Kobo: A Story of the Russo-Japanese War

Kobo: A Story of the Russo-Japanese War

Herbert Strang
Herbert Strang

Author: Strang, Herbert
Russo-Japanese War
1904-1905 — Juvenile fiction
Kobo: A Story of the Russo-Japanese War


A Story of the Russo-Japanese War




Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.



27 AND 29 WEST 230 ST.






“Oh! it is easy to cross the Yalu river.”

Japanese War Song.

My dear Ralph,

Last year, I remember, you were a little reproachful
because I sent “Tom Burnaby” to Jack at Harrow, and I
made you a half promise that possibly at some future date
you Taylorians should not be forgotten. I am better than
my word. Here is a book—too late for your birthday, but
in time for Christmas—which I hope will meet with your
good favour.

It is now nearly ten years since, on one of the bridges in
Osaka, I watched a battalion of the Imperial Guards marching
to the China war. The Chinese had been driven across
the Yalu and hustled through Manchuria; the Guards were
to assist in carrying the war, if necessary, to the walls of
Pekin. There was something in the bearing of those short,
sturdy, alert little soldiers to arrest the attention and give
food for thought. They had all the purposeful air of our
own Gurkhas, with a look of keener intelligence, and a joyous
eagerness that thrilled the observer.

In the China war the Japanese were for the first time
measuring their strength. It was merely practice for the
great struggle with the Colossus of the North which all
knew to be inevitable, however long delayed. The humbling
of China cost Japan little real effort, and we in this country
hardly realized all that was at stake when European diplomacy
robbed the victor of the fruits of victory. The part of
Great Britain at that period was regarded, perhaps justly,
by the Japanese as something less than that of the warm
friend and well-wisher she was supposed to be. Yet, in
common with other English visitors to their country, I never
met with aught but perfect courtesy and smiling hospitality.
The politeness and self-restraint of the people, and their
extraordinary military promise, were among my strongest
impressions of Japan. How completely they have been
justified the history of the past ten years and of the
present struggle has shown.

Yours very sincerely,


Michaelmas Day, 1904.


