When You Were Absent
Frances Wight Cook and
When You Were Absent
Frances Wight Cook
Copyright © 2002 by Biola University All rights reserved
Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................. ........ .iii
When You Were Absent, Part I .......................................... 1
When You Were Absent, Part II .......................................67
Frances Wight Cook, by Calvin.........................................99
Archibald Cook, by Calvin ...............................................107
Photographs & Illustrations
Photograph of Frances Wight Cook .................................. v
Photograph of the Cook family ....................................... vii
Photograph of Archibald Cook. .........................................65
Drawing of Frances Wight Cook. ......................................97
This is a story of God's faithfulness to the Cook family during the first months of World War IL My mother, Frances, was born in China to missionary parents and her father died when she was six months old. Her mother stayed on in China and Mum had her education through high school there then came to the United States for a baccalaureate degree at Wooster College in Ohio and then a master's at Columbia University. She then sailed back to China to rejoin her mother and on the ship from Shanghai to Chefoo in Northern China a Scottish merchant marine officer, named Archibald Cook, invited her to dinner at the officers' table. He had left Greenock, just outside Glasgow, Scotland, when he was 14. His father had died and in order to support his mother and siblings he went to sea and wound up in China sailing for the China Navigation Company. They fell in love and were married a year later in Shanghai where Calvin and Luther, the first two children, were born. Dad was then transferred to Hong Kong where he eventually became the captain of the Fat Shan, which went from Hong Kong to Canton. In Hong Kong four other children were born-Athene, I, Celene, and Van Dyke. Six hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor they attacked Hong Kong. Dad had sailed the day before and was immediately captured by the Japanese in Canton and Calvin, Luther, and Athene were with Grandma Wight at the boarding school at Chefoo and were also captured. This is the background to the amazing story of God's care and provision to each one of us as told by my mother and father. I have also included a wonderful eulogy written by my brother, Calvin, along with a beautiful sketch of Mum done by Calvin's wife, Patricia, as well as some closing thoughts by Calvin on Dad. Clyde Cook La Mirada, California November 2002 iii
Frances Wight Cook
Standing (left to right): Luther, Archibald, Frances, Calvin
Seated (left to right): Athene, Celene, Clyde (Van Dyke not yet born)
When You Were Absent
D ecember is one of the loveliest months in Hong Kong. Nearly every day is golden. Our home seemed especially beautiful as I looked out to one side and saw the hill with the green pines pointing to the blue sky. There was a row of pines that marched up the hill like sentinels. At dawn they were silhouetted against the brightening sky, and through the night the hours rose silently over them like one gigantic chronometer of planets and constellations. To the south was our sea-mare nostrum-rimmed at its base by spreading emerald. Sometimes there were fishing lights, and sometimes it was the mirror of some lazy junks or the skimming white swanlike beauty of a passing river ship. Again there were the jeweled dragon flies, the golden flash of a bird's wing in a tree below-the turquoise spot on a butterfly, the fluttering autumn leaf that was a monarch moth. These, and again, my room full of gold and amethyst chrysanthemums with the sunlight pouring through the windows in the winter warmth-these, I say, were my gems, locked away in the bombproof treasury of my memory. As a miser I can take them out and tum them over without fear of theft. I saw my gold in Lourenco Marques. The sapphire sea and crystal stars returned to me in Durban. Here again is a fragrant opal in a South African rose, and a friend, on my wedding anniversary, gives me a Crown Devon vase-similar to one I left behind! My sons have been brought to me from far Chefoo and my daughters are here at my side. My kind husband brings me flowers and a jar of olives, and a jade green brush and hand mirror set to take the place of what some looter is now using.
"When I send you forth without purse or scrip, lacked ye anything? And they said 'Nothing.'" So it was with me. About December 2nd, I dreamt that I was resting on a bright afternoon on my bed, and that I heard my husband's steps coming up the stairs. He entered with a death's head on his shoulders, walked over to the bed and knelt beside it. I said "Does that mean you are dead?"
"No," was the answer, "It is a mask of death."
Thereupon he took it off for a minute to show his natural face before replacing it. At this moment Ma Lien Ching, our cook, came to the door with a tray of tea. My husband said to me, "Show no sign that I am here. He cannot see me. It is only my spirit that is here."
Ma came and put the tray down, and left the room.
December 6th was a beautiful day of sunshine. The siren from my husband's river steamer blew and the whole family as usual ran to the verandah to wave farewell. Happy, the mongrel, always recognized it also, and would scramble up half awake and make for the verandah. There he would stand, with his head poking through the rails. I do not think he knew what we were watching, though Ah Ng, the amah insisted that he did. He only knew that when the ship's siren blew, the whole family dropped everything and made a bee-line for the verandah! This day we were joined by Miss Day and Miss Edwards, two China Inland Missionaries who were passing through Hong Kong and who were staying with us. Our Captain waved to us from the bridge, and that was the last I saw of him until August the following year when I met him almost casually on the streets of Lourenco Marques.
This time he did not take the homer pigeons with him.
