CHAPTER 32. THE SECOND INVASION OF CAPE COLONY.
Once safely in his own country again, the guerilla chief pursued his way northwards with his usual celerity and success. The moment that it was certain that De Wet had escaped, the indefatigable Plumer, wiry, tenacious man, had been sent off by train to Springfontein, while Bethune's column followed direct. This latter force crossed the Orange River bridge and marched upon Luckhoff and Fauresmith. At the latter town they overtook Plumer, who was again hard upon the heels of De Wet. Together they ran him across the Riet River and north to Petrusburg, until they gave it up as hopeless upon finding that, with only fifty followers, he had crossed the Modder River at Abram's Kraal. There they abandoned the chase and fell back upon Bloemfontein to refit and prepare for a fresh effort to run down their elusive enemy.
While Plumer and Bethune were following upon the track of De Wet until he left them behind at the Modder, Lyttelton was using the numerous columns which were ready to his hand in effecting a drive up the south-eastern section of the Orange River Colony. It was disheartening to remember that all this large stretch of country had from April to November been as peaceful and almost as prosperous as Kent or Yorkshire. Now the intrusion of the guerilla bands, and the pressure put by them upon the farmers, had raised the whole country once again, and the work of pacification had to be set about once more, with harsher measures than before. A continuous barrier of barbed-wire fencing had been erected from Bloemfontein to the Basuto border, a distance of eighty miles, and this was now strongly held by British posts. From the south Bruce Hamilton, Hickman, Thorneycroft, and Haig swept upwards, stripping the country as they went in the same way that French had done in the Eastern Transvaal, while Pilcher's column waited to the north of the barbed-wire barrier. It was known that Fourie, with a considerable commando, was lurking in this district, but he and his men slipped at night between the British columns and escaped. Pilcher, Bethune, and Byng were able, however, to send in 200 prisoners and very great numbers of cattle. On April 10th Monro, with Bethune's Mounted Infantry, captured eighty fighting Boers near Dewetsdorp, and sixty more were taken by a night attack at Boschberg. There is no striking victory to record in these operations, but they were an important part of that process of attrition which was wearing the Boers out and helping to bring the war to an end. Terrible it is to see that barren countryside, and to think of the depths of misery to which the once flourishing and happy Orange Free State had fallen, through joining in a quarrel with a nation which bore it nothing but sincere friendship and goodwill. With nothing to gain and everything to lose, the part played by the Orange Free State in this South African drama is one of the most inconceivable things in history. Never has a nation so deliberately and so causelessly committed suicide.