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Title: Under the Dragon Flag - My Experiences in the Chino-Japanese War
Author: Allan, James
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Under the Dragon Flag - My Experiences in the Chino-Japanese War" ***


My Experiences in the Chino-Japanese War



New York
Frederick A. Stokes Company



The following narrative is a record of my experiences during the late
memorable war between China and Japan. Without going into any detailed
account of my earlier life, some few facts concerning myself are
probably necessary for the better understanding of the circumstances
which led up to the events here presented. It will be obvious that I
can make no claim to literary skill; I have simply written down my
exact and unadorned remembrance of incidents which I witnessed and
took part in. Now it is all over I wonder more and more at the
slightness of the hazard which suddenly placed me at such a period in
so strange an experience.

I am the son of a Lancashire gentleman who accumulated considerable
wealth in the cotton trade. He died when I was still a boy. I found
myself, when I came of age, the possessor of upwards of £80,000. Thus
I started in life as a man of fortune; but it is due to myself to say
that I took prompt and effectual measures to clear myself of that
invidious character. Not to mince matters needlessly, I ran through
that eighty thousand pounds in something short of four years. I was
not in the least "horsey"; my sphere was the gaieties of Paris and the
gaming-tables of Monte Carlo--a sphere which has made short work of
fortunes compared with which mine would be insignificant. The pace was
fast and furious; I threw out my ballast liberally as I went along,
and the harpies, male and female, who surrounded me, picked it up.
Bright and fair enough was the prospect as I started on the road to
ruin; gloomy the clouds that settled round me as I approached that
dismal terminus. Then, when too late, I began to regret my folly. I
seemed to wake as if from a dream, from a state of helpless
infatuation, in which my acts were scarcely the effect of my own
volition. The general out-look became decidedly uninviting.

About eleven o'clock one spring night of the year 1892, I was standing
close to the railings of the Whitworth Park in my native city of
Manchester, to whose dull provincial shades I had retired at the
enforced close of my creditable career. I remember that I was engaged
in wondering what on earth I could have done with all my money, the
only tangible return for which appeared to be an intimate and peculiar
knowledge of the French language and of certain undesirable phases of
French life. The hour, as I have said, was late, and Moss Lane, the
street in which I stood disconsolate, dark and deserted. Presently
there came along towards me a man whose uncertain gait was strongly
suggestive of the influence of alcohol. He stopped upon reaching me,
and asked if I could direct him to Victoria Park. This is an extensive
semi-private enclosure, where numbers of the plutocracy of
Cottonopolis have their residences. One of its several gates is nearly
opposite the spot where Moss Lane leads into Oxford Street, which fact
I communicated to my questioner. To my surprise he, by way of
acknowledgment, struck his hand into mine and shook it fervently.

"Shake hands, shake hands," he said; "that's right--you're talking to
a gentleman, though you mightn't think it."

I certainly should not have thought it. He was a short, thick-set man,
of about five feet and two or three inches, shabbily dressed; and his
unsteady lurch, swollen features, and odorous breath, told plainly of
a heavy debauch. Amused by his manner, I entered into conversation
with him. He was, it appeared, a sailor, a Lancashire man, and, if he
was to be believed, very respectably connected in Manchester. I
gathered that he had ended a boyhood of contumacy by running away to
sea, his people, though they had practically disowned him, allowing
him a pound a week. This allowance had for some time past been
stopped, and he was coming up in person to investigate the why and
wherefore. Having a week or two before come off a voyage at Liverpool,
he had at that port drawn £75 in pay, which he had spent in two days
and nights of revelry, an assertion to which his personal appearance
bore strong corroborative testimony. He appeared, on the whole, to
consider himself an exceedingly ill-used person. "I'm a houtcast," he
repeatedly said. I asked him in what capacity he served on shipboard.
"A.B.," he replied, "always A.B.;" and certainly, in speech and
appearance, he seemed nothing better than a foremast man, although,
shaking hands with me again and again, he each time asseverated that
it was the hand of a gentleman. At length he went on his way, and I
stood watching his receding figure as he reeled down the street. I was
just turning away, when I heard a loud outcry; the "houtcast," about a
hundred yards distant, was hailing me. On what trifles does destiny
depend! My first impulse was to walk off without taking any notice of
his shouts, and on the simple decision to stay and see what he wanted,
turned the whole future. It appeared that whilst talking with me his
obfuscated mind had lost the directions I had given him as to the
locality of Victoria Park. Having nothing in particular to do, I
volunteered to walk along with him, and keep him in the right
direction, and accordingly we entered the park together. With
considerable difficulty, he found out the road and house he was in
search of; I doubt if, without my aid, he would have found it at all
in his then condition. He had not, he informed me, been in Manchester
for years, and those he was looking up had changed their residence.
The exterior of the place, when found, seemed to bear out his
statement as to the social position of his relatives. I asked him what
sort of reception he thought he would get from them.

"He did not," he replied, "care a d----n what it might be, but he was
going to see why they had stopped his quid, and no mistake about it."

He extended to me an invitation to come in with him "and have a
drink," a courtesy which, needless to say, I declined. He then left
me, after another vehement handshaking, and proceeded up the drive in
front of the house. A feeling of curiosity to see what kind of
greeting the drunken, wastrel "houtcast" would command from his folk,
all unconscious of his disagreeable proximity to their eminently
respectable residence, induced me to follow him. I paused at a point
where, concealed by some shrubbery, I had a view of the hall door,
which, upon my friend's ringing, was opened by a smart maid-servant.
Swaying up and down on the steps in a most ludicrous manner, the
"houtcast" addressed her, although I was too far off to make out the
words, but to judge by her looks she felt no prepossession in his
favour. After a while she went away, leaving the door open and him
standing on the steps. In about a minute a stout, middle-aged
gentleman appeared from the brightly-lighted hall, his whole aspect
presenting the strongest possible contrast to that of the seedy
mariner. The conference between them was brief and angry, and
terminated with the gentleman's returning within and slamming the door
in the other's face, who, with his hands in his pockets, stood for
some time planted where he was, staring at the _visage de bois_ as if
dumfounded. Then he applied himself vigorously to the bell, and pulled
with might and main. This course of treatment having no effect, he
commenced shouting a series of objurgations much too vigorous to be
here set down. No response, of course, was forthcoming, and at length
the discomfited visitor turned slowly away from the inhospitable
mansion. I rejoined him as he staggered past me. He showed no surprise
at seeing me again, but contented himself with simply asking me where
the ---- I had been. From what he said in answer to my questions, it
appeared that they had had the brutality to tell him to call when he
was sober,--"as if," said he, with a good many curses, "I wasn't sober
enough for them. Wouldn't even give me a night's shelter. But it's
always how they've treated me--a houtcast, that's what I am--a

Apparently hard hit, the "houtcast," who for the time being certainly
had some grounds for so styling himself, leaned with his back against
the gate, as if the effort to stand upright was too much for him on
the top of his recent disappointment. His plight was undoubtedly
pitiable. He had no money, it was well after midnight, the city was
distant, and moreover the search for a lodging would in his condition
be a matter of time and difficulty. Taking pity on his forlorn state,
I offered him the shelter of my own roof for the night, an offer he
was not slow to accept, remarking that one gentleman should help
another; and that if I had any "tidy brandy" he would be able to get
on well enough until to-morrow. So we set out for my lodgings in Cecil

This chance meeting was the beginning of a long and intimate
acquaintance. In the course of conversation I disclosed to Charles
Webster--such was his name--the desperate state of my affairs, with
the gloomy prospect they entailed. The remedy he proposed--and when
sober he spoke well and sensibly--was drastic and by no means
unfeasible. "Cut it all and go to sea," he said. "You've enjoyed
yourself while your money lasted, and what's the good of money but to
spend? You've spent yours--now go to sea and get some more. That's how
I do--have a regular good blow-out when I draw my pay, and then ship
for another voyage."

"That is all very well for you," I replied, "but how can I, without
either training or experience, get a berth on board ship?"

"I can do it for you," replied Webster. "Lots of vessels are ordered
to sea in a hurry, and not particular in picking up a crew, or perhaps
a trifle over-loaded or not properly found, and short-handed in
consequence. That's the sort of craft I'd look out for you, and if one
wouldn't take you, another would. I'd tog you out like an A.B., and
swear you knew your duty."

"And what when they found I didn't?"

"Wouldn't matter a straw when we were afloat. All they could do would
be to d----n my eyes or yours and make the best of it. It's done
every day. Certificates go for nothing, they're so easily obtained.
When the voyage was over, you'd be up to a thing or two, and the
skipper would rather sign your papers than be at the bother of going
and swearing you weren't a thorough seaman; then you could get another
job without me. It's done constantly, I tell you, and why not? Nobody
can do anything without learning. You take a trip with me, and I'll
make a sailor of you. You've stood by me like a gentleman, and I'll
give you a lift if I can."

Well, to cut the story short, I resolved, after some cogitation, to
follow his advice, as, in the circumstances to which I had contrived
to reduce myself, I saw nothing better to do. My introduction to a
seafaring life was effected pretty much on the lines indicated in the
foregoing conversation. The change from the existence of a voluptuary,
squandering thousands on the wanton pleasure of the moment, to that of
a common sailor, was at first anything but agreeable, and often and
bitterly did I curse the follies of the past. However, we learn from
experience, and probably I have profited by the unpalatable lesson.
Webster was a firm ally, and showed that despite his dissolute and
reckless mode of living, he really did possess something of the
character which he claimed, that of a gentleman. Under his tuition,
and being moreover, like Cuddie Headrigg, "gleg at the uptak," I made
rapid progress in knowledge.

We made several voyages together. In the summer of the year 1894 we
were in San Francisco, and rather at a loose end; Webster with a good
deal of money in his possession, and spending it as usual in riotous
living. We were intimate at this time with a man named Francis Chubb,
an Australian by birth, an able seaman, and a very reckless, daring,
and resolute character. To him it is owing that I have this tale to
tell. One night as we were sitting over our potations, he made us a
singular communication and a singular proposition. A shipper and
merchant of the place, by whom he had often been employed, had, he
said, asked him if he was open to run a cargo of warlike stores for
the use of the Chinese soldiers in the struggle which had just broken
out, there being rumours that the Chinamen were ill-prepared for a
contest, and badly in need of supplies. Chubb added that he had
practically closed with the offer, and was looking about for men whom
he could depend upon to join him in the enterprise, which his
employer, foreseeing from the turn events were taking that the Chinese
ports were likely soon to be blockaded, meant as a "feeler" to test
the facilities for, and the profit likely to arise from, the
organization of a system for supplying those munitions of war of
which the Celestials were stated to be in want, some large orders
being alleged to have been lodged with American firms on their behalf.
Chubb was to command the vessel, and he offered to Webster and myself
the posts of first and second hands. The remuneration was very
handsome, and we, not adverse to the prospect of a little adventure,
had little hesitation in closing with the proposal, much to Chubb's
satisfaction, who said we were "just the sort he wanted." His
employer, Mr. H----, I no sooner heard named, than I remembered to
have heard described as a very keen hand, and not over-scrupulous.

The vessel which he placed at our disposal was a screw steamer of
about 2000 tons, long, low, and sharp; an exceedingly fast boat,
capable of doing her twenty knots an hour even when heavily laden, as,
in a desperate emergency, we were soon to find out. Articles signed,
our cargo was procured and shipped--cannon, rifles, revolvers,
cartridges, fuses, medicines, etc., etc. We cleared without
difficulty, weighed, stood out, and laid our course straight across
the North Pacific.

Our ship, the _Columbia_, proved a beauty, in every way fit for the
risky business we were engaged upon. Needless to say she had not only
been selected for speed, but was rendered in appearance as
unobtrusive as possible. Besides lying low in the water, she was
painted a dead grey, funnels and all. The sort of coal we used,
anthracite, burned with very little smoke, and even that little was
obviated, as we approached the seat of war, by a hood on the
smoke-stack. She slipped through the water silently and noiselessly as
one of its natural denizens, and on a dark night, with all lights out,
could hardly have been perceived, even at a short distance, from the
deck of another vessel.

Without the ship's log to refer to, I cannot be certain of dates and
distances, but it was in the latter days of August that we were
steaming up the Yellow Sea, where, by the way, the water is _bluer_
than I have ever seen it elsewhere. In some places it presents, on a
moonlit night, the appearance of liquefied ultramarine, though it
certainly is muddy enough about the coasts. Our destination was
Tientsin, one of the most northern of the treaty ports, and of course
we kept in with the Chinese mainland as closely as possible to avoid
the Japanese cruisers. All had gone well, and we were fast approaching
the entrance to the Gulf of Pechili, when we encountered one of those
tempests which are only to be met with in the Eastern seas--pitch-black
darkness, rain in one sheeted flood, like a second Deluge,
blinding flashes of forked lightning more terrific than the
gloom, and an almost uninterrupted crash of thunder amidst which the
uproar of a pitched field would be inaudible. With our enormous
steam-power we held our own for a while although unable to make much
headway; but at last a tremendous sea took us right abeam on the port
side; the main hatch had been left open, a small Niagara poured down
it, and doused our fires. No canvas would have stood the hurricane
that was blowing, and for some time we were in a serious way. Before
our engines, which fortunately held firm, were working again, we had
drifted helplessly over to the Corean coast, and it was all we could
do to claw off-shore until the tempest abated, which it did very
suddenly, as it had risen.

As the wind fell, we ran under the lee of an island, oblong, high, and
thickly wooded, not far from a heavy promontory of the coast. Here we
lay for two or three hours repairing damages. Of course we had no
accurate idea whereabouts we had got to, but we reckoned that we could
not be far from Chemulpo, a very undesirable neighbourhood from our
point of view, as the port was in the hands of the Japanese, who were
engaged in landing troops there, and whose armed ships would of course
be in the vicinity. It was, therefore, necessary for us to spend as
little time thereabout as possible. As soon as things were ship-shape
once more--and luckily for ourselves we had sustained no real
injury--steam was got up to regain our former course. It was already
quite dark as we passed out from beneath the land; two bells in the
first night-watch, or nine o'clock, had just struck. Truly that was a
case of out of the frying-pan into the fire, for no sooner had we
rounded the extremity of the island than we found ourselves in most
unpleasant proximity to a ship of war. I was alone on the bridge at
the time, and at once caused the engines to be reversed, in the hope
of slipping back behind the land from the cover of which we had just
emerged. Too late; we were perceived, and the cruiser's search-light
blazed forth, illuminating the dark waters, sky, and coastline with a
vivid glare. Simultaneously we were hailed loudly, although the
distance was too great to permit of the words being distinguished,
keenly as I strained my ears to catch them.

Seeing that we were detected, and knowing that the appearance of
flight would increase suspicion, I stopped the steamer, devoutly
hoping that our unwelcome neighbour might be a detached vessel of some
European squadron. That she could be Chinese there was little hope, as
we were aware that the Celestial fleet was in the Gulf of Pechili.
Almost before our engines were stopped, one of the cruiser's boats was
in the water and dancing towards us. Chubb and Webster ran up from
below, and as we awaited the boat, we uneasily speculated as to the
character of the craft that had despatched it, as she lay within a
quarter of a mile of us, the white muzzles of the guns in her tops and
turret seeming, as she rolled with the swell, to dip in the wave.
Formidable indeed she looked, and there was an evident stir of
offensive preparation on board her; yet in spite of our danger, I
could not resist a feeling of surprised and wondering admiration of
the wild picturesqueness of the scene--the majestic warship, the
glittering, rolling expanse of the sea, and the black lines of the
shores, under that intense and vivid radiance, which might fitly have
emanated from one of those phantom-craft with which maritime
superstition peoples the deep. Everything it touched took a ghostly
and unreal look.

