Frederick A. Stokes Company
The following narrative is a record of my experiences during the late memorable war between China and Japan. Without going into any detailed account of my earlier life, some few facts concerning myself are probably necessary for the better understanding of the circumstances which led up to the events here presented. It will be obvious that I can make no claim to literary skill; I have simply written down my exact and unadorned remembrance of incidents which I witnessed and took part in. Now it is all over I wonder more and more at the slightness of the hazard which suddenly placed me at such a period in so strange an experience.
I am the son of a Lancashire gentleman who accumulated considerable wealth in the cotton trade. He died when I was still a boy. I found myself, when I came of age, the possessor of upwards of L80,000. Thus I started in life as a man of fortune; but it is due to myself to say that I took prompt and effectual measures to clear myself of that invidious character. Not to mince matters needlessly, I ran through that eighty thousand pounds in something short of four years. I was not in the least “horsey”; my sphere was the gaieties of Paris and the gaming-tables of Monte Carlo—a sphere which has made short work of fortunes compared with which mine would be insignificant. The pace was fast and furious; I threw out my ballast liberally as I went along, and the harpies, male and female, who surrounded me, picked it up. Bright and fair enough was the prospect as I started on the road to ruin; gloomy the clouds that settled round me as I approached that dismal terminus. Then, when too late, I began to regret my folly. I seemed to wake as if from a dream, from a state of helpless infatuation, in which my acts were scarcely the effect of my own volition. The general out-look became decidedly uninviting.
About eleven o’clock one spring night of the year 1892, I was standing close to the railings of the Whitworth Park in my native city of Manchester, to whose dull provincial shades I had retired at the enforced close of my creditable career. I remember that I was engaged in wondering what on earth I could have done with all my money, the only tangible return for which appeared to be an intimate and peculiar knowledge of the French language and of certain undesirable phases of French life. The hour, as I have said, was late, and Moss Lane, the street in which I stood disconsolate, dark and deserted. Presently there came along towards me a man whose uncertain gait was strongly suggestive of the influence of alcohol. He stopped upon reaching me, and asked if I could direct him to Victoria Park. This is an extensive semi-private enclosure, where numbers of the plutocracy of Cottonopolis have their residences. One of its several gates is nearly opposite the spot where Moss Lane leads into Oxford Street, which fact I communicated to my questioner. To my surprise he, by way of acknowledgment, struck his hand into mine and shook it fervently.