For a year after his return from Armenia Gordon was at Chatham, as Field-Work Instructor and Adjutant, teaching the future officers of Engineers what he himself had learned in the trenches.
While he was there, a war that had been going on for some years between Britain and China grew very serious.
Gordon volunteered for service, but when he reached China, in September 1860, the war was nearly at an end. "I am rather late for the amusement, which won't vex mother," he wrote. He found, however, that a number of Englishmen, some of them friends of his, were being kept as prisoners in Pekin by the Chinese. The English and their allies at once marched to Pekin, and demanded that the prisoners should be given up.
The Chinese, scared at the sight of the armies and their big guns, opened the gates. But in the case of many of the prisoners, help had come too late. The Chinese had treated them most brutally, and many had died under torture.
Nothing was left for the allied armies to do but to punish the Chinese for their cruelty, and especially to punish the Emperor for having allowed such vile things to go on in his own great city.
The Emperor lived in a palace so gorgeous and so beautiful that it might have come out of the Arabian Nights. This palace the English general gave orders to his soldiers to pillage and to destroy. Four millions of money could not have replaced what was destroyed then. The soldiers grew reckless as they went on, and wild for plunder. Quantities of gold ornaments were burned for brass. The throne room, lined with ebony, was smashed up and burned. Carved ivory and coral screens, magnificent china, gorgeous silks, huge mirrors, and many priceless things were burned or destroyed, as a gardener burns up heaps of dead leaves and garden rubbish.
Treasures of every kind, and thousands and thousands of pounds' worth of exquisite jewels were looted by common soldiers Often the men had no idea of the value of the things they had taken. One of them sold a string of pearls for 16s. to an officer, who sold it next day for £500. From one of the plunderers Gordon bought the Royal Throne, a gorgeous seat, supported by the Imperial Dragon's claws, and with cushions of Imperial yellow silk. You may see it if you go some day to the headquarters of the Royal Engineers at Chatham, and you will be told that it was given to his corps by General Gordon.
After the sack of the Summer Palace Gordon had a very busy time, providing quarters for the English troops, helping to distribute the money collected for the Chinese who had suffered from the war, and doing surveying and exploring work. On horseback he and a comrade explored many places which no European had visited before, and many were their adventures.
But it was in work greater than this that "Chinese Gordon" was to win his title. While Gordon was a little boy of ten, a Chinese village schoolmaster, Hung-Tsue-Schuen, who came of a low half-gipsy race, had told the people of China that God had spoken to him, and told him that he was to overthrow the Emperor and all those who governed China, and to become the ruler and protector of the Chinese people.
Soon he had many followers, who not only obeyed him as their king, but who prayed to him as their god. He called himself a "Wang," or king, and his followers called him their "Heavenly King." He made rulers of some thousands of his followers—most of them his own relations—and they also were named Wangs, or kings. They also had their own special names, "The Yellow Tiger," "The One-Eyed Dog," and "Cock-Eye" were amongst these. Twenty thousand of his own clansmen, many of them simple country people, who believed all that he told them, joined him. There also joined him fierce pirates from the coast, robbers from the hills, murderous members of secret societies, and almost every man in China who had, or fancied he had, some wrong to be put right.
His army rapidly grew into hundreds of thousands.
When this host of savage—looking men, with their long lank hair, their gaudy clothes and many-coloured banners, their cutlasses and long knives, marched through the land, plundering, burning, and murdering, the hard-working, harmless little Chinamen, with their smooth faces and neat pigtails, fled before them in terror.
The Tae-Pings, as they came to be called, robbed them, slew them, burned their houses and their rice fields, and took their little children away from them. They flayed people alive; they pounded them to death. Ruin and death were left behind them as they marched on. Those who escaped were left to starvation. In some places so terrible was the hunger of the poor people that they became cannibals, for lack of any other food.
In one city which they destroyed, out of 20,000 people not 100 escaped.
"We killed them all to the infant in arms; we left not a root to sprout from; and the bodies of the slain we cast into the Yangtse,"—so boasted the rebels.
A march of nearly 700 miles brought this great, murdering, plundering army to Nanking, a city which the Wangs took, and made their capital. The frightened peasants were driven before them down to the coast, and took refuge in the towns there. Many of them had crowded into the port of Shanghai, and round Shanghai came the robber army. They wanted more money, more arms, and more ammunition, and they knew they could find plenty of supplies there. So likely did it seem that they would take the port, that the Chinese Government asked England and France to help to drive them away.