There was rather a heavy sea on, and the boat took some while to reach
us. At length, however, she was alongside, and then came clambering up
a little lieutenant, who displayed to our dismayed vision all the
physical peculiarities of the Japanese. He addressed us in English, a
language better understood than any other amongst the Mikado's

"You are American?" he asked, pointing to the star-spangled banner on
the pole-mast. "What is the name of your vessel?"

We informed him, and received in return that of the warship, but in
our consternation we paid little heed to it, and none of us could
afterwards remember it. The lieutenant proceeded to question us as to
our business, speaking very creditable English. We had previously
agreed that in such a dilemma we should describe our cargo as
consisting of salt, rice, and cloth stuffs, and we had taken the
precaution to ship a quantity of those commodities, in bales and casks
which were three parts full of cartridges to economize space, besides
having fictitious invoices, etc. These valuable testimonials Chubb,
who was outwardly as cool as ice, readily produced when the officer
demanded to see our papers. He scrutinized everything carefully, and,
still dissatisfied, said he would inspect our cargo. Of course we
could not object, and blank indeed were our looks as the enemy walked
over to the side to call up two or three of his boat's crew to assist
him in the inquisition.

"Never mind," said Chubb, "it's not all up with us yet, and it won't
be even if he finds out what we have aboard."

"What shall we do then?" asked Webster and I.

"Sling them overboard and run for it," said Chubb; and I knew by his
determined air that he meant what he said.

"What! from under those guns?" said Webster.

There was no time for more. The Japanese lieutenant, with his men,
rejoined us, and motioned us to lead the way below. We complied, and
introduced them to our "cargo," the barrels lying everywhere three or
four deep above the contraband of war. How consuming was our anxiety
as they poked about! Things went well enough for a while; they never
penetrated into the casks which they caused to be opened deep enough
to find the cartridges, or hoisted out enough of them to come at what
was beneath. Our spirits were beginning to rise, when an unlucky
accident sent them down to zero. The hoops of one of the barrels
handled were insecure, and coming off, the staves fell apart, and
along with a defensive covering of slabs of salt, a neat assortment of
revolver cartridges came tumbling out. The Japanese lieutenant smiled
till his little oblique optics were scarcely perceptible.

"Very good," said he, picking up one of the packages; "very nice--nice
to eat."

We were thunderstruck, and had not a word to say. All was up now, of
course; the Japs prosecuted the search with renewed keenness, and the
nature of our lading soon stood revealed.

"I shall be obliged to detain this ship, gentlemen," said the
lieutenant politely, to Webster and myself. "Where has your captain

I looked round for Chubb; he was not visible.

"I suppose he must have gone on deck," said I.

The lieutenant and his men hurried up, Webster and I following. Chubb
was conferring with a group of the sailors. The search-light was still
flaring away, and I was horrified to see that our formidable neighbour
had crept up to within two or three hundred yards. The lieutenant
walked sharply to the side, and shouted some directions to the boat's
crew. The words were scarcely out of his mouth when I heard Chubb say,
"Now." The men with whom he had been speaking rushed upon the
Japanese, seized them, and in the twinkling of an eye hove them
overboard into their boat, or as near it as they could be aimed in the
hurry of the moment. Simultaneously "Full speed ahead" was rung from
the bridge, and the steamer sprang forward as the hare springs from
the jaws of the hound. For a moment there was no sound except the rush
of the water foaming at the bows. Then the warship opened fire on us.
Gun after gun resounded, and we held our breath as the ponderous shot
hurtled past us. The first few were wide of the mark, but we were not
long to go scatheless. One of the terrible projectiles struck the
water by the starboard quarter, rose over the side with a tremendous
ricochet, bowled over one of the men, and smashed the top of the
opposite bulwark. Immediately after another tore transversely across
the decks, playing, as Chubb afterwards said, "all-fired smash" with
everything it encountered, and killing another of the men, who was cut
literally in two, the upper portion of his body being carried
overboard, the lower half remaining on the deck.

"He's mad," roared Webster, meaning Chubb; "we ain't going to be sunk
to please him," and he rushed on the bridge to put a stop to our

Chubb interposed to prevent him; they closed, grappled together, and
finally fell off the bridge, still struggling.

The cruiser had to stop to pick up her boat, and the delay probably
saved us; we must, moreover, have been a very uncertain mark in the
unnatural light, which doubtless would be no aid to gunnery practice.
On we tore, with the steam-gauge uncomfortably near danger point; the
warship in hot pursuit, looking, wreathed as she was in the smoke and
flame of her fiercely worked guns, and the electric glare of the vivid
shaft which still turned night into day, more like some fabulous
sea-monster than a fabric contrived by man. She plied us with both
shot and shell; one of the latter burst in the air over our bows; two
men were killed and several injured by the fragments. We were struck
nine or ten times in all, but they were glancing blows, which never
fairly hulled us. Chubb held on resolutely; we increased our distance
fast, and at length ran out of range. Never before had I felt so
thankful as when those fearful projectiles began to fall short. From
that point we were safe. We were five knots better than our pursuer,
and the only danger lay in the chance that some other cruiser,
attracted by the firing, might be brought across the line of our
flight. None, however, appeared, and our great speed dropped the enemy
long before daylight.

The damage to the ship was confined to the upper works, and could soon
be put to rights, but five of the crew had been killed and twice that
number wounded, and unused to such work as I was, I felt strongly
inclined to blame Chubb for incurring this sacrifice of life for what
appeared to me an inadequate object. He laughed it away.

"They take the risk," said he, "they know it, and they are well paid
for it. We've saved ship and cargo; that's all old H---- will think
about, and all we need care for."

It was far, however, from being all I cared for as I looked upon the
mangled corpses lately filled with life and vigour. I had embarked on
the enterprise in a spirit of levity and carelessness, reflecting
little on what it might entail, and there was something shocking in
thus suddenly coming face to face with the dread reality of war. But
whatever may have been the source of the feeling, it soon passed away,
and when the dead had been sewed up in their hammocks and laid to
their last rest in the deep--a ceremony we performed the day after our
escape--Richard was himself again, and the old careless buoyancy
swelled up once more.

Prayer-books had been omitted in our outfit, and we were at a loss for
the burial service. However, we laid our heads, or rather our memories
together, and most of us being able to recollect a scrap of it here
and there, we contrived to patch it up sufficiently to give our
unfortunate shipmates Christian burial. I should mention that another
of the wounded men died after our arrival at Tientsin, and was
interred in the English cemetery. He was the man who was first hit;
his name was Massinger, and he claimed to be a descendant of the
dramatist. He was known on board chiefly as "Hair-oil," from his
addiction to plastering his bushy black hair with some shiny and
odorous compound of that nature. Both his legs were broken by the shot
that struck him.

As to my friend Webster, adorned with a black eye, he never ceased,
during the remainder of the voyage, to declaim against Chubb's
foolhardiness and uphold his own proceedings on the eventful night.
For his own discomfiture he sought consolation in rum, protesting that
it was a miracle that any of us had survived to taste another drop of
that liquid comforter.

"But I'm a houtcast," he would wind up invariably, as his potations
overcame him; "that's where it is--who cares what a ---- houtcast

Chubb took no further notice of him than to laughingly threaten to put
him under arrest for mutiny. It must not be supposed that the
"houtcast's" behaviour on the occasion in question was due to any want
of courage. Escape seemed impossible; the risk of the attempt was
tremendous, and I am convinced that if the matter had been left to my
own judgment, I should not have dared it. But Chubb was one of those
men whom nothing can daunt, and who are never more completely in their
element than when running some desperate hazard.


We reached Tientsin without further mishap, and turned over our cargo
to Mr. H----'s agent, who disposed of it at a handsome profit, though
hardly sufficient, I thought, to warrant the risking of so valuable a
ship as the _Columbia_. We lay in the port about a week, to effect
the repairs rendered necessary by the Japanese gun practice.

At Tientsin a war council was sitting, and one morning Mr. Mac----, the
agent, came on board and informed us that he had received a
proposal for the _Columbia_ to be chartered as a transport to convey
troops to the Corea. It was only, he said, for an immediate special
service, and the terms being exceedingly advantageous he had resolved
on his own responsibility to accept the offer, as the work would not
occupy us more than a few days. We were to be one of a convoy of
transports which, sailing at different times from different ports,
were to rendezvous in Talienwan Bay on the east coast of the Liaotung
Peninsula, where the troops were to be embarked under protection of
an armed squadron. There was no time to be lost, and we were to weigh
anchor and make for the bay as soon as possible.

On the afternoon of the same day two Chinese emissaries came to make a
visit of inspection, and in the evening we steamed out of the port,
flying the American colours, with nothing of course to fear at the
moment. On arriving at Talienwan we found the bay full of shipping.
Four large transports were already engaged in the work of embarkation,
and another arrived after we did. The warships presented a gallant
array, twelve in all, belonging, with two or three exceptions, to the
North Coast Squadron. There were four torpedo-boats in addition. The
most powerful vessels were the _Chen-Yuen_ and the _Ting-Yuen_,
barbette ships, English-built, I think, of 7280 tons. The _King-Yuen_
and _Lai-Yuen_ were two barbette ships of smaller tonnage--2850. Then
came the _Ping-Yuen_, of 2850 tons, a coast-defence armour-clad; a
turret-ship, the _Tsi-Yuen_, of 2320 tons; the _Chih-Yuen_,
_Ching-Yuen_, _Kwang-Kai_ and _Kwang-Ting_, all of 2300
tons, deck-protected cruisers; and the _Chao-Yung_ and
_Yang-Wei_, each of 1400 tons, unprotected cruisers.

I have forgotten to say that we took a Chinese agent on board at
Tientsin for the trip. He was alleged to be able to speak English,
but rarely indeed was his jargon intelligible. I asked him to
translate the names of the Chinese warships, but this was a task far
beyond the linguistic capacity of my friend Lin Wong. I understood him
to say that it would require "too muchee words" to render in our
prosaic tongue the amount of poetic imagery concentrated in the
expressions "Chih-Yuen," or "Kwang-Kai." Of what the names mean I am
in ignorance still.

We were speedily boarded by a boat from the flagship, to the officer
of which Lin Wong gave an account of his stewardship, and we received
directions to draw up to the landing-stage in turn and receive our
human freight. The troops were still arriving from the roads to Talien
and Kinchou. They seemed for the most part an undisciplined lot, and
came streaming on board in no particular order; here and there a
mounted officer directing with shouts, gestures, and blows too, the
movements of the surging masses that crowded along the water-side. The
number embarked I reckoned at about 18,000. There was also a large
quantity of military stores to be shipped, and busy enough we were. In
the evening I had a glimpse of Admiral Ting, who had been ashore and
was returning to his ship. His barge passed close alongside the
_Columbia_. I saw a young-looking man, very pleasant in expression
and manner; altogether what we should call highly gentlemanly in
appearance. It is well known that he expiated his failures by suicide
after the final ruin of Wei-hai-wei.

All was complete on the second day after our arrival, and shortly
before noon the flagship signalled us to weigh anchor. I may remark
that the Chinese Navy is English trained, and the duty is carried on
in English, owing to the intractable character of the Chinese
language, the fact that officers and men have thus practically to
learn a foreign tongue in order to work their ships being an obvious
disadvantage. The transports were grouped together and the warships
disposed in sections abreast and ahead, with the active torpedo-boats
in the rear. Our destination was the estuary of the Yalu, the large
river which divides China from the Corea. We left Talienwan on
September 14, and reached the river on the afternoon of the 16th. The
work of disembarkation commenced immediately, although rumours reached
us from Wi-ju of the disastrous defeat of the first Chinese army at
Ping-Yang in the Corea the day before. It illustrates the ridiculous
inefficiency of the Chinese measures from first to last, that troops
should thus have been landed at hap-hazard far from any point of
communication with the interior of the Peninsula, the very day after
an action which extinguished their prospect of maintaining their
ground in the Corea.

The warships anchored across the mouth of the river, whilst the
transports proceeded some distance up the stream. Wi-ju is the only
settlement of any size in this little-known region, though there are
numerous fishing-hamlets scattered about. The soldiers improvised
their camps along the bank. A wild scene was presented when night fell
on the 16th--the glare of the bivouac, extending far along the
desolate water-side; the concourse of savage figures in the lurid
gloom, with here and there in the distance the gigantic shape of an
illuminated warship. We worked well into the night, and were at it
again when the sun rose--a glorious sunrise, pouring over everything
floods of crimson splendour.

The first accounts which reached England of the action miscalled the
battle of Yalu, categorically stated that it was fought off the mouth
of the river whilst the work of landing the soldiers was proceeding.
This story I fancy to have been invented by the Chinese as a sort of
excuse for their defeat, by representing themselves as fighting at a
great disadvantage in covering the disembarkation. However this may
be, the fact is that the work was completed by about seven o'clock on
the morning of the 17th, when no enemy was in sight. When the
_Columbia_ weighed and stood out of the river, after breakfast, about
nine o'clock, we found that the main body of the fleet had departed,
though three or four cruisers and the torpedo-boats still remained in
the bay. We and the other transport masters had received an intimation
that we were at liberty to return to our respective ports upon the
conclusion of the work of disembarkation. As to the _Columbia_, Chubb
had had instructions from Mr. H----'s agent to make straight from the
Yalu to San Francisco, report to our owner, and take his further
orders. We had, however, to deal with the Chinese supercargo, if I may
so term him, Lin Wong, who still remained on board, and wanted to be
re-conveyed to the Gulf of Pechili. We proposed to put him on board
one of the warships, but as they were already under weigh when we
steamed down, there was no immediate opportunity of doing so. They
were following in the wake of the main squadron towards Port Arthur,
steering south by west from the mouth of the river. We held on with
them, only one other transport ship doing the same.

For three hours we steamed on thus, at about twelve knots. Towards
noon we saw dense smoke all along the horizon ahead, and a heavy,
dull, rumbling sound reached us which soon made itself unmistakable
as the roar of artillery. We immediately guessed that the squadron
preceding us had been attacked by the enemy. Our escort, if I may so
term it, drew inshore, and I at first thought from their demeanour
that they were going to shirk entering the engagement. If such was
their intention, however, they changed it, and stood boldly on with
the torpedo-boats. We came to a stop, undecided how to proceed. The
other transport which had accompanied us was already in full retreat,
and Lin Wong, in whom discretion seemed very unduly proportioned to
valour, advised a similar course on our part. Chubb and I, however,
felt a strong desire to see the fight, and as we were not now under
the Chinese flag, there seemed no reason why we should not stay to
witness it, particularly as there was no need to let the _Columbia_
be seen.

