6d. to 10 s. each; eggs also very scarce, 6d. each. Tinned milk is all taken over by the Colonel, and only given out tin by tin by a doctor's order.
December 12th.--I got so sleepy last Sunday night I had to stop. Yesterday morning heavy firing was heard from 4 a.m. to u--one continual roll--Lord Methuen's column shelling out the hills. Today there has been rifle firing all day, but we all fear it is more distant; but I trust not. There are hills between, the wind has shifted, and after all twelve miles is a long way to hear rifles. News has come in that we lost 450 men in crossing Modder River. There are all kinds of rumours; one persistent one is that all women and children will be sent south, and also that after relieving the town they will probably abandon the line again. So that, if we stay we may be shut up four or six months. If I have to leave I shall most likely come straight home, and bring S. with me. I shan't like leaving Africa, knowing nothing of the Alma people, but what can I do for them? And there is no good sponging on people in the Colony for months and then wanting to come home just when the war is over and I am wanted here. War is a fearful thing; the ruin and heartrending tragedies everywhere are dreadful indeed. Of course, our work is ruined, but I think we shall be free of debt, and so far we have had no real troubles to endure. Keeping house is difficult, but not impossible, and we have always abundance. If you get no letters after this for some months, you mustn't mind, but be sure I am all right, only shut up somewhere or other. We have been busy getting a place ready for wounded men, but the Army has made such enormous preparations that I don't think either it or we shall be wanted.
December 31st.--The last day of the year, the seventy-eighth of the siege, and no good news. I have been too much out of heart to write. Of course, you knew long before we did that with a loss of 830 killed and wounded . . . could not force the Spytfontein Kopjes. He had to go back to Modder River for water; otherwise I believe there would have been no retreat. Then the Stormberg range has been taken by the enemy, an almost impregnable fastness. However, during the last ten days, as far as we know, the Boers have made no advance anywhere.
Meanwhile, this town is in a sad state, although, thank God, our water still holds out; but the manager published a paper the other day in which he said they lost an average of 9,000,000 gallons a month from evaporation. One does not think of these things unless they are brought before one. People have opened, and are using, old wells. Fortunately, we have had some nice showers, and after two weeks of almost unparalleled heat, we have had three cool nights and four cooler days, which is a thing to be very thankful for. We still get plenty of food, and have some fruit trees ripening well. I have ventured to give them a little water the last three or four days to save them, but we have lost all our grapes with the drought and heat; they are burnt up on the trees as if they had been in a fire. We are rationed for all necessaries--bread and meat and flour and sugar and tea and coffee. We still have a little milk; we are providing several sick people out of our allowance, but the worst is there is not enough for all. As I came home this morning from Church the butcher's shop in the Market Square was a fearful scene; the doors locked on some 300 people, who had been standing for hours, hoping for meat. Just after I passed one of our servants saw a woman faint, who was trampled on at once; she was taken down to the Hospital, and died on the road. Another who fainted in the crowd got there alive at any rate. Poor things! I suppose their hearts died within them when, after their long wait, they heard there was nothing.
To-day we hear the Town Guard, and I expect the troops too, are on half rations. A few days ago the Colonel heard that some rich people were boasting they had a quantity of stores which they intended to sell as soon as martial law came to an end. He sent down and, finding that these and a few more rich people had more stores than they wanted for their families, he commandeered the whole, and three wagon-loads were brought down to the stores. My cook said those people were really traitors, as secreting food was the surest way to get the town to surrender--but, oh! I hope we shall never surrender. No, not until the last inhabitant is dead of starvation. We have an example before us in Mafeking.
January 17th, 1900.--The ninety-sixth day of siege. I have written nothing for a long time. General Gatacre's disaster, and Buller's too, seemed quite to finish one up. It is all worth it if only we could depend on the English Parliament, but there lies our real danger; if one could really be confident that we should have a united South Africa and a Federal Parliament under the English Flag, it would give us all courage and more strength. An incessant bombardment has been going on for the last two days; while I have written this last half page some six shells have fallen. But it doesn't do much harm; only when will it end? Most people are suffering acutely, but although, of course, we are all underfed, as we get little meat except very thin horse--none really--very little milk, no butter or eggs, etc., etc., still we have abundance, and, although I turn against the old horses most terribly, I manage some, and we still have a little treasured bacon and a little lard, and quite a lot of Lucca oil--most valuable--and we have stores of jam and flour and tea and oatmeal and sauces and pickle, and so on.
Nominally we are allowed an ounce of beef and three ounces of horse daily, but really we get about a quarter of an ounce of beef and one and a half of horse, and a bone or two sometimes for the soup; but we have managed to feed six people extra daily for some time. Mr. Rhodes has been a great help; he brought £50 with him one day when he called, and he has both brought and sent beautiful fruit and vegetables. Three times he has brought us two onions, and I can't say what they were worth--they have been really impossible to get for weeks and weeks. The peaches and grapes and plums and apples have been worth more than gold to us. I have often thought of you, for the peaches were great big ones and most delicious. I fear the early peaches are over now, but we had some lovely grapes for breakfast, a great water melon for dinner, and we shall have some more fruit at tea. Eggs are 18 s. a dozen. It is very kind of Mr. Rhodes, for he must have plenty to think of.
