LADYSMITH, November 15, 1899.
This drama is getting too long for the modern stage, and so far the Dutch have obeyed none of the dramatic rules. To-day was one monotony of rain, and may be blotted out from the memory of all but the men who lay hour after hour miserably soaking upon the edges of the hills. After the early morning not a shell was fired. The mist was too thick to allow even of wild shots at the town.
I had another try at getting a Kaffir runner to carry a telegram through to Estcourt.
November 16, 1899.
The sun came back to cheer us up and warm our bones. At the Liverpools' picket, on the Newcastle road, the men at six o'clock were rejoicing in a glorious and soapy wash where the rain had left a pool in a quarry. The day passed very quietly, shells only falling on an average of one every half-hour. Unhappily a shrapnel scattered over the station, wounded three or four natives, and killed an excellent railway guard—a sharp fragment tearing through his liver and intestines. There was high debate whether the shell was thrown by "Silent Susan," or what other gun. Some even stuck out for "Long Tom" himself. But to the guard it makes no difference, and he was most concerned.
Relief was to have come to us to-day for certain, but we hear nothing of it beyond vague rumours of troops at Estcourt and Maritzburg. We are slowly becoming convinced that we are to be left to our fate while the main issue is settled elsewhere. Colonel Ward has organised the provisions of the town and troops to last for eighty days. He is also buying up all the beer and spirits, partly to cheer the soldiers' hearts on these dreary wet nights; partly to prevent the soldier cheering himself too much.
In the evening I sent off another runner with a telegram and quite a mail of letters from officers and men for their mothers', wives, and lovers over seas. He was a bony young Kaffir, with a melancholy face, black as sorrow. At six o'clock I saw him start, his apish feet padding through the crusted slush. One pocket bulged with biscuits, one with a tin of beef. Between his black chest and his rag of shirt he had tucked that neat packet which was to console so many a woman, white-skinned and delicately dressed. Fetching a wide compass, he stole away into the eastern twilight, where the great white moon was rising, shrouded in electric cloud.
November 17, 1899.
A few shells came in early, and by nine o'clock there was so much firing on the north-west that I rode out to the main position of the 60th (King's Royal Rifles) on Cove Hill. I found that our field battery there was being shelled from Surprise Hill and its neighbour, but nothing unusual was happening. The men were in a rather disconsolate condition. Even where they have built a large covered shelter underground the wet comes through the roof and trickles down upon them in liquid filth. But they bear it all with ironic indifference, consoling themselves especially with the thought that they killed one Boer for certain yesterday. "The captain saw him fall."
Crossing the open valley in front I came to the long ridge called Observation Hill. There the rifle fire hardly ever ceases. It is held by three companies of the K.R.R. and the 5th Lancers dismounted. It looks out over the long valley of Bell's Spruit; that scene of the great disaster where we lost our battalions, being less than three miles away at the foot of the rugged mountain beyond—Surprise Hill. Close in front is one of the two farms called Hyde's, and there the Boers find shelter at nights and in rain. The farm's orchard, its stone walls, the rocks, and all points of cover swarm with Boer sharpshooters, and whenever our men show themselves upon the ridge the bullets fly. An immense quantity of them are lost. In all the morning's firing only one Lancer had been wounded. As I came over the edge the bullets all passed over my head, but our men have to keep behind cover if they can, and only return the fire when they are sure of a mark. I found a detachment of Lancers, with a corporal, lying behind a low stone wall. It happened to be exactly the place I had wished to find, for at one end of the wall stood the Lancer dummy, whose fame has gone through the camp. There he stood, regarding the Dutch with a calm but defiant aspect, his head and shoulders projecting about three feet over the wall. His legs were only a sack stuffed with straw, but round his straw body a beautiful khaki tunic had been buttoned, and his straw head was protected by a regulation helmet, for which a slouch hat was sometimes substituted, to give variety and versimilitude. In his right hand he grasped a huge branch of a tree, either as rifle or lance. He was withdrawn occasionally, and stuck up again in a fresh attitude. To please me the corporal crept behind him and jogged him up and down in a life-like and scornful manner. The hope was that the Boers would send a bullet through that heart of straw. In the afternoon they did in fact pierce his hat, but at the time they were keeping their ammunition for something more definitely human, like myself. As I retired, after saluting the dummy for his courage, the bullets flew again, but the sights were still too high.