Goodbye, and we turned back into the house and down the stairs, Happy as mystified as ever, but pretending to be in the know. Down to our school room of sunshine and flowers-or to the garden with the white leghorns pecking at the childrens' gardening efforts. Down we went to all the little tasks that are important in an ordinary world and soon to matter not at all. The Christmas gifts to be finished for the fathers and mothers, and the Christmas carols to be sung. We had Christen, Vera and Johanna at a Calvert school with Clyde and Celene. The carols were almost all that remained of the school, and months afterwards in Durban, South Africa, Vera sang to me a carol. This she had brought away in her mind. Perhaps there are other nuggets in the hearts of these children which will prove the little school not in vain. "And the song-from beginning to end-I found again in the heart of a friend." The Lord of a great estate has time for affairs of his own family. A King may attend to the distant comers of his kingdom and at the same time give attention to the needs of his own little children. A man may stand on a mountain peak and view the forest for many miles and still have eyes for a flower at his feet. When human eyes and hearts may thus readily be focused on the near and the far, shall we put a limit to the heart of The Eternal God? It is none the less wonderful for its being a fact that the Ruler of the sun and stars has said that we may become joint heirs with His Son. The privilege is there for the taking, but it means obedience to the laws of the house. Our own children enter into our houses, but they must be obedient, else there is chaos, and the first law of orderliness is discipline. While a child is young, he is subject to the discipline of others. As he grows older, this outward discipline should gradually be replaced by self-discipline.
If Christ learned obedience by suffering, surely our suffering should be more than His. If God spared not His own Son, can we expect Him to spare his joint-heirs? Christ had the capacity to suffer more than we. God who weighs our paths, knows what we can take, and I do not believe He gives us more than we can manage, nor does He give it to us from any sadistic enjoyment in our suffering. I may punish my little son more than he can bear, for I am human. To strengthen him in responsibility, I may give him an unequal burden, for I cannot measure his little mind. I can only test him by trial. God tests us fully knowing us. We may trust Him, let us look to ourselves. Here was I, at the beginning of a war with a boy of 6, a daughter of 4 and a baby of three months. We had stayed in Hong Kong at our own responsibility. We were privileged to go to America at our own expense. This we could not well afford on a British salary. We might go to Australia at government expense, but frankly we did not want to go there-so we stayed in Hong Kong and hoped we might go with my husband if and when the time of necessity came. It seemed the right decision at the time. Here were we, and I could only pray to my Father in Heaven, "We have come to you as to our Father. We claim you as our Father. We belong to your household and we will try to obey your laws. Will you not take care of us? I know you will take care of us for we are yours and there is no one else to care for us. Our daddy has gone, his company is not responsible for us, the government is not responsible for us, I am not interested now in anything but leading these children through the bombs." The bombs! They began to fall on Monday, December 8th, 1941. We lived below a hill of "big guns" and the airplanes were out to silence them. My Norwegian children were taken to a safer place and we were invited, but I felt I could not go because there was no room there for my cook, his wife and their three children, the oldest of whom was three. They were Northerners and had no home in South China. The Air Raid Warden came and
suggested we had better evacuate. I asked him if this were advice or an order. He said,"Advice." I said I would not go until the order came. Miss Day and I had prayer every night together. How should we know where bombs would fall and where not? How should we know if it were best to go? We packed a few hand bags and her prayer was if it were time to move, someone would say to us, "You must go." Meanwhile our daily readings were in the story of Daniel-the fiery furnace-this was a trial by fire. We had no air raid shelter of course, but we fixed a retreat under the stair to be out of the way of shrapnel. Here was a small table with Clyde's school work, with paper and crayons for Celene, and blocks for the younger children. The air raid siren was not dependable. Frequently "All Clear" went when the planes were still overhead. Often the planes were there before the signal. Finally, the planes "got" the siren. The planes were after the guns on the hill above us and they seemed to be dive bombing directly at our roof. The bombing began at 8:00 a.m. If we were quick we could get our breakfast over in peace. At 11:00 a.m. there was a lull for about an hour and then the bombing continued at intervals till about 5:00 p.m. The nights were comparatively quiet as the shelling was aimed from the other side of the hill, and we were out of range. When we heard the hum of the planes we would assemble under the stairs and sing in Chinese: "Pray Jesus, save, save me, Be my guarantee, Forgive my iniquity." The bombs would fall. "If you hear them fall, it means they've missed you," said my cook's wife. This was a comforting thought amid the thunderous noise.
We would then sing in Chinese:
"Praise Him, praise Him, We wish all to praise Him, He is love, He is love."
Ridiculous to talk of God permitting the bombing. He has let out the earth to man. He has tested him in a comparatively small garden and found he was not to be trusted. God gave him a larger place with work to keep him out of mischief and in the second generation he kills his brother. God can cause more damage in a minute's earthquake than all the bombing of a thousand airplanes. He can destroy and blight a mountainside of trees in five minutes of typhoon weather and do more damage than a week's continuous shelling by man. If God took a hand in war, there would soon be an end. Moreover, the time will come when God will take a hand and leash the forces of evil. Then we shall have peace. In the meantime, He is biding His time. Perhaps there are still characters to be forged on this anvil of fiery heat. For I am convinced that a soul must at some time go through fire and water to pass the test of character. Christ the Victor leads on and He leads through fire as well as by pleasant paths. He leads through the valley of the shadow of death as well as by the still waters. He has led through centuries and He has led many nations, many kinds of people-regardless of race-are following Him and have followed Him down the years. They are content to be bound with chains to His chariot wheels. He promises them wars and rumours of wars, persecutions and bitter cups to drink. They follow in spite of these things and do not regard suffering for the love they bear to Him. The strangest thing of all is that the harder the test and the hotter the flame, the nearer they draw to Him, and the more victorious their feeling, and the more radiant and happy they become. Long spells through green valleys tend to let them wander away.
