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´╗┐Title: Under the Ensign of the Rising Sun - A Story of the Russo-Japanese War
Author: Collingwood, Harry, 1851-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Under the Ensign of the Rising Sun, by Harry Collingwood.



CHAPTER ONE.

DISMISSED THE SERVICE.

"Well, good-bye, old chap; keep a stiff upper lip, and hope for the
best; the truth is pretty sure to come out some day, somehow, and then
they will be bound to reinstate you.  And be sure you call on the Pater,
and tell him the whole yarn.  I'll bet he will be able to give you some
advice worth having.  Also give my love to the Mater, and tell her that
I'm looking forward to Christmas.  Perhaps I may see you then.  Good-bye
again, and good luck to you."

The speaker was young Ronald Gordon, one of the midshipmen belonging to
H.M.S. _Terrible_, and my particular chum; and the words were spoken as
we parted company on the platform of Portland railway station, Gordon to
return to his ship, while I, an outcast, was bound for London to seek my
fortune.

Yes; after doing splendidly at Dartmouth, heading the list at the
passing-out exam, and so at once gaining the rating of midshipman; doing
equally well afloat during the subsequent three years and a half,
qualifying for Gunnery, Torpedo, and Navigating duties, serving for six
months aboard a destroyer, and everywhere gaining the esteem and
goodwill of my superiors, here was I, Paul Swinburne, at the age of
seventeen and a half, an outcast kicked out of the Navy with ignominy
and my career ruined, through the machinations of another, and he my
cousin!

He, Bob Carr,--like myself, a midshipman aboard the _Terrible_,--had
committed a crime of a particularly mean and disgraceful character--
there is no need for me to specify its precise nature--and with
diabolical ingenuity, knowing that discovery was inevitable, had
succeeded in diverting suspicion so strongly toward me that I had been
accused, court martialled, and--although I had pleaded not guilty--found
guilty and dismissed the Service.

Now, it is necessary for me to say here just a word or two in
self-defence; for there is no reason whatever why the reader should be
allowed to believe me guilty, although, for certain reasons of my own, I
permitted the officers who tried me to think so.

I am an orphan, both my parents having died within a few months of each
other when I was less than three years old, leaving me to the mercy of
the world.  My nearest relation was Aunt Betsy Carr, my father's only
sister, and at my mother's death she and Uncle Bob adopted me as their
own, although they had a baby boy of their own, at that time nearly two
years old--the Cousin Bob who was responsible for my present trouble.
They took me not only into their home but also into their hearts; they
made not the slightest difference in their treatment of Bob and me; I
was as much a son to them as he was; and the result was that I soon grew
to love them both as much as though they had been my own parents.

At first, as children, Bob and I got on splendidly together; but later
on, when we were respectively about seven and eight years of age, my
cousin gradually developed a feeling of jealousy that at length became
inordinate--although he was very careful to conceal the fact from his
parents; so that when, in my second year at Dartmouth, the matter of
sending him there also was mooted, I was exceedingly sorry, although I
of course gladly promised to help him to the utmost, in the event of his
being entered.  And when in due time he turned up there, I redeemed my
promise, so far as Bob would let me; and it cost me a good deal to do
so, for he soon became exceedingly unpopular.  But he managed to scrape
through his final, and, some six months before the opening of this
story, was appointed to the _Terrible_--to my great chagrin, for I had a
presentiment that his coming meant trouble for me.

And now the trouble had come, with a vengeance.  It was really Bob, and
not I, who had committed the crime of which I was accused; and clever as
the young rascal had been in diverting suspicion from himself to me, I
could have cleared myself, had I so chosen, but only by fixing the guilt
upon him.  And that I could not bring myself to do, after all the
kindness which I--had received at the hands of my aunt and uncle; for
they not only idolised the lad but believed in him implicitly, and I
knew that disillusion would simply break their hearts--they would never
again be able to hold up their heads and look others in the face.
Therefore when I was summoned to be tried by court martial, I simply
pleaded Not Guilty--which was regarded as an aggravation of my offence--
and did not attempt to defend myself, with the result that I was found
guilty, and expelled.

Of course I knew that this would be a bitter blow to my uncle and aunt;
but it would not be nearly so bitter as it would have been had the guilt
been fixed upon Bob, therefore of the two evils I chose what I
considered the least, although it involved the ruin of my career--a
career which I loved and of which I was intensely proud.

And now I was not only without a career, but also without a home; for I
simply could not endure the idea of going back to my aunt and uncle, and
witnessing their grief as well as enduring their reproaches.  I
therefore wrote them a brief letter informing them of the misfortune
which had befallen me, assuring them of my innocence, and announcing my
determination to start afresh, fight my own battle, and rehabilitate
myself as best I could.

In making my plans I was greatly helped by my chum, Gordon.  He had been
with me at Dartmouth, after that in the _Vengeance_, and now again in
the _Terrible_; he therefore knew me well enough to implicitly believe
me when I assured him upon my word of honour that I was innocent.  He
was a good chum; not only did he believe in my innocence but he also
stoutly maintained it to others, whenever the matter was referred to,
although the evidence so cunningly woven was strong enough to secure my
conviction.  And when the result of the court martial was known, he not
only sat down and wrote a long account of the affair to his parents, but
insisted--taking no denial--that, before doing anything else, I should
call upon his parents and consult with his father, Sir Robert.  And this
I at length, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to do, although I was by no
means sure that his people would be so ready as he was to take me upon
trust.  Yet, apart from my uncle and aunt, Sir Robert and Lady Gordon
were the only friends I had; and now was the time when of all others I
most urgently needed the help of friends.  At first I permitted myself
to entertain certain high-flown ideas of going out into the world and
fighting my battle alone and unaided; but Gordon was a level-headed
youngster, and although he was a year younger than myself I was fain to
admit the wisdom of his assertion that no fellow is sufficiently
independent to ignore the advice and help of friends.  Besides, I had
already met Sir Robert and his wife--had indeed on one occasion spent
ten days' leave with Ronald under their roof; and more genial, kindly,
warmer-hearted people it would be impossible to imagine; so I felt
hopeful that, with Ronald for my sponsor and advocate, Sir Robert would
not refuse to give me his best advice and assistance.

It was late in the afternoon when I arrived at Waterloo--too late, I
knew, to catch Sir Robert Gordon at his office; I therefore slung my
chest on top of a cab, and ordered the driver to take me to a certain
quiet and unassuming but comfortable hotel near the Embankment, where I
proposed to take up my quarters until I could see my way a little more
clearly.  Here I dined, took a walk along the Embankment afterwards, and
turned in early, not feeling in cue for amusement of any kind.

On the following morning I rose late, of deliberate purpose, had my
breakfast, and then sauntered along the Embankment toward Sir Robert's
office, timing myself to arrive there about eleven o'clock, by which
time I calculated that Ronald's father would about have gone through his
morning's correspondence, and would be able to spare me a few minutes of
his time.

As it chanced, I could not have timed my movements better, for as I was
shown up to Sir Robert's private room I encountered his secretary just
coming out, with a notebook in one hand and a goodly batch of letters in
the other.

I may here explain that Sir Robert Gordon was an official of high
position and very considerable importance in the Foreign Office.  He
received me very kindly, bade me be seated, and then said:

"Well, Swinburne, here you are at last.  From Ronald's letter I rather
gathered that I might see you some time yesterday.  And now, before we
go any farther, let me say how exceedingly sorry Lady Gordon and I are
to hear of your misfortune--for a misfortune it is, and not a fault,
Ronald assures me.  Now,"--looking at his watch--"I can spare you just a
quarter of an hour; so go ahead and tell me as much of the matter as you
can in that time."

Thereupon I proceeded to relate, in as few words as possible, the
particulars of the whole affair, not concealing the fact that my cousin
was the actual culprit--for I knew that my confidence would be
respected, and explaining my reasons for taking the onus upon myself
instead of allowing the real culprit to suffer.  But a quarter of an
hour soon passes, when one is talking of oneself and one's own
misfortunes; and the announcement that a certain important personage had
called by appointment gave me the signal that it was time for me to go,
though as I rose to take my leave I had the satisfaction of knowing that
I had succeeded in convincing my friend of my innocence, for as we shook
hands, Sir Robert said:

"We must talk this matter over again at our leisure, Swinburne, possibly
this evening.  Now, before you go, let me say that my wife and I expect
you to take up your quarters with us until your future is definitely
arranged.  No, we will take no refusal; you are Ronald's chum, and we
should not think of allowing you to stay at an hotel while there is a
spare room for you at Maycroft.  So off you go; get your luggage at once
and make the best of your way to Norwood, where Lady Gordon will expect
you to arrive in time for luncheon at one o'clock.  I shall 'phone to
her that you are coming."

What could one do but gratefully accept an invitation proffered in such
friendly terms?  It would have been boorish to refuse.  I therefore
returned to my modest hotel, paid my bill, and made the best of my way
to Maycroft, where I was received with such kindness and cordiality as I
have no words to describe.

Lady Gordon was a fit mate for her distinguished husband; smart, clever,
accomplished, of attractive appearance, and so irresistibly fascinating
a manner that within two minutes she succeeded in not only making me
feel absolutely welcome and at home in her house, but also in some
subtle fashion imbued me with the conviction that, serious as my
misfortune undoubtedly was, it was by no means irretrievable.  We could
not talk confidentially at luncheon, the servants being present, but
afterward, the weather being fine and the air warm for the time of
year--it was the first day of December 1903--we adjourned to the garden,
and there I told my tale all over again, this time in full detail, and
received all the sympathy that my aching heart craved for.

Sir Robert reached home that night only just in time to dress for
dinner, so there was therefore neither time nor opportunity for the
discussion of my affairs until the meal was over and we had adjourned to
the drawing-room.  Then, while we were sipping our coffee, my host
turned to me and said:

"I have been thinking a good deal about you, to-day, between whiles,
Swinburne; and at last I think I have discovered a way to help you.  By
a lucky chance it happens that Viscount Hayashi--the Japanese Minister
to Great Britain, you know--with whom I have been brought into very
close touch of late, is dining here, _en famille_, to-morrow night, in
order to have the opportunity to discuss certain rather delicate matters
in private with me; and when we have finished talking business
together--which will probably not occupy us more than an hour--I will
put your case to him, giving him all the details of it--for we must be
perfectly honest with him, you know--and ask him whether, under the
circumstances, there is any likelihood of your being able to obtain
employment in the Japanese Navy.  Things are looking very black in the
Far East just now; war between Russia and Japan is practically
inevitable; and although the Japanese have long been preparing for it,
and seem confident of success, I should imagine that they would be only
too glad of the opportunity to secure the services of a smart and
specially qualified young officer like yourself."

Much more was said upon the same subject which it is unnecessary to
repeat here, and I also completed the story which I had begun in Sir
Robert's office that morning, with the result that I was able to make my
innocence as clear to him as I had already done to his wife.  Sir Robert
expressed the opinion that my action in taking the blame upon myself had
been somewhat quixotic; but when I explained my reasons in full for
doing so, he admitted that it seemed to be the only thing possible, and
was good enough to say that it reflected the greatest credit upon me.

On the following night the Viscount and Sir Robert arrived at Maycroft
together in the latter's limousine; and after introducing his wife and
myself our host excused himself and hurried away to dress, leaving Lady
Gordon and me to entertain our distinguished guest.

The conversation before and during dinner was exceedingly lively and
interesting, the Ambassador telling us many remarkable things about
Japan.  Then the talk veered round toward naval matters, and my kind
hostess afforded me the opportunity to parade my special knowledge by
asking me to explain the difference between armoured and protected
cruisers, one question leading to another, until at length His
Excellency, who had been listening most courteously and attentively,
said:

"Am I mistaken, sir, in supposing that you are an officer in the
honourable Navy of Great Britain?"

That was the opportunity for which Lady Gordon had been waiting, and she
at once replied:

"Mr Swinburne was, until a few days ago, senior midshipman on the same
ship as my son--the battleship _Terrible_.  But a very exalted sense of
gratitude on his part has resulted in a grave miscarriage of justice
whereby, through accepting the blame for another's fault, he has been
dismissed from the Service, to his great grief, for he was passionately
devoted to his profession."

The Viscount rather raised his eyebrows at this, and regarded me keenly,
as though seeking to read my character from my face.

"Really?" he said.  "That is indeed a terrible misfortune, which I
should scarcely have thought could possibly happen in such a Service as
yours, where, I have always understood, such matters are inquired into
with the most scrupulous fairness."

"So they are, Your Excellency," I replied.  "But my expulsion was not in
any sense due to remissness on the part of the officers who tried me.
It was due to the fact that, for the reason named by Lady Gordon, I
deliberately refrained from producing evidence which would have resulted
in my own acquittal and the conviction of the actual culprit; and thus
the members of the court martial were, in the course of their duty,
compelled to find me guilty and to pass upon me sentence of dismissal."

"I see.  Yes, I think I understand," observed the Viscount.  "The
feeling of gratitude which could induce you to take the extreme step of
ruining your entire career must have been wonderfully strong.  I find
the incident remarkably interesting, Mr--er--Swinburne, so much so,
indeed, that when my friend Gordon and I have concluded the business
talk which has brought me down here to-night I should very much like to
hear all the particulars of your story, if you will do me the favour to
confide them to me."

I replied that I would do so with great pleasure; and then, the meal
being at an end, our hostess rose from the table and retired to the
drawing-room, while Sir Robert, apologising for leaving me alone,
carried off the Ambassador to the study, where he had ordered coffee to
be served.

Naturally, I did not linger at the table after the others had gone, but
followed my hostess to the drawing-room, where I at once proceeded to
thank her for the kindly tact with which she had made my case known to
so influential a personage as Viscount Hayashi.  On her part, she was
just as pleased as I was that so exceptionally favourable an opportunity
to restore my wrecked fortunes had presented itself, and for some time
we sat talking the matter over.  Then Lady Gordon insisted upon my
singing to her while she played my accompaniments; and in this manner
the time passed rapidly, and before we dared expect them her husband and
the Viscount reappeared.  But even then we did not stop at once, His
Excellency being polite enough to beg us to continue.  At length,
however, our guest rose and, beckoning me to his side, said:

"Before I go, Mr Swinburne, let me say that Sir Robert Gordon has
confided to me the full particulars of your remarkable story.  And,
having heard it, I should like you to know that, not only am I fully
convinced of your entire innocence of the foul charge preferred against
you, but also that I, as a native of a country in which filial affection
is held in the highest honour and esteem, am full of admiration for your
conduct.  I am proud to have the honour of knowing a young man
possessing the courage to act as you have done; and I have no hesitation
in expressing the opinion that, in dispensing with your services, your
country has lost a most promising and valuable servant.  But if Great
Britain is unable to appreciate your value, there are other countries
which can, and Japan is one of them.  You are doubtless aware that war
between Russia and Japan is inevitable; it is merely a question of
weeks, perhaps only of days; the Japanese naval service will afford many
opportunities for an officer, qualified as I understand you are, to
distinguish himself, and rapidly advance his fortunes.  If you would
care to enter that service I believe the affair might be easily managed,
backed up as you are by the recommendation of a gentleman of Sir Robert
Gordon's position.  Think the matter over, will you?  And when you have
decided, call upon me at this address, and let me know."  And he handed
me his card.

On the spur of the moment I was very much inclined to close with His
Excellency's offer there and then; but even as the words of acceptance
leapt to my lips I bethought myself that it would only be courteous to
wait and hear what my kind host and hostess had to say upon the matter
before taking the irrevocable step.  I therefore expressed my hearty
thanks for the offer, and promised to give it my best and most careful
consideration.

When the Viscount had gone, Sir Robert, his wife, and I formed ourselves
into a little committee to discuss His Excellency's proposal.  Of course
there was never a moment's doubt as to the wisdom of accepting the
offer, but Sir Robert expressed his satisfaction at my self-control.  He
and his wife were quite of one mind that there was nothing to be gained
by my appearing to be too eager, and they strongly advised me to allow
at least one whole day to pass before presenting myself at the
Ambassador's residence; they also advised me not to accept any rank
below that of a full lieutenant, which was quite in accordance with my
own views.

Accordingly, on the day but one following that of His Excellency's visit
to Maycroft, I journeyed up to town with Sir Robert and, upon parting
from him at the Foreign Office, made the best of my way to Viscount
Hayashi's residence.

His Excellency was at home, and I was at once received.  He was polite
enough to express extreme satisfaction when I informed him that I had
definitely decided to accept his offer, provided that the conditions
could be satisfactorily arranged; and within half an hour we had come to
terms, the arrangement being that I was to enter the Japanese naval
service with the rank of a full lieutenant, my commission to bear date
of my landing in Japan; that a passage was to be provided for me; and
that I was to hold myself in readiness to depart at twenty-four hours'
notice.  A letter to this effect was given me to hand to a certain
subordinate official whose business it was to arrange all such details;
and I then made my exit, the recipient of many good wishes on His
Excellency's part for my success.

My next visit was to a Mr Yuri Kuroda, the subordinate official above
mentioned, who, having read the letter of which I was the bearer,
immediately became very polite, requested to be favoured with my
honourable name and address, which he at once entered in a big book, and
then proceeded to discuss the question of my passage out to Japan.  It
transpired that his Government was negotiating with the Argentine
Republic for the purchase of two powerful armoured cruisers, built for
the Government of the latter country at Genoa; and Mr Kuroda suggested
that if the negotiations resulted successfully, it might suit me to go
out in one of them as an officer, the date of my commission to be
advanced accordingly.  I asked for some particulars of the ships; and
upon learning that they measured 7700 tons, that they were entirely
sheathed amidships in 6 inches of Krupp steel, and that they were armed
with four 8-inch guns in their turrets, with a central battery
consisting of fourteen 6-inch guns, I quickly replied that there was
nothing I should like better.  And so it was arranged, Kuroda
undertaking to inform me in good time when my services would be likely
to be required.

Two days later, however, I received a telegram from Kuroda, requesting
me to call upon him at the earliest possible moment.  It came while we
were sitting down to dinner, and Lady Gordon expressed the opinion that
if I made my call on the following morning it would be early enough, and
Sir Robert was rather inclined to agree with her.  But the receipt of
the telegram seemed to suggest that something unexpected had happened,
and I therefore determined to obey the summons that night.  I
accordingly scribbled a reply saying that I would present myself at nine
o'clock; and within ten minutes of that hour I was once more in the
Ambassador's house.  His Excellency was out; but Mr Kuroda was in and
waiting for me; and he expressed his gratification at my prompt response
to his summons.  He then proceeded to inform me that certain news had
arrived--he did not state the nature of it--which rendered it highly
desirable that I should expedite my departure for Japan, instead of
awaiting the issue of the negotiations for the purchase of the Argentine
cruisers, and inquired when I could be ready to start.  My reply that I
could start on the morrow, if necessary, pleased him greatly, but he
intimated that the earliest date upon which it would be possible to
dispatch me would be the 8th of the month--it was then the 5th--and
requested me to make my arrangements accordingly, and to call upon him
again on the morning of the 7th, when he would give me my final
instructions and hand me my credentials, with railway and steamer
tickets, etcetera.

The Gordons received the news of my impending departure with mixed
feelings.  They were delighted that, through their help and influence, I
had been able to so quickly find another opening for my energies, but
were exceedingly sorry that I was to leave them so soon, as they had
confidently reckoned upon my spending the Christmas holidays with them
and Ronald.  However, Sir Robert took me up to town with him, in his
car, on the morning of the 7th, and Lady Gordon accompanied us, saying
that she had some shopping to do.  I left them at the entrance to Sir
Robert's office, and in due time found myself once more in Mr Kuroda's
presence.

It was easy to see that the little man was so busy that he scarcely knew
which way to turn, but he was as smiling and polite as ever, and had
everything ready for me, neatly enclosed in a stout official envelope,
the contents of which he turned out for my inspection.  There was my
railway ticket from London to Dover, my steamer ticket from Dover to
Calais, my railway ticket from Calais to Marseilles, _via_ Paris, my
steamer ticket from Marseilles to Yokohama, and my credentials, which
were to be presented to a certain official in Tokio, who would hand me
my commission and give me my final instructions.  Everything was cut and
dried, even to a travelling schedule giving me the train and steamer
times of departure and arrival; therefore, having looked them through
and satisfied myself that nothing had been omitted, I returned the
several documents to the envelope, thrust the latter into my pocket, and
bade Mr Kuroda farewell.  He replied with hearty good wishes for my
welfare and success, expressed his deep regret that he was not going
with me instead of remaining in London, shook my hand with great fervour
and friendliness, and, as he bowed me out, touched the bell which was
the signal for another visitor to be ushered in.

When Sir Robert came home that night, he brought with him two parcels
wrapped in stout brown paper, one of them being rather long and slim;
but I thought nothing of it, as I knew that it was a custom, when things
were urgently needed, to have them sent to his office, so that they
might be brought home at night in his car.  After dinner, however, the
two parcels were produced, opened, and found to contain, the one a
handsome oak case containing a pair of heavy and very business-like Colt
automatic pistols, with all necessary tools, bottle of oil, and one
hundred cartridges; while the other was a beautiful naval sword and
sheath, the blade perfectly plain but of such exquisite temper that, by
exerting my full strength, I was able to bend it until the point met the
hilt.  The pistols were a farewell gift to me from dear Lady Gordon,
while the sword was from Sir Robert.  The gifts were accompanied by the
heartfelt good wishes of the donors for my welfare, happiness, and
safety in the strenuous times that seemed to be looming ahead, and the
hope that the weapons would prove useful to me in my new service.  They
were, as will be seen from the account of my adventures, set forth in
the following pages.



CHAPTER TWO.

THE RUSSIAN DESTROYER.

At a quarter to eleven o'clock on the morning of December 8, 1903, I
stepped out of a cab at Charing Cross railway station, and forthwith
proceeded to get my luggage properly labelled and checked through to
Marseilles.  While I was doing this, I became aware of some one by my
side, and, looking up, saw a little man, the formation of whose features
and the colour of whose skin at once apprised me that he was a Japanese.
He was dressed in a neat travelling suit of tweed, and wore a bowler
hat and brown boots.  He was reading my name, legibly painted on my sea
chest, and as I looked at him he turned to me and bowed.

"You are Mr Paul Swinburne, bound for Japan?" he said, putting the
statement in the form of a question, and speaking in perfect English.

"I am," I replied.  "And you?"

"I am Captain Murata Nakamura, of the Japanese army, in England on
Government business, and now returning to Japan in the _Matsuma Maru_,
the steamer in which I understand you are going out.  Half an hour ago I
was with Mr Kuroda, whom you know, and he told me about you, and bade
me look out for you.  I am pleased to make your honourable acquaintance,
Mr Swinburne, and shall be happy to place my humble services at your
honourable disposal."

"Gad! that's very good of you," I said.  "Very glad to know you,
Captain.  Is your baggage ready?  Then, let us try to secure a
compartment to ourselves and travel through together."

"It will give me great pleasure to travel in your honourable company,"
replied my new acquaintance.  "And I have already secured a compartment
by, as you say, `squaring' the guard.  There he is now.  Let us go and--
how do you say?  Oh yes, I remember--`interview' him."

We obtained a compartment to ourselves, and my new friend at once
started smoking cigarettes and chatting in the most animated manner upon
the prospects of war.  He was in high spirits, and apparently had no
doubts at all as to the outcome of the fighting--if fighting there was
to be.  And of this also he appeared to entertain no doubt, although
there were people who still believed that either Russia or Japan would
climb down and so avoid a fight.

By the time that the train reached Dover we were "as thick as thieves,"
for Nakamura's perfect frankness and his geniality of manner quickly
conquered my insular aloofness toward the foreigner; and upon boarding
the Channel steamer we at once went below and were busy with our
luncheon almost before the boat had cast off from the pier.

At Calais, Nakamura, who seemed to speak every language under the sun,
took charge of my baggage as well as his own, and by some mysterious
process, probably not altogether unconnected with "backsheesh," managed
to clear the whole through the Customs in about five minutes.  Then he
again "squared" the guard and secured our privacy as far as Paris, where
we arrived about five o'clock in the evening.  There was a train leaving
for Marseilles at half-past seven, so we took a cab, drove across the
city, and dined at the railway station in comfort before beginning the
long night journey.  Then, once more securing a compartment to
ourselves, we settled down for our twelve hours' run to the shore of the
Mediterranean.

I was very much amused at the naivete of some of my companion's remarks.
He asked the most intimate questions in the coolest possible manner,
and if I had not already resolved to be absolutely frank with my new
comrades in arms I should have been somewhat embarrassed to find replies
for some of them.  He was greatly surprised to learn that I was not yet
eighteen years of age, and was still growing, for although he appeared
to be not more than twenty-five, he informed me that he was actually
thirty-three, and I was a head taller than he, the fact being that I had
a natural tendency toward bulkiness which my passion for athletics had
further encouraged.  He jocularly remarked that he hoped the authorities
would have sense enough to appoint me to a battleship, for he was sure
that in no other quarters would I find room to stand upright.

We reached Marseilles without adventure at eight o'clock on the
following morning, and, after breakfasting at the railway station,
chartered a cab and drove down to the Joliet, where we found our ship,
the _Matsuma Maru_, lying alongside a wharf piled yards high with
crates, bales, and cases of all sorts and sizes waiting to be stowed in
the ship's holds.  The skipper was somewhere ashore, it appeared, but we
hunted up the chief officer and introduced ourselves, upon which we
learned that every effort was being made to have the ship ready for sea
by three o'clock that afternoon, but that it would be impossible for her
to get away a minute earlier than that; we therefore found the chief
steward, got him to show us our cabins, and had our baggage carried
aboard.  Then we went ashore again and, Nakamura happening to learn that
the place boasted a zoological garden, nothing would satisfy him but we
must needs go there, which we did, afterwards finding our way to the
handsome Museum.  Then down into the town again to lunch, finally
returning to the ship at a quarter to three.  I had been accustomed to
seeing work smartly done in our own navy, but I was amazed to see what a
few hours of strenuous labour had effected upon that wharf.  It was
practically cleared, and even as we stood and watched, the last cases
were slung aboard, and the first bell, warning visitors that the ship
was about to start, was rung, whereupon we trotted aboard and took up a
position on the poop, where some fifty or sixty other passengers, all
men, with about half a dozen exceptions, were already congregated.
Nakamura looked eagerly about him and quickly spotted at least a dozen
acquaintances and fellow-countrymen, to all of whom he insisted upon
introducing me; and his mention of the fact that I was _going_ out for
the express purpose of fighting for Japan at once ensured me a most
friendly welcome among them.  While this was going on, the ship was
unmoored, and a few minutes later we were outside the harbour and
shaping a course that took us at no great distance past the islet which
Hugo has immortalised in his _Count of Monte Christo_.

Once clear of the harbour, the skipper rang for full speed; and the
_Matsuma Maru_, a white-hulled, steel-built ship of some four thousand
tons, rigged as a topsail schooner, soon showed that she was the
possessor of a nimble pair of heels.  She was loaded well down, yet an
hour after the patent log had been put overboard it recorded a run of
seventeen knots.  The weather was gloriously fine and the sea
glass-smooth, so that one had not much opportunity of judging her
quality as a sea boat, but when I went forward and, duly paying my
footing, looked over the bows and noted their outward flare as the sides
rose from the water, I had not much difficulty in deciding that she
would prove very comfortable and easy in a seaway.

Upon going below to dinner that night, a glance round the saloon tables
showed that at least seventy-five per cent, of the passengers were
Japanese, while, of the remainder, half, perhaps, were English, the rest
being composed, in pretty nearly equal proportions, of French, Germans,
and, somewhat to my surprise, Russians.  These last, however, it
eventually transpired, had booked only as far as Hong Kong, from whence
it was probable that they intended to proceed to Port Arthur, although
they said nothing to that effect.

We passed through the Straits of Bonifacio and Messina, and in due
course arrived at Port Said without incident, except that, thanks to
Nakamura, I soon became upon friendly and even intimate terms with all
the Japanese passengers in the saloon, as well as the ship's officers.
There was one old gentleman in particular, rejoicing in the name of
Matsudaira Hashimoto, an ex-professor of languages at the Imperial
College of Tokio, who, happening to hear that I was anxious to utilise
the large amount of time occupied by the voyage in acquiring as much
knowledge as possible of the Japanese language, at once came forward
with an offer to gratuitously teach me, in order that, as he remarked, I
might be equipped with a working knowledge of the language upon my
arrival, and so be in a position to immediately render my services
valuable.  The old gentleman, it appeared, had been remarkably
successful in his day as a teacher of languages, working upon a system
which he had himself invented; and, luckily for me, his system was so
excellent that, working with me for five hours daily, he actually
succeeded in redeeming his promise so thoroughly that when we at length
reached Yokohama I was able to manage quite fairly well without the
services of an interpreter.  This by the way.

It was a part of the skipper's plan to replenish his bunkers at Port
Said, an operation involving a detention of three hours.  We therefore
all went ashore, and I posted a letter to my friends, the Gordons,
attaching to it a number of stamps of different denominations, for the
benefit of Ronald, who was an enthusiastic collector.  We then roved
about the town, but, finding nothing to interest us, soon returned to
the ship, which we found enveloped in a cloud of coal dust which was
playing havoc with her fresh white paint, despite the canvas screens
spread to protect it.

We got under way again shortly after three o'clock that afternoon, two
of our passengers--Russians who looked very much like military men in
mufti--cutting things so fine that they were actually compelled to
follow after us in a steam launch; and when at length they overtook us,
scrambled aboard, and went at once to the cabin which they shared, the
skipper, with whom Nakamura and I had become very chummy, caught our
eyes and signed to us both to come up to his cabin on the bridge, the
ship then being in charge of a canal pilot, with Sadakiyo, the chief
officer, standing beside him on the navigating bridge.

Accordingly, we sauntered up in a nonchalant sort of way, as though
intent upon watching the progress of the ship through the canal, for
there had been something of furtiveness in the skipper's action which
seemed to hint that he did not wish his sign to be observed by others,
which led me at least to imagine that there might be something in the
wind.

And so, apparently there was, for when we had entered the cabin, the
skipper softly closed the door and drew the curtains across the two
after ports, as though desirous of concealing the fact of our presence
in his cabin.  Then, having produced whisky and soda and a box of
cigars, he seated himself on the sofa, facing us, and said in English:

"You saw those two Russians come aboard, just now, after nearly losing
their passage?"

And when we nodded affirmation he continued:

"I am wondering whether the circumstance means trouble for us.  And for
this reason.  When I was ashore, about an hour ago, I had business that
took me into McIntosh's store.  Now, McIntosh is a very good fellow,
whom I have known for some time.  He is very friendly to us Japanese,
and `has his knife'--as you English term it--into the Russians.  Well,
after chatting together for a little while, he took me into his inner
room and informed me that there is a steamer, flying the Russian naval
ensign, and a Russian destroyer lurking near the southern extremity of
the Red Sea, which seem disposed to give trouble to Japanese merchant
craft.  It appears that only last week, one or the other of these--
McIntosh is not sure which--stopped and boarded the _Mishima Maru_ and
insisted upon examining her papers and inspecting her passengers, for
what reason McIntosh could not say, as he had merely heard the bare
facts of the case.  And about a quarter of an hour later, shortly after
I had left McIntosh's place, I saw those two Russians who nearly missed
us enter the telegraph office, and I began to smell mischief.  Of course
it may only be imagination, but remembering what McIntosh had told me, I
wondered whether by any chance they were wiring to Dgiboutil the news of
our arrival, and warning their friends to be on the lookout for us."

"But why wire to Dgiboutil?"  I demanded.

"Because," replied Kusumoto, "Dgiboutil belongs to the French, who are
strongly pro-Russian; and those craft must have a sort of headquarters
at which they may receive news and instructions, and where they can
replenish their bunkers and storerooms, and I know of no place so likely
for this as Dgiboutil."

"I see," said I.  "Yes, you are most probably right, so far.  But why on
earth should those fellows interfere with Japanese ships?  By what right
do they claim to do it?  The two countries are not yet at war, whatever
may be the case within the next few months."

"That is true," agreed the skipper.  "But the mouth of the Red Sea is a
long way from Japan; we have no warships anywhere near there to protect
us; the Russians are by nature a very high-handed people, and not too
scrupulous when dealing with a prospective enemy; and perhaps they think
that before Japan could make an effective protest, we may be at war, and
have other things than pin-pricks to occupy our attention."

"Very true," I assented.  "That may be so.  But I should like to know
upon what pretext they presume to molest and interfere with Japanese
ships.  Such action is contrary to international law, and in fact is
closely akin to piracy, if indeed it is not piracy, pure and simple.
Now, suppose these fellows attempt to interfere with us, what do you
propose to do?"

"Ah!" ejaculated Kusumoto, "that is an exceedingly difficult question to
answer.  I do not want them to come aboard me, if it can be helped,
for--to let you into a secret--our cargo consists of munitions of war of
various kinds, and if the Russians should discover that fact, as they
must if they board us and force me to show my papers, they may be
unscrupulous enough to play some trick upon me, either jeopardising my
cargo, or possibly detaining me in some way until war is actually
declared, and then confiscating both ship and cargo.  I must think the
matter over, and try to hit upon some plan of `besting' them, as you
English say.  And perhaps you two gentlemen will also give it a thought.
I am only a mercantile shipmaster, and have had no experience in
matters of this sort to guide me, but you are both military men, and out
of your knowledge you may be able to suggest something helpful to me.
Of course nothing may happen; we may not fall in with the Russians at
all, which will be so much the better; but if we should encounter them,
and they should attempt to interfere with me, I want to be prepared."

We continued to discuss the matter for some time longer; but it is not
necessary to repeat more of what was said, sufficient having been
already recorded to indicate the nature of the trouble that was possibly
waiting for us.

The engines were only stopped long enough at Suez to enable us to land
the pilot and the big searchlight which we had shipped at Port Said to
help us through the canal; and, this done, we steamed on into the Gulf
of Suez and the Red Sea.

Our passage down the Red Sea was quite uneventful until the Hanish
Islands hove in sight over the port bow--uneventful, that is to say,
with one exception only, but it was an exception which seemed to cause
our two Russian passengers much perturbation of spirit.  For the chat
which Nakamura and I had had with the skipper, shortly after leaving
Port Said, had been succeeded by another on the following day, the
outcome of which was that Kusumoto, with the full approval of my friend
Nakamura and myself, had resolved to take the very serious step of
broaching cargo, with the result that, when the passengers came up on
deck, on the morning which found us off Shadwan Island, they were amazed
to discover two 1-pounder Hotchkisses mounted, one on the
forecastle-head and the other right aft over the taffrail, while a Maxim
graced either extremity of the navigating bridge.  The circumstance,
with the reasons which seemed to make such a step necessary and
desirable, was recorded at length in the _Matsuma Maru_ official log,
signed by the skipper and countersigned, at his request, by Nakamura and
myself, as accessories, so to speak.

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon when the Hanish Islands hove
up above the horizon, at which moment, as it happened, Nakamura and I
were in the captain's cabin, where indeed we had spent most of the time
of late, when we were not in our bunks.  The Hanish Islands are, roughly
speaking, within about one hundred miles of the Strait of Bab el Mandeb;
and as we had not been interfered with thus far, we had practically made
up our minds that if the Russians intended to molest us at all, it would
be here, the back of the islands affording an excellent place of
concealment from which to dash out upon a passing ship.

Nor were we disappointed in our expectations; for when we had brought
the northernmost island square abeam, a long, black, four-funnelled
destroyer suddenly slid out past its southern extremity, heading west,
so as to intercept us.  And, looking at her through our glasses, we saw
that she was flying the International Code signal, "Heave-to.  I wish to
speak you."

"So! it's time for us to be making a move, Nakamura," said I.  "You
quite understand the line you are to take with those fellows, skipper?
Good!  Then, all that remains to be done is to get some ammunition on
deck, and we shall be ready.  Will you give the necessary orders?"

The skipper's response was to send for the chief officer, who, at least
nominally, was off duty for the time being; and five minutes later I was
on the forecastle-head, the Hotchkiss' tarpaulin jacket was off, a case
of ammunition for the weapon stood conveniently at hand, and "All ready
for'ard!"  I reported.  A minute or two later, Nakamura on the bridge
was also ready, with a belt of cartridges in each of his Maxims, and
more at hand, if required.  Meanwhile, by the skipper's order, the
answering pennant had been run up to our span, and dipped to show that
the signal was understood, while the Japanese mercantile flag--white,
with a red ball in the centre, which is also the Japanese "Jack"--was
hoisted at our gaff-end.

Ten minutes later we were within hail of the destroyer, which, flying
the Russian naval ensign, was lying motionless right athwart our hawse,
broadside-on to us.  Our engines were still running at full speed, and
our safety valves were lifting, allowing a "feather" of steam to show at
the head of our waste-pipe, while our quartermaster grimly kept our stem
pointed fair and square between the second and third funnels of the
Russian.

Then skipper Kusumoto raised his megaphone and hailed the destroyer, in
Russian, with:

"Ho! the destroyer ahoy!  Why are you lying athwart my hawse?  Do you
wish me to run you down?"

There were two officers on the destroyer's bridge, one of whom sprang to
the engine-room telegraph and thrust it over to "Full speed ahead,"
while the other seized a megaphone and hailed back:

"Stop your engines instantly, sir!  Did you not understand my signal
that I wished to speak you?  Starboard your helm, you confounded fool;
hard a-starboard, or you'll be over us."

"Then get out of my way," retorted Kusumoto.  "Starboard a little," (to
the quartermaster), "and just shave his stern.  I'll teach him to lay
his tin kettle athwart a Japanese ship's bows."

The destroyer leaped from under our bows like a frightened thing, though
not so quickly but that we caught her quarter with the rounding of our
bows and gave her a pretty severe shaking up.  Her skipper shook his
fist at us and stamped on the bridge with fury.  Then he raised his
megaphone again and hailed:

"You infernal scoundrel, I'll make you suffer for that outrage!
Heave-to at once, or I'll fire into you."

The boat was sweeping round on a starboard helm, and was now running
practically parallel to us, at a distance of about a hundred feet.

"You will fire into me, if I don't stop, you say?  Is Russia at war with
my country, then?" hailed Kusumoto.

There was silence for a minute or two aboard the destroyer, during which
the two officers on her bridge consulted eagerly together.  We could see
that her engine-room telegraph stood at "Full speed," yet, strange to
say, she was only just holding her own with us.  Then the commander of
her again raised his megaphone.

"My instructions are that I am to examine the papers of all foreign
vessels passing down the Red Sea," he shouted; "and I must insist that
you heave-to and let me board you."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," retorted our skipper.  "I do not admit
your right to board me, so try it if you dare.  I believe you are
nothing less than a pirate masquerading as a Russian ship of war; and I
shall treat you accordingly if you do not sheer off."

This defiance was more than enough for the proud and choleric Russian,
accustomed to have his every order servilely obeyed.  Such unparalleled
insolence from a "little yellow-skinned monkey"--as the Russians had
already begun to dub the Japanese--and in the presence of his own crew,
too!  It was unendurable, and must be severely punished.  He called an
order, and the Russian seamen, who had been standing about the deck,
listening half-amused and half-indignant, to the altercation, made a
move in the direction of the destroyer's 4-pounder and her port torpedo
deck tube.  But our skipper had been expecting and keenly on the watch
for such a move, and he now hailed again:

"Destroyer ahoy!  Keep away from the tube and the gun, you men!  If I
see a man attempt to approach either, I will sweep your decks with Maxim
fire.  Do you hear what I say?"--as half a dozen men continued to slouch
toward the tube.  "Open fire, there, the starboard Maxim!"

Nakamura was at the gun mentioned, which he was keeping steadily trained
upon the tube.  At the word, he fired a single shot, and the bullet
spattered into a star as it struck the mounting.  The Russians halted as
if turned to stone, and glanced anxiously at their commander.  Kusumoto
raised his megaphone and hailed:

"Is that enough, or will you have more?  Now, sheer off at once, if you
please.  If you don't, I shall fire again; and my next shots--with my
Hotchkiss guns--will be at your waterline and your boilers."

The Russian commander was by this time literally foaming at the mouth;
he seemed speechless and beside himself with rage, and there is no
knowing what the outcome might have been, had not his second in command
here intervened, and, forcibly seizing him by the arms, shook him
violently as he said something which we were too far off to hear.
Meanwhile, ever since the firing of the shot, the helmsman of the
destroyer had been quietly edging away from us; and presently, at a
sign, apparently, from the junior officer, he put his helm hard over to
port, and the venomous-looking craft swung sharply upon her heel,
listing heavily as she did so, and a few seconds later was speeding away
in the opposite direction to ourselves.  But even now we had not quite
done with her, for almost immediately she swung round to cross our
stern, and a moment later we saw the silvery flash of a torpedo as it
left her tube.  Kusumoto, however, was not to be caught unawares;
apparently he more than half suspected something of the kind, and was on
the watch.  For an instant he watched the bubbles which marked the
course of the missile, and then shouted an order to our helmsman; the
_Matsuma Maru_ swerved from her course, and the torpedo sped harmlessly
past us, a hundred yards to port.  I, too, had quite expected that the
fiery Russian would not allow us to go scot-free if he could help it,
therefore the moment that the destroyer swerved away from us I sprang
off the forecastle and ran aft to the other Hotchkiss, which I reached
too late to prevent the discharge of the torpedo.  But I saw men
clustering about her 4-pounder, as though about to bring it into action,
and as I was more afraid of this gun than of the torpedoes, I
unhesitatingly opened fire upon it, and at the fifth shot had the
pleasure of dismounting it.  This was enough for the Russians; they
realised at last that they had caught a Tartar, and bore away for their
lurking-place behind the Hanish Islands, where we eventually lost sight
of them.

As soon as the destroyer had disappeared, Kusumoto retired to his cabin
and wrote a lengthy account of the affair in his official log-book,
getting Nakamura and me to sign it, as before, in testimony of its
veracity.  This he did in order to justify himself for broaching cargo
and temporarily mounting the Hotchkiss and Maxim guns; and it may be
said here that not only was his justification accepted, but his conduct
was highly commended by the authorities.

About four bells in the first watch that night, we passed through the
strait, and shifted our helm for Cape Guardafui, not calling at Aden,
since we had coal enough to carry us on to Colombo; and we saw nothing
more of the Russians until after our arrival in Japan on 22nd January
1904.



CHAPTER THREE.

WAR!

On the morning of the day which witnessed my arrival in the Land of the
Rising Sun, the berth-room steward who brought me my early cup of coffee
informed me, with a broad grin of satisfaction, that we were in Sagami
Bay; that it was a beautiful morning, but very cold; and that he would
advise me to turn out at once if I desired to obtain the best possible
view of Fujiyama, or Fujisan, as the Japanese love to call it.  I took
his advice, bathed and dressed with seamanlike celerity, and, donning a
thick, warm ulster, made my way to the navigating bridge, catching my
first glimpses of Japan--Shimoda, on the port, and the island of Oshima
on the starboard quarter, as I went.  And when I reached the bridge and
took my stand beside Sadakiyo, the chief officer, I mentally returned
thanks to that steward for his advice, and was glad that I had acted
upon it, for the sight which met my gaze was beautiful beyond all power
of description, and such as I shall never forget.

The air was clear as crystal, there was no wind, and the water was
mirror-smooth, its surface dotted with fishing-boats, the unpainted
hulls and white sails of which floated double, with nothing to show the
junction of substance with reflection.  Reflected, too, were the
serrated ridges of Awa's and Kasusa's mountain-peaks and their ravines,
dark and mysterious, with little villages of grey huts surmounted by
high-pitched roofs of thatch clustering here and there along the beach
to starboard, while, to port, dominating all else, towered high in air
the majestic, snow-crowned peak of Fujisan, its summit blushing a
delicate rosy pink in the first light of dawn.  And, as I gazed, that
beautiful rosy tint suddenly changed to gold as it caught the first rays
of the rising sun, invisible to us, as yet, behind the high land to
starboard, and as speedy as thought the light flashed down the
mountain-side, revealing its matchless perfection of form, and bathing
it in the glory of a hundred varied and beautiful tints.

Moving forward at reduced speed, to avoid the destruction of a few of
the fishing-boats or junks that were ever becoming more numerous as the
land closed in upon us on either side, we at length sighted and passed a
lightship with, somewhat to my surprise, the words "Treaty Point"
painted in large letters upon her red sides.  If I had thought upon the
matter at all, I should naturally have expected to see the name of the
ship set forth in, to me, unintelligible hieroglyphics, but instead,
there it was in plain homely English, and I comforted myself with the
reflection that if the Japanese used British characters and words to
distinguish their lightships, my as yet very imperfect knowledge of
their tongue was not going to handicap me as heavily as I had feared.

In due time we arrived in the roadstead of Yokohama--not so very long
ago a small fishing village, but now an important city--and made fast to
our buoy.  Instantly the ship was surrounded by sampans, and the
occupants, not a few of whom were Chinese, swarmed aboard, eager to find
buyers for the fruit, _sake_, and other articles which they had for
sale.  The jabber of tongues was incessant and deafening, and the
importunities of the salesmen a trifle annoying; but Nakamura quickly
sent them to the right-about, and inviting me to go up on the bridge
with him--we were staying aboard to lunch with the skipper--we amused
ourselves by watching the debarkation of the other passengers, my
companion, between whiles, pointing out the various objects of interest
visible from our standpoint.

I must confess that I was not very greatly impressed by Yokohama, as
viewed from the roadstead.  The most prominent object was the "Bund," or
water-front, which is a wide wharf or esplanade, backed by gardens,
hotels, and well-built dwelling-houses.  Then there is the "Bluff,"
covered with fine villas and dwelling-houses, large and small, and of
pleasing varieties of architecture; and, finally, there are the
"Settlement" and the native town, about which I need say nothing.

After luncheon, by which time all the passengers but ourselves had gone
ashore, we engaged a sampan, bade Kusumoto and the ship's officers
farewell, and landed in the English "hatoba," which is a sort of
floating basin, the shore end of which consists of landing-steps
alongside which a whole fleet of boats can be accommodated at once.  A
word from Nakamura caused our baggage to be at once passed through the
Customs with only the merest pretence at examination, and then, engaging
rickshas, or "kurumas," as the Japanese call them, we wended our way to
the railway station, and took train for Tokio.

The journey of eighteen miles was performed in an hour, in an
exceedingly comfortable first-class carriage, upholstered in red
morocco; and I noticed that the guard and engine-driver of the train
were Englishmen--another good sign for me, I thought.  Although the
speed of the train was nothing to boast of, I found the journey
interesting, for the scenery, with its little grey villages of thatched,
wooden houses, and the temples with their quaintly shaped roofs on the
one hand, and the sea on the other, with its islands, wooded gardens,
and hundreds of fishing-boats, with Fujisan always dominating everything
else, were all novelties to me.

The railway does not run right into the city of Tokio, but has its
terminus at the village of Shimbashi, on the outskirts; here, therefore,
we left the train and, engaging kurumas for ourselves and our baggage,
drove to the Imperial Hotel, where Nakamura advised me to take up my
quarters _pro tem_, and where he also intended to stay, that night.  It
was then six o'clock in the evening, and too late to transact our
business, so, after a wash and brush-up, we sallied forth to see
something of the city.

On the following morning, at ten o'clock, I presented myself before
Vice-Admiral Baron Yamamoto, the Minister of the Navy, and handed him my
credentials.  He received me with great politeness, read a private
letter from Viscount Hayashi, of which I was the bearer, asked me a good
many questions as to the length and nature of my service in the British
Navy, and my experiences therein, and finally handed me my commission as
Lieutenant, together with a letter to Admiral Togo, which I was to
deliver to him at Sasebo, without delay.

Now, Sasebo is situated on the north-western extremity of the island of
Kiushiu, and is nearer seven than six hundred miles from Tokio;
moreover, I found that during my voyage out to Japan, events had been
progressing by leaps and bounds--so far at least as Japan was concerned.
In diplomatic circles war with Russia was regarded as not only
inevitable but imminent, and preparations for the struggle were being
breathlessly pushed forward day and night.  Of the evacuation of
Manchuria by Russia, which should have been _completed_ on the 8th of
the preceding October, there was still no sign; on the contrary,
everything pointed to a determination on the part of Russia to make her
occupation permanent.  Actions, it is said, speak louder than words, and
while the diplomats on both sides were still engaged in an apparent
endeavour to settle matters amicably, the action of those on the Russian
side was characterised by systematic procrastination and delay which
admitted of but one interpretation, namely, that Russia had no intention
to quit Manchuria until she was compelled to do so by force.

This being the state of affairs, I interpreted Baron Yamamoto's order
literally, leaving Tokio by the first available train.  This took me
back to Yokohama, where I only quitted it because I found I could
proceed no farther until nine o'clock that night.  At that hour, then, I
made a fresh start and, not to dwell unduly upon this part of my story,
reached Sasebo late in the evening of 26th January, having been delayed
upon the road owing to the congestion of traffic caused by the war
preparations.

Sasebo was a very hive of activity, to such an extent indeed that I had
the greatest difficulty in finding quarters.  All the hotels were packed
to their utmost limit, and indeed I do not know how I should eventually
have fared had I not luckily encountered an unmistakable Briton, whom I
halted, and to whom I confided my plight, asking if he could direct me
to some place where I could find accommodation for the night.  He turned
out to be a Scotsman named Boyd, in business at Sasebo, and no sooner
had I made my situation plain to him than he took me by the arm in the
most friendly manner and exclaimed:

"Come awa' hame wi' me, laddie.  I'll pit ye up wi' the greatest of
pleasure, and the gude-wife 'll be gey an' pleased to meet a body fresh
frae the auld country."

It was easy to see that the fine fellow was absolutely sincere in his
invitation; I therefore gladly accepted it, and, half an hour later,
found myself comfortably housed in the bosom of a typically hospitable
Scottish family, whom I found most delightfully genial, and from whom I
subsequently received much kindness.

By my friend Boyd's advice I sallied forth early the next morning in
search of Admiral Togo, who was of course up to his eyes in business,
and who would be difficult to find unless I could catch him before he
left his hotel.  I was fortunate enough to arrive while he was still at
breakfast, and, having sent in my card, was at once admitted.

I found him still seated at the table, in company with several other
officers, all of them dressed in a naval uniform almost identical in cut
and appearance with our own.  Like every other Japanese I ever met, he
received me with the utmost politeness, and, having read Baron
Yamamoto's letter of introduction, again shook hands with me most
heartily, expressed the pleasure it afforded him to welcome another
Englishman into Japan's naval service, and forthwith proceeded to
introduce me to the other officers present, one of whom, I remember, was
Captain Ijichi, of the _Mikasa_, Togo's flagship.  They all spoke
English, more or less, Togo perfectly, for he had served as a boy aboard
the British training ship _Worcester_, and later in our own navy.  Also
he had taken a course of study at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
He was a typical Japanese, short and thick-set, with black eyes that
seemed to pierce one through and through and read one's innermost
thoughts.  His hair, beard, and moustache were black, lightly touched
here and there with grey, and though it is a little difficult to
correctly estimate the age of a Japanese, I set him down at about fifty,
which I subsequently learned was not far out.

Like Baron Yamamoto, the Admiral asked me quite a number of questions;
and at length, when he found that I had qualified for gunnery, torpedo,
and navigating duties, and had seen service in a destroyer, he said:

"You seem to have an exceptionally good record for a young man of your
years, Mr Swinburne; so good, indeed, that I feel disposed to avail
myself to the utmost possible extent of your services.  I foresee that
in the coming war the destroyer is destined to play a most important
part, and while I anticipate that the service which that class of craft
will be called upon to perform will be of the most arduous description,
and of course exceedingly dangerous, it will also afford its officers
exceptional opportunities to distinguish themselves.  Now, it happens
that I have one destroyer--the _Kasanumi_, one of our best boats--for
which, thus far, I have been unable to find a suitable commander; your
arrival comes therefore at a most opportune moment, for the perusal of
your record convinces me that you are the very man for whom I have been
looking.  I rather flatter myself that I am a good judge of character,
and I believe that you will do as much credit to the ship as she will to
you.  Now, what do you say?  Will the command of a destroyer be
satisfactory to you?"

"Indeed it will, sir," I replied, "and more than satisfactory.  I have
not dared to hope for such a big slice of good fortune, and I know not
how to adequately express my thanks for the confidence you are reposing
in me."

"Nay," answered Togo, "there is no need for thanks, at least in words.
You can best show your appreciation by deeds, for which I promise you
shall be afforded abundant opportunity.  And now, if you are anything
like what I take you to be, you will be all anxiety to see your ship; is
it not so?  Very well; you will find her in the small graving dock,
where she is being scraped and repainted.  Go down and have a good look
at her, inside and out; and if you can offer any suggestions for
improvements on board, I will give them my best consideration.  Do you
know your way to the docks?  If not, I will find somebody to act as
guide for you."

"I am very much obliged, sir," I replied, "but I should prefer to find
my own way, if you please.  I have been studying Japanese during the
passage out, and I am anxious to make the most of every opportunity to
increase my knowledge of the language."

"Good!" exclaimed Togo, in Japanese.  "I believe you will do very well.
Do you understand that?" he added, in English.

"Yes, sir," I replied, in Japanese; "and I am much obliged for your good
opinion."  My speech was a bit halting and my pronunciation by no means
perfect, but it was evidently intelligible, for the whole party
applauded me and shouted words of encouragement, some of which I
understood, while others puzzled me.  Then, as I turned to leave the
room, the Admiral said:

"When you have had a good look at your ship, Mr Swinburne, come to me
aboard the _Mikasa_, where I shall be all the morning."

I found the docks without difficulty, and in the smaller graving dock
lay the _Kasanumi_, my first command!  Seen thus, out of water, she
looked a craft of quite important dimensions, as indeed she was, being
more than two hundred feet in length.  She had four funnels, the space
between the second and third being only about half that between numbers
one and two, and three and four.  She had beautiful lines, and looked as
though she ought to be an excellent sea boat.  Her armament consisted of
one 12-pounder, mounted aft, and five 6-pounders, all quick-fire guns
capable of discharging ten shots per minute.  She also mounted on the
after-deck two 18-inch torpedo tubes, firing Whiteheads of an effective
range of eight hundred yards at a speed of thirty knots, and carrying a
charge of one hundred and seventy-one pounds of gun-cotton--enough to
destroy a battleship, if it happened to hit the right spot.  The dock
foreman, who happened to be an Englishman, told me that she was British
built--a Thorneycroft boat, he believed--and that, on trial, she had
steamed as much as thirty-three knots!  Here was a craft which any
reasonable man might be proud to command, and I there and then
registered a vow that it should not be my fault if she did not make a
name for herself during the coming war.

She was painted white, with a lead-colour bottom, and her four funnels
were white with black tops.  But they were burning and scraping off all
her outside paint, from the sheer-strake downward, and I asked the
foreman what colour they were going to repaint her.  He answered that
this had not yet been decided, whereupon I requested him to provide me
with three small pots of paint, white, black, and blue, and with these
three I compounded a smoky-grey tint of medium depth which I believed
would be practically invisible by day and quite invisible at night, and
this tint I applied to a small piece of board which I requested the
foreman to take care of for me.

Then I went aboard and had a look at the _Kasanumi's_ interior
arrangements.  The engine and boiler-rooms, the torpedo room, and
magazine naturally absorbed a large proportion of the interior space,
but the accommodation for officers and crew, though a trifle cramped,
was sufficient to ensure quite a reasonable amount of comfort.
Everything of course was done to economise space, and the fittings were
all quite plain, but the cabin which would be mine was a compact, cosy,
little cubbyhole, with a tiny stove to warm it in cold weather, and I
believed I could make myself very happy and comfortable in it, although
the beams were so low that I should never be able to stand upright.  The
engines were superb pieces of machinery, as of course they had need to
be, to drive the boat at a speed of thirty-three knots, and the working
parts shone like burnished silver and gold, while the rest was painted
green.  I spent two hours aboard, making a few notes referring to
suggestions which I proposed to make to the Admiral, and then started
off to find the _Mikasa_.

This was not difficult, for the whole fleet--excepting one battleship
and two cruisers in dry dock--were lying off the dockyard, while the
_Mikasa_ was easily distinguishable, even to a stranger, from the fact
that she was flying the Admiral's flag.  I noticed also that her
stem-head was decorated with a gilded conventional representation of the
open chrysanthemum, the Imperial crest.  The Admiral was in his cabin, I
was informed, when I got aboard, but I was kept waiting nearly an hour
before I was admitted to his presence, for he was holding something very
much like a council of war with the officers of his fleet when I
arrived.  But when at length--the council coming to an end--I was
ushered into the cabin, I could not avoid being surprised at the
wonderful courtesy and politeness which everybody exhibited to everybody
else, notwithstanding that they were all evidently so full of business
that they seemed scarcely to know which job to tackle first.  As soon as
Togo caught sight of me he beckoned me forward and introduced me to as
many of those present as I had not already met, and, this done, he
handed me my appointment to the _Kasanumi_, and requested me to at once
take up my command.  Then he asked me if I had any suggestions to make;
and upon my answering that I had, he opened a notebook which lay upon
the table, and jotted them down as I read them out to him, and promised
to give them early consideration.  As I bowed myself out of the cabin he
called after me, advising me to see to the ordering of my uniforms at
once, as events were progressing rapidly, and there was no knowing how
soon it might be necessary for us all to go to sea.  Stepping out on
deck, I encountered Captain Ijichi, the skipper of the ship, in earnest
converse with several of his officers, to whom he at once introduced me,
whereupon the First Lieutenant invited me to dine that night, aboard the
ship, as his guest, which invitation I naturally accepted.

A week of feverish activity now ensued, by the end of which time every
dock in Sasebo was empty, and every ship in the harbour ready, down to
the last ropeyarn, bunkers and magazines full, and even the fires laid
under the boilers ready to light at a second's notice.  War was by this
time an absolute certainty, and the only question was when would it
break out.  The Japanese plan of campaign was ready cut and dried, and
Togo, resolved to be in a position to act upon the instant of the
receipt of his orders, had already dispatched the cruiser _Akashi_ to
sea, with instructions to ascertain the whereabouts of the Russian fleet
and, after securing this information, to rendezvous at Mokpo, a port
situate at the south-western extremity of the Korean peninsula.  I had
said farewell to my very kind friends, the Boyds, some days before, and
had taken up my abode aboard the _Kasanumi_, which, with the _Asashio,
Shirakumo_, and _Akatsuki_, constituted the 1st Division of the
destroyer flotilla.  Admiral Togo had approved my suggestion to paint
the entire exterior of the boat a medium smoky-grey tint, and the effect
had proved so satisfactory that the skippers of several other destroyers
had followed my example.

At length dawned the eventful 6th of February 1904.  A fresh
north-easter was blowing, the sky was heavy and louring, and a fierce
squall of snow and sleet was sweeping the harbour when a gun from the
_Mikasa_ caused all eyes to turn toward her, and the next moment there
fluttered from her yardarms the signals commanding the fleet to light
fires and prepare to weigh!  So it had come then, that fateful moment
for which we had all been waiting with bated breath, for a full week;
and as the purport of the signals became known, a frenzied roar of
"Banzai Nippon!" went up from ships and shore, a roar that sent a shiver
of excitement thrilling through me, so deep, so intense, so indicative
of indomitable determination, of courage, and of intense patriotism was
it.  Peal after peal of "Banzais" swept over the sullen, turbulent
waters of the harbour, to be taken up and repeated by the thousands who
thronged the wharves ashore, and who seemed to have sprung from nowhere
in an instant; and before the shouts died away thin curls of light brown
smoke were already rising from the funnels of the fleet and six fast
transport steamers which were lying a little nearer the shore.  Half an
hour later, the blare of bands was heard ashore, one of the wharves was
hurriedly cleared of people, and presently soldiers were seen marching
down on to that wharf and aboard a whole fleet of lighters that were
lying alongside.  It was indicative of the thoroughness with which the
Japanese authorities had thought out every minutest detail, that within
three hours, three thousand troops, horse, foot, and artillery, with all
their kit and camp equipment complete, were transferred from the shore
to the transports, and the latter had signalled that they were ready to
get under way.

It was not, however, until shortly before two o'clock in the afternoon
that the signal was made for the fleet to weigh and proceed to sea, by
which time every ship was under a full head of steam; and then the
fleet, which up to then had lain quiescent, burst into strenuous but
orderly activity.  Officers on the several bridges seized megaphones and
shouted orders through them; boatswain's whistles shrilled and
boatswain's lungs bellowed, "Clear lower deck!  Hands up anchor, ahoy!"
the massive cables began to quiver and clank as they were hove in; the
flagship became a very rainbow of rapidly changing signal flags;
answering pennants appeared like magic and vanished again; hundreds of
sampans and craft of every description--anything and everything that
would float, apparently--loaded with men and women, all frantic with
patriotic excitement, put off from the shore and formed a sort of lane
for the fleet to steam through, the men yelling "Banzai!" until it
seemed as though their throats would crack, while the women--many of
whom were very pretty, while all looked charmingly demure--urged the
boatmen to pull in as close as possible to the ships, that they might
strew with artificial flowers the water through which we were about to
pass.  The military bands aboard the transports were playing what I
supposed to be patriotic airs, from the applause which they evoked,
steam was roaring from the safety valves, fussy little tugs were rushing
hither and thither, and at the precise moment when the water under the
_Mikasa's_ counter broke into a sudden swirl and the ship began to move,
a transient gleam of wintry sunshine burst through the clouds and fell
full upon her!  It was the finishing touch; everybody unquestioningly
accepted it as an omen of victory and triumph, and the thousands afloat
and ashore incontinently went mad with joy.  And indeed there was every
excuse for so much enthusiasm, for we presented a truly imposing sight
as we swept out to sea, a fleet consisting of six battleships, six
armoured cruisers, four 23-knot light cruisers, six protected cruisers,
and eighteen destroyers, surrounding the six transports.  The primary
object of the expedition was to escort the transports to Chemulpo, where
the troops were to be landed to effect the seizure of Seoul, the capital
of Korea; and, this accomplished, Togo was to find and defeat the
Russian fleet, which, so long as it existed and was free to roam the
seas, constituted a most formidable menace to Japan.

