Notes of a War Correspondent
by Richard Harding Davis
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General White's first greeting was characteristically unselfish and loyal, and typical of the British officer. He gave no sign of his own in calculable relief, nor did he give to Caesar the things which were Caesar's. He did not cheer Dundonald, nor Buller, nor the column which had rescued him and his garrison from present starvation and probable imprisonment at Pretoria. He raised his helmet and cried, "We will give three cheers for the Queen!" And then the general and the healthy, ragged, and sunburned troopers from the outside world, the starved, fever-ridden garrison, and the starved, fever-ridden civilians stood with hats off and sang their national anthem.

The column outside had been fighting steadily for six weeks to get Dundonald or any one of its force into Ladysmith; for fourteen days it had been living in the open, fighting by night as well as by day, without halt or respite; the garrison inside had been for four months holding the enemy at bay with the point of the bayonet; it was famished for food, it was rotten with fever, and yet when the relief came and all turned out well, the first thought of every one was for the Queen!

It may be credulous in them or old-fashioned; but it is certainly very unselfish, and when you take their point of view it is certainly very fine.

After the Queen every one else had his share of the cheering, and General White could not complain of the heartiness with which they greeted him, he tried to make a speech in reply, but it was a brief one. He spoke of how much they owed to General Buller and his column, and he congratulated his own soldiers on the defence they had made.

"I am very sorry, men," he said, "that I had to cut down your rations. I—I promise you I won't do it again."

Then he stopped very suddenly and whirled his horse's head around and rode away. Judging from the number of times they told me of this, the fact that they had all but seen an English general give way to his feelings seemed to have impressed the civilian mind of Ladysmith more than the entrance of the relief force. The men having come in and demonstrated that the way was open, rode forth again, and the relief of Ladysmith had taken place. But it is not the people cheering in the dark streets, nor General White breaking down in his speech of welcome, which gives the note to the way the men of Ladysmith received their freedom. It is rather the fact that as the two hundred battle-stained and earth-stained troopers galloped forward, racing to be the first, and rising in their stirrups to cheer, the men in the hospital camps said, "Well, they're come at last, have they?" and continued fussing over their fourth of a ration of tea. That gives the real picture of how Ladysmith came into her inheritance, and of how she received her rescuers.

On the morning after Dundonald had ridden in and out of Ladysmith, two other correspondents and myself started to relieve it on our own account. We did not know the way to Ladysmith, and we did not then know whether or not the Boers still occupied Bulwana Mountain. But we argued that the chances of the Boers having raised the siege were so good that it was worth risking their not having done so, and being taken prisoner.

We carried all the tobacco we could pack in our saddle-bags, and enough food for one day. My chief regret was that my government, with true republican simplicity, had given me a passport, type-written on a modest sheet of notepaper and wofully lacking in impressive seals and coats of arms. I fancied it would look to Boer eyes like one I might have forged for myself in the writing-room of the hotel at Cape Town.

We had ridden up Pieter's Hill and scrambled down on its other side before we learned that the night before Dundonald had raised the siege. We learned this from long trains of artillery and regiments of infantry which already were moving forward over the great plain which lies between Pieter's and Bulwana. We learned it also from the silence of conscientious, dutiful correspondents, who came galloping back as we galloped forward, and who made wide detours at sight of us, or who, when we hailed them, lashed their ponies over the red rocks and pretended not to hear, each unselfishly turning his back on Ladysmith in the hope that he might be the first to send word that the "Doomed City" was relieved. This would enable one paper to say that it had the news "on the street" five minutes earlier than its hated rivals. We found that the rivalry of our respective papers bored us. We condemned it as being childish and weak. London, New York, Chicago were names, they were spots thousands of leagues away: Ladysmith was just across that mountain. If our horses held out at the pace, we would be—after Dundonald—the first men in. We imagined that we would see hysterical women and starving men. They would wring our hands, and say, "God bless you," and we would halt our steaming horses in the market-place, and distribute the news of the outside world, and tobacco. There would be shattered houses, roofless homes, deep pits in the roadways where the shells had burst and buried themselves. We would see the entombed miner at the moment of his deliverance, we would be among the first from the outer world to break the spell of his silence; the first to receive the brunt of the imprisoned people's gratitude and rejoicings.

Indeed, it was clearly our duty to the papers that employed us that we should not send them news, but that we should be the first to enter Ladysmith. We were surely the best judges of what was best to do. How like them to try to dictate to us from London and New York, when we were on the spot! It was absurd. We shouted this to each other as we raced in and out of the long confused column, lashing viciously with our whips. We stumbled around pieces of artillery, slid in between dripping water-carts, dodged the horns of weary oxen, scattered companies of straggling Tommies, and ducked under protruding tent-poles on the baggage-wagons, and at last came out together again in advance of the dusty column.

"Besides, we don't know where the press-censor is, do we?" No, of course we had no idea where the press-censor was, and unless he said that Ladysmith was relieved, the fact that twenty-five thousand other soldiers said so counted for idle gossip. Our papers could not expect us to go riding over mountains the day Ladysmith was relieved, hunting for a press-censor. "That press-censor," gasped Hartland, "never—is—where he—ought to be." The words were bumped out of him as he was shot up and down in the saddle. That was it. It was the press-censor's fault. Our consciences were clear now. If our papers worried themselves or us because they did not receive the great news until every one else knew of it, it was all because of that press-censor. We smiled again and spurred the horses forward. We abused the press-censor roundly—we were extremely indignant with him. It was so like him to lose himself the day Ladysmith was relieved. "Confound him," we muttered, and grinned guiltily. We felt as we used to feel when we were playing truant from school.

We were nearing Pieter's Station now, and were half-way to Ladysmith. But the van of the army was still about us. Was it possible that it stretched already into the beleaguered city? Were we, after all, to be cheated of the first and freshest impressions? The tall lancers turned at the sound of the horses' hoofs and stared, infantry officers on foot smiled up at us sadly, they were dirty and dusty and sweating, they carried rifles and cross belts like the Tommies; and they knew that we outsiders who were not under orders would see the chosen city before them. Some of them shouted to us, but we only nodded and galloped on. We wanted to get rid of them all, but they were interminable. When we thought we had shaken them off, and that we were at last in advance, we would come upon a group of them resting on the same ground their shells had torn up during the battle the day before.

We passed Boer laagers marked by empty cans and broken saddles and black, cold camp-fires. At Pieter's Station the blood was still fresh on the grass where two hours before some of the South African Light Horse had been wounded.

The Boers were still on Bulwana then? Perhaps, after all, we had better turn back and try to find that press-censor. But we rode on and saw Pieter's Station, as we passed it, as an absurd relic of by-gone days when bridges were intact and trains ran on schedule time. One door seen over the shoulder as we galloped past read, "Station Master's Office—Private," and in contempt of that stern injunction, which would make even the first-class passenger hesitate, one of our shells had knocked away the half of the door and made its privacy a mockery. We had only to follow the track now and we would arrive in time—unless the Boers were still on Bulwana. We had shaken off the army, and we were two miles in front of it, when six men came galloping toward us in an unfamiliar uniform. They passed us far to the right, regardless of the trail, and galloping through the high grass. We pulled up when we saw them, for they had green facings to their gray uniforms, and no one with Buller's column wore green facings.

We gave a yell in chorus. "Are you from Ladysmith?" we shouted. The men, before they answered, wheeled and cheered, and came toward us laughing jubilant. "We're the first men out," cried the officer and we rode in among them, shaking hands and offering our good wishes. "We're glad to see you," we said. "We're glad to see you," they said. It was not an original greeting, but it seemed sufficient to all of us. "Are the Boers on Bulwana?" we asked. "No, they've trekked up Dundee way. You can go right in."

We parted at the word and started to go right in. We found the culverts along the railroad cut away and the bridges down, and that galloping ponies over the roadbed of a railroad is a difficult feat at the best, even when the road is in working order.

Some men, cleanly dressed and rather pale-looking, met us and said: "Good-morning." "Are you from Ladysmith?" we called. "No, we're from the neutral camp," they answered. We were the first men from outside they had seen in four months, and that was the extent of their interest or information. They had put on their best clothes, and were walking along the track to Colenso to catch a train south to Durban or to Maritzburg, to any place out of the neutral camp. They might have been somnambulists for all they saw of us, or of the Boer trenches and the battle-field before them. But we found them of greatest interest, especially their clean clothes. Our column had not seen clean linen in six weeks, and the sight of these civilians in white duck and straw hats, and carrying walking-sticks, coming toward us over the railroad ties, made one think it was Sunday at home and these were excursionists to the suburbs.

We had been riding through a roofless tunnel, with the mountain and the great dam on one side, and the high wall of the railway cutting on the other, but now just ahead of us lay the open country, and the exit of the tunnel barricaded by twisted rails and heaped-up ties and bags of earth. Bulwana was behind us. For eight miles it had shut out the sight of our goal, but now, directly in front of us, was spread a great city of dirty tents and grass huts and Red Cross flags—the neutral camp—and beyond that, four miles away, shimmering and twinkling sleepily in the sun, the white walls and zinc roofs of Ladysmith.

