Page:Speeches And Writings MKGandhi.djvu/35

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fateful retirement of the British troops in January, 1900. The previous afternoon I saw the Indian mule-train moved up the slopes of the Kop carrying water to the distressed soldiers who had lain powerless on the plateau. The mules carried the water in immense bags, one on each side, led by Indians at their heads. The galling rifle-fire, which heralded their arrival on the top, did not deter the strangely-looking cavalcade, which moved slowly forward, and as an Indian fell, another quietly stepped forward to fill the vacant place. Afterwards the grim duty of the bearer corps, which Mr. Gandhi organised in Natal, began. It was on such occasions the Indians provedtheir fortitude, and the one with the greatest fortitude of all was the subject of this sketch. After a night’s work which had shattered men with much bigger frames. I came across Gandhi in the early morning sitting by the roadside—eating a regulation Army biscuit. Every man in Buller’s force was dull and depressed, and damnation was heartly invoked on everything. But Gandhi was stoical in his bearing, cheerful, and confident in his conversation, and had a kindly eye. He did one good. It was an informal introduction, and it led to a friendship. I saw the man and his small undisciplined corps on many a field of battle during the Natal campaign. When succour was to be rendered they were there. Their unassuming dauntlessness cost them many lives, and eventually an order was published forbidding them to go into the firing·line. Gandhi simply did his duty then, and his comment the other evening in the moment of his triumph, at the dinner to the Europeans who had supported the Indian movement, when some hundreds of his countrymen and a large number of Europeans paid him a noble tribute, was thathe had simply done his duty.


RETURN TO INDIA

In 1901, owing to a breakdown in health, Mr. Gandhi came to India, taking his family with him. Before he went, however, the Natal Indian community presented him, Mrs. Gandhi, and his children with valuable gold plate and jewellery. He refused, however, to accept a single item of this muniiicent gift, putting it on one side to be used for public purposes, should the need arise. The incident but endeared him the more to the people, who realised once again how seliiess was the work that he had so modestly and unassumingly undertaken. Before the Ambulance Corps left for the front, its members had been publicly entertained by the late Sir John Robinson, then Prime Minister of Natal, and on the occasion of the presentation to Mr. Gandhi by the Indian community, he addressed a