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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas - page 59 / 129





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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas

“shoot him till him dead.”

But there was very little excitement over it, not a bit more than you would see in a London street when a pickpocket is “run in” by the police. Human life is very cheap in China.

Prepared for War

But amid all this mass of wild-looking old-world people there was also a certain amount of civilisation. Two or three great river steamers like ours were lying at the wharves.

Above the ramshackle brown-roofed houses there stood the masts of the wireless telegraph over the Chinese Admiralty office.

Tugs were puffing about everywhere among the crowds of boats. A lifeboat was stationed out in midstream with a crew of trained swimmers on board whose duty it is to jump over the moment that a sampan or boat capsizes-as very often happens-and rescue the inhabitants.

A little farther upstream was stationed a smart-looking British gunboat, anchored off the green wooded island of Shameen. This island is the part of Canton in which the Europeans live, and it was just now in a state of defence because of the unsettled state of the Chinese.

When we crossed the bridge leading from the city to Shameen we found a Chinese sentry on one side and a British sentry on the other. There was a bit of a contrast between them.

The Chinese soldier was in a khaki uniform tunic with a kind of canvas waistcoat over it with a dozen pockets all full of ammunition, for head covering he wore an ordinary straw hat, and though he carried his rifle in one hand he had a fan in the other. He wore knickerbockers, white canvas shoes, and. green socks held up with elastic suspenders. He was a very thin little man and looked awfully tired of soldiering.

The sentry on our side of the bridge was a fine, tall, bearded man of the Indian Army, a hill-man from Baluchistan, who looked as if he could eat the Chinaman in two gulps.

There were several forts among the houses and gardens of the Europeans, made of sandbags and fenced round with barbed-wire “entanglements.” These were all ready to be manned by the Baluchis, seamen, and armed civilians at any moment.

Ladies and children were there, too, and among them three fine little British boys, who gave me the Scout’s salute, although not yet old enough to be Scouts.

It was pleasing to see this little colony of a few hundred whites quite prepared to hold their own against as many hundreds of thousands of Chinese if necessary. It had been quite easy for them to get away by steamer to Hong Kong if they liked to be really safe, but they did not mean to show any white feather nor to leave their homes to be robbed and wrecked, and so they were sticking it out.

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