We gave a gasp of recognition and galloped into and through the neutral camp. Natives of India in great turbans, Indian women in gay shawls and nose-rings, and black Kaffirs in discarded khaki looked up at us dully from the earth floors of their huts, and when we shouted "Which way?" and "Where is the bridge?" only stared, or pointed vaguely, still staring.

After all, we thought, they are poor creatures, incapable of emotion. Perhaps they do not know how glad we are that they have been rescued. They do not understand that we want to shake hands with everybody and offer our congratulations. Wait until we meet our own people, we said, they will understand! It was such a pleasant prospect that we whipped the unhappy ponies into greater bursts of speed, not because they needed it, but because we were too excited and impatient to sit motionless.

In our haste we lost our way among innumerable little trees; we disagreed as to which one of the many cross-trails led home to the bridge. We slipped out of our stirrups to drag the ponies over one steep place, and to haul them up another, and at last the right road lay before us, and a hundred yards ahead a short iron bridge and a Gordon Highlander waited to welcome us, to receive our first greetings and an assorted collection of cigarettes. Hartland was riding a thoroughbred polo pony and passed the gallant defender of Ladysmith without a kind look or word, but Blackwood and I galloped up more decorously, smiling at him with good-will. The soldier, who had not seen a friend from the outside world in four months, leaped in front of us and presented a heavy gun and a burnished bayonet.

"Halt, there," he cried. "Where's your pass?" Of course it showed excellent discipline—we admired it immensely. We even overlooked the fact that he should think Boer spies would enter the town by way of the main bridge and at a gallop. We liked his vigilance, we admired his discipline, but in spite of that his reception chilled us. We had brought several things with us that we thought they might possibly want in Ladysmith, but we had entirely forgotten to bring a pass. Indeed I do not believe one of the twenty-five thousand men who had been fighting for six weeks to relieve Ladysmith had supplied himself with one. The night before, when the Ladysmith sentries had tried to halt Dundonald's troopers in the same way, and demanded a pass from them, there was not one in the squadron.

We crossed the bridge soberly and entered Ladysmith at a walk. Even the ponies looked disconcerted and crestfallen. After the high grass and the mountains of red rock, where there was not even a tent to remind one of a roof-tree, the stone cottages and shop-windows and chapels and well-ordered hedges of the main street of Ladysmith made it seem a wealthy and attractive suburb. When we entered, a Sabbath-like calm hung upon the town; officers in the smartest khaki and glistening Stowassers observed us askance, little girls in white pinafores passed us with eyes cast down, a man on a bicycle looked up, and then, in terror lest we might speak to him, glued his eyes to the wheel and "scorched" rapidly. We trotted forward and halted at each street crossing, looking to the right and left in the hope that some one might nod to us. From the opposite end of the town General Buller and his staff came toward us slowly—the house-tops did not seem to sway—it was not "roses, roses all the way." The German army marching into Paris received as hearty a welcome. "Why didn't you people cheer General Buller when he came in?" we asked later. "Oh, was that General Buller?" they inquired. "We didn't recognize him." "But you knew he was a general officer, you knew he was the first of the relieving column?" "Ye-es, but we didn't know who he was."

I decided that the bare fact of the relief of Ladysmith was all I would be able to wire to my neglected paper, and with remorses started to find the Ladysmith censor. Two officers, with whom I ventured to break the hush that hung upon the town by asking my way, said they were going in the direction of the censor. We rode for some distance in guarded silence. Finally, one of them, with an inward struggle, brought himself to ask, "Are you from the outside?"

I was forced to admit that I was. I felt that I had taken an unwarrantable liberty in intruding on a besieged garrison. I wanted to say that I had lost my way and had ridden into the town by mistake, and that I begged to be allowed to withdraw with apologies. The other officer woke up suddenly and handed me a printed list of the prices which had been paid during the siege for food and tobacco. He seemed to offer it as being in some way an official apology for his starved appearance. The price of cigars struck me as especially pathetic, and I commented on it. The first officer gazed mournfully at the blazing sunshine before him. "I have not smoked a cigar in two months," he said. My surging sympathy, and my terror at again offending the haughty garrison, combated so fiercely that it was only with a great effort that I produced a handful. "Will you have these?" The other officer started in his saddle so violently that I thought his horse had stumbled, but he also kept his eyes straight in front. "Thank you, I will take one if I may—just one," said the first officer. "Are you sure I am not robbing you?" They each took one, but they refused to put the rest of the cigars in their pockets. As the printed list stated that a dozen matches sold for $1.75, I handed them a box of matches. Then a beautiful thing happened. They lit the cigars and at the first taste of the smoke—and they were not good cigars—an almost human expression of peace and good-will and utter abandonment to joy spread over their yellow skins and cracked lips and fever-lit eyes. The first man dropped his reins and put his hands on his hips and threw back his head and shoulders and closed his eyelids. I felt that I had intruded at a moment which should have been left sacred. {5}

Another boy officer in stainless khaki and beautifully turned out, polished and burnished and varnished, but with the same yellow skin and sharpened cheek-bones and protruding teeth, a skeleton on horseback, rode slowly toward us down the hill. As he reached us he glanced up and then swayed in his saddle, gazing at my companions fearfully. "Good God," he cried. His brother officers seemed to understand, but made no answer, except to jerk their heads toward me. They were too occupied to speak. I handed the skeleton a cigar, and he took it in great embarrassment, laughing and stammering and blushing. Then I began to understand; I began to appreciate the heroic self-sacrifice of the first two, who, when they had been given the chance, had refused to fill their pockets. I knew then that it was an effort worthy of the V. C.

The censor was at his post, and a few minutes later a signal officer on Convent Hill heliographed my cable to Bulwana, where, six hours after the Boers had abandoned it, Buller's own helios had begun to dance, and they speeded the cable on its long journey to the newspaper office on the Thames Embankment.

[Picture: "Tommies" seeking shelter from "Long Tom" at Ladysmith]

When one descended to the streets again—there are only two streets which run the full length of the town—and looked for signs of the siege, one found them not in the shattered houses, of which there seemed surprisingly few, but in the starved and fever-shaken look of the people.

The cloak of indifference which every Englishman wears, and his instinctive dislike to make much of his feelings, and, in this case, his pluck, at first concealed from us how terribly those who had been inside of Ladysmith had suffered, and how near to the breaking point they were. Their faces were the real index to what they had passed through.

Any one who had seen our men at Montauk Point or in the fever camp at Siboney needed no hospital list to tell him of the pitiful condition of the garrison. The skin on their faces was yellow, and drawn sharply over the brow and cheekbones; their teeth protruded, and they shambled along like old men, their voices ranging from a feeble pipe to a deep whisper. In this pitiable condition they had been forced to keep night-watch on the hill-crests, in the rain, to lie in the trenches, and to work on fortifications and bomb-proofs. And they were expected to do all of these things on what strength they could get from horse-meat, biscuits of the toughness and composition of those that are fed to dogs, and on "mealies," which is what we call corn.

That first day in Ladysmith gave us a faint experience as to what the siege meant. The correspondents had disposed of all their tobacco, and within an hour saw starvation staring them in the face, and raced through the town to rob fellow-correspondents who had just arrived. The new-comers in their turn had soon distributed all they owned, and came tearing back to beg one of their own cigarettes. We tried to buy grass for our ponies, and were met with pitying contempt; we tried to buy food for ourselves, and were met with open scorn. I went to the only hotel which was open in the place, and offered large sums for a cup of tea.

"Put up your money," said the Scotchman in charge, sharply. "What's the good of your money? Can your horse eat money? Can you eat money? Very well, then, put it away."

The great dramatic moment after the raising of the siege was the entrance into Ladysmith of the relieving column. It was a magnificent, manly, and moving spectacle. You must imagine the dry, burning heat, the fine, yellow dust, the white glare of the sunshine, and in the heat and glare and dust the great interminable column of men in ragged khaki crowding down the main street, twenty-two thousand strong, cheering and shouting, with the sweat running off their red faces and cutting little rivulets in the dust that caked their cheeks. Some of them were so glad that, though in the heaviest marching order, they leaped up and down and stepped out of line to dance to the music of the bagpipes. For hours they crowded past, laughing, joking, and cheering, or staring ahead of them, with lips wide apart, panting in the heat and choking with the dust, but always ready to turn again and wave their helmets at Sir George White.