Twelve knots was the steaming speed ordered for the fleet; and the
course was due west for the passage between the islands of Gotoshima and
Ukushima.  As soon as we were clear of the harbour the destroyers, in
five divisions, were ordered to take up scouting duty, which we did by
arranging ourselves in a complete circle round the fleet, the boats
being about a mile apart, thus forming a circle of eighteen miles in
circumference.

The weather was vile, for after that transient gleam of sunshine which
had marked the moment of our departure, the clouds had closed over us
again in a compact mass, and pelted us with sleet and snow so thickly
that it was only with the utmost difficulty we were able to see the next
boat ahead and astern; also it was so piercingly cold that even the long
lamb's-wool coat, with which I had taken the precaution to provide
myself, seemed utterly inadequate.  Fortunately, excitement and the joy
of finding myself not only once more under a pennant but actually in
command, with a war before me in which I felt convinced I should have
ample opportunity to prove my mettle, helped to keep me warm.  And there
was pride, too; pride in my ship and pride in my crew; for there was not
a better or faster little ship in the fleet than the _Kasanumi_, while
my crew, officers, and men alike, were splendid fellows, fine sturdy
men, with the courage of lions, the lithe, light-footed activity of
cats, and respectfully and promptly obedient to an extent which left
nothing to be desired.  My "sub," a merry, light-hearted little fellow,
named Ito, although more than a year my senior, displayed not an atom of
jealousy, but carried out my every order with the same prompt,
unquestioning alacrity as the men; he was keen as mustard, and his
chief, indeed his only, recreation seemed to be the working out of
battle problems.

For the first four hours of our voyage, while we were still well under
the lee of the land, the water was moderately smooth; but when, about
seven o'clock that evening, the negotiation of the passage between the
islands had been successfully accomplished, and we found ourselves
fairly out at sea, and shifted our helms to pass to the northward of
Quelpart Island, we soon found that we were in for a regular "dusting."
For we presently ran into a high, steep sea, which our shift of helm
brought almost square abeam, yet just enough on our starboard quarter to
set us all rolling and squirming most atrociously, particularly the
"mosquito" division.  Our every roll, whether to port or starboard, sent
us gunwale under, so that it was only with the utmost difficulty we
managed to retain our footing, while more than half my complement, on
deck as well as below, suffered agonies of sea-sickness; yet they stuck
to their work like heroes.  The spray swept us continually from end to
end, flying high over the tops of our low funnels, and freezing as it
fell, so that the watch on deck were kept busy chipping the ice off our
decks and shovelling it overboard; yet, wretchedly uncomfortable as was
the weather, the destroyers, running at less than half-speed, rode the
sea like gulls, and kept station with the utmost ease.

Shortly after eight bells in the middle watch, the weather cleared and
the stars shone out with piercing brilliancy, enabling us to see the
whole of the big ships and the transports, although we were all steaming
with lights out, except for a solitary shrouded lantern carried by each
ship right aft, to enable her next astern to keep station.

The night passed without incident, but shortly after sunrise, smoke was
sighted broad on our port bow, the ship from which it proceeded
evidently steering to the northward.  We all seemed to see it at the
same instant, for in less than half a minute the signal reporting the
circumstance was flying aboard nearly every craft in the fleet.  But the
lookouts aboard the _Mikasa_ were evidently as wide awake as any of us,
for our flags were scarcely aloft when the flagship signalled the
armoured cruiser _Asama_ to chase in the south-western board; and in
little more than an hour afterward she rejoined the fleet, accompanied
by the Russian steamer _Argun_, as a prize.  We flattered ourselves that
the honour of capturing the first prize of the war had fallen to us;
but, later on, we learned, to our disgust, that when the _Argun_ was
taken into Sasebo, there were already three more prizes there to keep
her company.

We arrived off Mokpo about ten o'clock that morning, when the _Akashi_
came out to meet us and make her report.  We of the rank and file, so to
speak, did not, of course, know at the time what was the nature of that
report, which was for the Admiral's ear alone; but, later on, it leaked
out that it was to the effect that the Russian fleet at Port Arthur had
begun to move on the last day of January, by warping and towing certain
of the ships out of harbour.  This movement had continued on the first
and second days of February, by the end of which time the entire fleet
was anchored in the roadstead; and it seemed pretty evident that Admiral
Alexieff was preparing to vigorously carry the war into the enemy's
country, which was the great fear that had been haunting Togo from the
moment when he received his instructions to put to sea.  His dread was
that the Russian fleet would forestall him by getting to sea first,
steam to the southward, and, getting into touch with one or more of the
craft which were certain to be watching the Japanese fleet, would lie
_perdu_ until that fleet had passed to the northward, and then fall upon
and ravage the unprotected Japanese coast.  And, at first sight, this
seemed to be the Russian Admiral's intention, for, on the 4th of
February, the fleet, having coaled, weighed and steamed out to sea,
leaving only two battleships--the _Sevastopol_ and _Peresviet_--in the
harbour, where they had perversely stuck on the mud and refused to be
got afloat again, for the moment at least.  The Russians, twenty-six
ships strong, inclusive of eleven destroyers, having cleared the
roadstead, steamed slowly to the eastward, and were, that same day,
sighted in the offing from Wei-hai-wei, apparently practising
evolutions.  But on the following day they all returned to Port Arthur,
and anchored in the roadstead, under the guns of the batteries.  The
pith of the _Akashi's_ report, therefore, was that there were two
Russian ships--the new cruiser _Variag_, and the gunboat _Korietz_--at
Chemulpo, four cruisers and an armed merchantman at Vladivostock, while
the remainder of the Russian fleet was at Port Arthur.

Possessed of this knowledge, Togo issued orders to Rear-Admiral Uriu, in
the _Takachiho_, to take command of a squadron consisting of, in
addition to his own ship, the _Asatna_, _Chiyoda_, _Niitaka_, and
_Miyako_, with eight destroyers, and with them to convoy the transports
to Chemulpo, taking measures upon his arrival, to insure that the
Russian ships should not interfere with the landing of the troops.
Those were the only orders of which we were aware, but in the light of
what occurred after Uriu's arrival at Chemulpo, it is probable that the
Vice-Admiral was given a considerable amount of latitude with regard to
his further proceedings.

It was about seven o'clock in the evening when the two fleets parted
company, the _Mikasa_ signalling: "I congratulate you in anticipation of
your success," to which the _Takachiho_ replied: "Thanks for your
kindness."  Then the signal was given by wireless for the main fleet to
proceed on a north-westerly course, in an extended formation of line
abreast, with the destroyers scouting on both wings, and a great shout
of "Banzai Nippon!" went up, for everybody knew that north-west was the
road to Port Arthur, where Togo fervently hoped and prayed he might find
the Russian fleet still at anchor.

For, if not, it would certainly mean that Alexieff had proved himself
the better strategist of the two, and had contrived in some subtle
manner to slip past us to the westward, when any one or two of three
terrible things might happen.  He might realise Togo's original terrible
fear of an attack on the undefended coast of Japan; or he might make for
Chemulpo and destroy the Japanese squadron and transports upon their
arrival there; or he might pass through the Korean Strait northward to
Vladivostock and there unite his two forces, when he would be strong
enough to give no end of trouble, if not indeed to defeat us out of hand
and so decide the war at one fell stroke.  It was exceedingly difficult
to know what to do for the best, and our gallant little Admiral felt to
the full the responsibility attaching to his momentous decision, as was
made manifest when, about two bells in the first watch, the order was
wirelessed to the fleet to alter the course twenty-two degrees to the
northward, evidently with the object of falling in with the Russians,
should they by any chance be making for Chemulpo.  Our next order was to
clear for action.

To further increase our difficulties and embarrassments, the weather had
again changed for the worse.  The sun had set in a wrack of wild,
storm-riven cloud painted with the hues of fire and smoke, which,
louring threateningly, had overspread the sky with incredible rapidity,
completely obscuring the light of the stars; the wind, still icy cold,
had breezed up again savagely, kicking up a tremendous sea, the spray
from which quickly drenched us in the destroyers to the skin, despite
our "oilies," sou'-westers, and sea boots; yet the staunch little
vessels, though rolling and pitching in the most distracting manner,
rode like gulls the seas which, to us, seemed to be literally running
"mountains high."  True, our speed was only about twelve knots; what the
_Kasanumi's_ behaviour would probably have been at double that speed, in
such a sea, I shuddered to think.  But I was destined to _know_, in the
not-far-distant future.

When Ito, my lieutenant, called me at midnight to relieve him, he
informed me that a wireless message had just been received from the
flagship, ordering a shift of helm for the Elliot group of islands,
distant some sixty miles from Port Arthur, and for the speed to be
increased to sixteen knots, which order he had acknowledged and
executed, as I discovered, the moment I tumbled out of my hammock; for
the boat was kicking up her heels more madly than ever, while every few
seconds there resounded a heavy thud on the deck overhead, and the craft
shivered from stem to stern as she drove her sharp nose into the heart
of a great comber, throwing the water in tons over herself.  This was
the rough side of work aboard a destroyer, with a vengeance, and I spent
four miserable hours on the navigating bridge, drenched to the skin, and
pierced to the marrow by the bitter cold.  All things come to an end,
however, sooner or later; and about two o'clock next day we steamed into
the sheltered waters of the Elliot Islands and came to an anchor.  This
was the spot which the Admiral had selected to serve as a rendezvous and
lurking-place from which he could sally forth with a good chance of
cutting off the Port Arthur fleet, should it venture to stray far from
the shelter of the fortress; and subsequently it was often referred to
in his dispatches as "a certain place."



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE COUNCIL IN THE MIKASA'S CABIN.

As we entered the roadstead we found there, at anchor, a small Chinese
junk of such a dilapidated and weather-beaten appearance that she seemed
as though she might go to pieces at any moment.  She was flying the
Japanese mercantile flag, a white flag with a red ball in the centre--
which is also the Japanese "Jack," and I soon learned that in her case,
as in many others, appearances were deceptive, for I was assured that
she was as staunch as staunch could be.  She was officered and manned by
a Chinese crew, and she was ostensibly loaded with bricks; but
surrounded by these bricks, which were only a blind, was a sturdy little
closed-in engine and boiler, the smoke from the latter issuing from the
unusually big chimney of her galley stove, while the engine worked a
small but powerful set of pumps which strongly sucked in water through
her bows and discharged it equally strongly from her stern, under water,
of course, giving her a speed of seven knots in smooth water.  And when
I sought further information with regard to this mysterious craft, I was
informed by Ito, who seemed to know all about her, that she had been
purchased by the Japanese Secret Service Department, fitted with her
engine, boiler, and pumps by an ingenious Japanese engineer, and that
her business was to go to and fro between Port Arthur and "a certain
place," ostensibly as a trader, but in reality that her skipper, a
particularly bold and clever spy, might obtain information for the
Japanese.

The spy's name, it appeared, was Hang-won,--a rather ominous name, I
thought, under the circumstances,--while the name of the junk was
_Chung-sa_.  She had arrived from Port Arthur about midday, and this was
Hang-won's first essay in Japan's service.  But he had brought from Port
Arthur two items of news that were likely to prove most valuable to us;
one of them being, that the Russian destroyers were being sent to sea
every night to reconnoitre, and that upon their return they always
showed a white light above a red, to indicate that they were Russian;
while the second item was to the effect that that day, 8th February,
happened to be the name-day of Madame Stark, the wife of the Russian
Admiral, and that in honour of the day a great banquet was to be given
at nine o'clock that night, at the Admiral's house, which was to be
followed by a special performance at a circus which chanced to be in the
town.

The moment that this information was communicated to Togo, he recognised
the magnificent possibilities offered by the occasion.  For it was
morally certain that, between the banquet and the circus, most of the
officers, and possibly also a good many of the men, of the Russian fleet
would be ashore, that night; and what better opportunity for an attack
upon it was likely to offer?  The chance was very much too good to be
missed, and a signal was at once made for the captains of all craft,
destroyers included, to repair on board the _Mikasa_.

I was one of the last to reach the flagship, for the destroyers were
anchored outside the rest of the fleet, and when I arrived the Admiral's
cabin was full of men, as many of them as could find room being seated
round the table, while the rest were accommodated with chairs.  All were
talking indiscriminately together, for the council had not yet begun;
but it was characteristic of Togo that he saw me the instant I entered
the cabin, and rose to shake hands with me, exclaiming, "Ah! here comes
our young British giant."  Then, pointing to a chair near himself, he
motioned me to be seated, saying as he did so with a humorous smile:

"Well, Mr Swinburne, I hope you find the _Kasanumi_ a nice, steady,
comfortable ship.  Is there room enough in her for you to stretch
yourself, or shall we have to lengthen her a few feet?"

"She is a splendid little craft, sir," I said heartily, "far better than
the British boat in which I saw some service.  She is a magnificent sea
boat, and came through the wild weather of yesterday and last night
without turning a hair.  True, she is a bit cramped between the beams,
and I have already raised a few bumps on my head while trying to stand
upright in my cabin; but I'm ready to go anywhere and attempt anything
in her."

"That's right," remarked Togo; "you show the true Nelson spirit, sir--
the spirit which we expect to find in every Briton; the spirit which we
so greatly admire, and which we are humbly striving to imbue our
Japanese seamen with.  So you are `ready to go anywhere and attempt
anything,' eh?  Excellent!  I hope to afford you the opportunity to show
us what you can do before you are many hours older."

Then, turning to where Captain Ijichi stood near the cabin door, he
said, in Japanese:

"Are all present, Ijichi?"

Some half a dozen officers had followed close upon my heels, and I
noticed that, as each entered, the _Mikasa's_ skipper had ticked off
something on a list which he held in his hand.

"All present, sir," answered Ijichi, referring to his list.

"Good!" remarked the Admiral.  "Then, be so good as to tell the sentry
that we are on no account to be interrupted.  Then close the door and
find a seat for yourself."

With the closing of the cabin door the general conversation that had
been proceeding came to an abrupt termination and a tense silence
ensued.  Togo looked round the cabin, as though taking stock of us all;
then in a few terse words he communicated to us the information which he
had just learned from Hang-won, who, by the way, was still in the cabin,
ready to answer any questions that might be put to him.

"Now, gentlemen," he continued, "there is no need for me to enlarge upon
the splendid opportunity which Madame Stark's celebration of her
name-day offers us to strike a heavy blow at the enemy's fleet; I am
sure that you will all see it for yourselves.  The only question is: In
what way can we best avail ourselves of the opportunity?  What form is
the blow to take?

"So far as we are concerned, we are seventeen ships strong, apart from
our destroyers, while our friend, Hang-won, informs me that the Russian
fleet consists of fourteen ships, again apart from destroyers.  We are
therefore three ships to the good.  But, of those fourteen Russian
ships, seven are battleships, while we muster only six; furthermore, the
whole fleet is anchored under the protection of the Port Arthur
batteries, a further tremendous advantage to them.  Notwithstanding
this, however, the opportunity is such a splendid one that, were my
hands free, I should be strongly disposed to take my whole fleet into
Port Arthur roadstead, engage the Russian ships at close quarters,
trusting to find them unprepared; do them as much damage as possible
with our heavy guns; and trust to our destroyers to complete their
destruction while the confusion of the surprise was at its height.  But,
gentlemen, I cannot do this.  My orders from the Cabinet and the Elder
Statesmen are clear and precise, and under no circumstances whatever am
I to disobey them.  They are, that I am never to risk my ships,
especially my battleships, by exposing them to the fire of the Port
Arthur batteries; and if I do not myself obey orders, how may I expect
that my orders will be obeyed?  Strict and unquestioning obedience to
orders is, as you all know, almost an article of faith with us;
therefore, sorely tempted though I am, to disobey just this once, I dare
not set an example which might be fraught with the most disastrous
consequences.  Hence, gentlemen, I have summoned you this afternoon, to
assist me with your counsels.  I may mention that, keeping in view the
fact that my superiors, the Government, have given me certain orders
which I must obey, the only thing I can see for it is to send in our
destroyers, and let them do their best.  Can any of you suggest a better
plan?"

For a full minute or more a tense silence reigned in the cabin,
everybody apparently waiting for somebody else to speak first.  Then a
young officer in lieutenant's uniform (whom I subsequently learned was
no less a personage than Prince Kasho, one of the _Mikasa's_ officers),
rose and, bowing first to the Admiral and then to the rest of us, said,
in Japanese of course:

"Do I understand, Admiral, that your question carries with it your
permission to us to express our candid opinion?"

"Assuredly," answered Togo.

"Good!" returned the Prince.  "Then, since no one else appears to have a
suggestion to offer, perhaps I may be permitted to do so, though I
happen to be the junior of most of the honourable officers present.  You
told us just now, sir, that, _were your hands free_, you would be
strongly disposed to take your entire fleet into Port Arthur roadstead,
where, I understand, almost every Russian ship of importance in Eastern
waters now rides at anchor, and make an end of them."

The speaker was here interrupted by a low murmur of applause from many
of the officers present, who seemed to have a shrewd suspicion of what
was coming.  Togo held up his hand for silence, the Prince bowed
smilingly to his audience, who he felt he had with him, and resumed:

"But you tell us, sir, that you are not free to exercise your own
discretion, that your hands are tied by certain orders which you have
received; and you have reminded us that implicit obedience is the
supreme virtue, almost an article of religious faith, with the Japanese.

"With that sentiment, sir, I am, I scarcely need say, in perfect,
whole-hearted agreement.  But there is a point which I wish to make, and
it is this.  The Cabinet and the Elder Statesmen are, as their
designation indicates, _statesmen_; they are neither soldiers nor
sailors.  And while I will not attempt to dispute either their wisdom or
their right to formulate certain general rules for the guidance of their
Generals and Admirals, I feel that I should not be doing my full duty to
my country, in the circumstances which now confront us, if I did not
boldly declare my fixed conviction that such general rules as I have
just alluded to ought to be regarded and accepted by us merely as
guides, and not as definite, imperative orders which are under no
circumstances whatsoever to be disobeyed."

Here another little murmur of applause, more general and decided than
the first, ran round the cabin.  As it died away, the speaker resumed:

"I cannot believe, sir, that the orders laid upon you were intended to
deprive you of the power to exercise your own discretion under such
exceptional circumstances as the present; and I therefore take upon
myself the responsibility of saying, here in the presence of all your
officers, that I believe you would be amply justified in acting in the
manner that you indicated a few minutes ago."

There was no mistaking the meaning of the applause that rang through the
cabin now; it was perfectly evident that--with the solitary exceptions
of the Admiral and myself--the Prince had every man present heartily
with him.

"I have but a very few more words to add, sir," the speaker resumed,
when the applause died away, "and they are these.  What you have told us
concerning to-night's projected happenings in Port Arthur seems to
indicate that an opportunity, such as may never occur again, now offers
for us to strike such a blow at the enemy that it will be impossible for
him ever to recover from it; and if the striking of that blow does
indeed involve actual disobedience of precise orders, I venture to
assert that the result will amply justify the deed."

The Prince resumed his seat amid thunders of applause which rang through
the cabin for at least a couple of minutes.  When at length it died
down, Togo rose to his feet.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I gather from your plaudits that you all fully
agree with Prince Kasho's honourable speech, for which I beg to most
heartily thank him, although it places me upon the horns of a dilemma.
Let that pass, for the moment, however.  What I want, now, is that each
of you should, in as few words as possible, express your opinion upon
the Prince's suggestion that I should take the whole of my ships into
Port Arthur roadstead and engage the enemy in a pitched battle."

In response to this appeal, the officers rose, one after the other,
apparently in the order of their seniority; and each man expressed his
hearty concurrence with Prince Kasho's proposal, the concurrence being
accompanied in many cases by the expression of sundry lofty and
beautiful sentiments extolling the virtues of patriotism and valour.  At
length everybody had spoken except myself, and I was heartily hoping
that I should be passed over as a person of so little account that my
opinion would not be considered worth having.  Not so, however.  The
Admiral turned to me and said, with a smile:

"And now at last we come to our honourable English friend, the captain
of the _Kasanumi_.  What has he to say upon the matter?  You have heard
what has been said; and although you have perhaps been unable, through
your restricted knowledge of our language, to grasp the full meaning of
it all, you may possibly have understood enough to enable you to
comprehend the way in which this momentous question appeals to the
Japanese heart and intellect.  Now, kindly favour us with the view which
you, as a hard-headed Englishman, take of it."

"Really, sir," I said in English, springing to my feet in some
confusion, "I would very much prefer to be excused, if you will kindly
allow me.  It would be the most rank presumption on my part to--"

"No, no," cried several voices, among which I distinctly recognised that
of Prince Kasho; "let us hear what the honourable Englishman has to
say."

"Quite right, gentlemen," said Togo.  "I fully agree with you.  I know
something of the English; and even though Mr Swinburne may differ from
us all, I'll warrant that he will not suggest any action that is not
consonant with our honour, as seamen, or our loyalty to the Emperor.
Pray proceed, Mr Swinburne."

"Very well, then, Admiral, and gentlemen, since you do me the honour to
insist, I will," said I.  "But you must permit me to begin by reminding
you that I am only a boy, and that this is my first experience of actual
warfare; therefore if I venture to express an opinion on what has been
justly described as a most momentous question, I do so with the utmost
diffidence.  At the same time, although I have had no previous
experience of war, I should like to say that I have studied the subject
deeply and with intense interest.  And it is with equal interest that I
have listened to the expression of your views on the question now under
consideration.  I am filled with admiration of the noble and patriotic
sentiments which have to-day been spoken within the walls of this
cabin--sentiments with which I most cordially agree, since they happen
to accurately coincide with my own.

"But, gentlemen, may I dare venture to remind you that patriotism and
valour, splendid and admirable as they are, are not the only qualities
that should distinguish the soldier or sailor who fights for his
country?  Inspired by them, a man may no doubt accomplish great things,
wonderful things; but we Britons have a proverb which declares that
discretion is the better part of valour, and in my humble opinion--
which, I repeat, I advance with the utmost diffidence--the present is
one of those occasions when valour, as heroic and self-sacrificing as
you will, should go hand in hand with discretion.

"With your kind favour I will briefly mention the picture that arose in
my mind while Prince Kasho was advocating the plan of taking the entire
fleet into Port Arthur roadstead and engaging the Russians in a pitched
battle.

"I readily grant you that the information communicated to the Admiral by
Hang-won seems to indicate that to-night, or the small hours of
to-morrow morning, will afford a magnificent opportunity for such a
_coup_; but--let us consider all the consequences which that _coup_
would entail.  It may be that we should be able to take the Russians by
surprise; it is exceedingly probable that some of the officers--perhaps
a good many of them--will be ashore to-night; but, recognising the fact
that Russia and Japan are at war, do you, gentlemen, as reasonable,
sensible men, really believe for a moment that the Russian fleet will be
left defenceless in an open roadstead, or that the vigilance of the
lookouts will be relaxed?  I do not.  And, if not, the approach of such
a formidable array as ours would assuredly be detected, and the alarm
given, long before we could arrive within effective striking distance.
Then what would be the ultimate result?  I have not a doubt that we
should be victorious, but at what cost?  We must remember, gentlemen,
that we should be not only engaging a fleet but slightly inferior in
strength to our own, _but the batteries as well_; and it is in the
batteries that our danger lies.  I know not what the armament of those
batteries may be, but I think we may safely assume that it will consist
of weapons heavy enough to sink many of our ships while we are doing our
best to sink theirs.  With all submission, I think it would be the
height of folly for us to assume that we could fight such a battle
without serious loss to ourselves.  And the point which I wish to
emphasise is this: _How are we going to make good those losses_?  The
Russians can make good theirs by sending more ships out from Europe; but
where are we to get more?  I need not labour this question, gentlemen; I
am sure you will all see what I mean, and therefore understand why I say
that, altogether apart from the question of slavish obedience to orders,
or otherwise, I think the Admiral is fully justified in his decision not
to risk his ships in such an exceedingly hazardous enterprise."

"Thank you, Mr Swinburne," said Togo, offering me his hand as I sat
down.  "You have spoken pretty much as I expected you would."  Then,
turning to one of the officers who had been busily writing all the time
that I was speaking, he said:

"Captain Matsumoto, am I correct in supposing that you have been taking
down Mr Swinburne's remarks?"

"Quite correct, sir," answered the skipper of the _Fuji_.

"Then," said Togo, "do me the favour to read them over aloud, in
Japanese, for the benefit of those officers who have been unable to
closely follow Mr Swinburne's English."

This was done; and when Matsumoto sat down there was silence for a few
moments, succeeded by a faint murmur of applause.  Then the Admiral
rose.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you have now all spoken; and I tender you my most
hearty thanks for the frank expression of your several opinions.  I have
listened with the greatest interest and satisfaction to everything that
has been said, but you must pardon me if I say at once, frankly, that
you leave me as unconvinced as ever.  Or, no; not unconvinced; on the
contrary, I am more convinced than ever that, apart, as Mr Swinburne
has remarked, from any question of slavish obedience to orders, I should
be guilty of a serious, even disastrous, error of judgment, were I to
take my battleships and cruisers into Port Arthur roads and give battle
to the Russian fleet.  The only alternative is to employ the destroyers;
and I shall be glad of any suggestions you may be pleased to offer as to
the best method of attack."

Nobody spoke.  It was easy to see that the officers of the battleships
and cruisers, deeply imbued with the somewhat fantastic and high-flown
ideas of the Japanese with regard to the almost divine virtue of heroism
and self-sacrifice, were profoundly disappointed that they were not to
be afforded an opportunity to display their possession of those virtues.

"Has no one a suggestion to offer?" demanded Togo, in a tone of
surprise.  "What say you, Swinburne?" turning to me.

"It would greatly help us, sir," I said, "if Hang-won could give us even
an approximate idea of the position of the Russian ships in the
roadstead."

"You are right, sir; it would," answered the Admiral.  And turning to
the Chinaman, he addressed to him a question in what I imagined to be
Chinese.  The man was replying at some length when Togo interrupted him
and turned to the skipper of the flagship.

"Captain Ijichi," said he, "a chart of Port Arthur, if you please."

The chart was brought, and Hang-won, after poring over it awhile, took a
pencil and with meticulous care jotted down certain marks upon it.  When
he had finished, Togo turned to me and said:

"Here we are, Mr Swinburne.  These marks indicate the positions of some
of the Russian ships, as nearly as Hang-won can remember them.  As you
see, they are moored in wedge-shaped formation, the point of the wedge
to seaward; and that point is occupied by the _Tsarevich_, a battleship.
Next her, inshore, comes the _Poltava_, also a battleship, then the
_Sevastopol_, another battleship, and abreast of her, in the second
line, the battleship _Pobieda_.  Of the positions of these he is
certain, he says, having taken particular notice of them as he came out;
but of the rest he is not so sure, except that there are thirteen of
them, exclusive of the _Askold_, all anchored inside the _Tsarevich_.
The _Askold_ is a cruiser, and according to Hang-won she is performing
patrol duty to and fro, outside the rest of the fleet.  You will readily
recognise her from the fact that she is the only craft with five
funnels.

"There is another point in favour of our employing destroyers.  It
appears that Admiral Stark sends out a destroyer flotilla every night to
patrol the coast as far as Dalny--there it is, about twenty miles
north-east of Port Arthur.  If, upon approaching the roadstead, our
boats show the lights usually exhibited by the Russian destroyers--a
white light above a red--on their return from Dalny, they ought to be
able to get right in among the Russian fleet and do a tremendous amount
of damage before their identity is discovered, and I shall confidently
look for important results accordingly.  Now, gentlemen, I have my own
idea as to how the attack should be conducted; but I have heard it said
that in many councillors there is wisdom, therefore I should be glad to
have your views on the subject."

And, one after the other, the officers present gave them, the general
opinion being that the destroyers ought to approach to within about five
miles of the shore at a moderate speed, showing no lights; then dash in
at top speed, discharging torpedoes right and left, and continue to do
so, regardless of consequences, until every Russian ship was destroyed.

Finally, I was called for to give my opinion; and again I found myself
obliged to differ from the others.

"If I were leading the attack, sir," I said, "I should time myself to
arrive at about eleven o'clock, that being the time, I imagine, when the
banquet and the special performance will both be at their height.  At
the distance of about five miles from the shore I should slow down,
instead of increasing speed, because I should then have no fear of
flames escaping from my funnels and so betraying my approach.  I should
then divide my force into two, one of which should sweep well away to
the nor'ard, while the other sheered off toward the south, my object
being to get my boats well into the concealment of the shadow of the
high land east and west of the roadstead.  Under the cover of this
shadow I should creep close along shore until I was well inside the
enemy's fleet, when I should wheel outward, get good way on my boats,
and torpedo the enemy, ship after ship, as I came out.  By this plan I
should be heading seaward, ready to make good my escape as soon as the
alarm was given, which I believe will be within a few seconds after the
first torpedo is fired.  Then I should run for it out to sea, at top
speed; for I am convinced that, once the alarm is given and the
searchlights are turned on, we shall be afforded no further opportunity
to do mischief; and I see no sense in sacrificing ships and lives
uselessly.  I have heard the remark made, more than once, that it is a
glorious thing to die for one's country and one's Emperor.  So it is--
when the sacrifice of one's life is necessary to secure a certain
object; but I maintain that it is still more glorious to _live_ for
one's country.  One live man can render more useful service to his
country than a hundred dead ones."

Again there was a little half-hearted murmur of applause.

But Togo expressed his approval in no half-hearted manner.  Dashing his
fist upon the table he exclaimed:

"By Hachiman Sama!"  (the Japanese god of War), "you are right, Mr
Swinburne.  You told us, a little while ago, that you are only a boy,
but you have the brains and wisdom of a man, sir.  Your plan of attack
is the right one--cannot you see that it is, gentlemen?--and it shall be
followed.  By attempting the other plan, we should in all probability
lose every boat and every man, with no better result; while, by adopting
Mr Swinburne's plan, we may save at least two-thirds of them.  Now,
gentlemen, before we terminate the council, has any one a better plan to
propose?"  And he glanced round the cabin, inquiringly.

No one answered.  Then Captain Matsumoto, commanding the battleship
_Fuji_, rose.

"As one whose knowledge of the august English language is perhaps
superior to that of most present--your honourable self, sir, excepted,"
he said, addressing the Admiral, "I should like to say that I have
listened to the remarks of the honourable commander of the _Kasanumi_
with profound interest.  His doctrine, that it is more glorious to live
than to die for one's Emperor, is a new one to us Japanese, and I
confess that for the moment it shocked me, as I saw that it shocked most
of us.  But, if one comes to reflect, one sees that there is sound sense
in it; therefore I should like to record my entire approval of the
projected plan of attack upon the enemy's fleet.  For, by adopting it,
there is a good prospect that many lives and many craft, which would
otherwise be uselessly sacrificed, may be preserved to render further
valuable service to Japan and its Emperor."

The applause this time was real and hearty enough, and several of the
officers who were sitting near me offered me their hands and smilingly
complimented me.

"Very well, then, gentlemen, that matter is settled, and most
satisfactorily, too, in my humble opinion.  And, now, as to details.
Divisions 1, 2, and 3 of the destroyer flotilla will attack the fleet at
Port Arthur; Divisions 4 and 5 will proceed to Dalny in quest of the
Russian destroyers said to reconnoitre in that direction nightly; and
all will inflict as much damage as possible upon the enemy.  Captain
Matsunaga of the _Asashio_ will command Divisions 1, 2, and 3; while
Captain Nagai will command Divisions 4 and 5.  The flotilla will start
at five o'clock this evening.  You are dismissed, gentlemen.  I thank
you for your honourable attendance, and the assistance which you have
rendered me."



CHAPTER FIVE.

MY "BAPTISM OF FIRE."

The weather had cleared somewhat during the afternoon, but when, at a
few minutes before five o'clock, the _Mikasa_ made the signal for the
destroyer flotilla to weigh and proceed, the clouds had gathered afresh,
and it was looking as wild as ever.  It was exactly five o'clock when
the _Asashio_, followed by the _Kasanumi_, led the way out to sea; and
as we began to move, the Admiral signalled us: "Go in and sink the
enemy's fleet.  I pray for your success."

The Elliot group of islands, from which we started upon our great
adventure, is situated some sixty miles north-east of Port Arthur, and
within some seven or eight miles of the mainland.  Our nearest and best
way, therefore, under ordinary circumstances, would have been to creep
down the coast close inshore.  But this would have involved our passing
Dalny on the way, and there were the Russian destroyers, which were said
to patrol as far as that place every night, to be reckoned with.  We did
not desire to encounter them on the way, and so afford them a chance to
slip back to Port Arthur and give the alarm; our object was to get in
between them and Port Arthur, and so cut off their retreat.  Also, we
had decided to approach Port Arthur from the south-west, so as to give
the idea that we were the Russian boats returning after a scouting
excursion in the offing; we therefore headed due south at the start, our
speed being fifteen knots, which was later increased to twenty-two, as
the course which we had decided upon took us far out of our way and
nearly doubled the distance to be run.

The sun disappeared beneath the horizon in a heavy squall of rain, the
wind breezed up fiercely, and it was piercingly cold.  The night shut
down upon us dark as a wolf's mouth, the only relief to the intense
blackness being the phosphorescence of the bow wave as it swept, roaring
and scintillating away to port and starboard, and the faint gleam of a
shrouded lamp which each vessel bore at her taffrail as a guide to the
craft next astern of her.  Well, so much the better; the darker the
night, the better for our purpose; only I fervently wished that the
water had not been so brilliantly phosphorescent, for in the intense
darkness the gleam of it was visible for quite a considerable distance,
and I feared that, if the Russians were keeping a sharp lookout, it
would prematurely reveal our approach.  We had cleared for action before
getting under way, and each boat carried two torpedoes in her tubes, her
guns loaded, and ammunition ready to pass up on deck at a moment's
notice.

Hour after hour we steamed on, describing the arc of a big semi-circle
as we altered our course from time to time, until at length we were
heading west-nor'-west for Port Arthur; and during the whole time we had
not sighted a craft of any description.

At length, about half-past ten, the darkness ahead seemed to grow
blacker than ever, and turning to Ito, who stood beside me on the
bridge, I said:

"Do you see that darkness ahead, Ito?  Surely that is the loom of land."

"Yes," answered Ito, who spoke English excellently.  "Without a doubt
that is the high land on either side of Port Arthur; and--ha! there is
the Pinnacle Rock light, straight ahead.  By Jingo! as the honourable
English say, Captain Matsunaga has `hit it off splendidly.'  And see
there,"--as a light began to wink at us from the bridge of the _Asashio_
ahead--"there is the signal for the 4th and 5th Divisions to part
company.  Yes; there they go; and now, as again the honourable English
say, `we shan't be long.'"

I shivered involuntarily.  A quarter of an hour more and that blackness
ahead would be pierced by the blinding rays of the inexorable
searchlights and stabbed by the fierce flashing of artillery, the glare
of bursting shells, and the radiance of star rockets.  And we should be
in the midst of it.  It would be my first experience of actual warfare,
and I wondered how I should pass through the ordeal.  I had already
learned that the Japanese soldier or sailor is absolutely the most
fearless creature in existence.  He fears death as little as he fears
sleep, provided that it comes to him in the service of his Emperor and
his country.  To die for his Emperor, indeed, who is to him as a god, is
the very highest honour, the greatest glory, that the male Japanese can
look forward to.  He faces such a death with the same pure joy, the same
exaltation, that the early Christian martyrs displayed when they were
led forth to die for their faith.  It was this spirit, this eagerness,
this enthusiasm to die in battle, that caused the enormous losses
suffered by the Japanese during the war; but it made them invincible!
How was my conduct going to compare with that of men like these, I who
was animated by no more lofty sentiment than the desire to do my duty to
the best of my ability, to play my part as a man should, and, above all,
to uphold the honour and dignity of my race?  I was happy in the
conviction that I should not disgrace myself by any exhibition of craven
fear, but what I dreaded was that in the excitement of the moment I
should get "nervy," lose my head (if only figuratively), and perhaps
forget to do something that I ought to do, to miss some opportunity that
I ought to see and seize.  "Brace up, Paul!"  I said to myself, "pull
yourself together for the honour of the dear homeland; forget all about
yourself, and think only of the work that lies before you."  And I did.
My thoughts went back to my talk with the Admiral in the _Mikasa's_
cabin that afternoon; I suddenly remembered that the work in hand was to
be carried out as I had planned it; and in a moment all my anxiety
vanished, I was my own man again, mentally planning what I would do; and
from that moment I felt as cool and collected and keen as was Ito who
stood beside me.

As the tail lights of the 4th and 5th Divisions of the flotilla vanished
in the darkness on our port quarter, the _Asashio's_ signal lantern
began winking again, and Ito read off and translated the message to me:

"Reduce speed to twelve knots.  Be ready to show signal lanterns if
required.  When I starboard helm, Division one will follow me, while
Divisions two and three will port helm and sheer off to the eastward."

A single flash from our own carefully shrouded signal lanterns informed
the Commodore that the message had been read and understood, and all was
opaque darkness once more.  The rain had by this time cleared off and
the atmosphere was much clearer, so clear indeed that the outlines of
the hills ahead showed with tolerable distinctness, and the water was
getting smoother.

The lighthouse light was showing very bright and clear by this time, and
two or three other and much dimmer lights, like those of houses, showed
here and there in the shadow of the hills.  The gap between the hills
which marked the harbour entrance was also visible, while a faint glare
in the sky to the right of it showed that Port Arthur was still awake.
But everything seemed absolutely peaceful, and there were no signs of
that alertness which we had expected to find.

Suddenly the lighthouse light, upon which my gaze happened to be fixed,
seemed to blink several times in a very curious manner; then it
disappeared altogether for a moment, and I saw a great black shadow that
seemed to rapidly increase in size as I stared at it.  Then I glimpsed
at the base of the shadow the ghostly gleam of phosphorescent foam, such
as is piled up by the bows of a ship travelling at speed, and high above
it a rolling, swirling cloud of blackness spangled with evanescent
sparks which, a moment later, I saw was issuing from three of a group of
five tall funnels.

"By Jove!  Ito," I exclaimed, "here comes the patrol cruiser--the
_Askold_--and she is heading straight for us!  Gun and tube crews, stand
by!  Quartermaster, light those two signal lanterns, white above red,
bend them on to the signal halliards, and stand by to hoist away when I
give the word."

"Yes," agreed Ito, his voice tense with excitement; "she has seen and
intends to speak us.  See, she has stopped her engines, and is hailing
the _Asashio_!  What a jolly, bloomin' chance," (Ito was very proud of
his command of English slang, and availed himself of every possible
opportunity to air it) "to honourably torpedo her!  Will the honourable
Swinburne augustly grant the humblest of his servants permission to do
so?"

"Heavens! no, man," I exclaimed, "not for worlds.  And I pray that
Matsunaga may also have the sense to refrain from doing so."

"But why, my honourable friend; why?" demanded Ito, literally dancing
with eagerness and impatience.

"Because, don't you see, my honourable duffer, that if we did so the
explosion would put all Port Arthur, and the fleet too, on the _qui
vive_ long before we could get at them, and thus spoil our chances of
bagging the battleships?"  I replied.  "No, certainly not.  Let the
cruiser go; it is the battleships we want.  There go the _Asashio's_
lanterns.  Hoist away, quartermaster!"

"Yes, yes; I see," replied Ito in crestfallen tones; "you are honourably
right, of course.  Aha! there goes the cruiser.  The honourable Captain
Matsunaga has evidently honourably satisfied her.  He honourably speaks
Russian like a native."

It was an exciting moment; but, tense as it was, I could not help being
amused at the pertinacity with which Ito, like all the Japanese, dragged
in the word "honourable" upon every possible and impossible occasion.
It arises, of course, out of the desire, drilled into them, generation
after generation, to be extremely polite; and doubtless when speaking in
their own tongue, the word is never unsuitably used; but when they
undertake to talk English, it is frequently pitchforked into the
conversation in the most incongruous and even ludicrous fashion, and I
decided that it would only be kind to give Ito a lesson upon the
absurdity of employing it inappropriately.  The opportunity came a few
minutes later.

The _Askold_, apparently satisfied with Captain Matsunaga's explanation,
put her helm hard a-starboard and swept on, presently vanishing in the
darkness; and a minute or two later the _Asashio_ made the signal for
the Divisions to separate as arranged, starboarding her helm as she did
so and leading Number 1 Division to the westward, while Divisions 2 and
3 ported and swerved sharply away to the eastward.

"The critical moment is at hand," said I.  "Be so good, Mr Ito, as to
go down on the main deck and assure yourself that everything is ready,
and that the men are standing by the tubes and guns."

Then Ito turned upon me and poured out an impassioned entreaty that he
might be "honourably" permitted to take charge of and fire the torpedoes
himself.  I considered for a moment.  The man who might chance to score
a hit in the coming attempt would gain immense kudos, I knew, and, in
all probability, promotion also.  By rights, of course, Ito's station
should be by me, to take my place should I chance to be hit; but he was
just as liable to be hit on the bridge as anywhere else; also it would
be doing him a kindness to grant his request.  So:

"Now, look here, Ito," I said, "it is of paramount importance that the
men in charge of the tubes to-night should be first-rate shots, and as
cool as cucumbers; for, hit or miss, I do not suppose we shall be
afforded a chance to discharge more than the two torpedoes already in
our tubes; therefore they must both hit.  Now, are you a good shot with
the torpedo?"

Ito solemnly assured me that there was not a better torpedo shot than
himself in the whole Japanese fleet.

"And is your nerve all right?  I mean, are you perfectly cool?"  I
demanded.

"As cool as the honourable cucumber," he asserted.  "Feel my unworthy
hand."

I could not help laughing.  Here was the inevitable "honourable" being
dragged in again.  I seized his hand and held it loosely in mine for a
few seconds.  It was firm and steady as a rock.

"Good!"  I said.  "You will do, Ito.  Go down and work the tubes, my
boy, and see that you excel yourself to-night.  And, Ito, if you love
me, do not, for heaven's sake, forget to withdraw the honourable safety
pin from the honourable fan before you honourably fire the honourable
torpedo, or you will make no honourable hits this honourable night.  Do
you honourably take me?"

There!  I had fired off my little joke on Ito; illustrated to him, I
fondly thought, the absurdity of indiscriminately dragging in the word
"honourable" in and out of season.  How would he take it, I wondered.

"The august captain may honourably rely upon his unworthy lieutenant to
do his honourable best," he gravely answered; and the next moment was
"honourably" descending the bridge ladder to the deck.  My miserable
attempt at jocularity had absolutely missed fire; the dear, innocent
fellow had accepted my speech as uttered in all seriousness.

It was at this moment that I first caught the loom of the Russian ships,
showing up a deeper black against the black shadow of the frowning
cliffs away to starboard; and a second or two later a long, brilliant
beam of intensely white light shot out from one of the black shapes and
slowly swept hither and thither, now striking the heaving surface of the
black water, and anon vividly illumining one of her sisters.  Our orders
had been not to discharge at a higher range than five hundred metres.

Slowly, the beam swept round toward us until it halted and rested
steadily upon a great lump of a craft that towered out of the water like
a castle, almost immediately between itself and us.  Luckily, the
dazzling light itself was hidden from our eyes by the bulk of the ship
upon which it rested, but it invested her with a sort of halo of
radiance against which she stood out black and grim, a perfect
silhouette.  She was a big craft, evidently a battleship, with a lofty
superstructure, three big funnels cased half-way up, a long overhanging
bridge, and two stout military masts with fighting tops, and two yards
across each.  She was just within range, and, seizing a megaphone, I was
in the act of raising it to my lips to order Ito to let fly at her, when
I saw a long, silvery shape flash out from our after-deck, and a few
seconds later a great cone of water leaped into the air and fell like a
deluge upon the great ship, which seemed to lift half out of the water,
as though hove up by a giant.  A heavy _boom_ followed, and I had the
extreme gratification of knowing that the little _Kasanumi's_ first
Whitehead had got home.

The explosion was quickly followed by several others; and in the midst
of them a sudden transformation took place.  The pitchy darkness gave
way to the glare of a perfect network of searchlight beams streaming out
from ship after ship and from the cliffs above, sweeping here, there,
and everywhere, lighting up the fleet, the cliffs, the channel leading
to the harbour, the lighthouse, everything, in fact, except our
destroyers, which they all seemed to miss in the most miraculous way.
Excited shouts came pealing across the water to us from the decks of the
various ships, boatswains' whistles shrilled, order after order was
hoarsely bellowed, and with a rattling crash of gun-fire a perfect
tempest of projectiles was sent hurtling out to sea from the now
thoroughly awakened and panic-stricken Russians, not a solitary shot of
which came anywhere near us; for the enemy seemed to have not the
slightest idea of our actual whereabouts.  And then, to add to the
turmoil and confusion, the forts on the cliffs above opened fire with
their heavy guns, and we heard the shells go muttering angrily far
overhead, as the gunners ashore also fired into the offing.

The fleet as a whole now lay broad on our starboard beam, and we in the
_Kasanumi_ were crossing the bows of a two-funnelled battleship which,
from her position as the outermost ship of the fleet, I knew must be the
_Tzarevich_, when, out of the tail of my eye, so to speak, I again
caught the flash of one of our Whiteheads as it leapt outward and
plunged into the sea.  Breathlessly I awaited the result, and presently,
to my delight, I saw that our second torpedo had got home!

"Good old Ito!"  I exclaimed aloud; and, as I spoke, the man himself
stood beside me.

"Two hits!" he gasped, almost inarticulate with excitement and delight.
"The _Kasanumi_ has done her duty to-night."

"She has," I agreed; "and so have you, splendidly, old chap.  This means
immediate promotion for you, Ito; for you may rest assured that, if we
get out of this alive, I will not fail to report to the Admiral what you
have done.  I don't see--"

"Ah, but," he interrupted me, "the real credit of it all belongs to you,
not me.  For if you had not warned me, I should certainly, in my
excitement, have forgotten to withdraw the pins before firing the
torpedoes.  As it was, I very nearly did so when firing the first, but
luckily your warning flashed into my mind at the very instant when I was
about to fire.  I am afraid that many of our men have forgotten that
essential; for although all the torpedoes must be by this time
discharged, I do not think that many ships have been hit."

I had noticed the same thing myself, and was about to say so, but at
this moment the Russian ships opened fire with their heavy guns, and
conversation, which up to now had been difficult enough, became quite
impossible owing to the deafening din.  But I observed that the ships
and batteries were all firing out to sea, whereas our destroyers were by
this time between the fleet and the land, completely absorbed in the
deep shadow of the lofty cliffs, so that up to that moment I believed we
had remained unseen.  Then the _Asashio_ flashed the signal for Number 1
Division to retire at full speed, putting her helm hard a-port as she
did so, for by this time we were running parallel with the shore on the
west side of the harbour, and a few minutes more would have taken us to
the harbour's mouth, which was now brilliantly illuminated by the rays
of some half a dozen searchlights, which it was essential for us to
avoid if we wished to escape instant annihilation.

It was at this moment, when I was eagerly taking note of the most
distinctive features of the harbour entrance, brought thus prominently
into view--with the idea that such knowledge as I might then be able to
acquire might prove useful at some future time--that three destroyers,
coming out of the harbour at full speed, rushed across the illuminated
area and, turning sharp round the Pinnacle Rock, headed almost directly
toward us.  A single glance sufficed to show that they were Russian
craft, for they were of a different model from ours, and their four
funnels were arranged differently from ours, being in pairs.

For a moment I believed that they saw and were about to engage us, I
therefore laid my hand upon Ito's arm to attract his attention, pointed
to the boats, and then yelled in his ear:

"Russians!  Stand by to give them a broadside as they pass."

Ito nodded comprehendingly, and vanished from my side.  A minute later,
the leading Russian destroyer came abreast the _Asashio_, and Captain
Matsunaga showed that he was as wideawake as the rest of us, by plumping
a 12-pound and three 6-pound shells into her.  Then came our turn, and
we did the same, each of the four Japanese boats in turn firing all the
guns that would bear upon each of the three Russian boats as they came
up, without receiving a single shot in return; for, strange as it may
seem, the Russians appeared to have no suspicion of our whereabouts
until we actually fired upon them.

But perhaps we should have been wiser had we allowed our valour to be
tempered with discretion, and refrained from attacking the enemy's
destroyers; for the flashes of our guns, low down near the surface of
the water, were instantly observed by a hundred sharp eyes, eagerly
seeking the whereabouts of the elusive enemy, and almost immediately
every searchlight on ship and shore swept round until it rested full
upon us, thereafter inexorably following our every movement, while a
perfect tornado of shell and rifle-fire hissed and whined about our
ears.  But for this, it might have been not very difficult for us to
have inflicted further damage upon the battleships and cruisers; but as
it was, there was only one thing to be done, namely, to effect our
escape with the utmost expedition, if, indeed, escape were still
possible; for to remain until fresh torpedoes could be got up on deck
and placed in the tubes, would mean our swift and certain destruction
before the opportunity came for us to work further mischief.  As it was,
it was simply miraculous that we were not instantly blown out of the
water; for, with a dozen or more searchlights bearing full upon us, we
were as plainly visible as though it had been broad daylight; yet,
strange to say, not a shot struck any of us, a circumstance which can
only be accounted for upon the assumption that the Russian gunners were
so unnerved by our sudden and unexpected attack that, for the moment,
they had completely lost the ability to shoot straight.

Through that frightful tempest of shot and shell we tore at top speed,
the fragile hulls of the boats bucking and quivering to the impulse of
their tremendously powerful engines, the water cleft by their sharp bows
curling almost to the height of the navigating bridges and drenching the
occupants with spray, while flames roared out of all four of their
funnels as the stokers below toiled like fiends to feed the furnaces and
maintain a full head of steam.  To add to our difficulties, the glare of
so many searchlights directed full upon us dazzled our sight to blinding
point, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty we were able to
find our way.  The formation in which the Russian fleet was moored
helped us, however, for we presently found ourselves rushing across the
bows of their weathermost line, and we steered accordingly.

Then, quite unexpectedly, we came upon the three Russian destroyers
again; and those of us who happened to be prepared--of which the
_Kasanumi_ was one--gave them a further peppering, to which, as before,
they made no reply.  And now, at last, we were reaching the end of the
line, and the gauntlet was almost run, for as we drew out to seaward the
inshore ships were compelled to cease fire for fear of hurting their
friends instead of us.  There was but one more ship to pass; and as we
drew near to her I saw that she had a decided list to port, and was
floating so deep aft that her "admirals' walk," or stern gallery, was
very nearly submerged.  Steam was roaring from her safety valves, and as
we came up to her a small curl of water under her bows and a swirl at
her stern showed that she was under way.  It was the _Tsarevich_,
heading for the harbour, evidently in a sinking condition, and we had
the satisfaction of knowing that by that night's work we had put at
least one of the Russian battleships _hors de combat_.  Her crew were
much too busy to pay any attention to us; and a quarter of an hour later
we were beyond the zone of that awful, merciless fire, and were heading
south-east for Mokpo, where we had been ordered to rendezvous.

We did not, of course, at that time know the extent of the damage that
we had succeeded in inflicting upon the Russian fleet; but trustworthy
information reached us later, that the _Tsarevich_ had been struck aft,
the torpedo blowing a big hole in her hull and flooding her steering
compartment to such an extent that her captain had been obliged to beach
her to prevent her from sinking.  The _Retvisan_ had been struck
amidships, and a large hole blown in her pump compartment, rendering it
necessary that she also should be beached in order to save her.  Those
two battleships constituted the _Kasanumi's_ share of the bag; and very
pleased we were with ourselves when the news became known, since those
two ships were far and away the best in the Russian fleet, and the loss
of them, even if it should prove to be only temporary, was a very
serious matter for the Russians.  But, in addition to these, the
_Pallada_, cruiser, and the volunteer cruiser _Angara_ were also hit,
and were obliged to be beached to save them from foundering.

Thus we had done not at all badly; although some surprise was felt that,
considering the favourable circumstances under which the attack was
made--by which I mean our unsuspected approach, and the time which
elapsed before the searchlights actually found us--we had not done a
great deal more.  For Divisions 1, 2, and 3, which had attacked the
Russian fleet, consisted in all of ten destroyers, each of which had
discharged two torpedoes--twenty in all.  And of those twenty, only
four, apparently, had got home.  It was not a result to be proud of.
But I had a suspicion that I could have put my finger upon the
explanation, had I been asked to do so; and it would have been this: The
night was bitterly cold; so cold, indeed, that the spray froze as it
fell upon us, and the weather was simply atrocious; the result being
that by the time the flotilla arrived in Port Arthur roadstead, the
limit of even Japanese physical endurance had been almost, if not quite,
reached.  Most of our deck hands had been more or less severely
frost-bitten, not only their bodies, but also their minds were benumbed
by the arctic severity of the weather, and thus it came to pass (at
least so I reasoned it out) that when the moment for action arrived
their faculties, between physical suffering and mental excitement,
became so confused that many of them made the mistake against which I
had warned Ito, and failed to withdraw the safety pin before discharging
their torpedoes, thus rendering the missiles ineffective.  This was also
Ito's opinion, you will remember.

By the time that we reached Mokpo we were all in a most deplorable
condition, nearly half of the deck hands of the expedition being
compelled to go into hospital suffering from frost-bite, a few of the
cases being of so severe a character that the patients lost either their
hands or their feet, while one man lost all four members, and narrowly
escaped dying outright.  Ito and I were somehow lucky enough to escape
without serious injury, but we both developed virulent attacks of
inflammation of the lungs, which put us _hors de combat_ for nearly
three weeks.  But there is no doubt that our recovery was greatly
facilitated by the intimation, which reached us while we were still in
hospital, that we had both been promoted to the rank of Commander.

Meanwhile, things had been happening at Port Arthur and elsewhere.  On
the morning following our attack, Togo sent three fast cruisers in
toward the fortress to reconnoitre; and these ships having discovered
pretty much how matters stood there, and reported to the Admiral, the
whole fleet stood in and engaged the ships and batteries at long-range,
firing only their 12-inch and 8-inch guns, the range being too long for
the others.  The weather had changed, and was now bright and
comparatively warm, the atmosphere so clear that even comparatively
small objects were clearly visible.

The _Mikasa_ opened the ball by firing a sighting shot from one of the
12-inch guns in her fore barbette, and at the same moment the Russian
ships were seen to be getting under way.  At low speed the Japanese
fleet steamed past the port in "line ahead," firing as they went, and
after an engagement lasting some forty minutes, drew off, hoping that
the Russian fleet would follow them, but in this they were disappointed.
Our ships were hit several times and sustained a certain amount of
damage, but, luckily, not of a serious character.  It was reported that
we lost four killed and fifty-four wounded, none of the wounds being
serious enough, however, to necessitate the men being sent ashore to the
hospital.  It was some time before reliable information reached us as to
the extent of the damage sustained by the Russians, but when it came it
was to the effect that several of our shells fell in the town,
scattering the piles of coal on the wharves and creating general panic;
the _Poltava_ was so badly hit that she could not move, a shell blowing
her bows open; the _Petropavlosk_ and _Pobieda_ were also hit, though
not seriously; our old friend, the _Askold_, was hit on the waterline
and set on fire, as was also the _Diana_; while the _Novik_, which had
steamed out toward our fleet, was sent flying back with her rudder
damaged, so that they had to steer her with her propellers.  This affair
caused Admiral Stark to be superseded; his successor being Admiral
Makarov, said to be the finest seaman Russia then possessed.  At the
same time General Kuropatkin was appointed commander of the Russian land
forces.

Two days later, the Russians lost the mine-layer _Yenesei_ in Dalny Bay.
This was a particularly hard bit of luck for them, inasmuch as that she
had practically completed her work when the disaster happened.  Her
mission was to sow Dalny Bay with four hundred contact mines, in order
to prevent the Japanese from using the bay as a landing-place for
troops.  She had successfully laid all but two of the four hundred
mines; but when the three hundred and ninety-ninth mine was launched
overboard, it floated, instead of sinking to its prescribed depth.  The
captain of the ship is said to have opened fire upon it with his light
guns, to explode it; and in this he appears to have been only too
successful, since it not only exploded but also blew up the ship, which
sank almost immediately, most of her crew going down with her.  And on
the following day the small cruiser _Boyarin_ went ashore in Dalny Bay,
and became a total wreck.  Thus in less than a week the Port Arthur
fleet had become reduced in strength by no less than three battleships,
five cruisers, and one mining ship, exclusive of the cruiser _Variag_
and the gunboat _Korietz_, destroyed at Chemulpo.

Encouraged by the success of the first destroyer attack upon Port
Arthur, Admiral Togo arranged for a repetition of the experiment on the
night of 13th February, and the attempt duly came off, the 4th and 5th
Divisions of the destroyer flotilla being this time told off to conduct
the attack.  These divisions, consisting of eight boats, had not
participated in the previous attack, and Togo no doubt wished to give
them an opportunity to acquire _kudos_, and, at the same time, by
arousing their emulation, spur them on to outvie our performance.

Unfortunately, however, for the expedition, the weather was even worse
than that with which we had had to contend: the cold was intense, a gale
was blowing, a tremendously heavy sea was running, and, to cap it all, a
terrific snow blizzard was raging.  The result of this combination of
adverse conditions was that the destroyers very soon lost touch with
each other, and only two of them succeeded in entering the harbour, the
_Asigiri_ preceding the _Hayatori_ by nearly two hours.  The _Asigiri_
entered the harbour unseen, discharged two torpedoes--both of which her
captain, Commander Isakawa, believed had got home--and then fled,
encountering an enemy's launch on the way, and sinking her.  The
explosion of the _Asigiri's_ torpedoes of course raised an alarm,
searchlights flashed wildly hither and thither, gunners blazed away
madly, and so great was the panic that several of the Russian destroyers
opened fire upon each other and did a lot of damage.

When Commander Takanouchi, in the _Hayatori_, arrived two hours later,
the confusion was still at its height, and taking advantage of it, he,
too, slipped in unnoticed and, as he believed, successfully torpedoed a
cruiser before he fled.  But it seemed very doubtful whether, after all,
either of the Japanese boats did much damage; for when the Japanese
cruisers reconnoitred next day, none could be detected.

Then, on the night of 23rd February, all the Russian ships being inside
Port Arthur, Togo sent in five steamers, under Commander Arima, whose
instructions were that they were to be sunk across the harbour entrance,
in such positions as would effectually block the passage.  But their
approach was prematurely discovered, and so terrific a fire was opened
upon them from the batteries that two were sunk, while the other three,
their steering gear being shot away, went ashore outside.  The attempt
was consequently a failure, while ten men lost their lives in making it.

On the night of 24th February and the morning of the following day, the
Japanese fleet made a second attack upon Port Arthur, bombarding the
town and fleet for twenty-five minutes.  The Russian cruisers _Bayan,
Novik_, and _Askold_ were hit, some shells exploded in the batteries,
and the town was set on fire in two places, but the damage done was
inconsiderable; and at length, in accordance with his instructions to on
no account risk his battleships by engaging the forts, Togo felt himself
obliged to retire.



CHAPTER SIX.

"SEALING UP" PORT ARTHUR.

Our gallant and indefatigable little Admiral seemed to spend all his
spare time in scheming out plans for the discomfiture of the enemy; and
about this time he evolved one which seemed to possess all the elements
of a brilliant success.

Knowing that Russian spies swarmed everywhere, he prepared an elaborate
scheme to sow Port Arthur roadstead, in front of the harbour entrance,
with electro-mechanical mines, with the ostensible object of preventing
the Russian fleet from coming out.  These mines were stated to be of a
peculiarly dangerous and deadly character, invented by Captain Odo.
With great ingenuity the details of the scheme were permitted to
gradually leak out, so that in due time they came into the knowledge of
the Russian spies and were promptly transmitted to Port Arthur.  As a
matter of fact, however, the mines which were proposed to be, and
actually were, sown, were of a very innocuous character, Togo's object
being to imbue the Russian mind with the idea that the Japanese mines
were so useless that they might be safely disregarded.  Then, when this
object had been achieved, genuine Odo mines would be sown, with
disastrous results to such Russian ships as might chance to run foul of
them.

The task of sowing the innocuous mines was entrusted to two divisions of
destroyers, consisting of five craft; the first division being composed
of the _Asashio, Kasanumi_, and _Akatsuki_, while the _Akebono_ and
_Sazanami_ constituted the second division.  Ito and I had both happily
recovered from our indisposition by this time, and were able to rejoin
the fleet in time to participate in the projected operation.  Although
promoted to the rank of Commander, I was left in command of the
_Kasanumi_; but Ito got a step up the ratlines, being given the command
of the _Akatsuki_, while a youngster named Hiraoka was given me in his
place.

On 9th March we were busy all day shipping our harmless mines; and at
eight o'clock in the evening we weighed and, under easy steam, proceeded
from our base at the Elliot Islands, bound for Port Arthur roadstead,
accompanied by the fast cruiser squadron, the duty of which was to
support us in the event of our being attacked, and cover our escape.

