TO THE READER.
THIS little volume requires many apologies. The diary letter, written in Peking during the eventful summer months of 1900, was never intended for publication, as is evident from its form. I have, however, made no attempt to correct its accuracy or to improve its style, as I feel that its only interest lies in its simplicity, and in its being a genuine record of the events of that strange and perilous time as they appeared to me. It was often written under great difficulties and in very odd corners, but always with the hope that, even if I did not live to send it to my friends, this letter might one day reach them. I now venture to send it forth, in the hope that it may reach and interest that wider circle of friends, unknown to me by face, whose prayers arose for us so constantly and so earnestly in our time of danger, and to whom, as to my personal friends, I have ventured to dedicate it.
March 6, 1901.
IN these days when so much has been written and said about war hospitals and ambulance work in South Africa, it seems almost presumptuous to mention our little siege hospital in Peking, and yet in its international character, as in some other points, it was necessarily so unique that a few words about it may not be entirely without interest.
Our great difficulty was the suddenness with which we found ourselves confronted with the necessity for a hospital at all. Up to the very day on which our first patient was brought in, it seemed probably that Admiral Seymour's party would arrive to relieve the situation, and that the "Boxer" siege would come to nought, and when that hope was destroyed by the murder of Baron von Ketteler, a hospital ward had to be opened at once for the reception of our first patient, the Chinese secretary of the German Legation, who was wounded at the same time as his Minister. On the following day hostilities began in earnest and the Legation doctor had to face the fact that a hospital, fully equipped with all the requisites for dealing with wounds and probable sickness, and furnished with the necessary staff of nurses, assistants, cooks, coolies, etc., must somehow or other be forthcoming at once, and that there was no other material available, either animate or inanimate, than such as happened to be within the narrow lines of our defences. Fortunately, Dr. Poole of the British Legation had a most able and experienced colleague in Dr. Velde of the German Legation. They immediately faced the task before them, and in spite of what sometimes seemed insuperable difficulties, always managed throughout the long nine weeks which followed to produce either the very thing that was needed or some cleverly devised substitute which did as well. We used sometimes to say that Dr. Velde either kept a private magician or else had a sixth sense which enabled him to find out where such necessaries as condensed milk, or thermometers, or dressings were to be found, when to all appearance not a trace of any of these things was left in the Legations.
Nurses also were fortunately forthcoming, although only one, Miss Lambert, of the Church of England Mission, was fully trained and certificated. She was immediately put in charge as matron, and some lady doctors of other Missions generously laid aside professional etiquette and worked under her as nurses. Other missionaries who had been trained enough to be useful were also put on the staff, and several ladies volunteered to help in bed-making, taking round meals, fanning, etc. One of the most important officers in the hospital was the sick berth steward of H.M.S. Orlando, who had come up to Peking with the British Marines, and of whose devoted and efficient work it would be impossible to speak too highly. An Italian sick berth steward also made himself useful, and during the last fortnight or so the German and American stewards took their turn: previous to that they had been occupied with the doctors at the front in giving first aid to the wounded. We nurses soon settled ourselves into a regular routine in three "reliefs," one set taking night duty, a second the hours from 8 a.m. till noon, and from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m., and a third, those from noon to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 10 p.m.
The first thing to be done was to find a building which could be set apart for a hospital, and this, in the crowded state of the British Legation, was not very easy. It was decided to use the Government offices and reading-room, commonly known as the Chancery, and two rooms were hastily cleared and prepared for use, one as operating theatre, and the other as a ward. Even then we had not an idea of the task before us, thinking that a few days would certainly bring Admiral Seymour and his column to our relief; and so it was only by degrees, as our patients increased in number, that we cleared out more rooms and even encroached upon the next house till we had no fewer than six wards, and some beds in the hall, besides an extra ward for convalescents in the Minister's house. The clearing of those wards was a terrible piece of work, and I sometimes reflect with thankfulness that I am not there to see the rightful occupants return and try to restore order among the books, papers, and documents of all kinds which we so ruthlessly packed away. Having got the house, it had to be provided with beds and bedding which, in the already strained state of the resources of the Legation, did not seem likely to be forthcoming. Four small iron bedsteads and seven camp beds were all we had for the fifty or sixty patients who soon filled up our little hospital, and the rest had to be accommodated as well as might be with mattresses on the floor--often two patients on a double one. The camp beds and many of the mattresses were given up by people who, in consequence, lay on the floor themselves; but one characteristic of the siege was the generous way in which people insisted that the hospital should have the best of whatever they had to give, even where it meant self-denial. The mosquitoes were very troublesome, and there was a perfect plague of flies owing, no doubt, to the numbers of dead bodies lying about the city. It was real hardship to do without a mosquito net, but we never were short of one in the hospital. People gave up their own that the sick men might be protected, and I remember one mother bringing three, and saying "These belong to the children, but they must do without rather thin that the men who are fighting for them should suffer."
Bolsters we made of the straw covers in which bottles are packed, and pillows of cotton wool, though we had many loans of feather ones. Sheets, etc, were a more serious difficulty, as the supply required was so large--frequent changes being absolutely necessary. Fortunately, more than one of the stores within the lines of defence, whose contents had been commandeered at the outset, produced large bales of calico, which was cut up and made into sheets, shirts, pillow-cases, and aprons, as they were wanted, by Mrs. Conger, the American Minister's wife, and the ladies in her house. But before these could be got ready many people gave us such linen as they could spare to go on with.
From the loot of these same stores came basins, cups, plates, knives and forks, kitchen utensils, etc., not to speak of miscellaneous articles, such as soap, sponges, and bottles of sweets, which last used to be handed round at intervals, to the great delight of the Tommies of all nationalities.
The kitchen department was, of course, a very important one; and here, too, the whole management was in the hands of ladies belonging to the various Missions. Their task was a most arduous one, for not only did it mean constant superintendence of the kitchen all through the heat of the day, but also the supplies at their command were so limited that to vary the menu as they did must have required considerable effort of brain. It was truly astonishing what excellent breakfasts, dinners, and suppers were produced daily from very little else than horseflesh and rice. Soups of various kinds, roasts, stews, rissoles, pies, patties, curries, used to appear on the bill of fare, always served most beautifully hot and looking most appetizing. Then there were wonderful blancmanges, fritters, pancakes, rice-puddings--all made without eggs or milk, and yet, strange to say, quite palatable, and indeed making some of us feel we should have liked a patient's meal now and then.
Variety from perpetual horse-meat was made by tinned meats and fish and fruit, mostly contributed from people's private stores. We began by begging a few tins here and there, and then very many generously sent in all, and more than all, that they could spare. For the first month, too, there was occasional mutton from a flock of sheep which had been commandeered the first day; but the poor beasts were so thin that the tough, skinny meat they produced was not looked upon as any great treat. Sometimes, too, a little "game" would be provided for some special invalid, in the shape of a magpie or a few sparrows, which were daintily cooked and served, and no questions asked. Eggs were a great treat, and I am afraid were sometimes obtained by not entirely lawful methods. There were very few laying hens in the Legation, but of these a few belonged to some people inhabiting one of the houses near the hospital. One of our convalescents used to keep a sharp eye on these, watch where they went to lay, and as soon as the triumphant chuckle announcing an egg was heard, would dart off on his crutches to secure the prize and bring it in to be cooked for some sick comrade. For the most part, however, people were most generous in sending to the hospital the eggs they could ill spare themselves. Milk, of course, was a great difficulty--we never had any fresh, and even the tinned became very scarce, and could be used only for special cases.
Of course all this could not have been accomplished by the foreign ladies alone. An excellent old Chinese cook, himself a Christian refugee, did most of the actual kitchen work, and stuck to it all day and every day, never grudging any amount of trouble by which he could make the food a little more palatable for the patients. I have seen him run backwards and forwards across the little yard between his kitchen and the hospital with shot and shell flying all round him, and never hesitating an instant. We owe much to that old man, and his name deserves all honour.
Tea, coffee, and cocoa were always abundant until towards the eighth week of the siege, when we had to begin to limit our tea rather strictly. Of wines and so forth we had abundance for our needs, and there was a small quantity of bottled beer, which was dealt out to the men occasionally. Difficulties in the kitchen department used sometimes to arise owing to the many different nationalities to be provided for--Russians preferring one style of cookery, Italians and French another, Germans a third, and so forth. On the whole, I think the Japanese were the easiest to deal with, as they were always hungry and always pleased with whatever was given them, provided that there was plenty of it.
An even more difficult problem to face than the providing of food was that of finding dressings, drugs, and all the many necessaries for treating the wounded and the sick. Although there were many well-stocked mission hospitals and dispensaries scattered about Peking, these had all been burnt by the Boxers before the siege began, so that we were entirely dependent on the resources of the different Legations, which, with the exception of those of the British and German, were scanty enough, and even these, though ample for all ordinary calls, were strained to the utmost when required to supply sufficient, not only for the hospital, but for the needs of almost a thousand foreigners and about four thousand Chinese gathered within the lines of defence.
Somehow or other the drugs did manage to hold out, though I fancy the doctors must sometimes have had good practice in substitution. I think, too, that they tried to keep us careful in our use of antiseptics, by occasionally not letting us know of a private store. With regard to the pure carbolic, I remember more than once that there "really was not a drop left," when a mysterious bottle made its appearance from some unknown source. It was a fact, however, that we were very short of it, and for weeks used it only for instruments, substituting creolin and hydrarg. perchlor. for all other purposes. Anaesthetics were also, I believe, a great source of anxiety, and the supply was in some danger of failing. The antiseptic dressings, too, we used to watch with the utmost anxiety, and, as a matter of fact, they only just held out. Iodoform gauze came to an end after a few weeks, but the surgeons fell back on some blue sublimate gauze, which in its turn was almost exhausted before relief came. The white antiseptic gauze and wool had both given out, and we should have been in great straits but for Dr. Velde's sterilizer. In this we used to prepare all sorts of dressings--ladies' fine under-linen, old linen sheets, white muslin curtains, were all torn up and put into it to come out innocuous. Little bags of powdered peat and fine sawdust were prepared in the same way, and served as excellent dressings for suppurating wounds, taking the place of absorbent wool. We also made large use of Chinese cottonwool, which, though non-absorbent, came in very usefully as outside packing. Bandage rolling was a never-ending source of occupation for any one with a spare half hour; and there used to be considerable emulation as to the style in which they were turned out. The materials came chiefly from the looted stores, which supplied many suitable pieces of muslin and calico, though towards the end, as these supplies ran short, we took to sheets and table-cloths, and were contemplating raids on the gentlemen's stock of shirts. A great nightmare for some of us was the fear of breaking a clinical thermometer, with the knowledge always in our minds that it was impossible to replace it; and when a patient bit one or dropped it out of his mouth, we really felt inclined to shake him. We were reduced to two or three borrowed ones for some time before the relief, and at last only a single one survived, a very handsome one lent by the wife of the late German Minister. Fortunately for us, it registered in one minute, otherwise our whole time would have been occupied in taking temperatures.
I have no record of numbers before me as I write, but I do not think I am far wrong in saying that out of about 120 cases which were actually admitted to the hospital wards, only fourteen died. Of these deaths not one was from septic poisoning; Two were from tetanus, probably contracted at the time of receiving the wound, as they were both within fourteen days after admission. Three were from dysentery, and the remainder had received mortal wounds and died, for the most part, within a few hours of admission. The majority of cases treated were for wounds from shells and rifle bullets. There was one case of spear wound, and two or three injuries from brickbats. The proportion of those, both among civilians and soldiers, who suffered from disease of any kind was remarkably small, and this was owing, I think, in a great measure to causes which we looked upon rather as hardships. Regular and hard manual labour, food of the plainest kind, and in quantity rather inclining to insufficiency than to excess, absence of fresh fruit and vegetables, all tended to lessen the danger from the usual summer scourges of cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhoea. Another cause of our good health was the moderate weather which prevailed throughout the siege. There were days when the temperature seemed almost unbearable; but it was nothing to the weeks of suffocating heat which are usual in Peking in June and July; and later, when the rainy season ought to have set in, there was nothing more severe than an occasional stormy day or night. There were three cases of typhoid in the hospital, all of them men who had been brought in for wounds, and none of them very severe. During the last fortnight there were several cases of dysentery, but none acute, except those of some Russians who had been drinking impure water. A few marines were taken into the hospital for diarrhoea, and there were two or three cases of the fever so common in Peking during the summer. It was very curious and interesting to observe the way in which the different nationalities behaved; but if we tried to make generalizations, we were always met by exceptions which threw our ideas into hopeless confusion. The Russians, for in-:' stance, were, as a rule, most stolid and silent about their pain. One man we had, who, after having tracheotomy performed on him, astonished us all t by getting up from the table and marching off by himself to his ward, quite disdaining any help, On the other hand, another Russian, with a flesh-wound in the leg, used to cry like a child when it was dressed, kiss the doctor's hand to his no small embarrassment and cling to mine till he almost broke the bones.
