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Title: A Woman In China - Illustrated
Author: Gaunt, Mary
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.

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A WOMAN IN CHINA

By Mary Gaunt

Author Of “Alone In West Africa,” “The Uncounted Cost,” Etc.

London: T. Werner Laurie Ltd.

1915



A WOMAN IN CHINA



CHAPTER I--ACROSS THE OLD WORLD

{001}

_My grandmother’s curios--Camels and elephants--Dr Morrison--Chinese
in Australia--Feared for his virtues--Racial animosity--Great Northern
Plain--A city of silence--A land of exile--The Holy Sea--Frost
flowers on a birch forest--Chaos at Manchuria and Kharbin--Japanese
efficiency--A Peking dust storm._

|When I was a little girl and was taken to see my grandmother, she set
out for my amusement, to be looked at but not touched by little fingers,
various curios brought home by my grandfather from China in the old days
when he was a sailor in the Honourable East India Company’s service;
beautifully carved ivory chessmen, a model of a Chinese lady’s foot
about three inches long, dainty mother-of-pearl counters made in the
likeness of all manner of strange beasts, lacquer boxes and ivory balls;
models of palankeens in ivory, and fans that seemed to me, brought up
in the somewhat rough-and-ready surroundings of a new country, dreams
of loveliness. The impression was made, I felt the fascination of China,
the fascination of a thing far beyond me. Like the pretty things, so out
of my reach it seemed that I did not even add it to the list of places I
intended to {002}visit when I grew up, for even then my great desire
was to travel all over the world; I was born with the wander fever in
my blood, but unfortunately with small means of satisfying it. As I grew
older I used to read every travel book I could get hold of, and later
on when I began to live by my pen I got into the habit of gauging my
chances of seeing a country by the number of books written about it.
China, judged by this standard, fell naturally into the place assigned
to it by my grandmother’s curios; for from the days of Marco Polo
men have gone up and down the land, painfully, sorrowfully, gladly,
triumphantly, and at least half of them seem to have put pen to paper to
describe what they have seen. Was it likely there would be anything left
for me to write about?

Then one bright Sunday morning when the sun was shining, as he does
occasionally shine in England, the spirit moved me to go down the
Brighton line to spend a day with Parry Truscott, a fellow storyteller.
The unkind Fates have seen to it that I live alone, and arriving at
Victoria that bright morning I felt amiably disposed and desirous
of exchanging ideas with somebody. In the carriage I had chosen were
already seated two nicely dressed women, and coming along the platform
was a porter with hot-water bottles. The morning was sharp and the
opportunity was not to be lost, I turned to them and asked them if they
would not like a hot-water bottle. Alas! Alas! Those women towards whom
I had felt so friendly evidently did not reciprocate my feelings. In
chilly accents calculated to discourage the boldest--and I am not the
boldest--they gave me to understand that they required neither the
hot-{003}water bottle nor my conversation, so, snubbed, I retired to the
other side of the carriage and amused myself with my own thoughts and
the sunshine and shadow on the green country through which we were
passing. Half the journey was done when I saw, to my astonishment, a
sight that is not often seen in the Sussex lanes, a train of camels and
elephants marching along. It seemed to me something worth seeing, and
entirely forgetting that I had been put in my place earlier in the
morning I cried, “Oh, look! Look! Camels and elephants!”

Those two ladies were a credit to the English nation. They bore
themselves with the utmost propriety. What they thought of me I can only
dimly guess, but they never even raised their eyes from their papers. Of
course the train rushed on, the camels and elephants were left behind,
and there was nothing to show they had ever been there. Then I regret
to state that I lay back and laughed till I cried, and whenever I felt
a little better the sight of those two studious women solemnly reading
their papers set me off again. When I got out at Hassocks they did
not allow themselves to look relieved, that perhaps would have been
expressing too much emotion before a stranger who had behaved in so
eccentric a fashion, but they literally drew their skirts around them so
that they should not touch mine and be contaminated as I passed.

