A Korean Coup d'État


To not a few of us the Anabasis of Xenophon marks one of the well-remembered emotions of our boyhood. Reflected in the bright mirror of our own youthful imagination, few pictures from the past seem to the mind’s eye so vivid as does that sight, one morning, of the long-desired Euxine, when the Grecian vanguard topped the hill. Almost as if we ourselves had been toiling up the slope, and had caught the cheer from the ranks in front, a thrill within us answered their shout : “ Thalatta ! thalatta ! ” The sea ! the sea ! We too pressed forward to the summit, to behold beside them, spread out below, the distant water, sparkling under the summer sun, till across its glittering shimmer crept, as they gazed, a mist of gathering tears, and to our own eyes, as we read, the page grew blurred.

That historic cry of so long ago in Asia Minor found an echo only the other day from the farther side of the same great continent. The heart-felt hail that had greeted the Black Sea in the far past greeted the Yellow Sea yesterday. The couleur locale, indeed, had changed, but not the action ; only the scene had shifted across Asia from its extreme western peninsula of Asia Minor to the far eastern one of Korea.

A deed was done there, fitting in its heroism and its pathos to call up the memory of its old-time prototype. Twice within thirty months a handful of Japanese fought its way from Söul to the sea. Twice within a period so short that the report of the one brave deed seems to span the interval to the other, a little band, after ably defending itself against a sudden, unexpected attack, cut its way out from the heart of a great city bent on its annihilation, marched a long day’s journey through a hostile land, and then, at last, like the immortal ten thousand, descried from a hill the goal of its hope, the ocean. The first march took place in July, 1882 ; the second, in December, 1884. The one was made in the dust and heat of summer, the other through the ice and snow of a winter as bitter as our own. Although it is of the second that I would tell the story, a word concerning the first retreat and of the causes that compelled it, is necessary to explain a situation as anomalous as its solution was grand.

Japan is related to Korea both geographically and ethnologically, much as England is to France. Not unnaturally, there has been little love lost in the strait between the two. Too near of kin and too close of country not to fight, a spirit, half of quarrel, half of quest, has constantly pushed the one nation to invade the kingdom of the other. These invasions have always been in one direction, — from the islands to the peninsula.

The first instance of which we read occurred about the beginning of the third century of our era. The warlike Japanese empress, Jingu, suddenly felt herself inspired by the gods with the idea of conquering Korea, of whose existence this was the first intimation to the insular mind. Wishing to assure herself of the trustworthiness of the inspiration, she devised the following test. She baited a hook with a grain of boiled rice, betook herself to the beach, threw in her line, and — caught a fish. From so signal a proof of her ability to catch fish, she argued a corresponding power to catch men, and her reasoning proved correct. Korea capitulated at sight, and in return for the unexpected international visit sent a peaceful invasion of learning to the hitherto illiterate islanders. Thus letters first reached Japan.

The second conquest was the work of Hideyoshi. Flushed with the success of his civil wars, he bethought him of subduing China. To this end he imperiously summoned Korea to become his vanguard. She declined the position. Poor Korea found herself placed in a most awkward predicament. Whichever side she took, she was sure to suffer from the other. However, as personally she preferred China, she refused to join Japan, and notified the Middle Kingdom of her neighbor’s intention. Hideyoshi at once began his preparations for an invasion on a truly magnificent scale. During the year 1591 men and ships in great numbers collected at a point on the western coast of Japan, opposite Korea, and in the early months of 1592 the superb flotilla set sail for Fusan. The history of the expedition is simply the itinerary of one long triumphal march. Nor did the effects of it vanish with its immediate triumphs. Its indirect influence upon Korea has remained a blight upon the land to this day. For the destruction it wrought was not the hasty work of a few weeks, but the repeated devastations of decades. Other expeditions followed in the wake of the first, and not till thirty years from the time of their first landing did the Japanese recross for good to their own islands again. When they did at last depart, they left behind them, in the shape of the little fortress of Fusan, a standing insult, like Gibraltar, to the integral dignity of the kingdom of Korea.

But time passed ; centuries rolled by, and man’s ambitions changed. More modern motives began to find a home in the Japanese breast. Europeans had sown there the seeds of a more rational, though no less engrossing, greed, — the wish for the usufruct in place of the pride of possession. The Japanese began to care more to reap the fruit of other people’s lands, and less to own their soil. Trade, money, had elbowed aside the endeavor for empty-handed empire. The imitativeness of their character had made the Japanese quick to absorb many foreign ideas, and they displayed the proverbial enthusiasm of recent converts. Hardly had they entered the great brotherhood of nations than they grew anxious that Korea should follow in their footsteps, and they proposed to show her the way. They astutely foresaw much profit from this position of cicerone. Korea, on her part, evinced no such inclination to become like other people. She ignorantly preferred to remain herself. But she was not given the choice. The silent might of menace accomplished what arms had brought about before. In 1876 Japan forced Korea to make a treaty with her, by which the former power was granted admission to certain treaty-ports; and by a second treaty in 1880 she gained admittance to the capital, Söul. There she established a legation ; as different, however, from the peaceable institution we usually understand by the term as the mode of establishing it had been uncommon. It was a little armed colony, stationed alone in the midst of a hostile land. To the legation proper was attached a force of soldiers to defend it in case of danger, and guards were kept posted night and day. For it was completely cut off from Japan. It might have been wiped out of existence, and for weeks no one at home would have been the wiser.

Nor was this event so very improbable. The position of the Japanese in Söul, as they themselves were well aware, was none too secure. To the ranklings of inherited hate their presence added a continual goad of irritation by forcing the Koreans to witness the long-dreaded innovation upon their own fossilized civilization. The Japanese seemed the dire harbingers of change. Dozing Korea felt about as kindly disposed toward these ruthless disturbers of her time-honored slumber as the sluggard does toward the man who would compel him to get up.

At first, indeed, such precautions against extermination appeared unnecessary enough. Two years passed by, and yet nothing had happened to justify them. To be sure, the members of the legation were not exactly popular with the Korean people. So much was only too painfully apparent. They were invariably avoided, and occasionally insulted in the streets. Sometimes they were pelted with epithets, sometimes with stones. Still, nothing serious had taken place or seemed likely to occur, till, suddenly, like the earthquakes of their native land, the upheaval was the first warning. One day a Japanese student interpreter was cut down in the street, and an hour later a mob was storming the legation compound. Foiled in its attempt to gain possession of the buildings, the crowd next tried to set them on fire, and partially succeeded. To defend the place long, with the small force at his command, being quite out of the question, the minister, Hanabusa, decided to march to the palace, demand redress of the government, and claim its protection. Issuing in a compact body from the gate, the Japanese marched boldly across the city, amid as much molestation as the Koreans dared offer, only to find, at the end of their long tramp, the palace gates bolted against them. The blow was staggering. The government, then, was privy to the attack, or, if not absolutely their foe, at least too timid to stand their friend. Thus deserted and a prey to overwhelming numbers, their only hope lay in striking for the seacoast, and thence, if, haply, they should succeed in reaching it, escape, as best they might, to Japan. The order was given the soldiers to march to the sea. For the second time they filed through the narrow, crooked streets, harassed at every turn by the populace, till finally they reached one of the city gates. Fortunately, they found it open. They passed through it, traversed in one long, running fight the mile and a half of suburbs that separate the city from the river Han, and found themselves at last at the ferry; the river in front, the foe behind. Keeping the enemy at bay, they succeeded in impressing some boats, and crossed the Han, the Koreans following them. From the ferry it is a distance of twenty-five miles to Inchön. Along this stretch they plodded wearily, constantly a target for fresh attacks, until late at night they reached the protecting shelter of the magistracy. Lulled into a dangerous security by the friendly bearing of the magistrate, and utterly tired out, they hastily posted guards, and fell off in sleep. They were awakened by an onslaught so sudden that the guards had not time to warn their comrades, and several of their number were killed before they could make good their retreat to the sea-shore. There they laid hands upon a small, unseaworthy fishing boat, — for the Koreans are not a maritime race, — and put to sea, in the forlorn hope of being picked up by an English man-of-war, which they knew to be cruising somewhere off the coast. After tossing about on the Yellow Sea for thirty - six hours, they fortunately fell in with her, were taken on board, and carried to Japan.