In May 1862 Gordon was one of the English officers who helped to do this. For thirty miles round Shanghai, the rebels, who were the fiercest of fighters, were driven back. In his official despatch Gordon's general wrote of him:—"Captain Gordon was of the greatest use to me." But he also said that Gordon often made him very anxious because of the daring way in which he would go dangerously near the enemy's lines to gain information. Once when he was out in a boat with the general, reconnoitring a town they meant to attack, Gordon begged to be put ashore so that he might see better what defences the enemy had. To the general's horror, Gordon went nearer and nearer the town, by rushes from one shelter to another. At length he sheltered behind a little pagoda, and stood there quietly sketching and making notes. From the walls the rebels kept on firing at him, and a party of them came stealing round to cut him off, and kill him before he could run back to the boat. The general shouted himself hoarse, but Gordon calmly finished his sketch, and got back to the boat just in time.
The Tae-Pings used to drag along with them many little boys whose fathers and mothers they had killed, and whom they meant to bring up as rebels. After the fights between the English troops and the Tae-Pings, swarms of those little homeless creatures were always found.
Gordon writes: "I saved one small creature who had fallen into the ditch in trying to escape, for which he rewarded me by destroying my coat with his muddy paws in clinging to me."
In December 1862 Gordon, for his good service in China, was raised to the rank of major.
Very soon afterwards the Chinese Government asked the English Government to give them an English officer to lead the Chinese army that was to fight with, and to conquer, the Tae-Ping rebels.
Already the Chinese soldiers had been commanded by men who spoke English. One of these, an American adventurer, named Burgevine, was ready to dare anything for power and money.
To his leadership flocked scoundrels of every nation, hoping to enrich themselves by plundering the rebels.
Before long, Governor Li Hung Chang found that Burgevine was not to be trusted, and the command was taken from him.
It was then that the Chinese Government asked England to give them a leader for their untrained army of Chinese and of adventurers gathered from all lands. This collection of rag, tag, and bobtail had been named, to encourage it, and before it had done anything to deserve the name, the "Chun Chen Chun," or the Ever-Victorious Army.
But "The Almost Always Beaten Army" would have been a much truer name for it, and the victorious Tae-Pings scornfully laughed at it.
The English general in China had no doubt who was the best man for the post.
He named Major Charles Gordon, and on 25th March 1863 Gordon took command, and was given the title of Mandarin by the Chinese.
He knew that the idea of serving under any other monarch than his own Queen would be a sorrow to his father. He wrote home begging his father and mother not to be vexed, and telling them how deeply he had thought before he accepted the command.
By taking the command, he said, he believed he could help to put an end to the sufferings of the poor people of China. Were he not to have taken it, he feared that the rebels might go on for years spreading misery over the land. "I keep your likeness before me," wrote this young Major who had been trusted with so great a thing to do, to the mother whom he loved so much. "I can assure you and my father I will not be rash. . . . I really do think I am doing a good service in putting down this rebellion."
"I hope you do not think that I have got a magnificent army," he wrote to a soldier friend. "You never did see such a rabble as it was; and although I think I have improved it, it is still sadly wanting. Now, both men and officers, although ragged and perhaps slightly disreputable, are in capital order and well disposed."
Before his arrival, the soldiers had had no regular pay. They were allowed to "loot," or plunder, the towns they took, and for each town taken they were paid so much. At once Gordon began to get his ragamuffin army into shape.
He arranged that the soldiers were to get their pay regularly, but were to have no extra pay for the places which they took. Any man caught plundering a town that was taken was to be shot. He replaced the adventurers of all nations, many of them drunken rogues, who were the army's officers, by English officers lent by the British Government. He drilled his men well. He practised them in attacking fortified places, and he formed a little fleet of small steamers and Chinese gunboats. The chief of these was the Hyson, a little paddle steamer that could move over the bed of a creek on its wheels when the water was too shallow to float it.
The army, too, was given a uniform, at which not only the rebels but the Chinese themselves at first mocked, calling the soldiers who wore it "Sham Foreign Devils."
But soon so well had Gordon's army earned its name of "The Ever-Victorious Army," that the mere sight of the uniform they wore frightened the rebels.
In one month Gordon's army was an army and not a rabble, and the very first battles that it fought were victories.
With 3000 men he attacked a garrison of 10,000 at Taitsan, and after a desperate fight the rebels were driven out.
From Taitsan the victorious army went on to Quinsan, a large fortified city, connected by a causeway with Soochow, the capital of the province.