There is always more than one side to a story; how I should love to hear
the version of that journey told by those two ladies; doubtless it would
not in the faintest degree resemble mine. And yet there really were
camels and elephants. And so it occurred to me why not go to a country
and try and {004}write about it, although many had written before. If
the gods were kind might I not find a story even in China.

Meanwhile one of my brothers had married a sister of Dr Morrison, and I
had come into touch with the famous _Times_ correspondent, an Australian
like myself, and when he came to England he used to come and see me, and
we talked about China. When I met him again after my elephant and camel
experience I asked his opinion, would it be worth my while to go to
China?

He was quite of opinion it would, more, he and his newly-wedded wife
gave me a cordial invitation to stay with them, and the thing was
settled. I decided to go to Peking. Accordingly, on the last day of
January in the year of Our Lord 1913, I left Charing Cross in a thick
fog for the Far East. It is a little thing to do, to get into a train
and be whirled eastward. There is nothing wonderful about it and
yet--and yet--to me it was the beginning of romance. I was bound across
the old world for a land where people had lived as a civilised people
for thousands of years before we of the West emerged from barbarism,
for a country which the new nation from which I have sprung regards with
peculiar interest. Australia has armed herself. Why? Because of China’s
millions to the north. Australia has voted solid for a white Australia,
and rigidly excluded the coloured man. Why? Not because she fears the
Kanaka who helped to develop her sugar plantations, but because she
fears the yellow man and his tireless energy and his low standard of
living.

[Illustration: 0026]

When I was a child my father, warden of the {005}goldfield where he was
stationed, was also, by virtue of his office, protector of the Chinese;
and Heaven knows the unfortunate Chinese, industrious, hardworking men
of the coolie class from Amoy and Canton, badly needed a protector. Many
a time have I seen an unfortunate Chinaman, cut and bleeding, come to
my father’s house to claim his protection. The larrikins, as we used to
call the roughs, had stoned him for no reason that they or anyone else
could understand but only because he was a Chinaman. Now I understand
what puzzled and shocked me then, and what shocks me still. It is that
racial animosity that is so difficult to explain to the home-staying
Englishman: that animosity which is aroused because, subconsciously, the
white man knows that the yellow man, in lowering the standard of living,
will literally take away much of the bread and all chance of butter from
the community in which he has a foothold.

Here I was going to see the land whence had come that subservient,
patient, hard-working coolie of my childhood. And the wonder of that
rush across the old world, the twelve days’ railway journey that takes
us from the most modern of civilisations to the most ancient--it grew
upon me as we crossed the great northern plain--historic ground whereon
the great battles of Europe have been fought. The people in the train
were dining, supping, playing cards, sleeping, and the cities we passed
in the darkness seemed mere clusters of dancing lights, such lights as I
have seen after rain on many a hot and steamy night in West Africa. When
morning dawned we had passed Berlin and were slowly leaving the packed
civilisation behind us. A grey low {006}sky was overhead and there were
clumps of fir-trees. Dirty snow was in the hollows, and there were long,
straight roads drawn with a ruler as they are in Australia, with little
bare trees at regular intervals on either side, and then again dark fir
woods and rain everywhere. Soon we had passed the frontier and were in
Russia, and I felt I could not rush through without one glimpse of it,
so I stayed one little week in Moscow, and I shall always be glad I did,
though there, for the first time in my life, I was in a country where my
nationality did not count, and it was not a pleasant feeling. But Moscow
is the city of a dream. I arrived there at night to streets all covered
with a mantle of snow. The many lights shone clear in the keen, cold,
windless air and the sleighs drawn by sturdy little horses glided over
the white snow as silently as if they had been moving shadows. And when
morning came it was snowing. Softly, softly, fell the flakes and the
city was a city of silence, white everywhere, and when the sun came out
dazzling, sparkling white, only the cupolas of the many churches--Moscow
in the heart of holy Russia has sixteen hundred--were golden or bright
blue, or dark vivid green, for the snow that hid the brilliant roofs
could not lie on their rounded surfaces. Above the cupolas are crosses,
and from the crosses hang long chains, and ever and again on the silence
rang out the musical clang of some deep-toned bell. But it is the
silence that impresses. The bells were but incidental, trifling--the
silence is eternal. The snow fell with a hush, there was no rush nor
roar nor crash of storm, but every snowflake counted. The little sledges
were half buried in it, the drivers in their fur-edged caps {007}and
blue coats girt in at the waist with a red sash or silver embroidered
band, shook it out of their eyes and out of their great beards and
brushed it from their shoulders; in every crevice of the old grey walls
of the Kremlin it piled up.