The French and Italians were for the most part inclined to make the most of their wounds, with a view to a little longer rest in hospital, while the British and Americans were usually in too great a hurry to make out that they were well enough to return to duty, but to both cases there were large exceptions. I remember one Frenchman, in particular, who bore terrible suffering without a murmur, while, on the other hand, the most troublesome and undisciplined patient in the hospital was an American marine. The only nationality of whose conduct one could predict anything with almost absolute certainty was the Japanese. They invariably were brave and cheery, and made as light as possible of their pains. Almost all of them could speak a few words of English, and their usual answer to inquiries was "goose (good), very little pain;" things had to be very bad indeed before they would acknowledge, "much pain," or "no sleep." One man--Kuchiki by name--was brought in during the early days of the siege with his knee absolutely smashed to pieces by a shell. It suppurated badly and was most painful, yet he used to bear the daily dressing without a murmur, with a blanket stuffed into his mouth, and the perspiration pouring down his face. His bed was near a window; and one day, as he found the sun too hot on his head, and saw no one at hand to help him, he managed to shuffle himself completely round, with his feet where his head had been. Our chaplain, the Rev. R. Allen, who used to be constantly at the hospital, happened to go into the ward and inquired who had moved him. To his astonishment Kuchiki replied that he had moved himself, whereupon Mr. Allen gave him some pretty straightforward remonstrances on the danger of playing such tricks with a leg like his, and left the ward. Poor Kuchiki's English was not quite equal to the occasion. He saw he had done something which did not meet with the approval of Mr. Allen, to whom he was devoted and was determined to make matters all right again; but imagining that his mistake lay, not on his having exerted himself to change his position, but in lying with his head at the wrong end of the bed, he immediately set to work to shuffle himself round once more, and when, about ten minutes later, Mr. Allen again looked in, he found Kuchiki again lying with his head in the blazing sun, and a smile of conscious virtue on his face.
The Japanese were all together in one ward, and used to be exceedingly kind to one another, and also were well looked after by their own people. Colonel Shiba and some of the ladies from the Japanese Legation came to see them; but their most constant visitor was a Buddhist bonze, who was with them almost daily. He was a most intelligent man, and could speak a considerable amount of English, so that he was often helpful as interpreter. I do not think that he exercised any spiritual functions among his countrymen except in burying the dead, but he certainly took great interest in their physical well-being.
The French and Italians were in a ward together, and were chiefly nursed by a French Sister of Charity from the Nan Tang. The Roman Catholic priests never seemed to visit any except the dying. The Russians were visited most assiduously by the Greek Fathers, who not only attended to their spiritual welfare, but used to be most helpful in waiting upon them in every way. They could not speak English nor we Russian, but all understood Chinese, and so our conversation used to be carried on through that medium. Difference of language was often a difficulty, but we never came to any great deadlock in the Russian ward, owing to the kindness of Madame de Giers, the Russian Minister's wife, and other ladies, who were constantly there looking after their countrymen, and who were always ready to interpret for us. Some of the Austrians were the most impossible, as they did not seem to understand anything but a patois of their own. Italians, Germans, and French we generally could manage to understand amongst us, and we used to try, as far as might be, to put the patients of different nationalities together, so that they might be better company for one another.
The hospital was open for just eight weeks and a half, and then the patients were drafted off to the different field hospitals established by the relieving forces. I must acknowledge that it was not without a feeling of satisfaction that we closed the doors. In saying this I would not for a moment imply that we did not find pleasure in our work. On the contrary, I think it was a real happiness to every one of us, but in many ways it was a great strain, both mental and physical, and there was not one amongst us who was not obliged to give in for a longer or shorter period during the two months. All of us had been through a very anxious and distressing time in our own compounds before we came into the Legation; and during the siege the conditions were not exactly favourable to endurance. Few were able to get much sleep, as I doubt if any one enjoyed the luxury of a proper bed or a comfortable room; and as the worst attacks were often made at night, many did not dare even to undress. Our food was not sufficient, either in quantity or quality, to prevent our getting below par; and, in addition to these disadvantages, there was the constant sense of danger, or, when that was not present, the sickening suspense which was almost more trying to bear. I believe it was a great help to us to have to keep up the spirits of our poor patients, which were apt to get very low at times. With them, as with us, the horror was not so much of being shot (personally that did not alarm me at all) as of the enemy's getting in and butchering us. I remember on more than one occasion giving the patients a meal when we could hardly hear ourselves speak, and when it was next to impossible to hear what the doctors asked for in the operating room. The smallness of the number of the besieged added one more touch to the pathos, as not only did we feel that each individual laid aside could ill be spared from the slender garrison, but also many of the wounded were personally known to us, and it was hard to see a man we had perhaps spoken with a few hours before, brought in on a stretcher--a mangled heap of pain--while, "Who will it be next?" was the question which would rise in our hearts, however determinedly we might resist its expression.
All these causes made us glad, therefore, to close the siege hospital, and go to more peaceful scenes, though I shall always feel grateful for having been allowed to work there, and sure that the occupation it gave me was one of my greatest blessings during the siege.
Peking, May 29th, 1900.
MY DEAR FRIENDS,
We have been passing through exciting times lately, and I want to write down something about them while things are fresh in my mind--though by the time this reaches you the news will be stale, and you will know the sequel, which as yet is an unsolved problem.
You know that ever since the troubles down in Shantung, in the winter, the "Boxer" movement has been steadily spreading and advancing northwards, and though in some places it has died out, it has always sprung up elsewhere. Lately the Christians in most of the country stations have been kept in a state of terrorism--robbery, kidnapping, and even murder have been common; and chapels, houses, etc., have beep burnt to the ground. The Roman Catholic Missions have been the greatest sufferers of all, but all have suffered heavily in one place or another. The Chinese officials seemed entirely unable to cope with the movement, even when they were willing; and the Government would, or could, do nothing but issue edicts, many of which were so dubiously worded that they might have been taken as equally favourable to the "Boxers," or to Christians and foreigners.
The foreign Governments have been representing perpetually, but nothing has come of it, and matters have been getting more and more disturbed, and more and more outrages committed day by day For the last week or two, Christians from the country have been taking refuge in the city, especially the Roman Catholics and London Mission people.
None of our own people have come, as, so far, thanks a good deal I believe to Mr. Norman's presence, no real damage has been done in the Yung Ch'ing district, which is our only near country station, though there has been a good deal of abuse and threatening.
Last week all the foreign Ministers combined to try to force the Chinese Government to act, but they could get nothing definite out of them. At last, on Sunday the foreign Powers issued an ultimatum to the effect that if the "Boxers" were not reduced in a week, they would all send for their troops from their warships. Things were beginning to look very serious indeed by that time, for the "Boxers" proper were being reinforced by all the rogues about the country, and hunger was making them more keen for plunder. The long drought, which they ascribe to the Christians, has been another great factor in causing the discontent, and we longed for the sound of rain, which would probably have the happy effect of sending some of them back to their fields, and also would render the roads impassable.
On Monday the place was filled with all sorts of rumours of the wildest kind, but we knew of nothing definite till the afternoon, when Mrs. Scott went over to the British Legation. While she was away, Dr. Poole came over to see my sister, who had a slight attack of fever, and brought the alarming news that the Boxers had torn up a part of the line to Tientsin, and cut the telegraph wires, and that the foreign engineers, etc., had fled for their lives! He had hardly gone when a thunderstorm broke with torrents of blessed rain, in the midst of which Mrs. Scott arrived, having heard nothing of this last news, but not bringing anything very reassuring, and a promise from Sir Claude Macdonald to send for her and the other ladies at the first sign of danger in the city.
About 10 p.m., when we were all going off to bed, came a message asking Mrs. Scott to go over to the Legation at once and take any other ladies she liked with her. Accordingly, we bundled my poor sister up in eider-downs, etc., and she and Miss Lambert crammed into Mrs. Scott's cart with her, and off they went, taking also the valuable deeds, etc., belonging to the Mission. They were not very willing to go, but the fewer foreigners here the better, and it was obviously my privilege to stay in charge of the ten women and children still left in the school buildings. Most fortunately, the greater number of school-girls went home ten days ago.
The cause of the hasty summons was that the Boxers had set fire to the large new railway station at Feng T'ai, a few miles from Peking, and, until we have a foreign guard, Sir Claude felt he could not be sure where they would come next.
Afterwards there was a rumour that they came to the Peking station, about two miles outside the city, maltreated the station-master, and burnt all the tickets, by which they thought to prevent the possibility of any one going by train!
Most fortunately, although they had cut the new telegraph line which runs by the railway, they had quite forgotten the old one, which is still in working order, and Ministers were telegraphing away all night, and ordered up troops from the ships. The night passed over peacefully in spite of disquieting rumours, and next morning Mrs. Scott came over to see us, intending to return to the Legation for the night. However, a note from Lady Macdonald in the afternoon said this was not necessary, as the foreign troops would soon be up, and the railway mended, and the danger over. The next day, yesterday, she went over in the morning, intending to bring the other two back. Mr. Allen went with her, and left a kind American neighbour of ours, Mr. Stelle, in charge in his absence. There were all sorts of wild rumours about when they started--one of the most prevalent being that a great Chinese army is massed outside the city to prevent the foreign troops from coming in. I was therefore not surprised to hear that Mrs. Scott had come back without the other two, and was herself to return early in the afternoon.
Mr. Allen and I were very anxious about having so many helpless women and girls on our hands, the more so as there has been a good deal of kidnapping of girls in this Boxer movement. We racked our brains to know what to do with them. Many of our Christians have heathen friends who have promised to give them shelter; but these women and children in the school had no resource of that kind. One of our catechists, too--a very good fellow, called Shih--was in the same predicament, as he has only lately come from Shantung, and he has an old mother and two grown-up sisters, besides his wife and two children, dependent on him. At last some one, I think Mrs. Scott, made the brilliant suggestion that, as the railway was open again, we might send them off to Tientsin.
Accordingly we packed them off, i.e. the Shihs and five from the school, at a quarter of an hour's notice, by twos and threes, going different ways so as not to attract attention, and with orders to their escorts to turn back on the least sign of disturbance.
Happily they got off quietly, so now I have only three women and two little girls left on my hands. They sent us over four bayonets from the Legation, and I had an armed teacher sleeping on our dining-room sofa last night, and Mr. Allen and some of the Christians have divided the night into watches and patrol the compound.
May 31st. We have had a perfectly peaceful night; but the rumours grow more and more persistent that the entrance of foreign troops is to be resisted, and one hardly knows what that would mean. However, we have nothing to do but say our prayers and be still. Our people are all behaving admirably; there has never been any fuss or panic, and we none of us feel at all frightened.
Mrs. Scott has not been over to-day, and I think it wiser. She is very reluctant not to be with us, but the fewer we are is certainly the better in case of a riot. We don't know where the Bishop is. He must be somewhere between here and Shantung, and we fear he will be alarmed by all sorts of wild rumours about us.
I p.m.--A note from Mrs. Scott saying the guards are expected to-night, but they are keeping all the ladies at the Legation till over tomorrow, as it is a big Chinese feast, and they fear a little rowdyism.
8 p.m.--The foreign guards did not arrive when they were expected, and we hear they did not leave Tientsin till 4.15, and only 380 of them, seventy-five of whom are British. There is considerable fear that, arriving so late, they will not be allowed to enter the city, and we do not feel at all sure that the Chinese Government are playing straight. The danger to-night seems very great, and I have put on Chinese dress, and we are prepared to fly for our lives at any moment--though whither we know not.
8.30.--Te Deum laudamus. We hear the troops have got in, and now we are going to church to give thanks where they are due.
June 1st.--We have had a quiet night, and can look back now on yesterday's anxiety as a closed chapter, I think. As a matter of fact, I believe we never were in actual danger, but so near it that a very small touch would have broken the barrier, and we should have been at the mercy of a Chinese mob! Our nearest neighbours, Dr. and Mrs. Reid and Mr. Stelle, were prepared to fly, and Dr. Reid had ordered carts to be in readiness for us. Mr. Allen's plan was that we should get out of the back door of our compound if possible, get into these carts, and drive about the city till dawn, when the gates would be opened, then try to get through and make for Yung Ch'ing--he and I both in Chinese clothes. A Chinese mandarin, a friend of Dr. Reid, had generously offered to take in Mrs. Reid and conceal her in his house. How thankful we ought to feel that we have been spared all this! Our people have behaved so well, given no trouble. The women and children and the school have behaved like real "bricks." The Christians have done one very knowing thing, which would never have struck me, I think, that is, pawned all their best clothes and anything they set value on, so that the greater part of their property has been converted into pawn tickets, which are easily portable property!
