Page images


that is rather because, as Pro- the Platonic tradition, or even fessor Ker points out, “epic something older and simpler in requires a particular kind of Greek philosophy, at a time warfare, not too highly organ- when simplicity and clearness ised, and the manner of the of thought were about to be Homerio battle is found again overwhelmed in the medieval in Germany, Ireland, and old confusion. Boethius saved the France.” It will be seen, there- thought of the Middle Ages.” fore, that the Dark Ages ex And thus Professor Ker finds perimented in every kind of the just word to say about all prose and verse, and if the the writers of his period. It is literature which they made is impossible to praise too highly forgotten to-day, that is be- the learning and sense of procause they produced few men portion which he has brought of transcendent genius.

to his task. He has made the Of the Latin books which dry bones of the past live distinguish the period, the most again; he has set in the clear famous, no doubt, is Boethius' light of intelligence a world Consolation of Philosophy,' which is dark, less through its which exercised

extra own ignorance than through ordinary influence on the Middle the ignorance of others; and Ages, and is still familiar to he has proved to us once again many who never read it, in the that there are no gaps in the words of others. It has, says progress of intelligence, and Professor Ker, “a strain of that if the links in the chain philosophy which would neither escape our vision they escape strive nor cry, a gentle ghost it through our own blindness. whose presence is recognised in We cannot do better than leave its effect on many minds, per- Professor Ker's book with a suading them to think wisely quotation from Daniel's Deabout the old commonplaces of fence of Ryme, given by ProDeath and Time.” In other fessor Ker himself. words, Boethius was a sort it but touch of arrogant ignorof medieval Montaigne, who ance," says Daniel, “to hold understood ancient Greece and this or that nation barbarous, Rome as he understood his own these or those times gross, conworld, and his Consolation' is sidering how this manifold the one book which has survived creature man, wheresoe'er he as a living influence unto our stand in the world, has always

time. Professor Ker's some disposition of worth, enaccount of it could not be tertains the order of society, improved. “The book,” says affects that which is most in he, “is not philosophy but use, and is eminent in some one consolation. It is popular, it thing or other that fits his is meant for the weaker humour and the times.” In brethren. The beauty of it, other words, there never was a which lifts it far above the Dark Age, and Professor Ker ordinary run of reflections on is its most erudite and eloquent mortality, is that it restores historian.

- Nor can





CHINAMPO, April 1904. stood the white stones of the THE officer in command of lighthouse which for weeks had the doomed ship stood in front surrendered its functions to of the wheel with his eyes glued port-bound mariners. upon the deepening base of For the space of perhaps black darkness in front of him. fifteen seconds the great white The increasing shadow be- eye penetrating the darkness tokoned the land he was striv was fixed full upon the boat. ing to make.

Ever and anon Then it winked irresolutely, he seized the night-glass, peered flashed upwards, then down into the thickness, and then again, away to starboard, until replaced the glass on the rack. the elliptical base of the fearOnce only did he raise his right some cone of light was well hand in signal to the dim figure abeam. Then back it came of the man at the wheel. All and glared savagely full upon was darkness. The only light the steamer, silently closing was the binnacle, and it was so down upon it. It looked long cowled with canvas that the and steadfastly, and then, as figure at the wheel was bend- suddenly as it had come, it ing over his work to keep his was cut off.

And all was view of the compass. The dark and dreadful again. But slow grind of the half-speed only for a second. From the engines and the swirl of dis- centre of the great overpowerplaced water was in itself sound ing mass ahead there shot up a enough to render the over- long meteor-like rocket. Its powering feeling of silence sinuous course closed in a mass almost unbearable.

of sparks. Then it was as if Suddenly a great flood of the torch had been applied to light cleft the darkness ahead. the pièce de résistance of some It was so white and clear that great firework display. In a the faces of the three men on moment what was darkness the bridge looked pale and became a semicircle of scintildeath-like. The man at the lating light. The great beam wheel winced with the stroke- of the Golden Horn searchlight it was literally a stroke of leapt into life. light; but the officer only ported by a score of lesser moved his hand. The enemy searchlights from the forehad defeated their own ends; masts of the ships in harbour. they had shown him the pass- But there were other lightsage-half a point to starboard lightning flashes from the breast and the course was true. There of the mountain, which at in


It was sup



[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

tervals the acute beams of the break up from the very

watersearchlights revealed - flashes level. It was the forelight of which seared the gloom and destroyer. At last the vanished. Within a moment's Japanese officer gave evidence space after this blaze of light of sensibility to the Hades came the ominous rattle which which surrounded him. He discovered its origin. The forts had brought his ship far enough of Port Arthur were firing the into the passage. The beam guns which at night are always in front told him that the trained upon the harbour ap- enemy would do the rest. He proaches. The tumult was blew the whistle which his deafening, as the great bare teeth had almost bitten flat. flanks of the mountains behind In a second the men manned caught up the deadly roll of the falls of the lifeboat, while discharging quick - firers, and the petty officer responsible for flung the sound back in deaf- the igniting of the bursting ening reverberations. But that charge in the vessel's hold was not the worst sound. The dropped down the hatch way hissing rush of projectiles, the to the point where his duty ear- splitting swish as they lay. struck the water and exploded, “Port, hard a - port !” the or shrieked in ricochet overhead officer was now fairly gesticu-in a moment the tension bred lating. As her head came of apprehensive darkness had slowly round a heavy shell hit changed to an inferno of mod- her forward. So great was the

impact of this metal stroke that The man at the wheel bent for a moment it nullified the his head forward with the im- efforts of the helm, and flung pulse of a man meeting a storm. the officer and man at the But the officer never moved, wheel from their feet, while the except his directing hand. The men at the falls became a wooever appearing and disappear- ful heap in the scuppers. Then ing are of the searchlights gave another shock. This was difhim his point, and he steered ferent. It was as if an earthdirectly upon it, while the four quake had struck her: as if men crouching at the lifeboat some great monster of the deep falls and sweating engine- had seized her in its tentacles room volunteers wondered when and shaken her. Instantanethe whistle would blow which ously the engines stopped. would call them on deck from If the officer could have seen the chance of the most awful them, he would have found that death to which mariners live they were twisted out of all exposed-death from the escape semblance of symmetry. A of disabled boilers !