At the tale they told all Japan rose like one man. Masses volunteered for the approaching service, and money poured in from all sides to defray the cost of the coming war. Within a month the minister returned to Chemulpo, backed by a Japanese man-ofwar, to demand reparation for the outrage. At the same time, four Chinese war vessels had, with a celerity anything but Chinese, appeared off the port of Inchon. With a suitable guard, Hanabusa proceeded to the capital. The Koreans temporized, with their usual failure to realize consequences. Hanabusa retired to the sea-coast ; whereupon the Chinese general landed his forces, marched up to the capital, kidnapped the king, — or, rather, the regent, the Te Wan Kun, who had usurped the office, — and carried him off to inglorious retirement in China, where he remained till 1885.

War with Japan, which otherwise would inevitably have resulted, was averted. Before long the Japanese legation was again established in Söul, and matters returned once more to their old footing. Nothing remained to mark the past but the ruined walls of the old legation compound, and the little plain grave-stones in the grass on the bare hillock by the sea. There, near Chemulpo, lay buried the Japanese dead. But the old-time hatred was not dead ; it lived sullenly on. Still, for the space of two years and a half, the volcano of Korean government slumbered.

Meanwhile, many Japanese merchants came straggling over to the mushroom treaty-ports, and at last began to open shops in hitherto secluded Söul. The feeling between the two nations seemed daily to be growing better. The Japanese were no longer gratuitously insulted by the populace, and the more liberal party in Korean affairs was doing its utmost to open the mind of the country to the consciousness of a world around it. Besides, the Japanese had ceased to be the sole foreigners in Söul. In 1882 Admiral Shufeldt had succeeded in framing, in behalf of the United States, a treaty with Korea, and in May, 1883, General Foote, appointed American minister at the Korean court, arrived with the ratifications. England and Germany followed suit. In November of that year the treaty with Great Britain was signed in the capital by Sir Harry Parkes, and the German treaty was concluded at the same time. These international events were an era in Korean official life. Simple Söul was waked from its long trance by the sound of foreign music, for a naval band had been brought up from the German manof-war to heighten the hilarity of the occasion; and then, after a round of hitherto unheard-of festivities the diplomats departed. Sir Harry Parkes returned to Pekin, where he had his official residence as minister both to China and Korea; Mr. Aston having been appointed, as consul-general to Korea, to represent him in Söul. In the spring of 1884 Mr. Aston arrived, followed in the course of the summer by the German consul.

Besides these representatives of foreign powers, there was another German living in the city, in the more intimate capacity of a Korean official. Herr von Möllendorff’s career is quite worthy a place in the old Arabian Nights. Sent over, originally, by Li Hung Chang, Viceroy of Shanghai, at the request of the Korean government for some one to organize for it a customs service, he had been invested with one office after another, until he had become one of the great powers of the state. His position varied at times in most becomingly romantic fashion ; now his influence was enormous, and anon he was in disgrace. There were also a few other foreigners, temporarily in the capital for purposes of business. Such was the handful of white men living in Söul, in December, 1884, when the occurrences began which I am about to describe.

The foreigners were indeed few in number, but they were, in virtue of their position, marked men. They were there to represent foreign powers, and any harm to them meant trouble with their respective countries. Even Korea could not be blind to the wisdom of respecting their persons. They were thus mutually guarantees of safety to one another. What had happened before to the Japanese in 1882 was hardly likely to happen again. An assassination of foreigners, from such simple directness of purpose, was no longer probable. That such a result might indirectly be brought about was still possible, for it happened.

The old barrier of Korean exclusiveness had never been completely broken down. The opening of the hermit land was the result of no national movement. The king, indeed, had been in favor of it, but of the official class who constitute the country only a portion had spontaneously desired the change; the persistence of the other contracting parties had been the chief cause of their success. The first step in the new direction had entailed others, and the feeling of the defeated officials had in consequence grown all the more bitter. Hence the enforced opening of the country, subordinating, as it necessarily did, all minor differences of policy, had given rise to two new, all-embracing and allengrossing, antagonistic parties. These two parties were named by the Japanese the progressionists and the seclusionists, names which, if slightly cumbrous in use, are at least self-explanatory.

Just as the first paralyzing excitement of the new condition of things was wearing off, and the conservative officials were awaking to the full import of their situation, the various progressionist leaders, who had been dispatched abroad for one reason or another, began to reappear on the scene, fairly intoxicated with their newly acquired ideas. The greater part of the mission to America, headed by Hong Yöng Sik, reached Korea in December, 1883. Min Yöng Ik, his senior colleague, who had accepted an invitation to return in the American man-of-war, the Trenton, arrived in May, 1884; and in June Kim Ok Kyun, perhaps the ablest and most daring spirit among the progressionist leaders, came back from Japan, where he had been living very agreeably for over a year, vainly trying to negotiate a foreign loan. With Min came home another of the chief promoters of the progressionist party, Syö Kwang Pöm. Min himself was a young man of pleasing manners and gracious address, still in the early twenties, whose ruling idea was to see everything and be seen by everybody in truly princely fashion. He had been court favorite at home, and while abroad had fairly reveled in the honors and delights of diplomatic traveling. He spent a few days in Paris, on his journey back, and there, through a happy adaptability of his name, had been felicitously known as Mignon. He had formerly been accounted a progressionist, but on his return it became evident that all he desired was effect, and that he had no intention whatever really of opening his country to the world. What had most impressed him in his foreign travels were the various armies he had seen ; perhaps because Korea has always been peculiarly wanting in this respect. As soon, therefore, as he reached home, he set himself to organize what he was pleased to call a militia. For this purpose, he caused to assemble in Söul members of the peddlers’ and hucksters’ guilds to the number of several thousands. These guilds are made up of men from the lowest classes of the people, and the particular specimens selected for the new militia were no better than the refuse of the populace. Quite unfit for discipline by nature, they submitted to very little authority after they had been got together. Bands of these braves wandered at will over the city, doing pretty much as they pleased, and making themselves very objectionable. Thus, during that summer and autumn, the situation was steadily being strained. At last the catastrophe came.

