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´╗┐Title: My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard
Author: Cooper, Elizabeth, 1877-1945
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard" ***

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My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard by Elizabeth Cooper.

[Illustration: Mylady01.]


***Etext Dedicated to Marion by "Teary Eyes" Anderson.***

Transcriber's Note:

***I try to edit my etexts so they can easily be used with voice
speech programs, I believe blind people, and children should also
be able to enjoy the many books now available electronically. I
use the -- for a em-dash, with a space, either before or after
it depending on it's usage. This helps to keep certain programs
from squishing the words together, such as down-stairs. Also to
help voice speech programs I've enclosed upper case text
between - and _ (-UPPER CASE TEXT_). This etext was made with a
"Top can" text scanner, with a bit of correcting here and
there.***



My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard by Elizabeth Cooper.

Author of "Sayonara," etc.

With Thirty-One Illustrations In Duotone From Photographs.

Dedicated,
To My Husband.


Author's Note.

In these letters I have drawn quite freely and sometimes literally from
the excellent and authoritative translations of Chinese classics by
Professor Giles in his "Chinese Literature" and from "The Lute of
Jude" and "The Mastersingers of Japan," two books in the "Wisdom of
the East" series edited by L. Cranmer-Byng and S. A. Kapadia (E. P.
Dutton and Company). These translators have loved the songs of the
ancient poets of China and Japan and caught with sympathetic
appreciation, in their translations, the spirit of the East.

I wish to thank them for their help in making it possible to render into
English the imagery and poetry used by "My Lady of the Chinese
Courtyard."

Acknowledgment is also made to Mr. Donald Mennie of Shanghai,
China, who took most of the photographs from which the illustrations
have been made.

--Elizabeth Cooper.



Part 1.

-Preface_.

A writer on things Chinese was asked why one found so little writing
upon the subject of the women of China. He stopped, looked puzzled
for a moment, then said, "The woman of China! One never hears about
them. I believe no one ever thinks about them, except perhaps that
they are the mothers of the Chinese men!"

Such is the usual attitude taken in regard to the woman of the flowery
Republic. She is practically unknown, she hides herself behind her
husband and her sons, yet, because of that filial piety, that almost
religious veneration in which all men of Eastern races hold their
parents, she really exerts an untold influence upon the deeds of the
men of her race.

Less is known about Chinese women than about any other women of
Oriental lands. Their home life is a sealed book to the average person
visiting China. Books about China deal mainly with the lower-class
Chinese, as it is chiefly with that class that the average visitor or
missionary comes into contact. The tourists see only the coolie
woman bearing burdens in the street, trotting along with a couple of
heavy baskets swung from her shoulders, or they stop to stare at the
neatly dressed mothers sitting on their low stools in the narrow
alleyways, patching clothing or fondling their children. They see and
hear the boat-women, the women who have the most freedom of any
in all China, as they weave their sampans in and out of the crowded
traffic on the canals. These same tourists visit the tea-houses and
see the gaily dressed "sing-song" girls, or catch a glimpse of a
gaudily painted face, as a lady is hurried along in her sedan-chair,
carried on the shoulders of her chanting bearers. But the real Chinese
woman, with her hopes, her fears, her romances, her children, and her
religion, is still undiscovered.

I hope that this book, based on letters shown me many years after
they were written, will give a faint idea of the life of a Chinese lady.
The story is told in two series of letters conceived to be written by
Kwei-li, the wife of a very high Chinese official, to her husband when
he accompanied his master, Prince Chung, on his trip around the
world.

She was the daughter of a viceroy of Chih-li, a man most advanced for
his time, who was one of the forerunners of the present educational
movement in China, a movement which has caused her youth to rise
and demand Western methods and Western enterprise in place of the
obsolete traditions and customs of their ancestors. To show his belief
in the new spirit that was breaking over his country, he educated his
daughter along with his sons. She was given as tutor Ling-Wing-pu, a
famous poet of his province, who doubtless taught her the imagery
and beauty of expression which is so truly Eastern.

Within the beautiful ancestral home of her husband, high on the
mountains-side outside of the city of Su-Chau, she lived the quite,
sequestered life of the high-class Chinese woman, attending to the
household duties, which are not light in these patriarchal homes,
where an incredible number of people live under the same rooftree.
The sons bring their wives to their father's house instead of
establishing separate homes for themselves, and they are all under
the watchful eye of the mother, who can make a veritable prison or a
palace for her daughters-in-law. In China the mother reigns supreme.

The mother-in-law of Kwei-li was an old-time conservative Chinese
lady, the woman who cannot adapt herself to the changing conditions,
who resents change of methods, new interpretations and fresh
expressions of life. She sees in the new ideas that her sons bring
from the foreign schools disturbers only of her life's ideals. She
instinctively feels that they are gathering about her retreat, beating at
her doors, creeping in at her closely shuttered windows, even winning
her sons from her arms. She stands an implacable foe of progress
and she will not admit that the world is moving on, broadening its
outlook and clothing itself in a new expression. She feels that she is
being left behind with her dead gods, and she cries out against the
change which is surely but slowly coming to China, and especially to
Chinese women, with the advent of education and the knowledge of
the outside world.

In a household in China a daughter-in-law is of very little importance
until she is the mother of a son. Then, from being practically a servant
of her husband's mother, she rises to place of equality and is looked
upon with respect. She has fulfilled her once great duty, the thing for
which she was created: she has given her husband a son to worship
at his grave and at the graves of his ancestors. The great prayer which
rises from the heart of all Chinese women, rich and poor, peasant and
princess, is to Kwan-yin, for the inestimable blessing of sons. "Sons!
Give me sons!" is heard in every temple. To be childless is the
greatest sorrow that can come to Chinese women, as she fully
realizes that for this cause her husband is justified in putting her away
for another wife, and she may not complain or cry out, except in
secret, to her Goddess of Mercy, who has not answered her prayers.
Understanding this, we can dimly realise the joy of Kwei-li upon the
birth of her son, and her despair upon his death.

At this time, when she was in very depths of despondency, when she
had turned from the gods of her people, when it was feared that her
sorrow, near to madness, she would take the little round ball of
sleep-- opium-- that was brought rest to so many despairing women in
China, her servants brought her the Gospel of St. John, which they
bought of an itinerant colporteur in the market-place, hoping that it
might interest her. In the long nights when sleep would not come to
her, she read it-- and found the peace she sought.



1
My Dear One,
The house on the mountain-top has lost its soul. It is nothing but a
palace with empty windows. I go upon the terrace and look over the
valley where the sun sinks a golden red ball, casting long purple
shadows on the plain. Then I remember that thou art not coming from
the city to me, and I stay to myself that there can be no dawn that I
care to see, and no sunset to gladden my eyes, unless I share it with
thee.

[Illustration: Mylady02.]

But do not think I am unhappy. I do everything the same as if thou
wert here, and in everything I say, "Would this please my master?"
Meh-ki wished to put thy long chair away, as she said it was too big;
but I did not permit. It must rest where I can look at it and imagine I
see thee lying it, smoking thy water pipe; and the small table is
always near by, where thou canst reach out thy hand for thy papers
and the drink thou lovest. Meh-ki also brought out the dwarf pine-tree
and put it on the terrace, but I remembered thou saidst it looked like
an old man who had been beaten in his childhood, and I gave it to her
for one of the inner courtyards. She thinks it very beautiful, and so I
did once; but I have learned to see with thine eyes, and I know now
that a tree made straight and beautiful and tall by the Gods is more to
be regarded than one that has been bent and twisted by man.

Such a long letter I am writing thee. I am so glad that though madest
me promise to write thee every seventh day, and to tell thee all that
passes within my household and my heart. Thine Honourable Mother
says it is not seemly to send communication from mine hand to thine.
She says it was a thing unheard of in her girlhood, and that we
younger generations have passed the limits of all modesty and
womanliness. She wishes me to have the writer or thy brother send
thee the news of thine household; but that I will not permit. It must
come from me, thy wife. Each one of these strokes will come to thee
bearing my message. Thou wilt not tear the covering roughly as thou
didst those great official letters; nor wilt thou crush the papers quickly
in thy hand, because it is the written word of Kwei-li, who sends with
each stroke of brush a part of her heart.


2
My Dear One,
My first letter to thee was full of sadness and longing because thou
wert newly gone from me. Now a week has passed, the sadness is
still in my heart, but it is buried deep for only me to know. I have my
duties which must be done, my daily tasks that only I can do since
thine Honourable Mother has handed me the keys of the rice-bin. I
realise the great honour she does me, and that at last she trusts me
and believes me no child as she did when I first entered her
household.

Can I ever forget that day when I came to my husband's people? I had
the one great consolation of a bride, my parents had not sent me
away empty-handed. The procession was almost a li in length and I
watched with a swelling heart the many tens of coolies carrying my
household goods. There were the silken coverlets for the beds, and
they were folded to show their richness and carried on red lacquered
tables of great value. There were the household utensils of many
kinds, the vegetable dishes, the baskets, the camphor-wood baskets
containing my clothing, tens upon tens of them; and I said within my
heart as they passed me by, "Enter my new home before me. Help
me find a loving welcome." Then at the end of the chanting procession
I came in my red chair of marriage, so closely covered I could barely
breathe. My trembling feet could scarce support me as they helped
me from the chair, and my hand shook with fear as I was being led
into my new household. She stood bravely before you, that little girl
dressed in red and gold, her hair twined with pearls and jade, her
arms tiny finger, but with all her bravery she was
frightened-- frightened. She was away from her parents for the first
time, away from all who love her, and she knew if she did not meet
with approval in her new home her rice-bowl would be full of bitterness
for many moons to come.

After the obeisance to the ancestral tablet and we had fallen upon our
knees before thine Honourable Parent, I then saw for the first time the
face of my husband. Dost thou remember when first thou raised my
veil and looked long into my eyes? I was thinking, "Will he find me
beautiful?" and in fear I could look but for a moment, then my eyes fell
and I would not raise then to thine again. But in that moment I saw
that thou wert tall and beautiful, that thine eyes were truly almond,
that thy skin was clear and thy teeth like pearls. I was secretly glad
within my heart, because I have known of brides who, when they saw
their husbands for the first time, wished to scream in terror, as they
were old or ugly. I thought to myself that I could be happy with this
tall, strong young man if I found favour in his sight, and I said a little
prayer to Kwan-yin. Because she has answered that prayer, each day
I place a candle at her feet to show my gratitude.

I think thine Honourable Mother has passed me the keys of the
household to take my mind from my loss. She says a heart that is
busy cannot mourn, and my days are full of duties. I arise in the
morning early, and after seeing that my hair is tidy, I take a cup of tea
to the Aged One and make my obeisance; then I place the rice and
water in their dishes before the God of the Kitchen, and light a tiny
stick of incense for his altar, so that our day may begin auspiciously.
After the morning meal I consult with the cook and steward. The
vegetables must be regarded carefully and the fish inspected, and I
must ask the price that has been paid, because often a hireling is
hurried and forgets that a bargain is not made with a breath.

I carry the great keys and feel much pride when I open the door of the
storeroom. Why, I do not know, unless it is because of the realisation
that I am the head of this large household. If the servants or their
children are ill, they come to me instead of to thine Honourable
Mother, as they be too rare or heavy for one of my mind and
experience.

Then I go with the gardener to the terrace and  help him arrange the
flowers for the day. I love the stone-flagged terrace, with its low marble
balustrade, resting close against the mountain to which it seems to
cling.

I always stop a moment and look over the valley, because it was from
here I watched thee when thou went to the city in the morning, and
here I waited thy return. Because of my love for it and the rope of
remembrance with which it binds me, I keep it beautiful with rugs and
flowers.

It speaks to me of happiness and brings back memories of summer
days spent idling in a quite so still that we could hear the rustle of the
bamboo grasses on the hillside down below; or, still more dear, the
evenings passed close by thy side, watching the brightened into jade
each door and archway as it passed.

I long for thee, I love thee, I am thine.

Thy Wife.


3
My Dear One,
The hours of one day are as like each other as are twin blossoms
from the pear-tree. There is no news to tell thee. The mornings are
passed in the duties that come to all women who have the care of a
household, and the afternoons I am on the terrace with thy sister. But
first of all, thine August Mother must be made comfortable for her
sleep, and then the peace indeed is wonderful.

Mah-li and I take our embroidery and sit upon the terrace, where we
pass long hours watching the people in the valley below. The faint
blue smoke curls from a thousand dwellings, and we try to imagine
the lives of those who dwell beneath the rooftrees. We see the
peasants in their rice-fields; watch them dragging the rich mud from
the bottoms of the canal for fertilizing; hear the shrill whistle of the
duck man as, with long bamboo, he drives the great flock of ducks
homeward or sends them over the fields to search for insects. We see
the wedding procession far below, and can but faintly follow the great
covered chair of the bride and the train of servants carrying the
possessions to the new home. Often the wailing of the mourners in a
funeral comes to our ears, and we lean far over the balcony to watch
the coolie scatter the spirit money that will pay the dead man's way to
land of the Gods. But yesterday we saw the procession carrying the
merchant Wong to his resting-place of sycee spent upon his funeral.
Thy brothers tell me his sons made great boast that no man has been
buried with such pomp in all the province. But it only brings more
clearly the remembrance that he began this life a sampan coolie and
ended it with many millions. But his millions did not bring him
happiness. He laboured without ceasing, and then without living to
enjoy the fruit, worn out, departed, one knows not whither.

[Illustration: Mylady03.]
[Illustration: Mylady04.]

Yesterday we heard the clang-clang of a gong and saw the Taotai
pass by, his men carrying the boards and banners with his official
rank and virtues written upon them, and we counted the red umbrellas
and wondered if some poor peasant was in deep trouble.

It is beautiful here now. The hillside is purple with the autumn bloom
and air is filled with a golden haze. The red leaves drift slowly down
the canal and tell me that soon the winter winds will come. Outside
the walls the insects sing sleepily in grass, seeming to know that
their brief life is nearly spent. The wild geese on their southward flight
carry my thoughts to thee. All is sad, and sad as the clouded moon
my longing face, and my eyes are filled with tears. Not at twilight nor
at grey of dawn can I find happiness without thee, my lord, mine own,
and "endless are the days as trailing creepers."

Thy Wife.


4
My Dear One,
I have much to tell thee. My last letter was unhappy, and these little
slips of paper must bring to thee joy, not sorrow, else why the written
word?

First, I must tell thee that thy brother Chih-peh will soon be married.
Thou knowest he has long been betrothed to Li-ti, the daughter of the
Governor of Chih-li, and soon the bride will be here. We have been
arranging her apartments. We do not know how many home servants
she will bring, and we are praying the Gods to grant her discretion,
because with servants from a different province there are sure to be
jealousies and the retailing of small tales that disturb the harmony of
a household.

Many tales have been brought us of her great beauty, and we hear
she has much education. Thine August Mother is much disturbed over
the latter, as she says, and justly too, that over-learning is not good
for women. It is not meet to give them books in which to store their
embroidery silks. But I-- I am secretly delighted, and Mah-li, thy
sister, is transported with joy. I think within our hearts, although we
would not even whisper it to the night wind, we are glad that there will
be three instead of two to bear the burden of the discourses of thine
Honourable Mother. Not that she talks too much, thou understandest,
nor that her speech is not stored full of wisdom, but-- she talks-- and
we must listen.

We have other news. A new slave-girl has come into our household.
As thou knowest, there has been a great famine to the north of us,
and the boats, who follow all disaster, have been anchored in our
canal. I do not know why August One desired to add one more to take
of rice beneath our rooftree; but she is here. She was brought before
me, a little peasant girl, dressed in faded blue trousers and a jacket
that had been many times to the washing pool. Her black hair was
coiled in the girlhood knot at the side of the head, and in it she had
stuck a pumpkin blossom. She was such a pretty little country flower,
and looked so helpless, I drew her to me and questioned her. She told
me there were many within their compound wall: grandmother, father,
mother, brothers, sisters, uncles and cousins. The rice was gone, the
heavy clothing and all of value in the pawn-shop. Death was all around
them, and they watched each day as he drew nearer-- nearer. Then
came the buyers of girls. They had money that would buy rice for the
winter and mean life to all. But the mother would not listen. She was
told over and over that the price of one would save the many. Her
nights were spent in weeping and her days in fearful watching. At last,
worn out, despairing, she went to a far-off temple to ask Kwan-yin, the
Mother of Mercies, for help in her great trouble. While she was gone,
Ho-tai was taken to the women in the boat at the water-gate, and
many pieces of silver were paid the father. When the stomach is
empty, pride is not strong, and there were many small bodies crying
for rice that could only be bought with the sacrifice of one. That night,
as they started down the canal, they saw on the tow-path a peasant
women, her dress open far below her throat, her hair loose and flying,
her eyes swollen and dry from over-weeping, moaning pitifully,
stumbling on in the darkness, searching for the boat that had been
anchored at the water-gate; but it was gone. Poor little Ho-tai! She
said, "It was my mother!" and as she told me, he face was wet with
bitter rain. I soothed her and told her we would make her happy, and I
made a little vow in my heart that I would find that mother and bring
peace to her heart again.

The summer wanes and autumn is upon us with all its mists and
shadows of purple and grey. The camphor-trees look from the
distance like great balls of fire, and the eucalyptus-tree, in its dress of
brilliant yellow, is a gaily painted court lady. If one short glimpse of
thee my heart could gladden, then all my soul would be filled with the
beauty of this time, these days of red and gold. But now I seek thee
the long night through, and turn to make my arm thy pillow-- but thou
art gone.

I am thy wife who longs for thee.


5
My Dear One,
We have a daughter-in-law. Not only have we a daughter-in-law, but
we have servants and household furnishings and clothing-- and
clothing-- and clothing. I am sure that if her gowns could be laid side
by side, they would reach around the world. She is as fair as the
spring blossoms, and of as little use. An army encamped upon us
could not have so upset our household as the advent of this one
maiden. She brought with her rugs to cover the floors, embroideries
and hangings for the walls, scrolls and saying of Confucius and
Mencius to hang over the seats of honour-- to show us that she is an
admirer of the classics-- screens for the doorways, even a huge bed
all carved and gilded and with hangings and tassels of gay silk.

Thine Honourable Mother, after viewing the goods piled in the
courtyards, called her bearers and told us she was taking tea with a
friend in the village of Sung-dong. I think she chose this friend
because she lives the farthest from our compound walls. I alone was
left to direct the placing of this furniture. Li-ti was like a butterfly,
flitting hither and thither, doing nothing, talking much. The bed must
be so placed that the Spirits of Evil passing over it in the night-time
could not take the souls of sleepers away with them. The screens
must stand at the proper angle guarding the doorways from the spirits
who, in their straight, swift flight through the air, fall against these
screens instead of entering the house. She gravely explained to me
that the souls who dwell in darkness like to take up their abode in
newly organised households, and many precautions must be made
against them. She even seriously considered the roof, to see if all the
points curved upward, so that the spirits lighting upon them be carried
high above the open courtyards. I do not know what would have
happened to thine ancestral rooftree if it had not met with her
approval. I was many heartfuls glad that thine August Mother was
taking tea in a far-off village, as Li-ti even wanted to install a new God
in the kitchen. This I would not permit. Canst thou imagine thy
Mother's face if a God from a stranger family was in the niche above
the stove? Happily all was over when thine Honourable Mother
returned. She is not pleased with this, her newest, daughter-in-law,
and she talks-- and talks-- and talks. She says the days will pass
most slowly until she sees the father of Li-ti. She yearns to tell him
that a man knows how to spend a million pieces of money in marrying
off his daughter, but knows not how to spend a hundred thousand in
bringing up his child. If this great Governor of Chih-li has much
wisdom, he will stay long within his province. I have just heard for the
hundredth time the saying of Confucius, "Birth is not a beginning, nor
is death an end." In my despair I said deep down within my breast, "I
am sure it will not be an end for thee, O Mother-in-law. Thou wilt go to
the River of Souls talking, talking, always talking-- but the Gods will
be good to me. Thou must pass before me, and I will not hasten so as
to overtake thee on the way." I beg thy pardon, dear one. I lack
respect to thy Most Honourable Parent, but my soul is sore tried and I
can find no quite.

I am,
Thy Wife.


6
My Dear One,
"The five worst infirmities that afflict the female are indocility,
discontent, slander, jealousy, and silliness. The worst of them all, and
the parent of the other four, is silliness. "Does that not sound familiar
to thine ears? Life is serious here in thine ancestral home since we
have taken to ourselves a daughter-in-law. The written word for trouble
is two women beneath one rooftree, and I greatly fear that the wise
man who invented writing had knowledge that cost him dear. Perhaps
he, too, had a daughter-in-law.

Yet, with it all, Li-ti is such a child. Ah, I see thee smile. Thou sayest
she is only three years less in age than I; yet, thou seest, I have had
the honour of living a year by the side of thy Most August Mother and
have acquired much knowledge from the very fountain-head of
wisdom. Perchance Li-ti also will become a sage, if-- she be not
gathered to her ancestors before her allotted time, which depends
upon the strength of body and mind which they may have willed her.

To me she is the light of this old palace. She is the true spirit of
laughter, and, "When the happy laugh, the Gods rejoice." She is
continually in disgrace with thine Honourable Mother, and now the
Elder One has decided that both she and Mah-li, thy sister, shall
learn a text from the sage Confucius each day for penance. They are
now in the inner courtyard, studying the six shadows which attend the
six virtues. I can hear them saying over and over to each other, "Love
of goodness without the will to learn casts the shadow called
foolishness--" now a laugh-- then again they begin, "Love of
knowledge without the will to learn casts the shadow called
instability--" giggle and much talking. I am afraid they will never arrive
at the shadow cast the love of truth, and after I have written thee I will
go in and help them, that they may not be reprimanded.

Li-ti takes her duties now most seriously, these same duties
consisting of dressing for the day. In the morning she seats herself
before her mirror, and two maids attend her, one to hold the great
brass bowl of water, the other to hand her the implements of her toilet.
While the face is warm she covers it with honey mixed with perfume,
and applies the rice-powder until her face is as white as the rice itself.
Then the cheeks are rouged, the touch of red is placed upon the lower
lip, the eyebrows are shaped like the true willow leaf, and the hair is
dressed. Her hair is wonderful (but I say within, my hearty not so long
or so thick as mine), and she adorn it with many jewels of jade and
pearls. Over her soft clothing of fine linen she draws the rich
embroidered robes of silk and satin. Then her jewels, earrings, beads,
bracelets, rings, the tiny mirror in the embroidered case, the bag with
its rouge and powder fastened to her side by long red tassels. When
all things are in place, she rises a being glorified, a thing of beauty
from her glossy hair to the toe of her tiny embroidered shoe. I watch
her with a little envy, because when thou wast here I did the same.
Now that my husband is away, it is not meet that I make myself too
seemly for other eyes. The rouge brush and the powder have not been
near my face, and I have searched my clothing chests to find gowns
fitting for a woman who is alone.

Thy Mother says poor Li-ti is o'ervain, and repeats to her the saying,
"More precious in a woman is a virtuous heart than a face of beauty."
But I say she is our butterfly, she brings the joys of summer. One
must not expect a lace kerchief to hold tears, and she fulfills her
woman's destiny. Chih-peh, thy brother, is inexpressibly happy. He
adores his pretty blossom. He follows her with eyes worship, and
when she is in disgrace with thine August Mother, he is desolate.
When needs be she is sent to her apartment, he wanders round and
round the courtyards until the Honourable One has retired from sight,
then he hurriedly goes to his beloved. Soon I hear them laughing
gaily, and know the storm is over.

The rains have come and we cannot pass long days upon the terrace.
The whole valley is shrouded in grey mists and the peasants have
gone from the fields. The path down the mountain-side is empty,
except for the men with the great umbrella hats and capes of straw,
bringing the vegetables to the monastery below. The old abbot of the
monastery is in great trouble. Some men have come and wish to
erect long poles with wires on them. It is feared it will interrupt the
feng-shui of the temple, the good spirits of the air cannot pass, and
will rest upon these ugly poles instead of coming to the temple
rooftree. The abbot has wailed and gone to the magistrate; but he will
not interfere, as the men have many tens of thousands of sycee and
quite likely will work their will.

[Illustration: Mylady05.]

Such foolish letters as I write thee! They are filled with the little life
that passes within the women's courtyard. It is all the life I know. My
world is bounded by these walls, and I ask no more.

I am thy loving wife.


7
My Dear One,
All thy women-folk have been shopping! A most unheard-of event for
us. We have Li-ti to thank for this great pleasure, because, but for her,
the merchants would have brought their goods to the courtyard for us
to make our choice. Li-ti would not hear of that; she wanted to see the
city, and she wanted to finger the pretty goods within the shops. She
knew exactly what she wished, and life was made uncomfortable for
us all until thy Mother ordered the chairs and we went into the city.
We were a long procession. First, the August One with her four-bearer
chair; then your most humble wife, who has only two bearers-- as yet;
then Li-ti; and after her Mah-li, followed by the chairs of the servants
who came to carry back our purchases.

It was most exciting for us all, as we go rarely within the city gate. It
was market day and the streets were made more narrow by the
baskets of fish and vegetables which lined the way. The flat stones of
the pavements were slippery and it seemed our bearers could not find
a way amongst the crowd of riders on horses and small donkeys, the
coolies with their buckets of hot water swinging from their shoulders,
the sweetmeat sellers, the men with bundles, and the women with
small baskets. They all stepped to one side at the sound of the Ah-yo
of our leader, except a band of coolies carrying the monstrous trunk of
a pine-tree, chanting as they swung the mast between them, and
keeping step with the chant. It seemed a solemn dirge, as if some
great were being carried to the resting-place of the dead.

[Illustration: Mylady06.]

But sadness could not come to us when shopping, and our eager
eyes looked long at the signs above the open shopways. There were
long black signs of lacquer with letters of raised gold, or red ones with
the characters carved and gilded. Above a shoe-shop was a made for
the King of the Mountains, in front of a pipe-shop was a water pipe fit
for his mate. From the fan-shop hung delicate, gilded fans; and
framing the silk-shop windows gaily coloured silk was draped in rich
festoons that nearly swept the pathway.

We bought silks and satins and gay brocades, we chatted and we
bargained and we shopped. We handled jade and pearls and
ornaments of twisted gold, and we priced amulets and incense pots
and gods. We filled our eyes with luxury and our amahs' chairs with
packages, and returned home three happy, tired, hungry women,
thinking with longing of the hissing tea-urn upon the charcoal brazier.