June 2nd.--More bad news! One of our Christians has come in from a village close to Yung Ch'ing saying that the Boxers have burnt the houses of the Christians in his village and killed his wife. He himself managed to escape by hiding under a cupboard, though the Boxers three times came into the room. His feet are burnt, but he managed to get up here in about thirty hours, the fifty miles. He can give no news of how the other Christians fared, nor of what Mr. Norman is doing. All he knows is that on passing through he found our compound deserted, so we hope he is taking refuge in the Yamen. We are very anxious.
The catechist Ma from Tai Wang Chuang, a village some five miles north of Yung Ch'ing, has just come. He had not heard of the disaster in T'ao erh Hsiang, but says the whole country is very disturbed, and the Christians hiding where they can. He knows nothing of Mr. Norman's movements. Mr. Allen has been to report at the Legation, and we must just pray and wait for news.
We are hoping the Bishop and Mr. Norris may get into Tientsin to-night, but we have heard nothing of them since they started from T'ai An Fu about ten days or a fortnight ago. Mrs. Scott went down to Tientsin this morning.
7 p.m.--A telegram has just come, saying the Bishop and Mr. Norris have reached Tientsin safely, and intend to come up on Tuesday; but Mr. Allen is telegraphing to ask the latter to come to-morrow. We are getting more and more anxious about Mr. Norman and Mr. Robinson. Terrible rumours. Edith and Miss Lambert have got back from the Legation.
June 3rd, Whitsunday.--This has been a strange, sad Sunday, and I find it difficult to write about it. We had no Celebration, as Mr. Allen was obliged to go and give them one in the Legation Chapel. More and more rumours kept coming in from Yung Ch'ing. One of the Christians belonging to the American Methodists, who have a chapel near Yung Ch'ing, brought word that Mr. Robinson had escaped to the Yamen, but the magistrate had refused him admission, and he had been killed, and that Mr. Norman was a prisoner. The report had come to him through two or three different people, and we hope we need not believe it.
I sent a man down to Yung Ch'ing to see what definite news he could bring, but he can't be back before to-morrow night at the earliest. It was very difficult to find any one willing to go, they are all so frightened. A telegram came in the course of the morning to say Mr. Norris was coming to-day.
We had gone over to Mrs. Scott's to meet him, and were all sitting at tea when another messenger was announced. He was not a Christian, but knew Mr. Norman and Mr. Robinson well, and had helped in the building of Tai Wang Chuang church.
He unfortunately confirms the worst rumour. He says he himself saw Mr. Robinson's body lying inside the North Gate at Yung Ch'ing, and that the band of Boxers wanted also to kill Mr. Norman, but that a leading man called Li Chen Pang dissuaded them and has taken him to his own house in a little village rather over a mile from Yung Ch'ing. We can only hope he will continue to protect him till he can be released. Our Legation are doing what they can, but we are terribly anxious.
They have burnt down the beautiful new church at Tai Wang Chuang. We keep hearing of other Christians killed and are very anxious about them, so many have near relations here, as most of the people employed in our compound come from there. We had sent our Shantung girl Eunice there for her holiday and have no idea where she is.
The poor Bishop will be hearing all to-night, as Mr. Norris wired the news to him. We must be very thankful he has arrived safely at Tientsin, for these last few days he has been travelling in a very dangerous part.
June 5th.--Another day gone by and no definite news. Soldiers (Chinese) are said to have been sent from Tientsin to demand Mr. Norman's release, and somehow I cannot but feel we shall have him back. He is such a valuable man that from a human point of view it seems as though Yung Ch'ing could not do without him. He is so beloved, too, and looked up to by heathen as well as Christian, and, indeed, the sparing of his life now is due to the respect in which he is held by the man in whose power he is.
Another station on the line has been burnt to-day, and we hear that the foreign Ministers are now threatening the Government with the occupation of Chihli, if strong measures for the restoration of order are not at once taken. The fleet is all at the Bar at Taku, and could attack the forts instantly.
Our cook, a heathen, told me solemnly this morning that he thought we had much better go to Japan for awhile, as foreigners are not safe here. However, I told him I had no intention of moving at present. Our people are so good and quiet--many in terrible anxiety about near relations at Yung Ch'ing, and yet going steadily on with their daily duties in quiet trustfulness. One poor old refugee who has had his home burnt down over his head, and his wife killed, and got his own feet badly burnt in making his escape, has not a word of complaint to make; the whole burden of his song is "grateful; thankful to the end" for all mercies. They do set us a good example!
About noon a telegram came from the Consul at Tientsin to say that it had been officially reported to him that the Boxers killed Mr. Norman on Whitsunday, June 3rd. Shortly after, a man from Yung Ch'ing arrived with the same story. We must try and enter into the glorious joy of his rest from his labours; but oh the loss to us, and to the work! I cannot write of it to-day. "God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain."
The disturbance seems to be gathering to a head in all directions, and we may at any time be in great danger, but as there is nothing to be done we must just go on quietly and say our prayers: even if our lives are taken it will all be right--we know that Only may our people be strengthened to confess their faith without fear. We have sad tales of recantations among some of our poor people about Yung Ch'ing, but we do not know how much to believe yet. There has been a wire from the Bishop to say he is detained till to-morrow; we do not know why, but think probably the line is cut again.
Mr. Norris is a great comfort and strength to Mr. Allen and the Christians.
We sang "For all the Saints" in church at Sext to-day; we are having special prayer at 12.30 every day at present in Chinese. At Evensong Mr. Allen preached to us about the present danger and how we ought to meet it; beautiful, helpful words about the hope that is set before us, to which a violent death may be but a shorter road.
Mr. Norris has been writing a letter to the poor Yung Ch'ing Christians to strengthen and encourage them, and try to get them to remain true to their faith at whatever cost of present suffering; and our dear organist, Shu T'ien, wants to take it to try to recover some of those whose courage has failed, and bring them back to a confession of their faith. Mr. Allen had not made up his mind whether he ought to let him go last time I saw him. If it is right, he must; but we can hardly bear to think of his doing so. He is such a splendid boy, and head of the Clergy School.
No patients come to the dispensary in these days, they are too much frightened of us; and very few boys come to school, so that our work seems rather to have left us at present. All this while I have not told you that Dr. Alice Marston is at rest. She sailed from Shanghai in the Empress of Japan on May 19th, and was quite well for a day. On the Sunday, however, she had a kind of apoplectic seizure, and became quite unconscious. She was taken ashore at Nagasaki by Bishop Evington, never recovered consciousness, and died the next day, May 22nd. Such a painless, peaceful ending, and still in her beloved East, where she always wished to die! Six members of the Mission have gone from earth to Paradise since we were at Chefoo last June, and three by violent deaths. Who will be next?
June 6th.--Very little to relate to-day except that the disquiet still increases on all sides. No trains have come to-day, and they think the wire is now cut; if so, I believe that is the signal for the troops from the fleet to march. Meanwhile we feel that anything may happen at any minute, and all that we can do is to say our prayers and keep as quiet as we can. Almost all the women and children have found a refuge among kindly heathen friends and relations, which relieves our hands a good deal.
Mr. Allen and Mr. Norris are giving very helpful addresses twice a day in church, to try and keep up the courage and faith of the Christians, and they are all being very good. But we feel very, very sad about the many lapses at Yung Ch'ing, It is the hardest trial of all; but I do believe, in many cases it was sheer ignorance. If poor Mr. Norman knew it must have added tenfold to his sufferings, and we are much afraid he did.
I feel so grieved for the Bishop and Mrs. Scott to-day; they must be fearfully anxious about us, and unable to hear a word.
June 7th, H. B. M. Legation.--This morning Mr. Norris came over here, and Sir Claude Macdonald urged his sending us here, which he decided to do; and though I very much disliked the idea of leaving the compound, there really was no reasonable objection to be made, as we could bring Miss Hung and the two little Chefoo orphans with us.
June 8th.--I was too tired to write any more last night, and don't feel very much more like it now; but I must not get too far behindhand in my record of this extraordinary time, for most truly extraordinary it is. The city, to all outward appearance, is perfectly quiet, yet here we are in the Legation, ordered to prepare ourselves to stand a fortnight's siege! We are--five of us--living and sleeping in two rooms, and with Mr. Norris and Mr. Allen coming in to meals. The five are Deaconess Edith, Miss Lambert, myself, Miss Hung, and the two little girls--six, you see, really, but Edith sleeps at Mrs. Cockburn's. The American women and children have all been ordered to leave the city by the first train that goes, but when that will be who can tell? The Boxers at present break the line as soon as it is mended, and no train has been up since Monday. And yet to-day I have been over to the Mission with Mr. Allen, and all is absolutely quiet and peaceful. The danger to be really feared is, I suppose, the collapse of the Government if the troops become disaffected. If that happened there would be anarchy until some foreign Power stepped in, and we should have short shrift. No one, of course, can tell how things may be. Mr. Cockburn says there is not a man in the Tsungli Yamen; they are nothing but a set of jelly-fish! I cannot help wishing things would come to a crisis now and let the inevitable convulsion come. If not, we shall only tide on in the same old way, I suppose, for another two or three years or so, and then the same trouble again. All our poor Christians are scattered about trying to find safe refuges. Shu T'ien has gone to Yung Ch'ing, and also another of the college boys--Yu Ch'un. They are in terrible danger, and our hearts are very anxious and sad about them all. We must try not to be despondent, but just now things look as black as they can be for all our work. "God moves in a mysterious way," and we shall understand some day. I wonder if this diary will ever reach you.
I have just been going through my stores to see if I can stand a fortnight's siege, as we all have orders to be prepared for such a contingency, and so I have bought flour, rice, tinned meats, etc., to a large extent.
June 9th.--To-day there seems to be a general feeling that an attack is expected to-night, though why I cannot make out. Orders have been issued that all British subjects must come into the Legation, except a certain number who are intending to defend the Customs. The lines of defence which have been drawn out include all, or nearly all, of the foreign Legations, and our Legation forms the north-west corner. The Russians and Americans who adjoin us are to come in here if hard pressed, as we are most defensible. At present all looks quiet within the city, but they say the whole country outside is in a perfect ferment.
The Boxers have to-day burned down the pavilion and houses at the Race-Course, about two miles from the city, and were assembled there in large numbers. Some of the Legation students riding out saw them, and rode in at once to report. Two who were riding a little later, however, were nearly caught in an ambush by the roadside; but they were armed with revolvers, which they fired with some effect, and escaped. They had no business to have ridden out, as they had been informed of the danger; but, like most British boys, their valour was greater than their discretion. Now, Sir Claude has forbidden any one to ride out of the city at all.
It is a strange state of things. Here we are cut off from the outer world entirely, and there seems to be no real forecasting of the end. We only fear that all will be allowed just to quiet down without any proper settlement, and then the trouble will all come on again in a year or two. It seems to some of us that if we were all massacred it would be well worth while, if only it would stir up the world to take poor China in hand and govern her as she can never govern herself.
June 10th, Trinity Sunday.--Mr. Allen celebrated at 8.30 here, and there was quite a nice little gathering of communicants. Mr. Norris went home, and celebrated for the four men still left on the compound. At eleven service was held here in one of the great pavilions leading up to the Minister's residence, as the little chapel could not have accommodated the congregation, increased as it was by soldiers and refugees. A temporary altar was placed at one end, and covered with the Union Jack, and the cross and vases placed upon it, so as to make a little bit of a church-like effect; but I think, as far as our feelings went, there was no need for any outward accessories to increase the solemnity and the earnestness of our prayers and intercessions, not only for ourselves, but for "all in anxiety at home."
We went home to find one of our Christians waiting for us with the sad news that Hsu San, the Bishop's carter, had joined the Boxers, and that all our people were terribly afraid, because he knows all their hiding-places, and they feared he would certainly betray them. We do not know how far this story is really true, but it is clear that all our Christians believe it, and I fear it is not unlikely, as the man is a good deal of a scoundrel, and a clever scoundrel too, who would be likely to seize on any chance for bringing himself a little gain.
