George Henty.

With the Allies to Pekin: A Tale of the Relief of the Legations


The campaign which ended with the relief of the Pekin Legations is unique in its way, carried on as it was by an army made up of almost all the nationalities of Europe. The quarrel originated in the rising of a mob of ruffians who were known by us under the name of Boxers. The movement spread like wildfire, and soon developed into the wholesale massacre of the missionaries of Northern China. The Empress, seeing the formidable nature of the rising, and hoping to gain by it the expulsion of all foreigners from her dominions, allied herself with the Boxers, besieged the various Legations, and attacked Tientsin, which stands upon the river by which the trade with Pekin is carried on. Admiral Seymour, with a force of little over a thousand men, marched to the relief of the Legations. The railway, however, was cut both before and behind him, and after severe fighting he retired upon a Chinese fortress a few miles from Tientsin, where he maintained himself until he was relieved by another force which had arrived by sea and had destroyed the forts at the mouth of the river. Tientsin itself was captured by the allies after one day?s hard fighting, and the army then advanced to the relief of the Legations. The opposition they met with was trifling in comparison with that which they had encountered at Tientsin, and they arrived at Pekin not a moment too soon. It was found that the Legations had been very hard pressed, some of them having been destroyed by fire. But the garrison had maintained a heroic defence, aided by the native Christians who had escaped the massacre and taken refuge with them, and who had done excellent work in the building and constant repair of the defences, sometimes under the heavy fire of the enemy. The Empress had fled, but negotiations were opened with her and terms of peace were ultimately agreed to. For the particulars of the campaign I have relied chiefly upon The War of the Civilizations, by George Lynch, China and the Powers, by H. C. Thomson, and The Siege of Pekin Legations, by the Rev. Roland Allen, M. A.



Well, Rex, how do you think you will like school?

I don?t know very much about it yet, Uncle. You told me that I was to expect to be bothered and bullied a bit just at first, but it was not so bad as I supposed. I was asked a lot of questions, and when I said I had been taken to China when I was a year old and lived there ever since, they gave me the nickname of the Heathen Chinee at once. Of course I did not mind that at all. You told me that probably they would give me a nickname of some sort, and that was just as good as another. Anyhow, after the first two days they let me alone. I came off better than some of the other new boys, who got out of temper to begin with; so I expect it is all over as far as I am concerned now.

I expect so, Rex.

The boy who takes things goodtemperedly is soon left alone.

The speakers were Mr. Bateman and his nephew Reginald, who was always known as Rex. They had landed at Southampton a month before. Mr. Bateman, who was a member of a firm of merchants at Tientsin, had returned to England to take up the management of the London house, the senior partner having died. Rex was the son of James, the younger brother of the two remaining partners. As soon as it had been arranged that the elder brother should return to England, it was agreed that he should take Rex with him. It had for some time been a settled thing that the boy should come home for three or four years in order to associate with English boys and learn their ways, and at the end of that time should return to China and begin to learn the business. Robert, now the chief partner, was unmarried, and as it was therefore probable that Rex would some day become in turn the head of the firm, both his father and uncle were anxious that he should be prepared as far as possible for that position.

Rex would have been sent over sooner had they not been afraid that he might altogether forget Chinese, which he now spoke as well as English. From his early childhood he had been principally under the charge of a Chinaman named Ah Lo, who had been chosen from among the Chinese servants for that post. Ah Lo had at that time been a strong young fellow of eighteen years of age, intelligent and goodtempered. He was the son of the native storekeeper, and the child had taken to him. The choice had been a good one. The lad had watched over his charge with the care of a woman. He regarded it as a great honour to have been chosen for the post, and was never so happy as when he took the child out, perched on his shoulder, or rowed him about in a sampan. As he grew up Rex had to spend half of his time at his books, and his mother kept him a good deal with her, as it was as necessary that he should speak English perfectly, and receive the usual education, as that he should speak Chinese perfectly. And then, when it was decided that his uncle should return to England, it was at once agreed that Rex should accompany him.

