However, he was discovered quietly sitting at the foot of a kopje watching events. The alarm was false ; the enemy had fired five shells at the 9th Lancers, and killed a horse, I believe. In the evening I borrowed a bucket from the New South Wales Lancers and had a good wash. My men know nothing about looking after themselves, they are like idle children. I am teaching them a few useful habits. After a good night I was roused at 2.30 a.m. and at 3.30, having had a little coffee and bread, the whole of the M.I. trotted off in the moonlight towards Belmont, the place where they had the skirmish the other day. On getting to Belmont Farm we dismounted, and lined the kopjes, and except for small changes we are here still, though it must be about 9 o'clock. My watch stopped yesterday - a great misfortune. I suppose the dust has got into the works, or I have banged it about somewhere. Soon after we arrived here we saw numerous small parties of the enemy, I should think about 300 in all, coming out from behind one hill and going behind another, without much aim apparently, except to graze their ponies; the men are almost all out of sight, but I can see their ponies with my glasses about three miles away. We expect to be reinforced to-day at 6 p.m., so we have a good long wait before us, and mighty little prospect of any food, though we have a day's ration on our horses, which are about 400 yards away. We heard a few shots fired on the outpost line - probably someone got the jumps. I expected to be excited the first time I saw the enemy, but it seems as natural as anything now. The 2nd Staff (Methuen's) came out with us this morning. I waved to Douglas from my humble position. My captain seems nice, but he is not the man to keep these rough diamonds in order.He is too serious; they only get sulky.My brother section commander is called L of the Bombay Army. It seems a queer turn of the wheel that I am commanding 20 men of the N. Lancashire Regiment, while Max will command 120 Grenadiers with two officers. In addition to having to live my time away from friends, my subordinate position will quite prevent my getting any professional advancement; it is bad luck.We have got E -asStaff
Officer to the M.I., and though he has been very civil to me, he probably hates the Guards as much as his father does, which accounts for my being put with this company. I have just jumped up in a great hurry on seeing a nasty looking snake making for me. He was apparently as much frightened as I was, as he has nipped under a stone.
Ihave no stick to kill him with.
About 4.30 'p.m. - My picquet was withdrawn about
11 a.m. to the farmhouse, which belongs to an Englishman named Thomas, and where we joined the reserve. I got some milk, and later a little bread and jam from the farmer.All of a sudden the Boers opened fire on us with a gun, not a very big one - a six-pounder I should think-and from a long way off they made quite good practice, and during the afternoon they have put about fifteen shells into the small amphitheatre surrounding the farm pond and spring. Taking horses to water is the signal to shoot. I expected to feel anxious, but instead, I only felt curiosity and excitement. Of course we all ducked under big stone walls on seeing the smoke. Then came a pause before hearing the report, then the whistle of the shell, and then the explosion of the shell. Some did not explode at all; one went thump into the rocky ground about twenty yards from me without exploding. Another missed the farmhouse just over, and exploded in the hillside beyond, about two feet from a goat who was taking a snooze, but without hurting him. The ostriches seemed alarmed - it is a great game here for the soldiers to pursue the birds and snatch out their feathers, which they then put inside their helmets to keep their heads cool, and as a present for their girls on return. We are expecting the advanced guard of the force this evening at 6 p.m. We shall probably have a battle to-morrow, which we ought to win easily, if we don't throw masses of infantry against the Boers before thoroughly shaking them with artillery. We are travelling as light as we possibly can-nothing but blankets and a waterproof in cart, great-coat, &c, on horse. We draw rations with the men; good bread or biscuit; the tinned meat might be better, some is good and palatable, other tough, stringy, and nasty to look at - a question of economy; but I am sure soldiers would sooner be spared dinners and extravagances on their return if they might have the best possible on service. One should remember the initial value of the article is so little compared with the value of the article delivered here.
Am giving this to groom to post if possible, 2.30 a.m.