Copyright
Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff.

Banzai! by Parabellum online

. (page 8 of 23)
Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 8 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


steamer once again; then its voice broke and died out in a discordant
sob, which was drowned in the nervous gang, gang, gang of the ship's
bell. The steamer had been obliged to anchor on account of the fog.
Too-oo-ot, came from the other steamer further out. Then life in the bay
came to a stand-still: nothing could be done till the sun rose and
brought warmth in its train.

"This damned fog," said Tom Hallock, a telegraph boy, to his colleague,
Johnny Kirkby, as he jumped off his bicycle in front of the Post Office,
"this damned fog is enough to make one choke."

Johnny muttered some unintelligible words, for he was still half asleep;
the effect of last night's eighteen drinks had not yet quite worn off.
"You can't see the nearest lamp-post," he blurted out after a while. "I
nearly ran into a company of infantry just now that suddenly popped up
in front of me out of the fog. What's going on this morning, anyhow?
What are they marching out to Golden Gate for?"

"Oh, you jay," said Tom, "naval maneuvers, of course! Are you blind?
Haven't you read the _Evening Standard_? There are to be naval maneuvers
this morning, and Admiral Perry is going to attack San Francisco."

"This war-game is a crazy scheme," grumbled Johnny. They both left their
bicycles downstairs in a room in the Post Office and then went up to
their quarters on the first story.

"Naval maneuvers?" began Johnny again. "I really don't know anything
about them. It was in last night's _Evening Standard_. It said that the
orders had been changed quite unexpectedly, and that the maneuvers would
take place outside the bay to-day."

"It looks as though we'd have a long wait before daylight appears," said
Tom impatiently, pointing out of the windows, while Johnny tackled the
dilapidated tea-kettle in an effort to make himself an early morning
drink. Tom stamped up and down the room to warm himself, remarking:
"Thank the Lord it's Sunday and there isn't much going on, otherwise
we'd all get sick chasing around with telegrams in this beastly fog."

Boom! The roar of a distant cannon suddenly made the windows rattle;
boom again! It sounded as though it came from the Fort. "There you are,"
said Tom, "there's your naval maneuvers. Perry won't stand any nonsense.
He's not afraid of the fog; in fact, it gives him a fine chance for an
attack."

Johnny didn't answer, for he had meanwhile dozed off. As soon as he had
with considerable trouble got his tea-kettle into working order, he had
fallen fast asleep, and now began to snore with his nose pressed flat
on the table, as if he meant to saw it through before his tea was ready.

Tom shrugged his shoulders in disgust, and said: "Those blamed drinks."

Another boom! from outside. The door opened behind Tom and a telegraph
official looked in. "One, two," he counted, "two are there," and then he
closed the door again.

Downstairs in the street a motor-cycle hurried past puffing and
rattling, the rider's figure looking like a gigantic elusive shadow
through the fog.

Tom started to walk up and down again as the clock in the hall struck a
quarter to five. A bell rung in the next room. Steps were heard coming
up the stairs and a colleague of the other two came in, swearing at the
fog. He passed Johnny, poured out some of the latter's tea for himself
and drank it, meanwhile looking at the sleeper inquiringly.

"It's the drinks," said Tom, grinning.

"H'm," growled the other. Another motor-cycle went by on the street
below, and then another.

Later on a group of ten motor-cycles rode past.

"Did you see that, Harry?" asked Tom, who was standing at the window.

"What?"

"Didn't they have guns?"

"They probably have something to do with the naval maneuvers."

At this moment another group of ten men passed, and there was no doubt
of the fact that they carried guns.

"I guess it is the naval maneuvers," asserted Tom.

Boom! came the sound of another shot.

"That's queer," said Tom. "What do you suppose it is?" He opened the
window and listened. "Do you hear it?" he asked Harry, who admitted
that he could also hear a rattling, scraping noise as though drums were
being beaten far away or as though a handful of peas had been thrown
against a pane of glass.

Tom leaned further out of the window in time to see a bicycle rider stop
in front of the Post Office, take a big sheet of paper, moisten it with
a large brush, and stick it on the wall near the entrance; then he rode
off. Tom shut the window, for the fog seemed to be getting thicker and
thicker, and now, in the pale light of approaching dawn, it was almost
impossible to recognize the yellow spots of light on the lamp-posts. By
this time Johnny had awakened and they all had some tea together.

