IN order that the events of March 24 may be viewed in their proper background, I will go back a few days to Monday, March 21, to begin this account of the Nanking catastrophe.
On Monday afternoon Mrs. Smith went with me to the University. On returning home over the hills, we first heard the sound of gunfire in the distance. There were both the sound of artillery and the put, put, put of machine guns, so that we knew the battle which had been raging outside the South Gate was drawing nearer. We had been home only a few minutes when Mr. Robson appeared on the porch with the words, ‘Bad news.’ He brought the instructions from the American Consul to be ready for evacuation of all women and children either during the night or in the early morning. We were to prepare bedding, two days’ supply of food and water, and as much else as we could carry as hand baggage.
I went at once with the news to the other members of our section, while Mrs. Smith proceeded to get the food ready. After supper Mrs. Smith went on with the preparations for evacuation and I went down to our Ming Deh Girls’ School to see what was going to be done there. Miss Moffet and Miss Null, who were in charge of the school, had repeatedly said that they would not leave as long as there were still Chinese students there under their care. I found them blissfully ignorant of the Consul’s instructions. I returned home, calling three rickshas as I went and promising the men a dollar apiece if they would stay at our compound all night. While Mrs. Smith packed I closed all the shutters downstairs, tied up a bedding roll, and then we went to a sleepless bed. All night long the firing continued. It seemed to come from only a short distance outside the city wall.
At five-thirty the next morning word came from Mr. Robson to evacuate. I at once went out and carried the news to the Prices, Richardsons, Stuarts, and Lancasters. We planned to be at our local rendezvous by six-fifteen. Returning home, I snatched up a cold breakfast and, with a last word to the servants to watch the house until I returned, we were off to our concentration point, with such luggage as we could carry in a ricksha. When we arrived at the river bank we saw the sailors there on guard, and I was soon out on the Noa settling my family. There were many gunboats, Japanese, British, and American, lying in the river. I spent most of the day on the Noa with my family, and in the evening returned to the city. All was peaceful at home. The sound of the guns was still heard, however, and I spent a sleepless night listening to the popping of rifles and the booming of big guns fired by Southern gunboats lying in the river.
The next day Mr. Lancaster and I took some bedding down to the destroyer, and stayed there most of the day. In the evening we returned to the city, assured that our families were safe. We took a signaler along with us to the Consulate and stopped in to see Consul Davis, who advised us to be on guard during the night to protect mission property. On returning to the Seminary, we held a conference of those who lived in the compound. Word came from the Consul ordering the concentration of all the foreigners. I went to Severance Hall Bible School and Ming Deh School to see Miss Lee, Miss Moffet, and Miss Null. They refused, however, to leave their schools, so we decided to concentrate on two centres, the Theological Seminary and the Ming Deh School. Ming Deh was already full of refugees seeking safety from Northern looters. Dr. Stuart and I returned home to guard our houses for the night. Dr. Rowe was at his home, Dr. Plopper at Miss Lyons’s school, while Dr. Price and Dr. Richardson were guarding their own homes and the Seminary. We went to an anxious night of wakeful waiting. The gunfire was not so bad as on the previous night.
I was awakened on Thursday morning about daybreak, just as I was dropping off to sleep, by the sound of rifle fire close by. I thought it was from retreating Northern soldiers, but learned later that it was the looting of the Catholic Church and the murder of two foreign priests. I lay awake until about seven o’clock, experiencing the greatest sensation of physical fear that I had ever known. On arising, I looked out of the window toward the Seminary and saw Southern flags flying from the gateway, and I knew that the South had arrived. I saw two ladies walking freely about the Seminary compound as though they had nothing to fear. The students were getting ready to welcome the Southern army. Many flags appeared that had been in hiding.
During breakfast Dr. Stuart came in and we congratulated each other on the arrival of the Southern army without any looting by the Northerners in our district. I agreed to stop by for him in a few minutes and go over to the Seminary to see how things were there. When I went out on the street, however, students came running out and urged me to go back to my house, as it was dangerous to be on the street. On my return home the servants excitedly told me of the looting and murder at the Catholic Church. The Seminary students started out with flags and banners to welcome the incoming Southern army, and I went to the gate to see them go by, joking with the people who stood around the gate. Everybody seemed relieved; the refugees were all leaving the Seminary compound and we thought our troubles were over so far as looting was concerned. I urged my servants to join in the parade to welcome the Southern army. Fortunately for me, they were not eager to do so!