On my return to the old Scot's house, I found an excited little crowd in the back garden. They were digging out an enormous shell which had plumped into the grass, taking off the Scot's hat and knocking him down with the shock as it fell. The thing had burst in the ground, and it was as good as a Chinese puzzle to fit the great chunks of iron together. At first we could not find the solid base, but we dug it out with a pick from the stiff, black clay. It had sunk 3 ft. 8 in. down from the surface, and had run 7 ft. 6 in. from the point of contact. It was a 45-pounder, thrown by a 4.7 in. gun—probably one of the four howitzers which the Boers possess, standing half-way down Lombard's Kop, about four miles away, and is identical with "Silent Susan." But with smokeless powder it is almost impossible to say where a shot comes from. "Long Tom" and "Puffing Billy," with their huge volumes of smoke, are much more satisfactory.
Rain fell heavily for the rest of the day, and the bombardment ended, but it was bitter cold.
November 18, 1899.
The bombardment was continued without much energy. The balloon reported that the Boers were occupied in putting up more guns on Bulwan. Rumour says there will be thirteen in all, a goodly number for a position which completely commands the town from end to end. All day the shells had a note of extra spite in them as they came plunging among the defenceless houses. But they did no great harm till evening. As a rule the Boers cease fire about half-past six, and some twenty of us then settled down to dinner at the hotel—one or two officers, some doctors, and most of the correspondents. We had hardly begun to-night when a shell from "Silent Susan" whistled just over the roof and burst in the yard. Within five minutes came the louder scream of another. It crashed over us, breaking its way through the hotel from roof to floor. We all got up and crowded to the main entrance on the street. The shell had struck a sidewall in the bar, and glanced off through the doorway without exploding. Dr. Stark, of Torquay, was standing at the door, waiting for a place at dinner, and talking to Mr. Machugh, of the Daily Telegraph. The shell struck him full in the thigh, leaving his left leg hanging only by a piece of flesh, and shattering the right just at the knee. "Hold me up," he said, and did not lose consciousness. We moved him to the hospital, but he died within an hour. I have little doubt that the shells were aimed at the hotel, because the Boers know that Dr. Jameson and Colonel Rhodes are in the town. But the man killed was Dr. Stark, a strong opponent of the Chamberlain policy, and a vigorous denouncer of the war's injustice.
The havoc of the siege is gradually increasing, and the prospect of relief grows more and more distant. Just after midnight the Boers again aroused us by discharging all their guns into the forts or the town, and again the people hurried away to their caves and culverts for protection. The long Naval guns replied, and then all was quiet.
Sunday, November 19, 1899.
Another day of rest, for which we thank the Fourth Commandment. After the Sabbath wash, I went up to Cæsar's Camp for the view. On the way I called in upon the balloon, which now dwells in a sheltered leafy glade at the foot of the Gordons' hill, when it is not in the sky, surrounded by astonished vultures. The weak points of ballooning appear to be that it is hard to be sure of detail as distinguished from mass, and even on a clear day the light is often insufficient or puzzling. It is seldom, for instance, that the balloonist gets a definite view towards Colenso, which to us is the point of greatest interest. I found that the second balloon was only used as a blind to the enemy, like a paper kite flown over birds to keep them quiet. Going up to the Manchesters' position on the top of Cæsar's Camp, I had a view of the whole country almost as good as any balloon's. The Boer laagers have increased in size, and are not so carefully hidden.