I should be glad, his father said, if he could go to a great public school, and then to one of the universities; but there are two objections to that course. In the first place, when he was finished he would be less inclined to settle down to office work here; and in the second place, he would entirely forget Chinese. He might pick it up again, but he would never come to speak it like a native an accomplishment which would unquestionably be a very great advantage to him in many ways. You and I, Robert, can get on fairly well, but we help our Chinese largely with pidgin English, and often feel the disadvantage of not being able to talk fluently to the people in their own language. Of course I quite agree with you that it is necessary for Rex to mix with English boys of his own age, and become in all respects like them, but I am sorry to think that in four years he will have lost a great deal of his Chinese.

I have been thinking of that too, James, and my idea is that it would be a good thing to take Ah Lo to England with us. He is very much attached to the boy, and the boy to him.

Yes, the other said doubtfully, that is so; but it would not be possible to have Ah Lo with him when he is at school.

Quite impossible, James; the boy?s life, even if it could be managed, would be made a burden to him. No, I should propose that Ah Lo should remain with me. He is a useful fellow in many respects, and when Rex is engaged with his lessons, he, like most of his countrymen, can turn his hand to anything. My idea is that we arrange with the master of the school to let Rex off two afternoons and evenings in the week. He could then meet Ah Lo at the railwaystation, or at some other place a little distance from the school, and could go out for walks with him, and if there is a river, go on the water, or make an excursion by rail. In that way, as they would be together for five or six hours twice a week, Rex could keep up his Chinese. Of course I should choose some school within a reasonable distance of London. I shall probably take a house eight or ten miles out of town, near Surbiton, or somewhere in that direction. We have agreed that Rex cannot go to one of the great public schools, as, although perhaps better read in English literature and history than most boys of his age, he is backward in Latin and mathematics. Still, I could find some good school, say within ten or fifteen miles of my house. Moreover, the plan I suggest could not be carried out at a public school. It would not be permissible, at such an institution, for boys to break through the ordinary routine, but I have no doubt that I could make the arrangement I propose at what you may call a good school, other than Harrow, or Eton, or Winchester.

It would certainly be a capital plan, Robert.

Of course I should see that his offdays were not the halfholidays, because we want him to learn to play cricket and football, and he would be out of it altogether if he were to lose the halfholidays. I see no reason why the plan should not be carried out. In that way he would keep up the language, and at the same time would take part in the games played in the school. In winter I should arrange for the use of a comfortable room in the town, where they could sit and talk. I shall let Ah Lo wear his native clothes, if he likes, at my place; but when he goes to meet Rex I shall put him into European costume and make him twist his pigtail up and hide it under his hat. If any of Rex?s school chums were to see the boy about with a Chinaman, he would never hear the end of it.

On his arrival in England Mr. Bateman had taken a furnished house near Surbiton, and had made the arrangements he wished for Rex at a large school near the river, some fifteen miles away. Rex had now returned at the end of his first fortnight. He was soon at home in his new life, and ere long became very popular among the boys of his own age. His good temper was unfailing, for although at first he was somewhat awkward in the games, he very speedily picked them up. As usual with new boys, he had one or two fights, and came out of them fairly well. Several of the boys learned boxing from a sergeant in the Guards, who came down from Windsor twice a week to teach them. Hex asked that he might be allowed to take lessons, and his uncle readily agreed.

Certainly you may do so, Rex, and I am glad to find that you have the opportunity of learning how to use your hands. It is a valuable accomplishment for anyone, for it develops selfreliance and quickness of eye, strengthens the muscles, and improves the figure and carriage, and besides, it enables a man to hold his own in any circumstances; lastly, it is of special benefit to anyone living abroad and liable to aggression or insult. An Englishman who can box well is a match for any two foreigners knowing nothing of the art, and need not fear the attack of any one man unless he is carrying firearms. I intended to propose that you should take lessons in the holidays, but as you can do so at school, by all means begin at once. Keep regularly at it, and the last year before you go back to China you shall have lessons from one of the best masters I can find.

Rex found himself very backward, so he set to work hard to repair his deficiencies, and had the satisfaction, at the end of the first term, of getting a remove into a higher form, where the boys were for the most part about his own age. At first many questions had been asked as to the reason why he was allowed to get off school two afternoons in the week; and when he said that as he would return to China when he left school, it was necessary that he should keep up a knowledge of the language, there was a good deal of amusement. Once or twice in his walks with Ah Lo he came across some of the boys, who were fond of hunting for plants or insects, and he was a good deal chaffed at Ah Lo?s appearance.