Chapter I

A Mere Chinaman

Chapter II

Rokuro Kobo San

Chapter III

A Samurai’s Home

Chapter IV

Six to One

Chapter V

A Fleet in Action

Chapter VI


Chapter VII

The Battle of the Destroyers

Chapter VIII

Cut Off

Chapter IX

Chased by Cossacks

Chapter X

The One-Eared Man

Chapter XI

Tried and Sentenced

Chapter XII

At Midnight

Chapter XIII


Chapter XIV

Mrs. Isidore G. Pottle

Chapter XV

Fortifying the Gully

Chapter XVI

Hemmed In

Chapter XVII

A Night Reconnaissance

Chapter XVIII

Rushing a Cossack Camp

Chapter XIX

Sound and Fury

Chapter XX

Herr Schwab Gomblains

Chapter XXI

The Battle of the Yalu River

Chapter XXII

A Dumb Chinaman

Chapter XXIII

The Tiger’s Lair

Chapter XXIV

In the Enemy’s Gates

Chapter XXV


Chapter XXVI

Old Friends and New Prospects


List of Illustrations

Plate I

Koreans Receiving Cavalry . . . . . . Frontispiece

Plate II

Bob Rescues Yamaguchi

Plate III

Bob Surprises his Jailer

Plate IV

A Korean Knight-Errant

Plate V

A Question of Seconds

Map and Plan

Map of Korea and part of Manchuria

Plan of the Battle of the Yalu River


A mere Chinaman

Flotsam—A Commercial Correspondent—A Story of the Sea

The P. and O. liner Sardinia was some twenty hours
out of Shanghai, making a direct course for Nagasaki.
Few passengers were on deck: it was drear and cold
this January afternoon, the sky grey and sullen as with
coming snow, the sea rolling heavily under a stiff
north-easter that blew cuttingly through the Korea Strait. But
beneath the bridge, somewhat sheltered from the wind,
sat three figures in a group, talking earnestly. The
eldest of the three, John Morton by name, a big shaggy
Englishman of forty-five, sat enwrapped in a heavy ulster
and a travelling rug, his legs propped on a deck-chair
before him. Every few seconds a voluminous cloud of
smoke issued from his lips, and floated away like a pale
miniature copy of the vast black coil from the funnel
above. John Morton was correspondent of the
. At his left sat a round little Frenchman, with
fine-drawn moustache and neat imperial, a comforter about
his neck, a cigarette in his mouth. Armand Desjardins
was also a correspondent, representing the
. The third member of the group was much
younger than his companions. He was a tall, slim
young fellow, with bright hair and frank blue eyes, his
cheeks tanned the healthy brown of outdoor life at home
no less than by the winds of four weeks’ sea travel. The
collar of his long frieze ulster was turned up to his ears;
a low cloth cap was perched on the back of his head.
Nobody could have mistaken Bob Fawcett for anything
but a Briton.

He had just answered, smilingly, a remark of the
vivacious little Frenchman, when the attention of the
group was attracted by the quarter-master clambering
hurriedly up the ladder to the bridge, the ship’s biggest
telescope under his arm. He handed it to the captain,
who, with the chief and third officers, was looking
intently towards a spot a few points on the port bow.
After gazing for a minute or two through the telescope,
the captain handed it without remark to the chief officer,
who looked in his turn and passed it also in silence to
the third. The three men below rose to their feet and
went to the port-rail, scanning the horizon for the object
of the officers’ curiosity. Nothing was to be seen save a
limitless expanse of dark, green billows, heaving with the

There was a short colloquy on the bridge, after which
the third officer ran down the ladder on his way aft. He
was intercepted by the little group, who raked him with
a gatling-fire of questions.

“Only a raft, or wreckage, or sea-serpent, or something,”
he said in reply. “Perhaps sea-weed.”

“But you vill examine?” said Desjardins. “De sea-serpent
is a subject of im-mense interest to de savants of
all nations.”

The officer laughed.

“Well, monsieur,” he said, “get a good glass and
you’ll have a chance of seeing for yourself; we shall pass
it within a short mile.”

By this time a speck was visible far ahead, which gradually
disclosed itself, as the vessel drew nearer, as a
half-submerged spar with a tangled mass of rigging. Bob
Fawcett and his companions had ceased to take any
interest in what appeared to be merely floating wreckage,
when they were surprised at hearing the clang of the
engine-room bell signalling successive orders. The steamer
slowed down, then with helm hard a-starboard crept up
to within a hundred yards of the object, and came to a
stop. A boat was speedily lowered, and the passengers,
drawn from below by the sudden stoppage on the high
sea, crowded into the bows, and looked on with breathless
curiosity as the third officer steered gingerly up to
the spar. It was possible now to make out a human
figure rising and falling with the heave of the sea, its
outlines half-hidden by the surrounding cordage. The
quarter-master was seen to open his huge clasp knife
and cut several strands that apparently lashed the
castaway to the mast, and the men who had supported the
inert body while this was being done lifted it gently into
the boat. The passengers heard the third officer’s voice
shout the order to give way, and in less than three
minutes the boat was being swung in upon the davits,
and the
Sardinia was again forging ahead at full speed.

The castaway, an inert, sodden, unconscious figure,
was lifted out of the boat and carried below, to be handed
over to the ship’s doctor.

“Is there any life in him?” asked Bob Fawcett, pressing
forward to the third officer.

“As dead as mutton, sir, in my belief. But we’ll do
what we can for the poor beggar.”

He passed on; and, catching a glimpse of the
castaway as he was borne down the companion-way, Bob
noticed that he had but one ear. In a few minutes the
passengers had resumed the occupations and amusements
which the incident had interrupted. The curiosity of the
most of them finally evaporated when it became known
that the figure saved from the sea was nothing more
romantic than the body of a Chinaman. Bob Fawcett
was not a sufficiently hardened traveller to take the matter
so lightly. But learning on enquiry that the doctor had
little hope of the man’s recovery, and that in any case
his resuscitation would take some time, he went back to
his companions, and found that they had been joined by
another passenger—a stranger to him. The new-comer
was a stout, brown-bearded, spectacled man, with cheeks
puffy and sallow. He leant heavily on a stick, and every
now and then rammed his soft wide-awake down upon his
head, evidently in apprehension of its being swept away
by the breeze.

