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Cloud-girt among her mountains
Nippon in wrath, as of old,
Unleashes her young warrior,
Lo, the world’s champion behold!
He comes abysmal as chaos,
A boy with the smile of a girl,
Tumbles his man with a hand-shake
And spits him up with a twirl.
Nourished on rice and a dew-drop,
He fans him to sleep with a star,
Believing the fathers of Nippon
Created things as they are.
So up and across the short ocean
He sails to the land of can’t
To keep up the name of his fathers
And smash down the things that shan’t.
Ah! What a freshet of glory,
When into the noisy fray,
Against a shaggy old giant
Comes this youth asmile and gay!
“IT has come at last!” smiled Minamoto, his voice trembling with elation. “Tomorrow, little wife, I shall start for the front!”
He had hoped for this moment with the eagerness of a hound straining at the leash.
It was the noblest privilege of a samurai to die for his country.
O Hana San subsided to the mats and bumped her dainty head.
“Wondrous is honour descended down on worthless wife by augustness heaven-born Mikado,” she smiled courageously. But her voice belied her words; her secret soul was rent with anguish.
“Have courage. I will soon return,” he said cheerily. Breaking off a spray of cherry-bloom he wreathed it about her brow.
“Arigato,” she laughed pitifully, drooping her slanted lids.
Suddenly her heart failed her and she sank weeping before the Buddha:
“Namu Amida Butsu,” she sobbed, “make pity for shameless Hana San!
“Holy, Merciful Shaka, spare my sweet Yoshida! Make august wonder. Stop those crule war!
“Oh, all Gods in sky, Hana San die rather than keep him from honourable duty. But she mus’ live, for cause of liddle one what is to be.”
Minamoto clasped her tenderly:
“I will stay,” he faltered, “I will not desert you in your hour of agony.”
Her eyes flashed fire.
“No,” she shrilled, “you gon’ go with your reg’ment. Nobody’s gon’ say: ‘Those coward Hana San made you stay!’”
He no longer recognized in this inexorable goddess his gentle child-like wife.
“I shall go,” he assented simply.
A smile of triumph lighted her face:
“Ah! those most happy moments all my life!”
“Give me a talisman,” he pleaded, “to bring me safe again to you.”
“Loog!” she laughed. “Liddle Iris-Blossom flower, Hana San own self!”
Unclasping a golden iris, she pinned it on his breast. He kissed her hands tenderly; “Sayonara,” he whispered, and was gone.
They stand, though merciless the battle flood
Thunders its mighty avalanche of death,
Waiting the fateful hour with bated breath,
Eager to serve their country with their blood,
To keep undescrate its sacred name;
And plant the banner of the Rising Sun
Above the muzzle of the Russian gun,
Upon the topmost tower fore’er to flame.
Unconquered still, though unrelenting fate
Their fragile bodies may annihilate,
Ye cannot slay with swords their souls the while,
Nor dim the lustre of their shining smile,
That deathless light which ever gleaming lies
Imperishably bright within their eyes.
Minamoto stood in the trenches amongst his men. He was in the firing line of a great battle. Scarcely three hundred paces separated the rifles of the opposing armies. The ground was furrowed with the scars of countless shells and littered with mangled bodies of the dead. All that day had the Japanese striven desperately to dislodge the Russians from their vantage, but in vain.
The screech of the shells had ceased. There was a lull in the din of battle, broken only by the bullet of an occasional sniper whistling overhead, or slapping into the mud of the parapet.
Minamoto peeped through his loop-hole, his eyes fixed upon a little knoll half way between the two firing lines. Suddenly he caught the glint of a thousand bayonets as a regiment of Russians sprang from their trench, and swarmed like ants upon the plain.
Like a single shot crashed the opening volley from the Japanese rifles, and a hundred burly moujiks fell in their tracks. On came the white tunics in a sanguinary rush led by a great red-bearded Cossack with the shoulders of an ox.
Again the Japanese rifles barked in a simultaneous discharge. Another hundred, reeling, collapsed only a few paces in front of their fallen comrades.
Relentlessly the rifles pour forth their leaden avalanche of death. One by one, with a look of stupefaction upon their blanched faces the mighty moujiks sink lifeless to earth.