That crowded, bustling, threatening city seems another world from
this, our quiet, walled-in dwelling. I feel that here we are protected,
cared for, guarded, and life's hurry and distress will only pass us by,
not touch us. Yet-- we like to see it all, and know that we are part of
that great wonder-thing, the world.

I am thy happy, tired,
Wife.


8.
My Dear One,
I am carrying a burden for another that is causing me much sorrow.
Dost thou remember Chen-peh, who is from my province and who
married Ling Peh-yu about two moons after I came to thy household?
She came to me yesterday in dire distress. She is being returned to
her home by her husband's people, and, as thou knowest, if a woman
is divorced shame covers her until her latest hour. I am inexpressibly
saddened, as I do not know what can be done. The trouble is with his
mother and, I fear, her own pride of family. She cannot forget that she
comes from a great house, and she is filled with pride at the
recollection of her home. I have told her that the father and mother of
one's husband should be honoured beyond her own. I can see that
she has failed in respect; and thus she merits condemnation. We
have all learned as babes that "respect" is the first word in the book of
wisdom. I know it is hard at times to still the tongue, but all paths that
lead to peace are hard.

She will remain with me two nights. Last night she lay wide-eyed,
staring into the darkness, with I know not what within her soul. I
begged her to think wisely, to talk frankly with her husband and his
mother, to whom she owes obedience. There should be no pride
where love is. She must think upon the winter of her days, when she
will be alone without husband and without children, eating bitter rice of
charity, though 'tis given by her people. I put her in remembrance of
that saying of the poet:

"Rudely torn may be a cotton mantle,
yet a skillful hand may join it;
Snapped may be the string where pearls are threaded,
yet the thread all swiftly knotted;
But a husband and his wife,
once parted, never more may meet."

I must not bring thee the sorrows of another. Oh, dear one, there will
never come 'twixt thee and me the least small river of distrust. I will
bear to thee no double heart, and thou wilt cherish me and love me
always.

Thy Wife.


9
My Dear One,
I cannot wait until the seventh day to write thee again, as my letter to
thee yestereve was full of sadness and longing. Now I have slept, and
troubles from a distance do not seem so grave.

Thine Honourable Mother has chided me gravely, but to my mind
unjustly, and, as thou knowest, I could not answer her words, though
they pierced me "like arrows from the strings of white-winged bows."
Poor Li-ti is in trouble again, and this time she has brought it upon
herself, yet she cannot he blamed. I as the head of the household, as
thine Honourable Mother has told me, should have protected her. I
told thee that she brought servants from her old home, and amongst
them her childhood's nurse, who, I am sure, loves Li-ti dearly; but, as
many women who have little to occupy their hands, she loves to sit in
the women's courtyard and gossip. If it had stopped within the
servants' courtyard all would have been well; but at the time of Li-ti's
dressing all the small goods she had gathered during the day were
emptied into the lap of Li-ti, who is too young to know that "as poison
that reaches the blood spreads through the body, so does the love of
gossip spread through the soul of woman." I do not know how it came
about, but comparisons were made between the households, that of
her home and that of her husband, and news was carried back to the
servants' quarters until at last our household was in a state of unrest
that stopped all work and made living quite impossible.

It seems small, but it is the retailing of little calumnies that disturbs
the harmony of kinsmen and ruins the peace of families. Finally I
found it necessary to talk to Li-ti's nurse, and I told her many things it
were good for her to know. I warned her that if she did not wish to
revisit her home province she must still her tongue. Things were better
for a time, but they commenced again, and I called her to my
courtyard and said to her, "The sheaves of rice have been beaten
across the wood for the last time. You must go." Li-ti was
inconsolable, but I was firm. Such quarrels are not becoming when we
are so many beneath one rooftree.

The servant went away, but she claimed her servant's right of reviling
us within our gate. She lay beneath our outer archway for three long
hours and called down curses upon the Liu family. One could not get
away from the sound of the enumeration of the faults and vices of thy
illustrious ancestors even behind closed doors. I did not know, my
husband, that history claimed so many men of action by the name of
Liu. It pleased me to think thou mayest claim so long a lineage, as
she went back to the dynasty of Ming and brought forth from his grave
each poor man and woman and told us of-- not his virtues. I should
have been more indignant, perhaps, if I had not heard o'ermuch the
wonders of thy family tree. I was impressed by the amount of
knowledge acquired by the family of Li-ti. They must have searched
the chronicles which evidently recorded only the unworthy acts of thy
men-folk in the past. I hope that I will forget what I have heard, as
some time when I am trying to escape from thine ancestors the
tongue might become unruly.

At the end of three hours the woman was faint and very ill. I had one
of the servants take her down to the boat, and sent a man home with
her, bearing a letter saying she was sickening for home faces. She is
old, and I did not want her to end her days in disgrace and shame.

But thine Honourable Mother! Thine Honourable Mother! Art thou not
glad that thou art in a far-off country? She went from courtyard to
courtyard, and for a time I fully expected she would send to the
Yamen for the soldiers; then she realised the woman was within her
right, and so restrained her-self. It nearly caused her death, as thou
knowest thine Honourable Mother has not long practised the virtue of
restraint, especially of the tongue. She was finally overcome taken to
her chamber, and we brought her tea and heated wine, and tried in all
our ways to make her forget the great humiliation. As she became no
better, we sent for the man of medicine from the Eastern Gate, and he
wished to burn her shoulders with a heated cash to remove the heat
within her. To this she objected so strongly that he hastily gathered
his utensils and departed looking fearfully over his shoulder from time
to time as he passed quickly down the hillside.

Then I thought of her favourite priest from the monastery down below,
and sent for him. He came with candle and incense and, I think, some
rose wine for which the monastery is justly famous; and he chanted
prayers, striking from time to time a little gong, until peace was
restored and sleep came to her eyelids.

[Illustration: Mylady07.]

In the morning she wished to talk to Li-ti; but I feared for her, and I
said, "You cannot speak of the ocean to a well-frog, nor sing of ice to
a summer insect. She will not understand. She said Li-ti was without
brains, a senseless thing of paint and powder. I said, "We will form
her, we will make of her a wise woman in good time. She replied with
bitterness, "Rotten wood cannot be carved nor walls of dirt be
plastered." I could not answer, but I sent Li-ti to pass the day with
Chih-peh at the Goldfish Temple, and when she returned the time was
not so stormy.

All this made me unhappy, and the cares of this great household
pressed heavily upon my shoulders. Please do not think the cares too
heavy, nor that I do not crave the work. I know all labour is done for
the sake of happiness, whether the happiness comes or no; and if I
find not happiness, I find less time to dream and mourn and long for
thee, my husband.

Thy Wife.


10
My Dear One,
We have been to a great festival at the Temple of the Goddess of a
Thousand Hands. Thine Honourable Mother decided that we should go
by boat part of the way, so the chairs were told to meet us at the
Western Village Rest-house.

We hired from the city one of those great pleasure-boats, but it was
not too great for us all. There was the August One, and four of her
friends, then Li-ti, Mah-li and myself. We took the cook, the steward
and three amahs, and it was indeed a time of feasting. It was the first
time I had been upon the canal, and it was different from seeing it
from the terrace. As we passed slowly along we could watch the life
of the water people. On the banks were the great water-wheels turned
by the village buffalo. In the deserted districts women were gathering
reeds to make the sleeping mats and boat covers. The villages with
their blue-grey houses and thatched roofs nestling among the groves
of bamboos looked like chicklets sheltering under the outstretched
wings of the mother hen.

We pushed our way through the crowded water-ways of the cities,
where we could catch glimpses of the guests in the tea-houses or the
keepers of the shops, or could watch the children leaning over the
balconies. On the steps between the houses which led to the
waterside women were washing clothes, or the dyers were cleansing
the extra dye from the blue cotton which clothes all China's poor. We
caught small bits of gossip and heard the laughter of all these people,
who seemed happy at their work.

When we could again pass to the open canal we would watch the
boats. I did not know there were so many boats in all the world. They
floated slowly past us-- big boats, little boats, those that went by sail,
and those that went by oar. There were the boats of mandarins and
merchants, those for passengers, and great unwieldy boats for rice.
We saw the fishing-boats with their hungry, fierce-eyed cormorants
sitting quietly in their places, waiting for the master to send them
diving in the water for the fish they may not eat.

[Illustration: Mylady08.]
[Illustration: Mylady09.]

The canal was a great broad highway. Even the tow-paths had their
patrons. Travellers on wheelbarrows, rich men in sedan-chairs,
soldiers, coolies, chanting as they swung along with their burdens
swinging from the bamboo on their shoulders, all going to or coming
from the great city to which we drew nearer with each stroke.

At the rest-house the bearers were awaiting us, and we were carried
up the long paved roadway to the temple. It seemed as if all the world
had turned to praying-- all the women world, that is. They were here,
rich and poor, peasant and official's wife, but in the temple all of a
sisterhood. We descended from our chairs in the courtyard and put
our spirit money in the great burner, where it ascended in tiny flames
side by side with that of the beggar woman, to the great God in the
Heavens. We entered the temple, placed our candles, and lighted our
incense. We made our obeisance to the Many-handed Goddess and
asked her blessing on our household for the year to come. Then I
went to the Mother of Mercies, Kwan-yin, and made my deepest
reverence, because for her my heart is full of love and gratitude. The
other Gods I respect and make them all due worship, but, I feel they
are far away from me. Kwan-yin, is the woman's God, and I feel her
love for me. She shapes my way, and I know it is to her I owe it that
my life flows on as a gentle stream, and I know that she cares for me
and guards me now that thou art away and I have no one on whom to
lean. When I go before her all fire of passion is extinguished in my
heart, and my troubles and cares pass away and become small in the
distance, even as the light of the morning stars pales and wanes at
the coming of the sun. My heart is full of love for her, of a love that I
cannot express. She has heard my prayers and answered them. She
is my Kwan-yin, my Mother of Mercy, and each day I do some little
deed for her, some little thing to show remembrance, so she will know
the hours are not too full nor the days too short for me to place my
offering on an altar built of love.

[Illustration: Mylady10.]

As we turned to leave the temple I glanced back at the great dark
chamber and I saw the God of Light, the Buddha, sitting there so
calm upon his throne, with the light of many candles before him and
clouds of incense that floated to the roof. I thought, "He is all-powerful.
I only prayed to him from out my lips, not with my heart. Perhaps--"
So I returned. I prayed the mighty God with humble prayer to bring my
loved one swiftly home to me; and then we left the temple. We walked
slowly through the courtyards, looking at the great trees that stood
like tall, grim sentinels guarding the place of prayer. Then we were
taken by our bearers to the Goldfish Monastery in the hills. Dost thou
remember it? Thou and I were there once in the springtime.

We bought the small round cakes from the priests and fed the greedy
fish. They swarmed over the pool, pushing, nudging, fighting one
another to get the morsels we threw them. Tiring of that, we had tea
and sweetmeats served upon the terrace; then, after chatting for a
time, we left for the boat. We drifted slowly homeward. Thy Mother
and her friends discussed the earth, the moon, the sun and stars, as
well as smaller matters, such as children, husbands, servants,
schools-- and upon the last thy Mother waxed most eloquent; as thou
knowest, it is a sore subject with her, this matter of the new
education. I heard her say: "All my sons have book knowledge. Of
what use is it in the end? The cock crows and the dog barks. We
know that, but the wisest of my sons cannot say why one crows and
the other barks, nor why they crow or bark at all." Canst thou hear
her, and see her shake her head dolefully over the dismal fact that
thou hast left the narrow way of Confucius and the classics?

We came to the pathway just at sunset, and as I looked up at the old
palace a little hurt came to my heart that thou wert not close by my
side. It lay so peaceful there and quiet, the curving roofs like flights of
doves who had settled down with their wings not yet quite folded. It
brought remembrance that for me it was an empty palace. I will see
no one-- as Li-ti will-- within the archway.

Thy Wife Who Loves Thee.


11
My Dear One,
Thy letter and the photographs received. Thou sayest it is a
"flashlight" of a reception to thy Master, the Prince. I do not know
exactly what that means, but there seem to be many people and--
ladies. I have not shown thine Honourable Mother the picture, as she
might ask thee to return at once. I do not criticise thy friends, nor
could our Prince go to a place not fitting to his dignity, but-- the ladies
seem in my poor judgment most lightly clad.

The papers here are full of thy reception in that foreign land and of the
honour that is paid the embassy. Thy brother read to all within the
courtyard of the feasts that are given in honour of His Highness, and
we were full proud, knowing well thou stoodst close by him at the
time. Thy letters are a joy to me. We read them many times, and
then I read those of Chih-peh, which talk of things I do not understand.
Thou must not give the foolish boy ideas, as he prates most glibly of
"republics" and "government of the people by the people," after he has
received thy letters. That is for men of wisdom like thee, but not for
foolish boys to carry with them to the tea-house.

Kwei-li.


12
My Dear One,
Thou askest me if I still care for thee, if the remembrance of thy face
has grown less dear with the passing of the days. Dear one, thou
knowest we Chinese women are not supposed to know of love, much
less to speak of it. We read of it, we know it is the song of all the
world, but it comes not to us unless by chance. We go to you as
strangers, we have no choice, and if the Gods withhold their greatest
gift, the gift of love, then life is grey and wan as the twilight of a
hopeless day. Few women have the joy I feel when I look into my
loved one's face and know that I am his and he is mine, and that our
lives are twined together for all the days to come.

Do I love thee? I cannot tell. I think of thee by day and I dream of thee
by night. I never want to hurt thee nor cause thee a moment's sorrow.
I would fill my hands with happiness to lay down at thy feet. Thou art
my life, my love, my all, and I am thine to hold through all the years.


13
My Dear One,
It is the time of school, and now all the day from the servants'
courtyard I hear their droning voices chanting the sayings of
Confucius. I did not know we had so many young lives within our
compound until I saw them seated at their tables. I go at times and
tell them tales which they much prefer to lessons, but of which thine
Honourable Mother does not approve. I told them the other day of
Pwan-ku. Dost thou remember him? How at the beginning of Time the
great God Pwan-ku with hammer and chisel formed the earth. He
toiled and he worked for eighteen thousand years, and each day
increased in stature six feet, and, to give him room, the Heavens rose
and the earth became larger and larger. When the Heavens were
round and the earth all smooth, he died. His head became mountains,
his breath the wind and the clouds, his voice the thunder. His arms
and legs were the four poles, his veins the rivers, his muscles the hills
and his flesh the fields. His eyes became the stars, his skin and hair
the herbs and the trees, and the insects which touched him became
people. Does not that make thee think of thy childhood's days?

They crowd around me and say, "Tell us more," just as I did with my
old amah when she stilled me with the tales of the Gods. Yesterday,
one small boy, the son of the chief steward, begged for a story of the
sun. I had to tell him that my wisdom did not touch the sun, although
I, in my foolish heart, think it a great God because it gives us warmth
and we can feel its kindly rays. I said, "Thou hast seen the coolies
tracking on the tow-path with their heavy wadded clothing wet with
rain. If it were not for the kindly sun which dries them, how could they
toil and work and drag the great rice-boats up to the water-gate? Is he
not a God to them?"

I told them also of Chang-ngo, the great, great beauty who drank the
cup of life eternal. She went to the moon, where the jealous Gods
turned her into a great black toad. She is there, forever thinking,
mourning over her lost beauty, and when we see the soft haze come
over the face of the moon, we know that she is weeping and filling the
space with her tears.

I perhaps am wrong to tell the foolish tales to the children, but they
grow so tired of the hard benches and Chang-tai, the teacher, who
glares at them so fiercely when they speak not quickly enough to
please him.

There has been much gossip from the valley over the mountain-side. It
seems an iron bridge is being put across the river, and strange men
come and peer at the countryside through witch glasses. It has made
the good spirits of the air to draw apart from the valley, and the cattle
have died and the rice not ripened, and much sorrow has gone
broadcast. The river overflowed, because they desecrated the
Dragon's back by digging down into the earth that was sacred. I know
nothing except what is brought from the market-place, and, as it does
not concern us here on the mountain-side, I listen only with my ears,
not with my mind.

The nights are long and cold. The moon casts silver shimmering lights
over the valley below. We cannot stand long on the terrace but must
stay close within our rooms near to the charcoal braziers. The wind
sweeps o'er the rooftree with the wailing voice of a woman.

Oh, Soul of Mine, with weary heart the creeping days I'm counting.

Thy Wife.


14
My Dear One,
We have had a serious sickness come to all the countryside; rich and
poor, peasant and merchant have suffered from a fever that will not
abate. It raged for more than a moon before it was known the cause
thereof. Dost thou remember the Kwan-lin Pagoda? Its ruin has long
been a standing shame to the people of the province, and finally the
Gods have resented their neglect and sent them this great illness.
Over all the city the yellow edicts of the priests have been placed so
as to meet the eye of all who travel. They are in the market-places, at
the entrance of the tea-houses, standing on great boards at the
doorways of the temples, in front of the water-gates, and at each city
postern. They state that the Gods are angry and send to each man or
household that will not give three days' work upon the Pagoda the
fever that leaves him weak and ailing. They demand the labour of the
city; and if it is not given freely, toil is sent the people in their sleep
and they waken weary, and must so remain until the work is finished.

We did not hearken to the summons until Chih-peh, thy brother, fell ill
with the sickness. He grew worse each day, until Li-ti and thine
Honourable Mother were panic-stricken. At last the chairs were
ordered, and thy Mother and I went to the monastery on the hillside to
consult with the old abbot, who is most full of wisdom. Thine
Honourable Mother told him of the illness which had assailed her son,
and begged him to tell her if it were the illness of the Pagoda. He
meditated long and seriously, then he said, "My daughter, the Gods
are no respecter of persons; they wish the service of your son."
"But," thine Honourable Mother objected, "he is no workman. He
cannot labour upon the Pagoda." The abbot said, "There are more
ways of giving service than the labour of the hands. The Gods will
allow him to contribute of his wealth and buy the toil of other men, and
thus he may cancel his obligation." The August One satisfied the
greedy heart of the priest, and then he told her to go and make her
beisance to the God of Light, the great Buddha, and see what
message he had for her.

She took the hollow bamboo filled with the numbered slices of wood
and, prostrating herself three times before the Great One, shook it
slowly until one detached itself from its brothers and fell to the floor.
The abbot then handed her a slip of paper which read:

"Wisdom sits by the Western Gate
And gives health and happiness to those who wait."

These words meant nothing to thine Honourable Mother; and after
giving the abbot more silver, he said, "Beside the Western Gate sits
the owl of wisdom, the great doctor Chow-fong. His father and his
father's father were wise; their study was mankind, and to him has
come all their stores of knowledge. He has books of wonderful age,
that tell him the secret of the world. Go to him; he will give you the
plan of healing."

We started for the Western Gate, and I, in my wicked heart, spoke
thoughts that should have been closely locked within my breast. I
said, "Perhaps the doctor and the priest have formed a combination
most profitable to the two. If we had gone to the doctor first, we might
have been sent to the abbot." It was a great mistake to mention such
a dreadful thing, and I realised it instantly; as thou knowest, the Elder
One has a tongue of eloquence, and I was indeed glad that her
bearers carried her at least ten paces from my bearers-- and the way
was long.

Even thine Honourable Mother was awed at the solemn looks of this
great man of medicine who, in his dim room with dried bats hanging
from the ceiling beams and a dragon's egg close by his hand, glared
at her through his great goggles like a wise old owl. She apologised
for disturbing so great a man at his studies, but she was the bearer of
a message from the abbot. He read it carefully, then took down a
monstrous book entitled "The Golden Mirror of Medical Practice," and
solemnly pored over its pages. At last he wrote upon a paper, then
chanted:

"In a building tall, by the city wall, In the street of the Tower of Gold, Is
the plant of health, long life and wealth, In the claws of the Dragon
bold."

The August One took the paper, laid some silver upon the table, and
we hurried from his doorway, glad to be free from his fearful presence.
When we entered the chairs and looked to the paper for directions to
give the bearers, the characters were meaningless to us. I repeated
his chant, and the head bearer said, "There is a shop of drugs in the
street of the Tower of Gold, and the sign of the place is a Golden
Dragon's Claw."

We soon were there, and waited in our chairs while the bearer took
the paper into the maker of medicines. We waited long, and thine
Honourable Mother would have been impatient if sleep had not kindly
made her forget the waiting hours. I, sitting in my chair, could look
through the archways into the big covered courtyards where blind men
were grinding herbs. They were harnessed to great stones, and went
round and round all day, like buffalo at the water-wheel. I wondered
why the Gods had put them at this service. What sins they had
committed in their other life, to be compelled to work like beasts,
grinding the herbs that would bring health and life to others, while they
lived on in darkness. Often I would hear the soft call of the deer as
they moved restlessly in their tiny cells. I know their horns, when
powdered fine with beetles' wings, is the cure for fevers and all
ailments of the blood, but why could not the wise ones of the earth
have found some herb or weed to take their place and give these wild
ones of the woods their freedom? Finally, the bearer came with a tiny
jar, too small, it seemed, to take such time in mixing, and we
returned to the waiting Li-ti.

The medicine was black and nasty and smelled not sweetly, which
proved its strength. Chih-peh got slowly better, and the world again
looked fair to Li-ti, and the song came to her lips. The flowers were
put in the hair, the gay dresses were brought out of their boxes, and
she was, as of old, our butterfly.

We laughed at her for her fright, but I thought, if it had been thou who
wast ill, and I did not know the cure! Oh, dear one, dost thou
understand that, to a woman who loves, her husband is more than
Heaven, more than herself? All that she is not, all that she lacks, all
that she desires to be, is her beloved. His breath alone can bring
peace to her heart, and it is he alone who teaches her the depth of
passionate joy there is in love and life and all things beautiful.

I am, thy wife.


15
My Dear One,
Thine Honourable Mother is beset by the desire or marrying. No, do
not start; it is not or herself she is thinking. She will go to the River or
Souls mourning thine Honourable Father, and a pailo will be erected in
her honour. It is or her household she is thinking. She says our
rooftree is too small to shelter four women, three or whom have little
brains-- and that includes thy humble, loving wire-- but why she
should wish to exchange Mah-li, whom she knows, for a strange
woman whom she does not know, passes my understanding. She
seems not overfond of daughters-in-law, if one judge from chance
remarks.

First, before I speak or Mah-li, I must tell thee of thy brother. Thine
Honourable Mother is right-- it were better that he marry and have a
heel rope that leads him homewards. He is unruly and passes
overmuch time at the Golden Lotus Tea-house. He is not bad or
wicked. He lives but for the moment, and the moment is often
wine-flushed. He will not work or study, and many times at night I
send away the gatekeeper and leave my amah at the outer archway,
so thy Mother will not know the hour he enters. He is young, and has
chosen friends not equal to himself, and they have set his feet in the
path-way that slopes downward.

[Illustration: Mylady11.]

He does not wish to marry. We have told him that marriage is a will of
the Gods and must be obeyed. "Man does not attain by himself, nor,
Woman by herself, but like the one-winged birds of our childhood's
tale, they must rise together." It is useless to talk to him. A spark of
fire will not kindle wood that is still too green, and I rear he is in love
with life, and youth, and freedom.

I do not wish to doubt the wisdom of the August One, but I think she
made a mistake in her choice of a bride for Chih-mo. She chose
Tai-lo, the daughter of the Prefect of Chih-Ii. The arrangements were
nearly made, the dowry even was discussed, but when the astrologer
cast their horoscopes to see if they could pass their life in peace
together, it was found that the ruler of Chih-mo's life was a lion, and
that of the bride's, a swallow, so it was clearly seen they could not
share one rooftree. I fear (I would not have this come to the ears of
thine Honourable Mother) that some silver was left upon the doorstep
of the astrologer. Chih-mo asked of me the loan of an hundred taels,
and I saw the wife of the reader of the stars pass by with a new gown
of red and gold brocade.

I think Chih-mo had seen Tai-lo. Report gives her small beauty. Yet,
as the Elder One says, "Musk is known by its perfume, and not by
the druggist's label." Quite likely she would have made a good wife;
and-- we have one beauty in the household-- it is enough.

There is much wailing in the courtyards. The gardener and the bearer
and the watchman are having bound the feet of their small daughters.
The saying, "For every pair of golden lillies' there is a kang of tears,"
is true. I am so sorry for them. Just when they want to run and play,
they must sit all day with aching feet. My amah wished to put on the
heavy bindings, but I would not permit it. I said, "Do you want little
eyes to fill with tears each time they see you coming across the
courtyard? If their grandmothers do not come, let some old women
from the village do the cruel thing."

The happy rains of the spring are here. It is not the cold, drear rain of
autumn, but dancing, laughing rain that comes sweeping across the
valley, touching the rice-fields lovingly, and bringing forth the young
green leaves of the mulberry. I hear it patter upon the roof at
night-time, and in the morning all the earth seems cleansed and new;
fresh colours greet mine eye when I throw back my casement.

When wilt thou come to me, thou keeper of my heart?

Thy Wife.


16
Dear One,
"He whose faults are never told him
Doubtless deems the angels mould him."

That cannot be said of three women of thy household.

It is Mah-li this time on whom the wrath descends. She and Li-ti were
broidering in the western room, where they could get the last rays of
the sun. Perhaps they were speaking on forbidden subjects-- I do not
know; but thine Honourable Mother entered quietly and reproved them,
and (even when I write it I blush for her) Mah-li said to her Honourable
Mother, "Only cats and cranes and thieves walk silently." Thy Mother
was speechless with anger, and justly so, and now it is decided that
Mah-li must be married. She needs a stronger hand than a woman's.
Is it not ridiculous, little Mah-li needing a strong hand?

At first the August One considered Meng-wheh, the prefect at
Sung-dong. He is old and cross, but when I remonstrated, I was told
that he was rich. His many tens of thousands of sycee are supposed
to weigh more than youth and love. I said, "Though he bar with gold
his silver door," a man cannot keep the wife who loves him not. Thine
Honourable Mother thought more wisely, and after days of
consideration entered into consultation with the family of Sheng Ta-jen
in regard to his son. It seems Mah-li is doomed to marriage soon, and
she does not know whether she is happy or sorrowful. She is turned
this way and that, as the seed of the cotton-tree is swayed by the
coming and going of the wind. To-day she laughs, to-morrow she
weeps. Thy Mother has lost all patience with her, and, as she always
does when her own words rail her, I heard her quoting the Sage: "Just
as ducks' legs though short cannot be lengthened without pain, nor
cranes' legs though long be shortened without misery to the crane,
neither can sense be added to a silly woman's head."