It was the progressionists who struck the blow. Startling and unprovoked as their action appeared, there is reason to suspect it to have been less gratuitous than it seemed. If the progressionists had not seized the reins of government, the seclusionists would soon have had everything their own way. One fact especially is significant. The so-called militia was anything but a guarantee of peace. The ruff-scuff enrolled by that name were far too degraded to sympathize with change. They were entirely at the beck of the seclusionist party, and only too ready at any moment to become its tools. Such would undoubtedly have been the first service required of them. The progressionists had, therefore, the choice of waiting to be crushed, or of delivering an attack themselves, with some chance of success. They adopted the alternative.

Power being in the hands of their opponents, the liberal leaders resolved upon a coup d’état. They laid their plans with some cleverness and in complete secrecy from the seclusionists, who up to the very moment that the blow was struck apparently suspected nothing. To succeed, they reasoned, their action must seem necessary, and to give a show of necessity to their official revolution it was important that some disturbance should first take place. To this end they devised a scheme as ingenuous in appearance as it was ingenious in fact. They planned to have their chief political opponent assassinated anonymously by hired cut-throats, and in the commotion that was sure to ensue they proposed to find pretext for seizing the government themselves. They thus astutely contrived a cause which should itself be the first-fruits of a result.

An opportunity was not long in waiting upon their wish. Late in November, 1884, was completed the first postal system ever inaugurated in Korea. Though the Koreans have at no time been backward in epistolary zeal, and write one another letters some yards in length, of no mean artistic merit, they were in the habit of dispatching these poetic effusions, each man as best he could, — the rich by their servants, the poor by their friends. That the government should undertake the business of a common carrier, even for a consideration, was in their opinion wholly derogatory to the dignified occupations of office. The new function was short-lived ; the few stamps issued perished in virgin purity, unsoiled by the marks of travel. As yet, however, such premature obsoleteness was quite unforeseen. So far all promised well, and in order worthily to inaugurate the opening of the building prepared for the new department, Hong Yöng Sik, the first Korean postmastergeneral, gave a grand banquet on the fourth day of December, 1884. To this feast he invited everybody in Söul; that is, all the various Korean dignitaries, together with the few foreign ministers and consuls living in the city. Among the former was Min Yöng Ik, by this time generally recognized as the head of the seclusionist party. He it was whom the progressionists had marked for their first victim. The occasion thus furnished of itself the man. He came, utterly unsuspicious of any possible danger, and the dinner, begun betimes, rolled on, a matter of no end of courses, until it had got to be nine o’clock in the evening. By this time it had grown conveniently dark for any deviltry without, while within the guests had reached that happy state of general hilarity when an excitement is sure of producing its greatest effect. At this propitious moment the match was applied which was to fire such a terrible train of consequences. Suddenly, rising above the hubbub about the table, a confused shouting made itself heard from without, followed a moment later by the more distinct cry of “ fire.” At this timehonored sensational summons all instinctively sprang to their feet, and hurried, some of them to the front, some to the rear, of the banqueting hall, to see what they could. From the little sill-veranda, such as surrounds all Korean houses of the better sort, the startled guests discovered that a small building in their immediate neighborhood was in flames ; but as these were rapidly mastered, after a few minutes’ watching the greater part of the company returned to their seats and their own smoking. They had hardly done so when a fresh commotion started among the retainers on the outskirts of the crowded hall, and the word was passed inward that an official, on his way out during the alarm, had been attacked by assassins at the outer gate and murdered. The official, it was soon noised about, was Min Yöng Ik. The hall at once became the scene of the wildest confusion. Some of the guests rushed out to learn the truth ; others, without waiting for particulars, hastily summoned their palanquins, and set out for home; while the progressionist leaders, pretending to be terribly startled and very much alarmed for the safety of the king, proceeded as fast as they could to the palace. On the way tney gave vent to expressions of the deepest regret for what had happened to Min Yöng Ik, which were the more sincere on their part inasmuch as, instead of killing him, as they had intended, the would-be assassins had botched their work, and had succeeded only in badly wounding their victim. This regrettable miscarriage, however, was a comparatively unimportant detail. The great cause for anxiety to the progressionist leaders lay in the want of an army they could count upon to carry out their plans. In the first place, there was, properly speaking, no such thing in existence as a Korean army. The term “army” in the peninsula has for centuries been a striking instance of a name which has survived its object. The nation’s beautifully perfect record of defeat is quite unique in history, and even conservative Korea can find no precedent in her long past to justify the keeping of anything so novel as an effective force. On occasions of peculiar peril, the country has been obliged to call in the aid of the tigerhunters to eke out its own scanty fighting resources. At the period we are considering, there were, in addition to the efficient militia described above, a few troops drilled for the past eighteen months, some after the Chinese, some after the Japanese, fashion. In the second place, even this semi - disciplined handful of men could not be depended upon by the progressionist party. They had hitherto been completely under the control of the seclusionists, and were more than likely, under the slightest leadership, to side with their former officers against the new government. But much more threatening yet to the progressionist schemes, just outside the east gate lay encamped, where they had been squatting for some years, a small army of Chinese soldiers, bound by the strongest ties to seclusionist interests. For the one blind principle of the conservative party was a slavish dependence upon China. The very presence of these troops in Söul meant as much. Korea’s relation to China was at this time most peculiar. For centuries she had been a tributary of the Middle Kingdom, but when it came to be a question of her opening to the world, China began to find the connection very embarrassing. She was anxious to keep Korea shut up, yet without appearing to do so. But as the foreign diplomats pointedly put it to her, either she could dictate to Korea in the matter, or she could not. On that occasion she found it convenient to deny any such authority, but sent, nevertheless, a force of soldiers, on no very particular pretext, to domicile itself near Söul. There was, therefore, no doubt as to which side these Chinese would take if they got the chance.