A dream city! A city of silence!! The snow reigned, deadening all sound
save the insistent bells that rang to the glory of God, and the cawing
of the black and grey crows that were everywhere. What have scavenger
crows to do in this beautiful city? They were there flying round
the churches, darting down the spotless roads, gathering in little
conclaves, raising their raucous voices as if in protest against the
all-embracing silence. They were the discordant note that emphasised the
harmony.

Cold, was there ever such cold? The air crackled with it. It cut like
a knife, for all its clear purity. At every street corner I passed as I
drove to the railway station were little piles of fir logs, and little
braziers were burning, glowing red spots of brightness where the
miserable for a moment might warm their hands.

They say one should leave Moscow in summer to cross the Siberian plain,
because then there are the flowers--such flowers--and the green trees,
and the sunshine, and you may see the road--the long and sorrowful
road--along which for years the exiles have passed. I have heard many
complaints about the weariness of the journey in winter. There is
nothing to be seen say the grumblers. For these luckless ones I have the
sincerest pity. They have missed something goodly. I suppose for most
of us life, as it unfolds itself, is a disappointing thing, full of
bitterness and--worse still--of unattainable {008}desires, but of one
thing I shall always be glad, that I crossed the Siberian plain in
the heart of winter, and saw it beneath its mantle of spotless snow.
Possibly I may never see it in summer, but its winter beauty is
something to be remembered to my dying day.

And yet it is a land of exile. Even in childhood I had read of the
sufferings of those who have been sent there; and my conception of the
land and the reality before my eyes as I rushed through it in an express
train were always starting up in comparison with each other. A land
of exile, and yet from the plains of Eastern Russia in the west to the
frozen hills round Kharbin in the east it is a lovely land. It is a
plain, of course--a plain thousands of miles in extent, and the vastness
and the beauty of the snow-clad solitudes cry aloud in praise to the God
Who made them. Overhead, far, far away, is the great arch of the deep
blue sky, clear, bright, enticing, delightful, with no threat in its
translucent depths such as one knows is latent in tropical lands, and
below is the snow-clad plain, stretching far as the eye can see, bathed
in the brilliant sunshine. From the desert and the mountains in the
south it stretches away north to the frozen sea; and from the busy towns
of the Baltic in the west, in close touch with modern civilisation, to
the busy toiling millions of the East with their own civilisation that
comes from a dateless antiquity; and in all those thousands of miles it
changes its character but little.

But first there were the Urals. I had looked upon them as mountains all
my life; and I saw one evening only some very minor hills, deep in snow,
with steep sides covered with a forest of fir and leafless {009}larch,
dark against the white background; next morning all trace of them was
gone, and we were in Asia. On the station platforms were men and women,
Cossacks of the west, Buriats of the centre, Tartars of the east,
Christians, Buddhists, Mohammedans; there was little difference in
outward appearance, muffled as they were against the cold which was
often thirty degrees below freezing-point. The men were in long-skirted
coats, and the women in short petticoats and high boots, so that it
would have been difficult to tell one from the other save that on their
heads the men wore fur caps, ragged, dirty, but still fur, while the
women muffled themselves in shawls still dirtier. Though they looked as
if they had not given water a thought from the day they were born, I,
the daughter of a subtropical land, could forgive them. Who could face
water in such a biting atmosphere? I sympathised but I did not desire to
go too close when we passengers bundled out for exercise on the station
platforms, at least most of us did. Some preferred bridge.