Beside the railway at the foot of "Long Tom's" hill near Modder Spruit, there was quite a large camp of Boer tents and three trains as usual. They say the Boers have put their prisoners from the Royal Irish Fusiliers here, but it is unlikely they should bring them back from Pretoria. The tents of another large camp showed among the bushes on Lombard's Nek, where the Helpmakaar road passes between Lombard's Kop and Bulwan, and many waggon laagers were in sight beyond. At the foot of the flat-topped Middle Hill on the south-west, the Boers have placed two more guns to trouble the Manchesters further. But our defences along the whole ridge are now very strong.
In the afternoon they buried Dr. Stark in the cemetery between the river and the Helpmakaar road. I don't know what has become of a kitten which he used to carry about with him in a basket when he went to spend the day under the shelter of the river bank.
November 20, 1899.
"Gentlemen," said Sir George White to his Staff, "we have two things to do—to kill time and to kill Boers—both equally difficult." The siege is becoming intolerably tedious. It is three weeks to-day since "Black Monday," when the great disaster befell us, and we seem no nearer the end than we were at first. We console ourselves with the thought that we are but a pawn on a great chessboard. We hope we are doing service by keeping the main Boer army here. We hope we are not handed over for nothing to ennui enlivened by sudden death. But the suspicion will recur that perhaps the army hedging us in is not large after all. It is a bad look-out if, as Captain Lambton put it, we are being "stuck up by a man and a boy."
Nothing is so difficult to estimate as Boer numbers, and we never take enough account of the enemy's mobility. They can concentrate rapidly at any given point and gain the appearance of numbers which they don't possess. However, the balloon reports the presence of laagers of ten commandoes in sight. We may therefore assume about as many out of sight, and consider that we are probably doing our duty as a pawn.
This morning the Boers hardly gave a sign of life, except that just before noon "Puffing Billy" shelled a platelayer's house on the flat beyond the racecourse, in the attempt to drive out our scouts who were making a defended position of it.
In the afternoon I rode up to the Rifle Brigade at King's Post, above the old camp, and met Captain Paley, whom I last saw administering a province in Crete. Suddenly the Boer guns began firing from Surprise Hill and Thornhill's Kop, just north of us, and the shells passing over our heads, crashed right into the 18th Hussar camp beside a little bridge over the river below. Surprise Hill alone dropped five shells in succession among the crowded tents, horses, and men. The men began hurrying about like ants. Tents were struck at once, horses saddled, everything possible taken up, and the whole regiment sought cover in a little defile close by. Within half an hour of the first shell the place was deserted. The same guns compelled the Naval Brigade to shift their position last night. We have not much to teach the Boer gunners, except the superiority of our shells.
The bombardment then became general; only three Gordons were wounded, but the town suffered a good deal. Three of "Long Tom's" shells pitched in the main street, one close in front of a little girl, who escaped unhurt. Another carried away the heavy stone porch of the Anglican Church, and, at dinner-time, "Silent Susan" made a mark on the hotel, but it was empty. Just before midnight the guns began again. I watched them flashing from Bulwan and the other hills, but could not mark what harm they did. It was a still, hot night, with a large waning moon. In the north-west the Boers were flashing an electric searchlight, apparently from a railway truck on the Harrismith line. The nation of farmers is not much behind the age. They will be sending up a balloon next.
November 21, 1899.
The desultory bombardment went on as usual, except that "Long Tom" did not fire. The Staff is said to have lost heliographic communication with the south. To-day they sent off two passenger pigeons for Maritzburg. The rumour also went that the wounded Dublins, taken to Intombi Spruit, from the unfortunate armoured train, had heard an official report of Buller's arrival at Bloemfontein after heavy losses. Another rumour told that many Boer wives and daughters were arriving in the laagers. They were seen, especially on Sunday, parading quite prettily in white frocks. This report has roused the liveliest indignation, which I can only attribute to envy. In our own vulgar land, companies would be running cheap excursions to witness the siege of Ladysmith—one shilling extra to see "Long Tom" in action.