torpedo had struck her amidThen for a moment from ships, and had brought her amidst the circle of flashes, low mechanical movement to down on the port-bow of the standstill. She would not even doomed ship, a smaller search- answer her helm. And in spite light showed. It seemed to of the inferno below an unend

ern war.

[ocr errors]



ing hell of projectiles tore the officer must have been killed darkness above. Again the by the explosion of the Russian whistle sounded — three times torpedo. The officer was on in long shrill notes. It was the deck again. The ship was listorder to take to the boat. As ing heavily. He shouted to his the men slipped down the ropes men in the boat, now hanging the base of the after-mast and on in momentary terror of being smoke-stack were swept out of engulfed in the wash of the her by shell-fire. In the boat sinking ship. His foot was on the officer stood up and counted the rail

, when the destroyer his men.

There should have reopened with its quick - firer. been fifteen. One was missing. A shell took him in the neck “It is the petty officer in the and shoulder, and, bursting on hold !” the word was passed impact, carried this brave man's along. In a moment the officer head and brains away with it. had swung himself up to the His headless trunk fell forward deck again; and as the boat's amongst his anxious crew waited, the man with the struggling to keep the boat boat-hook could feel the inches on. For a moment they did sinking, as the ship they were not know that he was dead. deserting settled. Then a He was aboard. They pushed three-inch shell took the boat- off and gave a cheer as they hook out of his hand, and, to handled the oars. Then they save her from drifting, he had discovered that it was the to jump up and hold on him

thick life's - blood of self. Again the light of the their chief and not the spume destroyer was on them, and of the sea which had made the quick - firing projectiles them so wet in the darkness. clanged and hissed against the They were three lengths away vessel's iron sides with the when the water reached the tumult and continuity of boilers. A rush of steam, a hammers in iron - foundry report that dwarfed the raging works.

gun-fire, and the Fukui Maru The officer was at the rail rolled over and settled just in again.

the place which her officer, Had the petty officer re- Commander Hirose of the imturned ? No1 The officer dis- perial Japanese navy, had appeared back to the hold. A chosen. And three other tragiant hissing from the engine- gedies similar to this room told him that the water taking place in the narrow would soon reach the boilers. channel of Port Arthur's harIt was hopeless. The petty bour entrance this

very night.




NAGASAKI, April 1904. the whole night. It was miserThe rear-admiral and his flag- able weather: the wind had captain had been on the bridge veered round towards the north,

and in spite of the promise of something in the admiral's ear, spring which the last fortnight then all three officers went over had given, the sleet from the to the starboard rail. There squalls was as icy as that of was no doubt about it now. a mid-winter blizzard. Every The wind which had brought quarter of an hour the navigat- the squall dropped as suddenly ing lieutenant made his way up as it had risen, and the low to the bridge to apprise the muffled murmur which heralds admiral of the position of the firing at sea could be distinctly squadron. Half an hour ago heard above the wash that the the first signs of approaching vessel made, as she drove her dawn had cut into the gloom way through the water. in the east, but the squalls had The squall had passed, and rolled up again and practically almost immediately the innullified the first efforts of creased vigour of returning awakening day,—so much so day forced itself superior to that it was practically impos- the shadows of the fast vanishsible to make out even the out- ing night. What had been line of the vessel following the black now became the dull flag-ship, although it was only grey of a humid mid - ocean two cable-lengths astern. For morning. The great mysterione moment the navigating ous shadows of the ships astern lieutenant turned on the little picked themselves out from the reading - lamp on the bridge, surrounding mists, while even which gave sufficient shrouded

sufficient shrouded the low hulls of the wickedlight to enable the admiral to looking little torpedo craft, on read the markings on the chart. either flank, began to show as The admiral glanced at the indistinct masses against the pencil - marks, then looked at false horizon. As day dawned the clock. He nodded his head, the sound of firing seemed to with the single remark, “We increase. Now it was quite are in the right place”; in a distinct rattle of quickmoment the little light was firers burning ammunition in turned out again and all was deadly earnest. The torpedo darkness. The three

craft had got it now, for peered anxiously into the suddenly the three indistinct murky darkness on the port blotches which betokened the beam, -the haze of the driving vessels on the starboard beam rain-storm was still very thick. put up their helms and disSomething seemed to catch the appeared into the mist. It was navigating lieutenant's ear, for too thick yet to make a flaghe left the senior officers and signal, so the admiral stood on made his way across the bridge his course. As one looked down to the starboard rail; for two from the bridge it seemed that minutes he remained motion- the flag-ship was some ghostly less, the pose of his body in- death - ship. Everything was dicating rapt attention. He lean and gaunt and silent; there seemed satisfied, for on moving was no movement, save where back to the others he whispered the rain - wash trickled over


« PreviousContinue »