By 11:30 p.m. we were within ten miles of the roadstead; and at this
point we parted company with the cruisers, who now hove-to for half an
hour, to allow us time to reach our destination.  At the expiration of
that time, a light or two were "accidentally" revealed on board the
cruisers for a few seconds, just long enough to give the Port Arthur
lookouts an opportunity to detect them, when they were extinguished.
But the ruse was successful, the attention of the lookouts had been
attracted, and instantly the searchlights from the station on the cliff
to the eastward of the harbour were turned upon the cruisers and kept
steadily bearing upon them.  They were, of course, so far away that they
were only dimly descried, and too far distant to make it worth while to
open fire upon them, but their movements were--of set purpose--of so
suspicious a character that, having once detected them, the Russians
were determined not to lose sight of them again.  The attention of the
lookouts having thus been attracted to our cruisers in the offing, we in
the destroyers were able to slip into the roadstead undetected.

Arrived there, we lost no time in sowing our mine-field right athwart
the harbour's mouth, and, had we been so minded, could have finished our
work and retired before daylight.  But to render the Admiral's scheme
successful, it was necessary that we should be seen, and the nature of
our work recognised; the 2nd Division therefore reserved a few mines to
be dropped after daylight, and when that came they were at once
discovered dropping mines, in a state of apparently feverish haste.  The
forts, of course, at once opened fire upon them; but before they could
get the range, our destroyers launched their remaining mines overboard,
and took to their heels, their task being accomplished.  And now, all
that remained was to patiently await the course of events, and thus see
how far this part of Togo's plan had been successful.

The game, however, was not yet finished.  While we had been busily
dropping our mines, what I thought a rather brilliant idea had occurred
to me; and, ceasing work for a while, I steamed up alongside the
_Akebono_, of our 2nd Division, and imparted my idea to Commander
Tsuchiya, who was pleased to very heartily approve of it.  In accordance
with my scheme, therefore, the 1st Destroyer Division completed its task
before daylight, and quietly steamed off round to the westward of
Liau-ti-shan, where we remained snugly concealed, close in under the
cliffs.

My idea was that if our 2nd Division were discovered--as it was
necessary it should be, the Russians would probably send out a few
destroyers to attack it; and the event proved that my surmise was
correct.  Six Russian destroyers were dispatched from the harbour,
presumably with instructions to wipe the _Akebono_ and _Sazanami_ off
the face of the waters; and as soon as the latter saw the enemy
approaching, on a course intended to cut off their retreat to the
eastward, the two boats swerved sharply away to the westward, with their
funnels belching great clouds of smoke, and every indication that their
crews were in a terrible state of fright--but with their engines working
at only about three-quarter speed.  The Russians, stimulated by our 2nd
Division's apparent terror, and finding also that they were steadily
gaining upon the chase, strained every nerve to overtake them, and at
length came pounding round the point in great style.

Meanwhile, the two retreating Japanese destroyers had already swept past
us--thus giving us the signal to be on the lookout--and, veering round,
in a wide semi-circle, formed up in our rear, we of the 1st Division
having already started our engines as soon as they hove in sight.

On came the Russian destroyers, rolling and pitching on the long swell,
with the water spouting and curling under their sharp bows to the height
of their bridges; and the moment that the first of them swung round the
point, over went the indicators of our engine-room telegraphs to "Full
speed ahead!"  Our gun crews had been standing to their guns for some
time past, all ready for action, and as we swept out to seaward,
crossing the Russians' bows, we let fly at them with our twelve-pounders
and as many of our six-pounders as could be brought to bear,
concentrating our fire as much as possible upon the enemy's guns,
several of which we succeeded in dismounting.

I feel bound to admit that, taken by surprise though they were, the
Russians put up a splendid fight; but although they were superior to us
in numbers, our men would not be denied, they worked their guns as
coolly and with as deadly precision as though they had been at target
practice, and the Russian boats were hulled again and again, clouds of
steam arose from them, fires broke out aboard some of them, and so
closely were we engaged that we could occasionally hear the cries of the
wounded that arose as our shot swept their decks.  The fight, which was
a very hot one, lasted some twenty minutes, by which time the Russians
had managed to get back round the point and under the cover of the
batteries.  We followed them to the very mouth of the harbour, fighting
every inch of the way, but, at length, with heavy shells falling all
round us, in some cases dropping so close that our decks were drenched
with spray, it became imperative for us to be off, and we accordingly
ported our helms and made off, followed by salvos of shot, big and
small, until we were out of range.

Then we slowed down our engines and proceeded to take stock of our
injuries.

So far as the _Kasanumi_ was concerned, we had got off pretty lightly,
although there was a period of about three minutes when we were hotly
engaged by two Russian destroyers at the same time.  Our decks were
rather severely scored by flying fragments of shells, we had three
shot-holes in our hull, we had one man killed and two wounded, one of
them being our chief engineer, who, although severely wounded by a
fragment of a shell which burst in the engine-room, gallantly stuck to
his post until the fight was over, when he was able to turn the engines
over to his second.  The _Akatsuki_ had received the severest
punishment, one of her steam pipes being severed, and four of her
engine-room hands scalded to death.  In all, we lost in this fight seven
killed and eight wounded; but none of the boats was very seriously
damaged.

Meanwhile, our 2nd Division, consisting of the _Akebono_ and _Sazanami_,
had vanished, without leaving a sign of their whereabouts.  It was now
daylight, and the weather tolerably clear, yet, although Hiraoka and I
swept the whole surface of the sea with our glasses, we entirely failed
to pick them up.  The _Asashio_ and _Akatsuki_ were within hail, both of
them engaged, like ourselves, in temporarily patching up the holes in
their thin steel sides, through which the water was pouring in whenever
we rolled extra heavily; and I hailed them both, inquiring whether
either of them had seen anything of the missing craft.  An affirmative
reply came from my friend Ito, aboard the _Akatsuki_, who informed me
that shortly after the fight began, on the other side of the promontory,
he had momentarily caught sight of them both, steaming hot-foot after a
destroyer which was in full flight, heading toward Pigeon Bay.

Scarcely had this reply been given when the sounds of light gun-fire
faintly reached our ears from the direction mentioned, and a few minutes
later two destroyers, flying the Russian flag, came foaming round the
point, firing as they came, while close behind them appeared our two
missing boats, also firing for all they were worth.  The Russian boats
were running in "line ahead," and it seemed to me that the skipper of
the leading boat was manoeuvring her in such a manner as to keep his
consort as nearly as possible between himself and the pursuers; at all
events the sternmost boat seemed to be getting the biggest share of the
pursuers' fire.

At once I shouted an order for the men engaged upon our repairs to
hasten their work and bring it to some sort of finish, at the same time
signing the quartermaster to put his helm hard over, my intention of
course being to go back and render such assistance as might be required,
while the _Asashio_ kept on and stood by Ito, who had his hands full
with his severed steam pipe.

But it was impossible for us now to steam at a greater speed than about
three knots, for had we attempted to do so, we should have washed
overboard the men who were making the repairs, as well as washed the
repairs themselves away, in their uncompleted state; consequently, long
before we could get near the scene of action, the fight was over.  One
of the destroyers--the leading one--managed to get safely into the
harbour, while the other, which turned out to be the _Stercguschtchi_,
riddled with shells, lost speed to such an extent that at length the
_Sazanami_ was able to run alongside and throw a boarding party upon her
deck.  They found that deck a veritable shambles, no less than thirty
dead being counted upon it.  Naturally, they took the craft without any
resistance worth mentioning, for there were very few left to resist,
while, of those who remained, the greater number jumped overboard rather
than surrender.  Of these, only two were picked up, while two others,
too badly wounded to either fight or take to the water, surrendered.

At once the _Sazanami_ took her prize in tow; but the craft was so
seriously damaged that, despite all efforts to save her, she rapidly
filled and sank, the towing hawser parting as she foundered.

Meanwhile the _Akebono_ was in a somewhat parlous condition, for during
the fight she had been struck on the waterline, and was now limping
along as best she could, with two compartments filled; when, therefore,
the Russian boat foundered, the _Sazanami_ went to her consort's
assistance and took her in tow, for two Russian cruisers, identified as
the _Novik_ and _Bayan_, were now seen to be coming out of Port Arthur
harbour, and it was high time for us all to be off.  Happily for us, by
the time that the Russian cruisers were fairly out of harbour, five of
our own cruisers had hove up above the horizon, steaming rapidly
shoreward to our support, whereupon the Russians turned tail and
retreated.

As our cruisers came up, their flagship signalled us to proceed to our
rendezvous, after ascertaining that we could look after ourselves and
needed no assistance; and shortly afterward we fell in with our main
fleet, under Togo, bound for Pigeon Bay, whither the Admiral was
proceeding for the purpose of testing his theory that the fortress could
be successfully bombarded by high-angle fire projected over the high
land between Pigeon Bay and the town.  The signal was made for Commander
Tsuchiya and me to proceed on board the _Mikasa_, where we jointly made
our report, with which the Admiral was pleased to express his
satisfaction.  He, too, was anxious to know whether we required any
assistance, and finding that we did not, ordered us to proceed to our
rendezvous and get our repairs put in hand without a moment's delay.  We
arrived safely at our destination early in the afternoon, and within the
next hour our damaged craft were in the hands of strong repairing gangs,
so prompt were the Japanese to act.

The main fleet arrived at the rendezvous shortly before sunset, and
anchored.  I looked keenly at ship after ship, as they steamed in, but
could detect no signs of injury to any of them; so after dinner I took
our dinghy and rowed across to the _Mikasa_, with several of the
officers of which I was by this time on quite intimate terms.  The first
man I happened to run into, however, upon passing in through the gangway
was Captain Ijichi, commanding the ship; and he, as anxious to hear my
yarn as I was to hear his, instantly pounced upon me and marched me off
to his own cabin, where we were presently joined by Lieutenant Prince
Kasho, for whom Ijichi had sent.

Here I was made to start the proceedings by spinning, at considerably
greater length, the yarn which I had related to the Admiral earlier in
the day, and which I was now able to supplement with the additional
information that our 2nd Division had chased the Russian destroyer, of
which they had started in pursuit, into Pigeon Bay, where they had sunk
her.  The honours of the day were of course with them, for they had
accounted for two Russian destroyers, whereas we of the 1st Division had
only given five of the enemy a very severe mauling; nevertheless, my
little audience were good enough to stamp our performance with their
marked approval.

Then the skipper of the _Mikasa_ related his story.  The long-range
bombardment of Port Arthur was not a very exciting affair, it seemed,
but it was successful in so far that it proved the correctness of the
Admiral's theory that it could be done by firing over the high ground
and dropping shells upon an unseen mark on the other side.

The attempt was of a twofold character, one part of which was to test
the above theory, while the other was to destroy the Russian signal
station upon the island of Sanshan, off Dalny, from which spot the enemy
were able to observe and report to Port Arthur the movements of our
fleet.  This task was successfully accomplished by a detachment of our
cruisers.

As regards the long-range, high-angle bombardment of the fortress, it
was accomplished in the following fashion.  Our battleships proceeded
round to the westward of the promontory of Liau-ti-shan to a spot where
the high land hid them from the sight of the Port Arthur batteries, and,
elevating the muzzles of their 12-inch guns to the required extent, they
discharged five rounds each from their four guns--one hundred and twenty
shots in all, one shot at a time, while our first cruiser squadron,
stationed off the port, to the south-east, carefully noted the spot
where each shell dropped, and reported the result by wireless to the
battleships, thus enabling them to adjust their aim and rectify any
inaccuracies.  The result was that one of our shells hit the Golden Hill
fort, exploding a magazine and doubtless doing a considerable amount of
damage to the structure, while the Mantow Hill fort, on the west side of
the harbour, was hit several times and considerably damaged.  Several
shells fell in the New Town of Port Arthur, setting fire to a number of
houses there and causing a tremendous panic and great loss of life.  The
fifth shell fired by our battleships struck the Russian battleship
_Retvisan_, while another fell aboard the _Sevastopol_, exploding on her
armoured deck.  Yet another of our shells struck a train which happened
to be just entering Port Arthur station, destroying the locomotive and,
as we subsequently learned, killing the engine-driver and severely
wounding the fireman.  Finally, the _Retvisan_ adopted our own tactics
and retaliated by firing her heavy guns over the intervening high
ground, while some of the forts did the same, a party of signallers
being stationed on the crest of the hill to direct their aim.  As a
result of this, shells at length began to drop near our ships; whereupon
the Admiral, in obedience to his instructions not to risk his
battleships, hauled off; the fleet, as it went, observing three dense
columns of smoke rising from the city.

Seeing that our ships were retiring, the Russian Admiral led out to sea
such of his ships as were fit for service, with the evident intention of
luring our ships into the zone of fire of the forts; but he might as
well have saved his coal, for Togo was much too wary a bird to be caught
with that kind of chaff.

On the following day we learned by wireless, from one of our cruiser
scouts, that the Russian fleet was being cautiously taken out to sea
through our mine-field off the harbour's mouth, the innocuous character
of which they had already ascertained,--as intended by our Admiral,--
and, later on, the further information reached us that the fleet was at
sea and carrying out evolutions while cautiously working its way
southward.  Later still, we were informed that the Russians, learning
from their scouts that none of our ships were in the vicinity, had
proceeded as far as the Miao-tao Islands, off the Shan-tung peninsula,
which they subjected to a careful examination, under the impression, as
we subsequently learned, that those islands were being used by our
destroyers as a hiding-place from which to make our raids.  All hands of
us immediately made our preparations to weigh at a moment's notice,
fully expecting that the Admiral would seize what seemed such a splendid
opportunity to intercept the enemy and give him battle in the open sea.
But no orders were issued; and we were given to understand that there
were certain good and sufficient secret reasons why the opportunity must
be permitted to pass.  A great deal of surprise, not to say
dissatisfaction, was caused by this strange decision; but discipline was
so strong, and the idea of implicit, unquestioning obedience had been so
thoroughly instilled into the Japanese mind, that not a word of
grumbling passed any of our lips.

On the night of 21st March the tactics of the 9th of the same month were
repeated, including the laying of harmless mines off the mouth of the
harbour, and the high-angle bombardment of the fortress by the _Fuji_
and _Yashima_ from Pigeon Bay; but the affair was uneventful; it may
therefore be dismissed with the bare mention of it.  The Russian ships
again came out of harbour and ranged themselves in battle formation in
the roadstead, but no wiles of ours could tempt them to leave the
protection of the forts, so we drew off and returned to our rendezvous
among the Elliot Islands.

During the night of 22nd March, four merchant steamers, purchased by the
Japanese Government, arrived at our rendezvous from Sasebo, in response
to a request from Togo; and the Admiral, with characteristic energy, at
once proceeded to prepare them for the task of making a second attempt
to bottle up the fleet in Port Arthur harbour.

They were the _Fukui Maru, Chiyo Maru, Yoneyama Maru_, and _Yahiko
Maru_--all old craft, practically worn-out, and of very little value.
These ships, like those used in the first attempt, were loaded with
stones and scrap iron consolidated into a mass by pouring liquid cement
over it, thus converting it into a sort of reinforced concrete,
underneath which was buried the explosion charges destined to blow out
the bottoms of the ships and sink them upon their arrival at their
destined stations.

Hirose, now promoted to the rank of Commander for the gallantry which he
displayed upon the occasion of the first attempt, was given the command
of the largest ship, the _Fukui Maru_, while, to my intense surprise and
gratification, I was given the command of the _Chiyo Maru_, a craft of
1746 tons.  The expedition was in charge of Commander Arima, who went
with Hirose.  The ships were armed with a few old Hotchkiss
quick-firers, for use against torpedo craft, should any attack us.

Our preparations were completed late in the afternoon of 26th March; and
we immediately weighed and proceeded to sea, escorted by a flotilla of
destroyers and torpedo-boats, among which was the _Kasanumi_,
temporarily under the command of my subordinate, young Hiraoka, who had
already proved himself to be a very capable, discreet, and courageous
lad.

The weather on this occasion was everything that could be desired,
perfectly clear, with no wind and a sea so calm that the veriest
cock-boat could have safely ventured upon it.  The only drawback was
that there was a moon, well advanced in her first quarter, floating high
in a sky dappled with light, fleecy cloud through which enough light
percolated to render even small craft distinctly visible on the horizon.
But, after all, this would not greatly matter, indeed it would be an
advantage to us, always provided, of course, that we were not
prematurely sighted by some keen-visioned, swift-steaming Russian scout;
for the moon would set about midnight, while two o'clock in the morning
was the time set for our attempt.

The run to the offing of Port Arthur was like a pleasure trip; our fleet
of old crocks pounded along steadily, with a soft, soothing sound of
purling water rising from under their bows, dominated from time to time
by the clank of our crazy engines, which our mechanics had doctored up
as thoroughly as time permitted, in order to ensure that they should
outlast the run across.  There was nothing for us to do but follow our
leader, so I spent an hour of the time in making sure that our solitary
boat should reach the water with certainty and on a level keel when the
time should come to launch her, taking the turns out of the davit
tackles, well greasing the falls, oiling the block sheaves, and rigging
up a device of my own contriving whereby the necessity to unhook the
blocks could be avoided when the boat touched the water.

At eleven o'clock Commander Arima signalled the destroyer flotilla, and
five of the fastest of them at once went full speed ahead, spreading out
in a fan-shaped formation ahead of us and on either bow to reconnoitre
the roadstead.  At ten minutes to midnight the moon, a great golden
half-disc, swimming in a violet sky flecked with great islands of soft,
fleecy cloud, touched the high land of Liau-ti-shan; and as she sank
behind it, the order was given to stop our engines and lay-to for a
short while, as we had made a good passage and were somewhat ahead of
our scheduled time; also to await the return and report of the
destroyers.  We were now about twelve miles off Port Arthur, and far
enough beyond the range of the searchlights to ensure our presence being
undetected.

With the setting of the moon, the clouds seemed to bunch together and
acquire a greater density, and it fell very dark, such starlight as
filtered through the canopy of cloud only barely sufficing to enable us
to detect our next ship ahead and astern.  The land about Port Arthur
loomed up in the darkness like a shapeless black shadow, stretched along
the horizon to the west and north, pierced only by the long beam of the
searchlight on Golden Hill, sweeping slowly to and fro at intervals.
Watching this, for want of something better to do, we presently noticed
that, for some reason not explicable to us, the beam never travelled
farther south than a certain point, where it invariably paused for a few
seconds, and then slowly swept round toward the north again.

Wondering whether Arima also had noticed this, I rang our engines ahead
for a revolution or two, and hailed the _Fukui_ to inquire.  It appeared
that he had not; and I was in the middle of a suggestion, the observance
of which would, I believed, enable us to get close in, undetected, when
our destroyers came rushing back with the information that everything
was clear ahead, and that the prospects of success looked exceedingly
promising.  Whereupon Arima, hailing me, directed me to take the lead in
the _Chiyo_, steering such a course as seemed desirable, and the rest
would follow.  Accordingly, we in the _Chiyo_ went ahead, the _Fukui_
falling in next astern, and the other two retaining their original
positions.

We started at a speed of six knots only, to give our stokers a chance to
get their boilers into the best possible trim and to raise a good head
of steam for the final rush, and as soon as our safety valves began to
blow off, we increased the number of our revolutions until, when we
arrived within four miles of the harbour's mouth, we were racing in, as
though for a wager.  At this point the destroyers stopped their engines
and lay-to.  They had done the first part of their work, and must now
wait until we had done ours.

Meanwhile, I had quite made up my mind as to the proper thing to do, and
accordingly shaped a course by which, instead of running straight in,
and so crossing the track of the searchlight beam, we edged away to the
southward and westward, traversing the arc of a circle, and so just
keeping outside the range of the beam.  But of course this sort of thing
could not go on indefinitely; to enter the harbour we must, sooner or
later, get within the range of the light; and when we arrived within two
miles of the harbour's mouth further concealment became impossible.  But
we had done not at all badly, for a ten minutes' rush would now see us
where we wanted to be, if in the meantime we were not hit and blown out
of the water.

As we came within reach of the searchlight, I called down to the
engine-room, enjoining those below to give the old packet every ounce of
steam they could muster; and the engineer responded by calmly screwing
down the safety valves, ignoring the fact that, by doing so, he risked
the bursting of the boilers.  This was no time for caution, and if the
worn-out kettles would only stand the strain for another ten minutes,
all might be well.

Slowly the searchlight beam came sweeping round toward us, until it
rested fully upon us.  It swept on for a yard or two, switched back,
paused for a few seconds, and then began to wave wildly to and fro,
seemingly by way of a signal, while a solitary gunshot pealed out upon
the air.  Then the light came back to us, fully revealing the four
steamers making their headlong rush for the harbour entrance.

Following that solitary gunshot there was a tense silence, lasting for
perhaps half a minute, while searchlight after searchlight was turned
upon us from the heights and from every ship so placed that they could
be brought to bear.  Then, as though at a preconcerted signal, the
batteries on the heights and two gunboats anchored at the harbour
entrance opened fire upon us, and the darkness of the night was stabbed
and pierced by jets of flame, while the air became vibrant with the hiss
and scream of projectiles of every description, which fell all round us,
lashing the surface of the sea into innumerable jets of phosphorescent
foam.  The crash of the heavy gun-fire, and the sharper crackle of the
quick-firers, raised such a terrific din that it quickly became
impossible to make one's voice heard; but my crew had already received
their orders, and the moment that we got within range they opened a
steady fire with our two old Hotchkisses upon the gunboats at the
harbour's mouth, while our destroyers, pushing boldly in after us,
opened fire upon the searchlights, hoping to destroy them, and
endeavouring by every possible device to distract the attention of the
gunners and to draw their fire from us.  But in this they were
unsuccessful; the Russians at once divined our intention to seal up the
harbour, and recognised that it was vastly more important to them to
frustrate our purpose than to waste their fire upon our elusive
destroyers; and I doubt whether a single gun was turned upon them.

On through the tempest of projectiles we rushed, our old and patched-up
engines rattling and clanking and groaning as they worked under such a
pressure of steam as they had not known for many a long day; the
stokers, after a final firing-up, came on deck, by order of the
engineer, and went upon the topgallant forecastle to assist with the
guns; and I took up my station by the wheelhouse to con the ship to her
appointed berth, which was immediately under Golden Hill, and about a
hundred yards from the shore.  One of the two gunboats that were
guarding the entrance was anchored so nearly in our way that I was
sorely tempted to give her the stem and sink her where she lay.  But I
successfully resisted the temptation, for, had we sunk her, she was too
far out to have become an obstruction, while we should probably have
smashed in our own bows and gone to the bottom before arriving at our
station.  As we surged past her, however, within twenty fathoms, we
peppered her smartly with our quick-firers, receiving in return a ragged
discharge from her entire battery, including a shell from her 6-inch gun
which happily passed through our starboard bulwarks and out through our
port without exploding.  Our foretopmast was at this moment shot away,
and fell on deck, but hurt no one, our funnel was riddled with shrapnel,
and a bridge stanchion, within a foot of where I was standing, was cut
in two; but none of us was hurt.  The next moment a shell struck our
mainmast and sent it over the side, luckily severing the rotten shrouds
and stays also, so that it fell clear and did not foul our propeller.  A
few seconds later a shell dropped upon our after-deck and exploded,
blowing a jagged circular hole of some twenty feet diameter in it, and
setting the planks on fire; but a few buckets of water promptly applied
sufficed to extinguish the blaze.

Meanwhile we were plugging along in grand style and drawing so near to
our destination that I called to the men to cease firing, and for two of
them to stand by to let go the anchor while the rest came aft and held
themselves ready to jump into our solitary boat when I gave the word.
It was wonderfully exciting work, for as we drew nearer in we came into
the range of fire of other forts and ships, and the air seemed to be
thick with missiles, while shrapnel was bursting all round us, and the
water was torn by flying shot to such an extent that our decks were
streaming, and all hands of us were wet through with the thrown-up
spray.

At length our appointed berth was so close at hand that I rang down to
stop the engines and signed to the helmsman to put his helm hard a-port,
while I stationed myself close to the electric button, pressure on which
would fire the explosives in our hold and blow our bottom out.  We were
now so close in under the cliffs that the Golden Hill guns could no
longer reach us, also we were out of range of the great searchlights,
consequently we were enshrouded in darkness, yet the forts on the west
side of the harbour still maintained their fire upon us; but we were now
lost in the deep shadow of the cliffs, and the shots flew wide.

Half a minute later, I called down the tube to the engineer to send his
engines astern to check our way, and then come on deck; and he was still
ascending the engine-room ladder when I shouted to the men forward to
let go the anchor.  It fell with a great splash, and as we had snubbed
her at a short scope, she quickly brought up in the exact spot destined
for her.

"Lower away the boat, and tumble in, men," I shouted; and the words were
hardly out of my mouth when I heard the murmur of the falls through the
blocks, and the splash of the boat as she hit the water.  A few muffled
ejaculations followed as the men slid down the falls, then came the
rattle of oars as they were thrown out; and finally a voice crying:

"All ready, Captain, we only wait for you."

"Good!"  I ejaculated, and rammed down the button.  A tremendous jolt
that all but flung me off the bridge, accompanied by a not very loud
explosion, followed, the ship trembled as though she had been a sentient
thing, and the sound of water, as though pouring through a sluice,
reached my ears.  Down the ladder I rushed, on to the main deck, seized
one of the davit tackles and slid down into the boat; and as the men
replied to my question that all were present, the bowman thrust the boat
away from the sinking steamer's side, and the oars churned up the water
as we pulled away.

"Give way, lively, lads," I cried, as I seized the tiller; "we'll get
close inshore, where nobody can see us, and save our skins in that way.
We have happily escaped thus far; and it would be a pity for any of us
to get hit now.  There goes the old _Chiyo_! she hasn't taken long to
sink, bless her!  She is worth a lot more where she is, at the bottom of
Port Arthur harbour, than she was when afloat."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE KORYU MARU.

Meanwhile the _Fukui Maru_ had also reached her destination, and as we
pushed off in the boat from the side of our own sinking ship, we heard,
through the din of firing and the explosions of bursting shells, the
roar of her cable as her crew let go her anchor.  I was sitting with my
back turned toward her, intent upon getting our boat as close inshore as
possible, when the engineer, who was sitting beside me, touched my arm
and pointed.

I turned and looked, to see Hirose's ship brought up right in
mid-channel--the berth assigned to her; and, bearing down upon her, a
Russian destroyer, her funnels and guns spouting flame and smoke as she
tore furiously through the water.  Another instant, and the destroyer
swerved, just clearing the stern of the _Fukui_; there was the flash of
a torpedo from her deck tube, a terrific explosion, and the _Fukui_
seemed to be hove up out of the water on the top of a great cone of
leaping sea intermingled with smoke and flame.  The ship had been
torpedoed, quite uselessly, indeed worse than uselessly, for the
Russians had simply saved our people the trouble of sinking her.

The destroyer passed on, and we temporarily lost sight of her in the
darkness and wreathing smoke.  We saw the _Fukui's_ boat lowered, and
the crew get into her; but she remained alongside so long that she only
got away barely in time to avoid being dragged down with the ship.
Meanwhile, shells were falling not only all round but also aboard the
_Fukui_, and we presently saw that she was on fire, as well as sinking.
Nearly or quite a dozen shells must have struck her before she finally
foundered; but it was not until the next day that we learned the full
extent of the tragedy.  It then appeared that the explosion of the
torpedo had either disconnected or shattered the wires connected with
the explosives in the _Fukui's_ bottom, and a petty officer named Sugino
had gone below to explode the charges.  It chanced that this man was a
blood-brother of Hirose, and, not returning to the deck as he was
expected to do, Hirose went in search of him, after ordering the boat to
leave the ship.  A few seconds later a shell was seen to strike Hirose
on the head, of course killing him instantly.  Later on, we heard that
his floating body had been picked up in the harbour by the Russians,
who, to do them justice, buried it with military honours.

A small air of wind at this time came breathing down the harbour,
momentarily dispersing the thick veil of smoke that overhung the water,
and we were thus enabled to see that our third ship, the _Yahiko Maru_,
had also succeeded in reaching the berth assigned to her, and was at
that moment in the very act of sinking, close to the Pinnacle Rock, a
great monolith which rose high out of the water on the western side of
the harbour's mouth.  Thus far, therefore, everything had gone well with
the expedition; and now all that remained was for the fourth ship, the
_Yoneyama Maru_, to close up the gap that still remained.

I looked round to see if I could see anything of her, and presently the
shifting of the searchlight beam from the _Yahiko_ revealed her coming
along in fine style, and heading straight for her appointed berth.
Hitherto, the Russian batteries had been too busy, attending to us
others, to take much notice of her, and she appeared to be all ataunto
and quite uninjured.  I felt curious to see what was going to happen to
her, and gave my crew the order to "Easy all, and lay on your oars!"

As I did so, a Russian destroyer--I could not tell whether it was the
craft that had torpedoed the _Fukui_, or another--emerged from the
darkness, heading straight for the _Yahiko_, as though to run her down!
Would they dare?  I wondered.  Surely not.  But if they did not, there
was no reason why the _Yahiko_ should not; she was a stout-built,
merchant steamer, and, old as she was, would shear through the
destroyer's thin plating as though it were brown paper.  If I had been
in charge of the _Yahiko_, I would not have hesitated an instant, indeed
I would have jumped at the chance, and in my excitement I leaped to my
feet and, making a funnel of my hands, yelled frantically:

"_Yahiko_ ahoy!  Give her the stem, man; give her the stem!"

But at that precise moment the Russian guns opened again, this time
directing their fire upon the _Yahiko_, and my hail was effectually
drowned by the crash of the explosions.

I am of opinion that, a moment later, the commander of the _Yahiko_ saw
his chance, just too late to fully avail himself of it, at all events
the bows of the steamer suddenly swept round, and although the destroyer
instantly shifted her helm, she was too late to entirely avoid a
collision; the rounding of the _Yahiko's_ bow struck her and roughly
shouldered her aside, both craft reeling under the impact; and at that
instant the destroyer let fly every gun that would bear, the fire from
them actually scorching the Japanese crew, who were at that moment
preparing to lower their boat.  The _Yahiko_ passed on, and so did the
destroyer, the latter vanishing in the darkness to seaward, while the
_Yahiko_, the centre of a very galaxy of bursting shells, staggered on
in a sinking condition, and went down at the very moment when, with
astounding skill and coolness, her skipper had brought her to the exact
spot for which she was intended.

Then it was seen that, either through some miscalculation or, more
probably, because the Russians had widened the channel, there still
remained an unfilled gap, wide enough for a single ship to pass through!
It was a most vexatious thing, after all the trouble that we had taken
and the ordeal which we had passed through; but it could not be helped;
it was the fortune of war.

Stay, though!  Why should it not be helped?  All that was needed was
another steamer--or perhaps two steamers--to fill the gap, and the thing
was done.  And, hang it all!  I was game to do the job myself to-morrow
night, when the Russians would least expect me.

But, to do the job effectually, it was highly necessary to know the
exact width of the gap, and the depth of water in it; and now was the
time to ascertain those particulars, while we were on the spot.  I would
do it!

Then came the very practical question: How?  What means had we to take
soundings, or to measure the gap between the sunken _Fukui_ and the
_Yoneyama_?  I looked about me, and found that all we had with us was
the boat's painter, a piece of rope some seven or eight fathoms long,
which might serve as a sounding-line, if only we had a sinker of some
sort, which, unhappily, we had not.  Then one of the men in the boat,
realising what I wanted, informed me that, while preparing the boat for
lowering, he had chanced to glance into the locker in the stern-sheets,
and had noticed a fishing-line there.  Would that be of any use?  Of
course it would; the very thing for sounding, at all events.  We had
that line out in double-quick time, cut away the hooks, and then
proceeded to knot it at exact intervals corresponding with the length of
the boat's after-thwart.  Precisely what that length might be, we could
ascertain afterward.

But, how to measure the width of the gap?  There seemed to me to be but
one way to do it, and that was by taking the length of our boat herself
as a unit of measurement; not a very satisfactory method, I admitted,
yet better than nothing.  So thereupon we set to work.

Starting at the _Fukui's_ mainmast, we dropped the sinker of the
fishing-line over the stern and paid out until it reached her deck.
Then, giving way with the oars, we felt our way along her deck to her
taffrail, lifted the sinker, and dropped it again, clear of the wreck,
until it touched bottom.  Then, noting the depth as so many knots and
fractions of a knot, I jotted the result in my notebook while, the
oarsmen keeping the boat in position, another cast was made at the bow
end of the boat.  Proceeding in this manner, and taking the utmost care
to obtain accurate results, we accomplished our task in about half an
hour, under a heavy fire from the Russians on the heights, which,
strange to say, injured none of us.

This done, we pulled out to sea, and were soon afterward sighted and
joined by the _Tsubame_ and _Aotaka_, Japanese torpedo-boats, which took
us aboard, and exultingly informed us that, a quarter of an hour or so
earlier, they had engaged and driven ashore a Russian destroyer, which
afterward proved to be the _Silny_, the craft which had torpedoed the
_Fukui_, and had narrowly escaped being run down and sunk by the
_Yahiko_.

The torpedo-boats' crews made much of us and, I believe, would have
given us everything they had, if we would have taken it; but I contented
myself with a pannikin of _saki_, to counteract the cold of my drenched
clothing, and then asked them to run me off alongside my own ship, the
_Kasanumi_, which was hove-to about a mile further out.  My crew
received me back with literally open arms and loud shouts of "Banzai
Nippon!" when I allowed it to be known that we had succeeded in doing
all that we had been ordered to do.  Young Hiraoka was disposed to
regard me as a hero, and to treat me as such, commencing a long
complimentary speech of homage and congratulation; but I cut him short
by remarking that I was perishing of cold, and dived below to give
myself a good rough towelling and to change into dry kit.

When I went on deck again, the dawn was just brightening the eastern
sky, and I then noticed that we seemed to have more than our proper
complement of men aboard.  Inquiring the reason, I learned that the
_Kasanumi_ had picked up the crew of the _Fukui Maru_, poor Hirose's
ship; and they furnished me with the particulars of the gallant fellow's
heroic death.  I also learned that while we had been engaged in the
endeavour to block the harbour, our destroyers had been busily employed
in sowing further harmless mines, in accordance with the Admiral's plan
to convince the Russians that Japanese mines were useless and need not
be feared.

As the daylight strengthened, it revealed our fleet, strung out along
the horizon, the Admiral having followed the blocking ships and
destroyers upon the off-chance that the Russians might be tempted to
come out and attack them, in the event of our failing in our mission.

And at first it appeared as though that chance might be afforded us.
For, as we steamed away to the eastward, we saw smoke rising from the
funnels of some of the ships in the harbour, and shortly afterward the
cruisers _Bayan, Novik_, and _Askold_ came steaming out, with the
battleships following.  But it was no go; the Russians opened a
long-range fire upon us, to which we gave no reply, slowly retiring
instead, in the hope of enticing the enemy's ships to follow us beyond
the cover of their batteries.  The Russian Admiral, however, was too
wary, refusing to be drawn, and, putting up his helm, he returned to the
harbour.  Nevertheless, the event was not altogether unprofitable to us,
for as the Russian ships re-entered the harbour, the _Petropavlosk_ ran
foul of the _Sevastopol_ and damaged her so severely as to render her
unfit for further service until she could be repaired.

Meanwhile, the destroyers being no longer required, I devoted myself to
the task of reducing to an intelligible state the soundings and
measurements which I had that morning taken; and by the time that we
were back at our rendezvous I had a little sketch plan of the harbour's
mouth ready for the Admiral, showing the exact width of the gap and the
depth of water in it, thus enabling him to determine the precise size of
the craft required to fill it.  I also volunteered to return and fill up
the gap that very night, if he could let me have a ship of the required
dimensions.  But it appeared that he had no ship that could at that time
be spared; consequently the job had to wait.

But Togo was profuse in his thanks for my offer; and was pleased to be
exceedingly complimentary in his remarks touching my "gallantry" in the
matter of taking the soundings, as also upon our conduct generally in
taking in the blocking ships under such a terrific fire and sinking them
exactly in the required positions.  He expressed great grief at the loss
of poor Hirose, who was, without doubt, a remarkably promising officer,
and would assuredly have further distinguished himself and gone far, had
he lived.

Just before we arrived at our rendezvous that night, our high-pressure
cylinder developed a bad crack, possibly through some unsuspected flaw
in the casting; and as there were no means of repairing it, except
temporarily, where we were, and as in the meantime the boat was useless,
I received orders to have the crack patched-up as far as possible, and
then to proceed to Sasebo, to have a new cylinder fitted.  This mishap
involved an absence of the _Kasanumi_ from our rendezvous for ten days;
but, as events proved, it did not matter in the least; for the Admiral,
doubtless for good and sufficient reasons, now permitted a period of
inaction to occur, during which nothing happened beyond the usual
watching of Port Arthur harbour.  I availed myself of the opportunity
thus afforded to have my little ship docked, scraped, and repainted;
while my engineer took his engines entirely to pieces, subjected them to
a thorough overhaul, and replaced a few brasses and other matters that
were showing signs of wear.  He also overhauled the boilers, and fitted
quite a number of new tubes; so that when at length the boat left the
dry dock she was in first-class condition, and ready for any service
that could be reasonably asked of her.

I found awaiting me at the post office quite a nice little batch of most
cheering and encouraging letters from my friends, the Gordons, to which
I duly replied at considerable length, giving them--and especially
Ronald--full particulars of my adventures up to date; and the receipt of
their letters made me feel that while a man had such staunch friends as
they had proved to be, the world was not such a bad place, after all.

We got back to our rendezvous at the Elliot Islands on the afternoon of
9th April, the little _Kasanumi_ looking as smart and spick-and-span as
a new pin, her hull, funnels, mast, guns--everything, in fact, except
her deck--painted that peculiar tint of medium smoky-grey which
experience had proved to render her almost invisible, even in daylight,
and absolutely so at night; and the moment that our anchor was down I
proceeded aboard the flagship to report myself, and also to deliver
mails for the fleet and dispatches for the Admiral, which I had brought
with me.

There did not seem to be very much doing at the rendezvous when I
arrived, beyond the rebunkering of such craft as needed it; but I
noticed a rather smart-looking steamer of about four thousand tons,
fitted as a mine-layer, with lighters on both sides of her, out of which
a number of very business-like-looking mines were being hoisted.

But when I got aboard the _Mikasa_, and was shown into the Admiral's
cabin, I found the little gentleman up to his eyes in business, as
usual.  He dropped his work, however, when I was announced, and, rising
from his chair, greeted me in the most hearty and friendly manner; then,
bidding me be seated, he asked me how I had spent my time at Sasebo.  He
expressed the utmost satisfaction with everything that I had done; and
presently, when the orderly brought in a bundle of letters and papers
from the mail which I had brought, he opened the latter and, selecting
from it a particular sheet--the Tokio _Asahi_, I believe it was--opened
it, glanced eagerly at a particular column, and then, with a smile and a
pointing finger, handed the sheet to me.  It had been opened at the page
containing naval intelligence; and glancing at it, I perceived, to my
amazement and delight, that I had been gazetted to the rank of Captain,
"as from 27th March, in recognition of conspicuous gallantry in
connection with the second attempt to close Port Arthur harbour."  The
two other surviving skippers had also been similarly promoted.

I scarcely knew how to find words eloquent enough to thank Togo for his
generous recognition of my services, such as they were; but he would not
listen to a word of thanks, insisting that I had honestly earned the
promotion, and thoroughly deserved it.

"And now," he concluded, "I am going to give you a further opportunity
to distinguish yourself.  I have in hand some work, the successful
execution of which demands a man who can be depended upon to keep his
head and his nerve under the most trying conditions, such as those which
existed when you took those soundings and measurements, under, fire, the
other day; indeed it was that piece of daring which caused me to select
you for the work.  You may perhaps have observed a steamer shipping
mines--You did?  Yes, I thought you would.  Well, that steamer is the
_Koryu Maru_, a very smart boat, steaming twenty-two knots, which I have
had fitted as a mine-layer.  The Russians have passed to and fro over
our mine-field off Port Arthur, and have had full opportunity to learn
that our mines are so harmless that they may be regarded as negligible,
so, now, I propose to teach them a new lesson.  The mines which the
_Koryu_ is shipping are not harmless; on the contrary, they are
exceedingly formidable affairs, containing charges ranging from one
hundred to two hundred pounds of Shimose explosive, and they are
arranged to automatically adjust themselves to varying depths of water.
The ship which strikes one of them will be done for!  Having told you so
much, you will readily understand that they are ticklish affairs to
handle, particularly when it comes to laying them; hence my choice of
you, Captain Swinburne, to supervise and execute the task.  I shall be
glad if you will go aboard, at your earliest convenience, and make
yourself thoroughly acquainted with the mode of handling them, which is
essentially different from that of handling the mines to which you have
been accustomed."

I thanked the Admiral for this fresh manifestation of his trust in me,
and took my leave, pausing only for a few minutes, on my way to the
gangway, to exchange greetings with some of the officers of the ship,
and reply to their congratulations upon my promotion, the news of which
had already got abroad.  Then I went down the side, got into my boat,
and was pulled across to the _Koryu_, where I found the delicate
operation of shipping and stowing the mines in brisk progress.  I
introduced myself to the officer in charge, who at once proceeded to
explain to me the structure and mechanism of the class of mines being
dealt with; thus enabling me to understand the danger to be guarded
against while handling them; after which he conducted me to my cabin,
perched high on the boat deck; and I immediately took possession,
sending my boat back to the _Kasanumi_ with a note for young Hiraoka,
requesting him to take charge during my absence, and another to my
steward, instructing him to send me across such things as I immediately
needed.  The change was greatly the better for me; for whereas my
quarters aboard the _Kasanumi_ were cramped and of Spartan simplicity,
the captain's cabin of the _Koryu_ was a spacious and almost luxurious
affair, handsomely and comfortably furnished, with all the accommodation
that a reasonable man could wish for.

Two days later our fleet weighed and proceeded to sea, leaving the
_Koryu_ at anchor, with our fourth and fifth destroyer flotillas and
fourteenth torpedo-boat flotilla--twelve craft in all--to protect her.
My orders were to proceed to sea in time to reach Port Arthur roadstead
at midnight of the 12th, sow the harbour approach with mines according
to a certain plan, and then retire, with the assurance that, if
attacked, there would be a force of ample strength lying in wait to
protect me.

One part of my duty--after laying the mines--was to endeavour to entice
the Russian fleet to come out in pursuit of me.  Experience had taught
us that, for some reason with which we were unacquainted, the Russian
ships invariably followed a certain course when leaving the harbour,
while, when returning, they as invariably followed another; my
instructions, therefore, were to sow my mines over the area by which the
ships returned to port, while leaving free that area traversed by them
when coming out; the reason of course being, that as many ships as
possible should be enticed to come out, in the hope that many of them
would be destroyed upon their return.

The night of the 12th was a wretched one in some respects for our
purpose.  The weather was thick; a strong breeze was blowing from the
southward, kicking up a nasty sea; it was bitterly cold; and a thin
drizzle of fine snow made the thick atmosphere still thicker; so that it
was impossible to see farther than a ship's length in any direction.  I
foresaw, therefore, that I had a very difficult task before me, not only
in getting the little torpedo-boats across in the heavy sea, but in
depositing the mines in the right place after we should arrive.

To spare the torpedo-boats as much as possible while making the passage
against a heavy head sea, I decided to proceed at a speed of ten knots;
and we accordingly got under way at five o'clock in the evening, leaving
ourselves an hour in hand to cover any delay which we might meet with.
I had very carefully studied the tides and the current charts during the
afternoon, taken careful note of the strength of the wind, and, taking
these matters into consideration, had worked out a course that, unless
some of the conditions changed, should take me to the exact spot I
wished to reach, at eleven o'clock.

Punctual to the moment we started, "in line ahead," each vessel towing a
fog buoy behind her to serve as a guide to the next astern, and these
buoys I had at the last moment caused to be coated with luminous paint,
to make them visible in the intense darkness.

All went well with us; the destroyers rode the seas like gulls, while,
at the moderate speed of ten knots, the torpedo-boats were not only able
to keep station perfectly but also avoided washing their crews
overboard.  At ten-thirty I made the prearranged signal, and my escort
hove-to, leaving me to finish my journey and carry out my perilous task
alone.

I knew exactly where I was--or rather, where I ought to be--for I had
kept a careful reckoning of our progress from the moment of starting,
and, unless something had gone wrong, we were then exactly two miles
south-east of the Pinnacle Rock lighthouse.  But it was necessary to
make sure, otherwise I might lay my mines in the wrong place, and all my
labour would be useless; I accordingly shaped a course for the
lighthouse and cautiously stood in, with a leadsman stationed at each
extremity of the overhanging navigating bridge.  These took continuous
casts of the lead and reported the result to me through my "Number 1,"
who stood outside my cabin and called to me through an open window,
while I stood at the table, with the chart spread open before me,
pricking off our position minute after minute, and comparing the
leadsmen's results with those shown on the chart, the two agreeing
accurately.

At length we reached a point beyond which it would be dangerous to go,
and I ordered the engines to be stopped and reversed, at the same time
stepping out on to the bridge, to ascertain if anything could be seen.
But it was as thick as a hedge, the lighthouse lantern was unlighted,
and there was not even a gleam from the searchlight on the cliffs above
to enable us to verify our position.  True, the roar of breakers close
at hand told us we were not far from the shore; but that was all we had
to guide us; there was nothing for it, therefore, but to go ahead and do
the best we could.

There is no need for me to enter into a detailed and technical
description of the operation of laying mines; I will therefore merely
state that, despite the adverse conditions, we succeeded in
accomplishing our task and withdrawing without mishap.  But we were not
a moment too soon, for the light of dawn was filtering through the haze
as we dropped our last mine and moved cautiously away from the completed
field.

The next thing was to find our escort, which we had left two miles out
at sea.  We were groping our way slowly seaward through the fog, keeping
a sharp lookout for the destroyers, when all in a moment the mist
lifted, and we sighted them about half a mile distant.  And at the same
instant, some four miles away to the north-east, appeared a squadron of
five destroyers, which we at once identified as our second destroyer
flotilla.  And yet--no that could scarcely be right, for our "second"
consisted of only four boats, while yonder were five--with--yes--a sixth
close inshore.  I turned to get my binoculars out of the case, in order
to investigate a little more closely, and even as I did so the five
destroyers became suddenly enveloped in a wreathing cloud of powder
smoke, while the sharp, angry bark of quick-fire guns broke the morning
silence.  The five destroyers were unquestionably engaged in a fight
among themselves.  The firing continued quite briskly for about five
minutes; then there pealed out a sharp, violent explosion, a great cloud
of smoke shot into the air; the firing abruptly ceased; and the smoke
cleared away just in time to show that one of the destroyers--the craft
which we had been unable to identify--was sinking, a shattered,
shapeless wreck.

At this moment a cry from my "Number 1" distracted my attention from the
interesting little drama which I was eagerly watching, and, turning
toward the harbour's mouth, in response to his pointing finger, I saw a
big, four-funnelled, two-masted cruiser, which I instantly recognised as
the _Bayan_, coming foaming out of harbour, evidently intent upon
driving off our destroyers, which were now busily launching their boats
to save the crew of the destroyer, which had by this time foundered.  I
was in the very act of issuing an order for one of our Hotchkisses to be
fired, to warn the destroyers, when the _Bayan_ opened fire upon them
with her light guns, and they were obliged to retreat, double-quick.

Of course the _Bayan_ was no match for them in the matter of speed, so
after covering the retreat of the second destroyer, which was creeping
along close inshore, and pausing to pick up the survivors of the sunken
destroyer, the cruiser turned her attention--and her guns--upon us.  But
we were out of range of her light guns, and for some unknown reason she
did not open fire upon us with her heavy weapons, we therefore quickened
up to about her own speed, or a trifle less, hoping we might be able to
entice her out to where we knew our own cruiser squadron was waiting to
cover our retreat.  Unfortunately for the success of my scheme, Admiral
Dewa, who commanded the squadron, no sooner heard the firing than he put
on speed and rushed to our rescue, emerging from the mist and becoming
visible while still some three miles away.  The instant that they were
clear of the fog bank, and could see what was happening, the squadron
opened fire upon the _Bayan_ with their heavy guns, when that ship was
in turn compelled to up helm and beat a hurried retreat, to my intense
disgust; for I felt confident that if our cruisers had only lain doggo
in the fog bank, I could have cajoled the Russian ship into following me
so far out to sea that her retreat could have been cut off, and we
should have nabbed her.  As it was, the _Diana_ and _Novik_ came rushing
out to her rescue; whereupon Dewa, who by this time recognised the
mistake he had made, turned and retired, apparently in a panic, for
great clouds of smoke were presently seen to be pouring from the funnels
of all his ships.  But before ten minutes were over it became perfectly
evident that the Admiral was "playing foxy," for despite the clouds of
smoke, his ships were barely holding their own, if indeed they were
doing as much as that.  Naturally, we in the _Koryu_ at once took our
cue from the Admiral, and stoked up for all we were worth, using as much
small coal as we could scrape together, in order to increase the volume
of smoke pouring from our funnel, while we allowed the _Novik_ to gain
upon us a trifle from time to time, and then, by an apparently desperate
effort, drew away from her again.  And this time it really looked as
though our ruse was going to prove successful, for the three Russian
cruisers continued to chase us with the utmost pertinacity and
determination.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE PETROPAVLOSK LURED TO HER DOOM.

The explanation of the Russian cruisers' pertinacity was soon made plain
to Admiral Dewa by a wireless message which he picked up, addressed to
the captain of the _Novik_, which, decoded, ran thus: "Keep in touch
with enemy but do not attack until I join you.  Two battleships and
_Askold_ following to support you.  Signed Makarov."

Of course I did not know anything about this until afterward, the
_Koryu_ not being fitted with a wireless installation; but Dewa at once
made a code signal to me instructing me to continue my present tactics;
and while this was being done his wireless operators were busily engaged
in transmitting a code message to Admiral Togo, who was at that moment
lurking, enveloped in mist, some thirty miles away, near the Miao-tao
Islands, with his whole battle squadron and the new cruisers _Nisshin_
and _Kasuga_.

Makarov, however, was evidently ignorant of that fact; the atmosphere in
the neighbourhood of Port Arthur was now quite clear, and to the
lookouts on the highest points about the fortress no Japanese ships were
visible, save the cruiser squadron, which was undoubtedly in full
retreat from the pursuing Russian ships, which it was perfectly evident
they were afraid of.  It was the moment and the opportunity for which
the Russian Admiral had long been pining, the moment when a weak
Japanese force, entirely unsupported, lay at his mercy, and now he would
smash them!

Accordingly, he hurried aboard the _Petrofiavlosk_ and signalled the
_Poltava_ and _Askold_--both of which, like the flagship, had steam up--
to weigh at once and proceed to sea.  This was done, with marvellous
smartness, considering that the craft were Russian, and presently out
they came, their funnels belching immense volumes of black smoke and the
water leaping and foaming about their bows as they pounded after us at
their utmost speed, which, after all, was only about fourteen knots.

Meanwhile, Dewa, who was bringing up the rear in the _Asama_,--by the
speed of which ship the rest of the squadron regulated theirs,--was very
cleverly allowing the Russians to slowly overtake him, while the
Russians were straining every nerve to do so, stoking up furiously and
wasting their coal in the most reckless manner.

Then came an order from the Admiral to me to increase speed and pass
ahead of the squadron, out of harm's way, as he was about to open fire
upon the Russians.  Of course there was nothing for it but to obey,
which I did forthwith; but when I had got about a mile ahead, I
gradually slowed down again; if there was any fun toward, I was not
going to miss it.  Besides, it was just possible that I might be of use,
for, following the Russian battleships and cruisers, there was now
coming up, hand over hand, a crowd of destroyers, against which the
_Koryu's_ Hotchkisses might be brought into play.

Admiral Dewa only allowed me just bare time to get ahead of his
squadron, when he made the signal to open fire upon the pursuers with
our cruisers' 8-inch turret guns; and the signal, which had been awaited
with the utmost impatience, was promptly responded to with a steady and
deadly deliberate fire upon the _Bayan_, which was leading the Russian
line.  Before her officers had time to realise what was happening,
shells were hurtling all about her and raining against her bows and upon
her deck, punishing her so severely that they had to stop her engines
and allow the rest of the fleet to pass ahead.  The Russian fleet, which
had thus far been coming on in line ahead, now hurriedly formed line
abreast, the two battleships opening fire upon our cruisers with their
12-inch guns.  Luckily for us, although the water was smooth the Russian
aim was bad, and their shells flew over and on either side of us, but
none hit us.  Then Dewa, who was far too good a tactician to pit his
cruisers against battleships, gave the order to increase speed, and we
ran out of range, undamaged.

But only just out of range; for we wanted to draw the Russian ships so
far away from Port Arthur that Admiral Togo might have a chance to come
up, slip in between them and the fortress, cut off their retreat, and
force them to fight.  And without a doubt we should have been
successful, had not the capricious weather played us a scurvy trick at a
critical moment when the Russians were some eighteen miles off the land
in a south-easterly direction from Port Arthur.  For it was at this
moment that the fog, which had hitherto hidden Togo's approaching fleet,
suddenly cleared, revealing to the Russian lookouts on the Liau-ti-shan
heights, the Japanese warships, racing up from the south-west.

The approach of the Japanese was instantly frantically signalled to the
wireless station, which in turn wirelessed the alarming intelligence to
the Russian Admiral.  A few moments' study of the chart revealed to
Makarov the precariousness of his situation.  If he turned and retreated
at once, he might possibly escape by the skin of his teeth and get back
into harbour before Togo's ships could get up to cut him off, and he did
not hesitate a moment.  Up went the signal to retire, over went the
Russians' helms, and away they scuttled back toward their lair, even
faster than they came out, while our cruisers, keenly on the watch for
some such movement, also wheeled sharply in pursuit, keeping up a steady
fire upon the _Bayan_ and the _Novik_, the rearmost ships in the Russian
line.  Naturally, the _Koryu_ turned when our cruisers did, following
them up at full speed until we were close in their rear, while Dewa was
far too busy attending to the pursuit to spare any attention to me and
my doings.

It was at this juncture that the Russian destroyers made a gallant
effort to check our pursuit by distracting our attention from their big
craft to themselves.  Believing that they held an important advantage
over us in point of speed, they boldly slowed down, dropped astern, and,
in two divisions, made a determined demonstration on our two flanks,
repeatedly threatening to make a dash, close in, and use the torpedo.

There was one exceptionally audacious craft, the pertinacity of which
caused me to take particular notice of her, and keep a specially
watchful eye upon her, because I speedily came to the conclusion that
she was doing more than merely demonstrate, she was bent upon mischief.
She was making a dead set at the _Asama_, our most valuable ship,
getting right to windward of her, and pouring dense volumes of black
smoke from her four funnels, so forming a screen for herself, under
cover of which she was evidently trying to edge in to within effective
torpedo range.  Of course the _Asama_ and one or two of the other
cruisers opened fire upon her with their light guns, but we, who had
crept up to windward, saw that the smoke screen was serving its purpose
admirably, and that although the projectiles were falling all round her,
she was not being hit.  It occurred to me that now was the time when we
in the _Koryu_ might be able to render a little useful service, our own
destroyers having been unfortunately ordered to return to their
rendezvous, some time before, and were now out of sight.  Accordingly I
gave orders for the gunners to stand by their Hotchkisses, and rang for
full speed, also calling down to the engineer for the very last ounce of
steam he could get out of his boilers.

Like an arrow shot from a bow, the _Koryu_ started forward and, edging
well out to windward of the destroyer, opened a brisk fire upon her with
our Hotchkisses, aiming at her deck tubes, round which I had seen some
men busily clustering.  And it was well that I did so, for the Russians
were in the very act of launching a torpedo at the moment; indeed they
actually _did_ launch it, but by one of those extraordinary flukes that
sometimes happen, and are so difficult to describe convincingly, one of
our shots struck the weapon at the instant that it issued from the tube,
wrecking its propeller and rudder and sending it to the bottom.

Evidently the destroyer's crew had been so completely absorbed in their
attempt upon the _Asama_ that they had been oblivious to our approach;
but now, seeing us bearing menacingly down upon her, her skipper
suddenly shifted his helm and would fain have beaten a retreat.  As it
happened, however, we had by this time drawn up abreast and were between
him and his friends, so he evidently came to the conclusion that there
was nothing for it but to fight his way out; accordingly he made a dash
to cut out across our bows, at the same time turning his whole battery
of guns upon us.  I instantly ordered my men to leave their guns and get
away aft, out of the way of the shot, dismissing the quartermaster also,
and taking the wheel in his stead.

At such short range, his shots could not possibly miss, and in less than
a minute our bows and fore deck showed a very pretty "general average,"
a 6-pound shell blowing a hole through our plating and wrecking the
topgallant forecastle, while several 4-pound projectiles pierced our
funnel, blew away our fore topmast, and knocked one corner of the
wheelhouse to smithereens.  But I did not care; the purpose which I had
in mind was fully worth all the damage and more, and I knew now that
unless I personally was hit and disabled, I should be able to accomplish
it.  For I meant to give that impudent destroyer the stem, to run her
down and sink her, knowing that our stout bows would shear through her
thin plating as though it were paper.  And the _Koryu_ had the speed to
do it, the destroyer having lost much of her speed by the barnacles and
weed on her bottom, which she exposed at every roll.

Evidently the Russian did not realise my purpose until it was too late;
he seemed to think I was a fool who was giving him a chance to inflict a
deadly raking upon me as he crossed my bows; and it was not until I
suddenly shifted my helm, rendering a collision inevitable, that what
was going to happen dawned upon him.  Then there arose a sudden outcry
as the crew forsook their guns and made a mad dash at the two small
boats slung to the davits, there was a frantic jangling of bells down in
the destroyer's engine-room, an officer on her bridge snatched a
revolver from his belt and snapped off five shots at me in as many
seconds--none of which took effect--and then we were upon her.  With
scarcely any perceptible shock we struck her fair and square amidships,
right in the wake of where I judged her boiler-room would be; there was
a horrible crackling and rending of wood and iron as our stem sheared
into and through her deck, a clamour of yells from the crew as they
fought with each other in their mad haste to lower the boats, and the
destroyer heeled over until she was almost on her beam-ends, a volleying
succession of deep, heavy _booms_, accompanied by a tremendous outburst
of steam, proclaimed that her boilers had burst, and at the same instant
she seemed to crumple up and break completely in two, her bow-half
sweeping along our port side, while her stern-half drove past to
starboard, the crew, unable to get the boats afloat, leaping desperately
overboard.  A moment before striking the craft, I had rung down an order
to the engine-room to stop the engines, and shouted for my crew to stand
by with ropes' ends; and now several of these were hove, by means of
which we managed to drag three Russians up on to our deck; and then we
backed astern and fished up eight more, all of whom we marched below and
locked up securely.  The other poor fellows, including the captain of
the boat, must have gone down with her, for we saw nothing more of them.
But we had taught the destroyers a lesson, for thenceforth they kept
their distance.

Examining into our own condition, we discovered that our injuries
arising out of the collision amounted to about as much paint scraped off
as might be replaced by the contents of a 10-pound tin, while all other
damage was so high above the waterline as to make it of no practical
account.  And we had not a man injured; so I considered that we had
emerged from the encounter very cheaply.

It was just half-past nine o'clock, by my watch, when, bursting through
the curtains of haze, our battle fleet hove in sight in the south-west
quarter, with flags flying, the water leaping and foaming about their
cutwaters, and a fine "white feather" of steam playing on the top of
their waste-pipes, indicating that the stokers were maintaining a full
head of steam in the boilers.  But--Japanese luck again--they were just
too late; for at that moment the Russian fleet entered the protective
zone of their shore batteries and, with a very poor attempt at bravado,
slowed down to a speed of about six knots, while the _Sevastopol,
Pobieda_, and _Peresviet_ came steaming out to meet them.  They had
managed to escape by the skin of their teeth; and now, in accordance
with the instructions given to the Admiral not to risk his ships by
pitting them against the shore batteries, we also were obliged to slow
up, and finally to stop our engines.  As a matter of fact, the time had
come for us to retire; but evidently everybody was curious to see what
would be the result of my mine-laying operations of the preceding night,
and by common consent we all lay-to.

We had not long to wait.  We saw some signalling going on between the
flagship and the three craft that had come out to meet the fleet; saw
the trio fall into line in rear of the retreating fleet; and then, while
our glasses were glued to our eyes as we watched the procession of great
ships sweeping majestically toward the harbour's mouth--from which they
were then little more than a mile distant--we suddenly beheld a
tremendous flash of fire envelop the bows of the _Petropavlosk_, the
flagship, which was leading the way into the harbour.  The flash was
accompanied by the upheaval of a gigantic cone of water and an outburst
of thick yellow smoke which at once told us that one of our mines had
got in its deadly work.  Instantly a great exultant roar of "Banzai
Nippon!" burst forth from the throats of the eagerly watching Japanese,
but it was as instantly checked when they began to realise the full
magnitude of the disaster that had befallen their enemy.  For even
before the sound of the shattering explosion reached our ears we saw her
fore topmast fall, saw long tongues of flame leap up from her decks, saw
her-two funnels whirl over and fall, one after the other, while her
bridge, pilot-house, and foremast soared high into the air; and so
tremendous was the force of the explosion that actually one of her
6-inch gun turrets was torn bodily from its strong fastenings and hurled
some twenty feet aloft, to crash downward again upon the hapless ship's
deck, while a great burst of flame, probably due to the explosion of her
boilers, shot up where her two funnels had stood a moment before.  A
series of heavy explosions followed, seeming to indicate the explosion
of her magazines, and then the doomed ship became enveloped in a thick
haze of green smoke, in the midst of which played great streams of fire.
Through that terrible green haze we were just able to see that she had
taken a heavy list to starboard; then her bows dipped, her stern rose
until her two propellers were lifted out of the water, a great
mushroom-shaped pillar of smoke shot up from her, and--she was gone!
And all this had happened in the short space of two minutes, during
which shells from our battleships were falling thick and fast about the
Russian ships, which had stopped their engines when the explosion
occurred, while some of them lowered boats, in the hope of being able to
render assistance to the unfortunate flagship.