It was a pitiful contrast which the two forces presented. The men of the garrison were in clean khaki, pipe-clayed and brushed and polished, but their tunics hung on them as loosely as the flag around its pole, the skin on their cheek-bones was as tight and as yellow as the belly of a drum, their teeth protruded through parched, cracked lips, and hunger, fever, and suffering stared from out their eyes. They were so ill and so feeble that the mere exercise of standing was too severe for their endurance, and many of them collapsed, falling back to the sidewalk, rising to salute only the first troop of each succeeding regiment. This done, they would again sink back and each would sit leaning his head against his musket, or with his forehead resting heavily on his folded arms. In comparison the relieving column looked like giants as they came in with a swinging swagger, their uniforms blackened with mud and sweat and bloodstains, their faces brilliantly crimsoned and blistered and tanned by the dust and sun. They made a picture of strength and health and aggressiveness. Perhaps the contrast was strongest when the battalion of the Devons that had been on foreign service passed the "reserve" battalion which had come from England. The men of the two battalions had parted five years before in India, and they met again in Ladysmith, with the men of one battalion lining the streets, sick, hungry, and yellow, and the others, who had been fighting six weeks to reach it, marching toward them, robust, red-faced, and cheering mightily. As they met they gave a shout of recognition, and the men broke ranks and ran forward, calling each other by name, embracing, shaking hands, and punching each other in the back and shoulders. It was a sight that very few men watched unmoved. Indeed, the whole three hours was one of the most brutal assaults upon the feelings that it has been my lot to endure. One felt he had been entirely lifted out of the politics of the war, and the question of the wrongs of the Boers disappeared before a simple propostiton of brave men saluting brave men.

Early in the campaign, when his officers had blundered, General White had dared to write: "I alone am to blame." But in this triumphal procession twenty-two thousand gentlemen in khaki wiped that line off the slate, and wrote, "Well done, sir," in its place, as they passed before him through the town he had defended and saved.


The Boer "front" was at Brandfort, and, as Lord Roberts was advancing upon that place, one already saw in the head-lines, "The Battle of Brandfort." But before our train drew out of Pretoria Station we learned that the English had just occupied Brandfort, and that the Boer front had been pushed back to Winburg.

We decided that Brandfort was an impossible position to hold anyway, and that we had better leave the train at Winburg. We found some selfish consolation for the Boer repulse, in the fact that it shortened our railroad journey by one day. The next morning when we awoke at the Vaal River Station the train despatcher informed us that during the night the "Rooineks" had taken Winburg, and that the burghers were gathered at Smaaldel.

We agreed not to go to Winburg, but to stop off at Smaaldel. We also agreed that Winburg was an impossible position to hold. When at eleven o'clock the train reached Kroonstad, we learned than Lord Roberts was in Smaaldel. It was then evident that if our train kept on and the British army kept on there would be a collision. So we stopped at Kroonstad. In talking it over we decided that, owing to its situation, Smaaldel was an impossible position to hold.

The Sand River, which runs about forty miles south of Kroonstad, was the last place in the Free State at which the burghers could hope to make a stand, and at the bridge where the railroad spans the river, and at a drift ten miles lower down, the Boers and Free Staters had collected to the number of four thousand. Lord Roberts and his advancing column, which was known to contain thirty-five thousand men, were a few miles distant from the opposite bank of the Sand River. There was an equal chance that the English would attempt to cross at the drift or at the bridge. We thought they would cross at the drift, and stopped for the night at Ventersburg, a town ten miles from the river.

Ventersburg, in comparison with Kroonstad, where we had left them rounding up stray burghers and hurrying them to the firing-line, and burning official documents in the streets, was calm.

Ventersburg was not destroying incriminating documents nor driving weary burghers from its solitary street. It was making them welcome at Jones's Hotel. The sun had sunk an angry crimson, the sure sign of a bloody battle on the morrow, and a full moon had turned the dusty street and the veldt into which it disappeared into a field of snow.

The American scouts had halted at Jones's Hotel, and the American proprietor was giving them drinks free. Their cowboy spurs jingled on the floor of the bar-room, on the boards of the verandas, on the stone floor of the kitchen, and in the billiard-room, where they were playing pool as joyously as though the English were not ten miles away. Grave, awkward burghers rode up, each in a cloud of dust, and leaving his pony to wander in the street and his rifle in a corner, shook hands with every one solemnly, and asked for coffee. Italians of Garibaldi's red-shirted army, Swedes and Danes in semi-uniform, Frenchman in high boots and great sombreros, Germans with the sabre cuts on their cheeks that had been given them at the university, and Russian officers smoking tiny cigarettes crowded the little dining-room, and by the light of a smoky lamp talked in many tongues of Spion Kop, Sannahspost, Fourteen Streams, and the battle on the morrow.

They were sun-tanned, dusty, stained, and many of them with wounds in bandages. They came from every capital of Europe, and as each took his turn around the crowded table, they drank to the health of every nation, save one. When they had eaten they picked up the pony's bridle from the dust and melted into the moonlight with a wave of the hand and a "good luck to you." There were no bugles to sound "boots and saddles" for them, no sergeants to keep them in hand, no officers to pay for their rations and issue orders.

Each was his own officer, his conscience was his bugle-call, he gave himself orders. They were all equal, all friends; the cowboy and the Russian Prince, the French socialist from La Villette or Montmartre, with a red sash around his velveteen breeches, and the little French nobleman from the Cercle Royal who had never before felt the sun, except when he had played lawn tennis on the Isle de Puteaux. Each had his bandolier and rifle; each was minding his own business, which was the business of all—to try and save the independence of a free people.

The presence of these foreigners, with rifle in hand, showed the sentiment and sympathies of the countries from which they came. These men were Europe's real ambassadors to the Republic of the Transvaal. The hundreds of thousands of their countrymen who had remained at home held toward the Boer the same feelings, but they were not so strongly moved; not so strongly as to feel that they must go abroad to fight.

These foreigners were not the exception in opinion, they were only exceptionally adventurous, exceptionally liberty-loving. They were not soldiers of fortune, for the soldier of fortune fights for gain. These men receive no pay, no emolument, no reward. They were the few who dared do what the majority of their countrymen in Europe thought.

At Jones's Hotel that night, at Ventersburg, it was as though a jury composed of men from all of Europe and the United States had gathered in judgment on the British nation.

Outside in the moonlight in the dusty road two bearded burghers had halted me to ask the way to the house of the commandant. Between them on a Boer pony sat a man, erect, slim-waisted, with well-set shoulders and chin in air, one hand holding the reins high, the other with knuckles down resting on his hip. The Boer pony he rode, nor the moonlight, nor the veldt behind him, could disguise his seat and pose. It was as though I had been suddenly thrown back into London and was passing the cuirassed, gauntleted guardsman, motionless on his black charger in the sentry gate in Whitehall. Only now, instead of a steel breastplate, he shivered through his thin khaki, and instead of the high boots, his legs were wrapped in twisted putties.

"When did they take you?" I asked.

"Early this morning. I was out scouting," he said. He spoke in a voice so well trained and modulated that I tried to see his shoulder-straps.

"Oh, you are an officer?" I said.

"No, sir, a trooper. First Life Guards."

But in the moonlight I could see him smile, whether at my mistake or because it was not a mistake I could not guess. There are many gentlemen rankers in this war.

He made a lonely figure in the night, his helmet marking him as conspicuously as a man wearing a high hat in a church. From the billiard-room, where the American scouts were playing pool, came the click of the ivory and loud, light-hearted laughter; from the veranda the sputtering of many strange tongues and the deep, lazy voices of the Boers. There were Boers to the left of him, Boers to the right of him, pulling at their long, drooping pipes and sending up big rings of white smoke in the white moonlight.

He dismounted, and stood watching the crowd about him under half-lowered eyelids, but as unmoved as though he saw no one. He threw his arm over the pony's neck and pulled its head down against his chest and began talking to it.

It was as though he wished to emphasize his loneliness.

"You are not tired, are you? No, you're not," he said. His voice was as kindly as though he were speaking to a child.

"Oh, but you can't be tired. What?" he whispered. "A little hungry, perhaps. Yes?" He seemed to draw much comfort from his friend the pony, and the pony rubbed his head against the Englishman's shoulder.

"The commandant says he will question you in the morning. You will come with us to the jail now," his captor directed. "You will find three of your people there to talk to. I will go bring a blanket for you, it is getting cold." And they rode off together into the night.

Two days later he would have heard through the windows of Jones's Hotel the billiard balls still clicking joyously, but the men who held the cues then would have worn helmets like his own.

The original Jones, the proprietor of Jones's Hotel, had fled. The man who succeeded him was also a refugee, and the present manager was an American from Cincinnati. He had never before kept a hotel, but he confided to me that it was not a bad business, as he found that on each drink sold he made a profit of a hundred per cent. The proprietress was a lady from Brooklyn, her husband, another American, was a prisoner with Cronje at St. Helena. She was in considerable doubt as to whether she ought to run before the British arrived, or wait and chance being made a prisoner. She said she would prefer to escape, but what with standing on her feet all day in the kitchen preparing meals for hungry burghers and foreign volunteers, she was too tired to get away.

War close at hand consists so largely of commonplaces and trivial details that I hope I may be pardoned for recording the anxieties and cares of this lady from Brooklyn. Her point of view so admirably illustrates one side of war. It is only when you are ten years away from it, or ten thousand miles away from it, that you forget the dull places, and only the moments loom up which are terrible, picturesque, and momentous. We have read, in "Vanity Fair," of the terror and the mad haste to escape of the people of Brussels on the eve of Waterloo. That is the obvious and dramatic side.