In this unfortunate military predicament for men about to attempt a coup d’état, the progressionist leaders bethought them of the little Japanese force. The idea of conscripting them, as it were, into the Korean service, without their knowledge or consent, was both a forlorn hope and an inviting bit of far Eastern finesse. It seemed an inspiration; it turned out a fatality. In pursuance, then, of what they deemed their happy thought, the leaders, as soon as they had reached the royal presence, dispatched a messenger post-haste to the Japanese legation, to beg the minister to hasten to the palace with his guards, as the king was in danger and unprotected. They omitted to mention the trivial detail that they themselves were the sole cause of the danger. At the same time they proceeded to summon the seclusionist ministers by royal mandate, from a slightly different purpose, namely, to execute them one by one as fast as they should arrive. The first messenger had hardly departed for the legation when two more were hurried off after him, equipped with an autograph letter from the king. The first messenger arrived at his destination, at the other end of the city, to find the minister, Takezoye, whom a slight cold had prevented from being present at the banquet, well wrapped up in bed. Hastily dressing, however, the minister received the man in an anteroom, and was just beginning to question him when the two others, one of them a court eunuch, arrived with the autograph letter, an imposing document, duly signed and properly sealed in huge red characters by the king. This last reinforcement proved too much for the minister. With a simplicity which did more credit to his heart than to his head, he suffered himself to be overpersuaded by the entreaties of the envoys, backed by their formidable epistle, and, gathering together his little force of one hundred and twenty men, set out to cross the city. It was a fatally false move on the part of the Japanese. In the first place, the minister had no very definite idea what he was starting out to do. To him his own action was indeed very much a step in the dark. He believed the king to be in danger, — that was all; to his mind this fact sufficed. The minister was, in truth, completely duped by the revolutionists. Still, his action was not so egregious a piece of folly as it appears. His position peculiarly exposed him to deception. The wise middle course in like emergencies, of appearing to do everything without in reality doing anything, was not open to him. For to do nothing seemed here to be even more of a committal than to do what was requested of him. The fact was, his relations with the government were anomalous. He stood toward it in the double capacity of advisory friend and foreign diplomat, two irreconcilable positions. Cast suddenly, as the Korean government had been, into a wholly new sphere of action, it was but natural for it to turn, in its childlike ignorance, for advice and counsel to such strangers as came into diplomatic contact with it. It did not hesitate to abuse its privileges. Thus the minister, as friend, found himself committed to actions which the diplomat would never have sanctioned. Unfortunately, the friend and the diplomat were corporeally one.

When he had got about midway on his journey, he was met by another court official, running, who breathlessly informed him that the king had removed from his own palace to the Keiyu Kiu, and that his majesty requested the minister to proceed there instead. Accordingly, Takezoye changed the direction of his march, and, following the new guide, he and his escort were conducted to where the king had for the time being taken up his abode. The king, the queen, the heir apparent, and his consort were already there, and shortly afterward the queen dowager arrived. It was a gloomy family gathering. The king’s face lighted up, however, when he caught sight of Takezoye, and stepping out into the garden, as if he had been anxiously waiting, he welcomed the minister with great warmth, and thanked him for coming. The king was, in truth, anything but easy in mind. He was a young man, of about one and thirty, of a singularly sweet disposition, which in happy moments shone through his face in a most winning smile. Nature had intended him for a life of peaceful beneficence, and not for the moulder of a new régime ; and in this sudden crisis he felt himself sadly at a loss. His son, the heir apparent, though duly married, was still a little boy of eleven, and consequently more of a care than a companion to his father. As for the queen dowager, she was destined to be the Nemesis of the whole affair.

At the time Takezoye arrived, the Korean general, Yun Te Shun, was on guard at the impromptu palace, with a number of Korean troops. Within and without were crowds of panic-stricken people. If danger was but a progressionist fiction, it was a fiction believed by everybody except the few to whom it was about to become a fact, — the seclusionist ministers. Everywhere there was the wildest confusion ; and to make matters, if possible, worse, the place was packed. For so many dignitaries, court officials, and court ladies had collected there that they not only filled the building itself, but thronged the surrounding court-yards, so that there was hardly a vacant spot anywhere in or about the Keiyu Kiu. Takezoye,after saluting the king, took up his post at the inner entrance, attended by Shimamura and Asayama, secretaries of the legation ; while Cheu Syo Kong, the governor of the province of Kyöng Ki To, stood, sword in hand, outside what had become the palace, to prevent the menials and the common people from rushing into the buildings. In the midst of this melodramatic reality the supply of candles all at once gave out, and the whole assemblage found itself plunged in utter darkness. A lantern, brought by the Japanese troops, was hastily lighted and handed to one of the court officials, and this bit of borrowed brightness formed the sole illumination throughout the whole extent of the Keiyu Kiu for the remainder of that dismal night. Even the Japanese themselves felt uneasy, and at last Captain Murakami, commanding the Japanese troops, pointed out to the minister that, amid such a crowd and so much confusion, it would be impossible to detect any one who might have designs upon the royal person ; and, furthermore, that the buildings covered so much ground and the gates were so far apart that it was impossible for the small force at his command to guard every part of the vast inclosure. This was rendered no easier by the presence of several large clumps of shrubbery scattered through the compound, excellent hiding-places for persons purposing mischief. He therefore suggested that some attempt be made toward checking the confusion among the servants, and to this end he proposed the posting of a proper system of guards ; for apparently the Koreans were powerless to keep order themselves. The minister laid the matter before the king, upon which his majesty gave orders that the crowd of menials should pass out of the gates, and that the court ladies should all move to a house at the northern corner of the Keiyu Kiu inclosure. The several gates were then apportioned to the troops to guard ; some being allotted to the Koreans, some to the Japanese. After this every person applying for admission was obliged to give his name, and was suffered to enter only when the consent of the king had been obtained; and every one going out was required to take with him the card of one of the king’s immediate attendants, as a sort of pass.

While the Japanese were thus more particularly occupied about the person of the king, a terrible tragedy was being enacted at one of the outer gates. Unknown to the Japanese minister, and, perhaps, even without a full understanding on the part of his majesty, although in his name, messengers had been sent with royal mandates to the various seclusionist leaders, to summon them separately to the royal presence, as if for an ordinary interview. As they arrived in turn, in obedience to the orders, in utter ignorance of any impending danger, each, as he alighted from his palanquin at the gate, was set upon by men stationed there for the purpose, and murdered. Thus passed this first anxious and terrible night.


On the morning of the fifth, the city of Söul awoke to find itself under a new government, with Hong Yöng Sik nominally at its head as prime minister. The seclusionists had nearly all been assassinated, and the progressionists had taken their vacant places. It was simply a somewhat violent change of ministry. So far, this was all that had happened, but the complications were yet to come. For to this domestic dispute the Japanese had unwittingly become a party, and, having once identified themselves with one side in the imbroglio, it became every moment more and more difficult to break the connection.

As the day wore on, the king received in audience the various foreign ministers and consuls. He then signified his intention of removing to the house of I Che Won, as the queen dowager was insufficiently provided with clothing against the cold, which the Keiyu Kiu but ill kept out. At the royal request, the several foreign ministers then in audience accompanied his majesty to his fresh choice of a temporary palace, — a set of buildings adjoining the Keiyu Kiu, with only a gate to separate the two compounds. When his majesty was fairly installed in his new quarters, at three o’clock in the afternoon, all the foreign ministers and consuls, except Takezoye, withdrew. He would have followed their wise example, had the king not begged him so earnestly to remain that, much against his better judgment, he still stayed on. Each false step on his part seemed only to render more necessary the next. Finding it practically impossible to get away, he ordered Shimamura to prepare the draft of a telegram to be dispatched to Japan, — to be carried, that is to say, to Nagasaki, and thence transmitted, — describing the events of the day, and explaining his own conduct in the matter. Shimamura had hardly departed with this to the legation, when Takezoyewas summoned into the king’s presence, and informed by his majesty that he meant to move again, — this time to his original starting-point, his own palace, — as the queen dowager could neither eat nor sleep in her present lodging. Takezoye, sore afraid that this step might lead to serious Korean complications, saw nothing for it, however, but to accompany the royal retinue, the king’s entreaties being too importunate to be refused. Accordingly, the procession again took up its march, and reached the palace about sunset. Guards were at once posted at the several gates, — the Koreans being given the outermost, while the Japanese were stationed at the inner ones; the truth being that the Japanese were both more efficient and more trustworthy than the Koreans. That night Takezoye learned for the first time of the murder of the seclusionist ministers on the night before ; the reason he had not heard of it sooner being that, while the assassinations were going on, he had been in immediate attendance on his majesty, and care had been taken by those about the royal person not to speak of such horrible events in the king’s presence. Rumors, however, became current during the day, and by evening these were confirmed. Though the Japanese had been as a right hand to the progressionist leaders, it was only too sadly in keeping with far Eastern duplicity not to let the right hand know what the left hand was doing. Matters began to look graver and graver for the Japanese, in their involuntary complicity. Still, as yet, nothing very unpleasant had resulted to them from the connection, except the impossibility of putting an end to it.

