day, and marching under cover of the darkness.
They agreed to make the attempt on the 11th of December, but on that
night the sentries did not move from the only part of the wall that was
in shadow. On the night following, at the last moment, something delayed
Churchill's companion, and he essayed the adventure alone. He writes:
"Tuesday, the 12th! Anything was better than further suspense. Again
night came. Again the dinner bell sounded. Choosing my opportunity,
I strolled across the quadrangle and secreted myself in one of the
offices. Through a chink I watched the sentries. For half an hour they
remained stolid and obstructive. Then suddenly one turned and walked up
to his comrade and they began to talk. Their backs were turned.
"I darted out of my hiding-place and ran to the wall, seized the top with
my hands and drew myself up. Twice I let myself down again in sickly
hesitation, and then with a third resolve scrambled up. The top was
flat. Lying on it, I had one parting glimpse of the sentries, still
talking, still with their backs turned, but, I repeat, still fifteen
yards away. Then I lowered myself into the adjoining garden and crouched
among the shrubs. I was free. The first step had been taken, and it was
Churchill discovered that the house into the garden of which he had so
unceremoniously introduced himself was brilliantly lighted, and that the
owner was giving a party. At one time two of the guests walked into the
garden and stood, smoking and chatting, in the path within a few yards
Thinking his companion might yet join him, for an hour he crouched in
the bushes, until from the other side of the wall he heard the voices of
his friend and of another officer.
"It's all up!" his friend whispered. Churchill coughed tentatively.
The two voices drew nearer. To confuse the sentries, should they be
listening, the one officer talked nonsense, laughed loudly, and quoted
Latin phrases, while the other, in a low and distinct voice, said:
"I cannot get out. The sentry suspects. It's all up. Can you get back
To go back was impossible. Churchill now felt that in any case he was
sure to be recaptured, and decided he would, as he expresses it, at
least have a run for his money.
"I shall go on alone," he whispered.
He heard the footsteps of his two friends move away from him across the
play yard. At the same moment he stepped boldly out into the garden and,
passing the open windows of the house, walked down the gravel path to
the street. Not five yards from the gate stood a sentry. Most of those
guarding the school-house knew him by sight, but Churchill did not turn
his head, and whether the sentry recognized him or not, he could not
For a hundred feet he walked as though on ice, inwardly shrinking as he
waited for the sharp challenge, and the rattle of the Mauser thrown to
the "Ready." His nerves were leaping, his heart in his throat, his spine
of water. And then, as he continued to advance, and still no tumult
pursued him, he quickened his pace and turned into one of the main
streets of Pretoria. The sidewalks were crowded with burghers, but no
one noticed him. This was due probably to the fact that the Boers wore
no distinctive uniform, and that with them in their commandoes were many
English Colonials who wore khaki riding breeches, and many Americans,
French, Germans, and Russians, in every fashion of semi-uniform.
If observed, Churchill was mistaken for one of these, and the very
openness of his movements saved him from suspicion.
Straight through the town he walked until he reached the suburbs, the
open veldt, and a railroad track. As he had no map or compass he knew
this must be his only guide, but he knew also that two railroads left
Pretoria, the one along which he had been captured, to Pietermaritzburg,
and the other, the one leading to the coast and freedom. Which of the
two this one was he had no idea, but he took his chance, and a hundred
yards beyond a station waited for the first outgoing train. About
midnight, a freight stopped at the station, and after it had left it and
before it had again gathered headway, Churchill swung himself up upon
it, and stretched out upon a pile of coal. Throughout the night the
train continued steadily toward the east, and so told him that it was
the one he wanted, and that he was on his way to the neutral territory
Fearing the daylight, just before the sun rose, as the train was pulling
up a steep grade, he leaped off into some bushes. All that day he lay
hidden, and the next night he walked. He made but little headway. As all
stations and bridges were guarded, he had to make long detours, and the
tropical moonlight prevented him from crossing in the open. In this way,
sleeping by day, walking by night, begging food from the Kaffirs, five
Meanwhile, his absence had been at once discovered, and, by the
Boers, every effort was being made to retake him. Telegrams giving his
description were sent along both railways, three thousand photographs
of him were distributed, each car of every train was searched, and
in different parts of the Transvaal men who resembled him were being
arrested. It was said he had escaped dressed as a woman; in the uniform
of a Transvaal policeman whom he had bribed; that he had never left
Pretoria, and that in the disguise of a waiter he was concealed in the
house of a British sympathizer. On the strength of this rumor the houses
of all suspected persons were searched.