“Feel better?” Bob heard Morton say as he approached.

“Ach ja!” was the reply. “I do feel better, zairtainly,
but not vell, not vell by no means.”

“You’ll be all right soon. Fawcett, let me introduce
you to Herr Schwab; don’t think you’ve met. He came
on at Shanghai, and—well, hasn’t been visible since.
My friend Mr. Fawcett—Herr Schwab.”

“Glad to meet you, sir,” said Bob, lifting his cap. The
German was a second or two behind in the salutation,
not from lack of native courtesy, but because his hand
had to skirt the limp brim of his wide-awake and come
perpendicularly on to the crown, which he raised between
finger and thumb.

“Most delighted,” he said with guttural urbanity. “I
lose much zrough my so unlucky disbosition to sea-illness;
it keep me downstair all ze time since ve leave
Shanghai. Ze loss of food, zat is nozink; it is ze
gombany. Vy, I regollect, ven first I voyage to Zanzibar it
lose me vun big order for bianofortes. At Massowa zere
come on board a Somali sheik vat vas fery musical. I
vas below—fery ill. Vat could I? Ze sheik, he buy
concertina from ze rebresentative of concertina house.
Now ze Somali, zey all blay concertina; zey might haf
blayed biano!”

“And are you in pianos now, sir?” asked Bob, smiling.

“Vell, yes, but primarily I am in literature. I haf ze
honour to rebresent ze
Düsseldörfer Tageblatt, a journal
of fery vide circulation in Werden, Kettwig, Mülheim,
Odenkolin, Grevenbroich—zobsgribtion, twenty-zree mark
fifty, payableinadvance.”

He handed Bob a card with these particulars duly set
forth, and paused as if for a reply.

“Unfortunately,” said Bob with a smile, “my screw
is payable in arrears; I’m afraid I shall have to wait a

“You say screw!” responded Herr Schwab instantly.
“I haf also ze honour to rebresent ze solid house of
Schlagintwert: ve can ship you best assorted screw f.o.b.
Hamburg at truly staggering price.”

He drew from the pocket of his ulster a sheaf of papers
and looked them rapidly through.

“No,” he murmured, “zis is botato spirit; zis is batent
mangle; zis is edition de luxe
Stones of Venice; ha! ve
haf it: best Birmingham screw. Allow me, vid gombliments.”

Bob caught Morton’s eye as he pocketed the price list,
and strenuously preserving his gravity, said:

“Thank you, sir; I shall know where to come. But
I fear that with war in the air your journey may not be

“Ah! Zere you mistake, my friend. If it is peace,
I sell botato-spirit Birmingham screw Ruskin edition de
luxe batent mangle; if it is var—zen I rebresent ze
Düsseldörfer Tageblatt; ve circulate in Werden, Kettwig,
Mülheim, Odenkolin—”

“Magnifique!” exclaimed Desjardins. “You save de
price of passage in all case. To compete vid you Germans,
it is impossible.”

Herr Schwab smiled indulgently.

“Business are business,” he said. “In peace, ze
Chinese, ze Japanese, ze Russian—zey are all vun to me.
But in var, I am instructed by my house—ach! I should
say, my journal—to agompany ze Japanese field-army.”

“By all accounts,” said Bob, “it’ll be a case of the
patent mangle and not the pen this time. A fellow in
the smoking-room has just been saying that there’s no
earthly chance of war. He had it from a native merchant
in Hong-Kong, and somehow or other they’re always the
first to scent out news.”

“No var!” exclaimed Desjardins. “Vat den shall I
do? Vat shall I write for de
Figaro! I have no

“You’ll have to write poetry,” said Morton; “geishas,
plum blossom, and that kind of thing. You’ll be all right.
But I’m helpless. Couldn’t do it to save my life; if I could,
Daily Post wouldn’t take it. Fawcett will come off best
of the lot.”

“I’m afraid not. They wouldn’t have sent for me to
help with their range-finders un

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