We therefore, in spite of the unintelligible protests of Lin Wong,
cast anchor, having hoisted American colours, in one of the numerous
bays that indent the rocky coast of the Liaotung. Then Chubb and
myself, leaving Webster in charge, pulled off in a small boat towards
the scene of action. We kept close to the shore, and had about a mile
and a half to pull before we came abreast of the conflict. With its
deepening thunders bellowing in our deafened ears, we landed where the
ground was high, and ascending the most elevated point we could
perceive, had, with the aid of powerful glasses, a good view of the
scene. Terrific indeed it was--a wide, dense pall of smoke, which
there was little wind to carry off; through the haze the huge reeling
shapes of the fighting vessels, looming indistinctly, vomiting flame
like so many angry dragons, and several of them burning in addition,
having been set on fire by shells; and above all the appalling
concussion of the great guns, like the bursting of incessant

By this time it was half-past two p.m., and the battle had been in
progress nearly three hours. Not having seen the commencement of the
affair, we were for some time unable to make head or tail of it. The
ships were mixed up and scattered, and we could perceive little sign
of plan or combination on either side. The first thing that began to
make itself evident as we watched was that the struggle was nearing
the coast. At first the nearest ships had been fully a league and a
half seaward; before we had occupied our position three-quarters of an
hour, many were well within two miles of the coast. So evident was
this that Chubb remarked that half of them would be ashore before the
fighting was over. This of course enabled us to distinguish the
vessels better, and we began to make out evident signs that John
Chinaman was getting much the worst of it. The Japanese vessels,
working in concert and keeping together, as we began to perceive,
seemed to sail round and round the enemy, pouring on them an incessant
cannonade, and excelling them in rapidity of fire and manoeuvring.
Some of the Chinese vessels appeared to me to present an appearance of
helplessness, and there was no indication of combination as amongst
their opponents. Not but what they blazed away valiantly enough, and
some of them had evidently given as good as they got, for more than
one Japanese vessel was in flames. Of course we could not identify
these ships, but we could make out that in numbers and armament they
were a fair match for the Chinese squadron. They appeared to pay
special attention to the two great Chinese ironclads, the _Chen-Yuen_
and _Ting-Yuen_, one of which at least had had her big guns, 37-ton
Krupps, silenced, though still contributing to the entertainment with
the quick-firing armament. Shortly after three, the _King-Yuen_, fired
by shells, began to burn fiercely; she showed through the smoke like a
mass of flame, and was evidently sinking, settling down on an even
keel. Three or four of the enemy circled round, plying her with shot
and shell. Finally, with a plunge she disappeared, and the immediate
darkening, as the smoke-clouds rolled in where the fierce blaze of
the burning wreck had been, was like the sudden drawing of a veil
over the spot where hundreds of men had met their simultaneous doom.
The cannonade slackened, but soon broke out again fiercely as ever.
About this time it seemed as if the Japanese flagship, _Matshushima_,
was about to share the same fate. She looked all in a blaze forward.
The fire, however, was got under, and later on she was taken out of
the action.

Meanwhile the Chinese ships had been forced still nearer to the land,
and the _Chao-Yung_, an absolute ruin, drifted helplessly ashore,
half a league from where we stood. By the aid of our glasses we could
perceive her condition clearly--her upper works knocked to pieces; her
decks, strewn with mutilated bodies, an indiscriminate mass of wreck
and carnage. Her crew were abandoning her, struggling to land as best
they could. Subsequently the _Yang-Wei_ went ashore similarly battered
to pieces and burning. She was much further off, and we made her out
less distinctly. On the Japanese side not one ship had sunk as far as
we had seen, and though the flagship and some of the smaller craft
were in an unenviable state, the attack was kept up with immense
spirit, and prompt obedience was paid to signals, which were frequent,
whereas we looked in vain for any sign of leadership on the part of
the Celestials. Later in the action another of their best ships, the
_Chih-Yuen_, came to grief. She had evidently been for long in
difficulties, labouring heavily, with the steam-pumps constantly in
requisition, as we could tell by the streams of water poured from her
sides. Bravely she fought on unsupported, and her upper deck and top
guns were served until she sank. At length her bows were completely
engulfed; the stern rose high out of water, disclosing the whirling
propellers, and bit by bit she disappeared. We could hear distinctly
the yelling sounds of triumph that rose from the Japanese ships as she
went down. The _Chen-Yuen_ and _Ting-Yuen_, which seemed to
fight together during the action, tried when too late to assist her.

At five o'clock, as darkness came on, the firing rapidly decreased,
and the opposing squadrons began to separate. Some of the Chinese
vessels were out of sight in the gloom to the southward, and the
Japanese slowly drew off seaward. We thought it now high time to
regain the _Columbia_, and took to our boat, discussing the fight and
speculating on the probable renewal of it. We felt little surprise
that the Chinese should have had the worst of it, for we had had good
reason to suspect that their fleet had greatly fallen off from the
state of unquestionable efficiency to which English tuition had
brought it. Whilst ashore in Talienwan I had a conversation with Mr.
Purvis, an English engineer on board the _Chih-Yuen_. I asked him what
he thought would be the result of an encounter with an equal Japanese
force. He said the Chinese would have a good chance if well handled,
expressing on that head distinct doubts.

"They are very brave," said he--and I can answer for it that there was
no perceptible flinching on their part during the action--"and I
believe Ting to be a good man, but he is under the thumb of Von
Hannecken"--meaning Captain or Major Von Hannecken, a German _army_
officer, one of the foreign volunteers in the fleet. The significance
of the remark is apparent when we consider the statements made to the
effect that it was he who was really in command on the day of the
engagement, Admiral Ting deferring to his suggestions. I am in no
position to affirm whether this is really the truth or not, but if it
be indeed the fact, it cannot be held to be astonishing that disaster
should have overtaken a fleet manoeuvred by a _soldier_! I recollect
that Mr. Purvis also informed me that the boilers of two or three of
the vessels (instancing the destroyed _Chao-Yung_) were worn-out and
unfit for service. Laxity of discipline, too, seems to have resulted
in disobedience or disregard of orders. As an instance of this, it is
alleged that instructions telegraphed from the conning-tower of the
flagship were varied or suppressed by the officer at the telegraph,
and that a subsequent comparison of notes with the engineer afforded
proof of this.

I was forcibly struck by the comparatively unimportant part played in
this action by that "dark horse" of modern naval warfare, the dreaded
and much-discussed torpedo. Both squadrons had several torpedo-boats
present, though, as I have shown, those on the Chinese side did not
enter the action until it had been proceeding more than an hour. The
Japanese allege that they did not use the torpedo at all during the
action, and however this may be, there is nothing to show that the
weapon made on either side a single effective hit. I drew the
impression from what I saw, that it would be apt to be ineffectual as
used by one ship against another, an antagonist in the evolutions of
the combat, as the prospect of hitting, unless the ships were very
close together, would be small. The specially-built boat, running
close in, and making sure of the mark, would of course be dangerous,
although the storm of shot from the quick-firing guns ought even in
that case to be a tolerably adequate protection. The torpedo
undoubtedly was not given a fair chance at the battle of Yalu, but the
result seems to indicate that its terrors have been overrated, that
artillery must still be reckoned the backbone of naval warfare.
Probably the torpedo will turn out to be most effective in surprise
attacks on ships and fleets at anchor. The experience of Wei-hai-wei
seems to point to this.


It was dark long before we got back to the bay where we had anchored
the _Columbia_, and we might have found it impossible to make out her
whereabouts if Webster had not hoisted lights to guide us. When again
aboard we got up steam and stood out to sea. We should have run for
the Yellow Sea at once but for the presence of the Chinese agent, whom
we had had no opportunity of transferring from the _Columbia_. A
motion to throw him overboard was negatived, and we resolved to hold
on for Port Arthur, where we could get rid of him without going much
out of our way. Besides, we felt curious to see if any further
encounter would take place between the hostile squadrons. Such,
however, was not fated to be the case. The Japanese allege that they
intended to renew the attack in the morning, and tried with that view
to hold a course parallel with that of the retreating Chinese, but
lost them during the night.

We reached Port Arthur on the 19th, and having obtained a pilot,
entered the harbour. We found there only two of the vessels belonging
to the defeated squadron, the _Ping Yuen_ and the _Kwang Ting_.
The former did not seem much injured, but the latter had evidently
suffered heavily, the port bow being partially stove, the upper works
demolished, and the armouring tremendously battered and dinted.

Shortly after casting anchor in the West Port, I lowered a boat to
take Lin Wong ashore. In the dockyard he ascertained that a fast steam
launch was to leave for Tientsin with despatches within two days, and
he arranged to take advantage of her departure to regain that port,
from which, it will be remembered, he had come on board the
_Columbia_. As he seemed well acquainted with Port Arthur, I got him
to take me round, and show me as much of the place as could be seen in
the two or three hours of leisure at my disposal, for the _Columbia_
was to trip her anchor again in the evening.

The general features of Port Arthur, or, to give it its native name,
Lu-Shun-Kou, must be tolerably familiar to all who have followed the
course of the war. A glance at the map shows its position, at the
southern extremity of the Liaotung Peninsula, commanding, with the
formidable forts of Wei-hai-wei on the opposite tongue of land, near
Chefoo, the entrance to the Gulf of Pechili. Although now the
principal arsenal and naval depôt of the Chinese Empire, it is of
quite recent creation, only having come into note since 1881, in which
year it was decided to establish a naval dockyard. Up to then it had
only been used as a harbour for junks employed in the timber trade and
carrying cargoes from the Yalu to ports in the Pechili Gulf, or from
the south to Niuchang and West Chin-chou. Native contractors having
made an extensive bungle of the job, it was entrusted to a French
company, and by them completed. Since then the place has increased,
from an insignificant village of sixty or seventy mud houses and a few
shops, to a town of over a thousand dwellings, as well as two large
theatres, two temples, and a number of banks and inns. The population
at the time of the Japanese incursion was about 5000 or 6000, in
addition to a garrison of about 7000. The port is very spacious and
commodious, and dredgers have worked assiduously for several years
past to deepen the entrance to it. The bar has been deepened from
twelve feet to about twenty-five feet to enable permanent moorings to
be laid down for men-of-war. The dock basin, called the East Port,
covering an area of thirty-two acres, has been constructed well behind
the signal bluffs to the right of the entrance, the West Port, or
natural harbour, opening just opposite round the long, narrow spit of
land called the Tiger's Tail. The basin has a depth of twenty-five
feet at low water. There are large and numerous wharves and quays,
fitted with steam cranes, and connected by a railway with the
workshops, which contain all the most modern machinery and engines.
The dockyard, and in fact a considerable portion of the town, is
supplied with fresh water conveyed by pipes from a spring about four
miles to the north. There is a smaller dock for torpedo boats, and a
torpedo depôt on shore where those weapons can be tested and
regulated. The entrance to the port is defended by torpedoes and
submarine mines, although, as I noticed, some of the latter had been
so badly constructed and adjusted for depth as to show above water.

For defensive purposes nature and art have combined to render the
place exceedingly strong. Ranges of hills, varying from 300 feet to
1500 feet, surround the port and town almost completely, offering
scope for fortification of the most formidable character, advantages
which, as far as construction goes, have been well utilized, massive
and lofty stone forts occupying every point of advantage. I believe
they are of German construction. They bristle with heavy Krupp and
Nordenfeldt guns. The elevation on the coast varies from eighty feet
to 410 feet. The land defences, though newer than those seaward, are
less powerful; the heaviest guns, of 21 and 24 centimetre, are in the
latter. Everywhere the forts are supplemented by trenches, rifle-pits,
and open redoubts or walled camps.

Such is, or was, Port Arthur, and when we remember how the Turks held
Plevna, an open town until the earthworks were hastily thrown up round
it, for months against all the force Russia could bring against it,
one cannot but feel amazement that a place so powerful should so
easily have fallen. Properly defended, it should be unreducible by
anything but famine. The coast defences are impregnable, and those
inland, though more susceptible of attack, should not fall before
anything short of overwhelming superiority of force. I should like to
have seen the 20,000 men whom the Japanese led against it take that
fortress in forty-eight hours from Osman Pacha's army. The Mikado's
generals, however, had formed a perfectly just estimate of their own
powers as against those of the enemy. In fact, a third of their force
could have taken Port Arthur from the ridiculous soldiers who held it.

The garrison in ordinary times amounts to 7000 men, but before the
Japanese attack it had been increased to nearly 20,000. This is
inadequate; 30,000 men at least should occupy the fortress in time of
war, and 40,000 would not in my opinion be too many.

The chief man in the place when I was there was the Taotai, or
governor, Kung, a brother, I have heard, of the Ambassador to England.
His office, I believe, is civil; the military chiefs were Generals
Tsung and Ju. The soldiers, who appeared to range about everywhere
pretty much at their own discretion, were an uncouth, rough lot, with
very little of the smartness of dress and bearing which we associate
with the military character. Everywhere was a most portentous display
of banners, as if the sacrilegious foot of a foeman could not be set
on any spot rendered sacred by the dragon flag. The town presented a
very neat and compact aspect, and struck me very favourably as
compared with Tientsin, the only other Chinese town I had been in, and
which seemed to me to be for the most part composed of narrow, dirty,
stinking lanes with one or two good streets in the centre. Port
Arthur, as might be expected of so recent a settlement, constructed to
a large extent under European supervision, is very much better built,
and altogether presents, or did present--for to a melancholy and
deplorable condition was it soon to be reduced--a thriving and busy

At dusk I quitted the streets, with their bazaar-like shops and
strange illuminations, and made my way back to the port under escort
of my Chinese friend, who with Oriental politeness insisted on seeing
me safe back on board. A most unwelcome shock awaited me. No
_Columbia_ was to be found, and Lin Wong's inquiries elicited that
she had left nearly an hour before. We hunted up the pilot who had taken
her out, and learned from him that she had steamed away south-east
immediately; she could not, therefore, be awaiting me outside. What on
earth could be the meaning of it? I could only conjecture that by some
oversight the fact of my not being on board had been forgotten. She
possibly might return on its being discovered that I had been left
ashore, but in the meantime what was I to do? A suggestion by Lin
solved the difficulty. If the _Columbia_ did not put back, I could
obtain a passage to Tientsin on the vessel which was soon to convey
him to that port, where I could arrange my future proceedings
according to circumstances. This seeming the only feasible plan, I,
with many internal maledictions upon the stupid mischance, accompanied
the agent to an hotel or inn where he had already chartered quarters
for his short stay in the place. There are some half-dozen of these
establishments in Port Arthur. Three or four of them are wretched
hovels, which existed in the squalid infancy of the town; the newer
ones are larger and fairly commodious and comfortable. The one we
occupied was near one of the gates of the approaches to the
north-eastern forts. Mine host was a square, thick-set Celestial named
Sen. Port Arthur being well accustomed to "foreign devils," some of
the servants had been engaged for their knowledge of that curious
dialect "pidgin English," which in the far East is pretty much what
Lingua Franca is in the Levant. With a little practice it is easily
comprehended, although, under the chaperonage of Lin, my difficulties
were largely reduced. Fortunately I had a considerable sum of American
money in my pockets, and with Lin's aid was able to negotiate it at
one of the banks, at a pretty smart loss, I may say. Otherwise I was
fairly content and comfortable, and had no human want but whisky.


Nothing of interest occurred during the day and a half that elapsed
before the departure of the despatch-boat. Punctual enough as to time
she steamed out of the harbour under cover of night, with the Chinese
agent and myself on board. Misfortunes are well known never to come
singly, and so it was in my case. The morning after our departure was
very foggy, and towards noon we had to slow down to less than half
speed. Suddenly, without a moment's warning, a Japanese gunboat loomed
through the dun vapour close on the port bow. With their ridiculous
fondness for showing it on all occasions, in season and out, the
Celestials had their flag flaunting on a staff in the stern. The
Japanese on the gunboat perceived it, for without troubling to hail
she opened on us with the machine-guns in her tops. A storm of balls
swept the deck, and half of those upon it fell dead or wounded. One of
the bullets cut off the peak of my cap with mechanical neatness,
leaving the rest of the article on my head, though turned quite
round, back to front. Before anything could be done to increase our
speed, a quick-firing gun plumped several heavy shot through us. The
machinery was damaged, we swung round helplessly, and were evidently
fast sinking. We had two boats of no great size; one of them was
knocked to splinters by the shot; the other we lowered as fast as we
could. As many as it would hold got into it, the others jumped into
the water, and within half a minute afterwards our vessel went down,
and the woe-begone survivors of the sudden catastrophe found
themselves prisoners on the deck of her destroyer.

