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Title: From Libau to Tsushima - A narrative of the voyage of Admiral Rojdestvensky's fleet - to eastern seas, including a detailed account of the Dogger - Bank incident
Author: Politovsky, Eugene S.
Language: English
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FROM LIBAU TO TSUSHIMA



  FIRST EDITION  _August, 1906_
  _Reprinted_    _January, 1907_



  FROM LIBAU TO
  TSUSHIMA

  A NARRATIVE OF THE VOYAGE OF ADMIRAL
  ROJDESTVENSKY'S FLEET TO EASTERN SEAS,
  INCLUDING A DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE
  DOGGER BANK INCIDENT


  BY THE LATE
  EUGÈNE S. POLITOVSKY
  _Engineer-in-Chief to the Squadron, who was killed at the
  Battle of Tsushima_


  TRANSLATED BY
  MAJOR F. R. GODFREY, R.M.L.I.


  NEW EDITION


  NEW YORK
  E. P. DUTTON AND COMPANY
  1908



  PRINTED BY
  HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.,
  LONDON AND AYLESBURY,
  ENGLAND.



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE


No detailed account of the voyage of the Russian fleet to the Far
East has to my knowledge been published. The newspapers occasionally
mentioned it as being here or there, and of course its doings in the
North Sea are a matter of history; but from the time it left Tangier
until it met its doom at Tsushima it was practically in oblivion. By
chance this book came into my hands, and I thought it would interest
British readers.

Much has been said in derision of Admiral Rojdestvensky's fleet, but
every one must agree that it was no mean undertaking to have brought
this large fleet out to the Far East from Russia and laid it alongside
the enemy. This was done, in spite of the difficulties of coaling
without bases and of having to repair damages in the open sea. The
fleet had to pass countries that were bound by the laws of neutrality,
and some that were actually hostile to it. It was driven out of many
ports by the ships of its allies. In spite of all these drawbacks, it
accomplished a tremendous voyage with all "its units" intact.

That it failed to win the battle is in no way surprising. A great
number of the ships were useless and obsolete. The crews were
disheartened by the failures of their comrades at Port Arthur. The
beginning of the movements which resulted in the open mutiny in the
Black Sea and in the recent mutiny at Cronstadt were developing.

Finally, the spirit of the officers was not of the Nelsonian standard.
We find the captain of the cruiser _Ural_ flaunting his desire to
surrender without striking a blow for his country.

It must be remembered that the dates are those of the Old Style,
thirteen days behind those of the New Style, which has not been adopted
by Russia.



PREFACE


Eugène Sigismondovitch Politovsky, engineer-constructor of the second
deep sea fleet flagship, was born at Tashkend on November 12th, 1874.
He received his education at the Emperor Nicholas I. Naval Engineering
School, and left it in 1897. Up to the departure of the fleet for the
East he served at the Admiralty at St. Petersburg. He went down in his
ship, the battleship _Kniaz_ (Prince) _Suvaroff_, in the fight of May
14th, 1905. This diary consists of extracts from his letters to his
wife, which it must be understood were not intended for publication.

The diary is written entirely from the personal point of view of the
author. He shares with the human being dearest to him everything that
occupies or interests him. He writes in fragments, with detached
sentences, sometimes snatching a few spare minutes from his duties for
his letters. His diary is a full one. Scarce a day is omitted from the
departure from Libau up to May 11th.

Involuntarily, one is impressed by the sincerity and justice of the
author's tone. As he thought, so he wrote.

His style is very simple and graphic, despite its fragmentary nature.

The author was a constructor, not a sailor. This was his first cruise.
His views of all that he saw are those of an independent person,
bound by no traditions or clannishness. They appear to be absolutely
impartial. In addition, through his position on the staff he knew much
that remained unknown to others.

From the very beginning he did not believe in success for the Russian
navy. The further the fleet went the more apparent did it become to
him that it was going on a desperate and hopeless mission. "If you
could but imagine what is going on," he writes--"if it were possible
for me to tell you exactly all about it--you would be amazed. Should
I live, I will tell you afterwards. No! there is no use our fighting.
Things have come to such a pass that I can only wring my hands and feel
assured that no one can escape his fate, for this is the only possible
assurance."

He took his duty very seriously and responsibly. Damages to the ships,
and especially to the torpedo-boats, were constantly occurring, and
it was necessary to repair them with self-improvised means under the
most trying circumstances. For instance, can you not imagine the
following scene? A torpedo-boat in the open sea with a damaged rudder.
Divers must be sent to repair it. The swell is tremendous, the boat
is rolling fearfully, and around it are sharks. They lower the diver;
he is knocked about by the sea all the time--take care that he is not
permanently disabled. They watch the sharks and drive them away with
shots from a rifle. In spite of all these difficulties the repairs are
completed.

Not one ship did the fleet leave behind, and this was in a great
measure due to Politovsky. Whatever the weather, he tirelessly
went from one ship to another, thinking out means of repair
and accommodating himself to the most improbable and difficult
circumstances, and always emerging from them with honour. Every one
remembers his great work in getting the battleship _Apraxin_ off the
rocks at Gothland, where she had struck, icebound, in the winter of
1899.

With ships of the _Suvaroff_ class he was well acquainted. From 1899
he was assistant-constructor of the _Borodino_, and this was probably
the reason of his appointment to the fleet, an appointment destined
to be fatal to him. How passionately he dreamed of the arrival at
Vladivostok and of the possibility of returning to Russia! Alas! fate
decided otherwise. He perished in his prime, being but thirty years
old. Through his death our engineer-constructors have suffered a severe
loss.

He was talented, clever, and energetic, with a vast experience gained
from his cruise. What a valuable man he would have been in the
construction of the new Russian fleet!



TABLE OF CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I
  BEGINNING THE VOYAGE

                                                      PAGE
  The Summons--The Emperor visits the Fleet--Worries
  and Work--Fear of Japanese Mines--Repairs--The
  Order of St. Anne--Mishaps--Suspicions and
  Nerve-strain--On the Dogger Bank--The _Kamchatka_
  "attacked"--The North Sea Trawlers--The
  _Aurora_ fired on--The Ship's Barber--"Foggy
  Albion"--Crossing the Bay--Complications--At
  Vigo--Protests from England                            1


  CHAPTER II
  OFF NORTH-WEST AFRICA

  Vigo and the Spanish--Chased--An English Escort--That
  Horrid Britannia!--A Memorial Service for
  Alexander III.--Cruisers--Tangier--Japanese
  Torpedo-boats at Hull--The _Suvaroff_--Morocco
  and the Moors--Rumours and Lies--Cutting the
  Cable--The _Malay_ breaks down--Vessels in the
  Squadron--The Captain gets some Soap!--Great
  Heat--Dakar--Those English again!--Coal the
  Weakness--Sunstroke--Japanese Spies--The
  Natives--Visiting the Fleet--Heat and Thirst--Whales
  sighted--The _Malay_ again--Strike of a Stoker        25


  CHAPTER III
  CROSSING THE LINE

  Off Gaboon--Rats--Wiring for News--Requested to
  leave by the French--Cannibals--Awaking a King--Photographed
  with Royalty--A Captain reprimanded--Libreville--Dancing
  a Tam-tam--Andrew
  Andrewitch--Crossing the Line--How
  they fast--Great Fish Bay--A Portuguese
  Gunboat--Albatrosses--Dysentery--Angra Pequena--News
  of Mukden--English Possessions everywhere--German
  Sympathy--Sad News from the
  Front--Visiting the _Malay_--Lights put out--Rat
  Hunting                                               51


  CHAPTER IV
  ON THE WAY TO MADAGASCAR

  Passing Capetown--A Steamer following--A Furious
  Gale--The _Malay_ again in Trouble--Fire on the
  _Suvaroff_--Bad Coal--General Alarm--Another
  Storm--Madagascar in Sight--Sickening News
  from Port Arthur--Hopeless Darkness--The _Orel_
  invaded by Jews--A Swiss Schooner--St. Mary--Scenery
  and People--The French Cordial--Tang-tang--Undecipherable
  Signals Japanese--Mysterious
  Signals--The _Esperanza_ nervous--Port Arthur
  surrendered--Christmas--Warships sighted--Are
  they Japanese?--Mutiny on the _Roland_--Arrival
  at Nosi Be--The Admirals meet--Uncertainty and
  Dissatisfaction                                       79


  CHAPTER V
  AT MADAGASCAR

  Life in a Torpedo-boat--Elephantiasis--Officers
  discharged--Sailors suffocated--A Funeral Service--Further
  Tragical Mishaps--_Suvaroff_ Shore Leave
  stopped--A Snake in the Hay--Requiem Service
  on Board the _Ural_--A Sad Spectacle--Population
  of Nosi Be--Frightened Oxen--Telegrams from
  Home--News of the _Oleg_--The _Kuban_ arrives--Prickly
  Heat--Rumours of Return--Luxurious
  but Useless Ships--Animals on Board--On
  Shore--Gambling--Blessing the Water--The Rainy
  Season--The Mad Ensign--Intense Heat--_Malay_
  returns with Sick and Incapables--Arrest of
  Mutineers--The Foreign Legion--Pianola Musicians--Bad
  Meat--Shipping Cattle--Sinking of the
  _Bengal_ Coal Steamer--Passive Resistance            108


  CHAPTER VI
  WAITING FOR ORDERS

  Uncertainty--Firing Practice--Martial Law in Russia--Narrow
  Escape from a Collision--The _Suvaroff_
  flooded--Capture by the _Oleg_--On Shore--A
  Supposed Spy--German Methods--Playing for
  High Stakes--Our Hopeless Situation--Wasting
  Money--Man Overboard--Big Ships sighted--Internal
  Affairs in Russia--Rumours of Reinforcements--German
  Colliers--Confession under Difficulties--Europeans
  at Nosi Be--Breakdown of
  _Rezvy_--Complaints of Local Governor--Loss of
  Torpedo-boats--Shore Leave stopped--Apathy and
  Oblivion--A Narrow Escape--A Spy at Large--Sorting
  the Letters--Visit from Another Spy--Admiral
  Birilieff criticised--Waiting and wasting
  Time--A Sad Anniversary--A Comedy of
  Ladies--Money-changing--The Barber in Difficulties--A
  Humbugging Frenchman--Cleaning the Ships--Mysterious
  Balloon--Court-martial--Undisciplined
  Sailors--Rumours of Peace                            134


  CHAPTER VII
  EVENTS AT NOSI BE

  A Nigger Wedding--Effects of Drink--Anxiety about
  the _Irtish_--Quarrels among the Officers--A Suppressed
  Telegram--Bad News of Vladivostok--A
  Dummy Dirk--Indignation at Home News--Good
  Work by Divers--The Malagassy impertinent--The
  Germans jeering--The General Staff
  anathematised--News about Mukden--A Prophecy--Examining
  the _Aurora_--Waiting for the
  _Regina_--Signal for Departure                       167


  CHAPTER VIII
  ACROSS THE INDIAN OCEAN

  Leaving Nosi Be--Confusion on the _Kamchatka_--Preparations--The
  _Regina_ and the Japanese--A
  Grand Armada--Fearful Heat--Various Breakdowns--Steaming
  without Lights--A Star mistaken
  for a Ship--Cattle on Board--Chagos Archipelago--Artificer
  Krimmer--More Mishaps--Coaling
  at Sea--Look-out Boxes--Night Alarms--General
  Mismanagement--Success Unlikely--More
  Deaths--The Admiral's Weak Nerves--Guarding
  Divers from Sharks--Lights Ahead--Reflections
  on the Outlook--A Favourable Current--Opportunities
  of Attack--Life on Torpedo-boats--An
  "Iconoclast"--An Unjust Reprimand--Across
  the Equator--Japan's Advantages--Towing
  Torpedo-boats--Preparations for Fighting--Officers
  Drunk--Opium Cigarettes--Rats                        183


  CHAPTER IX
  THROUGH THE STRAITS OF MALACCA

  Mutiny--More Mishaps--Dogs--Straits of Malacca--Imaginary
  Torpedo-boats--Will the Japanese
  attack?--Passing Malacca--No News of the War--Night
  Attack feared--Small Hope of Victory--Passing
  Anamba--Bound for Kamranh--Constant
  Fear of Japanese--A Time of Alarms--More
  Deaths                                               221


  CHAPTER X
  THE STAY AT KAMRANH

  Arrival at Kamranh--Chances Neglected--Despair--Losing
  Time--More Accidents--Meeting of Admirals
  and Captains--Post Difficulties--A Goat--Cockroaches--Hard
  Work repairing--A French
  Cruiser--Food Scarce--Admiral Folkersham Ill--Meeting
  of Engineers--False News--A Regrettable
  Incident--Forest Fires--Foreign Contempt for
  Russia--Requested to leave Kamranh--Where is
  the Third Fleet?--Two Colliers arrested--Fatal
  Errors--Discretion of the English Press--Phantom
  Submarine                                            238


  CHAPTER XI
  DELAYS AT VAN FONG

  Sympathy of French Admiral--Japanese Spies--Expensive
  Food--The Russian System--A Rat Bite--Squalor--Want
  of Engineers--An Alarm--"Apes"
  and "Anyhows"--The _Oleg_--Preparations
  for Easter--Officers usually Drunk--Easter--Prickly
  Heat--Expecting Nebogatoff--Row on the
  _Orel_--Neutrality a Farce--Night Alarms--Buying
  Children--Suspicious Lights--No News of Nebogatoff--French
  Admiral as Poet--No News from
  Manchuria--Getting Cigarettes--The Annamese
  People--Nebogatoff in Sight--Excitement--A
  Good Post--French Impertinence--Poisonous
  Gases--Leaving Van Fong                              263


  CHAPTER XII
  PREPARING FOR BATTLE

  Expecting Torpedo and Submarine
  Attacks--Delay--Signals--Formosa--Coaling--A
  Steamer arrested--Love
  of Secrets--A Possible Japanese Scout--Contraband
  Ships--Preparations for Battle--An
  English Trick--A Balloon sighted--No Sign of the
  Japanese--The _Irtish_ breaks down--Hopes of
  reaching Vladivostok                                 293


  NOTE BY MADAME POLITOVSKY                            306

  APPENDIX.--OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF THE RUSSIAN
  LOSSES IN THE BATTLE                                 307



FROM LIBAU TO TSUSHIMA



CHAPTER I

BEGINNING THE VOYAGE


_August 28th._--Events follow each other so fast that they get confused
in the memory.

The return from the club in the morning, a frightened wife with a
telegram, the rush from Petersburg to Cronstadt, hurried calls,
appointment to the _Suvaroff_, good-byes, send-offs, a new service,
etc., etc.

I am not yet accustomed to my new surroundings.

To-day I bade good-bye to the captain and officers of the _Borodino_,
and to the foremen and workmen. They wished me good luck, drank my
health, cheered, and the band played. They evidently had a very
friendly disposition towards me.

The parting with the foremen and workmen was cordial. It was very sad
to see their doleful faces. They all cried before the end of their
farewell speeches. I kissed all and thanked them. They blessed me
with the ikon of St. Nicholas. I promised to give them my photograph
as a memento. I had nothing else to repay them with. I could think of
nothing better.

_August 30th._--Yesterday we left Cronstadt. The Emperor overtook the
fleet in the _Alexandria_, and steamed round it. All the time bands
were playing, the men cheered, the fleet saluted. It was a superb
sight. At times the smoke from the guns was so thick that the nearest
ships were not visible. To-day we arrived at Revel at 7 a.m. It is said
we are to remain here for nearly a month.

To-day is the _Suvaroff's_ name-day. There was mass. No festivities.

8 p.m.--Such a worry. Nowhere can I find room for myself. When I was
working on board the _Borodino_, as you may imagine, I constantly
consoled myself with the thought of rest and of leave. The _Borodino_
is completed. I might now have been free, might now have been living
at home with my wife. But ah! fate! It seems to me that I shall not
return. My predecessor in this cabin that I occupy went mad and was
retired. This may be superstition, but it is nevertheless unpleasant.
It is said that to-day the captain of the _Asia_ momentarily lost his
head and steered his ship to ram the _Apraxin_; the presence of mind of
the officer of the watch saved the _Asia_ and _Apraxin_ from damage.

_October 3rd._--At sea, on the way to the island of Bornholm. Time
flies. Daily there are new impressions, worries, gossip, and work. On
the eve of our departure from Libau there was prayer, with genuflexions
for "Boyarin Zenovie."[1]

Yesterday we had vespers, and to-day mass. Everything so triumphant
and showy! The weather was glorious. At lunch the band played.
Suddenly it was reported that the torpedo-boat _Buistry_ (Rapid) had
rammed the _Oslyabya_--had knocked a hole in herself and damaged her
torpedo-tubes. The _Buistry_ approached the _Suvaroff_. With the
help of a megaphone (_i.e._ a large speaking-trumpet) the admiral
conversed with her. They managed to plug the holes. It will be my work
to mend them. We shall anchor off Bornholm, where I hope to repair
the torpedo-boat. To-night there will be danger. We shall all sleep
in our clothes and all guns will be loaded. We shall pass through a
narrow strait. We are afraid of striking on Japanese mines in these
waters. Perhaps there will be no mines; but considering that long ago
Japanese officers went to Sweden and, it is said, swore to destroy
our fleet, we must be on our guard. This strait is eminently suitable
for torpedo-boat attacks or for laying down mines. When you get this
letter we shall have passed the dangerous place, and it is no use your
worrying yourself about it.

Have things gone badly with Kuropatkin again? How serious it is! Will
there ever be an end to our reverses?

4 p.m.--We have passed the island of Bornholm without stopping. The
southern shores of Sweden were visible. On the way we met a good many
steamers. We are steaming with the greatest precaution. The fleet is
split into several divisions, steaming at a certain distance from
one another. Each division is surrounded by torpedo-boats. Whenever
a steamer or sailing-ship is observed on our course or coming toward
us, a torpedo-boat goes ahead and clears the way--that is, drives them
aside.

It is a pretty sight--a torpedo-boat going full speed gliding swiftly
over the sea like a snake. Being low in the water, it can scarcely be
seen from afar.

_October 4th._--At anchor off the coast of Denmark, opposite the island
of Langeland (Longland). On board the transport _Kamchatka_.

Ah me, what a day it has been! We had scarcely arrived at Langeland
when I went on board the torpedo-boat _Buistry_, not having even drunk
my coffee. I put on high boots and took my mackintosh. The _Buistry_
approached the _Kamchatka_ and the work began. I got as black as the
devil in the bunker. I must have new overalls. I shall buy some cloth
somewhere and give it to a sailor to make.

High boots are invaluable, but it is a pity they do not come above the
knee, as I sometimes have to crawl and spoil my trousers, just as I did
to-day. The work in the _Buistry_ is tremendous. The wind freshened.
The torpedo-boat rolled. We should have worked outboard, but there was
too much sea on; she rolled her deck under. The artificers will work
all night at the inside, and perhaps to-morrow they may be able to
do outside repairs. Towards the evening it blew so hard that it was
useless thinking of getting on board the _Suvaroff_. It is very cramped
in the torpedo-boat, and she is still rolling very heavily. I went
over to the _Kamchatka_. I do not yet know if I shall get a cabin to
sleep in. I brought very few cigarettes with me. Here, off Langeland,
are a Danish cruiser and a torpedo-boat guarding our anchorage from
the Japanese, who might fire a torpedo at us. There are Danish pilots
in each ship, as well as in the torpedo-boats. Once we are out of the
Baltic, the danger from mines will be passed.

I am sitting in the wardroom of the _Kamchatka_, where I have found
some paper on which I am scribbling. If the weather does not abate
I shall have to stay in the _Kamchatka_ until we reach the next
anchorage. They have just come to report that there are no spare
hammocks. I shall have to spend the night on a sofa in the wardroom,
without undressing. Well, that is no hardship!

I shall sleep somehow, as I am very tired.

_October 15th_, 12 noon.--At 9 a.m. I went from the _Buistry_ to the
_Suvaroff_. Find the consul is just leaving. I fastened my letter No. 3
somehow, unsigned, and gave it to the consul without a stamp. I think
it will reach you.

At eleven o'clock I went to lunch with the admiral, who conferred on me
the Order of St. Anne. This came as a surprise to me. The order with
the ribbon was sent to me. The admiral is promoted to vice-admiral and
aide-de-camp to the Czar.

3 p.m.--I lay down hoping to rest, but it was not to be; I had to go
to the _Sissoi_--her davits had broken. They could not lower a single
cutter. Off I went. Here we are at our first anchorage, and already
there are a heap of damages. The _Buistry_ is damaged; there are
breakages in the _Sissoi_: in the _Jemchug_ the davits broke and a
cutter sank.

Three Danish steamers which coaled us are damaged. The owners assess
the damages at 6,000 roubles (£600). I shall have to go and look at
them.

I do not take into account minor mishaps, such as the torpedo-boat
_Prozorlivy_ (Clearsighted), which struck her bows somewhere, and of
course bent them. She was, however, able to cope with the leak herself.

_October 6th._--On the way to Cape Skaw.

Another mishap to the _Orel_ (Eagle).[2] At a most critical moment,
when we were going through a narrow strait, her rudder was injured. She
anchored. The damage is not yet ascertained. There is probably some
scoundrel on board who has been trying all along to injure the ship.
It is supposed to be one of the crew. We got up anchor at 7 a.m. The
weather is fair, but it appears to be freshening. The wind is beginning
to get much stronger, although the sun is still shining, and there is
not much sea.

It is warm here, 12° to 13° R.

The _Orel_ weighed anchor and followed the fleet.

_October 7th._--We are not yet up to the Skaw. Shall be there soon. The
weather is very fine again. I wonder what it will be like in the German
Ocean. We have to put our watches back now.

It is 8.30 on board at this moment. In Petersburg it is probably not
yet 8 o'clock.

I occasionally look at a book, _The English Self-teacher_, but I do not
get on with it; sometimes I am lazy, and sometimes people interrupt me.

At anchor off the Skaw. There is no communication with the shore except
through the pilot. I gave my letter No. 4 to him to post. Sending a
telegram is out of the question. At present we have stopped at sea, and
are not off a port. We were anxious about the _Orel_ all night. As I
have already told you, she left the fleet, no longer answered signals,
and found herself in a dangerous place. Now she is anchored with the
other ships.

I write to you so often now, that when it will be difficult to send
letters, and they will take a long time reaching you, you are bound to
be anxious. In any case, I warn you of this. Of course, I shall write
to you as often as possible. I must finish this letter. The post goes
very soon in the _Ermak_.

The next trip will be of some days' duration. We have no news of the
war. It is very trying. The torpedo-boat _Prozorlivy_ has damaged her
condenser, and is being sent to Libau. The _Jemchug_ lost a cutter and
broke the davits. The davits were taken down to-day and sent to the
_Kamchatka_, where, in hoisting them on board, they fell into the water
and sank.

How strict discipline is now! A signal was made to the _Ermak_. She did
not answer, so they began firing projectiles under her stern. After
such a reminder she quickly responded.

At three o'clock a Swedish steamer approached the fleet, flying a
signal that she had very important dispatches. Apparently the Russian
agent reported that a very suspicious three-masted sailing ship had
sailed from the fiords. An order has now been given to train all guns
on every passing vessel. We met ships hitherto, but the torpedo-boats
always drove them out of the way. We have already passed the most
dangerous spots. Half an hour ago it was reported to the admiral that
either the _Navarin_ or the _Nachimoff_ (I do not remember which) had
signalled that they had seen two balloons. What can this be? Can it be
the Japanese?

8 p.m.--Panic prevails on board. Every one examines the sea intently.
The weather is glorious. It is warm. There is moonlight. The slightest
suspicious-looking spot in the water is carefully watched. The guns are
loaded. The crew are standing about on deck. One half will sleep at
their guns without undressing; the other half and officers will keep
watch to-night. It is curious that we are so far from the theatre of
war and yet so much alarmed. The crew treat the matter seriously.

By the way, I will tell you the following incident. A sailor of the
Revel half "equipage" asked to be allowed to go to the war in one of
the ships. His request was refused. He thereupon climbed into the hold
of one of the transports and remained there until now. Imagine how many
days he passed in the fetid hold of the transport! Besides that, he
would be suspected of being a deserter--that is, to have committed a
severely punishable offence. No doubt they will inform Revel and keep
him in the fleet. A curious incident, is it not? I wish the whole thing
were over. Every one's nerves are strained just now. There are some
officers in the fleet who have returned from Port Arthur, and they say
that people out there are not nearly as nervous as they are in Russia.

The following details will show you how accustomed they have grown to
the position. The crews of the ships at Port Arthur asked leave to go
to the advanced positions, and returned under the influence of liquor.
No one could understand how they became drunk. In the town liquors
were not sold, and yet men went to the advanced positions and returned
intoxicated. At last it was discovered, and how do you suppose? It
appears that the sailors went to the front in order to kill one of the
enemy and take away his brandy-flask. Just imagine such a thing. They
risked their lives to get drunk! They did all this without thinking
anything of it, and contrived to conceal it from the authorities.

_October 8th._--The German Ocean (North Sea).

What a night it has been--nerve-racking and restless. Early in the
evening all were in a state of nervous tension and panic. News was
received at midnight from the foremost ships that they had observed
four suspicious torpedo-boats without lights. Vigilance was redoubled,
but thank God the night passed happily. At present there is a fog.
Nothing is visible all around. The sirens which you dislike so much are
shrieking. I went to bed, dressed, last night, and did not cover myself
with the counterpane, but just threw my overalls over me. In the night
I froze, so covered my feet with a rug. The rug was very useful--many
thanks to you for it.

We are now in the German Ocean. They say it will be rough. At present
it is calm, but foggy. We go from the Skaw to Brest, in France. There,
there will be no communication with the shore, it is said. It will be
strange if we arrive in the East without having once set foot on dry
land--and that seems likely to happen; circumnavigating the world and
not seeing a single town--how that would please you!

9 p.m.--A signal has just been received (by wireless telegraphy)
that the _Kamchatka_, which had dropped far astern, was attacked by
torpedo-boats. Just off to find out details.

10 p.m.--The _Kamchatka_ reports that she is attacked on all sides by
eight torpedo-boats.

_October 9th._--Night of October 9th.

The _Kamchatka_ is asking the position of the fleet. She says she has
altered course and that the torpedo-boats have gone. On board us they
think that the Japanese are asking the position of the fleet. The wind
has freshened. The _Suvaroff_ is rolling. If it continues to freshen,
the torpedo-boats will be obliged to give up following and make for the
nearest shore.

My God! what will the fleet do then?

About 1 a.m. they sounded off quarters, having seen ships ahead. They
let the ships get nearer, and then there began....

What it was words fail to describe! All the ships of our division were
ablaze. The noise of the firing was incessant. The searchlights were
turned on. I was on the after bridge, and was positively blinded and
deafened by the firing. I put my hands to my ears and bolted below. The
rest I watched from the spar-deck, out of the accommodation-ladder port.

A small steamer was rolling helplessly on the sea. One funnel, a
bridge, and the red and black paint on her side were clearly visible.
I saw no one on deck--they had probably hidden themselves below in
terror. First one, then another projectile from our ship struck this
unfortunate steamer. I saw there was an explosion. The order to cease
firing was given, but the other ships continued to fire and no doubt
sank the steamer. A second and third steamer not having any one on deck
rolled helplessly in the same fashion. The _Suvaroff_ did not fire on
them.

Imagine the feelings of the people in these ships! They were, no
doubt, fishermen. Now there will be a universal scandal. As a matter
of fact they are to blame themselves. They must have known our fleet
was coming, and they must have known the Japanese wished to destroy it.
They saw the fleet. Why did they not cut adrift their nets, if they had
them out, and get out of the way? The nets could be paid for afterwards.

We shall find out at Brest what we have done. If it was not the
_Kamchatka_, but the Japanese, who asked the position of the fleet,
they will now know where we are to be found. If that is the case, we
must expect to be attacked to-night. The moon is shining now, but from
4 to 6 a.m. it will be dark--the time most suitable for attack. If only
we could get to the open sea! We shall be perfectly safe there from
these accidents. I do not know whether to go to bed or not. You know
I always like sharing even the smallest events with you and telling
you of them. Take care of my letters; they are better than any diary.
Perhaps some day I will read them myself and refresh my memory about
our present excitements.

2.30 a.m.--What a misfortune! A signal has come from the _Aurora_,
"Four underwater shot-holes, funnels torn, the chaplain severely
wounded, and a captain of a gun slightly."

Our division fired on the _Aurora_. She and the _Dimitry Donskoi_ were
detached (we are in six divisions). At the time of the firing on the
steamers the men lost their heads. Probably some one took her to be
Japanese and fired on her with the six-inch guns; she was very far off.
A very, very sad occurrence. The only consolation is that our shooting
is so good.

3.30 p.m.--The second and third steamers about which I wrote last night
suffered a little as well. The _Aurora's_ chaplain had his hand torn
off. They asked permission to call at the nearest port in order to send
him to hospital. The admiral refused. Six different projectiles struck
the _Aurora_, whose side and funnels were pierced. Comparatively few
were injured. The _Aurora_ is to blame for having shown herself on the
horizon, on the side away from us. She turned her searchlight on us,
and by so doing made us take her to be one of the enemy's ships.

Yesterday, or more correctly this morning, I went to bed at six
o'clock. Again I did not undress. I slept by snatches, on and off all
day. Perhaps there will be no sleep again to-night.

The barber has just cut my hair. He uses huge tailor's scissors with
cloth-covered handles. "I did not succeed in buying a proper pair," he
explained, when he saw me looking at his ditty box.[3] He cut it very
evenly for a self-taught barber.

Whom have we not among the sailors?--tailors, bootmakers, locksmiths,
cooks, bakers, barbers, photographers, confectioners, cigarette makers,
etc. All trades are represented, and there is work for all of them in a
battleship. The captain wanted to be shaved, so he sent an orderly for
a barber. The man arrived (not the one who cut my hair) and the shaving
began. The barber's hand shook and the captain's face grew red with
blood. He had nearly taken off half his cheek. A fearful row ensued.
The captain, with soapy cheeks, smacked the heads of the orderly and
barber. The latter tried to excuse himself by saying that he is still
learning. A pretty picture, is it not? Now the captain shaves himself,
not trusting local talent.

11 p.m.--An eventful day has gone by! At six o'clock some fishing-nets
fouled the screws, but the engines are working. The fishermen in these
parts tow very long nets, and you have to pass over them.

We had vespers to-day. How will this night pass? The weather remains
fine. It is calm. The moon will shine until four o'clock. Perhaps
another fog will come on like last night. All this morning the sirens
were screeching in the fog. We shall be at the entrance of the English
Channel in the morning. Again they have not served out hammocks to the
crew. They will sleep at their guns fully dressed.

_October 10th_ (7 p.m.).--In the English Channel, between England and
France.

I have not written to you the whole day, and it is getting on my
conscience.

We had mass in the morning, and then lunch. Not having slept all night,
I lay down to rest. I slept until 3.30. I worked and then dined. I am
only just free. The night passed quietly. It is raining now, and the
ship is gently heaving on the ocean swell. If nothing further occurs,
we shall be at Brest to-morrow. Passing by England this morning I saw
her southern shores, which were faintly visible in the mist. Yes,
there was "Foggy Albion." Involuntarily I pondered over this clod of
earth--so powerful, so rich, so proud, and so ill-disposed towards us.
We are only three hours' journey from London and six by rail from Paris.

Many varieties of birds settle on the ship, tired and exhausted by
their long flight. The crew feed them and let them go.

I am depressed--fearfully depressed. Anxiety presses on my soul! What
would I not give to be with you now! Again I have not slept all night.
How tiring it all is!

_October 11th._--They say it is very possible we shall not call at
Brest. Profiting by the fine weather, we shall steer straight across
the Bay of Biscay. The bay enjoys a bad reputation. It is seldom
crossed in calm weather. It blows there very heavily. So far we have
had a very fair voyage.

The _Korea_, which apparently called at Cherbourg, signals that she has
heard nothing of the fleet having fired on steamers. The torpedo-boat
_Bravy_ has broken something.

Bay of Biscay.

Fate herself prevented our going to Brest, and steered us straight
across the Bay of Biscay to Vigo (Spain).

Such a thick fog came up at 1 p.m. that the ship astern was not
visible. We are steaming through milk! The sirens are shrieking in
turn, one ship after another.

The following ships are in our division: first the _Suvaroff_, next
the _Alexander III._, then the _Borodino_, _Orel_, and the transport
_Anadir_.

Perhaps it is just as well we did not go to Brest. The entrance to the
port is very difficult, dangerous, and impossible in a fog.

If we do not go to Crete, from Vigo onwards the way before us is
wide--the whole ocean!

Lying on my bed last night I watched the rats making themselves at home
in my cabin. I used to sleep with my feet towards the door, but have
now put my pillow there, because of the rats. They can jump from the
writing-table on to the settee, and could easily have jumped on my head.

Since we left the port of Alexander III. at Libau, a fortnight ago,
no telegrams have been sent, except those allowed by the admiral.
This was done so that spies should not warn the Japanese, waiting for
us in the Baltic. The Japanese evidently thought (report said there
were more than a hundred of them in the Baltic) that we should wait
for the _Oleg_ at Libau. The admiral, however, did not wait for the
_Oleg_, and left. Their spies did not succeed in warning them. Though
telegrams were received at the office, they were not sent on for two
days. Perhaps this accounts for their inactivity.

Evening.--The fog dispersed and our division reassembled. The crew will
sleep at their guns without undressing till we reach Vigo.

I sit in my cabin and try to distract my thoughts. Such gloom
overwhelms me that I feel inclined to hang myself. I go into the
wardroom, take a hand at dominoes, play with the dogs, or idle about,
not knowing what to do with myself.

There are three dogs who are always to be found in the wardroom of the
_Suvaroff_. One is a dachs called "Dinky"; the second a fox-terrier
puppy, "Gipsy"; and the third, "Flagmansky," is something like a dachs,
but white-haired and rough. Flagmansky and Gipsy are very amusing
animals. They are often played with and teased; corks and papers are
tied to them with string, and they jump and romp about. Now you know
all our amusements. They are not many!

I go on deck and look at this much-vaunted sea.

Some one has prepared Flagmansky for the tropics by cutting off all
the hair on his body, leaving his head like a lion's. The chaplain is
accused of doing this, but he denies it.

We shall arrive at Vigo either to-night or to-morrow morning. It will
be interesting to know if they will allow us to coal from our transport
_Anadir_. Coal is getting scarce in the battleships.

_October 12th._--We are approaching Spain. Lighthouses are already
visible. We shall be at Vigo in the morning. We shall all be much
relieved, as we have not called at a single port since we left Libau.
We could go on to Tangier without stopping. The weather has greatly
facilitated our passage.

Admiral Folkersham, commanding the 2nd division of battleships (in it
are the _Sissoi_, _Oslyabya_, _Navarin_, _Nachimoff_, and another),
distinguished himself when passing through the English Channel. He
approached the English coast and coaled his ships from the transports.
We are all laughing to think of the horror of our Minister for Foreign
Affairs (by the way, all the ministers were opposed to the dispatch of
the fleet, but the admiral insisted on it).

The Minister will be informed of the firing on the steamers. That will
be the first European complication. They will then tell him about the
coaling near England--a second complication. Finally he will learn that
a whole division of our fleet has called at the neutral port of Vigo.

_October 13th._--In Vigo Bay.

No communication with the shore allowed. I gave my letter No. 6, of
thirty-two pages, to be forwarded by the Consulate. Of course, there
were no stamps. I wonder if you will get it!

We shall not remain here more than twenty-four hours. The Spanish
authorities do not allow a longer stay. This place is hot and sunny.
There were 20° R. in the shade. The place is pretty. There are hills
all around. The town is evidently not large.

12 o'clock.--The authorities do not allow us to stop for a moment. In
order to gain time, the admiral asked the local captain of the port to
telegraph to Madrid, to ask that we might stay here five days to make
good defects. In spite of the prohibition we are about to take in coal,
without which our fleet would be checkmated. Sentries will be posted
over the hawsers (ropes which fasten the ships to the colliers), with
orders to allow no one to cast them off. What will be the end of all
this?

A collier lies near each battleship, but they are not allowed to coal.
Telegrams are sent everywhere. They are now waiting for a reply from
Madrid. Will they really not allow us to coal!

The admiral has received a telegram stating that England is in a
ferment--not at our having fired on the steamers, but because the
torpedo-boat which was left on the scene of the drama gave no help
to the sufferers. None of our torpedo-boats were there. They were at
Cherbourg. The admiral replied to this effect to our ambassador in
London.

An answer has been received from Madrid. It announces that the
Government requests us to refrain from coaling, but will inform us
to-morrow how much we may take.

The admiral ordered a signal to be hoisted for the fleet, to be in
readiness to weigh anchor at 7 a.m.

When the admiral went ashore to-day, he was met in state. The crowd
made an ovation, a description of which was in the local evening papers.

_October 14th._--I gave my letter to a soldier or police "alguazil," as
they call them on board. I gave him money--one peseta!

Our battleships lie waiting. It is positively insulting! Coal, bought
by Russia, is in steamers close alongside and is not allowed to be
put on board. "Who prevents it?" you ask. Miserable, beggarly,
broken Spain. Undoubtedly the hand of England is visible in this. The
Spaniards make no secret of it.

At 1 p.m. permission came for each ship to take in 400 tons. Sailors
and officers, dirty and black, hasten to begin coaling. White tunics
and cap-covers are nowhere to be seen. Everything is black with
coal-dust. Faces are black as soot, and only teeth gleam white.

_October 18th._--They say we leave for Tangier to-morrow morning. I
have been busy all day, and not able to write.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Admiral Rojdestvensky's Christian name. "Boyarin" means "the lord."

[2] On September 17th, 1904, the battleship _Orel_ went aground when
being towed to sea.

[3] A small wooden box in which sailors keep small articles of private
property, such as watches, letters, photographs, etc.



CHAPTER II

OFF NORTH-WEST AFRICA


_October 19th._--On the way from Vigo to Tangier.

Permission came last evening for us to proceed. At 7 a.m. to-day the
fleet weighed anchor and left Vigo Bay.

I did not succeed in getting ashore. Yesterday an engineer of the
_Anadir_ fell from the upper deck into the hold, but escaped uninjured.

There is a report in the newspapers that, during the firing on the
steamers in the German Ocean, the chaplain of the _Aurora_ was
wounded, and now they have sent him into hospital at Tangier, where
the remainder of the fleet are lying. There is no proper harbour at
Tangier--merely the open sea. It is unlike Vigo. The latter is one of
the best harbours in the world. It is deep and long and broad. The
Spaniards do not know how to profit by such natural wealth. Vigo might
carry on a universal trade. At present it is a small provincial town
on the sea. The Spaniards are very poor, because they are uncommonly
lazy. Vigo trades mostly in sardines. They have a sardine factory.
The sardines are caught in the bay, which is divided into squares for
each party of fishermen. Heaven help the fishermen who trespass in the
square of the others. There is a fight at once. This occurs so often,
that there are special ships who part the fighters and tow the guilty
fishermen in their boats to the shore, for punishment.

The weather is fine at present; but what darkness! Literally nothing
can be seen, and there are no stars. Only lights that are absolutely
necessary are left on deck. It is dark everywhere. One has to look out
and not bump one's head or fall.

Something has gone wrong again with the _Orel's_ steering engine. She
continues to keep up with the others.