With the disappearance of the flagship, the Russian fleet resumed its
way toward the harbour, the _Pobieda_ now being at the head of the line.
But scarcely had she started her engines when an enormous pillar of
flame, water, and smoke enveloped her amidships.  She, too, had come
into contact with one of our mines, but, fortunately for her, with much
less disastrous results than those attending the destruction of the
_Petropavlosk_.  She instantly listed, showing that she was severely
damaged, but beyond that nothing further happened, so far as we could
see, except that the second explosion appeared to have created a perfect
panic among the Russians, who immediately opened a terrific fire with
every gun, big or small, apparently at random, for we could see the
shots throwing up great jets of foam in the water all round them.
Later, we learned that when the second explosion occurred, some one
aboard one of the ships yelled that the fleet was surrounded by Japanese
submarines, discharging torpedoes; hence the frantic firing at the
water.  Of course the assertion was groundless, since, as a matter of
fact, the Japanese had no submarines; but it is not very surprising
that, with two disasters, one following so closely upon the heels of the
other, the Russians should jump to the conclusion that they had been
attacked by submarines; for it must be remembered that we had carefully
educated them into the belief that our mines were quite harmless.

The loss of the _Petropavlosk_ was a terrible misfortune for the
Russians, for she was one of their most formidable ships; being armed
with four 12-inch guns of the most recent design, mounted in pairs in
her two big turrets; with, as a secondary battery, twelve 6-inch
quick-fire guns, eight of which were mounted in pairs in four small
turrets placed, two on either beam, behind 5-inch steel armour, while
the other four were in casemates similarly protected.  She had six
torpedo tubes, and we conjectured that she probably had a torpedo in
each tube which exploded at the time of the disaster.

As for the _Pobieda_, our spies were able to ascertain that the mine
which damaged her had breached three of her big compartments and some
smaller ones, so that it was only with the utmost difficulty she was got
into harbour and beached in time to save her.  Also one set of her
Belleville boilers was so severely damaged as to be rendered useless.
Consequently she, too, was put out of action for a considerable period.

Thus, at one fell swoop, the Russian fleet was reduced in strength by
two battleships.  But their worst loss was their Admiral; for it is
indisputable that Makarov was the most able, energetic, and enterprising
naval leader they possessed.

Two days later, more mines were laid in Port Arthur roadstead, and
another attempt was made to entice the Russian fleet to come out and
fight us; but the attempt was a failure.  As a matter of fact, it
afterwards transpired that, upon receipt of the report announcing the
loss of the _Petropavlosk_ and the damage to the _Pobieda_, the
authorities at Petersburg had telegraphed orders to the effect that the
Port Arthur fleet was on no account whatever to leave the harbour until
the arrival of Admiral Skrydloff, Makarov's successor.

Failing in this, Admiral Togo dispatched the cruisers _Nisshin_ and
_Kasuga_ to Pigeon Bay, to make a high-angle fire attack upon the
fortress and the ships in the harbour.  I was not engaged in either of
these attempts, the Admiral considering that I had well earned and was
deserving of a few days' rest.  Besides, he very properly wished to give
some of his other officers a chance to distinguish themselves.  But I
understood that, with the exception of silencing a new battery which the
Russians had built commanding the bay, the bombardment was not attended
with any very important results.

On the following day our little Admiral, whom some have named the
Japanese Nelson, dispatched a squadron of ten cruisers, accompanied by a
torpedo flotilla, to attempt to bring the Vladivostock squadron to
battle.  This squadron was accompanied by a cargo steamer named the
_Kinshiu Maru_, loaded with coal and spare stores for the use of the
squadron while away from its base; and the expedition was placed under
the command of Vice-Admiral Kamimura, with the cruiser _Idzumi_ as his
flagship.  I had now had a little rest, and as there seemed to be no
immediate prospect of serious fighting at Port Arthur, I volunteered for
the expedition, and was temporarily attached to the _Idzumi_ as a
supernumerary.

We left our base among the Elliot Islands on the 16th of April; and
after an uneventful cruise of a week's duration arrived at the port of
Gensan, on the eastern coast of Korea, about two-thirds of the distance
from the Elliots to Vladivostock.

There was a Japanese consul at this place, and upon our arrival off the
port he and the Commandant came off in a steam launch and, boarding the
_Idzumi_, requested an interview with the Admiral, which was at once
granted, and the pair were conducted to Kamimura's cabin, where they
remained for the best part of an hour.  At the close of the interview
the visitors entered their steam launch and returned to the shore.  Some
ten minutes later, Kamimura sent for me; and when I entered the cabin I
found him poring over a chart of the east coast of Korea.  He welcomed
me with the usual elaborate courtesy of the Japanese in their
intercourse with each other as well as with strangers, and invited me to
approach the table.

"I am particularly glad that it is my good fortune to have the pleasure
of your honourable company, Captain Swinburne," he began; "for an
occasion has just arisen upon which I think your services may prove of
the utmost value.  You see this little place--Iwon--on the chart.  The
two honourable gentlemen who have just visited me--the Commandant of
Gensan and our Japanese consul stationed here--inform me that rumours
have reached their ears of certain suspicious occurrences at Iwon which
seem to point to the possibility that the Russian Government may be
contemplating the dispatch of a large body of troops to Vladivostock by
rail, their embarkation there for Iwon, at which spot they may land,
march across Korea, and take our troops at Port Arthur in the rear.  To
tell you the truth, I have not much faith in the idea, the only point in
its favour being that such a movement would be wholly unanticipated by
us.  But in view of the information which I have just received, it is my
bounden duty to investigate the matter; and I therefore propose to
dispatch the _Kinshiu Maru_ on a reconnoitring expedition to Iwon, to
ascertain what foundation, if any, there may be for the suspicion.  As
of course you are aware, she carries a small detachment of troops, who
may be very useful, should any opposition be met with.  These troops
will, of course, be commanded by their own officers, while Captain Yago
will continue to command the ship.  But, being a merchant seaman, he has
had no experience of landing troops; and that is where your services
will prove of value, especially should any resistance be offered.  I
therefore want you to change over temporarily to the _Kinshiu_, still as
a supernumerary, but with my authority for you to take charge of and
superintend the landing and subsequent embarkation arrangements.  I am
afraid this will mean a certain amount of disappointment for you, since
as soon as you have started I shall proceed in search of the
Vladivostock fleet.  But you must endeavour to console yourself with the
reflection that I may not find them, or be able to entice them to come
out and fight me."

It was true, I certainly did feel a bit disappointed, for I most
earnestly desired to see what it was like to be engaged in a regular
pitched battle, even though it were only between a couple of hostile
squadrons; but I was where I was, to lend a hand where required, not to
pick and choose what I would or would not do; in any case I was not
going to make occasion for it to be said that an Englishman had
unwillingly accepted any duty offered to him; therefore with as much
cheerfulness as I could muster, I expressed my perfect readiness to do
my best; whereupon Kamimura gave me my written instructions and
dismissed me to pack up such few of my belongings as I thought I might
need.  However, as I had only brought a very limited kit aboard the
_Idzumi_, I decided to take everything, since it would all go into a
small portmanteau.

Meanwhile, the skipper of the _Kinshiu_ had been signalled to have a
cabin prepared for me, and for him and Captain Honda, the officer in
command of the troops, to repair on board the _Idzumi_ to receive their
instructions.  They of course came at once, had a short interview with
the Admiral, and we all left together, Honda doing the honours of the
ship, welcoming me on board the transport, and introducing his
fellow-officers, all of whom seemed very jolly fellows, with but one
desire, namely, to get to grips with the Russians.

We left Gensan that afternoon, escorted by the 11th torpedo-boat
flotilla under the command of Commander Takebe; the cruisers weighing at
the same time and heading east, in the hope of seeing or hearing
something of the Russians.

Unfortunately for us, we had not been under way a couple of hours before
we ran into a dense fog which delayed our progress to such an extent
that we did not reach Iwon until the morning of the 25th.  We found
there a long, roughly constructed wooden jetty running far enough out
from the shore to give a depth of about six feet alongside its head, at
low water, which greatly facilitated our landing; and, ashore, we
discovered certain artfully concealed field-works of such a character
that, armed with a few heavy guns, they might have pretty effectually
covered a landing, unless interfered with by a very powerful force.  But
our visit was evidently quite unexpected, for we only found a small body
of Russian troops--about a hundred or so, with a squadron of Cossacks--
in possession; and a few shells from our torpedo-boats sent them to the
right-about in double-quick time.  We destroyed the earthworks, and the
jetty, as a precautionary measure, and, having reconnoitred the country
for several miles in every direction without discovering anything very
alarming, returned to the ship the same night, without casualties of any
kind.

It was now about six o'clock in the evening.  During the greater part of
the day the weather had been beautifully fine; but toward three o'clock
in the afternoon a heavy bank of dark, slate-coloured cloud had gathered
in the eastern quarter of the sky, so quickly rising and spreading that,
by five o'clock, the entire firmament had become obscured, the wind
dropped to a dead calm, the light dwindled to a murky, unnatural kind of
twilight, there were a few flickerings of sheet lightning, low down on
the horizon, occasionally accompanied by a low muttering of distant
thunder, and the mercury was dropping with rather ominous rapidity.

I confess that, for my own part, I felt a bit puzzled; I did not quite
know what to make of the weather indications.  It might be that nothing
worse than a violent thunderstorm was brewing; but against this theory
there was to be set the sudden and ominous decline of the barometric
pressure.  We had fulfilled our task, and were preparing to get under
way, when Takebe, who was in command of the torpedo flotilla, came
aboard to consult with our skipper as to the advisability of going to
sea, in the face of such threatening conditions.

Unfortunately, our escort was composed entirely of torpedo-boats; and
although they were staunch enough little craft of their kind, they were
nothing like such good sea boats as our destroyers.  The latter were,
under able management, capable of riding out practically any weather,
but with the torpedo-boats it was rather a different story.  Some of
those that we had with us were small and rather ancient, their engines
were not to be too implicitly relied upon, and their boilers were nearly
worn-out; indeed, they would never have been detailed for the service,
had it been thought that there would be any likelihood of real righting.
If by any chance they should happen to be caught at sea in anything
like a heavy gale, and anything should go wrong with either their
engines or their boilers, the probability was that they would founder,
taking all hands with them.

It was these considerations that were weighing upon Commander Takebe's
mind when he came aboard the _Kinshiu_ to consult with Captain Yagi; and
it was evident from his first words that he was all in favour of
adopting the prudent course, and staying where we were until it could be
seen how matters were going to turn out.  But Yagi and he looked at
things with different eyes.  In the first place, Yagi did not believe
that the portents indicated anything more serious than, at worst, a
sharp thunderstorm, while at the same time his instructions from
Kamimura were that the reconnaissance was to be executed with the utmost
dispatch, and that, this done, he was to immediately return to Gensan,
so that he might be on the spot in the event of the cruisers needing to
re-bunker.  And in any case, should it come on to blow, as Commander
Takebe seemed to fear, he had no apprehensions concerning the _Kinshiu_;
she was a good sturdy little ship, and would weather out the worst that
was at all likely to happen.

The two discussed the matter together for quite half an hour,
occasionally referring to me for my opinion; but both of them were
considerably older than I, and had had a much more varied experience
than myself of the somewhat peculiar weather conditions of the Sea of
Japan; I therefore said as little as possible, and did not attempt to
offer a word of advice to either of them.  Finally, the matter ended by
each of them having his own way--that is to say, Yagi decided to leave
for Gensan forthwith, unescorted, taking such trifling risk as there
might be--which, they both agreed, amounted practically to none at all--
while Takebe determined to study the safety of his command by remaining
where he was and awaiting developments.  Accordingly, as soon as the
Commander had gone, the order was given to get the anchor; and about
seven o'clock we steamed out to sea.



CHAPTER NINE.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE KINSHIU MARU.

By the time that we were fairly out at sea, it was pitch dark, not a
star to be seen, and to add still further to the obscurity, a light mist
gathered, as it so often does in the Japan Sea, so that by eight o'clock
it was only with the utmost difficulty that we were able to discern a
small junk which we had in tow, and which had been employed by us to
facilitate the landing of the troops.  The weather still continued
overcast, and the play of sheet lightning gradually grew more vivid and
frequent; but there was no wind, and not much sea; and as time went on I
began to think, with Yagi, that Takebe's apprehensions had been
groundless, and that we were in for nothing worse than, may be, a
thunderstorm, after all.

I spent a couple of hours in the saloon that night, watching the
infantry officers, of whom there were six, playing some wonderful game
of cards, of which I could make nothing, and then strolled up on the
bridge to see what the weather was like, and to have a yarn with Yagi,
before turning in for the night.  It was still hazy and very overcast,
but there was not a breath of air save the draught created by the motion
of the ship, and there was a very beautiful display of sheet lightning,
almost continuous, which lighted up the clouds, the mist, and the sea in
the most marvellous manner.

The ship was then heading south-east, with all her lights burning
brightly, as in duty bound, and I was sitting astride a camp-stool, with
my shoulders resting against the port rail of the bridge, while Yagi,
also occupying a camp-stool, sat facing me.  He was spinning some yarn--
a sort of Japanese fairy tale, it seemed to be--about a geisha, while I
was staring contemplatively into the darkness over the starboard bow,
watching the wonderful play of the lightning, when suddenly, as a flash
lighted up the gloom, I thought I caught a momentary glimpse of three or
four dark shapes, about a mile away, broad on the starboard bow.  If I
had really seen those shapes, they could only be ships, _and they were
showing no lights_; I therefore ruthlessly cut into the skipper's yarn
by directing his attention to the point where the momentary vision had
revealed itself.

"What is that you say?" he exclaimed.  "Ships without lights?  Then it
must be our Admiral, still hunting for the Vladivostock squadron.  Well,
we have not seen them, and we had better tell him so, and at the same
time inquire whether he has any fresh orders for us.  Mr Uchida,"--to
the chief officer,--"our squadron is away out there, somewhere on the
starboard bow.  Have the goodness to honourably make our night signal,
as I wish to speak the Admiral."

Uchida hurried away and, the signal lanterns being always kept ready for
immediate use, in less than a minute they were hoisted.  Meanwhile there
had been no further lightning flashes to illuminate the darkness, and I
rose to my feet, for we were still steaming ahead at full speed, and I
had a feeling that we must be drawing pretty close to the strangers.  As
I did so, our signal was answered by the imperative order: "Stop
immediately!"  And at the same instant a brilliant and protracted
flicker of sheet lightning revealed four large ships, not more than
three cables' lengths distant.  The leading ship was a big lump of a
four-funnelled cruiser, the funnels coloured white, with black tops, and
she carried three masts.  The second craft was very similar in general
appearance to the first, also having four white, black-topped funnels,
and three masts.  The third was a two-masted, three-funnelled ship;
while the fourth was of distinctly ancient appearance, being of the
period when sails were as much used as steam.  She had two funnels, and
was barque-rigged, with royal yards across, but she was now under steam,
with all her canvas furled.  We had no such ships in our fleet, while I
instantly identified the barque-rigged craft as the Russian cruiser
_Rurik_, of the Vladivostock squadron!  That squadron, then, for which
Admiral Kamimura was especially hunting, was actually at sea, and we had
fallen in with it!

There was not the least doubt about it.  In every wardroom and gunroom
of every Japanese warship there was an album containing a beautiful,
complete set of photographs of every ship in the Russian navy, each ship
being pictured from at least four different points of view; and it was a
part of every officer's duty to study these photographs until he had
acquired the ability to identify at sight any Russian warship he might
chance to encounter.  Thus, in the leading ship of the squadron in
sight, a moment's reflection enabled me to recognise the _Rossia_, with,
astern of her, the _Gromoboi_, then the _Bogatyr_, and finally the
_Rurik_.

"Jove!"  I exclaimed.  "We've done it now, with a vengeance, Yagi.
Those four ships comprise the Russian Vladivostock squadron; and we are
right under their guns!  Stop her, man, for heaven's sake.  It is the
only thing you can do.  If you don't, the beggars will sink us out of
hand."

"They will probably do that in any case," growled Yagi, as he laid his
hand on the engine-room telegraph and rang down an order to stop the
engines.  "But, as you honourably say, Captain, it is the only thing to
be done, although it means the interior of a Russian prison for all
hands of us."

As the _Kinshiu's_ engines stopped, the _Rossia_ turned her searchlights
upon us, brought her guns to bear, and lowered two boats, the crews of
which we could see were armed to the teeth.  And at the same moment two
destroyers loomed up out of the darkness, one of which stationed herself
on our port bow, while the other placed herself upon our starboard
quarter, each of them with their tubes and guns manned.  Evidently, the
Russians did not mean to leave us the smallest loophole for escape.

The six Japanese infantry officers, noting the stoppage of our engines,
came rushing up on deck to learn what was the matter; and upon hearing
that the strange ships which had stopped us were Russian warships,
hurried away below again, presumably, I thought, to give orders of some
sort to the troops under their command.

The _Rossia_, with the way she had on her, had by this time closed to
within about twenty-five fathoms of us; and at this juncture an officer
on her bridge hailed, ordering our skipper to send a boat.

"Good!" ejaculated Yagi.  "We will do so.  But we will not go aboard the
_Rossia_.  Oh, no.  We will slip away in the darkness and make for the
land.  And you will honourably accompany us, will you not, Captain?  A
Russian prison has no attractions for you, eh?"

"You are right, my friend, it has not," I answered; "for which reason I
must decline to accompany you.  Because you will never get away, Yagi.
How can you, with those searchlights turned full upon us, and those
destroyers where they are?"

"Nevertheless, I shall try," answered the skipper; and he turned away to
bellow an order to the crew to clear away and lower the port lifeboat,
the port side being shielded from the glare of the searchlights.  Then I
heard him order the chief officer to superintend the lowering of the
boat, and at the same time to smuggle an extra breaker of water and a
bag or two of biscuits into her.

Then he turned again to me.  "If you will not come with us, what will
you honourably do, my friend?" he demanded.

"Oh," said I, "I shall join the infantry officers below, and see what
they are going to do."  And without further parley, I ran down the
ladder and made my way below to the saloon, where I found the six
officers sitting at the table, looking very pale and grave.

"Well, gentlemen," I cried, "here we are, in a nice little Russian trap.
What do you propose to do?"

"We thought at first of performing hari-kari," said one of them.  "But
Captain Nagai, with whom you were discussing the subject of hari-kari,
only the night before last, appears to have come round to your way of
thinking that it is better to live for the Emperor than to die for him.
He argues--as you did--that a dead man can do nothing for his Emperor,
whereas a living man may be able to do many things; in which statement
there is truth.  Therefore we propose to surrender to the Russians, in
the honourable hope that we may be able to effect our escape, sooner or
later, and return to fight for Nippon.  What do you honourably propose
to do, Captain?"

"Oh," said I, "to surrender seems the most sensible thing to do, and
doubtless I shall do it--eventually.  Meanwhile, however, I think I will
toddle up on deck again, and see how Yagi and the ship's crew are
getting on.  They are going to try to slip away in the ship's lifeboat,
you know?"

"Banzai!" cried one of the officers.  "I hope they will honourably
succeed.  But, having decided to surrender, I think the safest place is
down here.  Doubtless we shall soon see you again."

"Y-e-s,--possibly," I replied.  "But I shall not surrender until the
last moment; so, if you do not see me again, you may conclude that I
have found some means of effecting my escape, and have seized them."

Saying which, I shook hands with them all round, and returned to the
deck.  During my brief visit to the saloon, Yagi and his men had got
their boat into the water, and were now pulling boldly for the _Rossia_;
but I noticed that directly they passed out of the area of radiance cast
by the searchlight, they shifted their helm sharply and, crossing the
cruiser's bows, were evidently endeavouring to slip past her in the
gloom of her own shadow.

Then, suddenly, an idea occurred to me.  The _Kinshiu Maru_ had in tow a
small junk, or lighter, which we had used to facilitate the landing of
the soldiers at Iwon.  Where was she now?

Crouching low under the cover of the bulwarks, to avoid being seen by
those aboard the _Rossia_, I slipped aft and, cautiously peering over
the taffrail, saw that she had drifted right in under the _Kinshiu's_
counter, where she was momentarily threatening to bilge herself against
the steamer's iron rudder, as the two craft ground against each other on
the swell.  The forward half of her lay in the deep shadow of the
_Kinchiu's_ stern--a shadow rendered still deeper and more opaque by the
vivid brilliance of the searchlight beam that covered the stern-half of
her, and it immediately occurred to me that if I could but climb down
into her, unobserved, and cut her adrift, I might possibly contrive to
avoid entering a Russian prison after all.

No sooner thought of than done; the moment was propitious, the towing
hawser lay under my hand, and in another moment I was down upon her tiny
forecastle, hacking away at the grass rope with my pocket-knife.  The
blade was keen, as a sailor's knife should always be, and with a few
vigorous slashes the hawser was severed and I was adrift.  Then, taking
advantage of the heave of the two craft, I managed to move the junk
until she lay entirely in the shadow cast by the _Kinshiu's_ hull.

At this juncture I heard the gruff voices of Russians overhead, on the
transport's deck, and, thinking discretion the better part of valour
under the circumstances, dropped off the junk's short fore deck into her
shallow hold and there concealed myself, lest any inquisitive Russian
should peer over the bulwarks, catch sight of me, and order me up on
deck again.  I don't know whether it occurred to any of the enemy to
look over the side, but I do not think so; at all events, if they did,
nobody took the trouble to come down and search the junk; and in a few
minutes the voices ceased; I took it that the visitors had gone below to
search the ship.  If they had, what would happen to them, with over a
hundred armed Japanese soldiers down there?

I had not long to wait for an answer to this question.  About two
minutes of silence succeeded to the sudden cessation of the Russians'
voices on deck, and then the muffled crack of a pistol-shot rang out
from the _Kinshiu's_ interior, instantly followed by a shout of "Banzai
Nippon!" and the crack of several rifles; there arose a sudden outburst
of yells and execrations in Russian, a stampede of many feet along the
deck, the sounds of a scuffling hand-to-hand fight, a volley of orders
from the Russian officer in command of the boarding party, a hoarse hail
from one of the warships, and then the rattle and splash of oars hastily
thrown out.  Evidently, the Japanese soldiers had given the intruders a
warm reception.

The hurried departure of the boarding party was quickly followed by a
rolling volley of rifle-fire from the _Kinshiu_, apparently directed
upon the retreating boats, for I heard cries and groans which seemed to
proceed from them.  Then, from the _Rossia_ came the sudden, snapping
bark of her quick-firers and machine-guns, and a storm of missiles
crashed through the transport's thin bulwarks or flew whining overhead,
intermingled with shrieks, groans, and excited shouts from the Japanese
soldiers, who had evidently resolved to die fighting, rather than
surrender.  The sounds awakened the fighting instinct within me; I felt
that, let happen what would, I must be among those gallant fellows,
doing my share of the work; and I nipped out from under the junk's short
deck, intent upon climbing aboard the _Kinshiu_ again.  And then I found
that during the short period of my seclusion, the junk had parted
company, and was now a good twenty feet distant from the transport.
True, I might jump overboard and swim the intervening space, and I was
actually poising myself for the dive when the question flashed into my
brain: How was I to get aboard, how climb the vessel's smooth iron side.
There were no ropes hanging overboard, save the severed towing hawser,
and I had cut through that so high up that even when the steamer's stern
dipped, the end did not reach within a couple of feet of the water.  I
recognised that whether I would or not, I must now stay where I was, for
return to the steamer was impossible.  And while I stood there on the
junk's short fore deck, watching the scene with fascinated eyes, that
awful, unequal duel went on between the Japanese rifles and the
_Rossia's_ machine-guns; the soldiers frenziedly yelling "Banzai
Nippon!" between each volley, while the Russian gunners plied their
pieces in grim silence.  The _Kinshiu's_ deck, I knew, must be by this
time a veritable shambles, for the Russian cruiser lay close aboard, and
her machine-guns could sweep the transport's decks from stem to stern;
moreover, the rapid and ominous slackening of the rifle-fire testified
eloquently to the frightful carnage that was proceeding.  The cries of
"Banzai Nippon!" were no longer thundered forth in a defiant roar, but
were raised by a few voices only, which were almost drowned by the
dreadful shrieks and moans of the wounded and dying.

Then, suddenly, there occurred a frightful explosion, the _Kinshiu Maru_
was hove up on a mountain of foaming water which belched forth fire and
smoke, the air became suddenly full of flying splinters and wreckage, a
heavy fragment of which smote me full upon the forehead and knocked me
back into the junk's hold, and as my senses left me I was dimly
conscious of a wailing cry, pealing out across the water, of "Sayonara!"
(Farewell for ever).  It was the last good-bye to Emperor, country, and
all who were nearest and dearest to them of that heroic little band of
Japanese infantry-men who preferred to die fighting gloriously, rather
than win inglorious safety by surrender.  The Russians had made an end
of the affair by torpedoing the transport, and she must have sunk within
a very few minutes.

When I recovered my senses it was broad daylight.  For a few moments I
knew not where I was, or what had happened to me, but I was conscious of
the most splitting headache from which I had ever suffered in my life.
The next thing that dawned upon me was that I was lying in the bottom of
a small craft of some sort, which was rolling and plunging most
atrociously on a short, choppy sea, that I was chilled to the very
marrow, and that water was washing about and over me with every motion
of the boat.  I was wet to the skin and, although shivering with cold,
my blood scorched my veins as though it were liquid fire.

I sat up, staring vaguely about me, and then became aware of a curious
stiff feeling in the skin of my face.  Putting my hands to my head, to
still the throbbing smart of it, I found that my hair was all clogged
with some sticky kind of liquid which, upon looking at my hands, I found
to be blood, evidently my own.  This at once explained the curious stiff
feeling of my face; it was probably caused by dry caked blood.  But, to
make sure, I sprang open the case of my watch--the polished surface
serving well enough for a mirror--and gravely studied my reflected
image.  I must have presented a ghastly sight, for my whole face was a
mask of blood, out of which my eyes glared feverishly.  Then, as I
continued to stare at the interior of my watch-case, wondering what it
all meant, my memory of the events of the preceding night--I knew it
must be the preceding night, because my watch was still going--all came
back to me, and I understood where I was.

Scrambling giddily to my feet, I looked about me and saw a bucket
rolling to and fro on the junk's bottom-boards.  The sight suggested an
idea to me and, taking the bucket and the end of a small line which I
bent on to the handle, I somehow managed to hoist myself up on to the
small foredeck and, lying prone--for I dared not as yet trust myself to
stand--I lowered the bucket, and drew it up again, full of clean,
sparkling salt-water.  Into this I plunged my head, keeping it immersed
as long as my breath would allow, meanwhile removing the blood from my
face and hair as well as I could.  The contact of the cold salt-water
made my lacerated forehead and scalp smart most atrociously, yet it
relieved my headache and greatly refreshed me.  Then, stripping off my
wet shirt, I tore a long strip from it and, thoroughly saturating it in
the clean salt-water, bound up my wound as best I could, after which I
felt distinctly better.

Then, sitting on the little deck, I looked about me to see if I could
discover any traces of last night's horror; but there was a moderate
breeze blowing, and I instantly recognised that the junk must have
drifted several miles from the spot where the disaster had occurred.
There was nothing to be seen, no, not so much as a solitary scrap of
wreckage, within the radius of a mile, beyond which everything was
blotted out by a curtain of haze.

By this time I had pretty completely recovered my senses, and was able
to fully realise my situation.  I was wet, cold, feverish, and horribly
thirsty, and was the sole occupant of a small, leaky junk of about
twenty-five tons, without masts or sails, these having been removed in
order the better to fit her for the duty of carrying troops.  She had a
pair of sweeps aboard, it is true; but they were so ponderous that each
demanded the strength of four men to work it; they were therefore quite
useless to me, even had I known precisely where I was, which I did not.
All I knew was that I was some fifty miles, or thereabout, to the
southward and eastward of Iwon; but I might as well have been five
hundred miles from the place, for all the means I had of returning to
it, or even of making a shot at Gensan.  The fact was that I was adrift
in a hulk; and the utmost that I could do was to keep her afloat, if
possible, and patiently wait for something to come along and take me off
her.

Realising this, I proceeded to overhaul the junk, with a view to
ascertaining what were her resources.  I remembered that a cask of fresh
water had been put aboard her for the use of the troops while landing
and embarking; and I soon found this, still more than half-full, snugly
stowed away under her foredeck, with a lot of raffle consisting of odds
and ends of line of varying sizes, a fragment of fishing-net, a few
short lengths of planking, and other utterly useless stuff.  I drank
dipper after dipper of water, until my raging thirst was quenched, and
then stripped off my clothes, wrung them out, and spread them to dry in
the wind while I rubbed my body dry with my hands, employing a
considerable amount of exertion, in order to restore warmth to my
cramped limbs.  In this effort I was at length successful; and my next
business was to search the other end of the junk, in the vague hope that
I might find something in the way of food; but there was none; therefore
I had to go hungry.  I had a bucket, however, and with this I bailed the
hooker practically dry, as much to pass the time and keep myself warm,
as for any other reason.  Then, having done everything that I could
think of, all that remained for me was to wait as patiently as might be
for something to come along and rescue me.

My position was by no means an enviable one.  I had no food; but, for
the moment, that did not greatly matter, since the smart of my wound had
made me feverish, and I had no appetite.  On the other hand, I suffered
from an incessant thirst, which even the copious draughts of water in
which I frequently indulged did little to allay.  The weather was
overcast, and there was a thin mist lying upon the surface of the grey
sea which circumscribed my view to a radius of less than a mile, and the
air was keenly raw.  I recognised that it was necessary to keep myself
constantly active, to counteract the effect of the chilly atmosphere,
and this I did, bustling about, overhauling the raffle in the junk, and
executing a good deal of utterly useless work, which I varied from time
to time by taking long spells of watching, in the hope of sighting some
craft to which I might signal for assistance.  Also I repeatedly bathed
my head in sea water, which did a little toward reducing the feeling of
feverishness from which I was suffering.

Toward the afternoon the conditions became more favourable.  The clouds
broke, the sun came out and took the feeling of rawness out of the air,
so that I no longer suffered from the cold, and the mist melted away,
affording me a clear view to the horizon.  But the sea was bare; there
was not even so much as a blur of steamer's smoke staining the sky in
any direction; and I began to wonder how long it might be before I
should be picked up, or whether indeed I should be picked up at all.  I
knew, of course, that the non-arrival of the _Kinshiu_ at Gensan would
give rise to speculation, and that probably a search for her would be
instituted along the course which she might be expected to steer, but I
was already several miles from that course, and hourly drifting farther
from it.  The question of importance to me was whether the search would
extend over a sufficiently wide area to take me in.

The remainder of that day passed uneventfully for me; I could do nothing
beyond what I have already indicated; no craft of any description hove
in sight; and toward sunset the pangs of hunger began to manifest
themselves.  I watched the sea until night closed down; and then, when
it became so dark that further watching was useless, I crept in under
the fore deck among the raffle and turned in upon such a bed as I had
been able to prepare for myself during the day, in anticipation of the
possibility that I might be obliged to pass the night aboard the junk.

As might be supposed, under the circumstances, the earlier part of the
night at least was full of discomfort for me; but somewhere along in the
small hours I dropped off to sleep, and eventually slept soundly, to be
awakened by the noise of steam blowing off, close at hand.  I started
up, listened for a moment to assure myself that the sound was not an
illusion, and, satisfied that it was real, scrambled up on the junk's
deck, to be greeted with the sight of several ships of war close at
hand.  A single glance sufficed to assure me that my troubles were at an
end; for the ships in sight were those of Admiral Kamimura's squadron,
the _Idzumi_ being hove-to at less than a cable's length distant, in the
very act of lowering a boat.  There were several officers on her bridge,
and she was close enough to enable me to see that they were all
scrutinising the junk through their glasses; I therefore waved to them,
and was waved to in reply.  A few minutes later the boat, in charge of a
lieutenant, dashed smartly alongside and the officer scrambled nimbly up
the junk's low side.

I think he had not recognised me until then, although we knew each other
very well.  He gazed at me dubiously for a moment, then his hand shot
out to grasp mine as he exclaimed:

"Hillo! my dear Swinburne, what does this mean; what are you doing here?
And are you all alone?"

I answered his question by informing him, in as few words as possible,
of what had happened to the ill-fated _Kinshiu Maru_, and then we got
down into the boat and pulled across to the _Idzumi_, where Kamimura and
his officers were impatiently awaiting us.  They gave me the warmest of
welcomes, and would not even permit me to tell them my story, the
lieutenant who had rescued me assuring them that he had already obtained
all the particulars and could tell it as well as I could.  I was
accordingly at once turned over to the care of the ship's surgeon, and
made comfortable in the sick bay, the squadron immediately resuming its
cruise.

Now that the tension of looking after myself was relaxed, a reaction set
in, with high fever, and for the next four days I was really ill, with
frequent intervals of delirium.  But there were no complications of any
kind, and by the end of the sixth day I was so far recovered as to be
able to dress and sit up for an hour or two.  Everybody aboard the
_Idzumi_ was exceedingly kind to me, as kind indeed as though they had
been brothers; and this fraternal feeling of kindly interest was not
confined to the _Idzumi_ alone, Kamimura himself informing me, with a
smile, that it had become quite a habit for the other ships to signal an
inquiry as to my condition, every morning.  As the officers of the ship
came off watch, they came tiptoeing along to inquire after me; and if I
happened to be awake, and the doctor permitted it, they would sit and
chat with me for half an hour or so before retiring to their cabins, by
which means I gradually acquired all the missing links in the story of
the squadron's abortive cruise.

From these conversations I gathered that after the squadron and the
_Kinshiu_ parted company off Gensan, while we in the transport headed
for Iwon, the squadron proceeded toward Vladivostock, being much delayed
by a dense fog, through which it steamed at half-speed, each ship towing
a fog buoy as a guide to the ship immediately following, though, even
with this assistance, keeping touch was only accomplished with extreme
difficulty.  Thus they proceeded until, by dead reckoning, they arrived
at a point seventy miles south of Vladivostock, when, the weather being
much too thick to permit of fighting the enemy, even should the two
fleets blunder together, Admiral Kamimura decided to retrace his steps,
arriving at Gensan two days later.  Here the Japanese consul boarded the
_Idzumi_ and imparted to the Admiral the startling information that on
the previous day four strange warships, accompanied by a couple of
destroyers, had appeared off the port, the warships being later
identified as those constituting the Vladivostock squadron.  The
destroyers had entered the harbour, boarded a small Japanese craft
loaded with fish, ordered her crew to get into her boat and go ashore,
and had then torpedoed her; the expended torpedo being probably at least
as valuable as the ship which it sank!  Later on, the Russian cruisers
had entered the harbour, but had left again without doing any damage.
In reply to an inquiry concerning the _Kinshiu Maru_, the consul replied
that neither she nor her escort had yet returned.  This information
caused Admiral Kamimura some uneasiness, since there had been time for
us to do all that we had been ordered to do, and to get back to Gensan;
and the squadron was actually getting its anchors, preparatory to its
departure to hunt for the transport, when Commander Takebe with his
torpedo-boats arrived.  Questioned as to the whereabouts of the
_Kinshiu_, he expressed surprise at her non-arrival, briefly relating
particulars of the discussion which had resulted in the transport
leaving Iwon, unescorted, while he remained in harbour to see what the
weather developments were going to be.

This was enough for Kamimura.  Takebe's story, in conjunction with that
of the consul at Gensan, convinced the Admiral that something very
serious had happened; and he at once gave orders for the torpedo
flotilla to proceed along the coast to hunt for news of the transport,
while he, with his squadron, started off in chase of the Russians.

It was on the morning following this second departure of the squadron
from Gensan, that they sighted the junk from which I was rescued.  It is
possible that, in his eagerness to overtake the Russians, he might have
pushed on without pausing to examine a small, apparently derelict junk,
but for the fact that, fortunately for me, two or three of the
_Idzumi's_ officers recognised her as the junk which the _Kinshiu_ had
taken with her to facilitate the landing operations at Iwon.

After they had taken me off the junk, the Japanese had pushed ahead
direct for Vladivostock, in the hope of arriving there before the
Russians.  But in this hope they were disappointed.  Upon their arrival,
the Russian cruisers were seen to be already back in harbour; and all
that was accomplished was to drive precipitately back into the harbour
two Russian destroyers which had the impudence--or the courage--to come
out and threaten them; and also to exchange a few shots with the Russian
forts.



CHAPTER TEN.

ITO'S YARN.

We arrived at our rendezvous among the Hall Islands on the afternoon of
May 3rd, and found the place practically deserted, those who were left
behind reporting that Admiral Togo and the fleet had left for Port
Arthur, the previous day, for the purpose of making a third attempt to
seal up the Russian fleet in the harbour.  I was by this time making
excellent progress toward recovery, but the _Idzumi's_ surgeon
considered that I should do still better in the hospital ashore; I was
therefore landed within half an hour of the ship's coming to an anchor,
and that evening found me comfortably established in the roomy
convalescent ward, in charge of an excellent and assiduous medical and
nursing staff.  The latter was composed of young Japanese women, than
whom, I think it would be impossible to find more gentle, attentive and
tender sick-room attendants.  I don't know whether they were more than
usually kind to me because I happened to be a foreigner who was helping
to fight Japan's battles in her hour of need, but it appeared to me that
they were vying with each other as to who should do the most for me.
Had I been a king, they could not have done more for me than they did.

On the following morning, having been assisted to rise and dress by the
two nurses whose especial charge I was, and established by them near an
open window overlooking the roadstead, I was making play with a
particularly appetising breakfast when, glancing out of the window, I
saw a big fleet of transports arriving--there were eighty-three in all,
for I had the curiosity to count them; and while they were coming to an
anchor another fleet appeared, consisting of the warships which had been
to Port Arthur to assist in the attempt to seal up the harbour.  So
interested was I in these arrivals that, in watching them, I allowed my
breakfast to go cold, and nothing would satisfy my nurses but that they
must get me another breakfast, which they did.

I had scarcely finished my belated meal and been attended to by the
surgeon, when the door of the ward was thrown open, and in rushed my
former lieutenant, Ito, now captain of the destroyer _Akatsuki_.  He had
volunteered for service on the 2nd, it appeared, and upon his return had
encountered the _Idzumi's_ Number 1, who had related to Ito my adventure
aboard the junk, and the good fellow had straightway come to the
hospital to see me "and pay his respects."  Also, I shrewdly suspected,
to spin me the yarn of his own adventures.  But he insisted upon hearing
my story first; and when I had told it, in the fewest words possible, he
told me his own, which, stripped of his somewhat peculiar modes of
expression, ran somewhat as follows:

"Two days ago," he began, "the news reached here that our soldiers had
crossed the river Yalu; and thereupon the Admiral made up his mind that
the moment had arrived for a further attempt to be made to seal up the
Russian fleet in Port Arthur harbour.

"As you are aware, Togo has for some time been quietly making
preparations for this attempt, the twelve steamers that have been lying
at anchor here having been provided especially for that purpose.  You
know also that of those twelve, eight have been prepared in the usual
manner, by placing heavy charges of gun-cotton in their bottoms,
connected with the bridge by electric wires, so that the officer in
command might be able to explode the charges and sink his ship at the
proper moment, while, on top of these charges, the hull of the ship was
converted into a solid rock-like mass by filling her with concrete made
of stone, old railway metals and other iron, and cement.  Five of the
ships were also fitted with searchlights, so that we might not again
have to contend with the difficulty of finding the harbour entrance.

"Commander Hayashi, whom I believe you know, was appointed to command
the expedition; and volunteers were called for in the usual way.  Of
course I offered myself; and Togo was good enough to appoint me to the
_Totomi Maru_, a small craft of some nineteen hundred tons, under a
splendid fellow named Honda.

"We left here at noon of the 2nd, escorted by the gunboats _Akagi_ and
_Chokai_, the second, third, fourth, and fifth destroyer divisions, and
the ninth, tenth, and fourteenth torpedo-boat flotillas.

"When we started, the weather was everything that could be desired;
there was no wind, and the water was like glass, while, for a wonder,
the air was crystal clear; also there would be a good slice of moon to
light us on our way after sunset.  But the weather was too fine to last;
you know how it is in these seas, my dear chap.  Toward sunset the
barometer began to fall very rapidly, and about eight o'clock a fresh
south-easterly breeze sprang up quite suddenly; it became hazy, the sea
got up rapidly, and by six bells in the first watch it was blowing hard,
and the weather became so thick that we lost sight of each other.  I
heard to-day that Hayashi, seeing what was coming, made the signal to
postpone the attempt; but we never saw the signal, and went on, rolling
and plunging through the short, choppy seas in the most uncomfortable
manner.

"It appears that the alarm was first given to the Russians, about two
o'clock next morning, by the appearance of what looked like a
searchlight, far out at sea, directed full upon the mouth of the
harbour.  Of course the searchlight on Golden Hill was at once brought
into play, and it chanced that as the beam swept the sea, five of our
torpedo-boats were sighted, attempting to slip into the harbour.  It was
a thousand pities that they were prematurely discovered, for their
skippers had formed a bold plan to enter the harbour and torpedo every
ship they could find, taking their chance of being able to get away
afterward.  But of course their discovery frustrated that plan, for so
hot a fire was opened upon them by three Russian gunboats which were
guarding the harbour's mouth, that to have persisted would have meant
their destruction.  So they were obliged to retire; for the Admiral
would not have thanked them for throwing away their boats uselessly.

"Then the searchlight picked up the _Mikawa Maru_, which was leading
three other explosion ships straight for the harbour, and a terrific
fire was opened upon her, the Russians evidently recognising her as a
merchant ship, and guessing at her business.  From Sosa's report it
appears that, having seen the flashes of the guns, firing upon our
torpedo-boats, he was under the impression that certain of the explosion
ships had already entered the harbour and were being fired upon by the
Russians; but, as he drew nearer in, his searchlight revealed his
mistake, showing him that instead of being one of the last, he was the
first to arrive; therefore he called down into the engine-room for every
ounce of steam they could give him, and went, full pelt, for the
harbour, through a perfect tornado of projectiles, great and small, few
of which, however, touched the ship, though they were lashing the sea
into spray all round her.

"Without sustaining any serious damage, the _Mikawa_ charged right into
the narrow channel at top speed.  At this point she came into violent
collision with something that afterward proved to be a `boom,'
constructed of stout balks of timber, steel hawsers, and ponderous chain
cables, all strongly lashed together and stretched right athwart the
channel, from shore to shore.  But she was of nearly two thousand tons
measurement, and, with the way that she had on her, she went through
that boom as though it had been a thread!  On she went, until not only
the searchlight but also Golden Hill fort was on her starboard quarter,
and she had penetrated farther than any other Japanese ship had done
since war was declared, when, having reached the point where the channel
is narrowest, Sosa, her skipper, swung her athwart the fairway and, amid
the cheers of his crew and the deafening explosions of guns and shells,
coolly blew her bottom out and sank her, he and his crew just having
time to scramble into their two boats as the steamer foundered.  Wasn't
that fine?"

"Splendid!"  I agreed, heartily.  "And what became of that fine chap,
Sosa, and his crew?  Did they manage to escape?"

"Sosa and three men of his boat's crew contrived, although they were all
wounded, to pull out to our torpedo-boats, and were picked up," replied
Ito.  "But the Russians fired upon the other boat and destroyed her and
her crew, despite Sosa's desperate efforts to save them.

"The next ship to arrive was the _Sakura Maru_.  She was about a mile
and a half ahead of us in the _Totomi_, and we were able to see
everything that happened to her.

"I believe it was her opportune arrival that gave the gallant Sosa and
his companions the chance to escape; because of course as soon as the
_Sakura_ was seen, the Russian gunners gave all their attention to her.

"It was a grand sight to see her--she was more than a thousand tons
bigger than the _Mikawa_--rushing straight for the harbour's mouth at
her utmost speed, with the water foaming about her bows, a thin stream
of smoke and sparks issuing from her funnels, her whole hull, spars,
rigging, and funnels standing up, a black silhouette, between us and the
white beam of the searchlight, with shells exploding all about her,
deluging her with foam, but apparently doing her no harm.  She stood on,
evidently under a full head of steam, for we could see `the white
feather' at the top of her waste-pipes, until she reached the Pinnacle
Rock; and there they anchored and sank her.  She was manned almost
entirely by cadets; and as an illustration of the consummate coolness
with which they behaved, let me tell you that when the ship went down,
they actually had the presence of mind to take flares aloft with them,
which they burnt from the crosstrees, to guide us into the channel!

"Of course the Russians fired upon them, and shot away first one mast
and then the other.  Then they were called upon to surrender, some of
the Russians actually launching boats to take them off the floating
wreckage; but the cadets were imbued with the true Samurai spirit, they
preferred death to surrender, and they defended themselves with their
revolvers from all who approached them, until every Japanese was slain.

"Then came the turn of the _Totomi Maru_, we being the third ship to
arrive.  Well, I have not much to say about what we did, or what
happened to us; it would be merely a repetition of what I have already
described.  Like our predecessors, we went in at full speed, struck some
floating object two terrific blows just as we entered the channel, swept
on, amid a hurricane of shells and bullets shrieking and whining about
our ears, until we came to the wreck of the _Mikawa_, and there Honda--
who is about as cool a chap under fire as you are--stopped and reversed
his engines, swung the ship athwart the channel, with our bows as close
as we could guess to the _Mikawa's_ taffrail, let go two anchors, one
ahead and one aft, and calmly sank the craft.

"The Russians kept their searchlight upon us, and peppered us well with
rifle-fire, until the _Totomi_ went down; and then they had other fish
to honourably fry, as you English say; for the _Aikoku Maru_ was now
racing in toward the harbour's mouth, and it was high time for them to
attend to her.  They turned the searchlight upon her, opened fire upon
her with every weapon that would hurl a shot, and presently, when she
was within about a thousand yards of the entrance, they fired an
observation mine as she passed over it, and down she went, taking her
engine-room and stoke-hold crew with her.

"Then there ensued a `spell'--as you, my dear Swinburne, honourably call
it--an interlude; possibly it was the end, for there were no more ships
in sight; the firing died down, the searchlight beam stared steadily out
to seaward, and we who had survived that saturnalia of slaughter had an
opportunity to slip out and rejoin the torpedo-boats which were lurking
close in under the shadow of the cliffs, waiting to pick us up.

"Honda commanded the leading boat in which our party were making their
escape, and I the other.  We were both creeping along as close as
possible to the foot of the cliffs under Golden Hill, in order to elude
the notice of the Russians above; and Honda, with fourteen men, was
about a quarter of a mile ahead.  I had eleven men with me.

"We had arrived at a point which I believed to be, rightly as the event
proved, immediately beneath the fort, and I was staring contemplatively
up at the face of the cliff which towered above us, when we came abreast
of a sort of cleft in the rock, at the foot of which lay several big
boulders in a great pile, some of which were in the water.  Suddenly,
the idea occurred to me that it might be possible for active men to
climb that cleft; and acting upon the impulse of the moment, I put the
boat's helm hard a-starboard and, giving the word `Easy all!' headed in
toward the boulders.

"A minute later, we found ourselves in a miniature harbour, just large
enough to receive the boat, the big boulders forming a sort of
breakwater.

"`Men,' I said, `have all of you your revolvers and cutlasses with you?'

"They answered that they had.  `Then,' said I, `let us give those
Russians, up above, a little surprise.  I believe we can climb that
cleft, and I, for one, am determined to try.  Who goes with me?'

"As I had quite anticipated, they all agreed to join me in the attempt;
so, making fast the boat's painter to a rock, and leaving her to take
care of herself, we scrambled out, and I honourably taking the lead, as
was my right, up we went.  It was a very difficult climb, in the
semi-darkness, for the moon was hidden by clouds, and the way was so
steep that we were obliged to push and pull each other up; but at length
we reached the top, and then lay down in a little hollow to recover our
breath.

"The fort crowned the summit of a steep hill immediately in front of us.
For fully five minutes I patiently examined it, and at the end of that
time came to the conclusion that only by the rear could we hope to
approach it undiscovered.  Accordingly, I led my men round to the land
side of the fort and, taking our time, that we might save our breath, we
crept slowly up the slope until we reached not only the summit of the
hill but actually the parapet of the fort itself.  Peering over this, I
was able to see that it was armed with eight 11-inch Canet guns; and
there were, including the gun crews, at least a hundred men in the
place, all of them intently staring out to seaward, evidently in
momentary expectation of seeing more explosion ships arrive.

"Had it been possible for us to have entered that fort at that moment, I
would have led my men in, and we would have honourably died for the
glory of Nippon, destroying as many of the enemy as we could before
`going out' ourselves.  But entry, at least swiftly enough to take the
Russians by surprise, was not possible, the parapet being protected by
substantial _chevaux de brise_ which we could neither have surmounted
nor broken down without attracting attention; I was therefore obliged to
content myself with giving them what you call a `scare.'  Ranging my men
in open order along the rear parapet, so that only their heads and their
levelled revolvers could be seen, I loudly called upon the Russians to
surrender!

"My dear Swinburne, it was worth all the toil of that climb up the
cliff, and up the steep slope of the hill, to behold the blank dismay of
those Russians.  It did not last long, though; to give them the credit
due to them, they were brave fellows, and the moment they realised the
situation, they simply laughed at us, regarding our exploit as a joke--
as indeed it was, more than anything else.

"But the joke had its grim side, too; for the commandant immediately
ordered his men to cover us with their rifles, and then ordered us to
surrender.

"`How are you going to take us?'  I asked.

"`Throw your revolvers over here to me,' he ordered; `and I will send
out some men to conduct you to the town.'

"`No,' I said.

"`If you do not, I shall be compelled to shoot,' he said.

"`Then, shoot, and be hanged to you,' I replied; and giving a sign to my
men, we opened fire with our revolvers at the same moment that the
Russians blazed away at us with their rifles.  And not until every
chamber of our revolvers was empty did we turn and race down that hill
toward the head of the cleft by which we had ascended."

"Did you suffer any loss?"  I asked.

"None at all," was the cheerful answer.  "The bullets hummed about our
ears like mosquitoes in the summer-time, but not one of us was even
touched.  On the other hand, I saw several Russians fall before our
fire, and I think that at least thirty of them must have gone down
before we turned and honourably `hooked it,' as you would say."

I smiled.  Good old Ito!  He was a splendid fellow, honest as the day,
utterly unassuming, brave as a lion, everything in short that a shipmate
should be; but it was evident that the habit of introducing that
favourite expression "honourable" in conjunction with a bit of British
slang, was inveterate with him, and I felt that it would be a long time
before he would be able to recognise its incongruity.

"Well," I said.  "What happened next?"

"Oh, nothing, so far as we were concerned," he replied.  "We scrambled
down the cleft into our boat and pushed off, still keeping quite close
to the foot of the cliffs, although there was a heavy sea rolling in and
breaking upon them.  And indeed it was high time for us to be off, for
when we pulled out of our little harbour at the base of the cliff, the
first light of dawn was showing along the horizon to the eastward.

"Suddenly, the cannonading, which had completely died away, broke out
furiously again from the heights above, and from the new batteries which
have been built on the low ground higher up the harbour.  At first we
thought we had been seen, and that they were firing at us; but presently
a steamer hove in sight to seaward, and we saw that the firing was
directed at her and three others which followed her.  These we presently
recognised as the remaining explosion steamers, which had lost their way
in the fog of the night before.

"On they came, rushing toward the harbour at top speed, with a hurricane
of shells of all sizes falling upon and about them, and the full glare
of the searchlights shining full upon them.

"The first of them to come I recognised as the _Edo Maru_, under the
command of Commander Takayagi.  She looked frightfully battered as she
swept past us, yet she kept afloat and reached the spot for which she
was aiming.  Her engines stopped and reversed, and she was evidently
preparing to anchor, when a shell struck poor Takayagi, who was standing
on the port extremity of the bridge, and, almost cutting him in two, hit
the funnel, and exploding blew a tremendous hole in it.  Nagata--you
know Lieutenant Nagata, I think--the second in command, who was also on
the bridge, immediately took charge, anchored the ship, exploded the
charges down in her hold, and, ordering away the boats, left her, just
as she was sinking, the crew bringing away poor Takayagi's body with
them.  He is to be buried ashore here, this afternoon, with full
military honours, of course.

"The next steamer to come was the _Otaru Maru_.  I think the fire
directed upon her was even hotter than that which greeted the _Edo_.
Shells fell all round her, but none of them seemed to hit her; and
meanwhile she was replying briskly with her Hotchkisses.  The din was
terrific, for every battery that could bring a gun to bear was blazing
away at her, while troops made their appearance on the cliffs above and
rained bullets upon her deck; indeed a sort of panic seemed to have
seized the Russians, for not only were they hurling hundreds of shells
at the devoted _Otaru_, but were exploding observation mines everywhere,
in the most reckless manner.  But their most deadly weapon of all was
their searchlight beam, which they directed right into the eyes of the
helmsman and the officers on the bridge.  Dazzled by its blinding
brilliance, our people could not see where they were going; and instead
of reaching her appointed station in the harbour, the _Otaru_ dashed at
full speed upon the rocks.  The crew, of course, took to the boats, but
they were unfortunately in the full glare of the searchlight, and the
Russian troops shot every one of them.

"We were by this time about a mile out at sea, when we suddenly caught
sight of a torpedo-boat hove-to, without lights, and rolling and
pitching furiously not far away.  Feeling sure that she must be
Japanese, I hailed her, got a reply, and five minutes later was
following my crew up the side of Number 65, being warmly welcomed by my
friend, Lieutenant Taira, who was in command.

"And now came a misfortune; for as I made a spring from our boat to the
deck of the plunging Number 65, the sweeping ray of the Russian
searchlight passed over us, returned, and rested inexorably upon us.
Taira instantly gave the order to the engineers to go full speed ahead;
but even before the engines could be started, a number of shells came
hurtling about us, and one unfortunately passed through the boat's thin
side and, without exploding, cut the steam pipe of Number 3 boiler.  Of
course the stoke-hold was instantly filled with high-pressure steam, and
before the stokers could escape, three of them were scalded to death.
It was horrible to hear their screams and at the same time to realise
the impossibility of doing anything to save them.  Luckily for us,
Number 75, lying at no great distance, saw that we were in difficulties,
and pluckily came to our rescue, taking us in tow and, despite the
tremendous fire directed upon us both, dragging us out of range.

"I was too busily engaged in helping to save Number 65 to see much of
what further happened in connection with the attempt to `bottle up' the
Russian fleet; but I have since learned that the _Sagami Maru_, which
followed the _Otaru Maru_, was peculiarly unfortunate, in that she
struck a mechanical mine, just outside the harbour, and went down with
all hands.  The last ship, the _Asagao Maru_, was scarcely less
unfortunate; for a shell struck her rudder as she neared the harbour,
and rendered her unmanageable, so that she went ashore close under
Golden Hill, and her crew, refusing to surrender, were killed, to a man.

"Just after this last happening, a fog came driving in from seaward and
swallowed us all up, so that the Russians lost sight of us; and then the
firing ceased.  Shortly afterwards, our fast cruisers came looming up
through the fog, to cover our retreat; and about nine o'clock in the
morning Togo himself joined us with the battle squadron.  He was most
anxious to know the result of the night's operations; but,
unfortunately, none of us could afford him more than mere disconnected
snatches of information.  I think I possessed more information than
anybody else; but of course mine was by no means complete, and the
Admiral was most anxious to know exactly how matters stood, for great
things hinged upon the measure of our success; I therefore offered to
take in a picket boat and attempt to obtain all the information
required, and my offer was accepted.  I steamed in under cover of the
fog, which was so thick that it was impossible for us to see more than a
few yards in any direction; so thick, indeed, that we actually found
ourselves among the masts of the sunken craft before we really knew
where we were.  There were two or three shore boats groping about the
wreckage already, but they took no notice of us, imagining, perhaps,
that we belonged to one of their own ships; and we were therefore able
to complete our examination and to definitely satisfy ourselves that at
last the harbour was entirely blocked.  Learning this, the Admiral
wirelessed a message to General Oku, informing him that he could safely
move, since the Russian ships were now effectually bottled up; and the
result of that message is the fleet of transports that you see yonder.
And now, my dear chap, I must be off; the doctor told me that I must on
no account weary you by talking too much; and here have I been yarning
for the last half-hour or more.  Good-bye!  Hope to see you about again
soon."

"Here, stop a moment, old chap," I cried.  "Having told me so much, you
may as well tell me the rest.  Where is Oku going?"

"Ah!" answered Ito.  "That is a secret.  But I think many of us could
make a good guess, eh?"

"If I were asked to guess, I should say, Pi-tse-wo," answered I.

"And very probably, my dear Swinburne, you would be honourably correct,"
answered Ito, as he waved his hand and smilingly bowed himself out.

A little later I was honoured by a visit from Togo himself, with whom I
believed myself to be something of a favourite, although Togo's
favouritism never took the form of sparing the favoured one, or giving
him easy work to execute; on the contrary, the most infallible sign that
a man was in the Admiral's favour was the assignment to him of some
exceptionally difficult, arduous, or dangerous task.  He had, of course,
already heard of my adventure from Kamimura, but he wanted to hear the
story from my own lips, and he also had several questions to ask me.  He
remained with me nearly an hour, and was most friendly and kind in his
manner, expressing regret at my sufferings--such as they were--and the
hope that I should soon be well enough to resume duty.

To my surprise, the Admiral called again, somewhat late in the
afternoon.  He was very busy, he said, being engaged on the task of
arranging for the convoy of General Oku's Second Army, consisting of
70,000 men, the task of whom was to assist in the reduction of Port
Arthur.  He expected to be away a full week, at least, possibly longer,
and the object of his visit was to explain to me that, aboard the
transports in harbour were all the materials for the construction of a
great "boom," eight miles long, to be carried from the island of
Kwang-lung-tau, the most westerly of the Elliot group, to the mainland.
Similar booms had already been run from island to island of the group,
and the new, big boom would render the rendezvous immune to attack from
the land to the northward.  His object in looking me up, now, was in
connection with the construction of this new, big boom.  It appeared
that, after leaving me that morning, he had encountered the physician
who had charge of the hospital, and that official had expressed the
opinion that, in the course of the next three or four days, I might
probably be sufficiently recovered to be discharged from the hospital,
and be employed upon light duties, such as those of superintendence, or
anything which did not involve personal exertion.

That remark had suggested an idea to Togo, the result of which was his
second call upon me, to inquire whether I knew anything about the
construction of protective booms.  As it happened, I did, having once
been actively employed upon the construction of an experimental boom
which was afterward stretched across the mouth of Portsmouth harbour.
When, therefore, I told the Admiral this, with his usual directness of
purpose he at once appointed me to superintend the construction of the
long boom; his orders being that I was to remain in hospital until the
doctors should discharge me; when I was to resume the command of the
_Kasanumi_, and with her as flagship, proceed to the Elliot Islands, in
charge of the torpedo flotilla which he would leave behind for that
purpose, escorting the steamers into which he would tranship all the
materials necessary for the construction of the long boom.  And upon our
arrival there, I was to discharge the steamers--or, rather, supervise
the discharge of them, landing the materials at the most suitable spot I
could find; and then, still supervising only, proceed with all celerity
upon the construction of the boom.  He briefly gave me his own ideas as
to how the boom should be constructed, but left me with an entirely free
hand to introduce any improvements that might suggest themselves to me,
so far as the materials at my command would permit.  The task was one
that strongly appealed to me, for it gave some scope for the employment
of a certain inventive faculty which I believed I possessed; and I
undertook it with avidity.

That evening, about half an hour before sunset, the transhipment of the
materials for the boom having been effected, the transports containing
Oku's Second Army got their anchors and started for Pi-tse-wo, escorted
by a portion of the fleet under Togo, while the remaining portion,
consisting of the light, fast cruisers and a detachment of destroyers,
proceeded to Port Arthur, to make assurance doubly sure by keeping an
eye upon the Russian ships there.  I subsequently learned that the
latter appeared to be quite inactive, although the sounds of frequent
loud explosions proceeding from the harbour indicated that the Russians
were already busily engaged upon the task of attempting to blast a
passage through the obstructing wrecks.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE RUSSIAN SUBMARINE.

By dint of wheedling entreaty and the most lavish promises on my part
that I would on no account attempt to do any actual work, I succeeded in
inducing the doctor to discharge me from the hospital on the second day
after the departure of the Admiral, with General Oku's transports, to
Pi-tse-wo.

I was discharged shortly after eleven o'clock in the morning, and was
conveyed in a hand ambulance down to the landing-place, where my boat
was waiting for me, having been semaphored for, the instant that I
obtained my discharge.  I was glad to find myself aboard my own little
ship once more; and the crew seemed to be as glad to see me as I was to
see them; for it appeared that during my absence the _Kasanumi_ had been
employed upon nothing but patrol work, which was not at all to the taste
of my lads.  Young Hiraoka, my lieutenant, seemed keenly disappointed
when he learned that our most exciting work, for some time to come, was
to be the construction of the long boom; but philosophically remarked
that no doubt as soon as the Russians learned what we were about, we
should have a few of their destroyers paying us a call, when we might
hope for a little fun.

By the time that I got aboard, it was noon; and I at once signalled the
transports, asking how soon they could be ready to start.  The reply was
that, not expecting to be called upon to go to sea so soon, their fires
were all out--but boilers were full and fires laid, and they could have
steam in three hours; whereupon I made the signal to light fires at
once, and report when they were ready to move.  Then I got into a
reclining chair under the awning aft, and, having partaken of a hasty
luncheon, treated myself to a snooze, since I expected to be up all
night.