She was the _Itsuku_ gunboat of about five hundred tons, on a cruise
of observation in the Gulf, along with two or three consorts, whom she
had lost in the fog. There was not a soul on board who could speak a
word of English, but by a few Chinese was sufficiently understood, and
a gunnery officer could speak tolerable French, a knowledge of which
tongue I shall probably be recollected to have mentioned as being the
major portion of the inadequate exchange for my eighty thousand
pounds. They informed us that they had taken us for a torpedo boat,
and seeing the Chinese flag had no hesitation in opening fire on so
dangerous a neighbour, as they deemed us. They seemed very scantily
pleased when told our real character, and learnt that their
precipitancy had perhaps lost them a little promotion, or at least
honourable mention, as capturers of important despatches, as I
understand them to have been.

I remained on board this vessel for more than a month. The Chinese, of
course, were prisoners of war, but there was no ground for detaining
me as such. I related how I had been left behind by the _Columbia_ at
Port Arthur, without, of course, giving any hint that she had been
engaged in supplying China with war material. I thought this would
satisfy my captors, but I was not long in finding out that they
entertained their own ideas as to my character, for one day I was
plainly asked whether I was not a military or naval instructor of the
Chinese. I was able to conscientiously deny that I was any such thing,
but the query took me very much aback, as the naturalness of the
suspicion was obvious, and I foresaw no end of trouble in clearing
myself of it. The commander of the gunboat, a consequential and rather
surly personage, shook his head, and said he would have to take time
to consider the matter.

Time he certainly did take, and plenty of it. We were, however, well
treated, chiefly through the kindness of the French-speaking officer,
Lieutenant Hishidi, with whom I struck up an acquaintance, he being
in fact the only one of the gunboat's crew with whom I could converse.
He caused a small separate cabin to be extemporized for myself and Lin
Wong, and looked to our comfort in other ways. My friend Lin, I should
say, had received a nasty graze on the ribs of the right side from one
of the machine-gun bullets, but otherwise was all right, though in a
very chop-fallen condition at being made prisoner. He and I were
allowed more liberty than the other captives, and apart from the
detention had little to complain of.

I was naturally much interested at first in looking round me and
taking stock of the Japanese sailors and their vessel. She was in
superb fighting trim, beautifully clean and well found in every part,
and the duty was carried on with thorough man-of-war smartness. It was
impossible to watch these little active, clever, determined sailors
without feeling that the men of the finest navy in the world, which I
take to be that of her Britannic Majesty, would find in them foemen
worthy of their steel. I remember that they were daily exercised at
the guns, and the promptitude and precision with which they sank the
_Kowtung_--such was the unlucky despatch-boat's name--was a handsome
testimonial to the accuracy of their aim.

Lieutenant Hishidi and I had many conversations, chiefly during his
watches, and our talk generally turned on the war and nautical
matters. Of the Chinese he spoke with unmeasured contempt, certainly
not undeserved, and said that the Japanese fleets and armies had no
misgiving as to the result of the struggle; they felt able, against
such opponents, to do anything and go anywhere--"aussi loin que mer et
terre puissent nous mener," was his emphatic expression.

"We have been making this war for a long time," said he, "and we feel
sure of what we can do."

I remarked on the extraordinary rapidity with which a nation, closed
like the Japanese, up to within thirty years since, to European trade
and European ideas, had adopted and assimilated the system of Western

"Yes," he replied, "we can learn, and we have learnt, because we saw
that the knowledge would give us a great advantage in our own part of
the world."

He had been in France, and expressed great admiration of French
ship-building and French seamanship, and seemed doubtful when I
maintained that British seamen would in case of war assert their
superiority over the French ones just as decisively now as they ever
had done in the past--and of naval history in general Hishidi had a
good idea.

"You might," he said, "as your navy is so much larger than theirs."

But I pointed out that our naval triumphs had seldom been gained by
superior force--"although," I admitted, "we certainly have now double
the force of any other European power, on which account none of them
dare attack us singly, as they know that if they did, the majority of
their knocked-out tubs would be towing up the Downs in a very brief
space of time. But numbers apart, the British sailor of to-day can
still do more with a ship than a Frenchman. The conditions are
certainly completely changed, but the best seaman will make the most
of the new order."

He shook his head dubiously, and said he should like to see a war
between England and France.

"Well," said I, "you may live to see that and not be an old man. You
may live to see a war between England and half the rest of the world,
and see England get the best of it. It has happened once or twice

On another occasion we were talking about Russia, when Hishidi

"Russia wants China."

"Russia wants everything," said I.

"Ah, that is what they say of you," replied he.

I once asked him what he thought of the torpedo.

"Well," said he, "the torpedo is as yet far from being thoroughly
understood. It is very uncertain in use, though when it takes effect
invariably deadly. Gun-fire should be able to neutralize it, that is,
to keep it at a distance, for once struck, no sort of construction
could resist the explosion of two hundred pounds of gun-cotton against
the hull under the water line; water-tight compartments would be of no
avail against such devastation. Vessels of the cruiser type, fast, and
with a heavy quick-firing armament, are best suited to cope with
torpedo-boats, which would find it difficult to get to close quarters
with such craft. Warships have lately been built with a considerable
increase of length, which of course increases a torpedo's chance of
striking by giving it a larger target. Moderate size, no overloading
with armour, speed, good coal supply, and as many quick-firing guns as
can be mounted--that is my idea of the best type of warship at
present. The policy of building monstrous ships is doubtful, when they
can be sunk by a torpedo-boat. Under such conditions, it seems to me
that ease and rapidity of manoeuvring is of more advantage than
gigantic weight of ordnance and armour, because after all the
torpedo's attack is directed against a part which nothing can render

Such is the substance of my conversation with the lieutenant, but
despite the charms of intellectual intercourse, I soon began to get
desperately weary of my detention. Day after day the _Itsuku_ cruised
about, sometimes in company with other craft, sometimes alone. The
enemy kept well out of sight, and few events occurred to chequer the
monotony. Once we sighted two Chinese gunboats not far from Chefoo,
and the Japanese varied the day's drill and gun exercise by shelling
them into Wei-hai-wei. They ran ignominiously and never made the least
show of fight. Had the _Itsuku_ been a faster vessel, she would
undoubtedly have captured or destroyed one of them. Her maximum speed
was under sixteen knots. On another occasion, off the western coast of
the Liaotung, we came upon a fleet of junks, craft engaged in coast
trade, I presume. Their crews ran them ashore and escaped, whilst the
Japanese fired the stranded junks with shells, the officers amusing
themselves by sighting the guns and betting on the shots. When a
satisfactory bonfire had been created we steamed away.

This sort of thing, I have said, went on for more than a month. The
gunboat's cruising-ground was chiefly about the mouth of the Pechili
Gulf, now under the frowning forts of Wei-hai-wei, and now opposite
Port Arthur on the other side. There did not seem to be any regular
blockade of the Gulf, though Japanese warships were constantly
hovering about. The Chinese fleet, I believe, confined itself to the
modest seclusion of Wei-hai-wei harbour, and was not to be tempted
outside. Once I asked Hishidi when they meant to assail Wei-hai-wei
and Port Arthur?

"Oh," said he, "we are waiting our time; it has not come yet."

British war-vessels were frequently in sight, but to my requests to be
put on board one of them, or at least to be brought before a Japanese
admiral, the commander of the _Itsuku_--I have completely forgotten
his name--turned a deaf ear. October wore away, and any termination of
my captivity seemed as distant as ever. I was obliged to put an end to
it on my own initiative. One evening--the fourth or fifth of November
it would be--we were outside Port Arthur. At dusk the gunboat
anchored, and a boat was despatched on some errand of reconnaissance.
A point of the coast was less than a mile distant, and as I leant over
the bulwark in the fore-part of the vessel, it struck me that I might
easily swim off to it, if I could get into the water unobserved. Under
Webster's tuition I had become an excellent swimmer. I looked round; I
was apparently not under notice, and there was no light near where I
was. My mind was made up at once. I stole as far forward as I could,
and watching my opportunity, and steadying myself by the cathead, I
made a leap for the cable, intending to climb down it to the water. A
leap in the dark is proverbially a dangerous thing; the vessel
perversely veered away as I sprang, and instead of catching the cable
I soused into the water with a loud splash. The sentry on the gangway
heard it, ran forward, and emptied the magazine of his rifle at me as
I swam away, but by diving and swimming under water out of the direct
line of advance, I managed to evade the bullets. A boat was soon down
and in hot pursuit, but I had had a good start, and they were at a
loss for my true direction at first. I struck out vigorously and made
good headway, but had the disadvantage of swimming in my clothes;
moreover, the water was frightfully cold, and began to chill me to the
bone. I could tell, however, that the tide was strongly in my favour,
and I believe I should have escaped the boat's notice, but that the
people on shore, hearing, I suppose, the rifle-shots, turned on an
electric search-light to see what was going forward. I was still a
good quarter of a mile from the shore, and the boat was nearly as
close in--almost parallel with me, though several hundred yards away.
There was no fort near, but I could see the dark mass of one on a
towering height far to the left. The bright glare soon showed me to my
pursuers, who turned the boat's head towards me and gave way with
might and main. They closed fast, and I gave myself up for lost. A
heavy rifle-fire began crackling along the shore, and the balls
frequently skimmed along the water disagreeably near me. I struggled
on, but would inevitably have been retaken if the event had depended
on my own efforts. There was a small coast battery near containing two
or three mortars, and a shell was thrown at the boat as it held its
daring course for the shore. It was not a hundred yards from me at the
moment. I heard the scream of the projectile, saw it describing its
flaring parabola in my direction, and with my last energies dived to
avoid it. The sound of its explosion rang in my ears as I went under.
When I came up again, the boat was putting back in a hurry with three
or four oars disabled. How near to them the bomb had pitched I cannot
say, but they had evidently got a good allowance of the splinters,
though chance probably had more to do with the matter than
marksmanship. The gunboat was under steam and standing in, returning
the fire. I strained every nerve, and struggled ashore at last in such
a numbed and exhausted state that I could not stand upright without
assistance. I found myself surrounded by Chinese soldiers, who plied
me with questions, which I could not have answered even if I had
understood Chinese. Perceiving my condition, they took me off to a
small building like a guard-house, some way to the rear of a line of
trenches. They made a blazing wood fire in the middle of the stone
floor, and when I had stripped off my wet clothes and was partially
thawed, they renewed their interrogatories. I absolutely knew not a
word of Chinese, and could only endeavour by gestures to give them an
idea of what had happened. This was not very satisfactory, but they at
least could make out that I was no friend to the Japanese. They
jabbered away for a while amongst themselves, apparently discussing
me. At length one of them brought me some food in a large wooden
bowl--a strange mess of I know not what mysterious compounds, amongst
which, however, I could distinguish rice. It was palatable and I ate
it gladly, and asked, too, for a supplementary supply, which was not
denied. Overcome by exhaustion and the fierce heat of the fire, a
drowsy stupor came upon me, and I made signs that I wished to sleep.
They did not seem to have any clothing to offer me for my own which
was drying in the blaze, but they brought in several long, coarse
cloaks or mantles, and one of them enveloping himself in these,
stretched himself before the fire on the ground, to intimate to me
that in such a manner I must pass the night. Another offered me a pipe
of opium, which I knew it would be a great discourtesy, according to
their ideas, to decline, although I was quite unaccustomed to the
drug. I therefore took it and affected to smoke, and as I lay down,
they left the little room in which they had placed me, and I heard
them barricade the door outside.

I immediately fell into a profound slumber. The few whiffs of opium
which, despite of myself, I had inhaled, had their effect, and
produced a series of those magical dreams with which the drug tempts
and deceives the novice. Through all of them the idea of flight and
pursuit ran bewilderingly. I will give one as a specimen. I dreamt
that I was on the shore of the sea; the waters suddenly began to rise,
and threatened to overwhelm me. I turned and ran, but nearer and
nearer the flood came after. Then there yawned across my path a
precipice of which I could not see the bottom. Down I plunged. I
seemed to fly like a bird, and once more stood on firm ground. The
precipice seemed to reach to the sky behind me. I resumed my flight,
and looking back, beheld the flood leaping down the gulf in a mighty
volume, with the sun rising above it, and bathing the illimitable
cataract with golden light. It would be impossible to describe or
imagine the gorgeousness of the spectacle. With such visions as these
does the treacherous narcotic lure its victims. I believe its use is
forbidden by the Chinese military authorities, but the undisciplined
soldiers seemed to use it extensively when they could get it, like


I slept till the middle of the following day, and would in all
probability have slept longer but that I was awakened by my hosts, if
so I may term them. My clothes were quite dry; I got into them, and
was escorted outside at once. The first thing I saw was a detachment
of cavalry, mounted on little shaggy Tartar ponies. One of these I was
invited to bestride, and a moment afterwards, without the possibility
of explanations being either asked or given, we were _en route_.

I may as well say at once that the spot where I had come ashore was
the land below the West Port, and I was being conveyed to the
Man-tse-ying fort, one of the principal seaward fortifications. It has
an elevation of 266 feet above the sea level, and the latter part of
the ascent had to be made on foot. I was at once taken before the
commandant, who with a few other officers and a secretary sat prepared
to investigate the peculiar circumstances which had brought a Fan
Quei, or foreign devil, amongst them. The secretary knew English very
indifferently--so indifferently that I am doubtful if he understood my
story rightly. He asked me if I was acquainted with German, and gave
me to understand that he knew more of that language than of English;
however, I did not know ten words of it. The examination was long,
and, from the difficulty of understanding one another, confused
enough. I gathered that I was, or had been, under suspicion of being a
Japanese spy in the minds of those before whom I had been brought, and
they rigorously questioned the men whom I had first seen as to the
circumstances attending my landing. These, I consoled myself by
reflecting, could not be deemed consistent with the supposition that I
was an agent of the enemy. I was asked if there was any one in the
town who could witness to my having been there previously under the
circumstances I alleged. I replied that probably the people at the inn
would remember me.

Finally the Chinamen held a lengthened consultation amongst
themselves, at the end of which I was told that I would be taken
forthwith before the higher authorities on the other side of the port.
I hinted to the secretary that I had had nothing to eat that day and
felt decidedly hungry. I was accordingly served before my departure
with a meal of fish and boiled bread, with a cup of rice wine, a
decoction which tasted like thin, sour claret. This done, I was placed
in charge of my former escort, who struck across country from the rear
of the Man-tse-ying, passed two or three other forts and numerous
entrenchments and redoubts, and finally reached the water on the inner
side of the long arm of land enclosing the West Port. Here, close by a
torpedo store, I was put on board a sampan, a long, narrow boat, sharp
at both extremities, with an awning. In this I was conveyed to the
East Port and taken through the dockyards to the military
head-quarters near the great drill and parade ground at the entrance
to the town. It was late in the evening when we arrived there, and I
was not brought up for examination until the next day. Here, to my
great satisfaction, I found I had to deal with somebody who knew
English well--a military aide-de-camp, who spoke the language with
both fluency and correctness. To him I told my story plainly and
straightforwardly, and by the testimony of my former landlord, Sen,
and an official at the bank where I had changed my money, established
my identity as the person who had passed two days in the town with
Wong, and accompanied him on board the despatch-boat. This was
sufficient to procure my release. Everything I said was very carefully
noted down. My interrogation was conducted before a couple of
mandarins. The Taotai I believe to have been absent from the place at
this time. He is alleged to have deserted his position and to have
been ordered back again. This may or may not be so, but it is
undoubtedly the fact that he fled from Port Arthur the night before
the Japanese attacked it. He does not appear to have been open to the
accusation of heroism.