The remnant, surging backward, strive to save themselves in flight; but the Japanese redouble their fire, and the Russians melt like snow before the sun. Only a handful now remain. Throwing their arms into the air they rush blindly upon the naked bayonets of their enemies. 1
1 A thrilling “Trial by Champions” is described by Lionel James, Military Correspondent of the Times, in his Yellow War.
Suddenly the firing ceases. Minamoto leaps over the parapet and, brandishing his two-handed sword, races towards his adversary.
Silent and sinister the stalwart Russian salutes him. A great cheer goes up as they cross swords and meet in mortal combat.
Whirling his Muramasa blade, the sword his forbears had wielded in a hundred battles, Minamoto springs upon the giant Russian. For once he has met his match, for the burly Cossack is the best swordsman in Moscow.
Swift fly the blades like flashing flames in a ceaseless clash of thrust, tierce, and parry. For a time they fence carefully, each seeking to undermine the other’s guard. Then suddenly, before he is aware how or why, with a quick twist of his agile wrist Minamoto whips the Russian’s sword high into the air.
“Banzai! Banzai!” shout the Japs springing from the very ground as Minamoto stands with blade uplifted about to strike.
But he will not take advantage of his weaponless opponent. Bowing gravely he lays his sword aside and faces the Russian empty handed.
For a moment they stand thus eyeing each other warily; then with a sudden spring they come to grips. At first the powerful Russian thrusts his little antagonist hither and thither apparently at will. But, like a serpent, Minamoto writhes from his grasp, and, with a sudden trick of jujutsu, throws his lumbering opponent upon his back.
A great shout goes up from the Japanese soldiery as their commander lifts his prostrate foe.
The Russian salutes his victor.
Minamoto grasps his hand:
“Captain Ivanovitch, you are my prisoner,” he smiles and extending his cigarette-case: “Have a smoke!” he said boyishly.
Ruthless as death, implacable as hate,
In mouldering cerements of lacquered gold,
Sloe-eyed Amida, queen of æons old,
Daughter of strife and victory elate,
Goddess of War, of blood insatiate,
Whose image grim the ancient Shoguns bold,
Wrapped close within their mailed tunic’s fold,
To battle bore, a talisman ‘gainst fate.
She stands inscrutable, her slanted eyes
Peering between the wrack of incense fire,
That smoulders slowly upward to the skies,
Like some pale lotus springing from the mire,
Passionless goddess, pure, inviolate,
Aflame with ceaseless fires of ruthless hate.
Ruthless as death, but how surpassing fair, like pale Amida worn with vain desire, her lustrous eyes lit with the fires of hate.
Thus she seemed to Minamoto as he first caught sight of her inscrutable face at Dalny. This Russian goddess, cold, haughty, and relentless — sleek serpent-woman with the sting of death. But like the serpent, obsidian-eyed and slothful, this smiling sorceress exercised over the little Japanese a fascination malign but irresistible.
Tacita was an enigma. Why she lingered in Dalny after the evacuation of the Russians no one knew.
Minamoto stood wonder-struck as he met her at the door:
“Pardon,” he stammered, “I am assigned quarters here.”
“Soldier, the house is yours,—what the Russian looters have left,” she smiled sadly. “Come and see.”
Through the vacant mansion she led him to a basement store-room littered with precious heirlooms. “This is all I have in the world,” she sighed wistfully.
Opening a door she disclosed a hidden passage. “It leads beneath the city wall to the Port Arthur post-road,” she volunteered. “My husband brought in contraband goods through this entrance. We were wealthy till they crushed him,” she cried bitterly.
“They sent him to Siberia where he died by inches, my poor Nicolai!’’
“And you are Russian?” Minamoto questioned in bewilderment.
“I a Russian!” she flashed indignantly. “I am Polish. I detest them. They executed my father, imprisoned my brothers, and exiled me. Tell me you will not turn me from my door.”
“You may stay. You are one of us,” he smiled trustfully.
He saw but little of Tacita in the busy days that followed. At times she would come to his office to bring him biscuits and conserves, then with a smile would swiftly glide away.
One night Colonel Imazawa, Chief of the Engineers, came to consult some plans.
“Port Arthur cannot be taken by assault,” he counselled. “Ten years of fortification have made its enceinte of thirty forts impregnable. Our engineers must open the way with mines.”
He bent his head over Minamoto’s plans:
“The tunnel must be pierced at this point,” he commanded, “the mine laid here.”
A slight click, almost imperceptible, was heard at the door. Glancing up, Minamoto saw the knob turn slowly.