We all got under way shortly after three o'clock in the afternoon, and,
having cleared the harbour, headed away north-west for the Elliot group.
The weather was, for a wonder, beautifully fine, no fog, very few
clouds, brilliant sunshine, very little wind, and the water as smooth as
a mill pond; consequently we made very good progress, although the speed
of the slowest transport was only ten knots, and of course the rest of
us had to regulate our pace by hers.  Had the weather been threatening I
should of course have been anxious, but the barometer stood high, and as
even at ten knots the passage would only occupy about thirteen hours, I
felt quite easy in my mind.

The trip across the Yellow Sea was made without mishap or adventure
until we arrived within about twelve miles of our destination.  The
night was still gloriously fine, the water smooth, the stars brilliant,
and the moon, within about an hour of setting, hung in the western sky,
spreading a broad path of silver on the surface of the gently heaving
sea.  It was a few minutes after four bells in the middle watch when,
having been dozing for some time in my chair, which had been taken up to
the bridge for my convenience, I scrambled to my feet and began to pace
to and fro, for I was feeling somewhat chilly, although wrapped in a
good warm ulster.

The beauty of the night fascinated me.  It was so calm and peaceful, and
the air, although a trifle cool, was yet bland, as though it were a
breath of the coming summer; and, looking back upon what we had been
called upon to endure of storm and darkness, and bitter, numbing cold
and wet, I rejoiced that summer was at hand, hoping that, before winter
came again, there would be peace, and that our nightly buffetings by
arctic winds, hail, snow, and icy seas would be at an end.

As these thoughts passed through my mind, my gaze fixed itself
contemplatively on the broad path of silver--now imperceptibly changing
to liquid gold--cast upon the surface of the sea by the setting moon;
and, as I gazed, I gradually became aware of a tiny black object, about
a mile away, on our port bow, rising and falling with the lazy heave of
the swell.  In that mine-strewn sea the smallest and least conspicuous
floating object demanded one's instant and most careful attention, and
whipping my binoculars out of the case, strapped to the bridge rail, I
quickly focused them upon it.  Through the glasses it looked very like
the top of a ship's galley funnel, though not quite so stout, and it was
moving as though to cross our hawse, for with the help of the glasses I
could see the little ripple of scintillating foam it piled up before it.

I knew in an instant what it was, for I had seen submarines before, and
at once recognised the slender object forging through the water out
yonder as the upper portion of a submarine's periscope.

Of course she had seen us, probably a good half-hour before, or she
would not be submerged; and the course she was steering indicated that
she was bent upon mischief.

I congratulated myself upon having sighted her in good time before
entering her danger zone, for the _Kasanumi_ was about a mile ahead of
the main body of our little fleet, and I felt that I should have time to
deal with her before the others came up.  The question was: would she
attack the destroyer, or would she allow us to pass and reserve her
energies for the transports, under the impression that they were
carrying troops?  It was impossible to guess, and it would never do to
take any chance; I therefore pointed out the periscope to young Hiraoka,
told him what it was, and then ordered him to go down quietly, have the
hands called, and get all guns loaded.  The thought of trying to get in
a torpedo before the Russian discharged hers, occurred to me; but I
decided against it, as some of our torpedoes had a trick of running
erratically.

Meanwhile, we continued to potter along at ten knots, as though we had
seen nothing and had not so much as the ghost of a suspicion that
submarines were in our neighbourhood.  There was but one, so far as I
could see; and indeed until that moment we never suspected the Russians
of having any in those seas, although vague rumours--which we had never
been able to substantiate--had reached us of submarines having been
brought overland to Port Arthur from Petersburg in sections.

With my eyes glued to my binoculars, and my binoculars focused steadily
upon that small pole-like object protruding a bare two feet above that
shimmering, silvery sheen of water, I directed the signalman near me to
ring down the order to the engine-room to "Stand by"; and then to fetch
our wireless operator to me.  In a few words I explained the situation
to this youngster, when he came, and gave him his orders, while the
sounds of Hiraoka's preparations came to my ears.

Suddenly, as I watched the periscope every moment becoming more
distinct, I noticed that the ripple of foam about it was steadily
lessening, and presently it disappeared altogether.  The submarine had
evidently stopped her engines, and was lying in wait, either to torpedo
us as we passed, or to permit us to pass on unsuspecting, and then get
in her work upon the transports.  It was a bit of luck which I had not
dared to hope for, and I instantly made my plans.  Steadily the
_Kasanumi_ held on, as though utterly unsuspecting, steering a course
which, if continued, would take us athwart the submarine's hawse at a
distance of about three hundred yards, or less than half the effective
range of her torpedo.

Was she stealthily altering her position under water, turning her bows
toward us, so as to torpedo us the moment we should arrive within range,
or was she trusting that her presence was undetected, and waiting
patiently for the moment when we should cross her bows as she lay?  The
latter, I believed, for she could not cant toward us without going
either ahead or astern, and she could not do either without her
periscope raising a ripple; and I was certain that nothing of that sort
had happened.  I determined to risk something, after all, to put that
submarine out of action, and so held steadily on.  At length we arrived
so close that I could see the periscope almost as distinctly without the
glasses as with them, and still intently watching it, I laid my hand on
the engine-room telegraph, carefully estimating the steadily decreasing
distance which separated us from moment to moment.

Six hundred yards.  Five hundred.  Four-fifty.  Four hundred.  I crashed
the telegraph handles over to "Full speed ahead!" on both engines, and
never moving my eyes for an instant from the periscope, directed the
helmsman to steer straight for it.  The submarine was lying motionless
and inert there, some fifteen feet beneath the surface; and I calculated
that it would take the Russians at least half a minute to realise that
they were discovered, and to get way upon their craft; and by that time
we should be so close to them that it would be impossible for them
either to dive or to turn the submarine bows on to us, much less to
escape.  Then, as I felt the destroyer leap forward beneath me, like a
spirited horse at the cut of a whip, I blew my whistle, as a signal to
"Sparks," who instantly wirelessed back to the main body to stop until
further orders, and to keep a sharp lookout for submarines.

Like a greyhound slipped from the leash, the _Kasanumi_ rushed at that
luckless periscope, about which a few bubbles of foam were just
beginning to gather at the moment when our stem, towering over it, hid
it from my sight.  The next instant our hull swept over it and of course
snapped it clean off, although we felt no shock whatever, for our
draught of water was too light for our keel to reach the submarine's
conning tower.  But by the loss of her periscope the craft was
effectually blinded, and now she was at our mercy, for she _must_ come
to the surface, sooner or later, while, so smooth was the water, the
swirl or wake of her as she forged ahead was clearly perceptible, and
all we now had to do was to follow her until she rose, and then take or
sink her.

As I lost sight of the periscope, I rang down to stop and reverse both
engines, at the same time ordering our helm hard a-port.  Then, as we
checked and lost way, we went ahead, first on our port engine and then
on both, at the same time shifting our helm, so as to get into the wake
of the submarine.  We managed to do this before quite losing sight of
the disturbance made by her passage through the water; and, this done,
we regulated our pace by hers, maintaining a distance of about fifty
fathoms between her and ourselves.  She shifted her helm several times
in an evident attempt to baffle pursuit; but, thanks to the tell-tale
swirl she raised, we were able to follow her; and at length, after a
chase of about three-quarters of an hour, she rose to the surface, the
watertight door of her tower opened, and a man's head appeared.

He looked greatly astonished to see us within a biscuit-toss of him, and
instantly ducked out of sight, leaving the hatch open, however, and we
heard him shouting something to some one in the boat's interior.  A few
seconds later another head appeared, stared at us fixedly for a few
seconds--during which young Hiraoka, who had a very fair knowledge of
Russian, hailed him to surrender--and he, too, disappeared.  Then, while
we were patiently awaiting further developments, the submarine, which
was still going ahead, suddenly inclined her bows and, before we could
do anything, _dived with her hatch open_!  The brave fellows who manned
her, evidently taking a leaf out of their opponents' book, had chosen
death rather than surrender, and had deliberately plunged to the bottom
rather than yield their vessel to us!  For, of course, the craft was
never seen again, nor did any of her crew come to the surface, although
we hove-to for an hour or more, and got our boat out in readiness to
pick up any one who might escape from that steel coffin.

I was quite prepared to hear a loud cheer of exultation burst from the
lips of my crew when they realised what had happened.  But no.  There is
nothing that the Japanese admire more than courage; and such a
deliberate act of devoted self-sacrifice for the honour of one's country
and flag as they had just beheld, called forth merely a low-spoken
murmur of intense, almost envious praise.

We arrived at our destination without further adventure, and dropped
anchor in the roadstead just as the sun rose above the horizon, flooding
the rocky shores of the Elliots with gold, and were heartily greeted by
the few craft which we found lying at anchor there.

Looking back upon our adventure with the Russian submarine, I could not
help regarding it as almost providential that we had encountered her;
for I think there can be very little doubt that when we fell in with her
she must have been on her way to the Elliot archipelago, where, had she
arrived safely, she might have found more than one spot in which she
could have lain _perdu_, to emerge at a favourable moment and destroy at
least one, if not more, of our most precious battleships.

Giving orders for the immediate discharge of the materials for the boom,
at a spot which I selected immediately after we had come to an anchor, I
turned in and slept soundly until past midday, resting again all the
afternoon; so that when evening came I had quite recovered from the
fatigue of the previous night, and was pronounced by the doctor in
charge of the hospital ashore to be progressing toward complete recovery
quite as rapidly as could be reasonably expected, while my wound was
healing in fine style.  About four o'clock that afternoon, word was
brought to me that the whole of the materials intended for the
construction of the boom had been landed; and I went ashore to inspect
them.  They consisted for the most part of enormous balks of timber and
massive cables; but there were also immense quantities of chain to serve
as lashings, stout staples, iron bars, innumerable bundles of long,
massive, pointed spikes, and thousands of empty casks, stoutly hooped,
without bung-holes, and coated with pitch to ensure permanent
watertight-ness.  Commander Tsuchiya, whom I had placed in charge of the
discharging operations, had done his work well, stacking the various
items each by itself, and keeping a careful account of the quantities of
each.  He handed me a copy of his list, and after I had inspected the
whole of the material, I returned to my ship and sat down to plan out
the details of the construction of the boom, which, with the list of the
quantities before me, was a comparatively easy task.

Dawn of the following day found us all ready to make a start, and with
Tsuchiya again as my principal _aide_, we quickly got to work, pressing
every available hand into the service.  Many hands make light and quick
work, especially where those hands are willing, but I was astonished at
the ardour and zest which those handy little Japanese seamen manifested;
they toiled untiringly all through that long, hot day, with the result
that, when we knocked off at nightfall, we had considerably more than
half a mile of that boom put together and secured in position by
ponderous anchors and stout chain cables.

We were hard at work upon the boom again when, during the afternoon of
the following day, our battle fleet returned from Pi-tse-wo, after
covering the landing of General Oku's army.  The fleet steamed in
between the islands and Cape Terminal on the mainland, toward which we
were running the boom; and my friend Ijichi, the skipper of the
_Mikasa_, told me, with a laugh, that when the little Admiral first saw
the boom and made out what it was, he could hardly credit his eyes.  He
had been under the impression that I was still in hospital, and would
probably not be able to get to work for a week or more.  Yet there I
was, as large as life, in a picket boat, with my head still swathed in a
bandage, superintending operations, and clearly recognisable with the
assistance of a pair of binoculars.  And when at the close of the day I
went aboard the flagship to report myself, Togo did not hesitate to let
me understand how intensely gratified he was at the progress which we
had made.

Meanwhile, I was fast progressing toward complete recovery; and on the
day following the return of the fleet to the Elliots, the bandage was
removed from my head, and I was pronounced to be practically all right
once more.  And, to add to my gratification, a destroyer arrived from
Sasebo, bringing mails for the fleet, among which were no less than
three delightful letters from my friends the Gordons, at home, and two,
equally delightful, from my Sasebo friends, Mr Boyd and his wife.
Those from the Gordons were full of congratulations; for I gathered from
them that a long and circumstantial account of our second attempt to
seal up Port Arthur harbour had appeared in the home newspapers, in
which somewhat conspicuous mention was made of my doings, and my friends
were delighted to learn that I was "so successfully maintaining the
finest traditions of the British Navy," as they were kindly pleased to
put it.  My chum, Ronald, was particularly chirpy about it, expressing
in no measured terms the wish that he could have been with me, while he
informed me that, notwithstanding the painful circumstances under which
I had left the _Terrible_--and the British Navy--the officers of that
ship, with only one or two exceptions, had expressed their
gratification, while several of them, whom he named, had desired him to
convey to me their congratulations and good wishes.

During the next day or two excellent progress was made with the
construction of the long boom; and then came a spell of bad weather
which, although it did not hinder the putting together of the sections
of the boom, in the smooth water of the anchorage, rendered it
impossible for us to tow them out and splice them to the portion already
in position.  But although the bad weather greatly delayed us in this
way, we did not altogether regret it, for the heavy sea kicked up by the
gales afforded a splendid test of that portion of the boom already in
place, and we were greatly gratified, as we steamed out day after day to
examine it, to find that it had not been damaged or displaced in the
smallest degree.

It was toward the end of the third week of May that the Admiral
signalled me to proceed on board the flagship.  It was late in the
afternoon of a thoroughly wretched day; the wind had been blowing hard
from the south'ard for the past three or four days, with almost
incessant rain, and there was a very heavy sea running between the
islands and the main.  I had just returned from my second inspection of
the boom that day, and I naturally thought that the signal indicated a
desire on the part of the Admiral to question me in relation to the
stability of the structure.  And when I entered his cabin, and he
greeted me with the question:

"Well, Captain Swinburne, how is the boom standing the sea, out yonder?"
I was confirmed in my opinion.  But I presently found that I was
mistaken; for when I had told him all that there was to tell about the
boom, and he had expressed his satisfaction, he said:

"By the way, it is Commander Tsuchiya who has been your chief assistant
in this work, is it not?"

I replied in the affirmative.

"And I suppose he understands the whole business pretty well by this
time, eh?" the Admiral continued.

"Every bit as well as I do, sir," I answered, seeming to scent other
work for myself at no great distance.

"That is good," commented Togo.  "Do you think he would be capable of
completing the work without further assistance from you?"

"Undoubtedly he would, sir," I replied.  "Indeed, I think it right to
say that, after the first day, Commander Tsuchiya required no help or
suggestion of any kind from me at all.  He seemed to perfectly
understand the principle of the boom's construction, almost from the
very beginning; and after the first day's work upon it he took the
entire supervision into his own hands, leaving me nothing whatever to do
but merely to look on and satisfy myself by personal observation that
the work was being properly done."

"Which it was, I presume?" remarked the Admiral.

"Which it certainly was, sir," I replied.

"Good!" said Togo.  "That being the case, you are free for another
service.  How would you like the chance to get a little fighting ashore,
by way of a change?"

"Jove!"  I exclaimed, "that would be splendid, sir.  Are you going to
land a naval brigade anywhere?"

"Well--no," answered the Admiral, "hardly that, I think; at least, that
is not my present intention, although circumstances may possibly render
it desirable, eventually.  The matter stands thus,"--turning to the
table where a map of the Liaotung peninsula lay unfolded upon it.

"This,"--pointing to a certain spot on the map--"is where General Oku
landed, the other day, with his army.  And this,"--pointing to another
spot--"is where he is now.  His object of course is to march south and
lay siege to Port Arthur.  But at this point, some two and a half miles
south of Kinchau, which, as I suppose you know, is a Chinese walled
city, the isthmus is only about two miles wide; and in and about the
city the Russians have established themselves in force, prepared,
apparently, to dispute Oku's passage of the isthmus to the last man.

"This mountain, so prominently marked on the map, is Mount Sampson.  It
is more than two thousand feet in height and, as you will readily
understand, dominates the entire district.  Upon this mountain the
Russians very strongly established themselves, scarping the heights and
constructing formidable breastworks behind which to shelter themselves.
Of course it was necessary for our troops to take this mountain, since,
until that could be done, to pass the isthmus would be impossible.  I am
glad to learn that the mountain is now in our hands.

"But here, just to the south of Kinchau, is another range of hills,
known as the Nanshan Heights.  They form a sort of backbone to the
isthmus, and occupy almost its entire width, their crests completely
commanding the narrow strip of low ground on either side.  On these
heights, too, the Russians have very strongly established themselves; so
that although Mount Sampson is in our hands, the isthmus remains
impassable.  The unfortunate fact, so far as we are concerned, is that
General Oku has no heavy artillery with him, otherwise he would be able
to shell the Nanshan Heights from Mount Sampson, and drive the Russians
out.  But he has only field and mountain guns, of a range insufficient
for that purpose; therefore he has requisitioned help from me, and I
propose to send some craft round to Kinchau Bay, to shell the Russian
positions from the sea."

"Kinchau Bay, sir?"  I interrupted.  "Pardon me, but the water in
Kinchau Bay is so shallow, according to the chart, that I am afraid any
of our craft capable of carrying guns heavy enough to be of service
would have very great difficulty in approaching the land near enough to
be of any real use.  Why not Hand Bay, sir, on the eastern side of the
isthmus?"

"For the very good reason, my dear fellow, that not only is Hand Bay
mined, but it would also be impossible for us to clear it, the bay being
completely commanded by works which our craft could not face for five
minutes.  No, it must be Kinchau Bay; there is nothing else for it,"
answered the Admiral.

"That being the case," he continued, "it is my intention to dispatch
thither the _Akagi, Chokai, Hei-yen_, and _Tsukushi_ to afford the
assistance required by General Oku; and those ships will be accompanied
by a torpedo flotilla, the duty of which will be to take soundings, lay
down a line of buoys inside which the ships must not pass, and search
for and clear the bay of mines, as well as to render such further
assistance as may be possible to the land forces.

"I anticipate that the work required of the torpedo flotilla will be of
an exceptionally arduous and hazardous character; and for that reason,
Captain Swinburne, I am going to place it under your command, with the
_Kasanumi_ as your flagship.  I have been keeping my eye upon you, sir,
and I will take this opportunity to express my very high appreciation of
your conduct.  You have manifested all the dash, the fertility of
resource, and the cool courage under exceedingly trying conditions which
we have grown to look for as a matter of course from Englishmen; and to
that you add an element of caution which I fear we Japanese have not as
fully developed as we ought to have done; I therefore regard you as the
fittest man I could possibly select for the service upon which I now
propose to employ you.  That also is the reason why I have so fully
explained to you the situation at Kinchau, for it is very necessary that
you should clearly understand all that may be required of you.

"We have, of course, any number of Japanese officers whose courage would
be quite equal to the task I am assigning to you, but they unfortunately
lack that element of caution which you possess, in proof of which it
will be my painful duty to presently announce a series of terrible
disasters, news of which has just reached me, and three of which, at
least, I am afraid I must attribute to a lack of caution."

"Indeed, sir," I said; "I am exceeding sorry to hear that.  Is it
permissible to ask particulars?"

"Oh yes," answered the Admiral, with a heavy sigh.  "I should not have
mentioned the matter to you at all, but for the fact that it must very
soon have come to your ears in any case.  Within three days, sir, we
have lost six war vessels, while a seventh, the _Kasuga_, has been
temporarily put out of action.  And of the six lost ships, Captain, two
are battleships, the _Hatsuse_ and the _Yashima_!"

"The _Hatsuse_ and the _Yashima_!  Good heavens! sir.  Is it possible?"
I exclaimed.

"It is more than possible," answered Togo, with another heavy sigh, "it
is a disastrous fact.  And in addition to those two ships, we have also
lost the _Yoshino_, fortunately not one of our best fast cruisers.  Oh!
it is terrible, terrible!  And all three disasters have occurred to-day,
within a very short space of time.  The news reached me by wireless in
the interval between my sending for you and your arrival.

"It appears that while the _Yoshino, Takasago, Chitose, Kasagi_, and
_Kasuga_ were to the westward of Port Arthur this morning, just after
dawn, they ran into a patch of dense fog, while steaming through which,
the lookout aboard the _Yoshino_ sighted a floating mine a short
distance ahead.  Thereupon the officer in charge seems to have
temporarily lost his presence of mind, for instead of sheering out of
the line, as it seems to me he might have done, and so avoided the mine,
he instantly stopped and reversed his engines, without warning the
_Kasuga_, which was his next astern.  The inevitable result of course
was that the _Kasuga_ struck the _Yoshino_ heavily, making such a
terrible rent in her side that, in spite of collision mats, she speedily
filled, capsized, and sank, drowning over two hundred of her crew.  The
_Kasuga_, badly damaged, is on her way hither, and may be expected to
arrive some time to-night.

"That disaster, however, serious as it is, is nothing compared with the
loss of the _Hatsuse_ and _Yashima_, which occurred shortly after
midday.  Little did we dream, as they steamed away from here, this
morning, that we should never see them again!  It happened about ten
miles south of Port Arthur, the two ships striking mines within a few
minutes of each other.  The _Hatsuse_ appears to have struck two mines,
the second of which completed her destruction, for she foundered in less
than two minutes after the second explosion occurred.  I understand that
considerably more than half her crew have gone down with her.

"There were hopes at first that the _Yashima_ might be saved, as
collision mats were got over her damaged bows and the steam pumps were
started, while she headed for here under her own steam, with the rest of
the squadron in company; but the latest news is to the effect that she
cannot possibly be kept afloat, and that her crew are being taken off.
Well, it is the fortune of war, I suppose, and it is useless to murmur;
we cannot hope to always have things go well with us, reverses _will_
happen occasionally; and I am afraid that we have been growing just a
little too careless and over-confident of late.  We must take the lesson
to heart and see that it does not again happen.  But it is a paralysing
blow for us.

"And now, to return to the matter which more immediately concerns you,
Captain.  I have given you the earliest possible warning of what I am
going to ask you to do, in order that you may have an opportunity to
think over the situation and make your plans.  I want you to be ready to
start at practically a moment's notice; but I shall not dispatch the
squadron until I have further news from Oku, which may arrive at any
minute."

As it happened, however, although a communication arrived from Oku the
next day, it was a full week before we got our orders; for a careful
reconnaissance revealed that very important preparations would be
necessary before it would be possible to take Kinchau, or storm the
Nanshan Heights.

Just about sunset the _Shikishima_, with her attendant cruisers, hove in
sight, and before they were hull-up it was possible for us to
distinguish that the _Yashima_ was not among them.  She had gone down
off Dalny--in shallow water, fortunately--but not until every man had
been safely taken out of her.

The other losses to which the Admiral had referred were torpedo-boat
Number 48, and the dispatch boat _Mikayo_, both of which had come to
grief, the one on 12th May, and the other two days later, through
striking mines in Kerr Bay, some thirty miles to the north-east of Port
Arthur.  Torpedo-boats Numbers 46 and 48, it appeared, were engaged in
sweeping for mines when the accident happened.  They had already found
and destroyed three mines, and had discovered a fourth, which they fired
several rounds at without result.  Then Number 48 imprudently approached
the mine with the intention of securing it, when it exploded, blowing
her in two, and killing or wounding fourteen of her crew of
twenty-three.

It was two days later when the _Mikayo_, believing the bay to be clear,
entered it to make sure.  She was passing in through the channel
supposed to have been cleared by our torpedo-boats, when she, too,
struck a mine; there was a terrific explosion, and she went to the
bottom, with eight casualties in her crew of two hundred.  She was a
useful little ship, having a speed of over sixteen knots when she was
destroyed, although she had been known to achieve as much as twenty.
She mounted two forty-sevens and ten 3-pounders, and was therefore not a
very formidable fighting craft.

The story told by the Russians concerning her destruction was to the
effect that she fell a victim to a mine, placed overnight, in the
channel previously cleared by our boats, by a young Russian naval
officer, who stole out from Port Arthur in a small steam launch, under
the cover of night.  Whether the story is true or not, I cannot tell,
yet there is nothing very improbable about it, for it is indisputable
that many of the Russians displayed as fine a courage as even the
Japanese themselves.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

AT WORK IN KINCHAU BAY.

Meanwhile, I was spending my days poring over the maps and charts of
Kinchau and its neighbourhood with which I had been supplied, leaving
Commander Tsuchiya to carry on the work of constructing the long boom,
and merely visiting it in a picket boat at the close of each day, to see
how the work was progressing.  My study of the maps and charts had
reference to a scheme which had come into my head whereby it might be
possible to determine the ranges of the several Russian positions from
certain fixed points in the bay with the utmost accuracy, thereby
greatly increasing the effectiveness of the naval fire when our flotilla
should be called into action.  The map in particular which had been
issued to me was drawn upon a scale so large that even comparatively
insignificant distances could be closely measured upon it, and it was so
full of detail that apparently every building, however unimportant, was
marked upon it; also it was "contoured"--that is to say, it was covered
all over with wavy lines, each of which represented a definite height
above sea-level.  With such a map before me it was of course the easiest
matter imaginable to determine the position of all the most salient
points of the landscape, of which there were several, and--assuming the
map to be correctly drawn--to measure the distances of these from one
another.

With such a bountiful fund of at least approximately accurate
information for a starting-point it was a simple matter for me to fix
upon a number of points in the bay--as many as I chose, in fact--which
could be clearly indicated by buoys bearing different coloured flags,
the positions of which could be accurately determined by cross bearings;
and my plan was, first to lay down these buoys and determine their
positions, and then mark them on maps, a copy of which would be handed
to each captain, from which, by the employment of a scale and a pair of
dividers, he could immediately measure off with precision the exact
range of any object desired.

Having at length arranged my scheme on the map to my liking, I proceeded
with it aboard the _Mikasa_, and submitted it to the Admiral, who, with
Captain Ijichi, the Commander, and several of the officers of the ship,
examined it with the utmost interest, asking me several questions in
connection with it.  When I had fully explained the scheme, they all
agreed that it was an admirable idea, and would undoubtedly be of the
utmost value--_if_ it could only be carried out.  Togo was of opinion
that it could not; I, on the contrary, was convinced that it could; and
at length I managed to get the Admiral's somewhat reluctant consent to
make the experiment.

Armed with this, I went ashore and, making my way to the carpenter's
shop which formed part of our shore establishment among the islands,
ordered a certain number of small triangular rafts to be made, of a size
just sufficient to support a bamboo staff ten feet long, to the top of
which a flag six feet long by three feet wide was to be firmly lashed,
the flags to be of different colours, arranged in pairs.  The rafts were
constructed merely of rough timber stoutly nailed together, while the
flags, being only required to last a day or two, as we hoped, were made
of coloured calico, the edges turned over and hemmed with a
sewing-machine, that they might not fray or tear.  A couple of hours'
work sufficed to complete my small requisition, with which I returned to
the _Kasanumi_.

It was within half an hour of sunset when I got aboard with my boatload
of miscellaneous paraphernalia; and as the torpedo flotilla always kept
steam while at the Elliots, excepting when it became necessary to clean
flues or boilers, we at once got our anchor and proceeded to sea at a
speed of twenty knots.  I was bound round to Kinchau Bay, the distance
of which from the Elliot group, by sea, was about one hundred and
thirteen sea miles; I therefore reckoned on arriving at my destination
about midnight, which would suit me admirably.  The moon was in her
third quarter, and was due to rise, that night, at a few minutes after
one o'clock, which would also suit me excellently.

For a wonder, the night was fine, with a light air out from about
south-east; there was no sea, and not much swell, and as the destroyer
was running well within herself, we went along quite easily and
comfortably, and I seized the opportunity to snatch a few hours' sleep,
leaving the navigation of the boat to my chief officer, who was quite
equal to the task.

The trip was uneventful, and at midnight Lieutenant Hiraoka aroused me
with the intimation that we were standing into Kinchau Bay, and were
already near enough to the land to enable the watch-fires on the hills
to be made out; I accordingly turned out and went on deck to take a look
round.  I had studied my maps so exhaustively that, dark though the
night was, I was able without difficulty to identify the various heights
in sight, of which Mount Sampson was by far the most conspicuous; the
general appearance of the land, indeed, was remarkably like what I had
already mentally pictured it to be, and I seemed to be gazing on quite
familiar ground.  We were of course running without lights, and there
was hardly a ghost of a chance of our being seen, but I eagerly searched
the bay for craft, and was gratified to find that it was empty.

But if there were no craft, there might be a good many mines; therefore
in order to avoid all possible risk we crossed the bay to its northern
shore, keeping well out, and then, going dead slow and feeling our way
with the lead, we hugged the northern shore line as closely as the depth
of water would permit, until we arrived abreast a little indentation, or
cove, when the engines were stopped, the boat lowered, and, with my
revolvers in my belt, but no sword, a pocketful of cartridges, a water
bottle, a wallet of provisions, an azimuth compass, and a box sextant, I
was pulled ashore and landed in the cove, the boat immediately returning
to the destroyer, which soon vanished in the darkness, making for the
offing.

There were some half-dozen small, crazy-looking fishing-boats drawn up
on the beach of the cove, and, groping about, I presently found a
footpath leading somewhere inland.  This I cautiously followed for a
little distance until the crow of a wakeful cock and the bark of a dog
warned me that I was at no great distance from a human dwelling of some
sort, when I struck off the path and waded through a field of millet,
heading north-west for the summit of a hill which I easily recognised,
even in the dark, as one of the points from which I purposed to take my
set of observations.  My more immediate anxiety, however, was to get
away from the neighbourhood of all human habitations, for although I
knew pretty well, in a general way, where the Russians might be expected
to be found, there was always the possibility of running unexpectedly
into a small detachment of them, or of encountering some Korean peasant
who might be disposed to betray me, upon the off-chance of securing a
reward for so doing.

The low ground at the foot of the range of hills for which I was heading
was all cultivated, as well as the lower slopes, but, higher up, the
ground was covered pretty thickly with scrub, with here and there a few
patches of fir trees; and when once I got among these I felt that I was
fairly safe, for I imagined that nobody would be likely to have any
business up there, while in the disturbed state of the country nobody
would be likely to wander there for pleasure.

By the time that I reached the lower margin of the belt of scrub, the
moon, one-half of her in shadow, had crept up above the crest of Mount
Sampson, and the whole of the country round about me was flooded with
her dim, ghostly light, with the help of which I was able to make out
the small walled city of Kinchau, planned in the form of a square, each
side measuring about half a mile long; the Japanese position in the
valley to the south of it; and a few of the Russian positions on the
Nanshan Heights; I was also able to definitely reassure myself as to my
own position.

The point for which I was aiming was about three miles north of the
little cove in which I had landed, and the intervening ground was
rugged, with many outcrops of rough, jagged rock, and much overgrown
with thick, tangled scrub; the "going," therefore, was a bit toilsome,
but that did not greatly matter to me, for the night air was distinctly
raw, I was none too thickly clad, and the exertion kept me warm.  When I
reached the belt of fir wood that seemed to completely encircle the
range of heights which I was climbing, the obscurity was such that it
was only with the utmost difficulty I was able to make any headway at
all; and at length, coming to a spot where the grass was exceptionally
thick and dry, feeling somewhat fatigued with my unwonted exertions, I
flung myself down for a short rest, and before I knew what was
happening, fell fast asleep.

I awoke, chill and cramped, at the sound of a distant bugle call, to
find that the sky over the summit of Mount Sampson was just paling to
the approach of dawn.  I therefore scrambled to my feet, much refreshed
by my nap, and resumed my climb, eager to get a glimpse of my
surroundings with the first of the daylight; for I had a great deal to
do, and not very much time in which to do it.

A quarter of an hour of brisk walking brought me to the upper edge of
the fir wood, and there before me, scarcely a mile distant, stood the
peak which I had chosen as the starting-point for my operations.  I had
been guided by the map in my selection of it, for the contours showed me
that, apart from Mount Sampson, it was one of the most lofty elevations
in the neighbourhood, and also that it rose somewhat abruptly to a
small, well-defined point.  My first glance at it assured me that, so
far at least, my map spoke truly, for the summit appeared to consist of
a rocky knoll, the highest point of which was a short, stunted, conical
mass, the top of which seemed scarcely capable of affording standing
room.  Nothing could possibly have been better for my purpose, and I
hurried forward and upward, eager now to get at my work.

I will not afflict the reader by attempting to describe in detail my
plan of operations, for it involved a mathematical problem of some
complexity, only interesting to and comprehensible by a mathematician.
Suffice it to say that what I had undertaken to do was to make three
separate sets of observations from as many chosen points, consisting of
carefully observed compass bearings, and angles taken with my pocket
sextant; and the taking of these observations, and the travelling from
one point to another, kept me so busy all day that I was scarcely able
to find time to snatch a couple of hurried meals while walking from one
point to another.  I was not interfered with by anybody, for, with two
opposing armies facing each other at close quarters, the population
seemed scarcely inclined to venture out of doors.  Of course I saw
plenty of armed men, both Russians and our own troops, moving about in
the plain which surrounds Kinchau, and there was a considerable amount
of desultory firing going on; but it was not until well on in the
afternoon that I came into close proximity of any of the troops, and
that was when it became necessary for me to cross a road leading into
Kinchau from the north.  Along this road armed Russians, singly, in twos
and threes, and often in large bodies, were passing to and fro; and I
lost nearly an hour of valuable time waiting for an opportunity merely
to cross that road unseen.  However, I managed it at last, and reached
my final observation point just in time to satisfactorily finish my work
before night fell and the light failed me.

And now my next task was to somehow make my way back to the cove in
which I had landed some eighteen hours earlier.  To do this it was
necessary for me to recross the road where I had been held up during the
afternoon; but now the darkness was in my favour, and I succeeded in
getting across with scarcely any delay, arriving at the cove safely,
with a good hour to spare.

It was a weary waiting for the boat which was due to come for me at
midnight, for I was very tired after my unusual exertions throughout the
day, and would gladly have slept.  But that would not do; for to have
slept would have exposed me to the double risk of being surprised, and
of missing my boat; I was therefore by no means sorry when, about
midnight, I heard the low whistle which announced her arrival.  To step
lightly into her and murmur the order to shove off was the work of a
moment, and half an hour later I was again safely aboard the _Kasanumi_,
to the great joy of young Hiraoka, who, it appeared, had been all day
haunted with the fear that I might fall into the hands of the Russians.

And now, weary as I was, there were at least two hours' work before me,
with pencil, paper, protractor, parallel ruler, and scale, making
calculations and laying down upon map and chart the result of my
observations.  This result was, on the whole, eminently satisfactory,
for although I discovered a few trifling errors in the map, here and
there, my observations enabled me to correct them; and when I had at
length finished, map and chart were in a condition which would enable me
to proceed with the second part of my task with the assurance of
success.  This accomplished, I retired to my cabin with an easy mind,
and slept the sleep of the just until midday.

A salt-water douche on deck for a few minutes, skilfully administered by
a laughing Japanese seaman, and a brisk rub down with a rough towel left
me fresh and invigorated, quite ready for a meal and the work which
still lay ahead of me.  The first part of this consisted in laying down
upon the chart a number of positions corresponding with the varying
draughts of water of the several units which the Admiral was detailing
to assist General Oku in his operations against the Russian forces who
were barring his passage of the Kinchau isthmus.  The laying down of the
positions above referred to was a task demanding a considerable amount
of thought and care, for it was important that the ships should approach
the shore as nearly as possible, otherwise their guns might be
out-ranged, while, on the other hand, they must not be permitted to
approach too near, or they would be exposed to the risk of being left
aground on a falling tide.  Also it was imperative that the berths
chosen for them should be so situated as to enable them to afford the
maximum amount of possible assistance.  I devoted the entire afternoon
to the consideration of this question, and at length fixed upon a series
of positions which seemed to me to answer all requirements as nearly as
the tidal conditions would allow.  My next task was to accurately fix
these several positions by as complete a series of cross bearings as
possible; having accomplished which, there was nothing more to be done
until after midnight.  Meanwhile, the _Kasanumi_, with her engines
stopped, was lying hove-to some sixty miles to the westward of Kinchau,
in the Gulf of Liaotung, waiting for nightfall.

At four bells in the first watch we got under way and started to run
east at a speed of twenty knots, for I had now to complete my entire
plan by placing the buoys, or triangular rafts which I had provided for
the purpose, in the positions in Kinchau Bay which I had already
selected for them and marked upon the chart.

Too anxious for the complete success of my scheme to be able to sleep, I
had ordered a deck chair to be brought up from below, and was sitting in
this on our little navigating bridge, with a midshipman named Uchida,
who had been detailed for service with me, pacing softly to and fro from
port to starboard, keeping the lookout; and the cold night air was
beginning to produce a pleasantly drowsy effect upon me when, as the boy
halted for a moment in turning on his march, he suddenly stiffened, and
stared intently out upon our starboard beam.  He stood thus, like a
figure suddenly turned to stone, for the space of a full minute or more,
then came softly to my side and saluted.

"Three craft on our starboard beam, sir, coming up from the south-west,"
he reported.

"What do they look like?"  I demanded, rising to my feet and staring out
in the direction toward which the boy pointed.

"I cannot yet say, sir," he replied.  "At present they are too far off
to reveal their character; indeed, I doubt if I should have seen them so
soon, but for the fact that I glimpsed the flames issuing from one of
their funnels."

"Yes," I said.  "Thanks, Mr Uchida, I see them too.  Have the goodness
to bring me the night-glass from the chart-house.  They appear to be
steaming with lights out."

The lad hurried away, and quickly returned with the night-glass, which I
focused and applied to my eye.  The night was overcast, but there were a
few stars blinking out between the clouds, which were flying fast up
from the westward, and by their feeble, uncertain light I was presently
able to distinguish a little more clearly the three small, shapeless
blurs that Uchida's keen eyes had detected.  They were little more than
shapeless blurs still, even when viewed through the powerful lenses of
the night-glass; but I was able to distinguish that one of them was
considerably bigger than the other two, which were much of a size.  It
was the funnel of the big fellow that was showing the flames, which
seemed to indicate that she was being driven, while the other two
appeared to be running easily.  Yet all three were in company.  The
appearance of the two smaller craft seemed to suggest to me that they
might possibly be destroyers; but what the other was, I could not guess.
She was not big enough for a cruiser or a transport; and the fact that
she was evidently being hard driven to enable her to keep pace with her
consorts--or, possibly, escort--led me to doubt whether she was a
warship of any kind.  One thing was pretty clear, which was that, like
ourselves, they were evidently bound for Kinchau Bay.  Were they enemies
or friends?  If the former, it was eminently undesirable that they
should be permitted to arrive, and it was for me to look into the
matter.

"How's her head?"  I demanded of the helmsman.

"East, three degrees south," he replied.

"Shift your helm to east, twenty-five degrees south," I ordered; and the
bows of the destroyer swung round until she was heading for a point at
which we could intercept the strangers.  Then: "Mr Uchida," I said,
"pass the word to prepare to make the private night signal."

The signal was presently hoisted to the yard-arm and displayed for fully
five minutes without evoking a response; and then I knew that the
strangers were enemies.  We accordingly hauled down the signal again and
cleared for action, loading both torpedo tubes as well.  This done, we
quickened up our pace to full speed; for if we were going to have a
fight, I wanted it to be out there in the open, so far away from the
shore that the sounds of firing would not reach the Russians about
Kinchau, and so apprise them of the presence of an enemy in the adjacent
waters.

As we rapidly neared the enemy I made them out to be two destroyers,
evidently escorting the third craft, which was a single-funnelled
steamer of apparently about eighteen hundred tons.  She sat deep in the
water, as though loaded to her full capacity, but she was much too small
for a transport, and for the life of me I could not imagine what her
character might be.  But there could be no doubt whatever concerning the
destroyers; they were self-evident Russians, for they were
four-funnelled, the funnels arranged in pairs, which was distinctly
characteristic of a certain class of Russian destroyer.

Neither side wasted any time upon useless preliminaries; but it was the
Russians who opened the ball by both craft firing, almost
simultaneously, every gun they could bring to bear upon us.  But their
aim was nothing to boast of, for although we heard the shells screaming
all about us, we remained untouched.  Twice they fired upon us before I
would give the word to our gun-layers, and both times ineffectively;
then I gave the order to commence firing; and no sooner had the words
passed my lips than our 12-pounder spoke, and a moment later there
occurred two distinct explosions aboard the nearest Russian boat, which
instantly became enveloped in a great cloud of steam.  Apparently that
first shot of ours had struck and exploded one of her boilers, for
almost immediately she slackened speed and began to drop astern.  This
mishap, however, did not seem to in the least discourage her consort,
which, putting on full speed, now dashed at us in the most determined
and gallant manner, firing as she came, and receiving our fire in
return.  And then, for some ten minutes, we found ourselves engaged in a
regular ding-dong fight, we and our antagonist closing to a distance of
less than two hundred yards, and hammering away at each other as fast as
the guns could be served.

But it very soon became apparent that our fellows were much the better
and cooler gunners of the two; for whereas the Russians seemed to ram in
their charges and let fly on the instant that their guns were loaded,
our men waited, watching the roll both of their own ship and that of the
enemy, and firing at her waterline as she rolled away from us, with the
result that within the first five minutes of the fight a lucky shot from
our 12-pounder sent a shell through her upturned bilge a foot or so
below her normal waterline, blowing a hole through her thin plating that
admitted a tremendous inrush of water every time that she rolled toward
us.  Her crew at once got out a collision mat and made the most
desperate efforts to get it over and stop the leak; but our 6-pound
quick-firers peppered them so severely that, after struggling manfully
for two or three minutes, they were obliged to let the mat go, and lost
it.  Then they launched a torpedo at us, which missed us by inches only,
whereupon I ordered our men to cease fire, and hailed the Russian to ask
if she would surrender.  But, not a bit of it; their reply, as
translated to me by Hiraoka, who was an excellent Russian linguist, was,
that they knew how to die, but not how to surrender; and the reply was
accompanied by another salvo from every one of their guns that would
bear.  And this, too, at a moment when it became only too apparent that
the boat was rapidly sinking.  Since, therefore, it was evident that
they were resolved to fight to the last, there was nothing for it but to
open fire upon them afresh, much as I regretted it, as they obstinately
persisted in keeping up a fire upon us.

The end, however, was nearer than even I thought, for we had fired but a
few more shots at our opponent when there occurred a terrific explosion
aboard her, instantly followed by several others, her deck opened up
like the lid of a box, a great sheet of flame leapt up from her
interior; and, seeming to break in two, the dismembered hull rapidly
disappeared, the bow and stern portions rearing themselves out of water
for a few seconds ere they plunged to the bottom, leaving nothing to
show where the boat had been, save a great cloud of acrid smoke and
steam, a few fragments of wreckage, and some half a dozen men struggling
in the water.

Of course we instantly stopped our engines and launched a boat; but we
only found and saved three men out of the boat's total complement of
forty-seven.  We learned that the name of the lost destroyer was the
_Beztraschni_, and that all of her officers had perished with her.

We now had leisure to attend to the other two craft, which were by this
time some three miles astern, having apparently stopped their engines to
await at a safe distance the course of events.  Swinging round, we
headed for them at full speed, with all guns loaded, and a torpedo in
each tube, ready to open fire as soon as we got within effective range.
As we drew nearer, however, it became evident that there was something
very seriously wrong with the destroyer which we had first fired upon,
and which had dropped astern, disabled, for there were boats in the
water about her, seemingly passing between her and the other craft,
boats going to her with only two or three hands in them, and leaving her
loaded.  By the time that we had arrived within a mile of her we could
see that the destroyer was in a sinking condition; and a minute later we
lost sight of her altogether: she had gone down.

The boats were still in the water alongside the surviving craft, and men
were climbing up her side from them as we arrived within some thirty
fathoms of her and hailed, demanding her surrender.  A reply instantly
came from her to the effect that she surrendered; whereupon I dispatched
Hiraoka on board, in charge of an armed boat's crew; and some ten
minutes later the youngster hailed, informing me that our prize was
named the _Vashka_, of seventeen hundred and sixty tons register,
originally a cargo steamer, but now adapted for mine-laying; and that
she was from Dalny, bound for Kinchau Bay for the purpose of sowing the
bay with mines, in anticipation of the probability that some of our
ships would be sent to participate in the attack upon the isthmus.  He
added the information that the vessel, hoping to escape the notice of
Japan's warships by taking a roundabout route, had been escorted by two
destroyers only, the _Beztraschni_ and the _Storozhevoi_, the latter of
which we had seen go down a few minutes before as a result of injuries
inflicted upon her by our 12-pounder, the shell from which had not only
blown a great rent in her bottom, as it burst, but the fragments of
which had pierced two of her boilers.

It was evident that we had made a capture of considerable importance, I
therefore proceeded on board the prize, with an armed reinforcement, and
after going carefully into the matter with Hiraoka, arranged with him to
take the _Vashka_ to the Elliots, in charge of a prize crew, there to
act according to the Admiral's orders.

This matter arranged, I returned to the _Kasanumi_, and we resumed our
voyage while the prize headed away south-west, on her way round to the
Elliot Islands.  We now had leisure to look into the extent of our own
injuries.  These, it proved, were by no means so serious as might have
been expected, having regard to the fierceness and closeness of the
fight.  Our casualties amounted to two killed and five wounded, one of
them seriously; while the top of the aftermost of our midship pair of
funnels had been blown away, the rail of the navigating bridge smashed
and doubled up in a most astonishing way, the pilot-house roof torn off,
our topsides pierced in no less than five places, and a very pretty
general average made of my cabin, in which a shell had evidently burst.
Luckily, none of these injuries seriously affected the craft's safety,
while most of them could be at least temporarily patched-up in a few
hours; also, very luckily, all the navigating instruments, the
chronometer, my sextant, the nautical almanac, and my book of
logarithmic and other tables had almost miraculously escaped all injury.

We steamed into Kinchau Bay, with all lights out, about an hour later
than I had arranged for, but still in sufficient time for the work which
lay before me; and when we arrived off the cove where I had previously
landed, our largest boat was lowered, the buoys or rafts which I had
caused to be prepared were placed in her, each having attached to it a
very light chain of just sufficient length to securely moor it with the
aid of a good grapnel; and, accompanied by two men, I then jumped in,
and we pulled ashore, while the _Kasanumi_ turned tail and steamed off
to sea again at full speed, so as to be out of sight from the shore
before dawn.

Arrived in the cove, we secured our boat, and then settled down as
comfortably as was possible to await the dawn.  It came at last, and, as
I had expected, there very shortly afterwards arrived some forty
Manchurian fishermen from a little village, about half a mile distant.
At first they were somewhat alarmed to find the cove, and their boats,
apparently in possession of Japanese men-o'-war's-men; but I had taken
the precaution to ensure that one of my men should be capable of playing
the part of interpreter; and before long I was able not only to reassure
them but also, by a judicious admixture of cajolery and threats, to
secure their assistance in the completion of my scheme.  Money appeals
to the Manchurian fisherman just as powerfully as it does to most other
people, more powerfully than it does to many, for he sees so little of
it; consequently when I intimated that I was prepared to pay the
magnificent sum of ten yen for a few hours' use of one of their boats,
with a crew of four men, the whole crowd came tumbling over one another
in their eagerness to secure the prize.  I chose the boat most suitable
for my purpose, transferred my rafts and gear to her, leaving our own
boat in charge of a man who undertook to guard her with his life for the
sum of one yen; and then, in company with the other boats, which were
going fishing in the bay, we shoved off and pulled out of the cove.  By
a stroke of the greatest good fortune, the day was beautifully fine and
clear, so that I was able without the slightest difficulty to get every
one of my bearings with the most absolute accuracy, and to place my
several buoys on the prearranged spots with perfect precision.  The work
was successfully and most satisfactorily accomplished shortly before
noon; and now all that remained to be done was to affix the different
coloured flags to the buoys.  But that part would have to be deferred
until our ships should actually come into action; otherwise our
sharp-sighted enemies might prematurely catch sight of them, and,
guessing their purpose, destroy them.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

I GO ASHORE.

An hour before midnight, launching our own boat, my crew and I pushed
out of the cove into Kinchau Bay, in readiness to board the _Kasanumi_
immediately upon her arrival from the offing.

Toward the close of the afternoon the weather had undergone a change,
becoming overcast and hazy, with a drizzling rain.

The wind, too, had shifted, and, as we pushed out of the cove, was
blowing fresh from the westward, knocking up a short, choppy sea that
threatened soon to become dangerous to such a small boat as ours.
Luckily for us, however, Hiraoka was a bit ahead of time that night, the
barometer having warned him that bad weather was brewing, with the
result that in little more than half an hour after leaving the cove we
made out the dark form of the destroyer, hove-to and waiting for us,
within fifty fathoms of our boat.  And now it was that I had practical
experience of the value of a suitable colouring as an aid to
concealment; for although the _Kasanumi_ had been where we found her for
a full quarter of an hour, and although we had been keeping a sharp
lookout for her, she remained invisible until we were close aboard of
her, thanks to the peculiar shade of grey with which I had caused her to
be painted.  We scrambled aboard gladly enough, hoisted the boat to the
davits, and at once started back for our rendezvous at the Elliot group,
where we arrived without adventure shortly after sunrise on the
following morning.

When, a little later, I went aboard the flagship to report myself and
the result of my expedition to the Admiral, I learned that I had only
got back just in the nick of time, for at last a communication had been
received from General Oku, announcing that his preparations were now
complete, and the squadron detached to assist him was under orders to
leave for Kinchau Bay that very night.  This squadron consisted of the
_Tsukushi_, a light cruiser, armed with two 10-inch and four 47-inch
guns, and the old ironclad _Hei-yen_, once belonging to the Chinese
navy, but captured by the Japanese at the first battle of the Yalu.  She
mounted one 10-inch Krupp which had formed part of her original
armament, and two 6-inch modern guns.  Also the _Akagi_, another
survivor of the Yalu battle, armed with four 47-inch guns; and the
_Chokai_, carrying one 8-2-inch and one 47-inch gun.  These were the
craft destined to bombard the Nanshan Heights from the sea while the
Japanese infantry and artillery attacked them from the land side; and
they were the only craft we had at the time at all suitable for the
purpose, while even they were incapable of rendering such efficient help
as might have been desired, the fact being that the shallow waters of
Kinchau Bay compelled them to keep at so great a distance from the shore
that they could only use their guns at extreme ranges.  Accompanying
these four ships was a flotilla consisting of ten torpedo-boats under my
command, their duty being to lend a hand generally in any manner that
might be required.

There was just comfortable time for us to re-bunker the _Kasanumi_
before six o'clock, at which hour we got under way, the expedition as a
whole being under the command of Rear-Admiral Misamichi, who knew the
locality well, having carefully reconnoitred the whole of the western
coast of the peninsula a week or two earlier.  I had by this time
completed all my calculations, laid down upon the chart the positions of
my series of buoys, and indicated in figures the exact measurements in
yards from the lines which they marked to a number of points ashore, and
a copy of this chart had been handed to each captain; they were
therefore now in a position to steam in and open fire forthwith, with
the absolute certainty of landing their shots upon the spots aimed at.

We were rather a slow-going lot, our speed of course being regulated by
that of the slowest craft of the bunch, which happened to be the old
_Hei-yen_; and our progress was further impeded by the circumstance
that, upon rounding Liao-ti-shan promontory we ran into a westerly
breeze and sea that flung our torpedo-boats about like corks and
necessitated our slowing down to a speed of about eight knots; in
consequence of which it was late the next night when we arrived and came
to an anchor well out in deep water.

And now arose a little difficulty.  We started to communicate by
wireless to General Oku the fact of our arrival in the bay, by code of
course; but such was the Russian keenness and activity that the moment
their own wireless picked up our message,--as, of course, it was bound
to do,--finding that it was in a code which they could not decipher,
they immediately proceeded to "mix" it so effectually that the reading
of it became impossible.  The first word or two, however, reached Oku,
and he at once, shrewdly surmising that the message was from us,
proceeded to signal us by searchlight, using an adaptation of the Morse
Code.  The conversation thus carried on was a lengthy one, occupying
more than an hour, when it suddenly ceased, and almost immediately
afterward the Admiral signalled me to proceed on board the flagship.
This was much more easily said than done, for by this time it was
blowing a moderate gale, and the sea was running so heavily that it was
as much as my boat could do to live in it, while as for getting
alongside the cruiser, that was quite out of the question, and they were
obliged to hoist me aboard in a standing bowline at the end of a whip.

Upon being shown into Admiral Misamichi's cabin, I found its occupant
somewhat ruefully contemplating the rather voluminous communication from
the shore which he had just received.  He welcomed me with much
cordiality, and then passed the document over to me.

"Be so good as to read that, Captain," he said, "and then kindly tell me
what you make of it.  It purports to be General Oku's instructions for
to-morrow; but so dense is my stupidity that I am compelled to confess
my inability to understand it."

I read the communication carefully through from beginning to end three
times, and was then obliged to admit that I had only been able to glean
a very hazy, imperfect notion of what the General required.  I gathered
that he desired the squadron to concentrate its fire from time to time
upon certain points, as directed by signal; but the mischief of it was
that we out there in the bay had no means of identifying the points
named by the General; in other words, he gave them designations of which
we were completely ignorant.  We produced the chart of the place,
likewise the map, and studied them both intently, with Oku's message
beside us, and finally came to the conclusion that it was
incomprehensible.  Then the Admiral sent for the captains of the other
ships, and they had a shot at it, with a similar result.

At length I said:

"It appears to me, sir, that there is but one thing to be done, namely,
for me to go ashore, find General Oku, explain to him our difficulty,
and _get_ him to mark on the map the several points mentioned here,"--
touching the dispatch.  "As you are aware, I have already been ashore
here; I spent a whole day among the hills, reconnoitring the ground and
making observations.  I therefore know the country well, including our
own and the enemy's positions; and probably half an hour's conversation
with the General will enable me to identify the points mentioned in this
dispatch with some of those already marked upon my chart.  Thus, for
example, this point, the position of which we are wholly unable to
identify, may be the position which I have marked 1, or 3, or 7, or, in
fact, anything; but it _must_ be one or other of those which I have
numbered, for I numbered every one of them."

"Yes, yes," agreed the Admiral, "that is all quite comprehensible; and,
if you could only get ashore, the matter could very soon be adjusted.
But how are you going to get ashore; and--still more difficult--how are
you going to get off again?  From what I know of this bay, I am prepared
to say that there is a surf breaking on the beach at this moment which
no boat of ours could pass through and live.  Listen to the wind, how it
howls through our rigging!"

True! that was a point which had entirely escaped me, in my eagerness.
How was I to get ashore?  Or rather, how was I to get off again?  I was
pretty confident of my ability to get ashore, for surf-swimming was a
favourite pastime of mine; but as to getting off again--well, I doubted
whether even my strength was equal to the task of struggling out through
the long lines of surf which I knew must now be thundering in upon
Kinchau beach.

The difficulty was finally overcome by the Admiral consenting to my
attempting to get ashore, upon condition that I would not attempt to
swim off again unless I felt absolutely convinced of my ability to
accomplish the feat.  If I could not, I was to remain ashore with Oku,
helping him in any manner that might suggest itself, but especially by
signalling off to the fleet, from time to time, the numbers of the
several positions which they would be required to shell.

This matter settled, I made my way back to the _Kasanumi_, and there
prepared for my somewhat hazardous adventure by carefully tying up a
marked and figured copy of the map of Kinchau and its surroundings in a
piece of thin sheet rubber, to protect it from the wet.  Next, I
divested myself of all clothing except a pair of swimming drawers and a
pair of thin canvas running shoes.  Then, tying the map, in its rubber
case, round my neck, I signalled our smallest torpedo-boat to look out
for me and haul me aboard--for by this time the sea was running so
heavily that it was impossible to launch a boat; when, having received a
reply to my signal, I simply dived overboard and swam down to leeward to
where the torpedo-boat lay.  Her crew were, of course, keenly on the
alert, and as I came driving down toward them, only visible in
consequence of the phosphorescence of the water, they flung me a
lifebuoy bent on to the end of a line, and so hauled me aboard.

We were anchored at a distance of about four miles from the shore, which
was, of course, much too great a distance for me to attempt to swim in
the sea that was now running, especially as I should need every ounce of
strength to fight my way through the long stretch of surf that I knew
must now be breaking all along the shore.  I therefore briefly explained
to the skipper of the torpedo-boat the mission upon which I was bound,
and what I wished him to do, and then, while he saw to the doing of his
part, I retired to his little cabin, stripped off my wet swimming kit,
and gave myself a vigorous towelling to banish the cold of even the
brief swim I had already undertaken.  Meanwhile, the boat was got under
way and taken in toward Kinchau, with the lead going all the time; and
when at length she was as near the shore as it was at all prudent for
her to approach, she was turned with her head to seaward, and the
skipper came down to apprise me of the state of affairs.  The boat had
taken about twenty minutes to feel her way in, and during that time I
had been assiduously practising gymnastics; I was therefore now not only
dry but also in a pleasant glow of warmth, and quite ready to undertake
the really formidable part of the task that still lay before me.

My swimming kit had meanwhile been taken down into the stokehole, so
that when it was handed to me it was not only nearly dry but, what was
very much more to the purpose, comfortably warm.  Donning it and a fine
warm boat cloak, I accompanied the skipper to the deck and walked aft to
take a look at the task before me.  I found that they had taken the boat
in to the very edge of the outer line of the surf, which stretched away
inshore of us, line after line, in an apparently interminable procession
of breakers, like lines of infantry rushing forward to the assault,
vaguely visible in their pallid phosphorescence against the blackness of
the starless night.  To fight my way to the shore through that wide area
of roaring, leaping, and seething breakers promised to be a task that
would tax my strength and energy to their utmost limits; but it was a
case of necessity, and I had undertaken to do it; therefore, throwing
off the borrowed boat cloak, with a word of farewell to the skipper of
the boat, I waited for the next oncoming breaker, and dived overboard at
the precise moment when it would catch me up in its mighty arms and
sweep me, without effort on my part, a good twenty fathoms toward the
shore.

_B-r-r-r_!  The water struck icy cold to my warm skin as I plunged deep
into the heart of the great arching mass of water, which caught me just
as I was rising to the surface and hurled me shoreward with irresistible
force, rolling me over and over like a cork as it broke into a long line
of hissing, pallid foam.  But I knew exactly what to expect, and was
fully prepared for it.  I therefore allowed it to do with me just what
it would, holding my breath and waiting until the breaker had passed
ahead and spent its force.  Then, striking out strongly as I came to the
surface, I swam on toward the next line of breakers, where the same
thing was repeated, but each time a shade less violently, until at
length, after what seemed like hours, but which, as a matter of fact,
could not have been more than about forty minutes of battling with the
breakers, my feet touched ground, and a moment later the last breaker, a
very mild and harmless one compared with those in the offing, lifted me
up and almost gently deposited me on the beach.

Upon hands and knees I crawled up above watermark and then rose to my
feet to look about, recover my breath, and get my bearings.  After the
stinging cold of the water, the air felt quite pleasantly warm, but I
knew that I should soon get chilled if I did not keep moving briskly;
so, seeing a line of watch-fires about half a mile away, which, from
their position, I guessed must be Japanese, I set out toward them at a
brisk walking pace, and, the ground being fortunately open in that
direction, it was but a few minutes before I found myself unexpectedly
halted, with the point of a Japanese sentry's bayonet gently pressing
against my breast.  Of course I hadn't the countersign; but my
appearance, and particularly my unconventional garb, must have convinced
him of the truth of my story that, being unable to get ashore in any
other way, I had swum in from the fleet, with a communication from the
Admiral for General Oku, for he passed me on to the next sentry without
hesitation; and thus in the course of another ten minutes I found myself
in the tent of a certain colonel who not only had heard of me but had
also seen me and now recognised me.  From him I learned that the general
staff quarters were situated about a mile farther inland, on one of the
lower slopes of Mount Sampson, to which he very kindly offered to
conduct me.  But of course I could not present myself before General Oku
in bathing rig, and it was not without difficulty that a suit of clothes
was at length found into which I could get; but it was managed at last,
and off we went, the colonel and I, my companion seeming to be greatly
impressed with my swimming feat.  "I wonder," he remarked, "if there is
_anything_ that an Englishman would not at least _attempt_ to do!"

Our way led through the Japanese camp, so I had a very good opportunity
to observe what the domestic life--if I may so term it--of the Japanese
soldier was at the front; and I was surprised to see how thoroughly
every possible contingency had been foreseen and provided for, and how
many ingenious little devices had been thought out and included in his
kit with the object of adding to his comfort.

In due time we arrived at headquarters; and late though the hour was,
the General and his staff were all not only awake and on the move, but
were holding a sort of council of war, for the purpose of making the
final arrangements for the morrow.  As it happened, my arrival was most
opportune, for the staff were planning the details of an assault that
could by no possibility be successful without the assistance of the
navy, upon which they were all confidently reckoning, whereas it was my
duty to inform them that, unless there came a very quick change of
weather, it would be impossible for our ships to co-operate, and I had
to explain at length why.  This caused an immediate change of plan, the
grand assault being provisionally postponed, since there was no prospect
whatever at that moment of a change of weather occurring in time.

I delivered my message and produced my map, explaining the various
markings upon it and describing the work upon which I had been engaged
during the past few days; and I was exceedingly gratified to learn that
it would greatly simplify and assist the general's plans.

It was also satisfactory to know that the Japanese had never had the
slightest suspicion of what I was doing, which was tantamount to an
assurance that the Russians were equally ignorant.  It was amazing to
see the facility with which Oku altered his plans.  No sooner did he
understand that the chances were all against the fleet being able to
help him on the following day than he was ready with an alternative
scheme; and in a quarter of an hour he had everything cut-and-dried,
every officer present was given clear and concise instructions relative
to his duties on the morrow, and we were all dismissed with a hint to
get what rest we might, as the morrow was to be a busy day.  General
Oshima, who was in command of the 3rd Division, constituting the
Japanese left, very kindly took me under his wing, and found me sleeping
quarters in a tent, the occupants of which happened to be out on duty.