We have almost given up hope of relief, and go on day after day as if we were not surrounded with a cruel implacable enemy, hearing their shots and seeing signals all day and all night pretty well.
January 24th.--One hundred and third day of siege. I like to go on writing to you a little, although there is little to say and I don't believe this letter will ever reach you. The Boers seem to have come nearer than ever before, and there has been a very heavy bombardment all day, and several people killed. De Beers has made an enormous gun which carries seven miles, Long Cecil, and I suppose that has raised their ire. They are using cordite, so we can't see which way these horrible things come. Two have fallen about 150 yards from the Home, one into Nazareth House, one close to the Hospital, and into many shops and private houses. A great relief in food and fuel has been De Beers Co. making enormous quantities of soup, served hot in the market houses of the various townships at dinner-time. When you take your meat order from the military for meat on your appointed day you can get it all in meat, or a ticket for each ration in soup, or in any proportion you like. I generally take out ten rations in meat, i.e. horse, and five of soup. To-day they issued 7000 pints. It is all mutton and beef, but alas! that means that the meat is all horse on the market. The buyer pays for his quarter pound of meat which is in each pint of soup, and Mr. Rhodes gives vegetables, thickening, flavouring, water, fuel, labour, etc.; it is thoroughly good plain, household soup, and although we doctor it a good deal for our table, most people take it just as it is. I went to see it made the other day. About twenty boys were employed to cut vegetables, ladle out, cut up meat, etc., and one white man. A thick hose filled the cauldrons; there were two enormous furnaces. Everything was most exquisitely clean--the wooden troughs the cut vegetables were in, were scrubbed as white as snow, and the boys' hands and shirts spotless. Mr. Rhodes came while we were there, and we sat down under the trees and had half-an-hour's talk, a most unusual thing. He said seeing S. such a great girl made him feel very old. Still we go on with this weary siege.
January 29th.--One's heart is often sick with hope deferred.
I fear we get more donkey and mule now than horse, but I dish it up and no one asks any questions. The bread ration has been reduced to ten and a half ounces, and those who take flour or meal and bake at home get less too, and they can no longer guarantee us our four ounces of bone with a little skin and muscle sticking on. However, I got a pretty fair loin of some animal yesterday; three of our servants are on board wages, so I weighed off their bits first (for it had to last seventeen people for two days), then cut some slices we had fried for dinner yesterday with onions. A piece was made into rissoles to-day, and the rest is curried for to-night's supper. This kind of thing, and bottled mushrooms and sauces, disguise the horrible dark-looking flesh Rachel and I have to try and eke out. The bones go into the soup pot with De Beers soup and all the odds and ends. Cats are selling for 10s. and 12s. each.
February 4th.--Things are getting worse and worse. We have heard from the Free State that children from thirteen are all commandeered. I fear things are terribly bad for the English there. Here the Colonel keeps down the price of necessaries, but everything else is an awful price; little chickens 25s. each; eggs 30s. a dozen; dogs ever so high; and we hear the bread ration is to be reduced again to-morrow. Mr. Rhodes still brings us his welcome basket twice a week, or I don't know what I should do. We have some wizzened peaches and a few bunches of lovely grapes of our own, and one person gives us a little over a pint of milk daily and another a little under; but we are twenty-two people in the house. My stores are almost finished, as they well may be after 114 days. We have been accustomed to such plenty in Kimberley, I daresay we feel it more than many townships would. Of course, the provision shops are absolutely empty; candles and matches and fuel have all run out. The newspaper can only be printed a few days more, even on its one little sheet that it is reduced to. Starch and soap are scarcely to be had. There is a terrible fear again about water; there is a splendid stream in one of the mines, which has been pumped into the reservoir, and now they fear no fuel can be got to pump with. They have ceased to pump in the mines, and are simply letting them flood, and have commandeered all the railway fuel, but that has been nearly used up by the armoured trains. .The heat is intense, and although generally in January we are flooded with torrents of rain, this year we have had none, and if our rainy season passes--and it is quickly passing--without rain, we shall get none. Of course, the gardens are all dead and the fruit wasted.
February 9th.--We have had three terrible days, shelling with hundred-pounders; they are eighteen inches long and sixteen inches in circumference, and they simply tear and crush and set fire to everything they touch. A poor little child was brought in to-day from a house quite near, dead of course, from a house torn to atoms; it was in the cellar with its mother, the floor over the cellar piled up with sandbags and all the mattresses in the house on the top of the bags. The horrible thing came through roof, ceilings, floors, everything, and exploded in the cellar, tearing the whole house utterly to pieces. This poor child had the back of its head and all the contents clean gone, and there were awful wounds besides. Yesterday one of the largest shops in the place was burnt down. Still there is no rain; the heat is intense--oh, most intense!--and people are really starving. Yesterday I had a terrible blow. The night before we had had no meat for the next day's dinner, and I took the first of my last half-dozen pound tins of preserved meat and made galantine. Before we went to bed S. and I put it in the cooler on the top shelf, put a tin lid on the mould and covered it up with the thick double covering that evaporates, and soaking wet, is very heavy. Two large jugs of soup for the next day were in the cooler too. When we got up early the next day the cover had been pushed aside, the soup upset, and the whole mould of galantine emptied. There were footmarks of a large dog. There was my whole dinner, soup and meat, for fourteen people! I should not have cared so much if it had not been my tinned beef. I felt quite reckless after it, and boiled half my last bit of bacon, used up my last white beans, and had a tart made of my last bottled fruit. How much I wish I had not touched my stores till last month, then I could have defied hunger--but not shells, I fear.