I feel that thine Honourable Mother is unkind to Mah-li. She is a
flower, a flower that has her place in life the same as the
morning-glory, which is loved just as fondly by the Gods as the
pine-tree which stands so stately upon the hillside. She is light and
pure and dainty as the fragrance of perfumed air, and I do not want to
see her go to a family who will not understand her youth and love of
play.

Mah-li has asked of me money, and with it bought a great candle for
each day, which she sends down the mountain-side to be placed
before Kwan-yin. I asked her to tell me her prayer, that needed so
large an offering. The unfilial girl said she prayed, "Kwan-yin, send me
a husband with no family."

Such a lot of petty gossip I pour into thine ears, yet thou wouldst
know the happenings of thine household. Of the world outside, thy
brother writes thee. My world is here within these walls.

Thy Wife.


17
My Dear One,
Thine house of intrigue. Deep, dark intrigue and plotting. Thy wife has
lent herself to a most unwomanly thing, and doubtless thou wilt tell
her so, but Mah-li begged so prettily, I could refuse her nothing. I told
thee in my last letter that thine Honourable Mother had been regarding
the family of Sheng Ta-jen with a view to his son as husband of
Mah-li. It is settled, and Mah-li leaves us in the autumn. None of us
except Chih-peh has seen the young man, and Mah-li did a most
immodest thing the other day. She came to me and asked me to find
out from Chih-peh if he were handsome, if he were young-- all the
questions that burn the tongue of a young girl, but which she must
keep within tightly closed lips if she would not be thought unmaidenly.
I asked thy brother; but his answer was not in regard to the questions
Mah-li wished so much to know. So we arranged a plan-- a plan that
caused me many nights of sleeplessness. It was carried out and-- still
the sky is blue, the stars are bright at night, and the moon shines just
as softly on the valley.

The first part of the plan was for Li-ti. She must persuade Chih-peh to
ask Shen-go to spend the day with him at the Fir-tree Monastery.
When he knew the meaning of the invitation he refused. He was
shocked, and properly; as it was a thing unheard-of. He could not
understand why Mah-li would not be content with her mother's choice.
Li-ti brought all her little ways to bear-- and Chih-peh can refuse her
nothing. At the Feast of the Moon thy brother asked three friends to
join him at the monastery and stroll amongst its groves.

The rest of the plan was for me to carry out; and I, thy wife, displayed
a talent for diplomacy. I noticed that the cheeks of our Honourable
Mother were pale, that she seemed listless, that her step was
wearied. I said doubtless she was tired of being shut within the
compound walls with three aimless, foolish women, and proposed a
feast or pilgrimage. I mentioned the Goldfish Pond, knowing she was
tired of it; spoke of the Pagoda on the Hills, knowing full well that she
did not like the priests therein; then, by chance, read from a book the
story of the two kings. It is the tale of the King of Hangchow and the
King of Soochow who, in the olden time, divided our great valley
between them. The King of Hangchow was an old man and the cares
of state fell heavily upon his shoulders. The King of Soochow was a
man, eaten up with mad ambitions. He began to tread upon the lands
of the old King, taking now a farmhouse, now a village, and at last a
city, until the poor old King was threatened at his very gateway by the
army of the young man. The young King had strength, but the old
King had guile, so he made a peace with his enemy for one year. He
sent him presents, costly silks and teas, and pearls and jade and
ginseng, and, last and best, a beautiful slave-girl, the most beautiful in
the province. The young King was delighted, and forgot his warring,
passing all his days within the women's quarters.

As the winter waned and the spring came, the slave-girl sickened,
said she panted for the hillsides, and she pointed to the mountain
outside his city walls. He was a foolish King, and he builded for her a
palace, and she moved there with her women. The King was lonely in
the city, and he passed his days with the women in the palace on the
mountain. While living there in pleasure, and his army in the city, the
old King of Hangchow sent his soldiers; and soon there was no King
of Soochow, only a slave-girl decked with many jewels was taken
back with honour to the old King's city.

I read all this to thine Honourable Mother, and told her we could see
the ruins of the fish-pond, of the palace, see the fallen marbles from
the tea-house, and-- the chairs were ordered, and we went. We
wandered over deserted pathways, saw the lotus pools once filled with
goldfish, picked our way through lonely courtyards, climbed the
sunken steps of terraces that had once been gay with flowers. It all
was melancholy, this palace built for pleasure, now a mass of
crumbling ruins, and it saddened us. We sat upon the King's bench
that overlooked the plain, and from it I pointed out the Fir-tree
Monastery in the distance. I spoke of their famous tea, sun-dried with
the flowers of jessamine, and said it might bring cheer and take away
the gloom caused by the sight of death and vanished grandeurs now
around us.

We were carried swiftly along the pathways that wound in and out
past farm villages and rest-houses until we came to the monastery,
which is like a yellow jewel in its setting of green fir-trees. The priests
made us most welcome, and we drank of their tea, which has not
been overpraised, sitting at a great open window looking down upon
the valley. Strolling in the courtyard was Chih-peh with his three
friends. Mah-li never raised her eyes; she sat as maidens sit in public,
but-- she saw.

We came home another pathway, to pass the resting-place of
Sheng-dong, the man who at the time of famine fed the poor and gave
his all to help the needy. The Gods so loved him that when his body
was carried along the road-way to the Resting-place of his Ancestors,
all the stones stood up to pay him reverence. One can see them now,
standing straight and stiff, as if waiting for his command to lie down
again.

Art thou dissatisfied with me? Have I done wrong? Dear One, it means
so much to Mah-li. Let her dream these months of waiting. It is hard
to keep wondering, doubting, fearing one knows not what, hoping as
young girls hope. But now she has seen him. To me he was just a
straight-limbed, bright-faced boy; to her he is a God. There are no
teeth so white, no hair so black, and man were not born who walked
with such a noble stride. It will make the summer pass more quickly,
and the thought of the marriage-chair will not be to her the gateway of
a prison.

Art thou not tired of that far-off country? Each time I break the seal of
thy dear letter I say, "Perhaps this time-- it holds for me my
happiness. It will say, 'I am coming home to thee'." I am
longing for that message.

Thy Wife.


18
My Dear One,
It will soon be the Feast of the Springtime. Even now the roads are
covered with the women coming to the temple carrying their baskets
of spirit money and candles to lay before the Buddha.

Spring will soon be truly here; the buds are everywhere. Everything
laughs from the sheer joy of laughter. The sun looks down upon the
water in the canal and it breaks into a thousand little ripples from pure
gladness. I too am happy, and I want to give of my happiness. I have
put a great kang of tea down by the rest-house on the tow-path, so
that they who thirst may drink. Each morning I send Chang-tai, the
gate-keeper, down to the man who lives in the little reed hut he has
builded by the grave of his father. For three years he will live there, to
show to the world his sorrow. I think it very worthy and filial of him, so
I send him rice each morning. I have also done another thing to
express the joy that is deep within my heart. The old abbot, out of
thankfulness that the tall poles were not erected before the monastery
gateway, has turned the fields back of the temple into a freeing-place
for animals. There one may acquire merit by buying a sheep, a horse,
a dog, a bird, or a snake that is to be killed, and turning it loose where
it may live and die a natural death, as the Gods intended from the
beginning. I have given him a sum of money, large in his eyes but
small when compared to my happiness, to aid him in this worthy
work. I go over in the morning and look at the poor horses and the
dogs, and wonder whose soul is regarding me from out of their tired
eyes.

Let me hear that thou art coming, man of mine, and I will gather
dewdrops from the cherry-trees and bathe me in their perfume to give
me beauty that will hold thee close to me.

I am,
Thy Wife.


19.
My Dear One,
I have received thy letter telling me thou wilt not be here until the
summer comes. Then, I must tell thee my news, as the springtime is
here, the flowers are budding, the grass is green, soon the plum-tree
in the courtyard will be white. I am jealous of this paper that will see
the delight and joy in thine eyes. In the evening I watch the rice boats
pass along the canal, where the water is green and silvery like the
new leaves of the willow, and I say, "Perhaps when you return, I shall
be the mother of a child." Ah--! I have told thee. Does it bring thee
happiness, my lord? Does it make a quick little catch in thy breath?
Does thy pulse quicken at the thought that soon thou wilt be a father?

[Illustration: Mylady12.]

Thou wilt never know what this has meant to me. It has made the
creature live that was within my soul, and my whole being is bathed
with its glory. Thou wilt never know how many times I have gone down
the pathway to the temple and asked this great boon of our Lady of
Mercy. She granted it, and my life is made perfect. I am indeed a
woman, fulfilling a woman's destiny. If a woman bear not sons for her
lord, what worth her life? Do we not know that the first of the seven
causes for putting away a wife is that she brings no sons into the
world to worship at the graves of her husband's ancestors? But I,
Kwei-li, that will not be said of me.

Sometimes I think, "If something should happen; if the Gods should
be jealous of my happiness and I should not see thee more?" Then
the heart of the woman throbs with fear, and I throw myself at the feet
of Kwan-yin and beg for strength. She gives me peace and brings to
my remembrance that the bond of fate is sealed within the moon.
There is no place for fear, for aught but love; my heart is filled so with
its happiness.

Thy Wife.


20
My Dear One,
The spring has come, and with it some new pulse of life beats through
my quiet veins. I spend long hours upon the terrace, breathing in the
perfume of the many flowers. The cherry-blossoms are a glory. The
whole steep hillside is covered with a fairy lace, as if some God knew
how we hungered after beauty and gave us these pink blossoms to
help us to forget the bare cold earth of winter.

It is the time of praying, and all the women with their candles and their
incense are bending knees and chanting prayers to Kwan-yin for the
blessing of a son. There is a pilgrimage to the Kwem-li Pagoda. I can
see it in the distance, with its lotus bells that sway and ring with each
light breath of wind. One does not think of it as a thing of brick and
mortar, or as a many-storied temple, but as a casket whose jewels
are the prayers of waiting, hoping women.

You ask me how I pass my days? I cannot tell. At dawn, I wake with
hope and listen to the song of the meadow-lark. At noon, I dream of
my great happiness to come. At sunset, I am swept away into the
land of my golden dreams, into the heart of my golden world that
is peopled with but three-- Thou, Him, and Me. I am drifting happily,
sleepily, forgetting care, waiting for the Gods to bring my joy.

Thy Wife.


21.
My Dear One,
My courtyard is filled with the sounds of chatting women. I have sent
for the sewiing-women and those who do embroidery, and the days
are passed in making little garments. We are all so busy; Li-ti, Mah-li,
even thine Honourable Mother takes again the needle and shows us
how she broidered jackets for thee when thou wert young. The piles of
clothing grow each day, and I touch them and caress them and
imagine I can see them folding close a tiny form. There are jackets,
trousers, shoes, tiny caps and thick warm blankets.

I send for Blind Chun, the story-teller, and he makes the hours pass
quickly with his tales of by-gone days. The singers and the
fortune-tellers all have found the path that leads up to our gateway,
knowing they will find a welcome.

[Illustration: Mylady13.]

I am,
Thy Happy Wife.


22
I send thee cherry-blossoms. They grew within thy courtyard, and
each tiny petal will bring to thee remembrance of thy wife who loves
thee well.


23
If thou couldst see my courtyard! It seems carpeted with snow, so
many are the cherry-blossoms on its pavement. They say I am untidy
that I permit it to be untouched by broom or brush. It is cleaned and
spotless all the year, save at this the time of cherry-blossoms, when
'tis untrodden and unswept.

I cannot write thee merely household cares and gossip. I am so filled
with happiness, I can only dream and wonder. Joy is beating with his
wings just outside my open window, and soon all the gates of Heaven
will be opened wide to me.

Thy Wife.


24
He is here, beloved, thy son! I put out my hand and touch him, and
the breath of the wind through the pine-trees brings the music of the
Gods to me. He is big and strong and beautiful. I see in his eyes as in
a mirror the reflection of thy dear face, and I know he is thine and
mine, and we three are one. He is my joy, my son, my first-born. I am
tired, my lord, the brush is heavy, but it is such a happy, happy tired.

Thy Wife.


25
Is there anything so wonderful as being the mother of a son? I simply
sing, and laugh, and live-- oh, how I live the long days through. I have
happiness enough for all the world, and I want to give and give and
give. Thy mother says that all the beggers within the province know
there is rice outside our gateway; but when I look into my son's eyes,
and feel his tiny fingers groping in my neck, I feel I must give of my
plenty to those who have no joy.

Oh, husband mine, come back and see thy son!


26
Dost thou know what love is? Thou canst not till thou holdest Love
itself within thy very arms. I thought I loved thee. I smile now at the
remembrance of that feeble flickering flame that was as like unto the
real love as the faint, cold beam of the candle is to the rays of the
glorious sun. Now-- now-- thou art the father of my son. Thou hast a
new place in my heart. The tie that binds our hearts together is
stronger than a rope of twisted bamboo, it is a bond, a love bond, that
never can be severed. I am the mother of thy first-born-- thou hast
given me my man-child. Love thee-- love thee--! Now I know!

I am Thine Own.


27
I am wroth with thy brother Chih-peh. He is a man of very small
discernment. He does not see the wonders of thy son. He says he
cannot see that he is a child of more than mortal beauty. I sorrow for
him. The Gods have surely drawn a film before his eyes.

But I cannot bear resentment, there is no room in me for aught but
love and the days are far too short to hold my happiness. I pass them
near my baby. I croon to him sweet lullabies at which the others
laugh. I say, "Thou dost not understand? Of course not, 'tis the
language of the Gods," and as he sleeps I watch his small face grow
each day more like to thine. I give long hours to thinking of his future.
He must be a man like thee, strong, noble, kindly, bearing thy great
name with honour, so that in years to come it will be said, "The
first-born son of Kwei-li was a great and worthy man."

At night I lie beside him and am jealous of the sleep that takes him
from my sight. The morning comes and sets my heart to beating at
the thought that one more long, sweet day has come to me in which
to guard, and love, and cherish him.

Thy Happy Wife.


28
It has been a wonderful day. Thy son has had his first reception. It is
just one moon ago since I found him lying by my side, and now we
have had the feast of the shaving of the head. All our friends came,
and they brought him beautiful presents. Chih-lo gave a cap with all
the Gods upon the front and long red tassels to hang down by each
ear. Li-ti gave him shoes that she herself had broidered, with a cat's
face on the toes and the ears and whiskers outstanding. They will
make him careful or his steps and sure-footed as the cat. Mah-li gave
him a most wonderful silver box to hang around his neck and in which
I will keep his amulets. There were many things which I will not take
the time to tell thee. I am sorry to say that thy son behaved himself
unseemly. He screamed and kicked as the barber shaved his tiny
head. I was much distressed, but they tell me it is a sign that he will
grow to be a valiant man.

I gave a feast, and such a feast! It will be remembered for many
moons. Even thine Honourable Mother said I showed the knowledge of
what was due my guests upon so great an occasion. We also gave to
him his milk name. It is Ten Thousand Springtimes, as he came at
blossom-time; but I call him that only within my heart, as I do not
wish the jealous Gods to hear. "Then I speak of him, I say "The
Stupid One," "The Late-Born," so they will think I do not care for him
and will not covet me my treasure.

I am tired; it has been a happy day. The Gods are good to,
Kwei-li.


29
My Dear One,
Another marriage within our compound. Dost thou remember the
servant Cho-to, who came to us soon after I became thy bride? She
will soon marry a man in the village of Soong-tong, and she is very
happy. She has not seen him, of course, but her mother says he is
good and honest and will make for her a suitable husband. I talked to
her quite seriously, as my age and many moons of marriage allow
me. I told her that only by practising modesty, humility and
gentleness could she walk safely on the path that leads to being the
mother of sons.

To be the mother of sons is not always a happiness. Ling-ti, the
shoemaker, was here this morning, and he was in great distress. His
baby, three months old, died with a fever and he had no money to pay
for burial. This morning he arose early, before the mother awakened,
and took it to the baby tower outside the city. It is lying in there now,
with all the other little children whose parents were too poor to give
them proper burial. It made a quick, sad hurt within me, and I went
quickly to find my baby. Thou wilt not laugh, but I have pierced his
right ear and put a ring therein, so the Gods will think he is a girl and
not desire him.

I hear thy son.

Thy Wife.


30
My Dear One,
There has been great talk of evil eyes. Not that I believe the servants'
tales; but-- thine Honourable Mother, Li-ti, and thy wife have been to
the Holy Man who dwells underneath the Great Magnolia-tree near the
street of the Leaning Willow. He lives alone within a little house of
matting, and has acquired great merit by his virtuous acts. He wears
around his unbound hair a band of metal that is the outward sign of
his great holiness. He lives alone in peace and with untroubled mind.
In his great wisdom he has learned that peace is the end and aim of
life; not triumph, success, nor riches, but that the greatest gift from all
the Gods is peace. I purchased from him an amulet for my "Stupid
One," my treasure, as some one might come within our courtyard and
cast his eye upon our child with bad intent.

Come to me, my husband. Tell me thou art coming. Thou wilt find me
standing in the outer archway with thy son within mine arms. I long for
thee.

Thy Wife.


31
My days are filled with happiness. I go out on the terrace and look far
down the hillside that is covered with azaleas, pink and orange and
mauve. I hold my son and say, "Look, thy father will come to us from
the city yonder. Our eyes of love will see him from far away, there by
the willow-pattern tea-house. He will come nearer-- nearer-- and we
will not hear the beat of his bearers' feet upon the pathway because of
the beating of our hearts." He smiles at me, he understands. He is so
wonderful, thy son. I would "string the sunbeams for his necklace or
draw down the moon with cords to canopy his bed."

Come back and see thy son.

Kwei-li.


32
My Dear One,
Thy letter has come saying thou wilt be here soon. It came on the day
I went to the temple to make my offering of thanks for the gift of our
son.

I put on my richest gown, the blue one with the broidery of gold. I
dressed my hair with jessamine flowers, and wore all the jewels thou
hast given me. My boy was in his jacket of red, his trousers of mauve,
his shoes of purple, and his cap with the many Gods. When I was
seated in the chair he was placed in my lap, and a man was sent
ahead with cash to give the beggars, because I wished all the world to
be happy on this my day of rejoicing.

My bearers carried me to the very steps of the throne on which
Kwan-yin was seated. I made my obeisance, I lighted the large red
candles and placed them before the Goddess of Heaven. Then I took
our son before the Buddha, the Name, the Lord of Light, the
All-Powerful, and touched his head three times to the mat, to show
that he would be a faithful follower and learn to keep the law.

We went home by the valley road, and my heart kept beating in tune
to the pat-pat of the bearers' feet on the pathway. It was all so
beautiful. The trailing vines on the mountain-side, the ferns in the cool
dark places, the rich green leaves of the mulberry-trees, the farmers in
the paddy fields, all seemed filled with the joy of life. And I, Kwei-li,
going along in my chair with my son on my knee, was the happiest of
them all. The Gods have given me everything; they have nothing more
to bestow. I am glad I have gone to the mountain-side each day to
thank them for their gifts.

The Gods are good, my loved one, they are good to thy,
Kwei-li.


33
I am alone on the mountain-top. I have gone the pathway the last time
to lay my offering at the feet of Kwan-yin. She does not hear my
voice. There is no Goddess of Mercy. She is a thing of gold and wood,
and she has mocked my despair, has laughed at the heart that is
within me, that is alive and full of an anguish such as she has never
known.

My son, my man-child is dead. The life has gone from his body, the
breath from his lips. I have held him all the night close to my heart
and it does not give him warmth. They have taken him from me and
told me he has gone to the Gods. There are no Gods. There are no
Gods. I am alone.


34
He had thine eyes-- he was like to thee. Thou wilt never know thy son
and mine, my Springtime. Why could they not have left thy son for
thee to see? He was so strong and beautiful, my first-born.


35
Do not chide me. I cannot write. What do I do? I do not know. I lie
long hours and watch the tiny mites that live within the sun's bright
golden rays, and say, "Why could I not exchange my womanhood,
that hopes and loves and sorrows, for one of those small dancing
spots within the sunbeams? At least they do not feel."

At night sleep does not touch my eyelids. I lie upon the terrace. I will
not go within my chamber, where 'tis gloom and darkness. I watch the
stars, a silver, mocking throng, that twinkle at me coldly, and then I
see the moon mount slowly her pathway of the skies. The noises of
the night come to me softly, as if they knew my sorrow, and the
croaking frogs and the crickets that find lodging by the lotus pool
seem to feel with me my loneliness, so plaintive is their cry.

I feel the dawn will never come, as if 'twere dead or slumbered; but
when at last he comes, I watch him touch the hillside, trees, and
temples with soft grey fingers, and bring to me a beauty one does not
see by day. The night winds pass with sighs among the pine-trees,
and in passing give a loving touch to bells upon pagodas that bring
their music faint to me. The dawn is not the golden door of happiness.
It only means another day has come and I must smile and talk and
live as if my heart were here.

Oh, man of mine, if but thy dream touch would come and bid me
slumber, I would obey.

Thy Wife.


36
They have put a baby in my arms, a child found on the tow-path, a
beggar child. I felt I could not place another head where our dear boy
had lain, and I sat stiff and still, and tried to push away the little body
pressing close against me; but at touch of baby mouth and fingers,
springs that were dead seemed stirring in my heart again. At last I
could not bear it, and I leaned my face against her head and crooned
His lullaby:

"The Gods on the rooftree guard pigeons from harm
And my little pigeon is safe in my arms."

I cannot tell thee more. My heart is breaking.


37
I have given to this stranger-child, this child left to die upon the
tow-path, the clothes that were our son's. She was cold, and thy
Mother came to me so gently and said, "Kwei-li, hast thou no clothing
for the child that was found by thy servants?" I saw her meaning, and I
said, "Would'st thou have me put the clothing over which I have wept,
and that is now carefully laid away in the camphor-wood box, upon
this child?" She said-- and thou would'st not know thy Mother's voice,
her bitter words are only as the rough shell of the lichee nut that
covers the sweet meat hidden within-- she said, "Why not, dear one?
This one needs them, and the hours thou passest with them are only
filled with saddened memories." I said to her, "This is a girl, a beggar
child. I will not give to her the clothing of my son. Each time I looked
upon her it would be a knife plunged in my heart." She said to me,
"Kwei-li, thou art not a child, thou art a woman. Of what worth that
clothing lying in that box of camphor-wood? Does it bring back thy
son? Some day thou wilt open it, and there will be nothing but dust
which will reproach thee. Get them and give them to this child which
has come to us out of the night."

I went to the box and opened it, and they lay there, the little things
that had touched his tiny body. I gave them, the trousers of purple,
the jackets of red, the embroidered shoes, the caps with the many
Buddhas. I gave them all to the begger child.

I am,
Thy Wife.


38
I am reproached because I will not go to the temple. It is filled with the
sounds of chanting which comes to me faintly as I lie upon the
terrace. There are women there, happy women, with their babies in
their arms, while mine are empty. There are others there in sorrow,
laying their offerings at the feet of Kwan-yin. They do not know that
she does not feel, nor care, for womankind. She sits upon her lotus
throne and laughs at mothers in despair. How can she feel, how can
she know, that thing of gilded wood and plaster?

I stay upon my terrace, I live alone within my court of silent dreams.
For me there are no Gods.


39
They have brought to me from the market-place a book of a new God.
I would not read it. I said, "There are too many Gods-- why add a new
one? I have no candles or incense to lay before an image." But-- I
read and saw within its pages that He gave rest and love and peace.
Peace-- what the holy man desired, the end of all things-- peace. And
I, I do not want to lose the gift of memory; I want remembrance, but I
want it without pain.

The cherry-blossoms have bloomed and passed away. They lingered
but a moment's space, and, like my dream of spring, they died. But,
passing, they have left behind the knowledge that we'll see them once
again. There must be something, somewhere, to speak to despairing
mothers and say, "Weep not! You will see your own again."

I do not want a God of temples. I have cried my prayers to Kwan-yin,
and they have come back to me like echoes from a deadened wall. I
want a God to come to me at night-time, when I am lying lonely,
wide-eyed, staring into darkness, with all my body aching for the
touch of tiny hands. I want that God who says, "I give thee Peace," to
stand close by my pillow and touch my wearied eyelids and bring me
rest.

I have been dead-- enclosed within a tomb of sorrow and despair; but
now, at words but dimly understood, a faint new life seems stirring
deep within me. A Voice speaks to me from out these pages, a Voice
that says, "Come unto Me all ye weary and heavy-laden, and I will
give thee rest." My longing soul cries out, "Oh, great and unknown
God, give me this rest!" I am alone, a woman, helpless, stretching out
my arms in darkness, but into my world of gloom has come a faint
dim star, a star of hope that says to me, "There is a God."



Part 2.

-Preface_.

These letters were written by Kwei-li twenty-five years after those
written to her husband when she was a young girl of eighteen. They
are, therefore, the letters of the present-day Chinese woman of the old
school, a woman who had by education and environment exceptional
opportunities to learn of the modern world, but who, like every Eastern
woman, clings with almost desperate tenacity to the traditions and
customs of her race. Indeed, however the youth of Oriental countries
may be changing, their mothers always exhibit that characteristic of
woman-hood, conservatism, which is to them the safe-guard of their
homes. Unlike the Western woman, accustomed to a broader
horizon, the woman of China, secluded for generations within her
narrow courtyards, prefers the ways and manners which she knows,
rather than flying to ills she knows not of. It is this self-protective
instinct that makes the Eastern woman the foe to those innovations
which are slowly but surely changing the face of the entire Eastern,
yard.

The former letters were written out of the quiet, domestic scenes of
the primitive, old China, while the present letters come out of the
confused revolutionary atmosphere of the new China. Kwei-li's
patriotism and hatred of the foreigner grows out of the fact that, as
wife of the governor of one of the chief provinces, she had been from
the beginning en rapport with the intrigues, the gossip, and the
rumours of a revolution which, for intricacy of plot and hidden motive,
is incomparable with any previous national change on record. Her
attitude toward education as seen in her relationship with her son
educated in England and America reveals the attitude of the average
Chinese father and mother if they would allow their inner feelings to
speak.

Kwei-li's religion likewise exhibits the tendency of religious attitude on
the part of the real Chinese, especially those of the older generation.
It is touched here and there by the vital spark of Christianity, but at
the centre continues to be Chinese and inseparably associated with
the worship of ancestors and the reverence for those gods whose
influence has been woven into the early years of impressionable life.

That the hope of the educational, social, and religious change in
China rests with the new generation is evident to all. The Chinese
father and mother will sail in the wooden ships which their sons and
daughters are beginning to leave for barks of steel.