I thought he would have been dressed in Chinese clothes, said one of his friends, with little turnuptoe shoes, and a skullcap with a peacock?s feather in it, but he is really quite an ordinarylooking chap. He is a big fellow, and of course of a yellowishbrown complexion, with queerlyshaped eyes, which make him look as if he squinted; but he seems very goodnatured.

He has got a pigtail, but he wears it under his coat, said another.

I should think that he would be an awkward customer in a tussle. I had no idea the Chinese were such big fellows, Bateman.

They differ in height in some of the Provinces, but a great many of them are tall, and very strong. You should see them loading a ship or carrying things through the streets. They can carry a good deal heavier weight than most English sailors. They are generally very goodtempered, but they get into a tremendous state of excitement sometimes, and holla and shout at each other so, that you would think they would tear each other to pieces; but it is not often that they really come to blows.

At the beginning of the next term Ah Lo distinguished himself. He had been for a long walk up the riverbank with Rex, when they saw three of the boys of the school rowing. A barge was coming down, towed by a horse. There was plenty of room inside for the boat to pass, and the rope was trailing in the water, but just as they were about to row over it the man who was riding the horse suddenly quickened his pace. The rope immediately tightened, and catching the bow of the boat turned it over, throwing the boys into the water. The driver and a bargee, who was walking on the bank near them, burst into shouts of loud laughter. The boys could all swim, and as the overturned boat was but twelve yards from the bank, they soon clambered up. They at once made for the driver and furiously accused him of upsetting them on purpose. The fellows laughed boisterously, and the boys, losing their tempers, made a rush towards them. At this moment Ah Lo and Rex arrived on the scene. They had witnessed the whole affair, and had run up. The Chinaman, without hesitation, brought his stick down on the head of the driver of the horse, levelling him to the ground, but breaking the weapon in his hand. The bargee made a sudden rush. Ah Lo had no idea of fighting, but with a wild shout he threw himself upon the man, striking, shouting, scratching, and kicking.

The bargee was taken wholly by surprise at such a novel assault, and stepped farther and farther back till Ah Lo, seeing his opportunity, clasped him by the waist and hurled him into the river.

You bery bad man, he exclaimed, to strikee lillee boy! You upsettee piecee boat; you comee out Ah Lo breakie you head.

The bargee stood with the water up to his waist. He did not like the look of this strange adversary, who had, moreover, allies in the shape of four boys, all of whom were evidently prepared to take their part in the fray.

Tompkins, Rex said, you might as well swim in and get those two oars that have drifted down. You cannot be wetter than you are, and if these fellows want any more the oars would come in wonderfully handy.

Now then, shouted the bargee with a string of the strongest possible language, how long are you going to keep me standing here, and my mate alying there with his brains half knocked out?

He is all right, Rex said; he will come round soon without your help, I dare say. He will have a lump on his head tomorrow, but he will be no worse. I don?t think he will try to tighten the rope and upset another boat. As soon as we get the oars you can come ashore, if you like, and see to him.

In a minute or two Tompkins landed with the two oars. Rex gave one of them to Ah Lo, and took the other himself. The Chinaman swung it round his head like a windmill, and then nodded with a satisfied air.

Now the sooner you three get the boat ashore and turn her over the better, Rex said. There is no fear of this fellow interfering with us again. Now you can come ashore, bargee, and look after your horse. In another minute the rope will pull him into the river if you don?t mind.

The man came out with a growl, and then went to the horse and, taking him by the head, led him up along the bank until the stream drifted the barge alongside. By this time his companion had sat up and was looking round in a bewildered way.

You just sit where you are, Rex said, unless you want another crack on the head worse than the first. Your mate is getting the barge alongside. It does not always pay, you see, to play tricks on boys.

They waited until the others had got the water emptied out of the boat and put into the river again. The oars were then handed in to them and they started down the river, Rex and Ah Lo walking quietly down the path. The bargee scowled at them as they passed him, but the specimen he had had of the Chinaman?s strength deterred him from making any outward demonstration.