In the morning they buried a Hindoo bearer who had died of pneumonia. The grave was dug among the unmarked heaps of the native graveyard on the river bank. It took five hours to make it deep enough, and meantime the dead man lay on a stretcher, wrapped in a clean white sheet. His friends, about twenty of them, squatted round, almost motionless, and quite indifferent to time and space. In their midst a thin grey smoke rose from a brazen jar, in which smouldered scented wood, spices, lavender, and the fresh blossom of one yellow flower like an aster. At intervals of about a minute, one of the Hindoos raised a short, wailing chant, in parts of which the others joined. On the ground in front of him lay a sweetly-scented manuscript whose pages he never turned. It was written in the Oriental characters, which seem to tell either of Nirvana or of the nightingale's cry to the rose. At times the other friends tapped gently on three painted drums, hardly bigger than tea cups. The enemy, seeing from Bulwan the little crowd of us engaged upon a heathen rite, threw shrapnel over our heads. It burst and sprinkled the dusty ground behind us with lead. Not one of the Hindoos looked up or turned his face. That low chant did not pause or vary by a note. Close by, a Kaffir was digging a grave for a Zulu woman who had died in childbed. In the river beyond soldiers were bathing, Zulus were soaping themselves white, and one of the Liverpool Mounted Infantry was trying to prevent his horse rolling in four feet of water.
November 22, 1899.
A day only relieved by the wildest rumours and a few shells more dangerous than usual. Buller was reported as being at Hellbrouw; General French was at Dundee; and France had declared war upon England. Shells whiffled into the town quite indiscriminately. One pitched into the Town Hall, now the main hospital. In the evening "Long Tom" threw five in succession down the main street. But only one man was killed. A Natal policeman was cooking his dinner in a cellar when "Silent Susan's" shot fell upon him and he died. For myself, I spent most of the day on Waggon Hill west of the town, where the 1st K.R. Rifles have three companies and a strong sangar, very close to the enemy. I found that, as became Britons, their chief interest lay in sport. They had shot two little antelopes or rehbuck, and hung them up to be ready for a feast. Their one thought was to shoot more. From the hill I looked down upon one of Bester's farms. The owner-a Boer traitor-was now in safe keeping. A few days ago his family drove off in a waggon for the Free State. White were their parasols and in front they waved a Red Cross flag. On a gooseberry bush in the midst of the farm they also left a white flag, where it still flew to protect a few fat pigs, turkeys, and other fowl. The white flag is becoming a kind of fetish. To-day all our white tents were smeared with reddish mud to make them less visible. Beyond Range Post the enemy set up a new gun commanding the Maritzburg road as it crossed that point of hill. The Irish Fusiliers who held that position were shelled heavily, but without loss.
November 23, 1899.
The schoolmaster's wife had a fine escape. She was asleep in her bedroom when a 45lb. shell came through the fireplace and burst towards the bed. The room was smashed to pieces, but she was only cut about the head, one splinter driving in the bone, but not making a very serious wound. Two days before she had given a soldier 10s. for a fragment. Now she had a whole shell for nothing. At five o'clock "Long Tom" threw seven of his 96lb. shells straight down the street in quick succession, smashing a few shops and killing some mules and cattle, but without further harm. We watched them from the top of the road. They came shrieking over our heads, and then a flare of fire and a cloud of dust and stones showed where they fell. At every explosion the women and children laughed and cheered with delight, as at the Crystal Palace fireworks.
Both yesterday and to-day the Boers on Bulwan spent much time and money shelling a new battery which Colonel Knox has had made beside the river near the racecourse. It is just in the middle of the flat, and the enemy can see its six embrasures and the six guns projecting from them. The queer thing is that these guns never reply, and under the hottest fire their gunners neither die nor surrender. A better battery was never built of canvas and stick on the stage of Drury. It has cost the simple-hearted Boers something like £300 in wasted shell.
All day waggons were reported coming down from the Free State and moving south. They were said to carry the wives and daughters of the Free Staters driven by Buller from their own country and content to settle in ours, now that they had conquered it. A queer situation, unparalleled in war, as far as I know.
