Project Gutenberg's Real Soldiers of Fortune, by Richard Harding Davis

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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

of him.
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

of Portugal.
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

days passed.
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


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

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