There is little doubt that new China will be Westernised in every
department of her being. No friend of China hopes for such sudden
changes, however, as will prevent the Chinese themselves from
permeating the new with their own distinctive individuality. There is a
charm about old China that only those who have lived there can
understand, and there is a charm about these dainty ladies, secluded
within their walls, which the modern woman may lose in a too sudden
transition into the air of the Western day.

Let Europe, let America, let the West come to China, but let the day
be far distant when we shall find no longer in the women's courtyards
such mothers as Kwei-li.


1
My Dear Mother,
Thy son has received his appointment as governor of this province,
and we are at last settled in this new and strange abode. We are
most proud of the words pronounced by His Excellency Yuan when
giving him his power of office. He said:

"You, Liu, are an example of that higher patriotism rarely met with in
official life, which recognises its duty to its Government, a duty too
often forgotten by the members of a great family such as that of which
you are the honoured head, in the obligation to the Clan and the
desire to use power for personal advantage. Your official record has
been without stain; and especially your work among the foreigners
dwelling in our land has been accomplished with tact and discretion. I
am sending you to Shanghai, which is the most difficult post in the
Republic because of its involved affairs with the foreign nations,
knowing that the interests of the Republic will be always safe in your
hands."

I write thee this because I know thy mother-heart will rejoice that our
President shows such confidence in thy son, and that his many years
of service to his country have been appreciated.

Shanghai truly is a difficult place at present. There are fifteen
nationalities here represented by their consuls, and they are all
watching China and each other with jealous eyes, each nation fearing
that another will obtain some slight advantage in the present unsettled
state of our country. The town is filled with adventurers, both
European and Chinese, who are waiting anxiously to see what
attitude the new Governor takes in regard to the many projects in
which they are interested. My husband says nothing and allows them
to wonder. It is better for them, because, like all schemers, if they had
nothing to give them anxious nights and troubled dreams, they would
not be happy.

We found the Yamen not suitable for our large household, as it did not
lend itself readily to the reception of foreigners and the innovations
and new customs that seem to be necessary for the fulfillment of the
duties of a Chinese official under this new order. As thy son was
selected governor of this province because of his knowledge of foreign
lands and customs, it is necessary for him to live, partly at least, the
life of a European; but let me assure thee that, so far as I am
concerned, and so far as I can influence it, our life behind the screens
will always be purely Chinese, and the old, unchanged customs that I
love will rule my household. I will surrender no more than is necessary
to this new tide of Westernism that seems to be sweeping our China
from its moorings; but-- I must not dwell o'ermuch upon that theme,
though it is a subject on which I can wax most eloquent, and I know
thou desirest to hear of this house which would seem so ugly in thine
eyes.

There are no quiet courtyards, no curving roofs, no softly shaded
windows of shell, no rounded archways; but all is square and glaring
and imposing, seeming to look coldly from its staring windows of
glass at the stranger within its gates. It says loudly, "I am rich; it
costs many thousands of taels to make my ugliness." For me, it is
indeed a "foreign" house. Yet I will have justice within my heart and
tell thee that there is much that we might copy with advantage. In
place of floors of wide plain boards, and walls of wood with great wide
cracks covered with embroideries and rugs, as in the Chinese homes,
the floors are made of tiny boards polished until they glisten like unto
the sides of the boats of the tea-house girls, and the walls are of
plaster covered, as in our rooms of reception, with silk and satin, and
the chairs and couches have silken tapestry to match their colour.
This furniture, strange to me, is a great care, as I do not understand
its usages, and it seems most stiff and formal. I hope some day to
know a foreign woman on terms of friendship, and I will ask her to
touch the room with her hands of knowledge, and bring each piece
into more friendly companionship with its neighbour. Now chairs look
coldly at tables, as if to say, "You are an intruder!" And it chills me.

This house is much more simple than our homes, because of the
many modern instruments that make the work less heavy and allow it
to be done by few instead of many, as is our way. It is not necessary
to have a man attend solely to the lighting of the lamps. Upon the wall
is placed a magic button which, touched even by the hand of
ignorance, floods the room with the light of many suns. We see no
more the water-carrier with his two great wooden buckets swinging
from the bamboo as he comes from river or canal to pour the water
into the great kangs standing by the kitchen door. Nor do we need to
put the powder in it to make it clear and wholesome. That is all done
by men we do not see, and they call it "sanitation." The cook needs
only to turn a small brass handle, and the water comes forth as from
a distant spring. It reminds me of the man who came to my father,
when he was governor of Wuseh, and wished to install a most
unheard-of machine to bring water to the city from the lake upon the
hillside. My father listened most respectfully to the long and stupid
explanation, and looked at the clear water which the foreign man
produced to show what could be done, then, shaking his head, said,
"Perhaps that water is more healthful, as you say, but it is to me too
clear and white. It has no body, and I fear has not the strength of the
water from our canals."

Another thing we do not hear is the rattle of the watchman as he
makes his rounds at night, and I miss it. In far Sezchuan, on many
nights when sleep was distant, I would lie and listen as he struck
upon his piece of hollow bamboo telling me that all was well within our
compound. Now the city has police that stand outside the gateway.
Many are men from India-- big black men, with fierce black beards
and burning eyes. Our people hate them, and they have good cause.
They are most cruel, and ill-treat all who come within their power. But
we must tread with cat-like steps, as they are employed by the
English, who protect them at all times. They are the private army of
that nation here within our city, and at every chance their numbers are
constantly increased. I do not understand this question of police.
There are in thousands of our cities and villages no police, no
soldiers, yet there is less lawlessness and vice in a dozen purely
Chinese cities than in this great mongrel town that spends many tens
of thousands of taels each year upon these guardians of the people's
peace. It seems to me that this should tell the world that the force of
China is not a physical force, but the force of the law-abiding instinct
of a happy common people, who, although living on the verge of
misery and great hunger, live upright lives and do not try to break their
country's laws.

There is a garden within our walls, but not a garden of winding
pathways and tiny bridges leading over lotus ponds, nor are there
hillocks of rockery with here and there a tiny god or temple peeping
from some hidden grotto. All is flat, with long bare stretches of green
grass over which are nets, by which my children play a game called
tennis. This game is foolish, in my eyes, and consists of much
jumping and useless waste of strength, but the English play it, and of
course the modern Chinese boy must imitate them. I have made one
rule: my daughters shall not play the game. It seems to me most
shameful to see a woman run madly, with great boorish strides, in
front of men and boys. My daughters pout and say it is played by all
the girls in school, and that it makes them strong and well; but I am
firm. I have conceded many things, but this to me is vulgar and
unseemly.

Need I tell thee, Mother mine, that I am a stranger in this great city,
that my heart calls for the hills and the mountain-side with its ferns
and blossoms? Yesterday at the hour of twilight I drove to the country
in the motor (a new form of carrying chair that thou wouldst not
understand-- or like) and I stopped by a field of flowering mustard. The
scent brought remembrance to my heart, and tears flowed from
beneath my eyelids. The delicate yellow blossoms seemed to speak
to me from out their golden throats, and I yearned to hold within my
arms all this beauty of the earth flowering beneath my feet. We
stayed until the darkness came, and up to the blue night rose from all
the fields "that great soft, bubbling chorus which seems the very voice
of the earth itself-- the chant of the frogs." When we turned back and
saw the vulgar houses, with straight red tops and piercing chimneys, I
shut my eyes and in a vision saw the blue-grey houses with their
curved-up, tilted roofs nestling among the groves of bamboo, and I felt
that if it were my misfortune to spend many moons in this great alien
city, my heart would break with longing for the beautiful home I love.

I felt sympathy with Kang Tang-li, of my father's province, who heard
of a new God in Anhui. He had eaten bitter sorrow and he felt that the
old Gods had forgotten him and did not hear his call, so he walked
two long days' journey to find this new God who gave joy and peace to
those who came to him. He arrived at eventime, the sun was setting
in a lake of gold, but even with its glory it could not change the ugly
square-built temple, with no curves or grace to mark it as a
dwelling-place of Gods. Kang walked slowly around this temple,
looked long at its staring windows and its tall and ugly spire upon the
rooftree which seemed to force its way into the kindly blue sky; then,
saddened, sick at heart, he turned homeward, saying deep within him
no God whom he could reverence would choose for a dwelling-place a
house so lacking in all beauty.

Is this a long and tiresome letter, my Honourable Mother? But thou art
far away, and in thy sheltered walls yearn to know what has come to
us, thy children, in this new and foreign life. It is indeed a new life for
me, and I can hardly grasp its meaning. They are trying hard to force
us to change our old quietude and peace for the rush and worry of the
Western world, and I fear I am too old and settled for such sudden
changes.

Tell Mah-li's daughter that I will send her news of the latest fashions,
and tell Li-ti that the hair is dressed quite differently here. I will write
her more about it and send her the new ornaments. They are not so
pretty in my eyes, nor are the gowns so graceful, but I will send her
patterns that she may choose.

We all give thee our greetings and touch my hand with love.

Kwei-li.


2
My Dear Mother,
I have not written thee for long, as my days have been filled with
duties new and strange to me. The wives of the foreign officials have
called upon me, as that appears to be their custom. It seems to me
quite useless and a waste of time; but they come, and I must return
the calls. I do not understand why the consuls cannot transact their
business with the Governor without trying to peer into his inner life. To
us a man's official life and that which lies within his women's
courtyard are as separate as two pathways which never meet.

The foreign woman comes and sits upon the edge of her chair in great
discomfort, vainly searching for a subject upon which we may have a
common bond. I sit upon the edge of the chair from necessity, as
these chairs are far too high for me, and my tiny feet hang helplessly
in the air. Although the chairs are not so high or so straight and stiff
as are our seats of honour, they have no footstools, and no small
tables on which to lean the arm. Thou wouldst laugh at our poor feeble
efforts to be agreeable one to the other. Our conversation is as foolish
and as useless as would be the using of a paper lantern for the
rice-mill. With all desire to be courteous and to put her at her ease, I
ask about her children, the health of her honourable mother, and the
state of her household. I do not ask her age, as I have learned that,
contrary to our usage, it is a question not considered quite
auspicious, and often causes the flush of great embarrassment to rise
to the cheek of a guest. Often she answers me in "pidgin" English, a
kind of baby-talk that is used when addressing servants. These
foreign women have rarely seen a Chinese lady, and they are
surprised that I speak English; often I have been obliged to explain
that when I found that my husband's office brought him close to
foreigners, and that my sons and daughters were learning the new
education in which it is necessary to know other than their mother
tongue, I would not be left behind within closed doors, so I too learned
of English and of French enough to read and speak. I am to them a
curiosity. It has not been correct in former times to know a Chinese
lady socially; and to these ladies, with their society, their calls, their
dinners, and their games of cards, we within the courtyards are
people from another world. They think that Chinese women are and
always have been the closely prisoned slaves of their husbands, idle
and ignorant and soulless, with no thoughts above their petty
household cares and the strange heathen gods they worship.

Of course, these foreign women do not say these things in words, but
their looks are most expressive, and I understand. I serve them tea
and cake, of which they take most sparingly, and when the proper
time has come they rise, trying not to look relief that their martyrdom
is over. I conduct them to the doorway, or, if the woman is the wife of
a great official, to the outer entrance. Then I return to my own rooms
midst the things I understand; and I fear, I fear, Mother mine, that I
gossip with my household upon the ways and dress and manners of
these queer people from distant lands.

I have been asked to join a society of European and Chinese ladies
for the purpose of becoming acquainted one with the other, but I do
not think that I will do so. I believe it impossible for the woman of the
West to form an alliance with the woman of the East that will be
deep-rooted. The thoughts within our hearts are different, as are our
points of view. We do not see the world through the same eyes. The
foreign woman has children like myself, but her ambitions and her
ideals for them are different. She has a home and a husband, but my
training and my instincts give my home and my husband a different
place in life than that which she gives to those of her household. To
me the words marriage, friendship, home, have a deeper meaning
than is attached to them by a people who live in hotels and public
eating-places, and who are continually in the homes of others. They
have no sanctity of the life within; there are no shrines set apart for
the family union, and the worship of the spirits of their ancestors. I
cannot well explain to thee, the something intangible, the thick grey
mist that is always there to put its bar across the open door of
friendship between the woman of the Occident and those of Oriental
blood.

I would ask of thee a favour I wish that thou wouldst search my rooms
and find the clothing that is not needed by thy women. My house is
full to overflowing. I had no idea we had so many poor relations. The
poor relation of our poor relation and the cousin of our cousin's cousin
have come to claim their kinship. Thy son will give no one official
position nor allow them money from the public funds; but they must
have clothing and rice, and I provide it. I sometimes feel, when looking
into the empty rice-bin, that I sympathize with His Excellency Li
Hung-chang who built a great house here, far from his home province.
When asked why, unlike the Chinese custom, he builded so far from
kith and kin, he answered, "You have placed the finger upon the
pulse-beat the first instant. I built it far away, hoping that all the
relatives of my relatives who find themselves in need, might not find
the money where-with to buy a ticket in order to come and live
beneath my rooftree." (With us, they do not wait for tickets; they have
strong and willing feet.) I am afraid that His Excellency, although of
the old China that I love, was touched with this new spirit of each
member for himself that has come upon this country.

It is the good of the one instead of the whole, as in the former times,
and there is much that can be said upon both sides. The family
should always stand for the members of the clan in the great crises of
their lives, and help to care for them in days of poverty and old age. It
is not just that one should prosper while others of the same blood
starve; yet it is not just that one should provide for those unwilling to
help themselves. I can look back with eyes of greater knowledge to
our home, and I fear that there are many eating from the bowl of
charity who might be working and self-respecting if they were not
members of the great family Liu, and so entitled to thy help.

It is the hour for driving with the children. We all are thine and think of
thee each day.

Kwei-li.


3
My Mother,
I have such great news to tell thee that I hardly know where to begin.
But, first, I will astonish thee-- Ting-fang is home! Yes, I can hear thee
say, "Hi yah!" And I said it many times when, the evening before last,
after thy son and the men of the house-hold had finished the evening
meal, and I and the women were preparing to eat our rice, we saw a
darkness in the archway, and standing there was my son. Not one of
us spoke a word; we were as if turned to stone; as we thought of him
as in far-off America, studying at the college of Yale. But here he
stood in real life, smiling at our astonishment. He slowly looked at us
all, then went to his father and saluted him respectfully, came and
bowed before me, then took me in his arms in a most disrespectful
manner and squeezed me together so hard he nearly broke my
bones. I was so frightened and so pleased that of course I could only
cry and cling to this great boy of mine whom I had not seen for six
long years. I held him away from me and looked long into his face. He
is a man now, twenty-one years old, a big, strong man, taller than his
father. I can hardly reach his shoulder. He is straight and slender, and
looks an alien in his foreign dress, yet when I looked into his eyes I
knew it was mine own come to me again.

No one knows how all my dreams followed this bird that left the nest.
No one knows how long seemed the nights when sleep would not
come to my eyes and I wondered what would come to my boy in that
far-off land, a strange land with strange, unloving people, who would
not care to put him on the pathway when he strayed. Thou
rememberest how I battled with his father in regard to sending him to
England to commence his foreign education. I said, "Is not four years
of college in America enough? Why four years' separation to prepare
to go to that college? He will go from me a boy and return a man. I will
lose my son." But his father firmly said that the English public
schools gave the ground-work for a useful life. He must form his code
of honour and his character upon the rules laid down for centuries by
the English, and then go to America for the education of the intellect,
to learn to apply the lessons learned in England. He did not want his
son to be all for present success, as is the American, or to be all for
tradition, as is the Englishman, but he thought the two might find a
happy meeting-place in a mind not yet well formed.

But thoughts of learning did not assuage the pain in my mother-heart.
I had heard of dreadful things happening to our Chinese boys who are
sent abroad to get the Western knowledge. Often they marry strange
women who have no place in our life if they return to China, and who
lose their birthright with the women of their race by marrying a
Chinese. Neither side can be blamed, certainly not our boys. They go
there alone, often with little money. They live in houses where they
are offered food and lodging at the cheapest price. They are not in a
position to meet women of their own class, and being boys they crave
the society of girls. Perhaps the daughter of the woman who keeps
the lodging-house speaks to them kindly, talks to them in the evening
when they have no place to go except to a lonely, ugly room; or the
girl in the shop where they buy their clothing smiles as she wraps for
them their packages. Such attentions would be passed by without a
thought at ordinary times, but now notice means much to a heart that
is trying hard to stifle its loneliness and sorrow, struggling to learn in
an unknown tongue the knowledge of the West; in lieu of mother,
sister, or sweetheart of his own land, the boy is insensibly drawn into
a net that tightens about him, until he takes the fatal step and brings
back to his mother a woman of an alien race.

One sorrows for the girl, whatever may be her station, as she does
not realize that there is no place for her in all the old land of China.
She will be scorned by those of foreign birth, and she can never
become one of us. Dost thou remember the wife of Wang, the
secretary of the embassy at London? He was most successful and
was given swift promotion until he married the English lady, whose
father was a tutor at one of the great colleges. It angered Her Majesty
and he was recalled and given the small post of secretary to the
Taotai of our city. The poor foreign wife died alone within her Chinese
home, into which no friend had entered to bid her welcome. Some say
that after many moons of solitude and loneliness she drank the strong
drink of her country to drown her sorrow. Perhaps it was a bridge on
which she crossed to a land filled with the memories of the past which
brought her solace in her time of desolation.

[Illustration: Mylady14.]

But I have wandered, Mother mine; my mind has taken me to
England, America, to Chinese men with foreign wives, and now I will
return and tell thee of thine own again, and of my son who has
returned to me. When at last the Gods gave us our breath, we asked
the many questions which came to us like a river that has broken all
its bounds. Thy son, the father of Ting-fang, was more than angry-- he
was white with wrath, and demanded what Ting-fang did here when he
should have been at school. My son said, and I admired the way he
spoke up boldly to his father, "Father, I read each day of the progress
of the Revolution, of the new China that was being formed, and I could
not stay on and study books while I might be helping here." His father
said, "Thy duty was to stay where I, thy father, put thee!" Ting-fang
answered, "Thou couldst not have sat still and studied of ancient
Greece and Rome while thy country was fighting for its life;" and then
he added, most unfilially, "I notice thou art not staying in Sezchuan,
but art here in Shanghai, in the centre of things. I am thy son; I do not
like to sit quietly by the road and watch the world pass by; I want to
help make that world, the same as thou."

His father talked long and bitterly, and the boy was saddened, and I
crept silently to him and placed my hand in his. It was all I could do,
for the moment, as it would not be seemly for me to take his part
against his father, but-- I talked to thy son, my husband, when we
were alone within our chamber.

The storm has passed. His father refused to make Ting-fang a
secretary, as he says the time is past when officials fill their Yamens
with their relatives and friends. I think that as the days go on, he will
relent, as in these troublous times a high official cannot be sure of the
loyalty of the men who eat his rice, and he can rely upon his son. A
Liu was never known to be disloyal.

There is too much agitation here. The officials try to ignore it as much
as possible, believing that muddy water is often made clear if allowed
to stand still. Yet they must be ready to act quickly, as speedily as
one springs up when a serpent is creeping into the lap, because now
the serpent of treachery and ingratitude is in every household. These
secret plottings, like the weeds that thrust their roots deep into the
rice-fields, cannot be taken out without bringing with them some grain,
and many an innocent family is now suffering for the hot-headedness
of its youth.

I sometimes think that I agree with the wise governor of the olden time
whose motto was to empty the minds of the people and fill their
stomachs, weaken their wills and strengthen their bones. When times
were troublous he opened the government granaries and the crowds
were satisfied.

But the people are different now; they have too much knowledge. New
ambitions have been stirred; new wants created; a new spirit is
abroad and, with mighty power, is over-turning and recasting the old
forms and deeply rooted customs. China is moving, and, we of the old
school think, too quickly. She is going at a bound from the dim light of
the bean-oil brazier to the dazzling brilliance of the electric light; from
the leisured slowness of the wheelbarrow pushed by the patient coolie
to the speed of the modern motor-car; from the practice of the seller of
herbs to the science of the modern doctor. We all feel that new China
is at a great turning-point because she is just starting out on her
journey that may last many centuries, and may see its final struggle
to-morrow. It is of great importance that the right direction shall be
taken at first. A wrong turn at the beginning, and the true pathway
may never be found. So much depends upon her leaders, on men like
Yuan, Wu, and thy son, my husband; the men who point out the road
to those who will follow as wild fowl follow their leader. The Chinese
people are keen to note disinterestedness, and if these men who have
risen up show that they have the good of the people at heart much
may be done. If they have the corrupt heart of many of the old-time
officials, China will remain as before, so far as the great mass of her
men are concerned.

I hear the children coming from their school, so I will say good-by for a
time. Ting-fang sends his most respectful love, and all my household
join in sending thee good wishes.

Kwei-li.


4
My Dear Mother,
Dost thou remember Liang Tai-tai, the daughter of the Princess
Tseng, thine old friend of Pau-chau? Thou rememberest we used to
laugh at the pride of Liang in regard to her mother's clan, and her care
in speaking of her father who was only a small official in the governor's
Yamen. Thou wert wont to say that she reminded thee of the mule
that, when asked who was his father, answered, "The horse is my
maternal uncle." She comes to see me often, and she worries me
with her piety; she is quite mad upon the subject of the Gods. I often
feel that I am wrong to be so lacking in sympathy with her religious
longings; but I hate extremes. "Extreme straightness is as bad as
crookedness, and extreme cleverness as bad as folly." She is ever
asking me if I do not desire, above all things, the life of the higher
road-- whatever that may mean. I tell her that I do not know. I would
not be rare, like jade, or common, like stone; just medium. Anyway,
my days are far too full to think about any other road than the one I
must tread each day in the fulfillment of the duties the Gods have
given me.

Some people seem to be irreverently familiar with the Gods, and to be
forever praying. If they would only be a little more human and perform
the daily work that lies before them (Liang's son is the main support of
the Golden Lotus Tea-house) they might let prayer alone a while
without ceasing to enjoy the protection of the Gods. It is dangerous to
over-load oneself with piety, as the sword that is polished to excess is
sometimes polished away. And there is another side that Liang
should remember, her husband not having riches in abundance: that
the rays of the Gods love well the rays of Gold.

But to-day she came to me with her rice-bowl overflowing with her
sorrows. Her son has returned from the foreign lands with the new
education from which she hoped so much, but it seems he has
acquired knowledge of the vices of the foreigner to add to those of the
Chinese. He did not stay long enough to become Westernised, but he
stayed long enough to lose touch with the people and the customs of
his country. He forgets that he is not an American even with his
foreign education; he is still an Oriental and he comes back to an
Oriental land, a land tied down by tradition and custom, and he can
not adapt himself. He tries instead, to adapt China to his
half-Europeanised way of thought, and he has failed. He has become
what my husband calls an agitator, a tea-house orator, and he sees
nothing but wrong in his people. There is no place in life for him, and
he sits at night in public places, stirring foolish boys to deeds of
treason and violence. Another thing, he has learned to drink the
foreign wines, and the mixture is not good. They will not blend with
Chinese wine, any more than the two civilisations will come together
as one.

Why did the Gods make the first draught of wine to curse the race of
men, to make blind the reason, to make angels into devils and to
leave a lasting curse on all who touch it? "It is a cataract that carries
havoc with it in a road of mire where he who falls may never rise
again." It seems to me that he who drinks the wine of both lands
allows it to become a ring that leads him to the Land of Nothing, and
ends as did my friend's son, with the small round ball of sleep that
grows within the poppy. One morning's light, when he looked long into
his own face and saw the marks that life was leaving, he saw no way
except the Bridge of Death; but he was not successful.

His mother brought him to me, as he has always liked me, and is a
friend (for which I sorrow) of my son. I talked to him alone within an
inner chamber, and tried to show to him the error of his way. I quoted
to him the words spoken to another foolish youth who tried to force
the gates of Heaven: "My son, thou art enmeshed within these world's
ways, and have not cared to wonder where the stream would carry
thee in coming days. If thou mere human duties scorn, as a worn
sandal cast aside, thou art no man but stock-stone born, lost in a
selfish senseless pride. If thou couldst mount to Heaven's high plain,
then thine own will might be thy guide, but here on earth thou needs
must dwell. Thou canst well see that thou art not wanted in the Halls
of Heaven; so turn to things yet near; turn to thy earthly home and try
to do thy duty here. Thou must control thyself, there is no escape
through the Eastern Gateway for the necessity of self-conquest."

He wept and gave me many promises; and I showed him that I
believed in him, and saw his worth. But-- we think it wiser to send him
far away from his companions, who only seek to drag him down. Thy
son will give to him a letter and ask the Prefect of Canton to give him
work at our expense.

I felt it better that Liang Tai-tai should not be alone with her son for
several hours, as her tongue is bitter and reproaches come easily to
angry lips, so I took her with me to the garden of a friend outside the
city. It was the Dragon Boat Festival, when all the world goes
riverward to send their lighted boats upon the waters searching for the
soul of the great poet who drowned himself in the olden time, and
whose body the jealous Water God took to himself and it nevermore
was found. Dost thou remember how we told the story to the children
when the family all were with thee-- oh, it seems many moons ago.

The garden of my friend was most beautiful, and we seemed within a
world apart. The way was through high woods and over long green
plots of grass and around queer rocks; there were flowers with stories
in their hearts, and trees who held the spirits of the air close 'neath
their ragged covering. Pigeons called softly to their mates, and doves
cooed and sobbed as they nestled one to the other. We showed the
children the filial young crow who, when his parents are old and
helpless, feeds them in return for their care when he was young; and
we pointed out the young dove sitting three branches lower on the tree
than do his parents, so deep is his respect.

[Illustration: Mylady15.]

When the western sky was like a golden curtain, we went to the
canal, where the children set their tiny boats afloat, each with its
lighted lantern. The wind cried softly through the bamboo-trees and
filled the sails of these small barks, whose lights flashed brightly from
the waters as if the Spirits of the River laughed with joy.

We returned home, happy, tired, but with new heart to start the
morrow's work.

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


5
My Dear Mother,
We are in the midst of a most perplexing problem, and one that is
hard for us to cope with, as it is so utterly new. My children seem to
have formed an alliance amongst themselves in opposition to the
wishes of their parents on all subjects touching the customs and
traditions of the family. My son, as thou rememberest, was betrothed
in childhood to the daughter of his father's friend, the Governor of
Chili-li. He is a man now, and should fulfill that most solemn obligation
that we, his parents, laid upon him-- and he refuses. I can see thee sit
back aghast at this lack of filial spirit; and I, too, am aghast. I cannot
understand this generation; I'm afraid that I cannot understand these,
my children. My boy insists that he will marry a girl of his own choice,
a girl with a foreign education like unto his own. We have
remonstrated, we have urged, we have commanded, and now at last a
compromise has been effected. We have agreed that when she
comes to us, teachers shall be brought to the house and she shall be
taught the new learning. Along with the duties of wife she shall see
the new life around her and from it take what is best for her to know.

