Copyright
Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff.

Banzai! by Parabellum online

. (page 7 of 23)
Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 7 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


windows of the upper stories. A person paying his first visit to this
busy, bustling ant-hill of yore would, if he had not been reminded by
the peculiar penetrating smell of the yellow race of their proximity,
scarcely have believed that he was really in the notorious Chinese
quarter of New York.

The policeman who acted as Robertson's guide told him that they had
known all about the movements and intentions of the mob long before it
had reached the police headquarters, by way of the Bowery and Elm
Street, and begun to force its way from the Bowery through some of the
side streets into the Chinese quarter. Fearing that the latter would be
set on fire, the chief of police had given orders to protect it from the
irresponsible mob by barricading the streets with all the available
members of the force. In this attempt, however, they had been only
partially successful. It was out of the question for six hundred men to
hold out against tens of thousands; the enormous pressure from the rear
had hurled the front rows like driftwood against the thin chain of
policemen, which, after a stubborn resistance, had simply been broken
through at several spots.

A hand-to-hand fight had ensued and shots were soon fired on both sides,
so that the police had to content themselves with an effort to check the
worst excesses. Then, too, the spirit of patriotism was just as rampant
in the breasts of the police as it was in the breasts of those who urged
on the mob. As it was impossible to catch hold of the treacherous
invaders themselves, their natural allies should at least not escape
unscathed. The Chinese were of course prepared for such an attack. The
howling, raging mob found barricaded doors and windows wherever they
went, and even when they did succeed, after considerable labor, in
breaking these down, it was usually only to find that the birds had
flown, that the occupants had made their escape in time. Wherever
resistance had been offered by the Chinese, the mob had gone beyond all
bounds in its frenzy.

"Several hundred Chinamen must have been killed," said the policeman,
"and it would be best for the papers to hush up what went on inside the
houses." Robertson and his companion stopped near a lamp-post, and the
former hurriedly made some shorthand notes of all the information he had
received.

"Look," said the policeman, "Judge Lynch has done his work well," and he
pointed with his club to a lamp-post on the other side of the street
from which two dark bodies were hanging. "Simply hanged 'em," he added
laconically.

As the policeman would not allow him to enter any of the houses because,
as he said, it meant certain death, Robertson decided to go to the
nearest telephone pay-station in order to 'phone his story to the paper.
The policeman went with him as far as the police-station. By the
uncertain light of the street-lamps they stumbled along the pavement,
which was often almost entirely hidden by heaps of rubbish and regular
mountains of refuse. They saw several more bodies suspended from
lamp-posts, and the blood on the pavement before many of the mutilated
houses testified eloquently to the manner in which the mob had wreaked
its vengeance on the sons of the Celestial Kingdom. Ambulance officers
were carrying away the wounded and dead on stretchers, and after
Robertson had stayed a little while at the police-station and received
information as to the number of people killed thus far, he walked in the
direction of Broadway, having found the entrance to the Subway closed.

At Broadway he again came upon a chain of police, and learned that the
troops had been called out and that a battalion was marching up
Broadway.

Robertson plunged once more into the seething human whirlpool, but made
little progress. For about fifteen minutes he stood, unable to move,
near a highly excited individual, who, with a bloody handkerchief tied
around his head and with wild gesticulations was reciting his
experiences during the storming of a Chinese house. This was his man. A
momentary lull in the roar around him gave him a chance of getting
closer to him and screaming into his ear: "I'll give you two dollars if
you'll step into the nearest hallway with me and tell me that story!"

The man stared at him in astonishment but when Robertson added, "It's
for the _New York Daily Telegraph_," he was posted at once. They made
their way with considerable difficulty to the edge of the crowd and
managed to squeeze into a wide doorway full of people, whose attention,
however, was not directed to the doings on Broadway, but rather to a
meeting that was being held in a large rear room. Robertson managed to
find an unoccupied chair in a neighboring room, which was packed to the
door, and sitting astride it, proceeded to use the back of the chair as
a rest for his note-book. The story turned out to be somewhat
disjointed, for every time a push from the crowd sent the man flying
against the hard wall, he uttered a long series of oaths.

"For Heaven's sake," said Robertson, "quit your swearing! Make a hole in
the wall behind you and hustle with your story!"

