Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
It was here that Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer of “Kidnapped” and many another good book of adventure, used to meet with the old sailors of the South Seas and learn their experiences.
In the city, near the docks, there is a little green sloping garden where Stevenson used to sit and talk with the sailors, and a monument has there been set up to him by the Americans, for they admire his writings just as much as we do.
In April, 1906, just seven years ago, this beautiful city was waking up to its day’s work, the men preparing to go to their business and the boys and girls to go to school, when suddenly, as one of the inhabitants described it to me, there came a rumbling roar as of low thunder, the floor of her room seemed to heave up under her feet, and she felt twisted violently half round and back again, which gave her a feeling of sickness.
Then the clattering of falling bricks and groaning of timbers made her realise that it was an earthquake; so she ran to the door and flung it open so that it would not get jammed tight, and she stood in the doorway where the overhead arch would be a protection and less likely than the ceiling to fall in upon her.
A man told me that at the moment of the earthquake he was riding in a tramcar, and though he heard the roar he did not feel much more than the ordinary bumping and slewing of the car.
But suddenly he noticed people running out of their houses into the street.
The person who chiefly caught his attention was a woman in her nightdress, with her hair down her back, followed closely by a man who was half dressed and carrying an open razor in his hand.
The first idea that occurred to my friend was that this man was trying to murder the woman and that the other people were rushing out to prevent him, but the falling of chimneys and of walls of houses soon showed him that an earthquake was in progress.
The earthquake lasted some minutes, shock succeeding shock. Houses in some cases collapsed or fell partly, the roadways and pavements buckled up or split open in places.
Then fires broke out in several places from the breaking of gas-pipes and fusing of wires.
The fire brigades soon got to work, but it was then found that the water-mains were broken underground by the earthquake and no water was forthcoming at the fire-plugs.
A strong wind carried the flames and sparks quickly from one building to the next, and in a short time hundreds of houses were blazing.
Hour after hour went by, the conflagration spreading all the time. Rich and poor, high and low, were in the streets trying to save what they could carry away before the flames should reach them. But very little could be done, and, before the day was out, what had been a beautiful bright city at dawn was a smoking heap of ashes at dusk.
However, directly the disaster was over, the people lost no time in starting to rebuild their homes, and now there is once more a splendid modern city standing, of some 600,000 inhabitants.
Socialists and Scouts
Portland in Oregon is another fine city near the west coast of America. There is a high hill back of the town on which the citizens have most beautiful homes looking out over a wide range of country to great snow-capped mountains in the background.
At Oregon the Socialists came to the meeting which I held for Scouts and schoolboys and protested against our making boys into soldiers. They seemed to think that Scouts were armed with rifles and were learning military drill and playing at being soldiers, and they said they would not allow any boys to become Scouts.