“My God! my God!” said an old military man with unnecessary fervour.
“What are the idiots getting out for. I go one no trump, partner. Where
is my partner? The donkey ‘ll be slipping and hurting himself on those
slippery steps next and then our four ‘ll be spoilt,” and he looked
round for sympathy.

Someone murmured something about seeing the country, but he shrivelled
him with his scorn.

“Seeing the country! This is the eleventh time I’ve been across and I
never even look out if I can help myself. Know better. Oh, here you are,
{010}partner,” slightly mollified. “I’ve gone one no trump, and there
are two hearts against you.”

It was a curious thing to me that most of the passengers in that
luxuriously equipped train, with every comfort for the asking save fresh
air, grumbled so continuously. It seems to be the accepted thing that
the traveller who travels luxuriously should grumble. Our old soldier
considered himself a much-injured individual when the attendants did
not know by instinct when he required lemon and tea and when
whisky-and-soda; and the breaking up of a game of auction bridge because
the tables were wanted for dinner reduced him to blackest despair. The
hordes which through the ages have swept, conquering, westwards probably
never complained, their lives were too strenuous, either they fought
and died and were at peace, or they fought and conquered, and small
discomforts were swallowed up in the joy of victory. It is left to these
modern travellers flying eastward at a rate that would have made the
old-time nomads think of witchcraft and sorcery to make a fuss about
trifles, to complain of the discomforts and hardships of the long
journey across the old world.

I knew the country. In the days when I was a little girl studying my
map with diligence I should have counted it a joy unspeakable if I
had thought that ever I should be crossing Siberia; crossing the great
rivers, the Obi, the Yenesei and the Angara that were then as far away
and distant to me as the river that Christian crossed to gain high
Heaven; that I should watch the sledges travelling in the sunlight along
their hard, frozen surfaces, I to whom a small piece of ice on a saucer
of water, which by {011}luck we might get if there happened to be an
exceptionally cold night in the winter, was a wonder and a delight. I
suppose my joy would have’ been tempered could I have known how many
years must pass over my head before this wonderful thing would happen,
for in those days five-and-twenty seemed extraordinarily old, and I
was very sure that at thirty life would not be worth living. And I have
passed that terrible age limit and have missed most things I have set my
heart upon, but still there are moments when life is well worth living.
Strange and bitter is the teaching of the years--bitter but kindly, too.

We passed Irkutsk where East and West meet, a great city with church
spires and cupolas and buildings overlooking the broad and frozen
Angara. We raced along by leafless woods, by barren stretches of
spotless snow, and sometimes the swiftly running river was piling up the
ice in great slabs and blocks and girding and fretting at its chains,
and sometimes it was flowing free for a few miles, the only flowing
river in all the long, long journey from the old Russian capital. The
water was black, and dark, and cold, looking far colder than the ice.
The duck rose, leaving long wakes on the water; then there was a little
steam, and then a greater steam in the clear sunlight, but by the time
we reached Lake Baikal, the Fortunate Sea, the Holy Sea, the frost
had gripped the water again, the lake was a sheet of white, and the
afternoon sun shone on hills snow-clad on the eastern side. The hills,
hardly worth mentioning when one thinks of the great plain across which
we had come, are down to the very ice edge. The great lake, the eighth
in the world, is {012}but a cleft in them, and the railway track runs
on a ledge cut out of the steep hill-side overhanging its waters, waters
that were now smooth and white and hard as marble. Here and there little
jetties run out; here and there were boats, useless now, close against
them; here and there were piles of wood that would be burned up before
the thaw. It had been Siberia for days but Baikal struck the true
Siberian note.