Shortly after the students had gone, there was the sound of shooting at the Seminary. I hurried to t he window and saw a group of some six soldiers running from our Hansimen Road gate toward the East Dormitory, shooting into the air as they ran and ordering the refugees out of the compound. They burst into the East Dormitory, shooting inside the building, followed by the civilian rabble. Soon there was the sound of the smashing of furniture. The students’ things were not immune, and I saw a soldier making off with the bicycle of one of the ardent members of the Kuomintang. The students who had not joined the parade crowded into the West Dormitory, which I understand was not looted.
Shooting inside the East Dormitory continued for some time. Then I saw the soldiers enter Dr. Price’s house, and soon the mob was looting all his belongings. I saw one soldier attacking Dr. Price. He struck him with his rifle and hit him on the head, knocking off his hat. Someone attempted to interfere. (Dr. Price told me afterward that it was his cook, who seized a soldier’s gun in an endeavor to save him. Old L— T—, the coolie, bowed to the ground before the fiend, imploring him to save Dr. Price’s life.) I watched the soldier for a long time worrying Dr. Price as a dog does a rat he is about to kill. (Dr. Price told me later that this particular soldier hung around him for six hours trying to kill him, but that in some miraculous way he was hindered each time.) The last I saw of Dr. Price, he was being rushed away by a soldier through the Seminary gate. My faithful coolie and amah, who rushed in a few minutes later to implore me to flee, urged as a reason that Dr. Williams had been shot and Dr. Price taken out to the South Gate to be killed. (Dr. Price told me later that he was taken down to the home of one of the wealthier Chinese Christians in an endeavor to secure five hundred dollars as ransom money to buy off the soldier who was seeking his life.)
From Dr. Price’s home the soldiers and the mob went to Dr. Richardson’s home. Dr. Richardson saw them coming and, running out the back door, he jumped down from the porch and hid in the servants’ quarters until he was rescued the next day. I saw the doors and windows of the Richardson house smashed, and the mob poured in, soon to reappear laden with their rich plunder. While the Price and Richardson houses were being looted, I went from window to window, upstairs and down, to see whether the Lancaster and Stuart houses had been attacked. It is interesting that although my gate was unlocked all this time, and there were many people waiting outside, not one of the mob dared to enter until the soldiers had first come in. Knowing that my turn was coming at any moment now, and remembering the fate of the student’s bicycle, I foolishly attempted to hide my wheel in an upstairs clothespress. The clothespress was too small, so I had to leave it standing in the room. The next time I entered, it was gone. I also hid my gold watch and a small sum of money in a drawer under the window seat in the sitting room, but this was soon looted.
Returning upstairs to see how the Seminary was faring, I saw my shotgun and a small twenty-two calibre rifle standing in the corner of the room. I quickly hid them in a back closet, thinking that they might thus escape notice. Remembering a small revolver in my bureau drawer, I took it out and flung it up on a shelf of the clothespress. Although these guns were all taken later, it was fortunate for me that I had them out of sight when the soldiers came, and especially that I did not have the revolver on my person, for the first thing they asked me was whether I had a revolver. Taking them to mean on my person, I was able to reply, ‘No.’ The hiding of the small sum of money was fortunate also, because it left me with only five dollars in my pocket. When I gave this to the first group of soldiers who demanded money, it seemed to have the same effect as giving the proper change to a ricksha man. It was enough to satisfy them for the moment, and did not arouse their greed.
When my coolie and amah, both servants of years’ standing, came in and begged me to flee, they brought a long blue Chinese gown, and they almost pulled off my overcoat in their eagerness to have me put on this garment and escape while there was yet a chance. I was probably foolish not to heed their advice. I think I could have gotten away at that time and so missed the nerve-racking experiences and loss of clothing which happened shortly afterward. I could not run away, however, probably because I had heard that Dr. Williams had been killed while attempting to escape, but partly because I simply could not bring myself to run, any more than I could to hide up in the attic. I chose to stay and see it through. Even after watching the Seminary dormitory and the houses of Dr. Price and Dr. Richardson being looted, I could not realize that my house was to receive the same treatment. The thing seemed so preposterous. So I refused to flee, and my servants went off in disgust at my stupidity. I now went to the rear of the house to see how the Lancaster and Stuart houses were faring. I saw Dr. Stuart standing in his screened porch looking like a lion at bay in his cage. The soldiers had not yet come to his house.
