Kidnapped in London/Chapter 5
THE PART MY FRIENDS PLAYED.
OUTSIDE the Legation, I of course knew nothing of what was going on. All my appeals, all my winged scraps I had thrown out at the window, all my letters I had handed officially to Sir Halliday Macartney and Tang, I knew were useless, and worse than useless, for they but increased the closeness of my guard and rendered communication with my friends more and more an impossibility.
However, my final appeal on Friday morning, October 16th, had made an impression, for it was after that date that Cole began to interest himself in my behalf. Cole's wife had a good deal to do with the initiative, and it was Mrs. Cole who wrote a letter to Mr. Cantlie on Saturday, October 17th, 1896, and so set the machinery going. The note reached Devonshire Street at 11 p.m. Imagine the Doctor's feelings when he read the following:
"There is a friend of yours imprisoned in the Chinese Legation here since last Sunday. They intend sending him out to China, where it is certain they will hang him. It is very sad for the poor man, and unless something is done at once, he will be taken away and no one will know it. I dare not sign my name; but this is the truth, so believe what I say. Whatever you do must be done at once, or it will be too late. His name is, I believe, Lin Yin Sen."
No time was evidently to be lost. Late as it was, after ascertaining Sir Halliday Macartney's address, Mr. Cantlie set out to find him. He little knew that he was going straight to the head centre of all this disgraceful proceeding. Luckily or unluckily for me, one will never know which, he found the house, 3 Harley Place, shut up. It was 11.15 p.m. on Saturday night, and the policeman on duty in the Marylebone Road eyed him rather suspiciously as he emerged from the compound in which the house stands. The policeman said that the house was shut up for six months, the family having gone to the country. Mr. Cantlie asked how he knew all this, and the policeman retorted that there had been a burglary attempted three nights previously, which led to close enquiries who the tenants were; therefore, the information he had, namely a six months' "anticipated" absence, was evidently definite and precise. Mr. Cantlie next drove to Marylebone Lane Police Office, and laid the matter before the Inspector on duty. He next went to Scotland Yard and asked to see the officer in charge. A Detective Inspector received him in a private room, and consented to take down his evidence. The difficulty was to get anyone to believe so improbable a story. The Police authority politely listened to the extraordinary narrative, but declared that it was impossible for Scotland Yard to take the initiative, and Mr. Cantlie found himself in the street about 1 a.m., in no better plight than when he set out.
Next morning Mr. Cantlie went to Kensington to consult with a friend as to whether or not there was any good in asking the head of the Chinese Customs in London to approach the Legation privately, and induce them to reconsider their imprudent action and ill-advised step.
Not receiving encouragement in that direction, he went again to 3 Harley Place, in hopes that at least a caretaker would be in possession, and in a position to at least tell where Sir Halliday Macartney could be found or reached by telegram. Beyond the confirmation of the policeman's story that burglary had been attempted, by seeing the evidence of "jemmies" used to break open the door, no clue could be found as to where this astute orientalised diplomatist was to be unearthed.
Mr. Cantlie then proceeded to Dr. Manson's house, and there, at his front door, he saw a man who proved to be Cole, my attendant at the Legation. The poor man had at last summoned up courage to disclose the secret of my imprisonment, and in fear and trembling sought out Mr. Cantlie at his house; but being told he had gone to Dr. Manson's, he went on there and met both the doctors together. Cole then presented two cards I had addressed to Mr. Cantlie, stating:
"I was kidnapped on Sunday last by two Chinamen, and forcibly taken into the Chinese Legation. I am imprisoned, and in a day or two I am to be shipped off to China, on board a specially-chartered vessel. I am certain to be beheaded. Oh! woe is me."
Dr. Manson heartily joined with his friend in his attempt to rescue me, and proceeded to interrogate Cole. Mr. Cantlie remarked:
"Oh, if Sir Halliday Macartney were only in town, it would be all right. It is a pity he is away; where can we find him?"
Cole immediately retorted:
"Sir Halliday is in town, he comes to the Legation every day; it was Sir Halliday who locked Sun in his room, and placed me in charge, with directions to keep a strict guard over the door, that he should have no means of escape."
This information was startling, and placed the difficulty of release on a still more precarious footing. The proceedings would have to be still more carefully undertaken, and the highest authorities would have to be called in, were these crafty and masterful men to be outwitted.