Being greatly fatigued after my swim, I slept soundly that night, but
was awakened at dawn by the bugle calls, and turned out to see what the
weather was like.  To my disgust, and doubtless that of everybody else,
it was worse than ever; the sky was overcast and louring, with great
rags of dirty grey scud flying athwart the face of the heavens from the
westward, while the top of Mount Sampson was completely enveloped in
mist, which, notwithstanding the gale, clung to the rugged peak and ribs
of the mountain very much as the "tablecloth" does to the summit of
Table Mountain.  There was no fog down where we were, but, what was even
worse, we were smothered with blinding and suffocating clouds of dust,
for it was a dry gale, and all hands were devoutly praying that the
louring sky would dissolve into rain, if only for half an hour, just to
lay the dust and so save us from the unpleasantness of being blinded and
suffocated.  As for the bay, it was just one continuous sheet of foam,
while the breakers leapt and boiled for a space of a full mile from the
beach.  A single glance at it was sufficient to make it clear that it
would be impossible for the fleet to co-operate so long as the gale
lasted, even if the tossing masts and spray-enveloped hulls of our craft
in the offing had not told a similar tale.  General Oshima and I walked
a couple of miles to the northward along the slopes of Mount Sampson, in
order to get a good view of the bay, clear of the northern spur of the
Nanshan Heights, just to make assurance doubly sure; but it was scarcely
necessary to point out to him the wildly plunging hulls of our ships to
make him understand the hopelessness of the case, and that once clearly
established, we hurried back to Headquarters to make our report.

Oku, however, was not the man to be deterred by weather, or indeed
anything else.  Finding that the projected assault was impossible for
the moment, he resolved to begin the bombardment with his own guns,
doing the best he could with them, unaided, and accompanying the
bombardment with what he termed "a demonstration in force," in order to
bring out the Russians and compel them to man their defences while
exposed to the fire of our guns.  Thus, by a curious combination of
circumstances, it appeared that at last I was to be afforded the
opportunity of seeing what a land battle was like.

Naturally, I volunteered my services in any capacity where I could be
made useful, and the general eagerly closed with my offer.  He was
particularly anxious to obtain the exact range of certain of the Russian
positions without being obliged to fire any trial shots, and he asked me
if I could do this for him, seeing that I had already done similar work
quite recently; and I told him that I could, and would, with pleasure,
if such a thing as a box sextant or an azimuth compass was to be found
in camp.  Somewhat to my surprise it turned out, upon inquiry, that no
such things were to be had.  I therefore had recourse to what is known
among engineers as a "plane table," which I was obliged to extemporise;
and with this apparatus, used in conjunction with a carefully measured
line, three hundred yards in length, I was soon able to supply the
information required.  The whole device was, of course, of a very
rough-and-ready description, but I was greatly gratified when the first
shots were fired, to see the shells drop upon the exact spots aimed at.

The task which General Oku had undertaken, and which he must accomplish
before an advance could be made by him upon Port Arthur, was an
exceedingly difficult one.  As has already been said, he effected a
landing at a point near Yentoa Bay, distant some sixty miles north-east
of Port Arthur as the crow flies.  From thence he must needs make his
way to Port Arthur overland, since there was no such thing for him as
getting there by sea.  About half-way on his journey occurred the
isthmus of Kinchau, which is only about two miles wide, and which he
must traverse on his way.  A neck of land two miles wide is no great
matter to fortify, a fact which the Russians speedily demonstrated.  To
march along such a narrow strip of land, with sixteen thousand resolute
armed men saying you Nay, would be difficult enough, in all conscience,
were that strip of land level; but unhappily for the Japanese it was not
so, the Nanshan Heights running through it from north to south, like a
raised backbone, leaving only a very narrow strip of low ground on
either side of it.  Nor was this the only difficulty which the Japanese
had to contend with, for, some three miles north-east of the narrowest
part of the isthmus, towered Mount Sampson, over two thousand feet in
height, commanding the entire neighbourhood and affording an ideal
position for the Russian batteries.  Then, at the foot of Mount Sampson
lay the walled city of Kinchau, which the Russians had seized and
fortified; and, finally, there were the Nanshan Heights, upon the crest
of which the Russians had constructed ten forts, armed with seventy
guns, several of which were of 8-inch or 6-inch calibre, firing shells
of from two hundred to one hundred pounds weight.

To attempt to pass these several positions while they were in the hands
of the Russians would have been simply courting annihilation; the first
task, therefore, was to capture them.  This, so far as Mount Sampson was
concerned, had been done when I arrived upon the scene; but there still
remained Kinchau and the Nanshan Heights to be taken; and each of these
threatened to be an even tougher piece of work than the storming of
Mount Sampson; for the Russians, after their experience of the
extraordinary intrepidity of the Japanese when storming the mountain,
had adopted every conceivable means to make the heights impregnable.

First of all, there were the ten forts with their seventy guns lining
the crest of the heights, in addition to which the Russians had two
batteries of quick-fire field artillery and ten machine-guns.  Next, in
front of the forts, all along the eastern slope of the heights--which
was the side from which attack was possible--there was row after row of
shelter trenches, solidly roofed with timber covered with earth, to
protect the occupants from artillery fire.  Below these again the
Russians had dug countless circular pitfalls, about ten feet deep,
shaped like drinking cups, with very narrow bottoms, each pit having at
its bottom a stout, upright, sharpened stake upon which any hapless
person, falling in, must inevitably be impaled.  They were, in fact, an
adaptation of the stake pitfalls employed by many African and other
natives to capture and kill big game.  These pits were dug so close
together that, of a party of stormers rushing up the slope, a large
proportion must inevitably fall in, or be unwittingly pushed in by their
comrades.  Passages between these pits were purposely left here and
there, but they were all mined, each mine being connected to one of the
forts above by an electric cable, so that it could be exploded at any
moment by merely pressing a button.  And that moment would of course be
when the passage-way was crowded with Japanese.  And, lastly, at the
foot of the hill there was a great maze of strongly constructed wire
entanglements, during the slow passage of which the hapless stormers
would be exposed to a withering rifle and shell fire.  Thus the task
which the Japanese had to perform was, first to pass through the wire
entanglements at the foot of the hill; next, to achieve the passage of
the staked pits and the mined ground between them--exposed all the time,
be it remembered, to a terrific fire from the forts and trenches above;
next, to take line after line of trenches; and, finally, to storm the
forts on the crest of the heights--a task which, I frankly admit, seemed
to me impossible.

I must confess that my first impressions of a land battle were
disappointing.  I had expected to see the Japanese march out and storm
the heights under cover of the fire of their own guns.  And, as a matter
of fact, they did march out, but there was no storming of the heights; I
had momentarily forgotten that what I was witnessing was merely a
"demonstration."  I presume it served its purpose, however, for the
General and his staff seemed to be perfectly satisfied with the result;
and in any case it had the effect intended of compelling the Russians to
man their trenches under the fire of the Japanese guns, which, feeble
though they were as compared with those of the enemy, must have
inflicted severe punishment upon the packed masses of infantry who
swarmed into the trenches to repel what they had every reason to suppose
was a genuine attack.  But the Japanese--closely watched by a Russian
captive balloon, which was sent up directly our troops were seen to be
in motion--having compelled the Russians to turn out and expend a
considerable quantity of ammunition in comparatively innocuous
long-range shooting, calmly marched back again about three o'clock in
the afternoon, about which time the firing ceased.  While it lasted,
however, it was hot enough to bring on heavy rain, and the day ended
with a tremendous downpour, which converted the hillsides into a network
of miniature cascades, and must have been exceedingly unpleasant for any
of the Russians whom expediency and watchfulness compelled to remain in
the trenches.

With nightfall the gale increased in fury; but the rain had produced at
least one good result; it had laid the dust most effectually while it
had made but little mud, for the thirsty earth seemed to absorb the
water almost as fast as it fell; also it cooled the air considerably,
which was all to the advantage of the Japanese, who would have the
strenuous work of climbing the hill, while it would tend to chill and
benumb the Russians, who would be compelled to remain comparatively
inactive in the sodden trenches.  Whether it was this consideration, or
the fact that the barometer was rapidly rising, or a combination of
both, I cannot say, but about ten o'clock that night the word went round
that a general attack upon the Russian works was to be made as soon as
possible after midnight.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE STORMING OF NANSHAN HEIGHTS.

By midnight a change of weather had occurred; the wind, which at ten
o'clock in the evening had been blowing harder than ever, suddenly
subsided, the air grew close, almost to suffocation, and an immense
black cloud settled down upon the summit of Mount Sampson, where it
rested broodingly, the sure precursor of a thunderstorm, if I was any
judge of weather lore.

The first troops to move consisted of a detachment of the 4th Engineers'
Battalion, who were assigned the perilous duty of blowing down the gates
of Kinchau, of which there were four, corresponding to the four cardinal
points of the compass.  I volunteered to accompany this party, for the
task which devolved upon them was one that rather appealed to me; but
Oku was most emphatic in his refusal, explaining that he would more than
probably require my services at daylight, or shortly afterward, to
communicate with the squadron in the offing.  Accordingly, I had to
stand aside, somewhat unwillingly, and see them march off without me;
which was perhaps just as well, for the attempt resulted in failure, and
every man who participated in it was killed.

Just as the Engineers marched out of camp on their way to Kinchau, the
brooding cloud on the summit of Mount Sampson began to send forth flash
after flash of vivid lightning, green, blue, and sun-bright, which
lighted up not only the rugged slopes of the mountain itself, but also
those other and more deadly slopes of the Nanshan Heights, while peal
after peal of thunder crashed and rolled and reverberated among the
ravines which scored the sides of the mountain.  It was a weird enough
scene of itself, but its weirdness was intensified by the Russian
searchlights, which were turned on with the first crash of thunder,
which the Russians appeared to mistake for the roar of Japanese guns.
As a matter of fact they appeared to be a bit panicky that night, for
not only did they turn on the searchlights at the first sound of
thunder, but the occupants of the forts and trenches on the crest and
side of Nanshan Heights at once opened a terrific fire from every piece,
great or small, that could be brought to bear upon the foot of the
slope, which was instantly swept by a very hurricane of shrapnel and
rifle bullets, while the Japanese, safely under cover, looked on and
smiled.

For two hours that storm raged with such fury that the volleying peals
of thunder quite outroared the booming of the Russian artillery and
rifle-fire, which gradually died down as the Muscovites began to realise
that there was no attack; and about two o'clock in the morning the storm
passed away, still rumbling and muttering, to the eastward.  But during
that two hours of elemental fury, a Chinese village in the neighbourhood
was set on fire and practically destroyed, while several Japanese
soldiers were struck by lightning, and either killed outright or more or
less seriously injured.

With the passing of the storm a thick, white mist arose from the low
ground, completely blotting out everything beyond a few yards distant;
and under the cover of this mist the Japanese made their dispositions
for the coming battle, entirely unseen by the enemy, and probably
unheard also, for it was a revelation to me to see how quietly large
bodies of men could be moved when the necessity for silence had been
fully impressed upon them.

As the dawn gradually brightened the sky behind the ridge of Mount
Sampson, the Russians again became uneasy, and their rifles once more
began to speak from the trenches, a shot here, then another shot yonder,
followed by quite a spluttering here and there all along their front;
but their artillery remained silent, for the fog was still so dense that
nothing could be seen at which to aim.

Protected by the cover of the fog, the Japanese soldiers went to
breakfast, fortifying themselves with a good meal, in preparation for
the arduous labours of the day that lay before them; and I did the same,
for I knew not how long it might be before I should again have the
opportunity to eat or drink; also, following the example of several of
the officers and men, I filled my jacket pockets with biscuit, and
provided myself with a good capacious flask of cold tea, having done
which, I felt ready for anything.

We had barely finished breakfast when the sun showed over the ridge of
Mount Sampson; and almost immediately the thick curtain of fog, which
had thus far so effectually hidden the movements of the Japanese troops
from the enemy, began to lift and thin.  This was the signal for the
final movement prior to the storming of the Nanshan Heights; and that
movement was directed against the city of Kinchau, it being known by
this time that the devoted band of engineers who had been dispatched at
midnight to blow in the gates of the city must have failed in their
mission, otherwise some of them at least would have been back to report.

To the 1st Division was assigned the task of taking the city; and they
did it in brilliant style.  Marching upon the southern gate, a party of
four engineers was sent forward to blow in the massive barrier, which
was protected by steel plates and bands, secured by heavy steel bolts,
and loopholed for musketry.  The devoted quartette succeeded in placing
their blasting charges and igniting the fuses under a heavy fire, not
only from the loopholed gate, but also from the walls, but in so doing
they were so severely wounded that after they had lighted the fuses they
were unable to effect their escape, and received further severe injuries
when the explosion occurred and the gate was blown off its hinges.  Then
the waiting 1st Division, straining like eager hounds held in leash,
rushed forward through the thick, acrid smoke, with levelled bayonets,
yelling "Banzai Nippon!" as they ran; and as they charged impetuously in
through the south gate, the enemy went streaming as impetuously out
through the west gate, about half a mile away.

Kinchau was now in the hands of the Japanese; but this was not
sufficient for them, they must needs pursue the flying Russians; and
they did so with such furious impetuosity that they literally drove them
into the sea--that is to say, into the waters of Kinchau Bay, where the
luckless Russians, to the number of five hundred, were either shot down
or drowned, almost to a man, only ten of them surviving and being taken
prisoners.  I had a distant view of the whole affair from a knoll on the
northern spur of the Nanshan Heights, where I had taken up a position
which commanded a view, not only of practically the whole of the ground
over which the stormers would have to pass, but also of the bay and our
fleet, to which I should probably be required to signal from time to
time as the fight progressed.

Meanwhile, the mist had by this time lifted, revealing a flotilla of our
torpedo-boats and destroyers feeling their way into the bay and keeping
a bright lookout for possible mines.  Well astern of them came the
_Akagi_ and _Chokai_; and still farther out were the old _Hei-yen_ and
the cruiser _Tsukushi_, cautiously creeping in, with leadsmen
perpetually sounding on either beam.  The bottom, about where they were
required to be, was flat, and the tide was on the ebb, the great fear of
the skippers of those two craft, therefore, was that they might touch
the ground and hang there, left by the tide, exposed helplessly to the
fire of the Russian guns.  Thanks, however, to my labours of a few days
earlier, they were all able to get close enough in to open upon the
Russian works at extreme range, although, until the tide should rise,
they could not bring a thoroughly effective fire upon the Russian
batteries and so put them out of action.

But if we had ships, so, too, had the Russians, in the shape of the
gunboat _Bobr_ and five small steamers in Hand Bay, on the side of the
isthmus opposite to Kinchau Bay, the Nanshan Heights being between them,
so that each was hidden from the sight of the other.  The _Bobr_ was
likely to prove a very awkward customer for us; for she mounted one
9-inch and one 6-inch gun, which, although they were a long way from
being up-to-date, were still quite good enough to out-range the Japanese
field-guns and severely pepper our left, which occupied the ground at
the head of Hand Bay.  The steamers which accompanied her were, our
spies discovered, fitted up expressly for the purpose of quickly
ferrying troops across from one side of Hand Bay to the other, according
as they might be wanted, instead of being obliged to march round the
head of the bay in the face of our troops.  Thus the Russians were in a
position to either harass our left flank and rear, or to rush
reinforcements across the head of the bay--a distance of about a mile--
as circumstances might require.

The _Bohr_ began the day's proceedings by opening fire with her 9-inch
gun upon the artillery of our 3rd Division, which had taken up a
position upon the lower slopes of Mount Sampson, from which it could
reach the Russian batteries established upon the crest of the Nanshan
Heights.  The gunboat's fire did very little mischief, but it seemed to
be regarded by both sides as a signal to begin the fight, for at once
our batteries got to work, their shells dropping with most beautiful
precision upon the guns and trenches of the Russians.  I was so
stationed that I had a most excellent view of practically the entire
scene of operations, and no sooner did our artillery open fire than the
Russian batteries replied with a crash that seemed to make the very air
quiver.

A land battle is a very different spectacle from a sea battle, in this
respect: that, in the latter, a shell either hits or misses its mark,
and if it misses there is a splash or two and that ends the matter, so
far as that particular shell is concerned.  But ashore, every shell,
whether or not it finds its mark, hits something, though it be only the
ground, and immediately there is a violent explosion, a flash of fire, a
great cloud of smoke, and a violent scattering of dust, clods of earth,
and stones--if nothing worse.  Thus, I must confess that for a few
seconds I was perfectly amazed to see the slopes of Mount Sampson, on
the one hand, where our artillery was placed, and the Nanshan Heights,
on the other, where were situated the Russian batteries, suddenly burst
into great jets of flame, clouds of smoke, and flying debris, as the
shells showered down upon them.  The explosions of shrapnel were easily
distinguished from those of common shell, for the former almost
invariably burst in the air, the smoke from the explosions standing out
against the background of sky or hill like tufts of cotton-wool that had
suddenly sprung into existence from nowhere.

Very shortly after the artillery duel began, I saw the Japanese infantry
moving out to storm the Nanshan Heights, and I smiled to myself at the
acuteness of their leaders, for the men began their advance in such open
formation that a shrapnel shell seldom succeeded in accounting for more
than one man, and often enough it failed to do even that.  Of course
they were seen from the trenches, and a terrific rifle-fire was opened
upon them, but for the same reason it was very ineffective--at the
outset at least, for a rifleman had to be a crack shot to bowl over his
man at a distance of close upon a mile.  And if one wished to get his
man, he had to aim at him, and correctly judge the distance too.  This,
of course, was at the beginning of the attack; later on, matters became
a good deal more favourable for the defenders and correspondingly
adverse to the attacking force.

I was interestedly watching the development of the attack upon the
heights, when a galloper dashed up to me with a message from the General
requesting me to signal our ships in the offing to concentrate their
fire upon the Nanshan ridge; and so smart were our men, and so keen a
lookout were they maintaining aboard our ships, that within three
minutes of the receipt by me of the order, their 10-inch, 5-inch, and
6-inch shells were dropping all along the ridge, busily searching it for
the Russian batteries, the positions of which, unfortunately, could not
be seen from the western side.

For the next half-hour I was kept incessantly employed in signalling our
fleet, directing their fire; but the shoal water of Kinchau Bay was all
against us, and although our ships drew in so close that they touched
the ground several times, they were still too far off to actually
silence the Russian batteries, although they contrived to give them a
very severe punishing and, to some extent, distract their attention from
the stormers.  Unfortunately, they could only muster six heavy guns
between them, and these, at the extreme range at which they were obliged
to fire, were not nearly enough, though they certainly helped.

When at length I was once more free to turn my attention to what was
happening on the eastern side of the heights, I saw that our foremost
line of skirmishers had reached a spot about a mile distant from the
first Russian defences, consisting of a perfect maze of wire
entanglements, and were signalling back to the main body.  Almost
immediately a detachment of Cossacks appeared, advancing at a gallop
toward the signallers, from the direction of Linshiatun, a village on
the shore of Sunk Bay, and as the horsemen appeared every Japanese
soldier vanished, as if by magic, having flung himself down upon the
ground and taken cover.  On swept the Cossacks, yelling, lashing their
horses with their whips, and brandishing their long lances.  Suddenly,
down went a horse and rider, the next instant a Cossack flung up his
arms and collapsed inert upon his horse's neck, then another reeled and
fell, then two or three went down almost at the same instant, then half
a dozen.  And the curious thing about it was that there was nothing, no
sudden spurt of flame, no smoke wreath, no crack of a rifle, to account
for these casualties.  That is to say, I could neither see nor hear
anything; but the fact was that those Cossacks were going down before
the calm, deliberate rifle-fire of the concealed Japanese infantry-men.
Then a flash from one of the field-guns of our 3rd Division caught my
eye, and before the sharp bark of it reached my ear, a white tuft of
cotton-wool-like smoke suddenly appeared in the air above the galloping
Cossacks, and more of them went down.  Another flash, and another, and
another, more tufts of cotton-wool leaping into view, tremendous
disorder and confusion among the Cossacks, men and horses falling right
and left, and then the survivors suddenly wheeled outward and galloped
back at headlong speed, leaving behind them a mangled heap of men and
horses, the greater number dead, but here and there a prostrate, kicking
horse might be seen, or a wounded Cossack crawling slowly and painfully
away from the scene of carnage.

The flight of the Cossacks was the signal for the resumption of the
advance by the Japanese, whose skirmishers reappeared, still in very
open formation, a man here and a man there showing for a few seconds as,
in a crouching attitude, he rose to his feet, scurried forward a few
yards, and then again took cover, while the fire of the Russian guns
swept the ground over which he was passing.  As yet, however, there
appeared to be very few casualties among our men; here and there I
noticed a prostrate form lying motionless, while others crept up and
scuttled past him; he had been found by a shrapnel shell, and his share
of the work was done; but even shrapnel cannot do much harm if the
formation is kept sufficiently open.  And as man after man pushed
forward, others crept out, following, until the whole of the ground
between our lines and the base of the heights was dotted with Japanese
infantry-men creeping ever closer up to the first line of the Russian
defence, the terrible maze of barbed wire entanglements.

Meanwhile, the whole of the Japanese field artillery, as well as that of
our ships, was concentrating its fire upon the crest of the heights,
covering the advance of the stormers; and now my attention was once more
diverted from that advance by the necessity for me to signal directions
to the fleet.  And now it was that the full value of my previous labours
began to be manifested; for I had but to signal the ships to direct
their fire upon such and such a point--wherever, in fact, a Russian
battery was proving especially troublesome--and all that the gun-layers
had to do was to refer to the maps with which I had supplied them, and
they were at once informed of the exact range of that point, with the
result that a hail of shells instantly began to fall upon that
particular battery with the most deadly precision.  Thus, after a little
while, every battery on the heights became in turn the focus of a
terrific crossfire from the ships and the field batteries, the effect of
which soon became manifest in the silencing of several of the Russian
guns, either by dismounting, or, as we afterwards discovered, by the
complete destruction of the men working them.

With the guns of our fleet playing such havoc among the ten forts which
crowned the heights, it now became possible for our field artillery to
turn its attention upon the trenches, tier after tier of which lined the
eastern slope of the heights, up which our stormers would have to pass.
Those trenches were quite formidable works, roofed over with timber and
earth to protect the occupants from artillery fire, and loopholed for
rifle-fire; yet, thanks again to my labours of the previous day in
determining the exact range of them, our guns were able to search them
from end to end, blowing the parapets to dust and matchwood, and hurling
the wreckage among the gunners who were working the Russian quick-firers
and machine-guns, many of whom were thus killed or wounded.  The carnage
must have been--indeed was, as we later saw for ourselves--frightful,
yet the Russians maintained a most gallant defence, and clung to their
trenches with unflinching determination.  A lucky shell from one of our
field-guns fell upon and exploded one of the many Russian mines which
were scattered pretty thickly over the hillside, and the explosion blew
a big gap in one of the lines of wire entanglements, a circumstance
which without doubt resulted subsequently in the saving of many lives.

Hour after hour the artillery duel proceeded, our gunners doing their
utmost to cover the slow advance of the stormers, while the Russian
artillery systematically swept with a crossfire every inch of the ground
which our men would have to traverse.  The crash of the artillery was
continuous and most distracting, and the effect was intensified by the
incessant scream of the shells and the sharp thud as they burst,
interspersed with the everlasting hammering of the machine-guns and
quick-firers; Nanshan was ablaze with the fire of the Russian guns and
the bursting of our shells, and the entire hill was enwrapped in
fantastically whirling wreaths of smoke which were every moment rent
violently asunder by the explosion of bursting shells.

Thus far I had occupied my position undisturbed, but about mid-morning
certain Russian sharpshooters chanced to detect me and my assistant in
the act of signalling to our ships, and they at once favoured me with
their undivided attentions, to such purpose that I was compelled to beat
a hasty retreat.  The change of position which I was compelled to make
was, however, advantageous rather than otherwise, for I found a
perfectly safe spot behind two tall boulders standing close together,
which, while effectually shielding me from the Russian bullets, still
enabled me to see all that was happening.

Yet, that "all" might be summed up in a very few words--just incessant
flashes of fire, great volumes of smoke, and, interspersed with the
smoke, patches of flying debris.  Very little else.  No great masses of
troops advancing in serried lines, column after column, with colours
proudly flying, and burnished bayonets glistening in the sun; none of
the old-fashioned pomp and circumstance of war when the opposing armies
marched toward each other with bands playing, discharged their muskets
when they were near enough to see the whites of their opponents' eyes,
and then charged with fixed bayonets, fighting it out hand to hand.
That sort of battle went out of fashion with the introduction of the
breech-loading rifle and the machine-gun; and now, with between fifty
and sixty thousand men in action, there were periods when not a solitary
human being could be seen.  And when any did appear, which was only at
intervals, they were but few in number--just a man here and a man there
dotted about sparsely over a large area of ground, visible for perhaps
half a dozen seconds, and then lost again, hidden behind cover of some
sort.

It was getting well on toward noon when a message reached me from the
General to the effect that two batteries of Russian quick-fire
field-guns had been discovered on the summit of Nan-kwang-ling--a hill
some eight hundred feet high, about a mile to the westward of the
Nanshan Heights--and requesting me to signal our ships in the bay to
give their whole attention to those two batteries.  Unfortunately for
us, the tide in the bay was now on the ebb, and the _Hei-yen_ and
_Tsukushi_ were obliged to haul off to avoid grounding; but the _Akagi_
and _Chokai_ responded nobly to the call, creeping in until they
actually felt the ground, and enveloping Nan-kwang-ling knoll in flame
and smoke.

I had scarcely finished signalling to the ships when a stir on the plain
immediately below me indicated that the General considered the artillery
"preparation" complete, and that the actual storming of the Russian
position was now to be attempted.  A battalion of our 1st Division,
situated in the Japanese centre, suddenly deployed into the open, and
commenced its advance by making a series of short rushes through some
fields of green barley, on the opposite side of the road from Kinchau to
Linshiatun, dashing forward a few yards, and then, as the machine-guns
and rifles in the Russian trenches were turned upon them, sinking from
view into the barley, through which they crept on hands and knees until
the whistle of the leader or the call of a bugle gave the signal for
another dash.  The heroism of those devoted Japanese infantry was
something to send a thrill through the heart of a man; no sooner did
they show than the whole of the ground which they occupied and that in
front of them was swept by a devastating crossfire from the whole line
of the Russian trenches, which beat down the young barley as a heavy
shower of rain might level it.  To me, unaccustomed to this style of
fighting, it looked as though nothing might venture upon that shot-swept
zone and live; yet time after time the intrepid Japanese rose to their
feet and, crouching low, made yet another short rush forward, though
with sadly diminished numbers.  The uproar was deafening; the crash of
the heavy guns upon the crest of the heights and from Fort Hoshangtao,
near Linshiatun, which now joined in the fray, mingled with the
hammer-like thudding of the machine-guns and the continuous rolling
crackle of rifle-fire from the trenches, was frightful.  And then, as
though this were not enough, the Russian gunboat _Bohr_ turned her
9-inch guns upon the advancing Japanese and, quickly getting the range,
began to drop shells right among them.  The slaughter, one understood,
must be awful; yet, prepared as I was in a measure for what followed, I
stood aghast when finally, out of that whole battalion, a mere handful
of men, numbering perhaps some fifty or sixty, emerged from the growing
barley and made a staggering rush toward the first line of wire
entanglements, which they at once proceeded to attack with nippers,
fully exposed all the while to the concentrated fire of the whole body
of defenders.  It was a forlorn hope of the most desperate description,
and one after another the gallant fellows collapsed and died, pierced by
innumerable bullets.  The first assault had resulted in failure, and
those who took part in it were wiped out!

And now it was that the Russians deemed the moment suitable for a
counter-demonstration.  The _Bohr_, doubtless in obedience to some
signal from the shore, steamed up toward the head of Hand Bay as far as
the shoaling water would permit, the five steamers loaded with troops
closely following her and making as though it was their intention to
land the troops upon a small promontory jutting out into the head of the
bay.  This was a distinct menace to the Japanese left, and although it
might be merely a demonstration, it was imperative to meet it, or it
might develop into a serious and most embarrassing attack; therefore,
badly as it could be spared from the task of shelling the heights and
the Russian trenches, a battery of our field-guns placed on the
south-western slope of Mount Sampson was turned upon the gunboat and her
accompanying flotilla of steamers, the latter being compelled to hastily
retire, while several of our shells struck the _Bohr_, and temporarily
silenced her fire.  Judging from appearances generally, the gunboat
appeared to have been rather severely punished; and about a quarter of
an hour later she slowly retired to her former position, farther down
the bay, and re-opened her fire, although with considerably less vigour
than before.

The fire from Fort Hoshangtao, occupying the promontory which separates
Sunk Bay from Hand Bay, was a most galling factor in the fight, for its
guns had a range which enabled them to drop their heavy shells right
upon our left and centre, while it was out of range of our own guns.
Therefore our men had to stand motionless, hour after hour, and endure
the pitiless shelling of the Russian gunners, with the bitter knowledge
that to silence the fort was quite out of our power.

The utter annihilation of the first battalion of stormers warned General
Oku that to advance comparatively small parties was but to sacrifice
them uselessly, while it also indicated that the task of artillery
"preparation" had been by no means as complete as he had judged it to
be; he therefore sedulously continued the work of preparation all
through the afternoon until five o'clock, when a message from the
artillery commander warned him that the crisis was at hand.  The message
was to the effect that he had fired away practically his entire supply
of ammunition, only his reserve rounds remaining.  What was he to do?

Situated as I was at a distance of more than two miles from
headquarters, upon an outlying spur of the Nanshan Heights, and quite
alone, save for the companionship of a solitary assistant signaller,
with only occasional curt orders from the General in reference to the
signals which he wished me to transmit to our ships in the offing, I was
naturally ignorant as to the critical pass at which we had arrived, and
could only draw my conclusions from what I actually saw happening.  What
occurred at staff headquarters during this momentous day, and especially
at this momentous hour, I did not learn until several hours later, but,
so far as is possible, I propose to relate events in their chronological
order, that the proper continuity of my narrative may be maintained; I
will therefore briefly state here that when the General received the
artillery commander's message that his ammunition was practically
exhausted, he summoned a few of his principal officers, and held a brief
council of war.  What was to be done, under the circumstances?  It was
now five o'clock in the afternoon, and the bringing up of further
supplies of ammunition would involve a delay of at least two hours, and
probably more, while to suspend all action meanwhile would practically
be to defer the assault until the next day.  Certain of the officers
present strongly advocated this postponement, giving it as their opinion
that to attempt to storm the heights unsupported by adequate gun-fire
was merely to make a useless sacrifice of whole brigades of sorely
needed men; one or two officers, indeed, ventured to express their
conviction that the heights were impregnable.

The discussion lasted about a quarter of an hour, at the end of which
time General Oku, who had been listening but saying nothing, abruptly
broke up the council by announcing his determination to risk everything
upon a single cast of the die; the gunners were to expend their reserve
rounds of ammunition upon a slow, carefully considered, deadly
bombardment of the heights, while the entire infantry force was to move
forward simultaneously to the assault.  The officers who had ventured to
advise delay shook their heads doubtfully, but at once proceeded to
their stations, fully prepared to loyally support the General to their
last breath.

When the news of the General's decision was communicated to the troops,
it was only with the utmost difficulty that they could be restrained
from cheering, and so putting the Russians on the _qui vive_, although
they had been warned beforehand to maintain strict silence.

The first step in the proceedings was for the officers commanding the
various regiments to call for volunteers prepared to undertake the task
of preceding the main body of the stormers in order to cut a way through
the lines of wire entanglements, and to sever the electric cables
connecting the innumerable ground mines with the forts.  Volunteers were
invited to step six paces to the front, and in the majority of cases the
entire regiment appealed to advanced six paces with the precision and
promptitude of a parade evolution.  Under such circumstances there was,
of course, but one thing to be done, and that was for each captain to
choose a certain number of men--those he considered best adapted for the
work--and detail them for the duty.

These men, a veritable Forlorn Hope, discarding knapsacks, greatcoats,
everything in the shape of impedimenta, even their weapons, and armed
only with a stout pair of wire-cutting nippers, dashed out of the ranks
like unleashed greyhounds at the word of command, and with a great shout
of "Banzai Nippon!" went running and leaping through the fields of young
barley, each eager to outdistance all the others.  And as they went, the
crash of their own and the enemy's artillery, the fire of which had been
languishing, burst forth afresh, mingled with the hammering of
machine-guns and the rolling volleys of rifle-fire.  In a moment the
whole of the ground over which the pioneers would have to pass was being
swept by a crossfire of lead in which it seemed impossible that anything
could live.  Man after man was seen to go down, yet still his comrades
pressed on, in ever-diminishing numbers, until at length a mere handful
staggered up to the first line of wire entanglements, and there fell,
riddled with bullets, their task unaccomplished.

But not for a moment did their fate discourage those who were detailed
to follow them.  Like racers they dashed forward, in widely extended
order, now leaping high in the air and anon crouching almost double in a
vain effort to dodge that terrible inexorable hail of bullets, and again
man after man went crashing to the ground while other panting, gasping,
breathless men staggered and stumbled past the prostrate figures, intent
upon one purpose only, to reach that line of wire and sever a few of the
entanglements before yielding up their lives.  And a few of them
actually contrived to accomplish their purpose before they died,
although the damage which they were able to do was quite incommensurate
with the frightful sacrifice of life which it cost.

In accordance with Oku's plan, the main body of the stormers followed
closely upon the heels of the volunteer wire-cutters.  The 1st Division
led the way, dashing forward and losing heavily, until they arrived
within a few yards of the foremost line of Russian trenches, and here
they were brought to a standstill by the wire entanglements, while the
Russian rifle and machine-gun-fire played upon them pitilessly, mowing
them down in heaps.  In desperation some of them seized the firmly
rooted posts to which the wires were attached and strove to root them up
by main force, while others placed the muzzles of their rifles against
the wires and, pulling the trigger, severed them in that way.  Some
attempted to climb over the wire, others to creep through; but where one
succeeded, twenty became entangled and were shot dead before they could
clear themselves.  Those, however, who contrived to get through at once
gave their attention to the mines, the positions of which were clearly
indicated by the settlement of the ground caused by the rain of the
preceding night, and thus it became possible to sever several of the
electric cables which connected them with the forts.

But those awful entanglements still held up the main body of the
stormers, keeping them fully exposed to a murderous fire from the
trenches as they desperately strove to break through, and things were
beginning to look very bad indeed for our side when I chanced to notice
that the Russian lines on their left were weak, the bulk of the men
having been rushed toward the centre, where the attack was being most
fiercely pressed.  In an instant I recognised that here was our
opportunity, our only opportunity perhaps, to retrieve the fortune of
the day.  Turning to my companion, I said:

"I dare not leave my post here, for at any moment I may receive a
message to be signalled to our ships.  But I can--I _will_--manage
single-handed for the next quarter of an hour or so if you are game to
sprint across the open to carry a message from me to General Ogawa.  You
will find him somewhere yonder, in command of the 4th Division; and if
you run hard you can cover the distance in five minutes.  Are you game
to try it?"

"I am honourably game, illustrious captain," replied the man, standing
at the salute.

"Good!"  I said.  "Then make your way as quickly as possible to General
Ogawa, and when you have found him, say you come from me, Captain
Swinburne.  Explain to him where I am posted, and tell him that from
here I can see that the Russian left has been so greatly weakened that a
surprise attack on his part would certainly turn it, and thus very
materially help the frontal attack.  Tell him it will be necessary for
him to lead his troops along the shore of the bay in that direction,"--
pointing; "say that it may even be necessary for his troops to enter the
water and wade for some distance, since the tide is rising; but that if
he will do that, I am certain he can retrieve the day.  You understand?
Then, go!"

With a salute, the man swung round upon his heels and sprang away down
the hill, running like a startled hare, and in less than five minutes I
saw him rush into the lines of the 4th Division.  Then, feeling pretty
confident that Ogawa would recognise the opportunity and seize it, I
snatched up the signal flags that my assistant had dropped and proceeded
to call up the fleet.  After calling for about a minute, I dropped the
flags and placed my glasses to my eyes.  It was all right, they were
keeping a bright lookout afloat, and the _Tsukushi_ was waiting to
receive my message.  I therefore at once proceeded to signal them to be
ready to support the anticipated movement with their gun-fire; and by
the time that I had done, the men of the 19th Brigade were proceeding at
something a bit faster than the "double" toward the shore, while every
gun in the squadron opened in their support.  As I had anticipated, the
troops were obliged to actually enter the waters of the bay, which in
some places rose breast-high; but they pushed through, losing rather
heavily, and hurled themselves upon the Russian flank and rear, while
the others, getting an inkling of what was happening from the sounds of
heavy firing on the other side of the hill, pressed home the frontal
attack, thus keeping the Russian main body busily engaged.

With yells of "Banzai!  Banzai Nippon!" the men of the 19th Brigade
fought their way forward, foot by foot, using rifle and bayonet with
such furious energy that suddenly the Russians broke and fled before
them, and with howls of exultation the victorious Japanese scrambled
forward and upward until their figures became visible to their comrades
below, still fighting desperately in the effort to break through the
Russian lines.  Thirty engineers of the victorious 4th Division were now
detailed to cut a path through the wire entanglements that still
protected the Russian trenches; _and they did it_, lying flat upon the
ground without attempting to raise their heads.  Twenty-two out of the
thirty were killed in the accomplishment of the task, but a way was
made, and through it poured Ogawa's gallant brigade, the 8th Regiment
taking the lead, and the next moment they were in the Russian trenches,
fighting desperately, hand to hand, the Japanese determined to drive out
the Russians, and the Russians equally determined to hold their ground
at all costs.

And now the stormers of the 1st and 3rd Divisions, seeing the success of
their comrades, were stung into the making of a further effort, and,
hurling themselves bodily upon the entanglements, actually broke them
down by sheer physical force, although hundreds were horribly mangled in
the process, and despite the awful fire from rifles and machine-guns
that mowed through them, up they swept irresistibly until, with
deafening yells of "Banzai!" they joined their victorious comrades on
the crest and planted the banner of Japan upon the topmost height of
Nanshan.  For a few brief, breathless minutes the members of the staff,
watching from below, beheld the glint and ruddy flash of bayonets in the
light of the setting sun as the Russians made a last desperate effort to
hold their ground; but the Japanese infantry, intoxicated with their
success in the face of stupendous difficulties, would take no denial:
they had conquered wire entanglements, braved machine-gun-fire, and now
mere flesh and blood was as powerless to stop them as a thread is to
stop a battleship.  The Russians simply had to fly or die; and they
chose the former alternative, retreating in disorder upon Nankwang-ling,
while the Japanese, whose turn it was now to take revenge for the losses
so pitilessly inflicted upon them all through the hours of that terrible
day, rained shot and shell without mercy upon the flying foe.

The weather had been improving ever since morning, and now, as the
firing gradually died down, the sun sank into the waters of the Gulf of
Liaotung in a blaze of purple and golden splendour.  As the palpitant
edge of his glowing upper rim vanished beneath the long level line of
the western horizon, the firing on both sides suddenly ceased
altogether, and a great, solemn hush fell upon the scene, that was
positively awe-inspiring after the continuous, deafening roar all day of
the cannonade, and the crash of bursting shells.  And then, as the ear
accustomed itself to that sudden silence, it became aware of a low but
terrible sound breaking it, the moaning of hundreds of mangled,
suffering, and dying men, the ghastly fruits of that ferocious struggle
for the possession of a few barren acres of rough, hilly country.

Suddenly the fast-gathering dusk of evening became illuminated; the
station buildings in the little village of To-fang-shan were ablaze,
doubtless purposely set on fire by the Russians to hinder possible
pursuit--and were soon a mass of flame, the flickering light from which
luridly illuminated the scored and gashed sides of the neighbouring
hills.  Finally, with a terrific roar, a Russian magazine exploded,
sending up a great column of flame and smoke; and as the reverberations
of the explosion rumbled and echoed again and again until they finally
died away among the gorges and ravines of the surrounding elevations,
silence again sank upon the scene, the victorious Japanese being so
utterly exhausted by their Herculean labours that pursuit of the flying
Russians became impossible, the conquerors flinging themselves down on
the positions which they had gained, and instantly sinking into a kind
of lethargy, their fatigue being so great that they were unable to
remain awake long enough to partake of the food that was quickly
prepared for them.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

I AM THANKED IN PRESENCE OF THE ARMY.

The Japanese loss, incurred in the struggle for possession of the
Nanshan Heights, amounted to over four thousand, killed and wounded.
What the Russian loss in killed and wounded totalled up to I do not
think we ever knew, excepting that, by the evidence of the captured
trenches alone, it must have been tremendously heavy.  Their material
losses, however, amounted to sixty-eight guns, many of which were of
8-inch or 6-inch calibre, ten machine-guns, three searchlights, a
dynamo, and a considerable quantity of ammunition and food; while the
victory gave to the Japanese the complete command of the isthmus, by
enabling General Nakamura to seize Linshiatun, and Fort Hoshangtao, in
its immediate neighbourhood, thus opening the way to the occupation of
Nan-kwang-ling and Dalny, and the advance of Oku's army upon Port
Arthur.

As soon as it became evident that fighting was over for the day--by
which time it had become too dark for me to signal to our squadron in
the offing--I made my way down the hillside to the spot where the
headquarters staff was established and, seeking General Oku's tent,
entered and reported myself.  The General received me very kindly and
courteously, but I could see in a moment that he was tremendously busy,
the tent being full of officers to whom he was rapidly issuing orders.
Having therefore reported myself and received orders to remain in camp
for the night, I withdrew and sought the hospitality of my hosts of the
previous night, who accorded me a very warm and cordial welcome.  But
there was none of that joyousness, that exaltation of spirits that I had
expected to see as a result of the brilliant victory which we had
gained; our numbers were less than they had been on the previous night,
the absentees were lying out under the stars, either dead or wounded,
somewhere yonder upon those shot-scored, blood-drenched slopes of
Nanshan, and the joy of victory was quenched in sorrow for the fallen.
We snatched a hasty, almost silent meal, and then those of us who had
not to go forth on duty rolled ourselves in our cloaks and sought the
relief of sleep.

For my own part, I slept like a log, and only awoke when the bugles
sounded the reveille.  Our little party turned out, tubbed, took
breakfast, and then, at the sound of the "assembly," sallied forth to
see what was to be the next item on the programme.

Strong ambulance parties had been busily engaged all through the night,
collecting the wounded and bringing them in to the hospital tents, but
that work was now practically finished, and the preparations for the
disposal of the dead had not yet been begun.  The still weary troops
were falling in, under arms, and in the distance I recognised General
Oku, surrounded by the members of his staff, already on the ground.  The
commanding officers were at their posts, the non-commissioned officers
were busily engaged in seeing that the troops were all in order for
inspection, and a few minutes later the roll call was being gone
through.  This done, the troops were put through a few simple evolutions
which terminated in their being drawn up in close formation constituting
three sides of a hollow square, with the men all facing inward.  General
Oku then summoned an aide-de-camp to his side, gave him a brief order,
and the aide, saluting, turned away and glanced rapidly about him,
finally making his way toward where I now stood alone, at no great
distance.

He halted within about six paces of me, saluted, and said:

"The Commander-in-Chief desires your immediate presence, most honourable
Captain.  He stands yonder."

"Right!"  I said.  "I will join him at once.  Have you any idea what he
wants me for?"

"I think I can guess," replied my companion, as he fell into step beside
me, "but I am sure that the General will prefer to make that known to
you himself."

I said no more, and a couple of minutes later we halted before the
general staff, and Oku took and returned my salute.  Then he shook hands
with me with much cordiality, and requested me to take up a position
alongside him, on his right hand.  This done, he proceeded to make a
little speech to the closely packed troops.  Shorn of the rather
strange--to Western ears--flowery phraseology peculiar to the Japanese,
his speech ran somewhat as follows:

"Soldiers of the Second Japanese Army, I gladly seize the first
available opportunity that presents itself to tender you, on behalf of
our august Emperor and the people of Japan, my most heartfelt thanks for
the glorious victory which, by your indomitable courage and
self-sacrifice, you so nobly achieved yesterday.  The difficulties which
you were called upon to surmount were so stupendous and the valour of
the enemy so great, that there was a moment when I almost became
persuaded that the position which you were attacking was impregnable,
and that all the courage and devotion which you had displayed had gone
for nothing.  Yet I could not quite bring myself to believe that
soldiers of Japan would ever permit themselves to be beaten, under any
circumstances, however adverse; I therefore called upon you again for
one last, supreme effort, and the valour and devotion with which you
responded to my call is attested by the victorious presence of our
glorious flag upon the heights to-day."

Here the General was interrupted by a soul-stirring shout of "Banzai!"
from the exultant troops.  The echoes of the shout had not died away
among the surrounding hills before the serried masses of infantry were
once more silent and motionless as statues, and Oku resumed:

"I am proud, your officers are proud, and I am sure that you yourselves
are proud, of your glorious achievement.  Yet we soldiers must not
arrogate to ourselves the entire credit of so magnificent a victory.
Without the assistance of the navy, that victory--I say it frankly--
would have been impossible.  The sailors therefore are entitled to an
equal share of the glory which we yesterday reaped on the slopes of
those terrible heights; and I rejoice that chance has afforded me so
early an opportunity as this to tender my personal thanks, the thanks of
my officers, and the thanks of every soldier in the ranks, to the navy,
here represented by the noble and gallant Captain Swinburne."

Here there were further shouts of "Banzai!" even more enthusiastic, if
that were possible, than those which preceded them.  The General raised
his hand for silence, and presently proceeded:

"We are, however, indebted to Captain Swinburne, not only as
representing the navy, but also in a purely personal form.  All through
the trying hours of yesterday he stood on the slopes of those heights,
alone save for the companionship of a solitary signaller, exposed,
during some part of the time, to the pitiless fire of the enemy, and in
constant danger of being captured; and during the whole of that time he
devoted himself unsparingly to the task of directing the fire of our
ships to the spots where from time to time it was most urgently needed;
crowning this great service by sending a communication to the commander
of the 4th Division which enabled that officer to effect the diversion
which resulted in our hard-won victory.  I have, therefore, now in the
presence of you all, the honour to tender to Captain Swinburne, on
behalf of our august Emperor, thus publicly, heartfelt thanks for the
inestimably valuable services which he yesterday rendered to the cause
of Japan."

So saying, General Oku turned to me and gave me a hearty handshake, an
example which was immediately followed by the officers of the staff,
while the troops put their caps upon their bayonets and waved them
enthusiastically, yelling "Banzai!" until I am sure they must have felt
as hoarse as crows.

This little ceremony over, I received the General's permission to rejoin
my ship as soon as he had penned a dispatch to Admiral Misamichi, who
was in command of the squadron, and which he requested me to deliver.
This dispatch I received about half an hour later, from Oku's own hands,
whereupon I bade him and the members of his staff farewell, wished them
the best of luck in their further encounters with the enemy, and then
hurried away to the little cove on the north side of the bay, which I
had used on two or three previous occasions, and where I had a shrewd
suspicion that I should find my boat awaiting me.  I was not mistaken,
and shortly after six bells in the forenoon watch I was aboard the
_Tsukushi_, handing over General Oku's dispatch to the Admiral.  The
latter at once read it, and seemed much gratified at its contents,
which, however, he did not communicate to me.  But I shrewdly surmised
that it was a letter of thanks for the services rendered by the squadron
and an intimation that our presence was no longer needed.  And, so far
as the latter part of my assumption was concerned, I was doubtless
right, for after a little chat, during which I briefly related my
experiences of the previous day--learning in return that the _Chokai_
had lost her commander and two men killed, with two lieutenants and five
men wounded--I received instructions to return to my ship, as the
squadron would presently proceed to rejoin Admiral Togo at his base.
And an hour later we were all steaming out of the bay.

Two days after our arrival at the base, the destroyer _Kagero_ arrived
with mails for the fleet, and, to my great surprise, she brought for me
a letter from my Uncle Bob, as well as one from my chum, young Gordon,
and another from Sir Robert.

Naturally, I first opened the letter from Uncle Bob, for not only was it
the first letter which I had received from any of the family since my
"disgrace," but also the envelope was deeply edged with black, and my
first fear was that it might contain the announcement of the death of
dear Aunt Betsy.  But upon extracting the contents of the envelope I was
at once reassured, for I saw that it really consisted of two letters,
one from Uncle Bob, and the other from my aunt.  There had been a death
in the family, however, that of Cousin Bob, the author of the trouble
which had resulted in my dismissal from the British Navy.  It appeared
that while engaged in battle practice there had been a bad accident on
board the _Terrible_, one of her quick-firers having burst, killing two
men and wounding five others, one of the latter so seriously that he had
subsequently died.  That one was Bob; and when informed by the ship's
surgeon that he had but a few hours to live, he had sent for the
chaplain and to him had made a full confession of his crime, declaring
that he had been spurred to it by blind, unreasoning jealousy of me.
The chaplain, horrified at what he heard, took down the confession in
writing, and poor Bob had signed it after the chaplain had added, at the
dying lad's request, an expression of deep contrition for his misdeed
and a prayer to me for forgiveness of the wrong which he had done me.
The two letters were sad reading, for they had been penned by
heart-broken people who had not only lost their only son, but had
learned, at the very moment of their loss, that all their pride in him
had been misplaced, and that he had been guilty of a deliberate,
despicable, cruel crime.  Their shame and sorrow were patent in every
sentence of the letters, indeed they made no effort to conceal them, and
they finished up by saying that, Bob being gone from them, and gone so
tragically, they hoped I would forgive them for any hard thoughts they
may have had of me, and would be a son to them in place of the one they
had lost.  They further begged that, my innocence now being established,
I would lose no time in hastening home to them, to comfort them in their
bitter bereavement, and to take steps to procure my reinstatement in the
British Navy, which, they had been informed, might probably be
accomplished without much difficulty under the circumstances.

The letter from Sir Robert Gordon was also chiefly in reference to Bob's
death, the particulars of which, and of his confession, he had learned
from his son Ronald.  He also was of opinion that, in view of Bob's
confession, it ought not to be very difficult to secure the cancellation
of my expulsion, whenever I might choose to return to England.  But he
said no word suggesting that I should return at once; on the contrary,
he offered his own and Lady Gordon's very hearty congratulations upon
the frequency with which my name had been mentioned in the papers as
having been specially referred to by Togo in his dispatches, and they
both expressed the hope that before the end of the war I should have
many further opportunities to distinguish myself.

The letters from my aunt and uncle moved me profoundly; their grief for
the loss of their only son, and, even more, their shattered faith in
him, was pathetic in the extreme, while it was easy to see how
yearningly their hearts turned to me for comfort and consolation in
their bitter bereavement.  They were smarting with shame at the thought
that it was _their_ son, the lad of whom they had been so proud and upon
whose future they had built such high hopes, who was the author of my
undeserved disgrace and ruin, so far as my career in the British Navy
was concerned; and they wanted me at home in order that they might have
the comfort of doing what they could to make up to me for their son's
treachery.  And in the plenitude of my affection I was, for the moment,
more than half inclined to yield to their entreaties, resign my
commission in the Japanese navy, and go home to them forthwith.  But in
the course of an hour or two calm reflection came to my aid; I would
certainly return to England and endeavour to secure reinstatement in the
navy of my own country, but not until after the war was over, if I lived
so long.  I had put my hand to the plough, and I would not turn back,
although, of course, I knew that there were plenty of Japanese officers
quite as good and useful as myself, and quite ready to step into my
place, should I choose to vacate it.  I came to the conclusion, however,
that, let the authorities at home be ever so ready to remedy what had
proved to be a miscarriage of justice, I should in nowise help my case
with them by forsaking the cause which I had espoused, at the moment
when the decisive events of the war were beginning, as we all then
believed, to loom faintly upon the horizon.  No, I told myself, if I
wished for reinstatement--and I wished for nothing else half so
ardently--I must remain until the issues of the war were decided, when I
could go back home with a good grace, taking with me a fairly creditable
record with which to back up my application.  Meanwhile, I sat down and
wrote a letter to my aunt and uncle, excusing myself for not at once
acceding to their request to forthwith return to England, explaining the
reasons which had urged me to that decision, and pouring out in a long,
passionate declaration all the pent-up affection of my heart for them,
and my sympathy with them in their bitter sorrow.  I also wrote to Sir
Robert Gordon, telling him that my aunt and uncle had expressed the
desire that I should return to them forthwith, and reiterating the
reasons which impelled me to decline.

On the following day my signal was made from the flagship; and upon
proceeding on board I was informed by the Admiral that General Oku's
report as to the assistance rendered by the ships during the battle of
Nanshan, and especially of the important services which I personally had
rendered on that particular day and those which immediately preceded it,
had been particularly gratifying to him, and that it had afforded him
the utmost satisfaction and pleasure to forward that report to Baron
Yamamoto, the Minister of the Navy, with a covering letter from himself
which he hoped would be of service to me.  Meanwhile, I was instructed
to proceed forthwith to Port Arthur with my ship, to assist in the
blockading of the port.

We filled our bunkers and replenished our stock of ammunition during the
afternoon, and steamed out of Tashantau harbour, with all lights out, as
soon as darkness fell, steaming dead slow all night, and keeping a sharp
lookout for enemy ships, as a rumour had reached the Admiral that the
Russians were planning another raid upon the Japanese coast by the
Vladivostock fleet, which might be expected to put to sea at any moment.
But we saw nothing, and arrived off Port Arthur at daybreak on the
following morning without adventure of any kind.  Here we fell in with
the cruisers of the blockading fleet, to the admiral in command of which
I forthwith reported myself, and delivered over the mail bags for the
blockading ships, with which I had been entrusted.  My instructions were
to remain with the blockaders during the daytime, while at night the
_Kasanumi_ was to take part in the mine-laying operations in the
roadstead of the beleaguered fortress, which were nightly conducted with
untiring pertinacity.  Shortly after my arrival, the destroyer flotilla
which had been engaged in these operations during the night came
steaming out, and among the approaching craft I recognised with pleasure
the _Akatsuki_, still commanded by my former lieutenant and staunch
friend, the enthusiastic Ito.  That he had by no means forgotten me was
quickly made manifest, for no sooner was he near enough to identify the
_Kasanumi_ than his semaphore started work, signalling that he wished to
communicate, and upon my signalman responding, his first question was
whether I was still in command.  Receiving a reply in the affirmative,
he forthwith invited me to go on board his ship to take breakfast with
him, and when I moved an amendment to the effect that the process should
be reversed and that, instead, he should come and breakfast with me,
upon the ground that, coming fresh from the rendezvous, my larder was
probably better stocked than his, he at once joyously accepted the
invitation, and a quarter of an hour later I had the very great pleasure
of welcoming him on my own quarter-deck.  The dear chap was just as
enthusiastic, just as keen, just as full of life as ever, and seemed
unfeignedly glad to see me.  Of course we had a tremendous lot to say to
each other, and I was most eager to learn what he had been doing since
we parted company; but when he learned that I was fresh from Kinchau,
and had actually assisted at the battle of the Nanshan Heights, he
positively refused to say a single word about himself until I had given
him a full, true, and particular account of all the happenings of that
terrible yet glorious day.  His enthusiasm and delight, as I endeavoured
to describe the final irresistible rush of the Japanese up those
heart-breaking, shot-swept slopes, were supreme; he seemed to literally
swell with pride; and when I spoke of the thrilling Japanese cheer as
his fellow-countrymen finally carried the last line of the Russian
defences and routed the defenders, he leaped to his feet and repeated
the shout of "Banzai!" again and again, while his eyes shone like stars,
and tears of joy and pride rolled down his cheeks.

It was some time before I could turn his mind away from the events of
that strenuous day; and when at length I succeeded in doing so, and
could get him to talk about himself, it appeared that, stirring though
the events seemed to be which were nightly happening before Port Arthur,
they were all flat, stale, and unprofitable, compared with such an event
as the storming of the Nanshan Heights.  And so, as a matter of fact,
they were, as I soon discovered for myself; for the duty of our
destroyer flotilla consisted simply in steaming inshore every night
industriously laying mines in the roadstead and at the harbour's mouth,
which the Russians as industriously strove to remove next day.  True,
the sameness of this work was occasionally relieved by a more or less
exciting episode, as when, for instance, the Russians would suddenly
turn their searchlights upon us and all their batteries would open fire.
Then we simply had to scuttle for our lives, for, of course, the shore
batteries mounted very much heavier and longer range guns than any that
a destroyer could carry; and there was no sense in attempting, as a
general rule, to oppose our 12-pounders and 6-pounders to their 6-inch
and 11-inch guns.

Yet we by no means allowed the Russians to invariably have it all their
own way.  There were times when, under cover of the darkness, one or two
of us would creep right into the harbour entrance and, getting so close
under the cliff that it became impossible for the Russians to depress
their heavy guns sufficiently to reach us, would boldly engage the forts
with our quick-firers, and even with rifle-fire, picking off any gunners
that were foolhardy enough to expose themselves, and not unfrequently
dismounting or otherwise putting out of action a few of their lighter
guns.  It was the good fortune of the _Kasanumi_, on one occasion, very
shortly after our return, to strike one of the Russian 11-inch Canets,
mounted in the fort between Golden Hill and the inner harbour, fair and
square upon the muzzle and blow it clean off, with a shell from our
12-pounder; but such successes as these were of course very rare.  These
engagements between our destroyers and the Russian forts were immensely
exciting, and afforded a most agreeable and welcome change from the
monotony of mine-laying, for when we undertook such an adventure we
never knew whether or not we should emerge from it scatheless.  The
operation of getting in close under the cliffs, undetected, was of
course hazardous enough to make the attempt irresistibly fascinating;
but it was the getting away again after the alarm had been given and all
the enemy's searchlights had been turned upon us, when the excitement
reached its height; for, of course, the moment that we were far enough
away from the shelter of the beetling cliffs to enable the Russians to
train their big guns upon us, they would open fire upon us for all that
they were worth, and then it became a case of dodging the shells.  It
was then that our ingenuity was taxed to the very utmost, twisting and
turning hither and thither as we ran at full speed into the offing,
always endeavouring to make a turn in the most unexpected direction
possible at the precise moment when we anticipated that the guns were
being brought to bear upon us.  And that, on the whole, we were fairly
successful was pretty conclusively evidenced by the small amount of
damage which we sustained.  Indeed, our most serious mishap about this
time in those waters arose from a totally different cause.  One of our
officers, a certain Commander Oda, had invented a particularly deadly
kind of mine, which the Japanese Government adopted, and which they
named after the inventor.  A few days after my return to the waters of
Port Arthur, Oda himself was engaged upon the task of laying some of his
mines in the outer roadstead, when one of them somehow exploded, killing
the captain of the ship and eighteen men, and wounding Oda himself and
seven others.  Strangely enough, however, the ship herself was only very
slightly damaged.  Less fortunate were the Russians; for, only a day or
two later, two of their gunboats, while engaged in the attempt to remove
some of our mines, came in contact with them, and both craft immediately
went to the bottom, taking most of their men with them.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

THE FLOATING MINE.

It is a true saying, that "the pitcher which goes too often to the well
gets broken at last;" and thus it came about with me, or rather with the
_Kasanumi_.

As the days passed, we became aware of greatly increased activity on the
part of the garrison of Port Arthur.  Cruising in the offing during the
daytime, well beyond the range of the Russian's biggest guns, yet near
enough at hand to make sure that our blockade of the port was effective,
the sound of violent explosions came floating off to us all day long,
telling us in unmistakable language that strenuous efforts were being
made to clear the channel of the sunken steamers wherewith we had
blocked it, at such heavy cost to ourselves.  There could be but one
reason for such tremendous activity: it was doubtless that the enemy had
it in contemplation to send his fleet to sea, probably with the object
of finding a more secure shelter in the port of Vladivostock, a surmise
which was confirmed by our spies in Port Arthur.

If still further confirmation of this intention were needed, it was to
be found in the increased efforts which the Russians put forth to hamper
our mine-laying operations in the roadstead; for about this time it
became the practice of the enemy to send out a ship, sometimes two, or
even three, to lie at anchor in the roads all night.  The ship, or
ships, always anchored well under the cover of the heaviest guns of the
fortress, yet so far out that her, or their, own heavy guns completely
commanded the waters of the roadstead, thus tremendously increasing the
difficulty of sowing those waters with mines.

Naturally, the presence of these ships in the roadstead offered an
almost irresistible temptation to our destroyers to essay the task of
sinking them, or at least putting them out of action; and this desire on
our part was smiled upon by Togo, to put the case mildly, for
information was now continually reaching us to the effect that the
formidable Baltic fleet was being rapidly prepared for sea, and that its
departure on its long voyage to the Far East was imminent; while Togo
was naturally anxious that the Port Arthur fleet--and the Vladivostock
fleet also, if possible--should be effectually disposed of before the
arrival of so powerful a reinforcement in Japanese waters.  Therefore,
great as was the risk attending the attack of a powerfully armed ship at
anchor under the cover of several formidable forts, and careful as our
Admiral was, both of his ships and of his men, no attempt was made to
discourage us of the torpedo flotilla when our desire to attack was made
known; on the contrary, the desire was smiled upon, as I have said, and
nothing more than a word of caution was given against the incurring of
unnecessary risks.