You did that splendidly, Ah Lo, Rex said. I had no idea that you were so tremendously strong. The way you chucked him into the river astounded me as much as it did him.

He was a bad man, the Chinaman said quietly. What he want to upset boat for?

He will be cautious how he tries again, Rex laughed, unless he sees that the towingpath is quite clear of anyone who might interfere.

Hitherto Rex had been a good deal chaffed by the boys about this Chinaman, but from this time forward Ah Lo was always spoken of with respect; and indeed a subscription was got up to present him with a handsome silvermounted stick in place of the one he had broken. There was general satisfaction at the defeat of the bargee, for it was not the first time that boats had been purposely upset, and there was a standing feud between the boys and these bullies of the river.

It cannot be said that Rex was in any way distinguished in his progress with his studies. He was on the modern side of the school, for his uncle did not wish him to waste his time in learning Latin and Greek, which could be of no possible use to him in a career in China. In his English subjects he made fair progress, and maintained a good, though by no means a high, position in his form. In all sports, however, he took a prominent place among the boys of his own age. Accustomed to take swimming exercise daily, he was, when fifteen, the fastest swimmer in the school. He won several prizes in the athletic sports, and had a good chance of getting into the second eleven at cricket. It was considered certain, too, that he would have a place in the second football team. Before he left, at sixteen, he had gained both these objects of his ambition, and it was generally considered that he might even win a place in the first football team in the following season.

You would be light for it, the captain said, but you are so fast and active that you would be more useful than many of the fellows who are a good deal heavier than you are.

I am sorry I am not going to return after this term, but my time is up. I have been nearly four years away from my people now, and I shall be glad to be at work.

I suppose it is not a bad life out there?

Not at all. Of course it is hot, but one is indoors most of the day, and they do all they can to make the houses cool. The office shuts up early. After that one takes a bath and puts on flannels, and goes for a ride or a row on the river. Of course I could not do much that way then, but I have been so much on the water here that it will be much jollier now.

I suppose you don?t have much to do with the Chinese?

They work as porters and that sort of thing, but otherwise we do not see much of them. The native town is quite separate from the British portion, and it is not often that Europeans enter it. I expect that they do so even more seldom now, for my father?s last letter tells me that there is a general feeling of disquiet, and that letters from missionaries up the country say the same thing. But our officials at Pekin do not seem to be at all uneasy. My father says that you might as well try to drive a wooden peg into a stone as to get the officials at Pekin to believe anything that they don?t want to believe. That is one reason why I want to be off as soon as I can, for if things look more serious my father might write and say that I had better stay here for a time to see how matters turn out, and naturally if there is a row I should not like to miss it.

It would be very hard, the other said approvingly, if there was a row and you were kept out of it. Of course it would be soon over, the Chinese would never stand against European troops.

I don?t suppose they would, Milton; but they are plucky enough in their way, and they are not a bit afraid of death. My uncle says that he hears they have got no end of rifles and guns good ones, you know; not the old gimcrack ones they used to have.

Look how the Japs thrashed them, Bateman.

Yes, but it was from no want of pluck on the part of the Chinese. The Japs were well disciplined, while the Chinese had no discipline at all. Besides, what was worse, they had no officers worth anything. All appointments there are given by exams, and as everyone who is not an ass knows, a fellow who is awfully good at books may be no good whatever as a soldier. Look at our sixth form. Why, among the captains and monitors, how many of them would make an officer? Peebles is shortsighted, Johnstone is lame, and there is not one of them who is any good at football or cricket; while many fellows who are not so high would make infinitely better officers. Well, it is like that with everything in China. The great thing there is for a man to acquire what is called a classical style something the same, you know, as Cicero writes in and Demosthenes talked. The Romans and Greeks were both pretty longheaded, but they never thought of appointing either of these men as generals in the field. Why, look at our head; he is chokefull of learning. Well, if he had lived in China he would have been made either an admiral or a general. Just fancy him with his spectacles, a skullcap with a peacock?s feather, and flowing robes, peering vaguely about him on the lookout for an enemy. How can you expect fellows to fight who are officered by men of that sort?

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