The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners That Shook the World in the Summer of 1900

By Diana Preston | Go to book overview
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8
Behind the Tartar Wall

I never believed even dying people could look that way.

-- Polly Condit Smith

ON 21 June, the foreigners in Peking awoke to their first full day of siege life. It was a disagreeable and disorienting experience. One female missionary wrote with feeling that she had not dared disrobe in case she was forced to flee and that the night had been "warm, the babies were cross and the rest is better imagined than told!" Some male civilians had been unable to find a billet and had slept under trees, on benches, or anywhere that offered protection. Lenox Simpson had snatched just three hours' sleep. He surveyed the scenes around him with a weary, jaundiced eye concluding that "few people would believe the extraordinary condition to which twelve hours of chaos can reduce a large number of civilized people who have been forced into an unnatural life." The prospect of any breakfast looked slim and he was contemplating stealing some food when Monsieur Chamot of the Hôtel de Pékin came to his rescue with a cup of coffee. Inside the hotel Simpson found the exhausted Russian commander Baron von Rahden. He was fast asleep, mouth wide open and sword and revolver lying on the table amid the debris of a meal he had been too tired too finish.

Lenox Simpson's next call was the British Legation, where everything was in confusion. He found it astonishing that so little had been done to organize the defenses since the arrival of the relief

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