My attention was now needed at home. The front door bell rang imperiously and I knew that my guests had arrived. I hastened down to open the door and welcome them in. There were four or five in the group and they looked like officers. They asked me whether I had any Russians concealed in the house and whether I carried a revolver. I answered in the negative and added that I was an American. On hearing this they said that America was all right and that they had nothing against Americans. They seemed to be in a hurry, for they soon went out. But on the steps t hey turned and asked for money, saying that they were poor men. I quickly drew out my pocketbook, in which I had only five dollars, and gave it to them. They rather resented the smallness of my gift and searched me for more. They failed to find any, but noticed my ring, which they demanded. I hesitated a moment, as I prized the ring greatly, but when one of the men tapped his gun in a significant way I hastened to comply. It did not come off easily, and the men grew impatient. I feared that they would cut off my finger if I did not get the ring off quickly. I finally succeeded in sucking it off. Seizing it, they hurried out of the gate. I thought that in some miraculous way I had escaped what all my colleagues had suffered. I called to the coolie to close the gate, while I locked the front door and went upstairs to see what was happening at the Seminary.
My illusion was soon shattered. I had been upstairs only a few minutes when a rifle shot, followed by the crash of falling glass, rang through the house. Fortunately I was not at the door to welcome the party of fiends who now broke into the house, leading a ravenous mob, or I should undoubtedly have been killed by the shot that announced their arrival. A group of five or six of the most inhuman-looking beings I have ever laid eyes on, with faces distorted by rage and hatred, gathered about me, while the rabble edged off to seek their loot. One soldier snatched off my glasses. They asked whether I had a revolver. I assured them that I was an American friendly to China, but such a declaration made no impression on this group, nor indeed on succeeding groups of soldiers. They were evidently after all foreigners, without distinction.
They demanded hua pien, which I learned later is the Hunanese and Hupeh term for the Mexican dollar. I told them that I had given all my money to the first group of soldiers. This only incensed them and they threatened to shoot me if I did not produce some money at once. I offered to write them a check and they agreed. It was evident, however, that they did not know what a check was, for as soon as I had taken them into my study and got out my check book from the desk, they seized the book and fought among themselves for the blank checks! They tore the book to pieces, as they did all the other check books they found in my desk.
All this time the looting was going merrily on around me. I had closed all the downstairs shutters the evening before, so the rooms were somewhat dark. The soldiers now proceeded to smash them all open with the butts of their guns. The doors were all opened or broken down and the rabble was soon streaming out like ants, laden with their booty. I saw one rather respectable-looking man, evidently not of the coolie class, take our Victrola under his arm and walk off with it. Another took my typewriter, and a third rolled up the Peking rug and swung it over his shoulder. My library was ruthlessly destroyed. Notes, lectures, manuscripts, — the work of over a decade, — were scattered to the winds or carried off to start fires with.
Things moved with such rapidity now that it is difficult to recall them in their proper order. My next recollection is that of being out in front of the house, confronted by a perfect demon of a soldier. I could not understand his Hunanese dialect very well at first, but I understood enough to know that he was bent on killing me. I protested in vain that I was an American, friendly to China. He was insane with hatred. Calling me a wang kwoh nu (‘destroycountry slave’), he slapped me a savage blow on the right cheek. Curiously, the blow did not seem to hurt. I thanked him and told him to hit me on the left cheek also. He looked rather nonplused, but he did not strike.
Then he worked himself up into another fury by talking about a soldier who had been shot and killed a short time before in the Seminary compound. He demanded my life in reprisal for that of his comrade. I learned later that a soldier had been shot by one of his fellow soldiers because he had protested against the looting of the students’ belongings. My coolie saw the man shot. The soldiers, however, claimed that he had been shot by one of the foreigners, firing from an upper window. This probably accounts for the severity of the looting of the Seminary and all connected with it, and for the fact that the Seminary faculty were threatened so frequently with death.