In the Volksstem it was pointed out as a significant fact that a week
before his escape Churchill had drawn from the library Mill's "Essay on
In England and over all British South Africa the escape created as much
interest as it did in Pretoria. Because the attempt showed pluck, and
because he had outwitted the enemy, Churchill for the time became a sort
of popular hero, and to his countrymen his escape gave as much pleasure
as it was a cause of chagrin to the Boers.
But as days passed and nothing was heard of him, it was feared he
had lost himself in the Machadodorp Mountains, or had succumbed
to starvation, or, in the jungle toward the coast, to fever, and
congratulations gave way to anxiety.
The anxiety was justified, for at this time Churchill was in a very bad
way. During the month in prison he had obtained but little exercise. The
lack of food and of water, the cold by night and the terrific heat by
day, the long stumbling marches in the darkness, the mental effect upon
an extremely nervous, high-strung organization of being hunted, and of
having to hide from his fellow men, had worn him down to a condition
almost of collapse.
Even though it were neutral soil, in so exhausted a state he dared not
venture into the swamps and waste places of the Portuguese territory;
and, sick at heart as well as sick in body, he saw no choice left him
save to give himself up.
But before doing so he carefully prepared a tale which, although most
improbable, he hoped might still conceal his identity and aid him to
escape by train across the border.
One night after days of wandering he found himself on the outskirts of
a little village near the boundary line of the Transvaal and Portuguese
territory. Utterly unable to proceed further, he crawled to the nearest
zinc-roofed shack, and, fully prepared to surrender, knocked at the
door. It was opened by a rough-looking, bearded giant, the first white
man to whom in many days Churchill had dared address himself.
To him, without hope, he feebly stammered forth the speech he had
rehearsed. The man listened with every outward mark of disbelief. At
Churchill himself he stared with open suspicion. Suddenly he seized the
boy by the shoulder, drew him inside the hut, and barred the door.
"You needn't lie to me," he said. "You are Winston Churchill, and I--am
the only Englishman in this village."
The rest of the adventure was comparatively easy. The next night his
friend in need, an engineer named Howard, smuggled Churchill Into a
freight-car, and hid him under sacks of some soft merchandise.
At Komatie-Poort, the station on the border, for eighteen hours the car
in which Churchill lay concealed was left in the sun on a siding, and
before it again started it was searched, but the man who was conducting
the search lifted only the top layer of sacks, and a few minutes later
Churchill heard the hollow roar of the car as it passed over the bridge,
and knew that he was across the border.
Even then he took no chances, and for two days more lay hidden at the
bottom of the car.
When at last he arrived in Lorenzo Marques he at once sought out the
English Consul, who, after first mistaking him for a stoker from one of
the ships in the harbor, gave him a drink, a bath, and a dinner.
As good luck would have it, the _Induna_ was leaving that night for
Durban, and, escorted by a body-guard of English residents armed with
revolvers, and who were taking no chances of his recapture by the Boer
agents, he was placed safely on board. Two days later he arrived at
Durban, where he was received by the Mayor, the populace, and a brass
band playing: "Britons Never, Never, Never shall be Slaves!"
For the next month Churchill was bombarded by letters and telegrams
from every part of the globe, some invited him to command filibustering
expeditions, others sent him woollen comforters, some forwarded
photographs of himself to be signed, others photographs of themselves,
possibly to be admired, others sent poems, and some bottles of whiskey.
One admirer wrote: "My congratulations on your wonderful and glorious
deeds, which will send such a thrill of pride and enthusiasm through
Great Britain and the United States of America, that the Anglo-Saxon
race will be irresistible."
Lest so large an order as making the Anglo-Saxon race irresistible might
turn the head of a subaltern, an antiseptic cablegram was also sent him,
from London, reading:
"Best friends here hope you won't go making further ass of yourself.
One day in camp we counted up the price per word of this cablegram, and
Churchill was delighted to find that it must have cost the man who sent
it five pounds.
On the day of his arrival in Durban, with the cheers still in the air,
Churchill took the first train to "the front," then at Colenso. Another
man might have lingered. After a month's imprisonment and the hardships
of the escape, he might have been excused for delaying twenty-four hours
to taste the sweets of popularity and the flesh-pots of the Queen Hotel.
But if the reader has followed this brief biography he will know that
to have done so would have been out of the part. This characteristic of
Churchill's to get on to the next thing explains his success. He has no
time to waste on postmortems, he takes none to rest on his laurels.