On the following day, the sixth, order had apparently been restored. The minister, foreseeing no further need for his services, again submitted through Hong Tong Sik a request to be relieved; but the king only answered his petition by preferring one of his own, begging him to remain until the various members of the royal family should have reached their respective dwellings in safety. Takezoye, therefore, most unwillingly, again prolonged his stay, for the third time. This last of many ill-fated delays proved fatal. About three o’clock that afternoon, as the king was in the act of affixing his seal to a royal decree, drawn up by the new ministers, announcing several radical reforms in the customs of the country, shots were suddenly heard, coming from the neighborhood of the outer gates. This was the first firing directed against the palace. Every one was startled by the sound, and the king, who was particularly affected, kept nervously asking his attendants, as ignorant in the matter as he was himself, what it meant. At this moment, a letter addressed to Takezoye, was hastily handed to one of the court officials by an unknown person, who then vanished. The official passed it on to Shimainura, who gave it to the minister.

Just as the minister received the missive a second discharge rattled through the outer court-yard, whereupon his majesty, much disturbed, retired to his sleeping apartment. A third volley succeeded the second, followed by another, and then another, the bullets by this time pattering like rain about the house, so that Takezoye, in the thick of the general excitement, could not find time to read the letter he still stood holding in his hand. At this juncture, the Japanese Captain Murakami hurried in to the minister, and reported that the Chinese troops had attacked the palace ; that the Korean troops, posted at the outer gates, had given way before them ; and that some of the latter had advanced against the Japanese guards, in company with the assaulting force. What should he do ? The minister replied that, as he was there to protect the king, the captain must take what measures he deemed necessary to defend the place. Murakami retired, and gave the order to his troops to fire. The Japanese, already maddened by the attack of the Chinese, and impatiently awaiting the word of command, responded to it at once, and, leveling their rifles, poured a solid fire into the advancing columns. The Chinese and Koreans received it full in front, staggered, and fell back. The order was then given the Japanese to lie down, and to continue firing from that position. Throwing themselves upon the ground, and making what breastworks they could of their knapsacks, they reloaded their pieces, and discharged them again as fast as possible, keeping up a steady fusillade on the already half-discomfited foe. In this manner, the little band held many times their number at bay, the Chinese and Koreans replying, in a huddled mass, from the other end of the great courtyard.

The assailants had meant to advance simultaneously from three directions, fall upon the small Japanese force, of whose numerical weakness they were well aware, surround and annihilate it. Like most such concerted movements, the attempt failed, the three attacks being separated by just that interval fatal to any combined effect. The Japanese were by no means the flower of the army. They were a local corps from about Sendai, but they possessed one local quality, which took the place now of many more generally effective traits, — a remarkably stolid obedience. They were not the least depressed in mind by their lowly position in body. On the contrary, they were in such high spirits that they made no scruple of joking about the situation, likening the affair to a successful stag-hunt, as with deadly precision they picked off their victims. This amusing pastime was much facilitated by a certain detail in the uniform of their opponents. On the front of the Chinese military tunic blazed the hideous national dragon, embroidered in yellow, while just above it shone the appropriately warlike motto, “ Courage.” This inspiriting insignium has no doubt proved most efficacious in ordinary encounters by mutually encouraging the Chinese braves. In this case it became even more useful to their enemies. The Japanese made of it an admirable target; and they aimed with such success that when, after the battle, the bodies of the slain came to be examined, it was found that many a bullet through the saying had reached the sought. Whether it was skill, coolness, happy accident, or a combination of all three that enabled them to hit the device, certain it is that they fired low, as the wounds of the Chinese subsequently treated proved to be mostly below the waist.

While this plucky defense was being made in the outer court-yard, Takezoye proceeded to the royal bed-chamber to ascertain what condition the king was in, and was upon the point of entering it when he was prevented by Cheu Syö Kong, the governor of Kyöng Ki To, who assured him that his majesty was perfectly safe, and that he, Takezoye, had no cause for anxiety. The minister, suspecting that the queen and the queen dowager might also be within, discreetly desisted from any further attempts to enter. Instead, he betook himself to the front room of the suite, whence he heard the report of firearms, and where, on arrival, he found the bullets unpleasantly thick. Judging the suite no longer safe for the king, he came back, and now made bold to enter the bed-chamber. On doing so, he found it, to his astonishment, empty. Much surprised, he then proceeded to search in and about the place for some trace of the royal fugitive, but all in vain. Nothing was to be seen. The king, the objective point of the whole disturbance, had disappeared.

The palace, in the more extended Korean meaning of the term, is a vast walled inclosure, pierced by fourteen outer gates, which give access to a perfect labyrinth of inner gateways, courtyards, and buildings. To guard such a multiplicity of approaches against an attacking body of about six hundred Chinese and between two and three thousand Koreans was quite impossible for the one hundred and twenty Japanese soldiers. They were stationed, therefore, in a few important positions only, being distributed in bands of from twenty to thirty men each. Their morale was beyond praise. Wherever they were placed, they held their ground as if they had been a part of it, all attempts of the enemy to dislodge them proving futile. As they could not be omnipresent, however, the enemy simply swarmed in, around and past them; possessing themselves first of one point of vantage, and then of another. The maze of buildings converted the attack into a species of guerrilla warfare, and rendered any moving about peculiarly dangerous. This did not in the least deter Takezoye from prosecuting his quest. Oblivious to the danger, in his all-absorbing desire to find the king, he continued to scurry hither and thither, and very nearly lost his life by so doing. In the course of one of his rapid excursions, he found himself in the rear of the queen’s apartments, and before he realized the situation was being fired at by the Chinese troops. A detachment, coming to the rescue, drove his assailants back. At this juncture Murakami arrived on the scene, and was instantly struck with the strength of the place for purposes of defense. Quite ignoring the king, or rather his absence, he was for moving the troops into the apartments at once, and staying there. In his mind, not unnaturally, the welfare of his soldiers stood first, and his majesty’s second. To him the means entirely effaced the end. The unfortunate minister, though only too well aware of the wisdom of the step, felt bound to veto the suggestion, in order that he might continue his apparently hopeless hunt for the king. In pursuance of this idea, therefore, the detachment retreated to a wood which crowned a hill behind the garden, just back of the buildings, Takezoye meanwhile diligently searching every nook and corner for the missing monarch. But nothing was to be seen of the royal fugitive. As soon as they reached the wood, Murakami, at all times a much better Japanese than an extemporized Korean, true again to his military instincts, immediately perceived the strategic advantages of this new position, and promptly proposed that the main body of the Japanese should be concentrated there, and the spot fortified by hastily thrown up earthworks. As it seemed now quite useless to look further for the king, Takezoye, resigning himself to circumstances, grudgingly gave his consent. He had scarcely done so when one of the court officials suddenly appeared a short distance off, beckoning excitedly to them, and shouting, His majesty is here ! His majesty is here ! At this Takezoye hastily posted off in the direction indicated, while Murakami, after bidding his officers stay where they were till they received explicit orders to move,— so loath was he to abandon his military projects, — followed, taking with him but a portion of the detachment. They found his majesty encamped in a little pavilion snugly situated in a slight depression between two hills. In this secluded spot he continued to remain, guarded by Takezoye and Murakami, with one half of one of the Japanese companies. Beiore long they were attacked by some ol the Chinese and Koreans, whom they repulsed. The building, however, proved to be so ill adapted to purposes of defense that the party moved with his majesty to the summit of a neighboring rise, where a blanket was spread upon the ground, upon which the king seated himself. Takezoye, having at last a moment he could call his own, now opened and read the letter which he had received at the beginning of the fight, and which the general confusion at first and his anxious hunt for the king afterwards had prevented him from perusing before. Its contents proved both startling and humorous. It turned out to be an official communication from the commander of the Chinese forces, apprising the Japanese minister of his intention to proceed with his troops to the palace, for the sake of protecting the king, — a somewhat diverting diplomatic fiction, considering that the person he was proposing to protect was already being protected by those he was purposing to attack.