"This'll mean at least a column in the _Telegraph_," mused Robertson as
the story neared its end. But he was already listening with one ear to
what was going on in the big room, whence the sharp, clear tones of a
speaker could be heard through the suffocating tobacco fumes. Over the
heads of the attentive crowd hung a few gas-lamps, the globes of which
looked like large oranges. Robertson gave his Mott Street hero the
promised two dollar bill and then made his way to the rear room.
Standing in the doorway, he could clearly distinguish the words of the
speaker, who was apparently protesting in the name of some workmen
against a large manufacturer who had at noon dismissed three thousand of
them.

The orator, who was standing on a table in the rear of the room, looked
like a swaying shadow through the smoke, but his loud appeal completely
filled the room, and the soul-stirring pictures he drew of the misery of
the workmen, who had been turned out on the streets at the word of the
millionaire manufacturer, caused his hearers' cheeks to burn with
excitement.

" - and therefore," concluded the speaker, "we will not submit to the
absolutely selfish action of Mr. Hanbury. As leader of our Union I ask
you all to return to work at the factory to-morrow at the usual hour,
and we will then assert our right to employment by simply continuing our
work and ignoring our dismissal. Of course the simplest and most
convenient thing for Mr. Hanbury is to shut down his plant and skip with
his millions to the other side. But we demand that the factory be kept
running, and if our wages aren't paid, we'll find means for getting
them. Our country cannot fight the enemy even with a thousand
millionaires. When the American people take the field to fight for the
maintenance of American society and the American state, they have a
right to demand that the families they are compelled to leave at home
shall at least be suitably cared for. Again I say: We'll keep Mr.
Hanbury's factory open."

The air shook with thunderous applause, and a firm determination lighted
up hundreds of faces, wrinkled and scarred from work and worry. And who
would have dared oppose these men when animated by a single thought and
a common purpose? Again and again enthusiastic shouts filled the room,
and the speaker was assured that not a man present would fail to be on
hand the next morning.

Leaning against the door-post, Robertson made notes of this occurrence
also and then looked round in a vain endeavor to find a means of escape
from the suffocating atmosphere. While doing so his glance fell on the
spot where only a few moments before he had observed the swaying shadow
of the speaker. The latter's place had been taken by another, who was
making a frantic but vain effort to secure quiet and attention. With his
arms waving in the air he looked through the murky atmosphere for all
the world like a quickly turning wind-mill.

Gradually the applause ceased, while everybody in the room, Robertson
included, was startled by the announcement of the chairman that Mr.
Hanbury was most anxious to address the assemblage. A moment of
astonished silence and then Bedlam broke loose. "What, Mr. Hanbury wants
to speak?" "Not the old one, the young one!" "He must be mad. What does
he want here?" "Three cheers for Mr. Hanbury!" "Down with him! We don't
want him here, we can manage our own affairs!" "Let him speak!" "Three
cheers for Mr. Hanbury!" "Be quiet, damn you, why don't you shut up?"
These and other similarly emphatic shouts reached Robertson's ears. He
hunted for his last pencil in his vest-pocket, and when he looked up
again, he saw through the cloud of smoke a tall, refined person standing
on the table.

"We don't want to be discharged! Don't let our wives starve!" the voices
began again, and it was some time before it became possible for the
speaker to make himself heard.

"Is that really Mr. Hanbury?" Robertson asked one of his neighbors.

"Yes, the son."

"It seems incredible! He's taking his life in his hands."

Gerald Hanbury's first words were lost in the uproar, but gradually the
crowd began to listen. He spoke only a few sentences, and these
Robertson took down in shorthand:

" - The demand just made by your speaker, and supported by all present,
that my father's factory should not be shut down in these turbulent
times, was made by myself this very morning, the moment I heard the news
of the base attack on our country. I don't want any credit for having
presented the matter to my father in most vigorous fashion, and I regret
to say I have accomplished nothing thus far. But the same reasons which
you have just heard from the lips of Mr. Bright have guided me. I, too,
should consider it a crime against the free American people, if we
manufacturers were to desert them in this hour of national danger. I am
not going to make a long speech; I have come here simply to tell you
that I shall go straight to my father from here and offer him the whole
of my fortune from which to pay you your wages so long as the war lasts,
and not only those employed in the factory, but also the families of
those who may enter the army to defend their homes and their country."

