Exciting Experience In A Washout In Japan
( Originally Published 1915 )
SHIMONOSEK is a very quaint town and peculiarly built. It seems to be the most un-Japanese of all cities. Nevertheless it is a place which knew foreigners earlier than any other city in Japan.
It has a population of more than sixty thousand, and has exceedingly narrow streets; but is well kept and provided with several theatres. Four picture shows were in operation here, and the boys took the first opportunity to enjoy themselves in this way.
What surprised them was the fact that all the reels except one represented American plays, with the well-known typical characters so common to our theatregoers. It was a pleasure also to note that some Americans were in the audience, and after the show the latter managed to become acquainted with the boys and soon learned their mission.
The following day the boys were agreeably surprised to have callers from the American residents, one of them, Harry Boyd, from New Jersey, whose father was engaged in the oil business, being the first to appear with his machine. Through this young man they were afforded an opportunity to visit the entire section during that and the second day.
But they were exceedingly anxious to reach Nagasaki, because they had now been six weeks without mail from Mr. Castleton or from Uncle Bailey. On leaving Honolulu they had sent back word to the San Francisco Post Office to forward mail to Yokohama, and their friend, the Consul at Nagoya, had agreed to see to it that their mail would be forwarded from Yokohama to Nagasaki.
This situation was explained to Mr. Boyd, and on the morning of the third day they started for Nagasaki on the train, expecting to reach that place about one o'clock, the distance being about one hundred and twenty miles.
After crossing the Shimonosek straits, thus leaving the mainland, they entered the second largest island, called Kiushiu. This, like the other parts of Japan, was exceedingly rough and rocky. A s it appeared to the boys, there was scarcely a straight stretch of track in the entire distance between the two cities.
In some places throughout the Empire American cars and equipment are used, but on the systems on this island the cars are more like those used in Europe, short, light coaches, with side doors. The short runs do not require sleeping coaches.
Fairly good time was made during the first part of the journey, where the track was near the sea coast, but an hour thereafter the train proceeded to the interior, and then the innumerable turns and twists began. They could see the sun from all sides and at all angles through the windows.
After leaving Hakata, the last station on the sea-shore, they noticed that the next station would be Kurume, which was the half-way town to their destination.
Before reaching that place, however, they could see the effects of the rain of the previous night, where in many places the little cottages were swept aside, as though made of paper. This was literally so, for many, many houses in Japan are made of paper.
The train acquired a habit of running a few miles, and then stopping, and finally, about five miles north of Kurume, while proceeding at the rate of about fifteen miles an hour, it gave a succession of jerks and stopped.
The boys threw open the door and leaped out. There was water all about them, up to within a few feet of the track. Ahead was a swamp, as it appeared, but some one in the crowd who had noticed the boys and could speak English approached, and from him they learned that ahead of them was a stream, fed by the range to the west, and that the rushing torrent ahead was the result of a cloud burst, a very frequent occurrence in that country.
It was evident that the bridge had been swept away, so it was a problem what was to be done, as the water was rapidly rising and the passengers were soon compelled to go back into the coaches.
The train slowly backed, but even beyond the curve the track was found to be covered with water, and quite a stream flowed over the rails. Still the train went on, when suddenly the rear coach toppled to one side. This told the story that the track had given way.
The boys were on the third coach from the rear, and when the coach began to turn they were the first to notice it, and cried out. The engineer also saw the danger and stopped. Winfield was the first to jump from the door, as the people in the imprisoned coach began to scream.
Stanwood was not slow in following. The coach was now lying on its side and imbedded in about three feet of water, which was now swirling around. Winfield landed in about two feet of water, but he edged his way toward the rear car, the water growing deeper and deeper as he advanced.
He did not mind this, but he had to retain his hold on the side steps of the coach, owing to the swiftly moving waters. "Hang on to the side boards," he cried, as he noticed Stanwood following.
Those within the imprisoned coach were unable to open the upper door, and it was terrifying to hear the appeals of the imprisoned passengers. After considerable exertion Winfield reached the coach, and with strenuous efforts drew himself from the water. Gaining the top, he turned to aid Stanwood, who had just leaped, or tried to spring across the space.
Unfortunately the latter missed the projecting step and plunged forward into the whirling water, past the overturned coach. Winfield was almost frantic, as he saw Stanwood disappear on the other side of the coach, and behind him he heard a dozen throats which uttered the words "0-rya," and he shuddered when he recalled the meaning.