I went over to the Mission this afternoon with Mr. Norris, and had a most sad time then with the few poor women still remaining. I found them all together in one house, with the door barred, weeping, and in a complete state of panic and terror, Two of them have been hiding in heathen houses, but yesterday houses of several people who had sheltered Christians were burned, so they dared keep them no longer, and they have crept back home. Poor things! they clung to me so, and some implored me to take them back here with me, and oh it is hard to refuse them; and yet what can we do? To stay with them would do no good, and make it even more dangerous for them, as without a foreigner they have a chance of escaping in the crowd, and to bring them here is impossible. The Minister could not take them. The Legation is already more than packed, and I have Miss Hung and the two children here only as the greatest favour, and with injunctions to keep them out of sight, lest other Missions should want to bring their refugees in.
As we came home there was great excitement about a fire, and we thought it must be one of the Mission compounds, but it turned out to be only an ordinary house on fire.
The telegraph wire is cut now, so that all communication has ceased, but we heard this morning that about 1400 men have started up the line, preceded by a construction train, and we have great hopes of them up to-morrow.
June 11th, S. Barnabas,--Celebration this morning; we three the only communicants, but some of the community people have asked for another to-morrow.
The carts went out this morning to meet the hoped-for soldiers, and convey their baggage, but they came back empty, and we hear nothing of them yet. More sad news: the Boxers have burnt down the Summer Legation at the Hills, and our dear little home at S. Hilary's, and the London Mission sanitorium, and we hear of more murdering and plundering on every side. We hear, also, that Prince Ch'ing, who was rather favourable to us, has been turned out of the Tsungli Yamen, and replaced by Prince Tuan, who is a pro-Boxer; and now there is a report that Prince Ch'ing has been killed, but it is not authenticated. Mr. Norris and Mr. Allen have both gone over to the Mission, and I am anxious for them to get back, as one never knows when a disturbance may begin in the city.
It is very hot to-day, and we are cramped up in very close quarters--about 150 Britishers now in the Legation, besides Chinese. However, we are all well, and very fairly cheerful. It is such a comfort to be able to have the daily services; and Mr. Allen began to-day to give us a series of lectures on the Minor Prophets, which are most interesting and delightful, and what I have long wanted. But it does seem so strange to have waited for them till we are in this pass.
Donkey couriers still manage to get through to and from Tientsin, though the letters are sometimes several days old. However, I have just had one from Mrs. Scott, written only two days and a half ago. She and the Bishop were anxious then about us, and must be far more so now that the telegraphic communication is cut off.
10.30 p.m.--Two pieces of news--one good, and one bad. To begin with the good. There is a report that our relief troops, under Admiral Seymour, are within about fourteen miles of the city, so that we may hope for them to-morrow. I do hope it may be true, and the Minister seems to have great hope that it is so.
The bad news is that one of the Secretaries from the Japanese Legation has been killed just outside the City Gate by the Kansu cavalry. It appears that he was going out alone in a cart, on a message to some of the Japanese guard, and the soldiers simply set upon him and killed him. The Japs will be furious about this--there will be no holding them. Now I must go to bed. We feel far more hopeful to-night: if we get the soldiers we may be allowed to go home with a guard.
June 12th.--It must have been a false report about the troops yesterday, for now, at n p.m., we have heard no news of them, and scouts who have been out can hear nothing; they only bring word that, as far as they have been, the line is very much injured. There is a rumour to-day that 2000 Russians have landed at Taku, and that the Japs have sent for 20,000 men, but we do not know how much is true.
They managed to mend up the telegraph wire that runs viâ Kiakta to S. Petersburg yesterday, but to-night we hear that it has been broken again.
The day has been uneventful here--very hot--103 degrees in the shade. The lectures on the Minor Prophets are most interesting, and it makes up very much for our captivity to have a chance of getting some really good teaching for ourselves, instead of always for the Chinese.
The soldiers, too, are very much interested in some lectures he is giving them, and many of them seem so glad of the chance of coming to church that one feels the time here need not be wasted. We have heard of more burnings outside the city to-day, but, so far, nothing has been ventured inside.
June 14th, 6.30 a.m.--I did not get my journal written last night, as we were suddenly ordered to put ourselves in a state of active defence, and everything was topsy-turvy for a while in our rooms, which were occupied by soldiers, and we have been encamping in ths ball-room for the night. But I must tell you in order. The morning was quite uneventful, but about five o'clock we heard two pieces of news--one, that a courier had come through from our troops with letters from the Admiral, saying that they had got to Lang Fang, about forty miles from here, and exactly half way from Tientsin. It was good to hear, but disappointing that they were still so far off, as the air here was getting very highly charged with excitement. The other news was that the Germans had captured a Boxer, who had been one of the three swaggering about in Legation Street in all their war-paint and with drawn swords. Unfortunately, the one they caught was only a boy of about seventeen or eighteen, but still capable enough of doing a great deal of mischief. The German Minister attacked him with a stick, in what seems to us an undignified manner rather! He was taken into the German Legation, and the Chinese authorities informed, but the Germans refused to give him up. At 7.30 we suddenly saw a great column of smoke to the east, and then, in about half an hour, a volley of rifle-shots in Legation Street, and a lot of the soldiers tore up the stairs into our rooms. The Boxers were streaming into the city by the Ha Ta Men, the gate to the east of us, and orders had been given to clear the streets within the lines of defence, and put everything into a state of defence. It was really beautiful to see how orderly it all was. Every man--military and civil alike--had his post, and was at it in a moment. The next thing we saw was a huge fire breaking out north-east of us--the American Board Mission; it spread rapidly, and there must have been quite a quarter of a mile of fire by II p.m. The servants fled, and we are left to do as best we can. About midnight we got the children and ourselves moved over here into the ball-room, and the night has been quite quiet, though early on, before we settled, the Maxim was going at the Austrian Legation--only to clear the crowd, I think. We long to know what has been happening in the West City, where our compound is. I did not tell you that yesterday morning bloody hands appeared on the walls in several parts of the city, which was the precursor of this, I suppose. I do hope our troops may be here before night.
9.15 p.m.--This morning a Boxer was caught inside the lines, and brought into our Legation. The whole morning conflagrations went on, and the church and convent belonging to the Roman Catholics not far from our Mission, were burnt down. We were told that ours also had gone, but later news says that it has been partially plundered, and is to be burnt to-night. It is a most extraordinary state of things here: all are in a state of siege, and see our various houses being burnt in all directions--houses belonging to the Customs and banks, as well as Missions, and still our soldiers do not come. The delay seems inexplicable.
This afternoon the Germans, who are keeping the south wall, shot about ten Boxers and wounded some. We heard the shots, and could see them running about quite plainly. The Russians are next us, to the south, and the Cossacks are posted on the roofs. Our house is full of soldiers to-night, and we are going over to the ball-room again.
The Austrian Maxim has been going again, but I have not heard why. Both our servants ran away yesterday, and we are getting on as best we may, with the help of a Christian refugee, who knows nothing of service, but is very willing.
The psalms and lessons and prayers all come home so wonderfully, and seem just to fit our cases day by day.
10.45,--There is wild excitement in the city: a raging, yelling mob. Still some hope that the 2000 Russians may get in.
yune i6th, 11.30 a.m.--Yesterday I could not write my journal, it was such a sad, sad day for us. Our messenger, Tu Shu Fu, came over at 8 a.m. to say that S. Faith's had been partially looted, but not the other houses in the compound; and that all oar people were hidden away, and he had not seen any of them for two days. This quite cheered us, and we sent him back again for the day; but he had not been gone long before we saw a great fire burst out in the direction of our house, and by noon Tu Shu Fu was back again to say that he had left both our compounds full of Boxers come to burn the houses, and, worse far than all that, most of our people had come back, having been turned out by the people who were hiding them, as they feared for their own lives and property. You can imagine what we felt like; we could only pray that the end had been mercifully short, but it is heart-rending work. We can only try to dwell most on the bright side, and think of the gathering in Paradise and the many martyrs' crowns.
The great Roman Catholic church near our compound, the Nan T'ang, was also burned, and there was a terrible massacre of Christians. The Russians and French sent out a relief party, and rescued two or three hundred, and killed a lot of Boxers, whom they caught red-handed; and in the afternoon another small party went and brought away a great number of others, and did more execution among the Boxers. About 5 p.m. I went out with Mr. Allen to one of the foreign stores within the lines of defence to try and buy some more tinned provisions, lime-juice, etc. We went all round the lines, which include most of the Legations, and are held by the various nationalities. There are barriers of carts and barrels across the ends of the streets, and guns at all the Legations, and every street is patrolled by sentries. We met two cartloads of poor wounded Christians coming into the lines, and when we got home we heard that about two hundred more had been put into a large compound opposite the Legation. Edith and I went over to see if any of ours were there, but they were all Roman Catholics. At night there were great fires in the west, and now I think every Mission compound and foreign house outside the lines has been burnt, with the exception of a great Roman Catholic church and compound in the North City, which is defended by foreign soldiers, and the Methodist Episcopal Mission, which is being defended by American troops.
June 17th.--Again I was too tired to write my journal last night. About 11 a.m. a huge fire broke out just outside the Ch'ien Men, which is the great South gate of the Tartar city, and we heard that the Boxers had set fire to some of the large stores where foreign drugs were sold. Is it not senseless folly? The fire simply raged, and spread most rapidly, for everything is as dry as tinder. We could see the smoke and flame plainly from our windows, and as the day wore on it grew more and more awful, and the smoke began to envelop one of the great towers of the gate. About 4 p.m. it caught, and then indeed there was a great conflagration. The massive Chinese roof is partly supported on huge wooden pillars, and the flames leapt up these and then rushed into the building, and it seemed simply clothed in fire. It was a wonderful sight, not only as a spectacle, but for the thought that here was a mob of ruffians, butchering, pillaging, burning, even to the Emperor's own special gate of the capital of the kingdom, and not a finger raised to suppress them except by our foreign soldiers, who try to keep them out of the lines of defence at least.
The danger of spreading fires is of course great, and the watch kept is very vigilant, and houses would be pulled down at any real alarm: some have been pulled down already for precaution. A raid was made yesterday by some of our men into a temple near, where they heard there were Boxers, and caught them red-handed, with Christians tied up round the walls, whom they were slaughtering with their huge knives and spears. Our men simply guarded every entrance, and shot them down to the last man. There was a good deal of firing in the night from the Russian lines, but I don't quite know why. We had the comfort of a Celebration this morning, but only two people besides ourselves availed themselves of it.
Provisions are getting very dear and difficult to get, and the Boxers question all buyers as to the use to which they are to be put, in order to find out those who buy for foreigners. Happily, we have plenty of flour and tinned things.
At one o'clock the alarm sounded, and our rooms were immediately filled with soldiers, and there was a lot of firing in the Austrian lines. It seems that Tung Fu Hsiang's Chinese cavalry are now beginning to threaten us. And where are our soldiers? It is a week to-day since they started from Tientsin, and if only they had got here three days ago, what harm might have been spared! We have nothing amongst us except what is in this little room, and a few little oddments in the places where we sleep. But that is nothing in comparison to precious lives lost.
June 18th.--No news of the troops yet. But bad news from Tientsin by a courier who managed to get in this morning, and says that the Boxers have burnt down the beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral there, the same which was burnt in the massacre of 1868 or 1870, I forget which date, and had only just been rebuilt. Couriers from here have failed to get into the Settlement at Tientsin, which they report to be surrounded by Boxer camps; and, strangest of all, they say that nothing is known at Tientsin of our troops. We thought their tardy arrival was accounted for by their being obliged to keep open communications with Tientsin, but this does not seem to be the case. Four of the Tsungli Yamen came to see Sir Claude to-day, but I do not know what they said; probably asked, as they did a week ago, why in the world we are all assembled here, as the city is perfectly quiet! The situation becomes daily more critical. About 3.30 rain began to fall, and it poured heavily till far into the night (June 19th). It has made everything so fresh and cool, and will make incendiarism more difficult. We hear alarming rumours from Tientsin, but nothing very definite.
6 p.m.--I have just come in from an expedition on to the wall to see the remains of the Ch'ien Men and the devastation outside it. Mr. Allen took Miss Lambert and me. In spite of yesterday's heavy rain, the ruins are still smoking in many places, and the destruction is terrible--acres of shops and houses levelled with the ground, or mere shells left standing. We were much excited by seeing four men, whom we took to be Boxers, got up in red turbans, etc. They were down below us in the street, and stared hard at us, but disappeared into the crowd. We saw two fires to the north-west of the city, within the walls, but could not tell what they were. Now they tell me there is a great fire to the east, which it is feared may be the American Methodist Mission.
11 p.m.--This afternoon at four o'clock the Chinese Government declared that the action of the Nationalities at Taku and elsewhere constitutes war, and that we must all clear out in twenty-four hours or take the consequences. China against Europe, America, and Japan--absurd, of course, in; the long run; but now we are in a very awkward predicament with our small handful of troops. A despatch has been returned to the effect that we cannot evacuate the place without proper transport and escort provided, and we await the answer; but Sir Claude Macdonald has just told me that in his opinion we must stay here, and sink or swim with the ship, and hope for reinforcements--but where are they?