They were interrupted by a fourth messenger boy, who entered the room at
this moment and exclaimed:

"That's a great scheme of Admiral Perry's, and the fog seems to have
helped him a lot. What do you think? He has surprised San Francisco.
There's a notice posted downstairs stating that the Japanese have taken
possession of San Francisco and that the Japanese military governor of
San Francisco asks the citizens to remain quiet or the city will be
bombarded from the harbor by the Japanese fleet."

"Perry is a great fellow, there's no use trying to fool with him," said
Tom. "San Francisco surprised by the Japs - that's a mighty fine scheme."

Outside some one was tearing up the stairs two at a time, doors banged
noisily, and several bells rang. "Somebody's in a h - - of a hurry," said
Harry; "we'll have something to do in a minute."

A telegraph operator hurriedly opened the door and with great beads of
perspiration rolling down his face, shouted at the top of his lungs:
"Boys, the Japanese have surprised San Francisco."

A roar of laughter greeted this piece of information.

"Stung!" cried Harry. "Stung! Perry is the Jap."

"Perry?" inquired the newcomer, staring at the other four. "Who's
Perry?"

"Don't you know, Mr. Allen, that there are naval maneuvers going on
to-day and that Admiral Perry is to surprise San Francisco with the
fleet?"

"But there are notices at all the street-corners saying that the
Japanese governor of San Francisco begs the citizens - - "

"Yes, that's where the joke comes in. Perry is going to attack the town
as a Jap - that's his scheme."

"You haven't had enough sleep," cried Tom. "If all the Japs looked like
Admiral Perry, then - - "

Tom broke off short and dropped his tea-cup on the floor, staring
blankly at the door as if he saw a ghost. Just behind Mr. Allen stood a
Jap, with a friendly grin on his face, but a Jap all the same, most
certainly and without the slightest doubt a Jap. He looked around the
bare office and said in fluent English: "I must ask you to remain in
this room for the present." With these words he raised his revolver and
kept a sharp eye on the five occupants.

Johnny jumped up and felt instinctively for the revolver in his hip
pocket, but in a flash the muzzle of the Jap's gun was pointed straight
at him and mechanically he obeyed the order "Hands up!"

"Hand that thing over here," said the Jap; "you might take it into your
head to use it," and he took Johnny's revolver and put it in his pocket.
Several Japanese soldiers passed by outside. Mr. Allen sank down on a
chair; not one of them could make head or tail of the situation.

They were kept waiting for half an hour. Down below in the street, where
the wagons were beginning to rattle over the pavement, could be heard
the steady march of bodies of soldiers, frequently interrupted by the
noise of motor-cycles. There could no longer be any doubt - the affair
was getting serious.

The lamps were extinguished and the gray light of dawn filled the rooms
as the head Postmaster made his rounds, guarded by a Japanese officer.

The official was perspiring profusely from sheer nervousness. He begged
the employees to keep calm, and assured them that it was no joke, but
that San Francisco was really in the hands of the Japanese. It was the
duty of the employees and the citizens, he said, to refrain from all
resistance, so that a worse misfortune - a bombardment, he added in a
whisper - might not befall the city.

The men were obliged to give up any weapons they had in their
possession, and these were collected by the Japanese. At seven o'clock,
when these details had been attended to, and the few telegraph
instruments which were kept in commission were being used by Japanese
operators - all the others had been rendered useless by the removal of
some parts of the mechanism - one of the regular operators asked to be
allowed to speak to the Postmaster. Permission having been granted by
the Japanese guard, he told his chief, in a low voice, that the moment
the Japanese soldiers had taken possession of the telegraph room he had
hurriedly dispatched a message to Sacramento, telling them that San
Francisco had been surprised by the Japanese fleet and that the whole
city was occupied by Japanese troops.

"I thank you in the name of our poor country," said the Postmaster,
shaking the operator's hand, "I thank you with all my heart; you have
done a brave deed."

Just at the time when the operator sent off his telegram to Sacramento,
a little, yellow, narrow-eyed fellow, lying in a ditch many miles
inland, far to the east of San Francisco, connected his Morse apparatus
with the San Francisco-Sacramento telegraph-wire, and intercepted the
following message: "Chief of Police, Sacramento. - San Francisco attacked
by Japanese fleet this morning; whole city in hands of Japanese army.
Resistance impossible, as attack took place in thick fog before dawn.
Help imperative."