Springing from his seat he threw open the door. Tacita stood in the hall confused and blushing holding a tea-tray.
“You were working so late,” she faltered. “I thought you needed refreshment.”
“It was very thoughtful of you,” he said ironically. “Take these plans to the front tomorrow,” commanded the Colonel. “Guard them carefully; they are the key to Port Arthur.”
Grasping Minamoto’s hand warmly he took his leave.
In the moon-silvered garden some one was playing the biwa.
The music woke infinite longing in the heart of Minamoto, for it recalled halcyon days with Hana San.
An unwonted loneliness beset him and he went out into the scented night.
Beneath the tamarinds sat Tacita, her fingers flitting across the strings in a languorous melody. As her eyes met his a scarlet blossom fell from her hair.
Minamoto strove to grasp the flower, but snatching it from him she thrust it in her breast.
A light flashed from his window. He turned, wondering who had entered his room; but Tacita caught his face and pressed it passionately against her own.
Suddenly she thrust him off, her eyes aflame with loathing.
“You yellow monkey!” she shrilled, “how dare you touch me!” and was gone.
A moment later he saw a shadow upon the pane. It was Tacita clasped in the arms of Ivanovitch.
White with anger Minamoto hurried to his office. The room was empty and the plans were gone!
* * * * * * * * * * *
A cloud of dust whirled across the plain. Above the haze white coats could be discerned; then the tossing heads of horses and flying manes as the cloud circled nearer and nearer. The plain thundered with the thud of galloping hoofs.
Suddenly with a cry as of wild beasts a band of Cossacks swooped down upon the gate.
Minamoto with a handful of samurai leaped to the saddle and gave chase. Though twice outnumbered by their stalwart antagonists the intrepid little troopers sabred, slashed, and thrust with the fury of demons. Steel rang against steel like flails upon a threshing floor.
The Cossacks, driven back, circled in every direction, seeking vainly to escape. So furious was the onset that, in spite of their superior numbers, the field was strewn with bloody bodies of the slain. Their horses reared, screamed, bit, and kicked, then bolted in mad confusion.
The little Japanese pressed them closer and closer.
Several of the Cossacks dismounted and strove to flee between the legs of the horses. These were trampled to death by their terrible hoofs or sabred relentlessly from above.
From a neighbouring thicket sounded the nauseous laugh of a hyena.
Thither the Russians galloped, pursued by the avenging samurai.
With a blow of the sabre Minamoto severed a Cossack’s head. The corpse fell heavily to earth; the riderless horse galloped on.
A figure sprang from the thicket and leaped to the saddle. Suddenly Minamoto recognized Ivanovitch.
Closing about him in a wedge the Cossacks cast themselves against the Japanese in a desperate charge. Cost what it might they were determined to hew their way through.
Then began a terrible slaughter. Minamoto, flaming like afire, spurred into the midst. In vain he strove to reach his cowardly adversary. The brawny bandits kept him off with their long lances, huddling about Ivanovitch in a ring of steel.
In the blind mêlée his horse stumbled on a fallen body and Minamoto fell under the trampling steeds of his men.
The little band drew rein; and down the dim horizon the Cossacks scattered like a cloud of leaves.
The Russian land forces were securely bottled up within the fortifications, as tightly as their fleet which dared not poke a nose outside the harbour.
It was the beginning of the end of Port Arthur.
The Japanese army was halted before a six-mile line of cliffs stretching across the peninsula, precipices seven hundred feet high crowned by the old Chinese wall, fortified by every appliance of modern gunnery. Only madmen would attempt to scale such a wall.
Twenty-five thousand Japanese dead had been the price of the last assault. They had now resolved to resort to mining.
Across the wide plain they dug zigzag trenches to the foot of Dragon Hill.
They did the work at night, carrying back the earth on stretchers, and covered the trenches with corn-stalks, so that they could not be distinguished from growing maize.
The assault of the fortress, to be preceded by explosion of the mine, was set for the following day.
Minamoto stood before General Nogi in his field headquarters. He reported that all was in readiness. A mere touch of the General’s hand on the electric keyboard would let loose a volcano.
Suddenly the telephone rang.
Mysterious tappings had been heard in the heart of the cliff. The Russians were countermining!
“Take a squad of men,” commanded the General; “patrol the galleries and defend the mine!”
Minamoto saluted and was gone.