June 20th.--Soon after breakfast this morning we were all electrified by the terrible news that Baron von Ketteler, the German Minister, had been shot dead on his way to the Yamen, and his secretary badly wounded. It was rash of them to go, seeing how untrustworthy the Chinese are; but who would have thought that the Minister would be shot? Orders were immediately issued for all foreigners to come into the British Legation; and almost at once a stream of carts began to come in, bringing people and provisions. It has been a most extraordinary sight, and one unparalleled in the history of the world, I should suppose. Eleven nations combining for mutual defence against a semi-barbarous foe, who yet boasts of a civilization which began ages before the names of Europe or America were heard of!
How many people there are here to-night I should be afraid to say; every available corner is full, and many out of doors or in tents. The church is given up to the women and children of the American Missions, who are encamped all over the floor, in the vestries, on the altar steps, in the sanctuary even, for there is no other space. One house is given up to the American Legation, another to the Russians, another to the French, and so on, and the proper inhabitants are either squeezing into the chief's house, or sleeping on verandahs or other available niches. All the long afternoon a doleful company of poor French Sisters were sitting out of doors, as no place could be found for them. They had fled away in the night before their house was burnt, and they had not a single thing, literally nothing, and they were as helpless as little children. At last one of the ladies from the French Legation managed to stuff them in somewhere. The Norwegians have got our room, and Mrs. C. has most kindly given us her dining-room, where we three women camp out quite luxuriously; and Mr. Allen and Mr. Norris sleep in a verandah. The Japanese settlement is most interesting, the dear little babies looking so exactly like Japanese dolls that one no longer can think the toys unlike living children. All the shops round have been cleared into the Legation, and a flock of sheep and some cows have also been brought in, and there are lots of ponies, so we shall not starve.
We were anxious to see what would happen at four o'clock, when the twenty-four hours given us to clear out should be up. The Yamen had sent an answer to the Ministers' despatch, saying that they appreciated its friendly tone, and that they were afraid the country just now was not quite in a state to make travelling pleasant for women and children!
Just at five minutes to four by our time we heard firing begin at the Austrian lines, and it continued pretty sharply at intervals all round till about nine. The bullets whizzed about gaily. I never before have been under fire, nor understood what the "whistle" of a bullet meant, but I do now. I was obliged to go across the compound to find a place for Miss Hung and the children to sleep, and I was just coming out of a house when a bullet struck a pillar of the verandah in front of me. We hear rumours of difficulties in Tientsin which make us anxious, but we are absolutely without any real communication, and as much cut off from the rest of the world as if we were in the Sahara. Of the Admiral and his relief force we know nothing whatever.
All the men have been working like niggers to-day; throwing up earthworks, digging trenches, filling sand-bags, etc. The other nations are going to hold their Legations as long as they can, but are all prepared to retire on this one at a moment's notice without impedimenta of any kind, as the women and children and stores are all here.
June 21st.--Firing began again just at 6 a.m. and continued off and on all the morning; the afternoon was almost quiet, but at 4 p.m. it began again very sharply from all sides as it seemed. The men on our roof had a hot time with a party of Boxers, who were dodging among the trees in the Imperial carriage park just over the wall, and the noise was so great we could hardly hear ourselves speak at times. The whole compound indeed was pretty dangerous for some hours, with the bullets whizzing and singing past overhead. All not otherwise employed have been busy making bags to be filled with sand, as a protection to the soldiers on the roofs and walls. The men have all been working tremendously hard at barricades, etc., and also at pulling down houses outside the Legation. They have been busy felling trees, too, and transporting provisions, besides taking their turn on guard to relieve the poor marines. The doctors have been getting a hospital ready this afternoon, and already have two wounded men in it. Miss Lambert is matron, and I and one or two others are to be pressed into the service. We had sadly to part with Miss Hung and our two little orphans this morning. It seemed best that they should be placed in a large house along with a great many other refugee girls and women, and so we sent them; but it was hard for us all, as we cannot go to see them. The house is the other side of a lane in the constant line of fire, which we are not allowed to cross.
There are all sorts of vague rumours about our troops, but nothing certain. We are very anxious about Tientsin. We have had no news from the outer world for nearly a week.
June 23rd, 6 a.m.--Too tired to write last night. Yesterday morning I was put on as ambulance nurse for seven hours' duty each day. There are five other nurses, and two of us at a time are on duty during the day and one at night. Miss Lambert is at the head of us. The Government offices have been fitted up as a hospital, and up to last night our casualties were two killed and seven wounded, and one case of typhoid. One of the killed and the typhoid are English; the others are Russians, Germans, and Austrians.
There seems to be a division among the Chinese soldiers--Prince Ch'ing's are apparently friendly on our east, while Tung Fu Hsiang is attacking us furiously from the west. He has a cannon up on the wall, and fired on us for some time yesterday morning, but without effect. The afternoon was pretty quiet till about 4.30, when there was an alarm of fire, and it was found that a Chinese house had been set on fire just outside the Legation, close to Mr. Cockburn's house, where we are staying. As the storeroom was at the corner, we were told to clear out all our stores. Houses and walls were pulled down and water brought, and after an hour or two the fire was more or less under control, and the danger of its spreading in this direction seemed over. Meanwhile, however, great destruction had been wrought on this house by parties of would-be friends, who tore in, and in their panic simply cleared the house of everything, recklessly tearing down pictures and hangings and carrying all bodily out into the compound, while another army began to tear down the kitchen quarters. It was hopeless confusion. We were hours getting things back, and much was broken and lost. At last, about 8.30, we sat down to a dinner of ham and some bread, begged from various friends, and enjoyed it most thoroughly. We have not had much sleep; firing has been going on nearly the whole night, and early this morning it has been very sharp, the bullets singing past this window, but it is a little quieter now.
Mr. Norris got his head hurt yesterday in pulling down a house. He was working with a Russian who understood no English, so that his warning was unheeded, and the axe fell on his head. The wound might have been serious, but turned out to be nothing of consequence.
June 24th, Sunday.--Too tired out, I must wait till to-morrow.
June 25th.--I must try to tell something of the events of the last two days. Personally, I have been very busy tending the wounded, of whom there are many new ones now every day, and the hospital is getting very full, the number of nationalities among the patients being truly confusing. Captain Halliday was shot yesterday, I grieve to say, I fear rather badly, and he can ill be spared from our small garrison.
Saturday morning, soon after breakfast, there was an alarm of fire, and it was discovered that the Chinese had set fire to the Han Lin, their great examination hall and library at the north of our Legation, and not far from the chiefs house. There was a tremendous struggle to get it under, and for a long time things were very critical. The work was rendered additionally dangerous by the fact that the Chinese got behind the fire, which was being blown towards the Legation by a strong wind, and fired through at our men. By dint of water, and pulling down of houses, however, they did manage it at last, and were greatly helped by a sudden change in the wind.
There was furious fighting on the City Wall during the day; the Americans were holding it, and tried to advance to the Ch'ien Men and take the cannon which Tung Fu Hsiang had posted there, but failed. The night between Saturday and Sunday was one of incessant tumult; the Chinese took to sending bombs, and one burst in the room where two English people were sleeping. The whole force of the compound was turned on to making sand-bags to strengthen our position, weakened in many places by fire. In the middle of the morning the fire alarm again rang furiously. This time they were trying to burn us from the south, and again it was with the greatest difficulty that the fire was got under. It was close to the hospital, and we had made all our plans for taking the sick out on to the tennis court. They almost got in at one moment, but were beaten back, and a tremendous barricade of sand-bags, boxes of earth, and stones put up. We were all pretty worn out by evening, and it was very difficult to believe that it was Sunday; we had been able to manage no service all day. There was a report that heavy guns had been heard in the distance, and the soldiers on the wall saw two white star rockets, which made us hope relief might be at hand; but we have heard nothing, and this is the sixteenth day since troops left Tientsin.
Provisions are getting scarce, at least fresh ones are. We have had no fresh meat for several days, but to-night are looking forward to some stewed mule, as several were shot last night. There was a most furious fusillade about one o'clock this morning, and the firing all day has been incessant One man was badly shot in the compound yesterday. We all keep well, though very tired; but of course we know the situation is desperate--that is, we must hold out or all be massacred. I wonder why one should dread the latter. I don't think I really do much; but one has a natural instinct for self-preservation. We do so long for some news of the outer world, and fear much for Tientsin and the places inland,
June 26th, 10 p.m.--Yesterday great excitement was produced by a white placard which was put up on the bridge outside one of our barricades stating that an Imperial edict had been issued forbidding the Chinese troops to fire on us any more, and requesting us not to fire on them. It also said that a communication was waiting for us if we would send for it. At the same time the firing, which had been going on, entirely ceased. What it all meant we did not know, but no one felt inclined to put much faith in it. No foreigner was allowed to go with a reply, but a Christian Chinese undertook the venture, and ran to the bridge with a placard setting forth that we were prepared to receive a message. None came, but the peace and silence of the evening were lovely, and we all went to bed hoping for at least one night's peace. Exactly at midnight, however, there began a furious cannonade from several quarters at once. The noise was terrific, and we all got up and dressed, expecting anything to happen at any moment. It went on for an hour or more, and then gradually ceased, and the enemy drew off, and we went back to bed.
This morning there was some very sharp fighting on the wall, but the afternoon has been ominously quiet till just now, and I dread what it may bring. We all had a very good supper, however, of stewed pony, and feel more fortified to bear things.
June 27th,--We had a terrible night of cannonading and rifle firing; the compound simply seemed to be alive with bullets singing all round us. Two came into one of the windows of this house, one of which went right through the mosquito curtains of the bed, but fortunately the occupants were both lying down. Our fortifications are now so good, and our soldiers so well protected with sand-bags, etc., that the only casualty was one Austrian killed. All hands are now busy making a bomb-proof shelter, into which we may creep 'if there is a determined assault bomb-shells.
It has been reported both last night and this morning that Tung fu Hsiang's soldiers have been withdrawn, but, if so, there seems to be a large number of what we call "the enemy" left, for the firing has been incessant all morning. It gets on one's nerves badly sometimes; not that one feels frightened; but the noise and whizz of the bullets get on one's brain, and one longs to say: "Oh, do stop--just for one hour's peace!" I have just been up to Lady Macdonald's to take her five eggs and beg for a little curry powder in exchange. There are hardly any eggs left just now, and Sir Claude is laid up with an attack of dysentery. On my way I found our first Secretary washing out his own socks, and everybody is simply doing anything and everything for themselves and other people.
We were able to have the great comfort of a Celebration early this morning in Mr. C.'s study, where we dine now.
June 28th,--Another terrible night of firing. Yesterday the attack had been almost incessant, but in the evening things quieted down a bit, and we went to bed early, thinking to rest while we could; but we had been there only a bare half-hour when a furious attack began from every side; the chapel bell rang the alarm, and we hurried into our clothes again. It went on for an hour or two and then gradually subsided, and in spite of the hail of bullets I don't think we had one casualty. Compared with the enemy's dead and wounded, our losses have been slight; but we have had over forty casualties, of which ten are deaths--a large number for our tiny force. The health of the troops and the civilians is very good on the Whole, however. The hospital is very well planned and arranged. It is under the care of our own Legation doctor, Dr. Poole, and the German Legation doctor, Dr. Velde. Miss Lambert is matron, and the lady doctors and trained nurses among us take the nursing in turns, so many hours each day. The kitchen is managed by two ladies of the American Mission, who do it splendidly.
The work of fortification still goes on, and every man, woman, and child is pressed into the service. All exposed places are defended by piles of sand-bags, and on almost every roof defences of these are piled, so that the sentries inside may be under cover. There are several bomb-proof shelters made; but, so far, the enemy have not been able to touch any but the upper storeys with bombs. If, however, they can force the Americans from their post on the wall, they would simply command this compound, and would fire bombs into it as hard as they liked. There is a rumour that a man has managed to get here from Tientsin, who reports that the foreign troops left there in three divisions on Sunday, and, if so, we may hope for relief on Saturday, and this is mid-day Thursday. We cannot at all tell, however, what his information is worth, as he is not an accredited messenger, only a man who has made his way up to find how his Christian relations here are faring. Every day we hear rumours of rockets having been seen, or big guns having been heard in the distance, till we believe in none of them, and so are not so often disappointed. A big fire has just broken out south of us.