Should we then pray to be allowed to walk through peaceful scenes when that tends to make our souls leaner?
When the bombing for the day ceased, Clyde and Celene would go out to collect piles of shrapnel-or leaflets that had been dropped. We had supper and put the children to bed. Happy, the dog, would cease his miserable shivering and get enough courage to leave me and wolf his food. All day he would stand leaning against me. Sometimes he would become so tired, he would fall over but would scramble back to position. I tried to have him destroyed, but no one would do it, and I couldn't. The three cats would come out of their hiding places from under the darkest chairs. Best of all was the comparative peace. The shelling was on the other side of the mountain and we heard it only at a distance. There was no night bombing by aircraft. The Chief Air Raid Warden called on us several times and suggested we should move. "Is that an order," I would say. "No, only advice." "Then I shall stay until I have an order."
His own wife had not yet left Felix Villas.
Saturday morning before dawn the telephone rang and the Warden said there was a car going to town and my cook would get a lift. He asked me to tell the French girl next door. Her husband had just passed his medical examinations and was on duty at one of the dangerous posts. I went next door and before I had time to speak Germaine said, "You must go, you must go, you must go." A reporter in the news office had telephoned her to say there would be concentrated bombing of the guns on our mountain this day and he said, "Tell Mrs. Cook, she must go." This was not the official order I expected, but the words were the sign. I returned to the house and told Miss Day. She and Clyde and Celene loaded what they could on Clyde's wagon and started out to get as far as they could before 8:00. They met a lorry load of soldiers who gave them a lift-wagon and all. I had asked Mrs. Clift by phone if we might come and stay with her near the University and she said we could have her sitting room where services were held on Sunday and Bible Study classes on Saturday evening.
"I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go unto the House of the Lord.'" It was the chorus we had learned in our little school to sing on Sundays. As I still had odds and ends to do about the house, I remained behind to go with the Chinese family. I thought if possible they should be fed before we started out. I had just sat down in my dressing gown to a bowl of oatmeal while I was nursing Van Dyke, when Mr. Spence appeared at the door to say Dr. Clift had gotten a red cross lorry for half-an-hour and to hurry. I put the porridge bowl on the floor and the milk and butter for the animals, and we grabbed what we could and ran. The air raid began before we got to the lorry and we crawled underneath to avoid the flying shrapnel. As soon as that attack was over we were away before the next. We careened along the road at a fearful speed and arrived at Mrs. Clift's flat-I still in my dressing gown. That night the military compulsory evacuation order came. Had we waited for it, we should have had to leave with all those children in the dark, and would probably have been taken to the centre of the town, where conditions were appalling and where water was so scarce that at one time a glass cost $2.00. As it was, the University situation was far enough out so that we could get water from the mountain streams when the waterworks were damaged. Besides that, I was with my dear friend and Bible teacher, Mrs. Clift, and as Dr. Clift had to go to his post, we were company for each other. Miss Day now felt she was free to leave me, and volunteered for service. She was sent to a hospital where she was given dysentery cases to nurse. Although she was not a professional nurse, they soon discovered that she was trustworthy and despised no work no matter how disgusting.
She, seeing Him who was invisible, was not doing it for them, but for her Master, Christ. Mrs. Clift gave us the largest room in her apartment. It was the room where services had been held. Su Mei, the cook boy's wife, with her three little ones took one end of the room for her home. Our three children and myself had the other end. Ah Ng, the wash amah, slept with Mrs. Clift's amah. Ma Lien Ching, the cook, was still on warden duty and came back only when he went off duty. It was then that he would shoulder a kit bag full of provisions and necessities from our home and walk two-and a-half miles with it on his shoulder. This was sometimes after an all night duty. When he arrived exhausted and rolled the bag from his shoulders, we would say 'Here is Father Christmas' and he would smile as we unloaded the bag. Every time he left us I would tell him not to trouble about things. His life was worth more and each trip was a risk, but he became hardened to the noise and danger and came out and in and through the shelling and bombing unscathed. What a shout went up one day when he took the baby's chamber pot from the bag, and later what would we have done without it for it served for wash basin, bath and laundry tub for months to come. Ah Ng, the amah, took on the duties of cook. We all ate together around a central pot of rice. We were still able to buy salt fish and greens. Ma Lien Ching killed off our dozen hens and put them in our refrigerator and brought them to us one at a time. There was supposed to be some system of rationing, but it turned out to be that bread, and only one loaf of it at a time, could be given only to a European. The Chinese had rice. If I went to town for bread, it meant carrying the baby on my back for about 5 miles-or else leaving him behind to cry the house down if I didn't get back by feeding time. With congested stores and continuous bombing, I couldn't leave him behind because a trip to town might mean the entire day. There was nothing for it but to send Clyde. He went with Mrs. Clift and
Mr. Spence. It was a long walk and a dangerous trip, but he enjoyed it and came back with the bread. Milk was another problem. Mrs. Bang and Mrs. Salvensen had each left a 5 lb. tin of Klim at Felix Villas. These I took with their permission by telephone. There was no one to deliver milk. We were told that we could go to the dairy farm and buy. Later I understood that the milk was thrown down the drains-it was so plentiful, but there was no one to look after the delivery. When the water works were hit Ah Ng began to growl. I reminded her that there was no water on tap in her native village. There was a mountain stream not far from us and Ma Lien Ching and Mrs. Clift's cook were able to bring pails of water. At least we were able to flush the lavatory once or twice a day by pouring in a pail of water. Then too, we were able to wash the baby's napkins. The situation in town did not bear thinking about. Not only would there have been no laundry facilities, but no place to hang napkins.