All round Quinsan the country was cut up in every direction with creeks and canals. But Gordon knew every creek and canal in that flat land. He knew more now than any other man, native or foreigner, where there were swamps, where there were bridges, which canals were choked with weeds, and which were easily sailed up. He made up his mind that the rebels in Quinsan must be cut off from those in Soochow.
At dawn, one May morning, eighty boats, with their large white sails spread out like the wings of big sea-birds, and with many-coloured flags flying from their rigging, were seen by the rebel garrison at Quinsan sailing up the canal towards the city. In the middle of this fleet the plucky little Hyson, with Gordon on board, came paddling along.
By noon they reached a barrier of stakes placed across the creek. These they pulled up, sailed to the shore, and landed their troops close to the rebel stockades. For a minute the Tae-Pings stood and stared, uncertain what to do, and then, in terror, ran before Gordon's army.
There had been many boats in the creek, but the rebels had sprung out of them and left them to drift about with their sails up, so that it was no easy work for the Hyson to thread her way amongst them. Still the little boat steamed slowly and steadily on towards Soochow. Along the banks of the canal the rebels, in clusters, were marching towards safety. On them the Hyson opened fire, puffing and steaming after them, and battering them with shells and bullets.
Like an angry little sheep-dog driving a mob of sheep, it drove the rebels onwards. Many lay dead on the banks, or fell into the water and were drowned. One hundred and fifty of them were taken as prisoners on board the Hyson.
When they were less than a mile from Soochow, as night was beginning to fall, Gordon decided to turn back and rejoin the rest of his forces. Some of the rebels, thinking that the Hyson was gone for good, had got into their boats again, and were gaily sailing up the creek when they saw the steamer's red and green lights, and heard her whistle.
The mere glare of the lights and hoot of the whistle seemed to throw them into a panic. In the darkness the flying mobs of men along the canal banks met other rebels coming to reinforce them, and in the wild confusion that followed the guns of the Hyson mowed them down. About 10.30 P.M. the crew of the Hyson heard tremendous yells and cheers coming from a village near Quinsan, where the rebels had made a stand. Gordon's gunboats were firing into the stone fort, and from it there came a rattle and a sparkle of musketry like fireworks, and wild yells and shouts from the rebels. The gun-boats were about to give in and run away when the little Hyson came hooting out of the darkness. Gordon's army welcomed him with deafening cheers, and the rebels threw down their arms and fled. The Hyson steamed on up the creek towards Quinsan, and in the darkness Gordon saw a huge crowd of men near a high bridge. It was too dark to see clearly, but the Hyson blew her whistle. At once from the huddled mass of rebels came yells of fear. It was the garrison of Quinsan, some seven or eight thousand, trying to escape to Soochow. In terror they fled in every direction—8000 men fleeing before thirty. The Hyson fired as seldom as she could, but even then, that day the rebels must have lost from three to four thousand men, killed, drowned, and prisoners. All their arms also, they lost, and a great number of boats.
Next morning at dawn, Gordon and his army took possession of Quinsan. They had fought almost from daybreak until daybreak. "The rebels certainly never got such a licking before," wrote Gordon.
The Ever-Victorious Army was delighted with itself, and very proud of its leader. But they were less well-pleased with Gordon when they found that instead of going on to a town where they could sell the things they had managed to loot, they were to stay at Quinsan.
They were so angry that they drew up a proclamation saying that unless they were allowed to go to a town they liked better, they would blow their officers to pieces with the big guns. Gordon felt sure that the non-commissioned officers were at the bottom of the mischief. He made them parade before him, and told them that if they did not at once tell him the name of the man who had written the proclamation, he would have one out of every five of them shot. At this they all groaned, to show what a monster they thought Gordon. One corporal groaned louder than all the rest, and Gordon turned on him, his eyes blazing. So sure was Gordon that this was their leader that, with his own hands, he dragged him from the ranks.
"Shoot this fellow!" he said to two of his bodyguard. The soldiers fired, and the corporal fell dead.
The other non-commissioned officers he sent into imprisonment for one hour.
"If at the end of that time," said he, "the men do not fall in at their officers' commands, and if I am not given the name of the writer of that proclamation, every fifth man of you shall be shot."
At the end of the hour the men fell in, and the name of the writer of the proclamation was given to Gordon. The man had already been punished. It was the corporal who had groaned so loud an hour before.
With his own hands, he dragged him from the ranks.