About 10 p.m. some ships chased us. They are now around us, and on the
same course as ourselves. There are five or six of them. At one time
it was completely dark, and then the ships behaved very defiantly--now
extinguishing all their lights, now passing us, now chasing us, and now
coming close up to us. Our division is steaming surrounded by them.
They appear to be warships, judging by their shape, which we saw when
one of them lighted up another with her searchlight. We are ordered to
log all their manoeuvres, lamp signals, place of meeting with them,
etc. Hammocks are not served out to the crew, and they sleep at the
guns.

The night has just become a little lighter. Stars have appeared, though
sometimes clouded over. The stars and the Milky Way recall Tashkend to
me. There, there are the same dark nights and bright stars.

It is supposed that the ships now surrounding us are English, and that
at dawn they will disperse.

Hope we shall soon get to the ocean. There you can shape a course one
hundred miles off, and no one will find you.

_October 20th._--The English ships escorted us all night. They are now
steaming on each side of us.

At eight o'clock the _Orel_ hoisted a signal that her steering engine
was damaged. All the ships stopped. The _Alexander_ lowered a boat and
sent the flag engineer to her. At nine o'clock our battleships and the
_Anadir_ proceeded to Tangier.

Sometimes the coasts of Portugal are visible.

When our ships stopped the English probably took it for a hostile
demonstration. They quickly assembled astern of our division and formed
in battle order. Horrid folk! They are Russia's eternal enemy. They are
cunning, powerful at sea, and insolent everywhere. All nations hate
England, but it suits them to tolerate her. If you could only hear
how furiously Spaniards abuse the English! They shake their fists and
nearly foam at the mouth. If they only could, they would gladly play
some low trick on them. How many impediments has this "Ruler of the
Seas" put on our voyage? Every impediment has come from Britannia.

Do you know, we have passed by the shores of nine countries--Sweden,
Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, England, France, Germany, Spain. We
are now passing by the tenth--Portugal.

Portugal is considered the ally of England, and upholds her everywhere.

Evening.--To-day there was a memorial service for the Emperor Alexander
III. The English cruisers accompanied us all day, and at dusk again
surrounded us in a semicircle. They are, however, steaming with lights,
and are not playing any of the tricks they played last night.

If nothing happens we shall be at Tangier at 3 p.m. to-morrow. An hour
ago we passed Cape St. Vincent (Portuguese), off which a great naval
battle once took place.

It is beginning to be hot and stuffy in the cabins, although it is
pouring with rain.

The number of English cruisers accompanying us has increased to ten. We
are steaming completely surrounded by them. The ships are in this order:

  BORODINO      SUVAROFF
  OREL          ALEXANDER III.
  ANADIR

All this respectable company are going in the direction of the arrow.
How small our division appears compared with the English! Will they
escort us for long in this manner? Perhaps to Gibraltar, or perhaps
even further! The crews again do not undress, and sleep at the guns. It
is very trying for them.

There has just been a short mass and prayer. Three engineers, not yet
having taken the oath, were sworn. The officers and men were fallen in
on deck as on Sundays. The admiral made a short speech on the subject
of the ten years' reign of the Czar, drank a toast, the crew cheered,
and the band played. After that there was a grand lunch in the wardroom.

Morocco, in Tangier harbour.

The town of Tangier is unlike any we see in Europe. It is inhabited by
Moors and Arabs. There are Europeans, but they live principally outside
the town, which, with its white houses, is widely scattered over the
hilly coast. From afar the town is beautiful. No one is allowed on
shore.

You may remember once all the papers wrote that a Moorish robber had
captured an American and demanded a ransom. This much-respected person
lives twenty-five versts (nearly seventeen miles) from Tangier, and has
built himself a costly villa with the money. It appears that he still
occupies himself in robbery, and has a tribe of eight hundred men. No
one is allowed to go far from the town.

We arrived here at three o'clock, and found all our fleet except the
torpedo-boats at anchor. There are two French ships and an English one
lying here as well.

At five o'clock the hospital-ship _Orel_ arrived. She is painted white
with red crosses on her funnels. The Red Cross flag is flying at her
masthead. The chaplain of the _Aurora_ who was wounded on the 8th died
from blood-poisoning.

There is a report that there are two Japanese torpedo-boats at Hull,
in England. They are probably some of those who tried to attack our
division.

It is rumoured that Russia has bought seven more cruisers, and that
they will join us soon. This would be excellent. The battleships of our
division are now coaling. There is frightful confusion on board. The
sailors of the ship which coals quickest get a prize. The crew of the
_Alexander III._ won 1,200 roubles (£120) at the last coaling.

As usual, we have no news about the war! Yesterday was an anxious day
for Port Arthur. The Japanese wished to hoist their flag there on the
Mikado's birthday.

Scarcely had the _Suvaroff_ anchored, when from all sides came steam
cutters and boats with captains of ships, paymasters, and other
officers. From the shore came the local authorities, our consul,
contractors, captains of foreign ships--in a word, every one is
hastening to the _Suvaroff_ like the public to the play at the theatre!
Truly it is like it! From our ship salutes constantly thunder, various
flags are hoisted, and the band plays. From the other ships and from
the shore they salute the _Suvaroff_. The scene is full of animation.

The native inhabitants dress very picturesquely, as though they were
masquerading. Some are in jackets with wide breeches and a fez, and
others in turbans and hooded tunics, all of various colours. The faces
of all are very dark. They consider themselves of importance. It would
be interesting to see them in the town.

Our torpedo-boats have already left for the Mediterranean. They have
done this enormous journey in nineteen days.

10 p.m.--In the _Gibraltar Chronicle_ they announce that Alexieff is
leaving, and that Stössel has telegraphed that Port Arthur will be his
grave.

_October 22nd_ (night).--If you could only see what an inferno this
coaling is! The steamers and battleships are lighted by electricity.
The holds below and the decks are swarming with people. Words of
command are abruptly given, and the band plays the gayest tunes. The
work goes better to music. Though Morocco is considered under the
protection of France, there is an English post-office, a German one,
and I believe a Spanish one as well.

I have just returned from the steamer _Pallas_, which brought coal for
us and damaged her side while coaling.

A pedlar has just come on board, bringing picture postcards, mats,
nets, white shoes and helmets (you know the kind the English wear in
the tropics). I have already bought myself a helmet, and the postcards
that are left are not much good, though I bought six of them and gave
one to my servant. He is delighted. The boots do not fit, and white
boots are an absolute necessity in the tropics.

Our consul's "cavass" has just come on board. He has a black face;
wears a red fez, and a blue tunic with a hood; has bare legs and yellow
heelless slippers. He is a curious object. He will stay with us till
we leave, and will collect the mails. We shall have to pay a hundred
francs for his boat. A modest sum!

Am just going on board the _Orel_. Something is damaged.... How wet I
got! My legs were wet up to the knees. I went in the cutter to all the
private coal-merchants, looking for the director of the company, and
then on to the _Orel_. The rain is falling in bucketfuls, with such
heaviness that it hides the other ships from view like a dense curtain.
It is perfectly beastly. Luckily I have a mackintosh.

I have a trip to the steamer _Esperanza_ before me. Hope I shall escape
it.

7 p.m.--Went on board the _Esperanza_. Wore high boots, but there was
no rain.

The local papers say that another of our ships has perished off Port
Arthur. What is one to believe? For instance, there is a story in the
papers that our admiral insulted the English admiral after the latter
had tried to prevent our leaving Vigo. A quarrel ensued, guns were
fired, and the English were beaten by us. They write so many lies in
the local papers.

_October 25th._--From Tangier to Dakar.

We left Tangier on the morning of the 23rd, and are now on our way to
Dakar, which lies on the western shores of Africa, not far from St.
Louis and Cape Verde, and belongs to France.

Have not written to you for a couple of days, for two reasons.
I am very angry and very busy. I am angry because at Tangier I
never received a wire from you in answer to mine. All day long
yesterday, till the depths of the night, I was busy with sketches and
calculations. I had not a spare moment.

When weighing anchor at Tangier the _Anadir's_ anchor caught in the
telegraph cable. By order of the admiral the cable was cut. I suppose
there will again be diplomatic representations over this affair. No
doubt the English will say that it was done purposely, so that no
telegrams should be sent announcing our departure. It is lucky that the
cable belongs to France. Had it been English the scandal would have
been terrific.

At Tangier I saw a peculiar rainbow. It stretched from the foot to the
summit of a hill.

7 p.m.--My work is accumulating tremendously. I began early in the
morning, and probably will be busy again to-night with sketches and
calculations. It will be a long time before you get this letter. As
time goes on, letters will be less frequent. We have a tremendous
journey before us--seventeen or eighteen days from port to port--so do
not be anxious at not receiving news for a very long time. During our
present cruise this is quite a normal state of affairs.

It is twenty-three days now since I set foot on shore. The shore is
not attractive as a rule. I long to get quickly to Vladivostok. I am
sick to death of it all. They say the sea is beautiful! I do not agree
with that entirely. It is true the water is blue, but that is all you
can say for it; it is only blue in calm weather, but in stormy weather
it appears to me to be a stupid, insane, infuriated element. Perhaps
the sea is beautiful, but only to those on dry land. I could never be
fascinated by the sea.

_October 26th._--The transport _Malay_ broke some of her machinery
at one o'clock last night. The whole fleet stopped and waited until
she had made the defect good. We remained on the spot till 7 a.m. The
_Malay_ repaired engines and the fleet proceeded. We wasted six hours
over it. I count every hour. The less time we spend in harbour and the
quicker we go, the sooner we shall arrive at Vladivostok. In a word,
Vladivostok is the goal of our desires.

_October 27th._--We passed the Tropic of Cancer at 4 p.m., and are
going towards the Equator. We are in the tropics, and yet I cannot say
that it is specially hot and airless.

Our squadron going round Africa consists of the following ships:
the battleships _Suvaroff_, _Alexander_, _Borodino_, _Orel_,
_Oslyabya_; cruisers, _Dimitry Donskoi_, _Aurora_, _Nachimoff_;
transports, _Kamchatka_, _Anadir_, _Meteor_, _Korea_, _Malay_, and the
hospital-ship _Orel_. The _Meteor_, _Korea_, and _Malay_ are under the
merchant flag; and so is the _Orel_, but she is also flying the Red
Cross.

We heard an unpleasant rumour to-day. It is said the squadron will make
a long stay at Madagascar and carry out various exercises. Can it be
so? This news annoys me. If we are there so long, when shall we get to
Vladivostok? I console myself with the thought that this is a clever
fiction.

The captain laid in a reserve of white soap, which dissolves in salt
water (generally soap does not). The fresh water is preserved for
steaming, so you can only have a salt-water bath on board. My servant
brought me a piece of this soap yesterday. I do not know how he
obtained it. There is nearly 100 roubles' worth of it on board the
_Suvaroff_.

I have very few cigarettes left--only six boxes. It is a good thing you
bought me 1,000 at Revel, and that I bought some at Libau, or I should
be without them.

_October 28th._--My servant is evidently attached to me. He is
industrious and inquisitive. Just after we left Libau he saw a box of
pastilles and said, "Did our barina [lady] really come to Libau, sir?"
He came into my cabin to-day with a bucket and mop, and said, "Shall I
interfere with your worship if I wash the deck?"

It is very probable that from Dakar we shall go to Gaboon. We shall
call at ports which I have never heard of before, or if I have it was
a very long time ago--perhaps at school.

I told the ship's photographer to prepare me a series of photographs
which I will send you. They are not very characteristic, but better
ones are not to be had.

_October 29th._--It is very stuffy to-day. One perspires a good deal.
Last night I slept with only a sheet over me, and had nothing on but
a cross. Notwithstanding the stuffiness, one is obliged to sleep with
closed ports and deadlights. In time of war all superfluous lights in
a ship are either extinguished or covered over. If it is so hot here,
it will positively be hell at the Equator. The air is offensive, being
impregnated with steam. It is damp. The drawers of the tables are
beginning to shut badly. They are sodden. Soon all metallic objects
will begin to rust. I am sitting in my cabin with my shirt unbuttoned.
Experienced people say that every one will get prickly heat. This
eruption appears in the tropics because the pores of the skin are
constantly irritated. The heat and stuffiness are unbearable. There is
no wind--we are in a calm belt. The fans are kept going incessantly on
board. Every one goes about sunburnt and sleepy.

Speed has purposely been lessened in order to get into Dakar to-morrow
morning, and not this evening.

I think we shall stay in Dakar some days. Heavy coaling awaits us
there--2,000 tons. All the decks will be loaded with coal.

_Dakar, Senegambia._

_October 30th._--Just arrived at Dakar. The fleet is anchoring.

The town is situated partly on shore and partly on a small island.

To-day is the admiral's names-day. They say there will be an official
dinner.

The heat and stuffiness are fearful. Perspiration pours off one. The
air is damp--towels will not dry.

2 p.m.--I have been on duty on board the cruiser _Admiral Nachimoff_.
There I met an engineer whom I knew at school. I lunched in the
_Nachimoff_, though there was an official lunch in the _Suvaroff_. I
was not present. A sister of mercy from the _Orel_ was there. She is a
relation of the admiral's. The admiral has permitted communication with
the shore after the coal has been taken on board. We remain here until
the evening of November 3rd. All the ships except ours have begun to
coal.

Negroes in small boats are rowing round the fleet. You throw money
into the water for them and they dive for it. The whole of their
costume consists of a loin-cloth and not a stitch more. They are
repulsive--black with long, thin legs and arms. They gave me the
impression of being sick, incapable people.

Apparently, when the _Oslyabya_ was at Tangier, she asked for a
barge and baskets for coaling from Gibraltar. The English purposely
employed all the barges themselves, and bought up all the baskets. The
_Oslyabya_ received nothing.

5 p.m.--The French Governor has just arrived in great state, and
explained that he cannot permit us to coal. The admiral told him that
he should, nevertheless, continue to coal until he had a telegram from
Europe. They have long ago begun coaling in the other ships, and will
soon begin in us. Perhaps the Governor will announce that we are not
to remain here. That would be a great surprise to every one. Probably
things are going badly in Manchuria--the French are evidently also
sailing with the wind. From there (Manchuria) we have no decisive news.

Evening.--I hurried off my twenty-second letter to you as the post was
going. It appears that telegraphing is very expensive from here. The
cable between Dakar and Europe is damaged somewhere, so telegrams have
to be sent round by America.

There is a report that Stössel is wounded in the leg. At first the
French allowed us to coal, and then came an order from Paris not
allowing us in harbour. Nevertheless, our fleet remains, and we are
coaling. All the doors and scuttles are tightly closed to keep out the
coal-dust. The stuffiness is dreadful inside the ship. We are tormented
by thirst. Drinks are hot and unpleasant. All the same, one drinks
incessantly. I alone drank six bottles of lemonade to-day.

Can you guess what our one topic of conversation in the fleet is about?
Coal! It is our weak spot. Our comings, our goings, our voyage, and
even our success depend on coal. In order to stimulate the men, they
have established prizes, which are given to the crew of the ship that
coals quickest.

The everlasting conversation about coaling drives one frantic, still
one talks of it and quarrels about it.

_October 31st._--Since early this morning I have been round the
harbour. Coal-dust has penetrated everywhere--into the cabins, the
cupboards, and on to the tables. The decks are clouded with dust.
Every one is so black that you do not recognise people at once.

There is a report that we shall not call at Gaboon. Perhaps it is for
the best, as we shall proceed sooner; besides, Gaboon lies almost on
the Equator. That means it would be somewhat warm.

3 p.m.--They gave us ices for lunch to-day; they were steaming
though cold. The heat is awful. Precautions are being taken against
sunstrokes. There are some indications that we shall stay here till
Wednesday--_i.e._ November 3rd. If we do not go to Gaboon, but steer
for the next port on the list, we shall have a tremendous trip.

Our admiral called on the local commandant and invited him to lunch.

Just been urgently summoned on board the _Donskoi_.

_November 1st._--Just returned from the transport _Malay_. She is
damaged below the water-line.

Evening.--At 3 p.m. Lieutenant Nelidoff (son of our ambassador at
Paris) died from sunstroke. The deceased was a wonderful linguist,
knowing seven or eight languages. He will be buried to-morrow.

Our officers have just returned from the shore. According to them
there is nothing interesting to be seen. If I can manage it, I shall go
ashore to-morrow. I am too tired to-day.

_November 2nd_ (5 p.m.)--I am sitting in a restaurant, drinking
lemonade. How you would have laughed just now! I asked the negro waiter
for the menu, and he brought me cards, dice, and a board covered with
cloth. There is nothing to do on shore. I shall go on board by the
first boat. They are burying Nelidoff. I hear the volleys.

I returned from the shore by the seven o'clock boat. Our doctor
distinguished himself. He tore some fruit from a tree and ate it.
Scarcely had he returned on board when he was seized with colic and
vomiting.

There are some Japanese here. Our officers saw two of them. Evidently
they are spies.

We leave to-morrow, and I go on board the _Donskoi_ in the morning. I
shall scarcely have time when I return to add two or three words to
this letter before the post goes. Our trip will be a long one--about
ten days.

I wandered about Dakar and thought of you all the time--with what
curiosity you would regard all these unfamiliar pictures, the niggers,
negresses, children, and lastly even the Europeans! Everything here is
so original. Little children run about the streets without any signs
of clothing. All the natives are bedecked with amulets. They are very
lazy and obtrusive. One of them came to the captain and begged for
money. The latter said to him, "Look here, you do nothing, so you have
no money." The nigger fired back, "You have lots of money--do you do
anything?"

There are few Europeans here, and very few elderly ones among them.
After they have passed their youth here they leave the colony. The
climate is said to be bad. An epidemic of yellow fever is raging. You
may imagine that it is impossible to buy fruit.

The niggers to whom we threw coins into the water are already selling
them, offering them back to the officers, as Russian money is not
accepted here.

Many of the natives are rather picturesquely dressed in white and
coloured tunics. The niggers go about with sunshades, but all are
barelegged. The negresses sometimes wear European hats and garments
something like dressing gowns. They carry their babies on their backs.
Arabs are also to be met with here.

The religions are Catholic, Mohammedan, and idolatrous.

What a trade the town is doing since the fleet anchored! Many articles
are doubled in value, and others cannot be obtained. The post-office
is original. The clerks (niggers) sit in the building, and the public
stand in the street and transact business with them through the windows.

_November 3rd._--I have been all over the fleet this morning. I went
on board the _Donskoi_, _Oslyabya_, _Alexander_, and _Borodino_. About
3 p.m. we weighed anchor. I do not know if we are going to Gaboon.
There is news here that the storming of Port Arthur on October 20th was
repulsed with heavy losses to the Japanese.

_November 4th._--I went to bed early last night, leaving my port open.
Early this morning, when they were scrubbing decks, water came in on to
the table and sprinkled me a little. I jumped up and closed the port.

Last night they changed from one means of steering to another, for
practice, in the _Suvaroff_. Something in her was not adjusted, and she
very nearly rammed the _Orel_. Thank God all passed off successfully.

9 p.m.--The wardroom officers bought some birds at Dakar, but did not
buy food for them. They fed them with anything they could find, and
now they are beginning to die.

Usually the band plays at lunch on holidays. To-day they suddenly began
playing at dinner.

At meals we drink more than we eat. We suffer from dreadful thirst
and drink pure water, mineral waters, red and white wine, beer, and
different kinds of lemon juices. The admiral suffers most of all from
the heat. During the coaling, when all doors and ports were closed, the
temperature in his cabin reached 45° R. There are now 27° in my cabin,
with the port open and the fans going which drive in the fresh air.

Some of the officers have bought themselves mats and sleep on them in
the wardroom. The crew sleep on the upper deck.

Last night something happened to the engines of the transport _Malay_.
All the fleet stopped and waited for her.

About 4 a.m. the _Donskoi_ signalled that sand had got into her
Kingston valves. That means the ship had passed a shallow spot,
although the fleet was steaming 90 versts (sixty miles) from land.
After the mishap to the _Donskoi_ they went further out to sea.

It will doubtless be very hot to-day. Do you know, the floor of my
cabin is so hot that I can feel it through the soles of my boots.

7 p.m.--What awful heat! Again I have to keep the port closed, as the
sea is splashing in.

One of the _Borodino's_ engines is damaged. We stopped and waited for
her. She is now steaming with one engine.

Storms are visible passing away from us in three places. The clouds are
black and lightning flashes. It is close.

_November 7th._--Something is wrong with the _Borodino_. The other
engine does not work now. She gets hot bearings from time to time.
We all stopped and waited for her. We are losing time over all these
mishaps, and are losing it needlessly. The cruise of our fleet round
Africa has no precedent in history.

Only by 8 a.m. did the _Borodino_ put right her engines. The fleet is
now pursuing its customary way.

7 p.m.--I saw two whales for the first time yesterday. There is nothing
to look at except sea and sky.

Sometimes the men on watch collapse from the heat and have to be
carried below. There are 61° R. at the top of the engine-room
compartment, and we have not yet passed the hottest place.

They are preparing to celebrate the crossing of the line. The ceremony
usually takes the form of a play given by the crew, and the immersion
of all those who are crossing the line for the first time.

Twenty minutes ago something happened to our dynamo engine, and all the
electric lights went out. The ship was steeped in absolute darkness.
Now all is repaired.

My servant has just brought a white tunic and trousers, which he washed
himself. They have turned out very well. "I don't think a washerwoman
could have done it better," he said. "There is one drawback--they are
not starched. But no matter; that's a trifle."

_November 8th_ (11 p.m.).--As soon as ever night falls the same old
story begins. From 8 p.m. until now the fleet stopped. We are only
going at five knots. The unfortunate _Malay_ has again delayed us.
Something broke in her engine and the pump refused to work. I am very
anxious about her. At Dakar she sprang a leak. I saw it, and reported
that she could proceed without danger, working her pump. Just imagine
it! The only pump she has is broken. She has nothing with which she
can get rid of the water, and there are no docks near. At the present
moment the _Roland_ is towing the _Malay_, as one of her engines is
broken and a blade of the screw of the other engine is broken off.
Briefly, the _Malay_ is unable to steam by herself. We are still far
from Gaboon. Again there is a great delay. Thank God the sea is calm!
If it were rough, the _Malay's_ situation would be very dangerous. As
it was, the _Roland_ took a long time passing the tow-rope to her.

_November 9th_.--The _Roland_ is still towing the _Malay_. As soon as
they are able to coal her, she will be sent back. She will not then
hinder and delay us.

When we were at lunch to-day they signalled to the admiral, saying that
the _Kamchatka_ had gone out of her course and signalled, "Dangerously
damaged. Cannot proceed." Luckily, it turned out that the damage was
trifling, and she was able to continue.

What a number of changes in climate we shall have had if we reach
Vladivostok! We left Russia in very cold weather. Gradually it became
hotter and hotter, till the heat was intense; then it will become cold
again; then hot; and finally it will be very cold, as we shall reach
Vladivostok in winter.

_November 10th_ (night).--Again a bother with the _Borodino_.
Something went wrong with her machinery. It was soon put right, but,
nevertheless, time was lost over it. The _Malay_ is still being towed.

Have found out about Gaboon. The fleet will not go within thirty versts
of it.

All communications with Gaboon will be _viâ_ the _Roland_. Of course,
no one will be allowed to land, and we shall all kick our heels on
board. Our ships cannot go nearer, owing to shallows and banks.

The _Meteor_ signalled to-day that one of her stokers has struck work
and refuses to keep up the necessary amount of steam. The captain asked
to be allowed to deal with him himself. The crew of the _Meteor_ are
volunteers.

I have been sitting all day long over plans and calculations. The
scuttles were open, and now and then waves came splashing over my
table. I went to the ship's ice-chamber, and it seemed cold to me after
the heat which reigns everywhere.

The day passed strangely. I hardly went out of my cabin, and got
through a lot of work. I must go and air myself, as my head has grown
heavy.



CHAPTER III

CROSSING THE LINE


_November 13th_ (10 p.m.).--_Off Gaboon._

This is how it has all turned out! We stopped this morning and
anchored. No one knows where we are or where Gaboon lies. We have sent
the _Roland_ north to the coast to find a lighthouse and Gaboon. We see
land, but the place is unknown.

I caught a glimpse of a shark. When we were weighing anchor at Dakar,
a cutter approached with some important documents (perhaps it was the
post). In the hurry of departure the papers were not taken on board.

The navigators, including the flagship's navigator, were confused. It
proved that we were thirty miles (fifty versts) below Gaboon. We are
now going back to Gaboon, and we shall have already twice crossed the
Equator. The celebrations only take place at the first crossing. When
we strike the Cape of Good Hope we shall have crossed it a third time.

6 p.m.--We are anchored. A French boat has just arrived bringing some
dispatches. In coming the boat was nearly stove in, as it caught in our
wake. Luckily it escaped, and only the rudder was broken.

The rats are making themselves felt. Three nights ago a rat bit the
first lieutenant in the foot, and last night gnawed off one of his
corns. What do you think of that?

The French officer dined with the admiral. He does not know what is
going on at the war. Even the telegraphic agencies' telegrams are not
received at Gaboon. A fine town this! And there are many like it in
the colony. I don't think we should find a town like it in Russia. Not
even the governor of this place gets telegrams. There are only about
seven hundred Europeans here; the rest are negroes, amongst whom are
cannibals. During the last two months the cannibals have eaten two
Europeans.

They say that an English steamer will arrive to-morrow, bringing us
newspapers of October 27th (Old Style). On the 16th or 17th the steamer
will go back to Europe, taking our mails.

As we have no news from the war, the wardroom officers of the
_Suvaroff_ have asked the admiral permission to send a prepaid telegram
to the _Novoe Vremya_, asking for news. The admiral refused the
request, but will wire to Admiral Wirenius, who will send us the latest
intelligence from the Far East.

The admiral has received a telegram from Petersburg advising him not
to stop at Gaboon, but go to some other place, as the French wish our
fleet to leave this port. They point out a more convenient bay, and
promise to give us pilots. Nevertheless, our fleet will stay here as
long as necessary.

What was the end of the shooting affair in the German Ocean, near Hull?

They say the astonishment of the local Europeans is very great. First
one steamer arrived "for provisions," then a second, then a third, and
finally our fleet. No one ever expected that we should call at Gaboon.
It is just as well, perhaps. The more our movements are known, the more
unfavourable orders we might have from the French Government.

_November 14th_ (11 a.m.).--Have already been on board the _Orel_
and _Alexander_. At two o'clock shall go on board the _Nachimoff_,
_Borodino_, and _Meteor_, which are badly damaged and leak.

The Governor has sent us a present of fruit and vegetables. At lunch we
had pineapples, bananas, mangoes, and something else. Pineapples are
the nicest.

On board the _Alexander_ they accidentally carried off a negro from
Dakar, whom they have landed. He says the negroes here eat their dead,
as cattle are scarce and meat is dear. Before they eat them they cut
off the hands and feet and put them in a bog to swell. The flesh is
then more tender and tasty.

They do not risk sending divers down here, as there are too many sharks.

The Governor sent some other fruits besides. No one knows what they
are--either grass or vegetables. They have received a telegram in the
private transports saying that Kuropatkin has driven the Japanese back
to the coast. That would be good news, but it is difficult to believe.

11 p.m.--The vegetation here is very rich, judging by the reports of
those who have been ashore. A "regular botanical garden." A moth flew
on board--such a size, I am afraid you will not believe me, but it was
nearly a foot! We saw a turtle in the sea, 2½ feet long. The Frenchmen
on shore showed us a dead boa-constrictor 18 feet long.

The officers who went ashore called on the king of the place. He was
asleep. They woke him without ceremony, looked at him and his wife,
and went away. He is just a wild nigger, like his subjects.

I told you about the vegetables the Governor sent us. We tipped the man
who brought them a pound sterling. He seemed much confused, accepted
the money, and then did not know what to do with it. I think he will
spend it on our wounded.

_November 15th._--They say there was a very violent storm last night.
I heard nothing, and slept through it all.

The officers have returned from Libreville, where they went at nine
this morning. They relate many interesting things, and are in rapture
over the vegetation. They have brought some fruit and a couple of
parrots. They bought one of the parrots for ten francs, and the other
was sent to the admiral by a Jesuit father with the fruit, as a gift.

The same man who was given the pound, out of kindness acted as guide to
the officers. When taking leave he feared a repetition of the tip, and
kept on repeating that "he wanted nothing."

The officers paid another visit to the king. He received them in
an English naval uniform and cocked hat. They were photographed
with him and his wives. One of them was taken arm-in-arm with the
queen-dowager, who begged for money. Some of the court ladies were
drunk. It is two days since the king, who is seventy-two, succeeded
his brother on the throne. Margarita, the eldest lady-in-waiting and
a most energetic old negress, runs about naked. For that matter, the
inhabitants in general do not trouble about completeness of costume.
The natives respectfully greet all Europeans. It is a curious monarchy,
under the protection of France; more truly it is her colony.

To-morrow there will be something in the nature of a coronation on
shore. The dead king is at present lying in a box under lock and key.
One of the officers sat on this box, to the consternation of the
present king and his court minister. The latter was dressed in a cocked
hat, a necktie round his bare neck, cuffs, sword, and frock-coat, but
without linen or trousers--a beautiful figure, thus attired, at the
reception of the guests.

_November 15th._--You can imagine what sort of a town is Libreville.
The Governor sent the admiral the latest news from the papers. They are
dated October 2nd--the day of our departure from Libau.

_November 16th._--I did not succeed in finishing my last letter, as the
boat left for the shore. In it went the last post which can go by the
steamer leaving for Europe to-morrow morning.

From sunset to dawn the admiral has forbidden communication between the
ships and the shore. Yesterday at 10 p.m. a cutter from the _Donskoi_,
in the harbour without special leave from the admiral, was detained.
The officer of the watch was put under arrest for this for three days.
This evening a boat from the same ship with three officers, also in the
harbour without special leave from the admiral, was likewise detained.
In to-day's orders the captain of the _Donskoi_ is reprimanded, and the
three officers who were in the boat are to be tried. They are to be
dismissed to the steamer leaving here for Europe to-morrow and will go
to Russia. As you see, disobedience is severely punished on board.

9 p.m.--To-day a sub-lieutenant of the _Alexander_ told me about
the negro whom they took from Dakar. When his boat shoved off from
the _Alexander_ he began to storm, shout threats and curses at the
boatmen, stamp on the deck with his bare feet, etc. When he saw that he
could not get away from the _Alexander_ he sat on the turret and wept
burning tears. The crew surrounded him and looked on, laughing at this
healthy, bellowing lad. Seeing that there was nothing to be done, he
grew resigned. It appeared he was very jealous and uneasy about his
wife. Very soon the crew made friends with him, and taught him several
Russian words. His memory was phenomenal; in a few days he learnt the
names of nearly half the crew. The soles of his feet seemed very funny
to the sailors. They are half white, as they are in all negroes. On the
trip the officers collected 60 roubles for him. He left exceedingly
satisfied. He serves in a shop, and, being rather civilised, speaks
French fluently.

_November 17th_ (7 p.m.).--Half an hour ago I returned from the shore,
where I had gone in the _Roland_.

We reached Libreville at 8 a.m. About ten we reached the town, if
this settlement can be so called. We could not approach close to
it in the _Roland_, so got into boats. I went with the officers of
the _Borodino_, and was with them all the time. First we went to a
restaurant for refreshment. There were six of us. They gave us three
bottles of lemonade, a little bread, fish, meat, peas, cheese, and
fruit, and charged fifty-five francs. We left the restaurant and
went along an avenue of palm-trees. We went to a German factory, to
the Catholic Church, to two or three little villages, and to the
plantations. There was not much time, and we turned back. We called
on the king, then went to a shop, then to the quay and back to the
_Roland_. Although I was only five hours ashore, I was fairly tired,
probably from not being accustomed to exercise. Several photographs of
our party were taken. We were taken with the negroes serving in the
French army, with negresses in the villages, in the plantation, and in
the King's ground under a tree with a small negress who ran after us.

The king came out and placed a chair for each of us, and sat down in
an armchair on the terrace. He and all his courtiers were dressed.
A nigger all covered with grass and with a semblance of a mask over
his face (not the slightest bit of his body could be seen) danced a
Tam-tam, accompanied by savage music. Our time was short. We rose,
and the king shook hands with us all. By this time many officers had
gathered at his palace. They wandered into all the corners of his
house. The dowager-queen sat in a hammock drunk, and tearfully begged
for money. While rambling through the plantations I bought a lot of
pineapples, bananas, and cocoa-nuts.

The plantation where we sat eating fruit belongs to a Frenchwoman,
a native of this place. We thought her house was a restaurant, and
unceremoniously demanded lemonade, water, etc. It then appeared that
it was a private dwelling. The Frenchwoman was very friendly--told us
about herself and her children, who were being educated in France. She
sent two negroes to carry our purchases to the pier.

How rich the vegetation is in this place! You seem to be walking in
a botanical garden. All around are palms, bananas, lemons, mimosa,
lianas, mangoes, baobabs, and wonderful flowers. The trees are immense
and lofty.

On our return we called at a shop for drink. They gave us cider. If you
had been here, what would you not have bought! We purchased all sorts
of rubbish--negro instruments, teeth of wild animals, poisoned spears,
weapons, etc. In the town we met the negro who was brought by the
_Alexander_. He now answers to the name of "Andrew Andrewitch," which
was given him by the crew.

_November 18th._--I woke early this morning. I had a trip to make to
the private transports.

5 p.m.--Leaving Gaboon.

About an hour ago we weighed anchor. Our destination is unknown.

To-day on board the _Alexander_, which is astern of the _Suvaroff_,
they celebrated the crossing of the line. We could see how they capered
and splashed water about. In the _Orel_ something has happened to the
electrical steering gear, but she is steaming and does not detain the
fleet.

_November 19th._--At 9 a.m. we began to celebrate crossing the line
on board. Neptune, Venus, a navigator, sub-lieutenants, Russian
peasant-women, devils, barbers, and tritons arrived on field
gun-carriages drawn by black naked people. All this fine company came
from the stern of the ship, accompanied by buglers and to the sound
of a march, played by the band, which was stationed forward. They
approached the fore-turret and climbed on to it. The audience took up
their places in the bows, on the bridges, turrets, masts, yards, and
crosstrees. The admiral, captain, and officers stood on the bridge.
The actors were all half naked, and were painted in the most varied
colours--black, green, red, yellow, blue, etc. Neptune had his trident
and a great beard of tow. The navigator had a chronometer, binoculars,
and a sextant. The peasant-woman had a baby, which was represented by
the fox-terrier. When the baby was supposed to cry, they twisted the
dog's tail to make him howl.

The actors played well. Near the turret was a huge bath, made of canvas
and filled with water. When the play was over, they turned the hose on
to every one, from the admiral down to the sailors. The actors were
first thrown into the bath, and then the rest of the ship's company.
After being ducked, their faces were lathered with a huge brush dipped
in whiting, and they were shaved with a very large razor (two and a
half feet long), made very cleverly from a piece of wood. The water
in the bath was clean at the beginning, but after the actors who were
painted had been ducked, it turned into God knows what colour. Nearly
all the officers, the captain, and the flag-captain were ducked and
shaved. I and several others escaped the bath; nevertheless, I had
not a dry spot on me. Any one who hid was hunted out and ducked. The
messman shut himself up in his cabin. They could not get at him, so
they removed the deck-plate above it and poured water in. The messman
at last, to save his things, came out and was thrown into the bath.
Even the chaplain did not escape the same fate. It was a good thing for
those who fell in feet foremost. When it happened the other way, their
heads were pushed under and their legs held up. One of the dogs who was
thrown into the water climbed out on to the nearest bitts, and looking
at the people struggling near him, raised a deafening howl.

The crew evidently enjoyed their holiday. It was a great diversion for
them, as they had not been ashore since we left Revel.

About four o'clock something went wrong in the _Malay_. An officer was
sent to replace the captain. All the fleet stopped for the transfer of
the officer from the _Suvaroff_ to the _Malay_.

The fleet is now going to Great Fish Bay, which belongs to Portugal. If
for any reason we cannot call there, we shall steer for Angra Pequena
(under the protection of Germany).

_November 20th_ (7 p.m.).--We had vespers on board. The service pleases
me, especially in the ship. Though around one are only the faces of
officers and men all dressed in white, and though the acolytes and
choir are barefooted, the chants and intoning remind me of dear,
far-distant Russia.

_November 21st._--It is beginning to be less hot. The greatest heat,
or more correctly closeness, was at Dakar. Now it is fairly tolerable.
When we reach the Cape of Good Hope we shall have to put on ordinary
uniform, and perhaps greatcoats. They say it will be very hot and damp
in the Indian Ocean.

All the crews in the fleet have begun to fast, by order of the admiral.
Do you know how they fast? They eat their food as usual, only they go
to church.

If the reckonings are correct, and all goes smoothly, then by the end
of January or the beginning of February our fleet will be near the
shores of Japan. This will mean that there will be only about two
months more of the wearisome, monotonous life which we are all leading.
It will not be long before we join the ships that went by the other
way. Much depends on the position of the Port Arthur and Vladivostok
fleets, as well as of Port Arthur and Vladivostok themselves. It also
depends on how matters stand with Kuropatkin at the time of our arrival
in the East.

Judging by descriptions, Great Fish Bay is not an important place. The
settlement consists of seven houses, two of which are uninhabited. It
is surrounded by the desert. There is no water, so it has to be brought
from a distance. Fish are plentiful. It is a very good anchorage. We
shall probably be there to-morrow morning.

It is cooler now. In my cabin there are 24° R. The drawers of the table
can be pulled out once more.

_November 23rd._--The temperature continues to fall. In the open at
present there are only 14° R. They count on arriving at the anchorage
at twelve o'clock. We are now going further from Port Arthur, but after
doubling the Cape shall approach it. The voyage from Tangier to Port
Arthur is about the same as the voyage from the Cape to Port Arthur.
What a much longer distance we have come by going round Africa!

1.50 p.m.--We have arrived at Great Fish Bay. It is not particularly
pretty. On one side the shore is high and jagged, and on the other it
is flat. There are small houses in several places on the low-lying
shore. From the ship they can hardly be seen, even with a telescope.
The shore is sandy. No doubt there is neither post nor telegraph
station here. Wherever one looks there is sand--nothing but sand.

A Portuguese gunboat has just passed the _Suvaroff_. (Her name is
_Limpopo_.) She is a very small and insignificant ship. She was
anchored far out in the bay, and has now gone no doubt to acquaint the
authorities that our fleet has arrived and anchored at Great Fish Bay.

This will be a surprise for the Portuguese. We do not, however, stay
here for long. To-morrow evening we get up anchor.

4 p.m.--It appears that the Portuguese gunboat, _Limpopo_, went round
the fleet and stopped near the _Suvaroff_. Her captain came to the
admiral with explanations. I do not yet know what he said, but it can
be nothing pleasant for us. Yesterday, before the fleet arrived, the
gunboat compelled one of our colliers to put to sea under a threat of
firing on her. The moment the fleet arrived the colliers re-occupied
the places assigned them by the admiral. They say the admiral assured
the commander of the Portuguese gunboat--or, more correctly, led him to
suppose--that the fleet was four miles from the shore; that is, that it
was in neutral waters.

Amongst other things, the Portuguese stated that it was known that our
ships would call at Great Fish Bay. Curious how this could have been
known at Lisbon, where the arrangement to send a man-of-war here was
made. Probably they were informed by the English, who jealously watch
every movement of our fleet. The hospital-ship _Orel_ has left, and
will call at Capetown.

We shall go to Angra Pequena from here. The Germans (to whom it
belongs) call it Lubevitz Bay. It is situated one thousand versts from
here. We leave this to-morrow at two o'clock.