Here there were convicts too. Some alterations or repairs were being
carried out on the line, and drab-coloured convicts were working at
them, guarded by soldiers with fixed bayonets. Siberia! Siberia of the
story-teller! On every little point of vantage stood a soldier with high
fur cap, looking out over the men working below him, and they, splitting
wood, digging holes in the iron-bound ground, paused in their labours
and lifted their faces to the passing train. Did it speak to them of
home and culture and love and happiness and freedom, or were they merely
the brutal criminal justly punished, and the peasant, poor and simple,
here because the Government want workers, and that he cannot pay his
taxes is excuse enough.

The sun was brilliant but it was cold, bitter cold, such cold as I had
never dreamed of. Men’s breath came like solid steam, and the hair on
their faces was fringed with white hoar-frost. The earth was so hard
frozen that they were building great fires to thaw it before working;
and as the darkness fell the flames leapt yellow and red and blue,
glowing spots of colour against the whiteness and the night. And with
the night came the full moon high in the clear sky, a disc of dazzling
silver. The Providence that {013}has guided my wandering footsteps
surely gives sometimes with a lavish hand; that which I have sought
earnestly with many tears is not for me, but this still moonlight
winter’s night in Siberia was mine, and all the world that we were
rushing past was fairyland. There was in it nothing sordid, nothing
unclean, nothing sorrowful.

And it was still fairyland when I awoke in the morning to a brilliant
sun shining upon a forest of dainty, delicate, graceful birches with
every branch, every little twig, clothed in sparkling white, for the
sunbeams were caught and reflected a million times on the frost flowers,
and the whole forest was a thing of beauty and wonder that to see once
is to remember for a lifetime. It is worth living to have seen it. I
have seen great rivers and mountains and been awed by mighty forests,
I have watched the thundering surf and listened to the roar of the
tornado; but this was something quite different. Awe was not the
predominant feeling, but joy--joy that such beauty exists, that I was
alive to look upon it. Behind us lay a long, long trail. We in the
rushing train represented the onward march of a mighty civilisation, but
all around us in the brilliant winter sunshine lay the limitless plains
of Siberia, and the birch forest, and the snow, and the frost, and the
beauty that is not made with hands, that defies civilisation, that
was before civilisation, and we were moved to raise our eyes with the
psalmist and cry aloud: “How wonderful are thy works, O Lord!”

But I did not appreciate the beauty of the winter or the moonlight when
they roused me at three o’clock in the morning at Manchuria because
my luggage {014}had to be examined at the Chinese Customs. The scanty
lights on the station, the silver moon in the heaven above lit up the
platform as we passengers of the _train de luxe_ made our way to the
baggage-room along a path between heaped-up frozen snow and ice, and
the difference in temperature between that station platform and the
carriages from which the hot air gushed was perhaps one hundred degrees.
The reek from those carriages went up to heaven, but the sudden change
was cruel.

Our pessimistic old soldier wailed loudest. “My God! My God! this is
unbearable!” and I wondered why, because on his way through the world he
must have encountered worse things than bitter cold that has only to
be borne for a few minutes. Probably that was the reason. If he had had
something really hard to bear he would very likely have said nothing
about it. The baggage-room was confusion, worse confounded, and nobody
seemed to know what was being looked for, opium, or arms or both. This
place is the Port Said of the East, and people from all corners of the
earth were gathered round their belongings. There were groups of Chinese
with women and children and weird bundles; there were the very latest
dressing-cases and despatch-boxes from Bond Street and Piccadilly; there
was a babel of tongues, Russian and French and German and English and
the unknown tongues of Asia. China, China at last, and I was within two
days of my destination.