This was not the only case that Gordon had in his own army. More than once his officers were rebellious and troublesome. General Ching, a Chinese general, was jealous of him. Ching one day made his men fire on 150 of Gordon's soldiers, and treated it as a joke when Gordon was angry. At the beginning of the campaign Gordon had promised his men that they should have their pay regularly instead of plundering the places they took. His own pay, and more, had gone to do this and to help the poor. And now Li Hung Chang, the Governor, said he could not pay the men; and no one but Gordon seemed to mind when Ching broke his promise to prisoners who had been promised safety, and slew them brutally.
Disgusted with this want of honour and truth in the men with whom he had to work, Gordon made up his mind to throw up his command.
Just then, however, Burgevine, the adventurer, who had once led the Emperor's army, again became very powerful. He gathered together a number of men as reckless as himself, and joined the rebels. The rebels made him a Wang, or King, and he offered so much money to those who would serve under him that crowds of Gordon's grumbling soldiers deserted and joined Burgevine.
Burgevine and his followers were a grand reinforcement for the rebel army, and things began to look serious.
Gordon could not bear that the rebels should be allowed unchecked to swarm over China and plunder and slay innocent people. Instead of resigning he once more led the Ever-Victorious Army, and led it to victory.
Soochow, "The City of Pagodas," was besieged. There were twice as many soldiers in the town as there were besiegers, and amongst them were Burgevine and his men. In front of the city Gordon placed his guns, and after a short bombardment that did much damage to the walls, he ordered his troops to advance. A terrific fire from the enemy drove them back. Again Gordon's guns bombarded the city, and were pushed forward as far as possible. Then again the besiegers rushed in, but found that the creek round the city was too wide for the bridge they carried with them. But the officers plunged fearlessly into the water and dashed across. Their men followed them, the Tae-Pings fled, and stockade after stockade was taken. Gordon himself, with a mere handful of men, took three stockades and a stone fort.
In this siege, as in many other fights, Gordon had himself to lead his army. If an officer shrank back before the savage enemy, Gordon would take him gently by the arm and lead him into the thickest of the battle. He himself went unarmed, and would lead his troops onwards with the little cane he nearly always carried. Where the fire was hottest, there Gordon was always to be found, caring no more for the bullets that pattered round him than if they were hailstones. The Chinese soldiers came to look on the little cane as a magic wand. Gordon's "magic wand of victory," they called it.
During the siege he found men in his own army selling information to the rebels. One young officer, more out of carelessness, it seemed, than from any bad wish, had written a letter giving information to the enemy.
"I shall pass over your fault this time," said Gordon, "if you show your loyalty by leading the next forlorn hope."
Gordon forgot this condition, but the young officer did not. He led the next assault, was shot in the mouth, and fell back and died in the arms of Gordon, who was by his side.
A very wonderful old bridge, one of fifty-three arches, was destroyed during the siege of Soochow, greatly to Gordon's regret.
One evening he was sitting smoking a cigar on one of the damaged parapets of the bridge when two shots, accidentally fired by his own men, struck the stone on which he sat. At the second shot he got down, entered his boat, and started to row across the creek in order to find out by whom the shots had been fired. He was scarcely clear of the bridge than the part on which he had been seated fell crashing into the water, nearly smashing his boat.
The Chinese were more sure than ever that it must be magic that kept their general alive. Even when in a fierce fight he was severely wounded below the knee, they believed that his magic wand had saved his life.
From Soochow and the rebels he succeeded in rescuing Burgevine and his miserable followers, even although he knew that Burgevine was ready for any deed of treachery towards him at any minute.
One rebel stronghold after another fell before Gordon and his army, but many and fierce were the fights that were fought before Soochow was taken.
The Wangs gave in at last. They agreed to surrender if Gordon promised to spare the lives of the leading Wangs—six in all—to treat all the other rebels mercifully, and not to sack the city. To all these conditions Gordon, Li Hung Chang, and General Ching gladly agreed, and that night one of the gates was thrown open, and the Ever-Victorious Army took possession of Soochow.
As a reward for their brave service, and to make up to them for the loot they were not to have, Gordon asked Li Hung Chang to give his troops two months' pay. Li refused, but presently gave them pay for one month, and Gordon marched his grumbling soldiers back to Quinsan, unable to trust them in a city where so much rich plunder was to be had.
As Gordon left the city the Wangs, wearing no arms, and laughing and talking, rode past him on their way to a banquet with Li Hung Chang.