June 29th, 11 p.m.--There was an awful attack yesterday evening. It began about 6 p.m. and went on till about 8.30. The enemy had a big gun about three hundred yards from our stable quarters, which are quite close to the hospital, and they fired bomb-shells at us as hard as they could go, besides a fusillade from all sides. They hit the roof of the stables many times, and sent tiles flying about in all directions. A horse was killed just in front of the verandah, and pieces of shells came into two of the wards. We could hardly hear ourselves speak, and the noise somehow seems to get on to my brain, so that even when it has ceased I still fancy I hear it. It is curious how used we get to going about with bullets whizzing about our heads; but I confess I do not like bomb-shells, there is something so "skeary" about them, and the noise and flash are so bewildering.
We hoped that after things had settled down a bit they were going to let us have a peaceful night; but it was anything but that, and about 3.30 a.m. there was a great fusillade again. It had been arranged for a party of English and Germans to make a sortie at 3 a.m. to try and capture the Chinese cannon, and they were to be followed by a party to burn some houses which are all loop-holed, and command us. By some blunder, however, the firing-party reached the place first, and lighted up before the soldiers arrived, which spoilt the whole plan; and all the men could do was to escape back with their lives, which happily they did.
Later on in the morning the attack was chiefly against the French and German Legations, and the French had a good many casualties and a lieutenant killed. The enemy also succeeded in setting fire to one of the buildings in Su Wang Fu, where the refugee Chinese are, but happily it was got under.
The man from Tientsin seems to be genuine, and he reports that all the way along people were aware of our situation, which comforts us somewhat, as we feared our friends might not be realizing the desperateness of our situation, Over fifty of our men are now disabled or killed, and I dare not ask about ammunition.
This afternoon was quieter on the whole, though the enemy was pouring in bullets from the north, and two came into this house. One of our marines, Phillips, was killed about a hundred yards off while resting on a bench. The attack began again about 6 p.m., but there were no big guns. The Chinese had three, but one was reported to have burst this morning.
About 10 p.m. there was a very determined attack, which has continued ever since, in spite of heavy thunder and rain, and I am writing instead of going to bed, as it is far too noisy to sleep. Oh, that we could hear the boom of our own guns in the distance! I feel now that I cannot look for them till they are actually in the compound, and what a relief that would be! We all keep well, though the odour is becoming dreadful at times from the dead Chinese and horses outside. The condition of the city must be truly appalling.
Midnight,--Mr. Allen has just come off guard, and says that the sentries report having seen a search-light to the south of the city, which they hope may be from our troops. The fusillade all round us is perfectly deafening.
June 30th, 2 p.m.--The fusillade went on furiously all night till long after daylight, and we got very little sleep.
This morning the enemy have been shelling our troops on the wall from a big gun inside the Imperial Palace. The poor Germans have suffered badly--two killed, and three badly wounded, and two of our men wounded too; over sixty casualties now, and the hospital very full. We are as busy as we can be, which is a good thing for us in many ways. Indeed, everybody in the Legation has plenty to do, what with digging trenches and bomb-proof shelters, making sand-bags, erecting barricades, making sheets, shirts, etc., for the wounded, besides all the washing and cooking which falls to the lot of many.
No news of our troops yet; but there is a rumour that the Taku forts were taken ten days ago, and, if it is true, they must surely be near at hand. Our ammunition is not over-abundant, I believe, but I dare not ask particulars.
Miss Lambert is not well, and off work to-day, which makes me a bit extra busy.
July 2nd, Monday.--Yesterday I never got a minute to write my diary. The day began peacefully with a quiet Celebration in the dining-room at a quarter to seven, and I felt so thankful for it all day through, for it was a most trying time. In the first place there was some blunder among the Germans on the wall, and they evacuated their position there; and then the Americans, who have their barricades a little west, also on the wall, seeing that the Germans had gone, went down too, as it had been agreed. Of course, the loss of the wall would be most fatal to us, as if the Chinese plant their big cannon there, they can simply knock the place into ruins with bomb-shells. As soon as the blunder was discovered, the Yankees most pluckily retook their position, and are holding it, but at a fearful cost, and the Germans cannot get theirs back.
The Germans have suffered dreadfully in killed and wounded, and there were some terrible cases of wounds from bomb-shells in the morning.
In the afternoon another dreadful blunder was made. The Japanese colonel, who is a very able man, said he could take the biggest Chinese gun, if he had enough men given him. So a number of Italians under an officer, and a number of English marines and volunteers were told off, and the three parties were to approach the gun from different directions, so as to catch the Chinese in a trap. No doubt it would have been quite successful, but for some fatal misunderstanding, perhaps due to difference of language. As it was, our party turned up the wrong lane, and found themselves in a cul-de-sac loop-holed by the Chinese. Fortunately, the lane was not perfectly straight, and the Chinese not good shots, or not a man would have come back alive; as it is, we have seven wounded Our casualties are now eighty, and we had not a man to spare to begin with. We have thirty-seven in hospital, and are very busy.
Last night was comparatively quiet, but they are shelling again this morning, and the shell wounds are often so awful that I dread the sound of their big gun, and it is booming no.v as I write. There was a report of a search-light having been seen again last night, but I confess I am sceptical; I want to see the troops coming into the compound.
July 3rd.--There was a fierce but short attack on the compound last night, between i and 3 a.m., but nothing was done, and no one was hurt. About 2 a.m. a party of Americans, British, and a few Russians, made a furious charge for the Chinese barricade on the wall. Rain was pouring in torrents, and the enemy were unprepared, so our men drove them right out, killed a considerable number, and' seized their rifles and ammunition. Unfortunately, the American officer, Captain Myers, who was leading them, was wounded, or they think they might have got on as far as the Ch'ien Mên, and seized the big gun. We lost two Americans, and had several of our men wounded. The rest of the day has been ominously quiet, and we wonder what mischief the enemy are planning. But the rest to our nerves has been a great boon, and we feel more able to meet whatever may come.
Still no sign of relief at hand, and this heavy rain will have made the roads very bad. A messenger was let down over the wall in the night. Sometimes we are inclined to wonder if the greatness of our straits has been realized by those who are coming to help us; or if the various nationalities have fallen out by the way, and are settling their own differences while we are left to do as best we may. I do not know how many ponies there are left to be eaten, but I hope they will hold out long enough. The meat is really excellent, a little dark-coloured, but tender if carefully cooked, and of very good flavour.
July 4th.--We had a dreadful night, one ceaseless fusillade till about 3.30 a.m. The noise was terrible, one could not hear one's self speak, but no harm was done beyond the trial to our nerves. The day has been quite quiet, only some attempt at shelling the Fu, and we had but one casualty, an Italian, who died almost at once.
July 5th,--A beautifully quiet night, only two short attacks; and not much has been done during the day. But one very sad event has cast a gloom over us all. Mr. David Oliphant, one of the Consular assistants here, was shot while cutting down some trees which afforded cover for the enemy, and died within two hours. He was a very promising man, and a great favourite with every one here, and we could ill spare him. This afternoon Dr. Gilbert Reid was shot in the leg, and this brings our casualties to eighty-nine.
Mr. Allen has now come to help us in the hospital, where we have forty-four patients. It is the funniest babel of tongues imaginable--Russian, Austrian, Italian, French, German, English, Yankee, and Japanese! We try to sort the nationalities a little, so as to keep each other company, but they all get on very harmoniously. Still no sign or word of relief, and it seems impossible to get a message to Tientsin, and meanwhile so many lives lost, and our little force smaller day by day. It is just a month now since we came into the Legation.
July 6th.--Heavy fighting in the Fu this morning. One Japanese officer killed, and two men wounded. I like the Jap soldiers very much; they are such cheery, bright fellows, and so brave under suffering. The fighting this morning was an attempt on their part to get possession of a Chinese gun, which has been shelling the Fu for some days. They did not succeed in capturing the gun, but drove back the Chinese, and have taken a position commanding the approach to it, by which they hope to prevent the Chinese from returning to it.
July 7th.--Some sharp attacks in the night, and this morning it was found that the Chinese had built a barricade, which has enabled them to return to the gun commanding the Fu, which they have been firing. They have also been firing a big gun from the north, and one ball went right through Sir Claude's dining-room, passing behind the great picture of the Queen without injuring it!
This afternoon the American and English armourers are busy trying to construct a gun out of brass piping, and making shells for it to fire. I only hope it will not injure the firers of it, but certainly we need something to reply to this dreadful cannonade.
No news whatever of our troops. We have tried all sorts of plans to get a message through. One man had a tiny letter sewn within the sole of his boot. Another, dressed as a blind beggar, and led by a little boy, had a message inside a loaf of bread, but no answer comes. There have been several rumours of people having heard distant cannon, but I put little faith in them now. Fortunately, the health of the community is wonderfully good on the whole, and we are all too busy to be melancholy. Indeed, it is quite wonderful how quickly the days go past, and I can hardly believe that to-morrow is Sunday again--our fifth here.
July 8th, Sunday.--We had a very bad night, both of fusillade and shelling; the church and the big T'ing erh both struck by bombs.
Mr. Allen celebrated in the dining-room here at 6.45, and Mr. Norris, at the chiefs, at 9 a.m.
The morning was comparatively quiet, but in the afternoon there was a great attack on the Fu, and one of the big buildings was set on fire, but, fortunately, the Christians had been removed. In ransacking a Chinese shop within the lines our people lit on a cannon, which had evidently been bought up as old iron. They thought at first it was Chinese, but it turns out to be English make, and they think it may be one of those we brought up in 1860. The engineers made a carriage for it, and this afternoon they fired some Russian bombs from it three or four times. It seems to have only had the effect, however, of stirring up the enemy, for they have been shelling us vigorously; one shell hit the house, and another burst close to the hospital.
We have had to move into the drawing-room, which is considered a shade safer than our old quarters, but I don't think there is much to choose. They are now preparing to run the Italian gun up on to the roof of this house, in order to knock down a barricade. Still no news from outside; it is weary waiting.
July 11th.--I have written no diary for three days, and it is difficult to make up when time has passed. Nothing of very great note has happened. I had a narrow escape the other day, going to the hospital, of being struck by a piece of shell which fell within about two yards of me, and which I picked up, still quite hot; also a large cannon ball came into Mr. C.'s bedroom window, but, fortunately, no one was in the room; we heard the crash, and ran in to see.
Bullets have also come in once or twice, and they simply whizz about the compound. It is truly wonderful how few have been injured by them.
For some cause or other the attacks were rather less vigorous on Monday and Tuesday, and we had no fresh wounded, but to-day we have five, by way of making up, one of whom is dying, poor fellow! He is a German Lutheran, and Mr. Allen has just administered the last Sacrament to him at his own desire. Another, who died of tetanus on Monday, also desired and received it.
We have absolutely no news yet, but all sorts of vague rumours; the two last being that M. de Giers, the Russian Minister, expects his relief force at 11.30 to-morrow, so accurate is the rumour! The second is that Prince Ch'ing and Prince Tuan are fighting, and that the former is now outside the city, keeping the gates to admit the foreign troops. Meanwhile our numbers gradually thin. The poor Japs have lost very heavily. They are splendidly plucky little fellows. Those we have in hospital here bear terrible pain without a murmur--are always contented, and fall of fun and brightness. Their ward is quite a pleasure to visit.
The Japs have a rumour to-day that 13,000 troops left Tientsin four days ago. If that is so, we have at least ten days to wait yet, and shall be pretty well reduced to horse, rice, bread and tea; quite good, wholesome fare, however!
July 17th, Tuesday.--Again many days left unwritten, so I must just give a brief record of the chief events.
July 12th.--The French took a prisoner, who was strictly examined, and who said that the foreign settlement in Tientsin was burnt on the I7th of June, and that Taku forts were taken four days ago. He is also said to have stated that the Empress has issued an edict, recommending the soldiers not to fire the big guns, as it was a dangerous practice, and liable to do mischief to her loyal people. It certainly is true that the Chinese must have done a great deal of mischief among their own friends, but, edict or no, there has been no perceptible diminution in their use of heavy artillery.
On the night of July I2th there was a tremendous fusillade on the Jap position in the Fu, and the Italians ran away, and left the British barricade isolated and undefended, to the great disgust of our men. The Japs are simply splendid, and fill every one with admiration.
July 13th.--Fairly quiet till 6 p.m., when the Chinese made a most determined attack on the French Legation. They had mined one of the houses, and had blown it up, and soon the whole place was in a blaze. The fire burnt all night, but in spite of it, the French succeeded in holding their position. The attack went on furiously till eight; the alarm was rung, and every one was on the alert. The noise was so deafening that we had difficulty in making ourselves heard. Mr. Norris, who had been working at a barricade in the Fu, was struck in the neck by a piece of shell, but the wound was happily only slight. The Fu, and the way to it, even though partially underground now, is very dangerous. The Chinese have taken one of our barricades, and Mr. Allen, who was working there all night, said they were so close that he could distinctly hear their building going on.
