The following week, Papa and Uncle Willem had visited the general store in the local town. They had returned with exciting news.
“Our officers held a war council meeting at Balmoral recently. They have adopted an entirely new military tactic. We will no longer be employing defensive or passive tactics but will be employing a new strategy of attacking the Khakis as frequently as possible and, in particular, attempting to obstruct their communication routes.”
“How will that work practically,” asks Marta.
“The Burghers will be divided up into small groups which will all act independently of each other. The aim is that the Khakis will have to divide their own forces up and this will make them more vulnerable to our attacks,” says Willem, waving his arms around in excitement.
“In addition to the Burghers under General Botha, another four commandos are being re-organised including our Potchefstroom Commando,” says Papa.Later that evening, Estelle goes to the kitchen to get a cup of water. She can hear the adults talking in the voorkamer.
“You have a hard choice to make, Willem,” Papa says. “You can accept Lord Roberts offer and surrender your weapons. His words could be sincere, and you might get to keep your farm and your livestock. The alternative is that you go to the Potchefstroom district and join up with the Burghers there. This option is risky as if the new military strategy fails, you will be branded by the Khakis as a rebel and punished accordingly.”
“What are you going to do, Pieter?” Uncle Willem asks plaintively. “You are faced with the same choice.”
“Not really, Willem. My farm is already lost to me. My livestock is here, but I have no land and no home,” the bitterness in Papa’s voice shocks Estelle, as she stands in the kitchen, her bare feet slowly turning to ice.
“I can’t believe we are having his conversation, Willem.” Aunt Sannie’s voice cracks like a whip and her words drip with disgust. “The strength of our army in the field must be preserved,” she continues. “If you two aren’t prepared to return to your commando, then Marta and I will have to take your places. Someone has to fight for the volk. We won’t stand by and let you two cowards undermine our hopes for a free Afrikaner nation.”
Estelle is shocked at Aunt Sannie’s frank and disrespectful comments about Papa and Uncle Willem. Papa is not a coward, his is the bravest person I know.
“You are shirking your duty towards your country, Willem, and I am ashamed of you,” she states coldly.
Estelle knows her mother is also keen for Papa to return to the war and that is the correct way for her to feel, but she isn’t as unpleasant about it as Aunt Sannie.
“Don’t be silly, Sannie,” Uncle Willem says. “Of course, Pieter and I plan to return to the fight. We needed to know what was happening first, that’s all. We didn’t even know where to join our commando before today.”
“I’m glad to hear this ridiculous discussion is finished then,” says Aunt Sannie. “Would anyone like some more coffee?”
Estelle slips away quickly before she is caught eavesdropping on the adult’s conversation.
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