I can understand his desire to have a wife with whom he may talk of
the things or common interest to them both, a wife who can share
with him, at least in part, the life beyond the woman's courtyard. I
remember how I felt when thy son returned from foreign lands, filled
with new sights, new thoughts in which I could not share. I had been
sitting quietly behind closed doors, and I felt that I could not help in
this new vision that had come to him. I could speak to only one side
of his life, when I wished to speak to all; but I studied, I learned, and,
as far as it is possible for a Chinese woman, I have made my steps
agree with those or my husband, and we march close, side by side.

My son would like his wife to be placed in a school, the school from
which my daughter has just now graduated; but I will not allow it. I am
not in favour of such schools for our girls. It has made or Wan-li a
half-trained Western woman, a woman who finds music in the piano
instead of the lute, who quotes from Shelley, and Wordsworth,
instead of from the Chinese classics, who thinks embroidery work for
servants, and the ordering of her household a thing beneath her great
mental status.

I, of course, wish her to marry at once; as to me that is the holiest
desire of woman-- to marry and give men-- children to the world; but it
seems that the word "marry" has opened the door to floods of talk to
which I can only listen in silent amazement. I never before had
realised that I have had the honour of bearing children with such
tongues of eloquence; and I fully understand that I belong to a past, a
very ancient past-- the Mings, from what I hear, are my
contemporaries. And all these words are poured upon me to try to
persuade me to allow Wan-li to become a doctor. Canst thou imagine
it? A daughter of the house of Liu a doctor! From whence has she
received these unseemly ideas except in this foreign school that
teaches the equality of the sexes to such an extent that our
daughters want to compete with men in their professions! I am not so
much of the past as my daughter seems to think; for I believe, within
certain bounds, in the social freedom of our women; but why
commercial freedom? For centuries untold, men have been able to
support their wives; why enter the market-places? Is it not enough
that they take care of the home, that they train the children and fulfill
the duties of the life in which the Gods place women? My daughter is
not ugly, she is most beautiful; yet she says she will not marry. I tell
her that when once her eyes are opened to the loved one, they will be
closed to all the world beside, and this desire to enter the great world
of turmoil and strife will flee like dew-drops before the summer's dawn.
I also quoted her what I told Chih-peh many moons ago, when he
refused to marry the wife thou hadst chosen for him: "Man attains not
by himself, nor woman by herself, but like the one-winged birds of the
ancient legend, they must rise together."

My daughter tossed her head and answered me that those were
doubtless words of great wisdom, but they were written by a man long
dead, and it did not affect her ideas upon the subject of her marriage.

We dare not insist, for we find, to our horror, that she has joined a
band of girls who have made a vow, writing it with their blood, that,
rather than become wives to husbands not of their own choice, they
will cross the River of Death. Fifteen girls, all friends of my daughter,
and all of whom have been studying the new education for women,
have joined this sisterhood; and we, their mothers, are in despair.
What can we do? Shall we insist that they return to the old regime
and learn nothing but embroidery? Why can they not take what is
best for an Eastern woman from the learning of the West, as the bee
selects honey from each flower, and leave the rest? It takes centuries
of training to change the habits and thoughts of a nation. It cannot be
done at once; our girls have not the foundation on which to build. Our
womanhood has been trained by centuries of caressing care to look
as lovely as nature allows, to learn obedience to father as a child, to
husband as a wife, and to children when age comes with his frosty
fingers.

Yet we all know that the last is a theory only to be read in books.
Where is there one so autocratic in her own home as a Chinese
mother? She lives within its four walls, but there she is supreme. Her
sons obey her even when their hair is touched with silver. Did not thy
son have to ask thy leave before he would decide that he could go
with His Highness to the foreign lands? Did he not say frankly that he
must consult his mother, and was he not honoured and given
permission to come to his home to have thy blessing? Dost thou
remember when Yuan was appointed secretary to the embassy in
London, and declined the honour because his mother was old and did
not wish her only son to journey o'er the seas; he gave up willingly
and cheerfully the one great opportunity of his life rather than bring
sorrow to the one who bore him.

A similar case came to our ears but a few days since. Some priests
of a foreign mission came to my husband and wished him to
intercede, as Governor, and command the Taotai of Soochow to sell
to them a piece of land on which to erect a temple of their faith. When
the Taotai was asked why he was so persistent in his refusal to carry
out the promise of the man before him in the office, he told the
Governor that the temple where his mother worshipped was in a direct
line with the proposed new foreign house of worship. His mother
feared that a spire would be placed upon its rooftree that would
intercept the good spirits of the air from bringing directly to her family
rooftree the blessings from the temple. My husband tried to persuade
him that the superstitions of a woman long in years should not stand
in the way of a possible quarrel with men of a foreign power, but the
Taotai only shrugged his shoulders and said, "What can I do? She is
my mother. I cannot go against her expressed commands;" and-- the
temple to the foreign God will not be built.

[Illustration: Mylady16.]

But it is as foolish to talk to Wan-li as "to ask the loan of a comb from
a Buddhist nun." She will not listen; or, if she does, a smile lies in the
open lily of her face, and she bows her head in mock submission;
then instantly lifts it again with new arguments learned from foreign
books, and arguments that I in my ignorance cannot refute.

I feel that I am alone on a strange sea with this, my household; and I
am in deadly fear that she will do some shocking thing, like those
girls from the school in Foochow who, dressed in their brothers'
clothing, came to Nanking and asked to be allowed to fight on the
side of the Republic. Patriotism is a virtue, but the battle-field is man's
place. Let the women stay at home and make the bandages to bind
the wounded, and keep the braziers lighted to warm returning men.

I will not write thee more of troubles, but I will tell thee that thy box of
clothing came and is most welcome; also the cooking oil, which gave
our food the taste of former days. The oils and sauces bought at
shops are not so pure as those thy servants make within the
compound, nor does the cook here prepare things to my taste. Canst
send me Feng-yi, who understands our customs? Thy son has no
great appetite, and I hope that food prepared in homely ways may
tempt him to linger longer at the table. He is greatly over-worked, and
if he eat not well, with enjoyment of his rice, the summer will quite
likely find him ill.

Thy daughter and thy family who touch thy hand,
Kwei-li


6
My Dear Mother,
Thy letter came, and I thank thee for thy advice. It is most difficult to
act upon. I cannot shut Wan-li within an inner chamber, nor can I
keep her without rice until she sees the wisdom of her ways. The
times are truly different; we mothers of the present have lost our
power to control our children, and cannot as in former days compel
obedience. I can only talk to her; she laughs. I quote to her the words
of the Sage: "Is any blessing better than to give a man a son, man's
prime desire by which he and his name shall live beyond himself; a
foot for him to stand on, a hand to stop his falling, so that in his son's
youth he will be young again, and in his strength be strong." Be the
mother of men; and I hear that, that is China's trouble. She has too
many children, too many thousands of clutching baby fingers, too
many tiny mouths asking for their daily food. I am told, by this learned
daughter of mine, that China has given no new thing to the world for
many tens of centuries. She has no time to write, no time to think of
new inventions; she must work for the morrow's rice. "How have you
eaten?" Is the salutation that one Chinese makes to another when
meeting on a pathway; and in that question is the root of our greatest
need. I am told that we are a nation of rank materialists; that we pray
only for benefits that we may feel or see, instead of asking for the
blessings of the Spirit to be sent us from above; that the women of my
time and kind are the ruin of the country, with our cry of sons, sons!

But if our girls flaunt motherhood, if this thought of each one for
himself prevails, what will become of us, a nation that depends upon
its worship of the ancestors for its only practical religion? The
loosening of the family bonds, the greater liberty of the single person,
means the lessening of the restraining power of this old religion which
depends upon the family life and the unity of that life. To do away with
it is to do away with the greatest influence for good in China to-day.
What will become of the filial piety that has been the backbone of our
country? This family life has always been, from time immemorial, the
foundation-stone of our Empire, and filial piety is the foundation-stone
of the family life.

I read not long since, in the Christian's Sacred Book, the
commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may
be long in the land which the Lord thy God hath given thee," and I
thought that perhaps in the observance of that rule is to be found one
of the chief causes for the long continuance of the Chinese Empire.
What is there to compare in binding power to the family customs of
our people? Their piety, their love one for the other and that to which it
leads, the faithfulness of husband to his wife-- all these, in spite of
what may be said against them by the newer generation, do exist and
must influence the nation for its good. And this one great fact must be
counted amongst the forces, if it is not the greatest force, which bind
the Chinese people in bonds strong as ropes of twisted bamboo.

Our boys and girls will not listen; they are trying to be what they are
not, trying to wear clothes not made for them, trying to be like nations
and people utterly foreign to them; and they will not succeed. But,
"into a sack holding a ri, only a ri will go," and these sacks of our
young people are full to overflowing with this, which seems to me
dearly acquired knowledge, and there is not room for more. Time will
help, and they will learn caution and discretion in life's halls of
experience, and we can only guard their footsteps as best we may.

In the meantime, Mother mine, my days are full and worried, and I, as
in the olden time, can only come to thee with my rice-bowl filled with
troubles and pour them all into thy kindly lap. It is my only comfort, as
thy son is bitter and will not talk with patience, and it would not be
seemly for me to open wide my heart to strangers; but I know thou
lovest me and art full of years and knowledge and will help me find the
way.

Kwei-li.


7
My Dear Mother,
These are most troublous times, and thy son is harassed to the verge
of sickness. Shanghai is filled with Chinese who come seeking foreign
protection. Within the narrow confines of the foreign settlements, it is
said, there are nearly a million Chinese, half of them refugees from
their home provinces, fearing for their money or their lives, or both.
The great red houses on the fashionable streets, built by the English
for their homes, are sold at fabulous prices to these gentlemen, who
have brought their families and their silver to the only place they know
where the foreign hand is strong enough to protect them from their
own people. There are many queer tales; some are simply the breath
of the unkind winds that seem to blow from nowhere but gain in
volume with each thing they touch. Tan Toatai, who paid 300,000
taels for his position as Toatai of Shanghai, and who left for his home
province with 3,000,000 taels, as the gossips say, was asked to
contribute of his plenty for the help of the new government. He
promised; then changed his mind, and carefully gathered all his
treasures together and left secretly one night for Shanghai. Now he is
in fear for his life and dares not leave the compound walls of the
foreigner who has befriended him.

It makes one wonder what is the use of these fortunes that bring
endless sorrow by the misery of winning them, guarding them, and
the fear of losing them. They who work for them are as the water
buffalo who turns the water-wheel and gets but his daily food and the
straw-thatched hut in which he rests. For the sake of this food and
lodging which falls to the lot of all, man wastes his true happiness
which is so hard to win.

These Chinese of the foreign settlements seem alien to me. Yuan
called upon thy son the other day, and had the temerity to ask for
me-- a most unheard-of thing. I watched him as he went away,
dressed in European clothes, as nearly all of our younger men are
clothed these days, and one would never know that he had worn his
hair otherwise than short. There are no more neatly plaited braids
hanging down the back, and the beautiful silks and satins, furs and
peacock feathers are things of the past. These peacock feathers,
emblems of our old officialdom, are now bought by foreign ladies as a
trimming on their hats. Shades of Li Hung-chang and Chang
Chih-tung! What will they say if looking over the barriers they see the
insignia of their rank and office gracing the glowing head-gear of the
tourists who form great parties and come racing from over the seas to
look at us as at queer animals from another world?

It is not only the men who are copying the foreign customs and
clothing. Our women are now seen in public, driving with their
husbands, or walking arm in arm upon the public street. I even saw a
Chinese woman driving that "devil machine," a motor-car, with her own
hands. She did not seem a woman, but an unsexed thing that had as
little of woman-hood as the car that took her along so swiftly. I
promised to send Tah-li the new hair ornaments, but there are no hair
ornaments worn now. The old jewels are laid aside, the jade and
pearls are things of the past. The hair is puffed and knotted in a way
most unbecoming to the face. It is neither of the East nor of the West,
but a half-caste thing, that brands its wearer as a woman of no race.

Dost thou remember the story over which the Chinese in all the
Empire laughed within their sleeves? Her Majesty, the Empress
Dowager, was on most friendly terms with the wife of the Minister of
the United States of America, and on one occasion gave her as a gift
a set of combs enclosed within a box of silver. The foreign lady was
delighted, and did not see the delicate sarcasm hidden within the
present. Combs-- the foreign ladies need them! We Chinese like the
locks most smoothly brushed and made to glisten and shine with the
scented elm, but they, the foreign ladies, allow them to straggle in
rude disorder around their long, grave faces, which are so ugly in our
eyes.

Thou hast asked me for the latest style in dress. It is impossible to
say what is the latest style. Some women wear a jacket far too short
and trousers tight as any coat sleeve. The modest ones still cover
them with skirts; but I have seen women walking along the street who
should certainly stay within the inner courtyard and hide their shame.
For those who wear the skirt, the old, wide-pleated model has gone
by, and a long black skirt that is nearly European is now worn. It is
not graceful, but it is far better than the trousers worn by women who
walk along so stiffly upon their "golden lilies." These tiny feet to me
are beautiful, when covered with gay embroidery they peep from
scarlet skirts; but they too are passing, and we hear no more the
crying of the children in the courtyards. I am told that the small-footed
woman of China is of the past, along with the long finger-nails of our
gentlemen and scholars; and I am asked why I do not unbind my feet.
I say, "I am too old; I have suffered in the binding, why suffer in the
unbinding?" I have conceded to the new order by allowing unbound
feet to all my girls, and everywhere my family is held up as an
example of the new Chinese. They do not know of the many bitter
tears I have shed over the thought that my daughters would look like
women of the servant class and perhaps not make a good marriage;
but I was forced to yield to their father, whose foreign travel had taught
him to see beauty in ugly, natural feet. Even now, when I see Wan-li
striding across the grass, I blush for her and wish she could walk
more gracefully. My feet caused me many moons of pain, but they
are one of the great marks of my lady-hood, and I yet feel proud as I
come into a room with the gentle swaying motions of the bamboo in a
breeze; although my daughter who supports me takes one great step
to five of mine.

The curse of foot binding does not fall so heavily upon women like
myself, who may sit and broider the whole day through, or, if needs
must travel, can be borne upon the shoulders of their chair bearers,
but it is a bane to the poor girl whose parents hope to have one in the
family who may marry above their station, and hoping thus, bind her
feet. If this marriage fails and she is forced to work within her
household, or, even worse, if she is forced to toil within the fields or
add her mite gained by most heavy labour to help fill the many eager
mouths at home, then she should have our pity. We have all seen the
small-footed woman pulling heavy boats along the tow-path, or leaning
on their hoes to rest their tired feet while working in the fields of
cotton. To her each day is a day of pain; and this new law forbidding
the binding of the feet of children will come as Heaven's blessing. But
it will not cease at once, as so many loudly now proclaim. It will take
at least three generations; her children's children will all quite likely
have natural feet. The people far in the country, far from the noise of
change and progress, will not feel immediately that they can wander
so far afield from the old ideas of what is beautiful in their womanhood.

I notice, as I open wide my casement, that the rain has come, and
across the distant fields it is falling upon the new-sown rice and
seems to charm the earth into the thought that spring is here, bringing
forth the faint green buds on magnolia, ash, and willow. Dost thou
remember the verse we used to sing:

"Oh she is good, the little rain, and well she knows our need,
Who cometh in the time of spring to aid the sun-drawn seed.
She wanders with a friendly wind through silent heights unseen,
The furrows feel her happy tears, and lo, the land is green!"

I must send a servant with the rain coverings for the children, that they
may not get wet in returning from their schools.

We greet thee, all.

Kwei-li.


8
My Dear Mother,
Last night I heard a great wailing in the servants' courtyard, and found
there the maid of thy old friend, Tang Tai-tai. She came from Nanking
to us, as she has no one left in all the world. She is a Manchu and
has lived all her life in the Manchu family of Tang within the Tartar city
of Nanking. It seems the soldiers, besieging the city, placed their
guns on Purple Hill, so that they would cause destruction only to the
Tartar city, and it was levelled to the ground. No stone remains upon
another; and the family she had served so faithfully were either killed
in the battle that raged so fiercely, or were afterward taken to the
grounds of Justice to pay with their life for the fact that they belonged
to the Imperial Clan. She is old, this faithful servant, and now claims
my protection. It is another mouth to feed; but there is so much
unhappiness that if it were within my power I would quench with rains
of food and drink the anguish this cruel war has brought upon so
many innocent ones. A mat on which to sleep, a few more bowls of
rice, these are the only seeds that I may sow within the field of love,
and I dare not them withhold.

I am most sorrowful for these poor Manchus. For generations they
have received a pension from the government; to every man-child an
allowance has been made; and now they find themselves with
nothing. Even their poor homes are piles of stone and rubbish. What
will they do to gain their food in this great country which is already full
to over-flowing? They are so pitiful, these old men and women thrown
so suddenly upon the world. Their stories pierce my marrow, and I
would that my sleeve were long and wide enough to cover all the earth
and shelter these poor helpless ones. One old man-- his years must
have been near eighty-- came to our door for help. I talked to him and
found that, until his sons were killed before his eyes, his home torn to
the ground, he had never been without the city's walls. He said, just
like a child, "Why should I go? My wife, my sons, my home, my all,
were within the walls; why go outside?"

[Illustration: Mylady17.]

Each hour brings us fresh rumours of the actions of the rebels, Poor
Liang Tai-tai was here and in the sorest trouble. Her husband and her
brother were officers in the army of Yuan, and when in Ranking were
shot along with twenty of their brother officers, because they would
not join the Southern forces. To add to China's trouble, the Southern
pirates are attacking boats; and I am glad to say, although it sounds
most cruel, that the government is taking measures both quick and
just. Ten men were captured and were being brought by an English
ship to Canton, and when in neutral waters it is said a Chinese
gunboat steamed alongside with an order for the prisoners. As they
stepped upon the Chinese boat, each man was shot. The English
were most horrified, and have spoken loudly in all the papers of the
acts of barbarism; but they do not understand our people. They must
be frightened; especially at a time like this, when men are watching
for the chance to take advantage of their country's turmoil.

These pirates of Canton have always been a menace. Each village in
that country must be forever on the defensive, for no man is safe who
has an ounce of gold. When father was the prefect of Canton, I
remember seeing a band of pirates brought into the Yamen, a ring of
iron around the collarbone, from which a chain led to the prisoner on
either side. It was brutal, but it allowed no chance of escape for these
men, dead to all humanity, and desperate, knowing there awaited
them long days of prison, and in the end they knew not what.

In those days imprisonment was the greatest of all evils; it was not
made a place of comfort. For forty-eight long hours, the man within
the clutches of the law went hungry; then, if no relative or friend came
forth to feed him, he was allowed one bowl of rice and water for each
day. A prison then meant ruin to a man with money, because the
keepers of the outer gate, the keepers of the inner gate, the guardian
of the prison doors, the runners in the corridor, the jailer at the cell,
each had a hand that ached for silver. A bowl of rice bought at the
tea-shop for ten cash, by the time the waiting hungry man received it,
cost many silver dollars. Yet a prison should not be made a tempting
place of refuge and vacation; if so in times of cold and hunger it will be
filled with those who would rather suffer shame than work.

Another thing the people who cry loudly against our old-time Courts of
Justice do not understand, is the crushing, grinding, naked poverty
that causes the people in this over-crowded province to commit most
brutal deeds. The penalties must match the deeds, and frighten other
evil-doers. If the people do not fear death, what good is there in using
death as a deterrent; and our Southern people despise death,
because of their excessive labour in seeking the means of life. But--
what a subject for a letter! I can see thee send for a cup of thy fragrant
sun-dried tea, mixed with the yellow flower of the jessamine, to take
away the thoughts of death and evil and the wickedness of the world
outside thy walls. It will never touch thee, Mother mine, because the
Gods are holding thee all safe within their loving hands.

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


9
My Mother,
I have most joyful news to tell thee. My father has arrived! He came
quite without warning, saying he must know the changing times from
word of mouth instead of reading it in papers. He has upset my
household with his many servants. My father keeps to his old ways
and customs and travels with an army of his people. His pipe man,
his hat man, his cook, his boy-- well, thou rememberest when he
descended upon us in Sezchuan-- yet he could bring ten times the
number, and his welcome would be as warm. The whole town knows
he is our guest, and foreigners and Chinese have vied one with the
other to do him honour. The foreign papers speak of him as "the
greatest Chinese since Li Hung-chang," and many words are written
about his fifty years' service as a high official. The story is retold of his
loyalty to Her Majesty at the time of the Boxer uprising, when he
threatened the foreigners that if Her Majesty was even frightened, he
would turn his troops upon Shanghai and drive the foreigners into the
sea. I wonder if the present government can gain the love the Dowager
Empress drew from all who served her.

My father was the pioneer of the present education, so say the
papers, and it is remembered that his school for girls in the province
where he ruled, nearly caused him the loss of his position, as His
Excellency, Chang Chih-tung, memorialised the throne and said that
women should not have book learning; that books would only give
them a place in which to hide their threads and needles. It is also said
of him that he was always against the coming of the foreigners. They
could obtain no mine, no railway, no concession in a province where
he was representing his Empress. China was closed, so far as lay
within his power, to even men of religion from other lands. It was he
who first said, "The missionary, the merchant, and then the gunboat."

My father will not talk with men about the present trials of China; he
says, most justly, that he who is out of office should not meddle in
the government. When asked if he will give the results of his long life
and great experience to the Republic, he answers that he owes his
love and loyalty to the old regime under which he gained his wealth
and honours; and then he shakes his head and says he is an old
man, nothing but wet ashes. But they do not see the laughter in his
eyes; for my father "is like the pine-tree, ever green, the symbol of
unflinching purpose and vigorous old age."

So many old-time friends have been to see him. Father, now that the
heavy load of officialdom is laid aside, delights to sit within the
courtyards with these friends and play at verse-making. No man of his
time is found lacking in that one great attribute of a Chinese
gentleman. He has treasures of poetry that are from the hands of
friends long since passed within the Vale of Longevity. These poems
are from the pens of men who wrote of the longing for the spiritual life,
or the beauties of the world without their doors, or the pleasure of
association with old and trusted friends. I read some scrolls the other
day, and it was as though "aeolian harps had caught some strayed
wind from an unknown world and brought its messages to me." It is
only by the men of other days that poetry is appreciated, who take
the time to look around them, to whom the quiet life, the life of thought
and meditation is as vital as the air they breathe. To love the beautiful
in life one must have time to sit apart from the worry and the rush of
the present day. He must have time to look deep within his hidden
self and weigh the things that count for happiness; and he must use
most justly all his hours of leisure, a thing which modern life has
taught us to hold lightly.

But with our race verse-making has always been a second nature. In
the very beginning of our history, the Chinese people sang their songs
of kings and princes, of the joys of family life and love and home and
children. It is quite true that they did not delve deep into the mines of
hidden passions, as their songs are what songs should be, telling
joyful tales of happiness and quiet loves. They are not like the songs
of warrior nations, songs of battle, lust and blood, but songs of peace
and quiet and deep contentment. When our women sang, like all
women who try to voice the thoughts within them, they sang their
poems in a sadder key, all filled with care, and cried of love's call to
its mate, of resignation and sometimes of despair.

My father learned to love the poets in younger days, but he still reads
them o'er and o'er. He says they take him back to other years when
life with all its dreams of beauty, love, and romance, lay before him. It
brings remembrance of youth's golden days when thoughts of fame
and mad ambition came to him with each morning's light. This father
of mine, who was stiffly bound with ceremony and acts of statecraft
for ten long months of the year, had the temerity to ask two months'
leave of absence from his duties, when he went to his country place in
the hills, to his "Garden of the Pleasure of Peace." It was always in
the early spring when "that Goddess had spread upon the budding
willow her lovely mesh of silken threads, and the rushes were
renewing for the year." He sat beneath the bamboos swaying in the
wind like dancing girls, and saw the jessamine and magnolia put forth
their buds.

What happy days they were when father came! For me, who lived
within the garden all the year, it was just a plain, great garden; but
when he came it was transformed. It became a place of rare
enchantment, with fairy palaces and lakes of jewelled water, and the
lotus flowers took on a loveliness for which there is no name. We
would sit hand in hand in our gaily painted tea-house, and watch the
growing of the lotus from the first unfurling of the leaf to the fall of the
dying flower. When it rained, we would see the leaves raise their
eager, dark-green cups until filled, then bend down gracefully to empty
their fulness, and rise to catch the drops again.

[Illustration: Mylady18.]

The sound of the wind in the cane-fields came to us at night-time as
we watched the shimmer of the fireflies. We sat so silently that the
only thing to tell us that the wild duck sought his mate amidst the
grass, was the swaying of the reed stems, or the rising of the teal
with whirring wings.

My father loved the silence, and taught me that it is in silence, in the
quiet places, rather than on the house-tops, that one can hear the
spirit's call, and forget the clanging of the world. It is the great gift
which the God of nature alone can give, and "he has found happiness
who has won through the stillness of the spirit the Perfect Vision, and
this stillness comes through contentment that is regardless of the
world."

He often said to me that we are a caravan of beings, wandering
through life's pathways, hungering to taste of happiness, which comes
to us when we find plain food sweet, rough garments fine, and
contentment in the home. It comes when we are happy in a simple
way, allowing our wounds received in life's battles to be healed by the
moon-beams, which send an ointment more precious than the oil of
sandalwood.

I could go on for pages, Mother mine, of the lessons of my father, this
grand old man, "who steeled his soul and tamed his thoughts and got
his body in control by sitting in the silence and being one with nature,
God, the maker of us all." And when I think of all these things, it is
hard to believe that men who love the leisure, the poetry, the beautiful
things of life, men like my father, must pass away. It seems to me it
will be a day of great peril for China, for our young ones, when these
men of the past lose their hold on the growing mind. As rapidly as this
takes place, the reverence for the old-time gentleman, the quiet lady
of the inner courtyards, will wane, and reverence will be supplanted by
discourtesy, faith by doubt, and love of the Gods by unbelief and
impiety.