In the evening I heard the Liverpools and Devons were likely to be engaged in some feat of arms before midnight. So I stumbled out in the dark along the Helpmakaar road, where those two fine regiments hold the most exposed positions in camp, and I spent the greater part of the night enjoying the hospitality of two Devon officers in their shell-proof hut. Hour after hour we waited, recalling tales of Indian life and Afridi warfare, or watching the lights in the Boer laagers reflected on a cloudy sky. But except for a hot wind the night was peculiarly quiet, and not a single shell was thrown: only from time to time the sharp double knock of a rifle showed that the outposts on both sides were alert.
November 24, 1899.
Though there was no night attack a peculiar manoeuvre was tried, but without success. On the sixty miles of line between here and Harrismith the Boers have only one engine, and it struck some one how fine it would be to send an empty engine into it at full speed from our side. Accordingly, when the Free State train was seen to arrive at the Boer rail-head some eight miles off, out snorted one of our spare locomotives. Off jumped the driver and stoker, and the new kind of projectile sped away into the dark. It ran for about two miles with success, and then dashed off the rails in going round a curve. And there it remains, the Boers showing their curiosity by prodding it with rifles. Unless it is hopelessly smashed up, the Free State has secured a second engine for the conveyance of its wives and daughters.
It is a military order that all cattle going out to graze on the flats close to the town should be tended by armed and mounted drivers, but no one has taken the trouble to see the order carried out. The Empire in this country means any dodge for making money without work. All work is left to Kaffirs, coolies, or Boers. Two hundred cattle went out this morning beyond the old camp, accompanied only by Kaffir boys, who, like all herdsmen, love to sleep in the shade, or make the woods re-echo Amarylli's. Suddenly the Boers were among them, edging between them and the town, and driving the beasts further and further from defence. The Kaffirs continued to sleep, or were driven with the cattle. Then the Leicester Mounted Infantry came galloping out, and, under heavy rifle fire, gained the point of Star Hill, hoping to head the cattle back. At once all the guns commanding that bit of grassy plain opened on them—"Faith," "Hope," and "Charity"—from Telegraph Hill, the guns on Surprise Hill, and Thornhill Kopje, and the two guns now on Bluebank Ridge. Two horses were killed, and the party, not being numerous enough for their task, came galloping back singly. Meantime the Boers, with their usual resource, had invented a new method of calling the cattle home by planting shells just behind them. The whole enterprise was admirably planned and carried out. We only succeeded in saving thirty or forty out of the drove. The lowest estimate of loss is £3,000, chiefly in transport cattle.
But who knows whether by Christmas we shall not be glad even of a bit of old trek-ox? Probably the Dutch hope to starve us out. At intervals all morning they shelled the cattle near the racecourse, just for the sake of slaughter. To-day also they tried their old game of sending gangs of refugee coolies into the town to devour the rations. Happily, Sir George White turned at that, and sent out a polite note reminding the commandants that we live in a polite age. So in the afternoon the Boers adopted more modern methods. I had been sitting with Colonel Mellor and the other officers of the Liverpools, who live among the rocks close to my cottage, and they had been congratulating themselves on only losing two men by shell and one by enteric since Black Monday, when they helped to cover the retirement with such gallantry and composure. I had scarcely mounted to ride back, when "Puffing Billy" and other guns threw shells right into the midst of the men and rocks and horses. One private fell dead on the spot. Three were mortally wounded. One rolled over and over down the rocks. Several others were badly hurt, and the bombardment became general all over our end of the town.
November 25, 1899.
Almost a blank as far as fighting goes. It is said that General Hunter went out under a flag of truce to protest against the firing upon the hospital. There were no shells to speak of till late afternoon. Among the usual rumours came one that Joubert had been wounded in the mouth at Colenso. The Gordons held their sports near the Iron Bridge, sentries being posted to give the alarm if the Bulwan guns fired. "Any more entries for the United Service mule race? Are you ready? Sentry, are you keeping your eye on that gun?" "Yes, sir." "Very well then, go!" And off the mules went, in any direction but the right, a soldier and a sailor trying vainly to stick on the bare back of each, whilst inextinguishable laughter arose among the gods.
Sunday, November 26, 1899.