That is the picture of war you remember and which appeals. As a rule, people like to read of the rumble of cannon through the streets of Ventersburg, the silent, dusty columns of the re-enforcements passing in the moonlight, the galloping hoofs of the aides suddenly beating upon the night air and growing fainter and dying away, the bugle-calls from the camps along the river, the stamp of spurred boots as the general himself enters the hotel and spreads the blue-print maps upon the table, the clanking sabres of his staff, standing behind him in the candle-light, whispering and tugging at their gauntlets while the great man plans his attack. You must stop with the British army if you want bugle-calls and clanking sabres and gauntlets. They are a part of the panoply of war and of warriors. But we saw no warriors at Ventersburg that night, only a few cattle-breeders and farmers who were fighting for the land they had won from the lion and the bushman, and with them a mixed company of gentleman adventurers—gathered around a table discussing other days in other lands. The picture of war which is most familiar is the one of the people of Brussels fleeing from the city with the French guns booming in the distance, or as one sees it in "Shenandoah," where aides gallop on and off the stage and the night signals flash from both sides of the valley. That is the obvious and dramatic side; the other side of war is the night before the battle, at Jones's Hotel; the landlady in the dining-room with her elbows on the table, fretfully deciding that after a day in front of the cooking-stove she is too tired to escape an invading army, declaring that the one place at which she would rather be at that moment was Green's restaurant in Philadelphia, the heated argument that immediately follows between the foreign legion and the Americans as to whether Rector's is not better than the Cafe de Paris, and the general agreement that Ritz cannot hope to run two hotels in London without being robbed. That is how the men talked and acted on the eve of a battle. We heard no galloping aides, no clanking spurs, only the click of the clipped billiard balls as the American scouts (who were killed thirty-six hours later) knocked them about the torn billiard-cloth, the drip, drip of the kerosene from a blazing, sweating lamp, which struck the dirty table-cloth, with the regular ticking of a hall clock, and the complaint of the piano from the hotel parlor, where the correspondent of a Boston paper was picking out "Hello, My Baby," laboriously with one finger. War is not so terribly dramatic or exciting—at the time; and the real trials of war—at the time, and not as one later remembers them—consist largely in looting fodder for your ponies and in bribing the station-master to put on an open truck in which to carry them.

We were wakened about two o'clock in the morning by a loud knocking on a door and the distracted voice of the local justice of the peace calling upon the landlord to rouse himself and fly. The English, so the voice informed the various guests, as door after door was thrown open upon the court-yard, were at Ventersburg Station, only two hours away. The justice of the peace wanted to buy or to borrow a horse, and wanted it very badly, but a sleepy-eyed and sceptical audience told him unfeelingly that he was either drunk or dreaming, and only the landlady, now apparently refreshed after her labors, was keenly, even hysterically, intent on instant flight. She sat up in her bed with her hair in curl papers and a revolver beside her, and through her open door shouted advice to her lodgers. But they were unsympathetic, and reassured her only by banging their doors and retiring with profane grumbling, and in a few moments the silence was broken only by the voice of the justice as he fled down the main street of Ventersburg offering his kingdom for a horse.

The next morning we rode out to the Sand River to see the Boer positions near the drift, and met President Steyn in his Cape cart coming from them on his way to the bridge. Ever since the occupation of Bloemfontein, the London papers had been speaking of him as "the Late President," as though he were dead. He impressed me, on the contrary, as being very much alive and very much the President, although his executive chamber was the dancing-hall of a hotel and his roof-tree the hood of a Cape cart. He stood in the middle of the road, and talked hopefully of the morrow. He had been waiting, he said, to see the development of the enemy's attack, but the British had not appeared, and, as he believed they would not advance that day, he was going on to the bridge to talk to his burghers and to consult with General Botha. He was much more a man of the world and more the professional politician than President Kruger. I use the words "professional politician" in no unpleasant sense, but meaning rather that he was ready, tactful, and diplomatic. For instance, he gave to whatever he said the air of a confidence reserved especially for the ear of the person to whom he spoke. He showed none of the bitterness which President Kruger exhibits toward the British, but took the tone toward the English Government of the most critical and mused tolerance. Had he heard it, it would have been intensely annoying to any Englishman.

"I see that the London Chronicle," he said, "asks if, since I have become a rebel, I do not lose my rights as a Barrister of the Temple? Of course, we are no more rebels than the Spaniards were rebels against the United States. By a great stretch of the truth, under the suzerainty clause, the burghers of the Transvaal might be called rebels, but a Free Stater—never! It is not the animosity of the English which I mind," he added, thoughtfully, "but their depressing ignorance of their own history."

[Picture: President Steyn on his way to Sand River battle]

His cheerfulness and hopefulness, even though one guessed they were assumed, commanded one's admiration. He was being hunted out of one village after another, the miles of territory still free to him were hourly shrinking—in a few days he would be a refugee in the Transvaal; but he stood in the open veldt with all his possessions in the cart behind him, a president without a republic, a man without a home, but still full of pluck, cheerful and unbeaten.

The farm-house of General Andrew Cronje stood just above the drift and was the only conspicuous mark for the English guns on our side of the river, so in order to protect it the general had turned it over to the ambulance corps to be used as a hospital. They had lashed a great Red Cross flag to the chimney and filled the clean shelves of the generously built kitchen with bottles of antiseptics and bitter-smelling drugs and surgeons' cutlery. President Steyn gave me a letter to Dr. Rodgers Reid, who was in charge, and he offered us our choice of the deserted bedrooms. It was a most welcome shelter, and in comparison to the cold veldt the hospital was a haven of comfort. Hundreds of cooing doves, stumbling over the roof of the barn, helped to fill the air with their peaceful murmur. It was a strange overture to a battle, but in time I learned to not listen for any more martial prelude. The Boer does not make a business of war, and when he is not actually fighting he pretends that he is camping out for pleasure. In his laager there are no warlike sounds, no sentries challenge, no bugles call. He has no duties to perform, for his Kaffir boys care for his pony, gather his wood, and build his fire. He has nothing to do but to wait for the next fight, and to make the time pass as best he can. In camp the burghers are like a party of children. They play games with each other, and play tricks upon each other, and engage in numerous wrestling bouts, a form of contest of which they seem particularly fond. They are like children also in that they are direct and simple, and as courteous as the ideal child should be. Indeed, if I were asked what struck me as the chief characteristics of the Boer I should say they were the two qualities which the English have always disallowed him, his simplicity rather than his "cuteness," and his courtesy rather than his boorishness.

The force that waited at the drift by Cronje's farm as it lay spread out on both sides of the river looked like a gathering of Wisconsin lumbermen, of Adirondack guides and hunters halted at Paul Smith's, like a Methodist camp-meeting limited entirely to men.

The eye sought in vain for rows of tents, for the horses at the picket line, for the flags that marked the head-quarters, the commissariat, the field telegraph, the field post-office, the A. S. C., the R. M. A. C., the C. O., and all the other combinations of letters of the military alphabet.

I remembered that great army of General Buller's as I saw it stretching out over the basin of the Tugela, like the children of Israel in number, like Tammany Hall in organization and discipline, with not a tent-pin missing; with hospitals as complete as those established for a hundred years in the heart of London; with search-lights, heliographs, war balloons, Roentgen rays, pontoon bridges, telegraph wagons, and trenching tools, farriers with anvils, major-generals, mapmakers, "gallopers," intelligence departments, even biographs and press-censors; every kind of thing and every kind of man that goes to make up a British army corps. I knew that seven miles from us just such another completely equipped and disciplined column was advancing to the opposite bank of the Sand River.

And opposed to it was this merry company of Boer farmers lying on the grass, toasting pieces of freshly killed ox on the end of a stick, their hobbled ponies foraging for themselves a half-mile away, a thousand men without a tent among them, without a field-glass.

It was a picnic, a pastoral scene, not a scene of war. On the hills overlooking the drift were the guns, but down along the banks the burghers were sitting in circles singing the evening hymns, many of them sung to the tunes familiar in the service of the Episcopal Church, so that it sounded like a Sunday evening in the country at home. At the drift other burghers were watering the oxen, bathing and washing in the cold river; around the camp-fires others were smoking luxuriously, with their saddles for pillows. The evening breeze brought the sweet smell of burning wood, a haze of smoke from many fires, the lazy hum of hundreds of voices rising in the open air, the neighing of many horses, and the swift soothing rush of the river.

When morning came to Cronje's farm it brought with it no warning nor sign of battle. We began to believe that the British army was an invention of the enemy's. So we cooked bacon and fed the doves, and smoked on the veranda, moving our chairs around it with the sun, and argued as to whether we should stay where we were or go on to the bridge. At noon it was evident there would be no fight at the drift that day, so we started along the bank of the river, with the idea of reaching the bridge before nightfall. The trail lay on the English side of the river, so that we were in constant concern lest our white-hooded Cape cart would be seen by some of their scouts and we would be taken prisoners and forced to travel all the way back to Cape Town. We saw many herds of deer, but no scouts or lancers, and, such being the effect of many kopjes, lost all ideas as to where we were. We knew we were bearing steadily south toward Lord Roberts, who as we later learned, was then some three miles distant.