Yet they say he does not stand for progress. What is progress? What
is life? The poet truly cries: "How short a time it is that we are here!
Why then not set our hearts at rest, why wear the soul with anxious
thoughts? If we want not wealth, if we want not power, let us stroll the
bright hours as they pass, in gardens midst the flowers, mounting the
hills to sing our songs, or weaving verses by the lily ponds. Thus may
we work out our allotted span, content with life, our spirits free from
care."

My father has a scroll within his room that says:

"For fifty years I plodded through the vale of lust and strife,
Then through my dreams there flashed a ray of the old sweet peaceful
life.
No scarlet tasselled hat of state can vie with soft repose;
Grand mansions do not taste the joys that the poor man's cabin
knows.
I hate the threatening clash of arms when fierce retainers throng,
I loathe the drunkard's revels and the sound of fife and song;
But I love to seek a quiet nook, and some old volume bring,
Where I can see the wild flowers bloom and hear the birds in spring."

Ah, dear one, my heart flows through my pen, which is the
messenger of the distant soul to thee, my Mother.

Kwei-li.


10
My Dear Mother,
My days are passed like a water-wheel awhirl, and I can scarcely find
time to attend to the ordinary duties of my household. I fear I seem
neglectful of thee, and I will try to be more regular with my letters, so
that thou wilt not need reproach me. To-night my house is quiet and
all are sleeping, and I can chat with thee without the many
interruptions that come from children, servants, and friends during the
waking hours.

I have had callers all the day; my last, the wife of the Japanese
Consul, who brought with her two children. They were like little
butterflies, dressed in their gay kimonas and bright red obis, their
straight black hair framing their tiny elfin faces. I was delighted and
could scarcely let them go. Their mother says she will send to me
their photographs, and I will send them to thee, as they seem children
from another world. They are much prettier, in my eyes, than the
foreign children, with their white hair and colourless, blue eyes, who
always seem to be clothed in white. That seems not natural for a
child, as it is our mourning colour, and children should wear gay
colours, as they are symbols of joy and gladness.

My husband watched them go away with looks of hatred and disdain
within his eyes, and when I called them Butterflies of Gay Nippon, he
gave an ejaculation of great disgust, as at this time he is not o'erfond
of the Japanese. He believes, along with others, that they are helping
the rebels with their money, and we know that many Japanese
officers are fighting on the side of the Southern forces. He could not
forget the words I used, "Dainty Butterflies," and he said that these
dainty butterflies are coming far too fast, at the rate of many tens of
thousands each year, and they must be fed and clothed and lodged,
and Japan is far too small. These pretty babies searching for a future
home are China's greatest menace. Japan reels that her destiny lies
here in the Far East, where she is overlord, and will continue as such
until the time, if it ever comes, when new China, with her far greater
wealth and her myriads of people, dispute the power of the little
Island. At present there is no limit to Japan's ambition. Poor China! It
will take years and tens of years to mould her people into a nation;
and Japan comes to her each year, buying her rice, her cotton and
her silk.

These wily merchants travel up her path-ways and traverse her rivers
and canals, selling, buying, and spreading broadcast their influence.
There are eight thousand men of Japan in Shanghai, keen young men,
all looking for the advantage of their country. There is no town of any
size where you cannot find a Japanese. They have driven the traders
of other nationalities from many places; the Americans especially
have been compelled to leave; and now there is a bitter struggle
between the people from the British Isles and the Japanese for the
trade of our country. In the olden time the people from Great Britain
controlled the trade of our Yang-tse Valley, but now it is almost wholly
Japanese.

The British merchant, in this great battle has the disadvantage of
being honest, while the trader from Japan has small thoughts of
honesty to hold him to a business transaction. We say here, "One
can hold a Japanese to a bargain as easily as one can hold a slippery
catfish on a gourd." The Sons of Nippon have another point in their
favour: the British merchant is a Westerner, while the Japanese uses
to the full his advantage of being an Oriental like ourselves. Trade--
trade-- is what Japan craves, and it is according to its need that she
makes friends or enemies. It is her reason for all she does; her
diplomacy, her suavity is based upon it; her army and her vast navy
are to help gain and hold it; it is the end and aim of her ambitions.

We, Chinese, have people-- millions, tens of millions of them. When
they are better educated, when China is more prosperous, when new
demands and higher standards of living are created, when the coolie
will not be satisfied with his bowl of rice a day and his one blue
garment, then possibilities of commerce will be unlimited. Japan sees
this with eyes that look far into the future, and she wants to control
this coming trade-- and I fear she will. She has an ambition that is as
great as her overpowering belief in herself, an ambition to be in the
East what England is in the West; and she is working patiently,
quietly, to that end. We fear her; but we are helpless. I hear the men
talk bitterly; but what can they do. We must not be another Corea; we
must wait until we are strong, and look to other hands to help us in
our struggle.

We hope much from America, that country which has so wonderful an
influence upon us, which appeals to our imagination because it is
great and strong and prosperous. The suave and humorous American,
with his easy ways, is most popular with our people, although he
cannot always be trusted nor is his word a bond. He is different from
the man of England, who is not fond of people not of his own colour
and will not try to disguise the fact. He is cold and shows no
sympathy to those of an alien race, although we must admit he
always acts with a certain amount of justice. America is
contemptuous of China and her people, but it is a kindly contempt,
not tinged with the bitterness of the other Powers, and we hope,
because of that kindliness and also because of trade interests (the
American is noted for finding and holding the place that yields him
dollars), she will play the part of a kindly friend and save China from
her enemies who are now watching each other with such jealous
eyes. There is another reason why we like America: she does not
seem to covet our land. There is no Shang-tung nor Wei-hai-wei for
her. I would that she and England might form a bond of brotherhood
for our protection; because all the world knows that where Germany,
Russia, or Japan has power, all people from other lands are barred by
close-shut doors.

Since hearing my husband talk I see those babies with other eyes,
with eyes of knowledge and dislike. I see them becoming one of the
two great classes in Japan-- merchants with grasping hands to hold
fast all they touch, or men of war. There is no other class. And, too,
they have no religion to restrict them, irreverence already marks their
attitude toward their gods. They will imitate and steal what they want
from other countries, even as their ancestors took their religion, their
art, their code of ethics, even their writing, from other peoples. Their
past is a copy of the East; their present is an attempt to be a copy of
the West. They cannot originate or make a thing from within
them-selves.

Their lives are coarse and sordid when stripped of the elaborate
courtesy and sham politeness that marks their dealings with the
outside world. Their courtesy, what is it? This thin veneer of politeness
is like their polished lacquer that covers the crumbling wood within.
But we have a proverb, "Even a monkey falls"; and some distant day
the Western world that thinks so highly of Japan will see beneath the
surface and will leave her, and the great pagoda she has builded
without foundation will come tumbling down like the houses of sand
which my children build in the garden. It will be seen that they are like
their beautiful kimonas, that hang so gracefully in silken folds. But
take away the kimonas, and the sons and daughters of that Empire
are revealed in all their ugliness-- coarse, heavy, sensual, with no
grace or spirit life to distinguish them from animals.

[Illustration: Mylady19.]

Do I speak strongly, my Mother? We feel most strongly the action of
the Japanese in this, our time of trouble. We have lost friends; the
husbands, brothers, fathers of our women-folk are lying in long
trenches because of training given to our rebels by members of that
race. I should not speak so frankly, but it is only to thee that I can
say what is within my heart. I must put the bar of silence across my
lips with all save thee; and sitting here within the courtyard I hear all
that goes on in Yamen, shop, and women's quarters. One need not
leave one's doorway to learn of the great world. I hear my sons speak
of new China, and many things I do not understand; my husband and
his friends talk more sedately, for they are watching thoughtful men,
trying hard to steer this, our ship of State, among the rocks that now
beset it close on every side. My daughters bring their friends, my
servants their companions, and the gossip of our busy world is
emptied at my feet.

The clock strikes one, and all the world's asleep except,
Kwei-li.


11
Dear Mother,
She is here, my daughter-in-law, and I can realise in a small degree
thy feelings when I first came to thy household. I know thou wert
prepared to give me the same love and care that my heart longs to
give to this, the wife of my eldest son. I also know how she feels in
this strange place, with no loved faces near her, with the thought that
perhaps the new home will mean the closed doors of a prison, and the
husband she never saw until the marriage day the jealous guardian
thereof. I have tried to give her welcome and let her see that she is
heart of our hearts, a part of us.

She is different from the young girls I have seen these latter days,
different from my daughters, and-- I may say it to thee, my Mother-- a
sweeter, dearer maiden in many ways. She has been trained within
the courtyards in the old-fashioned customs that make for simplicity
of heart, grace of manner, that give obedience and respect to older
people; and she has the delicate high-bred ways that our girls seem
to feel unnecessary in the hurry of these days. She takes me back to
years gone by, where everything is like a dream, and I can feel again
the chair beneath me that carried me up the mountain-side with its
shadowing of high woods, and hear the song of water falling gently
from far-off mountain brooks, and the plaintive cry of flutes unseen,
that came to welcome me to my new home.

[Illustration: Mylady20.]

With her dainty gowns, her tiny shoes, her smooth black hair, she is
a breath from another world, and my sons and daughters regard her
as if she were a stray butterfly, blown hither by some wind too strong
for her slight wings. She is as graceful as the slender willow, her
youthful charm is like the cherry-tree in bloom, and the sweet
thoughts natural to youth and the springtime of life, flow from her heart
as pure as the snow-white blossoms of the plum-tree. She does not
belong to this, our modern world; she should be bending with iris
grace above goldfish in the ponds, or straying in gardens where there
are lakes of shimmering water murmuring beneath great lotus flowers
that would speak to her of love.

We are all more than charmed, and gather to the sunshine she has
brought. As they knelt before us for our blessing, I thought what a
happy thing is youth and love. "Kings in their palaces grow old, but
youth dwells forever at contentment's side."

But I must tell thee of the marriage. Instead of the red chair of
marriage, my new daughter-in-law was brought from the house of her
uncle in that most modern thing, a motor-car. I insisted that it should
be covered with red satin, the colour of rejoicing; and great rosettes
trailed from the corners to the ground. The feasting was elaborate and
caused me much care in its preparation, as not only had been
provided the many different kinds of food for our Chinese friends, but
foreigners, who came also, were served with dishes made expressly
for them, and with foreign wines, of which they took most liberally.
The Europeans, men and women, ate and drank together with a
freedom that to me is most unseemly, and I cannot understand the
men who have no pride in their women's modesty but allow them to sit
at table with strange men close by their side. Behind the archway, we
Chinese women "of the old school," as my daughter calls us, feasted
and laughed our fill, just as happy as if parading our new gowns before
the eyes of stranger-men.

Li-ti is delighted with thy gift, the chain of pearls. It is a most
appropriate present, for "pearls belong of right to her whose soul
reflects the colour of youth's purity"; and I, I am so happy in this new
life that has come to dwell beneath our rooftree. I had many fears that
she would not be to my liking, that she would be a modern Chinese
woman; and another one, oh, Mother mine, would fill to overflowing my
bowl of small vexations; but the place is perfumed by her scent, the
scent of sandalwood, which represents the China that I love, and
flowers of jessamine and purple hyacinths and lilies-of-the-valley,
which speak to us of youth and spring and love and hope.

Thy daughter, who gives the messages from all thy family, who touch
thy hand with deep respect.


12
My Dear Mother,
I am sorry that thou hast been troubled by news of the fighting within
the province. All is well with us, as we sent thee word by telegraph. If
anything happens that touches any of thy household, we will send
thee word at once.

This town is a hotbed of rebellion, and it is all because the rebels have
been enabled to perfect their plans through the existence of the
foreign settlements. How I dislike these foreigner adventurers! I wish
they would take their gilded dust, their yellow gold, and leave us to
our peace; but they walk our streets as lords and masters, and allow
the plotting traitors to make their plans, and we are helpless. If I were
China's ruler and for one day had power, there would not be one white
man left within the borders of my country. We hear each day of
friends who give their lives on the field of battle, these battles and this
conflict which would not be present with us were it not for the foreign
powers, who within these settlements, protect the low-browed ruffians
who are plotting China's ruin.

Did I say I disliked these foreigners? How mild a word! Thou, in
Sezchuan, far from the touch of the alien life, hast never seen these
people who cause us so much trouble. How can I describe them to
thee so that thou wilt understand? They are like unto the dragons of
the earth, for ugliness. Men have enormous stature and mighty
strength, and stride with fierce and lordly steps. Their faces have great
noses between deep-set eyes, and protruding brows, and ponderous
jaws like animals-- symbols of brute force which needs but to be seen
to frighten children in the dark. We are the gentler race, and we feel
instinctively the dominating power of these men from over the seas,
who all, American, Russian, German, English, seem to be cast in the
same brutal mould. Their women have long, horse-like faces, showing
the marks of passion and discontent, which they try to cover with the
contents of the powder-jar and with rouge; they are utterly unlike the
women of our race, who are taught to express no hate, no love, nor
anything save perfect repose and gentleness, as befits true ladyhood.

One has but to see a Chinese gentleman, with his easy manners,
composed, self-contained, with a natural dignity, to know that we are
better trained than the people from the West. It is because we are
true idealists. We show it in our grading of society. With us the
scholar is honoured and put first, the farmer second, the artisan third,
and the merchant and the soldier last. With them, these worshippers
of the dollar, the merchant is put first, and the man to guard that dollar
is made his equal! That is a standard for a nation! The barterer and the
murderer; let others follow where they lead.

These foreigners rate China low, who have never met a Chinese
gentleman, never read a line of Chinese literature, and who look at
you in ignorance if you mention the names of our sages. They see no
Chinese except their servants, and they judge the world about them
from that low point of view. I know a lady here who is a leader in their
society, a woman who has lived within our land for many tens of
years; when asked to meet a prince of our house Imperial, she
declined, saying she never associated with Chinese. A prince to her
was no more than any other yellow man; she said she would as soon
think of meeting her gate coolie at a social tea. How can there be a
common meeting-ground between our people and the average
European, of whom this woman is a representative and who is not
alone in her estimation of the people amongst whom she lives but
whom she never sees. They get their knowledge of China from
servants, from missionaries who work among the lower classes, and
from newspaper reports that are always to the disadvantage of our
people.

More and more the West must see that the East and West may meet
but never can they mingle. Foreigners can never enter our inner
chamber; the door is never wholly opened, the curtain never drawn
aside between Chinese and European. The foreign man is a
materialist, a mere worshipper of things seen. With us "the taste of
the tea is not so important as the aroma." When Chinese gentlemen
meet for pleasure, they talk of poetry and the wisdom of the sages, of
rare jade and porcelains and brass. They show each other treasures,
they handle with loving fingers the contents of their cherished boxes,
and search for stores of beauty that are brought to light only for those
who understand. But when with foreigners, the talk must be of tea, its
prices, the weight of cotton piece goods, the local gossip of the town
in which they live. Their private lives are passed within a world apart,
and there is between these men from different lands a greater bar than
that of language-- the bar of mutual misunderstanding and lack of
sympathy with the other race.

Poor China! She is first clubbed on the head and then stroked on the
back by these foreigners, her dear friends. Friends! It is only when the
cold season comes that we know the pine-tree and the cypress to be
evergreens, and friends are known in adversity. The foreigners who
profess to be our friends are waiting and hoping for adversity to come
upon us, that they may profit by it. They want our untouched wealth,
our mines of coal and iron and gold, and it is upon them they have
cast their eyes of greed.

The foreigners have brought dishonesty in business dealings to our
merchants. At first, the trader from the foreign land found that he
could rely on old-time customs and the word of the merchant to bind a
bargain; but what did the Chinese find? There are no old-time customs
to bind a foreigner, except those of bond and written document. He
has no traditions of honour, he can be held by nothing except a court
of law. For years the word "China" has meant to the adventurers of
other lands a place for exploitation, a place where silver was to be
obtained by the man with fluent tongue and winning ways. Even
foreign officials did not scruple to use their influence to enter trade.

An old case has recently come before the Governor. It has been
brought many times to the ears of the officials, but they have said
nothing, for fear of offending the Great Government whose
representative is involved in the not too pleasant transaction. One of
our great inland cities had no water nearer than the river, several miles
away. A foreign official with a machine of foreign invention digged deep
into the earth and found pure, clear water. Then he thought, "If there is
ater here for me, why not for all this great city of many tens of
thousands?" Which was a worthy thought, and he saw for himself
great gains in bringing to the doors of rich and poor alike the water
from the wells. He told the Taotai that he would go to his country and
bring back machines that would make the water come forth as from
living springs. The official met his friends and the plan was discussed
and many thousands of taels were provided and given into the hands
of the official from over the seas. The friends of the Taotai felt no fear
for their money, as the official signed a contract to produce water from
the earth, and he signed, not as a simple citizen but as the
representative of his government, with the great seal of that
government attached to the paper. Of course our simple people
thought that the great nation was behind the project; and they were
amazed and startled when, after a trip to his home land and a return
with only one machine, a few holes were made but no water found,
and the official announced that he was sorry but there was nothing
more that he could do. He did not offer to return the money, and in his
position he could not be haled into a court of law; there was nothing
for his dupes to do but to gaze sadly into the great holes that had
taken so much money, and remember that wisdom comes with
experience.

"When a man has been burned once with hot soup he forever after
blows upon cold rice"; so these same men of China will think o'erlong
before trusting again a foreigner with their silver.

Thy son has been trying to settle another case. Some men from
America went to Ningpo, and talked long and loud of the darkness of
the city, its streets dangerous in the night-time, its continual fires
caused by the flickering lamps of oil that are being so constantly
overturned by the many children. They told the officials that the times
were changing, that to walk the streets with a lighted lantern in the
hand is to lose step with the march of progress. They showed the
benefits of the large lights of electricity blazing like a sun on each
corner of the great city, making it impossible for robbers and
evil-doers to carry on their work in darkness. They promised to turn
night-time into day, to put white lights in Yamen, office, and
house-hold. There should be a light beneath each rooftree, at no
greater expense than the bean-oil lamp. They were most plausible,
and many thousands of silver dollars were brought forth and given to
the men as contract money. They left us to buy machinery; the years
have passed; they never have returned. Ningpo still has streets of
darkness, men still walk abroad with lighted lanterns, the bean-oil
lamp is seen within the cottage and-- will be until the hills shall fade,
so far as the officials are concerned, who once dreamed dreams of a
city lit by the light as of myriad suns.

How can the missionaries have the face to come here with their
religion, when the dissolute white man is in every port manifesting a
lust and greed and brutality which Chinese are accustomed to
associate with the citizenship and religion attributed to Christianity.
No wonder it is hard for them to make converts among the people who
have business dealings with these men from Christian nations.

But China will not forever bear the ill-treatment of men from Western
lands. She is awake to all the insults; she has learned in the bitter
halls of experience. She sleeps no longer; she will rise in self-defense
and fight aggression; and the nations who have misused her must
remember that when she moves it will be the movement of a mighty
people aroused by the thought of their great wrongs. She is peaceful
and long-suffering, but she is different from the old-time China. She
has now a national spirit that has been brought about by better means
of communication between provinces. In the olden time it was difficult
for one part or the Empire to know the conditions in another. But now
the telegraph and the daily newspaper come to all the smallest
villages. I am sure that the watchman by thy outer gate reads as he
guards thy household, and learns in far Sezchuan what has happened
to-day in Peking, or the Southern city of Canton, and the news is
discussed in the tea-shops and on corners by men from farm and
shop and office.

The foreigners are mistaken in their belief that China can never be
united. She has been one for centuries, in beliefs, in morals, in
education, and in religion, and now she will be more united in her
stand against the hated white man who covets her treasures. She
may quarrel with her brothers within her borders; but that is nothing
but a family feud, and in time of danger from outside, like all families,
she will unite to fight for her own until the last red lantern fades and
the morning star is shining. Enough of politics and bitterness! I hear
thy son, who is coming for his evening cup of tea.

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


13
My Dear Mother,
The times here are very bad; people are fleeing from the inland cities
and coming to Shanghai by the thousands. The place is crowded to
suffocation.

[Illustration: Mylady21.]

Wu Ting-fang was here and talked long into the night with my
husband. My son, who, I am afraid, does not think too highly of this
great man, says that he is with the party that is "on top," that he
spends most of his time sitting on the fence-- whatever that may
mean. I drove past his house the other day and did not see him sitting
on the fence, but on his veranda, calmly drinking tea.

Sun Yat-sen has violated his word of honour and has joined the
Southern forces. We feel he has acted most dishonourably and (my
son again) should have "staid bought." Gossips say he received many
millions of taels, presumably for the railroads, but that was only an
excuse to slip the money into his wide and hungry pockets.

It is decided to send my son to Canton, into the office of the governor
of that province. We are glad to get him away from Shanghai, which is
a nest of adders and vipers, conspiring and raising their poisonous
heads in the dark. One does not know whom to trust, or who may
prove to be a traitor.

Li-ti, his wife, wishes to go with him, and weeps the whole day
through because we will not permit it. She is not well, and we tell her
she will not be really separated from her husband, because, as the
poets tell us, people who love, though at a distance from each other,
are like two lutes tuned in harmony and placed in adjoining rooms.
When you strike the kung note on one, the kung note on the other will
answer, and when you strike the cho note on the one the cho note on
the other will give the same sound. They are both tuned to the same
pitch, when the influence of the key-note, love, is present.

I took my son apart the other night and said, "I am thy mother and I
want to speak words to thee straight from the heart. Thou art to have
the joy of work, and remember the pride of work lies in the thought,
'For me alone is the task.'" I tried to make him understand that praise,
glory, and honours are good, but they do not make for long life, and
especially in these times it is better to work quietly without attracting
too much attention. It is more safe, for "he who raises himself on
tiptoe cannot stand, and he who stretches his legs wide apart cannot
walk."

His father was especially anxious that he be not pierced with the
arrow of treachery that poisons the blood and finds the weak spot in
the armour of so many of our young men. He told him to keep himself
above suspicion, to avoid those entangled in the nets of double
dealing of whom one is uncertain, because "the red glow of the
morning sun seems to stain even the pure whiteness of the new-fallen
snow."

Why, Mother-mine, didst thou send the old priest from the temple
down here? He abides in the courtyard, squatting on his heels,
serving the spirits neither of Heaven nor of earth, but he sits and talks
and talks and talks with the women of the courtyards. There are some
of them I would fain send to a far-off province, especially Fang Tai, the
mother of our gateman.

"A woman with a long tongue is a flight of steps leading to calamity."

This priest of thine has been quarrelling with her now over the question
of the son of Wong Tai, who is accused of being on too friendly terms
with some of the leaders of the rebellion. He made the unfortunate
remark that perhaps the man was innocent but "one does not arrange
his head-dress under an apricot-tree, nor his foot-gear in a melon
patch, if he wishes to be above suspicion," and this simple remark
has called down upon his priestly head the wrath of all the women. I
think he will go to the monastery within the city to pass the night-- at
least if he has wisdom equal to his years.

Yesterday I thought that I might make some use of him, and I felt
when he was working he would not be stirring up the courtyards. I
bade him write the Sage's words upon a scroll of satin for my boy to
take with him to his new home. He did it very beautifully, as he is a
real artist with the brush. This is the reading of the scroll:

"There are three things for a man to guard against:
The lusts of the flesh in early years,
The spirit of combativeness in middle-age,
And ambition as the years go on.
There are three things to command your reverence:
The ordinances of Heaven,
Great men, and the words of the sages.
There are three times three things to be remembered:
To be clear in vision,
Quick in hearing,
Kindly in expression,
Respectful in demeanour,
True in word,
Serious in duty,
Inquiring in doubt,
Self-controlled in anger,
And just and fair when the chair of success is before your door."

I made a roll of it and placed it upon his desk, and when he opened it
he found within another scroll of silk, the same in colour, size, and
finish, written by his most unfilial sisters, which read:

"Remember that thou art young.
What thou dost know is not to be compared,
With what thou dost not know."

It made him angry at first, but I do not know but that the shorter scroll
contains the greater wisdom.

I am anxious for this boy of mine, who is starting to sail his ship of
manhood across the Broad River of Life in these most perilous times.
I think he is strong enough to conquer all, but I have lighted candles
and bought fine incense to persuade the Gods to temper winds to
untried hands.

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


14
My Dear Mother,
I have not written thee for several days. We are in Nanking, where my
husband is presiding at a meeting of the officials in order to discuss
the question of a compromise, or to try in some way to settle the
questions that are causing this dreadful rebellion, without more loss of
life. He is also acting as judge in the case of some of the men who
have been caught pillaging and destroying the homes of the innocent
people. It is hard for him to act with strict justice, remembering the
many friends he has lost, and it is necessary to see things without
their individuality in order to be wise in all judgments. I came,
ostensibly to see the friends of my childhood, but really to take care
of thy son and see that he eats with regularity and takes his rest. He
is working far too hard. He gives himself to whatever task arrives,
greedy for the work, like one who lusts in the delight of seeing tasks
accomplished. But he is trusted by all, both sides agreeing to rest on
his decisions, all realising that personal feeling is put far into the
background of his mind when the interests of new China are at stake.

We are in the Yamen where I lived as a young girl, but now all is
changed. Instead of the old guard of honour, with their great flapping
hats, their gaily decorated jackets, baggy trousers tucked into velvet
boots, pennants flying from their spear-points as their small ponies
dashed madly in front of the official carriage, we were met by a body
of foreign-dressed soldiers who conducted us with military precision
quite different from the old-time dash and lack of discipline.

Inside the Yamen, also, things are different. Everything is orderly and
moves with a machine-like regularity that seems totally foreign to an
Eastern official's residence. There is not the democracy of other days;
the man from the street, the merchant or the coolie with his burden on
his shoulders, did not follow us into the courtyards to see what was
being done, nor were there crowds of idle men gazing with mild
curiosity at the visitors to their city.

We hear much of the old-time power of the officials; but things are not
nearly so democratic under this new government as in former times,
when, it is true, the governor had power of life and death, but still was
obliged to deal leniently with his people. A little larger demand for
tribute, a case of rank injustice, and he became the object of the
people's wrath and would quite likely see his Yamen in a blaze, or
pay with his life for his greed. The masses held real power within their
hands. If their officials did not deal justly with them, they caused a
riot, and if the frightened official could not still it within a certain time,
he was told that he evidently could not control his people and so was
removed.