I was informed by the aide-de-camp that the port had been visited only
a day or two before by the British warship _Crescent_, the officers
of which had landed for a short while. Fate seemed resolved that I should
have no chance of leaving the place without seeing in it something
worth remembering, as I had no sooner returned to Sen's inn, which I
did on my release, than I was seized with a kind of aguish fever, the
effect, no doubt, of the exposure I had recently undergone. It was
nothing serious, but caused a feeling of great lassitude and
depression, and confined me indoors for some ten or twelve days. I had
the place almost to myself, as the approach of the Japanese armies had
not been favourable to custom, and the usual course of travel to and
from the north had been suspended. Sen was anxious to learn from me
whether I considered it advisable for residents and townspeople to
leave the port. I replied, as I sincerely thought, that the Japanese,
if they succeeded in taking the place, would do no harm to
non-combatants. I was, however, fatally mistaken.

The inn was a place of two storeys--few Chinese habitations have more.
Most of the rooms opened round a partially covered courtyard. I had a
good one in the upper storey, or the "top-side," as it is expressed in
"pidgin." There were no fireplaces; the apartments were chiefly warmed
by charcoal in braziers. Along one side of that which I occupied was a
long low hollow bench, filled with hot air from a furnace. This
contrivance usually served me for a bed, for although they use
bedsteads, there is nothing on them but an immense wadded quilt, in
which you roll yourself up. I transferred it to the hot-air holder,
which made a far warmer and more comfortable couch. I was waited on
mostly by a lad named Chung, one of the professors of "pidgin." He was
a native of Canton, had been in Hong Kong, and was well accustomed to
Englishmen and their ways. The fare was very tolerable--poultry, pork,
and various kinds of fish, but no beef, as the Chinaman deems it wrong
to kill the animal that helps to till the ground. Chung told me that
in the south cats and dogs are fattened for food, which it occurred to
me would be a distinct advantage in Port Arthur at that time, with a
siege imminent, and a great abundance of those animals observable. For
drink I naturally had plenty of tea, though it is very washy stuff as
made by the Chinese, who usually content themselves with putting the
leaves in a cup and pouring hot water over them, flavouring the
infusion with tiny bits of lemon.

As soon as I was sufficiently recovered to go out, I made an effort to
find out whether there was any prospect of getting away from the place
by sea, but soon found that this was hopeless to expect. No foreign
vessels were in the port, and the native ones were chiefly junks, the
proprietors of which, as interpreted by Chung, whom I took with me,
refused to venture out unless for such a sum as I could by no
possibility procure. There were no Chinese war-vessels in the harbour,
and indeed they would have been of no use there.

Knowing that the fortress was a very strong one, I made up my mind
that there would be a protracted siege, and my spirits fell as I
surveyed the prospect, for my pecuniary resources were limited, and it
seemed very unlikely that I would again see the _Columbia_ in the
port. However, my fears were groundless. Little did I think that
within three days the place would be in the hands of the Japanese.

It was on November 18 that I made the fruitless attempt to negotiate
for a passage. The appearance of the place had considerably changed
since first I was in it. The numbers of the soldiery had obviously
been largely increased. Industry was completely suspended in the
dockyard, the whole of which had been converted into barracks. In
returning from the wharves with Chung, I witnessed a specimen of
military punishment. Passing the open gate of an enclosure near the
clearing-house, I perceived a group which at once riveted my
attention. A number of soldiers were standing round one who, stripped
to the waist, was kneeling with his forehead stooped almost to the
ground, and his hands tied behind, the thongs that bound them being
held by a man standing close in his rear. Thus disposed, he received a
tremendous flogging from a whip with a fearful heavy leathern lash,
which made me think of the Russian knout. The blows fell with a thud
that made my nerves shiver, and the back of the sufferer was covered
with blood, which was thrown here and there by the ensanguined
instrument of torture as it whistled through the air. He took his
punishment, however, to use the language of the P.R., like a man, and
though his body seemed to bend like a reed with each stroke, he never
uttered a sound that I could hear. I did not count the lashes, but
there was no stint in the allowance. Minute after minute the
castigator laboured away in his vocation, until finally the victim
collapsed, and rolling over, lay like a log in a pool of blood, and
was then carried off. I was rather surprised to see a whip used, as I
had always supposed the bastinado to be the favourite method of
flagellation in China. I asked Chung for an explanation, but he did
not seem to understand my question, and replied that the "one piecee
ting (soldier) no hab muchee hurtee," and that they might if they had
liked have cut off his "one piecee head." True it is that decapitation
is a very common punishment in the Chinese army.

Strongly as the massacre by the Japanese troops in Port Arthur is to
be condemned, there is not the slightest doubt in the world that the
Chinese brought it on themselves by their own vindictive savagery
towards their enemies. The attacking armies, advancing down the
Peninsula in touch with the fleet, were now within a day or two's
march of the inland forts. Bodies of Chinese troops harassed and
resisted them, and brushes between the opposing forces frequently took
place. The Chinese took some prisoners, whom they slew mercilessly,
and one of the first things I saw on the morning of the 19th was a
pair of corpses suspended by the feet from the branches of a huge
camphor tree near the parade-ground. They were hideously mutilated.
They had been disembowelled; the eyes were gouged out, the throat cut,
and the right hand severed. They were perfectly naked, and groups of
children were pelting them with mud and stones.

Similar ghastly spectacles were to be seen in other parts, both inside
the town and beyond it. Nor was this the worst; the walls exhibited
placards, in the sacred imperial yellow, inciting to these atrocities.
This I know by means of Chung, whom I usually took out with me. The
tenor, as he translated, was this:--"To the soldiers and subjects of
the Celestial Lord of the Dragon Throne. So much for every Japanese
dog alive. So much for his head or hand. In the name of the Sacred Son
of Heaven," etc. Then came the date and the signature of the Taotai.
The exact amount of the rewards I forget. I think it was fifty taels
for a live prisoner, and a less amount for heads or hands. The bodies
of the Japanese soldiers killed in encounters with the enemy as they
closed on the place, were often found minus the head or right hand,
sometimes both, besides being ferociously gashed and slashed. Corpses
were still hanging on the trees when the fortress fell, and it is not
surprising that their former comrades should have been maddened by the
sight, though of course the officers are greatly to blame for
permitting the fearful retaliation which ensued to be carried to such
lengths. The massacre seems to have been allowed to continue
unchecked until no more victims could be found.

This, however, is to anticipate. On the 19th the enemy were close upon
the forts, and everything was bustle and commotion. Business was
suspended nearly everywhere, and the movements of the troops were the
chief attraction. Great crowds gathered in the vicinity of the
general's pavilion overlooking the parade-ground, where a council was
held in the afternoon. A strong armed force held back the mob. All the
principal military officers arrived from their posts at the head of
their staffs one by one. The Taotai was brought from his residence in
a magnificent sedan-chair, carried by ten or twelve bearers. The
pavilion itself is a splendid structure, adorned with the most gaudy
and brilliant colours, and covered with Chinese characters beautifully
worked in gold. The consultation lasted for at least three hours. I
had only a distant view of Kung over the heads of the soldiers. The
fighting outside continued, and on the next day more Japanese corpses
had been brought in by the vengeful soldiery, and left for the rabble
to amuse themselves with. I do not think that any Japanese was brought
into the town alive.

Towards noon the next day (20th) the first guns were heard. Cannon
rumbled away in the distance all the afternoon, ceasing as night came
on. A wild and anxious night it was. There was no certain news of the
fighting, and the most contradictory rumours were prevalent. Excited
crowds filled the streets, which blazed with great coloured paper
lanterns, of which nearly every individual carried one; indeed, the
person who is seen outside without a lantern after dark becomes an
object of suspicion to the police watch.

I determined to see, if possible, something of the fighting next day.
All the ground around Port Arthur is, as I have before remarked, very
hilly. Outside the town, and between it and the north-western forts,
is a lofty elevation named White Boulders, for an obvious reason--the
ground is full of chalk. This spot I determined upon as my point of
observation. Most of the front face had been covered with trenches,
but the rear was easy of attainment, and I was struggling up the steep
ascent at day-break. The summit is very uneven, covered with huge
crags and deep indentations, and there were any number of secure
enough nooks to pick and choose from.

The field of action seen from White Boulders is very simple and may be
described in a few words. Behind me was the West Port; on my left the
north-western fortifications, called the Table Mountain forts; on my
right the East Port and the sea, and in front the greater part of the
town, with the north-eastern forts beyond. Of these latter there are,
I think, eight, all connected by a wall. I had only a partial view of
them. Between the elevations on which stand the north-eastern and
north-western forts, the ground sinks deeply, and there is a wide
space comparatively level, part of it occupied by a village. This
tract is defended by redoubts and earthworks, and can be swept by the
fire of the higher fortifications, particularly by those of the
north-east, but still it is a weak point in the defence, though
capable, it seemed to me, of being greatly strengthened.

The day broke with a frosty clearness, and though I had no glass, it
was possible to see for miles on every hand. The dragon flag waved
everywhere on the Chinese forts, but I could see at first no sign of
the Japanese, and it was not until they began to fire that their
positions were indicated. It was about half-past seven when, far to
the north-west, their guns began to boom. All their preparations had
apparently been made over-night, and they were only waiting for
daylight to begin. The Chinese opened fire in reply on both sides;
battery after battery joined in, and soon there was a thundering roar
of artillery, and a dense volume of white smoke, through which glanced
the flash of the cannon, all round the great semi-circle. The scream
of shells, and the blaze and detonation with which they burst, were
incessant. Away on the right the sea was covered with warships, which
seemed to have nothing to do, and certainly were not assailing the
coast defences. Some of the seaward forts were able to get their guns
to bear on the positions of the Japanese armies, and were blazing
away, though I don't think they could do much damage.

Some minor outlying fortifications had been captured the previous
afternoon, and the Japanese had divided into two bodies for the main
assaults on the north-west and north-east. The Chinese in these two
sections appeared to have no combination, and by a feint at the
north-east the Japanese kept that part diverted until the west forts
had been carried. It is a fact that they fell about an hour and a half
after the cannonade commenced. The Japanese infantry advanced against
them, and the valiant troops holding them ran away at the sight. The
Chinese forts on the other side now began to fire away across the
intervening valley, as if that could remedy the disaster. Upon them
then became concentrated the whole Japanese fire. The Chinamen here
made a far better show, and the fire was vigorous and sustained. About
eleven o'clock, with a terrific blast of flame and thunder, which
seemed to shake the ground far and near to the shores of the sea,
their largest fort, the Shoju, or Pine Tree Hill, blew up; a shell
must have alighted in the magazine. At noon the whole Japanese line
advanced to the charge, and here, too, the Celestials never waited for
the assault, but fled precipitately. There was no fighting at all at
close quarters; not a solitary Chinaman stood for a bayonet thrust.
Thus pusillanimously were abandoned these two great masses of
fortifications, placed in the most commanding situations, on steep
mountain heights where attacking forces could keep no sort of regular
formation, and could have been mowed down in thousands by competent
gunners as they struggled up the impregnable inclines. It was with a
feeling of bewilderment that I beheld such powerful defences lost in
such a manner, and realized that after three or four hours'
bombardment on one side, without a shot fired against the tremendous
coast defences, it was all up with Port Arthur.

The victors next turned their attention to the redoubts and walled
camps on the lower ground, with the calm method which distinguished
all their operations. From the valleys between the hills began to
emerge dark columns of infantry, which closed steadily upon the
devoted town, rolling to their positions with the mechanical
regularity of parade, the sheen of their bayonets glancing here and
there through the volumes of smoke which had settled thickly in the
hollows. Nearer, spread over the ground to which the forts their
cowardice had lost should have afforded ample protection, were the
disorganized masses of Chinese, preparing for their last scattered and
fruitless efforts. Only one of the inland forts, that nearest to the
town, and called, I think, Golden Hill, was still in their possession.
The trenches below me on White Boulders' front face, which had been
unoccupied during the early portion of the day, now began to swarm
with riflemen, whose weapons kept up a continuous roll, swelled from
many a rifle-pit and redoubt away forward from the base of the
elevation. Steadily the enemy advanced, working their way round on
both wings within the captured fortresses. They took skilful advantage
of every protection the ground afforded, and the resistance in their
front rapidly diminished as they pressed on irresistibly from position
to position.

It was now high time for me to evacuate my post, where I had had a
solitary and secure vantage-place amidst the rugged inequalities of
its summit, which probably I should not have been permitted to attain
if I had not set about it so early. Past its front runs a shallow but
broad stream, which coming through the Suishiyeh valley, rounds the
parade-ground on the south towards White Boulders, whence it flows
into a large and deep creek farther west. This stream the Japanese
had to cross before they could attack the trenches below me. Two or
three times they were beaten back by the hail of bullets poured on
them at very close range, but covered by a heavy fire on their own
side they were at length over, and then their opponents took to flight
round the right-hand side of the hill. I stayed only to see this, and
plunged down the rear. It was growing dusk, and I had numerous narrow
escapes of breaking my neck in the deep and rugged hollows, some of
them almost ravines, which seam that side of the elevation.

The town was now at the mercy of the conquerors. The Chinese were
running from the Golden Hill fort as I descended, without an effort at
defending it, and the water beyond was covered with boats and small
craft filled with fugitives, mostly the dastardly troops, who threw
away arms and uniforms as they ran. For incompetence and cowardice
commend me for the future to Chinese soldiers. The twenty thousand of
them who occupied Port Arthur contrived to kill about sixty of their
antagonists on November 21, with all the best modern weapons at their
disposal. And these are the men who, according to Lord Wolseley and
other critics, are some day to start out to conquer the earth! Let,
says Lord Wolseley, a Napoleon arise amidst this vast people, and we
shall see. But is an essentially unwarlike nation at all likely to
breed a Napoleon, or to supply him with openings for a career? Who
ever heard of a Chinese conqueror? Have they ever appeared otherwise
than as the most self-centred and unenterprising people in the world,
displaying the least possible aptitude for the career of arms? And
from what source, after thousands of years of such characteristics,
are they to bring forth the material for this sudden burst of
conquering militarism?