Another day of rest. I heard a comment made on the subject by one of the Devons washing down by the river. Its seriousness and the peculiar humour of the British soldier will excuse it. "Why don't they go on bombardin' of us to-day?" said one. "'Cos it's Sunday, and they're singin' 'ymns," said another. "Well," said the first, "if they do start bombardin' of us, there ain't only one 'ymn I'll sing, an' that's 'Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me 'ide myself in thee.'" It was spoken in the broadest Devon without a smile. The British soldier is a class apart. One of the privates in the Liverpools showed me a diary he is keeping of the war. It is a colourless record of getting up, going to bed, sleeping in the rain with one blanket (a grievance he always mentions, though without complaint), of fighting, cutting brushwood, and building what he calls "sangers and travises." From first to last he makes but one comment, and that is: "There is no peace for the wicked." The Boers were engaged in putting up a new 6 in. gun on the hills beyond Range Post, and the first number of the Ladysmith Lyre was published.
November 27, 1899.
The great event of the day was the firing of the new "Long Tom." The Boers placed it yesterday on the hill beyond Waggon Hill, where the 60th hold our extreme post towards the west. The point is called Middle Hill. It commands all the west of the town and camp, the Maritzburg road from Range Post on, and the greater part of Cæsar's Camp, where the Manchesters are. The gun is the same kind as "Long Tom" and "Puffing Billy"—a 6 in. Creusot, throwing a shell of about 96lbs. The Boers have sixteen of them; some say twenty-three. The name is "Gentleman Joe." He did about £5 damage at the cost of £200. From about 8 to 9 a.m. the general bombardment was rather severe. There are thirty-three guns "playing" on us to-day, and though they do not concentrate their fire, they keep one on the alert. This morning a Kaffir was working for the Army Service Corps (being at that moment engaged in kneading a pancake), when a small shell hit him full in the mouth, passed clean through his head, and burst on the ground beyond. I believe he was the only man actually killed to-day.
A Frenchman who came in yesterday from the Boer lines was examined by General Hunter. He is a roundabout little man, who says he came from Madagascar into the Transvaal by Delagoa Bay, and was commandeered to join the Boer army. He came with a lot of German officers, who drank champagne hard. On his arrival it was found he could not ride or shoot, or live on biltong. He could do nothing but talk French, a useless accomplishment in South Africa. And so they sent him into our camp to help eat our rations. The information he gave was small. Joubert believes he can starve us out in a fortnight. He little knows. We could still hold out for over a month without eating a single horse, to say nothing of rats. It is true we have to drop our luxuries. Butter has gone long ago, and whisky has followed. Tinned meats, biscuits, jams—all are gone. "I wish to Heaven the relief column would hurry up," sighed a young officer to me. "Poor fellow," I thought, "he longs for the letters from his own true love." "You see, we can't get any more Quaker oats," he added in explanation.
In the afternoon I took copies of the Ladysmith Lyre to some of the outlying troops. It is but a single page of four short columns, and with a cartoon by Mr. Maud. But the pathetic gratitude with which it was received, proved that to appreciate literature of the highest order, you have only to be shut up for a month under shell fire.
November 28, 1899.
Hopeful news came of British successes, both at Estcourt and Mooi River. The relief column is now thought to be at Frere, not far below Colenso. A large Boer convoy, with 800 mounted men, was seen trending away towards the Free State passes, perhaps retiring. Everybody was much cheered up. The Boer guns fired now and then, but did little damage. At night we placed two howitzers on a nek in Waggon Hill, where the 60th have a post south-west of the town.
November 29, 1899.