_November 23rd._--At anchor in Great Fish Bay. An hour ago I gave
my letter to you to be sent to Europe by one of the steamers that
is returning. The captains of the steamers had been on shore. They
say that the beach is strewn with lovely shells and crowded with red
flamingoes. The captain of the Portuguese gunboat told the captains of
the colliers that he would forbid any attempt on their part to coal the
fleet. What naïveté--or rather, what impudence!

I have ordered them to call me at 6 a.m. to-morrow, in order to go to
several ships.

_November 24th._--From Great Fish Bay to Angra Pequena. I could not sit
down and write to you all day. Somehow, everything went wrong. Just
as I seated myself I was called away. I was on board the _Borodino_
to-day. I saw some Libreville photographs. They are very small; you
cannot make out the faces.

At four o'clock all our fleet began to weigh anchor. Two hours later
the _Malay_ hoisted a signal that something had happened to her rudder.
The _Roland_ was ordered to take her in tow. The hospital-ship _Orel_
is also going with us. Whales and albatrosses are seen more and more
frequently. The albatrosses fly a tremendous distance from the land,
and are very large; sometimes they measure sixteen to seventeen feet
across the wings.

Life on board is monotonous. One day is like another. You live in the
past (at all events, I do), and dream of the future.

_November 27th._--We passed the Tropic of Capricorn to-day. We are
approaching Angra Pequena. We have lessened speed, in order to get
there in the morning. The flagship's navigator considers that half
our voyage will have been completed when we reach the southern end of
Madagascar.

At Angra Pequena I think we shall get news from the East. The Germans
are probably more interested in the war than the French.

A sailor in the transport _Korea_ has been seized with dysentery
or malaria. God grant that the disease does not spread. Hygienic
conditions are disregarded in the fleet. Many go on the sick-list.
The wind has risen, the waves have increased. Before entering Angra
Pequena boats will be lowered and will take soundings. The place is
little known. Some ships might go aground. The post has already been
collected. I hope to be able to send this letter to-morrow morning.

_November 28th._--Approaching Angra Pequena.

We have not yet reached the anchorage. We are steaming very slowly,
for fear of going aground. The wind is still increasing, and the waves
are dashing over the poop (the after-part of the upper deck). Even if
the weather gets no worse our cruise round the Cape will not be a very
happy one.

_At anchor at Angra Pequena._

About one o'clock we reached Angra Pequena. The battleships anchored,
but the cruisers remained at sea. There is not much room in the bay.
It is impossible to stand on deck in unsheltered places. It blows
fearfully. The waves are washing over everywhere. No boats have been
lowered yet. There is no communication with the shore, or even between
ships. The post has not been sent. You may imagine what the strength of
the wind is when it is estimated at a force of ten.

Report says that the mail-boats call here five times a year. Possibly
one of the colliers will be discharged, and return to Europe from here.
In that case the mail will be sent in her.

_November 29th._--The wind abated a little during the night. A steamer
came alongside, but the sea was so high that her side was crushed. One
of our 75-millimetre guns was damaged, and a port was broken, which
will have to be repaired or changed. Spare guns are carried in the
transport.

This is the third day that the mail-boat has been detained owing to the
weather. We hear, from English sources, that there has been a fight at
Mukden; the losses on both sides amount to 50,000 men. It is also said
that the Japanese have taken by storm one of the forts at Port Arthur.
The Russians blew up this fort, and 30,000 Japanese perished. All this
is hearsay.

On shore they say that a certain steamer puts to sea every night and
watches passing vessels. Evidently this steamer is freighted by the
Japanese, to follow and perhaps strike a blow at our fleet.

Men are going out of their minds in the fleet. An ensign of the reserve
serving in the battleship _Orel_ went mad, and also a sailor in the
transport _Korea_.

An English steamer arrived here and left at once. A German transport
arrived with troops to put down the native rising in the interior.
The mail apparently was not sent, and the mail-boat has already left.
Perhaps they will be able to send it by the troopship, which is
probably returning to Europe. Everything, as you see, is uncertain. We
stop on and on here for no reason. It is still blowing hard. There is
no communication between ships, and I ought to go on board the _Malay_.

_November 30th._--We remain at anchor.

Every precaution is taken. Searchlights illumine the horizon.

Close to the fleet are two small islands belonging to England. It is
perfectly astounding--wherever you look on the map there are English
possessions, although they are small. Angra Pequena formerly belonged
to England. She ceded it to Germany, but the two islands remained in
her possession.

Wherever we have called, the local authorities (some, perhaps, only
outwardly) placed impediments in the way of our fleet. Angra Pequena is
the first German port at which we have called, and the authorities are
very friendly.

The local commandant says that "he is not a diplomat, and he does not
know officially of the arrival of the Russian ships. They are anchored
behind a bend, and are not visible from his windows."

I forget that Denmark also put no obstacles in our way; but, judging
by the tales of those who have been in Denmark, the Danish people
sympathise with Japan, and not with us. The Government involuntarily
helps Russia. It is quite different with Germany. The sympathy of both
people and Government is on our side. I do not know how it will be
later, but at present we have nothing to reproach the Germans with.

We do not know when our stay here will end. An English (Capetown)
newspaper has been brought on board. Sad news! Kuropatkin has not
moved, and according to the paper he received a reinforcement of 34,000
men after the battle of Liao-Yang. Can it really have been so few? The
commander of the second army has only just arrived at Harbin--which
means that the army is not yet in being. We learn that Kaulbars
is appointed commander of the third army; he is said to be a very
incapable general. At Port Arthur the Japanese have taken a hill that
commands all the harbour. The ships are at a disadvantage, and they
are hurriedly preparing to go to sea. This is the news imparted by an
English paper. How sad it all is!

Officers who have been to the post-office on shore found out that only
ten Europeans--Germans--live in the settlement. They saw the troops
sent out from Europe by Germany to subdue the natives. There are 1,200
men. Two of the German officers speak Russian, one of them excellently.
There is general hatred of England here as well. She supplies with
arms the natives whom the Germans are now going to subdue. She is
evidently a country that tries to damage every one and to work mischief
everywhere.

The wind is still howling. We are waiting for it to go down. At our
anchorage there is mishap after mishap. The _Malay_ and the _Meteor_
have just signalled that their engines are so badly damaged that they
cannot repair them without help. The co-operation of the _Kamchatka_ is
necessary, but I could not go on board.

_December 1st._--Yesterday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. I was going from
one ship to another in a steam-cutter. What a time I had! The cutter
pitched and rolled violently. She dipped her bows under and shipped
large quantities of water. It was difficult to see because the salt
spray blinded one. Sometimes the cutter pitched so much that her screw
was out of the water and raced. To complete our discomfort, it was
quite dark.

After I had been to several ships I had to go to the _Kamchatka_. We
could not discover where she was in the darkness. We searched for
her. She was lying further from the shore than the other ships. It is
difficult to describe what it was like near her. It seemed impossible
not only to go on board her, but also to receive a bag which was
lowered over her side. I had on a mackintosh, but there was not a dry
spot on me. How was I to get on board? It was pure torture. It was
impossible to go alongside the ship without the risk of breaking up
the cutter, which was absolutely prancing on the water. There was no
accommodation-ladder, so we had to get up by a rope-ladder, choosing
a favourable moment. God help you if hand or foot slipped. You would
either fall between the ship and the cutter and be crushed, or be
struck by the screw if it were moving, or run the risk of falling into
the jaws of a shark. Yesterday an officer fell like this, but luckily
escaped with only a ducking. I again ran the risk of falling into the
sea when going on board the _Malay_. I had only just seized hold of
a rope when the cutter was torn from under my feet. I hung over the
water, but got on board somehow. I shall not forget yesterday in a
hurry.

To-day it is nearly calm.

Calm! I had to go to the steamer _Ratzentaler_; she was damaged. I
reached her safely and examined her. This took me about an hour. I came
up from below to get into the boat, and this "thing" called the sea
was as boisterous as ever. With difficulty I let myself down into the
cutter. She rolled and capered.

Unfortunately, when shoving off, the screw fouled a rope, passed from
the steamer. The position was critical, but fortunately the rope broke,
and with great care, by going very slowly, we reached the _Suvaroff_.
Some one remarked, as I was dangling on the rope-ladder, choosing the
moment to jump into the boat, "If only your wife could see you in that
position!" I was not in any actual danger.

The Governor lunched with the admiral to-day. He came on board in the
_Alert_, a small steamer. He says that such winds are usual here.

If you only knew how sick I am of my surroundings! They say our cruise
is a specially trying one; it has prejudiced me against the "beautiful"
sea for ever. God grant that it end successfully! They will not entice
me on board a sea-going ship again for a very long time. I have had
enough of the sea--being torn away from home, living under unnatural
conditions, everlasting surprises in the shape of breakages, damages,
and repairs, dirt everywhere. You must not be surprised if I sometimes
write ill-naturedly. My nerves are shaken a little, which is not
surprising under the circumstances.

_December 2nd._--To-day, for the first time, I saw cormorants swimming
at sea; I also saw a jellyfish.

The officer commanding the German expedition and the commander of the
native troops came to call on the admiral. The latter did not return
the call himself, but sent the flag-captain. The _Orel_ has lost an
anchor and forty fathoms of cable. They are now grappling for them, as
it was decided not to send down divers for fear of sharks.

_December 3rd._--In the _Kamchatka_ they obtained an English paper
from a collier, in which it is related that the Japanese attacked the
part of our fleet that is going _viâ_ the Suez Canal, in or near the
Red Sea. Our ships apparently received some damages. Perhaps this is a
newspaper yarn. The _Roland_ went to sea yesterday, to bury the body of
a sailor who died in the _Korea_.

An order has been issued that we are to steam without any lights, in
absolute darkness. Hitherto all lights were put out except distinctive
lights--_i.e._ those absolutely necessary to show we are steaming. Now
these are forbidden.

It is settled that we leave here to-morrow morning early.

What surprises are in store for us on the way to Madagascar? That there
will be some is beyond doubt. I have been running round to-day like a
squirrel in a cage. I went to the _Orel_ and _Alexander_, and was, as
usual, a long time in the _Borodino_.

The first lieutenant fell into a coal-shoot, hurt his leg, and is now
laid up. It is very strange, whenever I go on board the _Borodino_ my
spirits go up. I have noticed this more than once, and it is always
with pleasure that I go on board her.

Boats from every ship helped the _Orel_ to search for her anchor and
cable. They only found them to-day at three o'clock. They had, after
all, to send divers down several times.

_December 4th._--I have not slept well the last few days. I am inclined
to sleep, but it is impossible to lie down. The rats have greatly
increased on board. However, they afford a certain amount of fun. The
dog Flagmansky (this name was given him because he came on board the
same day as the staff) found a rat in one of the cabins, and chased it
into a cupboard. Several men took an active part in the chase. All this
time Flagmansky barked, whined, rushed into the corners, scratched at
the cupboard, and bit it.

The hunt was not crowned with success, and he is still in the cabin
guarding the rat. The cur has an extraordinary passion for rats. I put
him into my cabin once (he begged to go there), and repented. He made
such a disgraceful noise. For an hour and a half I could not drag him
away. I had to call the orderly, who with great difficulty pulled him
away from the cupboard.



CHAPTER IV

ON THE WAY TO MADAGASCAR


_December 4th._--From Angra Pequena to Madagascar.

I only went to bed at 4 a.m., and rose at 8 a.m. We prepared to leave
here at dawn, but at 1.30 a thick fog came on and continued till 9.30.
As soon as it dispersed, the fleet weighed anchor. In the night a
schooner came and lay near the fleet. The officer of the guard went on
board. She is flying the English flag, and says she has come here for
guano. Our next anchorage is at Madagascar, near the small island of
St. Mary. This island lies near the north-eastern shores of Madagascar.

_December 5th._--There was a short mass to-day.

A steamer was perceived far off going in our direction. Her funnel and
two masts could only be seen from our masts. Perhaps she has come from
St. Helena, and we may expect a surprise. At first she was noticed by
the smoke from her funnel. She is now, no doubt, following us.

Something has happened to the _Aurora's_ engines, but she has repaired
it by now. To-day the _Suvaroff_ steamed with one engine for a quarter
of an hour.

Even the _Malay_, which has to be constantly nursed, is steaming
successfully now. I expect several repairs were made when she was at
Angra Pequena.

8 p.m.--The steamer which is on our course, though far away, overtook
the fleet and went in the direction of Capetown.

_December 6th._--To-day is December 6th. Where have I not spent this
day? In Cronstadt, in Petersburg, in Tzarskoe Selo, in Tashkend, and
in Gothland aboard the _Poltava_. Now I am spending it near the Cape
of Good Hope. Who would believe that they would spend St. Nicholas
Day near the southern coast of Africa? There was mass, prayers, and a
salute. If foreigners heard it, no doubt it will appear in the papers
that there was a fight, as firing had been heard.

We have not yet reached the Cape of Good Hope. We are just steaming
past Capetown. Table Mountain is visible. The swell is tremendous.
The ships are rolling. It is fearful to look at the _Nachimoff_ and
_Donskoi_, which are rolling especially heavily. The height of the
waves sometimes reaches seventy feet. I was told this by the flag
navigating officer. If we double the Cape in safety, then thanks be to
God.

They have arranged a game for the crew. They hang up a bucket of water
with a board attached to it, in which there is a hole. Those playing
have, in passing under the bucket, to thrust a stick through the hole.
This they seldom succeed in doing. Usually the stick hits the board,
and the bucket is turned over, spilling the water on the player. The
players are driven under the bucket on a field gun-carriage.

We are steaming near the shore. It is hilly, dark, and treeless. Table
Mountain is distinguished by its height and its summit, which is flat,
as if the top of the mountain were cut off; this is apparently why it
got its name. The Cape of Good Hope is a shapeless pile of cliffs.
There is a lighthouse. We have now passed this cape and Capetown.
To-night we shall be off Cape Agulhas. When we have passed it we shall
have left the Atlantic and entered the Indian Ocean. We shall be able
to say, one ocean passed; two more remain, the Indian and the Pacific.
As the crow flies we are now at the greatest distance from Petersburg.
Up to the present we have been going away from Japan, now we begin to
approach. Near Capetown we met an enormous four-masted ship, flying
the American flag. She was coming towards us. We are expecting to meet
three suspicious schooners.

The weather is getting worse. In two hours we shall be on the same
meridian as Petersburg; our time will be the same as it is there--that
is, midnight. After this Petersburg time will be behind ours; hitherto
it has been before. Evidently you cannot double the Cape without
very bad weather. Perhaps it is all for the best, as it will be more
difficult for the suspicious schooners to commit any hostile action.

Astern of the fleet and on the same course there is a steamer. At first
she showed lights, now they are not visible. The moon is shining, but
will soon set, and it will be quite dark. This will be the time to
expect any unpleasant occurrences.

I hear the admiral does not want to take the small torpedo-boats with
him, among them being the _Rezvy_ (Sportive). Perhaps some of the
officers of these boats will be transferred to other ships. It has been
decided that the transports _Malay_ and _Kniaz Gortchakoff_ are to
return to Russia from Madagascar. Their engines are bad, and have to be
nursed continually.

All the fleet and auxiliary cruisers will assemble at Madagascar.

The same steamer is astern of us; she has her lights out. It is not
merely out of curiosity she does this.

At first I used to be disturbed by reports of this kind, but am no
longer. No doubt it is rather alarming, but nothing like it was before.
How can this be explained? Nerves a little blunted, perhaps. It is
summer here now. Nevertheless, at this time of the year ice sometimes
drifts from the antarctic regions. They say a mountain of ice 100 feet
above the water floated to the shore in summer-time.

_December 7th._--Just as I sat down at table I was called away. It
causes an unpleasant sensation when the engines race--that is, when
the screws suddenly begin to turn very much quicker. This happens when
there is no water over them, and is caused by the vessel pitching
heavily; consequently, there is no resistance to their turning.

The steamer which has been following us all along is not to be seen.
Perhaps towards night she will show herself somewhere. The wind has got
up and raised a big sea. The sea is a following one. Great mountains
of water pour on the upper deck. The ship is beginning to roll more
heavily; we may expect a gale towards night if the wind strengthens.
It is a good thing it is not a head sea--the ship steams more easily
and does not roll so heavily. There is a lot of water on the deck in
my cabin, as well as in other people's. I am now sitting with my legs
huddled up. The water comes into the cabins through badly closed ports
and badly riveted sides. The waves sometimes hit the side and make a
noise like a shot from a gun. The weather is so bad that we need have
no fear of being followed by the Japanese. They could no doubt attempt
to fire a torpedo from the steamer, but it could hardly hit, and the
steamer would certainly be fired on and sunk.

The battleships _Suvaroff_, _Alexander_, _Borodino_, and _Orel_ have
many defects which could be remedied in the construction of the _Slava_
(Glory).

_December 8th_.--The weather was such yesterday that God grant we do
not experience it a second time. Early in the morning it was tolerable,
but later on the wind began to freshen. Standing on deck was difficult.
The waves grew larger and larger--like immensely steep hills round the
ship. They attained a height of forty feet.

From three to four o'clock the fury of the gale reached its height. I
am not sufficiently eloquent to describe it all. The ship tossed and
groaned complainingly. Everything was tightly shut, but water came
in everywhere. It poured in cascades on the upper deck, went into
the turrets, stokeholds, engine room, conning tower, and even on to
the bridge. You could not walk on the poop, or you would be washed
overboard. You could not breathe in the cabins; the atmosphere was like
a bath (steam), if not worse. The wind roared, the ship rolled. The
waves came up quite vertically--you looked and saw a wall of water.
A boat which hung at the davits was smashed to bits, torn away, and
carried off to sea.

Astern of the _Suvaroff_ came the _Alexander_; at times, when the
sea lifted the latter, her ram was visible. Sometimes her bows were
at the bottom of a wave, and her stern at the top; and then all her
deck, from bow to stern, could be seen from the _Suvaroff_. When I saw
this I could not at first believe it. The best-behaved ship was the
_Borodino_; she is a ship to be proud of.

At last the weather got to such a pitch that, had the engines or rudder
of any ship given way, she would have been in a hopeless position. To
think of help from other vessels would be useless. At this time each
ship only thought of herself. The steamer _Roland_ was flooded with
waves minute after minute; she had to increase speed to escape them,
and disappeared out of sight of the fleet.

She rejoined to-day. Thank God it was a following sea and a fair wind.
What would it have been had it been a head or beam wind?

At 5 p.m. something went wrong with the engines of the _Malay_. She
stopped and turned broadside to the wind. If you could but see what a
sad sight she presented! It was impossible to help her, even if she
had gone to the bottom before the eyes of the whole fleet. Nearly all
the underwater part of her was visible. Wave after wave rolled over
her. To help herself a little she set small and wretched sails. They
were no good. The whole fleet, without lessening speed, went past the
_Malay_, leaving her to cope by herself with the broken engine and the
bad weather. Since then she has not been seen. How does she fare? It is
not known whether she is afloat or sunk. We shall know nothing before
we get to Madagascar. Perhaps all will yet be well.

The Indian Ocean has not given us a very affable reception. They
were afraid that the wind would get up to-day, but although it is
fresh it is tolerable. Storms such as we experienced yesterday last
for a fortnight without a break. Last night, when the gale abated,
rain squalls began to pass over us. This pleasure was not continuous;
besides, we were wet enough without them. I went to bed late. I had
wandered all over the ship. Went to sleep undressed. My feet had
been wet through since the morning. While at lunch yesterday in the
admiral's cabin a large wave rolled on to the upper deck; the door
leading to the poop from the cabin had not been closed, and a cascade
of water poured in. Every one raised their legs and kept them so until
sailors had dried up the water. This wave was one of the first to fall
on the ship.

What weather! You seldom see the like! I wrote to you that we had
passed the meridian of Petersburg. I was mistaken. We only passed it
to-day at 8 a.m.

_December 9th._--The weather is gradually mending. The ship rolls
lightly.

In the _Suvaroff_ the cook and the messman were French. The messman
left the ship at Vigo, and the former cook became messman. Every one
grumbled at him. At last it was decided to get rid of him. One of the
officers undertook to superintend the cooking. The messman will be put
on shore at Madagascar.

Thanks to the favouring gale and fair wind we shall, it appears, reach
Madagascar considerably earlier than was anticipated.

_December 10th._--The weather is nearly quite calm, although the ship
is still rolling slightly. At 8.30 the _Borodino_ left the line.
Something went wrong with her steering gear. She has not left the
fleet, but is steaming alongside it. Now she has repaired the damage.

There are about 1,400 miles more to St. Mary, our next anchorage. Under
favourable conditions we should arrive there in six or seven days. We
shall get the mails and newspapers there. No news has been received
about the _Malay_, though they call her up by signal in the evenings.
If she has not suffered shipwreck, she must be far from the fleet. Her
speed is inconsiderable. We shall learn her fate at Madagascar.

_December 11th._--During the night on board the _Suvaroff_ the coal in
the bunker caught fire. The fire was speedily extinguished with steam,
which was injected into the bunker.

There is only a slight wind to-day, but the deadly swell continues. It
is impossible to open the ports. Yesterday they brought my cap-covers
from the wash. They are so torn now I can hardly wear them. You cannot
imagine what a barbarous wash-house we have. They bring back the linen
torn and stained. No matter how strong a material your tunic is made
of, they tear it.

The _Orel_ left the line, having damaged her steering engine; but she
quickly set it right and resumed her place.

Just before the colours were lowered to-day a cloud appeared on the
horizon, like smoke. They thought it was the _Malay_ overtaking us. Our
excitement appeared to have been needless. The _Kamchatka_ complained
of bad coal; she could not keep up sufficient steam, and began to drop
astern. Her captain, by signal, asked permission to throw overboard
some 150 tons of bad coal. The admiral, seeing in the fall of steam the
work of some evil-disposed persons, refused, but gave permission to
throw overboard the wrongdoer.

No sooner is the tale of the _Kamchatka_ ended than the _Suvaroff_
lies motionless, having damaged her steering engine. It was repaired
somehow, and we proceeded.

_December 12th._--A curious thing happened last night. They were
communicating with the _Kamchatka_ by signal. She hoisted a signal
about her speed. The ship's signalmen interpreted the signal thus, "Do
you see the torpedo-boats?" The officer of the watch sent down to wake
all officers, and tell them that a torpedo-boat attack was imminent.
Buglers and drummers were stationed to sound off quarters for action.
There was general alarm.

A strong wind is beginning to blow. I hope it will not turn into a
gale again, as it does not bring much joy. When you are ashore you
pay no attention to the weather, whereas now you attentively follow
its strength and direction. If nothing happens, there are four days'
journey left to our anchorage in Madagascar. Up to the present we have
come quicker than was intended. The storm on the eighth of the month
helped us. At Madagascar the cruiser _Kuban_ will probably join the
fleet. She left Russia after we did. She outstripped us, and we have
not yet seen her.

Probably at that island we shall be joined by the ships going by the
Suez Canal. The weather is apparently about to get worse. The waves are
again increasing. In the Atlantic it is calm; in the Indian Ocean it is
always boisterous. They say that from Madagascar on it will be quieter.
God grant it! It is impossible even for a minute to open one's port
to let fresh air into the cabin. The artificial ventilation is very
feeble.

_December 13th._--Rain has fallen all to-day. The transport _Meteor_
for some reason began to drop astern. (She is carrying fresh water.
Although they distil water in the battleships and cruisers, she
is nevertheless sometimes of assistance. She usually provides the
transports with water.) Like all the other ships, she complains of the
bad coal, with which it is difficult to keep up a sufficient quantity
of steam for the boilers.

A storm has begun; the wind has suddenly freshened. Some say that
this is a local squall, others that it is a cyclone. It is especially
awkward for ships to get into a cyclone if they happen to be in its
centre. Formerly sailing-ships that were caught in the centre of a
cyclone seldom escaped. No doubt it is not so dangerous for steamships;
yet, all the same, it may cause discomfort enough.

To-night is very dark. Black clouds stretch over the sky. The storm
sometimes moves away, sometimes approaches us.

_December 14th._--It was a cyclone yesterday; it only caught us with
its circumference. Until one o'clock I was on deck. We are now passing
along the eastern shore of Madagascar, and about thirty miles from
it. The shore is clearly seen with the naked eye. It is high and
mountainous. Just before twelve o'clock a steam-pipe burst in the
stokehold of the _Suvaroff_. The steam whistled and began to pour into
the stokehold. The men were nearly scalded. Some of them fled into the
bunker, and shut the door behind them with the aid of a stoker, who
remained in the stokehold and found a means of saving himself another
way.

_December 16th._--Off the island of St. Mary.

They have brought news from the shore. Ay! such news that the
remembrance of it is nauseating. All the ships at Port Arthur are
destroyed. The _Gromoboy_ (Thunderer) has struck on the rocks.
Kuropatkin sits tight at Mukden and organises parades. A third
deep-sea fleet is leaving, or preparing to leave, Libau. Can this
be true? What is all this? Are they joking, or have they quite lost
their heads? You cannot imagine how mortifying it is. Everywhere are
failures, corruption, stupidity, and mistakes. No doubt you, living in
Petersburg, have heard all gradually. It all falls on us as a sudden
blow. Involuntarily you are overwhelmed with horror. There is not one
bright spot; all around is hopeless darkness.

Yes, our affairs are bad, very bad!

The steamer _Roland_ is going to the town of Tamatave, which is about
a hundred versts from our anchorage. The hospital-ship _Orel_ arrived
from Capetown and brought newspapers. The officers of the _Orel_ say
that in the streets of Capetown you constantly hear Russian spoken;
that is, by Jews from Russia. There are some thirteen and a half
thousands of them. Many of them have fled from Russia in order to
escape their military obligations. The Jews so besieged the _Orel_,
wishing to look over her, that at last the police had to drive them
away from the ship.

_December 17th._--The _Roland_, when coming out of Tamatave, signalled
that the _Malay_ was coming in. A schooner flying the Swiss flag has
arrived here--schooner of a country where there is no sea!

The _Malay_ has arrived. It does not do to believe all the news from
the fleet. For instance, to-day a telegram was sent _viâ_ Tamatave,
saying we had coaled near Durban. Nothing of the kind occurred. It
was telegraphed to alarm the English and compel them to institute an
inquiry. In one word, to make them show that they had not broken their
neutrality.

The _Orel_ brought the captain of the _Suvaroff_ the _Novoe Vremya_
(New Times) and _Birgevya Viedomosti_ (Bourse News) from Capetown. How
eagerly we read them!

Our fleet lies in the strait between the islands of Madagascar and St.
Mary. To-day we were informed from St. Mary that two ships were lying
on the other side. Was it from these ships we received signals? They
suppose them to be Japanese cruisers, and fear for the _Roland_. She
has not returned. If there are Japanese cruisers here they might easily
catch her and send her to the bottom.

It is very probable that the ships coming _viâ_ Suez are lying in the
Mozambique Channel, off Madagascar (near the western shore). As yet we
have no news of them.

_December 18th._--To-day the admiral and several officers of his
staff went to the island of St. Mary. I did not want to go, so did
not take advantage of the opportunity. The steamer _Esperanza_, which
is bringing provisions for the fleet, has not yet arrived. She had to
call at Capetown, and then follow us here. Perhaps we shall remain off
the island here for a prolonged time. Evidently the term of our stay
depends on the answer to the telegram sent to Petersburg.

To-morrow a steamer arrives (French), and leaves on the 21st, taking
the mails.

The _Roland_ has not yet returned. Where the rest of the ships are is
not known.

The question of the return to Russia of the _Malay_ is definitely
settled. She is to go to the Black Sea. Her stores will be taken in the
other transports. She goes from here _viâ_ the Suez Canal, taking the
sick and feeble from the fleet. That will be one burden the less.

_December 19th._--I have been to St. Mary to-day. The trip began by our
scarcely reaching the shore. It was rough, and a head sea began to pour
over the cutter. I was wet through, and cursed myself for coming.

The scenery here is very little different from Gaboon and Dakar.
There is the same rich tropical growth. The types of inhabitants are
different. The people here dress more than those at Gaboon, and appear
well built. The population does not enjoy the confidence of the French,
and the soldiers are taken from another place. Not long ago the natives
killed two European officers in Madagascar. When our fleet arrived,
they thought we had come to punish them for the murders, and several
settlements ran away. St. Mary is a Sagalien for Madagascar. There
are two prisons--one for political offenders, the other for capital
offenders. What strikes one generally about the negroes is their gait.
They walk holding themselves upright.

I wandered about on shore, was in the village, and looked into the
church (Roman Catholic). It is the new year to-day, according to the
New Style. The population are dressed in their holiday clothes. I
bought six very pretty shells in the village for a franc. Strolling
along the beach I collected fifty shells--one large one of six to eight
inches diameter. My walk along the beach was poisoned by anticipation
of having to row back to the ship, which, with the others, lies very
far from the shore.

I went on board the ship, and there was a surprise for me--to go to the
_Esperanza_, which had only just arrived. The weather had already grown
much rougher. Two Frenchmen have come aboard the _Suvaroff_, and they
cannot get ashore; they will have to spend the night here. The sailors
from their boat are negroes, and have been sent to sleep with the crew,
whose chance guests afford them amusement.

In the morning the _Roland_ arrived, and brought the news that they
had seen a suspicious schooner and a destroyer (Japanese). They saw
Admiral Folkersham's fleet (which came by Suez) had gone to Nosi Be. No
answer had been received at Tamatave from Petersburg. A French steamer
will bring us the answer to-morrow. At Tamatave the French gave our
officers a friendly reception. On the occasion of the arrival of the
Russian fleet they even printed the menus with the double-headed eagle
and our flags.

_December 20th._--I was called early this morning. I have to go to the
_Esperanza_ again. I am wet through, and have to change my clothes and
boots. It is a good thing that those I wore yesterday have dried. The
Frenchmen have gone and taken with them the letters and telegrams to
give to the steamer. I missed the dispatch of letters owing to the trip
to the _Esperanza_.

Our fleet will soon shift its anchorage. We shall hardly go to Nosi
Be. It is awkward to lie there, and the bay is shallow for battleships
and also for transports. The refrigerator in the _Esperanza_, which
cools the air in the holds where the meat is stowed, is damaged. This
is unfortunate; the meat will go bad, and we shall have to feed on salt
meat.

At four o'clock the steamer _Pernosbucco_ arrived here; she brought no
news from Petersburg. At seven she left for Diego Suarez. To-morrow we
get up anchor and go north to some bay.

A stoker died on board the _Oslyabya_; he was buried at five o'clock
to-day. The _Oslyabya_ left the line, half-masted her colours, fired
her guns (a salute), and committed the body to the sea. During this
ceremony the officers and crews of all the ships stood at "attention,"
and where there were bands they played "Kol Slaven."[4]

To-day the wireless station received some signals, evidently sent from
a great distance. None of the ships could decipher them--it was not
known, even, in what language they were written. To-morrow I shall
learn whether it was not one of our newly arrived ships that signalled.

_December 21st._--In the bay of Tang-tang.

This morning we weighed and shifted from St. Mary nearer to Madagascar,
in the bay of Tang-tang. It is better protected than where we were
lying.

The guns are ready at any minute to commence firing. In all corners
of the ship are men talking in undertones. They anxiously scan
the horizon. The outlines of the nearest ships stand out in black
silhouettes. At the sides the torpedo-nets are rocked by the waves. The
searchlights are ready to instantly illuminate all around. The tension
is felt, though there is absolute stillness. Every one is chilled by
fearful anticipation.

_December 22nd._--To-day the cruiser _Kuban_ is expected to arrive, and
to-morrow the squadron that came _viâ_ Suez.

In the English newspapers there is an announcement that Russia has
ordered thirty ships of various kinds in Germany and Italy.

Those undeciphered signals which our wireless stations received have
been made out by some one in the _Nachimoff_. The signal was Japanese.
It stated that "the Russian fleet is lying without lights off the
island of St. Mary." To-day a French officer commanding some local
troops arrived, and spent the night on board the _Suvaroff_. The
torpedo-nets were again got out; the crews were at their guns; steam
and mining cutters lay near their ships, one-third of the officers were
on deck by order, and a large number out of curiosity.

The night was rather dark--half the sky was covered with clouds.
Occasionally sparks of light glimmer here and there. Some one is
signalling. A light flashes on shore; it is answered from the sea.
The _Aurora_ reports that she saw six lights astern of her. I myself
saw four out at sea and one on shore. What will to-night bring us?
An attack must be expected. Everything is so unusual. All lights are
hidden. At dawn a cruiser is leaving with secret orders, apparently for
the colliers.

_December 23rd._--The _Malay_, which remained at our former anchorage,
has not yet reached the fleet. The cruisers have gone. The _Roland_ has
not yet returned. The _Kuban_ is not here, nor the squadron from Suez.
To-night there was a long story from the _Esperanza_, which is cruising
under the French flag and has a French crew. The crew, not liking to
lie at anchor without lights during the night, threatened the captain.
These brave Frenchmen feared an attack. The _Esperanza_ has now been
sent away somewhere. A collier arrived bringing some information,
thanks to which we shall leave here to-morrow--whither I do not yet
know.

Evening.--The _Kuban_, it appears, is lying at Diego Suarez, and the
ships from Suez at Nosi Be, where we are also going to-morrow.

_December 24th._--Port Arthur has surrendered. What more can be said?

On the way to Nosi Be from Tang-tang.

The sad news of the surrender of Port Arthur was brought by the
_Roland_. She arrived to-day.

On the 24th the cruiser _Svietlana_ and the torpedo-boats _Biedovy_ and
_Bodry_ joined the fleet. The latter damaged her engines, and was at
once taken in tow by the _Roland_. The same day we met two colliers.
They were ordered to go to Nosi Be. On the 25th the _Bodry_ reported
that she had very little coal. The fleet stopped, and the _Bodry_ took
coal from the _Anadir_, going alongside her.

It is a good thing it was calm, and this could be done without risk of
damage. Yesterday there was mass and prayers. It is really Christmas.
After mass the admiral made a short but impressive speech to the crew.
All the ships saluted according to regulation. They fired thirty-one
guns.

In the evening the _Borodino_ reported by semaphore that shortly before
sunset four large warships were visible from her masts, steaming in
line ahead. Afterwards three of the ships turned and disappeared.
Lights were burning on the remaining ship. After a short time, they
made out that this ship, having put out her lights, altered course and
also disappeared. There is evidence that there are Japanese warships
off Madagascar. The night passed in alarms. Some lights were visible
away from our course. Attacks were feared. Instructions were given to
the battleships and transports what to do during an attack.

The cruiser _Svietlana_ was sent to the squadron lying in Nosi Be.

I could not sleep from the closeness in my cabin. Until 6 a.m. I slept
in my clothes on a sofa in the wardroom. At 6 I went back to my cabin
and opened the port. The sea wetted the table and fell on to the bed,
but that afforded nothing but pleasure. It does not even wake you.

This morning we got into communication by wireless with the
_Svietlana_, which is ahead of the fleet, while she was in
communication with the squadron at Nosi Be. It appears that our
cruisers _Aurora_, _Donskoi_, and _Nachimoff_ are lying there.
Yesterday it was supposed that the ships seen in line ahead were these
cruisers and the _Kuban_, which joined them from Diego Suarez. Now this
supposition falls to the ground.

We are going by a spot seldom explored and not sounded. Occasionally
shallow places are shown on the chart, and the fairway along which we
are steaming is very narrow; the depth is unknown--it has not been
measured. We may go aground.

To-day I finished writing those reports about the battleships
_Borodino_, _Orel_, _Imperator Alexander III._, and _Kniaz Suvaroff_,
which I began long ago. I must touch them up a little and send them to
Petersburg. Many will be dissatisfied with them, and probably I shall
make enemies for myself. No matter. Having once decided on it, I must
carry it out--the more so as it appears to me the remarks will be very
useful.

At seven o'clock the torpedo-boat _Buiny_ (Boisterous) approached,
coming from Nosi Be. All is well there. The torpedo-boat offered to
escort the hospital-ship _Orel_ to the anchorage. At present our fleet
is thirty miles from the anchorage. Owing to the dangerous entrance, we
shall remain at sea all night, and go in to-morrow morning. Tossing on
the sea all night with the transports is not without danger.

_December 27th._--The fleet is steaming slowly, turning constantly in
order not to be too far off Nosi Be. At 2 p.m. the _Roland_ hoisted
a signal, "The crew have mutinied." The torpedo-boat _Biedovy_ was
ordered to reduce the mutineers to submission, and if necessary
to shoot them. The torpedo-boat, with such full powers, soon
re-established order. It appeared that the stokers did not wish to take
the place of two sick comrades, and hence the whole story.

I hardly slept all night. Went to bed at four and got up at seven.
We are approaching our anchorage. What news awaits us? After the
destruction of the fleet and the fall of Port Arthur, affairs are
radically changed. There is now no need for haste.

There are three courses open to our fleet--either to continue the
voyage to the East, to remain for an indefinite time in some place in
the expectation that its presence will be necessary on the coast of
Japan, or to return to Russia. If we are obliged to remain somewhere
and wait, will the admiral remain in the fleet? And if he goes, what
fate may his staff expect?

I had just sat down and busied myself when I heard the sound of my
beloved Little Russian march. I looked out of my port and saw we had
arrived at Nosi Be. I ran on deck and saw a wonderful picture. The
bay, the calm sea, hills all round--two of the latter especially,
covered with a thick wood, stand at the entrance opposite each other.
The sun is scorching. In the bay are the remains of the naval might of
our unfortunate fatherland. The sounds of the march re-echo. We have
rejoined all the ships that we parted from at Tangier more than two
months ago. Here are all that are left to Russia. Can it be that they
will be ingloriously and ignominiously destroyed? The fleet is still
strong enough, but is it efficient? There were more ships, and they are
battered to pieces or lie at the bottom of the sea. Can it be that our
fleet will complete the great tragedy of the ruin of an immense navy?

The meeting of our admiral and Admiral Folkersham was very hearty.
They embraced. You cannot recognise the men in the boats of Admiral
Folkersham's division. They are all in sun helmets, whereas our men
have put neck-covers on their caps. Admirals Folkersham and Enquist
were invited to lunch. They learnt the news. All are sad.

There is neither telegraph nor post here. Torpedo-boats go to Mayung
(Mojanga) in order to send the mails and telegrams. It is about 200
versts from here. There are few Europeans. We hear occasional newspaper
reports which we do not know how to believe. One is perfectly terrible.
Port Arthur surrendered with a garrison of more than 40,000 men, among
whom were 1,000 officers. It is simply incredible! The triumph of the
Japanese is complete; they will raise our ships that were sunk in Port
Arthur harbour, and leaving them their former names, will fight in them
against us.

Admiral Folkersham says there are no mails or letters from Russia. He
telegraphed twice to our staff requesting them to send on letters.
They did not even reply. What is it to them, sitting snugly in
Petersburg, that more than 850 officers alone have no news from home
for two months? It is all the same to them! They are all right, and as
regards others it is not their business.

They do not count on taking the transports _Gortchakoff_ and _Malay_
any further, but will send them to Russia from here. It is said that,
according to the first order, the fleet is to leave Madagascar on
January 1st. The captain of the torpedo-boat _Buiny_ has come. There
are several breakages and defects in this boat. I shall have to go
to-morrow morning and make arrangements for their repair.

We have a tremendous voyage before us--across the Indian Ocean, calling
nowhere. Under favourable conditions we shall get to the East Indian
Archipelago in twenty days, and then Japan is quite close. What will
it be? Can the fate of the Port Arthur fleet await us? It is said that
Nosi Be is extraordinarily like the harbour of Nagasaki. It is not
possible to remain in one's cabin. The deck is so hot that you can feel
the heat through the soles of your boots.