About two o'clock his guns opened on our left, so we at least knew that we were still on the wrong side of the river and that we must be between the Boer and the English artillery. Except for that, our knowledge of our geographical position was a blank, and we accordingly "out-spanned" and cooked more bacon. "Outspanning" is unharnessing the ponies and mules and turning them out graze, and takes three minutes—"inspanning" is trying to catch them again, and takes from three to five hours.

We started back over the trail over which we had come, and just at sunset saw a man appear from behind a rock and disappear again. Whether he was Boer or Briton I could not tell, but while I was examining the rock with my glasses two Boers came galloping forward and ordered me to "hands up." To sit with both arms in the air is an extremely ignominious position, and especially annoying if the pony is restless, so I compromised by waving my whip as high as I could reach with one hand, and still held in the horse with the other. The third man from behind the rock rode up at the same time. They said they had watched us coming from the English lines, and that we were prisoners. We assured them that for us nothing could be more satisfactory, because we now knew where we were, and because they had probably saved us a week's trip to Cape Town. They examined and approved of our credentials, and showed us the proper trail which we managed to follow until they had disappeared, when the trail disappeared also, and we were again lost in what seemed an interminable valley. But just before nightfall the fires of the commando showed in front of us and we rode into the camp of General Christian De Wet. He told us we could not reach the bridge that night, and showed us a farm-house on a distant kopje where we could find a place to spread our blankets. I was extremely glad to meet him, as he and General Botha are the most able and brave of the Boer generals. He was big, manly, and of impressive size, and, although he speaks English, he dictated to his adjutant many long and Old-World compliments to the Greater Republic across the seas.

We found the people in the farm-house on the distant kopje quite hysterical over the near presence of the British, and the entire place in such an uproar that we slept out in the veldt. In the morning we were awakened by the sound of the Vickar-Maxim or the "pom-pom" as the English call it, or "bomb-Maxim" as the Boers call it. By any name it was a remarkable gun and the most demoralizing of any of the smaller pieces which have been used in this campaign. One of its values is that its projectiles throw up sufficient dust to enable the gunner to tell exactly where they strike, and within a few seconds he is able to alter the range accordingly. In this way it is its own range-finder. Its bark is almost as dangerous as its bite, for its reports have a brisk, insolent sound like a postman's knock, or a cooper hammering rapidly on an empty keg, and there is an unexplainable mocking sound to the reports, as though the gun were laughing at you. The English Tommies used to call it very aptly the "hyena gun." I found it much less offensive from the rear than when I was with the British, and in front of it.

From the top of a kopje we saw that the battle had at last begun and that the bridge was the objective point. The English came up in great lines and blocks and from so far away and in such close order that at first in spite of the khaki they looked as though they wore uniforms of blue. They advanced steadily, and two hours later when we had ridden to a kopje still nearer the bridge, they were apparently in the same formation as when we had first seen them, only now farms that had lain far in their rear were overrun by them and they encompassed the whole basin. An army of twenty-five thousand men advancing in full view across a great plain appeals to you as something entirely lacking in the human element. You do not think of it as a collection of very tired, dusty, and perspiring men with aching legs and parched lips, but as an unnatural phenomenon, or a gigantic monster which wipes out a railway station, a cornfield, and a village with a single clutch of one of its tentacles. You would as soon attribute human qualities to a plague, a tidal wave, or a slowly slipping landslide. One of the tentacles composed of six thousand horse had detached itself and crossed the river below the bridge, where it was creeping up on Botha's right. We could see the burghers galloping before it toward Ventersburg. At the bridge General Botha and President Steyn stood in the open road and with uplifted arms waved the Boers back, calling upon them to stand. But the burghers only shook their heads and with averted eyes grimly and silently rode by them on the other side. They knew they were flanked, they knew the men in the moving mass in front of them were in the proportion of nine to one.

When you looked down upon the lines of the English army advancing for three miles across the plain, one could hardly blame them. The burghers did not even raise their Mausers. One bullet, the size of a broken slate-pencil, falling into a block three miles across and a mile deep, seems so inadequate. It was like trying to turn back the waves of the sea with a blow-pipe.

It is true they had held back as many at Colenso, but the defensive positions there were magnificent, and since then six months had passed, during which time the same thirty thousand men who had been fighting then were fighting still, while the enemy was always new, with fresh recruits and re-enforcements arriving daily.

As the English officers at Durban, who had so lately arrived from home that they wore swords, used to say with the proud consciousness of two hundred thousand men back of them: "It won't last much longer now. The Boers have had their belly full of fighting. They're fed up on it; that's what it is; they're fed up."

They forgot that the Boers, who for three months had held Buller back at the Tugela, were the same Boers who were rushed across the Free State to rescue Cronje from Roberts, and who were then sent to meet the relief column at Fourteen Streams, and were then ordered back again to harass Roberts at Sannahspost, and who, at last, worn out, stale, heartsick, and hopeless at the unequal odds and endless fighting, fell back at Sand River.

For three months thirty thousand men had been attempting the impossible task of endeavoring to meet an equal number of the enemy in three different places at the same time.

I have seen a retreat in Greece when the men, before they left the trenches, stood up in them and raged and cursed at the advancing Turk, cursed at their government, at their king, at each other, and retreated with shame in their faces because they did so.

But the retreat of the burghers of the Free State was not like that. They rose one by one and saddled their ponies, with the look in their faces of men who had been attending the funeral of a friend and who were leaving just before the coffin was swallowed in the grave. Some of them, for a long time after the greater number of the commando had ridden away, sat upon the rocks staring down into the sunny valley below them, talking together gravely, rising to take a last look at the territory which was their own. The shells of the victorious British sang triumphantly over the heads of their own artillery, bursting impotently in white smoke or tearing up the veldt in fountains of dust.

But they did not heed them. They did not even send a revengeful bullet into the approaching masses. The sweetness of revenge could not pay for what they had lost. They looked down upon the farm-houses of men they knew; upon their own farm-houses rising in smoke; they saw the Englishmen like a pest of locusts settling down around gardens and farm-houses still nearer, and swallowing them up.

Their companions, already far on the way to safety, waved to them from the veldt to follow; an excited doctor carrying a wounded man warned us that the English were just below, storming the hill. "Our artillery is aiming at five hundred yards," he shouted, but still the remaining burghers stood immovable, leaning on their rifles, silent, homeless, looking down without rage or show of feeling at the great waves of khaki sweeping steadily toward them, and possessing their land.


We knew it was a battle because the Japanese officers told us it was. In other wars I had seen other battles, many sorts of battles, but I had never seen a battle like that one. Most battles are noisy, hurried, and violent, giving rise to an unnatural thirst and to the delusion that, by some unhappy coincidence, every man on the other side is shooting only at you. This delusion is not peculiar to myself. Many men have told me that in the confusion of battle they always get this exaggerated idea of their own importance. Down in Cuba I heard a colonel inform a group of brother officers that a Spanish field-piece had marked him for its own, and for an hour had been pumping shrapnel at him and at no one else. The interesting part of the story was that he believed it.

But the battle of Anshantien was in no way disquieting. It was a noiseless, odorless, rubber-tired battle. So far as we were concerned it consisted of rings of shrapnel smoke floating over a mountain pass many miles distant. So many miles distant that when, with a glass, you could see a speck of fire twinkle in the sun like a heliograph, you could not tell whether it was the flash from the gun or the flame from the shell. Neither could you tell whether the cigarette rings issued from the lips of the Japanese guns or from those of the Russians. The only thing about that battle of which you were certain was that it was a perfectly safe battle to watch. It was the first one I ever witnessed that did not require you to calmly smoke a pipe in order to conceal the fact that you were scared. But soothing as it was, the battle lacked what is called the human interest. There may have been men behind the guns, but as they were also behind Camel Hill and Saddle Mountain, eight miles away, our eyes, like those of Mr. Samuel Weller, "being only eyes," were not able to discover them.

Our teachers, the three Japanese officers who were detailed to tell us about things we were not allowed to see, gazed at the scene of carnage with well-simulated horror. Their expressions of countenance showed that should any one move the battle eight miles nearer, they were prepared to sell their lives dearly. When they found that none of us were looking at them or their battle, they were hurt. The reason no one was looking at them was because most of us had gone to sleep. The rest, with a bitter experience of Japanese promises, had doubted there would be a battle, and had prepared themselves with newspapers. And so, while eight miles away the preliminary battle to Liao-Yang was making history, we were lying on the grass reading two months' old news of the St. Louis Convention.

The sight greatly disturbed our teachers.

"You complain," they said, "because you are not allowed to see anything, and now, when we show you a battle, you will not look."

Lewis, of the Herald, eagerly seized his glasses and followed the track of the Siberian railway as it disappeared into the pass.