I was very anxious to get home to bring out our papers. I was also worried about Happy, the dog.
As I remember it was December 20th when I decided to go. I left Celene and the baby and took Clyde and the red wagon. Ma Lien Ching was free that morning and so he also came and Ah Ng. We planned to get to Felix Villas about 11 to have the quiet lunch hour there. We chose the wrong day because the bombing over the city seemed to be intensified. Several times along the road, we took to the bushes at the side of the road. A thick cloud of smoke from the burning petroleum stores curled up and covered most of the sky, so that the bombers flew out and underneath it and seemed to buzz about the various peaks like huge gnats. Once a bomber came out so low, it was on, or below the level of Mt. Davis. It banked sharply like a huge shark about our heads while we scuttled for a water pipe under the road. Ma and Clyde went in at one end and Ah Ng and I at the other. We were literally on our knees and had to remain there for half an hour. Clyde kept pretending to telephone me from his end and Ma and Ah Ng kept telling him to be quiet-as though he could be heard. There was an eider down quilt at Ma's end left by someone
who must have slept there. Later Ma returned to get it, but it had been taken. With my head almost tucked under my arm, I could look back and see the beautiful sapphire waters of "our sea." There were several "Mosquito" boats in full flight like swift water spiders. They left a spreading white wake as they twisted and dodged a bomber that was after them. Felix Villas was deserted except for a P.W.D. Engineer who was working on a wire. I believe the idea was to blow up the road. The house was in utter disorder. Not a pane of glass was left. The floors were covered with debris and the dust was inches thick, so that you had to be careful not to get cut on shattered glass. Happy was curled up on a forbidden bed of golden tapestry. He was so excited he didn't know whether to greet us or to eat the food we had brought, but kept running from us to the food and back again. Germaine's dogs were also excited. Germaine's little white dog was missing. He was a little bigger than a rabbit and how Happy hated him! I think Happy must have eaten him for a rabbit. We suspected Happy of having Greyhound blood. We decided to take Happy back with us and keep him on the roof. We had to work quickly. Clyde was told he could take out any of his things that he would pull for himself. He went for his stuffed animals and books. Later he thought of other things, but it was too late. After I got the papers, I went from one thing to another in indecision. I took one thing only to replace it by another, and finally left with half a load. We had been continuously told that we could stand months of siege and that we would not surrender except street by street. I thought that if we did surrender, we should be allowed to stay in our own houses as the Europeans did in other parts of China. Therefore, I fully expected to return eventually to the house, whichever way was the outcome, and this was the reason I didn't take more that I might easily have taken. Had we been told the truth, not only I, but many of my friends might have packed up essentials and have saved a great deal in the way of money and strength.
Our time was limited because I wished to get back to the baby before the afternoon raids. We couldn't find Happy's leash, and had to lead him away on a piece of string. We were followed by Germaine's other dogs and our cats, and had to chase them back again. Mrs. Clift was greatly relieved when we returned and gave me a cup of cocoa. Sunday morning Mr. Spence gave us a talk on the 23rd Psalm. It had been a theme Psalm to us and here it came again. "The Lord is my Shepherd." A few days before Christmas, I went out before the early bombing and got from a neighboring flower garden two pots of poinsettias and a potted Christmas tree. The children cut white paper and made white paper chains for the tree, and a white star, and we had a few pencils and pictures which we wrapped in white paper so that there was a present for everyone. I had brought a doll for Molly from Felix Villas-also a new dress for the baby and a toy piano for Celene and had pulled Clyde's teddy out of a hole in a trunk to surprise him. Mr. Spence bought a doll for Celene and a small car for Clyde when he was down town, so we didn't lack for presents. Early Christmas morning, we went outside Mrs. Clift's door and sang "While Shepherds watched their flocks by night." Our Christmas dinner was rice, bean curd, salt fish and for a very special treat, a spoonful of mince meat from a jar that Ma Lien Ching brought from the refrigerator at Felix Villas. The troops had helped themselves to the rest and I was glad of it. There were no facilities for making pies, but we ate the mince with a spoon. That afternoon there had been a long pause in the firing. Late in the afternoon Ma came in to say we had surrendered. He was in ordinary clothes. He had been ordered by his head Chinese warden to change. They had dropped their uniforms in a lorry.