Such an outburst of passionate enthusiasm, such wild expressions of joy
as greeted this speech Robertson had never witnessed. The crowd screamed
and yelled itself hoarse, hats were thrown into the air, and pandemonium
reigned supreme. Mr. Hanbury was seized by dozens of strong arms as he
jumped down from the table and was carried through the room over the
heads of the crowd. After he had made the rounds of the hall several
times and shaken hundreds of rough hands, the group of workmen
surrounding the foreman on whose shoulders young Hanbury was enthroned
marched to the entrance, while the whole assembly joined in a marching
song.

By pure chance Robertson found himself near this group as they came to a
halt before the door, just in time to save Mr. Hanbury from having his
skull smashed against the top. So they let him slide down to the ground,
and then the whole crowd made a rush for the Broadway entrance. Such a
jam ensued here, that another meeting was held on the spot, which,
however, consisted chiefly in cheers for Mr. Hanbury.

Suddenly some one shouted: "We'll go with Mr. Hanbury to his father!"
Inch by inch they moved towards Broadway, whence a terrific roar and
wild shouts greeted the ears of the closely packed mass at the entrance.

Robertson was standing close to Mr. Hanbury, whose face shone with happy
excitement. Just as they reached the entrance to the street, the crowd
outside suddenly started to run north in mad haste.

"This is the proudest day of my life as an American citizen!" said
Robertson to Hanbury. Hardly had he finished the sentence, when a
crashing sound like thunder rent the air and resounded down the whole
length of Broadway, as if the latter were a cañon surrounded by
precipitous walls of rock.

"They're firing on the people," burst from thousands of lips in the
wildest indignation.

Some one shouted: "Pull out your revolvers!" and in response red sparks
flashed here and there in the crowd and the rattle of shots greeted the
troops marching up Broadway. The mob seemed to be made up largely of
Russians.

Just in front of Robertson and Gerald Hanbury a young woman, who had
been wounded by a stray shot, lay on the pavement screaming with pain
and tossing her arms wildly about.

"Three cheers for Mr. Hanbury!" came the loud cry once more from the
entrance. At this instant a big workman, apparently drunk, and dressed
only in shirt and trousers, stepped in front of the door, and swinging
the spoke of a large wheel in his right hand shouted: "Where's Mr.
Hanbury?" And some one shouted as in reply: "The blackguard has turned
three thousand workmen out on the streets to-day so that he can go
traveling with his millions." The workman yelled once more: "Where is
Mr. Hanbury?" Gerald moved forward a step and, looking the questioner
straight in the eye, said: "I'm Mr. Hanbury, what do you want?"

The workman glared at him with wild, bloodshot eyes and cried in a
fierce rage: "That's what I want," and quick as a flash the heavy spoke
descended on Hanbury's head. The terrific blow felled Gerald to the
ground, and he sank without uttering a sound beside the body of the
wounded woman lying at his feet.

Robertson flew at the drunken brute as he prepared for a second blow,
but some of the other laborers had already torn his weapon out of his
hand, and, as if in answer to this base murder, the troops discharged a
fresh volley only a hundred yards away, which was again received with
shots from dozens of revolvers.

Robertson felt a stinging pain in his left arm and, in a sudden access
of weakness, he leaned for support against the doorway. His senses left
him for a moment, and when he came to, he saw a company of soldiers
passing the spot where he stood. The next instant the butt-end of a
musket pushed him backwards into the doorway.

"This is madness!" he cried. "You're firing on the people."

"Because the people are murdering and plundering downtown!" answered an
officer. Gradually the tumult calmed down. Another company passed by
Robertson, who had sat down on the step before the door. He examined his
arm and found that he was uninjured; a stone splinter must have struck
his left elbow, for the violent pain soon disappeared. The mob was
quickly lost to view up Broadway, while some ambulance surgeons appeared
on the other side of the street. Robertson called over to them and told
them Mr. Hanbury had been murdered, whereupon they crossed the street at
once.

Gerald Hanbury's corpse was lifted on a stretcher.