"I beg your pardon, but I didn't know it was a battle," he apologized politely. "I thought it was a locomotive at Anshantien Station blowing off steam."

And, so, teacher gave him a bad mark for disrespect.

It really was trying.

In order to see this battle we had travelled half around the world, had then waited four wasted months at Tokio, then had taken a sea voyage of ten days, then for twelve days had ridden through mud and dust in pursuit of the army, then for twelve more days, while battles raged ten miles away, had been kept prisoners in a compound where five out of the eighteen correspondents were sick with dysentery or fever, and finally as a reward we were released from captivity and taken to see smoke rings eight miles away! That night a round-robin, which was signed by all, was sent to General Oku, pointing out to him that unless we were allowed nearer to his army than eight miles, our usefulness to the people who paid us our salaries was at an end.

While waiting for an answer to this we were led out to see another battle. Either that we might not miss one minute of it, or that we should be too sleepy to see anything of it, we were started in black darkness, at three o'clock in the morning, the hour, as we are told, when one's vitality is at its lowest, and one which should be reserved for the exclusive use of burglars and robbers of hen roosts. Concerning that hour I learned this, that whatever its effects may be upon human beings, it finds a horse at his most strenuous moment. At that hour by the light of three paper lanterns we tried to saddle eighteen horses, donkeys, and ponies, and the sole object of each was to kick the light out of the lantern nearest him. We finally rode off through a darkness that was lightened only by a gray, dripping fog, and in a silence broken only by the patter of rain upon the corn that towered high above our heads and for many miles hemmed us in. After an hour, Sataki, the teacher who acted as our guide, lost the trail and Captain Lionel James, of the Times, who wrote "On the Heels of De Wet," found it for him. Sataki, so our two other keepers told us, is an authority on international law, and he may be all of that and know all there is to know of three-mile limits and paper blockades, but when it came to picking up a trail, even in the bright sunlight when it lay weltering beneath his horse's nostrils, we always found that any correspondent with an experience of a few campaigns was of more general use. The trail ended at a muddy hill, a bare sugar-loaf of a hill, as high as the main tent of a circus and as abruptly sloping away. It was swept by a damp, chilling wind; a mean, peevish rain washed its sides, and they were so steep that if we sat upon them we tobogganed slowly downward, ploughing up the mud with our boot heels. Hungry, sleepy, in utter darkness, we clung to this slippery mound in its ocean of whispering millet like sailors wrecked in mid-sea upon a rock, and waited for the day. After two hours a gray mist came grudgingly, trees and rocks grew out of it, trenches appeared at our feet, and what had before looked like a lake of water became a mud village.

Then, like shadows, the foreign attaches, whom we fondly hoped might turn out to be Russian Cossacks coming to take us prisoners and carry us off to breakfast, rode up in silence and were halted at the base of the hill. It seemed now, the audience being assembled, the orchestra might begin. But no hot-throated cannon broke the chilling, dripping, silence, no upheaval of the air spoke of Canet guns, no whirling shrapnel screamed and burst. Instead, the fog rolled back showing us miles of waving corn, the wet rails of the Siberian Railroad glistening in the rain, and, masking the horizon, the same mountains from which the day before the smoke rings had ascended. They now were dark, brooding, their tops hooded in clouds. Somewhere in front of us hidden in the Kiao liang, hidden in the tiny villages, crouching on the banks of streams, concealed in trenches that were themselves concealed, Oku's army, the army to which we were supposed to belong, was buried from our sight. And in the mountains on our right lay the Fourth Army, and twenty miles still farther to the right, Kuroki was closing in upon Liao-Yang. All of this we guessed, what we were told was very different, what we saw was nothing. In all, four hundred thousand men were not farther from us than four to thirty miles—and we saw nothing. We watched as the commissariat wagons carrying food to these men passed us by, the hospital stores passed us by, the transport carts passed us by, the coolies with reserve mounts, the last wounded soldier, straggler, and camp-follower passed us by. Like a big tidal wave Oku's army had swept forward leaving its unwelcome guests, the attaches and correspondents, forty lonely foreigners among seventy thousand Japanese, stranded upon a hill miles in the rear. Perhaps, as war, it was necessary, but it was not magnificent.

That night Major Okabe, our head teacher, gave us the official interpretation of what had occurred. The Russians, he said, had retreated from Liao-Yang and were in open flight. Unless General Kuroki, who, he said, was fifty miles north of us, could cut them off they would reach Mukden in ten days, and until then there would be no more fighting. The Japanese troops, he said, were in Liao-Yang, it had been abandoned without a fight. This he told us on the evening of the 27th of August.

The next morning Major Okabe delivered the answer of General Oku to our round-robin. He informed us that we had been as near to the fighting as we ever would be allowed to go. The nearest we had been to any fighting was four miles. Our experience had taught us that when the Japanese promised us we would be allowed to do something we wanted to do, they did not keep their promise; but that when they said we would not be allowed to do something we wanted to do, they spoke the truth. Consequently, when General Oku declared the correspondents would be held four miles in the rear, we believed he would keep his word. And, as we now know, he did, the only men who saw the fighting that later ensued being those who disobeyed his orders and escaped from their keepers. Those who had been ordered by their papers to strictly obey the regulations of the Japanese, and the military attaches, were kept by Oku nearly six miles in the rear.

[Picture: War correspondents in Manchuria. From a photograph by Guy Scull. R. H. Davis (Collier's), W. H. Lewis (New York Herald), John Fox, Jr. (Scribner's), W. H. Brill (Associated Press)]

On the receipt of Oku's answer to the correspondents, Mr. John Fox, Jr., of Scribner's Magazine, Mr. Milton Prior, of the London Illustrated News, Mr. George Lynch, of the London Morning Chronicle, and myself left the army. We were very sorry to go. Apart from the fact that we had not been allowed to see anything of the military operations, we were enjoying ourselves immensely. Personally, I never went on a campaign in a more delightful country nor with better companions than the men acting as correspondents with the Second Army. For the sake of such good company, and to see more of Manchuria, I personally wanted to keep on. But I was not being paid to go camping with a set of good fellows. Already the Japanese had wasted six months of my time and six months of Mr. Collier's money, Mr. Fox had been bottled up for a period of equal length, while Mr. Prior and Mr. Lynch had been prisoners in Tokio for even four months longer. And now that Okabe assured us that Liao-Yang was already taken, and Oku told us if there were any fighting we would not be allowed to witness it, it seemed a good time to quit.

Other correspondents would have quit then, as most of them did ten days later, but that their work and ours in a slight degree differed. As we were not working for daily papers, we used the cable but seldom, while they used it every day. Each evening Okabe brought them the official account of battles and of the movements of the troops, which news of events which they had not witnessed they sent to their separate papers. But for our purposes it was necessary we should see things for ourselves. For, contrary to the popular accusation, no matter how flattering it may be, we could not describe events at which we were not present.

But what mainly moved us to decide, was the statements of Okabe, the officer especially detailed by the War Office to aid and instruct us, to act as our guide, philosopher, and friend, our only official source of information, who told us that Liao-Yang was occupied by the Japanese and that the Russians were in retreat. He even begged me personally to come with him into Liao-Yang on the 29th and see how it was progressing under the control of the Japanese authorities.

Okabe's news meant that the great battle Kuropatkin had promised at Liao-Yang, and which we had come to see, would never take place.

Why Okabe lied I do not know. Whether Oku had lied to him, or whether it was Baron-General Kodama or Major-General Fukushima who had instructed him to so grossly misinform us, it is impossible to say. While in Tokio no one ever more frequently, nor more unblushingly, made statements that they knew were untrue than did Kodama and Fukushima, but none of their deceptions had ever harmed us so greatly as did the lie they put into the mouth of Okabe. Not only had the Japanese not occupied Liao-Yang on the evening of the 27th of August, but later, as everybody knows, they had to fight six days to get into it. And Kuroki, so far from being fifty miles north toward Mukden as Okabe said he was, was twenty miles to the east on our right preparing for the closing in movement which was just about to begin. Three days after we had left the army, the greatest battle since Sedan was waged for six days.

So our half year of time and money, of dreary waiting, of daily humiliations at the hands of officers with minds diseased by suspicion, all of which would have been made up to us by the sight of this one great spectacle, was to the end absolutely lost to us. Perhaps we made a mistake in judgment. As the cards fell, we certainly did. But after the event it is easy to be wise. For the last fifteen years, had I known as much the night before the Grand Prix was run as I did the next afternoon, I would be passing rich.

The only proposition before us was this: There was small chance of any immediate fighting. If there were fighting we could not see it. Confronted with the same conditions again, I would decide in exactly the same manner. Our misfortune lay in the fact that our experience with other armies had led us to believe that officers and gentlemen speak the truth, that men with titles of nobility, and with the higher titles of general and major-general, do not lie. In that we were mistaken.

