Very much love to you all. I may possibly get off another letter to-morrow.
Your affectionate son,
The Boers are evidently coming into Cape Colony, and the line to Norval's Pont has been ordered to be destroyed by us.
Monday : De Aar.
Dear Mother, - Just a line to say all well. It looks to me as if Boers were not coming our way after all, they seem to me to be just wandering through their own friends' country doing nothing.We have arrested one or two about here; one, a ganger on the line, was found with a very dirty Mauser which he said he had borrowed to shoot rock rabbits. I have had a letter to-day from my old Colonel,who isontheStaff at Capetown.
L - ,of the' Times,'tells me he is trying to get a rider into Mafeking, so I propose trying to get a letter in for N -C - . Wehad a rehearsal to-day of what to do in case of attack. Our guides, Rimington's Horse, appear to be excellent scouts, and we shall probably get good warning of any attack. I have been in De Aar now just over a week, and I feel as if I had never been out of the country or town. I hope I sha'n't be here for ever. The station and telegraph people still work wonders.
Love to all,
Your affectionate son,
9/ll/'99: De Aar.
Dear Mother, - Things going on well; rumours of enemy being near are getting less frequent, which causes disappointment in camp; people are getting jealous of those in Natal. We have heard to-day that the mail is in, but she is very late: two days we have heard nothing of arrival of troops. I have written and wired to Max to let me know of his arrival. We think it almost certain now that the Guards' Brigade will come up here - jolly lucky for me to be with my friends.I have had a line from V - C - to-day.She seems to like your book, and is going to appropriate it, though I only meant to lend her my copy. As you wrote my name in it, however, you must do it in another. I have forgotten whether I have mentioned what luck I have had in my clerk - S. Major S - , of the B.S.A. Police. He was on his way to join his corps when he found he couldn't get on, and was commandeered here; he is invaluable and such a nice man. He was one of the raiders, but does not seem bloodthirsty ; he says that most of them were under the impression that the raid had something to do with the natives. We have got a bad dust storm to-day, otherwise the weather has been perfect; in fact, I have nothing to complain of in any way as regards comfort, except an all-consuming thirst which comes from the dust particles in the air. I had the misfortune to crush my fingers this morning. I was tying my pony to the iron railway bridge here, when he jerked his head up and caught my hand between rein and iron railing. I am afraid I shall lose some nails. I have had it bandaged by doctor to keep it clean, and it is now quite comfortable. We sent a portion of our artillery away to-day. I believe they contemplate a reconnaissance towards Belmont to put a shell or two into the Boers. My idea is that all the Boers near us are merely doing a sort of promenade round the country to visit their friends on the side of boundary. We caught three beauties to-day. A father wired to his two sons, students at Stellenbosch, to come home at once, and, from letters and information, evidently for purposes of joining Boers. The farm lies north of here, but at the next station south, the lads got frightened about passing through De Aar and sent for their father, who came a long way round in a cart to fetch them. They are now all in gaol, and it will go pretty hard with them I expect, though they are no worse than all the rest. I don't think the preparations generally in South Africa are in such a forward state as was imagined. I expect the war will last at least a year. If they had at once pushed preparations, war might have been saved, though only to lead to another crisis. Longing for your next, very well and happy. Turnerforgottoputinmyregimental bridle with my saddlery; that will take the shine off my entry into Pretoria.
Your affectionate son,
No. 8 ll/ll/'99: De Aar.
Dear Mother, - I heard yesterday of thedeathof poor C - K - F - ; so sad for his wife - he was a real good fellow, and his loss is a great one to all. The news was only telegraphed by correspondents to-day. We knew that a reconnaissance was going to take place to disturb enemy and keep him on the move a bit: it appears to have been successful in attaining its objects. The proportion of officers hit appears extraordinary - four officers and two men. The reason is that in a reconnaissance an officer constantly goes with a small party of men to some place to get a good view. The men of course lie down while the officer is observing, and then, when finished the party retires with the officer last. It is most difficult to tell here the difference between an officer and a man in khaki at anything over 400 yards, except from the way he moves about. There is some talk of giving company officers guns to complete the resemblance, but I don't think that will be done. It appears now that all the first arrivals have been diverted to Natal, and I suppose Max and the Guards' Brigade will be among them - a great disappointment to me, as I had hoped to see them here, but possibly a good bit of luck for them, as apparently there is little doing on this side. We are expecting Lord M - to-night, only there seems to be some doubt as to his movements, as we had a wire to say on his arrival 'Tell him to go back again.' The wire must have been sent just about the time he was starting on a thirty-six hours' journey with many stops on the way, so it is perfectly inexplicable. There doesn't seem to be quite so much business doing here now for me, though mules and stores and railway material of all sorts are coming, and we are holding camp ready for arrival of troops. I now hear that Guards are probably coming up here : if so we shall have a good time. There is a rumour that another poor fellow has died at Orange River ; his wound was supposed to be only a flesh one, and he was reported going on well; it may prove quite untrue. The weather has been good - lovely bright days (except for sand storms) and clear cold nights, nearly freezing, I should think. The flies bother me a great deal. I tried to remember fly trap out of ' Pot-Pourri,' bread and jam on the top of a jar and soapy water underneath, but it didn't do much good.