The little yellow man smiled contentedly, tore off the strip, and handed
it to the officer standing near him. The latter drew a deep breath and
said: "Thank Heaven, that's settled."

At the time of the occupation of the Post Office building, the Japanese
outposts had already spun their fine, almost invisible silver threads
around all the telegraph-wires far inland and thus cut off all
telegraphic communication with the east. The telegram just quoted
therefore served only to tell the Japanese outposts of the overwhelming
success of the Japanese arms at the Golden Gate.

But how had all this been accomplished? The enemy could not possibly
have depended on the fog from the outset. Nevertheless an unusual
barometrical depression had brought in its train several days of
disagreeable, stormy weather. The Japanese had been fully prepared for a
battle with the San Francisco forts and with the few warships stationed
in the harbor. The fact that they found such a strong ally in the fog
was beyond all their hopes and strategical calculations.

When the sun sank in the waves of the Pacific on the sixth of May, every
Japanese had his orders for the next few hours, and the five thousand
men whose part it was to attend to the work to be accomplished in San
Francisco on the morning of the seventh, disappeared silently into the
subterranean caves and cellars of the Chinese quarter, to fetch their
weapons and be ready for action soon after midnight.




_Chapter VIII_

IN THE BOWELS OF THE EARTH


It was thought that the earthquake had done away forever with the
underground labyrinth of the Chinese quarter - those thousands of pens
inhabited by creatures that shunned the light of day, those mole-holes
which served as headquarters for a subterranean agitation, the
mysterious methods of which have never been revealed to the eye of the
white man. When had the old Chinatown been laid out; when had those
hidden warehouses, those opium dens and hiding-places of the Mongolian
proletariat been erected, those dens in which all manner of criminals
celebrated their indescribable orgies and which silently hid all these
evil-doers from the far-reaching arm of the police? When had the new
Chinatown sprung up? When had the new quarter been provided with an
endless network of subterranean passages, so that soon all was just as
it had been before the earthquake? No one had paid any attention to
these things. The Mongolian secret societies never paused for a moment
in their invisible conspiracy against the ruling whites, and succeeded
in creating a new underground world, over which the street traffic
rolled on obliviously.

A narrow cellar entrance and greasy, slippery steps led into Hung Wapu's
store, behind which there was a chop-house, which in turn led into an
opium-den. The rooms behind the latter, from which daylight was forever
excluded, were reserved for still worse things. No policeman would ever
have succeeded in raiding these dens of iniquity; he would have found
nothing but empty rooms or bunks filled with snoring Chinese; the
abominable stench would soon have driven him out again, but if, by any
chance, he had attempted to penetrate further and to explore the walls
for the purpose of discovering hidden openings, the only result would
have been a story in the next day's papers about a "missing" policeman.

Hung Wapu, whose plump face, with its enormous spectacles, resembled
that of an old fat boarding-house keeper, was standing at the entrance
to his cellar-shop late on the evening of May sixth. A disgusting odor
and the murmur of many voices reached the street from the cellar. The
policeman had just made his rounds, and Hung Wapu looked after him with
a cunning grin as his heavy steps died away in the distance.

The coast was clear for two hours. Hung Wapu went in and locked the
door, above which a green paper-lantern swung gently to and fro in the
soft night wind. Hung Wapu passed through the store to the chop-house,
where several dozen Chinese were squatting on the ground dining on
unmentionable Chinese delicacies, which consisted of anything and
everything soft enough to be chewed. No one watching the vacant
expression of these people would have dreamed for a moment that anything
was wrong; no one observing these chattering, shouting sons of the
Celestial Kingdom would have guessed that anything out of the ordinary
was on foot. They kept on eating, and did not even look up when several
Japs stole, one by one, through their midst and disappeared through a
door at the back. The Japs apparently attracted no attention whatsoever,
but a keen observer would have noticed that Hung Wapu placed a little
saki-bowl on a low table for every Japanese visitor that had entered his
shop.

The Japs all went through a side-door of the opium-den into a large
room, where they took off their outer clothing and put on uniforms
instead. Then they lay down to sleep either on the mats on the floor or
on the bundles of clothing which were stacked on the floor along the
walls of the room.