July 14th, Saturday.--A messenger of ours was seized by the enemy, beaten, and then sent back to the Legation with a letter, purporting to come from the Tsungli Yamen, inviting the Ministers, with their families and staffs, to take refuge in the Yamen. They were to go in detachments, and were promised a safe escort, but were not to be accompanied by one single foreign soldier, for fear of "exciting the populace." The Chinese idea of our intelligence must indeed be small!
July 15th, Sunday,--Sunday was very fairly quiet, but the afternoon was saddened by the death of Mr. H. Warren, one of the Legation students. He was terribly wounded by a shell, and died after a few hours. The loss of this poor boy seems even more sad than that of the soldiers, whose profession it is to fight; and one grieves for those who will mourn at home. At night there was heavy firing on the Fu.
July 16th, Monday.--I reached the hospital at 8 p.m., just as our commander, Captain Strouts, and Dr. Morrison, the Times correspondent, were brought in wounded, from the Fu. The latter's was only a slight flesh wound, but Captain Strouts was badly hit in the thigh. The doctors did everything possible, and then we got him into bed, and tried everything to keep him, but he never recovered the shock, and passed away about 10.30. His death cast a great gloom over everything, and the times do indeed seem dark. For, besides the personal regret which many feel for-him, we can ill spare him as a leader. The chief command of the British force will now fall on Captain Wray, but of course Sir Claude is Commander-in-Chief. In the evening another communication was received from the enemy, again purporting to come from Prince Ch'ing, and others, and expressing surprise that after their last letter we still continued firing; but as they still continue shelling us, and are building their barricades higher than ever, I do not know what they expect.
July 17th, Tuesday.--This has been a day of rumours and excitements of various kinds. About 10 a.m. a Chinese soldier, unarmed, arrived at the German Legation, and said he wanted to hold communication with us, so he was put in a cart and driven through the lines into our Legation. About the same time another arrived, I think at the French lines, bearing a letter purporting to come from Jung Lu, and saying they would stop firing if we would. An answer was sent to the effect that we had no desire to continue firing except in self-defence, but as long as they continued to heighten and strengthen their barricades, we should be compelled to hinder them by firing on them.
The messengers were interrogated about current events, and say the Chinese have been badly beaten between Taku and Tientsin, that General Nieh has committed suicide, and that we are holding the Taku forts. One of them also said that many of the soldiers are getting tired of attacking us, and are deserting. Let us hope his tale is true! Things do seem looking a little more hopeful, but I have such a profound distrust of the enemy that I always suspect some deep design under every approach.
Another incident of the day has been that a young French student, called Pelliot, jumped over the Chinese barricade at the invitation of the soldiers, and went away with them. The action was entirely against his officer's orders, but the French here are not famous for discipline. We were, of course, very anxious as to his fate, and not greatly reassured by a note which arrived about noon, written in Chinese, but signed by him in Roman characters, and stating that he was at the Yamen, being treated well, and having vegetables to eat, and that he would be back to dinner. It was therefore a great relief when he actually did turn up. He said he had been much interrogated as to the state of affairs here, and had apparently represented us all as perfectly happy and contented, with lots to eat and drink, our only lack being fruit and vegetables!
The consensus of opinion seems to be that the Chinese here must be aware of the approach of foreign troops, and are inclined to make advances in order to gain what favour they may.
The poor little children among us are suffering most--no milk or eggs for them, and no fresh vegetables. Three little ones have died, and all look like faded flowers; the city is so hot and unwholesome in July at the best of times, and now the Legation is packed to overflowing. Happily, the weather is more moderate than usual.
To-morrow I am going to take a day's rest, and Lady Macdonald has kindly asked me to go there and lie under a mosquito-net on a bed, which will be a treat after a month of sleeping on a table!
July 18th.--Such a beautiful, quiet night and day, the peace seems almost uncanny. I have spent most of the day in sleep, as I intended, and feel much better for it There is exciting news. The Japs have got a message from Tientsin, saying that the Chinese have been twice defeated between Tientsin and Taku, that three of their generals have committed suicide, that the Taku forts and Tientsin are in our hands, and that a great body of foreign troops is to start on the 2oth for Peking, and expect no opposition. It is a long time to wait yet, but everything to have really reliable news of some kind.
We wonder much where our bishop and Mrs. Scott and the rest are. A Chinese official has also been to see Sir Claude, presumably with the idea of making overtures, and arrangements are being made for getting people to come to the lines to sell us vegetables, fruit, etc.
July 30th.--There is a long hiatus here, because on the day I last wrote Mr. Allen began to be sick with what proved to be a bad attack of tonsilitis; and what with nursing him and other things, I found it quite impossible to get my diary written. Well, here we are still, nearly at the end of our sixth week of siege, and still hoping for the relief that does not come. Rumours have not been lacking--sometimes reporting that our troops are within twenty miles--sometimes that they have not yet left Tientsin, with all the varied stages between those two extremes, which make our spirits rise and fall alternately. One piece of really reliable information we have received in the shape of a letter from Mr. Carles, our Consul in Tientsin. It was brought by a little lad of fourteen, who had succeeded in carrying a letter from Sir Claude to Tientsin, telling of our straits here. He left here on July 4th, and got back with his answer on July 25th. The words were necessarily few, as the scrap of paper had to be concealed, but the most important information was that Tientsin is safe, and that a large body of troops under General Gaselee is coming to our relief; nothing definite as to when.
Meanwhile we have had a little more communication with the outside world here, in the shape of Chinese informers, who have brought us reports of things outside, which we may believe or not, as we like. These men tell us that the Empress has carts ready to flee to Hsi An Fu, in event of the approach of foreign troops; that the Russians are approaching from the north; that Li Hung Chang is trying to negotiate peace; that the soldiers are now fighting with the Boxers, etc., etc.
The most important thing is that we have been able to buy all the back numbers of the Peking Gazette, and a wonderful revelation they are of the government attitude towards us, and towards the Boxers, confusing and contradictory to the last degree.
On June 24th, together with an edict for the suppression of desperadoes who disturb the peace, there is one for the distribution of rice to the Boxers, and one appointing Prince Ch'ing and Kang I to general command of Boxers, and other notables to lower rank under them. The edict proceeds, "All the members of the I Ho Tuan (Boxers) are exerting their utmost energies, and the Imperial family must not fall short in harbouring revenge against our enemies ... it is of the utmost importance that no lack of energy be shown." On June 27th the Empress exhorts the soldiers to be brave and energetic in face of the enemy, and promises them extraordinary rewards, while threatening cowards with execution. On July 1st orders are issued for the restoration of the old courier system of intelligence, which had been "demoralized" by the use of telegraph and railway; and also orders that Boxers be kept under strict control, since cases of wanton murder and robbery are becoming frequent. On July 2nd, "The cause of the present trouble is found in the misconduct of the Christians, led astray by false doctrines, and relying upon missionaries for support in their evil deeds. The Throne expects the Boxers to render loyal and patriotic service. If Christians repent, mend their ways, and give themselves up to local authorities, the past shall be ignored. ... As hostilities have now broken out between China and foreign nations, the missionaries of every nationality must all be driven away at once to their own countries, so that they may not linger here and cause trouble. But it is important that measures should be taken to protect them on their journey." Truly a contradictory set of orders, but much more tending to stir up violence than to calm it among people already longing to destroy both us and our property, and hating the Christians with all their hearts.
Meanwhile, we just wait and live from day to day; and it is astonishing how quickly the days pass. We have not been short of food at all at present, though we are rather weary of perpetual horse and rice, and relished exceedingly a present which the Yamen sent the other day (by way of a conciliatory offering, we suppose) of several cucumbers and melons, which were divided amongst us. We were a little afraid of poison, but needed the fresh vegetables so much that we could not resist, and no one is the worse. The heat is very trying, and the closeness, for the Legation is far too full of people to be healthy. When Mr. Allen was so ill, we managed to get two or three fresh eggs, which we divided with a sick baby, she getting the whites, and he the yolks.
There are many comic incidents in the siege, which one takes as a matter of course under the circumstances, but are most ludicrous when one thinks of them. The washing, for instance, is done by coolies, who are overlooked by Mr. Brazier, of the Customs, who solemnly collects the bundles and delivers them every day; and no one feels surprise at seeing the First Secretary washing his socks, or at the Minister's wife washing up the tea-things, or the doctor digging graves, or another gentleman gravely doling out two eggs for each sick person, or a pound or two of coffee to each mess. Certainly what most nearly approaches hardship to me personally is the sleeping arrangement. I do long sometimes for a night in a proper bed. We three sleep on mattresses as close together as possible on the floor, so as to get all our heads under on mosquito-net; and as I am always rather a fidgetty person about sleeping with others, I often cannot get much rest. Often I go out and sit in the verandah, and enjoy the stars and the coolness of the night--when it is cool, so I don't come badly off after all. We are far better off than in many of the other houses, where six and seven have to sleep in a room; and I think there are between fifty and sixty in the church, both living and sleeping.
July 31st.--The rumour still persisted last night that our troops had reached Ma t'ou, about twenty miles off. But the Chinese keep firing at us, and raising new barricades, so that we dare not relax any of our vigilance or preparations, and the men are working hard in the trenches this morning. The Chinese have been trying to mine us, and these trenches are to act as counter-mines all round the Legation.
The French have distinguished themselves this morning by shooting a nice peaceful Chinaman who was coming to sell us eggs.
August 3rd.--These three days have been famous for the tremendous variations in the mental barometer of the besieged. On the morning of the 1st every one was quite in high spirits, as Colonel Shibas' informer came in and said that our troops had advanced as far as Chang Chia Wan, about seventeen miles from here. In the evening, however, a messenger got through from Tientsin with a letter saying troops had been delayed through lack of means of transport, but it was hoped they would reach us in a few days. This has damped our spirits very much, as it seems to mean such indefinite delay, and it proves the absolute unreliability of our Chinese information. The effect was quite extraordinary--everybody went about almost silently, and instead of the usual excitement for news round the Bell Tower, it was almost deserted. Last evening, however, there v/as just as sudden a revulsion to hopeful excitement, A messenger got through from Tientsin carrying no fewer than seven tiny missives in the lining of his hat. All the official ones were in cipher, but the translations of parts of them were posted on the Bell Tower as soon as possible. They were dated the 30th, and stated that troops had started, and were starting, that day for our relief (as a matter of fact they did not get off till the 4th), so now we need no longer doubt that help is actually on the way.
We gather from a letter to the American captain here that a body of ten thousand United States infantry and a body of cavalry are going to try to come straight to Peking, while the Japs and British engage Chinese troops strongly entrenched in three places between here and Tientsin. But as the letter is in cipher and unpunctuated, it is difficult to tell the exact meaning; and the poor captain himself, for whom it was meant, is very ill in hospital with typhoid fever, and knows nothing about it. I was with him all this morning there. The letter also gave us the first news of affairs in Tientsin. They must have had a dreadful time there, and we can't help being very anxious for news of our bishop and Mrs. Scott and the others. We also hear of a rising in Manchuria and threatenings in the south. No one has mentioned African news, for which we long.
You must be anxious about us at home, I know; but it is a comfort to think we have your prayers. Miss Hung and the two children are quite well. Mr. Allen, too, is convalescent, though weak, and the rest of us keep well. It is such a good thing that we have rice and flour, and as yet plenty of ponies, though these last are, I believe, getting few.
There is a great deal of firing going on, and they are mining us in all directions; but I think there is no danger of our not holding out unless a large number of troops come back to attack us on hearing of the approach of our troops. In that case we shall have a rough time.
August 4th.--To-day there has been another edict issued by the Chinese Government in the usual absurd fashion of defending themselves and making out that they wish to protect foreigners and to "forgive" Christians who are willing to repent of their errors.
Another edict again speaks of the desire of the Tsungli Yamen to escort us all to Tientsin and give us safe conduct on the road. "If there are evildoers who lie in wait to plunder, these are to be immediately killed. . . . Before the envoys leave the capital, if they have telegrams to send to their governments, provided they are not in cipher, the Yamen is promptly to arrange the matter for them. This will exhibit the extreme desire of the Throne to treat the people from afar with tenderness." So very kind of them. I only hope our Home Government will not be taken in by any such humbug. Sir Claude has just shown me a tiny letter, which he is trying to get through to the troops to-night. It measures about three inches by an inch and a half, and the words are English, but written in Greek characters. It will be sewn into the sole of the messenger's boot, and we hope may arrive at its destination safely. The words are: "Do not believe anything you hear from the Chinese Government as to our intentions. Let nothing delay march on Peking,--MACDONALD."