He afterwards went back for his shirt. He said it could be cut up for clothes for the children as it was good material.
He also cached a big bag of rice which had been abandoned.
An Eurasian doctor had sent Mrs. Clift several bags of rice and she had generously shared with us. We would not believe in the surrender. We had been repeatedly told we would not surrender, but fight street by street. We were also told by radio every day that the situation remained unchanged. The power station was latterly put out of action. There were no telephones or radios, but the news sheet was still printed and the news here was the same. The following day we saw the Japanese flag flying from the Peak. There was a group of Canadian soldiers across the street and I went over to them to talk to them. They seemed as much at a loss to know the news as we were. They said there had been a threat of poison gas, and to save the Chinese population, we had surrendered. Since then I have heard so many theories that I have ceased to wonder. The roads now began to be filled with streams of Japanese soldiers and lorries. There were a great number of soldiers mounted on ponies. The Chinese looters also began to fill the streets. From our window we could watch them at work at the new science building of the University. Some of the Japanese gendarmes allowed looting, and some were very strict and shot the looters. The looters themselves took the risk. We watched them bring out beautiful polished furniture and smash it up with great stones for fire wood. We also saw them running away with expensive scientific instruments. There were continual shots. We were frequently visited by Japanese soldiers on tours of inspection. There were a few things about our house I wished to save from looters and Ma Lien Ching, Ah Ng, Clyde, Celene and I went out. The Felix Villas road, apart
from a solitary wood cutter, was deserted by Chinese. Some Japanese in cars and lorries passed us. We found the house as before and Ma brought me an almost new pram left by a neighbour. I was able to pile some of the rugs, etc., into it and Celene loaded up her doll's pram with her treasures. Ma stayed behind to put some of the things into the premises of the Italian school nearby. As we went back we sang "He leadeth me." It was a fresh sunny day and I was happy at the thought that the fighting for us was temporarily over, and that we should soon return home again and live quietly. I was quite prepared to be obedient to whatever rules were laid down. The Japanese sentries were all very friendly to Clyde who smiled and saluted them when we met. Several of them shook hands with him. Ma returned that evening to say that I had no sooner gone, when a lorry came and impressed him into service and he had to carry deserted guns the rest of the day. Su Mei said that now we had surrendered, she and the children would return to Felix Villas. She said if they went back, they could save the place from looting until I could get a pass. As I could get no news of what we were allowed to do, I could give her no advice except that the things did not matter to me as much as their lives. So she and Ah Ng and the children all set out to walk back. I did not think it wise to go back myself until I could procure a pass from the Japanese as we were counted as enemies, but the Japanese relationship to the Chinese was advertised as the brother helping his fellow brother to cast off the foreign oppressor. All the pamphlets dropped from the airplanes had this form of propaganda both to the Indians and to the Chinese. That evening Su Mei and party returned-but without Happy. They had reached home without incident, but during the day, there had been several Japanese soldiers about, and from gestures they made to Su Mei she was afraid to stay the
night. In fact at the first opportunity they had fled back leaving some of the things with which they had returned.
That was the last we heard of Happy-or the cats.
The instruments such as binoculars, etc., radios, silver and ivory had all been taken by the Japanese as spoils. An old sea captain who returned to his home at Felix Villas told me in an internment camp where I later met him, that at first he had managed to live without much interference but later armed Chinese looters came in hordes and he was forced to leave his home to them. I was also told that the road had over 100 dead bodies of Chinese looters, shot probably by the Japanese. Our neighbour Germaine returned on December 26th and later her body was found on the road and taken to a hospital for identification. Her husband, who had just passed his final medical examinations in December, was killed at his post. Whether either knew the other was dead I do not know. They had been married about a year. We were now told that the first three days of the New Year were to be put aside as "a well-deserved holiday for the Japanese troops." Their guns were taken from them and they were only allowed to carry their short swords. We were warned to keep indoors with locked doors and not to open the doors at night. The soldiers would be drunk and their officers could not be responsible for them. Fortunately, we were in a comparatively quiet vicinity and the first night passed without incident. At about 11 the second night, I was wakened by hammering at the iron lattice gate. It was fastened by a chain, the ends of which were linked by a lock. The Japanese were pounding on this lock with heavy stones in a systematic way. Every now and then they would throw a stone in the windows of the ground floor, smashing the glass. The windows were barred with iron, as is the custom in Hong Kong. We pushed heavy furniture against the door of the flat and prayed. The verse came to me "I will not forsake thee."
The thought came to me that here was a chance to wrestle against evil by using God's word. Before I pray for a thing, I feel I must analyze the prayer, whether it is selfish, or for a necessity. There was no doubt in my mind as to the wrong being attempted, and therefore it was a permissible prayer. Not only so, but it was a time when God would not act without our faith. The lock could hold only by a miracle, and a miracle is performed only by God and man being in accord. It was as though I clutched at that verse with my clenched hands "I will not forsake you." "You can't forsake us. The lock must hold-it will hold. There is nothing can break it so long as I know God's finger is there."
And it did hold.
