Prayer-books had been omitted in our outfit, and we were at a loss for the burial service. However, we laid our heads, or rather our memories together, and most of us being able to recollect a scrap of it here and there, we contrived to patch it up sufficiently to give our unfortunate shipmates Christian burial. I should mention that another of the wounded men died after our arrival at Tientsin, and was interred in the English cemetery. He was the man who was first hit; his name was Massinger, and he claimed to be a descendant of the dramatist. He was known on board chiefly as “Hair-oil,” from his addiction to plastering his bushy black hair with some shiny and odorous compound of that nature. Both his legs were broken by the shot that struck him.
As to my friend Webster, adorned with a black eye, he never ceased, during the remainder of the voyage, to declaim against Chubb’s foolhardiness and uphold his own proceedings on the eventful night. For his own discomfiture he sought consolation in rum, protesting that it was a miracle that any of us had survived to taste another drop of that liquid comforter.
“But I’m a houtcast,” he would wind up invariably, as his potations overcame him; “that’s where it is—who cares what a —— houtcast thinks?”
Chubb took no further notice of him than to laughingly threaten to put him under arrest for mutiny. It must not be supposed that the “houtcast’s” behaviour on the occasion in question was due to any want of courage. Escape seemed impossible; the risk of the attempt was tremendous, and I am convinced that if the matter had been left to my own judgment, I should not have dared it. But Chubb was one of those men whom nothing can daunt, and who are never more completely in their element than when running some desperate hazard.
We reached Tientsin without further mishap, and turned over our cargo to Mr. H——’s agent, who disposed of it at a handsome profit, though hardly sufficient, I thought, to warrant the risking of so valuable a ship as the Columbia. We lay in the port about a week, to effect the repairs rendered necessary by the Japanese gun practice.
At Tientsin a war council was sitting, and one morning Mr. Mac——, the agent, came on board and informed us that he had received a proposal for the Columbia to be chartered as a transport to convey troops to the Corea. It was only, he said, for an immediate special service, and the terms being exceedingly advantageous he had resolved on his own responsibility to accept the offer, as the work would not occupy us more than a few days. We were to be one of a convoy of transports which, sailing at different times from different ports, were to rendezvous in Talienwan Bay on the east coast of the Liaotung Peninsula, where the troops were to be embarked under protection of an armed squadron. There was no time to be lost, and we were to weigh anchor and make for the bay as soon as possible.