"How terrible, they've broken in his skull," said one of the surgeons,
and taking a gray shawl from the shoulders of the charwoman who was
writhing with agony, he threw it over the upper part of Gerald's body.

"Where shall we take it?" asked one of the surgeons.

"To Mr. Hanbury's house, two blocks north," directed Robertson, and
going up to one of the surgeons he added: "I'll take your place at the
stretcher, for you can make yourself useful elsewhere."

"How about her?" asked one of the ambulance attendants, pointing to the
woman on the ground.

"I'm afraid we can't do much for her," replied one of the surgeons, "she
seems to be near death's door."

Then the men lifted their burden and slowly the sad procession walked up
Broadway, which was now almost deserted.

A few shots could still be heard from the direction of Union Square; to
the left the sky was fiery red while clouds of smoke traveled over the
high buildings on Broadway, shutting out the light of the stars.
Robertson looked back. The street lay dark and still. Suddenly far away
in the middle of the street two glaring white lights appeared and above
them flared and waved the smoky flames of the petroleum torches, while
gongs and sirens announced the approach of the fire-engines. And now
they thundered past, the glaring lights from the acetylene lamps in
front of the fire-engines lighting up the whole pavement. Streams of
light and rushing black shadows played up and down the walls of the
buildings. Next came the rattling hook and ladder wagons and the
hosecarts, the light from the torches dancing in red and yellow stripes
on the helmets of the firemen. And then another puffing, snorting
engine, with hundreds of sparks and thick smoke pouring out of its wide
funnel, hiding the vehicle behind it in dark clouds. They're here one
moment, and gone the next, only to make way for another hook and ladder,
which sways and rattles past. The clanging of the gongs and the yells of
the sirens grow fainter and fainter, and finally, through the clouds of
sparks and smoke the whole weird cavalcade was seen to disappear into a
side-street. Little bits of smoldering wood and pieces of red-hot coal
remained lying on the street and burned with quivering, quick little
flames.

As they walked on the man next to Robertson told him why the troops had
been compelled to interfere. The excited mob which had tasted blood, as
it were, in the Chinese quarter and become more and more frantic, had
continued plundering in some of the downtown streets without any
discrimination - simply yielding to an uncontrollable desire for
destruction. As a result a regular battle ensued between this mob, which
consisted chiefly of Russian and Italian rabble, on one hand, and Irish
workingmen who were defending their homes, on the other. The Russian
contingent seemed to consist largely of the riff-raff which had found
such a ready refuge in New York during the Russian Revolution, and some
of these undesirable citizens now had recourse to dynamite. Some of the
bombs caused great loss of life among the Irish people living in that
part of town, and several policemen had also been killed in the
performance of their duty. It was at this point that the authorities
deemed it advisable to call out the troops, with whose arrival affairs
immediately began to take on a different turn.

The soldiers did not hesitate to use their bayonets against the rabble.
At several corners they encountered barricades, but they hesitated
resorting to their firearms until several bombs were thrown among the
troops while they were storming a barricade defended by Russian
Terrorists. That was the last straw. With several volleys the soldiers
drove the gang of foreign looters up Broadway, where a volley discharged
near the spot where Gerald Hanbury had been murdered, dispersed the last
compact mass of plunderers.

In the meantime the men had reached Mr. Hanbury's house and Robertson
rang the bell. Not until they had rung loudly several times did the
butler appear, and then only to announce gruffly that there was no one
at home. A policeman ordered him to open the door at once, so that Mr.
Hanbury's dead body might be brought in.

"But Mr. Hanbury is at home, you can't possibly have his dead body
there!"

"Tell Mr. Hanbury right away!" interrupted the policeman. "It's young
Mr. Hanbury, and he's been murdered. Open the door, do you hear!"