He never saw them alive again.
He had some time to wait for the steamer that was to take him to Quinsan, so, having seen his army marching safely off, he rode round the walls of the city. In front of Hung Chang's quarters he saw a great crowd, but so sure did he feel that Li would not break his solemn promises that he did not feel uneasy. A little later a large number of General Ching's men entered the city, yelling loudly, and firing off their guns. This was so unlike the peaceful way that Gordon and Ching had promised they should behave, that Gordon went and spoke to their officers.
"This will never do," he said. "There are still many rebels in the city, and if our men get excited the rebels will get excited too, and there will be fearful rioting."
Just then General Ching appeared. He had fancied Gordon safely steaming across the lake, and when he saw him he turned pale.
In answer to Gordon's questions as to the meaning of the disturbance, he gave some silly answer, which it was easy to see was untrue. Gordon at once rode to the house of Nar Wang, the chief of the Wangs and the bravest of them, to find out for himself what was wrong. On his way he met crowds of excited rebels, and a large band of Ching's soldiers laden with plunder. Nar Wang's house, he found, had been emptied of everything by the thieving soldiers. An uncle of Nar Wang begged Gordon to help him to take the women of Nar Wang's house to his own home, where they would be in safety. Unarmed as he was, Gordon did so, but when they got to the house of Nar Wang's uncle they found the courtyard filled with thousands of rebel soldiers. The doors and gates were shut at once, and Gordon was a prisoner. During the night more and more rebels came to the house. They all said that Li Hung Chang and Gordon had laid a trap for the Wangs and had taken them prisoners, but none knew exactly what had happened to them. It was well for Gordon that they did not. Probably they would have tortured him in one of the many hideous ways the Chinese knew so well, and then put him to death. At length Gordon persuaded his captors to allow him to send a messenger to summon his own bodyguard, and also an order to some of his other soldiers to seize Li Hung Chang, and not to let him go until the Wangs had safely returned to their own homes.
On the way the messenger met some of Ching's soldiers, who wounded him and tore up Gordon's message. The rebels then allowed Gordon to be his own messenger; but on the way he met more of Ching's men, who seized him, because, they said, he was in company with rebels, and kept him prisoner for several hours.
When at last he got away and reached his own men, he sent a body of them to protect the house of Nar Wang's uncle. General Ching arrived just then. Gordon, furious with him for the looting and bad behaviour of his men, fell on him in a perfect storm of rage, and Ching hurried off to the city.
He sent an English officer to explain to Gordon what had happened, but this officer said he did not know whether the Wangs were alive or dead. He said, however, that Nar Wang's son was in his boat, and that he would be able to tell him.
"My father has been killed," said the boy. "He lies dead on the other side of the creek."
Gordon crossed the creek in a boat, and on the banks lay the dead bodies of the Wangs, headless, and frightfully gashed.
Li Hung Chang and General Ching had broken their promise, and Gordon's. The guests of the banquet of Li Hung Chang had been cruelly murdered.
Many were the excuses that the Chinese Governor had to offer; many were the reasons that he gave for breaking faith so shamefully.
But to none of his excuses or reasons would Gordon listen. It is said that, in furious anger, he sought Li Hung Chang, revolver in hand, that he might shoot him like a dog. But Li wisely hid himself, and Gordon sought him in vain. He wrote to Li, telling him he must give up his post as Governor, or Gordon and his army would attack all the places the Chinese held, retake them, and hand them back to the rebels. His anger and his shame were equally great.
Li Hung Chang did the wisest thing that then could be done. He sent for Halliday Macartney, a wise and brave English officer, and a friend of Gordon's, and asked him to go to Gordon and try and make peace between them. Macartney at once got a native boat with several rowers, and started for Quinsan. It was the middle of the night when he arrived, and Gordon was in bed. Very soon, however, he sent Macartney a message, asking him to come and see him in his room. Macartney went upstairs and found Gordon sitting on his bedstead in a badly lighted room. When Gordon saw him, he stooped down, drew something from under his bed, and held it up.
"Do you see that? Do you see that?" be asked.
Macartney stared in horror, scarcely able, in the dim light, to see what it was.
"It is the head of Nar Wang, foully murdered!" said Gordon, and sobbed most bitterly.
Halliday Macartney found it impossible then to get Gordon to forgive Li for his treachery. For two months Gordon remained in quarters, while inquiries, made at his demand, were being made about the death of the Wangs.