Perhaps I ought to explain precisely what I mean by saying that the
desire of the commander of the torpedo flotilla to attack these ships
was "smiled upon" by the Admiral.  He had not only "smiled upon" but had
given imperative orders that the torpedo fleet was to be employed upon
every possible occasion for the harassing and discomfiture of the enemy;
but hitherto the tactics employed had been for the destroyers and
torpedo-boats to attack in numbers, a division or even two or three
divisions being sent in at a time.  It was due to my initiative that
these tactics were now to be altered, and that attacks were now to be
permitted by as few as two boats only.  Up to now it had been our
regular practice for a large number of craft to creep in toward the
roadstead at a low speed until discovered by the enemy's searchlights,
and then dash in upon the foe at our utmost speed, through a hail of
shells, discharge our torpedoes as we circled round our quarry, and then
dash out again, trusting to our speed to carry us back into the zone of
safety.  Of course this plan had its advantages, inasmuch as that the
more there were of us, the greater--in theory--the chance that some of
us would score a hit.  But against this there was the fact that during
the final rush of the torpedo craft upon the enemy, the necessity to
maintain our highest speed throughout the entire period of the attack
involved forced draught, and consequently flaming funnels, which latter
of course immediately attracted the attention of the enemy and nullified
all our efforts to take him by surprise.

Now, I had by this time gained a considerable amount of experience of
torpedo warfare, and I had not failed to observe that in the majority of
cases where our attacks had failed, the failure had been due to the
above cause, combined with the fact that ten or a dozen craft ran a much
greater risk of being picked up by the enemy's searchlights than would
one or two.  It had therefore seemed to me that, taking everything into
consideration, the prospects of successful attack by two craft--one to
support and assist the other in case of need--were as good as those of a
dozen craft, while the risk would be very much less, provided that the
attack were made coolly and circumspectly in accordance with a plan
which I had worked out.  This plan was, in brief, to run for the harbour
at normal speed until we were practically within effective range, and
then, instead of dashing in at full speed, to stop our engines--the
throb of which was loud enough to be heard at a considerable distance on
a quiet night--and head directly for our quarry, discharging our
torpedoes when the momentum or "way" of the boat had carried her as far
as she would go, trusting to the subsequent confusion to enable us to
escape unscathed.  I had fully explained this view of mine to the
Admiral, and had obtained his sanction to put my plan to the test.
Accordingly, on a certain night toward the middle of June, after the
Russians had been let severely alone for some forty-eight hours, the
_Kasanumi_, accompanied by the _Akaisuki_, my friend Ito's ship, left
the rest of the blockaders, with the object of putting my theory into
practice.

It was a splendid night for our purpose; there was a breathless calm,
the water was smooth as oil, and although there was certainly a moon,
she was in her last quarter, and did not rise until close upon one
o'clock in the morning.  Moreover, the sky was overcast by a great sheet
of dappled cloud through which only a solitary star here and there
peeped faintly; it was consequently dark enough to afford us a
reasonable chance of getting within striking distance of our quarry
undetected.

When the Russians sent their ships out of harbour to lie all night in
the roadstead, as they did pretty frequently now, it was their custom to
get them out early in the afternoon, after their destroyers had
carefully swept the anchorage in search of mines; and it was my hope
that--we having left them alone for the preceding two days--they would
by this time be getting suspicious of such unwonted inactivity on our
part, and consequently would send out one, or perhaps even two ships, to
guard against a possible _coup_ on our part.

Our mine-laying craft very rarely got to work before one or two o'clock
in the morning, that being the hour when human vigilance is popularly
supposed to be least active; I therefore planned to arrive in the
roadstead about midnight, hoping that I should then catch the enemy off
his guard, snatching a rest in preparation for the moment when our
activities usually began.

Now, the thing which we had most to fear was a long-distance searchlight
established in a station on Golden Hill, at a height of some two hundred
feet above the sea-level.  This searchlight was generally turned on at
dusk, and was kept unceasingly playing upon the anchorage and its
adjacent waters all through the night.  It commanded the entire
roadstead, from a point three miles east of the harbour's mouth, right
round to the south and west as far as the Pinnacle Rock; and the
difficulty was how to avoid being picked up by it before we had
delivered our attack.  But by this time I knew the seaward surroundings
of Port Arthur almost by heart.  I knew, for instance--and this was most
important--that the searchlight station was placed so far back from the
edge of the crumbling cliff that the water immediately at the foot of
the latter, and for a distance of perhaps a hundred yards to seaward,
could not be reached by the beam of the light, and was therefore
enveloped in darkness, rendered all the deeper and more opaque by the
dazzling brilliance of the light; and I also knew that along the outer
edge of this patch of darkness there was a sufficient depth of water to
float a destroyer, even at dead low water.  My plan, therefore, was to
make a wide sweep to seaward upon leaving the blockading squadron,
gradually turning east and north, and thus eventually to get into Takhe
Bay, some five miles east of Port Arthur anchorage, and from thence
creep along the shore to the westward, keeping as close in as the depth
of water would permit.  There was only one difficulty about this, which
was that at a certain point not far from where the searchlight station
stood, there was a gap in the line of cliff where the ground sloped
steeply down to the water's edge for a short distance, and here of
course the beam of the light had uninterrupted play right up to the
beach; but I believed I could overcome this difficulty by simply
watching my opportunity and slipping past the gap when the searchlight
was not playing upon it.

All went well with us until about seven bells in the first watch
(half-past eleven o'clock) when a great bank of fog, for which those
seas are notorious, came driving in from the south-west, and in a moment
we were enveloped in a cloud so thick that, standing upon the bridge, I
could scarcely distinguish our aftermost funnel, and could not see our
taffrail at all.  We were then about three miles from the shore, with
the indentation of Takhe Bay straight ahead of us, and near enough the
anchorage for a man on our signal yard to make out--before the fog
enveloped us, of course--that there were two ships at anchor in the
roadstead, one, a five-funnelled craft which I knew could only be the
_Askold_, while the other, showing four funnels, I gathered from his
description must be the armoured cruiser _Bayan_.  The searchlight had
of course been in action ever since we had made the land, and as its
beam swept slowly over the ships it had revealed enough of their details
to enable us to easily identify them.

It was most exasperating that the fog should have swept down upon us
just when it did.  Had it come an hour, or even half an hour, later, I
would have welcomed it, for we should then have had time to get up
within striking distance of the ships and, under cover of the fog, could
have approached them closely enough to have made sure of both, while
now!  Well, it was useless to cry over what could not be helped; the
only thing to do was to make the best of things as they were, and to
hope that the fog might yet prove a friend in disguise, after all.

Fortunately, as the fog came sweeping up to us, I had the presence of
mind to hail the man on the yard--who was at that moment describing the
ships he saw riding at anchor in the roads--asking him to tell me
exactly how they bore from us.  His reply was:

"They are square abeam, honourable Captain."

I immediately put my head in through the window of the wheelhouse and
demanded of the helmsman how we were at that moment heading.  He
answered that we were then steering north forty degrees west, by
compass.

"Then," said I, "alter the course at once to west forty degrees south.
That," I added, addressing young Hiraoka, who was standing beside me,
"ought to take us to them, or near enough to enable us to sight them.
Kindly go aft, Mr Hiraoka, and hail the _Akatsuki_, telling her of our
shift of helm."

The youngster ran aft to do my bidding, the fog at that moment being so
thick that it was impossible to see one's hand before one's face, even
the beam of the distant searchlight being so effectually obscured that
it might have been extinguished for all that we knew to the contrary.  I
had rung down for our engines to stop, so that we might not run away
from the _Akatsuki_, after shifting our helm, without informing her of
the alteration in our course, and everything was now so still that I had
no difficulty in distinguishing young Hiraoka's hail, and the reply from
the other destroyer, breaking through the soft swish and lap of water
under our bows.  It was the _Akatsuki's_ lieutenant who was answering
our hail, and he had just acknowledged the intimation of our altered
course, and was ordering his own helmsman to make a like change, when,
without the slightest warning, I experienced a terrific shock which felt
exactly as though the ship had been smitten a savage blow from below by
a giant hammer.  So violent was it that I was flung high in the air and
over the rail of the bridge on to the steel turtle-back deck beneath,
upon which I landed head-first with such violence that I immediately
lost consciousness.  But before that happened I was sensible of two
things; one of them being a blinding flash of flame, coincident with the
shock, in which our bows, for a length of some ten or twelve feet,
seemed to crumple up and fly to pieces, while the other was that, as I
was tossed high in the air, I sustained a violent blow on the chest from
some heavy object which seemed to sear my flesh like white-hot iron.
Then down I came upon my head, and knew no more.

My first sensation, upon coming to myself, was that of a violent aching
all over my body, as though every bone in it had been broken.  But the
aching of my head was even worse than that of my body, while as for my
chest, it smarted and throbbed as though the blade of a burning knife
rested upon it.  I next became aware that I was in bed; and finally,
opening my eyes, I saw that I was the occupant of one of many beds in a
large, airy room which somehow seemed familiar to me, and which I
presently identified as the ward which I had once before occupied in the
hospital at our base among the Elliot Islands.

It was broad daylight, and the sun was shining brilliantly into the room
through the widely opened windows, which admitted a gentle, refreshing
breeze, pleasantly charged with ozone.  Two dainty little women nurses
were doing something at a table at the far end of the room, which
happened to come within the range of my vision, and presently I heard
the gentle splash of water in that direction, which immediately brought
home to me the consciousness that my mouth and throat were parched.  I
opened my mouth to call to the nurses that I was thirsty, but it was
only the very faintest of whispers that escaped my smarting lips.  It
was enough, however, to immediately produce a gentle rustle on the other
side of my bed, and the next moment a pretty face was bending over me
and a pair of soft, dark, almond-shaped eyes were gazing sympathetically
into mine.

"Ah!" exclaimed the owner of those eyes, "at last the illustrious
Captain is himself again.  Are you suffering very acutely, noble sir?"

"Suffering?"  I whispered.  "_Rather_!  I ache as if I had been beaten
to a jelly, and I am as thirsty as a--as a limekiln.  Can you by any
chance get me something to drink?  A bucketful will do to start with."

"A bucketful!" she murmured, looking anxiously down at me as she laid
her long, slender, pointed fingers upon the pulse of my left hand where
it rested outside the coverlet.  "But no," she continued, evidently
speaking to herself, "his pulse is almost normal, and there is no trace
of fever.  A bucketful!  Oh, these English!"

She shook her head, as though giving up some problem that she found too
difficult for solution, and shuffled off, with the curious gait peculiar
to Japanese women, without saying another word to me.  She approached
the other two nurses, at the far end of the ward, and said something
which caused them both to turn and stare in my direction.  Then the
senior of the party, accompanied by the girl whom I had so tremendously
astonished, came up to my bedside, looked at me, felt my pulse, and
shuffled away again, presently returning with one of those cups with a
spout, from which one can drink while in a recumbent position.  She
placed the point of the spout between my lips, and the next moment I was
aware that I was imbibing some delicious broth.  But the cup!  It was
only about the size of an ordinary breakfast cup, and its contents were
gone before I could well taste them.  I asked for more, and got a second
cupful; and then, as I was asking for still more, the Medical Staff of
the hospital entered the ward, and the whole crowd turned with one
accord and grouped itself around my bed.

The Chief, a keen, clever-looking little fellow, whose age it was
impossible to guess at since he was clean shaven, turned to the nurse
who was feeding me, and sharply demanded what it was that she was
administering.  She explained, adding in all seriousness the information
that I had demanded a bucketful, whereupon he turned and regarded me
with upraised eyebrows, and laid his fingers upon my wrist.

"So you are suffering from extreme thirst, Captain, eh?" he demanded.

I nodded emphatically.

"Ah!" he said, "yes; that was only to be expected.  Well--" He turned to
the head nurse and gave her certain instructions in so low a tone of
voice that I could not catch what he said.  Then, drawing a notebook
from his pocket, he very carefully and with much consideration wrote
what I imagined to be a prescription, tore out the leaf, and handed it
to the nurse, with instructions to have it made up.  Then, turning again
to me, he inquired how I felt.  I described my symptoms as well as I
could, wondering all the while how it was that I was only able to speak
in the merest whisper.

The members of the staff, including the Head himself, could not have
listened with more rapt attention, had I been communicating to them some
item of intelligence of the most tremendous import; and when I had
finished, the Head drew away from my bed to the far end of the room,
where for some minutes he appeared to be delivering a lecture to the
members of his staff, who had followed him.  Then, the lecture being
finished, they all came back to the side of my bed, and one of the
nurses having carefully folded back the covering as low as my waist, the
Head proceeded to deftly loosen the fastenings of an enormous bandage
which I now discovered enveloped my chest.  This done, I was very
tenderly raised to a sitting posture--an operation which gave me
excruciating pain, by the way--and the endless turns of the bandage were
deftly unwound, one of the nurses seating herself upon the bed and
supporting me meanwhile.  When at length the bandage was removed,
several broad strips of dressing were disclosed, which, upon removal,
revealed a ghastly great jagged wound stretching right across my chest,
the edges of which had been very neatly drawn together by a number of
stitches.  Then, for the first time, I remembered the violent blow on
the chest which I had received when the bows of the _Kasanumi_ were
destroyed.  The wound was intently examined by the entire staff,
pronounced to be healing most satisfactorily, and then, after being
thoroughly sponged with warm water, was re-dressed, and a fresh bandage
applied.  Meanwhile, I had made the discovery that my head also was
enveloped in bandages, and when I asked why, was informed that I had
received a scalp wound, which, however, was of no serious consequence.
When this also had been re-dressed, the entire operation occupying the
best part of half an hour, I felt considerably easier, although much
exhausted.  While the wound in my chest was being dressed, I had seized
the opportunity to look round the ward, and saw that several of the beds
were occupied, one of the patients, who appeared to be suffering from a
broken arm, being a man whom I appeared to know.  As I sat staring at
him he turned his head and our eyes met, whereupon, to my amazement, up
went his uninjured hand to the salute.

"Who is that man?"  I demanded.  "I seem to recognise his face."

"You do?" remarked the Chief.  "Ah! no wonder.  He is one of the
survivors of the disaster by which you so nearly lost your honourable
life.  He was one of the crew of the _Kasanumi_."

"One of the crew of the _Kasanumi_!"  I repeated.  "Of course; I
remember now.  How come he and I to be here?"

"You were both, with the rest of the crew of your ship, rescued by the
_Akatsuki_, which ship was happily at hand when the disaster occurred,"
replied the Chief.

"Ah, yes, the disaster!"  I remarked.  "Yes, I am beginning to remember
all about it now.  What was the nature of the disaster, doctor?  Was
that ever ascertained?"

"According to your friend, Captain Ito, who brought you here, there is
no doubt that your ship struck a mine," was the reply.  "Of course she
went down, though not so quickly but that the entire crew were saved,
together with most of their personal effects.  There was time, indeed,
to save most, if not all, of your belongings, Captain, and they are now
here, awaiting your convalescence."

"Thank you," I said.  "And, pray, when did the disaster occur?"

"Just a week ago, last night," was the reply.

"A week ago!"  I exclaimed in consternation.  "Then, have I lain here
all that time, unconscious?"

"You certainly have," replied the Chief.  "Now, however, that you are
happily conscious once more, we must do our utmost to keep you so, and
to assist your recovery.  Therefore, no more conversation, if you
please, until I give you permission.  What you now have to do is to
remain perfectly quiet and free from all excitement, pleasurable or
otherwise.  Rest, sleep, take such food and such medicines as I shall
order for you, and recover strength as rapidly as possible.  Then, when
you are sufficiently well to receive visitors, I will permit a few of
the many who are now eager to see you, to do so.  No, not another word!"

And therewith the little fellow and his staff turned away and proceeded
to overhaul the rest of the patients.

The nurse whom I had at first seen upon recovering consciousness
appeared to have been specially told off to look after me, for upon the
departure of the staff she came and knelt by my bedside, as is their
fashion, instead of sitting.

She was just within the range of my vision, as I lay, and I suppose I
must have stared at her pretty intently for some time, for presently I
saw her colour rising, which at once brought me to my bearings.
Thinking to put her at her ease, I said to her:

"Nurse, what is your name?"

She coloured still more, and after regarding me steadfastly for a
moment, answered:

"My contemptible and insignificant name, illustrious Captain, is
Peach-blossom."

"Peach-blossom!"  I repeated.  "And a very appropriate name, too, by
Jove!  See here, Peach-blossom.  The Chief Surgeon seems to have
forgotten that I said I was thirsty.  Do you think you could find me
something to drink?  Two or three tumblers of cold water, now, eh?  I
have an idea that they would taste particularly good."

"I will speak to the Chief, noble Captain, and if he consents I will
honourably let you have it," she replied.

The Chief evidently consented, and a few minutes later I was quenching
my thirst with the most delicious draught I had ever tasted.  It was
only pure, cold water, but as I slowly imbibed it I told myself that at
last I really understood the full meaning of the term, "nectar."

Well, there is no need for me to dwell at length upon my sojourn in the
hospital.  I was given to understand that I was making a splendid
recovery, yet although I was brought back to the Elliot Islands and
admitted to the hospital on the morning of 20th June, it was not until
nearly three weeks had passed that I was permitted to receive visitors,
the first of whom was that fine fellow Ito, to whom I owed my life.

I shall not readily forget the little chap's delight when, upon entering
the ward, he discovered me sitting up in bed, reading, propped up by
cushions and a bed-rest.  He sprang forward, his eyes fairly snapping
with pleasure and excitement, and seizing my welcoming hand, shook it
with such energy that good little Peach-Blossom felt constrained to
spring hastily to her feet and rescue me from his too strenuous
demonstrations of joy.  At her vigorous remonstrances, however, he
dropped my hand as though it had burnt him and, sinking into a chair by
my bedside, proceeded to apologise with almost abject contrition, and
would not be comforted until I had assured him, not quite truthfully, I
am afraid, that he had not hurt me.  Then, in answer to my questions, he
proceeded to tell me what he knew of the matter.

It appeared that at the moment when the explosion occurred, the
_Akatsuki_ was so close to the _Kasanumi_ that the two craft were all
but touching each other, although, from the _Kasanumi's_ bridge, where I
was then standing, I could not see the other destroyer.  It also
appeared that at the moment when I ordered the course of the _Kasanumi_
to be altered, the _Akatsuki_ was close astern of us, and broad on our
port quarter, the consequence being that the shifting of our helm
carried us so close athwart her bows that she all but touched us when
crossing our stern.  It was at this moment that the explosion occurred;
and Ito, instantly divining what had happened, at once manoeuvred his
craft in such a fashion as to lay her alongside the fast-sinking
_Kasanumi_, so that the crew of the latter were able to transfer
themselves directly from one ship to the other without using boats.
Meanwhile, the helmsman and signalmen on the _Kasanumi's_ bridge had
seen me tossed over the rail by the force of the explosion, and,
although themselves severely shaken, had instantly flung themselves down
upon the turtle-back, where they found me lying bleeding and insensible.
To pick me up and carry me aft was the next thing to be done, for they
realised at once that their own ship was sinking, and they did it,
transferring my senseless body to the _Akatsuki_ the moment that she got
alongside.  I was at once taken below and temporarily patched-up, while
the crew of the _Kasanumi_ were being transferred, together with such of
their belongings as they were able to save, my cabin steward with the
utmost devotion concentrating all his efforts upon saving the most
valuable of my belongings, regardless of the loss of his own.

It was at first thought that possibly the _Kasanumi_ might be saved, and
Ito did his utmost in that direction, working for more than half an hour
upon the stricken craft.  But the damage was too serious, and despite
collision mats and pumps the craft continued to settle until at length,
recognising that all efforts were useless, he ordered all hands aboard
his own ship, and cast off, the _Kasanumi_ foundering almost before the
_Akatsuki_ could back off clear of her.

Ito made no attempt to attack the ships in Port Arthur roads
single-handed, but at once shaped a course for the Elliot Islands,
running clear of the fog half an hour later.  Arrived at our base, he
lost no time in having me conveyed ashore to the hospital, where, as
already recorded, I lay for a week in a state of alternating delirium
and coma before I recovered my senses.

The doctors assured me that I was making a splendid recovery; yet to
myself my progress appeared to be horribly slow, and it was certainly
not accelerated by the knowledge that while I was lying there helpless,
big events were happening which had all the appearance of leading up to
still bigger events in the near future.  For instance, there was the
second sortie of the Russian squadron from Vladivostock, in the middle
of June, lasting over a fortnight, during which it inflicted great loss
and damage upon the Japanese.  It was a most risky thing to do, and must
certainly have resulted in disaster had not poor, unhappy Admiral
Kamimura been morally chained down, and prevented from taking effective
measures against the raiders, by a stringent order that he was to hold
the Strait of Korea at all costs.  Yet, such is human inconsistency,
notwithstanding the above stringent order, which bound the unfortunate
admiral hand and foot, and effectually precluded his pursuit of the
raiding ships, he was so severely blamed by "the man in the street" for
the damage done that a mob actually attacked and wrecked his house!
This, of course, was most unjust and cruel treatment of a thoroughly
capable and zealous man who, hampered though he was, did all he could to
bring the raiders to book, and indeed, but for a sudden change of
weather at a critical moment, would probably have brought them to action
and given them a severe punishing.

Then, there was the abortive sortie of the Port Arthur fleet, three days
after the destruction of the _Kasanumi_.  True, the ships were only at
sea for about twenty-four hours, and did nothing, narrowly escaping
capture only by Togo's over-eagerness to engage them, thus discovering
himself to the Russians in time to allow the latter to make good their
retreat back to Port Arthur; but, all the same, I felt that I was losing
much in not being present.  To me it seemed that our plucky little
Admiral had missed a splendid chance over this last event; for we did
the enemy no perceptible damage, and only succeeded in driving him back
to his lair.  As a matter of fact the only injury sustained by the
Russians was that which happened to the battleship _Sevastopol_, which
struck one of our mines as she was returning to Port Arthur anchorage,
and was only got into the harbour with the utmost difficulty.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

UNEXPECTED PROMOTION.

Among other naval customs which the Japanese had copied from the
British, was that of trying by court martial all officers who were so
unfortunate as to lose their ships; and on the day when I first received
permission from the doctors to take a short turn in the open air, I also
received an intimation that my trial for the loss of the _Kasanumi_
would be held, a week from that date, on board the flagship _Mikasa_,
which would then be in harbour.

Of course I was still very much of an invalid, for although the ghastly
wound in my chest had so far healed that it no longer needed dressing, I
was warned that even very trifling exertion might cause it to burst open
again, while I had by no means recovered my former strength.
Nevertheless, on the day appointed, I made shift to walk down to the
beach, supported by the arm of an orderly, and, with the same
assistance, to climb the flagship's side ladder when I arrived alongside
her in the steam launch which had been sent ashore to fetch me.

There is no need for me to describe at length the proceedings of a naval
court martial; it has been admirably done by Captain Marryat; and as it
was in his day, so it is to-day, in all essentials.  Of course the trial
was the merest formality, for there could not be the slightest shadow of
doubt that the craft had been lost through collision with a mine, while
under way in a dense fog, and that it was one of those incidents of war
for which nobody but the enemy can be held responsible; and accordingly
I was honourably acquitted, and my sword was returned to me amid the
congratulations of the Admiral and the officers who had constituted the
court.

Five days later I received a visit from Togo himself, who seemed to have
conceived rather a liking for me.  After making most friendly inquiries
as to my health and the progress which I was making toward
convalescence, he repeated his congratulations upon my acquittal by the
court martial, and then asked me how much longer I thought it would be
before I should again be fit for active service.  I was happily able to
assure him that, unless anything quite unforeseen happened, I hoped to
be quite ready for duty in a fortnight, or even less if my services were
urgently required, and I remember that I gave the answer with
considerable eagerness, for there was a certain subtle something in the
tone of the Admiral's question which somehow suggested that events of
importance were in the air.

"Good!" ejaculated Togo.  "That is excellent news, my friend, for if
what I hear be true, it would appear that the time is drawing near when
I shall be in urgent need of all the assistance which my officers can
give me.  I will say no more at present--except that I hope you will
take the utmost care of yourself, and get quite well again as quickly as
possible--for at present my information is too vague to permit me to
make a definite statement.  Meanwhile,"--putting his hand into his
breast pocket and producing a long, official-looking document--"it
affords me the utmost pleasure to hand you this, which is your
appointment to the command of the _Yakumo_.  It has been my pleasant
duty to mention your name in my dispatches, in connection with many
services meritoriously rendered, the latest having reference to the very
valuable assistance rendered by you prior to and during the battle of
Nanshan; and this appointment is the outward token of the authorities'
appreciation of those services.  I am looking forward with much interest
to the moment when you will take up this new command, for, as you know,
the _Yakumo_ is a very fine ship, and under a smart and enterprising
captain I shall expect great things of her."

"And by Jove! sir, you shall not be disappointed if I can help it," I
exclaimed, springing to my feet in a paroxysm of delight and grasping
the hand which the Admiral kindly extended to me.  "I don't know how to
find words in which to express my profound gratitude to you, sir, for
all your kindness to me, from the moment when I presented myself before
you, an utter stranger," I continued huskily; but Togo interrupted me,
reaching up and patting my shoulder in a very kind, fatherly way.

"There, there," he murmured, soothingly, "say no more about it, my dear
boy; say no more about it.  I want no wordy expressions of gratitude;
you should know that by this time.  And if you really feel grateful to
me for anything I have done for you, you shall show your gratitude in
deeds, rather than words, when the strenuous times arrive which I
already see looming in the distance."

And therewith, affording me no opportunity to reply, the fine little
fellow, well named "the Nelson of Japan," hastily shook me by the hand
and effected his escape, while I sank into a chair, almost overwhelmed
at the extent of my good fortune.

Captain of the _Yakumo_!  I could scarcely credit it.  As the Admiral
had said, the _Yakumo_ was a very fine ship; she was indeed one of the
finest armoured cruisers which Japan at that time possessed.  Her
waterline was protected by a belt of Krupp steel seven inches thick
amidships, tapering off to five inches thickness at bow and stern; she
mounted four 8-inch quick-fire guns in her two turrets, and fourteen
6-inch guns on her broadsides; she could steam twenty-one knots, when
clean; and she carried a crew of five hundred officers and men!  A
rather different craft from the little _Kasanumi_, with her single
12-pounder and five 6-pounders, eh?  I felt that, in command of such a
ship as that, I could dare and do almost anything.  My delight must have
proved an important factor in aiding my recovery, for from the moment
when I received my appointment, my strength came back to me so rapidly
that, instead of the fortnight which I had allowed myself in my
conversation with the Admiral, I took only nine days to qualify for my
discharge from the hospital, and to report for duty.

It was a proud moment for me when I stood on the spacious quarter-deck
of my new command and, in the presence of all hands, mustered for the
occasion, read my commission appointing me to the command of the ship.
The vacancy had occurred in consequence of the death of her previous
captain, and when I boarded the craft, I did so fully prepared for a
certain coldness of reception on the part of the officers, for
naturally, in the ordinary course of events, the command ought to have
gone to the senior officer, one Commander Arisaka.  But not so; on the
contrary, as I finished reading my commission, folded it up, and put it
in my pocket, the Commander approached, shook hands in the most friendly
way, expressed the extreme gratification felt by himself and the rest of
the officers of the ship at finding themselves under the leadership of
one who--as they were kind enough to put it--"had so brilliantly
distinguished himself"; and then proceeded to present to me the rest of
the officers in rotation, in strict accordance with their rank, all of
whom found something pleasant and complimentary to say.  By way of
response, I made a little speech to all hands, crew as well as officers,
in which I expressed my gratification at finding myself in command of so
fine a ship, manned by so fine a crew, and voiced the hope that, not
only should we be able to all work comfortably and harmoniously
together, but also that the Admiral would speedily afford us an
opportunity to add fresh laurels to the _Yakumo's_ fame; a speech which
elicited a quite enthusiastic storm of "Banzais."

Agreeable relations with my officers and crew being thus satisfactorily
established, I took up my quarters onboard, and forthwith proceeded to
"learn" the ship--that is to say, I made myself intimately acquainted
with the localities and purposes of the numerous engines and pieces of
machinery with which she was fitted, the number and positions of her
magazines, and their contents, the number and situations of her torpedo
tubes, the uses of the many fitments to be found in her conning tower,
and in fact everything connected with her working, so that in the hour
of action I might have every detail firmly fixed in my memory, ready for
use at a moment's notice.  And wherever I found anything capable of
improvement, I unhesitatingly had that improvement carried out, although
I feel bound to say that I found very little anywhere needing
modification.  In this way, and by continually exercising the crew at
such evolutions as could be carried out with the ship at anchor, I very
soon became perfectly familiar with my new command and, as my strength
steadily returned, began to long for the opportunity to test myself as
well as my ship and crew.  For during the whole of this time the
_Yakumo_, with several other cruisers, and our four battleships, had
been lying at anchor at our rendezvous at the Elliot Islands, not idle
by any means, but, like the _Yakumo_, "tuning up" for a certain
eventuality, the approach of which we all seemed to sense in some
mysterious way.

And yet, after all, I do not know that there was very much mystery about
it, for our Secret Service agents--of whom there were several in Port
Arthur--informed us that, from the moment when, on that memorable
Sunday, 7th August, one of the first twenty shells fired at the
stronghold by the investing Japanese, fell aboard the battleship
_Retvisan_, lying at anchor in the harbour, and seriously damaged her,
there had been a general outcry that the Russian fleet ought to go to
sea and fight, rather than remain in harbour and be ignominiously
destroyed without striking a blow in self-defence.

It was known that Admiral Vitgeft, and Prince Ukhtomsky, his second in
command, were utterly opposed to such a course, their freely expressed
opinion being that the Russian ships, already more or less seriously
damaged by the attacks to which they had been subjected from time to
time during the progress of the war, were totally unfit to meet and
engage the Japanese fleet, which, they had every reason to believe, was
in first-class fighting trim.  There were certain officers, however,
whose mortification at their enforced inactivity blinded them to the
soundness of this judgment.  "If the ships must be destroyed, let them
be destroyed at sea in the act of inflicting as much injury as possible
upon the enemy," was their contention; and it was certainly a reasonable
one.  It was broadly hinted that the leader of this faction found means
to convey his contention to the ear of Admiral Alexieff; for, strange to
say, the following day brought a wireless message from the
Commander-in-Chief to Vitgeft, ordering the latter to take his whole
fleet to sea and proceed to Vladivostock, fighting his way thither, if
necessary.  Every effort was of course made by Vitgeft to keep this
order a profound secret; but it was necessary to communicate it to the
captains of the several ships and other officers whose duties required
that they should possess such knowledge, and the delight of some of them
at learning that their long-cherished desire was about to be granted was
not conducive to secrecy.  Moreover, the sudden, feverish hurry and
bustle of preparation was a sufficient advertisement of what was
impending; and that very night the news was signalled to the blockading
squadron in the offing, from which it was as promptly transmitted by
wireless to Togo, among the Elliots.  The news was confirmed on the
following morning by our patrol vessels off the port, from which came
the information that a tremendous state of activity was discernible
among the Russian ships, and that all indications pointed toward an
almost immediate sortie.

The news arrived by wireless, about an hour after sunrise; and
immediately upon receiving it the signal was made for all captains to at
once proceed on board the flagship.  Some such signal had confidently
been expected, after the news of the preceding day; we were in fact all
waiting for it, and its display was equivalent to the starting signal
for a race, for no sooner did the flags break abroad than they were
read, and the next instant the shrill piping of many boatswain's
whistles was heard in the calm morning air, the crews of the captain's
gigs were seen rushing along the booms and dropping recklessly down into
the boats, and in less than a minute the mirror-like waters of the
harbour were being churned into foam as the flotilla of gigs darted away
from the ships' gangway ladders, each striving to be the first to arrive
alongside the _Mikasa_.  I was not the first to reach the goal, for the
battleships were all lying together, with the cruisers some distance
outside them, but my boat was the fourth alongside, beating the
_Asama's_ gig by half a length, to the intense disgust of Captain
Yamada, who occupied her stern-sheets.

"Never mind, Yamada, old chap," I exclaimed, as we shook hands and
ascended the _Mikasa's_ side ladder together; "perhaps you will get the
pull of me later on.  But I'll bet you a case of champagne that the
_Yakumo_ scores a hit before the _Asama_, to-day."

The bet was eagerly accepted, and, chatting gaily, we passed along the
flagship's deck and entered the Admiral's state cabin, where we found
Togo and the captains of the four battleships already assembled and
conversing eagerly.  The Admiral shook hands with both of us,
complimented me upon my rapid recovery, and then turned to welcome the
other captains who were fast arriving, while we joined the little but
quickly swelling group of officers who had already arrived; for of
course Togo would say nothing until everybody was present.

We were not kept waiting very long, however, perhaps a matter of ten
minutes after my arrival, and then Captain Ijichi, of the _Mikasa_, who
as each captain arrived, had been ticking his name off a list, announced
that all were present, and rapped sharply on the table with his
sword-hilt for silence.  The next moment, to use a common expression,
one might have heard a pin drop.  Then Admiral Togo stepped forward,
unrolled a chart and spread it open upon the table, and stood for a
moment looking round the crowded cabin with a curiously intent and eager
gaze.

"Gentlemen," he said, "the wireless message which has this morning
arrived from the blockading squadron off Port Arthur, entirely confirms
the news of yesterday, to the effect that the Russian fleet is about to
put to sea, probably with the intention of making for Vladivostock.  I
imagine Vladivostock to be its destination for the simple reason that
there is no other port open to it; moreover, as we are fully aware,
there is a dry dock at Vladivostock large enough to receive a
battleship; and I conjecture the intention of the enemy to be to take
his damaged ships there for the purpose of repairing them, so that they
may be in condition to reinforce and assist the Baltic fleet upon its
arrival in these waters.

"Gentlemen, if that be the enemy's intention, it must never be carried
out; we must prevent it at all costs--short of the loss of our own
battleships, which we _must_ preserve in order that we may be able to
meet the Baltic fleet upon something like equal terms, when it arrives.
Now, the question of how best to meet the Port Arthur fleet without
unduly risking our own battleships is one that has greatly exercised my
mind ever since the moment when it first became apparent that the
Russians were meditating a sortie, and I have formed a plan which I will
now lay before you, and upon which I shall be very grateful to receive
your frankly expressed criticism and opinion.

"Taking it for granted that the purpose of the Russian Admiral is to
make for Vladivostock, I propose to proceed to Encounter Rock, which, as
you are all aware, lies directly in the track of ships bound from Port
Arthur southward past the Shan-tung promontory,"--the Admiral pointed
out upon the chart the positions of the three places mentioned as he
spoke--"and there await the arrival of the Russians, who will by that
time be so far from Port Arthur that I trust the measures which I
propose to take to prevent them from returning may be effective.

"I need not remind you that my instructions are, and have been
throughout the war, to risk our battleships as little as possible, since
upon them depends the safety of Japan--a fact which I believe we all
fully realise; I therefore intend to fight the forthcoming battle at
long-range, trusting to our superior gunnery to enable us to inflict the
maximum amount of injury upon the enemy with the minimum amount of
injury to ourselves.

"I purpose to proceed in the following manner.  The _Yakumo_ will lead
the fleet to sea, followed by the _Kasagi, Takasago, Chitose_,
_Takachiho_, _Naniwa_, and _Chiyoda_, in the order named.  These will be
followed, at a distance of three miles, by our six armoured cruisers, in
the wake of which will follow the four battleships, with the remaining
cruisers and the destroyers bringing up the rear.  Further orders I
cannot give at present, since my plans are necessarily subject to
modification according to the reports which will no doubt come to me
from time to time from the blockading squadron, a portion of which will
follow the Russian fleet, reporting upon its formation, the course it
steers, its speed, and so on.  The only thing further which I have now
to say is, that the duty of the destroyer flotilla will be to keep the
Russian destroyers so fully occupied that the latter will have no
opportunity to approach our big ships, while every opportunity must be
seized to attack the Russians, especially their battleships.  That is
all I have to say, gentlemen, except that the fleet which we shall have
the honour to meet to-day _must be destroyed_, and I look to each of
you, individually, to give me your best assistance in the accomplishment
of this purpose.  Now, has any officer any suggestion to offer?  I shall
be most grateful for any helpful hint."

Nobody spoke, but all eyes wandered round the cabin, searching for a
possible speaker.  The Admiral's eye met mine, and I thought there
seemed to be a question in it.  As nobody else seemed inclined to speak,
I decided to answer that questioning glance.

"There is just one remark which I should like to make, sir, if I may be
permitted," I said.  "I had not the good fortune to be present when the
Japanese last met the Port Arthur fleet, less than two months ago; but
from all that I have heard with regard to that meeting, I gather that
there would have been no Port Arthur fleet to-day, had not you, sir,
been too eager to meet them, revealing your presence to them at such an
early moment that retirement to Port Arthur was still possible for them.
If that be the case, the obvious lesson to be learnt seems to be that
we should on no account show ourselves until the Russians have run too
far off-shore to get back again before we can intercept them; and I
would also suggest the desirability of taking steps to effectually cut
off their retreat."

Togo nodded and smiled.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you have all heard Captain Swinburne's remarks.
Have any of you anything to add to them, or any comment to make upon
them?"

For a moment there was silence.  Then Captain Matsumoto, commanding the
_Fuji_, stepped forward.

"I should like to say, sir," he said, "that I entirely concur in what
Captain Swinburne has said.  Unlike that gentleman, I had the honour to
be present on the occasion to which he refers, and I believe all
present--including yourself, sir--will be inclined to agree that the
honourable captain has put his finger upon the two causes which then
combined to render the escape of the Russian fleet possible."

A low murmur of assent followed; and when it died away, Togo spoke.

"I thank you all, gentlemen," he said, "for the expression of opinion to
which I have just listened.  I agree that a mistake was made upon that
occasion, and it was I who made it.  But that mistake will not be
repeated, you may rest assured.  I recognised my mistake when it was too
late to amend it, and I have now made my plans accordingly.  Has any one
else any suggestion to offer?"

There was no response.

"Very well, then, gentlemen," resumed Togo.  "Our conference is at an
end.  Return to your ships, and get your anchors at once.  We will
proceed to sea forthwith; and may Hachiman Sama," (the Japanese god of
War) "be with us to-day and crown our arms with victory!"

A moment's silence followed, and then the cabin rang with the exultant
shout of "Banzai!  Banzai Nippon!" instantly taken up by the crew out on
deck, who heard it, and as instantly repeated by the crews of the other
ships, as the sound of the cheering reached them.  Then, one after
another, we filed past the Admiral, who shook hands with each of us as
we passed out of the cabin; and ten minutes later the harbour was
resounding with the clank of chain cables being hove in through a
fleet's hawse-pipes and stowed away below.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

THE BATTLE OF THE YELLOW SEA.

It was still quite early--half-past six o'clock in the morning, to be
exact--when a gun from the _Mikasa_ and a string of flags, drooping from
the end of her signal yard in the breathless calm of a hot August
morning, gave the signal for the Japanese fleet to go forth to battle.

In accordance with the Admiral's instructions, the _Yakumo_ was to lead
the way to sea, and it was a proud moment for me when, standing upon the
cruiser's navigating bridge, I personally rang down the order to the
engine-room, "Ahead, half-speed, both engines!"  And I considered--and
still consider--that I had every reason to be proud; for here was I, a
lad not yet quite nineteen years of age, captain of one of the finest
and most formidable cruisers in the Japanese navy.  And I had attained
to that position--I may say it now, I think, without laying myself open
to the charge of being unduly vain--solely by my own exertions and
without a particle of favour shown me, excepting that, when my own
country contemptuously dispensed with my services, the aliens whom I was
now serving received me with the utmost courtesy and kindness.  Ah,
well! thank God, that bitter period in my life is past now, and I can
bear to look back upon it with equanimity, but the memory of it often
swept down upon me like a black cloud in the days of which I am now
writing.

But there was no thought of my unmerited disgrace and ruined career in
my own country to interfere with my happiness or humble my pride upon
that glorious morning; I enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that my
innocence had been made clear, that the stain of guilt had been removed
from my name, and I was as happy just then as I suppose it is ever
possible for mortal to be.

And indeed, quite apart from matters of a purely personal nature, it
would have been very difficult for any normal-minded individual to have
been otherwise than buoyant upon that particular morning, for everything
conspired to make one so.  The weather was glorious; the sky, a clear,
rich sapphire blue, was, for a wonder, without a cloud, the air was so
still that until we got under way and made a wind for ourselves the
signal flags drooped in motionless folds, and their interpretation was
largely a matter of guesswork.  Then there was all the pomp and
circumstance of modern war, the ships already cleared for action, and
each of them decorated with at least two enormous battle-flags--wrought
by the dainty fingers of Japan's fairest daughters--flaunting defiantly
from her mast-heads.  It must have been a magnificent sight to behold
that proud fleet steaming out to sea, ship after ship falling into line
with machine-like precision and keeping distance perfectly, first the
squadron of cruisers, led by the _Yakumo_; then the other five armoured
cruisers, with the _Asama_ in the van; then the four battleships--
accompanied by the _Nisshin_ and _Kasuga_, which were powerful enough to
take their place in the line of battle--and, finally, the swarm of
heterogeneous craft composed of the older and less important cruisers
and other vessels, and those wasps of the sea, the destroyers.

The _Yakumo_ had scarcely begun to gather way when the flagship
signalled "Course South-West by South; speed twelve knots."

As our signalman ran up the answering pennant, I entered the chart-room
and, approaching the table, upon which a chart of the Yellow Sea lay
spread out, requested Mr Shiraishi, the navigating lieutenant, to lay
down a South-West by South course upon the chart, that we might see
where it would take us.  He did so, and I saw with satisfaction that it
would take us some twenty-five miles to the eastward of Encounter Rock,
that unfortunate spot near which the Japanese fleet had too prematurely
revealed its presence upon the occasion of its previous encounter with
the Russians.  Twenty-five miles!  That was excellent.  If we held on
upon that course we should cross the bows of the Russians at such a
distance as would enable us to pass unseen, and then come up from the
southward in the enemy's rear, so cutting him off from Port Arthur and
rendering it impossible for him to avoid a fight.

Shortly after clearing the harbour, the _Asama_ and her attendant
cruisers parted company with us, striking off to the westward, with the
object of working round in the rear of the Russians, and again I
mentally complimented Togo upon his astuteness.

Nine o'clock came, and a few minutes later there arrived a wireless
message from the Admiral for our squadron to change course thirty-four
degrees to the westward.  I wondered what this might portend, for we had
been receiving almost continuous wireless messages from the squadron off
Port Arthur, the latest of which told us that the Russians, although
undoubtedly intending a sortie, had not yet started.  I again visited
the chart-room, and with Shiraishi's assistance discovered that our new
course would bring us within about seven miles south-east of Encounter
Rock about noon.

"Four bells" had just gone tinkling along the line of the Japanese
ships, informing those whom it might concern that the hour was ten
o'clock in the morning, when a fresh wireless message came from our
blockading squadron, informing us that at last the Russian fleet was
actually steaming out of Port Arthur harbour, with battle-flags flying,
bands playing, and the ship's companies singing the Russian National
Anthem, with the battleship _Tsarevich_, Vitgeft's flagship, leading.
As the message was decoded and the news spread throughout the Japanese
fleet, an almost audible sigh of relief escaped the breasts of officers
and men; the Russians were not only coming out, but actually meant to
fight; and the fateful hour which had been so long and so eagerly
awaited was now at last at hand.  A great cheer arose, passing along the
line from ship to ship, and officers who had already assured themselves
that all preparations for meeting the enemy were complete once more went
the rounds, to make assurance doubly sure.

The Japanese blockading fleet gradually closed in behind the Russian
ships, compelling Vitgeft to send back his gunboats, mining craft, and
reserve destroyers, as our boats were threatening to cut them off; and
about eleven o'clock we got a message informing us that the fleet which
we should have to meet consisted of six battleships, four cruisers, and
seven destroyers, an eighth destroyer, believed to be the _Reshitelny_,
having contrived, by her superior speed, to give our boats the slip, and
steam away in the direction of Chifu.  Meanwhile, the glass was falling,
great masses of cloud came driving up from the eastward, and a little
breeze from the same quarter sprang up, rapidly freshening and knocking
up a sea which soon set even our battleships rolling and pitching
ponderously.  "Well, so much the better for us," we told each other.
Our gunners were by this time quite accustomed to shoot from a rolling
and pitching platform, while the Russians had had no such profitable
experience; and the heavier the sea, the greater would probably be the
superiority of our shooting.

It was nearing noon when at length, broad on our starboard bow, a great
cloud of black smoke began to show on the south-eastern horizon; and
shortly afterward a forest of masts, from the truck of each of which
flaunted a great white flag bearing a blue Saint Andrew's cross, began
to rise above the sea-line, followed by numerous funnels belching
immense volumes of black smoke.  The two fleets were nearing each other
fast, it was therefore not long before the ponderous bulk of the
_Tsarevich_ topped the horizon, with the _Retvisan, Pobieda, Peresviet_
(flying Rear-Admiral Prince Ukhtomsky's flag), _Sevastopol_, and
_Poltava_ following.  Then came our old friend of the five funnels, the
_Askold_, followed by the _Pallada_ and _Diana_, with a hospital ship,
flying a Red Cross flag, bringing up the rear but well astern.  On the
port beam, but well to the rear of the line of battleships, was the
cruiser _Novik_--easily distinguished by her three funnels with a single
mast stepped between the second and third funnel--and seven destroyers.

Up fluttered a signal aboard the _Mikasa_, and scarcely had the flags
broke out when away went our destroyers at top speed, like hounds
released from the leash, to attack the enemy.  And a stirring sight it
was to witness their dash, for it was now blowing quite fresh and a
nasty, choppy sea had arisen, through which the plucky little boats
raced, like a school of dolphin chasing flying-fish, now throwing a
third of their length clean out of the water, and anon plunging into an
oncoming wave until the water foamed and hissed over turtle-back and
bridge and poured in torrents down upon the main deck and overboard.
But the Russian Admiral was not going to tamely submit to a torpedo
attack in broad daylight; he allowed the boats to get well within range
of his guns, and then opened a brisk fire upon them, driving them off
for the moment.  Nevertheless, although the boats never actually scored
a hit that day, they were of the utmost assistance, hovering on the
enemy's flanks and rear, dashing in upon him from time to time, and
distracting his attention at many a critical moment.

Encounter Rock now bore north-west from us, seven miles distant, and was
broad upon the port beam of the Russians, at about the same distance;
and had both fleets held on as they were then going the Russians must
very soon have cut through our line--provided, of course, that we had
permitted them to do so.  But the attempt evidently did not appeal to
Vitgeft, for the _Tsarevich_ suddenly starboarded her helm and led away
from us in a north-westerly direction, while Togo, perhaps afraid that
this was the preliminary to a retreat on the part of the Russian fleet,
feigned a nervousness that he certainly did not feel, and shifted his
helm, heading South-South-West, at the same time forming his battleships
in line abreast.  The result was that, for a time, the two fleets were
actually steaming away from each other, the Russians being upon our
starboard quarter.  After steaming a short distance in this direction,
our formation was altered back to line ahead, and the course was changed
to South-West, apparently with the object of getting the ships well in
hand.

It was close upon one o'clock in the afternoon when our Admiral, having
put us through one or two further manoeuvres and apparently satisfied
himself that he had strung us up to the necessary pitch of alertness,
finally formed line ahead and changed course to East-North-East, at the
same time hoisting the signal, "Engage!"  The signal was greeted with a
terrific outburst of cheering from every ship, and faces that had begun
to look gloomy as the distance between the two fleets increased, once
more became wreathed in smiles.  Speed was increased, and we began to
rapidly overhaul the enemy, the spray flying high over our bows as we
pushed our way irresistibly through the rising sea.  And now the horizon
all round from north, west, and south showed dark with smoke as the
Japanese cruisers began to close in from those points upon the Russians.

It was the _Tsarevich_ which at length opened the ball, by bringing the
12-inch guns in her fore-turret to bear upon the _Mikasa_.  There was a
brilliant double flash, a big outburst of white smoke that for a moment
partially veiled the great ship ere it drove away to leeward, a huge
double splash as the ponderous shells hit the water about a mile away,
and then came a crashing _boom_ as the sound of the explosion reached us
against the wind.  The shots had fallen short.  These two shots appeared
to be regarded by the rest of the Russian battleships as a signal to
open fire, for they immediately did so, the flashes bursting out here
and there all along the enemy's battle-line, first from one ship and
then from another, as though each ship were striving which could first
get off her shots, while projectiles seemed to be falling everywhere
excepting aboard the Japanese ships; true, two or three shells flew,
muttering loudly, high over our heads, but the rest fell either wide or
very far short.  Our anticipations, it seemed, were proving correct, the
roll and pitching of their ships was playing the mischief with the aim
of the Russian gunners.  Then the big guns of the flagship and the
_Asahi_ spoke, just four shots each, coolly and deliberately fired, one
shot at a time, to test the range.  This was found to be too great for
effective practice, and the fire thereupon ceased.

But although not one of those eight ranging shots had actually touched a
Russian ship, they all fell much closer to their mark than had the
Russian projectiles, and close enough, at all events, to make Vitgeft
nervous, for their immediate effect was to cause him to haul up to the
northward, so that it looked as though he were seriously contemplating
the advisability of doubling round Encounter Rock and retreating back to
Port Arthur.  It was a moment when everything seemed to be hanging in
the balance, when a single false move would ruin everything, and the
chance that we had been so long waiting for would be lost.  Port Arthur
was still close enough under the lee of the Russians to permit of their
reaching the shelter of its batteries without very serious loss, should
they elect to make the attempt.  It was a moment demanding both boldness
and astuteness of action, and, gambler-like, Togo resolved to risk
everything upon a single throw.  Instead of making the signal to close
with the enemy and immediately bring him to battle, the Admiral
signalled, "Change course sixteen points east," which meant that the
whole fleet, now steaming in line ahead, parallel to the Russian's
course, and heading in the same direction, must swerve round upon a port
helm and go back over the ground which it had just traversed, that in
fact it must turn tail and run away from the Russians!  The manoeuvre
was executed in splendid style, and two minutes later the Japanese fleet
was heading south-west, while the Russian fleet, now some nine miles
distant, bore about two points abaft our starboard beam.

The object of the manoeuvre was of course to impress the Russian Admiral
with the conviction that we were as little anxious to put our fortunes
to the touch as he was; and apparently the ruse was successful, for
almost immediately the Russians shifted helm, heading about south-east
and standing across our wake, with all their funnels belching great
volumes of smoke, showing that a tremendous effort was going to be made
to give us the slip.

For what seemed to us all an interminable half-hour, the astute little
Japanese "Nelson" permitted them to lay the flattering unction to their
souls that they were going to succeed, for during that half-hour the
Japanese fleet plugged steadily away to the south-west, every moment
increasing the distance between themselves and the enemy.  Then, at
last, judging from the respective positions of the two fleets that our
superior speed must certainly frustrate any further attempt at escape on
the part of the enemy, up went the longed-for signal for us to swerve
round and give chase.

This manoeuvre of ours was the signal for another shift of helm on the
part of the Russians.  They had been heading about south-east, but now,
seeing us coming straight for them, they swerved away until they were
heading almost due east, as though even now anxious to defer the evil
moment as long as possible.  But they must speedily have recognised the
impossibility of escape, for now, with carefully-cleaned furnace fires
and a full head of steam, our ships were racing along through the
fast-rising sea at a speed which would enable us to rapidly overhaul the
chase, notwithstanding that they were plunging until they were buried to
the hawse-pipes, and their fore-decks were smothered with spray.

The two fleets were now running upon converging lines, the enemy, about
a point before our port beam, steering east, while we were steering
east-north-east, and visibly gaining as the minutes slipped by.  At last
it looked as though the fight could no longer be delayed, and a thrill
of excitement passed through me as I now began to fully realise that I
was about to take part in a great naval battle, fought under modern
conditions in ships protected by ponderous plates of steel armour and
furnished with all the most modern engines of destruction.  What would
such a battle look like, and how would it end?  Meanwhile the day was
passing, and although the two fleets had been within sight of each other
for more than two hours, nothing had thus far been done.

Both fleets were now steaming in single line ahead, the battleships
leading, and the cruisers following closely, the Russian fleet being
slightly ahead and steaming surprisingly well, considering the condition
of their ships, though we were rapidly overhauling them.

Five bells (half-past two o'clock) in the afternoon watch pealed out,
and at the same moment the _Asama_ and _Yakumo_ received orders to haul
out from the fleet and heave-to, holding ourselves ready to deal with
any enemy ships which might attempt to break back toward Port Arthur.
So we were not to be allowed to take part in the fight, after all!  It
was positively heart-breaking, and for a moment I felt inclined to
imitate Nelson at Copenhagen and turn a blind eye to the signal, but the
sight of the _Asama_ promptly sheering out from the line brought me to
my senses.  I knew that poor Yamada would be just as bitterly
disappointed as myself; yet there he was, obeying the order with the
same promptitude that he would have displayed had he been ordered to
attack the enemy single-handed.  I nodded--rather savagely, I am
afraid--at Arisaka, the Commander, who was regarding me with eyebrows
raised questioningly.

"All right," I growled.  "Hard a-port, sir, and sheer out of the line."

We swept right round in a wide semi-circle, finally stopping our engines
when we arrived at a spot about midway between the rears of the two
fleets.  Our engines had just stopped, and I was on the point of opening
a semaphore conversation with the _Asama_, hove-to about half a mile
distant, with the purpose of making some sort of arrangement for coping
with certain possible eventualities, when a vivid flash and a great
cloud of smoke burst from the _Mikasa_, and was immediately followed by
similar outbursts from the rest of our battleships, which were opening
fire upon the Russian rear as the ships came within range.  To give them
their due, the Russians were by no means slow to reply, and it was
presently evident from the number of shells falling round her, that they
were concentrating their fire upon the _Mikasa_.  The first hit was
scored by one of our ships--the _Shikishima_, we afterwards learned--
which landed a 12-inch shell under the _Askold's_ forward bridge.  We
saw the flash and smoke of the exploding shell, but could not, of
course, tell what damage was done.  The next second another shell hit
the same craft about her waterline, and within a minute huge volumes of
smoke were seen pouring from her, seeming to indicate that she was on
fire.  But with ourselves at a standstill and both fleets steaming away
from us at high speed, they soon passed beyond our range of vision, and
all that we knew about the fight was that there was a terrific
cannonading going on, while the eastern horizon bore a dense veil of
smoke which came driving rapidly down upon us before the rising gale.
The cannonading continued with tremendous energy for about
three-quarters of an hour, and then began to slacken, until by seven
bells--half-past three in the afternoon--it had ceased altogether.

What had happened?  Was the fight over?  It might be so, although I
could scarcely believe that the Russians had been utterly beaten in the
short space of an hour; for although their ships were in anything but
first-class condition, the men were brave, and were scarcely likely to
yield so long as the merest ghost of a chance of success remained to
them.  We were not doomed to remain very long in suspense, however, for
just as eight bells was striking a wireless message arrived from the
Admiral, ordering the _Asama_ and ourselves to rejoin forthwith, and
giving us our course, east-south-east.

I believe our engines were the first to move, but the _Asama_ was now
nearly a mile to the eastward of us, we standing higher out of the water
than she, and therefore drifting to leeward faster, consequently she
really had the best of the start.  But I wasn't going to let her get
into action before me, if I could help it, and I called down the
voice-tube to Carmichael, our Engineer Commander, explaining the state
of affairs, and begging him to do his best.  Unfortunately for us,
however, the _Asama's_ "chief" was Scotch, too; it therefore at once
became a race between the two ships, all the keener because of the
friendly rivalry between the two Scotchmen.  It was generally conceded
that _Asama_ had the advantage of _Yakumo_ by about half a knot; but
when at length, shortly before four bells in the first dog watch, we
rejoined the line, the two craft were running neck and neck.

The battle recommenced about a quarter of an hour before we were able to
resume our former position in the fighting line, the _Poltava_ opening
fire with her 12-inch guns upon the _Mikasa_, against which ship, it
appeared, the Russians had concentrated their efforts during the earlier
phase of the fight.  The _Poltava_ was the sternmost ship in the Russian
battle-line; and as though her shots had been a signal, the fire
instantly ran right along the Russian line from rear to van.  The din
was frightful, for our ships at once returned the Russian fire, and in a
moment, as it seemed, the sea all round about the _Mikasa_ on our side,
and the _Tsarevich, Peresviet_, and _Retvisan_ on the side of the
Russians, was lashed into innumerable great fountains of leaping spray
which shone magnificently, like great showers of vari-coloured jewels,
in the orange light of the declining sun.  And presently, as the gunners
got the range, there were added to the deafening explosions of the guns
the sounds of the projectiles smiting like Titan hammers upon the
armoured sides and other protected parts of the ships, and the crash of
bursting shells.  Great clouds of powder smoke whirled about the ships,
hiding them for a second or two and then driving away to leeward upon
the wings of the increasing gale.  Splinters of wood and iron, and
fragments of burst shells swept over the ships like hail, and prostrate
forms here and there about the decks, weltering in their blood,
proclaimed the growing deadly accuracy of the fire on either side.  The
pandemonium of sound was such that the human voice could no longer make
itself heard, and the officers on the bridges were obliged to give their
orders in dumb show.  Even the shrieks of the wounded went unheard in
that hellish babel of sound.  As the distance between the contending
ships decreased one began to realise the terrific character of the
forces employed by man for the destruction of his fellow-man, for now it
could be seen that the _Tsarevich_, ponderous as was her bulk, literally
and visibly heeled and swayed under the tremendous impact of the enemy's
projectiles.  But we were by no means getting things all our own way,
for when the fight had been raging for about half an hour, the _Mikasa_
was struck upon her fore barbette by a 12-inch shell which shook the
ship from stem to stern as it exploded, and put the barbette, with its
two 12-inch guns, out of action for a time through the jamming of its
turning machinery.  The damage, however, was speedily repaired, and
meanwhile the fight went on with ever-increasing fierceness and
determination.

At length the superiority of the Japanese fire began to make itself
apparent.  The speed of the Russian ships steadily fell, and it could be
seen that many of them, particularly the battleships, were in great
distress.  Especially was this the case with Vitgeft's flagship, the
_Tsarevich_, upon which much of the fire of our own battleships had been
concentrated.  She had a great hole in her bows, about ten feet in
diameter; her anchors were shot away; and her hawse-pipes had vanished--
to enumerate only her more apparent injuries.  Then a 12-inch shell
struck her fore-turret, wrecked its interior and, as we subsequently
learned, glanced off, entered the conning tower, killed everybody in it
except two, destroyed the compass, and killed the man at the wheel, who,
as he fell, jammed the helm hard a-starboard, causing the ship to swerve
sharply out of the line and wheel round in a wide circle, completely
upsetting the formation and seriously imperilling many of her sister
ships.  A few seconds later another shell fell aboard her, hitting the
foot of her foremast and causing it to totter, though it did not
actually fall.  This same shell, we afterward learned, literally blew
Admiral Vitgeft to atoms, also seriously wounding several of his staff,
and throwing the ship into a perfect chaos of confusion.

This was the beginning of the end; shells now literally rained upon her,
doing frightful damage both on deck and below, while it was patent to
all that she was completely out of control.  Her erratic movements
produced the utmost confusion in the Russian battle-line, which broke up
and became a mere disorganised mob of ships, upon which the Japanese
ships at once closed, determined to avail themselves to the utmost of
the opportunity to bring the engagement to a speedy end.

And, indeed, the end appeared to be near; for serious as was the plight
of the _Tsarevich_, that of some of her sister battleships was even
worse.  The _Peresviet_, for example--the flagship of Prince Ukhtomsky,
who, in consequence of the death of Admiral Vitgeft, was now in supreme
command--was a perfect wreck, so far as her upper works were concerned;
both masts were destroyed, her funnels were battered and pierced, and
she was on fire; while the _Poltava_ had two of her 6-inch guns smashed
and the containing turret jammed.

At the moment when the confusion created by the erratic movements of the
_Tsarevich_ was at its height, the _Peresviet_ displayed a signal from
her bridge and, sheering out of the melee, headed away back in the
direction of Port Arthur, followed by the _Sevastopol_ and _Poltava_,
while the _Askold_, Admiral Reitsenstein's flagship, followed by the
cruisers _Diana, Pallada_, and _Novik_, broke away from the rest of the
fleet and, under every ounce of steam that they could raise, headed away
in a south-easterly direction, followed by the _Asama_ and six other
cruisers.  As for the _Pobieda_ and _Retvisan_, apparently animated by
the same desperate resolve, they suddenly shifted their helms and
steamed straight for our battle-line, as the mortally wounded lion will
sometimes turn upon the hunter and, with the last remains of his
fast-ebbing strength, slay his foe before perishing himself.  It looked
as though both meant to use the ram, the successful employment of which
might cost us the loss of at least two of our treasured battleships; and
they were accordingly received with a terrific fire from every Japanese
ship present.  The _Retvisan_, being slightly in advance of her
companion, received the heaviest of our fire, and under it she seemed to
crumple up into an almost shapeless mass of wreckage.  It was not
possible for mere mortals to continue to face such a devastating hail of
shells, and as suddenly as she had started toward us she now swerved
away, instantly followed by the _Pobieda_, both steaming hard in the
wake of Prince Ukhtomsky's division, which they rejoined just as the
dusk of evening was turning to darkness.

With the flight of those two ships the battle came to an end; because
for some reason, known only to himself, Togo failed to follow up his
advantage and complete the destruction of the Russian fleet.  Some of us
were of opinion that he felt himself handicapped by the stringent orders
which he had received not to risk the loss of any of our precious
battleships, one or more of which might easily have been destroyed in
the darkness by mines dropped by the flying enemy, or by torpedoes
launched from the decks of daring and enterprising destroyers.  And if
he was influenced by such considerations as these who shall blame him,
or say that he was wrong?

