It must have been after midnight when we shoved off and got afloat. Neither of my companions were experts with an oar, and could render me very little aid; moreover, Chinese oars, like Chinese belongings altogether, are very unlike anything else in the world and need some practice to use. We were, however, close to the entrance of the port, which being defended by torpedoes and mines, we ran little risk of encountering Japanese vessels, although the submarine dangers threatened us as well, if we strayed from the deep-water channel in the dark. We got on in safety, though very slowly, and another two hours had been consumed before we were through.
What to do next I had no fixed idea. One thing, however, was assured, that it was certain death to stay in Port Arthur, and that our only chance, slender as it seemed at best, consisted in getting as far away as possible. I resolved, after some consideration, to hold on south round the extremity of the Peninsula.
In the seaward forts above us we could discern no signs of activity, and only a light here and there, far out on the misty expanse of waters, showed the position of the Japanese war-vessels, which had an easy job of it as far as Port Arthur was concerned. The weather, though so bitterly cold, was far from stormy, yet the difficulty of rowing was increased naturally when we got out into the heavier waters of the sea. So unpromising in fact did our situation look, that I began to reflect whether it would not be better to stay about the mouth of the harbour, and allow ourselves to be taken by some Japanese ship, than wander off I knew not where, probably in the end to perish of starvation. Luck decided the point. We had painfully made a couple of miles from the estuary of the harbour, when we came upon a large junk stranded on a sand-bank. There were no lights showing on board her; in the obscurity we could see nobody; yet she did not look like a wreck, and at first we did not know what to make of it. After a consultation, it was decided to fire a shot from the rifle and see what it would lead to. No sooner had the report rung out, than there was a bustle and stir on the vessel’s decks, which appeared suddenly to swarm with men, and became illuminated by lanterns. I told Chung to hail. He did so, and a voice replied in Chinese. We drew close abreast, and my companions held a parley with those on board. Our situation explained we were permitted to ascend.