Chapter 61282231

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61282231
Full Date1900-02-27
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count1506
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleClarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)
Trove TitleA Tale of the Boer War
article text

CHAPTER III.

Ia view of the gun, which could be dimly distinguished against the whirl ling black clouds of the storm-wracked ßky, the men stopped for a few minutes to make certain of the safety of their future progress up the most risky portion of their ascent.

When at last they came up close to the cluster of sleeping gunners, among the piles of ammunition with which to feed the hungry iron monster, a single sentry, whom they had passed unnoticed a few yards below, thought he saw something like climbing fig- ures passing a few paces in the open before disappearing again behind some rocks, and thought he heard the Bound of footsteps.

"Wie kom dar?" he cried, with a voice of warning, " Wie kom dar" a challenge he repeated several times, with increasing . anxiety, without receiving any answer.

Though he listened intently, and searched the face of the hill with his

keen eyes, no further sign or sound rewarded bim, for the Australian in- truders had stopped under ample shelter, accepting the warning. So the sleepy Boer was willing enough

to allow himself to be satisfied that all was well. He had heard the rustle of the trees, or a few boulders rolling down the hill, and, doubtless, mis- took the sounds for moving men, and his eyes must equally have beenj deceived by the deep shadows on the looming grey rocks. The wind howled so fiercely that his cry had not reached the other sentries who should be on guard a few yards on either side, and the wind was presently the only sound to be heard on the hill-side.

The intruders now spread out so as to come upon the crest of the hill in open formation, and this they suc- ceeded in doing without further molestation ; but aa they appeared on the open space on which the great gun stood, a sentry saw. them with a clearness there could bè no mistaking.. JHéJ afâr'èd at the advancing men in

tenor for a moment. So sadden was their appearance that the shock struck him dumb ; but in a moment he remembered the peril of their un- disputed advance, and cried, in a voice that rose to a yell of terror, " God's truth, it is the English ! They, too, are here !" ttTlííPÉ

His cry aroused the gunners, who

leapt to their feet, too startled and j dazed for the moment even to grasp j

their rifles

I " The domde roineks ! And we have slept 1" and they turned to their gun as if seeking its shelter or protection. But there at their soli- tary post, beyond shouting distance I of their comrades sleeping below j them, the wretched gunners were trapped beyond hope of rescue or

assistance.

The first words of alarm were the last spoken by the sentry, who was promptly silenced by the bayonet, though he yelled in terror at the gleam of the long knife in the dark-

ness.

"Eb mercy!" cried the Australian commander, as he rushed forward with his men. '*We want no pris- oners." And there, around their great cannon, the Boer gunners were done to death, and not one escaped the bayonet.

When their deadly task was done, the Australians fired a signal to their comrades on the railroad, and then destroyed the gun by breaking off the breach, and completely dismantling the great weapon. They then awaited further developments with the cer- tainty of a desperate attack from the enemy below, who must by this time have been thoroughly aroused.

They had not long to wait. From all sides came the cries of men newly awakened from their sleep by news of a terrible catastrophe. Their i nger knew no bounds, and even ^their natural cautiousness and disinclination to risk their lives in a close struggle was not sufficient to restrain their ardor for revenge upon the intruders.

As they rushed up the hill in the darkness, stumbling and falling among the rocks with many imprecations, learnt, it is to be feared, from their

British associates in times of peaceful intercourse, they had an opportunity of experiencing the dangers and diffi- culties of an assault upon a strong position under a hail of bullets, and it soon became evident that the. wily Boer even in his wildest moments of

exasperation against his hereditary foe, was not so reckless as the British soldier. Exposed to a withering rifle fire from the well-sheltered positions on the summit, the Boers speedily became demoralised, and it was not long before discretion overruled valor and compelled them to retreat.

They knew there was only one way by which they could reach the plain, and there was consequently a stampede towards the plateau on which their horses bad been tethered. But it was evident that the Australians had been there before them, for only a dozen or so horses were to be found on the plateau, in company with one or two \ cows. Now thoroughly demoralised with terror, for they knew that theil only chance of retreat was effectually cut off, they rushed pell-mell down the slope by which the invaders had made their ascent. Their cries of rage and fear at Anding themselves so completely trapped were redoubled ae they saw, across the plain, two lights and a glow as -oí fire upon Bmoke travelling at express speed along the railroad. ( In a flash the true reason of the courageous attack upon their position was revealed to them, and they cursed the cunning of the Aus- tralian picket who had outwitted

them.

Bitter as was their disappointment at the futility of their plan for inter- cepting the twiuB, they forgot every- thing now in their attempt to reach the hills some two miles across rough country, which would afford at least shelter and a chance .of safety, and the security of the route of retreat tc

the frontier.

But that route was not so secure as

they believed it to be. They had succeeded in reaching the base of the

hill without severe loss from the rifles

of the picket now enjoying all tht advantages of their own former posi- tions on the kopjes, and were about to make the best of their retreat in the driving rain which had now bursl from the inky sky, when they saw three companies of cavalry galloping towards them from each side, witt lances pointed downwards in readiness

to strike.

"With a cry the Boers endeavoured to disperse, firing at random towards the advancing host before they turned to flee, seeking safety round the base of the hill. But there they were met with a withering fire from the rear, Finding retreat cut off, they did al] that could be done, and, throwing down their arms, surrendered at dis-

cretion.

When the two detachments of Aus- tralians had gathered under theil respective officers for the purpose ol returning to their camps with theil prisoners and the few men wounded in the engagement, Private Tremaine asked permission to fetch the bounc sentry from the ledge of rock over looking the plateau on the hillside As he spoke a laugh rang out from behind him, a merry peal of laughtei from healthy lungs and a youthfu

heart.

Tremaine turned sharply with i

frown to find himself face to face wit! the man he had left in a fixed sitting posture on the wind-blown ledge. H< looked a strange mixture of miser]

and jollity, with his bair and clothes dripping with the rain as if he bad narrowly escaped drowning, a scarf that might once have been white' hanging limply round his neck, and his hands still bound in front of him, though holding the horse's reins with a firm grip. But in his face glowed a look of joy and pride that now he was ! among his own people, and that the ¡ few hours he spent reluctantly among his country's foes had giren him an opportunity for valuable service for which he might otherwise have waited

a lifetime in vain.

Whilst Tremaine was looking at tho smiling face wonderingly, and the officers and men of the company were waiting for an explanation, an officer from the relieving cavalry came galloping np bawling out the ques- tion : ,

" Have you seen a young fellow

with a scarf round his neck ?"

" Here be is," replied the officer of Tremaine's company. He's a Boer sentry. What's he doing among our

men ?"

" A Boer ?" came the laughing reply. " Not a bit of it. He's an Englishman, and a smart fellow. Whilst you fellows were keeping the enemy employed on the hill he was driving their horses and cattle across the plain to the railway, and a fine job

be must have had of it in the storm. I

expect he only got half of them across, but It was a plucky venture. He's an acquisiton to our brigade."