During this time the Chinese Government gave Gordon a medal that only the bravest soldiers ever received, to show how highly they valued his services as general. The Emperor also sent him a gift of 10,000 taels (then about £3000 of our money) and many other costly gifts. When the treasure-bearers appeared in Gordon's quarters, bearing bowls full of gold on their heads, as if they had walked straight out of the Arabian nights, Gordon, believing the Emperor meant to bribe him to say no more about the murder of the Wangs, was in a white-heat of fury. With his "magic wand" he fell on the treasure-bearers, and flogged the amazed and terrified men out of his sight.
Although the Government gave Gordon a medal for the way in which he had fought, it was Li Hung Chang who took all the credit for the taking of Soochow.
He published a report telling how the army under him had taken it. But while Gordon was under a daily fire of bullets, and daily ran a hundred risks of losing his life, the wily Li, who sounded so brave on paper, was safely sitting in Shanghai, miles away from the besieged city.
Gordon had much cause for anger. There seemed every reason why he should not forgive Li, and why he should leave China and its people to the mercy of the rebels.
But Gordon had learned what it means to say "Forgive us our trespasses." And not only that, but he had taken the sorrows of the unhappy people of China into his heart. Whatever their rulers might do, he felt he could not desert them. He must free them from the cruelties of their oppressors, the Tae-Pings, before he went home to his own land.
In February 1864 Gordon again took command. From then until late May he was kept constantly fighting, and steadily winning power for the Emperor of China.
On l0th May Gordon wrote to his mother: "I shall leave China as poor as I entered it, but with the knowledge that through my weak instrumentality upwards of eighty to one hundred thousand lives have been spared. I want no further satisfaction than this."
On 11th May Gordon took Chanchufu, the last great rebel stronghold, and the rebellion was at an end. "The Heavenly King" killed his wives and himself in his palace at Nankin, and the other rebel chiefs were beheaded.
Before Gordon gave up his command, the Chinese Government again offered him a large sum of money, but again he refused it. But he could not well refuse the honour of being made a Ti-Tu, or Field-Marshal, in the Chinese Army, nor the almost greater honour of being given the Yellow Jacket. To us the giving of a yellow jacket sounds a foolish thing, but to a Chinaman the Yellow Jacket, and peacock's feathers that go with it, are an even greater honour than to an Englishman is that plain little cross that is called "The Victoria Cross," and which is given for valour. Gordon accepted the yellow jacket, as well as six magnificent mandarin dresses, such as were worn by a Ti-Tu. "Some of the buttons on the mandarin hats are worth £30 or £40," he wrote. A heavy gold medal was struck in his honour and given to him by the Empress Regent. It was one of the few belongings he had for which Gordon really cared a great deal, and presently you will hear how he gave even that up for the sake of other people.
The Chinese Government told the British Government that Gordon would receive no rewards from the Chinese for the great things he had done for their country, and asked that his own Queen Victoria would give him some reward that he would accept. This was done, and Major Gordon was made a Lieutenant-Colonel and a Companion of the Bath.
Not only in China was he a hero, but in England also. Gordon had saved China from an army of conquering robbers, "first"—it was written in the Times—"by the power of his arms, and afterwards, still more rapidly, by the terror of his name."
Li Hung Chang was ready to do anything that the hero wished, and so, before he said good-bye to his army, Gordon saw that his officers and men were handsomely rewarded.
It was not wonderful that his army had learned to love him, for even the rebels who feared his name loved him too. They knew that he was always true and brave, honourable and merciful.
Of him one of the rebels wrote: "Often have I seen the deadly musket struck from the hand of a dastardly Englishman (tempted by love of loot to join our ranks) when he attempted from his place of safety to kill Gordon, who ever rashly exposed himself. This has been the act of a chief—yea, of the Shield King himself."
All England was ready to give "Chinese Gordon" a magnificent welcome when he came home. Invitations from the greatest in the land were showered upon him.
But when, early in 1865, he returned, he refused to be made a hero of.
"I only did my duty," he said, and grew quite shy and ashamed when people praised and admired him. He would accept no invitations, and it was only a very few people who were lucky enough to hear him fight his battles over again. Sometimes in the evening as he sat in the fire-light, in his father's house at Southampton, he would tell his eager listeners the wonderful tale of his battles and adventures in the far-off land of pagodas.
And to them not the least wonderful part of what they listened to was this, that the hero who was known all over the world as "Chinese Gordon" was one who took no credit for any of the great things he had done, and who was still as simple and modest as a little child.