As a war correspondent and officer he continued with Buller until the
relief of Ladysmith, and with Roberts until the fall of Pretoria. He
was in many actions, in all the big engagements, and came out of the war
with another medal and clasps for six battles.
On his return to London he spent the summer finishing his second book on
the war, and in October at the general election as a "khaki" candidate,
as those were called who favored the war, again stood for Oldham. This
time, with his war record to help him, he wrested from the Liberals one
of Oldham's two seats. He had been defeated by thirteen hundred votes;
he was elected by a majority of two hundred and twenty-seven.
The few months that intervened between his election and the opening of
the new Parliament were snatched by Churchill for a lecturing tour at
home, and in the United States and Canada. His subject was the war and
his escape from Pretoria.
When he came to this country half of the people here were in sympathy
with the Boers, and did not care to listen to what they supposed would
be a strictly British version of the war. His manager, without asking
permission of those whose names he advertised, organized for Churchill's
first appearance in various cities, different reception committees.
Some of those whose names, without their consent, were used for these
committees, wrote indignantly to the papers, saying that while for
Churchill, personally, they held every respect, they objected to being
used to advertise an anti-Boer demonstration.
While this was no fault of Churchill's, who, until he reached this
country knew nothing of it, it was neither for him nor for the success
of his tour the best kind of advance work.
During the fighting to relieve Ladysmith, with General Buller's force,
Churchill and I had again been together, and later when I joined the
Boer army, at the Zand River Battle, the army with which he was a
correspondent had chased the army with which I was a correspondent,
forty miles. I had been one of those who refused to act on his reception
committee, and he had come to this country with a commission from twenty
brother officers to shoot me on sight. But in his lecture he was using
the photographs I had taken of the scene of his escape, and which I had
sent him from Pretoria as a souvenir, and when he arrived I was at the
hotel to welcome him, and that same evening three hours after midnight
he came, in a blizzard, pounding at our door for food and drink. What is
a little thing like a war between friends?
During his "tour," except of hotels, parlor-cars, and "Lyceums," he saw
very little of this country or of its people, and they saw very little
of him. On the trip, which lasted about two months, he cleared ten
thousand dollars. This, to a young man almost entirely dependent for an
income upon his newspaper work and the sale of his books, nearly repaid
him for the two months of "one night stands." On his return to London he
took his seat in the new Parliament.
It was a coincidence that he entered Parliament at the same age as
did his father. With two other members, one born six days earlier than
himself, he enjoyed the distinction of being among the three youngest
members of the new House.
The fact did not seem to appall him. In the House it is a tradition that
young and ambitious members sit "below" the gangway; the more modest
and less assured are content to place themselves "above" it, at a point
farthest removed from the leaders.
On the day he was sworn in there was much curiosity to see where
Churchill would elect to sit. In his own mind there was apparently no
doubt. After he had taken the oath, signed his name, and shaken the hand
of the Speaker, without hesitation he seated himself on the bench next
to the Ministry. Ten minutes later, so a newspaper of the day describes
it, he had cocked his hat over his eyes, shoved his hands into his
trousers pockets, and was lolling back eying the veterans of the House
with critical disapproval.
His maiden speech was delivered in May, 1901, in reply to David Lloyd
George, who had attacked the conduct of British soldiers in South
Africa. Churchill defended them, and in a manner that from all sides
gained him honest admiration. In the course of the debate he produced
and read a strangely apropos letter which, fifteen years before, had
been written by his father to Lord Salisbury. His adroit use of
this filled H. W. Massingham, the editor of the _Daily News_, with
enthusiasm. Nothing in parliamentary tactics, he declared, since Mr.
Gladstone died, had been so clever. He proclaimed that Churchill would
be Premier. John Dillon, the Nationalist leader, said he never before
had seen a young man, by means of his maiden effort, spring into the
front rank of parliamentary speakers. He promised that the Irish members
would ungrudgingly testify to his ability and honesty of purpose. Among
others to at once recognize the rising star was T. P. O'Connor, himself
for many years of the parliamentary firmament one of the brightest
stars. In _M. A. P._ he wrote: "I am inclined to think that the dash of
American blood which he has from his mother has been an improvement on
the original stock, and that Mr. Winston Churchill may turn out to be a
stronger and abler politician than his father."
It was all a part of Churchill's "luck" that when he entered Parliament
the subject in debate was the conduct of the war.
Even in those first days of his career in the House, in debates where
angels feared to tread, he did not hesitate to rush in, but this subject
was one on which he spoke with knowledge. Over the older men who were
forced to quote from hearsay or from what they had read, Churchill had
the tremendous advantage of being able to protest: "You only read of
that. I was there. I saw it."