The following morning we were visited by several ruffianly Japanese who rudely demanded why we had not opened the gate for their inspection of the premises. We replied that as the hour was very late, we supposed that it might be housebreakers. A girl whose mother was Japanese and who spoke Japanese had joined us. She was able to translate in a dignified way. Clyde said, "Did they see the guardian angel standing at the gate?" The next night the Chinese ground floor tenant suggested that we should all prepare gongs to beat. This was what they do in Japan when a thief is discovered. We thought it would shame them into going away because Japanese do not like being called thieves. We, therefore, all prepared kettle and pot tops, and sticks to beat them. The relief of a quiet night was only equaled by Clyde's disappointment that the preparations had been unnecessary. Mrs. Clift decided to try and see the head Japanese officer to procure a signboard for the house stating that the house was used as a medical clinic and was the home of a doctor.
She found the headquarters and was admitted. The officer showed her a detailed map of Hong Kong and she was able to point out her house. He then telephoned the Japanese in that section. We never got the board, but we were unmolested in the future. I had been unable to find anyone with authority to issue passes, but civilians began to appear on the streets. The Chinese looters were all extremely busy entering unoccupied houses and tearing up even the floors for firewood. We saw more beautiful polished furniture being cracked up by heavy stones and expensive laboratory instruments being carried away by looters from the recently equipped Science Building of the University. Every now and then a Japanese gendarme would come out and shoot a looter and the others would disappear by magic. We would see them scurrying into lanes and hiding behind walls. When the Japanese returned to his post, they would come out again in hordes. Sometimes the Japanese would catch a few and line them up in front of their quarters. They would make them carry heavy stones on their shoulders. These looters would sometimes stand there all night. Underfed, how did they do it?-the strength given them through terror. The first Sunday after Christmas, we were visited by a group of Japanese, one of whom said he would be off duty in the afternoon and would like to return for a meeting. He did return and told us that he had missed his Christmas and would like to celebrate by singing Christmas carols. After we had sung several, he asked if he might be allowed to play the carols on the piano. We read the Christmas story from the Bible, and he produced a Japanese Testament with a khaki cover.
He then prayed in Japanese.
He was a student for the ministry and had been organist in his training school when drafted to the army.
After a little service Mrs. Clift served tea.
Clyde's hair was beginning to look like a mane, and I thought I would venture out (January 6th) to a nearby barber, but early in the morning a gentleman living near dashed in to say that there were placards posted down town that all British and Americans were to report to Murray Parade Ground by noon. As we had had so many rumours, we decided that one of our party should go to town with Ma who would bring back word. In the meanwhile, we collected our bedclothes and packed them in the pram. We put our tinned goods in the doll's pram, and as much as we could we piled on Clyde's wagon. I put Dad's short fur jacket on Clyde and an old fur coat on myself because I did not know where we were going and the nights were cold. Ma came back at 10:30 with a note to say the report was true. The distance was a good three miles through the city streets. So we set out, Clyde pulling the wagon, Celene pushing the doll's pram and I pushing the pramwith the baby lying on top of the blankets. Ma Si Fu came with us and helped Clyde now and again and also Celene. Su Mei could hardly bear to let us go, poor child. After all she was only twenty-one. She gave me her precious one pound tin of Klim for the baby, but I wouldn't take it. How was she to get milk? Later I found the tin hidden amongst my things. The streets were crowded with Chinese-many of whom were living on the sidewalks, some under mat shelters and others with nothing but overhanging verandahs. Little boys ran out and laughed running along beside Clyde. They were not laughing at him, but because his panda, teddy and koala were all sitting on the top of the wagon.
As we got towards the heart of the city we began to meet British civilians marching in fours with packs on their backs.
We reached the parade ground and found Mrs. Clift who had been lucky enough to get a ricksha. The Japanese gendarmes with expensive cameras took pictures of the children. The sidewalk across the parade ground was packed with expressionless, motionless Chinese. I did not feel antagonism from them at all. I think they were as dazed as we were. There were now gathered enough to fill a hotel, and we were marched off in rows of four. Ma came along with us. He took the risk of identifying himself "Southern Peace." Mrs. Clift, the four of us and a stranger, Molly Tyrrol by name, were assigned to a room about 12 ft. square on the third floor. Ma helped carry the things upstairs and no one stopped him. We found our room was a "luxury suite" and possessed a private flush and bath. Mrs. Clift, under protest, took the narrow bed. The children and I had a board bed and Molly had the short settee. She said she had slept on the floors of corridors so long, she was grateful for anything. There were about 150 in this hotel and most of them were in cubicles, some with upper and lower berths-all boards. We found there was a roof garden where we could sunbathe. We were given food for two meals a day which some of the internees cooked on the roof for us. The two meals were a bowl of rice each-sometimes the rice was mixed with a little fish and sometimes we were given a spot of soup, but as we had brought tinned goods with us, we were not too badly off. On payment of $1.00 at the door, Ma was able to send up word that he was there, and I could go down and speak to him and ask him to bring things as we ne'eded them. I had money with me that had been drawn from the bank before hostilities commenced. It had depreciated and prices had soared, but it was sufficient for bare necessities. Ma met our Norwegian friends and they were most kind. They brought milk powder, jam, cocoa and other foods, besides shoes for the children.