The cyclone that overtook us on the way to Madagascar apparently caused
much damage in this island. Thank God that we came happily out of
it. The cruise in the ships that came _viâ_ Suez was much easier than
ours. They called at well-constructed ports. The voyage was shorter.
Officers and men were frequently allowed ashore. Our fleet accomplished
a tremendous voyage, calling at a few deserted bays. The crew were not
allowed on shore, and the officers seldom had permission to land. It is
said permission to land will be given to-morrow. It does not attract
me; the shore is wild and deserted.

To-night I can sleep with my port open. I shall be able to breathe.
I must go to bed early. It is already late, and to-morrow I must get
up early, and dash round the ships. At present there are few damages.
Perhaps they have not been able to report them. I shall see to-morrow.

FOOTNOTE:

[4] A funeral march.



CHAPTER V

AT MADAGASCAR


_December 28th._--Since early this morning I have been visiting ships.
Here is a description of life in a torpedo-boat,--crowded, dirty, hot,
and always rolling; the decks littered with various things, the crew
sleeping in every corner. Dogs are crowded together, and in several
boats there are monkeys. There is nowhere to walk. The crew--good,
resolute, bold, and crafty--are crowded with the officers, but do not
inconvenience them.

I called on the _Borodino_ and went into the wardroom and captain's
cabin. During the last voyage they got up theatricals for the amusement
of the crew. They were very successful. The clowns especially excelled;
they say they were as good as professionals.

The sun here scorches one severely. I descended from the _Kamchatka_,
sat on the wooden thwart of the cutter, and jumped up quickly--I had
burnt myself.

_December 29th._--To-day from 12.30 I was on shore with the captain,
buying wood. We were at a German factory, and I asked the Germans to
send a letter when opportunity offered. I think they may be depended on.

Letter No. 74 was sent by collier to Port Said, where the mail will be
handed over to the Consul, and he will dispatch them to the staff, who
will forward them to the addresses--a lengthy procedure. A steamer has
arrived with provisions (the _Esperanza_).

On shore I saw a negro suffering from the so-called elephantiasis. His
legs were swollen, and were as thick as wooden posts. The disease only
attacks negroes and Malays.

I wonder what telegrams the admiral has received? A French torpedo-boat
brought some service telegrams, as well as private ones, from Mayung
(Mojanga). The former are, of course, in cipher. They are deciphering
them now.

My servant has just come to ask me to change his Russian money for
French money. I gave him five francs. There is very little foreign
money in the fleet, and great trouble in changing Russian. No decision
as to the fate of our fleet has been received from Petersburg. They are
silent--perhaps they are consulting.

Three officers have been discharged from the fleet: an ensign who went
mad, a lieutenant through illness, and the paymaster of the _Aurora_.
A court of inquiry has been appointed to survey the transports _Malay_
and _Kniaz Gortchakoff_, which are being sent to Russia. I am one of
the members. I wanted to go ashore to-morrow, but shall not be able,
owing to this inquiry. It is very trying, having to remain waiting the
decision of the fate of the fleet from Petersburg.

_December 30th._--I was unable to finish my letter yesterday, as I
was sent to the _Borodino_. I went there at twelve, midnight. An
unfortunate accident occurred. Two sailors went into the wing passage
and were suffocated, although the manhole was open. The closeness in
these passages is frightful--there is little air, and poisonous gases
accumulate. The sailors, in my opinion, became weak, could not lift
themselves up the ladder, fell, struck their heads on something, and
were suffocated. They wanted to make a post-mortem on the deceased, but
did not do so.

I passed the night in the _Borodino_, in the admiral's dining-cabin
on a sofa. At six I got up, having slept for two or three hours. They
provided me with a mat and a pillow. It was fearfully hot and stuffy,
although the doors and ports were open. The heat is unbearable. You are
always wet with perspiration. Yesterday I saw a case of sickness from
the heat. A writer was taken ill at night, though it was cooler then
than in the day.

A sailor in the _Suvaroff_ was also nearly suffocated in the wing
passage. Sunstrokes are frequent. I called this morning at the
_Suvaroff_, and was immediately sent on board the _Malay_ for the
inquiry. While there I was twice sent for by the admiral. He wrote a
severe order about the death of the two sailors in the _Borodino_.
He ordered me to add to this order some technical details. Taking
advantage of this, I toned the order down as much as I could in sending
it to be printed.

At four o'clock the dead sailors from the _Borodino_ were buried. The
admiral was present at the requiem service. Their bodies were taken in
a boat to the torpedo-boat _Bravy_. She took them further out to sea
and committed them to the deep. It was a sad ceremony. When the cutter
shoved off from the _Borodino_ with the bodies, they fired guns; the
band played the funeral march, "Kol Slaven." The officers and crews of
all the ships stood at "attention."

Phew! how stuffy! I can scarcely write. In the _Borodino_ I saw that
the officers, to escape the heat, slept on deck among the coal, like
the crew, undressed and dirty. The beds of the officers are only
distinguished from those of the crew by being mats. When I first saw
this sleeping company I could hardly believe my eyes.

What an unfortunate day it has been for the _Ural_! In the morning a
sailor had a sunstroke, and in the evening two officers, an ensign
and a lieutenant, were struck by the traveller of the Temperley,[5]
which had carried away. The ensign was killed on the spot--his chest
was crushed and his spine broken. There is still hope of saving the
lieutenant. He received a blow on the head, and fell down unconscious;
it may be he will pull through. It is a strange thing about this
lieutenant. He is a Black Sea officer, and has only just come to the
_Ural_. He was sent from the Black Sea at half an hour's notice to this
cruiser. You see many officers in the fleet, but his Black Sea cap (all
white with a peak) attracted the eye. He was on board the _Suvaroff_ an
hour before the accident. They induced him to remain; he was late for
his watch; but all the same, to his misfortune, he went to his ship.
When he came on board us he met some comrades, told them a lot about
the Black Sea fleet, abused it and its personnel. I was sitting near
and was an involuntary listener. His stories interested me. Abusing the
personnel, he related how three of his comrades with whom he lived made
an end of their lives. "See," he said, "I lived with four comrades,
and three of them have put an end to their lives, and something of the
same kind will happen to me." He said this about an hour before the
accident. For a few minutes before his departure I talked to him, and
he told me how he had come to the _Ural_.

There is a great talk in the wardroom now about the _Suvaroff_ being
forbidden communication with the shore, because a sailor was absent and
they made no attempt to find him. In every ship you must look out for
animals--parrots, monkeys, oxen, chicken, geese, chameleons, frogs,
pigs, and dogs; in a word, every sort is collected together. In one of
the ships they brought a snake in the hay for the cattle. It bit an
engineer in the breast, which swelled tremendously. They feared he
would die. Now he is all right; the swelling has subsided.

It is late; I must go and try to sleep. Haven't slept much for the last
two nights.

_December 31st._--There has been a great deal of talk about the sending
of money to Russia for the crew. It cannot be managed. New Year's Eve
is on us, but the days are so much alike that no one ever thought about
it up to the present time. The sailor who had sunstroke died, and after
death the temperature of his body was 43° R.

I had scarcely finished my letter when I had to go in the cutter to the
_Ural_. The _Ural_ is one of the steamers bought from the Germans. She
is very well finished. In the saloons are paintings, gilt and carved
decorations. She is very big.

I went below, and the requiem service began. I shall not forget it
soon. Here were joined luxury and poverty, elegance and squalor. The
church is the former first-class saloon, now the wardroom, turned into
a shrine. Eight large fans made a peculiar noise in quick time. A crowd
of officers were there, dressed in white. The choir sang almost a gay
chant--badly, but in tune; the priest helped them. During the pauses
the dull noise of the fans was clearly heard. There were sentries on
both sides of the coffin, which rested on a rude table, not covered
with anything. It was more like a box than coffin, and had been made
roughly out of pine boards, badly painted. The wood showed through the
paint in streaks. During the service they sewed the coffin up in white
calico. They could not find a whole piece, so added scraps. The wreaths
were composed of fresh flowers.

A sad spectacle. Apparently the ensign was not killed by the traveller,
but by the Temperley itself. After the service the coffin was lowered
into the boat by the very Temperley that wrought the accident. A
steam cutter towed the boat to the shore, and was followed by a long
line of boats, filled with the funeral party. When the coffin was
being lowered, they fired a gun, and all ships put their ensigns at
half-mast. The crews stood at "attention," and the band played the
funeral march.

Two bands awaited the procession on shore; they had accompanied the
other dead man. This was the sailor (from the same _Ural_) who died
from sunstroke. At the cemetery the funeral service was read, the
coffins lowered into the graves, and the escort fired three volleys.
Simple crosses were erected, and then all dispersed. They left behind
two Russians to lie in their graves, far from their fatherland, among
strangers, under simple white crosses with a crooked and uneven
superscription roughly carved on them. Little did they think that fate
would send them death far from Russia in a strange country, in the
midst of luxurious though foreign nature! Little did they think that
they would lie side by side--that both would be buried in the same
hour. Indeed, one cannot escape fate.

Another sailor has gone mad in the _Orel_.

But enough of this....

_January 1st._--I left the wardroom at four o'clock. Many remained and
occupied themselves in drinking. I returned on board the _Suvaroff_
yesterday, in the _Borodino's_ boat.

The population of Nosi Be is a mixed one. You may meet negroes, Malays,
Jews, Indians, and a few Europeans. Horses are scarce, and you travel
in litters borne on the shoulders of men.

There are numerous breeds of monkeys, parrots, lizards, crocodiles, etc.

Cattle are plentiful; the oxen have humps, and immense horns. Yesterday
a scene occurred with the oxen! When the funeral procession came up to
the cart, to which oxen were harnessed, the band was playing. The oxen
were frightened and ran wild. One tore himself away from the yoke and
charged the firing-party following the coffin, with lowered horns. A
catastrophe was narrowly averted. They soon succeeded in driving him
away. The other struggled for a long while in the yoke, and at last got
free.

Chosen officers are going from each ship to all the others with
congratulations. It is evident that they will return to their ships
late, and not quite themselves. They are treated generously, and
offence is taken if they drink too little.

A torpedo-boat has arrived from Mojanga with telegrams; some are cipher
telegrams from Petersburg--they have not yet read them. There is news
that the _Oleg_ passed through the Suez Canal on the 31st. If that is
so, she may arrive here on the 22nd inst.

Am just going round the ships.

_January 2nd._--The _Kuban_ has arrived. To-morrow I may go on board
her. I have journeyed somewhat to-day. After lunch I went to the
_Aurora_, _Nachimoff_, _Jemchug_, _Sissoi_, and _Voronej_. The latter
belongs to the volunteer fleet. On board her I procured a thousand
cigarettes for ten roubles. I was much pleased with this. In going
on board the _Aurora_ I lost the top of my helmet. It acted as a
ventilator, and cannot be replaced. I must go about without it.

Several of us, I among the number, have prickly heat. It is not very
disquieting, but at the same time does not afford any pleasure. In the
_Jemchug_, where I have not been since Libau, they did not recognise
me. I am so changed in face, owing to my beard.

We remain here, and know nothing of when and where we are going.
Probably we shall wait for the _Oleg_, _Isumrud_, and torpedo-boats.
Persistent rumours are floating about that the fleet will return.
Letters have been received from Sevastopol with very bad news. It is
said that the sailors there have mutinied and created much trouble.
They say there are serious disorders in Petersburg.

To-day I should have gone to some ships, but could not, as all the
boats were away for the exercise of landing parties. Finished my work,
"Notes on Ships of the _Borodino_ Type." Handed them into the office to
be typewritten. If it is true that we leave on the 6th or 7th, I shall
hardly be able to send them to Petersburg. Can it be that we shall not
wait for the _Oleg_ and other ships coming with her? That would be
idiotic! To stay quietly and strengthen the fleet does not interfere
with the cruisers and torpedo-boats.

_January 3rd._--What a day it has been! I scarcely got through
lunch when, at two o'clock, I went to the _Donskoi_, from there to
the _Borodino_, and then to the _Ural_. Have only just returned to
the _Suvaroff_, having had nothing to eat anywhere, and now only
bread-and-butter. It is a good thing I fortified myself with chocolate.
The _Ural_ is the former steamer _Queen Maria Theresa_. She ran between
Hamburg and America.

There are a lot of sick in the fleet; two belong to the staff, the flag
engineer and the flag intendant. The senior auditor is sick, but is
doing his duty. It is the fault of this climate.

_January 4th._--I have been to the _Kuban_, which was formerly a German
passenger steamer and ran across the Atlantic Ocean. She has all the
conveniences of life, is roomy and luxurious, but as a warship the
_Kuban_, like the other purchased ships, is useless. She has few guns;
their calibre is small, and there is no armoured protection. All is
wood.

More animals have made their appearance in the ship. They have brought
a hare, a porcupine, and a dog off from the shore. Wherever you look
now you see birds, beasts, or vermin. On deck oxen are standing ready
to be slaughtered for meat, to say nothing of fowls, geese, and ducks.
In the cabins are monkeys, parrots, and chameleons.

Having scratched you a letter, I went to put it with some postcards
into the box. At the post-office were crowds of people, hurrying to
post letters to catch the outgoing steamer. I scarcely waited to buy
stamps for the postcards. As stamps would stick together while being
kept, those having greater values are not covered with gum. This is
very inconvenient, as you have not always gum at hand. I had to buy
some gum-arabic in a shop. Indians are the principal shopkeepers here.
Boys in the street call out simple words of Russian, and frequently
repeat them. Profiting by the arrival of the fleet, everything is
dreadfully dear. They have never before done such a roaring trade.
One of the places here has a high-sounding name--"Parisian Café." The
landlord of this café says that after the departure of the fleet he
will close it and go to Paris. He will never earn more than now.

From the post-office I went to this café. They persuaded me to play
vint (Russian whist). Close by were a lot of officers playing macao.
They play very high (during our stay at Nosi Be one officer succeeded
in losing more than £400--_i.e._ 4000 roubles). I did not sit down
to play macao; but just trifled with it, lost sixty francs, and then
went to the quay. It was time--just six o'clock--and the boat was due
to shove off. By seven I was on board, having been on shore less than
four hours. On going into my cabin I learnt some news. We leave on the
7th. The post was sent by Günsburg. Whether we leave Madagascar on the
7th, or are only going to change our anchorage, I do not know. Either
is possible.

_January 5th._--I went on shore to-day. There was a large crowd around
the post-office, all Russians. Some were posting letters, others buying
stamps. I thought I would go into a café to get a drink. I asked for a
bottle of soda-water with ice, and squeezed a grenadine into it. For
this they charged four francs.

I left the café and went to the cemetery, where the Russians and other
Europeans were buried, and sat there awhile. It is a poor place, all
overgrown. The memorial crosses are the only white spots. Everything
is sunk, hidden by the tropical growth. It is almost a forest. Many
birds flutter about in the trees--some remarkably pretty, with rich
plumage of all colours. I saw a colibri there (the smallest bird in
the world). I used to think they were considerably smaller than they
actually are.

From the cemetery I returned to the post-office. My companion lost
all hope of posting his letter, so many were waiting their turn. I
persuaded him to remain, and we managed to do our business there. We
went to the quay, but the boat was not there. We had to wait, so, being
tormented by thirst, we went to the café. I drank a bottle of lemonade,
and my companion a bottle of beer, and it cost four francs. A bottle of
champagne costs forty francs--_i.e._ about fifteen roubles.

In every corner of the café officers from the fleet are sitting at
tables and playing cards, vint and macao. At three tables macao was
being played for heavy stakes. French officers from the torpedo gunboat
looked on in astonishment. I did not play.

Several men obtained riding-horses and mules--tired, broken, and
lean beasts. A large number of officers from the _Borodino_ walked
through a virgin forest, forcing their way through the lianas. They
made themselves very dirty. Two officers from the _Suvaroff_ went out
shooting, but bagged nothing. At seven o'clock I returned on board,
fairly tired, having walked nearly all day.

_January 6th._--Although I was tired, I went to bed last night at
twelve. It rained all night. This cooled our hot sides, which do not
generally grow cool during the night.

Now there are constant rain squalls. There was mass, prayers, and the
blessing of the water to-day. The priest made a procession to sprinkle
the ensign and the jack.[6] There was chicken pie for lunch, but a very
inferior one. The French torpedo-boat again brought official telegrams.
They have not yet been deciphered: perhaps they contain something
interesting.

_January 7th._--Yesterday a steam cutter from the _Donskoi_ went
aground. They got her off to-day.

A native came and complained that a boat from the fleet had sunk his
catamaran (native boat), in which was a case of champagne, a case of
rum, and a box of lemons. He was probably indemnified.

I had just sat down to write when I was required to go on board the
_Jemchug_. Just returned.

The ladies' committee of the "Society to help the Wounded" sent the
admiral the ikon of St. George "the Victorious," and fifty small
crosses for the officers and crew. I received a cross and hung it to a
chain with my own. It is very pretty, and made of mother-of-pearl.

The rainy season, which should have begun a fortnight ago, was late. It
has now begun--another pleasure for us.

Many of the wardroom tumblers are broken. They cannot be bought here.
Jam-pots are used instead.

It is difficult to imagine how the local traders live. They have raised
all prices considerably, and continue to raise them.

The provision-ship _Esperanza_ will no longer accompany the fleet. I
wanted to go ashore at 6 a.m. to-morrow with some one, to explore the
interior of the island; but it is impossible. An inquiry is to be held
in the _Malay_ to survey the coal left in her. I have to take a part in
this inquiry.

Again there are rumours that the fleet will leave here on the 11th.
I think this is only supposition. The French mail-steamer leaves for
Europe on the 9th. Perhaps this letter will be the last that will go in
her. There will then be a break in my letters. Steamers do not often
call here--only once or twice a month.

Some chameleons were brought on board, and have now spread all over
the ship. They are harmless; but to me, at all events, they are
repulsive. Some fellows take them in their hands and allow them to
crawl over their heads and faces.

_January 8th._--Since 4 a.m. there has been such a downpour, difficult
to imagine if you have not seen it. Many men, desiring to wash in fresh
water, took advantage of the rain to go on deck with a piece of soap
and wash themselves.

At this blessed moment I have to go to the inquiry in the _Malay_.

While I was standing at a closed hatchway on deck, waiting for the
captain of the _Malay_, a man was wandering about in white uniform,
barefooted and capless. I paid no attention to him. Suddenly he
approached me and stretched out his hand. I hesitated, thinking he was
a drunken sailor playing a joke. "I knew you very well long ago. I am
Titoff," he said. Then I guessed that this was the mad ensign from the
battleship _Orel_. I shook hands with him, and said that I had not
recognised him because he had grown a beard, although in deed it was
only of two or three days' growth. He began to laugh, asked me if I
feared Death, and had I seen him; and, pointing all round, he said,
"This is all Russia," etc. They were not very pleasant minutes that I
spent in his company. It was sad to see him. He walks about the dirty
deck half undressed. He does what he likes. He may fall overboard, or
fall down a hatchway, or slip from a ladder--no one looks after him. A
melancholy spectacle!

I returned to the _Suvaroff_ from the _Malay_ at twelve o'clock. I was
hot and tired. Now the sun's rays are nearly vertical. I wetted my
head with salt water and put a wet handkerchief in my cap. The leather
of my boots burnt my feet. I found a letter from the captain of the
_Jemchug_ awaiting me. I must go there and to the _Donskoi_. I am tired
of going to the latter; I have to go there nearly every day. I lunched
in my cabin. The orderly who waited on me said, "I have brought you a
beetle."[7] I did not understand at first what he meant. Apparently
it was a block of wood to put under the feet when sitting at the
writing-table.

6 p.m.--Have been to the _Gortchakoff_, _Borodino_, _Donskoi_, and
_Jemchug_. In the latter they are also using jam-pots as tumblers. It
is a wearisome cruise. Officers and men have so many inconveniences and
discomforts to bear.

A fine company are collected in the _Malay_ to go back to Russia--the
sick, prisoners, men dismissed from the service, lunatics, and
drunkards. The captain has already reported that they do not obey
him--abuse and threaten to kill him. Their conduct is defiant, and they
will not submit to any orders. If they do not send a trusty guard he
will always have to carry a loaded revolver, and shoot the first one
who disobeys. In this steamer a strong and firm captain is required in
order to reach a Russian port in safety with such a crew.

A court for trying offences during the voyage was appointed to the
fleet. To-day this court assembled to try a sailor of the _Suvaroff_.
He had abused the chief boatswain, threatened, and disobeyed the orders
of the first lieutenant. He was sentenced to three and a half years in
a disciplinary battalion. Probably he will be sent to Russia in the
_Malay_.

_January 9th._--The foreboding about the _Malay_ is beginning to be
justified. Last night an armed crew had to be sent to arrest the
mutineers. They arrested four of the _Malay's_ hired crew. These have
been divided among the battleships, in order that they may be put in
cells. The most insolent is on board the _Suvaroff_. The appearance of
the armed crew in the _Malay_ produced a great sensation. The rest of
her crew instantly quieted down. They evidently had not expected the
matter to end in this sad way.

After those arrested have done some days in cells, it has been decided
to put them on shore and abandon them to the dictates of fate. To be
in cells on board the _Borodino_ is tolerable, but in the _Suvaroff_,
"God forbid!" The temperature there is fearful, and there is no
ventilation. I do not think that a man could remain there long. Among
the four prisoners one only is the ringleader. It is he who is in the
_Suvaroff_. One of them actually cried. To be cast upon a nearly desert
shore! What will they do? There is no employment for them, and they
lack the means of getting away. Could they join the foreign legion? It
is not here, now that this place is unimportant.

I have not told you what the foreign legion is. The French Government
only enlists foreigners in it. It is stationed in wild places in the
colonies where the population is unsettled. Desperate men, criminals,
escaped convicts, and adventurers serve in it. On entering it they do
not ask for passports, nor do they inquire into antecedents. In it
are to be met representatives of every nation and of every grade of
society. Its ranks consist of common soldiers, aristocrats, officers,
and hawkers. Discipline in the legion is very strict in order to
keep this rabble in submission. There are said to be many Russians in
it. The legion was stationed in Madagascar for a long time, but the
French transferred it to some other place. Now they regret this, and
have brought the legion back, because it required so large a force of
ordinary troops to cope with the natives. The foreign legion alone
could deal with them. I suppose it dealt harshly and savagely with
the natives, killing, robbing them, and burning their villages for
every offence, real or imaginary. Owing to this the settlements were
peaceful, and dared not rise against the French.

_January 10th._--In the wardroom of the _Suvaroff_ there is a piano on
which they play with the help of a pianola. There are very few who play
the piano. To-day a sub-lieutenant came on board from another ship. He
proved to be a splendid musician. For a long time they listened to his
playing. Then they started capering and playing tricks. It was curious
to see officers dancing the cake walk and the Kamarinsky (a Russian
national dance), etc. They dressed up for these dances. They did this
from sheer boredom. This wearisome and monotonous cruise has lasted so
long. On the 16th the fleet will have been kicking their heels here
for a month. No wonder they are silly from stagnation. Here is another
of their amusements--they bait the dogs, and every one eagerly watches,
applauding the fighting curs.

There are many suspicious characters in Madagascar. One appeared at
Nosi Be, speaking Russian. He offered his services as contractor to
supply provisions for the _Suvaroff_ and other ships. This person
roamed about in Tamatave, and now without any apparent cause has come
here. He is very badly dressed and has long hair like a Slav woman.

The mail-steamer left to-night for Europe. From Mayung cipher telegrams
have been received. Perhaps they again tell us nothing useful. The
situation of the fleet is most unsettled. Will it return to Russia,
will it remain somewhere here, or will it go to the East? No one knows.
This uncertainty oppresses me as well as others.

Bad meat is daily thrown overboard in the _Esperanza_. Food for the
sharks is abundant. They have collected in great numbers at Nosi Be.
Nearly all the ships keep oxen on deck. There is even a cow and a calf
on board the _Suvaroff_. They have built them a manger. The crew look
after them with special fondness, feeding them with bread and giving
them names.

It is a curious sight, watching these animals being brought on board.
They come tied up in boats, and are generally hoisted into the ship
by means of a strop (loop of rope) tied under their bodies. For some
reason, on board the _Suvaroff_ they are dragged up by the horns. The
frightened animals, with wild and glaring eyes, struggle violently,
hanging in mid-air. They lie down on deck at first, half crazy, and
then suddenly jump on their feet and toss themselves about. They are
then held and pacified.

It was quite different with the cow. She tore herself loose and
galloped frantically about the deck. All the spectators fled wherever
they could. She charged at the deck-house, where an officer was sitting
writing. He had hardly time to shut and lock the door. Somehow or other
they caught the cow, but her milk supply has ceased, owing to fright,
and the calf is still young. They now feed him on condensed milk. We
wonder if the milk will come back to the cow. We are all interested
in the matter, and discuss it freely. Life on board is so dreary,
dull, and monotonous, that the most paltry trifles, which we would
never dream of talking about on shore, become a ceaseless topic of
conversation. If we only could get quickly out of this mire!

_January 11th._--Heat, stuffiness, damp, dirt--everywhere beastliness,
deadly gloom, uncertainty of the near future, lack of news from the
seat of war, oppress and overwhelm us; but can incompetence reigning
everywhere, laziness, stupidity, ignorance, unwillingness to work,
listlessness, make us cheerful? What goes on here is perfectly
incredible.

There is news that the Hamburg-American liner _Bengal_ sank near the
southern coast of Madagascar, having ripped her bottom on a sunken
rock. She was a large 18,000-ton steamer, and was bringing coal for the
fleet. Her crew were saved.

A deplorably sad and stupid incident occurred in the _Nachimoff_
yesterday. Ships having no bakery on board obtain their bread, when at
anchorage, from other ships or from the shore. They did not trouble
about the matter in the _Nachimoff_. The crew were living on rusks.
Yesterday they demanded fresh bread. The affair spread, and the men
offered passive resistance by not dismissing after prayers, though
ordered to do so. There is now to be an inquiry. At other times and
under other conditions some of the crew would have been distributed
among the other ships, and some would have been shot--there would have
been no other alternative. Now they are trying to hush the matter up.
In spite of this, some will suffer.

One of the _Malay_ prisoners who was in cells in the _Alexander_ has
been sent to the hospital-ship _Orel_, as he fell ill from the hot
temperature in his prison.

FOOTNOTES:

[5] An apparatus for hoisting coal in bags out of colliers into the
ships.

[6] A small flag flown in the bow of the ship when at anchor.

[7] An implement used by washerwomen.



CHAPTER VI

WAITING FOR ORDERS


_January 12th._--It is very possible that on the 16th the fleet will
receive instructions from Petersburg either to return, proceed to
the East, or stay somewhere here until further orders. I wish they
would decide quickly. Uncertainty is worse than anything. It is very
unhealthy, staying here during the rainy season. Fevers, dysentery,
and similar delights are rampant. Europeans cannot stand the climate.
Anchorages like our present one end by having a bad effect on the
spirits of the crew. They deteriorate. The affair in the _Nachimoff_
serves as an example of this.

There has been a signal that we are to have steam up at 6.30 to-morrow
morning, in order to go out to sea for firing. This will be our first
practice since leaving Revel.

I have not been ashore to-day. I was lazy, though the weather was
tolerable. The rain is not incessant. They have brought a puppy on
board, some shellfish, and some hermit crabs. They torment the molluscs
by pouring eau de Cologne over them, puffing tobacco-smoke at them, and
by burning them with matches. A lively occupation, but really it is
excusable; there are no distractions, and they have invented this.

_January 13th._--Weather is pleasant in harbour; probably it will be
calm at sea as well. We are going to fire. We weighed anchor at 8 a.m.
French torpedo-boats have followed us. They brought telegrams from
Mayung. They went into harbour at Nosi Be, and handed over telegrams to
the torpedo-boat _Bodry_. The latter pursued the _Suvaroff_, and passed
the telegrams to the admiral by means of a rope-end. What news do they
contain?

Firing is just beginning. Everything is tightly closed. The mirrors
have been taken down and crockery put away.

6 p.m.--The ships have finished their firing, and we are now going into
the anchorage.

Reuter's telegrams state that Petersburg and Moscow are under martial
law and surrounded by a chain of troops; that the mutiny of sailors at
Sevastopol continues; that they have burnt the barracks and Admiralty
there; that the troops have refused to fire on the mutineers; and that
military disorders are rife throughout Russia. These telegrams must be
read with reserve, but I, at any rate, believe them. During manoeuvres
to-day the _Borodino_ and _Alexander_ nearly collided. Thank God, this
accident was averted. It would have been appalling.

A few days ago they were doing some work in the _Suvaroff_ and opened
a valve. They forgot to shut it, and opened another one yesterday,
not knowing that the first had not been closed. In the night a whole
compartment was flooded, and water poured into the engine-room. How I
cursed that I had come in the fleet! Here you sit chained, seeing the
mistakes of others, and are powerless to do anything. At times I really
fear that I shall go mad.

_January 14th._--The colliers brought news that the _Oleg_ has captured
a steamer which was taking two hundred and sixty field-guns to Japan.
It sounds improbable. This steamer, as far as I know, should have gone
round Africa; and there our auxiliary cruisers awaited her.

I went to a café on shore and played cards. I lost 170 francs (about 64
roubles). Returned on board about seven o'clock, late for dinner, so
dined in my cabin. On shore I saw the man who was suspected of being
a spy. He is very like a Russian, and wears his long red hair like an
artist.

11 p.m.--Wonderfully practical folk, the Germans! They have sent
officers to the colliers to help the captains. These officers are sent
in order that they may watch our cruise and give useful information to
their own navy. Would Russia do anything similar? No, never! This is
why we are paying so dearly now. We are still far from having a fine
navy or army. It is not a question of soldiers, but of organising a
campaign, of constant preparation and of foresight.

What a variety of coinage there was on the card-table--French, English,
Russian, Italian, and Austrian. They play for very high stakes. One
lieutenant in an hour won and lost 5,000 francs.

We are daily expecting the arrival of the _Oleg_, _Isumrud_, and
torpedo-boats. Judging by time, they are near Nosi Be. This is
according to telegraphic agencies. Official news we never receive. It
is always like that with us in Russia.

The mail-steamer from Europe arrives on the 20th and returns on the
24th. We shall evidently wait here for her.

The supposition that we should remain a long time in Madagascar is
amply justified. It is exactly a month to-morrow since the fleet
arrived at this island. That is how time flies. We have lost a whole
month uselessly, and it is still unknown how much longer we shall be
here.

What are they thinking of in Petersburg? There are rumours here that
after Klado's articles the public will demand the return of the fleet
to Russia. Can it be that, even now, they are unable to decide whether
to go backward or forward? The upkeep of the fleet costs large sums.
It cannot become better or stronger, remaining whole weeks at anchor
in Nosi Be. On the contrary, it will do nothing but harm. By wasting
time here we give the Japanese the chance of repairing their ships and
boilers. They are secretly preparing to meet us now. We have no bases.
Can we be trusting to our country or merely to luck? What were they
thinking about in sending the fleet? Our fleet is Russia's last might.
If it is destroyed, we shall have no navy. Every one thinks this--I
am not the only one. All this can scarcely raise the spirits of the
men. Probably something similar is going on in the army. It is bad!
Everything is bad, and there are internal disorders as well. How will
it all end?

_January 15th._--I have again been on shore. I learnt that the steamer
_Vladimir_ of the volunteer fleet is leaking. I will go and look at
her to-morrow. A new signboard has appeared on shore--"Skopolites,
contractor of the fleet," in freshly painted characters.

Shortly before leaving the ship a sailor fell into the water and made
for a native boat. The negro hawkers took five francs from him, and
wanted to row away without him. The sailor was rescued and the negroes
were deprived of his money. The officers buy all sorts of useless
rubbish, which, after they have taken it on board, is thrown aside
and forgotten. I posted a letter to-day, went to the café, and played
macao, winning 250 francs. I went round the shops, but, finding nothing
of interest, returned to the café. I did not play, and afterwards set
out for the quay.

The _Esperanza_ has just come from sea. She leaves the harbour daily
to throw bad meat overboard. She informs us that she saw three large
warships and one small one far away. Perhaps they are Japanese. I
myself saw a Japanese on shore to-day. Many others saw him. At one time
there were not any to be seen.

Cipher telegrams have again been received. They have not yet been
deciphered. It is astonishing that they should inform us in cipher who
has received rewards. The telegraphic agencies relate horrors about
Russia's internal affairs. Among other things they mention serious
disorders in Petersburg. They say that it has come to barricades in
the street--that more than 2,000 men are killed, and more than 7,000
wounded. I fancy they lie, but there is never smoke without fire.

I have to go to the hospital-ship _Orel_ to-morrow. The boats have to
be fitted for the transport of the wounded. What were they thinking of
before? This steamer was fitted out as a hospital and cost a great deal
of money, but the boats were forgotten. Everywhere we make some stupid
mistake.

My beard has grown tremendously, and is very shaggy. I have not trimmed
it. Every one hinted that it was time to have it cut, and at last the
admiral and flag-captain spoke about it. I summoned the sailor Michael,
who cut it so short that, looking in the glass, I did not recognise
myself.

_January 16th._--The _Esperanza's_ news has produced active measures.
Until the moon rises all fighting-lamps are to be lit. They had seen
that the Japanese, whom I mentioned yesterday, was sending telegrams
by heliograph. He attempted to come on board our ships with the
contractors.

The German colliers brought news that newly bought ships are coming
to reinforce us, and are at present at Cape Verde. Probably this is
another canard. We shall soon see if it is true. It is a month's voyage
for them to Nosi Be. This reinforcement would be most welcome. I do not
believe in it. These same Germans assure us that the Black Sea fleet
has left. They spoke about this long ago, and there is no sign of it.
They evidently mistook the _Oleg_ and her companions for the Black Sea
fleet.

I have been on board the _Keiff_ and _Vladimir_ of the volunteer fleet
to-day. Life in them is heavenly compared with life on board ships of
the _Borodino_ type. There is plenty of space and the cabins are large,
clean, and quiet. They live well, have free communication with the
shore, etc. I remained to lunch in the _Vladimir_, and returned to my
ship in her steamboat.

Some sailor in the transport _Jupiter_ out of revenge cast off the
collier's boat from the steamer and it drifted ashore with the
current. Although it was night and the boat was floating away from the
transport, they managed to catch it.

There is a church on shore. Many Roman Catholics took the opportunity
of making their confession. The confession was an empty one--that is,
they did not confess to a priest, as the greater part of them had not
command enough of the French language to speak of their sins.

My servant brought me a letter to be sent to his wife. "My wife,"
he said, "is also called Sophie." He is a curious fellow, but I am
satisfied with him.

I heard various details of the Petersburg disorders in the _Vladimir_.

The Europeans here live in a most extraordinary way. They come to the
colony to make money, and then quickly return to their own countries.
They deprive themselves of everything. They live almost in huts, and
do not spend a sou more than they can help. After a few years of such
life they become fairly well off, and leave the colony for ever. Their
abodes are like a camp. The furniture is bad and broken. There are no
conveniences, and no thought of comfort.

There is no news. Telegrams are sent by heliograph to Diego Suarez.

_January 17th._--A telegram has been received saying the _Rezvy_ has
left her division, and remains at Jibutil owing to breakdown. She will
probably not go to the East at all.

Yesterday the local governor came to the admiral with a complaint that
the officers of the fleet play games of hazard for high stakes at the
café. Play is forbidden or all leave will be stopped. Two or three days
ago the German colliers celebrated Wilhelm's birthday. They dressed
their ship with flags and drank so much that they remained drunk until
to-day.

As the fleet moves forward the number of torpedo-boats grows less and
less. Those that remain with us have damaged boilers, thanks to which
they are unable to attain their full speed.

The captain of the port at Diego Suarez went round our ships. He was
saluted. Evidently this amused him.

To-morrow part of the fleet are going to sea for target-practice.

When shall we leave here? We are losing the best weather. Hurricanes,
cyclones, and storms will begin soon, and with a fleet like ours the
voyage will be very difficult. Before us lies an immense passage--viz.
from Madagascar to the islands of the East Indian Archipelago.

_January 18th._--Owing to high play we are forbidden to go ashore
on weekdays. An order has been given to verify the cash of all the
paymasters in the fleet.

The inhabitants of Nosi Be consider the fleet the cause of there being
so little rain. It generally comes down in bucketfuls every day during
the rainy season. Now the rain is coming at intervals and it is bad
for the crops. The natives are making offerings and have started a
religious procession. Perhaps they are right, and the fleet is the
cause of so little rain. It is necessary for the downpour of tropical
rain that much electricity should collect in the air. It may be that
the masts of our ships conduct the current of electricity into the
water, not allowing it to collect in sufficient quantities in the air
for rain. Doubtless the natives explain it differently.

More and more frequently, at times, there falls on me complete oblivion
to my surroundings. I have become absolutely apathetic. Everything is
quite indistinct. Nothing interests me. My mind is crushed. I have
such attacks of endless despair, such fancies, such horrible thoughts,
that, by God, I do not know what to do, where to hide, or how to forget
myself.

8 p.m.--We have returned and anchored at Nosi Be. To-morrow the fleet
must go to sea again for firing.

Since this morning they have been painting my cabin. How am I to sleep?
It smells strongly of paint and turpentine. It will most probably give
me a headache.

The French torpedo-boats have brought neither telegrams nor news
to-day. I got up early this morning and had no rest during the day, am
fearfully tired, and shall have to get up earlier than ever.

_January 19th._--Since communication with the shore is forbidden, I
have to take every opportunity of sending my letters. I think it will
be difficult for you to read my epistles. They are full of broken,
unconnected sentences and muddled incidents. It will most likely be
difficult for me to make them out myself. You receive several at a
time, and that makes it more confused.

Up till 8 a.m. we were getting up anchor, and then we went out to sea.
Yesterday a projectile ricochetted on to the _Donskoi_. It touched the
bridge, slightly damaged it, and flew further. No one was killed or
wounded, thank God! It might have had a much worse ending.

At five o'clock we returned to Nosi Be, not having hit anything this
time.

The admiral received a letter from the individual whom they suspected
of being a spy, in which he complains of the unjust accusation. He
says that an officer tried to poison him when he went on board the
_Ural_, and that the Governor has offered to send him away from Nosi
Be. Finally, he begs for money for his passage. The contractor with
whom he came on board explained to the Governor about him. Among other
things the contractor says that the man is continually disappearing,
that they had to look for him in the ship, and that once he ate from
the common tub with the crew. Knowing Russian, he was able to hide from
the officers.

Is it not extraordinary? A spy is going about our ships quite
unpunished. It is a marvel! As if anything similar could happen to the
Japanese! I do not think so! It is all so disgusting that I do not
like to speak of it. You know what sort of characters there are in the
fleet. When we were in Russia a man came and begged to be allowed to
join the fleet. He threatened that if they did not take him he would
shoot himself, and appointed a time. They accepted him, promoted him
to the rank of petty officer, and then discovered that he was under
age. However, it was too late; he is now cruising. There are several
indications that the fleet will not leave here soon.

They have brought news from the shore that Kuropatkin is about to take
the initiative. We have already heard this so many times that we do not
believe it.