My husband inspected the regiments stationed here. I saw them from
a veranda in the Yamen where we women were unseen. Fifteen
thousand men marched past him; and they were a sight for one who
loves his country. They were all young men, no one seeming to be
over twenty-five, and as they marched my heart was filled with pride
and hope in them. I thought, it is of just such men, such sons of
peasants and working people, that Japan made her army that gained
a victory over one of the greatest nations in the Western world. Why
cannot we, with our unlimited numbers, make an army that will cause
our country to be respected and take its place among the powers of
the world? We have the men, myriads and myriads of them; men who
are used to hardship and privation in their daily life, who, on a bowl of
rice, a morsel of dried fish, can fight the whole day through. Our men
are not accustomed to the luxuries of the foreigners, who, even in
times of war, carry great stores of what seems to Eastern nations,
unnecessary baggage. With them their endless string of wagons is
their greatest pitfall, and with us these latter could be reduced to the
smallest count.

Yet we hear on every hand that the courage of the Chinese soldier is
held at low value. But why? When sent unarmed, or with guns for
which there were no bullets, into the Japanese war, against troops
with the latest inventions in weapons to kill, the only thing to be done
was to retreat. But when they are paid, fed, and armed, and have
leaders who will go to the front with them, instead of saying, "There is
the enemy. Charge! I will go back to the hills and await your hour of
glory," they are found to be courageous to the verge of fanaticism.
Under trusted leaders there is no forlorn hope or desperate service for
which they would not volunteer. Let them have confidence in their new
generals, and, even though not understanding the cause, they will
make the best soldiers in the world.

But I must not talk to thee of war; we want not more bloodshed and
the fatherless homes and lean years that follow in the track of great
armies. Yet, if we cannot be without it, let it serve war's ends-- the
ultimate safety of our people, and bring them peace and tranquillity,
their heart's desire.

I visited the ruined homes of friends of mine, who are no more. It made
me feel that life is nothing but a mirage, a phantom, or as foam, and
"even as all earthly vessels made on the potter's wheel must end by
being broken, so end the lives of men." I went out to the home of
Yuan Tai-tai, who, to my childish mind was the great lady of my
dreams. I can close my eyes and see her still, like a brilliant
butter-fly, dressed in her gay brocades, her hair twined with jewels of
pearl and jade; with hand in mine she wandered o'er her garden,
bending over goldfish ponds, or clipping fading flowers from off their
stems. There reigned a heavy silence in her palace, with its
memories, that seemed full of sadness and a vague regret, reminding
me of an old blue China bowl which a hand of other days had filled
with roses. The flowers trying to struggle from beneath the thorns and
brambles that always come where troops are quartered, seemed to
say, "Behold, they are not here who once have cared for us and
cherished us, but the gardens breathe of them and we are fragrant for
their sakes." I picked a branch of cherry-blossoms, and swiftly fell the
perfumed petals to the ground-- symbols of the dainty lives that
bloomed so short a time in this fair garden of my lady. Liu Che, the
poet of the olden time, seems to have been speaking of this, my
friend, when he says:

[Illustration: Mylady22.]

"The sound of rustling silk is stilled,
With dust the marble courtyard filled;
No footfalls echo on the floor,
Fallen leaves in heaps block up the door...
For she, my pride, my lovely one is lost."

We went from Yuan's palace to the Temple of Kwan-yin, which I often
visited as a child. It also was a ruin, but it spoke to me of the dead
thousands of weary feet that had climbed the steps leading to its
shrines; of the buried mothers who touched the floor before its altars
with reverent heads and asked blessings on their children's lives; of
their children, taught to murmur prayers to the Mother of all Mercies,
who held close within her loving heart the sorrows, hopes, and fears of
woman's world. Ghosts of these spirits seemed to follow as we
wandered through deserted courtyards, and an odour as of old
incense perfumed the air. I went out and stood upon the tortoise that
is left to guard the ruined temple; the great stone tortoise that is the
symbol of longevity of our country, that even armies in their wrath
cannot destroy.

From the gateway we could see the river, a gleaming thread of silver,
and the hillsides, tree clad, flower wreathed, painted with the colours
that the Gods give to the spring-- the spring that "thrills the warm
blood into wine." But I miss the natural songs that should float upward
from the valley, and down the reed-strewn banks of the canals, where
labourers in olden days were happy in their toil.

[Illustration: Mylady23.]

Even as we left the place the pattering rain-drops came as rice grains
falling upon the threshing-floor, and the hills seemed "folding veils of
sorrow round their brows." It was brought to our remembrance that we
must return to a city where war and famine may come thundering at
her gates, and we must stand with helpless hands.

Dear Mother mine, stay upon thy flower-scented balustrade, and drink
great draughts of that wine of spring, the vintage of the wise, that the
Gods give to thee freely in thy mountain home, and leave to younger
hands the battles with the world. Thou must not come; write no more
that thou wouldst be amongst us. We love thee dearly, but we would
cherish thee and keep thee from all care.

Kwei-li.


15
My Dear Mother,
I have had a most interesting day, and I hasten to tell thee all about it.
I have just returned from opening a home for motherless children,
given by a mission of a foreign land. It is a beautiful thought, and a
kindly one, to give a home to these poor waifs of an alien land, all in
the name of their Saviour of the World. I saw for the first time a picture
of this Christ, with little children around Him. The message I read
within His eyes seemed to be: "I will be father and mother, father and
mother and playmate to all little children." The words of the Japanese
poet describe Him: "He was caressing them kindly, folding His
shining robes round them; lifting the smallest and frailest into His
bosom, and holding His staff for the tumblers to clutch. To His long
gown clung the infants, smiling in response to His smile, glad in His
beauteous compassion."

I looked at the picture and at the people around me on the platform,
and wondered why in all the Christian world that claims this loving
Master there should be such exceeding bitterness between His
followers. How can they expect us to believe in this great Teacher
when they themselves are doubtful of his message, and criticise quite
openly their Holy Book? If it is true, should education and science
make its teaching less authentic? We do not want a religion that is
uncertain to its own people, yet we take with many thanks what it can
give us, the things we understand, such as their schools and
hospitals. Where there is pain or ignorance, there is no distinction in
the God that brings relief. We may not believe in the doctrines that we
are taught in the waiting-rooms of their hospitals, but we do believe in
the healing power of the medicines that are brought by religious zeal
from over the seas.

If their teaching has not as yet made many converts, the effect has
been great in the spread of higher ideals of education, and much of
the credit for the progress of our modern life must be given to the
mission schools, which, directly or indirectly, have opened new
pathways in the field of education for our country, and caused the
youth of China to demand a higher learning throughout the land. This
aggressive religion from the West, coupled with the education that
seems to go hand in hand with it, is bound to raise the religious plane
of China by forcing our dying faiths to reassume higher and higher
forms in order to survive.

But I believe that these teachers from the foreign lands should
understand better the religions they are so anxious to displace, and
instead of always looking for the point of difference or weakness in our
faith, should search more anxiously for the common ground, the spark
of the true light that may still be blown to flame, finding the altar that
may be dedicated afresh to the true God.

Every religion, however imperfect, has something that ought to be held
sacred, for there is in all religions a secret yearning after the unknown
God. This thought of God "is an elixir made to destroy death in the
world, an unfailing treasure to relieve the poverty of mankind, a balm
to allay his sickness, a tree under which may rest all creatures
wearied with wanderings over life's pathways. It is a bridge for passing
over hard ways, open to all wayfarers, a moon of thought arising to
cool the fever of the world's sin, and whatever name His followers may
call Him, he is the one True God of all mankind."

Whether we see the coolie bowing his head before the image of the
Lord of Light, the Buddha, or the peasant woman with her paper
money alight in the brazier at the feet of Kwan-yin, we ought to feel
that the place where he who worships stands, is holy ground. We
hear it said that he is worshipping an image, an idol, a thing of stone
or wood or clay. It is not so; he is thinking far beyond the statue, he is
seeing God. He looks upwards towards the sky and asks what
supports that cup of blue. He hears the winds and asks them whence
they come and where they go. He rises for his toil at break of day and
sees the morning sun start on his golden journey. And Him who is the
cause of all these wonders, he calls his Life, his Breath, his Lord of
All. He does not believe that the idol is his God. "'Tis to the light
which Thy splendour lends to the idol's face, that the worshipper
bends."

[Illustration: Mylady24.]

The difference between us all lies not in the real teaching of our Holy
Men, Confucius, Buddha, Lao Tze, or Christ, but in the narrowness of
the structure which their followers have built upon their words. Those
sages reared a broad foundation on which might have been built,
stone by stone, a mighty pagoda reaching to the skies. There could
have been separate rooms, but no closed doors, and from out the
pointed roofs might have pealed the deep-toned bells caught by every
wandering breeze to tell the world that here spoke the Truth or the
One Great God. But, instead, what have they done? The followers
have each built separately over that portion which was the work of
their own Master. The stories have grown narrower and narrower with
the years; each bell rings out with its own peculiar tone, and there is
no accord or harmony.

I do not dispute with those who have found a healing for themselves.
To us our religion is something quite inseparable from ourselves,
something that cannot be compared with anything else, or replaced
ith anything else. It is like our bodies. In its form it may be like other
bodies, but in its relation to ourselves it stands alone and admits of no
rival; yet the remedy that has cured us should not be forced upon a
people, irrespective of their place, their environment or their
temperament.

We of the East "have sounded depth on depth only to find still deeper
depths unfathomed and profound," and we have learned to say that no
sect or religion can claim to be in possession of all the Truth. Let the
teachers from other countries learn of our doctrines. Let them learn of
Buddha. To one who reads his pure teaching, nothing so beautiful,
nothing so high, has been heard in all the world. We admit that, little
by little, changes have come, simplicity has been lost, and with every
addition something departed from its purity and it became stained.
Yet I believe that much of the kindliness, much of the gentleness now
so marked in Chinese nature, may be traced to the teaching of this
great apostle of peace and quietude.

That other great religion, the religion of the Way, has become steeped
in superstition and has been made a reproach in all our land. Yet Lao
Tze had noble sentiments and lofty thoughts that have helped
generations of mankind in many struggles.

Confucius, it is said, presented high ideals without the breath of spirit;
his system was for the head and did not feed the heart; yet he taught
that, from the highest in the land to the lowest worker in the field,
personal virtue, cleanness of heart and hands, is to be held the thing
of greatest value. Men are urged to cherish all that is of good in them,
to avoid evil living, to cultivate right feeling, and to be true and faithful
to their tasks.

We should not value the teaching of our religion "as a miser values his
pearls and jade, thinking their value lessened if pearls and jade are
found in other parts of the world." But the searcher after Truth will
welcome any true doctrine, and believe it no less precious because it
was spoken by Buddha, Lao Tze, Confucius or Christ. We should not
peer too closely to learn what the temple may enshrine, but "feel the
influence of things Divine and pray, because by winding paths we all
may reach the same great Ocean's shore." We all are searchers for
the Way. Whence do I come; where do I go? In this passage from the
unknown to the unknown, this pilgrimage of life, which is the straight
path, which the true road-- if indeed there be a Way? Such are the
questions that all the world is asking. What is the true answer; where
may we find it? Whose holy book holds the key that will open wide
the door?

All have a hunger of the soul for something beside life's meat and
drink; all want a remedy for the sorrows of the world. The Buddhists
believe that it can be found in the destruction of desire, by renouncing
the world and following the noble path of peace until death shall open
the portals of the unknowable, everlasting stillness from which there is
no return. The Confucianists say the remedy is found within the world
by fulfilling all its duties and leaving to a greater Justice the future and
its rewards. The Christians give a whispered message of hope to the
lonely soul beating against the bars of the world about him, and say
that a life of love and joy and peace is the gift of their great
Messenger, and when the years have passed that He stands within
an archway to welcome those, His chosen, to a land of bliss where
we shall meet all who have loved us and whom we have loved in life,
and gaze upon His face.

Which is the Way, which path to God is broad enough for all the
world?

Kwei-li.


16
My Dear Mother,
I received thy letter which was full of reproaches most unjust. I have
not broken my word, given to thee so long ago. I opened the home for
friendless children, not because it belonged to a mission of a foreign
religion, but because I think it a most worthy cause. There are many
homeless little ones in this great city, and these people give them
food and clothing and loving care, and because it is given in the name
of a God not found within our temples, is that a reason for withholding
our encouragement?

Thou hast made my heart most heavy. Twenty-five years ago, when
my first-born son was taken from me, I turned from Gods who gave no
comfort in my time of need: all alone with hungry winds of bitterness
gnawing the lute strings of my desolate mother-heart, I stood upon my
terrace, and fought despair. My days were without hope and my
nights were long hours filled with sorrow, when sleep went trailing
softly by and left me to the old dull pain of memory. I called in anguish
upon Kwan-yin, and she did not hear my prayer. The painted smile
upon her lips but mocked me, and in despair I said, "There are no
Gods," and in my lonely court of silent dreams I lost the thread of
worldly care until my tiny bark of life was nearly drifting out upon the
unknown sea.

Thou rememberest that the servants brought to me from out the
market-place the book of the foreign God, and in its pages I woke to
life again. I looked once more from out my curtained window, and saw
the rosy glow of dawn instead of grey, wan twilights of the hopeless
days before me; and, as on a bridge half seen in shadows dim, I
returned to the living world about me. Thou saidst nothing until it had
brought its healing, then thou tookest the book and kept it from me.
Thou toldst me with tears that it would bring thine head in sorrow to
thy resting-place upon the hillside if I left the Gods of my ancestors
and took unto my heart the words and teachings of the God of an
alien race. I promised thee that I would not cause thee grief, and I
have kept my word.

In my ignorance I have longed for knowledge, for some one to explain
the teaching that rolled away for me the rush of troubled waters that
flooded all my soul; but as I looked about me and saw the many
warring factions that follow the great Teacher of love and peace, I did
not know which way to turn, which had the truth to give me; and I
wanted all, not part. I have this book, and have not sought for wisdom
from outside, but only search its pages to find its messages to me.

Thou must not say I have deserted China's Gods, nor is it just to write
that my children are wandering from the Way. I have observed the
feasts and fastings; each morn the Household God has rice and tea
before him; the Kitchen God has gone with celebrations at springtime
to the spirit up above. The candles have been lighted and the smoke
of incense has ascended to propitiate the God of Light, Lord Buddha,
and Kwan-yin, and my children have been taught their prayers and
holy precepts. It is not my fault, nor shouldst thou blame it to my
teaching if rites and symbols have lost their meaning, and if the Gods
of China are no longer strong enough to hold our young.

Oh, Mother mine, thou knowest I would not cause thee sorrow, and
thou hast hurt me sorely with thy letter of bitterness and reproach. If
thou couldst have seen within my heart these many ears, and known
the longing for this light that came to me in darkness, then thou
wouldst not have burned the book that brought me hope and life again
when all seemed gone.

Thou askest me to promise thee anew that I will not trouble thy last
few years with thoughts that seem to thee a sacrilege and a
desecration of thy Gods. Thou art the mother of my husband, and 'tis
to thee I owe all loyalty and obedience. I promise thee, but-- that
which is deep within my heart-- is mine.

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


17
My Dear Mother,
I, thy son's wife, have been guilty of the sin of anger, one of the seven
deadly sins-- and great indeed has been my anger. Ting-fang has
been bringing home with him lately the son of Wong Kai-kia, a young
man who has been educated abroad, I think in Germany. I have never
liked him, have looked upon his aping of the foreign manners, his
half-long hair which looks as if he had started again a queue and then
stopped, his stream of words without beginning and without end, as a
foolish boy's small vanities that would pass as the years and wisdom
came. But now-- how can I tell thee-- he asks to have my daughter as
his wife, my Luh-meh, my flower. If he had asked for Man-li, who
wishes to become a doctor, I might have restrained my anger; but, no,
he wants the beauty of our house-hold, and for full a space of ten
breaths' breathing-time, I withheld my indignation, for I was
speechless. Then I fear I talked, and only stopped for lack of words.
My son is most indignant, and says I have insulted his dear friend.
His dear friend indeed! He is so veiled in self-conceit that he can be
insulted by no one; and as for being a friend, he does not know the
word unless he sees in it something to further his own particular
interests.

I told my son that he is a man who leads a life of idleness and worse.
The tea-house knows him better than his rooftree. He is most learned
and has passed safely many examinations, and writes letters at the
end of his name, and has made an especial study of the philosophers
of the present time; and because of this vast amount of book learning
and his supposedly great intelligence he is entitled to indulgence,
says my son, and should not be judged by the standards that rule
ordinary people, who live upon a lower plane. I say that his knowledge
and greater intelligence (which latter I very much doubt) increase his
responsibilities and should make of him an example for the better
living of men.

[Illustration: Mylady25.]

A clever bad man is like vile characters scrawled in ink of gold, and
should be thrown aside as fit only for the braziers.

He is handsome in my daughter's eyes; but I say virtue is within the
man, not upon his skin. He fascinates my younger sons with his
philosophy and his tea-house oratory. I do not like philosophy, it is all
marked with the stamp of infidelity and irreligion. It is rarely that a
man devotes himself to it with-out robbing himself of his faith, and
casting off the restraints of his religion; or, if they do not lose it utterly,
they so adulterate it with their philosophy that it is impossible to
separate the false from the true. The reading of philosophic writings,
so full of vain and delusive reasonings, should be forbidden to our
young folk, just as the slippery banks of a river are forbidden to one
who knows not how to swim. I will have none of them in our library,
nor will I allow their father to read them where his sons can see him.
The snake-charmer should not touch the serpents before his child's
eyes, knowing that the child will try to imitate him in all things.

It is "as pouring water in a frog's face" to talk to these, my children,
who think a man, with words upon his lips, a sage. I say a dog is not
a good dog because he is a good barker, nor should a man be
considered a good man because he is a good talker; but I see only
pity in their faces that their mother is so far behind the times. These
boys of ours are so much attracted by the glimpses they have had of
European civilisation, that they look down upon their own nationality.
They have been abroad only long enough to take on the veneer of
Western education; it is a half-and-half knowledge; and it is these
young men who become the discontented ones of China. When they
return they do not find employment immediately, since they have
grown out of touch with their country and their country's customs.
They feel that they should begin at the top of the ladder, instead of
working up slowly, rung by rung, as their fathers did before them.
They must be masters all at once, not realising that, even with their
tiny grains of foreign knowledge, they have not yet experience to
make them leaders of great enterprises or of men; yet they know too
much to think of going back into their father's shop.

I realise that the students who go abroad from China have many
difficulties to overcome. It is hard to receive their information and
instruction in a language not their mother tongue. They have small
chance to finish their education by practical work in bank or shop or
factory. They get a mass of book knowledge and little opportunity to
practise the theories which they learn, and they do not understand
that the text-book knowledge is nearly all foreign to their country and
to the temperament of their race. I often ask, when looking at my son,
what is his gain? I presume it is in securing a newer, broader point of
view, an ability to adjust himself to modern conditions, and a wider
sympathy with the movements of the world.

China has for centuries been lost to the world by reason of her great
exclusion, her self-satisfaction and blind reliance upon the ways
marked out for her by sages of other days. These young men, with
the West in their eyes, are coming back to shock their fathers' land
into new channels. The process may not be pleasant for us of the old
school, but quite likely it is necessary. Yet, I feel deep within me, as I
look at them, that these new Westernised Easterners with their
foreign ways and clever English are not to be the final saviours of
China. They are but the clarion voices that are helping to awake the
slumbering power. China must depend upon the firmer qualities of the
common people, touched with the breath of the West.

It is with great sorrow that we mothers and fathers see our boys and
girls, especially those who return from abroad, neglecting and scoffing
at our modes of education that have endured and done such noble
work for centuries past. I know it is necessary to study things modern
to keep up with the demands of the times; but they can do this and
still reserve some hours for the reading of the classics. Instead of
always quoting Byron, Burns, or Shelley, as do my son and daughter,
let them repeat the beautiful words of Tu Fu, Li Po, Po Chu-i, our
poets of the golden age.

In no country is real learning held in higher esteem than in China. It is
the greatest characteristic of the nation that, in every grade of society,
education is considered above all else. Why, then, should our young
people be ashamed of their country's learning? The Chinese have
devoted themselves to the cultivation of literature for a longer period by
some thousands of years than any existing nation. The people who
lived at the time of our ancestors, the peoples of Egypt, the Greeks,
the Romans, have disappeared ages ago and have left only their
histories writ in book or stone. The Chinese alone have continued to
give to the world their treasures of thought these five thousand years.
To literature and to it alone they look for the rule to guide them in their
conduct. To them all writing is most sacred. The very pens and
papers used in the making of their books have become objects of
veneration. Even our smallest village is provided with a scrap-box into
which every bit of paper containing words or printed matter is carefully
placed, to await a suitable occasion when it may be reverently
burned.

Change is now the order of the day, educationally as well as
politically. We do not hear the children shouting their tasks at the top
of their voices, nor do they learn by heart the thirteen classics, sitting
on their hard benches within the simple rooms with earthen floor,
where the faint light comes straggling through the unglazed windows
on the boy who hopes to gain the prize that will lead him to the great
Halls of Examination at Peking. If, while there, he is favoured by the
God of Learning and passes the examination, he will come back to
his village an honour to his province, and all his world will come and
do him reverence, from the viceroy in his official chair to the meanest
worker in the fields. These old-time examinations are gone, the
degrees which were our pride have been abolished, the subjects of
study in the schools have been completely changed. The privileges
which were once given our scholars, the social and political offices
which were once open to the winner of the highest prize, have been
thrown upon the altar of modernity. They say it is a most wise move
and leads to the greater individualism, which is now the battle-cry of
China. The fault of the old examination, we are told, is the lack of
original ideas which might be expressed by a student. He must give
the usual interpretations of the classics. Now the introduction of free
thought and private opinion has produced in China an upheaval in
men's minds. The new scholars may say what they think wisest, and
they even try to show that Confucius was at heart a staunch
republican, and that Mencius only thinly veiled his sentiments of
modern philosophy.

Perhaps the memory work of the Chinese education was wrong; but it
served its purpose once, if tales are true.

It is said that many hundreds of years ago, the founder of the Chinese
dynasty, the man of pride who styled himself Emperor the First,
conceived the idea of destroying all literature which was before his
reign, so that he might be regarded by posterity as the founder of the
Chinese Empire. It is believed by many Chinese scholars that this
wicked thing was done, and that not a single perfect copy of any book
escaped destruction. He even went so far as to bury alive above five
hundred of the best scholars of the land, that none might remain to
write of his cruel deed. But the classics had been too well learned by
the scholars, and were reproduced from memory to help form the
minds of China for many tens of years. This could be done to-day if a
similar tragedy were enacted. Thousands of boys have committed the
great books to heart, and this storing in the mind of enormous books
has developed in our race a marvellous memory, if, as others say, it
has taken away their power of thinking for themselves.

Which is the best? Only time will tell. But we are told that the literati
of China, the aristocracy of our land, must go. Yet, as of old, it is the
educated men who will move China. Without them, nothing can be
done, for the masses will respect education and the myriads will
blindly follow a leader whom they feel to be a true scholar; and it will
be hard to change the habits of a people who have been taught for
centuries that education is another word for officialdom.

This new education, in my mind, must not be made so general; it
must be made more personal. Three things should be taken into
account: who the boy is, where he is, and where he is going. It is not
meet to educate the son of my gate-keeper the same as my son. He
should be made a good workman, the best of his kind, better to fill the
place to which the Gods have called him. Give our boys the modern
education, if we must, but remember and respect the life work each
may have to follow. Another thing we should remember: the progress
in the boy's worldly knowledge should not make him hard in his revolt
against his Gods, nor should his intelligence be freed without teaching
him self-control. That is fatal for our Eastern race. Let him learn, in his
books and in his laboratories, that he moulds his destiny by his acts
in later life, and thus gain true education, the education of the soul as
well as of the mind.

I have written thee a sermon, but it is a subject on which we mothers
are thinking much. It is before us daily, brought to our courtyards by
our sons and daughters, and we see the good and the evil of trying to
reach at a single bound the place at which other nations have at last
arrived after centuries of weary climbing.

I must go to the women's quarters and stop their chattering. Oh,
Mother mine, why didst thou send to me that priest of thine?

[Illustration: Mylady26.]

Kwei-li.


18
Dear Mother,
I must introduce thee to thy new daughter-in-law. Yes, I can see thee
start. I will tell thee quickly. Thy son hath not taken to himself another
wife, but it is I, Kwei-li, who should be made known to thee anew.
Kwei-li, the wife of the Governor of Kiang-si, who has become so
foreignised that the mother of her husband would never know her. If
things keep on the path they have gone for these last few moons, I
fully expect thou wilt see me with that band of women who are making
such a great outcry for their rights and freedom. I cannot even explain
them to thee, as thou wouldst not understand.

My last adventure in the ways or the modern woman is in relation to
the courtship of my son. Tang-si, my second son, is in love; and I, his
mother, am aiding and abetting him, and allowing him to see his
sweet-heart in the foreign way. I know thou wilt blush when thou
readest this; but I have been in the hands of the Gods and allowed not
to speak of "custom," or propriety, and when I have tried to reason
with my son and talk to him in regard to what is seemly, he laughs at
me and calls me pet names, and rubs my hair the wrong way and
says I am his little mother. I knew that astounding fact long years
ago, and still I say that is no reason why I should go against all
customs and traditions of my race.

I told him I was taught that men and women should not sit together in
the same room, nor keep their wearing apparel in the same place, nor
even cleanse them in the same utensils. They should not look upon
each other, or hand a thing directly from man to woman hand. I was
taught that it was seemly and showed a maidenly reserve to observe
a certain distance in my relations even with my husband or my
brothers, but I have found that the influence of reason upon love is like
that of a raindrop upon the ocean, "one little mark upon the water's
face and then it disappears."

Now I will tell thee all about it. Tang-si came to me one day, and after
speaking of many things of no importance, he finally said, "Mother,
wilt thou ask Kah-li, Wu Tai-tai's daughter, here to tea?" I said, "Why,
is she a friend of thy sister's?" He said, while looking down upon the
floor, "I do not know, but-- but-- she is a special friend of mine." I
looked at him in amazement. "Thou hast seen her?" "Yes, many
times. I want thee to ask her to the house, where we may have a
chance to talk." I sat back in my chair and looked at him, and said
within myself, "Was ever mother blessed with such children; what
may I next expect?" He gave me a quick look, and came over and
took my hand in his, and said, "Now, Mother, do not get excited, and
don't look as if the Heavens were going to fall. I-- well-- thou makest it
hard to tell thee, but I want to marry Kah-li, and I would like a chance
of seeing her as the foreign men see their wives before they marry
them." I said, quite calmly for me, "Thou meanest thou art choosing
thy wife instead of allowing thy father and mother to choose her?" He
said, "Why, yes; I have to live with her and I ought to choose her." I
said nothing-- what is the use? I have learned that my men-folk have
strong minds, which they certainly must have inherited from thine
honourable family. I said that first I would speak to her mother, and if
she approved of her daughter's seeing my son in this most
unbecoming manner, I would do whatsoever he wished in the matter. I
could not wait, but went at once to the house of Wu Tai-tai. We
discussed the matter over many cups of tea, and we saw that we are
but clouds driven by the winds and we must obey.