Listening intently for the slightest sound, Minamoto and his men cautiously explored the tunnel. All was silence save for the drip of water from walls and roof.
At the end of the passage glimmered a strange, unearthly light. Groping slowly forward they discovered that it came from an opening inside of the fortifications.
Suddenly the light is eclipsed and the tramp of feet echoes through the rocky corridor.
“Fix bayonets!” rasps Minamoto, drawing his sword.
Alarmed by the noise the burly moujiks pause. Before they can recover, crash the Japanese rifles and with a wild “Banzai!” Minamoto’s men rush blindly forward.
In the bowels of the Dragon they fought a bloody fight.
The front rank of Russians fall like grain beneath the scythe. Over their bodies springs Minamoto, his men following like a pack of hounds. Shouting, lunging, and slashing they fling themselves upon their foes.
The air is black with a thick curtain of smoke. Through the sombre pall flashes unceasingly the fiery avalanche of death.
Above the rattle of rifles and swish of bullets resounds the triumphant war-cry:
“Banzai! Banzai! Nippon!”
The firing ceases. The few remaining Russians save themselves in a frenzied rush to the mouth of the gallery.
Minamoto turns, restrains his men, and goes to the telephone:
“We have driven them out, General, but they will come back. Wait no longer, but set off the mine!”
Scarcely had he quitted the transmitter when a blast of blinding flame rent the tunnel with sudden convulsion — then all was dark!
* * * * * * * * * * *
For hours Minamoto lay unconscious. When he came to himself it was night. Around him was the vast plain alive with hostile trenches. Above loomed the shattered fortress, its casemates still bristling with Russian cannon. But over it, fluttering triumphantly from the topmost tower, waved the blood-red banner of the Rising Sun!
All was silent, save for the intermittent boom of distant batteries. From time to time gaunt, silver searchlights gashed the sky with sudden gleams; then quickly melted into dusk.
Straining his eyes he caught sight of vague, shadowy shapes groping in the gloom. They were dragging after them limp bodies to shallow trenches which they barely covered with a few spadefuls of earth.
Minamoto strove to crawl toward them, but so intense was his agony that he fell again into unconsciousness.
With dawn the hell of battle burst anew. Bullets and shells whizzed over him, and he fell motionless, feigning death.
About him lay the dead and wounded, numberless as flies in summer. Anguish-tossed arms writhed vainly in air. Burly backs bent in the last throes of torture and despair.
He thought of his lost comrades, the dear ones waiting for his return, and his heart was faint with the agony of defeat.
Consumed with hunger and parched with thirst he managed to find a water-bottle and a few biscuits in the pockets of a dead comrade and thus he lived.
Toward sunset there was a lull in the din of battle. Calm brooded over the vast and peaceless sea.
Suddenly from the Russian trenches crashed a blazing volley, like lightning out of a clear sky.
They were shooting the wounded in order that their rotting corpses might infect the Japanese trenches.
The sun went down, a murky ball of blood, and the stars peered out mistily over that interminable sea of wounded and dead.
All night he crawled, dragging himself a few feet at a time painfully onward toward his own lines. In the inky gloom, illuminated only by the intermittent hashes of the searchlights, he could not see in which direction he was going. He only knew that it was downward. So down he went.
At dawn he came upon a deserted Russian dug-out, where he found a dying comrade. The man was too far gone to speak but pointed his fingers appealingly to his throat. Minamoto opened his water-bottle and poured the last remaining drops between the lips of his grateful comrade.
Scarcely had he finished when a bulky figure skulked into the dug-out. Its eyes were shadowed by a great visored cap; but Minamoto recognized the bristly, red beard of Ivanovitch.
An ear-splitting crack from the revolver of the Russian and, through the blinding smoke, the wounded Japanese could be discerned, the top of his head gone, the water-bottle still clenched in his teeth. 1
1 Richard Barry, the American War Correspondent, has given a vivid picture of this authentic incident in his Port Arthur.
Minamoto felt a quick twinge in his left shoulder. The blood trickled through his khaki coat. A bullet had entered his body near the heart; but, striking the iris-talisman grazed his side with a jagged furrow. Instantly he dropped and lay motionless as death.
Ivanovitch sneaked up to the two Japanese, whom he thought dead, hastily rifled their pockets, and was gone.