Cole, in answer to further interrogations, said that it was given out in the Legation that I was a lunatic; that I was to be removed to China on the following Tuesday (that was in two days more); that he did not know by what line of ships I was going, but a man of the name of McGregor, in the City, had something to do with it. It also came out that two or three men dressed as Chinese sailors had been to the Legation during the week, and Cole had no doubt their visit had something to do with my removal, as he had never seen men of that description in the house before.
Cole left, taking a card with the names of my two friends upon it to deliver to me, in the hopes that its advent would allay my fears, and serve as a guarantee that Cole was actually working on my behalf at last. The two doctors then set out to Scotland Yard to try the effects of a further appeal in that direction. The Inspector on duty remarked: "You were here at 12.30 a.m. this morning. I am afraid it is no use your coming here again so soon." The paramount difficulty was to know where to go to represent the fact that a man's life was in danger; that the laws of the country were being outraged; that a man was to be practically given over, in the Metropolis of the British Empire, to be murdered.
On quitting the premises they took counsel together, and decided to invade the precincts of the Foreign Office. They were told the resident clerk would see them at five p.m. At that hour they were received, and delivered their romantic tale to the willing ears of the courteous official. Being Sunday, of course nothing further could be done, but they were told that the statement would be laid before a higher authority on the following day. But time was pressing, and what was to be done? That night might see the tragedy completed and the prisoner removed on board a vessel bound for China. What was most dreaded was that a foreign ship would be selected; and under a foreign flag the British authorities were powerless. The last hope was that, if I were removed before they succeeded in rousing the authorities and the vessel actually got away, that it might be stopped and searched in the Suez Canal; but, were I shipped on board a vessel under a flag other than British, this hope would prove a delusion. With this dread upon them, they decided to take the decisive step of going to the Legation, and telling the Chinese that they were acquainted with the fact that Sun was a prisoner in their hands, and that the British Government and the police knew of their intention to remove him to China for execution. Dr. Manson decided he should go alone, as Mr. Cantlie's name in connection with Sun's was well known at the Legation.
Accordingly Dr. Manson called alone at 49 Portland Place. The powdered footman at the door was asked to call one of the English-speaking Chinamen. Presently the Chinese interpreter, my captor and tormentor. Tang himself, appeared. Dr. Manson said he wanted to see Sun Yat Sen. A puzzled expression fell o'er Tang's face, as though seeking to recall such a name. "Sun!—Sun! there is no such person here." Dr. Manson then proceeded to inform him that he was quite well aware that Sun was here; that he wished to inform the Legation that the Foreign Office had been made cognisant of the fact; and that Scotland Yard was posted in the matter of Sun's detention. But a Chinese diplomatist is nothing if not a capable liar, and Tang's opportunity of lying must have satisfied even his Oriental liking for the rôle. With the semblance of truth in his every word and action, Tang assured his interrogator that the whole thing was nonsense, and that no such person was there. His openness and frankness partly shook Dr. Hanson's belief in my condition, and when he got back to Mr. Cantlie's he was so impressed with the apparent truthfulness of statement, that he even suggested that the tale of my imprisonment might be a trick by myself to some end—he knew not what. Thus can my countrymen lie; Tang even shook the belief of a man like Dr. Manson, who had lived in China twenty-two years; who spoke the Amoy dialect fluently; and was thereby more intimately acquainted with the Chinese and their ways than nine-tenths of the people who visit the Far East. However, he had to dismiss the thought, as no ulterior object could be seen in a trick of the kind. Tang is sure to rise high in the service of his country; a liar like that is sure to get his reward amongst a governing class who exist and thrive upon it.
It was seven o'clock on Sunday evening when the two doctors desisted from their labours, parted company, and considered they had done their duty. But they were still not satisfied that I was safe. The danger was that I might be removed that very night, especially since the Legation knew the British Government were now aware of the fact, and that if immediate embarkation were not possible, a change of residence of their victim might be contemplated. This was a very probable step indeed, and, if it had been possible, there is no doubt it would have been accomplished. Luckily for me, the Marquis Tseng, as he is called, had shortly before left London for China, and given up his residence. Had it not been so, it is quite possible the plan of removal to his house would have recommended itself to my clever countryman; and when it was accomplished, they would have thrown themselves upon the confidence and good friendship of the British, and asked them to search the house. That ruse could not be carried out; but the removal to the docks was quite feasible. It was expected I was to sail on Tuesday, and, as the ship must be now in dock, there was nothing more likely than that the "lunatic" passenger should be taken on board at night, to escape the excitement and noise of the daily traffic in the streets.