Having worked himself into a proper fury, the soldier now struck me on the right side of the chest with the butt of his gun. I offered my left side for another stroke. Again he failed to repeat the blow. He now changed his tactics and demanded that I be tied up and taken off to be shot in reprisal for the death of the soldier. I put my hands together in front of me to be tied, but he seized my wrist and turned my arm behind my back until it hurt. No one offered to help him, so he let go for a moment. He still insisted, however, so to satisfy him I picked up a coolie’s belt which I saw lying at my feet, and, wrapping one end around my wrist, I offered him the other end, telling him to tie me up. He did not do so. At this point something diverted his attention and I was free for a moment. I believe that in this incident and later my life was saved by putting into practice literally the teachings on nonresistance of the Sermon on the Mount. The fact that I also felt absolutely no fear of the soldiers contributed largely to my safety. I say this with no desire to boast, for I am not naturally overly brave, but simply to record a fact. I seemed to be lifted up in some strange way on to a plane above the brutality of the soldiers and the ignorant greed of the mob.
A young fellow dressed in civilian clothes, and carrying an automatic revolver on a stock, now turned his attention to me. He announced that he was going to kill me. All the crowd of coolies and others who had surrounded me during my interview with the fiendish soldier hurriedly scattered until they formed a kind of semicircle around me, with my would-be executioner in the centre. I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house with my back toward the wall. The fellow slowly raised his gun to shoot and I thought my end had come. I was not frightened, however, and when he saw this he lowered the gun. I think that the whole incident was staged to frighten me. As he lowered his gun I walked toward him, thinking that he was less likely to shoot me if I was nearer to him and did not present such a tempting target.
Several soldiers who had been ransacking the house now came out and surrounded me. I picked out one swarthy individual who, in spite of a face somewhat distorted with hate, did seem a little more human than the rest, and I engaged him in conversation. He said he was fu-lan led tih (‘come from Hunan’), and had come to Nanking from Kiukiang. This was always the reply of the soldiers with whom I talked — they were Hunanese. Under the influence of a few conventional polite phrases the natural courtesy of the Chinese race came to the surface and his face lost its angry look. He even grinned. I kept close to my newfound friend as the group moved toward the gate. They were evidently through with our house, which by this time had been pretty thoroughly looted, especially of such small articles of value as the soldiers could carry away easily. One of the squad, the man who had threatened to shoot me, had taken my hammer, which he carried in one hand while the other held his gun. It was the subject of a joke or two between us.
It is remarkable with what calmness, almost unconcern, one can view the carrying off of all one’s material possessions. I am sure that I felt no particular bitterness toward these poor ignorant looters, most of whom lived on the verge of starvation all the time. This opportunity for plundering must have seemed to them a veritable paradise. I confess, however, that I did feel deep disgust when I met a welldressed man going off with our things. There were several such, and I took every opportunity to make them lose face before the others by shaming them with offers to help them carry out their booty. But for the rabble of poor folks I had only pity.
I think the anger of this particular squad was somewhat spent. At any rate, as we walked out of the gate and down the road toward the Bible School, they seemed to grow more friendly. On the road we passed a box of assorted tins of vegetables and fruits, evidently dropped by some looter from Dr. Stuart’s home. Each soldier took a tin, and this gave me an opportunity for more friendly conversation with them. One of them took a knife and opened his — a tin of tomatoes. I told him they were not good to eat cold and explained how to cook them. This started the whole group, and they crowded around me as we walked, asking what was in their tins and whether it was good to eat. We were such good friends by this time that I walked alongside of my plain-clothes friend who had threatened to kill me, taking his arm as we walked and telling him that I was depending on him for protection! He seemed a bit embarrassed. By the time we had walked to the end of Dr. Stuart’s wall the group was so bursting with good will that the swarthy individual stopped and, gathering around him all the other soldiers and the crowd of loiterers and looters who had been following us, proposed three cheers for America, in Chinese style, ending with ‘Down with England and Japan!’ In the crowd of those now cheering for America I saw one man with a weighty volume of Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible under his arm, while another young fellow had a couple of volumes of the Century Bible Commentaries. I hope I shall not be unduly criticized for putting such literature into uncritical hands,
After this outburst of good feeling I thought it a good time to say good-bye to this particular squad. So I turned and walked back to my house. What would have happened to me had I continued with this group is an interesting conjecture. However, something in me seemed to prevent my running away until the looting was all over. On nearing my gate, I saw an old man with a kindly face carrying off a lamp stand and shade. I approached him and sought to shame him as I had others with the statement that we were Americans who had always been friendly to China and helped the Chinese, and now they were treating us in this shameful way, killing us and stealing our things. The old man was somewhat taken aback, but in true Chinese style he had an excuse ready, for he stammered out that he was only taking them to keep for me. On entering the gate I did not see any soldiers, but there were still many looters in the yard and house. The storeroom had recently been broken into and many were enriching themselves with the stock of provisions we had laid in for the long-expected siege. I tried to shame these folks as I had the old man, but they were a hard lot.