She has been here for tea, and I am charmed with her. She is as
pretty as a jewel of pure jade; I do not blame my son. She has
laughter in her dancing eyes and seems as if she would sing her life
away from year to year and see life always through the golden gleam
of happy days. She is respectful and modest, and now I feel she is
one of the family and I ask her to join us in all our feastings. She
came to the feast when we burned the Kitchen God, and joined with
us in prayers as he ascended to the great Spirit to tell him of our
actions in the past year. I am afraid our young people do not believe
o'ermuch in this small God of the Household, who sits so quietly upon
his shelf above the kitchen stove for twelve long months, watching all
that goes on within the home, then gives his message for good or ill to
Him above; but they are too respectful to say ought against it-- in my
hearing. They must respect the old Gods until they find something
better to take their place.

I do not know but that my son is right in this question of his courtship.
It is pretty to see them as they wander through the gardens, while we
mothers sit upon the balconies and gossip. Their love seems to be as
pure as spotless rice and "so long as colour is colour and life is life
will the youth with his sublime folly wait for the meeting of his loved
one." What matter if the winter days will come to them or if "the snow
is always sure to blot out the garden--" to-day is spring, and love is
love and youth is happy.

Thy shameless daughter,
Kwei-li.


19
My Dear Mother,
Thy gifts which came by the hand of Tuang-fang are most welcome.
We have already drunk of the sun-dried tea, and it brings to thought
the sight of the long, laden trays of the fragrant leaves as they lie in
the sun on the mountain-side. The rose wine we will use on occasions
of special rejoicing; and I thank thee again for the garments which will
bring comfort to so many in the coming days of cold. I was glad to
see Tuang-fang, and sorry to hear that he, with his brother, are going
so far away from home in search of labour. Is there not work enough
for our men in the province without going to that land of heat and
sickness?

Our people go far in their passion for labour; in search of it they cross
land and sea. They are the workers of the world, who sell their labour
for a price; and it is only strong men with great self-dependence who
are capable of taking a road that is likely never to join again those
who speak their language and worship their Gods. What is it that has
given these men this marvellous adaptability to all conditions, however
hard they may seem? They can live and work in any climate, they are
at home in the sandy wastes of our great deserts or in the swamps of
the southern countries. They bear the biting cold of northern lands as
readily as they labour under the burning sun of Singapore and Java.
The more I come out from the courtyard and see our people, the more
I admire them; I see the things that are so often lost sight of by those
of other lands who seek to study them. They are a philosophical race
and bear the most dreadful losses and calamities with wonderful
bravery. Nothing daunts them. Behold the family of Tuang-fang: they
saw their home ruined at time of flood and began again on the morrow
to build on the remaining foundations. They saw their fields burned up
by drouth, and took their winter clothing to the pawn-shop to get
money to buy seed for the coming spring. They did not complain so
long as they could get sufficient food to feed their bodies and the
coarse blue cloth with which to clothe them, and when these failed
they sent their three strong sons, the best of the family, to the rubber
plantations of the South.

[Illustration: Mylady27.]

We hear so much in the papers here of the "Yellow Peril." If there is a
Yellow Peril, it lies in the fact that our men are ready to labour
unceasingly for a wage on which most Europeans would starve, and
on that pittance they manage to save and become rich and
prosperous. They have gone into other lands wherever they have found
an opening, and some of the southern countries, like Singapore and
the Philippines, owe much of their commercial progress to our people.
They are honest and industrious, and until the foreigner began to feel
the pinch of competition, until he found that he must work all day and
not sleep the hours away if he would be in the race with the man from
the Eastern land, he had nothing to say about the character of the
man from China. But so soon as he felt the pressure of want because
of his sloth, he began to find that the "yellow man" was vicious, and
soon his depravity became a by-word. The Chinese were abused
because of their virtues rather than their vices, for things for which all
other nations are applauded-- love of work and economy. It is the
industry of our people that offends, because it competes with the
half-done work of the white man, who dissipates his time and money.

The men from this land have learned their ways of work at home,
where the struggle for existence is hard. Sunrise sees the carpenter
and the smith, the shoemaker and the beater of cotton at their labour,
and the mid-night cry of the watchman often finds them patiently
earning the rice for the morrow's meal. And they have not learned to
disobey when told to go to work. There are no strikes as in the foreign
countries. Our workmen are obedient, although it is said that they
lack in leadership, that nothing is originated within themselves; but
they can be taught, and all who employ Chinese labour testify to their
ability to follow a good master.

I think, from hearing the gossip from thy son's courtyard, that when
China is again peaceful, there will be more chance for the men within
her borders, who can then stay beside their fires and earn their food.
Our land is a land of fertile soil, of rich minerals, and great rivers. It is
said that there are millions and millions of acres on which food or
other products can be grown, and that a great part of China may be
made one vast garden. The German scientist who is trying to get a
coal mine concession from the government told my husband that
there were tens of millions of tons of coal of the best quality in China,
and that the single province of Shansi could supply the entire world for
a thousand years. No wonder the Germans are looking with longing
eyes on China! But we want these riches and this labour for our
people. If it is worth the time of men of other countries to come to this
far-off land in search of what lies beneath our soil, it is worth our while
to guard it and keep it for our own.

We hear news of battles and of secret plottings, and I am worried
about my son, who is in Canton, the province that seems to be the
centre of rebellion and the breeding-place of plots and treachery. I
wonder what will be the outcome of it all; if after all this turmoil and
bloodshed China will really become a different nation? It is hard to
change the habits of a nation, and I think that China will not be
changed by this convulsion. The real Chinese will be the same
passive, quiet, slow-thinking and slow-moving toiler, not knowing or
caring whether his country is a republic or whether he is ruled by the
Son of Heaven. He will be a stable, peaceable, law-abiding citizen or
subject, with respect for his officials so long as they are not too
oppressive; not asking whether the man who rules him is called a
governor or a futai, so long as work is plentiful and rice is cheap.
These patient, plodding men of China have held together for countless
thousands of years, and I am sure that their strength is derived from
qualities capable of bearing great strain; and our government, even the
government which we are trying so hard to overturn and mould on
Western lines, must have suited the country and the people, because
nothing ever persists generation after generation, century after
century, without being suited to its environment and more or less
adapted to the changes which time always brings.

Confucius said, "When I was on a mission to Ch'u State, I saw a litter
of young pigs nestling close to their dead mother. After a while they
looked at her, then all left the dead body and went off. For their
mother did not look at them any more, nor did she seem any more to
be of their kind. What they loved was their mother: not the body which
contained her, but that which made the body what it was."

That is the way with our country. She may leave the dead forms of her
old government, perhaps it will be her misfortune to leave her religion,
but the spirit of her government and the spirit of her religion she will
always love.

But I must not gossip more with thee over my dearly loved country
and her people. I know I talk to thee o'ermuch of politics and the
greedy eyes of foreigners which are fixed upon our land, but one
cannot live in Shanghai, even behind the women's archway, without
hearing, night and day, the things that move this, our world, so
strongly. Even my small children play at war, shoot their rebels, build
their fortresses and drive the foreigners from off their piles of sand.

I cry to thee, my Mother, because a heart must speak its bitterness,
and here our lips are sealed to all. I dare not even tell thy son, my
husband, all that passes in my mind as I look from out my window at
this fighting, struggling, maddened world that surges round me. We
are more than troubled about our son.

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


20
My Dear Mother,
I send to thee some silken wadding for the lining of thy coat, also a
piece of sable to make a scarf for Su-su, and a box of clothing for her
new-born son. The children each have written her a letter, and the
candles have been lighted before Kwan-yin, to show our joy.

We have a guest, old General Wang, who is on his way to visit with
my father. He is of the old, old China, and wags his head most
dolefully over the troubles of his country, and says a republic never
will succeed. My husband was bewailing the fact of the empty
strong-box, and Wang said, "Why don't you do what I did when I was
in command of the troops? When money was scarce, I simply
stopped a dollar a month from each man's pay, and, lo, there was the
money." He was quite shameless in regard to the old-time "squeeze"
and said it was necessary. When he was general he received the
salary of an ill-paid servant and was expected to keep up the state of
a small king. But there were many ways to fill the empty pockets.
When a high official was sent to inspect his troops, men were
compelled to come from the fields, the coolies to lay down their
burdens, the beggar to leave his begging-bowl, and all to stand
straight as soldiers with guns within their hands. But when the officer
was gone each went his way with a small present in his hand and did
not appear again until the frightened official was compelled to sweep
the highways and byways to find men enough to agree with lists paid
by the government.

But those times are past, and these old-time officials find it safer to
retire to homes within their provinces.

He told us of Chung-tai, who was Taotai of our city at one time. Dost
thou remember him? He made many millions in the exportation of rice
at time of famine. He was asked to go to Peking, and promised a high
position. He sent as answer the story of Chung Tzu the philosopher,
who was fishing in the Piu when the Prince of Ch'u sent high officials
to ask him to take charge of the State. Chung went on fishing and
without turning his head said: "I have heard that in Ch'u there is a
sacred tortoise which has been dead now some three thousand
years, and that the Prince keeps this tortoise carefully enclosed in a
chest on the altar of the sacred temple. Now would this tortoise rather
be dead and have its remains venerated, or be alive and wagging its
tail in the mud?" "It would rather be alive and wagging its tail in the
mud," said the officials. "Begone" said Chung. "The tortoise is a
symbol of longevity and great wisdom. It would not befit me to aspire
to greater wisdom than the tortoise. I, too, prefer the mud."

Chung spoke bravely in sending this reply to Peking; but no sooner
was it sent than he gathered his family and his sycee and departed
for Shanghai, where he feels more sure of the protection of the foreign
settlements than he does of the kindly intentions of His Excellency
Yuan toward his dollars.

The children have come home and are clamouring for their supper.
They are growing rougher and noisier each day, and, I fear, are
spending far too many hours in the servants' courtyard, where they
hear of things not seemly for young ears. Canst thou send me
Wong-si for a few months? She might be able to keep some order in
my household, although I doubt a person of a nature not divine being
able to still the many tongues I have now about me.

We send thee love, and greetings to thy new-born great-grandson.

Kwei-li.


21
My Dear Mother,
I have been in the country with my friend Ang Ti-ti. It was the time of
pilgrimage to the graves of her family at the temple near Wu-seh. My
household gave me many worries, and my husband said it was a time
of rest for me, so we took a boat, with only a few servants, as I am
tired of chattering women, and spent three long happy days amongst
the hills. We sat upon the deck as the boat was slowly drawn along
the canal, and watched the valley that autumn now is covering with
her colours rare. All the green of the fields is changed. All the gay
foliage of the trees upon the hillsides will soon be dead and crumbling.
These withered leaves that once waved gaily in the air are lying now in
clustered heaps, or fluttering softly to the ground like dull, brown
butterflies who are tired with flight. The only touch of colour is on the
maple-trees, which still cling with jealous hands to coverings of red
and gold. The autumn winds wailed sadly around our cabin windows,
and every gust brought desolation to tree and shrub and waving grass.
Far away the setting sun turned golden trees to flame, and now and
then on the sluggish waters of the canal would drift in lonely splendour
a shining leaf that autumn winds had touched and made into a thing of
more than beauty.

[Illustration: Mylady28.]

We anchored the first night by a marshy bank girdled with tall yellow
reeds and dwarf bamboo, and from our quiet cabin listened to the
rainy gusts that swept the valley. Out of the inky clouds the lightning
flashed and lighted up each branch and stem and swaying leaf,
revealing to our half-blinded eyes the rain-swept valley; then darkness
came with her thick mantle and covered all again.

[Illustration: Mylady29.]

We discussed the past, the present, and the future; and then, as
always when mothers meet, the talk would turn to children. How we
are moved by our children! We are like unto the Goddess of the
Pine-tree. She came out from her rugged covering and bore a
man-child for her husband's house, and then one day the overlord of
all that land sent to cut down the pine-tree, that its great trunk might
form the rooftree of his temple. At the first blow of the axe the soul
glided back into its hiding-place, and the woman was no more. And
when it fell, three hundred men could not move it from its place of
falling; but her baby came and, putting out his hand, said, "Come,"
and it followed him quite quietly, gliding to the very doorway of the
temple. So do our children lead us with their hands of love.

On the second day we went to the temple to offer incense at the
family shrine of Ang Ti-ti. We Chinese ladies love these pilgrimages to
these shrines of our ancestors, and it is we who keep up the family
worship. We believe that it is from the past that we must learn, and
"the past is a pathway which spirits have trodden and made
luminous." It is true, as Lafcadio Hearn has written, "We should be
haunted by the dead men and women of our race, the ancestors that
count in the making of our souls and have their silent say in every
action, thought and impulse of our life. Are not our ancestors in very
truth our souls? Is not every action the work of the dead who dwell
within us? Have not our impulses and our tendencies, our capacities
and our weaknesses, our heroisms and our fears, been created by
those vanished myriads from whom we received that all-mysterious
gift of life? Should we think of that thing which is in each of us and
which we call 'I' should it be 'I' or 'they'? What is our pride or shame
but the pride or shame of the unseen in that which they have made?
And what is our conscience but the inherited sum of countless dead
experiences with all things good and evil?"

"In this worship that we give the dead they are made divine. And the
thought of this tender reverence will temper with consolation the
melancholy that comes with age to all of us. Never in our China are
the dead too quickly forgotten; by simple faith they are still thought to
dwell among their beloved, and their place within the home remains
holy. When we pass to the land of shadows we know that loving lips
will nightly murmur our names before the family shrine, that our faithful
ones will beseech us in their pain and bless us in their joy. We will
not be left alone upon the hillsides, but loving hands will place before
our tablet the fruits and flowers and dainty food that we were wont to
like, and will pour for us the fragrant cups of tea or amber rice-wine."

"Strange changes are coming upon this land, old customs are
vanishing, old beliefs are weakening, the thoughts of to-day will not be
the thoughts of to-morrow; but of all this we will know nothing. We
dream that for us as for our mothers the little lamp will burn on
through the generations; we see in fancy the yet unborn, the children
of our children's children, bowing their tiny heads and making the filial
obeisance before the tablets that bear our family name."

This is our comfort, we who feel that "this world is not a place of rest,
but where we may now take our little ease, until the landlord whom we
never see, gives our apartment to another guest."

As I said to thee, it is the women who are the preservers of the family
worship and who are trying hard to cling to old loved customs.
Perhaps it is because we suffer from lack of facility in adapting
ourselves to new conditions. We are as fixed as the star in its orbit.
Not so much the men of China but we women of the inner courtyards
seem to our younger generation to stand an immovable mountain in
the pathway of their freedom from the old traditions.

In this course we are only following woman nature. An instinct more
powerful than reason seems to tell us that we must preserve the thing
we know. Change we fear. We see in the new ideas that our
daughters bring from school, disturbers only of our life's ideals. Yet
the new thoughts are gathering about our retreats, beating at our
doorways, creeping in at the closely shuttered windows, even winning
our husbands and our children from our arms. The enclosing walls and
the jealously guarded doors of our courtyards are impotent. While we
stand a foe of this so-called progress, a guardian of what to us seems
womanhood and modesty, the world around us is moving, feeling the
impulse of a larger life, broadening its outlook and clothing itself in
new expression that we hardly understand. We feel that we cannot
keep up with this generation; and, seeing ourselves left behind with
our dead Gods, we cry out against the change which is coming to our
daughters with the advent of this new education and the knowledge of
the outside world. But--.

All happy days must end, and we floated slowly back to the busy life
again. As we came down the canal in the soft moonlight it recalled
those other nights to me upon the mountain-side, and as I saw the
lights of the city before us I remembered the old poem of Chang Chili
Lo:

"The Lady Moon is my lover,
My friends are the Oceans four,
The Heavens have roofed me over,
And the Dawn is my golden door.
I would liefer follow a condor,
Or the sea-gull soaring from ken,
Than bury my Godhead yonder,
In the dust and whirl of men."

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


22
My Dear Mother,
I have not written thee for many days. I came back from my happy
country trip to find clouds of sorrow wrapping our home in close
embrace. We hear Ting-fang is in deep trouble, and we cannot
understand it. He is accused of being in league with the Southern
forces. Of course we do not believe it, my son is not a traitor; but
black forebodings rise from deeps unknown and the cold trail of fear
creeps round my heart.

But I cannot brood upon my fears alone; this world seems full of
sorrow. Just now I have stopped my letter to see a woman who was
brought to the Yamen for trying to kill her baby daughter. She is
alone, has no one to help her in her time of desolation, no rice for
crying children, and nothing before her except to sell her daughter to
the tea-house. She gave her sleep; and who can blame her?

Mother, send me all that thou canst spare from out thy plenty. I would
I could give more. I would be a lamp for those who need a lamp, a bed
for those who need a bed; but I am helpless. O, He who hears the
wretched when they cry, deign to hear these mothers in their sorrow!

Thy daughter,
Kwei-li.


23
I know that thou hast heard the news, as it is in all the papers.
Ting-fang is accused of throwing the bomb that killed General Chang. I
write to reassure thee that it cannot be true. I know my son. Thou
knowest thy family. No Liu could do so foul a deed.

Do not worry; we will send thee all the news. The morrow's tidings will
be well, so rest in peace.

Kwei-li.


24,a.
I thank thee from my heart for the ten thousand taels telegraphed for
the use of our son. Father has sent fifty thousand taels to be used in
obtaining his freedom. I am sure it will not be needed, as my son is
not the culprit. And if he were, it is not the olden time when a life
could be bought for a few thousand ounces of silver, no matter how
great the crime. We will not bribe the Courts of Law, even for our son.

But I am sure it will pass with the night's darkness, and we will wake
to find it all a dream. I know, my mother's heart assures me, that my
boy is innocent.

Do not speak or think of coming down. We will let thee know at once
all news.

Kwei-li


24,b.
[-Telegram_]
We are leaving to-night for Canton.


25
We are entering Canton. The night denies me sleep, and my brain
seems beating like the tireless shuttles upon a weaving-loom. I
cannot rest, but walk the deck till the moon fades from the dawn's
pale sky, and the sun shows rose-coloured against the morning's
grey. Across the river a temple shines faintly through its ring of
swaying bamboo, and the faint light glistens on the water dripping
from the oars that bring the black-sailed junks with stores of
vegetables for all that greedy city of living people. The mists cling
lovingly to the hill-tops, while leaves from giant banyan-trees sway idly
in the morning wind, and billows of smoke, like dull, grey spirits, roll
up-ward and fade into a mist of clouded jade, touched with the golden
fingers of the rising sun.

[Illustration: Mylady30.]

I see it all with eyes that do not see, because the creeping hours I
count until I find my son.


26
Ting-fang has been tried and found guilty. The runners have brought
me hour by hour the news; and even his father can see nothing that
speaks in favour of his innocence. It is known and he confesses to
having been with the men who are the plotters in this uprising. He was
with the disloyal officers only a few hours before the bomb was
thrown, but of the actual deed he insists that he knows nothing. All
evidence points to his guilt. Even the official who sentenced him, a
life-long friend of ours, said in the open court that it hurt him sorely to
condemn a man bearing the great name of Liu, because of what his
father and his father's father had been to China, but in times such as
these an example must be made; and all the world is now looking on
to see what will be done.

I will write thee and telegraph thee further news; I can say no more at
present; my heart is breaking.

Kwei-li.


27
A man came to us secretly last night and offered to effect my son's
escape for fifty thousand taels. He said that arrangements could be
made to get him out of the country-- and we have refused! We told
him we could give no answer until the morning, and I walked the floor
the long night through, trying to find the pathway just.

We cannot do it. China is at the parting of the ways; and if we, her
first officials, who are taking the stand upon the side of justice and
new ideas of honour, do not remain firm in hours of great temptation,
what lesson have we to give to them who follow where we lead? It
ust not be said that our first acts were those of bribery and corruption.
If my son is a traitor, we let him pay. He must give his life upon the
altar of new China. We cannot buy his life. We are of the house of Liu,
and our name must stand, so that, through the years to come, it will
inspire those who follow us to live and die for China, the country that
we love.


28
My Mother,
From the red dawn until the dense night fell, and all the hours of
darkness through, have my weary feet stumbled on in hopeless
misery, waiting, listening for the guns that will tell to me my son is
gone. At sunset a whispered message of hope was brought, then
vanished quite again, and I have walked the lengthened reach of the
great courtyard, watching as, one by one, the lanterns die and the
world is turning into grey. Far away toward the rice-fields the circling
gulls rise, flight on flight, and hover in the blue, then fly away to life
and happiness in the great beyond. In the distance, faint blue smoke
curls from a thousand dwellings of people who are rising and will greet
their sons, while mine lies dead. Oh, I thought that tears were human
only, yet I see each blade of shining grass weighed down with
dewdrop tears that glimmer in the air. Even the grass would seem all
sorrow filled as is my heart.

The whole night through the only sound has been the long-drawn note
of the bamboo flute, as the seller passes by, and the wind that wailed
and whistled and seemed to bring with it spirits of the other world who
came and taunted me that I did not save my son. Why, why did I not
save him! What is honour, what is this country, this fighting,
quarrelling, maddened country, what is our fame, in comparison to his
dear life? Why did we not accept the offer of escape! It was ours to
give or take; we gave, and I repent-- O God, how I repent! My boy, my
boy! I will be looking for his face in all my dreams and find despair.

.......

Dost thou remember how he came to me in answer to the Towers of
Prayer I raised when my first-born slept so deep a sleep he could not
be wakened even by the voice of his mother? But that sorrow passed
and I rose to meet a face whose name is memory. At last I knew it
was not kindness to mourn so for my dead. Over the River of Tears
their silent road is, and when mothers weep too long, the flood of that
river rises, and their souls cannot pass but must wander to and fro.
But to those whom they leave with empty arms they are never utterly
gone. They sleep in the darkest cells of tired hearts and busy brains,
to come at echo of a voice that recalls the past.

.......

My sleeve is wet with bitter rain; but tears cannot blot out the dream
visions that memory wakes, and the dead years answer to my call. I
see my boy, my baby, who was the gift of kindly Gods. When I first
opened my eyes upon him, I closed them to all the world besides,
and my soul rested in peace beside the jewel within its cradle. The
one sole wish of my heart was to be near him, to sit close by his
side, to have him day by day within my happy sight, and to lay my
cheek upon his rose-tipped feet at night. The sun's light seemed more
beautiful where it touched him, and the moon that lit my Heaven was
his eyes.

As he grew older he was fond of asking questions to which none but
the Gods could give reply, and I answered as only mothers will. When
he wished to play I laid aside my work to play with him, and when he
tired and wished to rest, I told him stories of the past. At evening
when the lamps were lighted I taught him the words of the evening
prayer, and when he slept I brought my work close by his cradle and
watched the still sweetness of his face. Sometimes he would smile in
his dreams, and I knew that Kwan-yin the Divine was playing
shadow-play with him, and I would murmur a silent prayer to the
Mother of all Mercies to protect my treasure and keep him from all
harm.

.......

I can see my courtyard in far Sezchuan; and in the wooden box within
my bedroom are all his baby-clothes. There are the shoes with
worn-out toes and heels that tried so hard to confine restless, eager
feet; the cap with Buddha and his saints, all broken and tarnished
where tiny, baby teeth have left their marks; and, Mother, dost thou
remember when we made him clothing like the soldier at the Yamen?
And the bamboo that the gateman polished he carried for a gun...

O my son, my son! How can I rise to begin the bitter work of life
through the twilights yet to come!


29
How can I tell thee, Mother mine, of the happiness within my heart! It
is passed; it was but a dream, a mirage. He is here, my boy, his hand
in mine, his cheek against my cheek; he is mine own again, my boy,
my man-child, my son.

It was not he; the culprit has been found; and in the golden morning
light my son stood free before me. I cannot write thee more at
present, I am so filled with joy. What matter if the sun shines on
wrinkles and white hair, the symbol of the fulness of my sorrow-- I
have mine own again!


30
My Dear Mother,
I can talk to thee more calmly, and I know thou hungerest for full
news. Dost thou remember Liang Tai-tai, she whom I wrote thee was
so anxious for the mercy of the Gods that she spent her time in
praying instead of looking after household duties and her son? He was
the one who tried to pass the Dark Water and I talked to him and we
sent him to the prefect at Canton. It was he who found the man for
whom my son was accused. It seemed he felt he owed us much for
helping him in his time of trouble, and now he has repaid.

I feel that I have laughed too oft at Liang Tai-tai and her Gods, but now
I will go with her from temple shrine to temple shrine. I will buy for her
candles, incense, spirit money, until the Gods look down in wonder
from their thrones. I am so filled with gratitude that when I see my
friend, I will fall before her feet and bathe them with my happy tears for
having trod the path of motherhood and given to the world a man-child,
who has saved for me my son.

Kwei-li.


31
My Mother,
We are home, and have not written thee for long, but have telegraphed
thee twice daily, so that thou hast been assured that all is well.

We found our dear one, our Li-ti, bending o'er her babe, holding it
safely, nestling it, murmuring, softly, whispers of mother love. This
son, born in the hour of trouble and despair, is a token of the
happiness to come, of the new life that will come forth from grief and
sorrow.

He has learned a lesson, this boy of mine, and he will walk more
carefully, guard more surely his footsteps, now he is the father of a
son.

Kwei-li.


32
O Mother of graciousness, we are coming to thee! When all the hills
are white with blossoms, we shall set forth, our eager hearts and
souls one great, glad longing for the sight of thee standing in the
archway, searching with earnest gaze the road, listening for the
bearers' footsteps as we mount the hillside.

[Illustration: Mylady31.]

We leave this place of trial and turmoil. I want my children to come
within the shelter of thy compound walls, where safety lies; and with
the "shell of forgetfulness" clasped tightly in our hands, we will forget
these days of anguish and despair. Then only, when my dear ones
are far from here, shall my soul obtain the peace it craves, forgetful of
the hostile, striving, plotting treachery of this foreign world I fear.

We are coming home to thee, Mother of my husband, and I have
learned in life's great, bitter school that the joy of my Chinese
woman-hood is to stand within the sheltered courtyard, with my family
close about me, and my son's son in my arms.

Kwei-li.





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