The parting from the other correspondents was a brutal attack upon the feelings which, had we known they were to follow us two weeks later to Tokio, would have been spared us. It is worth recording why, after waiting many months to get to the front, they in their turn so soon left it. After each of the big battles before Liao-Yang they handed the despatches they had written for their papers to Major Okabe. Each day he told them these despatches had been censored and forwarded. After three days he brought back all the despatches and calmly informed the correspondents that not one of their cables had been sent. It was the final affront of Japanese duplicity. In recording the greatest battle of modern times three days had been lost, and by a lie. The object of their coming to the Far East had been frustrated. It was fatuous to longer expect from Kodama and his pupils fair play or honest treatment, and in the interest of their employers and to save their own self-respect, the representatives of all the most important papers in the world, the Times, of London, the New York Herald, the Paris Figaro, the London Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Morning Post, quit the Japanese army.

Meanwhile, unconscious of what we had missed, the four of us were congratulating ourselves upon our escape, and had started for New-Chwang. Our first halt was at Hai-Cheng, in the same compound in which for many days with the others we had been imprisoned. But our halt was a brief one. We found the compound glaring in the sun, empty, silent, filled only with memories of the men who, with their laughter, their stories, and their songs had made it live.

But now all were gone, the old familiar faces and the familiar voices, and we threw our things back on the carts and hurried away. The trails between Hai-Cheng and the sea made the worst going we had encountered in Manchuria. You soon are convinced that the time has not been long since this tract of land lay entirely under the waters of the Gulf of Liaotung. You soon scent the salt air, and as you flounder in the alluvial deposits of ages, you expect to find the salt-water at the very roots of the millet. Water lies in every furrow of the miles of cornfields, water flows in streams in the roads, water spreads in lakes over the compounds, it oozes from beneath the very walls of the go-downs. You would not be surprised at any moment to see the tide returning to envelop you. In this liquid mud a cart can make a trail by the simple process of continuing forward. The havoc is created in the millet and the ditches its iron-studded wheels dig in the mud leave to the eyes of the next comer as perfectly good a trail as the one that has been in use for many centuries. Consequently the opportunities for choosing the wrong trail are excellent, and we embraced every opportunity. But friendly Chinamen, and certainly they are a friendly, human people, again and again cheerfully went far out of their way to guide us back to ours, and so, after two days, we found ourselves five miles from New-Chwang.

Here we agreed to separate. We had heard a marvellous tale that at New-Chwang there was ice, champagne, and a hotel with enamelled bath-tubs. We had unceasingly discussed the probability of this being true, and what we would do with these luxuries if we got them, and when we came so near to where they were supposed to be, it was agreed that one of us would ride on ahead and command them, while the others followed with the carts. The lucky number fell to John Fox, and he left us at a gallop. He was to engage rooms for the four, and to arrange for the care of seven Japanese interpreters and servants, nine Chinese coolies, and nineteen horses and mules. We expected that by eight o'clock we would be eating the best dinner John Fox could order. We were mistaken. Not that John Fox had not ordered the dinner, but no one ate it but John Fox. The very minute he left us Priory's cart turned turtle in the mud, and the largest of his four mules lay down in it and knocked off work. The mule was hot and very tired, and the mud was soft, cool, and wet, so he burrowed under its protecting surface until all we could see of him was his ears. The coolies shrieked at him, Prior issued ultimatums at him, the Japanese servants stood on dry land fifteen feet away and talked about him, but he only snuggled deeper into his mud bath. When there is no more of a mule to hit than his ears, he has you at a great disadvantage, and when the coolies waded in and tugged at his head, we found that the harder they tugged, the deeper they sank. When they were so far out of sight that we were in danger of losing them too, we ordered them to give up the struggle and unload the cart. Before we got it out of dry-dock, reloaded, and again in line with the other carts it was nine o'clock, and dark.

In the meantime, Lynch, his sense of duty weakened by visions of enamelled bathtubs filled with champagne and floating lumps of ice, had secretly abandoned us, stealing away in the night and leaving us to follow. This, not ten minutes after we had started, Mr. Prior decided that he would not do, so he camped out with the carts in a village, while, dinnerless, supperless, and thirsty, I rode on alone. I reached New-Chwang at midnight, and after being refused admittance by the Japanese soldiers, was finally rescued by the Number One man from the Manchuria Hotel, who had been sent out by Fox with two sikhs and a lantern to find me. For some minutes I dared not ask him the fateful questions. It was better still to hope than to put one's fortunes to the test. But I finally summoned my courage.

"Ice, have got?" I begged.

"Have got," he answered.

There was a long, grateful pause, and then in a voice that trembled, I again asked, "Champagne, have got?"

Number One man nodded.

"Have got," he said.

I totally forgot until the next morning to ask about the enamelled bathtubs.

When I arrived John Fox had gone to bed, and as it was six weeks since any of us had seen a real bed, I did not wake him. Hence, he did not know I was in the hotel, and throughout the troubles that followed I slept soundly.

Meanwhile, Lynch, as a punishment for running away from us, lost his own way, and, after stumbling into an old sow and her litter of pigs, which on a dark night is enough to startle any one, stumbled into a Japanese outpost, was hailed as a Russian spy, and made prisoner. This had one advantage, as he now was able to find New-Chwang, to which place he was marched, closely guarded, arriving there at half-past two in the morning. Since he ran away from us he had been wandering about on foot for ten hours. He sent a note to Mr. Little, the British Consul, and to Bush Brothers, the kings of New-Chwang, and, still tormented by visions of ice and champagne, demanded that his captors take him to the Manchuria Hotel. There he swore they would find a pass from Fukushima allowing him to enter New-Chwang, three friends who could identify him, four carts, seven servants, nine coolies, and nineteen animals. The commandant took him to the Manchuria Hotel, where instead of this wealth of corroborative detail they found John Fox in bed. As Prior, the only one of us not in New-Chwang, had the pass from Fukushima, permitting us to enter it, there was no one to prove what either Lynch or Fox said, and the officer flew into a passion and told Fox he would send both of them out of town on the first train. Mr. Fox was annoyed at being pulled from his bed at three in the morning to be told he was a Russian spy, so he said that there was not a train fast enough to get him out of New-Chwang as quickly as he wanted to go, or, for that matter, out of Japan and away from the Japanese people. At this the officer, being a Yale graduate, and speaking very pure English, told Mr. Fox to "shut up," and Mr. Fox being a Harvard graduate, with an equally perfect command of English, pure and undefiled, shook his fist in the face of the Japanese officer and told him to "shut up yourself." Lynch, seeing the witness he had summoned for the defence about to plunge into conflict with his captor, leaped unhappily from foot to foot, and was heard diplomatically suggesting that all hands should adjourn for ice and champagne.

"If I were a spy," demanded Fox, "do you suppose I would have ridden into your town on a white horse and registered at your head-quarters and then ordered four rooms at the principal hotel and accommodations for seven servants, nine coolies, and nineteen animals? Is that the way a Russian spy works? Does he go around with a brass band?"

The officer, unable to answer in kind this excellent reasoning, took a mean advantage of his position by placing both John and Lynch under arrest, and at the head of each bed a Japanese policeman to guard their slumbers. The next morning Prior arrived with the pass, and from the decks of the first out-bound English steamer Fox hurled through the captain's brass speaking-trumpet our farewells to the Japanese, as represented by the gun-boats in the harbor. Their officers, probably thinking his remarks referred to floating mines, ran eagerly to the side. But our ship's captain tumbled from the bridge, rescued his trumpet, and begged Fox, until we were under the guns of a British man-of-war, to issue no more farewell addresses. The next evening we passed into the Gulf of Pe-chi-li, and saw above Port Arthur the great guns flashing in the night, and the next day we anchored in the snug harbor of Chefoo.

I went at once to the cable station to cable Collier's I was returning, and asked the Chinaman in charge if my name was on his list of those correspondents who could send copy collect. He said it was; and as I started to write, he added with grave politeness, "I congratulate you."

For a moment I did not lift my eyes. I felt a chill creeping down my spine. I knew what sort of a blow was coming, and I was afraid of it.

"Why?" I asked.

The Chinaman bowed and smiled.

"Because you are the first," he said. "You are the only correspondent to arrive who has seen the battle of Liao-Yang."

The chill turned to a sort of nausea. I knew then what disaster had fallen, but I cheated myself by pretending the man was misinformed. "There was no battle," I protested. "The Japanese told me themselves they had entered Liao-Yang without firing a shot." The cable operator was a gentleman. He saw my distress, saw what it meant and delivered the blow with the distaste of a physician who must tell a patient he cannot recover. Gently, reluctantly, with real sympathy he said, "They have been fighting for six days."

I went over to a bench, and sat down; and when Lynch and Fox came in and took one look at me, they guessed what had happened. When the Chinaman told them of what we had been cheated, they, in their turn, came to the bench, and collapsed. No one said anything. No one even swore. Six months we had waited only to miss by three days the greatest battle since Gettysburg and Sedan. And by a lie.