Yet people were not wanting who complained that the battle was an
indecisive one, because no Russian ships had been either captured or
sunk in the course of the fight.  But although this assertion was
undeniable, the grumblers forgot a little group of very important facts,
the chief of which was that the five Russian battleships and the
protected cruiser _Pallada_ which succeeded in regaining Port Arthur
harbour were so desperately damaged that they were practically reduced
to the condition of scrap iron, inasmuch as that, despite all the
efforts of the Russians to repair them, none of them was again able to
leave Port Arthur until they fell into the hands of the Japanese when
the fortress surrendered.  As for the sixth Russian battleship, the
_Tsarevich_, she took advantage of the darkness to separate from the
rest of the fleet, and made for Kiaochau, where she arrived on the
following day, and where she was of course interned.  The same fate
befell the cruisers _Askold_ and _Diana_, the former of which sought
shelter at Shanghai, while the latter succeeded in escaping as far south
as Saigon.  The destroyer _Reshitelny_, which separated from the Russian
fleet immediately after its departure from Port Arthur, escaped the
Japanese destroyers and duly reached Chifu, whither she had been sent
with dispatches from Admiral Vitgeft, requesting that the Vladivostock
squadron might be dispatched to assist him in his proposed passage
through the Korean Strait.  Her mission accomplished, her commander
agreed to assent to the demand of Sah, the Chinese admiral on the
station, that she should disarm and surrender certain vital parts of her
machinery.  The Japanese, however, had their doubts as to the power of
the Chinese authorities to enforce this demand, and accordingly
Commander Fujimoto took matters into his own hands and, late on the
night of 11th October, entered Chifu harbour and, after an altercation
with the commander of the Russian vessel, calmly took the _Reshitelny_
in tow and carried her off.  This was of course a violation of neutral
territory, and led to a little temporary friction, but it ended in the
destroyer being added to the Japanese navy.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

THE FALL OF PORT ARTHUR.

I have said nothing as to the part played by the _Yakumo_ in the battle
of the Yellow Sea, for the simple reason that there is nothing
particular to relate; but that we played a not altogether unimportant
part in the fight is evidenced by the fact that only two of the Japanese
ships, namely, the _Mikasa_ and the _Nisshin_, had a heavier list of
killed than ourselves, although the _Kasuga_ scored one more in wounded
than we did.

The fact is that, in a general engagement such as that referred to,
after the initial movements of the various ships have been noted, one
becomes so utterly engrossed in one's own particular share of the work
that there is little opportunity to note more than the most salient
incidents of the battle.  Moreover, the din of battle, the continuous
roar of the guns, the crash of bursting shells, the deafening clang of
projectiles upon armour, the screams of the wounded, the suffocating
fumes of powder, all tend to benumb one's powers of observation, so that
the captain of a fighting ship has little opportunity to note anything
more than the movements of the particular ship which he happens to be
engaging at the moment.

The importance of the defeat of the Port Arthur fleet, indecisive as it
had at first seemed to be, soon began to be realised when our secret
agents in the fortress sent us complete and carefully ascertained
information relative to the condition of the ships which had succeeded
in regaining the shelter of the harbour.  From this information it at
once became apparent that, as fighting units, none of them could again
be made of service until the conclusion of the war, and Japan heaved a
great sigh of relief, which was intensified when, on the evening of 14th
August, the news was flashed through the country that the gallant and
sorely tried Kamimura had at last been granted his long-cherished wish
to meet the Vladivostock squadron, and had defeated it.  True, the
defeat, like that of the Port Arthur fleet, was not as decisive as could
have been wished; for of the three cruisers--the _Gromovoi, Rossia_, and
_Runk_--which sallied forth from Vladivostock, under the command of
Admiral Jessen, in response to Admiral Vitgeft's call for support in his
last desperate sortie from Port Arthur, two of them, the _Gromovoi_ and
the _Rossia_, succeeded in regaining the shelter of Vladivostock
harbour, while only the _Rurik_, the least formidable of the trio, was
sunk.  But again, as in the case of the Port Arthur fleet, although the
bulk of the Russian force contrived to escape either capture or
destruction, it had been so severely handled as to be rendered innocuous
for many months to come, and Japan was at last free from the continual
menace of it.  The destruction of the fast cruiser _Novik_ in Korsakovsk
harbour on 21st August, by the Japanese ship _Chitose_, drove the last
nail in the coffin of Russia's naval power in the Far East; and from
that time forward, with the exception of maintaining the effective
blockade of Port Arthur, the Japanese navy had little to do except
prepare itself at every point to meet the menace of the Baltic Fleet,
which at this time was beginning to materialise and take definite shape.

Meanwhile, after almost superhuman struggles against enormous odds, and
in the face of frightful sufferings and losses, Japan's land forces were
beginning to make progress.  During the last days of July General
Kuroki's forces fought and won the battles of Towan and the Yushuling
Pass.  On 3rd August, General Oku seized Hai-cheng and Newchwang old
town, which is situated some twenty miles inland from the port of
Newchwang; and then there came a pause, during which the final
preparations for the advance upon Liao-yang were being completed.

Liao-yang promised to be a very tough nut to crack, for General
Kuropatkin, fully recognising the possibilities of the position, had
determined to make his stand there and inflict upon the Japanese such a
crushing defeat that all further capacity for taking the offensive would
be driven out of them, after which, the subjugation of a beaten and
disheartened enemy should prove an easy task, rendered all the easier,
perhaps, by the fact that the great assault upon Port Arthur by the
Japanese had failed disastrously, with frightful loss to the assailants.
The defences of Liao-yang were of great extent and enormous strength,
including not only formidable forts and earthworks armed with powerful
guns, and mile upon mile of most carefully and elaborately constructed
trenches, but also with innumerable pitfalls, each with its sharpened
stake at the bottom, as in the case of the Nanshan Heights defences.
These pitfalls were arranged in regular lines, interrupted at intervals
by patches of mined ground, while outside these again there ran a
practically continuous girdle of barbed wire entanglements, the wire
being charged with an electric current powerful enough to instantly
destroy any one who should be unfortunate enough to come into contact
with it.  Liao-yang defences were, in fact, a repetition of the defences
of the Nanshan Heights--where the Japanese suffered such appalling
losses--except that they were of an even more elaborate and deadly
character.

The attack upon Liao-yang was indeed in many respects a repetition of
the attack upon Kinchau; for, as in the case of Kinchau, there was a
formidable hill position--that of Shushan--to be first stormed and
taken.  This task was entrusted to the Second Japanese Army, under the
leadership of General Oku; and they accomplished it on 1st September,
after three nights and two days of desperate fighting, in the course of
which the heroic Japanese suffered frightful losses.  On the same day,
the Russians began to withdraw from Liao-yang under a heavy fire from
the Japanese artillery.  On the following day the Japanese captured the
Yentai mines; and a few hours later, General Nodzu, at the head of the
Fourth Japanese Army, entered the town of Liao-yang unopposed.

Meanwhile, what was the state of affairs on land before Port Arthur?

As has already been said, the great general assault upon the land
defences, which began on 19th August 1904, resulted in disastrous
failure with frightful losses for the Japanese.  Yet that failure,
terrible as it was, was not by any means complete; its blackness was
irradiated by a gleam of light here and there which sufficed to keep
alive that spirit of hope and indomitable resolution which no misfortune
could ever quite quench in the breast of the Japanese, and which was
undoubtedly the determining factor in the campaign.  To particularise.
On 14th August the 1st Japanese Division was ordered to capture the five
redoubts on the crest of the ridge west of the railway, known as the
Swishiying redoubts.  These redoubts were taken on the following day,
and their capture paved the way for the general assault, four days
later.  This began with the furious bombardment of the height known as
174 Metre Hill, which was stormed and taken at the point of the bayonet,
later in the day, by the 1st Division, which immediately pushed
south-east, with the object of gaining possession of Namaokayama, or 180
Metre Hill.  This hill was protected by, among other devices, an
intricate barbed wire entanglement charged with a high-tension electric
current, the penetration of which proved to be a task of almost
insuperable difficulty; nevertheless, it was eventually accomplished.
On the morning of 22nd August, by a splendid act of heroism and
self-sacrifice on the part of fifty Japanese, West Panlung fort was
captured, and this cleared the way for the capture of the East fort.
But the superhuman efforts made by the Japanese in capturing these
positions completely exhausted them, with the result that the assault
ended in failure, since the majority of the defences remained in the
hands of the Russians.

On 23rd August, the battleship _Sevastopol_--which, it will be
remembered, was one of the ships which contrived to make good her escape
from the Japanese fleet after the battle of the Yellow Sea--having been
patched-up, as far as the resources of Port Arthur dockyard would allow,
got under way and, steaming round to Takhe Bay, proceeded to shell the
Japanese lines in the neighbourhood of Ta-ku-Shan and the Panlung
redoubts.  It was a rather daring thing to do, for there was not a ship
in the harbour capable of supporting her, while the Japanese blockading
squadron in the offing was close enough in to be clearly visible from
the heights.  Included in that squadron were the new armoured cruisers
_Nisshin_ and _Kasuga_, purchased from the Argentine just before the
declaration of war; and no sooner was it seen that the _Sevastopol_ had
actually ventured outside the harbour, than these two powerful craft
steamed in and opened fire upon her, and also upon the Laolutze forts,
which were supporting her.  The approach of the Japanese cruisers was
the signal for a hurried retirement on the part of the Russian
battleship, and she lost no time in effecting her retreat to the
harbour.  But while entering, she struck a contact mine, which exploded
beneath her bows, inflicting such serious damage that it was only with
very great difficulty she succeeded in returning to her berth, with her
bow almost completely submerged.  This was the last straw, so far as the
_Sevastopol_ was concerned, and she was practically put out of action
for the remainder of the war.

A week later our cruisers and destroyers effected a _coup_ which, there
is every reason to believe, must have materially hastened the fall of
the fortress.  This consisted in the capture, off Round Island, of a
great fleet of Chinese junks, bound from Wei-hai-wei to Port Arthur,
conveying to the beleaguered city vast quantities of food, clothing,
ammunition, explosives, and supplies of every imaginable description.
The junks were taken into Dalny, where their cargoes were declared to be
contraband of war, and confiscated by the Japanese.

These several successes, comparatively unimportant though they were,
coupled with the practical destruction of the Port Arthur and
Vladivostock fleets, put new heart into the Japanese for a time; but
with the arrival and passage of the month of September, during which no
appreciable progress was made in the operations before Port Arthur, even
the unexampled patience and superb stoicism thus far displayed by the
Japanese as a people showed signs of the wear and tear to which they had
so long been subjected, and murmurings at General Nogi's apparent
non-success began to make themselves heard.  The casualty lists seemed
to grow ever longer with the passage of the days, without any visible
result, except that Nogi contrived to retain possession of the few
unimportant positions which he had gained, and a black cloud of
pessimism seemed to be settling down upon the Island Empire.

Meanwhile, however, in its silent, secret, undemonstrative way, the
Japanese army had been making preparations of an important character,
among which were included the construction of concrete emplacements for
eighteen 11-inch howitzers, from which great things were expected.  They
fired a 500-pound projectile charged with high explosive, and had a
range which enabled them to command the entire area of the fortress,
including the harbour.

On the 1st October the first six of these howitzers opened fire, in the
presence of General Baron Kodama, who had crossed to Port Arthur from
Japan to administer, perhaps, a fillip to the officers and the army
generally.  North Kikwan fort was the first recipient of the new guns'
delicate attentions, one hundred shells being poured into it.  Huge
clouds of dust and smoke at once arose from the fort; but it was
enormously strong, and no very important results were apparent.  On the
following day and for a few days afterwards the howitzers lobbed shells
upon the fleet, and the _Pobieda, Poltava, Retvisan_, and _Peresviet_
were all struck, and their crews driven out of them, after which they
were moved to the East harbour, where they were hidden from the sight of
our gunners by the intervening high ground.

Meanwhile the Japanese engineers were resolutely and industriously
pushing their saps ever closer up to the Russian forts, in the progress
of which task the most furious and sanguinary hand-to-hand fighting with
bayonet and bomb was of daily, nay hourly, occurrence.  The slaughter
was appalling, few of the combatants on either side surviving such
encounters.

Yet, although the advantages were all on the side of the defenders, the
patience and heroism of the Japanese steadily told, and on 4th October
they attacked a work at Yenchang, near Takhe Bay, and destroyed the two
machine-guns with which it was armed.  This success was followed up by
the capture, on 16th October, of an immensely strong Russian position on
Hashimakayana Hill.  Ten days later, the Japanese troops stormed and
took, after hours of sanguinary fighting, the two important positions of
Erhlung and Sungshushan, on the northern and north-western salients of
the old Chinese Wall; and these successes were considered to have
cleared the ground for the general assault which had been ordered from
headquarters in Japan.

For four days--27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th October--the Russian works
were subjected to such a terrific bombardment as, up to then, mortal
eyes had certainly never beheld.  It reached its height about eight
o'clock on the morning of the 30th, and continued until about one
o'clock in the afternoon, during which the din was terrific and
indescribable.  Shell and shrapnel fell upon the Russian works at the
rate of one hundred per minute, the forts resembled volcanoes in
eruption, from the continuous explosions of the shells which fell upon
them, and the entire landscape became veiled in a thick haze of smoke.
At one o'clock the preparation was thought to be complete; and ten
minutes later the great assault began--to end in complete and disastrous
failure!  The Russian forts, supposed to have been silenced by those
four days of terrific bombardment, were as formidable as ever; and as
the stormers dashed forward they were met by so furious a rifle and
artillery fire that they were literally annihilated.  The second grand
assault upon Port Arthur had failed, as completely and tragically as the
first!

To have incurred such tremendous losses for such insignificant results
was a terribly depressing experience for Japan; but the benumbing effect
of the blow began to pass away when, in the first week of November, the
news arrived of General Oku's splendid success upon the Shaho; and with
renewed hope, and that indomitable patience and courage which is so
marked a feature of Japanese character, the troops before Port Arthur
set to work to repair their disasters.

Their first success was achieved in the middle of the month of November,
when they gained possession of the little village of Kaokiatun, thus
securing the command of Pigeon Bay.  This success was followed, on the
23rd of the month, by an attempt on the part of the Japanese to capture
the Russian trench on East Kikwan Hill.  The attempt resulted in
failure, with a loss of some three hundred slain, to say nothing of
wounded.  This was followed, on the 26th, by an attack upon Q Fort,
North Kikwan, Erhlung, and Sungshushan.  This too resulted in failure
for the Japanese, with awful slaughter; the failure in this case,
however, being tempered by the capture of the trench on East Kikwan
Hill.  This capture was of very great importance to the Japanese, from
the fact that it commanded the approach to the fort on the summit of the
hill; and the Russians, recognising this fact, fought madly to regain
possession of the trench, finally succeeding toward midnight.  The
fighting on this occasion was most disastrous for the Japanese, their
wounded alone totalling over 6000, while it was estimated that in dead
their losses must have exceeded 10,000!

The result of all this sanguinary fighting was to convince the Japanese
Staff, at last, that the defences on the eastern slope were impregnable
to assault, and must be captured by other means.  They accordingly next
turned their attention to 203 Metre Hill, which was the key to the
eastern defences of Port Arthur, and determined to take it by assault.

This was a particularly tough proposition, and after the tremendous
losses which Nogi's army had already suffered in its disastrous assaults
upon the eastern defences, the Staff might well have been excused had it
hesitated to undertake such a herculean task.  For the position was so
immensely strong that the Russians regarded it as impregnable.  The
merely natural difficulties of the adventure were great, for, as its
name indicates, it was a lofty hill, with steep, almost precipitous
slopes, to scale which, even unopposed, was no light task.  But when to
this difficulty was added the further one that the hill had two summits,
each crowned by very strong earthworks constructed of sand-bags, timber
and steel rails, connected by tunnels with bomb-proof works on the rear
slope, and that it was further protected by two lines of trenches,
themselves protected by strong barbed wire entanglements, and that the
works on the summit mounted several machine-guns and some heavier pieces
of artillery, the reader may be able to form some slight idea of the
obstacles which the Japanese undertook to surmount, as well as the
indomitable courage which possessed them to make the attempt.

It must not be supposed, however, that the attack was about to be made
on the spur of the moment and without any previous preparation.  On the
contrary; for two whole months the Japanese had been steadily sapping
from the north and north-west, day and night, in face of the most
vigorous and determined opposition on the part of the Russians, first
constructing a parallel about a hundred yards from the first line of
Russian trenches, and, from this parallel, driving saps which pierced
the wire entanglements and in two places reached to within fifty yards
of the Russian line.  And while this was being done, four of the new
Japanese 11-inch howitzers concentrated their fire upon the works on the
twin summits of the hill.

The assault was ordered for the evening of 27th November.  Supported by
a heavy bombardment from the howitzers and batteries in their rear, the
troops chosen for the assault broke cover and rushed the first line of
Russian trenches, bayoneting the occupants almost before the latter had
time to open fire upon them.  Then followed hand-to-hand fighting of the
most ferocious and sanguinary character, which lasted all night.
Morning found the assailants still in possession of the trench which had
been won; and now, strongly reinforced, the Japanese proceeded to push
forward to attack the summit and Akasakayama battery.  Immediately, the
Russian guns in the neighbouring forts opened fire upon the stormers
with shrapnel and heavy shell, and in a very few minutes the entire
scene was so completely veiled in powder smoke that it was impossible
for anyone to tell exactly how the fight was going.  Four times the
Japanese stormed the crest and were beaten back; and it was not until
three o'clock in the afternoon, when they delivered their fifth assault,
that they at last burst through the wire entanglements and reached the
crest.  For a time they held it; but the Russian fire was too hot for
them, and at length they were not only driven off the crest but also out
of the trench which they had won on the previous night.

The attack was resumed the next day, and again resulted in failure.

Then the Japanese Staff put its foot down and declared that both hills
_must_ be taken, at all costs!  The cruisers _Sai-yen_ and _Akagi_ were
ordered round to Pigeon Bay to co-operate with the troops by covering
the assault with their fire; but, unfortunately, as the _Sai-yen_ was
getting into position on the 30th, she struck a mine and sank, not far
from where the old _Hei-yen_ disappeared some two months earlier.  This
put an end to the plan for naval assistance, and the land forces were
obliged to rely entirely upon themselves.  Fighting of the most
desperate and sanguinary character proceeded all through the afternoon
and night of 30th November, but it was not until the next day that the
indomitable courage and persistence of the Japanese were rewarded with
success; the western summit of 203 Metre Hill being taken by them and
held all day, despite the most desperate efforts on the part of the
Russians to retake it.

This was the beginning of the end, so far as Port Arthur was concerned.
On 5th December the eastern summit of the hill also fell into the hands
of the Japanese, and next day they secured possession of Akasakayama,
thus obtaining command of the entire Metre range.

These important positions in their possession, the tide of war at once
turned in favour of the Japanese, for the heights commanded not only the
town but the harbour of Port Arthur; and the big 11-inch howitzers, as
well as a battery of naval 6-inch and 47-inch guns, were at once brought
up, and the bombardment of the Russian warships was begun.  On 6th
December the _Poltava_ was sunk by the Russians to save her from
destruction by the Japanese fire.  Next day the _Retvisan_ met a like
fate, while a fire broke out aboard the _Peresviet_, and on the 8th she
and the _Pobieda_ were at the bottom of the harbour, while the _Pallada_
was obviously following them.  On the following day the _Bayan_ was hit
no less than twenty-two times, bursting into flame shortly before noon
and burning until shortly after four o'clock in the afternoon, while the
_Sevastopol_ was seriously damaged.  The mine-laying ship _Amur_ was
also hit and sunk.  The dockyard sustained serious damage, yet,
strangely enough, all through this bombardment the Russians did little
by way of reply; they seemed overwhelmed and paralysed at the
misfortunes which were now befalling them--or else, as some of us began
to shrewdly suspect, their ammunition was at last exhausted.  On the 9th
of the month the _Sevastopol_--the only Russian battleship still
remaining afloat in the harbour--moved from her moorings and sought
refuge behind a big boom under the guns of Mantushan fort, on the Tiger
peninsula, where, a few nights later, she was energetically attacked by
our destroyers.  These attacks were repeated nightly, with considerable
loss to our side, until the night of 15th-16th, when the ship was
successfully torpedoed.  Her end was so evidently near now that we
ceased our attacks; but nothing could save her, and on the 20th of the
month her captain took her out into deep water, opened her Kingston
valves, and sank her, so that she might not fall into the hands of the
Japanese.

Meanwhile, North Kikwan fort was captured by our troops on the night of
the 18th, after a fight which cost us close upon a thousand men.  Two
days later, we took a battery close to it; and on the 28th, the
formidable Erhlung became ours after a tremendous fight.  Success after
success on our part now followed each other rapidly, each additional
capture firing our troops with renewed courage and determination.  The
last day of the year saw Sungshushan fort fall to us, and the first day
of 1905 saw the New Panlung and H batteries in our hands, the Chinese
Wall breached, and the Japanese flag planted well within the Russian
defences.  Wangtai fort was stormed and taken on the afternoon of the
same day, and as twilight was closing down upon the scene a Cossack,
bearing a large white flag, was seen riding out of the Swishiying
valley, followed by a Russian officer.

The officer was the bearer of a letter from General Stoessel to General
Nogi, inviting the latter to open negotiations with the writer "to
determine the conditions of surrender" of Port Arthur.  Needless to say,
the Japanese general gladly, yet without undue haste, acceded to
Stoessel's proposal; and at noon of 2nd January 1905, Major-General
Ijichi met Major-General Reiss at Plum Tree Cottage, a miserable little
hovel situated in the village of Swishiying, and the negotiations were
opened which resulted in Port Arthur passing into the possession of the
Japanese on the evening of that day, although the Russian evacuation did
not take place until the 5th of January.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

THE BATTLE OF TSUSHIMA.

Meanwhile, what had become of the Japanese navy, after the battle of the
Yellow Sea?

So far as the _Yakumo_ was concerned, we were in the very thick of the
fight when it was at its hottest, and when at length the battle came to
an end with the flight of the _Retvisan_ and _Pobieda_, we were one of
the ships which had been so severely mauled that extensive repairs were
necessary before we could undertake further service.  Accordingly, we
were ordered to proceed forthwith to Sasebo to refit; and since we were
by no means alone in our plight, we had to await our turn.  Hence it was
the middle of January 1905 before the _Yakumo_ was again ready for sea;
and in the meantime I had ample opportunity to cement my friendship with
the members of the Boyd family, who had acted the part of Good Samaritan
to me when I first made acquaintance with Sasebo.

The day before the _Yakumo_ left Sasebo for our rendezvous at the Elliot
Islands, news arrived that the long talked-of Baltic Fleet had reached
Madagascar and was at anchor in Passandava Bay, refitting, provisioning,
and generally enjoying the hospitality of the French nation.  This, of
course, was not the first news that we had received of it; we had been
duly apprised of its departure from Libau on 15th October and had also
heard--with surprise on the part of the Japanese, and with bitter
mortification and shame on my own part--of its subsequent unprovoked and
unpunished attack upon the Gamecock fleet of British trawlers; but
nobody was in the least disturbed by the news that this formidable fleet
was at last actually at sea, for as a matter of fact we in Japan
regarded its departure as nothing more than a move on the part of the
Russian Government intended to encourage the garrison of Port Arthur to
continue its resistance.  For, to speak the plain truth, nobody
seriously believed that the voyage would ever be continued far beyond
the western extremity of the English Channel, for we could not see how
it was going to be done.  But _now_, when it was apparent that France
was openly ignoring and outraging all the laws governing neutral
nations, in favour of Russia, it behoved Japan to take serious notice of
what was happening, and she not only protested vigorously against
France's violation of neutrality, but set to work in earnest to prepare
for the new menace which was gradually creeping closer to her shores.

For a month after the arrival of the _Yakumo_ at the Elliots, I and half
of my crew formed a portion of that busy multitude who toiled in Port
Arthur harbour to raise the sunken ships which cumbered it, and to clear
the entrance channel; but on the 10th of February the naval contingent
rejoined its ships, and on the 14th the Japanese battle fleet
disappeared from human ken, and for three whole months was no more seen,
save by a few who were made clearly to understand the vital necessity to
remain absolutely silent.

Not so, however, the Japanese cruisers.  It was our mission to generate
a feeling of uneasiness and anxiety in the mind of Admiral Rojdestvensky
and those of his officers and men; and with that object squadrons and
single ships were directed to show themselves suddenly and mysteriously,
and as suddenly to disappear again, in those waters through which the
Russian fleet would have to pass on its voyage to Vladivostock.  And we
did this so effectually and with such excellent judgment that very soon
the various telegraph cables grew hot with the number of messages
transmitted through them, telling the most marvellous stories of
enormous Japanese fleets seen in various parts of the world at the same
moment, and of huge and incredibly strong fortifications erected on the
Formosan coast and elsewhere.

"Bluffing" was not confined to our side, however; French newspapers were
permitted to fall into our hands, in which the news was circumstantially
set forth that, in consequence of the fall of Port Arthur, Admiral
Rojdestvensky had been recalled, and that he was taking his entire fleet
back to Europe by way of the Suez Canal--with the exception of four of
his best battleships, which, it was hinted, had foundered at sea.  On
20th March, however, reliable information reached Japan that the 1st and
2nd Divisions of Rojdestvensky's fleet had left Madagascar on the 16th
of the month, steering north-east.  Two days later, news reached us that
the Russian fleet had been sighted in the Indian Ocean, still steering
north-east; and a week later the first of our scouts--a smart and fast
steam yacht, flying German colours--apparently bound westward, passed
within four miles of the armada, took careful count of it, and reported
by wireless its exact position and the fact that it consisted of
forty-three ships, seven of which were battleships, while of the rest,
ten were cruisers and seven were destroyers.

From that moment our scouts, under every conceivable guise except that
of warships, never for a moment lost touch with the Russians.  We knew
that they passed Singapore on 8th April; we knew that they touched at
the Anamba Islands and coaled there before the Dutch warships could
arrive to prevent them; and we knew that on 14th April the fleet arrived
in Kamranh harbour, in French Indo-China, where, while awaiting the
arrival of Admiral Nebogatoff's squadron,--which was coming out via the
Suez Canal,--the Russians proceeded to make good defects and generally
prepare for the fight which they knew awaited them.

Of course the Japanese Government vigorously protested against this
flagrant violation of the law regulating the conduct of neutrals, and
France replied with polite assurances that such violation should not be
repeated.  This was followed by an order to the Russians to leave
Kamranh harbour, which they obeyed at their leisure, moving on first to
Port Dayot and then--when ordered from there in response to fresh
Japanese protests--to Hon-koe Bay.  Thus, with the connivance of the
French authorities, a very pretty game of hide-and-seek was played by
Rojdestvensky, until 8th May, when Nebogatoff joined with his nine
craft, and the now completed fleet entered Hon-koe Bay and calmly
proceeded to complete the task of refitting, coaling, and provisioning
prior to its great attempt to force its way through to Vladivostock.  As
for the Japanese Government, it speedily recognised that France had
quite made up its mind to ignore the laws of neutrality in favour of
Russia, and accordingly ceased to lodge any further useless protests.

A week later--on 14th May, to be exact--the entire Russian fleet left
Hon-koe Bay, steering northward; and although the French authorities
suppressed the news of the departure for two whole days, Togo, who was
now with his fleet in Chin-hai Bay, on the southern coast of Korea,
received the news by wireless the same night.  Thenceforward its
progress was carefully watched and reported daily, so that at any moment
Togo could put his finger upon the chart and indicate the position of
the enemy, within a few miles.

Meanwhile, Togo was busily engaged in the preparation of his plans for
the great battle toward which we had all been looking forward for so
long.  In this work he was of course hampered by his lack of knowledge
as to the intentions of the Russians.  There were two routes by which
they could reach Vladivostock: one--much the shorter of the two--by way
of Korea Strait and up through the Sea of Japan; and the other, via the
east coast of Japan and La Perouse Strait.  Also, should Rojdestvensky
choose the shorter route, he could pass either to the east or to the
west of Tsushima Island.  Togo solved the problem by preparing a plan of
battle for each of the three alternative routes.

On 26th May the Russian fleet was reported as being south-west of
Quelpart Island, off the entrance of Korea Strait, and its position
rendered it practically certain that it was Rojdestvensky's intention to
take the shorter route up through the Sea of Japan.

It was shortly before sunset, on 26th May, that the fateful wireless
message--"Enemy in sight, fifty miles west of Torishima,"--came in from
one of our scouting cruisers; and two minutes later a signal was flying
from the _Mikasa_, summoning the Japanese admirals to a council of war.

The council was a brief one, lasting barely a quarter of an hour; then
the admirals returned to their respective flagships, and the latter at
once signalled the captains of the several squadrons to meet in the
cabin of the admiral of that squadron.  The _Yakumo_ formed part of the
armoured cruiser division, under the command of Admiral Kamimura, and
accordingly it was in the cabin of the _Idzumo_ that the six captains of
that division presently assembled to receive our instructions.

These were concise enough, and of such a character as to indicate that
Togo had given this long-expected battle a tremendous amount of
consideration, and had finally settled all the details with almost
mathematical precision.  In the first place, for good and sufficient
reasons, the battle was to be fought in the eastern strait, and, as
nearly as possible, off the northern extremity of the island of
Tsushima.  To ensure this, the old _Chin-yen_, the _Itsukushima,
Matsushima_, and _Hashidate_, of the protected cruiser squadron,
accompanied by one division of destroyers, were to act the part of
lures, approaching the Russian fleet on the following morning, as it
neared the Straits, alternately attacking and retiring in the direction
of the eastern strait, thus inveigling Rojdestvensky into a pursuit in
that direction.  The ships told off for this duty were to proceed to sea
at once, as the _Chin-yen_--the slowest craft of the quartette--was only
good for thirteen knots at best, and it was not desired that any ship
should be pushed to the limit of her powers until the engagement should
become general.  The remainder of the protected cruiser division--
fourteen in number--were to proceed to sea with the main fleet on the
following morning, parting company when all were fairly at sea, and then
find the enemy's rear, closing in upon it and harassing it as much as
possible, acting according to circumstances, quite independently of the
main fleet, and each captain using his own initiative.  As for us of the
armoured cruiser division, we were to have the honour of forming part of
the battle-line.  This was sufficiently gratifying intelligence, but
that which followed was even more so: the former tactics of engaging the
enemy at extreme range, in order to preserve our precious battleships
from injury, were to be abandoned; this was the battle for which they
had been so carefully hoarded, and in it they must be made the fullest
use of, their utmost value must be exacted; in a word, they were to be
fought for all that they were worth, closing with the enemy to within
effective range, and firing slowly and deliberately, so that every shot
should tell.

There was also a general order issued, in the highest degree
illustrative of Japanese thoroughness.  It was that every man throughout
the fleet was to wash himself from head to foot most carefully and
thoroughly, and to put on clean clothing, in order to reduce to a
minimum the risk of septic poisoning of wounds, also to don woollen
outer garments, so that their clothing might not be set on fire by
bursting shells.

Nor had the ships themselves been forgotten.  In turn each had been
dry-docked, repaired, defects made good, down to the tightening of a
loose screw, machinery overhauled and parts replaced where thought
necessary, bottoms cleared of weed and coated afresh with anti-fouling
composition, and hulls repainted, until each ship looked as though she
had just been taken out of a glass case.  And now there they all lay, in
Chin-hai harbour, with boilers chipped clean of deposit and filled with
fresh water, flues, tubes, and furnaces carefully-cleaned, new fire-bars
inserted where needed, fires carefully laid and ready to be lighted at a
moment's notice, and every bunker packed with specially selected Welsh
coal, purchased for this very purpose, long ago.

Furnace fires were at once lighted and steam raised; and before midnight
the old _Chin-yen_--looking very spruce and fit, despite her age--and
her three companion cruisers quietly got their anchors and proceeded to
sea, while aboard the ships still in harbour the crews were busily
engaged in making the preparations referred to in the general order,
before retiring to what was for some of them to be their last night's
sleep on earth.  As for me, I sat in my cabin, far into the night,
writing long letters to my friends at home, so that, in the event of
anything untoward happening to me, they might know that loving thoughts
of them were in my heart up to the last.

In Chin-hai harbour the morning of 27th May 1905 dawned bright and
clear, and at five o'clock the crews of the Japanese ships partook of a
substantial meal before proceeding to the task of clearing for action.
They were still partaking of this meal when a marconi-gram arrived from
the _Shinano Maru_, one of our scouts, informing us that the Russian
fleet was in sight, entering the eastern strait; that it was impossible
as yet to say how many ships were present, as the atmosphere was misty;
also that there was a high sea running in which the Russian ships were
rolling heavily.

This was the news that Togo had been anxiously awaiting; and now that he
had it, and knew that the enemy was making for the precise spot where it
had been planned to meet him, the little Admiral gave vent to a great
sigh of relief, and ordered the signal to be made for the protected
cruiser squadron to weigh and lead the rest of the fleet out to sea.

This order was at once carried out, quietly and deliberately--for there
was plenty of time on hand, the _Chitose_, Admiral Kotaoka's flagship,
and her four consorts leading, followed by the _Kasagi_ and her four
consorts, under Admiral Dewa; these being followed in turn by the
_Akitsushima_ and her three consorts, under Admiral Uriu.  These three
squadrons, with that which had proceeded to sea some hours previously,
under the leadership of the younger Togo, to draw the Russians into the
eastern strait, constituted the protected cruiser division, to which had
been assigned the duty of attacking and harassing the enemy's rear.

Following these went the main battle squadron, with the _Mikasa_, flying
Togo's flag, proudly leading, followed by the battleships _Shikishima,
Fuji_, and _Asahi_, with the new and powerful cruisers _Kasuga_ and
_Nisshin_ bringing up the rear.  Then, at a short interval, followed the
_Idzumo_, flying Admiral Kamimura's flag, and the _Iwate, Yakumo,
Adzuma, Asama_, and _Tokiwa_, in the order named, every ship flaunting
two big battle-flags in the morning breeze.  Once clear of the harbour,
we parted company from the protected cruiser division, which headed away
South-South-East, to get in the rear of the enemy, while we of the
battle-line steered a trifle to the south of east for the battleground
which Togo had selected.  On the port side of the line steamed a
flotilla of Japan's fastest destroyers, told off by Togo to act as
dispatch boats, in the event of the flagship's wireless apparatus being
put out of action, or her masts shot away.

Once clear of the land, we soon ran into an atmosphere of haze and a
rising sea which set the long line of ships rolling ponderously; and as
the vessels rolled and plunged, flinging heavy showers of spray over
their weather bows, each captain stood in his chart-room, with a chart
of the strait spread open on the table before him, anxiously awaiting
the next news of the enemy.  These charts had been, for convenience'
sake, carefully divided up into a series of numbered squares; and about
nine o'clock the expected message arrived.  It ran--"The enemy is in two
hundred and three," that being the number of the square on the chart
occupied by the Russian fleet at that moment.  No sooner was the message
decoded and its purport made known than mutual congratulations were
exchanged; for even as the fall of 203 Metre Hill into the hands of our
soldiers had been the prelude to the surrender of Port Arthur, so now
the fact of the Russian fleet being in square 203 on the chart was
accepted as an omen of another victory.

The fine weather of the early morning had by this time completely
deserted us; the sky had become overcast, Tsushima's conical summit was
hidden by a great bank of heavy, louring cloud, the grey, dreary-looking
sea was running in confused, turbulent, foam-flecked surges through
which the big ships wallowed heavily, flinging great combers of yeasty
froth from either bow, while the little torpedo craft, smothered in
spray, were tossed about like corks.  Yet, despite the gloomy aspect of
the weather, the Japanese fleet presented a magnificent and inspiriting
sight as it ploughed steadily through the leaping, mist-flecked sea,
each ship keeping station with the most perfect accuracy, with her two--
and in some cases three--great battle-flags snapping defiantly in the
freshening breeze.

It was shortly after six bells in the forenoon watch when we at length
received a message which must have removed a load of anxiety from our
little Admiral's mind.  It came from the _Izumi_--one of the ships which
had been dispatched on the previous night for the purpose of luring the
enemy into the eastern channel--and reported that at length her captain
had succeeded in ascertaining the full force of the enemy's fleet, and
that it consisted of eleven battleships of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
classes, nine cruisers, nine auxiliary cruisers, and nine destroyers.
These were heavy odds to face with our four battleships, eight armoured
cruisers, and eighteen protected cruisers; yet never for a moment did we
shrink from the encounter, for we were, one and all, _determined_ to
conquer.  Moreover, the weather, gloomy as it was, was in our favour,
for our ships, having been painted the peculiar grey tint that had been
found so effective in the atmosphere of the Sea of Japan, were scarcely
visible at a distance of four miles, while the heavy sea would probably
give our own gunners a great advantage over those of the enemy.

It was about a quarter to two o'clock in the afternoon, and we were
steaming in line ahead, with the _Mikasa_ leading, our course being
about South-South-West, when, the fog thinning somewhat, we suddenly
saw, away on our port bow, a great cloud of black smoke, underneath
which we presently discerned several large ships approaching in two
lines, their black hulls and yellow funnels showing up with remarkable
distinctness against the light grey background of fog.  Instantly every
telescope and pair of binoculars in the Japanese fleet was levelled at
them in an endeavour to identify the craft in sight--for we were
intimately acquainted with the characteristics of every ship in the
enemy's fleet--and presently we recognised the big, three-funnelled
craft at the head of the port line as the _Oslabia_, while the
two-funnelled battleship leading the starboard line was undoubtedly the
_Suvaroff_, Admiral Rojdestvensky's flagship.  Astern of her followed
the _Alexander Third, Borodino_, and _Orel_; while in the wake of the
_Oslabia_ we were able to identify the _Sissoi Veliki, Navarin_, and
_Admiral Nakhimoff_, with a long string of other craft at that moment
too far distant for identification.

While we were still endeavouring to identify some of the more distant
ships, the _Mikasa_ made the general signal: "The fate of our Empire
depends upon our efforts.  Let every man do his utmost!"  It was greeted
with a great roar of "Banzai Nippon!" which swept along the line of the
fleet like the rumbling of distant thunder.  The crews of the ships had,
of course, been at quarters, and the officers at fire-control stations,
for some time, and now we began to receive from the range-finders the
range of the _Oslabia_, the leading Russian ship.  "Fifteen thousand
yards", "Fourteen thousand", "Twelve thousand," came the reports in
rapid succession as the two fleets rushed toward each other.

At a distance of twelve thousand yards the _Mikasa's_ helm was shifted
and the course of the Japanese line altered four points to the eastward,
as though our purpose was to pass along the Russian line to port,
exchanging broadsides as we passed; and so the enemy evidently
understood, for he came steadily on.  But we knew differently.  Already
every forward gun in the fleet was bearing steadily upon the _Oslabia_,
and when, in obedience to a signal from the flagship, the speed of the
Japanese fleet quickened up to fifteen knots, we knew that the great
battle was about to begin.

It began a few minutes earlier than we anticipated, for our
range-finders had just given the distance of the head of the Russian
column as nine thousand yards, when two bright flashes, followed by a
great cloud of white smoke, broke from the _Oslabia's_ fore-turret, and
presently we saw two great fountains of foam leap into the air some
distance beyond the _Mikasa_.  As though this had been a signal, the
_Suvaroff, Alexander Third_, and _Sissoi Veliki_ instantly followed
suit, and a second or two later we heard the loud, angry muttering of
12-inch shells hurtling toward us.  But some flew over, and others fell
short; not one touched us; and as the heavy, rumbling _boom_ of the
reports reached our ears, the _Mikasa_ signalled another shift of helm a
further four points east, and before the Russians fully realised what we
were about, the Japanese fleet was "crossing the T,"--that is to say,
passing athwart the enemy's course.

Every gun which the Russians could bring to bear upon us was now being
loaded and fired as rapidly as possible, so that in a very short time
the enemy's ships were enveloped in whirling wreaths of powder smoke,
yet not a single Japanese gun had thus far spoken.

"Six thousand yards" was presently signalled by the range-finders; and
at the same moment three shots roared forth from the turrets of the
_Mikasa, Shikishima_, and _Fuji_.  We knew at what target they were
aimed, and those of us who happened to have our glasses at our eyes saw
a bright flash and a cloud of smoke suddenly burst into view on the
_Oslabia's_ conning tower.  One of our 12-inch shells had found its
mark, and--as we subsequently learned--instantly killed Admiral
Folkersam!  This instant success told us that we might unhesitatingly
rely upon the accuracy of our range-finders, and at once every ship in
the Japanese battle-line opened fire, first upon the _Oslabia_ and then
upon the _Suvaroff_, our manoeuvre of "crossing the T" enabling us to
bring every one of our broadside guns upon the enemy, while he, in turn,
could only fire a few of his fore-turret guns, the rest being blanketed
by the ships leading the line.

The careful, deliberate fire of twelve ships upon two could have but one
result; the _Oslabia_ and _Suvaroff_ both received a most fearful
punishing; the unprotected portions of their hulk were blown to ribbons,
dense columns of dark smoke poured from the _Oslabia_, and presently it
was seen that she and the _Suvaroff_ were on fire and burning furiously.
Both ships, as though instinctively, swerved away to the eastward,
anxious not to shorten the distance any farther between themselves and
the Japanese, and presently both the _Oslabia_ and the _Suvaroff_ fell
out of their respective lines and dropped to the rear, with both their
own lines between them and the enemy.

Then came the turn of the _Alexander Third_, which was now leading the
Russian starboard line; and she got even more severely peppered than her
battered sisters in misfortune, for the range had now dwindled to four
thousand yards, and every shot of ours was telling with terrible effect.
It must not be supposed, however, that while the enemy was being
punished so severely, we were going scatheless.  We were not; very far
from it, although we were giving a good deal better than we received.
Shells were by this time falling pretty thickly all around us, while
hits were becoming steadily less infrequent.  The first to come aboard
the _Yakumo_ was a 12-inch shell which struck our fore barbette on the
starboard side, glanced upward, striking the conning tower and
exploding, the fragments wrecking a couple of ventilators, a boat, and
freely puncturing our fore funnel, while one piece swept my cap off my
head and overboard.  The _Asama_, however, next but one astern of the
_Yakumo_, suffered very much more severely than we did, three heavy
shells hitting her abaft in quick succession, throwing her steering gear
out of action, and causing her to leak so badly that she had to drop out
of the line and be left astern, executing temporary repairs.

By this time--that is to say, shortly before six bells in the afternoon
watch--the two fleets were heading about East-South-East, running in
parallel lines, our own line leading that of the enemy by about a mile,
while the _Alexander Third_ was, like the _Oslabia_ and _Suvaroff_, in
flames and blazing furiously.  A few minutes later it was seen that the
_Sissoi Veliki_ was also on fire, she being now the leading ship of the
Russian port line of battle, and, in accordance with Togo's tactics, the
object, with the _Navarin_ and _Admiral Nakhimoff_, of the concentrated
fire of our battle-line.  Meanwhile, our protected cruiser squadrons had
come upon the scene and were harassing the Russian rear so effectively
that, aided by the vigorous attack of our battle-line upon the Russian
van, the enemy's line was breaking up in confusion.

Togo now gave the order for us to close in upon the enemy's van, himself
leading the way in the _Mikasa_, with the result that the leading
Russian ships, in order to avoid being crossed and raked, were compelled
to continually bear ever more and more away to the southward, until
finally they swept right round and were all heading north once more,
with the _Alexander Third, Suvaroff_, and _Oslabia_ all out of the line
and practically out of action.

It is difficult, nay more it is impossible, for the captain of a ship
taking part in a general action to note and remember every phase and
detail of such action; he is so intensely preoccupied in the task of
fighting and manoeuvring his own ship that only certain detached
incidents of the engagements impress themselves upon his memory strongly
enough to be permanently remembered; thus I am able to recall that about
this period of the battle I came to the definite conclusion that we had
won, notwithstanding the fact that several of our ships, including the
_Yakumo_, had suffered severely.  The _Asama_, for example, was at least
temporarily out of action, while the _Kasuga_--one of the two new
cruisers purchased from the Argentine just before the outbreak of the
war--had all three of her heavy guns rendered useless.

By this time our protected cruiser division had crept up on the
starboard quarter of the Russian line, and was vigorously attacking in
that direction, while our battle-line, to port of the Russians, was as
vigorously pounding the enemy's front, thus bringing the Russian line
between two fires.  It was about this time that one of those brief
interludes of comparative inaction which occur in most battles afforded
me an opportunity to look round a bit and obtain my first comprehensive
view of the battle since its commencement.

The wind, which had been blowing fresh during the earlier part of the
day, had been gradually dropping, and was now little more than a mere
breathing, but the sky still continued overcast and gloomy, its shadow,
falling upon the sullenly heaving but no longer breaking seas, causing
the tumbling waters to look almost black where they were not veiled by
the drifting smoke wreaths or slowly moving patches of fog.  It was the
obscuration caused by this combination of smoke and fog that had
produced the interval of comparative inaction of which I have spoken,
for it rendered accurate firing difficult, and our ships, in accordance
with Togo's determination not to waste ammunition, were only firing
occasional single shots, when the hull of an opponent became distinctly
visible, although the Russians were blazing away at us as recklessly as
ever, thus enveloping themselves in an almost continuous veil of smoke,
which was renewed as quickly as it drifted away.

It was now that the _Asama_, having effected temporary repairs, came up
and resumed her place in our line of battle, which was thus once more
intact, our ships keeping station with the most perfect regularity with
the Russian line, such as it was, some four thousand yards distant about
a point abaft our starboard beam.  The roar of the enemy's artillery was
incessant, the continuous crashing _boom_ of the guns reminding one, as
much as anything, of a tremendous thunderstorm, while the flash of their
guns, seen through the gloom of the louring afternoon, not altogether
inadequately represented the accompanying lightning.

I looked round to see if I could discover either of the silenced Russian
battleships.  Yes, there they were, all three of them: the _Oslabia_
about three miles away, broad on our starboard quarter; the _Suvaroff_
about half a mile astern of her; and the _Alexander Third_ about a mile
astern of the _Suvaroff_, all astern of their own line, and all being
vigorously attacked by our protected cruisers.  The _Oslabia_ was low in
the water and had a heavy list to port; the _Suvaroff_, still apparently
on fire, had lost both her funnels and her foremast; and the _Alexander
Third_, from which clouds of smoke, were still rising, also had a heavy
list and was steaming ahead very slowly, although she, like her sisters
in misfortune, still replied with the utmost gallantry to our fire.

But, so far as the _Oslabia_ was concerned, her race was evidently run,
for even as I watched her it became apparent that she was fast settling
in the water, while with every roll her list to port became stronger,
until at last I found myself holding my breath in momentary expectation
to see her roll right over.  The catastrophe was not long delayed.
There came a moment when, having rolled heavily to port, she failed to
lift again, but heeled steadily more and more until, watching her
through my powerful glasses, I saw a number of objects go sliding away
off her decks into the water with a heavy splash; over she went until
her masts and funnels lay along on the water, her two after-turret guns
spoke out defiantly for the last time; and down she went in a great
swirl of foam, while the Russian destroyers closed in upon the spot to
save such of her crew as might contrive to remain afloat.

I now turned my attention to the _Suvaroff_, and was just in time to
witness a very plucky attack upon her by a squadron of our destroyers,
which, notwithstanding her disabled condition, she beat off in most
gallant fashion.

Next, I turned to have a look at the _Alexander Third_.  Her crew
appeared to have extinguished the fire aboard her and got her back into
something like her former trim.  She was now heading to rejoin the
Russian line--which was re-forming after a fashion, and presently I saw
her drop into third place in the line, between the _Orel_ and the
_Sissoi Veliki_, which latter also seemed to have extinguished her fire.
Meanwhile the mist had thickened into fog, which rapidly became so
dense that we presently lost sight of the enemy altogether.

Shrewdly suspecting that the Russians would seize this opportunity to
effect their escape, Togo now led his battle-line round in a sweep from
North-East to South-West, and then to south for a distance of some eight
miles, during which we sighted and shelled the enemy's cruiser squadron
and some of his auxiliary ships heading to the south-west.  At this
point Togo decided to turn northward again, but before doing so he
detached the six armoured cruisers--of which the _Yakumo_ was one--under
Admiral Kamimura, with orders to pursue and destroy the ships of which
we had just lost sight.

This was about four o'clock in the afternoon.  By this time the wind had
dwindled away to a mere nothing, and the sea had so far gone down that
our torpedo craft could keep pace with the larger craft without being
swept by seas from stem to stern; still, the weather continued to be
very dismal and dreary, the sky still lowering and overcast, not a
solitary gleam of sunshine, and the fog gathering so thickly that it was
difficult to see anything beyond a two-mile radius.  The heavy
gun-firing had by this time died down to nothing; but a pretty lively
cannonade of lighter weapons down in the south-western quarter told us
that the engagement between our cruisers and those of the enemy was
still proceeding briskly although nothing could be seen.  Accordingly,
the _Idzumo_ led her five armoured sisters in that direction, at a speed
of fifteen knots.

Suddenly, as we pushed along, guided on our course by the sounds of the
firing, the thunder of heavy guns, easily distinguishable from the
sharper report of the lighter weapons, burst forth ahead, to our
amazement, for we fully believed that the whole of the enemy's
battleships had fled northward.  Clearly, however, we were mistaken in
so believing, and Kamimura at once recognised that capricious fortune
was unexpectedly holding out to him the opportunity to wipe off some of
the utterly undeserved opprobrium that had attached to him earlier in
the war, because of his failure to bring the Vladivostock squadron to
book, and which his later success had by no means effaced; accordingly,
he signalled the squadron to increase speed to eighteen knots, which was
supposed to be the maximum attainable by the _Asama_ and ourselves,
although the others were capable of an extra knot.  This inferiority of
speed on our part had always been rather a sore point with me, and I had
had many a talk with Carmichael, the _Yakumo's_ Engineer Commander,
about it, who had felt the reproach as keenly as I did, and had assured
me that if ever the worse came to the worst, he would undertake to get
the extra knot out of the ship, although it would be at the peril of
what he elegantly termed "a general bust-up in the engine-room."  So now
I called to him down the voice-tube, begging him to speed her up as far
as he dared; and a few minutes later I noticed that we were gaining upon
the _Iwate_, our next ahead, while the _Asama_, our second astern, was
also stoking up.  Thereupon I signalled the flagship that we had speed
in hand, if required, and the order was at once given to increase speed
by half a knot.

It was not very long afterward that we had ocular demonstration of the
value that extra spurt of speed might prove to be; for while we were
still plugging along in the direction of the firing, we suddenly sighted
two craft coming slowly in our direction.  They proved to be the
_Kasagi_ escorted by the _Chitose_, making for the Japanese coast, the
former being holed below the waterline and making so much water that it
was doubtful whether it would be possible to save her.  She signalled
that matters were going badly with the protected cruisers, eleven of
them being then hotly engaged by twelve of the enemy, one of which was a
second-class battleship, while three others were battleships of the
third class!  Admiral Dewa, who was on board, concluded his
communication by urging us to hasten to the rescue.

The steadily increasing distinctness with which the sound of the firing
reached us, proved that we were rapidly overhauling the contending
squadrons, and some twenty minutes later we sighted the rearmost ships
on both sides, blazing away at each other "hammer and tongs."  Our own
cruisers were to the southward of the Russian line, therefore Kamimura
led his force to the northward of the enemy, thus placing the latter
between two fires, at the same time signalling us to concentrate our
fire upon the four Russian battleships, which we did with a vengeance,
and within five minutes we were all enveloped in a roaring tempest of
flame, smoke, and bursting shells.

But the precision of our fire was infinitely superior to that of the
Russians.  They fired at least three times as rapidly as we did, but
whereas every one of our shells reached its mark, the bulk of theirs
flew wide.  They were rapidly growing demoralised, and when the fight
had been in progress some twenty minutes, their line suddenly broke up
into little groups of twos and threes and made off to the northward at
top speed, those of us whose speed permitted, following them and keeping
up a brisk fire with our forward guns.

Suddenly, as we pursued, two ships were sighted ahead, evidently in
difficulties, and a few minutes later we identified them as the Russian
battleship _Suvaroff_ and the repair ship _Kamschatka_.  Immediately,
Kamimura signalled, ordering their destruction.  Then, while we were in
the very act of training our guns upon them, another battleship was
sighted in the distance.  She, too, was evidently in a parlous state, so
much so, indeed, that we scarcely had time to identify her as the
_Alexander Third_ when she capsized and sank!

Then we opened fire vigorously upon the other two ships, while our
destroyers closed in upon the _Suvaroff_, now listing so heavily that
she was almost on her beam-ends.  But although she was in such a sorry
plight her crew displayed the utmost gallantry, defending themselves
from the torpedo craft with the only gun which they could bring to bear.
It was a hopeless fight, however; our boats dashed in, time after time,
discharging torpedoes at her, and at length two of the missiles got
home, one under her stern, and the other in the wake of her engine-room,
blowing a great hole in her side.  This last finished her; the water
poured into her in torrents, and a few minutes later she rolled right
over and disappeared.  The _Kamschatka_ followed a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, the ships which we had been pursuing had disappeared in the
fog, heading northward, _in which direction we knew our battleships had
preceded them_.  Therefore, since the hour had now arrived when,
according to arrangements, our torpedo flotillas were to take up the
game, Kamimura signalled us to reduce speed to ten knots and to shape a
course for our appointed rendezvous near Matsushima Island.

The night which followed was an anxious one for all hands, for we were
steaming through a dark and foggy night, with all lights out.  Nothing
untoward happened, however, and with the appearance of dawn on the
following morning a little air of wind sprang up and swept the fog away.

It was shortly before three bells in the morning watch (half-past five
o'clock a.m.) of 28th May, and the six ships of the Japanese armoured
cruiser division were steaming northward in line abreast, when the
_Tokiwa_, which was the easternmost ship, reported smoke low down on the
eastern horizon.  At once the course was altered eight points to the
eastward, and the ships proceeded in line ahead, closing in upon the
_Tokiwa_--the leading ship--as they did so, while Kamimura reported the
circumstance by wireless to Togo, who, with his battle squadron, was
some sixty miles away to the northward of us.  Some twenty minutes
later, after a lively bout of signalling by the wireless operators
aboard the Japanese ships, it became certain that the smoke seen must
proceed from enemy ships, and all our dispositions were made for dealing
with them, the instructions of the armoured division being to close
slowly in upon the enemy from the westward, while the battleships rushed
down at full speed from the north, and the protected cruisers did the
same from the south.

The result was that, a few hours later, four Russian battleships,
namely, the _Orel, Apraxin, Nicolai First_, and _Seniavin_ found
themselves completely hemmed in by our ships, while the light cruiser
_Izumrud_, availing herself of her superior speed, just managed to
escape by the skin of her teeth.

I will say this for them: outnumbered though they were, and hopeless as
was their situation, with their ammunition running short, and their
crews almost in a state of collapse from nerve strain, those four ships
made a gallant defence, and it was not until they were reduced to the
very last extremity that Admiral Nebogatoff ordered the white flag to be
hoisted over his squadron in token of surrender.  Prize crews were at
once put aboard the prizes, and they were ordered south to Sasebo under
an escort of cruisers, of which the _Yakumo_ was one.  The _Orel_ was
such a wreck that she was incapable of steaming more than eight knots,
consequently we did not arrive in harbour until the afternoon of the
following day, when, our wireless messages having prepared the
inhabitants for our arrival, we received such an ovation as it thrills
me yet to remember.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

REINSTATED.

It was not until nearly a fortnight later that the full results of the
battle of Tsushima became known; then, tabulating the intelligence that
came to hand from various points, we were at last in a position to
realise the surprising character of the Japanese Navy's achievement.

Briefly and baldly summarised, it amounted to this: Of the eleven
Russian battleships which went into action on that memorable 27th May,
four were captured, while the remaining seven were sunk.  Of nine
cruisers, five were sunk.  Of nine auxiliary cruisers, four were sunk
and one was captured; while, of nine destroyers, one, the _Biedovy_, was
captured with Admiral Rojdestvensky, seriously wounded, on board, and
four were sunk.  Twenty-six of the thirty-eight craft which composed the
much-vaunted Baltic Fleet were thus accounted for.  Of the remaining
twelve, three--the small cruiser _Almaz_ and the _Grosny_ and _Bravy_,
destroyers, succeeded in making their way to Vladivostock, while the
remainder escaped to Manilla, Shanghai, and Madagascar, where--with the
exception of the auxiliary cruiser _Anadyr_, at Madagascar--they were
duly disarmed and interned.

I had fully made up my mind that with the destruction of the Russian
Baltic Fleet the war must of necessity come to an end.  But I was
mistaken; no overtures of peace were made by Russia, and it was not to
be expected that, after her signal triumphs on land and sea, Japan would
jeopardise her prospects of securing a satisfactory settlement by being
the first to open negotiations; therefore, in pursuance of their land
campaign, it was decided to attack the Russians from the north by way of
the great river Amur, which the Japanese had ascertained was navigable
by light-draught vessels for at least a thousand miles during the late
spring, when the thaw and the spring rains caused the river to run full.
But in order to utilise the Amur it was imperatively necessary that
Japan should have control of the island of Sakhalin; accordingly, on
24th June a fleet of warships, under Admirals Kataoka and Dewa,
assembled at Yokohama, from whence a few days later they sailed,
convoying a fleet of transports, aboard which were one of the newly
raised army divisions, under the command of General Haraguchi.

My ship, the _Yakumo_, was one of the warships detailed for this
expedition, and naturally I went with her.  Space does not permit of my
giving the details of this expedition, which was not at all of an
eventful character; suffice it to say that it attained its object,
Sakhalin becoming ours on 31st July 1905.

Meanwhile, however, after the result of the battle of Tsushima became
known, President Roosevelt decided that the time had arrived when the
friendly intervention of a perfectly disinterested Power, such as the
United States of America, might be welcome to both belligerents;
accordingly, on 8th June, he opened negotiations by dispatching an
identical Note to the Emperor of Japan and the Tsar of Russia, offering
his services as mediator.  His offer was accepted by both; and on 9th
August the plenipotentiaries of the two nations met at Portsmouth, in
New Hampshire, U.S.A.  The negotiations were of a protracted nature, and
were several times in danger of falling through in consequence of the
uncompromising attitude of Russia's representatives.  Ultimately,
however, thanks to President Roosevelt's masterly diplomacy and the
conciliatory spirit of the Japanese, an agreement was arrived at, and
the Treaty of Peace between Japan and Russia was signed on 5th September
1905.

Of the terms of the treaty it is not necessary for me to speak here,
since they in nowise affect the fortunes of the present historian.  The
conclusion of the treaty, however, of course put a stop to all
hostilities on both sides; and the end of September found me and my ship
back in Sasebo, where the latter, among other ships, was paid off.
Previous to the paying-off, however, Togo had sent for me, and at the
interview which followed, inquired most solicitously what were my plans
for the future, at the same time assuring me that if I cared to remain
in the service of Japan I might absolutely rely upon continuous
employment and further promotion.  I had, however, long before this
quite made up my mind as to the course of action I would pursue upon the
conclusion of the war; namely, to return to England and endeavour to
secure my rehabilitation in the British naval service, and I explained
this to him at length.  When he had heard all that I had to say, he
admitted that what I had decided upon was undoubtedly the right thing to
do.  Then, learning that I proposed to return home by way of San
Francisco and New York, he dismissed me for the time being, only to
inform me, two days later, that, learning I was about to resign my
commission as Captain in the Japanese Navy, the Emperor had expressed a
desire to see me prior to my departure from his dominions, in order that
he might personally thank me for the services I had rendered to Japan.

The interview took place four days later, in the Imperial Palace at
Tokio, with most satisfactory results, so far as I was concerned; for
His Majesty, after making the most flattering references to my
services--full particulars of which he seemed to have at his fingers'
ends--was graciously pleased to decorate me with the Star of the Grand
Order of the Rising Sun, and to present me with a magnificent naval
sword, the hilt of which and the mountings of the sheath being of solid
gold, exquisitely worked.

The afternoon of the first Sunday in December witnessed my arrival in
the Mersey; and somewhat late the same night I found myself once more in
London.

I was, of course, anxious to see Uncle Bob and Aunt Betsy again without
delay; but, being in London, I could not deny myself the pleasure of
calling upon my friends the Gordons.  In the first place I paid my
respects to Sir Robert at his office.  As it chanced, he was so
overwhelmingly busy that he could only spare me a bare ten minutes of
his time, just to welcome me home again and insist upon my dining with
him and his wife that evening.  I did so, and received such a welcome as
went far to compensate me for many a lonely hour among the storms and
fogs and bitter cold of the Japan and Yellow Seas.  To my amazement, I
then learned that my name had become tolerably familiar to such Britons
as had been taking more than a merely superficial interest in the
progress of the Russo-Japanese War, some kindly-disposed newspaper
correspondent having kept the British public pretty well posted as to my
doings.  The result of this, I was informed, was that, in the event of
my choosing to make application for restoration to my former position in
the British Navy, the authorities would undoubtedly be willing to regard
such application with considerable favour.

This I soon afterwards found to be true; for although there were several
formalities to go through, while the onus of proving my innocence of the
charge which brought about my dismissal rested entirely upon me, I had
no sooner done this than I received the intimation that the Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty, having given due consideration to my
representations, had been pleased to reinstate me as Midshipman in the
British Navy!

It was not long, however, before I received my commission as
Sub-Lieutenant; and now I am a full-blown Commander aboard a
super-Dreadnought, eagerly looking forward to the dawn of a certain Day
which, unless appearances are curiously deceptive, cannot be very far
distant.





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