Crazed with hunger and thirst, dead with fatigue, faint with suffering, Minamoto lay, for how long he did not know, in the filthy dug-out. It must have been for days, for when he woke one morning worms crawled in his wounds. Tearing off the shirt of his dead comrade he bandaged himself as best he might. Then severing an artery in his own arm, he slaked his thirst and lived.
Resolute to the last the little warrior began again his heroic struggle to gain the Japanese lines. A few yards each night, crawling always downward, he dragged his pitiful way through the bloody shambles. Deafened, starved and paralysed, after a week of untold suffering he tumbled one night into a Japanese trench.
The next day Port Arthur fell. What did death matter? Nippon had triumphed at last!
The soul of the brook was rife with Spring.
Sweet was its song as a dream of love,
As Hana San, like a dove its wing,
Preened her plumage the pool above.
Peering down at her semblance sweet,
She smiled to her sister so young and fair,
With the light of Noon on her flower-like feet,
And the dusk of Night in her dew-drenched hair.
Then a sudden fear bedimmed her eyes,
With the lustrous mist of a midnight star;
And her heart was sad with a vague surmise
As she thought of her lord away at war.
Then she smiled again with a wistful sigh,
Like the wind of eve in the cherry bloom,
And whispered: “Thus, when my Lord is nigh,
Will I smile to thee through the starry gloom.”
Then she blushed again at her image shy,
As flowery-bright as the month of May,
And fluttered forth, like a butterfly
On the fragrant breeze of a summer day.
Her soul was white as a lotus bloom.
Her smile was the song of the stars above.
Her heart was light as a wind-blown plume,
Though her eyes were wet with the tears of love. 1
1 Transcribed from Yone Noguchi.
Hana San wept for joy. “Make not honourable tear-droppings,” pleaded the little nezan peering into the pale face of her mistress.
“Look me in those eye,” she said savagely. “What those shameless tears on eye-winks? Shall Honourable Husband think you sawry of his return?”
O Hana San smiled courageously. “I sawry! I make weeping! That’s one bad lie,” she flashed indignantly.
“I heard you,” insisted the maid. “You made nose-bubblings when you look in pool, lig this,” and she gurgled in realistic mimicry.
Iris Blossom tossed her head haughtily:
“Those bubbling not me,” she denied wrathfully, “liddle silly frog. Saay, you gon’ tole my Minamoto, I keel you. Speak, what you gon’ tole him? Speak!”
“Nawthing,” laughed the maid, “I only gon’ tell him those blub-blub tear-drops just is frogs, only liddle frogs in pool.”
Hana San smiled between her tears.
They gave Minamoto back to her alive, with only a bullet-wound in the breast. They gave him back, but not to keep.
“Make not honourable tear-droppings,” pleaded
the little nezan,
peering into the pale face of her mistress
“My torpedo took her amidships. With a blast of
steam the boilers exploded.
With a sudden plunge she keeled over and sank in the heaving sea”
Skilled surgery, Hana San’s faithful nursing, and rest would soon put him in shape to go again.
The same grim sacrifice must be endured anew.
Was it not enough that her husband had been wounded? Must he give his life for the Mikado? Must he die “the great red death?”
One day the call came. The Russian fleet was slowly creeping along the southern coast of China, seeking to escape to Vladivostok. Minamoto was appointed to a secret mission, the command of the Japanese wireless stations. He was to give warning of the approach of the Russian ships.
A message in Russian cipher had been picked up. A destroyer was placed under his orders; from station to station he cruised, and at last discovered the mysterious operator.
A bleak and barren islet off the southernmost coast of Kyushu.
Battered ceaselessly by wind and wave, uninhabited save by sea-fowl, a jutting cliff thrust its desolate pinnacles into the leaden sky. Upon a beetling crag perched a hovel trembling in the teeth of a driving gale. Through crevices in wall and roof came gusts of hail, while the lulls in the deafening tumult were rife with wailing of wind-swept wires.
Huddling over a smouldering brazier crouched Minamoto and Tacita. All night long had they vainly watched for the coming of the Russian fleet.
Minamoto swept the horizon with his glass, striving to penetrate the murk. The moon rose, and above the shrouding mist he caught a pall of black smoke. He drew in his breath sharply:
“At last,” he cried, “they have come!” Snatching the glass, Tacita saw, dimly outlined against the sky, the masts and funnels of the Russian scout division.
“Only three ships!” she sighed dispiritedly. “Look again!” called Minamoto, “the entire fleet is following.”
He sprang to the transmitter; short—long, long— short, spluttered out the crackling flame.