I directed my retreat towards the dockyards, with a view to getting
round to the south part of the town, as far as possible from the
quarter by which the Japanese were entering it. The idea of a general
massacre never entered my mind, and I only thought of getting back to
my inn, there to stay until things quieted down. My prevailing feeling
was one of satisfaction that I should not after all have to face a
long residence in a beleaguered town. I therefore paid little
attention at first to the fact that people were flying on every hand,
and I did not suppose that there could be any good reason for flight,
beyond the desirability of getting out of the way of the conquering
troops until the ardour of victory had cooled down. I was not long to
be left undeceived. A deadly work of vengeance and slaughter had
commenced Down the panic-crowded streets, louder and louder as I
advanced, came ringing the volleys of the rifle-fire, the shouts of
the infuriated soldiers, and the death-shrieks of their victims. I
knew that all armed resistance had been broken, and as these sounds of
terror increased, an idea of what might be imminent crossed my mind. I
recollected what so often follows the fall of a place carried by
storm; I remembered the atrocities committed on the Japanese
prisoners; and I remembered, too, the general character of all
Oriental soldiers. I paused to consider my situation. I had passed
round by the water-side until outside the dock basin, and then turned
into the streets, striking across in the direction of the inn, with
the route from which to the East Port I was well enough acquainted.
There was a rush and hurry of fugitives all around me, and now for the
first time I saw the Japanese soldiers in pursuit, pressing on the
fleeing throng, and using rifle and bayonet furiously on all and
sundry, stabbing and hacking fiendishly at those who fell. I was
knocked down in the rush and trampled upon, and it was some time
before I could rise. A Japanese soldier was near me as I staggered to
my feet, and took aim at me with his rifle. The barrel was within a
foot of me, and I struck it aside just in time to escape getting a
bullet through my body. I had no weapon but those of nature, but in
their use I was, like most of the Anglo-Saxon breed, something of an
artist, and before the Jap could recover his piece I gave him a good,
straight, British right-hander between the eyes, which sent him down
like a nine-pin. In all human probability it was the first sample of
the article that had ever come under his notice; he was clearly unused
to the method of attack, and lay quite flat as if to think it over,
whilst I retreated as fast as my legs could carry me. I resolved to
hold on for the inn, thinking that if I succeeded in reaching it, I
should be comparatively safe, as perhaps the outbreak of fury might
confine itself to the streets. I knew, too, that I had not much
farther to go. I made little progress, nevertheless, being frequently
turned out of the road by the necessity of avoiding the soldiers, who
were spreading fast across the town, shooting down all whom they
encountered. One began to stumble over corpses in nearly every street,
and the risk of encountering parties of the murderers increased, every
minute. Again and again I came into the midst of the work of butchery,
and every now and then ran the gauntlet of a flight of bullets fired
down the narrow avenues. At length I lost my way completely, and
wandered about through the pandemonium around, thinking that each
minute would be my last. At length, in emerging from a dark lane
leading up an ascent, I came upon a sheet of water. I immediately
recognized it as a large shallow fresh-water lake in the rear of the
dock basin, and it thus appeared that I had strayed back nearly to the
point where I had re-entered the town on descending from White

A frightful scene was before me. I have said that the land by which I
had come out on the lake inclined steeply upwards, and the water was
about fifteen feet below me when I arrived in sight of it. It was
surrounded by crowds of Japanese soldiers, who had driven large
numbers of the fugitives into the water, and were firing on them from
every side, and driving back with the bayonet those who attempted to
struggle out. The dead floated on the water, which was reddened with
blood. The soldiers, yelling and laughing with vengeful glee, seemed
to gloat over the agonies of their victims. It was fearful to see
those gory forms struggling in the agitated water, those who still
lived endeavouring to extricate themselves from the mass of corpses,
falling fast, but often rising again with their last energies,
streaming with water and blood, and uttering piteous cries and appeals
for mercy, which were mocked by the fiends around them. Many women
were amongst them; one I noticed carrying a little child, which,
struggling forward, she held up to the soldiers as if in appeal. As
she reached the bank, one of the wretches struck her through with his
bayonet, and with a second stroke as she fell transfixed the child,
which might have been two years old, and held its little body aloft.
The woman rose and made a wild effort to regain the child, but
evidently exhausted and dying, fell back again into the water. Her
body--and in fact it was done with everybody that came within
reach--was hacked in pieces. Fresh batches of victims were being
driven in, until there threatened soon to be no room in the water for
any more. I could bear the spectacle no longer, but turned and fled
from the ghastly spot.

I now knew my whereabouts, and once more set out for the inn, along
the line from which I had strayed. Heaps of dead and spectacles of
murder were continually presenting themselves. In one place I saw some
ten or twelve soldiers with a number of unfortunates whom they had
tied back to back in a batch. With volley after volley they despatched
them, and proceeded to mutilate their bodies in the usual horrible
fashion. Nobody was spared, man, woman, or child, that I could see.
The Chinese appeared to offer no resistance. Many of them prostrated
themselves on the ground before the butchers with abject submission,
and were shot or stabbed in that posture.

I was now to have a close shave. I came suddenly and unawares upon a
party engaged in slaughtering some shrieking wretches--women and
children amongst them--and being perceived was shot at by one of the
soldiers. I rapidly retreated, but he detached himself in pursuit. I
entered a house; he followed, but I had the start of him, and for a
while evaded him. I got into what looked like a kitchen or scullery,
and amongst some other utensils I came upon a curiously shaped
hatchet, very heavy and sharp. I waited for about a quarter of an
hour, and then, judging that the Jap must have left when unable to
find me, I prepared to sally forth again, as it was rather more
dangerous to be in the houses than in the streets, the soldiers
entering and pillaging them one by one, and of course slaughtering
anybody they found within. No sooner, however, had I got to the front,
than I unexpectedly encountered the very man who had driven me in,
retiring laden with booty. He dropped his plunder at once upon seeing
me, and handled his bayonet to run me through. We were in a little low
room, with a door in a corner opening on the street. He made a furious
thrust at me; by a quick movement I evaded it. The steel grazed my
left side, and crashed through the wall behind me, to which I was
pinned by the clothes, and as he tried to withdraw his weapon, I had a
fair stroke at him in return. The axe was very sharp; rage and
despair seemed to have doubled my strength, and I split his skull
half-way down to the jaw. Brains and blood were scattered over me, as
he sank dead at my feet.

I felt no inclination to stay any longer, and was about to take my
departure, when it struck me that I might as well arm myself with my
defunct antagonist's rifle and cartridge-pouch. This led immediately
to a better idea. The Jap was a man of nearly my own stature; why not
put on his clothes? It was fast darkening, and aided in the deception
by the obscurity, my chance of escape would be greatly increased,
though I began to have an uneasy feeling that it would be a miracle if
I escaped destruction anyhow. I immediately acted on the inspiration.
The soldier, I have said, was nearly of my own height (5 ft. 6 in.),
but I was a good deal broader across the shoulders, and I made an
extensive split up the back of his tunic in struggling into it. That,
however, was no great matter, and I was soon equipped in all his outer
casement, except his cap, which had been bisected along with his head.
There was a little keen dagger in his belt, and with it I cut off my
moustache as close as I could, as the Japanese seldom have much hair
on their faces. Then, not forgetting his rifle, a beautiful
Lee-Metford, I sallied forth, carrying my discarded clothes over my
arm, a circumstance not at all likely to attract attention, as they
were all loading themselves with booty.

I was undecided enough how to proceed. I might pass out into the open
country north of the town, but if I did so I should probably either
die of starvation or get killed as a Japanese straggler. I began to
think my best course would be to return to the port, and take my
chance of getting away in some small vessel. First of all, however, I
resolved to complete my intention of seeing what was going on at the
inn, to which I was now quite close. I kept boldly on, and my disguise
answered admirably, not one of the soldiers seeming to suspect that I
was anything but a comrade. Now and then I would be greeted by wild
cries in their high, shrill voices, or one, waving his rifle, would
shout something as he passed. I returned the greetings in dumb show,
and hurried on. I do not know how it would have fared with me in broad
daylight; probably not nearly so well; but it was now nearly dark.
Most of the soldiers had provided themselves, to light the work of
slaughter and pillage, with one of those coloured lanterns which are
to be found in such profusion in Chinese towns, and their demoniac
aspect was greatly heightened by the illuminations they carried as
they flitted to and fro. The butchery was proceeding without the
least sign of abatement; shots, shouts, shrieks, and groans resounded
on every side; the streets presented a fearful spectacle; the ground
was saturated with blood, and everywhere strewn with horribly
mutilated corpses; some of the narrower avenues were positively choked
with carnage. The dead were mostly the townspeople; their valiant
defenders seemed to have been able to make themselves scarce; where
they all got to is a mystery to me; perhaps owing to the fact that
they got rid of their uniforms early in the proceedings in order not
to be identified as combatants, a dodge that must have served them
very little, as the conquerors killed everyone they came across.

At length I reached Sen's house, only to find that the destroyer had
been there. The place was in darkness; I took down the lantern from
over the outer gate, with the name of the inn and its proprietor's
written on it in the Chinese character, lit it, and began an
inspection. The first thing I saw was the corpse of my landlord
himself, lying in the covered court. His head was almost severed, and
he had been disembowelled. Most of the lower storey rooms had doors
opening into this court; across the threshold of one lay the corpse of
a female servant, mutilated in an unspeakable manner. The household
establishment consisted in all of some ten or twelve persons, and
eight of them I found lying murdered in different parts of the
premises. There was no sign of living presence anywhere. The place had
been thoroughly ransacked, and everything worth having carried off. My
blood boiled as I surveyed the scene of desolation and massacre, where
lately I had witnessed happiness and cheerful industry, and I felt
that I could willingly have died myself on the spot to obtain
vengeance on the murderers.

In one of the upper rooms there was a bamboo ladder and trap leading
on the roof, which was flat, and it occurred to me to ascend and look
round. It was quite dark, and there was little to be seen beyond the
limits of the street. Distant illuminations marked the positions of
the forts on the surrounding heights. The seaward ones were still in
possession of the Chinese. They fell easily on the following day, and
had been practically abandoned. I noticed that the sounds of violence
in the town were rapidly decreasing. As I walked slowly round, the dim
light of my lantern fell on two figures skulking in the shadow. They
retreated as I advanced, until they could back no further, and then
one of them fell on his knees before me, bowing his forehead on the
roof with abject cries. I held the lantern towards him, and to my
astonishment recognized Chung. He evidently did not know me, and no
wonder, considering the manner in which I had rigged myself out. He
seemed half out of his wits with fear, and I had some difficulty in
forcing the fact of my identity upon his conviction. Then his delight
was as great as his previous terror. His companion was a stranger to
him--a man of exceedingly gentlemanly and prepossessing appearance,
and clearly a person of condition, being, in fact, as I afterwards
found, a mandarin. His own residence had been sacked and his family
murdered. He and a brother had escaped into the street, were pursued,
and his relative shot in running away. Though with his left arm broken
by a bullet, he had run into the inn. When the soldiers entered it he
and Chung got on to the roof, where none of the Japanese thought of
looking for victims. His broken arm was causing him considerable
suffering, and having acquired during my knock-about life some rude
knowledge of surgery, I put the fracture together, and made a sling
with my neck-tie.

I explained my situation to Chung as well as I was able; he translated
to his countryman, who knew no English, and we held a council as to
future proceedings. The work of slaughter had apparently been
suspended; either the soldiers were tired of it or had been recalled.
The Japanese forces exceeded 20,000, and of these I do not think that
more than one half, perhaps not one third, were engaged in this first
evening's work, which was only the opening scene of the massacre.
Masses of the troops had been placed to occupy the forts, and
otherwise secure the conquest. We thought it likely, as indeed was the
case, that they would all withdraw to the camps outside as the night
advanced, and we resolved to attempt to gain the water-side, and seek
a last chance of escape, under cover of darkness. We searched the
place for food, but all we could find was a little bread, and a few
prepared sweetmeat cakes.

An awful stillness, broken at times by ominous sounds, came over the
town. Lights flitted at times through its dark labyrinths, by whom
borne it was impossible to perceive. The presence of death, in its
most fearful shapes, seemed palpable to the senses, and we, crouching
in the gloom on the roof, to which as the safest place we had
returned, had before our mental vision the mutilated bodies in the
rooms close below us, with the ghastly probability, almost the
certainty, that another hour or two would join us in their horrid
fate. To myself, the reckless, wasted past presented itself, in that
situation of appalling terrors, in all its enormity. There was I,
after throwing away the high advantages of fortune and prosperity, a
ruined and degraded man, about to meet an appropriate ending to such
a career by a bloody death at the hands of some brutal soldier, in an
unknown land, at the ends of the earth, where scarcely a human being
knew a word of my native tongue. If these pages should be read by any
young man embarking without a thought of the future, in the flush of
high spirits and inexperience, upon courses similar to mine, I hope he
will take warning, and stop in time.

It was, I should judge, about ten o'clock when at last we descended to
the street. There had been no firing for about two hours. The lantern
was re-lit, and Chung, who knew the way best, took it and went ahead.
I still wore the soldier's dress; if met and challenged, I proposed to
make it appear, as best I could, that I was making the Chinamen
conduct me to one of the camps, or if I failed in this to sell my life
dearly with the rifle.

Our path lay right across the town, and the dead lay thickly in nearly
every street in the quarters we traversed, where, of every age, sex,
and condition, they had been promiscuously butchered by the hundred.
Here and there the miserable survivors--survivors only for the
present--were searching, with low wailings and lamentations, for those
they had lost, with the aid of their coloured lanterns, which gave a
look of indescribable ghastliness to the mutilated forms they bent
over to examine. To my last day I shall remember, with unfading
horror, the aspect of those remnants of mortality, in all the
hideousness stamped upon them by the unnamable atrocities practised
during that diabolical orgy of murder and mutilation, rape, lust, and
rapine. This is war! Away, in the splendid pavilion of the vanquished,
the conquering marshal, surrounded by his generals and officers, was
installed in triumph, secure of his country's applause and his
emperor's favour; but here, amid these desolated homes, these
mutilated heaps of death, was the night side, the shadow, of their
glory. And this was but the first day of _four_! It must be admitted
that the Chinese drew it upon themselves, that everywhere else the
Japanese behaved with admirable clemency and moderation; but after
making every allowance, their conduct in this instance, and
particularly that of the high commanding chiefs in never seeking to
put a stop to the devilish excesses perpetrated before their eyes on
unoffending non-combatants, is richly deserving of everlasting infamy.

Many of the poor wretches thus cowering about ran away upon
perceiving, as they thought, an armed Japanese soldier, but in one
instance I had reason to be thankful that I was not alone. A
middle-aged man and two younger ones were carrying away, in one of the
streets we traversed, the half-naked body of a woman, which had been
split open from the abdomen to the chest. The elder man glared upon
me, in the dim light, with the expression of a tiger, and drawing a
long curved knife from his breast, and pointing at me, shouted
something to his companions, who perhaps were his sons. Chung at once
interposed, and talked with them rapidly for a few moments, and
naturally his explanation sufficed and we proceeded. I asked Chung
what the man had said:--"There is one of the Japanese devils; let us
rip him up."