Septuagesima Sunday, February 11th.--I must write you a line. After some awful days of shelling we are expecting worse, and are all off into laager, packing food, looking after valuables, cooking, locking up. I hope I may get home for an hour to-morrow, but I doubt it. What I feel is that I would rather stay here and be shelled to death than go into one of those intolerable laagers, but I cannot risk the others or send S. without me. If you could imagine what the awful crash and shock of a 100 lb. shell is, you would not wonder at anyone being unnerved. We have got quite regardless of twelve-and seven-pounders. I am thankful to say I am not a bit unnerved, as some others are. In the Town Hall the other day, where I went for my weekly permits, I was a bit frightened, chiefly, I think, because the men were so alarmed, and the crash and din of shells falling all round was dreadful, and there is such a large expanse of roof. One struck the railway line close by here a few days ago, tore up a piece of the rails, and threw it about 250 yards on to the roof of a big hotel; it went through the roof, but was caught by some beams in the dining-room ceiling. Thousands of people are going down the mines to hide in the exhausted chambers.
February 12th.--Well, we went to our laager, but found it really intolerable--the almost unbearable heat and drought aggravates everything so; so we went to the Civil Commissioner who lived near, and asked if we could have a big empty house quite near if he thought it was safe. He said he thought his own house safe, which is a road and field further on, sheltered by the railway embankment and some trucks. So he got some steps and helped us over the garden wall, and we slept on the verandah, or rather laid awake there. The shelling is not so furious to-day; and to my great joy I found this place all right this morning. It was so hot all night that I was streaming with heat just lying on a rug in my clothes. They have just sent up from the Hospital for all the nurses I can spare.
February 22nd.--We had a very bad week. On Tuesday I came home with the district nurses, who were getting quite worn out with extra walking, alfresco meals and bad sleep. On Monday night we got into the empty house, and got a bath and some mattresses and a bench, and were much more comfortable. I left Sister Catherine and Miss C. there, who were dreadfully frightened, with S. to keep house; but I was not much comforted afterwards to find that every spare minute she was on the top of the railway embankment watching the shells. Still this vile shelling went on, with its daily list of casualties--there were rumours of relief coming--then the Boers drew nearer, and there was even rifle firing in the suburbs. Fifteen of our brave fellows spared us much by creeping out at night and firing at the gunners as they came up to the big gun from one ambush to another; they kept it up for three days. So the shells came every now and then--ten minutes or even an hour between the hundred-pounders. On Thursday morning I saw a number of officials, who all told me that relief was beyond reckoning--some said a fortnight, others six weeks; and shells still fell all round. But on Thursday afternoon there seemed hope in the air; news came that our men had occupied Alexandersfontein, and about 5.30 the Relief Column rode in and kept on arriving, some 45,000 strong. I did not see them, but I hear poor women rushed out of cottages with sixpences, shillings, florins and half-crowns, crying and sobbing, pressing them into the soldiers' hands--money was all they had. The soldiers on their part, though they had been twenty-four hours without food--lots of them had food in their pockets which they gave to starving people--had brought in for them tins of food, biscuits and so on. I never can tell you the relief and joy. The Boers packed up and flew, leaving potatoes half-pared, sheep half-skinned, letters and clothes flung about, psalm-books, arms, ammunition. Our water engines were found full of shells, but they had not had time to light the fuses before they left. They got that vile Long Tom off with them by rail to make mischief elsewhere. There was a laager of some 2000 or 3000 of the poorest people near here. As darkness fell, they began all sorts of songs and rubbish. I walked down into the midst of them and began to sing "God save the Queen." You should just have heard how they took it up; the air was rent with the din--men, women and children, then the cheers. It made a lump come into my throat to think of the Queen sitting quietly at home and these wild people in all the abandon of a great relief shrieking for blessings on her, for victory, for the spoiling of her enemies. When they had done, we had "Rule Britannia," and then I left them, poor things! The relief of feeling we are free is untold after four calendar months and one day of the Danger Signal.
February 23d.--I have to-day got a number of your letters, and I am hoping for more tomorrow.
We have just heard that Ladysmith is relieved, and that Mafeking still holds out. The relief in the town is enormous.
I wish I could give you some news of H. I have telegraphed to Sir Godfrey Lagden, but had no answer, although I had had good hopes that they were all in Maseru, but the lines, of course, are blocked with public messages. Food is still awfully scarce, but I do hope I may never again have to eat horse, mule or donkey as long as I live.