Off went the burghers, and I made no effort to stop them, for the spot where we were did not command a good view of the surrounding country, and I already had my eye on some ridges, about half an hour's ride away. There we should be able to reconnoitre, especially towards Dewetsdorp, whence I expected the enemy at any moment. During the retreat Veldtcornet de Wet was severely wounded.
Meanwhile, I hurried to and fro, encouraging the burghers in their attempts to break through. When thus engaged I came across two of my staff, Albertus Theunissen and Burt Nissey. To them I gave the order: "Get the waggon through at all costs." I also found my son, Isaac, and kept him with me.
Two outpost burghers lay at the top of the hill in the grass, and from their coign of vantage they had a clear view of the railway line. Ten o'clock in the morning arriving without a train appearing, my men began to grumble.
The whole Boer force was now in full retreat along the line by which it had advanced so silently the night before, and Yule ordered the two field batteries up to the nek between Talana and Lennox to pound the retreating burghers as they slowly trekked towards the Buffalo River; but again an unfortunate misapprehension intervened.
In South Africa these "paper sheets" were by far the most formidable allies of the British Empire. They wrought greater havoc among the Boer forces than all the British batteries ever did; for when they first began to explode in the midst of the burghers the latter dropped down thick and fast.
"He has avowed it, he has avowed it!" said Rouslaer and Pavillon, turning to the assembled burghers in attitudes of congratulation, with waving arms, extended palms, and large round faces radiating with glee. "He hath avowed himself an Archer of Louis's Guard of Louis, the guardian of the liberties of Liege!"
Imagine their feelings on realizing that armed Boers surrounded their bed! Their complete helplessness, as they lay undressed and unarmed, caused the burghers to indulge in hearty laughter. To silence their fears we assured them that they need not dread any evil, we would soon dismiss them.
But such materials abound in the history of every people. Men of genius for the work find them scattered every where in the peculiarities of personal character developed in the contests of petty tribes or turbulent burghers, as often as in the revolutions of empires.
These actors and musicians were selected from the best-looking "commoners", but they soon tended to become a special caste with a legal status just below that of "burghers".
The burghers so surrendering or so returning will not be deprived of their personal liberty or their property. No proceedings, civil or criminal, will be taken against any of the burghers so surrendering or so returning for any acts in connection with the prosecution of the war.