For six months we had tasted all the indignities of the suspected spy, we had been prisoners of war, we had been ticket-of-leave men, and it is not difficult to imagine our glad surprise that same day when we saw in the harbor the white hull of the cruiser Cincinnati with our flag lifting at her stern. We did not know a soul on board, but that did not halt us. As refugees, as fleeing political prisoners, as American slaves escaping from their Japanese jailers, we climbed over the side and demanded protection and dinner. We got both. Perhaps it was not good to rest on that bit of drift-wood, that atom of our country that had floated far from the mainland and now formed an island of American territory in the harbor of Chefoo. Perhaps we were not content to sit at the mahogany table in the glistening white and brass bound wardroom surrounded by those eager, sunburned faces, to hear sea slang and home slang in the accents of Maine, Virginia, and New York City. We forgot our dark-skinned keepers with the slanting, suspicious, unfriendly eyes, with tongues that spoke the one thing and meant the other. All the memories of those six months of deceit, of broken pledges, of unnecessary humiliations, of petty unpoliteness from a half-educated, half-bred, conceited, and arrogant people fell from us like a heavy knapsack. We were again at home. Again with our own people. Out of the happy confusion of that great occasion I recall two toasts. One was offered by John Fox. "Japan for the Japanese, and the Japanese for Japan." Even the Japanese wardroom boy did not catch its significance. The other was a paraphrase of a couplet in reference to our brown brothers of the Philippines first spoken in Manila. "To the Japanese: 'They may be brothers to Commodore Perry, but they ain't no brothers of mine.'"

It was a joyous night. Lieutenant Gilmore, who had been an historic prisoner in the Philippines, so far sympathized with our escape from the Yellow Peril as to intercede with the captain to extend the rules of the ship. And those rules that were incapable of extending broke. Indeed, I believe we broke everything but the eight-inch gun. And finally we were conducted to our steamer in a launch crowded with slim-waisted, broad-chested youths in white mess jackets, clasping each other's shoulders and singing, "Way down in my heart, I have a feeling for you, a sort of feeling for you"; while the officer of the deck turned his back, and discreetly fixed his night glass upon a suspicious star.

It was an American cruiser that rescued this war correspondent from the bondage of Japan. It will require all the battle-ships in the Japanese navy to force him back to it.


I am going to try to describe some kits and outfits I have seen used in different parts of the world by travellers and explorers, and in different campaigns by army officers and war correspondents. Among the articles, the reader may learn of some new thing which, when next he goes hunting, fishing, or exploring, he can adapt to his own uses. That is my hope, but I am sceptical. I have seldom met the man who would allow any one else to select his kit, or who would admit that any other kit was better than the one he himself had packed. It is a very delicate question. The same article that one declares is the most essential to his comfort, is the very first thing that another will throw into the trail. A man's outfit is a matter which seems to touch his private honor. I have heard veterans sitting around a camp-fire proclaim the superiority of their kits with a jealousy, loyalty, and enthusiasm they would not exhibit for the flesh of their flesh and the bone of their bone. On a campaign, you may attack a man's courage, the flag he serves, the newspaper for which he works, his intelligence, or his camp manners, and he will ignore you; but if you criticise his patent water-bottle he will fall upon you with both fists. So, in recommending any article for an outfit, one needs to be careful. An outfit lends itself to dispute, because the selection of its component parts is not an exact science. It should be, but it is not. A doctor on his daily rounds can carry in a compact little satchel almost everything he is liable to need; a carpenter can stow away in one box all the tools of his trade. But an outfit is not selected on any recognized principles. It seems to be a question entirely of temperament. As the man said when his friends asked him how he made his famous cocktail, "It depends on my mood." The truth is that each man in selecting his outfit generally follows the lines of least resistance. With one, the pleasure he derives from his morning bath outweighs the fact that for the rest of the day he must carry a rubber bathtub. Another man is hearty, tough, and inured to an out-of-door life. He can sleep on a pile of coal or standing on his head, and he naturally scorns to carry a bed. But another man, should he sleep all night on the ground, the next day would be of no use to himself, his regiment, or his newspaper. So he carries a folding cot and the more fortunate one of tougher fibre laughs at him. Another man says that the only way to campaign is to travel "light," and sets forth with rain-coat and field-glass. He honestly thinks that he travels light because his intelligence tells him it is the better way; but, as a matter of fact, he does so because he is lazy. Throughout the entire campaign he borrows from his friends, and with that camaraderie and unselfishness that never comes to the surface so strongly as when men are thrown together in camp, they lend him whatever he needs. When the war is over, he is the man who goes about saying: "Some of those fellows carried enough stuff to fill a moving van. Now, look what I did. I made the entire campaign on a tooth-brush."

As a matter of fact, I have a sneaking admiration for the man who dares to borrow. His really is the part of wisdom. But at times he may lose himself in places where he can neither a borrower nor a lender be, and there are men so tenderly constituted that they cannot keep another man hungry while they use his coffee-pot. So it is well to take a few things with you—if only to lend them to the men who travel "light."

On hunting and campaigning trips the climate, the means of transport, and the chance along the road of obtaining food and fodder vary so greatly that it is not possible to map out an outfit which would serve equally well for each of them. What on one journey was your most precious possession on the next is a useless nuisance. On two trips I have packed a tent weighing, with the stakes, fifty pounds, which, as we slept in huts, I never once had occasion to open; while on other trips in countries that promised to be more or less settled, I had to always live under canvas, and sometimes broke camp twice a day.

In one war, in which I worked for an English paper, we travelled like major-generals. When that war started few thought it would last over six weeks, and many of the officers regarded it in the light of a picnic. In consequence, they mobilized as they never would have done had they foreseen what was to come, and the mess contractor grew rich furnishing, not only champagne, which in campaigns in fever countries has saved the life of many a good man, but cases of even port and burgundy, which never greatly helped any one. Later these mess supplies were turned over to the field-hospitals, but at the start every one travelled with more than he needed and more than the regulations allowed, and each correspondent was advised that if he represented a first-class paper and wished to "save his face" he had better travel in state. Those who did not, found the staff and censor less easy of access, and the means of obtaining information more difficult. But it was a nuisance. If, when a man halted at your tent, you could not stand him whiskey and sparklet soda, Egyptian cigarettes, compressed soup, canned meats, and marmalade, your paper was suspected of trying to do it "on the cheap," and not only of being mean, but, as this was a popular war, unpatriotic. When the army stripped down to work all this was discontinued, but at the start I believe there were carried with that column as many tins of tan-leather dressing as there were rifles. On that march my own outfit was as unwieldy as a gypsy's caravan. It consisted of an enormous cart, two oxen, three Basuto ponies, one Australian horse, three servants, and four hundred pounds of supplies and baggage. When it moved across the plain it looked as large as a Fall River boat. Later, when I joined the opposing army, and was not expected to maintain the dignity of a great London daily, I carried all my belongings strapped to my back, or to the back of my one pony, and I was quite as comfortable, clean, and content as I had been with the private car and the circus tent.

Throughout the Greek war, as there were no horses to be had for love or money, we walked, and I learned then that when one has to carry his own kit the number of things he can do without is extraordinary. While I marched with the army, offering my kingdom for a horse, I carried my outfit in saddle-bags thrown over my shoulder. And I think it must have been a good outfit, for I never bought anything to add to it or threw anything away. I submit that as a fair test of a kit.

Further on, should any reader care to know how for several months one may keep going with an outfit he can pack in two saddle-bags, I will give a list of the articles which in three campaigns I carried in mine.

Personally, I am for travelling "light," but at the very start one is confronted with the fact that what one man calls light to another savors of luxury. I call fifty pounds light; in Japan we each were allowed the officer's allowance of sixty-six pounds. Lord Wolseley, in his "Pocketbook," cuts down the officer's kit to forty pounds, while "Nessmut," of the Forest and Stream, claims that for a hunting trip, all one wants does not weigh over twenty-six pounds. It is very largely a question of compromise. You cannot eat your cake and have it. You cannot, under a tropical sun, throw away your blanket and when the night dew falls wrap it around you. And if, after a day of hard climbing or riding, you want to drop into a folding chair, to make room for it in your carry-all you must give up many other lesser things.

By travelling light I do not mean any lighter than the necessity demands. If there is transport at hand, a man is foolish not to avail himself of it. He is always foolish if he does not make things as easy for himself as possible. The tenderfoot will not agree with this. With him there is no idea so fixed, and no idea so absurd, as that to be comfortable is to be effeminate. He believes that "roughing it" is synonymous with hardship, and in season and out of season he plays the Spartan. Any man who suffers discomforts he can avoid because he fears his comrades will think he cannot suffer hardships is an idiot. You often hear it said of a man that "he can rough it with the best of them." Any one can do that. The man I want for a "bunkie" is the one who can be comfortable while the best of them are roughing it. The old soldier knows that it is his duty to keep himself fit, so that he can perform his work, whether his work is scouting for forage or scouting for men, but you will often hear the volunteer captain say: "Now, boys, don't forget we're roughing it; and don't expect to be comfortable." As a rule, the only reason his men are uncomfortable is because he does not know how to make them otherwise; or because he thinks, on a campaign, to endure unnecessary hardship is the mark of a soldier.

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