kwajimu1879 you beat me to it
Borrowing a telescope from one of the officers of the volunteer cavalry, they skirted round to the back of the hill, and there began their climb. It was very steep, but after some hard work they reached the summit, and then crossed to the front and sat down in a com fortable niche in the rock, whence they could command a view far down the valley. They could see the two battalions of infantry marching steadily along, and the cavalry moving among the hills and undulations on both flanks. They had taken some biscuits and a bottle of beer up with them, and spent the whole day
on the look-out. The view which they gained was a very extensive one, as the hill was far higher than hose on either side, and in many places they could see small bodies of the enemy moving about. At sunset they descended.
" I vote we go up again," Tom said the next morning. " The general has gone forward with most of the white troops, and there is sure to be fighting to day. We shall have nothing to do, and may as well go up there as anywhere else."
After the general's departure there remained in camp five companies of the ist battalion of the 24th, and one of the 2nd battalion, two field-pieces with their artillery-men, and some mounted men.
Just as the boys were starting at eight in the morning, there was a report in the camp that the Zulus were gathering in force to the north of the camp. This quickened the boys' movements and half an hour later they gained the top of the hill, and from their old position looked down upon the
camp lying many hundred feet below them. There was considerable bustle going on, and the Kaffir drivers were hastily collecting the cattle which were grazing round, and were driving them into camp.
" There is going to be a fight ! " Dick exclaimed, as they gained their look-out ; " there are crowds of Zulus out there on the plains." Could the boys have looked over the hills a mile away to their right, they would have seen that the
number of Zulus down in the valley in front was but a small proportion of those gathering for the attack ; for 15,000 men had moved up during the night, and were lying quietly behind those hills, 3000 or 4000 more were taking the road to Rorke's Drift, to cut off any who might escape from the camp, while as many more were showing down the valley. Altogether some 24,000 of the enemy had gathered round the little body in the camp. To the boys, however, only the party down the valley was visible.
At eleven o'clock Colonel Durnford came into camp with his 350 mounted men from Rorke's Drift, and advanced with them to meet the enemy threatening the left flank, while two companies of the 1st battalion of the 24th moved out to attack their right. The Zulus, now reinforced from behind the hills, moved forward steadily, and Colonel Durnford with his cavalry o/uld do little to arrest them. For an hour the infantry stood their ground, and the two field-pieces swept lines through the thick ranks of the enemy. The Zulus advanced in the form of a great crescent.
"Things look very bad, Dick," Tom said ; " what do you think we had better do ? "
" I think we had better stay where we are, Tom, and wait and see what occurs ; we have a splendid view of the fight, and if our fellows meet them we shall see it all ; but if oh, look there, Tom ! "
Over the hills on the left thousands of Zulus were seen pouring down. "This is terrible, Tom. Look here, I will crawl along over the crest, so as not to be seen, and look behind to see if it is clear there. If it is, I vote we make a bolt. It is of no use our thinking of going down for a couple of horses ; the Zulus will be in the camp long before we could get there."
Five minutes later he again joined his friend. " They are coming up behind too, Tom. They have really surrounded us. Look, they are close to
the camp ! "
It was a scene of frightful confusion. Nothing could be seen of the companies of the 24th, which had gone out to meet the Zulus. The great wave of the advancing army had swept over them. Below, the panic was complete and terrible, and soldiers, native drivers, and camp-followers were running wildly in all directions.
One party of the 24th's men, about sixty strong, had gathered together and stood like a little island. The incessant fire of their rifles covered them with white smoke, while a dense mass of Zulus pressed upon them. Many of the soldiers were flying for their lives ; others again, when they found that their retreat was cut off, had gathered in groups and were fighting desperately to the last. Here and there mounted men strove to cut their way through the Zulus, while numbers ol fugitives could be seen making for the river, hotly pursued by crowds of the enemy, who speared them as they
ran. " It is frightful, frightful, Tom I cannot bear to look at it." For a few minutes the fight continued. The crack of the rifles was heard less frequently now. The exulting yell of the Zulus rose louder and louder. On the right Colonel Durnford with his cavalry essayed to make one last stand to check the pursuit of the Zulus and give time for the fugitives to escape ; but it was in vain, showers of assegais fell among them, and the Zulu crowd surged round.
For a time the boys thought all were lost, but a few horsemen cut their way through the crowd and rode for the river. The artillery had long before
ceased to fire, and the gunners lay speared by the cannons. The first shot had been fired at half-past eleven, by one o'clock all was over. The last
white man had fallen, and the Zulus swarmed like a vast body of ants over the camp in search of plunder.
Horror-stricken and sick, the boys shrank back against the rock behind them, and for some time sobbed bitterly over the dreadful massacre which had taken place before their eyes. But after a time they began to talk more quietly. " Will they come up here, do you think, Dick ? "
" No, I don't think so," Dick replied. " They could hardly have seen us come up here ; even if they had been on the look-out on the hills, and as they reached the back of the mountain before the camp was taken, they will know that nobody could have come up afterwards. Lie back here; we cannot possibly be seen from below. They will be too much taken up with plundering.
The camp to think of searching this hill. What on earth is the general doing ? I can see his troops right away on the plain. Surely he must have heard the guns ? Our only hope now is that when he hears it he will march straight back ; but, even if he does, I fear that the Zulus will be too strong for him. The whole force which he has with him is no stronger than that which has been crushed here, and i don't expect the native regiments can make much stand if attacked by such a tremendously strong force."
So long as the daylight lasted, the boys, peering occasionally over, could see the Zulus at the work of plundering. All the sacks and barrels were taken from the waggons and cut or broken open, each man taking as much as he could carry of the tea, sugar, flour, and other necessaries ; many of the yoke- oxen were assegai ed at once, and cut up and eaten, the rest being driven off towards the north by a party of warriors.