Miss Florence Wang, a government nurse, also came with a doctor and was admitted on account of her uniform. She brought some precious tomatoes. It worried me-these gifts, because these friends could not afford the things with prices soaring. Each time I climbed the steep ascent of three flights of stairs, my eyes were full of tears of happiness to think of having friends who risked lives to come and give what they could so little spare. Ma Si Fu got us some soy sauce which helped down the rice, and Mrs. Clift had some coffee which she made in a thermos flask, so we were comparatively well off. We had morning and evening prayers and one of the wardresses heard us singing and came and told us she too was a Christian. After that there was nothing within her power she did not do to make us happy. All my life I shall remember her. Family persecution had purged her Christianity of anything not true. She was a daughter of the Master, through and through. Later in camp, I did not see her so frequently as she was not in our section and not in camp for long. Even an agnostic could see that the light and joy in her eyes were not of this world. She was radiant Christianity. One day when I had queued up for a bowl of rice, I was addressed by a red-haired and bearded gnome. "Aren't you Mrs. Cook?" the creature asked, and bless me if it wasn't dear old George Boulton, once an engineer on my husband's ship. We thereupon took hold of hands and danced "Here we go round the mulberry bush" in a fairy circle. His shock of red beard made him unrecognizable. George had had a tough time driving trucks of gasoline and gangs of coolies with it. They had gotten callous to air raids, had eaten and slept where and how they could, and helped themselves to clothing when necessary, and George himself had grown cannier by practice than the canny Scot he was by nature. Mrs. Boulton had been interned in a hospital where she had been working. George thereupon adopted us, fixed our bathroom for us so that it worked and did a hundred odd
jobs-such as making tea strainers from bits of tin and tin punchers from nails. He even made toys for the children. He had looted an electric burner from somewhere, and what we appreciated most was a knock at 6:30 a.m. with George with a towel for turban salaaming at the door and announcing that the water was boiling. That morning cup of tea was a treat to be looked forward to. In the evenings we played Kan-u-go with cards that Mrs. Clift had brought along. It is hard to believe, but some of the most hilarious days I have ever spent were spent in that dreary, dirty hotel. It was the hilarity, doubtless, of the relief when the body of a chronic sufferer had been buried. We were free from the constant expectancy of being snuffed out, then free from the anxiety of armed men entering freely, and at will. We felt comparatively safe physically. Our homes were looted, our possessions gone-but our dear ones were safe.
Mrs. Clift had had a visit from Dr. Clift. He had been allowed a short absence from his hospital.
The Japanese consul kindly sent a donation of milk for the children in the hotel and I decided to ask him on behalf of our three children, if he would let their father know we were safe. Mr. King of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and some of his colleagues had the room next door to us. He was unofficially made head of our hotel, and he was able to deliver this message to the consul. My husband was not only duly informed, but I received a reply from him later in camp. This seems to bear out that this war is not a war of individuals against individuals. Here again, I was grateful to a considerate and chivalrous foe. In the Nam Ping hotel I had a birthday, and for my party we opened a large tin of asparagus that I had had at home for months and was keeping on account of its expense. Each person got one "Candle" as I called the asparagus. They looked like wax candles. I do not think anyone even left the fibrous part.
Boulton sold some tobacco that he had looted from somewhere and bought me a pair of straw slippers and a roll of toilet paper. Another gentleman gave me a shaving brush which I found useful for Van Dyke's hair. Molly gave me some amber earrings-I never wear earrings, but does that matter? She cared about them so I care about them too. Mrs. Clift gave me a spare bed jacket she had brought along. Mr. Sharp gave me some tissue hankies for which I was most thankful. It was his birthday too, and Ma had used the last of his flour to make a few ginger snaps. Part of these I was able to give Mr. Sharp. Mr. Spence gave me a jar of ginger. Most of the gifts were accompanied by elaborate poems, and the children drew birthday cards.
But the best gift of all was on this wise:
In the morning the reading was Psalm 86. The last verse said: "I will send thee a token to comfort thee." Even God was going to send me a birthday present! I went up on the roof to hang up Van Dyke's napkins. I was alone for it was early. Suddenly a ship's siren blew three times and the ship on which my husband had been captured and which the Japanese had brought to Hong Kong, and which had been lying for days in the harbour, weighed anchor and came and docked at the wharf directly in front of the hotel. I could only see its funnel after it docked, but was there ever a better token? Did not that say to me that we should meet again and that he was safe? Later on in camp I was reading the Scripture Union portion and the reading suddenly jumped to the Psalms for a few days. The 86th Psalm came again-the following day came the message of Ruth "Whither thou goest I will go." That day in camp I received a letter from my husband through the Japanese that he was being repatriated and they had promised to send me to Shanghai to go with him. Actually, I was sent direct to Lourenco Marques, but with this written assurance that he was on the way. Later I found that it was this very day that his ship passed Hong Kong on the way to Shanghai, where the British were being assembled for repatriation.