Hung Wapu now accompanied one of his Chinese guests up the cellar-steps
to the street, and sitting down on the top step began to chat in a low
voice with his apparently half-intoxicated countryman. At the same time
he polished about two dozen little saki-bowls with an old rag,
afterwards arranging them in long rows on the pavement.

The animated traffic in the narrow alley gradually died down. One by one
most of the gas-lamps closed their tired eyes, and only the green
paper-lantern above Hung Wapu's door continued to swing to and fro in
the night-wind, while similar spots of colored light were visible in
front of a few of the neighboring houses. Far away a clock struck the
hour of midnight, and somewhere else, high up in the air, a bell rang
out twelve strokes with a metallic sound. A cool current of air coming
from the harbor swept through the hot, ill-smelling alley.

Hung Wapu went on whispering with his companion, and all the time he
continued to polish his little saki-bowls. After a while the visitor
fell asleep against the door-post and snored with all his might. Misty
shadows began to fall slowly and the lights of the street lamps took on
a red glow. Suddenly the figure of a drunken man appeared a little
distance away; he was carefully feeling his way along the houses, but as
soon as he came in sight of Hung Wapu's cellar, he suddenly seemed to
sober up for a minute and made directly for it. "Saki!" he stammered,
planting himself in front of Hung Wapu, whereupon the latter made a
sign. The drunken man, a Japanese, whose face looked ghastly pale in the
green light from the lantern, stared stupidly at the saki-bowls, which
Hung Wapu was trying to shield from the tottering wretch with his arm.

"Twenty-eight bowls," he stammered to himself, "twenty-eight
saki-bowls - - "

At this moment the sleeping Chinaman awoke and looked at the drunken man
with a silly laugh.

"Yes, twenty-eight saki-bowls; it's all right - twenty-eight saki-bowls,"
repeated the drunken Jap, and reeled on along the houses.

Hung Wapu seemed to have ended his day's work with the polishing of the
twenty-eight saki-bowls; he piled them up in a heap and disappeared with
them into his cellar, followed with extraordinary agility by the Chinese
sleeper. He hurried through the chop-house, the occupants of which were
all fast asleep on their straw mats, passed through the opium-den, and
then, in the third room, divested himself of his Chinese coat. The
silk-cap with the pigtail attached was flung into a corner, and then,
dressed in a khaki uniform, he seated himself at a table and studied a
map of the city of San Francisco, making notes in a small book by the
light of a smoky oil lamp.

The drunken Jap, who had apparently had doubts about entering Hung
Wapu's chop-house, tottered on down the quiet street and made for
another paper-lantern, which hung above another cellar door about ten
houses farther on.

Here too, curiously enough, he found the Chinese landlord sitting on the
top step. He wanted to push him aside and stumble down the steps, but
the Chinaman stopped him.

"How much?" stuttered the drunken man.

"How much?" answered the Chinaman. "How much money will the great
stranger pay for a meal for his illustrious stomach in Si Wafang's
miserable hut? Forty kasch, forty kasch the noble son of the Rising Sun
must pay for a shabby meal in Si Wafang's wretched hut."

"Forty kasch? I'll bring the forty kasch, most noble Si Wafang. 'I won't
go home till morning, till daylight does appear,'" bawled the tipsy man,
and staggered on down the street, whereupon this landlord also
disappeared in his cellar, after extinguishing the paper lantern over
the doorway.

A death-like stillness reigned in the street, and no one imagined that
the rats were assembling, that the underground passages were full of
them, and that it only needed a sign to bring the swarming masses to the
surface.

A cold breeze from the sea swept through the deserted streets and a
misty veil enveloped the yellow light of the gas-lamps. The lanterns
hanging in front of the Chinese cellars were extinguished one by one,
and everyone apparently turned in. The fog became thicker and thicker,
and covered the pavement with moisture.

Suddenly the door of Hung Wapu's cellar squeaked; it was opened
cautiously and a low clatter came up from below. Thirty dark forms crept
slowly up the steps, one after the other, and without a word they began
their march. Ten houses farther on a similar detachment poured out of
the other Chinese cellar and joined their ranks.

The gas-lamps shed a dull, yellowish-red light on the gun-barrels of the
Japanese company, which was marching down to the docks.

Two thousand steps farther on it had become a battalion, which marched
rapidly in the direction of the barracks of the Fifth Regiment of
regulars in the old Presidio. At the next corner the leader of the
battalion unobtrusively saluted a man in uniform who stepped suddenly
out of a doorway. A few Japanese words were exchanged in a low tone.