In the House he became at once one of the conspicuous and picturesque
figures, one dear to the heart of the caricaturist, and one from the
strangers' gallery most frequently pointed out. He was called "the
spoiled child of the House," and there were several distinguished
gentlemen who regretted they were forced to spare the rod. Broderick,
the Secretary for War, was one of these. Of him and of his recruits in
South Africa, Churchill spoke with the awful frankness of the _enfant
terrible_. And although he addressed them more with sorrow than with
anger, to Balfour and Chamberlain he daily administered advice and
reproof, while mere generals and field-marshals, like Kitchener and
Roberts, blushing under new titles, were held up for public reproof and
briefly but severely chastened. Nor, when he saw Lord Salisbury going
astray, did he hesitate in his duty to the country, but took the Prime
Minister by the hand and gently instructed him in the way he should go.
This did not tend to make him popular, but in spite of his unpopularity,
in his speeches against national extravagancies he made so good a fight
that he forced the Government, unwillingly, to appoint a committee to
investigate the need of economy. For a beginner this was a distinct
With Lord Hugh Cecil, Lord Percy, Ian Malcolm, and other clever young
men, he formed inside the Conservative Party a little group that in its
obstructive and independent methods was not unlike the Fourth Party of
his father. From its leader and its filibustering, guerilla-like tactics
the men who composed it were nicknamed the "Hughligans." The Hughligans
were the most active critics of the Ministry and of all in their own
party, and as members of the Free Food League they bitterly attacked
the fiscal proposals of Mr. Chamberlain. When Balfour made Chamberlain's
fight for fair trade, or for what virtually was protection, a measure
of the Conservatives, the lines of party began to break, and men were no
longer Conservatives or Liberals, but Protectionists or Free Traders.
Against this Churchill daily protested, against Chamberlain, against his
plan, against that plan being adopted by the Tory Party. By tradition,
by inheritance, by instinct, Churchill was a Tory.
"I am a Tory," he said, "and I have as much right in the party as has
anybody else, certainly as much as certain people from Birmingham. They
can't turn us out, and we, the Tory Free Traders, have as much right
to dictate the policy of the Conservative Party as have any reactionary
Fair Traders." In 1904 the Conservative Party already recognized
Churchill as one working outside the breastworks. Just before the Easter
vacation of that year, when he rose to speak a remarkable demonstration
was made against him by his Unionist colleagues, all of them rising and
leaving the House.
To the Liberals who remained to hear him he stated that if to his
constituents his opinions were obnoxious, he was ready to resign his
seat. It then was evident he would go over to the Liberal Party. Some
thought he foresaw which way the tidal wave was coming, and to being
slapped down on the beach and buried in the sand, he preferred to be
swept forward on its crest. Others believed he left the Conservatives
because he could not honestly stomach the taxed food offered by Mr.
In any event, if he were to be blamed for changing from one party to
the other, he was only following the distinguished example set him by
Gladstone, Disraeli, Harcourt, and his own father.
It was at the time of this change that he was called "the best hated
man in England," but the Liberals welcomed him gladly, and the National
Liberal Club paid him the rare compliment of giving in his honor a
banquet. There were present two hundred members. Up to that time this
dinner was the most marked testimony to his importance in the political
world. It was about then, a year since, that he prophesied: "Within
nine months there will come such a tide and deluge as will sweep through
England and Scotland, and completely wash out and effect a much-needed
spring cleaning in Downing Street."
When the deluge came, at Manchester, Mr. Balfour was defeated, and
Churchill was victorious, and when the new Government was formed the
tidal wave landed Churchill in the office of Under-Secretary for the
While this is being written the English papers say that within a
month he again will be promoted. For this young man of thirty the only
promotion remaining is a position in the Cabinet, in which august body
men of fifty are considered young.
His is a picturesque career. Of any man of his few years speaking our
language, his career is probably the most picturesque. And that he is
half an American gives all of us an excuse to pretend we share in his
CAPTAIN PHILO NORTON McGIFFIN
IN the Chinese-Japanese War the battle of the Yalu was the first battle
fought between warships of modern make, and, except on paper, neither
the men who made them nor the men who fought them knew what the ships
could do, or what they might not do. For years every naval power had
been building these new engines of war, and in the battle which was to
test them the whole world was interested. But in this battle Americans
had a special interest, a human, family interest, for the reason that
one of the Chinese squadron, which was matched against some of the same