Meanwhile, the king was very restless, to the great annoyance of Murakami. No sooner was he securely settled in one spot than he grew nervous at the noise of the firing, and hastened to remove to another. He was now about to start off again on the back of one of the court officials, — the royal mode of locomotion within the palace grounds, — when the minister and Murakami, after some difficulty, succeeded in persuading him that by so doing he was only running increased risks, and eventually induced him to compromise matters by limiting his flight to the top of a hillock behind the garden.

Up to this time the firing had been continuous, but now, suddenly, a particularly heavy burst was heard from the direction of the inner palace, and then everything, all at once, became ominously still. Only through the trees masses of dense white smoke could be seen slowly surging up from a thickly wooded part of the grounds, while a brilliant beam of light shot up dazzlingly into the sky. The Japanese around the king, idle spectators of the sight, concluded that the Chinese troops had fired the palace. On the other side, at the back gate, they could see the Korean troops massed in crowds, while behind these, and at a considerable distance from their own position, they descried the queen dowager and her suite on the shoulder of a hill. As soon as the king caught sight of his mother he instantly begged to be taken to her. This touching appeal found anything but a welcome from his foreign friends ; not, indeed, because they were foreign, but solely because they recognized only too clearly the utter impossibility of granting it. His majesty loftily ignored any such trifling impediment in the path, and simply repeated his request, to the entire disregard of everything and everybody. It was a sort of key-note, this cry, to his whole conduct. An intense filial affection, that asserted itself uncontrollably at the most inopportune moments, would seem to have been the one spontaneous impulse of his majesty throughout this trying regal ordeal. No doubt it did him great credit as a son, but it stood wofully in his way as a monarch. On account of the queen dowager he had removed from the Keiyu Kiu to the house of I Che Won ; he had then, for her sake, most unwisely gone back to his own palace ; and lastly, after he had got there, he had been constantly jeopardizing the safety of all his followers in his frantic attempts to follow her erratic movements. It had been difficult enough before to keep pace with the royal craving, — for the king’s mysterious disappearance and the trouble this had entailed upon the Japanese had been due to a previous effort on his part to rejoin the queen dowager, in which dutiful attempt he had failed, — but to comply with it now, whetted to poignancy by a sight of the desired object, was simply out of the question. To satisfy it, it would have been necessary to break through the Korean troops ; and these, it was evident, were preparing for just such an attack, from their choice of a commanding position from which they could fire in a recumbent posture. The king continued, however, to make such frequent and piteous appeals to be taken to his mother that at last the party set out to leave the palace grounds. As they passed through the gate, the Koreans, recognizing them, shouted that every Japanese who came out would be killed. They then opened fire. One of the royal attendants, in the vanguard, was shot in the wrist, and blood from the wound bespattered the king’s outer tunic. Fearing for the royal life, the party retired again within the gate, and sheltered his majesty behind a small clump of trees. His own safety, however, was utterly ignored by the king for his almost uncontrollable filial homesickness. He continued his plaintive entreaties to be taken to his mother, though at the risk of his life, and made as if he would go even without a guard. To conduct him outside the gate under Japanese escort was only to court danger to the royal person, as it was evident the virulence of the enemy was directed solely against the foreigners. The Chinese troops had vanished, only Koreans were to be seen ; and it looked as if the king would be safer, everything considered, if allowed to pursue his own whim and trust to the custody of his own people. On communicating this conclusion to his majesty, the latter cried, “ Good ! ” Whereupon the Japanese took leave of him, and, accompanied only by his own personal attendants, he then passed out of the gate.

Thus ended the fight at the palace, and thus ended also the direct connection between the Japanese and the Korean coup d’état, — a connection whose only motive as well as whose sole excuse lay in a quixotic loyalty to a fatal friendship. The foreigners had bravely succored what had proved itself not worth the succoring, and had finally been begged to abandon what at first they had been importuned to protect. It was a pitiably poor ending.

Being now relieved by circumstances from what he had so repeatedly attempted in vain to free himself, Takezoye, after consultation with Murakami, decided to return to the legation. The Japanese detachments scattered about the palace grounds were therefore concentrated and formed into two companies, and then, just as night fell, the little army, in close marching order, emerged from the palace inclosure by one of the back gates.

Here closed the Anabasis proper, in this the first step of the retreat. The Japanese losses had been insignificant. Of their number they had had but two killed and eight wounded. What the Korean losses were will probably never be known. As for the Chinese, thirtyfive bodies were found lying within the palace grounds; and of twenty-two Chinese soldiers subsequently treated by a foreign physician, twenty died of their wounds.

But the Japanese had started an avalanche of disturbance which they could not stop. The termination of the fight at the palace, instead of being the end of a bad beginning, was only the bad beginning of a worse end.

Night had already wrapped the city in gloom, as the column defiled from the palace gate into the black and tortuous streets of the town. No resistance was made to their exit, for, under cover of the darkness, the Korean soldiers had all secretly slipped away. A pall-like obscurity and silence had settled over everything. It seemed the spirit of death. The streets of Söul are for the most part hardly more than wide alleys, crooked and forbidding enough in the day-time. Night converts them into long cavernous passages, devoid of light, like the underground ramifications of some vast cave ; for, by a curious carfew law, they are denied any artificial illumination. Through this sombre labyrinth the Japanese column threaded its way, with nothing to light its path but the reflection in the sky of fires in distant parts of the city, — a weird canopy to an inky blackness. Before long, however, even night failed to yield security from man. At the cross-roads and wherever a side-street offered an opportunity for attack were gathered bands of braves, mixed masses of soldiers and populace, who fired upon them or hurled stones, according to the character of the individuals. Still they pusned steadily forward, though utterly uncertain what they might find at their journey’s end ; for they had not been able to hear from the legation since the attack on the palace, and were in grave fear for its safety. As they came to the top of a bit of rising ground, they made out by the lurid light of the fires their own flag, the red ball on the white field, flying from its flagstaff, and thus learnt for the first time that the buildings were still standing and in Japanese hands. As they neared the legation the crowds increased, but, sweeping them aside, the troops at length reached their destination at eight o’clock at night, having been absent forty-eight hours.