Stanwood disappeared for an instant only. Thirty feet beyond Winfield saw his friend's head emerge from the water, and noticed the vigorous strokes he was putting forth. As it was apparent that Stanwood would be able to take care of him-self Winfield again turned his attention to the people imprisoned in the car.
Without further waiting, and still hearing the cries within, which also added to the gravity of the situation, Winfield made his way to the door, and after a few tugs swung it open and reached down to aid those within.
The first one assisted from the open door was a young girl, and no sooner had she been safely deposited than the coach began to rock and Win-field saw that the water was coming up rapidly. He then hurriedly glanced in the direction of Stanwood, and far down, amid detached pieces of wood and brush, he saw the boy still struggling in the raging waters, but continuing to make headway.
After the first one had been rescued from the coach others were at hand, as well as some of the officials belonging to the train, one of whom brought a rope, which was secured to the coupler of the coach. This relieved the watchers as well as the workers, for had the coach once been displaced from its position by the sweep of the waters it would have meant death to those within.
Seven passengers were within the coach, all of whom were finally rescued, and, after some difficulty, taken across the water and lodged in the rear cars.
Winfield's face was pallid when the last one was drawn out. He was thinking of Stanwood, and he stood on top of the overturned ear and peered to the south. Then with set lips he crawled down over the side, and was helped across the intervening space by means of the rope. Search as he would, .however, he could find no trace of his companion, so he decided upon desperate measures.
"Can any one here speak English?" he asked.
After a brief wait a man came forward and responded : "I can understand a leetle," he said.
"Do you know any way we can get off this place?" he asked.
He shook his head and then conferred with the guide on board. Immediate steps were taken to cross the chasm made by the waters. Winfield knew it was dangerous, but his only thoughts were for Stanwood.
Without waiting for instructions or advice he rushed into the coach and threw out the wicker seats which were inside. Four of these were bound together by a section of the rope. There was not the slightest interference, and the seats proved to be a serviceable raft.
"They want to know what you do?" said the man.
"I am going after my friend," said Winfield.
When this was imparted the people opened their eyes in astonishment, as they looked at the dangerous waters, but he paid no attention to them, and, before they could divine his purpose fully, he seized a strip of slat from the bottom of the seat holder and pushed the craft into the water.
Winfield had an idea that if he could, with his improvised boat, reach the shore to the west, he might float down and thus follow the route taken by Stanwood. But he had not counted on the swiftness of the raging torrent.
It swept him south with a vigor that he could not combat and he was compelled finally to cease his exertions. It was a satisfaction to him to know that he was going after Stanwood, and that was better than remaining with the train.
How far he thus floated he did not know, but he felt he must have gone miles. The speed of the water was considerably checked by the numerous turns the flowing water had to make in following the regular course of the stream, but this also had its dangers, for at each turn around these bends. the little craft would be shot diagonally from one shore to the opposite side.
When Stanwood missed the step and was pitched forward the swirling water momentarily dragged him under, and he was almost strangled when he reached the surface. Naturally a good swimmer, he knew that his only hope lay in striking for the shore, but the current was too swift for him, and he felt himself borne along with an irresistible force.
Something touched him, and his hand involuntarily grasped it. It was the limb of a tree and he put his arms around it. Then he remembered the story of a man who, imagining himself in the same predicament, stated that he owed his life to the fact that he did not exhaust himself by making too strenuous exertions.
He appreciated what that meant, although he was puffing and breathing hard with the struggle and the excitement, but the limb steadied him and gave him confidence. When, a few minutes later, he arrived at the first bend in the course of the stream, and the water turned over and over, he came out of the conflict with panting breath, in spite of his resolution to remain calm.
For fully an hour he was thus swept from side to side, and was actually prevented in several in-stances from reaching the shore, because of the branch which he clung to with great tenacity. But he knew he could not go on in this way for hours and hours. Ahead was another bend in the river, and he noticed that the calmest part of the stream was just after they had passed the bend, and when the turn was made he determined on a desperate course.
Ahead to the left was a point of land. This was his goal, and toward it he tried to steer the peculiar craft, but it was terribly trying Work. Then in desperation he released his hold and started to swim across the current. By superhuman effort he reached the shore and almost shouted when his foot struck the bottom.
The water was fiercely striking the bank of the river, but he was safe now, and the moment he crawled up and cleared the water he lay down and rested, for his breath was coming quickly and he noticed that his limbs were trembling violently.