Through leagues of space it leaped, twixt sky and sea, till it reached the receiving station on Togo’s flagship.
“Which passage will the Russian fleet take?” asked Tacita, striving vainly to disguise her interest.
Minamoto quitted his instrument and eyed her furtively through slanted lids.
“I have just reported to Admiral Togo that the Russians are headed for the Western passage,” he lied deliberately. “Remain here. I must join my squadron at Tsushima.”
Without waiting a reply he left the hut. Hardly had he crossed the threshold when she sprang to the key-board and flashed a message in Russian cipher:
TO CAPTAIN IVANOVITCH, on hoard flag-ship Suvaroff:
Take eastern passage. Japanese fleet lies in wait west of Tsushima!
Suddenly a shadow fell across the table. Tacita turned and met the inscrutable smile of Minamoto.
“Do not think I am unaware of the game you’re playing,” he said as he carefully removed the key.
“Ah! You are not so crafty as you think,” she laughed. “Our fleet will now get through to Vladivostok!
“On the contrary your message has insured our victory. You have drawn the Russian fleet into a trap. It will be annihilated.”
“Yellow devil!” she shrieked, “give me that key!”
Tacita sprang at Minamoto and strove to wrest it from his hand.
He threw her to the floor.
“Spy!” he sneered, “now that you have sent my message I have no further need of you.”
“Will you kill me?” she gasped.
“No, merely deliver you to justice,” he shrugged.
“I am not a murderer.”
She clasped his knees in piteous appeal.
“Spare me,” she pleaded, “and I will serve Japan as I have served Russia. In mercy do not deliver me to death!”
Minamoto smiled inexorably.
“It is useless,” he shrugged. “You have played a desperate game and have lost.—Go! let me never look upon your face again!”
Like Athens in her first dread hour of need,
On that eventful day of days long past,
When on the plain at Marathon she massed
Her little phalanx ‘gainst the whelming Mede,
And, by the might of great Miltiades,
Shattered at Salamis their triremes fast
Till naught remained of that armada vast;
So Togo swept the Tartar from the sea!
A greater glory yours than golden Greece,
Whose Spartans met the Medes to their dismay,
For you have sunk beneath Tsushima’s seas
Fore’er the Tartar horde upon this day,
As when of yore the war-junks of the Khan
You wrecked upon the reefs of old Japan.
Scarcely had I boarded my destroyer when a shell hurtled overhead, exploding upon impact with the water in a geyser that drenched me to the bone. I gave the order:
“Full speed!” and away we leapt, a great wave over our whaleback.
Through the mist I made out the scouting division of the Russian flotilla headed toward us. As we raced on, their twelve-pound projectiles splashed and ricochetted about us like hail upon a roof.
We crammed in the coal, gradually drew away and rejoined our own division off Tsushima in the early forenoon.
Shortly after midday the main body of the Russian fleet loomed dimly through the mist. As they approached, Admiral Togo ran up the signal: “The fate of the Empire is at stake. Let each man do his utmost,” and the entire fleet went into action.
Our battle-ships, the Mikasa, Shikishima, Fuji, Asahi, and Achin headed southward in a manœuvre, feigning to cross the enemy’s bows.
“Now the game is on,” I said to myself, hastening to the bridge.
The main squadron, followed by six cruisers, bore steadily down upon the head of the enemy’s column. As our flagship crossed their bows she veered abruptly and turned to the east.
Suddenly the Suvaroff fired the opening shot and the guns of the entire Russian and Japanese fleets thundered forth.
I glanced sternwards where the white wake of the propeller seethed in the blue.
The first shells shrieked above us.
“Look out!” shouted one of my crew, and at the same instant a shell splintered into a thousand fragments, and the man’s head was gone. He tottered a moment, then fell to the deck drenching me with his blood. A comrade sprang to his place and grasped the reeking handle of the Maxim.
We had changed our course and now had a Russian destroyer upon our port side. It was so close that the flames from its belching funnels and quick-firers blinded our eyes.
More projectiles burst about us and a gigantic pillar of water, smoke, and flame surged over us, sweeping men and ammunition before it. The destroyer heeled over, slowly righted herself, and I saw where had been the Oslyabya only a wreath of seething foam.
Foul, hissing, and slimy the Russian destroyer closed on us like some obscene sea-dragon. Her ugly crew stood with drawn swords ready to spring. As they jumped, suddenly I put over the helm.