_January 20th._--To-day the French mail-boat ought to arrive. Many
expect letters. Communication with the shore is allowed. I do not want
to go, and have asked some officers to buy me three mats, three caps,
and some postage stamps. I do not understand how they can go ashore
just as the mail will be brought on board and be sorted. Do they really
not care for the letters or for their contents? No; evidently "we are
not all made of the same dough." Force would not take me out of the
ship just now. It may be that the post we expected to receive from the
_Oleg_ has just been brought by the French mail-steamer.

What a disappointment! Only boots and tobacco, which were ordered and
not sent to Admiral Folkersham through lack of time.

They brought the mail to the _Suvaroff_ and began sorting it. I took an
active part, cutting the bags, sorting the letters, and calling out the
names of the ships. A great many officers helped. Writers came from
all the ships, and surrounded the deck-house where the letters were
being sorted. Sometimes a letter for me fell into my hands. I put it
into my pocket. Sometimes my name was called out and a letter given me.

The sorting ended, I flew to my cabin, and there on the table was
another letter and a large official parcel. The latter was a book on
ship-construction sent by the Committee. The rest of the letters were
from you. I read them, and did not know what to do. I was agitated. I
went and sat in an armchair in the admiral's after-cabin, and gazed and
gazed through the balcony door at the harbour.

An orderly came and said that a cadet from the _Borodino_ was asking
for me. I was surprised. I went out, and he gave me another packet of
letters bound with a ribbon, and said his captain found them among
his letters. I thanked the cadet, and begged him to express my thanks
to the captain. To whom were not letters addressed? To those ships
lying quietly at Libau and Cronstadt, and to the ships that had been
destroyed at Port Arthur. There was a letter for Popoff, who was killed
in the _Ural_, and one for Titoff, who went mad and is in the _Malay_.
Every one, having read their letters, seized the papers and devoured
them greedily, grew heated, and quarrelled.

Dinner to-day was specially lively. Several of the staff received
rewards. Everybody had letters and parcels, and, what was
extraordinary, most of the parcels contained warm clothing. There were
many toasts drunk, and the band played. Two fellows were moved to
tears. They had not had news from home for a long time, and now they
received it all at once. If a torpedo-boat brings me your telegram, I
shall be quite happy.

_January 21st._--A Japanese spy came on board the _Suvaroff_ yesterday
in the guise of a trader. No attempt, even, was made to detain him. The
officials at the post-office are surprised that the Russians send all
their letters registered.

From the post-office I went round the shops with an officer. I bought
some lovely postcards. We wandered into the village. A dog that was
with us had a slight sunstroke. We took it into a café, rubbed its head
with ice, bathed it, and now it has recovered.

There is news that order has been established in Petersburg. Thank God!
The French say that the _Oleg_ only left Jibutil on the 20th. That
means she will not be here for a week.

They have just read aloud in the wardroom the answer from Admiral
Birilieff. As you can imagine, the majority are furious with him. They
say, "How dare he abuse the fleet? Who gave him the right to do so? He
knows nothing about it, though he is serving in the navy." These naval
men dare to talk, after having ignominiously and needlessly ruined a
navy twice as strong as the Japanese, scarcely doing any harm to the
latter.

What can be more infamous than the conduct of our navy? There has
been nothing like it since the creation of the world. Words fail me
to describe the shameless dishonour. They have the impertinence to
say, "Who dare criticise us?" Imagine what I heard to-day. They said,
"What the devil does it mean? It is perfectly revolting! Rewards are
showered on the land forces, and we sailors have had nothing for Port
Arthur." I am telling you the truth, word for word. When I heard it I
was thunderstruck.

When will there be an end to this inefficiency, bragging, and conceit?
Russia may not ask these officers, "Where is the navy that was built
by the sweat of millions of Russian people? What has it done? Has it
done harm to the enemy? Will it help the fatherland? Will it add to the
glory of Russia?" Oh no! you must not ask sailors these questions.
They are more expert engineers than engineers themselves. They have
more legal knowledge than lawyers. The naval ministry was created for
themselves. They are demi-gods. They only are entitled to honours,
riches, glory, everything; but naval work they do not understand. They
do not serve for war, and are not prepared for it. The navy is to them
the means of getting all the good things of life. They may be judges
of others, hold their heads high and say, "We are naval officers. What
more do you want?"

However bitter this may sound, it is true. Do you remember my telling
you how it would be? This voyage confirms my old opinions. To think
that Russia counts on them! I never cared for Birilieff as a man,
but we must thank him and Klado for their articles. Let Russia make
acquaintance with the archaic systems of, and what she can expect from,
our glorious Russian navy.

I was getting ready for church just as they brought me your telegram.
I was tremendously pleased, and no wonder, as I was waiting nine days
for my answer.

They are sending the band to play on the shore. The officers played
tennis with the governor and his wife. A sad thing happened on shore:
a sailor hit a petty officer in the face.

_January 24th._--Thanks to the affair yesterday, leave to go ashore is
only granted for the half-day. If it is absolutely necessary to send a
boat later, then they have to ask the admiral's permission.

It appears that there were several disturbances on shore yesterday, and
all caused by a petty officer.

To-morrow we are going to sea for target-practice. To-day the
torpedo-boat _Blestyastchy_ (Brilliant) lowered a boat, which capsized.
Three men were drowned. There are fatalities in the fleet nearly every
day.

_January 25th._--I read the newspaper cuttings you sent me. While the
ships went out for target-practice, the mining cutters were left behind
for exercise. They went a little way out to sea, and saved six natives
whose catamaran upset.

One officer had sunstroke, but recovered. It is very dangerous to go
about here with an uncovered head, or to take off one's cap frequently,
even if the sun is behind clouds. The Europeans do not risk going out
of doors without a helmet. They continually warn Russians, but we are
like the man who does not cross himself when it is not thundering.
Perhaps we shall go to sea to-morrow for evolutions and firing. On
Sunday it is proposed to have a race for the boats of all ships in the
fleet. Many are grumbling--they will not be able to go ashore owing to
these races.

What a lot of time the fleet has wasted lying here! We might have been
at Vladivostok by now. The _Oleg_ is detained somewhere. She will
arrive at the end of the month. I think with horror that, even with her
arrival, in Petersburg they have not yet decided our fate, but compel
us to wait for the third fleet. And when will it reach here! Not for a
long time--not for a very long time.

_January 26th._--When I was in the wardroom on board the _Aurora_
a cannon-shot suddenly thundered overhead. It was the _Kamchatka_
saluting the corpse of the sailor who died in the hospital-ship _Orel_.
Passing the _Kamchatka_, with white foam at her bows, was a long,
narrow, black torpedo-boat. A row of men dressed all in white stood
on her deck. The sound of the funeral hymn was heard. In the stern
stood the priest with incense, near the coffin, which was sewn up with
yellow canvas and covered with St. Andrew's flag.[8] The torpedo-boat
was carrying out to sea for burial another Russian, who had died far
from home. Many have perished in the fleet. Not long ago three men
were drowned. Another one has died to-day. I am told that during the
evolutions of the fleet the _Suvaroff_ nearly rammed the _Kuban_.

_January 26th._--It is exactly a year to-day since the war with Japan
began. A sad anniversary! Up to now this war has brought us nothing but
shame, misfortune, and ruin.

The _Svietlana_ was told to bring the Russian mail from Mojanga. We
received it at six o'clock. There is again a mix-up of addresses.
Letters were addressed to the Electrotechnical Institute of the Emperor
Alexander III.

_January 29th._--A curious comedy has been enacted on shore by the
Governor's wife and the wife of a merchant. The Governor's wife
came to the other lady and accused her of spreading scandal, saying
that the Governor had complained to Admiral Rojdestvensky that the
Russian officers were getting drunk on shore. "My husband," said the
Governor's wife, "did not go to the admiral; but your husband went to
complain that the officers were behaving badly. I know why he did it.
The officers did not get drunk, but they paid you attentions and you
encouraged them. It is owing to you that the officers are not allowed
on shore," etc.

The ladies were thoroughly frightened. The merchant has now written to
the flag-captain, stating this story and asking for "satisfaction," as
he never complained, and, on the contrary, could not praise enough the
behaviour of the officers. (I told you why their leave was stopped--it
was owing to their gambling at cards.) It would be interesting to know
how the flag-captain answered the merchant, and what the latter will do
with the "satisfaction" if he gets it. Again it is a case of women.

I wanted to seal a parcel, and remembered that they do not accept them
with seals at the post-office, as sealing-wax melts from the heat.

It is difficult to understand how the traders make a living here.
They have opened several shops and raised the prices tremendously.
They intrigue against each other and complain to the admiral. The
_Esperanza_ bought up all the provisions at Mojanga, and has now gone
for materials. What a quantity of money the ships have spent here!
Truly Russia has enriched Nosi Be, Mojanga, and Diego Suarez. They have
even ordered goods from France.

_January 30th._--It is very hot to-day. It is long since there were
heavy rains. Light rain does not cool the sides of the ship, which
remain hot the whole twenty-four hours.

Lunch to-day was interrupted by the funeral of a sailor of the
_Borodino_. The torpedo-boat passed the _Suvaroff_ with his body. The
man died in a very strange way. He was in the hospital-ship _Orel_. He
was discharged from the sick-list, and was sitting waiting for the boat
to take him back to the _Borodino_ when he fell down dead. Behind the
torpedo-boat came a steamboat with the captain. He was accompanying his
sailor to burial.

The majority of officers have leave to go ashore to-day until 6 p.m.
The watches of a good number are damaged, broken, or choked with dust.
They have bought up all the watches in the place, and many of these
are broken and cannot be mended. They have cleared everything out of
Mojanga. At the bank they cannot even change a credit note for a few
thousand francs.

A good many people earn a living as money-changers. For a pound they
sometimes give 24 francs 50 centimes, and sometimes 25 francs 40
centimes. Thus on a pound, which is less than ten roubles, you lose
about 34 copecks (8_d._). The fleet is paid in pounds, and loses
considerably. A German company here buys up all the pounds and gains
large profits. The officers want to ask them to change the credit notes.

This is how the Germans do business. They buy land and let it to ruined
Frenchmen, compelling them to sell vanilla at a low price. They buy
up leather, cocoa-nut oil, coffee, etc., and send it green to Europe,
where it is sold at immense profit.

They say that when the band played on shore to-day the local queen
was present. She is of no importance, and has been left alone by the
French, who are the real owners of the country. This queen behaves with
dignity, and does not ask for money.

A sailor in the _Oslyabya_ stole a box of church offerings. He was
found out and arrested, and will probably be tried by special court.

_January 31st._--I went ashore at 10 a.m. I went to a vanilla
plantation, called at the church and at the school, which is kept by
the Carmelite order. I am sitting in a restaurant with an officer. We
are drinking lemonade with grenadines and ice in it. By twelve I shall
be on board the _Suvaroff_, and at one attend a court of inquiry. At
the plantation we had an argument with some Frenchmen because we had
broken a branch of vanilla. The heat was so great that I drank plain
water, which I never do on shore. It is extraordinary how spoilt the
natives are. They followed us all the time, although we drove them off,
and then demanded a tip.

_February 4th._--There has been a dreadful storm. The lightning was
blinding and the thunder absolutely deafening. Russian sign-boards
are hung all over Nosi Be. Among them is the following: "Tremendous
bargains! Come and buy."

There is a dearth of stamps in the post-office. For a long time there
have been no 25-centime stamps, and very few of any other kind.

_February 5th._--The admiral has been unwell lately. He had neuralgia
so badly yesterday that he even moaned. He did not sleep last night,
and is now lying down. He does not listen to the doctor's advice. He
did not come to morning tea or lunch.

I had my hair cut and my beard trimmed. Do you know how this operation
is performed? The flagship's barber Michael appears in dirty working
clothes, with a box in which are a machine, an old brush, and a razor.
You sit on a chair and cover yourself with a towel. Michael cuts. It is
hot, and the perspiration drops from his face. Having finished, he puts
up his implements, receives a copper, shakes out the towel, hangs it
up, gathers up from the deck the fallen hairs, presses them into his
fist, and departs. All this is done so simply.

The admiral did not leave his cabin even for meals to-day. The doctors
now say that he has rheumatism. Last night he cried out with pain.
They wanted some ice for him. There was none in the _Suvaroff_, so an
officer went to the other ships to find some. The confusion was great.

_February 6th._--As the admiral is ill I did not get up for breakfast.
Woke just before nine and went to sleep again until five o'clock. It
was not very hot and stuffy. Usually it is impossible to sleep by day
in a cabin.

There was mass to-day.

A Frenchman who has opened a shop on shore came to tell us about a
Japanese spy. We do not believe him, and think he is making a report to
advertise his wares. As a rule Frenchmen are great humbugs. The admiral
recovered and came to dinner. Some of the officials at the post-office
have learnt Russian words. They show off their knowledge by writing
"Petersburg" on the receipts in Russian.

We still remain here, and Nosi Be is getting quite Russianised. From
the telegrams which the French torpedo-boat brought from Mojanga we
learn that the Governor-General of Moscow has been killed, and that the
third fleet left Libau on February 2nd.

It will be a surprise if we are obliged to wait for the famous third
fleet. It is very injurious for our ships, being kept in Nosi Be.
Their underwater parts will be covered with barnacles and waterweeds
(commonly known as beard). Owing to this ships steam considerably
slower and require a greater expenditure of coal, etc. The barnacles
and beard have to be cleaned off in dock, and there are none available
in this part of the world. Cleaning the underwater parts with the help
of divers is slow and unsatisfactory. How important it is may be seen
from the fact that even merchant ships voyaging in southern and eastern
waters go into dock to be cleaned at least once in six months. We shall
arrive in the East with dirty ships, and the Japanese will meet us in
clean ones. Our ships will have just made a long voyage, and theirs
will come out of harbour.

Another fine thing is that the Japanese will raise our ships sunk at
Port Arthur, repair them, and oppose them to us under their old names.
They will strengthen their fleet in this way, and what a disgrace it
will be for Russia. Imagine the scene! Some _Poltava_ or _Retvizan_
will fire on the _Suvaroff_. It is too disgusting to think of! And who
is it who has annihilated the fleet? The Japs--"Apes," as our gallant
sailors call them! Such self-confidence, conceit, and contempt for the
monkey Japs will cost Russia dearly. Here I go again, harping on the
old tune. I had better stop, as it does not help.

_February 7th._--I lunched in the battleship _Orel_. Had soup with
rice--and caterpillars. A satisfying meal, was it not? The officers
of the _Orel_ are convinced that for several evenings running they
have seen a balloon on the horizon signalling with lights. One of the
officers thought of ordering himself a pair of white trousers made
out of a sheet, as material is not to be had. There is a consoling
description of the _Cesarevitch's_ damages. Fifteen twelve-inch shells
struck her (this is a tremendous number, and twelve-inch shells
are the heaviest), and not one pierced her armour. Our battleships
_Suvaroff_, _Borodino_, _Alexander_, and _Orel_ are better armoured
than the _Cesarevitch_. If twelve-inch shells could not pierce her
armour, smaller projectiles can do almost nothing--that is, if they
hit protected parts. Some of the eye-witnesses in the _Rossia_ and
_Gromoboi_ say that the first impressions of the battle were horrible.
Everything was upside-down and broken to bits. You looked round and saw
that nothing that was behind armour was touched, and no substantial
damage done to the ship. All this is very nice, but an endless stay at
Nosi Be deprives one of all energy.

_February 8th._--I have been to the _Anadir_, _Kamchatka_, and to the
shore. I went to the cemetery. The caretaker showed me the grave of a
Japanese. I told him to put Popoff's grave in order, as it had fallen
in.

_February 9th._--A "tragic occurrence" took place in the _Suvaroff_
to-day. Some one had eaten a monkey. There remained only a bit of tail
and a piece of skin. This is the work of either rats or dogs.

I called at a torpedo-boat this morning. The captain and officer were
sitting on deck drinking tea. Both were barefooted and in vests and
white trousers. I cannot get accustomed to such a sight, somehow. The
captain's left foot astonished me. It had only one toe. All the rest
had been torn off long ago. The sight of it gave me a queer feeling.

To-day there was a court-martial on an officer. In defence of another
officer he had written a report in a very insolent manner to the
captain. By order of the admiral the officer was dismissed from the
_Ural_ in January, and now he is placed on the retired list by the
general staff. I do not know how the trial will end. They say he is a
very good fellow. The offence of which he is accused is very seriously
punished--either by degradation to the rank of sailor or confinement in
a fortress.

_February 10th._--The court sentenced the officer to be dismissed the
service and deprivation of rank. The sentence will go to the admiral
for confirmation. The punishment imposed by the court is the lightest
possible. It came out that there is much slackness in the _Ural_. The
matter will hardly end here, as they say K---- is an obstinate man, and
will raise it again in Petersburg.

There has just been a storm in a tea-cup. Smoke appeared from a cabin.
They manned the pumps and nearly rang the fire alarm. It was discovered
that a white tunic lying in a basket had caught fire. They pulled out
the basket, drew out the tunic, and the panic subsided.

The meat at dinner to-day was bad. I ate a good deal before I
discovered what was the matter.

I am trying to find a tortoise on shore. If I find one, I shall keep
its shell for combs and hairpins for you.

From several sources news has been received that there are Japanese
ships near Madagascar. The Japanese would hardly be so stupid as to
split up their fleet. Things have come to such a pass in our ships
that they are positively certain that the fleet will return to Russia
on March 15th. They told me this in the _Nachimoff_, announcing this
sensational news as the latest trustworthy information. I stayed a long
time in the wardroom of the _Nachimoff_, talking to an engineer whom I
had known at school.

Four sailors of the torpedo-boat _Grosny_ (Menacing) broke into a hut
and stole the contents. They were caught. There will be a trial, and
they will be severely punished. Is it worth it? The damage is assessed
by the negroes at sixty francs, all told. The men will be ruined for a
mere trifle.

The heat is dreadful! You "stew in your own juice," as they say here,
and you drink without ceasing. It is a good thing that the refrigerator
in the _Suvaroff_ is repaired and you can have ice. At the present
moment I have a glass of iced water by me. It cannot be had by all.
When the refrigerator was not working they obtained ice for the admiral
from other ships. You cannot imagine the delight of drinking something
cold, if you have not experienced such great heat. They make a good
deal of ice artificially in the fleet, and on shore they trade in it.

I have heard there are cigarettes in the _Tamboff_: I must go and get
some.

_February 12th._--Under cover of the French newspapers they are talking
about the conclusion of peace. They begin to say that it must be
concluded, come what may--even to paying a large indemnity. Has Russia
really come to this? Is the war really lost? I cannot bear to think
so! The disgrace was already bad enough, but what a shameful ending!
Unhappy times! Everything is going badly, both at the war and in the
interior of Russia. How will it all end?

They say that in the _Tamboff_ cigarettes are being sold at fifteen
roubles a hundred. It is very dear, but there is nothing to be done. I
shall be glad if I can get some, even at that price.

Several cases of champagne were brought to the _Suvaroff_ to-day. Some
sailors managed to conceal one and hid it in the furnace of a boiler.
They were caught. If the matter is officially dealt with, they will
suffer severely.

_February 14th._--I sent a telegram to you yesterday. There are many
sailors who have not been on shore since we left Cronstadt. A large
number were last on shore at Revel. A short time ago a sailor of
the _Kamchatka_ took two lifebelts, jumped overboard at night, and
struck out for the shore. He was seen by chance while swimming. The
searchlight was turned on to him. "I was tired of being on board,
could endure it no longer, and wanted to go on shore," he said in his
defence. I quite understood the man's feelings. I am much astonished at
many of the officers. They have not been on dry land since they left
Revel, although they have had opportunities of leaving the ship.

My spirits are depressed. Nothing is known as to when our wanderings
will end. I am ready to do almost anything--even to leaving the fleet,
which perhaps will not go to the East until the war is over. How I
curse myself for having come! Do you know there are forty-two ships at
Nosi Be under the Russian naval and merchant flags? A solid figure,
but how many are only transports? How many officers and men, do you
suppose? I fancy considerably more than 12,000.

FOOTNOTE:

[8] The Russian naval flag is white, with a blue St. Andrew's cross on
it.



CHAPTER VII

EVENTS AT NOSI BE


_February 15th._--I must without fail go on shore to-day after dinner
to post my letters. I do not trust others.

I saw a wedding of a mulatto and a Malagassy. A long procession of
negroes went to the mayor's to sign the contract, and then went to the
church, where the priest married them. I looked on at the ceremony.
Both were young and dressed like Europeans, and had boots on. The bride
wore a veil, white dress, etc. During the marriage service dogs ran
about the church, but this did not disturb any one. Probably dogs are
not considered unclean animals here.[9] Black boys served the priest.
The priest himself was a European missionary. The whole church was full
of black worshippers. Of course, there were many of our officers there
as spectators. After the service the little Malagassy with his wife on
his arm walked round among the guests collecting money. I gave them
a franc. It seemed strange, seeing a Christian church full of blacks
reverently fulfilling Christian rites.

How dreadfully the men drink sometimes! Today I saw a sailor being
carried on a stretcher, unconscious and shaking with spasms. It was
a repulsive sight. They say the captain of the _Oleg_ is in poor
health. If it is consumption, the result will be a sad one. If there
is only the suspicion of it, in this climate the end comes quickly.
The wardroom have made another acquisition. They have obtained a small
crocodile from somewhere. The _Suvaroff_ is positively becoming a
floating menagerie.

We shall probably leave for the East at the end of the month. If that
is the case, why is the third fleet sent? Every one acts as he thinks
fit. There are no plans, forethought, or system.

_February 16th._--There is anxiety about the fate of the _Irtish_. She
was at Port Said on January 9th, and should have been here long ago.
They have telegraphed asking about her. It is exactly two months to-day
since we came to Madagascar. If we leave Nosi Be and go straight to the
East, there will be a great break in my letters and telegrams. Do not
be anxious. It is quite normal, as we have before us a voyage which,
under favourable conditions, lasts twenty days.

To-day I indulged myself and drank some kvass[10] in the _Aurora_. I
stayed there some time. Many officers are sceptical, and do not believe
that we shall go to the East.

Wrangles are beginning. Two of the captains of torpedo-boats
quarrelled as to where they were to lie for coaling. One of them was
so much insulted that he went to the _Suvaroff_ in his torpedo-boat
to complain. No sooner was this story done than another began. The
flagship's torpedo officer, who had a number of monkeys, received
an order to rid the ship of these animals (he had a cabin full of
them). This order was brought out owing to a report from the senior
staff-officer, in whose cabin one of the monkeys had been and made
himself at home. They contradicted each other in the flag-captain's
cabin, and the story promises to be played out. In the evening an
officer of the _Suvaroff_ shouted out something to the _Oslyabya_, who
did not notice a peace attack of torpedo-boats. In the _Oslyabya_ they
are anxious to know the name of the officer. There will probably be a
complaint to the staff to-morrow.

_February 17th._--I do not know how the quarrel of the torpedo captains
has ended. One of them came to the staff to-day with explanations.

_February 19th._--I have bought myself about 2,000 cigarettes. They are
without mouthpieces. The tobacco is black and the taste indifferent. If
I cannot get Russian ones I must content myself with these.

I had to go on board the _Borodino_ late this evening. It was not very
pleasant. Frequently the challenge of the sentries in the ships which
we have to pass is not heard, owing to the noise of the water and the
steam. They fire instantly if the boat does not give the countersign.

Some telegram from Europe was posted up at the post-office. The
Governor ordered it to be taken down, so that Russian officers should
not read it. Can it be another terrible misfortune? The telegrams that
remained announced that the Japanese had cut off Vladivostok almost
completely. There are hardly any war stores in Vladivostok. Four
steamers were sent from there to Port Arthur while it was holding out,
and all fell into the hands of the Japanese. They are taking the guns
from Port Arthur and are fortifying the coast of Korea with them.

Where can our fleet go if Vladivostok is cut off? Even if we succeed
in getting there before it is captured, there are no stores there, and
in the fleet there are few. We starving shall come to the famished.
The fleet will then perish, as it did at Port Arthur. Do you know
that the _Bogatyr_ sank while coming out of dock? They were able to
place a floating dock under her. The Japanese have sent cruisers and
torpedo-boats to Vladivostok. Matters are going badly for Kuropatkin.

Have you heard that Japan and France have concluded the following
agreement? Our fleet can remain at Nosi Be as long as it is convenient,
but if it leaves even for only three days, then it shall not have the
right to enter a French port for three months.

Yes, it must be admitted the situation of Russia is desperate. There
are many things I cannot tell you of on paper. They would not improve
the general outlook. The _Esperanza_, which is lying at Mojanga, has
prepared to come here four times, and each time her machinery has been
damaged. Evidently her crew have done it purposely.

I received your telegram to-day. In it is one word, "Well"; at all
events, I know you are alive. Since the beginning of December our
Admiralty has not sent us a single letter.

I went to church to-day. It is the memorial day of those warriors who
laid down their lives on the field of battle.

At eleven o'clock I set out for the _Borodino_. I was induced to put
on my dirk. I never wear it, but hung it on for this occasion. In
going down the ladder I caught it on something. It came out, fell into
the water, and sank in twelve fathoms. It is impossible to get it. An
engineer in the _Borodino_ promised to make me a dummy handle. I shall
wear it fastened to the scabbard, so that it will look all right. Of
course, a proper dirk is not to be had here.

There was a very grand and gay lunch in the _Borodino_. They decorated
the wardroom, covered the deck with carpets, and arranged plants in
every corner. They laid the table in the form of the letter [Greek:
p] (p), placed flower-pots on them, and scattered flowers on the
table-cloth. In front of each place was an illuminated menu. There were
many guests. The band played. They are a very happy ship. They are
always joking, laughing, and amusing themselves, and yet they never
forget their duty.

After lunch had been reduced to fragments, the wine flowed in streams.
They stationed the band close to the wardroom. Several officers
conducted the band themselves. They played my beloved Little Russian
march. At first I drank nothing, but having eaten my fill, and
sitting listening to the band and hearing the march, I began to drink
champagne. Many were drinking it, and with each glass I remembered how
you feared I should take to drink. Several officers began to dance. At
six o'clock I returned to my ship.

The mail-steamer _Esperanza_ has arrived. There were very few letters
for the fleet. There was only one bag, and that was sent by Günsburg
(agents). From the newspapers we learn what is going on in Russia, and
the orders of our Ministry about killed and wounded, etc. I cannot
speak calmly. My anger rises, and I am ready to do God knows what! How
I curse myself for having come!

_February 23rd._--At last the _Irtish_ has been found. She left Jibutil
on the 17th, so will be here on the 27th or 28th. If only a mail could
be brought by her, but our Ministry would never have thought that they
could send letters to Jibutil up to the 17th. From there the _Irtish_
could have brought them to the fleet. Although there is little hope of
this, I shall await her arrival with impatience.

_February 24th._--I have just returned from the harbour. I am very much
pleased with the work of the divers in the _Jemchug_; they have carried
it out brilliantly. I was rather doubtful of success at first. I asked
that a letter should be written to the admiral about the successful
work of the officers and divers who took part in it. The captain
promised to do so, and I for my part undertook to put in a few words.

Some home-made kvass has made its appearance in the _Suvaroff_. I drink
it incessantly. It is indifferent kvass, but at least it is Russian. A
boy from the _Borodino_, whose name I do not remember, has just come to
ask me to help him gain permission to be examined for the rank of petty
officer.

I am preparing myself to go ashore at three o'clock. I shall call at
the post-office, walk through the streets, and freshen myself up. The
shore at least is a change, however dull it may be.

_February 26th._--The Malagassy are beginning to be impertinent in
offering their services. Europeans do not stand on much ceremony with
them. When they saw me with a parcel in my hands, a crowd rushed to the
verandah of the shop. The European clerk grew angry, jumped up, and
kicked them like dogs. It did not disconcert them in the least.

At the post-office I was given telegrams and local letters for the
fleet. Among the letters was a postcard for Admiral Rojdestvensky. On
it the Germans were jeering at him about the North Sea affair, and
advising him to return, "the more so as they have prepared vodky for
you."[11]

At three o'clock a wireless message was received from the _Irtish_. At
eight she arrived in the harbour. There is scarcely a line in her. The
cursed staff have not sent the mail by her, although they might easily
have done so. The _Irtish_ was lying at Jibutil for nearly a month. How
every one abused the staff! Can you wonder at it, when even the chief
of the staff himself sends letters to his son by Günsburg. How can we
fight Japan when they cannot arrange such a simple matter as sending
the mails? We have not received a word from home for two and a half
months, thanks to their negligence in not putting two and two together.
If they cannot do this much that is absolutely necessary for the moral
welfare of the personnel of the fleet, how are they to contend against
an enterprising foe like Japan? Knowing their disposition, I little
expected to receive anything by the _Irtish_; but others were certain
that there would be a very large mail. Their disappointment is very
great. The first officer of the _Irtish_ went mad, and was sent back to
Russia from Suez. I hope to go on board her to-morrow, and must also go
to the _Borodino_.

_February 27th._--I counted on getting cigarettes in the _Irtish_, but
there were none. They required them themselves.

In many ships they have mass on the upper deck. I saw two such services
to-day--in the _Oslyabya_ and the _Borodino_. I found my way to the
latter and remained to lunch. They had pancakes, with smetana.[12] I
conversed with the captain a long time, and returned to the _Suvaroff_
at two o'clock.

A theatrical troupe has been got up on board the _Borodino_, consisting
of ten sailors. They are frequently invited to other ships to give
plays.

How they are cursing the General Staff about the mail! In several ships
they want to telegraph to the _Novoe Vremya_ that the officers request
their relations and friends to send their letters through Günsburg's
agency at Odessa. Some day I will tell you the part that Günsburg has
played in the history of the war. Without him all would have been lost.
He provided drink, food, and necessaries for the whole fleet.

News has been received that Mukden has been taken by the Japanese,
that the road on the flank of the army has been cut, that we have lost
50,000 killed and wounded and 50,000 prisoners. A fearful catastrophe!
At the present condition of affairs the war may be considered lost. We
must expect every minute to hear that Vladivostok is either besieged
or taken. It is useless for the fleet to go on. Poor Russia, when will
your trials be ended? One misfortune brings forth another.

_February 28th._--It is creditably asserted that from Europe and
America they are taking shells, ammunition, guns, armour, and
provisions to Japan, and there are even steamers loaded with only milk.
Large flotillas of transports are on their way thither. The Japanese
navy and army are furnished in abundance with every necessary. Supplies
are procured in an unbroken flow.

Russia is a contrast to Japan. In Manchuria our troops are starving,
cold--not clothed, and barefooted; guns and projectiles are scarce.
And our fleet--it is ludicrous even to compare it with the Japanese! We
are now lying waiting the arrival of Günsburg's steamer _Regina_, which
should bring some provisions. One steamer! and our foe has ten!

I am no prophet, but remember my words. In the middle of March Japan
will be master of the island of Sagalien, and in April, if not sooner,
will besiege Vladivostok, or effect a landing close by. Is it worth
while sending our fleet to the East? Let us suppose Vladivostok holds
out until our arrival, and that our fleet, after having engaged in
battle with the Japanese, reaches it. What then? At Vladivostok there
is little coal; there are no shells, powder, or guns; and how many
shall we have left after the fight? Again, the Japanese ships after
the fight would go to Sasebo, Nagasaki, and other ports; and, quickly
repairing their damages, would be ready to fight again. What should we
do? At Vladivostok there is only one dock. There are no good workshops,
no materials, no workmen. It is quite enough to remember how long they
took repairing the _Gromoboi_ and _Bogatyr_. Vladivostok will be a
second Port Arthur. All this is supposing that Vladivostok can hold
out, and that the result of the fight will be the same for us as for
the Japanese. It must not be forgotten that we have to go into action
with a crew wearied by a tremendous voyage, and that we have to defend
our transports, etc.

Perhaps the _Regina_ will bring us a mail. We expect her in a few days.

I examined the places in the _Aurora_ that were struck by projectiles
at the time of the North Sea incident. One of the projectiles turned at
nearly a right angle during its destructive flight.

The heat is considerable. How accurately I have calculated the time!
I reckoned that on March 1st the fleet would be at Vladivostok. It
appears that I was not far wrong. Had it not been for the misfortunes
at Port Arthur and on land, we should, according to secret plans, have
been approaching Vladivostok on March 1st. In the programme which I
worked out in Russia I only made an error of a few days.

In Japan they are hastily finishing the construction of a large
cruiser. By the middle of March a large number of gunboats will be
prepared, which can be made use of in the Amur river.

I was specially sent for to the _Kamchatka_ about her rudder. I thought
God knows what had happened, and it turned out to be a trifle. There
was a great show in the wardroom in the evening. A rat hunt was
organised, and many killed. It is a relaxation from care. For a long
time they carried on a successful hunt, in which the ship's dogs took
a part.

_March 1st._--We might get a mail by the _Regina_, which arrives on the
5th. We have begun active preparations for a very long cruise. It will
be very sad if we go without waiting for the mails. In any case, the
fleet should wait for the _Regina_. It is impossible to move forward
without the provisions which are coming in her. We are evidently not
intended to wait for the third fleet. Why do they spend more money
for nothing by sending it? If our fleet loses the battle, can the
third fleet continue its voyage independently? Even if the battle is
indecisive in its results, it is impossible for it to go to the East.
A signal has been made for all ships to be ready to get up anchor in
twenty-four hours. The _Regina_ has not come yet.

The _Suvaroff_ was built in the Baltic shipyard. How often have I
looked at her! Sometimes, even, with ill will. Perhaps I had then a
presentiment that my fate would be closely bound up with hers.

I will send my letters by a boat going ashore. I do not know if I
shall be able to leave the ship myself. I feel much calmer when my
letters are posted. I have made a new reckoning of time. I made out
that we can be at Vladivostok in a month and a half after leaving
here, if there are no delays on the way. That means that, if nothing
happens, and the fleet leaves here soon, we shall see each other at the
beginning of May.

_March 2nd._--The _Regina_ is near. She has entered the harbour and
will soon anchor. Possibly we shall weigh anchor to-morrow and go
eastward. Do not be anxious that there will be no letters from me for
a long time. Under favourable conditions the voyage to the East Indian
Archipelago takes three weeks. The _Regina_ has brought part of the
post. The other part, for some reason, was left at Port Said.

A signal has been made for us to have steam ready by twelve noon, on
March 3rd.

I think we shall go from Nosi Be to Saigon. The voyage will be long and
wearisome, whatever the weather may be.

There is such hellish heat in my cabin that I am now sitting writing in
the after-cabin. People are scribbling in every corner. I can imagine
what it will be at the post-office to-morrow. We do not weigh anchor
before noon. Before then it will be necessary to post the letters from
all the ships of the fleet, and there are more than forty of them. I
have finished all my necessary work in the ships in time.

FOOTNOTES:

[9] In Russia a church has to be re-consecrated after a dog has entered
it.

[10] A liquor made of rye flour and malt.

[11] "They will give you a warm welcome." Vodky is a very strong
spirit, drunk everywhere in Russia.

[12] Smetana is sour cream.



CHAPTER VIII

ACROSS THE INDIAN OCEAN


_March 3rd._--Leaving Nosi Be; in the Indian Ocean.

To-day was full of events. This morning I went on shore to send my
letters and help dispatch others. There was a large crowd at the
post-office. All were hurrying to get rid of their letters by eleven,
when there is a cessation of work there until two o'clock. At noon
the order was given to be ready to get up anchor. Many people did not
succeed in posting valuable packets, parcels, and registered letters.
The latter they threw straight into the letter-box, which was instantly
filled, and had constantly to be emptied.

I was not looking, and the officer who was with me took my registered
letters and put them in the box. I was at that moment putting on stamps
for transmission abroad. I was annoyed. I went round the post-office
into the back yard, and through a window to a room where they were
receiving the letters. I induced a Malagassy to take all the letters
out of the box and look for mine, which among the general heap came
into my hands. I gave all the letters to a clerk, begging him to
send them to Russia registered. I had no time to wait for a receipt.
I had to hurry on board. I had the advantage of being known to the
clerks--firstly because I had often had business with them, and
secondly because I promised them medals and orders. Representations
about this are already made. At the post-office they asked me questions
like this: "Are you leaving to-day or to-morrow? Are you going straight
to Russia from here?" By eleven o'clock I was on board.

It was hard to imagine what was going on this morning on the quay.
Everything was quite covered by goods and provisions. Carts with
bullocks harnessed to them constantly brought loads. All were hastening
with packages to the boats. They were hurriedly closing accounts with
the shore.

Lunch passed off quietly, but then came my benefit. Forgive me; I will
tell you the rest to-morrow. I am so tired I can scarcely sit. I slept
badly last night, and do not feel well. My servant even said, "Look
here, your worship, sleep and rest. You have slept very little while at
the anchorage, and worked hard." That is true. There has been plenty
of work. I shall rest now, if nothing happens to the ships, which God
forbid. Here we are, again on our way. The place where we are going is
still kept secret.

_March 4th._--I must finish my story of yesterday. Soon after lunch
news was received from the _Kamchatka_ that her condenser did not work.
She also reported that a Kingston valve had been torn out, that she was
beginning to fill with water, and that they were putting a mat under. I
thought they would send me to the _Kamchatka_ and keep me there for the
whole voyage. I was sent for by the admiral. I went to the _Kamchatka_,
and found horror and confusion reigning there. In the engine-room
compartment the water was already breast-high. I managed to put it
right somehow. It happened that the Kingston was not torn out, but the
flap in the Kingston pipe was damaged. They shut the flap, not taking
precautionary measures, and ejected it out of the pipe, and water came
in through the opening formed. When the danger passed I returned to the
_Suvaroff_. The admiral sent me to the _Kamchatka_, to remain until the
work was finished. I went there in the duty steamboat. I sent it back
and returned in a rowing-boat to the _Suvaroff_, where another surprise
awaited me. They were unable to hoist the steamboat in the _Aurora_.
The davits were damaged.

I hastened there. In all the other ships the boats were already
hoisted. I set out for the _Aurora_ in the admiral's light whaler,
which is usually hoisted at the last moment. Every moment was valuable.
We had to hurry. The men pulled with all their might. At all costs
the _Aurora's_ steamboat had to be hoisted, otherwise it would have
had to be left behind. The work was strenuous. They hammered, filed,
and bound, rove the falls, and the boat was eventually hoisted. I was
annoyed at having dirtied myself.

You may imagine the need there was to hurry. All this business began
at twelve o'clock, and it was necessary that the fleet should weigh
anchor at three o'clock. Weigh anchor! and the _Kamchatka_ sinking and
a steamboat not able to be hoisted! Besides this, there was a report
from the _Kamchatka_ in the morning that there was a breakage in her
steering arrangements. I took it on myself to say that she could go
with such damages. Nevertheless, I was able to put everything to rights
by half-past two. I breathed freely. The signal was hoisted, and we
began to get up anchor.

The starting of the fleet was a pretty sight. There were forty-two
ships, if you count torpedo-boats and transports. French torpedo-boats
came to escort the fleet. They wished us a prosperous voyage, and
cheered. Our bands played the Marseillaise. Excitement reigns in the
wardroom. Will it be for long? Am I pleased? I cannot understand my own
feelings. On one hand I am anxious about the fate of the fleet; on the
other, there is the possibility of seeing you soon, and the feeble,
feeble hope of beating the Japanese fleet. If by any chance that should
happen, Russia will have command of the sea, and the battle-scenes on
land will be changed in our favour. If we are beaten--then Japan is
strong, very strong.

You know the steamer _Regina_ came to us. At the instance of Japan part
of the provisions and supplies were unloaded from her at Port Said.
How pleased you will be at this! It means that if Japan had wished it,
the _Regina_ would not have come here at all. We only receive what
Japan permits. See what strength this small country exhibits! It is all
thanks to her success in the war.