The rumour began to grow that we were to be taken to Stanley, a peninsula on the eastern side of the island. Finally we were told that we might send for personal things and take them with us. We had no idea that once in Stanley, we should be totally cut off from seeing or writing to our neutral and Chinese friends in Hong Kong. We were told that we should have 3 days warning before we left. However, the word came on the 22nd of January to be ready to go the following day. We were to leave what we could not carry to come later and take food for one meal and bedclothes for the night. Mr. King and several others insisted on staying with the things. He also asked George to go with us in case we needed assistance. Ma Si Fu had been told to come that day at noon, but we were marched off before, and no one was allowed at the hotel that morning, so I had no chance to give him a parting message, or to ask him to get some cups we needed. One of the things the Japanese delight in is unexpected moves. They rarely do a thing at the time set. They have endless delays until one gives up all hope, and then they move suddenly, and unexpectedly so that one is momentarily unprepared. During our internment at the Nam Ping Hotel, Mr. Rankin of the Southern Baptist Mission led our church service. His text was: "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory." The translation he used was "Causeth us to march in one continuous procession of triumph." It was the idea of the Roman triumphal procession, only instead of a short period, it was all time and instead of unwilling captives, we were willing slaves. I then saw Christ marching ahead triumphantly and in his footprints followed willing slaves through nations and generations in a continuous process of Triumph. It was neither the British nor the Japanese who were giving our marching orders, but Christ through them. Therefore behold the Cook family with red wagon, doll's pram, Celene, Clyde and baby in pram and myself and George on the job helping when needed-behold us joining the others
on another march down the streets and along the waterfront to a distant wharf where we were to embark on launches. There were several hundreds of us that day mostly men carrying their rolls of bedding on their backs. It was a beautiful day for a sail-a sunny day with a fairly smooth sea. As we sailed by the city, we could see the ravages of fire and war in the ruins along the waterfront. About half an hour later we went by Felix Villas. The houses stood deserted. We passed close by the little shingle beach and rocks where the steps led up to Felix Villas. Many a breakfast we had had there-sausage, bacon, fresh rolls, butter and fried eggs-and hot fragrant coffee. We used to leave the house before the last stars had disappeared and get to the beach in time to swim in the rosy reflection of the dawn. The water was nearly always a smooth mirror of the sky at that time of day. We would stay there until about ten, when it began to get hot. Happy and the cats frequently followed us, but Happy, who hated water, always sat on the bank and even distrusted the tempting bite of sausage with which we tried to bait him. The Persian cat, on the other hand, loved to walk about on the rocks and didn't in the least mind getting her feet wet. Well, goodbye, Felix Villas! We'll be back sometime to look amongst your dust for treasures of memory-perhaps a scrap of paper from a book we loved. Perhaps I might even come across those bronze urns, museum pieces, which Ma so carefully buried. Goodbye, Felix Villas, with your blue and emerald and rose sea-sometime ... You are my ideal beauty spot with your poincianas, bougainvillea, allemanda all set against a sapphire sea, and now that I have come to a foreign land each home I come to I look for the sea for background and a big solid roomy family house. I can plant the poinciana, bougainvillea and allemanda. Sometimes in my search I come to a spreading poinciana and I say "Here is the place," but I find no sea view.
Again, here is a house with a glorious view and a bougainvillea hedge, but the house is dark.
Perhaps it will keep me from a continuing city and I shall become a nomad for the duration till I can return to Felix Villas!
Now we are out of sight.
I had become used to nursing Van Dyke under all conditions and with no privacy. The launch was crowded with hard-boiled British policemen. Nothing for it but to nurse him there. No one appeared to pay the least attention. He was now four-and-a-half months old. During the whole trip to Stanley there was a Japanese on guard with a machine gun. When we arrived at Stanley Bay, a small launch made several trips to take us ashore. We waited till all were ashore and then proceeded to the camp. The Americans had a party down to meet incoming Americans and some of them helped the British too. It was pleasant to have friendly smiles of greeting. When we arrived in camp, the Americans went to "register" at their quarters but the British were left to fend for themselves. The most likely place was a room full of bricks. George said it might be fixed up. Everywhere seemed already taken. Finally a doctor came along and said there were bungalows on the hill belonging to the St. Stephens College, so our little procession started on. There were too many dispirited people sitting on their bundles to be heartening. I had tried to register with the Americans, who seemed to have a semblance of organization, but when they found my husband was British, they said I must go with the British. George went on to reconnoiter and soon came back to say that he had found an isolated bungalow where there were vacant rooms. We gathered up some straw mats and rice bags on the way.Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 66 Page 67 Page 68 Page 69 Page 70 Page 71 Page 72 Page 73 Page 74 Page 75 Page 76 Page 77 Page 78 Page 79 Page 80 Page 81 Page 82 Page 83 Page 84 Page 85 Page 86 Page 87 Page 88 Page 89 Page 90 Page 91 Page 92 Page 93 Page 94 Page 95 Page 96 Page 97 Page 98 Page 99 Page 100 Page 101 Page 102 Page 103 Page 104 Page 105 Page 106 Page 107 Page 108 Page 109 Page 110 Page 111 Page 112 Page 113 Page 114 Page 115 Page 116 Page 117 Page 118 Page 119 Page 120 Page 121 Page 122
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