Going into the house, I found one man struggling to get the door open so he could take out his booty — our little boy’s crib. I remembered that the Yale lock stuck a bit, so I assisted him in opening the door. I have forgotten whether he thanked me or not. Upstairs I saw a well-dressed man, not of the coolie class, but wearing a long gown and a foreign hat, trying to carry off the two ends of Miss Moffet’s white iron bedstead. I said to him that it seemed a little heavy — would he not let me help him carry it downstairs? He blushed as I have never seen a Chinese blush and hurried downstairs. Later, however, I saw him again trying to carry off the bed.
I went about the various rooms, upstairs and down. They were filled with looters, most of them women of the coolie class. The floors were covered with the stuffing from mattresses. The iron grates in the fireplaces had been torn from the walls, the electric light wires stripped from their settings; bathtubs were wantonly broken, pipes ripped from the floors, doors taken away for fuel, books, notes, and papers strewn about the rooms. When I finally left the house the only remaining pieces of furniture intact were the dining-room stove and our new piano. The former, I learned later, was broken up for scrap iron and the piano was carried off to some mud hut. It was only an accident that it was not broken up for kindling wood as was many another piano. I am told that it is now being offered for sale for some eight dollars!
Our daughter Dorothea had a great collection of dolls. On my last trip of inspection around the house I found one of these dolls lying neglected on the floor. I picked it up and tucked it into my pocket, thinking that I should have at least one souvenir from our home to take to our little girl, if I should ever see her again. But I was not permitted to keep even this, for as I was about to descend the stairs, in an attempt at last to escape, I encountered another squad of soldiers coming in, to occupy the house, they said. They asked whether I had a revolver concealed on my person and started to search me. I think they used this merely as an excuse to make me take off first my overcoat and then my coat, both of which they promptly seized. One soldier saw the doll sticking out of my overcoat pocket and demanded it. I told him that it was only a doll which I wanted to take to my little daughter, and asked that I might be allowed to keep it. They refused. One soldier was grabbing for my sweater, and I felt that if I did not get away I should be stripped, at least to my underwear — as, I learned later, several men had been; so I turned and walked down the stairs. Why I was not ordered back or shot as I descended is a miracle. I was allowed to walk out of the house. But not to safety!
I walked straight into the hands of another squad of soldiers, who completed my humiliation. They ordered me with threats of death to take off my rubbers, then my shoes, and one fellow even went so far as to ask for my stockings, but fortunately he did not press the matter. They then formed a square about me and marched me off, as they said, to be shot. I thought they were probably taking me to South City for execution, as my servants had reported they had done to Dr. Price. As we started off one soldier grabbed my hat. I told him that the sun hurt my head and asked if he would not give it back. He did so. It was the one act of human kindness on the part of the soldiers during all that morning of brutality and insult. We walked out of Ihe gate and started down the road past the Buddhist nunnery. The sharp stones hurt my feet. We had not gone far, however, when they either changed their minds about killing me or let me go because they had simply been trying to scare me. From evidence we received later it is an undoubted fact that the soldiers had received orders to kill us, but for Some reason they could not quite bring themselves, except in a few cases, to carry out this order.
So I returned home again. The looters were nearly all gone by this time, but the house was occupied by soldiers. I am afraid that. I did not clearly realize what I was doing, for I intended to enter the house and should have placed myself again in the power of the men who had taken my clothes. Fortunately I was stopped by the sight of broken glass strewn about the porch and steps, and I was afraid I should be cut if I walked about in my stocking feet. I called to my coolie to come and give me his Chinese shoes. Several Chinese now gathered about me and urged me to flee. They took me back to the servants’ quarters and hid me while they discussed plans for getting me away.