But it would only be needlessly harrowing to dwell on the sights of
horror we encountered at every turn. We pressed on, rapidly yet
cautiously, our feet dabbling in blood wherever we trod. As we
proceeded down a street about ten feet broad, we heard in front sounds
as of voices shouting and singing. The avenue we were in took a turn
about fifteen yards in advance of us, and as we hesitated and finally
stopped, there appeared round it a body of men in whom we at once
recognized the Japanese soldiers. There was a low but wide doorway on
our right, and into it we at once slipped with no trifling celerity.
It was intensely dark and offered a good concealment. We could not
afford to extinguish our lantern, and I placed it behind an angle of
the inner wall where it was impossible that its glimmer could be seen
from the street. Crouching in the deep shadow, we anxiously awaited
the passing of the soldiers, whose voices we heard momentarily
approaching, shouting at their full pitch a discordant song,
accompanied by a loud ringing sound which at first I mistook for that
of some instrument. They were soon abreast of us, some twenty or
thirty in number. I scarcely breathed as the ferocious band went
trooping past. Their appearance was ghastly and terrible beyond
conception. They were literally reeking from the shambles of inhuman
butchery; their clothes and weapons were smeared and clotted with
blood; some held human heads aloft on their bayonets; the lanterns
which most of them carried, and swung to and fro as they marched,
threw on their repulsive figures and savage Oriental faces, their
white teeth, oblique eyes, and sallow countenances, a weird, wavering
light, appropriate to their infernal aspect; they looked more like
demons than like men. The foremost, who appeared to be dismounted
dragoons, were clashing their sabres together in a kind of
accompaniment to the yelling chant in which they all joined. On they
went, trampling the dead with whom their bestial ferocity had strewn
the devoted town, the sound of their high shrill voices and the ring
of the clashing steel being audible for some time after they had
passed out of sight. At length it died away and all was still again,
so silent that I seemed to hear the quick and heavy throbbing of my

After waiting two or three minutes I told Chung to take the lantern so
that we might set out again. He did so, but as he was about to step
from the doorway he tripped over some object concealed by the darkness
and fell: it was a dead body. I examined it by the lantern-light.
There were several deep bayonet wounds and a terrific sabre-slash
across the face which had completely destroyed the left eye. The
abdomen was abominably mutilated. A knife was clenched in the right
hand of the victim, showing that he had not died without an effort to
defend himself. I swung the lantern about the recess, and perceived
further back three or four steps, ascending to a door slightly open.
These steps were covered with blood which seemed to flow from behind
the door. I pushed it open, and entered the place to which it gave
access. It seemed to be a kind of public office--a wide, low, bare
apartment, divided on one side by a massive wooden counter, surmounted
by a partition pierced at intervals with pigeon-holes, as if for
communication between persons on opposite sides of the division. It
may have been a bank or money-changer's office. It is not, however, on
account of the place itself, but of its contents, that I describe it.
The floor was covered with the corpses of men, women, and children,
mingled indiscriminately together, fugitives who had there taken
refuge and been relentlessly butchered. The bodies had been
decapitated, and the bloody heads stuck up on a long row of spikes
which surmounted the wooden partition over the counter. Both Chung and
the mandarin uttered a cry of terror as we caught sight of those
distorted countenances, grinning upon us with the livid stare of
violent death through the dim medium of the coloured lamplight. My
blood seemed to freeze as my eyes encountered that ghastly gaze of the
dead, to which the upright position of the heads gave a sort of
semblance or mockery of life. An infant a few months old was pinned to
the counter below by a sharp piece of iron run through its little
body. The floor was two or three inches deep in thickening blood and
the entrails of the mutilated bodies. The arms and legs as well as
heads had been hacked off some of them and flung about the place.
Altogether a more hideous and revolting spectacle than this chamber of
horrors can never have been presented to mortal gaze. Such a scene,
and the sickening smell of blood, drove us out again almost
immediately. At that moment another party of the Japanese passed our
hiding-place. An infantry soldier in advance carried a large uncovered
flambeau, which threw a broad, red, steady glare over all surrounding
objects. I at once saw that these were all officers, excepting two or
three; smart, well-got-up, gentlemanly-looking little men in the
extreme; returning, perhaps, from calling off the last of their bloody
war-dogs, or making sure that all resistance had ceased. They were
laughing and chatting gaily, as if the massacre were rather a pleasant
affair than otherwise. When they had gone by, we issued into the
street, but had proceeded only a few paces when we saw a man carrying
a lantern appear round the abrupt bend before mentioned. He looked
like another Japanese hurrying after his companions who had just
passed. We returned with all haste to the doorway; and as we judged
that he had probably seen us, we re-entered the inner slaughter-house
and closed the door. We were right in thinking we had been seen, and
in about a minute we heard steps outside the door, which was presently
thrust violently open and the soldier entered, a low, sinister figure,
holding a drawn sword in what seemed to me a curiously white hand. He
peered into the obscurity, perceived me, and doubtless taking me, in
the uncertain light, for a Japanese, from the clothes I wore, lowered
his weapon and addressed me in a harsh authoritative tone. The sound
of the language was singularly like that of Italian. He pointed to the
Chinamen, probably asking what they were. I took advantage of his
unguarded pause to plunge my bayonet in his body, with a thrust so
rapid that he had not time to make the least movement to avoid it. He
fell at once where he stood, but attempted to rise again, when I gave
him another prick which settled his business. He fell back heavily
against the counter with a groan. One of the heads above was shaken
off its spike by the concussion and struck him on the shoulder as he
lay. His eyes, opening and shutting convulsively, seemed to gaze upon
the ghastly object. He groaned again, and in a few moments was dead. I
bent over him with the lantern, and soon perceived from the richness
of his uniform and accoutrements, as well as from the look of caste
about the head and face, that I had killed an officer of high rank. He
wore white gloves, which accounted for the odd look of his hands when
he appeared on the threshold. I felt sorry when I realized that he was
a man of consequence and authority, for had I perceived it at first I
would certainly have endeavoured to obtain his protection for myself
and my companions; but Chung had slunk behind me with the lantern, the
officer's own was a very dim one, so that in the obscurity I could
only make out that he was a Japanese soldier, and expecting to be
attacked judged it prudent to get my blow in first. Having given him
what his countrymen called the "happy despatch," he could be of no
further use to us. Before again leaving the place, I took possession
of his sword, which was a very beautiful and valuable weapon, the hilt
ornamented by a quantity of massive and richly-chased gold, and a
great number of tiny diamonds and rubies,--infinitesimal gems, set in
pretty, quaint devices, with a larger stone here and there. This
trophy I brought away with me from Port Arthur, but when in Liverpool
at the beginning of the year of grace 1896, the pressure of financial
exigency compelled me to entrust it to the temporary care of the
universal uncle of mankind, who said it was worth £600 or £700. I
could by no means persuade him to believe my account of how it came
into my possession. He laughed and said I was making fun of him. His
obstinate incredulity was amusing. "You're a sailor, sir, I see," he
said, "and we know what sailors' yarns are in this town. I've heard a
few of them."

Again stealing outside, we resumed our perilous way through this city
of dreadful night. We lost no time in turning out of the street where
had occurred the incidents just described, and which seemed in the
track of stragglers moving towards the adjacent Golden Hill fort. We
left it by a very narrow lane abutting at right angles. The other end
of this was blocked by a heap of corpses which we had to climb over.
As I was doing so a hideous groan struck my ear, and the body under my
foot seemed to heave. I started back, and simultaneously the apparent
corpse rose up, a tall, blood-besmeared figure, which stared horribly
upon me for a moment and then, with another loud and horrid groan,
fell prone on his back, his arms widely extended. I lost no time in
scrambling past him after my companions, who had run away, and small
blame to them, for it was like the rising of a corpse suddenly endowed
with volition. Both were by this time in what has been forcibly and
picturesquely described as a "blue funk"; they trembled ceaselessly;
their teeth chattered, and their eyes roved here and there with a
wild, hunted look; every now and then they stopped convulsively,
imagining that they saw or heard something to indicate the proximity
of the ferocious murderers. As for myself, if my outward man were less
open to reproach, my inward condition was nothing much to boast of,
and truly the horrors which continually presented themselves, joined
to the oppressive midnight shadow and stillness which hung over the
place of doom, would have damaged the nerve of a football referee.

We reached the basin through a series of open brick-works, used as
timber stores, on its north side. Everything was darkness and
desertion. The moon was rising far beyond the West Port away in our
front, but it was in the last quarter and afforded little light. There
were very few stars visible. The night had turned piercingly cold, but
so great was my mental anxiety and excitement that I seemed unaffected
in body by the severity of the weather. With the lantern we began to
search about for a boat, at first without success. In a square-shaped
inlet or creek a little above the dockyard we presently came upon
another horrifying spectacle. A junk lay stranded in the shallows. It
was literally full of dead bodies, and many lay on the adjacent shore.
The unfortunates had evidently been pursued down to where the junk
lay, and slaughtered before they could get it off. It struck me that
what we were looking for, a boat, might in all probability be found on
board the fatal vessel. It lay heeled over broadside to the beach, and
I waded out to it through the shallow water. I gained the upper deck
with some difficulty and stood amidst the mass of carnage. Rifle-balls
had done the work of death. Many of the bodies were in army uniforms.
I could find only two boats. One, a mere cockle-shell, had been
perforated by bullets and rendered useless. Another lay inboard on the
quarter-deck, but it was so filled and covered with corpses that at
first I did not notice it. It seemed in fair condition, but the task
of ridding it of its horrible freight was so repugnant that I
returned on shore to resume the search for one elsewhere. It was in
vain, however; all we could find in the vicinity was an old sampan,
which besides being very leaky, was more than three men could manage,
only one of them, moreover, having any knowledge of sailoring. There
was nothing for it but to return to the death-ship. We all went on
board this time, and applied ourselves to the work. The pile of dead
were dragged away, and with considerable labour, and aided by the
careened condition of the junk, we managed to launch the boat, which
had been secured inside the bulwark. It was in a horrid state with
blood, but we were not in a situation to be particular. We found a
quantity of provisions and fresh water--or rather water which had once
been fresh--in the cook-house of the junk.

It must have been after midnight when we shoved off and got afloat.
Neither of my companions were experts with an oar, and could render me
very little aid; moreover, Chinese oars, like Chinese belongings
altogether, are very unlike anything else in the world and need some
practice to use. We were, however, close to the entrance of the port,
which being defended by torpedoes and mines, we ran little risk of
encountering Japanese vessels, although the submarine dangers
threatened us as well, if we strayed from the deep-water channel in
the dark. We got on in safety, though very slowly, and another two
hours had been consumed before we were through.

What to do next I had no fixed idea. One thing, however, was assured,
that it was certain death to stay in Port Arthur, and that our only
chance, slender as it seemed at best, consisted in getting as far away
as possible. I resolved, after some consideration, to hold on south
round the extremity of the Peninsula.

In the seaward forts above us we could discern no signs of activity,
and only a light here and there, far out on the misty expanse of
waters, showed the position of the Japanese war-vessels, which had an
easy job of it as far as Port Arthur was concerned. The weather,
though so bitterly cold, was far from stormy, yet the difficulty of
rowing was increased naturally when we got out into the heavier waters
of the sea. So unpromising in fact did our situation look, that I
began to reflect whether it would not be better to stay about the
mouth of the harbour, and allow ourselves to be taken by some Japanese
ship, than wander off I knew not where, probably in the end to perish
of starvation. Luck decided the point. We had painfully made a couple
of miles from the estuary of the harbour, when we came upon a large
junk stranded on a sand-bank. There were no lights showing on board
her; in the obscurity we could see nobody; yet she did not look like a
wreck, and at first we did not know what to make of it. After a
consultation, it was decided to fire a shot from the rifle and see
what it would lead to. No sooner had the report rung out, than there
was a bustle and stir on the vessel's decks, which appeared suddenly
to swarm with men, and became illuminated by lanterns. I told Chung to
hail. He did so, and a voice replied in Chinese. We drew close
abreast, and my companions held a parley with those on board. Our
situation explained we were permitted to ascend. The junk was full of
men. She had got into her present predicament in escaping, and they
were waiting for the morning flood tide to float her off. Two or three
junks, we were told, had struck torpedoes in leaving the harbour and
been blown in pieces, and many others had fallen into the clutches of
the enemy. Those on board, besides her usual crew, were chiefly
soldiers. With the profound deference paid to rank by the Orientals,
the chief cabin was at once given up to the mandarin, who insisted on
my sharing it with him. He and Chung gave a most glowing account of me
to those on board, to whom, in my remarkable accoutrement, I was an
object of legitimate curiosity.

Exhausted by exertion and anxiety, I was fast asleep within
half-an-hour after stepping up the junk's side. I slept far into the
day, and when I emerged found that she had been successfully floated
off the bank, and got out to sea without so far attracting the notice
of the Japanese ships.


A very queer craft is a Chinese junk. Few Europeans have any defined
idea what they are like. They are of different sizes, most of them
suited to the numerous rivers and canals which intersect the country
in every part. The largest are of about one thousand tons burden. The
whole mode of building is most peculiar. Instead of the timbers being
first raised as with us, they are the last in their places, and the
vessel is put together with immense spiked nails. The next process is
doubling and clamping above and below decks. Two immense beams or
string pieces are then ranged below, fore and aft, and keep the other
beams in their places. The deck-frames are an arch, and a platform
erected on it protects it from the sun, and from other injuries
otherwise inevitable. The seams are caulked either with old
fishing-net or bamboo shavings, and then paid with a cement called
chinam, consisting of oyster-shells burnt to lime, with a mixture of
fine bamboo shavings, pounded together with a vegetable oil extracted
from a ground nut. When dried it becomes excessively hard; it never
starts, and the seams thus secured are perfectly safe and water-tight.
All the work about her is of the roughest kind. The trees when found
of a suitable size are cut down, stripped of their bark, and sawn into
convenient lengths; the sides are not squared, but left just as they
grew. No artificial means are resorted to for any bends; a tree or
branch of a tree is found with the requisite natural curvature. There
is not in the building, rigging, or fitting-up of a Chinese junk one
single thing which is similar to what we see on board a European
vessel. Everything is different; the mode of construction; the absence
of keel, bowsprit, and shrouds; the materials employed; the mast, the
sails, the yard, the rudder, the compass, the anchor--all are

The vessel in which I now found myself, the _King-Shing_, was of
about seven hundred tons. She was built entirely of teak, and her skipper,
or Ty Kong, as he is called, alleged that she was more than a hundred
years old, and said that one of her crew who had recently died, had
served in her for fifty years. Her extreme length was one hundred and
sixty feet; breadth of beam, twenty-five feet and a half; depth of
hold, twelve feet; height of poop from the water, thirty-eight feet;
height of bow, thirty feet. Her most attractive portion was the
saloon, or state cabin, the beauty of whose furniture and decorations
formed a curious contrast to the rude and rough workmanship of the
cabin itself. Its carved and gilded entrance was protected by a sort
of skylight, the sides of which were formed of the prepared
oyster-shells so commonly used in China instead of glass, the latter
being too expensive for general purposes. The enclosure was thirty
feet long, twenty-five broad, and eleven in height. From the beams
overhead were suspended numbers of the different kinds of lanterns
used in China. They were of every imaginable form, size, and variety
of material. The sides and deck-roof were of a yellow ground, and
covered with paintings of flowers, leaves, fruit, insects, birds,
monkeys, dogs, and cats; some of those latter animals were what in
heraldic language would be called _queue-fourchée_. The place was
filled with a vast assortment of curious and beautiful articles,
gathered together during the long existence of the vessel. To give a
list of them would require pages; brought to Europe they would have
made the reputations of a dozen museums.

At the end of the saloon was the Joss-house, or idol-house, containing
the idol Chin-Tee, having eighteen arms, with her attendants, Tung-Sam
and Tung-See. The richly-gilt idol was made of one solid piece of
camphor-wood, and had a red scarf thrown round it. An altar-table,
also of camphor-wood, and painted red, stood in front of the
Joss-house, with an incense burner placed upon it. The red ground of
the table had gilt carvings of flowers and insects, and the imperial
dragons with the ball of flame between them. On each side of the front
was a square place painted green, with words in Chinese inviting
worshippers to bring gold and agate stones as offerings.

The sleeping berths of the crew were all _aft_, on a lower deck.
Close by these was the most astonishing part of the vessel, the colossal
rudder, not hung with pintles and gudgeons, the vessel having no
stern-post, but suspended to two windlasses by three large ropes made
of cane and hemp; one round a windlass on the next deck, and two round
a windlass on the upper deck of all, so that it could be raised or
lowered according to the depth of water. When lowered to its full
extent it drew about twenty-four feet, being twelve feet more than the
draught of the vessel. It was steered on this berth-deck when fully
lowered. It was also drawn close into the stern, into a kind of
socket, by means of two immense bamboo ropes attached to the bottom of
the rudder, passing beneath the bottom of the vessel, and coming over
the bow on the upper deck, and there hove in taut and fastened. When
let down to its greatest depth it required occasionally the strength
of fifteen men to move the large tiller.