Just imagine the astonishment of Admiral Nebogatoff's fleet when they
learn that we have gone on without waiting for them. In my opinion it
is a rash step to divide your forces. It would not have taken much
longer waiting for that fleet, as we have already waited two and a half
months at Madagascar.

A flag-officer of our staff has received some secret appointment. He
remained at Nosi Be, and was advanced two and a half months' pay.

When Lieutenant Radekin was at Diego Suarez the French told him the
date of our departure from Nosi Be and of our further course. That
was on February 24th. Radekin wrote down the prediction, sealed it,
and gave it to me to be opened at sea. Just fancy, the date of our
departure was given exactly! The course I cannot verify, as I do not
know it myself.

Yesterday, when it grew dark, the ships lit their lights. The sky was
brilliant with flashing stars. Forty-five ships! What a grand armada!
How difficult it is to direct its movements, and what an enormous
extent it occupies! The admiral only left the bridge at nine o'clock.
We were then exceedingly hungry, and sat down to dinner. Last evening
delays began immediately. The battleship _Orel_ reported that some of
her machinery was broken. The fleet lessened speed, and the _Orel_
steamed with one engine. Something then went wrong with the _Anadir's_
machinery. We waited a whole hour while she put it right. To-day all
are going successfully. I have noticed that for some reason the tale of
damages usually begins at night.

To-day it is gloomy. The sun is not visible. The sea is rather rough.
God forbid that we should have bad weather, especially during the first
nine days. All the ships are heavily encumbered with coal. There is not
a spot on deck free of coal. This has a bad effect on the sea-going
qualities of ships.

I lay down to rest, but could not sleep owing to the heat. I forget
if I told you I sleep completely uncovered, and keep a small piece of
cardboard by me and use it as a fan. Some one has made a bag out of two
nets, and is catching fish from the stern gallery. The weather is calm,
and a great many fish swim after the ship.

Nearly alongside the _Suvaroff_ is the torpedo-boat _Biedovy_.[13] Life
in the torpedo-boat is passed on deck. From the ship we can see how
they dine and all that is going on.

Yesterday a sailor from the _Kieff_ flung himself into the sea and was
drowned. What was his mental condition? Was he afraid that he would be
killed. How strange it is! But I have heard that there are instances
when men, fearing to be killed in action, put an end to themselves.
Probably the fear of death acts so strongly on these men that they are
not themselves. An hour ago a sailor in a fever threw himself overboard
from the _Jemchug_. They lowered two whalers and a gig to pick him up,
and threw him a life-belt; but he fortunately swam to the hospital-ship
_Orel_ and climbed on board. Now he is remaining in her.

_March 5th_ (morning).--Last evening something went wrong with
the machinery of the transport _Vladimir_. We waited while it was
repaired. On the whole we are going very slowly. This morning all the
torpedo-boats but one (the duty boat) were taken in tow. This was in
order that they should not expend coal, which is very difficult to
supply in mid-ocean even when it is comparatively calm. In slightly
rough weather it is useless even to think of coaling.

Last evening a German steamer from Diego Suarez, as she explained on
being asked, overtook and passed us. This is rather suspicious. Why
must she go on the same course as we are going? The route for the
fleet was purposely chosen, being one along which no one ever goes.
Yesterday the _Navarin_ fired to try the carriage of newly placed guns.
The sound of the firing reached the _Suvaroff_. This, I thought, is how
I shall hear the firing when we meet the Japanese. The sounds are not
very loud. Our shots, no doubt, will make more noise.

Slowly, very slowly, we are going ahead. Now and then the fleet
stops, and goes on again with a speed of five to eight knots. There
are varieties of mishaps, breakages in the _Sissoi_, and in the
torpedo-boats _Grosny_ and _Gromky_. The slightest damage delays
all. Do you know to what distance our ships extend, going in several
divisions? Nearly ten versts. If we go on at the same speed we shall
expend a great deal of time before reaching any port. We are going
north-east, and are again approaching the equator.

The ship scouting reported that she saw a light far away. Perhaps
a "chance" vessel, like the one yesterday. In a good cruiser the
Japanese might watch every step of our fleet without being perceived
by us. We are steaming with lights. What is to prevent a fast cruiser,
without lights, from approaching us, ascertaining our position, and
disappearing--and no one will ever suspect such observation. If the
Japanese do not do that now, it is almost certain that they will watch
our fleet when approaching the islands of the East Indian archipelago,
in order that, having chosen a favourable time, they may attack, if not
the warships, at all events the transports. It is very difficult to
defend the latter.

What is Nebogatoff's fleet doing now? Will they really continue their
voyage to the East? It will be a great risk.

_March 6th_ (morning).--In the night we remained three hours at one
spot. Something was amiss with the steering engine of the _Borodino_.
She has not yet put it right, and so is going on the flanks of the rest.

A steamer is coming towards us.

The light which the scouting cruiser saw yesterday, and which she
took for a ship, proved to be a star. They say you can often make the
mistake, seeing a star setting on the horizon. I saw one like it.
Sometimes there is a completely deceptive appearance of a ship's light.
It is related that on one occasion, during the last war with Turkey, a
whole fleet (in the Black Sea) chased a star. No doubt the mistake was
soon found out.

During the cruise life on board passes very monotonously. There are no
events except breakages. All are tired of one another. They converse
little and about nothing, and sit in different corners. I have not been
much in the wardroom lately. I do not play games or the pianola. I sit
mostly in the deck-house, on the bridge, or in the flag-captain's cabin.

There was mass to-day. The weather has become a little rougher. We
are going desperately slowly, so shall not reach a port soon. We
have to cross a whole ocean. Another pleasure is in store for the
fleet--coaling in the open sea.

_Night._--The whole port side of the spar-deck is occupied by oxen and
cows. The oxen for meat and the cows for milk, only unfortunately the
latter do not give any. There are two calves. It is decided to feed
them. They will probably die. In the transports special stalls have
been made for the animals, so that they can endure the motion. There
are none of these stalls in the battleships, and the oxen have to stand
on deck.

_March 7th_ (morning).--Our voyage is continued to the Chagos Islands,
past the chief island, Diego Garcia. There were rumours that Japanese
ships were lying at the Chagos archipelago, which belongs to England.
The rumour may be true. Perhaps there will be a collision near these
islands. The Chagos archipelago consists of small, thinly populated
islands. There is no telegraph cable joining it to the mainland.

There is an artificer in the _Suvaroff_ called Krimmer. He is a very
trustworthy man. I once offered to exchange letters in the event of
the death of one of us. To-day he handed me an envelope with the
following superscription: "In the event of my death I beg you to send
the enclosed letter to its address, and also to dispatch the things I
leave behind. G. Krimmer, 2/3/1905. In the _Kniaz Suvaroff_." I have
not prepared my letter yet. And what can I say in it? I have no secrets
from you. You know everything and what I might say to you in my last
moments.

The route we are following now is little frequented by ships. Never
since the creation of the world have battleships, small cruisers,
torpedo-boats, or a fleet at all similar to ours gone along this
route. What sort of ship is there not with us? Battleships,
cruisers, torpedo-boats, transports, a repair ship, hospital-ship, a
water-carrier, and a tug.

Again the fleet has stopped. The tow-rope of one of the torpedo-boats
has broken. We are going slowly. To-day at noon we have done 675
miles, in all about 1,180 versts, and we have to do 7,000 versts in
order to reach the East Indian archipelago. At 4 a.m. to-morrow all
warships are to coal from the transports which are with us.

_March 8th._--I have been unable to write since this morning. In the
first place, I was going from ship to ship; then there was such an
infernal heat in my cabin that it was useless to think of writing. It
is a little fresher now, 27° R. In the night the tiller rope carried
away in the _Suvaroff_; the confusion was considerable, but I escaped
it.

I was called early this morning, at seven o'clock. All the fleet had
stopped and begun to take coal from the boats, which were loaded from
the transports. At first the weather was calm, although there was a
fairly large swell. The _Aurora's_ steamboat disturbed me. They had
hoisted it in, but I had not seen how they secured it. I wanted to see
it myself. The _Roland_ went about with various orders for ships that
were far from the _Suvaroff_. I decided to go in her to the _Aurora_.

I went in the admiral's whaler and began to curse myself. Getting
out of the whaler was very dangerous and difficult. The _Roland_ had
to deliver packets with orders to ten ships, and by eleven o'clock
she had just been to six. The ships lay far off, and much time was
spent in sending boats with the packets. At twelve o'clock I returned
to the _Suvaroff_ from the _Roland_ in the whaler again. Could you
have believed that I should ever be pulled across the ocean in a tiny
cockleshell?

The swell is an extraordinary thing. It looks quite calm from a ship,
but in reality it is far from being so. I drank a cup of coffee in the
_Roland_.

At first she rolled lightly, but afterwards to such an extent that the
plates fell from the table. When we came near the different ships they
looked at us with curiosity, expected something, and asked the news,
as if we were not in the same fleet. They were given the packets, and
their disappointment was fearful. I was late for lunch and ate in my
cabin. When I entered it from the fresh air, it seemed like a stove.
The heat was intolerable. I drank water with ice in it. A piece was
left. With the greatest delight I rubbed my head and neck with it. I
often do this now. The ice melts instantly.

I went to the after-cabin; landed myself there on a sofa to doze a
little, but it was not to be. I had begun to sleep when an orderly
came and said the admiral required me. The torpedo-boat _Buistry_ had
dented her side slightly, broken a boat, etc. When I had finished with
her I again went to the sofa in the after-cabin.

The coaling will soon be stopped. The ships are moving their engines,
and we shall proceed! It will be difficult in the swell to hoist steam
and other boats on board. The weather was indifferent; but contrary to
expectation, the coaling was fairly successful. Perhaps they will begin
it again to-morrow morning. The fleet does not anchor, but only lies
with engines stopped. The wind and sea continually bring ships towards
each other. Up to now, thank God! everything was all right, with the
exception of the _Buistry_. She ought not to have been brought. She
broke up at Revel, knocked her side in at the Skaw, and now she has
collided with a transport. We went on again twenty minutes ago. Dinner
was late again. I have not been invited to the dining-room.

A curious impression is produced by the boxes or barrels fastened to
the masts of the cruisers for the look-out men. Some of the cruisers
have fastened cages, like boxes, and others have simply suspended
barrels. In these boxes and barrels signalmen stand and watch the
horizon.

They are hung up very high. Without them sailors might easily fall
from the mast. Only the heads and shoulders of the signalmen are
visible now. A monotonous journey again stretches before us. Do you
know how the officers in the wardroom amuse themselves all the evening?
They make the dog listen to the gramaphone. Several pieces did not
please her, and she began to howl. This employment seemed very funny
to many. The gramaphone was purposely placed on deck, and the trumpet
directed straight at the dog.

Nights of alarm have again begun. They suspect the near presence of
Japanese cruisers, which have a base in the English Seychelles Islands,
by which we are now passing.

At the wireless telegraph office they are receiving strange dispatches.
There are more grounds for caution now than there ever were before.
No doubt as the fleet moves forward the chances of a meeting with the
enemy increase. All day I felt fairly well, but towards the evening a
strange depression came over me. Anxiety wrings my heart. I have lost
all interest in everything. They say that the Japanese are near. What
then? It is all the same to me.

I often pass through bad moments. One grieves, rages, censures,
criticises, and condemns everything. Our army is acting independently,
and the fleet does not combine with the movements of the army. The
self-same fleet is split into little pieces, which do not act in
conformity with the movements of the others. Three (or now, perhaps,
two) ships are doing something, or more probably are lying at
Vladivostok. Our fleet is moving east, and the third remains behind
somewhere (where we do not know); and they are collecting some remnants
at Cronstadt and Libau. All these parts do not know what the others are
doing. Can there be success under these conditions? I think that there
are many disorders in the army. There is no method or organisation
anywhere. Among our enemies all is worked out, foreseen, and guessed
beforehand. They conduct war on a scientific programme. Is success
likely to be on our side? No.

Of course, anything might happen. We might win, but it would only be
by chance. With us it is the old system called "Perhaps," and the old
game of trusting to luck. Everything is done anyhow. Not without reason
some one remarked that the "apes were righting the anyhows." To do him
justice, it would be difficult to say a worse or a truer thing.

The _Oleg_ is steaming astern, and other cruisers are ahead and abeam
of the fleet. All the battleships, torpedo-boats, and transports occupy
the centre.

_March 9th_ (8 a.m.).--Six times to-day the tow-ropes of torpedo-boats
have carried away. This is rather often. The _Dimitry Donskoi_ reports
that at night she saw lights of three ships, which were communicating
with searchlight flashes, and were going the same course as ourselves.

Another sailor has died in the _Oslyabya_. He will be buried at sea.
He died the day before yesterday, but the coaling prevented his body
being committed to the deep yesterday. There are frequent deaths in the
_Oslyabya_, and most of them occur when the fleet is under way.

The admiral always had weak nerves, and now especially so. He sleeps
very little, is worried, and gets beside himself at every trifle.
Probably he will not hold out to the end.

11 p.m.--We are going desperately slowly. So far we have made a
thousand miles. If we go by one course there will be 2,800 miles left,
and by another 2,500. This means we have to toss on the sea for fifteen
or twenty days, if nothing happens.

At every step there are breakages and damages. This evening the
_Sissoi_ damaged first her rudder and then her machinery. The tow-ropes
of the torpedo-boats break like threads. The _Buistry_ has again
distinguished herself. She has broken a gun-platform. Soon there will
be nothing to break in her.

In the wardroom they reckon that we have 4,400 miles to do in
thirty-four days. Our provisions are finished, and we shall have to
take to salt provisions (horrid filth). They make jokes, selecting
which of the officers shall be eaten first.

To-morrow it is proposed to coal. It will be difficult to do so if the
swell is as great as it was to-day. Again we shall lose a whole day.
Coaling in our present condition is a very important thing, though
troublesome. The whole deck is encumbered with coal, and even part of
the guns.

_March 10th._--At nine the torpedo-boat _Gromky_ reported that her
rudder was damaged. The divers had to work under water, and there were
many sharks. While they were at work men with loaded rifles stood
ready to defend them. They were clearly visible, as the water is very
transparent.

9 p.m.--From a chance word I gathered that in fifteen days we shall be
at some port. I doubt it. By my reckoning we shall toss at sea much
longer. Slowly, very slowly, we go on. Stoppages are constant. I am
so accustomed to them that I take very little interest in knowing the
reason, and am too lazy to go on deck and find out.

_March 11th._--The _Svietlana_ reports that she sees a steamer ahead on
the same course as ourselves. It is strange that we are going slowly
along an unfrequented route and yet we can catch up a steamer. Even
freight-steamers do not go as slowly as our ships.

_March 12th._--The _Oleg_ and _Donskoi_ report that they see some
lights far away. They are watching them. Perhaps they are English
cruisers. The steamer which the _Svietlana_ saw was apparently a myth.
A boiler in the _Kamchatka_ is damaged, but she does not remain behind.
She began to drop, but when she knew about the suspicious light she
prepared to come on. We are approaching nearer and nearer to the East.

We shall soon recross the equator. Vladivostok seems like the promised
land. Yes; Vladivostok, Vladivostok!

But what if my supposition about Sagalien and Vladivostok are
justified? Where will our fleet go then, and what will it do? The next
time we stop to coal I shall have to pass the whole day on board the
_Gromky_.

They have stopped breaking the tow-ropes in the torpedo-boats. At all
events, they have not broken one for some time.

The _Sissoi_ is keeping back the fleet. There is always something wrong
with her. This morning the _Nachimoff_ joined her. The _Oleg_ reports
that the lights she saw yesterday were not constant. They looked
like sparks flying out of funnels. Perhaps our fleet is following in
the wake of some other ships. By day they hide themselves beyond the
horizon, so we do not see them; and by night they approach us, having
all lights out. The sparks betray their presence. At night, when there
is no moon, it is absolutely dark and very difficult to see.

Our fleet is steaming with lights visible from afar; therefore it is
easy for ships knowing our course to find the fleet in the ocean and to
approach it without danger. We may expect any moment to be attacked at
night. I cannot without horror imagine one thing--that is, that they
will compel us to lie an endless number of days in some Saigon.

Then what will happen? I calm myself with the thought that they will
not allow this, observing neutrality.

Neutrality is a fine word. It is good and convenient only for the
strong. Strength is now on Japan's side, and neutrality serves her
interests and is useful to her.

They say that the admiral declared that if he met a Japanese ship in
neutral waters he would destroy her, remembering the capture of the
_Reshitelny_ (Decisive) by the Japanese. There is neutrality for you! I
did not myself hear Rojdestvensky say this--but knowing his character,
think him quite capable of it. However, this will not happen. The
Japanese are wily. They will not separate their ships, as Russia has
done. God forbid that Japan beats our fleet! The might of Russia will
perish with it for ten years. The fleet will not be reconstructed for
long. But if we beat the Japanese at sea and get command of it, then
Japan is ruined. She will be unable to carry on war, and will not be
able to feed and provide the army.

In Japan itself there will be nothing to eat. It can scarcely happen
so. Even if the mastery of the sea remains with us, England and America
will defend Japan, and Russia will retire, fearing war with these two
countries. The war is bound to end to Russia's disadvantage. How much
money she has wasted! How many men have perished!--and for what?

Shame! Shame! We wallow in shame! How we jeered at the English during
their war with the Boers, at the Italians during their Abyssinian
campaign! I do not know what is going on in Manchuria, but judging
by the time that passed between the battles of Liao-Yang and Mukden
the next great fight will take place in August or September,--in the
event of the Japanese not moving beyond Mukden and acting as they have
hitherto done--that is, very carefully.

By August or September Russia might collect an army.

Where is now the supply depot of our land forces? In Harbin? It may be
that they will have to leave it and retire again. Yesterday I heard
a quarrel among the sub-lieutenants about how many stokeholds there
were in the _Suvaroff_, and how the boilers were placed. Officers who
had been in the ship a year, and who had, by order of the admiral,
kept watch in the stokehold, were quarrelling over these things. How
sad it was, and yet I could not listen to them without laughing! The
Japanese doubtless know our ships better than we do ourselves. Do you
remember what I said before the departure of the fleet? From the very
beginning of the voyage I have seen so many instances confirming my
former opinions. I do not believe in the fleet, however many ships are
in it, and however much they count on them. It is a small matter to
possess warships. It is necessary to profit by their strength. Possibly
the Japanese fleet might be beaten, but it would only be by chance.

_March 13th._--To-day is Sunday. There will be mass. I must go to
church--the service is just beginning. I have not been at all well.

I slept a great deal to-day, and was punished for it. I slept in my
bunk, leaving my port open. There was a fairly heavy sea. The water
splashed in and poured over my feet. I took off my boots and went to
sleep again in wet clothes. I woke from a second douche. A third time
I was splashed over. I rose, and began to change my socks and boots. I
sat at the writing-table. Another wave poured in, and literally wetted
me from head to foot.

Everything on the table was drenched. I had to shut the port. Now it is
so stuffy in my cabin and the air is so steamy that I cannot breathe.
I am writing in the deck cabin. The weather is getting more and more
rough. Perhaps it is for the best--it will be more difficult for the
enemy to attack us.

By the morning we should be at Diego Garcia (one of the islands of
the Chagos Archipelago), where the presence of Japanese ships is
suspected. In any case, I must be prepared to go to-morrow morning to
the _Gromky_, although the weather is such that it will be difficult to
coal. We are going slowly. It is a good thing that a favourable current
is helping us on. During the last twenty-four hours it has advanced us
about fifty versts. This evening all searchlights were lit up until the
moon rose.

_March 14th_ (morning).--What a night it was!--so stuffy and hot that
when I woke not only were the sheets and pillows wet, but the mat as
well.

We had just done half the voyage between Madagascar and the East Indian
Archipelago. We may count not only on torpedo-attacks and ground mines,
but also on a fleet action.

Our voyage to Vladivostok will be very dangerous. We have to pass
through straits and narrow seas. All sorts of meetings and surprises
are possible. They will follow every movement of our ships, choosing
a favourable time to deliver battle or make a torpedo-boat attack.
Some one conceived the fancy that when the whole fleet coaled in the
open sea, and lay with engines stopped, a Russian town had sprung up
in the middle of the ocean, with a population of 12,000 people. If I
reach Vladivostok, a distance which can be passed over in fourteen or
fifteen days will separate you from me. How microscopic it will seem in
comparison with what we have already passed! It will seem quite close
to me.

If there are no delays anywhere, then by the middle of April the
fleet will reach Vladivostok. But what is the use of guessing and
calculating?--a thousand things may yet happen.

It is unfortunate that in the East Indian archipelago there are so
many straits which are long and narrow. There are some which cannot be
passed through in a day, and have to be traversed at night. They might
be mined.

On entering or leaving them when the fleet is spread out, torpedo
attacks might be made. We may expect surprises from torpedo-boats and
from the shores. It is impossible to pass through a strait unperceived.
I have just hit on the idea that we may possibly go to Saigon. On the
way to Saigon a collison will infallibly take place. It may have sad
consequences for me as well as for the others.

Perhaps I shall not be able to send letters. Let us suppose we get to
Saigon. The _Diana_ is lying there. She is officially disarmed. What is
to prevent her joining our fleet? Instead of the _Diana_ a ship like
the _Almez_ might be left. That would be excellent. It would be better
if we were joined by the _Cesarevitch_, _Askold_, and torpedo-boats. It
is difficult to count on this.

All the ships are disarmed in neutral ports. It is a pity we have to
pass through the straits in dark, moonless nights.

_March 15th._--I was called at 5 a.m. in order to go on board the
_Gromky_.

Divers arrived and the work began. The work is greatly hampered by the
swell. The divers are constantly struck by the rudder. I am astonished
at the dog's life they lead on board the torpedo-boats. Whilst
steaming, the vibration is so great that it is impossible to write.
They roll so much that nothing remains on the tables without fiddles
(frames which support tumblers, plates, etc.). The accommodation is
cramped, and it is dirty and sooty.

In addition to all this the fare is disgusting. I remained in the
_Gromky_ until eleven o'clock. It was time to eat, but they did not
think of laying a table. They brought the crew their stchee,[14] and
my appetite left me. There were only four sausages for the officers.
Some officers from the _Kamchatka_, which was lying close by, were in
the _Gromky_. They requested by semaphore that preserves, lemonade,
etc., might be sent from her. I was so hungry that I did not hesitate
to insist on their bringing sardines, ham, bacon, etc. When they
arrived we all threw ourselves on these delicacies with avidity. They
purposely brought more than sufficient, in order to leave the surplus
for the officers of the torpedo-boat. The latter astonished me. They
look upon a lack of food as inevitable. The _Irtish_ should supply them
with provisions, but she fulfilled the duty badly.

The captain asked that his torpedo-boat should be attached to another
transport. I supported the captain's request to the utmost of my
ability, and depicted in vivid colours their famished condition. Life
on board a torpedo-boat is sufficiently penal, but in this one they
starve as well. For the future the _Gromky_ will be attached to the
_Kieff_.

While I was in the _Gromky_ a heavy squall went by on the beam. It was
lucky it did not catch the torpedo-boat.

Several times sharks gathered near the divers, but they saw them in
time and drove them away with rifle-shots. You suddenly see a large,
grey, shapeless thing appearing. It is an ugly and repulsive-looking
shark.

In the _Gromky_ I saw friend Grishka, "the Iconoclast." This monkey
has grown a great deal, and is very amusing. I think I told you about
Grishka. He is the monkey who was the cause of a scandal in the
_Suvaroff_, and was given to another ship. He received the nickname of
the "Iconoclast," because he once stole an ikon out of the cabin and
threw it overboard.

_March 16th_ (evening).--Early this morning I again went to the
_Gromky_. I got there with difficulty. The swell tossed the
torpedo-boat all day. Heavy rain-squalls constantly flew by. The boat
rolled more than 25°. Everything fell about. To sit you had to press
hands and feet against something. How many times I was literally wet to
the skin to-day, and got dry again, it is difficult to say. Under these
conditions the divers had to work. The waves now tore them from the
boat, now beat them against her, now retreating, showing the diver's
heads, now hiding them somewhere in the abyss. They were rocked about
under the water, and were seasick with all its consequences when in
diving clothes. They had to be drawn up, as they were so faint. The
work was desperately difficult. I was astonished that they went into
the water again without refusing.

Picture to yourself the scene. All this was being done in a
torpedo-boat in the midst of the ocean. The boat had been carried
away from the fleet by the swell; we could even no longer see it. The
diving-boat lay alongside the torpedo-boat. In addition to this they
were coaling at the same time. It was a regular hell. The work went on
very slowly.

In order to review the results of my work I sat on an outrigger (I have
already told you what this is) like a bird on a twig. When rolling,
the water now covered my head, now lifted me high. It was horrible,
abominable, foul. It was a good thing there were no sharks.

At last, amid the chaos of waves and foam, I had to go to the
_Suvaroff_ in a whaler. I seized hold of a chain, pressed my feet
against the side, and climbed on deck. I was wet, dirty, and could
scarcely stand from fatigue. And what welcome awaited me? A reprimand
from the admiral, with a cry of "Shameful! you serve on the staff,
and cover yourself with filth. You return at five o'clock, instead of
three." This is my reward! Never, never shall I forget it! True, it is
my first reprimand during the seven months. What could I do? They did
not send a torpedo-boat for me, as they always had done.

Nor was the _Gromky_ at fault. She brought me as soon as ever she
could. When the work was done she had to take the divers to the
_Svietlana_, _Kamchatka_, and _Jemchug_. I was only guilty in that I
was not guilty at all. Having reached my cabin, I changed my clothes,
and instantly fell into a dead sleep.

There was nothing to eat in the _Gromky_, and she could not receive
anything from the transport. They sent a present of a basket of
provisions and a live pig from the _Svietlana_. How pleased the
officers were!

_March 17th_ (morning).--Since last evening we have been going along
the equator.

We are a little to the north. How strange it seems at first! Yesterday
we were in the southern half of the globe, where it was autumn; to-day
we are in the northern half, where it is spring. We have missed a
whole winter. There is news that the _Varyag_ has been raised by the
Japanese.

Possibly they have already been able to repair her, and we may meet her
among the hostile ships. A pleasant encounter! Our ships will fight
against us. What a disgrace!

The _Donskoi_ reports that she sees occasional lights out of funnels on
the horizon. That they are following us is beyond doubt. We shall go
by the straits of Malacca, the length of which is about 1,000 versts.
There will be surprises on going through it, and on leaving it we may
count on meeting the whole of Togo's fleet. Probably among the Japanese
ships will be those the Russians were unable to sink properly at Port
Arthur. I have no confidence in success.

If I were in the place of the Japanese I should let the whole fleet
pass without hindrance to Vladivostok, not risking my own ships in
battle. It would be so easy to make a second Port Arthur out of it. A
siege can be more easily undertaken there (if they have not already
done so). The fortress is worse; there are less stores, workshops, and
docks.

Every advantage is on Japan's side. Her success is almost sure.

_March 18th_ (morning).--The weather is worse. The barometer is
falling. The wind gets stronger and stronger; it has attained the
force of a gale. The _Suvaroff_ inclined three degrees to the wind,
and has remained in that position. My heart beats when I think of the
torpedo-boats. They are being towed. I am very anxious about them. It
will be dark soon. How are they faring now? They are not visible from
the _Suvaroff_. The wind has gone down, but the sea is still big. The
_Bodry_, one of the torpedo-boats, has her mast broken. The _Gromky_
broke her tow-rope, and is going independently.

During the last coaling a steam-cutter from the _Sissoi_ was sunk.
All the crew were saved. The boat incautiously approached the side of
a battleship, which rolled and sank her. In the _Terek_ yesterday a
sailor fell into the hold, and died to-day.

_March 19th_ (morning).--Probably the whole world thought the fleet
would go from Nosi Be to the East, round Australia or the straits of
Sunda. It is proposed to go, as I have said, by the straits of Malacca.
Every one will be astonished at our effrontery.

In a day or so we shall enter on a route where there are many merchant
steamers. This means that in a short time all the world will know the
whereabouts of our fleet and the route chosen.

At a favourable spot the Japanese may meet us. The impending battle
will be one of the most momentous of the war.

Important events will soon now begin to take place. A new phase of the
war which has been so unsuccessful and unfortunate for us is beginning.

We are not going to Saigon, but to Kamranh. It is a small bay, lying
about 350 versts north of Saigon. On shore there is a fort and a
small settlement. There is no telegraph, but apparently there is a
post-office. The fleet will pass in view of Singapore.

Many officers have begun to hide their things behind the armour, in
order to be able to dress themselves after the battle. I do not know
whether to hide anything. We have begun to feel the proximity of the
enemy. I have not yet selected the place where I shall be during the
fight. Of course, during torpedo attacks one should be on deck, so
that, should the ship be blown up and begin to sink, one would not
have to come up from below. A ship in this event may go down almost
instantaneously, like the _Petropavlosk_ and the _Hatsuse_.

_March 20th_ (morning).--Coaling has not taken place to-day. Many
officers confidently rely on the fleet. They look on the four new
battleships, _Suvaroff_, _Borodino_, _Alexander_, and _Orel_, as
invincible. The Japanese will put forth all their power to destroy the
_Suvaroff_, in which is the admiral commanding the whole fleet. The
torpedo attacks and the fire of all guns will be concentrated on the
_Suvaroff_. She will be exposed to the greatest danger. It will be less
dangerous in the other ships, especially in the _Borodino_ and _Orel_.

The Japanese will try to kill the admiral. And what will happen then?
Our ships can scarcely fly to various neutral ports and be disarmed, as
has been done before.

We have been eighteen days at sea, and our port is still far away; but
with each turn of the screw we are nearer and nearer our goal. It is
five and a half months to-day since the fleet left Libau. Scarcely any
one would have supposed that nearly six months would be necessary to
get as far as the straits of Malacca.

The _Donskoi_, _Oleg_, _Orel_, and _Terek_ report that they have seen
lights. Hitherto the appearance of every light interested us; but
now that we are near the theatre of war we regard them with complete
equanimity. Is it not all the same? Would that it were sooner ended!
There are people who are satisfied with the existing state of affairs.

I am surprised at them. Just now there are officers sitting at table
drunk--they are singing. Nothing like it is possible in the Japanese
ships. There, they are preparing for another feast and for other songs.
When shall we get our letters? Hardly before we reach Kamranh Bay.

_March 21st._--There still remains 3,000 versts to Kamranh Bay. They
say that Japanese cruisers are waiting for us there. It will be ten or
twelve days' journey if nothing happens. From there to Vladivostok I
think we shall go at greater speed than now, to get over 5,000 versts.
They are coaling to-day.

I went to the _Bezuprechny_ and _Gromky_ and distributed confidential
packets to the ships. Of course, I did not go to the general lunch. I
lunched instead with the officer of the watch. A curious thing happened
in the _Bezuprechny_. They drew a small shark out of the Kingstons. It
was drawn in by the current. The ships are now forming in battle order.
Probably lunch will be late. To-morrow is the new moon. It will give
little light at night. It is a pity that we shall have to pass through
the straits of Malacca on a dark night, when we may expect the Japanese
to destroy our ships in the narrows.

_March 22nd._--Although I did not feel tired yesterday, I lay down and
slept till the waves splashed in through the port and woke me.

Three sailors were scalded by steam in the _Oslyabya_; it is not yet
known if they are seriously hurt. I have discovered the reason of my
sleepiness yesterday. I began to smoke new French cigarettes. They had
opium in them. It is a pity I have only a hundred cigarettes left. They
are very dear now. I must smoke others, and keep those with opium in
reserve.

The torpedo-boat _Buiny_ has damaged her forward torpedo-tube by
striking the _Vladimir_. Now it will not work.

The fleet will pass through the straits of Malacca in four columns. All
the transports will be in the middle, the battleships on the extreme
right, and the cruisers on the extreme left.

It is curious. You would expect us to be alarmed. We are almost on the
eve of meeting with the enemy's fleet, with his mines, submarine boats,
and torpedo-boats, and yet I am quite calm, even happy. The prospect
of being at Vladivostok in a month's time is so exhilarating. I daily
look at the chart with feverish interest, where the course already run
is shown, and I count the remaining miles to Vladivostok.

Are they despairing in Russia and not counting on Vladivostok being
able to hold out? If on our arrival at Kamranh we learn that it has
fallen, we should then have no base. What could we do then? We should
have to occupy one of the Japanese islands and make it our base--but
that would be bad for the supply of warlike provisions, ammunition,
correspondence, and telegrams. They would not allow a base to be made
at a neutral port. There is a report that the Japanese have made
themselves at home in the islands of the Natuna Archipelago, which
nominally belong to Holland. These islands lie on our course higher up,
north of the strait of Singapore, which is a continuation of Malacca.

How quickly rats swim! Two were thrown overboard to-day. They chased
the ship and climbed up, although the speed was nearly seven knots.

Up to the present the newspapers have not known where the fleet is to
be found. To-morrow we shall pass by the lighthouse of Pulo Way. From
there the ends of the earth will be informed by telegrams.

Strange lights have appeared. Our fleet has been ordered to put out
superfluous lights. Ports are covered with dead lights. We may expect
an attack to-night. At last our wartime has begun.

How many restless nights are before us? How will it all end?

FOOTNOTES:

[13] This is the torpedo-boat which took the admiral and his staff when
the _Suvaroff_ sank in the battle of Tsushima.

[14] Cabbage soup.



CHAPTER IX

THROUGH THE STRAITS OF MALACCA


_March 23rd_ (morning).--Yesterday the following message was received
from the captain of the _Terek_: "The crew will not disperse after
prayers, and demand that the first lieutenant should be changed. The
latter requests to be taken off the ship's books. I consider the
crew in the wrong." What? A mutiny? The last sentence is specially
characteristic.

The fleet has increased speed. We are entering the straits of Malacca,
and have said good-bye to the Indian Ocean. Two oceans successfully
passed! What will the third bring us? The island of Pulo Way is close,
but not yet visible.

During the day the shores of a small island were to be seen on the
horizon, lying off the island of Sumatra. This is the first land which
we have seen since leaving Nosi Be. For twenty days we have seen no
land at all.

It is difficult to remain in one's cabin, owing to the heat. No other
place is convenient for writing.

The ship is in darkness everywhere. This has been done purposely, in
order that when the men have to rush hurriedly on deck they will be
accustomed to the darkness. The battleship _Orel_ delayed the speed of
the fleet for two hours. One of her principal steam-pipes burst, and
she could not steam. Now it is repaired. We are at present in a wide
part of the straits. God forbid that a similar thing should happen in
the narrows, or during the battle.

Since seven o'clock till the present moment I have been on the bridge,
hesitating to go below. Nevertheless, I am satisfied--satisfied because
we are moving towards the finale.

_March 24th._--Yesterday we lost four hours of the twenty-four. This is
bad. In order to pass through the dangerous parts by day we shall have
to remain in the straits an extra day. The sooner we pass the straits
of Malacca and Singapore the better.

I am surprised at myself. I am in no way disturbed. Knowing that at any
moment any night we may be attacked, I continue to sleep peacefully. I
go to bed undressed. I go to sleep quickly, and think little about the
danger. My servant is dissatisfied. He bothers me to hide my things.
He has not found a convenient place for them, and it troubles him.
Though I know of a good place, I am silent. He is probably beginning a
removal. I shall have to sort out my clothes, and I do not want to.

It is raining and gloomy.

This morning there were two water-spouts, but I did not see them,
although I got up at seven.

The torpedo-boat _Biedovy_ reported that in the morning a sailor was
found lying motionless on deck. It was concluded that he was dead. They
asked permission to bury him at once. The staff delayed the answer.
Suddenly it was discovered that he was alive. A nice thing if they had
thrown him alive into the sea!

One of the officers in the _Suvaroff_ was playing with the dog
yesterday. The dog grew very tired, and suddenly began to bark
furiously, rushed on deck, and bit the other dogs. They poured water
over it, but to no purpose. It jumped into the stern gallery, and then
overboard, and was drowned. The two dogs which were bitten were tied
up, as they may possibly go mad.

We have been some time in the straits of Malacca, but up to the
present have not met a single steamer. At night sometimes lights are
visible, and once by day smoke was seen on the horizon. It was hardly
perceptible. Before the storm there is calm. It may be so now. A
signal has been made that at night officers are not to sleep away from
the guns they command. The crew have been sleeping at their guns for
some time past. Every precaution is taken against a night attack of
torpedo-boats.

We have begun to meet several steamers. They very wisely get out of
their way in good time.

A heavy squall has just gone by. Until then the sea was as calm as a
mirror.

The officers are distributing pots with powders for extinguishing
fires, and bags containing bandages. I do not believe in
fire-extinguishing powders.

The sailor about whose death there was a misunderstanding has been
buried. Some one in the torpedo-boat read the appointed prayers, our
priest with his cross blessed the deceased from afar, and the body was
launched into the sea. How simple!

After dinner I spent three hours on the bridge with the captain. I had
tea there. I asked him about Vladivostok and the life there, etc.

At noon to-day there were 2,100 more versts to Kamranh, which we can do
in about seven days if there is no fight or other hindrance.

_March 25th_ (day).--We met steamers all night, but they went aside out
of our course.

The Hull incident has had its advantages. Last night we met several
steamers. The searchlights were turned on them.

Admiral Enquist states that he, the captain, officers, and crew clearly
saw a steamer, behind which twelve torpedo-boats were following. This
can hardly be true. The Japanese are not so foolish as to show their
torpedo-boats by day to an enemy's fleet. The _Isumrud_ reported that
she saw a steamer followed by porpoises. She hesitates to say that they
are submarines, but thinks they are.

We shall soon be in a very narrow part, where the fairway is far from
wide. We are obliged to go by this fairway, as it is not possible to
avoid it. Something horrible may happen in it. There may be submarine
boats, or ground-mines, which they may place shortly before we pass, in
order that other ships should not strike them. Mines can be put down
so that at a given time they will sink themselves. The steamer that is
shadowing us might easily do this. She is behaving suspiciously--now
going fast, now stopping, now altering course. What is to prevent her
from going on ahead, and laying down ground-mines in her wake? Even if
our ships successfully evade the mines, they will in a certain period
of time sink, and the straits will again be safe for neutral ships. It
can all be done so simply and conveniently. Will the Japanese really
allow such an opportunity to pass of damaging our fleet?

To-day there was mass. I did not go to church, but lay down. I wanted
to go to sleep.

Another night, and the straits of Malacca will be behind us. The night
is dark. At 4 a.m. we shall again be in a narrow fairway. We shall pass
Singapore by day, and at six we shall enter the South China Sea. We
shall pass the Natuna Islands, where the presence of the Japanese is
suspected.

Do they intend to attack us in the straits of Malacca? By to-morrow
evening this will be cleared up. Will they concentrate all their
attention and their strength on the strait of Sunda, or east of
it? Perhaps they do not want to undertake anything till the fleet
enters the China Sea. The Japanese are enterprising. Why do they miss
opportunities that are so favourable for them?

To-day we saw a long, narrow, even strip of land which was the Malay
Peninsula. It is here that I again see the Asiatic Continent.

Some strange birds were flying round the ships. They were not gulls,
nor albatrosses, or any other sea-bird.

_March 26th_ (night).--At eleven o'clock we passed the town of Malacca.
The lights of the town were distinctly visible. Of course, the lights
of our ships are clearly seen in the town. When we were passing it a
schooner appeared on the horizon, coming towards us. The searchlights
were turned on to her. A torpedo-boat approached her, and conducted her
past the fleet. It was a pretty sight. Her white hull and sails showed
out clearly in the darkness. She passed close to the right column of
battleships.