That the legation was yet safe was not due to any neglect or forbearance on the part of the Koreans. From the moment of the attempted assassination of Min Yöng Ik, the city had fallen a prey to disturbances that grew hourly graver and graver in character, and began to be directed more and more against the Japanese merchants and traders scattered through the town. Such of these as took alarm first hastened to the legation for protection. In this way about seventy of them had collected in the buildings, and they, together with the servants and a score of soldiers that had been left there, had successfully defended the place until the return of the troops. For two whole days the little improvised garrison had kept the besiegers at bay.

The legation was safe, but for the rest it was but a melancholy tale which the minister and his suite returned to hear. The sullen glow in the heavens, that had served them for torches across the city, came, they learned, from the burning by the infuriated rabble of the homes of their compatriots. But worse than the loss of property had been the loss of life. The hatred of the Japanese, that had lain smouldering for centuries, had at last found a vent. Shortly after the attack on the palace by the Chinese troops, the cry was raised against the Japanese, and a wholesale pillage and massacre of the foreigners began. Foreseeing this, which was only too sure to happen, warning had been sent from the legation to the various Japanese living in the city to rendezvous in the legation buildings. Such as responded early to the call succeeded in reaching the place in safety ; later, it became impossible to do so. The scenes enacted throughout the city were frightful. Cruelty ran riot. As many of the Japanese as the populace, or more particularly the Korean braves mentioned above, could lay hands on were murdered in the most horrible manner, and their abodes demolished. Many of the unfortunates were caught while trying to gain the legation, and, not content with simply taking their lives, the Koreans, after their method of indignity, tore the bodies limb from limb. Between thirty and forty were thus butchered. It was during the night of the sixth and during the day of the seventh that most of the atrocities took place. The stories told by the survivors are terrible. Minister Foote was the means of saving the lives of two unhappy women, a mother and daughter, all of whose male relatives had been murdered, and who, after undergoing brutal indignities, were on the point of being put to death, when rescue arrived. Another woman had an almost miraculous escape. Her husband and his brother having both been butchered, she fled into an adjoining house; and after remaining concealed there for some time in the underground heating flues, she dressed herself in Korean clothes, and made her way, unperceived, to one of the city gates. Finding it shut, she gave herself up for lost, when a rope, suspended from one of the pillars, caught her eye, and offered her a means of climbing over. Hardly had she reached the ground without, however, when she was detected and pursued by a band of ruffians ; and another moment would have sealed her fate, when, the head of the Japanese column on its march to Chemulpo coming into sight, her would-be violators and assassins promptly took to their heels. This happened on the seventh. To understand so opportune an appearance of her fellow-countrymen we must return to the legation and to the night of the sixth.

As soon as the little army had regained its quarters, additional guards were set in ambush. No one in the legation slept that night. About two o’clock in the morning, the barracks behind them, which they had not seen fit to occupy on their return, were burned by the enemy, and early in the day the Koreans opened fire on the residence of the legation proper from the two streets that inclosed a corner of the compound, while a large mob threw stones at the buildings. No less than three unsuccessful attempts were thus made by the soldiers and the mob combined; the Japanese shooting down several of the assailants. About eight o’clock in the morning a letter was thrust through under the outer gate by a Korean, who immediately ran away. It was at once carried to the minister, and on being opened by him proved to be an epistle from Kim Kong Chun, containing the somewhat tardy and now rather useless information that there existed great hostility to the Japanese. The minister, however, courteously wrote a reply to it, and another in answer to the communication from the Chinese commander, received at the palace, addressed likewise to Kim Kong Chun. Unfortunately, no messenger could be found to take the letters. Any single Japanese would assuredly be killed on the way, and to send a large party would be to weaken the guard at the legation. Of the Koreans in its service, but three remained. After a good deal of persuasion, one of them was induced to go. The return letters were destined to prove as idle as the original epistles. Unknown to Takezoye, the ministry of two days’ career had already ceased to be.

From the moment the Japanese yielded up possession of the person of the king, the rule of the progressionists was at an end. What they might have accomplished had they refrained from invoking Japanese aid will always remain problematical. But after they had once identified themselves with the hated foreigners, their doom was sealed. The Korean masses are in intention patriotic, in practice apathetic. Indeed, patriotism in the peninsula is now a meaningless term. The country has for so many centuries been tributary to China, and Chinese manners and customs have for so long represented to the Korean official class all that was most to be admired and copied, that patriotism has come to signify for the masses a tame acquiescence in the status quo, an inherited dependence upon the Middle Kingdom. The populace, accordingly, though by no means Chinese in sympathy, suffered the semi-soldier braves and the worst spirits among the rabble, pro-Chinese by temperament and still more anti-Japanese by temper, to work their will.

The Japanese gone, the progressionist ministers, realizing that they had failed, fled hastily to such concealment as individual ingenuity suggested. Some, under cover of the darkness, sought the dwellings of such of their friends as they could trust not to divulge their whereabouts, and lay concealed there ; others stealthily escaped from the capital, made their way incognito across country, and eventually reached the sheltering security of Japan; while one of the ringleaders put himself under the protection of the Japanese troops, marched with them from the palace to the legation, accompanied them in their retreat to Chemulpo, and thence managed to get to Tokio, where he is now in hiding. Some of the refugees, not satisfied with seeking Japan, crossed the Pacific, and are to-day living in exile in the United States. One alone remained to die at his post. The account of his death, given by certain private Korean letters, is a tale of as noble an act of heroism as was ever performed.

When it became evident that the Japanese would withdraw, and the progressionist leaders be left to their fate, the latter, perceiving that if they remained they must inevitably fall into the hands of the enemy, prepared for flight. To the surprise and horror of all the others, Hong Yöng Sik calmly informed them that he should stay. The rest, indeed, had better go, but one, he thought, ought to remain, to show the world that the progressionists were not rebels nor ashamed of the principles they had professed, and he would be that one. The others, aghast at his resolve, tried their utmost to dissuade him, but all to no purpose. Each in turn then offered to stay in his place, but he would not hear of it. It was more fitting, he replied, that he should remain, because one of the oldest (he was just thirty years of age) ; and forthwith, to signify that his resolve was unalterable, he drew off his long court boots. Finding it impossible to shake his determination, and fearing lest, if they delayed longer, they might not escape themselves, they reluctantly left him and fled. There in the palace, awaiting his certain doom, the Chinese soldiers found him, a few minutes after. They seized him and carried him to the Chinese camp, where, with some show of formality, he was publicly executed. Thus died a brave and loyal soul, true with his life to the principles he had publicly professed, and which he deemed it cowardly and wicked to abandon.