However, he was too much overjoyed at his de-livery to remain there long, and after arising he glanced about. To his dismay he saw that he was on an island, and not on the main land, with the rushing waters on both sides, but he was in no danger, and that afforded him a sense of relief.
The island was hardly more than fifty feet in length, and probably twenty feet wide. There was some shrubbery on it, but it was composed mostly of rocks which projected through the soil. On one of these he took his seat, and wondered what Win-field could be doing and whether they had rescued the imprisoned people.
While thus musing he saw a floating object that appeared to have life in it rounding the upper bend. Some unfortunate, likely, but whoever it might be, was safely seated on a raft of some kind. Stanwood was the first to recognize his companion, and he shrieked. Winfield saw the waving arms in the distance and recognized Stanwood.
His paddle was brought into play and the craft directed toward Stanwood. The latter danced about in delirium and rushed down in time to seize the end of the raft, while Winfield extended the paddle, which Stanwood seized.
"Save the raft," said Winfield.
"Thank heavens you are safe," said Stanwood.
"Well, I think you are the one we ought to worry about," said Winfield. "How did you ever get stranded here?"
"I thought I was hitting the main land," said Stanwood. "But here we are; now what shall we do?"
"Try to get off some way. But which way? That's the question," said Winfield.
"Let us try the west shore."
"All right," answered Winfield. "Here we are without hats or knapsacks. I wonder what they will do with our things?"
"Well, they knew we were going to Nagasaki, and may send them down," said Stanwood.
But the question now was how to negotiate the passage across the swiftly moving waters. "If we only had another paddle we might succeed without trouble," said Winfield.
"Why not make one from a piece of the seat?" said Stanwood.
"Good enough," responded Winfield. A stone served the purpose of breaking off a part of the seat board, and thus equipped they launched their boat at the lower end of the island and began paddling with vigor.
After fifteen minutes of strenuous effort they reached the mainland a thousand feet below the island considerably fatigued.
"Now here we are; not a house in sight. I won-der how far we are from the train?" queried Stanwood.
"Oh, it must be miles," answered Winfield. "I think our plan now should be to reach Nagasaki. It's down south somewhere, and not more than fifty or sixty miles."
"All right then; here we go." And tired as they were they took up the march. They had not gone a half mile before they saw a cottage, and then another, and then a little village appeared, which they entered with clothing still dripping.
Although the village was not on the railway line, the inhabitants had heard through the telegraph about the accident, and the appearance of the boys in this condition caused considerable speculation and questioning until an interpreter was found.
Two jinrickishas were then engaged and the boys were rapidly hurried along the little road, and within an hour were passing through finely-shaded avenues, indicating the approach to a large city. "We must be near a big town," remarked Winfield.
"Yes, I see a temple over there," replied Stanwood.
Ten minutes further on Winfield uttered a cry: "See that; doesn't that look good?"
He pointed to a sign on a building: "American Hotel," and frantically motioned to the drivers to stop there. They nodded approvingly, for it appears that they had previously received instructions to take the boys to that place.
Arriving at the hotel and having dismissed the jinrickisha men they were gratified to learn that they were in the town of Saga, about fifty miles from Nagasaki, and on the main line of the rail-road. The washout had occurred on this line, above Kurume, at one of the tributaries of the river Chikugo. A train had arrived from Naga-saki a half hour before, they were informed, and would leave within an hour, on its return to that place.
The American residents took it upon themselves to attend to the belongings of the boys, and shortly after four o'clock the latter boarded the train, with the dry outfits which had been provided for them and a suitcase which had been contributed to hold their wet clothing.
At six o'clock they entered Nagasaki, and while rounding a point where they had a clear view of the bay Winfield called Stanwood's attention to a large steamer which was just coming into port. "That looks good to me," he said.
The station was within two blocks of the dock, and without waiting to make inquiries they rushed across the street and entered the gate leading to the docks. The ship was then being warped into the pier and as they neared her Stanwood stopped and ejaculated: "Shinyo Maru!"
Mr. Collins was the first to come down the gang-plank and greet them. "And where have you been?" he inquired.
"We've done Japan," answered Stanwood. Mr. Collins laughed.
" Where are you bound? " asked Winfield in turn.
Hong Kong," he responded.
"That's just what we want, hurrah!" shouted the boys in unison.
We shall now leave our young friends for the time being, but the reader will learn of their further experiences in foreign lands related in the next book of this series, under the title of "From Tokio to Bombay."