With a sharp jerk we slid by them tearing away rails and grinding to pulp all who had not fallen into the sea.
Then I noticed that the Suvaroff in great distress had left the line.
So battered that she had lost all semblance to the flagship which had lately led the fleet, enveloped in smoke and flame, her funnels gone, her masts toppling one after the other, her steering-gear demolished, she was drifting helplessly.
Yet, in even that pitiable condition, with our torpedo flotilla worrying her like a pack of wolves, she did not surrender, but kept on firing her last gun, which still nosed defiantly from its turret.
We were still pouring shot into the almost defenceless flag-ship when someone cried: “The fleet is returning!”
Our main squadron had forced the enemy to the south, and for a time they had been lost in the fog. Headed off by Kamimura they were drifting about in a circle, while our ships moved on a parallel and larger arc, constantly crashing the sides of our helpless victims.
The Alexander, which had now assumed command, badly battered and with a heavy list to port, had taken the lead, still fighting, though her bows were torn open and the water entered the lower port-holes.
A great cruiser followed, a blazing torch from conning-tower to scuppers.
A vision of the Inferno it swept by, her sister ships outlined black and sinister against the western sky.
A blood-red sun peered blearily through the murk. A brisk southerly breeze lashed the surface of the sea. Our main squadron drew off setting rendezvous for the following morning at a point forty miles south of the Ulneung Islands.
As dusk deepened into night notwithstanding the strong wind and choppy sea, vying with each other our torpedo-flotilla stood out, swarming like wasps about the doomed ships.
My destroyer was time first to open fire, hugging the sleek hulk of the Suvaroff so closely that she could not depress her guns, to reach us.
Her shells wheeled in fiery arches above our smoke-stacks, bursting harmlessly as they struck the water.
My first torpedo went wide, but the second exploded under her bow, detonating her forward torpedoes, and shattering the entire bow of the great dreadnought.
The havoc was ghastly. Panic seized the seared and bleeding crew. Clouds of black smoke belched from the hull. She listed heavily to port, but her one last gun still flamed defiantly from its turret.
A great, red-bearded Russian stood upon the bridge, drunk with vodka and battle-lust. He ignored my call to “Surrender!” shaking his fist in impotent fury. A fragment of shell had laid open his cheek and his face was black with blood, but even thus I could not fail to recognize Ivanovitch.
He knew me too, letting out a volley of vile invective as I sent my third torpedo. It took her amidships. With a blast of steam the boilers exploded. With a sudden plunge she keeled over and the dauntless flag-ship sank in the heaving sea.
All night long we cruised from one sinking vessel to another rescuing our drowning foes; but found no sign of the dead Ivanovitch.
Morning dawned. The sea was smooth, heaving in great oily swells. A light wind tore the fog-rack into flying scud.
Through the drifting haze I made out a Russian destroyer and hastened after it in hot pursuit.
A sister Japanese destroyer had sighted the quarry, and was steering a course parallel to mine. It was to be a race not only to overtake the Russian but also to outspeed my emulous sister craft.
“Full speed ahead!” I signalled the engine-room. The stokers threw in coal and we leaped forward like a race-horse under the lash.
Gradually we outdistanced our consort, and the field between us and our target diminished till we were within quick-firer range.
Suddenly a forward gun rang out as I signalled:
“Stop, or I’ll sink you!”
A great geyser burst before the bows of my quarry but she kept obstinately on.
Another shot rang from our twelve-pounder and a smokestack toppled into the sea.
She slackened speed and, as my gunner awaited the order to send her to the bottom, she ran up a white flag.
She was the Biedvi with Admiral Roshdestvensky and his staff on board.
On the bridge stood the admiral, nervously clenching the hand-rail; the battle-light no longer gleamed in his lacklustre eyes. He had been grievously wounded, how badly none knew.
“Your Excellency, you are my prisoner,” I said respectfully.
A momentary flash of consciousness illumined his pallid face, then he lapsed into sullen lethargy.
Lashing together a sling from some hammocks we lowered him carefully to the deck.
“Push off!” I shouted. “Full speed ahead!”
A rousing “Banzai !“ rang from my little comrades.