It was finally decided that the coolie and the amah should try to take me to the hut where the amah’s son lived. The coolie loaned me his coat for disguise and we started off. As we neared the gate my heart sank, for another soldier was just coming in. Whether my disguise saved me or whether he was not looking for foreigners I do not know; at least he paid no attention to me. With the coolie in front as a scout and the amah bringing up the rear, we marched down the street which leads to Hansimen Road. There were many people about, but they were strangely silent. They looked at me curiously to see a foreigner in such a plight. There were no signs of hostility and no call of ‘foreign devil.’ When, a moment later, I stepped into a Chinese courtyard to avoid a squad of soldiers, no one told them I was hiding there.
This danger passed, we proceeded on our way. As we rounded the corner into the main street, we passed the home of our Seminary music teacher. He was standing in the doorway and I asked him for the loan of a pair of shoes. We stopped long enough for him to get a pair of his velvet shoes, which fortunately fitted me quite comfortably. He also promised that he would send me a Chinese garment for warmth and for disguise. We crossed the road, keeping close to the buildings in order to be as inconspicuous as possible. Suddenly the coolie announced that there were soldiers coming. I quickly stepped into an open door beside me and found myself in the hands of a veritable good Samaritan. Like the one of old, he was also not of the ‘household of faith,’ but was a Buddhist. This man and his family took me in at great peril to themselves. They led me into the inner recesses of their home and there hid me, bringing me tea and later providing a bed for me to rest on. At noon they brought me rice and cold vegetables and even went out and bought a tin of Chinese biscuits for me to eat. I lay on the bed expecting every minute that the soldiers, whom I could hear passing by, shooting into the air as they went, would come in to search for me. I was sure that some one of those who saw me step into the door would inform on me. The fact that all that day no one told the soldiers, who were plainly hunting for me, where I was is convincing evidence that there was no antiforeign feeling among the people of our neighborhood.
At noon I had to escape. My host told me that I should have to leave, as a group of soldiers had just entered a house across the road and demanded money and clothing. He was afraid that if they came to his house they might discover me and wreak their vengeance upon him and his family. So, clad in Chinese clothes which had been brought me, I went out the back door, like Abraham, not knowing whither I went. Outside there were throngs of Chinese all about and I did not know where to run. There was a big mob in the street in front of Miss Lee’s school, so that my escape to the Ming Deh School compound, where I knew Miss Moffet and Miss Null were in hiding, was cut off. I attempted to seek refuge in a neighboring house. No one, however, dared to shelter me. Finally, as I was about to make a bolt in the hope that my Chinese clothes would disguise me until I could find some other place of shelter, one old lady, evidently a good Buddhist, took pity on me and, remarking that it was a good deed to save a life, took me to a little hiding place in the wall. She brought bundles of reeds to make a shelter for me. Later they brought my bench from the house where I had first taken refuge, also the inevitable cup of tea and some of the Chinese biscuits.
I do not know how long I stayed hidden in this place, as I had no watch, but it was probably an hour, and was now about two o’clock. The people around me went on with their neighborly gossip, and although several times I heard soldiers passing by, no one informed on me. Finally the old mother of the household where I had first taken refuge came and told me to follow. She said that her neighbors were unreliable and might tell the soldiers where I was. So she led me back into the house and hid me in the fuel room, bringing me my bench and cup of tea and erecting a screen of reeds to conceal me from the cursory glance of any stray visitor. Then she and the other members of the family sought to strengthen my courage in true Chinese fashion by bringing me things to eat. They brought fresh tea, Chinese dates, and rice with cold vegetables. They sought to comfort me, reminding me that my family was safe on the gunboat, and that God would take care of me.
One amusing incident occurred at this time. Some of the Chinese had advised me to shave off my moustache in order to make my disguise more complete. I thought this was a good opportunity to do so and asked if I might borrow a pair of scissors. On learning my purpose they said they had a safety razor and a Chinese razor. They brought these, together with a small mirror, and I attempted to remove my hirsute adornment. I tried first the safety razor and then the Chinese one, but with no success. They were so dull that they could cut nothing, and so my moustache was saved and brought with me to Shanghai.
My host succeeded in finding a Mr. T—, a deacon in Hansimen Church and also secretary in our local police station. As soon as he appeared my prospects looked brighter. He told me where the different foreigners of our district were in hiding, and that some students from the University had just been over seeking for us, but that the streets were still too dangerous for foreigners to go out.