"This is an unexpected ally," said the Japanese colonel, holding out his
hand in the dense fog.

Four o'clock struck from the tower of the Union Ferry Depot, and out
from the sea, from the Golden Gate, came the bellowing voice of a
steamer's whistle. The two officers looked at each other and smiled, and
the troops continued their march.

"Halloo!" shouted a roundsman to a policeman who had been leaning
against a lamp-post half asleep. "Halloo, Tom, wake up! Who are those
fellows over there; where the deuce are they going?"

Tom opened his eyes, and up on the hill, a few blocks away, he could
faintly distinguish through the thick fog the outline of a group of
rapidly moving soldiers. "I guess they are some of our boys taking part
in the naval maneuver. You know, Perry's going to attack us to-day."

"Well, I didn't know that," replied the roundsman. "They're great boys,
all right; up and about at four in the morning." Just then the angry
bellow from a steamer's whistle came across the water and abruptly ended
this early morning conversation.

"I suppose that's Perry now," said Tom. "Well, he can't do much in this
beastly fog, anyway."

"So long, Tom," answered the roundsman curtly as he slowly proceeded to
resume his interrupted rounds.

An advance guard of a few men had been sent ahead. They found the sentry
at the barrack-gates fast asleep. When he awoke it was to discover
himself surrounded by a dozen men. He stared at them, still heavy with
sleep, and then reached mechanically for his gun; it was gone. He tried
to pull himself together, felt something cold pressed against his right
temple, and saw the barrel of a Browning pistol in the hand of the man
in front of him.

"Hands up!" came the command in a low tone, and a few seconds later he
was bound and gagged. As he lay on the ground, he saw a whole battalion
of foreign soldiers half in the court-yard before the barracks, and
vague thoughts of naval maneuvers and surprises, of Admiral Perry and
the Japs went through his mind, till all at once the notion "Japs"
caused him to sit up mentally - weren't these men real Japanese? And if
so, what did it all mean?

In the meantime double guards had occupied all the men's quarters, in
which Uncle Sam's soldiers began gradually to wake up. The guns and
ammunition had long ago passed into the hands of the Japs, and when at
last the reveille from a Japanese bugle woke up the garrison completely,
there was nothing to be done but to grind their teeth with rage and
submit to the inevitable. They had to form in line in the court-yard at
eight o'clock, and then, disarmed and escorted by Japanese troops, they
had to board the ferry-boats and cross over to Angel Island, while the
cannon on Fort Point (Winfield Scott) thundered out the last notes of
American resistance in San Francisco.

* * * * *

When, shortly after midnight, the guard had been relieved for the last
time, and only a few sleepy soldiers remained in the sentry-boxes of the
coast batteries of San Francisco, the enemy lay in ambush behind the
coast-line, ready, to the last man, to rise at a given signal and render
the unsuspecting American troops _hors de combat_ in their sleep. And
thus, before the sentinels had any idea what was going on, they were
disarmed and gagged. Not a single cry or shot was heard to warn the
sleeping soldiers. They awoke to find themselves confronted by Japanese
bayonets and gun-barrels, and resistance was utterly useless, for the
enemy, who seemed to be remarkably well posted, had already taken
possession of the ammunition and arms.

And where, all this time, was Admiral Perry with his fleet? Nowhere. The
Japanese had made no mistake in relying on the traditional love of
sensation of the American press. The telegram sent on May sixth from Los
Angeles to the San Francisco _Evening Standard_ was nothing but a
Japanese trick. It notified the _Standard_ that Admiral Perry intended
during the naval maneuvers (which were actually to take place within the
next fortnight) to gain an entrance through the Golden Gate, and the
Japanese felt certain that the editor would not make inquiries at the
last moment as to the veracity of this report, which was not at all in
accord with previous arrangements, but would print it as it was, more
especially as it was signed by their usual correspondent.

Thus the Japanese had reason to hope that no immediate suspicions would
be aroused by the appearance of warships in the Bay of San Francisco.
And so it turned out. The five Japanese armored cruisers and the torpedo
flotilla, which were to surprise and destroy the naval station and the
docks, were able to cross the entire bay under cover of the fog without
being recognized and to occupy the docks and the arsenal. Four
mortar-boats threatened Point Bonita and Lime Point, till they both


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 8 of 23)