On ascending to the next deck, one passed under a covering made of
oyster-shells, similar to that over the entrance to the saloon; under
this hung a flag which had been borne before the Emperor on one of the
most solemn religious processions. On a piece of wood near one of the
windlasses was inscribed--"May the sea never wash over this junk."
Close by was the sailors' Joss-house, containing the deity of the sea
with her two attendants, each with a red scarf. Near the principal
goddess was a piece of the wood from the first timber of the junk that
was laid; this was taken to one of their principal temples, there
consecrated, and then brought on board, and placed as symbolic of the
whole vessel's being under the protection of the deity. A small
earthen pot, containing sacred earth and rice, stood in front, in
which Joss-sticks and other incense was burnt. A lighted lamp, too,
was here always kept burning; if it had gone out during a voyage it
would have been considered an omen of bad luck. On the right and left,
before coming to this Joss-house, were paintings. One panel
represented the Mandarin Ducks; another, a Chinese lady at her
toilette; a third, a globe of gold-fish. On this deck were cabins for
passengers and supercargoes, the doors painted with different devices.
Above was the lofty poop-deck, with one of the rudder-windlasses on
it, and the mizzen-mast, fifty feet long, and placed on one side, in
order to allow the tiller to work when in shallow water. The main-mast
was ninety-five feet in length, and ten feet in circumference at the
bottom. It was one spar of teak, and just as the tree grew with merely
the bark taken off. It was not perfectly straight--a defect with us,
but not so considered by the Chinese, who prefer a mast with a bend in
it to one without, thinking it adds to the strength, and is conclusive
evidence of the goodness of the spar. This mast was hooped round, in
consequence of being cracked while undergoing the process of
hardening. The mode adopted for this purpose by the Chinese is to bury
the timber for a considerable time in marshy ground; thus treated,
they say teak becomes hard as iron. The mast did not go within four
feet of the bottom--the ship having no kelson--but, to use the
technical term, was "toggled" to two large pieces of wood which
answered as partners. To these were added two other heavy pieces as
chocks, which were intended to keep the huge spars in their places.
Neither stays nor shrouds were used. The main yards were made of teak
quite rough; the upper one was seventy-five feet long, and the lower

The sails were made of closely-woven matting, a substance much lighter
than canvas. It holds the wind better, and rarely splits, because it
never shakes in the wind. So large and heavy was the mainsail of the
_King-Shing_, that it required forty men with the aid of the capstan
to raise it. Without the capstan eighty men would have been needed. It
had eighteen reefs. The sails were reefed by being lowered, which
precluded any necessity for going aloft.

The vane was in the shape of a fish, the body formed of rattan work,
the head and gills of painted matting, with two projections like the
antennæ of a butterfly. The tail was furnished with long streamers,
and little flags were stuck in the body for additional ornament. There
were also Chinese characters painted on the body signifying "Good luck
to the Junk." Between the main-mast and fore-mast were two large rough
windlasses stretching across the deck, and used for getting up the
anchor. By the entrance to the forecastle were two water-tanks,
capable of holding one thousand five hundred gallons each. The
fore-mast was seventy-five feet from the deck. It raked forward, and
was supported by a large piece of wood on the after part, and secured
similarly to the main-mast. The anchors were of wood, the flukes shod
with iron, and attached to the shank by strong lashings of bamboo. The
stock was composed of three separate pieces of wood lashed together by
rattan ropes, and was fixed to the crown. As the Chinese drag their
anchors on board instead of catting and fishing as other seamen do,
this position of the stock offers no impediment. The flukes were of
the same dimensions as those of similar sized anchors with us; they
were straight and not rounded, and there were no palms. There was also
a kedge, with only one fluke. The cables were of rattan. The junk had
no bitts, but to supply their place the strong beams across the deck
had large holes for stoppers. The "wales" formed another singular
feature of the vessel--airtight boxes, projecting three feet from the
side; their object was to make the vessel more buoyant, to enable her
to carry more cargo, and prevent her rolling, but this last, in my
opinion, was chiefly prevented by the size and position of the rudder.

The cook-house was placed differently from the galleys of European
vessels, being aft of the main-mast. The lower part was built of
brick, with two square holes in front for the fires. Troughs of water
were placed in front of these holes, so that any ignited fuel that
might drop out would be at once extinguished. Wood was the fuel used.
For cooking they used iron pans surrounded by red tiles. One was
covered by a kind of half cask; this was used for boiling the rice,
the cover being to preserve the steam after the water was boiled away,
which causes the rice to be beautifully done and not soddened, as is
often the case in our cooking. It also prevents it from being thrown
out when the vessel rolls. The quantity of rice for each man was about
three pounds daily. All washing of dishes, etc., was performed on a
stage outside the galley so that it might be kept perfectly clean. The
proper allowance for each mess was delivered in front. Close to the
cook-house was a water-tank of wood, painted in imitation of bricks,
and capable of holding three thousand gallons.

Such was the _King-Shing_ junk, and such are most of the craft of the
Celestials. They would appear to be gradually coming round to Western
ideas in the matter of ships, and in fact have done so entirely for
war purposes, but the fashions of their ancestors are still good
enough for most of them, and the junk is to be seen everywhere. Not a
mere thing of yesterday is the junk. Vessels essentially similar to
the one I have described were navigating the Chinese seas and rivers
when the fleets of Rome and Carthage were contesting the supremacy of
the Mediterranean, and long before. Rome and Carthage, and many
another mighty maritime power, have risen and passed away utterly,
like bubbles, or dreams, but the Chinaman and his everlasting junk are
still here.

The vessel belonged to some mandarins at Shanghai, who used it for
trading to Cochin-China. It had recently, however, been despatched
with a cargo to Cheefoo, had been blown away north by a gale, and
forced to run into the harbour at Port Arthur to escape the Japanese.
There it had lain until the place fell. The crew numbered fifty-four,
all told.

After floating off the sand-bank, and getting an offing, we were
within the Gulf of Pechili, and determined to make for one or other of
its ports, but on the first day we encountered a very heavy
nor'-wester, which blew us far out of the Gulf. When, after lasting a
day and a night, the gale abated, we were well down the Yellow Sea,
and the skipper, or Ty Kong, whose name was Sam-Sing, determined to
hold on for the port where the junk's owners dwelt. I had no objection
to make to this, nor had the mandarin, who possessed friends and
relatives in the south. The soldiers on board, however, were very
discontented and mutinous, and as they considerably outnumbered the
crew I began to fear trouble. They were all from northern provinces
and had no desire to go south. Their language was scarcely
intelligible even to their nominal countrymen. The immense diversity
of dialects in China is, in fact, a great hindrance to progress by
preventing the unification of the people. After some excited
discussion they were prevailed upon to acquiesce by the solemn promise
of the mandarin to make arrangements with the authorities for their
return to their own parts, or failing that to send them back at his
own expense; besides, the representation that to turn north again
would most likely end in capture by the Japanese vessels, through
whose present cruising-ground the gale had luckily blown us, had great

I was vastly amused, during my voyage in the _King-Shing_, by the
superstitions of her crew. Their devotion to their idols was indeed
truly edifying. A religious man, according to his lights, was
Sam-Sing, and rigidly punctual in the daily observance of
incense-burning, gong-banging, and other rites supposed to be
propitiatory of the deity. He was also, however, greatly addicted to
opium-smoking, and when under the influence of the drug, of which, as
an old stager, he could consume great quantities without being
stupefied, the idea of the occult power of the goddess, never absent
from his mind, was turned completely upside down. When free from the
fumes of opium nobody could have been more respectful to the Josses,
but when intoxicated, and with the weather threatening, he openly
poured upon them abuse, reviling, and suspicion. He usually started a
pipe of opium about noon, and the change in his demeanour came round
gradually during the afternoon. In the morning he was sober and pious,
in the evening intoxicated and blasphemous, particularly, as I have
said, when the weather was bad. "As for that infernal Chin-Tee," he
would say in effect, shaking his fist in the direction of the idol,
"it's all her fault we're in this mess. What's the use of her--lazy
harridan! Much she cares what becomes of us"--and so on till
overpowered by excess. When by the next morning he had slept off his
debauch, and came round to recollection of his enormities, his
penitence knew no bounds; he would prostrate himself in the
Joss-house, and in the most abject terms implore forgiveness for his
intemperate language over-night. Then he would generally abstain for
two or three days, but at the first sign of bad weather, he took to
his pipe, and Chin-Tee came in for another blast of abuse. The rest of
the crew were always horrified by the shocking impiety of the Ty Kong,
and on more than one occasion I really feared that they were about to
proceed to Jonahize him. They were by no means all opium-smokers; some
of them smoked tobacco, of a vile quality, in metal pipes, with an
under-hanging curved portion containing water, through which the
smoke passed. The opium-pipe is a quite different thing. It is a reed
of about an inch in diameter, and the aperture in the bowl for the
admission of the opium is not larger than a pin's head. The drug is
prepared by boiling and evaporation to the consistence of treacle.
Very few whiffs can be taken from a single pipe, but one is enough to
have an effect on a beginner, as I have already described in my own
case, but an old hand, like the Ty Kong, can smoke for hours.

The incense burned before the idols consisted mostly of pieces of
aromatic wood, called Joss-sticks, silvered paper, and tin-foil. One
of their most revered objects was the mariner's compass, and before it
they would place tea, sweet cake, and pork, in order to keep it
faithful and true! It is well known that the Chinese were acquainted
with the phenomenon of the magnetized needle centuries before it was
known in Europe, and their compass differs materially from ours;
instead of consisting of a movable card attached to the needle, theirs
is simply a needle of little more than an inch in length balanced in a
glazed hole in the centre of a solid wooden dish, finely varnished. It
has only twenty-four points, and with its use they combine some of
their most ancient astrological ideas. The broad circumference of the
dish is marked off into concentric circles, inscribed with mystical
figures. We say the needle points to the north; they hold that the
attraction is to the south, and therefore colour that end of the
needle red, a hue that appears to have a mysterious efficacy in their
eyes. I have already told how the Josses were wrapped in red scarves,
and bits of red cloth were tied on the rudder, cable, mast, and other
principal parts of the vessel, as safeguards against danger. There was
also a large painted eye on either side of the bow, to enable the junk
to see her way! At first I could not understand the meaning of this,
and told Chung to ask the Ty Kong for an explanation. "Have eye,"
translated Chung, "can see; no have eye, no can see." On occasions of
special religious demonstration these optics were decorated with
strips of red cloth. On one occasion when a steamer suspiciously like
a Japanese cruiser hove in sight, they tied red rags to their antique
guns, or gin-galls, and with this consecration on their defensive
arrangements, seemed to feel perfectly secure. I suppose the
English-trained crews of their navy must have been persuaded out of
these amazing notions, and taught the European compass, but the ideas
of Sam-Sing and his merry men were as old as their vessel.

I have not yet described my mandarin friend. His name was Ki-Chang; he
was a mandarin of the fifth class, his distinctive mark being a
crystal button on the top of his cap. He was forty-six years old,
intelligent, amiable, and gentlemanly. He and I had much intercourse
during the voyage, with Chung for an interpreter. I taught him a
little English, and how to write his name in English, an
accomplishment of which he seemed extremely proud. Like most of the
educated Chinese, he wrote his own language very beautifully. He was a
wealthy and influential man.

The _King-Shing_ showed herself a remarkably good sea-boat, but
desperately slow. No device could get more than eight knots out of
her, and this was much above her average. We encountered one or two
violent storms, in which she behaved wonderfully. One night the wind,
after veering all round the compass with vivid lightning and thunder,
settled in the south-west and blew a perfect hurricane. All sails were
lowered, except half the fore-sail, and twenty-five men were required
at the mammoth rudder. We were obliged to start some eight tons of
water out of the deck tanks, and everything on deck, fore and aft, was
secured. The junk laboured heavily, but shipped no water. At day-break
the weather moderated, and we were able to set more sail; but in two
or three hours the wind chopped round to the north-west, and blew more
fiercely than ever, attended by squalls of hailstones as big as
marbles, the knocks of which made my countenance look as if I had
come off second-best in a middle-weight "scrap." We lowered the
main-sail again, and set four reefs of fore-sail to scud under. At
three o'clock the vessel took a tremendous lurch, and washed away our
lee-quarter boat. It was dark, and the sea barely discernible at a
distance of thirty yards, being blown into a thick mist. At six the
hurricane continued with unabated fury with terrific squalls; a
fearful sea struck the ship and nearly broached her to. The sea was a
mass of foam, and running very high, but kept down to some extent by
the violence of the wind. Later we were running under bare poles.
Again the gale went down, and again we got up sail, but without
warning a tremendous squall struck us and laid us on our beam ends. A
boat was blown away, the fore-sail split, and through the carelessness
of the men at the rudder they jibed the main-sail; it came over with
terrific force, but fortunately did no harm. Luckily the sails could
be very easily and rapidly lowered. One only had to let go or cut the
halyards and down they came. Throughout all this the junk behaved in a
manner which astounded me. She actually never shipped any water, that
which came aboard being tops of seas blown off. But the very qualities
which made her so steady-going militated against her speed. She was a
safe boat at all points. One night we had to anchor off a dead
lee-shore; the crew decorated their cables with some extra red rags,
and with death grinning under our lee, went to supper with a serenity
which I should have been glad to be able to imitate. But their
confidence was as well grounded as their anchors, which held with an
unshakable tenacity.

Though so long acquainted with the compass, the Chinese have always
been as unenterprising in sailoring as in everything else, and seldom
lose sight of the land, if they can help it. Their fondness for
hugging the coast was very noticeable to me, and, unused to the
constant vigilance and care which a long sea voyage demands, their
system of duty was very lax and careless. There were no proper
watches; at nightfall the Ty Kong used quietly to lower about three
reefs of the main-sail and the whole of the mizzen. All the crew would
then go to their cabin, leaving the helmsmen alone on deck. At
midnight a supper was prepared, and the sleepers awakened. The meal
ended, the helm would be relieved and the men retired to their berths

At this rate it may be supposed that we made slow progress, and more
than one incipient mutiny had to be dealt with, some of the crew
refusing to work, and the soldiers complaining on the far from
unreasonable ground that they had not enough to eat. We spoke several
northward-bound vessels, both native and foreign, to whom we wished to
entrust the discontented warriors, but these ships one and all
gratefully but firmly declined the compliment. By dint of necessity,
aided by the mandarin's promises, we struggled along, and as
everything must come to an end some time or other, we reached our port
at the beginning of January.

I have little more to add. Ki-Chang showed himself grateful, and not
only entertained me royally, but gave me substantial pecuniary aid, a
thing I was in very pressing need of. Of course I have long since
repaid his loan.

I obtained a passage in a French steamer to Callao, whence I made my
way overland to San Francisco. I called on Mr. H----, who informed me
that the _Columbia_ (not then in port) had made another successful
trip, but with results so diminished in the pecuniary sense that he
had determined not to risk her again for inadequate profits.
_Columbia_, I may say, was not the steamer's real name.

I next met Webster at Sydney. The explanation of my being left behind
at Port Arthur was simple enough. The "houtcast" had taken so many
"caulkers" of rum during the day that he became oblivious to the fact
of my being ashore, and Chubb took it for granted that I had returned
on board, especially as I had sent back the boat in which I landed
with the Chinese agent. My absence was not noted until the small hours
of the ensuing morning, when the swift steamer was far enough away.
Webster wanted to put back for me, but Chubb, whose regards were
strictly confined to number one, decided against it, coolly saying
that they could pick me up next trip, and that as it was Webster's
fault I had been left, he, Webster, might if he liked swim back for
me. This unmessmate-like conduct, when recounted to me, so excited my
ire, that if the worthy Chubb had been within kicking distance at the
time, he should have known something further about it. I have not,
however, seen him since.

Such were the things I saw and did where the Dragon Flag waves in
splendid impotence. I took no notes of anything, excepting as to the
build and fittings of the junk, and that merely for my own
information, and it was not until long after that the idea of writing
an account of these occurrences entered my mind; but I can trust my
memory for the main events. If my little narrative should for only a
few furnish not merely entertainment but admonition, I shall not have
gone through quite uselessly my varied and painful experience of life.


Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London & Bungay.

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