The Chinese have been firing on us a good deal to-day, and there is one Russian seriously wounded.
This is a census of the besieged in the Legation, which has just been posted up on the Bell Tower.
Soldiers, British, and others 73 General hospital, wounded, etc. 40 Residents--Foreign: Men 191 Women 147 Children 76 Chinese: Men 180 Women 107 Children 69 Total 883
These all in one Legation measuring three hundred yards by a hundred yards, and we shall soon have completed our seventh week of it! It is wonderful there is not more sickness than there is, I think. A tremendous downpour of rain intervened here, and we have had to have a "general post" of mattresses, etc., as our poor be-shelled roof offers but a slight resistance to the water, and floods are the order of the day.
August 6th, Monday.--Yesterday was our ninth Sunday in the Legation, and seventh of close siege. We had our usual celebration of Holy Communion in the drawing-room at 6.45, and there was another at the chiefs at 8.30, and Matins also there at n. We were too busy at the hospital to be able to go, as we had some: operations; but I managed to read Matins by Captain Myer's bedside. In the evening we went up to look at the defences in the Hanlin, which are really wonderful now; we have a tremendously solid wall of bricks right across it, loopholed all the way, and sentries on guard always there. Last night there was a great deal of firing again from the Chinese, but no harm done.
No news yet of the troops, and they must be a week on their way; but probably they will have a great deal of fighting to do, and be much delayed,
Miss Lambert is in bed to-day, and will probably be so for some days more. It is very difficult to feed invalids now; there is hardly anything for them. Our own food--thanks to Sister Edith's housekeeping--is really excellent. She contrives all sorts of little varieties out of the pony-meat and rice, which form the staple commodities. To-day, to our great astonishment, we actually had a suet pudding! A mule had been kind enough to provide material. Parties go out daily dog-shooting within the lines to try to provide food for the Christians in the Fu, who are getting very hard up.
August 10th.--Great news to-day! A letter from General Gaselee at T'sai T'sun, about eighty miles from here! I cannot tell you what the joy of hearing definite news like this is; the last few days of absolutely no information, even in the form of rumours, have been most trying, especially after having our hopes raised by the letter of the 30th from Tientsin.
General Gaselee's letter is dated August 8th, and is as follows: "Strong force of allies advancing. Twice defeated enemy. Keep up your spirits.--GASELEE."
The Japanese have also had a letter giving fuller particulars as to dates, and saying that the allies hoped to reach Ma T'ou to-day, and that we may expect to see them here on the 13th or 14th. It sounds almost too good to be true.
A few days ago we took possession of some ruined houses and a piece of ground in the Mongol market, outside the west wall of the Legation. It strengthens our position a good deal, as it relieves the houses all along the west side, when we always feared danger from mines. There has been a good deal of fighting over it, and the Chinese have taken to slinging brickbats, which have wounded several of our men, though none severely. They have fusilladed us heavily at night too, and we have replied with our Nordenfelt gun, which is now raised on a sort of platform on the wall at the back of this house, which is called "Fort Cockburn." The work in the hospital is heavy now, as, though the wounded are fewer, we have a good deal of dysentery, etc., and three cases of typhoid. Miss Lambert has been away, too, several days, knocked up by the heat and over-strain, and the sick-berth steward, Fuller, has dysentery. He is a most valuable man, and is missed accordingly. Lady Macdonald came down for several hours to-day to help with the typhoid patients, and relieve my hands a little.
On Wednesday morning a poor Frenchman was brought in shot through the lungs by a comrade in loading his rifle. It seemed very sad, when we have lost so many lives through our enemies, that a shot from a friend should end another. He has been supposed to be dying ever since, but really seems just a trifle better to-night. (He died next day.) Many patients have gone out again to duty cured, and others are hopping about on crutches, or with arms in slings, quite happy. To-night, too, the good news has made the whole community perk up; it is quite wonderful what a bit of news, whether good or bad, will do for our spirits.
An application was made to the Yamen to allow us facilities for buying milk and eggs, but no reply has come. The mortality and sickness among the little children on account of lack of proper food is very sad.
August 12th.--Sunday again, and such a busy, distracted one. A very hard day at the hospital, and severe attacks on us all last night and today, and going on still at n p.m. The noise is deafening, and there have been two deaths and several wounded on our side, in spite of the strong defences. The attackers seem to be a new body of troops which came into the city during last night, and appear to be doing their best to make an end of us before our friends can arrive, but I think and trust we shall hold out all right.
Meanwhile the Tsungli Yamen have asked to come and see the Ministers to-morrow. Was ever such an extraordinary state of affairs? For it is Government troops who are attacking us. The Government practically acknowledge that the troops are now beyond their control; but that is entirely their own fault, as the Imperial edicts prove that the attack on foreigners has been not only allowed but encouraged, and rewards offered for good service against them.
This noise is too terrific. I can't write or think.
August 13th.--A most persistent attack was kept up on one corner of the compound through the early hours of the night, and the roof of our bungalow simply riddled with bullets; but strange to say, not one of our marines was hit. A French captain was, however, killed, making the French death-roll fourteen men; and two shells burst on the Chief's house, doing a good deal of damage, but fortunately not injuring any one.
August 15th.--Yesterday at three o'clock we were relieved. The word looks so small and commonplace, and yet, oh what it meant to us! But I must try and go back a bit. On the fourteenth, about 7 p.m., a thunderstorm came on, and immediately there was a most furious attack upon us from all sides, which raged on into the night. I went to bed about midnight and tried to sleep, but barely closed my eyes, and at last, about 2.30 a.m., I heard heavy guns away to the east, and then the tat-tat-tat of Maxims, and I was certain it was our troops. I went out on to the verandah in my dressing-gown, and found the whole compound beginning to stir, and listen, and say one to another, "The troops." "They are coming." "There they are," etc. There was great diversity of opinion as to the distance, but subsequently we have heard that the sounds were from reconnoitring parties of British, and from American and Russian troops, about four or five miles outside the city. The attack after this waxed still more furious; the alarm was rung, and every man was at his post for hours. All morning we were "on the listen," though very busy at the hospital. About noon I went up to Lady Macdonald's to get a little rest on her bed, where I could be sure of quiet, and I slept till nearly two o'clock, and was just in the midst of dressing when I heard a cheer, which increased in volume every minute. I rushed to the window, and was just in time to see our British general and his staff, and a company of Sikhs come up the T'ing erhs. I got out into the hall and there found them all shaking hands and greeting one another. It was a moment to remember, and so good that it was our own dear British contingent who had the honour of being first; and all the greater credit to them as they had started last, and only had one day to get over the fatigue of their journey from India. General Gaselee is a splendid looking man, and so are several of his officers--most of them indeed, I think. Soon the whole compound was alive with picturesque Indian troops, Sikhs, Punjaub Infantry, Pathans, Cuttucks, and magnificent looking Bengal Lancers; such a treat to see a real horse again. The men and horses were all dead tired, and simply threw themselves down on the ground to rest; but for all their weariness they marched in with cheers and smiling faces, and they could not complain that they had no welcome.
After the Indians came the Welsh Fusiliers, and then the U.S. Infantry. The enemy still kept blazing away into the compound, even after the men were on the lawn, and two civilians were wounded slightly, and a poor Rajput very badly. However, a company of Sikhs were ordered out to clear the Mongol market, from which we have been harassed so long, and they cleared the whole place in quite a short time; the Americans took the wall to the Ch'ien Men, and we breached the wall into the Imperial carriage-park, and occupied it with Indian troops.
To-day the Palace has been shelled, and most places of importance taken; but I have been busy in the hospital all day, and am a little mixed as to details. It is so wonderful to feel safe again, and hear the shells without minding them a bit, rather rejoicing, in fact. We don't know if the Empress is here still or not; but it is gene rally thought she will commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner. It is certainly a puzzle to know how things will be settled by all the foreign nations, or how it will be possible to work harmoniously for much longer.
August 17th.--Yesterday we had letters iron-the Bishop, brought by two of the newspaper correspondents. It was a great relief to hear that he and all the others are well, and that he is still at Tientsin. They seem to have had a very bad time there too.
Yesterday, and the day before, were days of burning and taking possession. The Japanese have burnt all, or nearly all of the gates, and now all the Imperial city, except the Palace itself, is in the hands of the Powers. The Palace is at present left, on account, I hear, of international differences about loot.
The jurisdiction of the city has been parcelled out among the Powers. The British have the west, the Russians the east, the Americans the south, and the Japs the north. The Russian soldiers are behaving disgracefully, like savage marauders more than anything else. One of the greatest difficulties at present is food. We were almost at our last resources when the relief came, and fondly hoped the troops were going to supply us, but, on the contrary, these hungry hordes of men have poured into a city panic-stricken by terror, whence many peaceful folk have fled, and into which the country market folk dare not come. Our boy managed to get a few eggs for us; but the Russian soldiers took them from him. However, I suppose it will be better in a day or two, when things get organized.
The hospital patients are being distributed into the various field hospitals, so that our little international hospital will be closed to-morrow; and very glad we shall be, as we are all well tired.
Nothing is yet settled about our getting away from Peking, though there is a talk of next week. At present, we, I mean our own party, do not know any future plans.
Mr. Allen and Mr. Norris have been over to look for what remains of our Mission compound, and there is literally nothing. The houses, church, and surrounding wall are not only levelled with the ground, but the very foundations have been almost obliterated; trees cut down, paths torn up and wells choked with rubbish; it is too sad to go and see. All the native houses, too, in which our Christians lived, have been destroyed: but we hear that some at least have managed to escape with their lives.
August 20th.--Confusion seems to have been let loose in these days. I suppose there is some sort of order behind it all, but it is very successfully veiled.
Colonel Churchill took us up on the wall on Saturday to see our and the Chinese fortifications there, which are truly wonderful. I could not describe them without many more words than I have time to write; but one of the American marines in hospital told me that there was "a regular Gibraltar up there;" and though not exactly accurate, the expression does not give a bad idea of the defences made on both sides. The more we see day by day of what our enemy's power and means and designs were, the more we feel that it was simply the restraining hand of God holding them back which prevented them from massacring every one of us before the relief came. The whole siege would be utterly incomprehensible without such an explanation.
August 24th, on board a boat on the Pei ho.--At last we are out of Peking, and stealing quietly down the river; and the peace and restfulness are most soothing and refreshing after all we have been through lately. We left Peking yesterday morning; a long train of about seventy carts, with many baggage mules, and a few chairs and dhoolies, the whole company being escorted by Sikhs and Bengal Lancers to Tung Chou. The country was very quiet, but very sad to pass through, as almost every house was deserted, and most bore signs of being pillaged. Tung Chou itself was a most painful sight, a mass of ruins for the most part, in some places still smoking, and the sights and smells anything but agreeable.
We had started about 6.30 and reached our boat about 1.30. The boats are only lighters, but mat awnings have been rigged up for us, and we are very fairly comfortable. We have a boat to ourselves, i.e. Edith and myself, and Mr. Allen and we have also on board Miss Hung and the-two little orphan Chinese, whom Sir Claude gave me a special permit to bring. We have also Yang Kwei, one of our Christians, who has managed to escape with his life by hiding in the hills, and goes as our servant. We have three Beloochees on board as our guard, very pleasant-looking, handsome fellows, whose attempts to make friends with the Chinese boatmen amuse us much. They go through some wonderful pantomimic performances to make one another understood. This is Friday, and we expect to reach Tientsin on Sunday or Monday. So large a convoy cannot travel fast, as we must keep more or less together. We occasionally pass a smoking village, and there are dead bodies not unfrequently in the river and on the bank, but otherwise the country looks much as usual, except for the absence of people. The crops are ripening, and yet there is no one to be seen in the usually busy fields. War is very sad.
I don't think I have mentioned our visit to the Temple of Heaven before we left Peking. Hitherto it has been inaccessible to foreigners, but the British took it on their way into the city, and the Bengal Lancers are quartered in some of the buildings there. The Temple and the immense open-air altar are by far the most striking things I have seen in China. The altar is the central place of worship in the empire, where the Emperor annually offers a sacrifice to the Supreme Being, and intercedes for his people like a very Melchisedeck, and the place is worthy of such an act.
And here I think I must make up my letter ready to post when I reach Tientsin. Long before you see it you will have read all about us in the papers; but perhaps this little personal record will interest some of you. What our future movements are to be I have no idea, but no doubt the Bishop will have some plan ready for us.
Thank you very much for the many prayers which you have, I know, offered for us. We often felt quite conscious of support and comfort in answer to intercessions for us, and we in return constantly remembered "those in anxiety at home."
About the future of our work I will write later.
Yours ever affectionately,