None of the officers has gone to bed to-night. I am thinking of going
now. It might happen that we shall reach Vladivostok without meeting
Japanese ships. It would be a great surprise for us all. The sea is
wide, and there are many ways to that port. It is possible that our
extreme course will be so successfully chosen that the Japanese will
leave it unwatched.

Since the battle of Mukden we have had no news of what is going on at
the theatre of war. As a matter of fact, we only had agency telegrams
about the Mukden fight. Many people doubt their authenticity. I believe
them. Up to the present all that the French agency telegrams have
informed us of has proved true.

In a few hours we shall be in the China Sea.

The officers are enumerating various reasons why the Japanese did
nothing while we were in the straits of Malacca. Perhaps they have
prepared for a meeting in the Rio Strait, which we shall soon pass.
Perhaps the English insisted on their not causing trouble by laying
mines in the straits of Malacca, where there are considerable movements
of merchant ships. Perhaps the Japanese fleet is waiting for us at the
Natuna Archipelago. Fighting a battle there would be more advantageous
for us, because our ships could manoeuvre.

We shall see if anything happens to-night. Some people suppose that
peace may have concluded. If that is the case, it is a very disgraceful
peace. Russia can scarcely entertain it.

I did not leave my cabin until six o'clock to-day. Going on deck, I
learnt the news that the Russian consul from Singapore approached the
fleet in a tug, and told us that three weeks ago the Japanese fleet at
its full strength came to Singapore, accompanied by twelve transports,
floating workshops, hospitals, and torpedo-boats. From Singapore they
went to Borneo.

Near Borneo is the small island of Labuan. The Japanese bought land
from a Russian Jew, in this island, and made themselves at home
there. They connected Labuan with Singapore by a telegraph-cable. By
this means they could have received news of our movements yesterday.
Their fleet at Labuan consists of twenty-two warships, not counting
transports, hospital-ships, workshops, and torpedo-boats.

To-night a torpedo attack, and to-morrow a battle, are almost
inevitable. I must put on clean clothes, and lay in a stock of wool so
as not to be deafened by the firing.

I received an extract from the log. Such nonsense is written in it that
I shall have to alter it.

It is past ten o'clock, and up to now all is quiet. The Japanese
consider the 27th their lucky number. Perhaps they have postponed the
battle to that date.

According to the consul the passage of our fleet through the straits of
Malacca was a complete surprise to every one, including the Japanese.
That accounts for our not having met with any resistance. The eyes of
all were fixed in another direction.

Another ship has just met and passed the fleet. We turned searchlights
on her and let her pass. At noon to-day we were about 1,500 versts from
Kamranh. If there are no delays we can get there on March 30th.

Probably in this evening's telegrams is the news that our fleet has
passed Singapore. We heard that Vladivostok and Harbin are still in our
hands. Shall I go to bed, and if so shall I sleep? What if there is an
attack? I have begun to look with equanimity on possible attacks and
fights.

I do not think I shall lose my presence of mind during a battle, but
shall remain calm. Soon I may put myself to the test.

Again the attention of the whole world is concentrated on the fleet.
How much the war depends on its success or defeat! The hope of victory
is small, but if it comes, everything will be changed at once. The
faces of a good many lengthened a little when the proximity of the
Japanese fleet was known. A conflict with it is unavoidable.

_March 27th._--The night passed quietly. The fleet has stopped since
this morning. Torpedo-boats are coaling. They had very little left, and
it would not last to Kamranh. What of the Japanese? Do they not know
the place where we are to be found, and are they looking for us at
sea? It is hardly likely.

Our course is clear--to the north from Singapore to Vladivostok.
Perhaps they have gone ahead and are waiting somewhere. This is
possible.

The question is being asked why the fleet does not go straight to
Vladivostok, not calling at Kamranh. It would be easy to do this if the
ships were filled up with coal for so great a distance. Coaling at sea
when an attack is expected every minute is unwise and dangerous.

The torpedo-boats have filled up with coal and the fleet is proceeding.
To-day there was mass. I stood thinking that perhaps this was the last
service in the _Suvaroff_. Perhaps the next will be a requiem for the
killed. We must expect and be prepared for everything.

7 p.m.--We have passed the island of Anamba. The admiral opines
that we shall meet the Japanese fleet to-morrow. The sea is calm.
There is a swell. The small ships roll. It is interesting to know
what impression the news, that the fleet has passed Singapore, will
produce in Petersburg. Where is the third fleet now? Will it join us
at Vladivostok? Shall we await it at Kamranh? If we safely arrive at
that bay, then the Japanese will have to look after the Vladivostok
cruisers, our ships, and the third fleet. They will have to divide
their forces, and that would be an advantage for us. Can they not have
left ships to watch Vladivostok? Is there ice there still? They say it
usually breaks up at the beginning of April.

During the coming fight the _Oleg_ and _Aurora_ have been ordered to
support the battleships that are sustaining the fight. Some of the
cruisers will remain to defend the transports, which ought to try and
reach Kamranh.

At noon to-day we were rather more than 1,000 versts from it, and
relatively closer to our final goal. Can it be that at the very last
we shall be unsuccessful? All our troubles and deprivations will have
been in vain. There are too many chances on the side of Japan. It
is a good thing that we passed through the straits of Malacca. The
Japanese evidently did not count on our taking such a risky step. The
papers, continually writing about the strait of Sunda and our colliers
which were assembled there, turned their attention from the straits of
Malacca. The consul, however, stated that five submarines were waiting
for us the way we came. If that was the case, why did they not attack?

_March 28th._--All is quiet at present. Where are the Japanese? Why
have they not attacked us? Perhaps they thought they might disable some
of our ships with torpedos in the strait of Sunda. The large ships
would then attack our weakened fleet to decisively destroy it. The
whole scheme was upset as we did not go that way. Perhaps they are now
cruising somewhere near Saigon awaiting us. Our idea is to go in to
Kamranh, and wait there for the third fleet and those ships which leave
Russia in the spring with the _Slava_ at their head.

We shall lie at Kamranh an endless number of days in inactivity, as we
did at Nosi Be. We have already been twenty-six days at sea. Provisions
are running short. We have taken to salt meat. At the admiral's table
there is neither vodky, meat, nor coffee.

Following the general fashion, I intended to hide my things. I looked
at my winter forage-cap and there it ended. I am lazy.

Our fleet has made an unusual voyage. If it succeeded in reaching
Vladivostok without calling at Kamranh, the whole world would be amazed
at the immensity and daring of the voyage.

10 p.m.--We have begun to receive telegraphic signs. Possibly the
Japanese cruisers are communicating with each other, seeking us.

Perhaps we shall not go to Kamranh after all. Colliers are due to
arrive there on April 1st. We shall then receive our mails. This letter
must be closed in good time. By my reckoning you will receive it at the
end of April. By that time my fate and the fate of the fleet will be
made clear.

_March 29th._--_South China Sea._

I sent a letter and telegram to you by the hospital-ship _Orel_, which
is going to Saigon. She will be near there by dawn, if the Japanese
have not attacked by that time. Then she will be obliged to take their
sick and wounded, and receive orders from them. They will not sink her,
as she is a Red Cross hospital. The _Suvaroff_ alone managed to send
letters. The other ships did not even know that she was going to Saigon
to-day. An invalid officer was sent on board the _Orel_. He could not
walk on board, but was hoisted up by a derrick in a special chair. A
little coffee was obtained from the _Orel_ for the admiral's table.

I overslept myself to-day, and only arose at nine o'clock.

It is a time of alarms. We constantly meet various steamers,
principally under the English flag. The _Oleg_ continually approaches
to question them. This morning we met two English cruisers. One of them
saluted, and the _Suvaroff_ answered.

This was early. I woke up, hearing the firing. "Now," I thought, "they
have begun." I looked out of my port and went to sleep again. When
our signalmen first saw the English cruisers, they decided it was the
_Diana_ coming to join us. One of them was rather like her. Perhaps
the English cruisers help the Japanese to look after our fleet. We saw
seven clouds of smoke, but they quickly disappeared behind the horizon.
They were evidently seven ships. A steamer flying the English flag
met a detachment of our cruisers scouting, and signalled, "Have seen
Japanese torpedo-boats. Beware, and look out for attacks to-night."

I am pleased that I was able to send you a letter and telegram. I do
not count on receiving an answer to the latter.

The _Orel_ will not stay long at Saigon. Probably you will receive my
last letter in April, or in the beginning of May, when we shall be at
Vladivostok, or----!

_March 30th._--General coaling has been going on from early this
morning. If we had continued our voyage we should have been at Kamranh
about two o'clock. Now we cannot get there before to-morrow.

There is no communication between the ships. There is a great scandal
in the _Alexander III._ She indicated that she had about 900 tons of
coal, but in reality it proved to be only 350.

Gradually everything is coming to an end. Cigarettes and matches are
scarce. I obtained a piece of soap to-day, and there is only one left.

When the coaling finished, the fleet proceeded. I did not leave the
_Suvaroff_. Several times in the course of the day merchant vessels
passed the fleet. I make out that we shall reach Kamranh by dawn
to-morrow. We shall anchor there later.

The depth of the fairway will be sounded and searched. Although the
soundings of this bay are shown on the chart, they do not trust them
entirely. The search will be for fear that the Japanese have laid
down mines. It will not be an unnecessary precaution. The bay has two
entrances. At one of these a temporary boom will be made in order that
the Japanese may not creep up to our ships that way.

10 p.m.--A sailor was buried at sea to-day. It is an extraordinary
thing that it again happened in the _Oslyabya_. They have a great many
deaths in that ship.

The charts with the soundings of Kamranh proved very inaccurate. One
officer informed the staff that he had grounded there in some ship. The
depth of the spot was shown in the chart as great, whereas in fact it
was slight.

While they are sounding and searching to-morrow all the ships will
coal, in order not to waste time.

Birds are flying round the ships. A heron and a dove fell from
weariness near the _Suvaroff_. The heron was drowned, but the dove was
rescued by a cutter loaded with coal.

The moon is now shining. In half an hour it will have set and darkness
will come on. If the Japanese do not take advantage of it for a night
attack, we shall be near Kamranh by morning. I am pleased. As a matter
of fact, I was thrown out of my groove the moment the war began. At
first there was heavy night work, I was seldom at home; then I was
transferred to Cronstadt, then Revel, and Libau, and then abroad. I
have had fourteen months of this unnatural and vagrant life.



CHAPTER X

THE STAY AT KAMRANH


_March 31st._--Arrived at Kamranh. We are lying with engines stopped.

Steamboats and torpedo-boats have gone to reconnoitre and take
soundings. Coaling is just beginning. As we approached this morning
there was a fog. Suddenly it lifted, and between the fleet and the
shore a steamer was seen. Seeing the fleet, she went full speed, hoping
to escape. The _Jemchug_, _Isumrud_, and _Svietlana_ were sent to
examine her. They overtook her, questioned her, and let her go without
examination.

How many steamers were allowed to go in this way! I am firmly convinced
that many of them were carrying goods and provisions to Japan. We
allowed them to go after merely questioning them, and not even setting
foot on their decks. What sort of a fool would admit that he was taking
a cargo to Japan? Steamers should be searched, and not questioned. We
have let this one go. Why did she run if there was nothing contraband
on board?

The Japanese would have acted differently. They would not have parted
from them with answers only. Everything drops into our hands, and we
neglect it. How the Japanese and their friends must jeer at us! And
they are right.

It is hot here. At Vladivostok it is cold. When we arrive there the
sharp change of temperature will hardly be conducive to health. There
will probably be much catarrh, and even here at Kamranh it is easy to
go down with the local fever. A cold wind comes from the hills.

The colliers should arrive soon, bringing the old mails. I count on
receiving letters from December 13th to January 21st.

Where has that respected institution called the Naval General Staff
sent our letters now? Probably they are pigeon-holed in Petersburg.
We have not yet entered the bay, but are lying near it. In the depths
of my heart flutters a hope that the _Orel_ brings your answering
telegram. The last one was a month and half ago.

We shall evidently receive nothing from Kamranh, neither provisions nor
stores. It is beginning to be doubtful if we shall be able to send a
mail. It is supposed that our stay here will not be long. We shall take
in coal and stores, and move on.

The distance from here to Vladivostok as the crow flies, _i.e._ in a
straight line, is little more than 3,000 versts. Of course, our journey
will be considerably longer. I reckon that if nothing happens we can
do it in fifteen days. Trying days they will be. Perhaps the course we
choose will be round about, in which case we shall toss on the sea a
long time.

11 p.m.--The transports and some of the torpedo-boats have entered the
bay; the other torpedo-boats and warships will remain at sea, cruising
round Kamranh with lights. Probably we shall go into the bay to-morrow.
There are signs that we shall wait here for the third fleet. If you
could but imagine what is going on! If it were possible for me to tell
you all about it, you would be amazed. Should I live, I will tell you
afterwards. No, there is no use our fighting. Things have come to such
a pass that I can only wring my hands and feel assured that no one can
escape his fate, for this is the only possible assurance.

The weather has begun to grow cooler. The engines and boilers of all
the ships are worn, especially the boilers. It is not surprising,
considering that for thirty days we have not let go an anchor.
Everything has its limits.

_April 1st._--Kamranh Bay. We have only just begun to enter the bay,
having spent thirty days at sea.

The hospital-ship _Orel_ has not returned, nor have the colliers come.
Have they fallen into the hands of the Japanese?

When our warships approached close to Kamranh, fishermen were seen in
their boats; but for some reason not one of them came near us.

In the morning a little bird, apparently an exhausted canary, was
caught on deck.

Last night was cooler. I woke up dry this morning. Such a thing has not
happened to me for a very long time.

One cannot help wondering if it is wise, losing so much time at
Kamranh. All the preparations Japan made for meeting us at the Sunda
Straits can be transferred to another spot. They will have time to
construct everything afresh. Their device at Sunda Strait having
failed, it will be more advantageous for them to meet our fleet nearer
their own shores, where they could at once repair their damages and
where they have many bases.

All this compels me to think that we are hardly likely to meet them
before passing Formosa. Of course, if we remain long at this place,
circumstances may alter, and afford the Japanese the possibility of
attacking us in the bay itself, and of mining it. In that case Kamranh
will be an actual trap. It seems to me that the Japanese consider us
more crafty than we really are. On the contrary, we are very simple. I
say "simple" in order not to use a stronger term.

We have just anchored. The approaching colliers can be seen in the
distance. The shores of the bay are hilly, in some places covered with
growth; in others there is grey stone or sand. The sand is a curious
colour; sometimes it is quite white, and sometimes yellow.

I have to go away in the steamboat. During the night, two torpedo-boats
went to examine a passing steamer, and the _Blestyastchy_ managed to
tear the _Bezuprechny's_ side. The sea is not wide enough for two
Russian torpedo-boats! They must be repaired. In the _Bezuprechny_ the
rudder is out of order, and one engine does not work.

Officers who went into the bay in torpedo-boats yesterday state that at
Kamranh there are post and telegraph offices, plenty of provisions,
and that a railway is being constructed to Saigon.

A telegram was received here yesterday that the third fleet had left
Jibutil. Hava's agency states that a great fight occurred between our
fleet and the Japanese, near the island of Borneo. Such false news will
only cause uneasiness in Russia.

Three weeks ago two Japanese cruisers arrived here, but two
torpedo-boats were sent from Saigon demanding them to leave the
bay. They went. Perhaps they will tell us to go away from here, and
evidently it is supposed that we shall remain here a long time.

The external appearance of the bay and its entrances compare with Port
Arthur. I hope it will not actually become a second Port Arthur.

They are just bringing the mail from the collier.

_April 2nd._--Yesterday the admirals and captains of all ships were
sent for on board the _Suvaroff_. There was a council of war.

The collier only brought from Diego Suarez letters which were addressed
to Madagascar. For some ships there were no letters, and for others
only two or three each. There was much swearing over it.

The hospital-ship _Orel_ is approaching and brings news. Yesterday
about 3 p.m. I went to the _Bezuprechny_. The work there seemed
enormous. They wanted a fortnight to do it in. I undertook to do it
in forty-eight hours, and I think I shall succeed. I went to bed at
four--slept in the _Kamchatka_ in the captain's deck cabin. I made
myself very dirty. In the torpedo-boats I always take care to wear some
one else's white tunic when I have to crawl about.

I fed in the _Kamchatka_. They feed there better than in the
_Suvaroff_. A Chinese cook has been engaged from Singapore for the
admiral's table; perhaps the _Orel_ is bringing him here.

The workmen in the _Kamchatka_ are without tobacco, and pay ten
copecks for a cigarette. How is this? Tobacco was sent them from the
_Suvaroff_. I got on board with difficulty, as there was no boat.

At sunset I shall go to the torpedo-boat, and spend the night there.
They sent off a mail while I was away. I was sorry I could not send a
letter. When I leave the _Suvaroff_ again I shall leave this one, and
hope that it will be sent somehow.

How carelessly they deal with the post! It was decided that the
_Gortchakoff_ (transport) should go to Russia from Nosi Be. They sent
the mail in her and many sailors' letters. The _Gortchakoff_ came
with us, all the correspondence is in her, and the senders think that
the letters have already been received at home. It is very annoying.
Several letters contained money.

The _Orel_ took the invalid officer to Saigon, in order that he might
go back to Russia.

When we were passing through the straits of Malacca a sailor of the
_Alexander_ disappeared, with his hammock. They thought he wanted to
desert the ship, and had thrown himself overboard, taking with him his
hammock, which was covered with cork and floats. When the _Bezuprechny_
received her injury a servant thought she was sinking, and waking all
the officers, he put a life-belt into their hands.

There is a goat in that torpedo-boat. They brought her from Nosi Be.
During the thirty days' passage she fed only on paper, did not eat
hay, and even now refuses it. They nurse her like a baby. All the
visiting-cards have been eaten by her. To-day she has been taken for a
run on shore.

A boatswain and a sailor were buried to-day. They were killed by a
derrick in the _Irtish_. In almost every port there are victims of
accidents in the fleet.

I saw some natives--Annamese. They are of the Malay type, yellow and
rather repulsive. They approached the _Kamchatka_ and _Bezuprechny_,
offering to sell various rubbish. The tobacco was quickly bought up,
and they paid very dearly for it.

Will the _Orel_ bring me an answer to my telegram? How delighted I
should be if I received it!

We are coaling in the _Suvaroff_. Everywhere there is dirt and
nastiness; they are heaping up coal in the wardroom and in the
officers' cabins.

1 a.m.--Received your telegram. Many thanks.

_April 3rd._--_Transport Kamchatka, Kamranh Bay._

At last I can write. I have not been in the _Suvaroff_ since yesterday.
All the time I was either in the _Bezuprechny_ or on board the
_Kamchatka_, where I am now writing to you. I obtained paper, went
into the deck-house, and am scribbling. Horrible! Whole flocks of
cockroaches are running about.

The German steamer _Dagmar_ weighed anchor yesterday to go to Saigon.
She was stopped and given a mail from the staff. I took advantage of
this, and gave my letters to be sent to her.

I am not satisfied with the work in the _Bezuprechny_. I counted on
finishing it to-day, and have not succeeded. The sea and the swell
hindered it. Her rudder is repaired, and they are now repairing the
breach.

Yesterday a French cruiser came to Kamranh with an admiral. Salutes
were exchanged. The admirals paid each other visits. To-day the cruiser
left.

11 p.m.--Battleship _Kniaz Suvaroff_.

I had scarcely succeeded in writing the last page when a letter from
the _Suvaroff_ came for me. I found the ship horribly dirty. Everywhere
there was coal-dust as thick as your finger. It hangs in the air like
a fog. I do not know where or how to sleep. It is hot and dusty in the
cabin. Last night I dozed, sitting on the _Kamchatka's_ deck in a chair
(a canvas one like those used in datchas[15]). I woke up at six o'clock
in the morning.

These last days I have been feeding in the _Bezuprechny_, or sometimes
in the _Kamchatka_. They feed better everywhere than in the _Suvaroff_.
It has been awkward about provisions up to now. Everything has been
bought up on shore. Literally nothing remains. Eggs are sold at
twenty-eight copecks a-piece (about 7_d._). In the morning they were
selling ox-meat for nearly a gold piece.

Altogether there are four Europeans living on shore, and forty Malays.
It is almost a desert. There are only five or six houses. The engineers
who are constructing the railway live on the opposite side of the bay.

There is a telegraph and post-office here. A Chinese receives the
correspondence, and does it very slowly. From twelve to six yesterday
he only took ten telegrams and twelve letters from two men. Twelve men
were unable to hand in anything. A Chinese clerk is not a quick worker.

There is splendid sport here--elephants, tigers, monkeys, etc.

A clerk from the _Donskoi_ was buried on shore to-day. Admiral
Folkersham has had a stroke, but the doctors say it is very slight and
not dangerous. Do you remember I told you a sailor threw himself and
his hammock into the straits of Malacca? A steamer picked him up, took
him to Singapore, handed him over to the Russian consul, who sent him
to Saigon, and from there he was sent to the fleet. He declares that he
fell overboard accidentally.

When the hospital-ship _Orel_ approached Saigon she was met by a
cutter and a steamer of Günsburg's, which had come to co-operate with
her. The public were not allowed on board the _Orel_. In the evening,
papers came out announcing that the Japanese had been defeated by our
fleet, that the _Orel_ was full of wounded, whose groans were audible,
although no one was allowed on board, etc. Such lies can only agitate
people in Russia. The Japanese, of whom there are many in Saigon, were
so offended that next day they did not leave their houses.

I was afraid I should not have been able to write to you to-day. It
would have been the first time. Even on the day of the storm off the
Cape of Good Hope, on December 8th, I managed to write a few words.

_April 4th._--It was arranged by signal that all engineer-constructors
should assemble to meet me. After having spoken to them, I set out for
the _Nachimoff_. I lunched there and drank two wineglasses of vodky,
two tumblers of beer, and a little claret. It so happened that it would
have been difficult to refuse them.

In the _Nachimoff_ all the partitions of the officers' cabins have been
broken down (so that there should not be a fire). The furniture and the
sleeping-bunks have been taken away. The mattresses lie on the floor.

All the ships have prepared for battle, and present a strange
appearance. Everywhere there are defences made out of chains,
torpedo-nets, coal, hawsers, sailors' hammocks, etc.--anything that
comes to hand. The ships have nothing in common with what one is
accustomed to see.

Three elephants have been brought here for sale. It is not likely that
any one will purchase them.

The French cruiser has returned, and lies in the bay by the side of
our ships. It is known that a steamer will pass Kamranh soon, taking
about 280 poods of rice to Japan. The admiral evidently hesitates about
stopping her, fearing that he will draw on himself the accusation of
making a base of a neutral port for the operations of his cruisers. The
captain of the steamer is not averse to giving himself up, and will not
hide or fly from pursuit.

Although we are lying at Kamranh, matters stand like this--any moment
we may expect an order to weigh anchor. Everything is in readiness for
this.

The sailor who threw himself into the straits of Malacca has been
brought here. He belongs to the _Nachimoff_, and not the _Alexander_,
as I told you before. Until the steamer picked him up he kept himself
afloat in the water for nearly ten hours. To lighten himself he took
everything off, only leaving a piece of neck-cover on his shoulders,
so that the sun should not scorch him. He went overboard at night,
and they drew him out next day. "It was trying, going on board the
steamer," he said. "They all looked at me, and I had nothing on."

We have to go 4,500 versts to Vladivostok. If we do not leave here
soon, we shall have dark, moonless nights.

_April 5th._--Kamranh Bay. How tired I am to-day! All day long I have
been going from ship to ship. They have not made me a dirk in the
_Borodino_, as the officer who promised it is lying ill.

The officers in the _Oleg_ are angry because Admiral Enquist is being
transferred to her.

The _Aurora's_ officers went shooting, but only killed a dove. They did
not go far from the shore.

_April 6th._--All the battleships and the _Aurora_ weighed anchor and
went to sea. The rest of the ships remained in the bay.

I smoked my last Russian cigarette.

Some of the transports are going to Saigon, and perhaps will not return.

How news is fabricated! There is a Reuter's telegram (and Reuter
publishes the most trustworthy news) that in the fight with the
Japanese our fleet lost the torpedo-boats _Buiny_ and _Blestyastchy_,
and two cruisers, the _Aurora_ and the _Donskoi_. Pleasant for those to
read this telegram whose nearest are in these ships. Although the cook
has not arrived, the food has improved. Provisions were obtained from
a steamer which arrived from Saigon.

There is a Japanese mineral water called "Jansen." A great deal of this
water has been brought to the fleet. I tried it, and it was not bad.

The people who sorted the provisions behaved like wild wolves. There
were some disgusting scenes. The crew of the _Orel_ broke open a box
and got drunk. For some reason a sailor threw himself on the doctor
with raised fists, but did not succeed in hitting him. Two officers who
happened to be near seized the sailor and nearly killed him. They beat
his face into a pulp. It was horrible. The French saw all this, and a
nice opinion they will have of the Russians.

A week before the _Orel_ went to Saigon the captain of the _Borodino_
ordered 4,000 eggs, hams, etc., for the crew. The crew in that ship
will celebrate Easter like human beings. It will not be so in other
ships.

My notebook is finished. This is the second. Can I obtain another? How
much is written in these two books!--all the history of our breakages
and repairs.

There is neither sight nor sound of the Japanese fleet. Will they let
the third fleet join us without a fight? The _Gortchakoff_, _Jupiter_,
_Kieff_, and _Kitai_ went to Saigon. Cruisers escorted them. Perhaps
these transports will bring us coal. There is some belonging to Russia,
but will the French allow us to take it?

There are perpetual forest fires on shore. They are a beautiful sight
by night. Europeans say that elephants, tigers, and panthers wander
about the shore at night. The beasts feel that they are the owners.
They even go up to the houses, out of which it is not safe to venture.
The place is quite wild. The engineers who are making the cutting for
the railway complain that the elephants cherish enmity against the
telegraph-posts, and constantly tear them up. It is an interesting
country, but not during such a cruise as ours.

I have not been ashore up to the present, and probably shall not go.
How wearisome it all is to me! It sometimes seems that this life
on board will never end. A complete apathy comes over me. Time is
agonisingly long.

_April 7th._--An inquiry began to-day about the sailor who attacked the
officer in the _Orel_. If they look on the matter seriously, he will
have to end his earthly existence.

There is a picture of the surrender of Port Arthur in the French
papers. Their contempt for the Russians is growing.

They call us hares. There was one bright side in all this war--the
defence of Port Arthur, and now that is besmirched.

The French cruiser is lying at Kamranh, and will remain here as long as
our fleet does not leave. It looks as if she were guarding our ships
from an attack by the Japanese.

Cursed war! One is ashamed to look a foreigner in the face.

Fifteen months, and not one victory! Rout after rout, and there is
nothing but disgrace and humiliation.

There are several officers in the fleet who are preparing to import
their wives to Vladivostok. How comparatively near that port lies! We
have come a tremendous journey, and only a small bit remains. I wonder
if we shall arrive there soon? We are now waiting for the third fleet,
and the Japanese are preparing to meet us. No reports about them have
reached us. We do not even know where their fleet is. No doubt they
know our every movement. It is all horrible. It is annoying when one
sees how we do not know how to make use of our strength.

_April 8th._--Our auxiliary cruisers returning from escorting the
transports to Saigon met a large French steamer. There were many
Russians on board her. They were in uniform, and were evidently
returning from captivity. They waved their caps and cheered our
cruisers.

The French admiral came on board during lunch. The meal was interrupted
while he was paying a visit, which was quite unexpected. Has he come
in order to request us to go? Yes, it is so. France insists that we
leave Kamranh. She is our ally, too. It is proposed that we go back 600
versts and there wait for the third fleet.

It is humiliating to go back and retreat from our final goal. If we
were to wait for the third fleet, why did we leave Nosi Be? We only
give the Japanese a better chance of preparing themselves. After all,
it may happen that we shall go on without waiting. Time has been lost,
and our strength has not been augmented. The strength of the Japanese
will be concentrated in a smaller sphere of activity, and consequently
will be more effective.

In what a horrible situation the second and third fleets are now
placed! Where and how shall we effect a junction?

Had it not been for the third fleet, we might have been at Vladivostok
a long time ago. What will the third fleet do?

By reckonings it has only passed Colombo. From Petersburg it was
ordered to go by the straits of Sunda.

_April 9th._--An officer has come from the French cruiser and brought
a letter for the admiral. A signal has been made to get up anchor at
noon to-morrow. It is still unknown where we are going--to Vladivostok,
or to some other bay. I wonder if we shall be able to send letters
to-morrow? There is little hope of that, but in any case I shall be
ready.

South China Sea.--At one o'clock we weighed anchor and went to sea.
The transports and the _Almaz_ remained in the harbour, as they were
coaling from German colliers. The fleet will remain near Kamranh till
they are ready and can join us. Where we shall steer then is unknown.
Of course, we might toss at sea waiting for the third fleet; but coal!
coal! The coaling question is the question of life.

Two of our colliers are arrested. One at Singapore and the other at
Saigon. (Saigon, too, is French! How this will please you!)

Our mails have been sent to the _Tamboff_, which, after giving the
fleet her load, will go to Saigon. If she does not fall into the hands
of the Japanese, the letters will go to Russia.

There is an officer in the fleet who was in the _Cesarevitch_ on the
28th--that is, on the day on which Witgift[16] was killed, and when
our ships fled so disgracefully wherever they could. From what he says
it is evident that the morale in the ships was bad, and that they were
all convinced that they would return to Port Arthur; that the Japanese
suffered heavily, and if our ships had held out for half an hour more
the enemy's fleet would have run. He related a good deal. Obviously,
we might easily have been the victors. The pity was that the spirit of
despair reigned. The _Cesarevitch_ hardly suffered at all. Wirenius did
much harm to the fleet.

All these disgraceful stories will come to light after the war is over.
Many heroes will then be taken down from their pedestals.

If we only had had clever and daring leaders the Port Arthur fleet
might easily have destroyed the Japanese. What a number of mistakes we
made! How little we valued our strength.

When one recalls it all one cannot account for the fatal errors. We
have to pay very dearly for them. What follies they have perpetrated on
land! How many young lives have been lost! How much will all this cost
Russia!

The weather is becoming better. The ships are going very slowly,
keeping near Kamranh Bay with lights covered. As usual, I stayed a long
while on the bridge. The rainy season will begin here soon, as well as
typhoons. How will the smaller vessels, like torpedo-boats, get on?

_April 10th._--After lunch I am going to the _Tamboff_; she is
shortly going to Saigon. I shall post this letter by her. One of the
staff-officers should have gone to the _Tamboff_, but they are nearly
all lying ill. I myself feel well, thank God!

Yesterday the _Oslyabya_ buried another sailor.

There was mass to-day. It is Palm Sunday. How time has flown! All night
the ships remained at sea. The night passed quietly. The _Isumrud_
fouled her screws with a chain. Divers were sent down.

A steamer flying the Norwegian flag passed by. She was examined, but
nothing suspicious was found. She was coming from Japan, and not going
there.

I took my last letter and gave it to the captain of the _Tamboff_.
I handed him a franc for the stamp, but he was offended and would
not take it. I tried to obtain cigarettes, but was unsuccessful. The
wardroom wanted to buy vodky from her, but that too was a failure. The
Norwegian steamer which we examined this morning gave us the latest
papers. They are all English.

The discretion of the English press is extraordinary. They consider
Japan their ally, so they purposely say nothing about her fleet. About
ours they print all the news they in one way or another possess. It is
not the English newspapers alone that act thus. To do them justice, the
Japanese carefully conceal everything, and no one ever rightly knows
how many ships they have lost. Not only ships, but up to the present no
one knows how many troops Japan can place in the field. It was thought
about 300,000, and already they have placed nearly a million men.

The foreign press (English and French) puts our losses from the
beginning of the war at about 400,000 men. If that is the case, how
many are left to Linievitch? A mere trifle, about 200,000. Could
anything more disgraceful than this war be imagined?

_April 11th._--From time to time merchant vessels pass near the fleet.
Our cruisers and torpedo-boats go and examine them. A French steamer
came quite close, and a man in her expressed a wish to hand something
to the admiral in person. I know now that he only announced the date
the third fleet passed Colombo, and said that nothing fresh had
happened in Manchuria.

A journey of only twelve or fifteen days separates us from Vladivostok.
There it is cold, and here it is hot. Many of us will catch colds.

The crew are dressed badly. They have no boots, and their clothes are
worn out and ragged.

The Frenchman brought no news. We received newspapers. From these it is
evident that there is a great discussion about Kamranh in France. They
fear the Japanese are there.

The news can scarcely be correct that Admiral Nebogatoff's fleet (third
fleet) has passed Colombo. Its course is elsewhere.

_April 12th._--How people are deceived sometimes! It seemed to a good
many in the _Suvaroff_ yesterday that there was a steam cutter between
her and the _Alexander III._ Instantly the fighting lanterns were
uncovered, and the rays of the searchlight turned on to the suspicious
place. They saw some white breakers and foam. Many are inclined to
believe it was a submarine boat, disappearing under water when they
began to light up. In confirmation of this supposition they point out
that the _Jemchug_ saw something like a periscope (a sort of tube which
projects out of the water and allows objects that are above to be seen
in the submerged boat).

Last evening I went to the upper deck cabin to breathe the fresh air,
lay on the sofa, and went to sleep. At four o'clock I woke and went
back to my cabin. I have learnt to make cigarettes fairly well. If
paper and tobacco last, I can get on without ready-made ones.

They are beginning to say that in a day or two we shall leave Kamranh
for another bay. To do this we shall have to take in coal and
provisions, leaving the transports. The _Tamboff_ apparently will not
come with us. Letters will not be taken to Saigon.

A war vessel has been manoeuvring in sight of the fleet. Fearing that
she is Japanese, the _Oleg_ has been sent to make certain. It is a
false alarm. She is probably the French cruiser _Déscartes_. There is
another steamer coming towards the fleet. The question of going to
another bay is settled.

We are going to the bay of Van Fong, which is about one hundred versts
north of Kamranh. It is probably a wild and deserted spot.

I am bored and anxious, and long to be home.

FOOTNOTES:

[15] A country house or bungalow.

[16] A Russian admiral.



CHAPTER XI

DELAYS AT VAN FONG


_April 13th._--At about nine o'clock the signalman in an emotional
voice announced that a warship was coming towards us from the north,
flying the Russian naval flag and several signals. It turned out to be
the French cruiser _Déscartes_. She was signalling to us, and hoisted
the Russian flag so that we should understand. There is news that a
hospital-ship has arrived at Batavia. It is said to be the _Kostroma_,
which is with Admiral Nebogatoff's fleet.

We are approaching the anchorage of Van Fong. Some of the ships are
already in the bay. The French admiral clearly sympathises with us, and
if it depended on him we might lie where it is most convenient for us.
He purposely shuts his eyes to a great deal. If he were not so disposed
towards us it would be awkward. He is aware, for instance, where we
have gone from Kamranh, but pretends that it is unknown to him. How
much sometimes depends on one man!

We are moving nearer and nearer to Vladivostok. We have altogether come
28,500 versts. There are 4,200 still left. Nearly seven-eighths of our
voyage is successfully accomplished.

All the ships have anchored. The _Suvaroff_ is coaling from a German
steamer. In the latter some of the crew are Chinamen, and perhaps there
are Japanese.

I forget if I told you that two Japanese were noticed among the crew
of the steamer _Dagmar_, which brought provisions to Kamranh. How well
their intelligence service is organised! Wherever you look there are
Japanese spies. There is authentic news that the ice at Vladivostok
has dispersed. Consequently, the Japanese might undertake naval
operations against it, if we do not interfere in time. It will be a
fine impediment if they cut off Vladivostok by land, thus making it a
second Port Arthur.

Easter will soon be here, but it is not noticed in the ship.

They live and eat as usual. There are no preparations--everywhere is
dirt and coal.

_April 14th._--In the torpedo-boats they were assured that when we
left Kamranh we were going to Vladivostok. They never expected we
should anchor in some bay.

A sailor deserted at Kamranh. What will he do there, on that savage
shore? Another threw himself into the sea from the _Rion_, having
cautiously put on a life-belt. He was successfully taken out of the
water and put on board the _Rion_. On what do these people count?

The shore here is hilly, and rather pretty. There is a small
settlement. Chinese came near us in boats. They sold chickens, ducks,
bananas, etc. The prices are heavy. They ask more than a rouble for a
fowl. They will not let a small pumpkin go for less than fifty copecks.

I watched how the Chinese eat in the collier. They eat very cleverly,
with sticks. It is curious to see so many people with pigtails.
Sometimes they fasten them up on their necks, and sometimes hang them
down their backs.

Admiral Folkersham is still unwell. He is in bed. The stroke was not so
slight as the doctors said.

There are a lot of rats in my cabin. Their audacity is so great that
when I sit at table they run about my feet.

The Chinese who come in junks, bringing provisions, try to get rid of
false three-rouble notes made by the Japanese.

Several steamers have refused to go from the south with freights for
Japan. Their captains explain that their crews do not care to go to
those seas where there are Russian ships.

They tried to explain to the sailors that they themselves would lose
nothing. The only risk was of losing the ship. The persuasion had no
effect, so they were taken before a judge. The cause of their not
wishing to continue to voyage was explained. "The Russian system," said
the sailors, "is to fire at a suspicious ship and save no one. They
acted thus in the North Sea. We do not want to run the risk."

Unfortunately, we do not do so; but the affair in the North Sea brought
us one advantage. Merchant ships do not come near our fleet out of
curiosity--they give way to us. Now steamers have no special pleasure
in carrying contraband, though they can procure it freely from America.
The Japanese were provided with coal long ago. The coal which we sent
to Vladivostok in large quantities was captured by them.

The captain of the _Eva_, who was at Vladivostok a comparatively short
time ago, says that there is no lack of provisions there. They want
matches. Perhaps he is only inventing. He also says that he has read a
telegram announcing that Nebogatoff's fleet has passed Singapore. If
this is true we should effect a junction with it shortly.

_April 15th._--Last night a rat bit my foot. I must take measures
against them.

At the wireless station they are receiving signals. They are rather
incoherent messages. It seems as if they meant to say "Nicholas" (the
_Nikolai I._ is with the third fleet). In any case, cruisers are being
sent to look out for Admiral Nebogatoff's fleet.

From the _Borodino_ they announce that they are getting similar signs.

An officer has just come from the _Sissoi_ to report that they have
received a perfectly clear message, in which the _Nicholas_ asks for
the situation of the _Suvaroff_. Perhaps the _Nicholas_ is actually
signalling. In any case, it will soon be made clear. If Nebogatoff
effects a junction, then, after his ships have had a chance of being
overhauled and of coaling, we shall move on to Vladivostok. Now we
shall hardly wait for the _Slava_ and other ships. Probably they have
not yet left Russia.

There has just been a solemn service. O God! what squalor! The crew
and the choir stood barefoot. All were in white. They tried to put
on clean clothes, but they were all torn. The officers' clothes were
bad also. All the same, the service made a deep impression on me. It
brought back to my mind the last week I spent with you.

This is the second Easter I have spent in a ship (the first in the
_Apraxin_[17]), and both with Rojdestvensky.