The revenge of the seclusionists was by no means satiated by this single victim. To them it was not enough that their actual opponents should die. The families of the opponents must be exterminated. Guilty or innocent, every member must perish; the very names must vanish from among mankind. So they slew them all, — decrepit old men and helpless infants, those who had begotten the unfortunates and those whom the unfortunates had begotten. Fathers, brothers, sons, children, every male connected with the fallen foe, was shot or poisoned. It was horrible.

At the same time the city was given up to the mercy of the infuriated militia, who went about wreaking their vengeance not only upon the persons and property of the Japanese, but also upon the houses tenanted by the few other foreigners living in the city. The occupants escaped partly through their own exertions, partly in consequence of a certain mixture of dread and respect which hedged them about. They gathered at the American legation, which was not attacked. To lighten, as it were, this sad picture with a ludicrous touch of poetic justice, the new postoffice building, the guilty cradle of the whole plot, was pulled to pieces, and the wretched fragments significantly piled in heaps about the court-yard.

Meanwhile, the Japanese lay imprisoned within their legation buildings, closely besieged by the Koreans. Toward the middle of the day, on the seventh, they discovered that their provisions were nearly exhausted. Only the soldiers, therefore, were allowed rice, the rest getting for their portion the water in which the rice had previously been boiled. There were now in the compound one hundred and forty soldiers, thirty servants attached to the legation, about seventy merchants and artisans, besides many other Japanese residentsfrom the city, who had sought refuge in the buildings. It was utterly impossible to procure more provisions. Starvation stared the prisoners in the face, even if they should contrive to hold out against the assaults of the Koreans. Reports now reached them that all the gates of Söul had been closed, and that preparations were everywhere in progress for a general attack. It was also rumored that this would take place at dusk, and that under cover of the darkness the legation would be fired by the foe.

Thereupon, Takezoye held a council of war, at which it was decided that the legation’s only hope, desperate as it was deemed, lay in forcing a passage through the western gate of the city, and retreating as best they might to Chemulpo. Accordingly, at the close of the conference the order was given to withdraw from Söul. It was now discovered that the messenger to whom the letters had been entrusted had been afraid to leave the legation. Doomed indeed seemed the ill-starred Korean attempt at a postal system to bring mishap upon everything connected with it, both big and little, new and old.

Takezoye then addressed the Japanese gathered in the court-yard. He told them that his guards had been obliged, in defense of the king on the preceding day, to fire upon the Chinese soldiers, who had broken into the palace and opened fire upon the royal apartments ; that the Korean troops and people had now combined against the Japanese ; that the Korean government was apparently powerless to protect them ; that the legation was blockaded ; that it was impossible longer to carry on the ministerial functions ; and that he had resolved to retire upon Chemulpo, there to await instructions from Japan. All the confidential dispatches and other private documents belonging to the legation were then burned.

It was now half past two in the afternoon. The crowd without was steadily growing larger and larger, and closing in slowly but surely about the devoted compound. Suddenly, to its amazement, the outer wooden gates, so stoutly defended a few minutes before, swung inward ; there was a moment’s hush of expectation, and the Japanese column, grim with determination, defiled in marching order into the street. It was a sight to stir the most sluggish soul. Instinctively the Koreans fell back, awed as they read the desperate resolve in the faces of the men ; and the column kept silently, surely, moving on. First came two detachments, forming the van ; then the minister, his suite, the women and children, followed, placed in the centre and guarded on either hand by rows of soldiers. Next marched the secretaries and the subordinate officials of the legation, all armed, and with them the merchants and artisans, carrying the wounded and the ammunition. Two more detachments brought up the rear. Debouching into the main road, the body struck out for the western gate. The Koreans, who crowded the side-streets, the court-yards, and even the roofs of the houses, had by this time recovered from their first daze, and began to attack the column on all sides, firing and throwing stones. So poor was their aim, however, and so unused were they to the business, that neither bullets nor stones did the Japanese much harm. The vanguard, lying down in the road, fired at the assailants and drove them back, and the march proceeded. Nothing could stop the advance of the van, and the rear-guard as ably covered the rear. Slowly but surely the column pushed on.

It had thus got half-way across the city, when it encountered a more formidable obstruction. Opposite the old palace, where a broad avenue from the palace gates entered the road it was following, a detachment of the left division of the Korean army had been drawn up, to prevent, if possible, all escape. The spot was well chosen. On one side lay the army barracks of the left division, a safe retreat in case of failure, while in front stretched the broad, open space of the avenue, ending in the highway along which the Japanese were obliged to pass. To make the most of this position, a fieldpiece had been brought out and trained on the cross-road, and deployed beside it the Koreans posted themselves, and waited for the coming column. As the foreigners came into view, marching across the end of the avenue, the Koreans opened fire upon them both with the field-piece and with small arms. The effect should have been frightful. As a matter of fact it was nil, owing to the same cause as before, the bullets passing some twenty feet over the heads of the Japanese. Not a single man was killed, and only a few were slightly wounded. The rear-guard, prone in the street or under cover of the little gutter-moats, a peculiar feature of all Korean city streets, calmly took accurate aim, and eventually forced this body of the enemy back into their barracks. Still harassed at every step by other troops and by the populace, the column, advancing steadily in spite of them, at last, gained the west gate. It was shut, bolted, and guarded by Korean soldiers. A sudden onset of the vanguard put these to flight. Some of the soldiers, armed with axes, then severed the bars, demolished the heavy wooden doors, and the column passed through. Keeping up a fire on the foe, who still pursued, the Japanese then made for the principal ferry of the river Han, at a place called Marpo, one of the river suburbs of the city. As they turned there to look back toward Söul, they saw smoke rising from the direction of the legation, and knew from this that the buildings had already been fired. With the rear-guard set to protect the important points, they proceeded to cross the stream. Seizing this opportunity, a parting attack was now made by a conglomerate collection of Korean troops and tramps, who had pursued them from the city. Hovering on their flanks, these fired at the ferry-boats as they passed over; but the Japanese rear-guard shot at and killed some of them, and so succeeded in keeping the others at bay. By about half past five in the afternoon the Japanese had completed the crossing. After this no further serious opposition was made to their retreat, and, following the ordinary road and marching the whole night, they reached the bill above Chemulpo, and looked down upon the broad expanse of the Yellow Sea at seven o’clock on the morning of the eighth.

The long, hard fight was over; an end had come at last. They saw it in the sea stretched out at their feet, just awaking from its lethargy at the touch of the morning light. To them its gently heaving bosom spoke of their own return to life. No crazy fishing boat now stood between them and theirs. One of their own men-of-war lay at anchor in the offing. There she rode, in all her stately beauty, the smoke curling faintly upward from her funnel, waiting to bear them across the water to the arms of those who held them dear. And the sparkling shimmer, as the rays of the rising sun tinged the Yellow Sea with gold in one long pathway eastward, seemed Japan’s own welcome sent to greet them, a proud, fond smile from home.

Percival Lowell.