By the grace of the Heaven-descended Emperor, and our good gunnery, we had gained the victory! 1
1 Admiral Togo, in his official report, ascribed all credit to the “protecting spirits of the Imperial Ancestors.”
“Our torpedo flotilla swarmed like wasps about the doomed ships”
“All night we cruised from one sinking vessel to another rescuing their drowning crews”
From a sketch by Lionel James
Permission of The Graphic, London
From “The Japanese Nation in Evolution,’ by Wm. Elliot Griffis, D. D., .
Permission Thos. V. Crowell, Publishers, N. Y.
The Musmee has brown-velvet eyes,
Curtained with satin, sleepily;
You wonder if those lids would rise
The newest, strangest sight to see!
Yet, when she chatters, laughs, or plays
Koto, or lute, or samisen—
No jewel gleams with brighter rays
Than flash from those dark lashes then.
The Musmee has a small brown face—
Musk-melon seed its perfect shape—
Arched, jetty eyebrows; nose to grace
The rosy mouth beneath; a nape,
And neck, and chin, and smooth soft cheeks,
Carved out of sun-burned ivory;
With teeth which, when she smiles or speaks,
Pearl merchants might come leagues to see!
The Musmee’s hair could teach the night
How to grow dark, the raven’s wing
How to seem ebon; grand the sight
When in rich masses towering,
She builds each high black-marble coil,
And binds the gold and scarlet in,
The Kanzâshi, her jewelled pin.
FROM “JAPONICA” BY SIR EDWIN ARNOLD
Tokyo, mother-city of Japan, beautiful Tokyo, bright with cherry blossom and wistaria, gay with the laughter of two million joyous inhabitants!
Uyeno Park, its shadowy avenues and sequestered shrines teem with throngs of merrymakers, and the fragrant air is rife with the tinkle of samisen from environing tea-houses. A lotus lake dimples the forest vale, like the smile of a Nippon maid, its myriad ripples alive with laughter of the breeze. A million babies crow and bubble in irrepressible joy. A million mothers croon and coo in overweening pride. The first blossoms of spring have burst into full bloom of summer. Tokyo, Mother of Japan, has donned her mantle of glory.
I am lounging on the wistaria-bowered veranda of Minamoto’s dainty doll-house.
“He will soon return,” smiles O Hana San. He is attending a grand military festival at the Imperial palace.
So I wait and dream through the blue mist of a cigar, while Tokyo decked en gala surges through the flowery park in an ecstasy of triumph.
The distant throb of many bands slowly swells to a tumultuous blare and mingled with the roar of a thousand throats thunders forth the national anthem.
Here they come, Nippon’s little heroes, gentle boys with the smile of girls, but every one a samurai.
A myriad flags flutter riotously in the air, children wave blossoming sprays, fair musmees serve tea and cakes, running beside the marching columns, civilians shower them with cigarettes, cheering in one continuous roar of jubilation.
The crowd thickens; it pours through the gate, fills the garden, and surges against the cottage, a resistless flood.
As Minamoto mounts the steps their enthusiasm bursts all bounds.
“Banzai! Banzai Nippon!” they roar in joyous pandemonium.
He turns and bows. They catch sight of the “Imperial order of the Rising Sun” gleaming upon his breast.
Again the welkin rings with interminable “Banzais.” The house rocks as with an earthquake. Blushing like a schoolboy Minamoto modestly acknowledges their welcome.
Dusk falls, the throng has scattered. O Hana San smilingly serves the tea.
She strums her samisen and sings:
My soul is light as a wind-blown plume.
My song is the song of the stars above.
My heart is bright as a lotus-bloom
Though my eyes are dim with the tears of love.
On the mat squirms a plump little babe in irresistible nude spankableness.
The young mother lifts her drowsy son and nestles him to her heart. She smiles upon her husband in wistful, voiceless love. A tear glistens on her cheek.
O Hana San weeps for joy!
Very sadly did I leave it, but I gave my heart in pledge
To the pine above the city, to the blossoms by the hedge,
To the cherry and the maple and the plum tree and the peach,
And the babies—Oh, the babies! romping fatly under each.
Eastward ho! Across the water see the black bow drives and swings
From the land of Little Children, where the Babies are the Kings.
O Hana San strums her samisen and sings,
“My heart is light as a wind-blown plume”
Permission of Theodore Wores and the Century Company
“A mossy roof whose graceful sweeping lines
Repeat the pendant branches of the pines”
“A lonely belfry shrined in shadowy foliage”
Narrative of Expedition to Japan by Commodore M. C. Perry
W. Heine U. S. Government Report
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