We are stopping at every port now, as though the Scot were a ferry boat. We came over the side to get here in baskets with a neat door in the side and were bumped to the deck of the tender in all untenderness. This is more like Africa than any place I have seen. The cactus and palms abound and the Kaffirs wear brass anklets and bracelets. A man at lunch at this hotel asked me if I was R. H. D. and said he was an American who had got a commission in Brabants horse-- He gave me the grandest sort of a segar and apparently on his representation the hotel brought me two books to sign, marked "Autographs of Celebrities of the Boer War." It seemed in my case at least to be premature and hopeful.
Good luck and God bless you. This will be the last letter you will get for ten days or two weeks, as I am now going directly away from steamers. This one reaches you by a spy gentleman who is to give it to Rene Bull of The Graphic and who will post it in Cape Town-- He and all the other correspondents are abandoning Buller for Roberts. Let 'em all go. The fewer the better, I say. My luck will keep I hope. DICK.
Imperial Hotel, Maritzburg, Natal. Feb. 23rd, 1900. DEAR MOTHER:--
I reached Durban yesterday. They paraded the band in my honour and played Yankee Doodle indefinitely-- I had corrupted them by giving them drinks to play the "Belle of New York" nightly. The English officers thought Yankee Doodle was our national anthem and stood with their hats off in a hurricane balancing on the deck of the tender on one foot-- The city of Durban is the best I have seen. It was as picturesque as the Midway at the Fair-- There were Persians, Malay, Hindoo, Babu's Kaffirs, Zulu's and soldiers and sailors. I went on board the Maine to see the American doctors--one of them said he had met me on Walnut Street, when he had nearly run me down with his ambulance from the Penna Hospital. Lady Randolph took me over the ship and was very much puzzled when all the hospital stewards called me by name and made complimentary remarks. It impressed her so much apparently that she and the American nurses I hadn't met on board came to see me off at the station, which was very friendly. I have had a horrible day here and got up against the British officer in uniform and on duty bent-- The chief trouble was that none of them knew what authority he had to do anything--and I had to sit down and tell them. I wonder with intelligence like theirs that their Intelligence Department did not tell them the Boers fought with war clubs and spears. I bought a ripping pony and my plan is to cut away from all my magnificent equipment and try to overtake Buller before he reaches Ladysmith and send back for the heavy things later. It is just a question of minutes really and it seems hard to have come 1500 miles and then to miss it by an hour-- I arrive at Chievely tomorrow at five--that is only ten miles from where Buller is to night, so were it not for their d----d regulations I could ride across country and join them by midday but I bet they won't let me and I also bet I'll get there in time. Of course you'll, know before you see this. Marelsburg is the capital and its chief industry is rickshaw's pulled by wild Kaffi's, with beads and snake skins around them and holes in their ears into which they stick segars and horn spoons for dipping snuff. The women wear less than the men and have their hair done up in red fungus.
Well, love to you all, to Nora and Dad and Chas, and God bless you.
I am here at last and counting the days when I shall get away. War does not soothe my savage breast. I find I want Cecil, and Jaggers, and Macklin to write, and plays to rehearse. Without Cecil bored to death at Cape Town, I would not mind it at all. I know how to be comfortable and on my second day I beat all these men who have been here three months in getting my news on the wire. For I am a news man now, and have to collect horrid facts and hosts of casualties and to find out whether it was the Dubblins or the Durbans that did it and what it was they did. I was in terrible fear that I would be too late to see the relief of Ladysmith but I was well in time and saw a fight the first few hours I arrived. It is terribly big and overwhelming like eighty of Barnum circuses all going at once in eighty rings and very hard to understand the geography. The Tugela is like a snake and crosses itself every three feet so that you never know whether you have crossed it yourself or not. Every one is most kind and I am as comfortable as can be. Indeed I like my tent so much that I am going to take it to Marion. It has windows in it and the most amusing trap doors and pockets in the walls and clothes lines and hooks and ventilators-- It is colored a lovely green-- I have also two chairs that fold up and a table that does nothing else and a bed and two lanterns, 3 ponies, one a Boer pony I bought for $12. from a Tommy who had stolen it. I had to pay $125 each for the other two and one had a sore back and the other gets lost in my saddle. But war as these people do it bores one to destruction. They are terribly dull souls. They cannot give an order intelligently. The real test of a soldier is the way he gives an order. I heard a Colonel with eight ribbons for eight campaigns scold a private for five minutes because he could not see a signal flag, and no one else could. It is not becoming that a Colonel should scold for five minutes. Friday they charged a hill with one of their "frontal" attacks and lost three Colonels and 500 men. In the morning--it was a night attack--when the roll was called only five officers answered. The proper number is 24. A Captain now commands the regiment. It is sheer straight waste of life through dogged stupidity. I haven't seen a Boer yet except some poor devils of prisoners but you can see every English who is on a hill. They walk along the skyline like ships on the horizon. It must be said for them that it is the most awful country to attack in the world. It is impossible to give any idea of its difficulties. However I can tell you that when I get back to the center of civilization. Do you know I haven't heard from you since I left New York on the St. Louis. All your letters to London went astray. What lots you will have to tell me but don't let Charley worry. I won't talk about the war this time. I never want to hear of it again.
LADYSMITH. March 1st, 1899. DEAR CHAS:
This is just a line to say I got in here with the first after a gallop of twelve miles. Keep this for me and the envelope. With my love and best wishes--