Shortly after Mr. T—left, however, there came to my ear, keenly attuned to rifle fire, a new sound. It was a dull boom, followed by an explosion that shook the ground. Then, in rapid succession, crash followed crash. I knew now that the foreign gunboats lying in the Yangtze had opened fire on the city, and I was confident that all of us still in the city would be massacred in reprisal. Later I learned that the firing was a barrage which the British and American gunboats placed about a house on ‘Socony Hill’ where some forty-nine foreigners, including women and children and the American Consul and his family, were being besieged and fired upon by Nationalist soldiers. The bombardment, instead of sealing our death, undoubtedly effected our escape the next day and put an end to most of the looting.
There was nothing now to do but to wait until dark, so I settled down to spend several of the most gloomy hours of my life. When darknessfell Mr. T— reappeared to discuss with my host what I should do for the night. My host thought that it was dangerous for me to remain in his house that night, as several people had seen me take refuge there and he was afraid someone might inform on me. Mr. T—’s house was already full to overflowing with extra guests. Finally it was decided that I should be exchanged for three of Mr. T—’s guests. My host did not know, and neither did I, that the three were ex-Northem soldiers, or he might not have agreed so readily to the plan!
As there were few people on the street we made our way to Mr. T—’s house without exciting any attention. Passing in darkness through the house, we came to a room where four men sat. Three of them were ex-Northern soldiers and the fourth was a Seminary student whose things had all been looted. These men soon went out and Mr. T— prepared me a bed on the floor, depriving, I am afraid, some of his own family of necessary bedding. I protested, but in vain. I passed a horrible night of tense nervous strain. I could not relax; I lay awake thinking of my family and listening for the bark of dogs, which would announce the approach of someone along the street. The crash of falling walls and the barking of the dogs kept me awake most of t he night.
At six-thirty Mr. T— brought water for me to bathe with and told me breakfast was waiting. I had not taken many mouthfuls before the good news came that a rescue party was at the door. With a hasty thanks and goodbye to Mr. T—, who had done so much for me, I hastened out to meet one of the most welcome sights of my life. There, awaiting me in the field just south of my own home, were gathered all the Hansimen district refugees, together with Dr. Bowen, who had come over from the University with an escort of soldiers to find us. We must have made a strange sight as with choked voices and tear-filled eyes we welcomed each other. I cannot accurately describe the appearance of the party. Most of us were dressed in some kind of nondescript Chinese clothes.
Mr. W—, the police official, who had welcomed me with tears in his eyes, now gave the order to proceed, as a large crowd was gathering and there were several others to be picked up on the way to the University. We walked up past our house to the Bible School. As we passed our house I noticed that even the casings of the windows were gone. I saw Lancaster’s charred house. At the Bible School we saw the remains of the old dormitory, whose walls I had heard falling in the night. The Y. W. C. A. secretaries’ home and Mr. Robson’s home were standing open and naked. As we passed them a shout went up and Miss Mabel Lee appeared from a neighboring house, dressed in Chinese clothes. We passed the foreign hospital, with its memories of loving service. It had not escaped the ruthless hands of the soldiers, nor indeed had the Chinese hospital next door. And finally the home of Dr. Hutcheson, the superintendent of the hospital, had been burned. I record these acts of violence and destruction, not for the purpose of stirring up hatred and the spirit of revenge, but that a true picture may be drawn of the events of that day of horror and heroism.
We found the University buildings intact, with the exception of a few panes of glass. Credit for saving the University must be given to the students, who many times risked their lives to protect the property and lives of foreign professors. All the members of the University group and t hose who had been rescued from other districts were gathered on the upper floor of Bailie Hall. Now there took place here such a reunion as it is impossible to describe, for one’s eyes moisten and one’s throat tightens at the memory of it. Here we saw Mrs. Williams lying on a cot in one corner of the room, bearing up in a wonderful way under the shock of Dr. Williams’s sudden death. In another room I found Miss Moffet, the secretary-treasurer of our mission, who with Miss Null had bravely remained behind when the women and children had been evacuated in order to protect the girl students at Ming Deh who were unable to get back to their homes. She had lain with her wounds untended for nearly twelve hours, covered up with straw in a workman’s hut, and had only been brought to the University about midnight the night before. She looked wan and pale, but still kept her sense of humor and her cheerful smile. In this room was also aged Mrs. Brenton, mother of Dr. Pryor, who had been carried Wednesday night from her sick bed at the Methodist Academy to Dr. Bowen’s home, and who went through some horrible experiences there at the hands of the soldiers. Here too I saw Mrs. Singleterry and Mrs. Pickens with their newly born babies. They had been brought over from the foreign hospital, after being robbed of all their personal belongings while lying helpless in bed. Nearly everyone there had been robbed by the soldiers of all money, watches, and jewelry; and most of them had escaped with only the clothing on their backs.