The engineer-constructor Kostenko, who was in the battleship _Orel_,
was washing his feet and somehow cut his left foot with the basin. He
was sent to the hospital-ship _Orel_. He cut his tendon achilles. The
flagship's doctor said he required hospital treatment. I do not yet
know if his wound is dangerous. There were six engineer-constructors in
the fleet. One has been sent to Russia, and one will be in hospital.
Thirty-three per cent. of all the engineers have, so to speak, fallen
out of the ranks. For whom else is a similar fate in store? Poor
Kostenko! He is a talented man. It is not a year since he left school.
Perhaps it is all for the best that he has gone to the hospital-ship
_Orel_. At all events, he will not have to undergo the chances of a
battle.

In order not to disclose the position of the fleet, we are forbidden to
send letters and telegrams from here. The question of the messages from
the _Nicholas_ has been cleared up. Two French ships were communicating
with one another.

We have distinguished ourselves quite like Russians. We came into
the bay of Van Fong, anchored, and arranged for an inspection of the
entrance to the bay. The bay itself was not examined. Suddenly to-day
a steamer was seen moving towards the entrance. "What is this?" "Where
does she come from?" "Whose steamer?" etc. The alarm was beaten. It
appears that it was a French steamer that has been lying here for four
days. How this will please you! It is true the bay is very large, and
there are many commodious corners in it; but, nevertheless, it does not
excuse our carelessness. Why should not Japanese torpedo-boats have
hidden themselves earlier, and attacked the fleet at night from the
side where they were least expected. It might have happened, and they
would certainly have done it if they had known that we should not have
examined the bay, or that we should come here. They say very truly
that St. Nicholas the "Casual" is protecting us.

The "Apes" and the "Anyhows" are fighting indeed! I had to go and see
Kostenko in the hospital-ship _Orel_. I have been only on board her
once during the whole voyage, and then only because it was absolutely
necessary. I am not the only one that feels like that towards her. All
of us look on her with aversion, and for some reason she is not popular.

Admiral Nebogatoff, by my reckoning, can arrive on the 19th or 23rd.
Several days will be necessary for his ships to repair defects, before
the voyage to Vladivostok.

_April 16th._--I went to the _Oleg_, had lunch there, and stayed till
one o'clock. Pity it was a Lenten lunch. There was a sailor on board
who had been a clown. He trained a dog and did several tricks. The
cook's assistant there has received the name of "Fire King," as he eats
burning tow. There are many musicians and actors there. The _Oleg_ is
a happy ship. The officers live in a very friendly way.

Last night I waged war with the rats for a very long time. They quite
conquered. The worst of it is that they do not mind running over my
bed. It is very repulsive.

I am preparing for Easter.

My servant almost by force compelled the washerman to wash a tunic and
a pair of trousers for me. My shoes he has not been able to whiten.

I chatted for a long time with the navigator and captain. The latter
was seated in his deck cabin without a tunic. He says it is nice like
that, but it seems strange.

The wardroom are collecting creeping plants and green branches in
preparation for Easter. All the same, everything is so poor and
wretched. Somehow or other they have coloured the eggs, though there is
no paint. The bakers have baked the bread in the shape of Easter cakes.
There is, of course, no paska,[18] though there will be some at the
admiral's table.

In all the Chinese boats there are eyes painted in the bows. This is
done in order that the boat may see where it is going.

Those of our transports which went to Saigon have been allowed to
take enough coal to last them to Odessa. Of course, if they are wise
they will fill their holds as full as possible. As long as you have
permission to take it, you can always gain on the amount. Do you
remember in Vigo each ship was only allowed to take 400 tons, and they
all took more than 800 each?

To-day, for the first time during the voyage, the agencies' telegrams
have been published for the information of everybody. The captain,
first lieutenant, and senior officer in the _Irtish_ are drinking
heavily. They are nearly always drunk. Wild scenes take place. Gloom
and dissatisfaction reign in that transport. It might end very badly.

Do you know, it seems to me that the eighth will be an important date
for our fleet? Perhaps a fight will take place on that date.

There are some polite wiseacres who are sending their cards to all the
ships. Could anything be sillier at such a time, and under the present
circumstances.

At 11.45 p.m. a service will begin, but no mass. The Easter scenes in
Russia will rise up in my memory.

_April 17th._--Christos Voskress![19] I woke later than usual. I am
late for the hoisting of the colours. I have not yet left my cabin.
Easter is being greeted. During the service half the officers and
crew did not leave the loaded guns. The church was carefully covered,
so that light should not penetrate outside. The stuffiness was
intolerable.

The service went off with much ceremony. All were in white. The altar
screen was white, and the priest's vestments also. The church was
abundantly decorated with tropical plants. Everything was covered with
them, and garlands were suspended from the roof. The church is so low
that after it was arranged and decorated it looked almost like a cave.

We broke our fast at supper. The table was fairly well spread. No one
knew in Russia that the fleet would spend Easter in the bay of Van
Fong. Everything went on in the ordinary way. After 6 p.m. coal and
stores were taken in, and all go about dirty.

Do you remember last Easter? It was also out of the common.

About three o'clock I went to the _Borodino_, and stayed there till
six. Every officer in her received an egg and an Easter cake, and they
sent eggs and cakes to the hospital-ship _Orel_. This was the only
ship that did this. The others did not trouble about their sick. They
promised to get me paper and tobacco.

Yesterday a mining cutter from the _Borodino_ was on guard duty, and
met three Chinese boats with fish. The cutter examined them. One of the
Chinamen seemed suspicious. They thought he was Japanese. He was taken
into the cutter, but, profiting by a favourable moment, he jumped into
the water, dived, quickly gained the shore, and ran off. A paper was
found in the boat. It was apparently a simple permission for them to
catch fish at Van Fong, and was written in Chinese.

I have prickly heat. It is horrible.

In the evenings, after dinner, I often go and sit on the forebridge.
I was there to-day and talked with the captain. He was going about
barefooted, and without a tunic.

_April 18th._--The famous Meteorological Station near Shanghai gives
information about a typhoon which is now on the China Sea. Will it
catch us? Typhoons are very frequent. Their number depends on the time
of the year. We are afraid that our torpedo-boats will not succeed in
reaching Vladivostok safely, owing to them. If we go by the strait
of Korea we shall have an affair with Japanese torpedo-boats and
submarines. It would be a good thing if it were rather rough (like we
had it in the German Ocean) when we pass through the strait. It would
be more difficult for their submarines and torpedo-boats to attack us.

The last few days have been close and damp. My tobacco is mildewed. To
economise in cigarettes I have to cut them in halves.

Yesterday my servant Golovko stole a bottle of brandy from the
sideboard in the wardroom, and got drunk. He is no longer to be one of
the servants of the staff. I shall have another. It is a pity, as I was
accustomed to Golovko, and he knew my ways.

I smoked a cigarette with opium, and am now inclined to sleep. I hope
Nebogatoff and his fleet will come soon. Perhaps he will bring a mail.
Everything is possible with us.

_April 19th._--There is a telegram that Nebogatoff passed Penang on the
15th, and not on the 13th. We may expect him here on the 21st.

There have been disorders in the battleship _Orel_ about a cow. Some
one broke her leg. They killed her, and gave her meat to the crew for
dinner. The crew complained loudly that they were fed with meat from
animals that had died.

The admiral himself went to the _Orel_ this morning, and raised thunder
and lightning. The captain, officers, and crew alike suffered. True,
the crew of the _Orel_ are a bad lot. Among the sailors are many who
have been punished. Do you remember I told you they were not sailors,
but convicts, in the _Orel_. Think of what has happened to this
ship--her sinking, grounding, the attempt to damage both engines, etc.
The captain is in a great measure responsible for the insubordination
of the crew. For some reason he looks at their offences through his
fingers, and even reproves the officers if they try to carry out a more
severe discipline--and not only discipline, but plain order.

There is news that a French warship will arrive here to-morrow. The
following comedy will be played out for appearance' sake. All the
battleships, the _Oleg_, and the _Aurora_ will get up anchor and go to
sea at 6.30 a.m. The transports and other ships will move ahead, as
if they were preparing to go. In reality they will only change their
position, leaving places for Nebogatoff's fleet.

Is not all this neutrality and international right a farce? Here we
have been half a month close to the theatre of war, in the waters of
a neutral power. All our ships would have left Van Fong if it had not
been that we feared the typhoon.

You will no doubt receive this letter when we are at Vladivostok. It
will be a pity if the letters fall into the hands of the Japanese.

I am picturing to myself the fight. An artillery fight does not
appear to me to be so terrible and destructive as a torpedo attack.
Projectiles could not sink a battleship or cruiser, but a torpedo might
very easily, if it hit.

We weighed anchor and went to sea. On going out of Van Fong we met the
French cruiser. We saluted each other. She signalled that she had some
letters for us, which she will hand over to the _Almaz_ in the bay.
The cruiser passed into the bay, and our ships lay close to her with
engines stopped. This cruiser, the _Guichen_, will leave, and then we
shall return. It is a regular farce--and a farce to our advantage--that
is played, thanks to the French admiral. Were it not for him the French
Government would have driven us out, and there would have been an end
to the business.

_April 20th._--The French cruiser left, but we passed the night at sea.
There is no news about Nebogatoff's fleet. It is strange. He ought to
have passed Singapore, and it should have been known to us by now.

The admiral is convinced that the Japanese will try to sink
Nebogatoff's ships before the latter join us. Perhaps they will not
succeed in sinking them, and only damage them. They will then have
to be repaired, and the voyage to Vladivostok will be put off for an
indefinite period.

At eleven I heard the sound of a rocket being discharged. I put on my
tunic and went on deck. Men were rushing about everywhere, hurrying
to the stations for battle. Shouting the question, "One or two?" They
were asking about the rockets. "One" means the fleet is to exercise for
general quarters; "two" means the actual alarm, when the enemy is real.
There was one rocket. We frequently have general night alarms, but the
men are not yet accustomed to them.

_April 21st._--We are entering the bay. A torpedo-boat will only go
to-morrow for the telegrams. That means that we can only then count on
knowing something about the third fleet. For the dispatch of letters,
evidently, we have to turn to the German collier. We ourselves can do
nothing, like helpless children, although there is a post-office at
hand.

My servant Golovko is transferred to another ship. He came to me and
nearly cried. He asked me to verify my things. Of course, I did not do
that.

_April 22nd._--I have not been able to write to you earlier to-day. I
have been visiting ships. I went on board the _Irtish_. The atmosphere
there is heavy. The first lieutenant is to be tried for some nonsense
with the captain, by a special court. It is appointed for the 24th inst.

When I was in the _Gromky_ a boat came to her in which were two adult
Annamese and three boys. The boys ranged themselves in a row, folded
their hands with the palms together (prayer fashion), and bowed down to
their feet. I asked what they were doing. "They beg that we should buy
them," was the answer. Perhaps the boys did not beg quite so much, but
the traffic in children is beyond doubt. Boys, they say, are valued at
five or ten francs, considerably cheaper than a pig. There were some
occasions when children were bought, and they tried to make servants
of them. These experiments nearly always ended badly. The boys were
spoilt, and it was difficult to get rid of them.

Our captain, to whom I related the affair in the torpedo-boat, took
it into his head that I wanted to buy a boy, and began to reprove me
severely. With great difficulty I assured him that I did not want to
buy any one. It would be a nice thing to arrive home with a ten- or
twelve-year-old Chinaman!

A suspicious thing has occurred. The French admiral, whom the captain
of the _Bodry_ saw to-day, spoke of the movements and stations of
the French men-of-war in great detail, but not a word did he mention
about the torpedo-boats which ought to pass Van Fong. The _Donskoi_,
which was patrolling with the _Ural_, at about two o'clock saw two
torpedo-boats going north. At first they were without colours, but
afterwards hoisted French. The _Donskoi_ was satisfied, and did not
trouble to go nearer them. The torpedo-boats passed unimpeded. The
admiral and others are convinced that they were Japanese.

The rays of a searchlight are seen sometimes from the side of the open
sea. It is evidently from a warship. The _Donskoi_ reports that she
sees the rays, and that is all. Whose can they be? If they are the
_Ural's_, what is her reason for being silent? Taken in conjunction
with the appearance of the torpedo-boats by day, these rays are very
suspicious, even if it is the _Ural_. If she has lighted up, it means
that either she has seen or suspected something wrong. The whole fleet
are ordered to increase their attention. Had the _Donskoi_ gone nearer
to the torpedo-boats which hoisted French colours, the affair would
have been clearer. If they were Japanese, how they will jeer at our
foolish confidence! We saw the colours and were satisfied. As if it is
difficult to hoist whichever flag you please!

_April 23rd._--To-day is the Empress's name-day. We had prayers and a
salute. All this time Annamese boats have been lying near our ships.
You should have seen how they fled when the firing began.

Gradually everything is going. I have begun to carry tobacco for
rolling cigarettes in old envelopes. It is more convenient than having
it in a cigar-case.

There is no news of Nebogatoff. The officers in the _Aurora_ have
started a totalisator on his arrival.

The following idea is worrying me. Only vessels of less than
seventy-five feet in width can enter the Vladivostok dock. I cannot
say if this is true. Our new battleships (_Suvaroff_, _Alexander_,
_Borodino_, and _Orel_) have a width of seventy-six feet. If it is
so, in case of necessity it will be impossible to put them into dock.
For some reason the width and measures of the docks are considered a
secret, and do not find a place in books of naval inquiry, so that no
one remembers the measures. God grant that my fears are not justified!

The duty cruiser patrolling reports that she sees three ships moving
together in one direction. She is ordered at any moment to go at full
speed.

_April 24th._--Lights are moving near the bay. The patrol steamer
signals some confused message. Can these ships be relied on? It is
said that the captain of one of them does not conceal his desire to
disarm. He does not conduct himself as he should under the eyes of
the flagship. For instance, he is ordered to patrol three miles from
the shore, and he goes out thirty. Our fleet with its necessities
appears to him to be something hostile. For some reason there exists a
presentiment among many that of the four new battleships the _Alexander
III._ will perish during the war.

At last Nebogatoff declares himself. A torpedo-boat which went to
Natrang to-day brought a telegram saying that the third fleet passed
Singapore at 4 a.m. on the 22nd, and that she would join us on the
27th. Evidently all is well with it. Where has it been lingering a
whole week? From Penang to Singapore is only a three days' journey. It
means we shall soon leave here.

Probably my foreboding about the number eight will come to pass. I
forget if I told you that it seems to me that the number eight will
play a great _rôle_ in the fate of our fleet.

The French admiral (Janquières), who is so friendly towards us, has
sent the admiral some poetry composed by himself about Port Arthur and
Stössel.

I wonder in what condition the third fleet will arrive? What news will
it bring? Will there be any mails, and of what date? Will it bring us
tobacco, paper, and cigarettes. It left Russia more than four months
after we did.

When it started we were already at Nosi Be. We have had absolutely no
news from Manchuria. What is going on there?

Janquières, the French admiral, has arrived in the _Guichen_, and has
proposed that we should leave Van Fong. To-morrow we shall probably
go to the bay that was examined not long ago by the _Roland_. The
_Guichen_ has just left. There are many in her down with fever. Owing
to this the band did not play.

Thanks to all the conferences, we were late for dinner.

To-morrow the _Jemchug_, _Isumrud_, _Dnieper_, and _Rion_ are going to
meet the third fleet, in order to inform it of our whereabouts.

When reporting the approach of a French warship, the captain of an
auxiliary cruiser innocently asked if he should examine her. I am
curious to know how he would examine a warship. There are many similar
cases of sharp wit, and frequently no attention is paid to such pranks.
The more I hear of the personnel and the morale in the Port Arthur
fleet, the less astonished I am at its destruction, and the less
pitiable it seems to me. The greatest pity is the loss of the ships.

The steamer _Eridan_, under French colours, arrived from Saigon with
provisions at 9.30 a.m. I was not expecting anything, when suddenly a
sailor came and handed me your letters. Apparently Günsburg sent them
to Saigon under cover to his brother Mess (the real surname of the
Günsburgs is Mess).

I was quite beside myself with joy. I am still more delighted at
receiving news that is only a month old. At that moment the flag
diving-officer came into my cabin on business. I scarcely remember what
I said to him.

There were very few letters. I was the only one of the staff who
received any. To-day is a red-letter day for me. I sat down to write to
you, when the senior staff-officer, S----, came and proposed that I
should take 1,000 cigarettes off him, out of the 4,000 he had received.
They are Russian cigarettes that M. Mess sent. I am set up in smokes
for a long time now.

Captain Pollis, who has recently been our secret agent in Batavia,
arrived in the _Eridan_, and also Lieutenant M----, who broke out of
Port Arthur in a torpedo-boat shortly before its fall. They will both
remain in the fleet. The _Eridan_ leaves to-day. It will be nice to
send a letter by her.

_April 25th._--After receiving your letters I rushed about the
_Suvaroff_, and decided to go to the _Borodino_. When I arrived there
the captain was asleep. They woke him. We sat down, and drank tea,
and he gave me sweets. He began to plan how we should travel about
Europe together after the war is over. We sat down with a tantalus and
chatted. Just then they brought him letters from the _Suvaroff_. It was
a pity I did not know there was a mail for him. I might have brought it
with me.

It so happened that fate gladdened only two officers with news from
home. In the _Suvaroff_ I was the only happy one. To-day was a holiday
for me indeed.

At six o'clock I went back to the _Suvaroff_ in the _Borodino's_
mining cutter, and to my horror found that the mail had already been
sent to the _Eridan_. I stuck a 5-franc stamp on to my letter. Other
people gave me some of theirs, and I made up a large packet, addressing
it to M. Mess. I then sent it by boat to the _Eridan_, which might at
any moment get up anchor and go to Saigon.

The Annamese are queer people. They value brass and silver buttons at
more than five francs each. The crew, of course, profit by this, settle
their accounts with buttons, and trade in them also.

The third fleet has not yet arrived, but letters have been received
for it _viâ_ Günsburg. There will be a mail in it for us. I count on
receiving thirty-three letters from you.

Do you remember I told you I was afraid that Günsburg's steamer
_Regina_ would fall into the hands of the Japanese. It seems that she
was wrecked in the Mozambique Channel.

_April 26th._--We did not weigh anchor in time to-day. The French
cruiser came again to drive us out.

A message has been received from the _Vladimir Monomach_, which is
ahead of Nebogatoff's fleet, that they are coming in complete array.
We shall soon be joined by them. I am curious to know what sort of a
fleet it is, what its morale is like, and what sort of captains. Many
of them are laughed at. They are famous for their war service; but war
changes men, and good ones are sometimes found among the bad, and _vice
versa_.

2 p.m.--The smoke, masts, and funnels of Nebogatoff's fleet have
appeared. Every one is in a great state of excitement, and rushes
to the bridge. Binoculars are brought up on deck. At last we shall
proceed. There is no need to wait longer.

When the signalling began, we asked the _Monomach_ the name of her
first lieutenant, to make certain that she was not a Japanese ship. She
replied, and asked the _Suvaroff_ the same question.

The _Dnieper_, it appears, saw the third fleet last night; but fearing
that it was the Japanese, hastily retreated. She was sent in order to
join herself to Nebogatoff. I am going on the bridge. The fleets are
just joining. They are nearing each other. They are beginning to salute.

10 p.m.--O Lord, I do not know how to begin! My head is completely
silly. I do not know what to say. I am happy, satisfied, glad. I want
to tell you everything, and am afraid shall not succeed. I shall get
confused and forget.

As Nebogatoff's fleet approached we all crowded on deck. I put on my
new cap for the great occasion.

First came the _Apraxin_. Could I have thought when I was working
in her five years ago that I should see her here! How strange the
_Apraxin_, _Ushakoff_, and _Seniavin_ seemed! So short, and such long
funnels! They reminded me of overgrown children with angular limbs.

At four o'clock Nebogatoff came on board the _Suvaroff_. He greeted
Rojdestvensky with a kiss. The staff were invited to drink champagne to
the happy union of the fleets. At table Nebogatoff spoke of his voyage
and its success. His ships steamed ideally, without breakdowns. At
night his fleet steamed without lights. Every one was informed about
his arrival at Penang. His passage through the straits of Malacca took
him two days and a half.

They brought a mail in the cutter which brought Nebogatoff from the
_Nicolai I._ to the _Suvaroff_. Though it is not customary to get up
from the admiral's table, I could not sit there long, and left to
examine the mail. It was already sorted in heaps.

My mail had been taken to my cabin. I ran there, and did not know which
to open first--the letters or parcels. I opened the parcels. There
were socks, handkerchiefs, shoulder-straps, sweets, cigarettes, soap,
eau-de-Cologne, scents, brushes, etc. My eyes opened wide. My servant
helped me to sort and wipe everything. It was all stuck together. How
joyfully I separated all this! Indeed, I cannot say all I feel at
present. I must calm myself.

The eau-de-Cologne and scents have travelled well. The jam, although
it was soldered up, leaked. The cigarettes are a little spoilt, but
they can be smoked. Newspapers I could not read. I only read the parts
marked by you.

I am writing in broken sentences. Perhaps to-morrow I shall have to
send this letter; now my head is in a whirl.

_April 27th._--Perhaps the _Kostroma_, which has not joined the fleet
yet, will bring another mail. You see how spoilt I am. My head is
stupid to-day, but I am so pleased and happy at having received all you
sent me.

I wanted to write to you, when two torpedo-boats collided--the _Grosny_
and _Bezuprechny_. They must be quickly repaired. We are at sea, and
the torpedo-boats are in harbour thirty versts away.

4 p.m.--I sat a long time in the whaler, waiting an opportunity to go
to the _Buistry_. She took me to Port Dayot Bay, where some of the
fleet are lying. I go back to the _Suvaroff_ at dawn.

The fleet in general received few mails. Every one is complaining, but
I am satisfied. I saw an officer in a torpedo-boat washing a tunic for
himself. It was a strange sight.

_April 28th._--My work in the _Bezuprechny_ was successfully carried
out. I returned to the fleet in the torpedo-boat _Bodry_. We met the
fleet returning to Van Fong Bay to coal, as the open sea was rough.

We leave here to-morrow morning. The French sternly drive us away,
but we stay on. It is impertinence. Port Dayot is really the same
as Van Fong, as it is a gulf joined to it by a wide strait. It is
very beautiful. The shores are hilly and covered with thick wood. In
the corner of the bay lies a wrecked French gunboat, which is being
dismantled. There are a lot of goats, peacocks, monkeys, elephants, and
wild beasts on shore.

Yesterday I dined in the _Bezuprechny_. The night was calm. They
brought officers over from the neighbouring boats. They all live in a
very friendly way. It is their custom to give each other presents on
their names-days and birthdays. Sometimes the presents are very curious
ones.

They invited me to spend the night, but I refused. I went to the
_Kamchatka_. A cabin was ready for me there, but I preferred spending
the night half-sitting in a long chair, in the fresh air on deck. At
six o'clock a torpedo-boat came for me. In the _Kamchatka_ they begged
me to take several things to the _Suvaroff_. I did not do so.

Yesterday, in the hospital-ship _Orel_, the crew were sent into the
hold for something. There were poisonous gases, and they began to
suffocate. All except one escaped. The deceased was buried to-day.

The shoulder-straps you sent me are not uniform. They are an ensign's.
I made a present of them to an engineer, Krimer. He was so pleased that
he treated the wardroom to champagne. I did not like to give them away,
but persuaded myself that I must not be a dog in the manger.

I treated some of the others to the almond cake. It smells somewhat
strange, and some insects like beetles have established themselves in
it.

We move on to Vladivostok the day after to-morrow. Many fear danger.
After your letters I feel bold, and look to the future with hope. There
is an idea that the Japanese fleet will not fight a fleet action until
we arrive off Vladivostok. They will feign torpedo attacks, while in
the meantime they will cut us off by land. Who can foretell the events?

For God's sake do not be anxious at not receiving letters or telegrams
for a very long time. We are passing along uninhabited shores. Letters
will be sent as occasions offer. Our postal arrangements are bad. Some
of your letters to me are lost, and some of your October letters I have
only just received.

_April 29th._--We went to sea early this morning. A steamer passed
close to the fleet, making an attempt to escape. Our torpedo-boats and
scouting cruiser overtook her. She hoisted English colours. We only
questioned, and did not examine her. She said she was going from Japan
to the south, carrying coolies. We let her go.

We remain tossing on the sea. We shall leave here either to-morrow
evening or day after. It is said that the hospital-ship will not join
the fleet at all. Do you know, the number of ships in the fleet is now
fifty-two? Some of the transports are at Saigon, or it would have been
greater still.

_April 30th._--The _Kostroma_ has come, with a mail, it seems.

FOOTNOTES:

[17] In 1898 the battleship _General Admiral Apraxin_ went ashore off
Gothland, and Politovsky superintended the work of getting her off.

[18] Easter puddings.

[19] Easter greeting, "Christ is risen."



CHAPTER XII

PREPARING FOR BATTLE


_May 1st._--The _Kostroma_ called at Saigon and brought a mail.

The last letter I received was dated March 28th. It is quick. And all
because Günsburg sent it on. All the ships have received an enormous
mail. They were a long time sorting it.

To-day, May 1st, we left Port Dayot for Vladivostok. We go by the South
China Sea. Our fleet now consists of fifty ships. Of these, nine are
torpedo-boats, and two hospital-ships--a great armada. Probably we
shall go round Formosa, and through the straits of Korea. There will
hardly be a fleet action before Vladivostok. We must expect submarine
boats and frantic torpedo-boat attacks.

_May 2nd._--Our course is so laid that when we have passed the southern
extremity of Formosa we shall go to the east of it.

At night we crossed the only course by which ships usually go from
north to south. We met two steamers. They will report the course chosen
by the fleet. Now we are moving in a part of the China Sea by which
ships do not usually go. They are beginning to talk about coaling. They
wish to arrange it to-morrow morning. The torpedo-boats are being towed
by the transports. Meanwhile, there are no mishaps or breakdowns.

9 p.m.--The battleship _Orel_ has delayed us for a short time.
Something was damaged in her. Our course is shaped between Formosa and
Luzon, one of the Philippine Islands. It is exactly seven months to-day
since the fleet left Russia.

The sea is almost calm, and the ports can be kept open without danger.
Hiding the lights, we are steaming with only a limited number. A
collision would be difficult, as it is a bright, moonlight night. At
present everything is going quietly. I rose to-day at nearly 9 a.m.,
was late for breakfast, and had to have it alone in my cabin.

_May 4th._--To-morrow we coal--probably the last coaling at sea.

It is proposed that when the coal from the _Tamboff_ and _Mercury_ has
been taken, they shall leave the fleet and return to Saigon. It will
be possible to send letters by them.

Near Shanghai the remaining transports will leave us. Only the naval
ones will remain (_Kamchatka_, _Irtish_, and _Anadir_), and the
_Korea_, in which are war stores. If this is carried out, the admiral
himself will seek a fleet action with the Japanese fleet before our
arrival at Vladivostok.

10 p.m.--They are receiving signs at the telegraph (wireless) station.
No one attaches any importance to them. In the ship it is surprisingly
quiet. They were more perturbed when the English cruisers surrounded us
in the Atlantic. I am quite composed and do not worry.

Gulls are seen; the shore is not far off. The moon is shining, and
it is as bright as day. By such light it will be difficult for
torpedo-boats to attack, but convenient for submarines. The sea is calm.

Soon it will not be so hot. To-morrow the sun will be at its
zenith--for us, the sixth and last time.

Formosa is near. All are interested in it. With luck we shall be at
Vladivostok in twelve or fifteen days.

All my preparations for battle consist in putting my things in order.
Coaling will begin at 6 a.m., if the weather permits.

At Port Dayot, not only did the transport _Gustave Lerche_, and the
water-tank steamer _Count Stroganoff_, leave the fleet, but also the
transport _Keenia_.

The latter is a floating workshop. Was it worth while bringing her
here? She has little speed, and the workmen say is badly fitted out. I
have not been there. It so happens that I have not been on board any of
the ships that came with Nebogatoff.

_May 5th_ (8 a.m.).--The fleet is coaling. The sea is calm, but the
swell is so great that the battleships are rolling. It is hot. Very
soon it will be cold. How shall we stand it after the tropics? There
will be a large number of sick.

_May 6th._--_South China Sea._

Yesterday the _Tamboff_ and _Mercury_ went to Saigon. The mail was
given to the latter. When the coaling was finished, the fleet went on
full speed ahead. In the evening I drew the disposition of all ships
for a lithographic stone, in the event of floating mines being observed.

It is proposed to send the _Rion_, _Dnieper_, _Kuban_, and _Terek_ one
after another for cruiser operations. They decided not to send the
_Ural_, as they do not trust her. It was her captain who openly boasted
about disarming.

Last night I sat on the after-bridge, and waited the result of the
_Oleg's_ chase after a steamer. After conversing with those around I
fell asleep. At one o'clock I woke, and went to sleep in my cabin. It
would have been worth while waiting a little longer.

At two o'clock the _Oleg_ reported that, on examination, it proved that
the steamer, as the captain explained, had no documents. He himself
did not know all her cargo. There was kerosene. She was going to Japan
from New York. The heavily laden steamer was ordered to be brought to
the fleet, was arrested as suspicious, and sent to Vladivostock for
examination by the prize court. A crew of our men and petty officers
were placed on board. One of them from the _Suvaroff_ was appointed
captain. The former captain and engineer were left in the steamer as
passengers--of course, without any authority. The rest of the crew were
brought to our ships.

On being questioned, they gave different evidence. Several sailors
affirmed that there were guns and ammunition among the cargo. One
sailor, at the very beginning, when he was out of his captain's sight,
showed with his hands that there was something round in the steamer.

It was difficult to find out where the steamer came from. They all
named different ports. The steamer (_Oldhamia_) will go with our crew
to Vladivostok, _viâ_ the Sungari Straits. Is this a good thing? The
Japanese may chance upon her on her way. Would it not have been simpler
to make certain that she carries contraband, take her crew from her,
and sink her? Her capture wasted a lot of time. All the fleet lay
motionless until twelve noon. She was provisioned, coaled, and the crew
transferred, etc. She had very little coal, not enough to get her to
Vladivostok. They began to coal her from the _Livonia_, a transport
which came with Nebogatoff.

From twelve noon we went at a slow pace--twelve knots. The _Livonia_ is
going alongside the captured steamer, to which she is made fast, and is
coaling her.

How we love to make a secret of everything--not unfrequently to
our disadvantage! Our staff have telegrams giving the names of the
steamers going to Japan with contraband goods. These telegrams were
needed to-day to see if the captured vessel was not among the ships
indicated. The telegrams proved to be confidential, and had been placed
in a safe, which was hidden in the event of a fight.

What is the use of telling us at all, if we, considering it
confidential, do not make use of our evidence? It is astonishing! They
should have published the names of steamers with contraband throughout
the fleet, in order that each ship should know about them. But with us
this is a "great secret." It is simply inconceivable. To conceal the
names of steamers serving in the interest of Russia is sensible, but to
hide from our own people the names of the friends of Japan is simply
folly. It is always and everywhere thus with us.

When they were busied with the _Oldhamia_ in the morning, two more
steamers were perceived, one laden and the other empty. One of them was
conducted to the fleet by the _Jemchug_. Of course, it was the empty
one. She was under Norwegian colours, belonged to Bergen; her name was
_Oscar II._ She went off to Japan. She had already served Japan for
two years (some company). We let her go. She audaciously cut through
the line of our ships. Perhaps she was purposely sent by Japan as a
scout. She can now inform them where she saw us. She may have taken
some photographs, and counted the ships. Even if she has not been sent
purposely, she will nevertheless make known our position.

We have lost and wasted much time. This loss does not pay. We are
wasting the bright, moonlight nights.

On the occasion of the Emperor's birthday a salute was fired, and there
were prayers.

Sorting out my books, I found a clean notebook and copy-book. They came
at an opportune moment, as I had finished the last.

7 p.m.--They are beginning to swear at having let the _Oscar_ go
without examining her.

The weather is beginning to be doubtful. Perhaps there will be a
typhoon. The fleet will suffer severely.

They have just published a list of vessels which are known to be
carrying contraband to Japan. Of course, the list only contains a
portion of them. What have they not in them! Horses, guns, projectiles,
powder, gun-cotton, explosives, blankets, milk, rails, engines, cables,
iron, steel, copper, armour plates, conserves, rifles, grenades,
shrapnel, wire, steam cutters, railway material. One steamer is
specially fitted for raising our ships sunk at Port Arthur!

_May 7th._--_Pacific Ocean._

The fleet is in the Pacific. For some reason it is also called the
"Great." We passed by the islands of the Batan (_sic_) group. They say
there are volcanoes there. I did not see them from the ship.

The motion of the sea interfered with the coaling of the captured
steamer. If the coal does not last her to Vladivostok, she is ordered
to call at Korsakovsky port (in Sagalien). There are still two hundred
of our men, who were coaling, on board her. Owing to the motion they
could not be taken off. They will try to take them off to-morrow.

There are about 2,800 versts left to Vladivostok.

Yesterday I began to prepare for battle. My preparations were
very simple. I opened a trunk, and without more ado thrust in
everything--ikons, letters, and photographs of you.

_May 8th._--To-morrow we are again to coal at sea. Will there soon
be an end of this coaling bacchanalia? To-day we pass the Tropic of
Cancer, and leave the tropics.

When I slept last night the rats began to gnaw my toes. I am heartily
tired of this kind of life, with its dirt and hardships. The _Oldhamia_
has left the fleet, and will go alone to Vladivostok or Korsakovsky
port, or even to Petropavlovsk, if fogs interfere. The _Kuban_ was left
by her, to give her a hundred tons of coal, if it is possible. The
_Oldhamia_ will then go on shore, and the _Kuban_ will cruise about to
capture contraband.

The _Oldhamia_ is a new ship; her construction was only finished last
year. She was occupied earlier with contraband. She took something for
Japan to Dalny, and for the Russians to Vladivostok.

At first the captain of the _Oldhamia_ behaved in a very off-hand
manner. He jeered at us, and praised the Japanese. He did not expect we
would take him from his steamer. When it was explained that he would be
taken, he sang another tune, and even cried on leaving her.

The English who remained succeeded in playing a dirty trick. They
opened the Kingstons in the engine-room, and the steamer began to sink.
Our crew quickly found the open Kingston, and closed it. They also tore
off the marks of the stocks showing where each stock goes. Our men had
to find out. Yesterday, when our crew were at the boilers, there was
nearly an explosion. An engineer averted the accident. Of course, the
English would not have succeeded in opening the Kingston or tearing
off the instructions had it not been for our folly. It is clear as
day that the English should have been followed about, and not allowed
for one moment either in the engine or boiler compartments. Up to the
present we have not been able to find any contraband. All the holds
where forbidden cargo might lie are encumbered with a vast quantity of
tins of kerosene. All the tins must be taken out to get below.

9 p.m.--About noon the _Jemchug_ reported that she could see a balloon
above her. Other ships also saw it. Those who saw it in the _Suvaroff_
say it was like a snake in shape.

We are going past Formosa. There is no sight or sound of the Japanese.

_May 9th._--Coaling did not take place. The weather was rather rough.
I slept in the upper stern cabin.

The _Terek_ has left the fleet, on a cruise to catch steamers.

The weather is gloomy. It is not so hot. Several men have already
caught colds. Admiral Folkersham's health is bad. He will probably not
reach Vladivostok alive.

9 p.m.--_North China Sea._

We have left the Pacific and entered the North China Sea. We are going
in the direction of Shanghai, where our transports were sent. It is
impossible to let them go alone, now. There are Japanese ships at
Shanghai, watching that our disarmed ships do not escape.

We passed by Formosa--passed by part of the small Japanese islands.
Vladivostok is getting nearer and nearer. We have only to cross the
North China Sea and the straits of Korea to enter the sea of Japan,
on the shores of which is the long-desired Vladivostok. What are the
Japanese doing? Where are they? No doubt preparing a hearty welcome for
us.

There will probably be frantic torpedo attacks in the straits of Korea.
The moon rises late and makes the night attacks easier. Will there be a
fleet action? Probably it will be more advantageous for Japan to give
battle on arrival at Vladivostok. Our fleet has made a great voyage and
is bound to protect the transports. Probably Japanese mines have been
placed at Vladivostok.

In seven days the whole world will be talking about our fleet. After
sunset the crew are ordered to put on flannel jerseys. It is proposed
to-morrow to carry out the coaling, which did not take place to-day.

Perhaps it may be possible to send letters to one of the transports
going to Shanghai.

There is apparently an opportunity of sending a mail, but no one
evidently is preparing to take advantage of it.

_May 10th._--_North China Sea._

The weather is gloomy, but calm, and rather cold.

The captain of the _Irtish_ reports that she cannot go more than eight
and a half knots. What can be done now with that transport? If she
goes to Shanghai, she will have to disarm and be inactive till the end
of the war, as she is under the naval flag. If she is taken with the
fleet, she will be an extra burden.

I have to send off these pages myself. I can find no one wishing to
send letters home. They say they will send them from Vladivostok. In
the first place, will they be able to send them from Vladivostok;
and secondly, it is uncertain if they get there any quicker. There
are 1,200 miles, 2,100 versts, left to Vladivostok. Under favourable
circumstances we shall make this passage in six or seven days.



NOTE BY MADAME POLITOVSKY


These were the last pages which were sent from Shanghai, and received
by me (his wife) in the month of June.

During the battle Engineer E. S. Politovsky was below, as the
battleship _Kniaz Suvaroff_ had had a hole made in her, and he was
probably giving instructions for its repair. The flag-captain saw him
last in the sick-bay. "How are things going?" asked Politovsky. "Very
badly," answered the flag-captain. Soon after this some of the staff
left the battleship in the torpedo-boat _Biedovy_. Those who were below
were not called. There was no need of them. They saved the "valuable"
life of Admiral Rojdestvensky.



APPENDIX


Telegram from Tokio, dated May 30th, to Japanese Legation (vide
_Times_, June 1st, 1906).

The official statement of the Russian losses in the battle were as
follows, so far as ascertained:

  _Prince Suvaroff_ }
  _Alexander III._  }
  _Borodino_        } Battleships sunk.
  _Sissoi Veliky_   }
  _Oslyabya_        }
  _Navarin_         }

  _Admiral Nachimoff_ }
  _Dimitry Donskoi_   } Cruisers
  _Vladimir Monomach_ } sunk.
  _Svietlana_         }

  _Ushakoff_, coast defence }
  _Irtish_                  } Sunk.
  _Kamchatka_, repair ship  }
  Three torpedo-boats       }

  _Orel_, battleship        }
  _Nicolai I._,  "          }
  _Biedovy_, torpedo-boat   } Captured.
  _General Admiral Apraxin_ }
  _Admiral Seniavin_        }

The _Almaz_ reached Vladivostok; the _Oleg_, _Aurora_, and _Jemchug_
fled to Manilla; the _Isumrud_ also escaped, and some torpedo-boats.



  PRINTED BY
  HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.
  LONDON AND AYLESBURY.



Transcriber's Notes


Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritics repaired.

Inconsistent hyphenation fixed.

The _Orel_ was the name of both a battleship and a hospital ship.

P. 88: If she has not suffered shipweck -> If she has not suffered
shipwreck.

P. 110: An unfortunate accident occured -> An unfortunate accident
occurred.

P. 149: From the post-office went round -> From the post-office I went
round.

P. 196: to dose a little -> to doze a little.

P. 208: a collison will infallibly take place -> a collision will
infallibly take place.

P. 241: especially the boilders -> especially the boilers.

P. 265: Kanranh -> Kamranh.

P. 278: hurring to the stations -> hurrying to the stations.

P. 298: a slow place -> a slow pace.





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