A few more Kaffirs came through from Estcourt, but brought no later news. Their report of the fighting on the Mooi River was: "The English burnt the Dutch like paraffin. The Dutch have their ears down." Did I not say that Zulu was the future language of opera? Riding past the unfinished hospital I saw a private of the 18th Hussars cut down by a shell splinter—the only casualty to-day resulting from several hundred pounds' worth of ammunition. The two greatest events were, first, the attempt of our two old howitzers on Waggon Hill to silence the 6 in. gun on Middle Hill beyond them. They fired pretty steadily from 4 to 5 p.m., sending out clouds of white smoke. For their big shells (6.3 in.) are just thirty years old, and the guns themselves have reached the years of discretion. They fired by signal over the end of Waggon Hill in front of them, and it was difficult to judge their effect. The other great event was the kindling of a great veldt fire at the foot of Pepworth Hill, in such a quarter that the smoke completely hid "Long Tom" for two or three hours of the morning. Captain Lambton at once detected the trick, and sent two shells from "Lady Anne" to check it. But it was none the less successful. There could be little doubt "Long Tom" was on the move, "doing a guy," the soldiers said. We hoped he was packing up for Pretoria.
In the evening Colonel Stoneman held the first of his Shakespeare reading parties, and again we found how keenly a month of shell-fire intensifies the literary sense.
November 30, 1899.
At night the Boer searchlight near Bester's, north-west of the town, swept the positions by Range Post, the enemy having been informed by spies (as usual) that we intended a forward movement before dawn. Three battalions with cavalry and guns were to have advanced on to the open ground beyond Range Post, and again attack the Boer position on Bluebank, where there are now two guns. The movement was to prepare the way for the approach of any relieving force up the Maritzburg road, but about midnight it was countermanded. Accurately informed as the Boers always are, they apparently had not heard of this change from any of the traitors in town, and before sunrise they began creeping up nearer to our positions by the Newcastle road on the north. They hoped either to rush the place, or to keep us where we were. The 13th Battery, stationed at the railway cutting, opened upon them, and the pickets of the Gloucesters and the Liverpools checked them with a very heavy fire. As I watched the fighting from the hill above my cottage, the sun appeared over Bulwan, and a great gun fired upon us with a cloud of purple smoke. A few minutes after there came the sharp report, the screaming rush and loud explosion, which hitherto have marked "Long Tom" alone. Our suspicions of yesterday were true, and Pepworth Hill knows him no more. He now reigns on Little Bulwan, sometimes called Gun Hill, below Lombard's Kop. His range is nearer, he can even reach the Manchesters' sangars with effect, and he is far the most formidable of the guns that torment us.
All day the bombardment was severe, as this siege goes. I did not count the shells thrown at us, but certainly there cannot have been less than 250. They were thrown into all parts of the town and forts. No one felt secure, except the cave-dwellers. Even the cattle were shelled, and I saw three common shell and a shrapnel thrown into one little herd. Yet the casualties were quite insignificant, till the terrible event of the day, about half-past five p.m. During the afternoon "Long Tom" had chiefly been shelling the Imperial Light Horse camp, the balloon, and the district round the Iron Bridge. Then he suddenly sent a shell into the library by the Town Hall. The next fell just beyond the Town Hall itself. The third went right into the roof, burst on contact, flung its bullets and segments far and wide over the sick and wounded below. One poor fellow—a sapper of the balloon section—hearing it coming, sprang up in bed with terror. A fragment hit him full in the chest, cut through his heart, and laid him dead. Nine others were hit, some seriously wounded. About half of them belonged to the medical staff. The shock to the other wounded was horrible. There cannot be the smallest doubt that the Boer gunners deliberately aimed at the Red Cross flag, which flies on the turret of the Town Hall, visible for miles. They have now hit twenty-one people in that hospital alone. This last shell has aroused more hatred and rage against the whole people than all the rest of the war put together. When next the Boers appeal for mercy, as they have often appealed already, it will go hard with them. Overcome with the horror of the thing, many good Scots have refused to take part in the celebration of St. Andrew's Day, although the Gordons held some sort of festival, and there was a drinking-concert at the Royal. But the dead were in the minds of all.
About midnight we again observed flash-signaling over the star-lit sky. It came from Colenso way, and was the attempt of our General to give us news or instructions. It began by calling "Ladysmith" three times. The message was in cipher, and the night before a very little of it was made out. Both messages ended with the words "Buller, Maritzburg." It is said one of the Mountain Battery is to be hanged in the night for signalling to the enemy.