As the afternoon wore on and we were still not on our way out of the city of terror, our anxiety increased. At four o’clock, however, word came that we should be ready to move immediately. We were to be taken out of the city to the gunboats under the auspices of the Red Swastika Society, a Chinese Buddhist society patterned after the Red Cross. We were also to have a military escort. Farewells were now said to the many Chinese friends, servants, and students who had come in to see us. The real affection and sorrow shown by the Chinese Christians were most touching, but even more so perhaps were the farewells to faithful servants. Many of them had risked their lives to help us, and all during the day had been bringing in things which they had rescued from our homes — often, it is true, things of little value, yet showing their desire to help as much as possible. Soon we were all ready, for most of us had very little to pack. The sick went first; then the women with children; and lastly the men and a few women.
That march of the foreign community from the University of Nanking to the river has, I think, never been equaled in history. There were over a hundred men, women, and children in the party — men and women of refinement and education, seekers after peace and good will among the people they had come to serve. The total of the years of unremitting service represented in that company — service to the Chinese people in hospital, school, and church — cannot be calculated. It was the best that America had to give to China, and it was rejected, not by the people among whom the years had been spent, but by the soldiers of the government that had promised to protect foreign lives and property.
There were two defeated armies on the Hsiakwan road that memorable night of March 25. The one was looking back into the city — it was a part of the defeated Northern army. Thousands of weary, wretched Northern soldiers passed us on their way back to captivity. The other army was a division of the army of Christ. They were marching out that night apparently defeated. But were they really defeated? Time alone can give the final answer, but the witness of friends, students, and servants back there in Bailie Hall but a little while before makes the idea of defeat a really impossible one. The work that has been done in Nanking throughout the years; the lives that have been brought under the control of the spirit of Christ; the Christian homes built up and the churches established — all these belie the idea of defeat. A retreating army, indeed, but not a defeated one.
It was dark when we arrived at the bank of the Yangtze, and the giant searchlights of the gunboats were playing over the river and the surrounding country, making it look like a fairy land. I had hoped against hope that the report of my family’s departure for Shanghai was untrue. But they had gone, and the hour of reunion with them was delayed for two days more.
The next morning at five o’clock I arose after a rather sleepless night and went on deck just in time to get a last view of Nanking as the destroyer turned down the river toward Shanghai. I shall never forget that morning view
of Purple Mountain. Only one who has looked on the mountain every day for ten years, and who has roamed its slopes hunting for deer and other wild game, can appreciate the feeling which we Nankingites have for our mountain. That Sunday morning as I saw it silhouetted against the eastern sky, touched with the first rays of the rising sun, it aroused all the affection that it had nurtured these many years. All the feverishness of the past two days slipped away, and there came a great yearning for this city which had been our home for so many years, and which held within it the earthly remains of our little son — the city to which we would gladly give the rest of our lives. For the ignorant populace who so wantonly robbed us and destroyed the home which we had slowly built up with such care, there is no bitterness, but only a great pity. For the brutal soldiery who murdered our friends and wounded, robbed, and insulted us, there is also no bitterness, but only amazement at their senseless brutality and sometimes disgust at their savagery. For them, as for the rabble, we would pray, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ But for those who inspired and planned this tragedy and who have brought such disgrace to the whole Chinese nation, and especially to that new government to which we had looked with such eager hopes, our desire is that they should be brought to justice, and that the insidious influence of Russian Communism should be removed from the land. We do not believe that what happened in Nanking on March 24 really represents the Chinese people, but would rather believe that they are more truly represented by the heroism, unselfishness, and good will which so many of our friends and neighbors displayed on that fateful day.