Silently the heavy bronze door turned on its hinges and, with the
policeman in the lead, the men were ushered into the high marble
entrance-hall of the Hanbury palace. They carried the stretcher on which
lay the murdered body of the son of the house up the broad staircase,
the thick carpets deadening the sound of their steps. At the top of the
stairs they lowered their burden and waited in silence. Doors opened and
shut in the distance; from one of them a bright stream of light fell on
the shining onyx pillars and on the gilt frames of the paintings, which
in the light from strange swinging lamps looked like huge black patches.
Then the light from the door disappeared, a bell rang somewhere and
figures hurried to and fro. A fantastically dressed East Indian next
appeared and made signs to the ambulance-men to carry the stretcher into
a room which, in its fabulous, Oriental splendor represented one of the
most beautiful of the Indian mosques. The men carried their burden
carefully into the middle of the room and then set it down and looked at
one another in embarrassment. The policeman assumed a dignified posture
and cleared his throat. Suddenly the heavy gold-embroidered curtain
before one of the doors was pushed aside by a brown hand and fell back
in heavy folds; an old white-haired man stood for a moment in the
doorway and then advanced towards the officer with a firm step.

The latter cleared his throat again and then began in a dry and
business-like tone to give his report of Gerald Hanbury's murder,
ending with the words " - and these gentlemen picked him up and brought
him here."

"I thank you, gentlemen," said the old man, and taking out his
pocket-book he handed each of them, including Robertson, a twenty-dollar
bill. Then he sat down wearily on the edge of the stretcher and rested
his head in his hands. He seemed to be oblivious of his surroundings.
The men stood round for a few moments not knowing what to do, until
finally the policeman led the ambulance-men and Robertson to the door,
which opened automatically.

As the Indian closed the door behind them the officer said to Robertson:
"This is like the last act in a Third Avenue melodrama."

"Life has a liking for such plays," answered Robertson. As they left the
Hanbury mansion the clock of Grace Church struck midnight. Robertson
glanced down Broadway once more and saw that the long thoroughfare was
almost deserted; only here and there the bluish-white light from the
electric lamps shone on the bayonets of the sentinels patrolling up and
down at long intervals. Then he repaired to the _Daily Telegraph_
offices to dictate his notes, so that the huge rolls of printed paper
might announce to the world to-morrow that the first victims of the
terrible war had fallen on the streets of New York.

The factory of Horace Hanbury & Son was not shut down.




_Chapter VII_

THE RED SUN OVER THE GOLDEN GATE


Too-oo-ot, bellowed the whistle of a big steamer that was proceeding
gingerly through the fog which enveloped the broad Bay of San Francisco
early on the morning of May seventh. The soft, white mist crept through
the Golden Gate among the masts and funnels of the ships made fast to
the docks, enveloped the yellow flame of the lanterns on the foremast in
a misty veil, descended from the rigging again, and threatened to
extinguish the long series of lights along the endless row of docks. The
glistening bands of light on the Oakland shore tried their best to
pierce the fog, but became fainter and fainter in the damp, penetrating,
constantly moving masses of mist. Even the bright eye on Angel Island
was shut out at last. Too-oo-ot, again sounded the sullen cry of warning
from the steamer in the Golden Gate - Too-oo-ot. And then from Tiburon
opposite the shrill whistle of the ferry-boat was heard announcing its
departure to the passengers on the early train from San Rafael. The
flickering misty atmosphere seemed like a boundless aquarium, an
aquarium in which gigantic prehistoric, fabulous creatures stretched
their limbs and glared at one another with fiery eyes. Trembling beams
of light hovered between the dancing lights on and between the ships,
rising and falling like transparent bars when the shivering sentries on
deck moved their lanterns, and threw into relief now some dripping bits
of rigging, and again the black outline of a deck-house as the sailor
hurried below for a drink to refresh his torpid spirits.

The cold wind blew the damp fog into Market Street, forced it uphill and
then let it roll down again, filling every street with its gray
substance.

Too-oo-ot, came the whistle from the Golden Gate again and further off
still another whistle could be heard. Over in Tiburon the ferry-boat had
calmed down, as it found itself unable to budge in the fog. One after
the other, the tower-clocks struck half-past four, the strokes sounding
loud and unnatural in the fog. From Telegraph Hill at the northern end
of San Francisco a splendid view could be obtained of this undulating
sea of mist. A few of the isolated houses situated in the higher parts
of the town looked like islands floating on the ever-moving glossy gray
billows, while the top stories of several sky-scrapers rose up here and
there like solemn black cliffs. A faint light in the east heralded the
approach of day. Too-oo-ot, sounded the whistle of the approaching


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 7 of 23)