And when the day dawned we had left beautiful Siberia behind, and
instead there were flat lands, deserts of stones and dry earth, with but
little snow to veil the apparent barrenness, and hills first with
{015}scanty trees, but growing more and more barren as we approached
Kharbin. It looked desolate, cold, uninviting. The land may be rich, it
is I am told, but when I passed there was no outward sign of that
richness; the covering of beautiful white was gone, there was only a
patch or two of snow here and there in the hollows, and the brilliant
sunshine was like gleams of light on steel. At Kharbin they examined our
baggage again--why I know not--and again it was chaos, chaos in the
bitter cold with the mercury many degrees below freezing-point and
screeching demons with a Mongolian type of countenance, muffled in furs
and rags that seemed the cast-off clothes of all the nations of the
earth, hauled the luggage about, pored over tickets and made entries in
books with all the elaborate effort of the unlearned, and finally marked
the unhappy boxes with great sprawling figures in tar or some such
compound.

[Illustration: 0039]

“Four roubles, twenty kopecks.” Why I had to pay I know not, that was
beyond me, but I was glad to get off so lightly, for had they seen fit
to ask me one hundred roubles, I should have been equally helpless. I
was thankful to get out of the cold back to my warm and evil-smelling
coupé.

And at Ch’ang Ch’un I fairly felt I had crossed half the world, and the
oldest old world greeted me with active winter. I did not know then, as
I do now, how wonderful a thing is a snowstorm in Northern China. Here
the snow was falling, falling. We had left behind us the great spaces
of the earth, and come back to agriculture. Through the whirling
snowflakes, little low-roofed houses, surrounded with walls of stone
with little portholes for {016}guns--the Japanese block-houses, for
Japan holds Manchuria by force of arms--alternated with farmhouses,
with fences of high yellow millet stalks. The doors were marked with
brilliant red paper with inscriptions in Chinese characters upon it--a
spot of brightness amidst the prevailing white that lent tone and colour
to the picture.

Here it was that the Russians and the sons of Nippon had been at
death-grips, and we who were in this train realised why the Eastern
nation had won. At Kharbin and at Manchuria, with things managed by
Chinese, reigned confusion. That we ever emerged with a scrap of luggage
seemed to be more by good luck than good management. From Ch’ang Ch’un
to Mukden the little men from the islands in the eastern sea run the
railway, and they know what they are about; everything is in order, and
everything marches without apparent effort. They bought this land
with their blood, and they are holding it now with the sure grip that
efficiency gives.

At Mukden a blizzard was raging, and the old Tartar City was veiled
in snow. When the snow went, the sunshine was bleak and bright, and
everywhere, far as the eye could see, stretched tilled fields, bare of
every green thing. Flatter and flatter grew the land. It was half ice
and half earth, and the little sledges that were hitherto drawn by
ponies were now drawn by men. Once we had left behind the Siberian fir,
there was not a green thing to be seen all the way to Peking. The earth
of the fields was streaked, dark brown and lighter brown; there were
bare trees with their promise for the future; and once we were in China
proper, there were the {017}graves--graves solitary, and graves in
clusters--just neatly kept little heaps of earth piled up and pointed,
something like an ant-hill. The air was clear and sparkling, the outlook
was wide. We passed town after town, and where on the Siberian border
the names of the stations were in Russian and Chinese, and so equally
unintelligible, here in China they were in English and Chinese.

“Do you like China?” I asked a Frenchman who sat opposite me at tiffin.

“No,” said he frankly. “It is too English.” But he laughed when I said
that naturally I considered that a distinct point in the Chinaman’s
favour.

A wind rose, and it was as if the brown earth were literally lifted into
the air. Everything was smothered in a dust storm. The atmosphere
was heavy as a London fog, a fog that had been dried by some freezing
process. The air was full of dry brown particles that shrivelled the
skin, and parched the lips, and made me weigh in my mind the respective
merits of a soft, moist air, and a clear and sparkling one. I had left
London in a yellow fog that veiled the tops of the houses, and lent an
air of mystery to the street in the near distance, I arrived at Peking
in a typical North China dust storm. We came through the wall, the wall
of the Chinese city, that until I had seen the Tartar wall looked grey,
and grim, and stern, and solid, and I wondered at the curved tiled
roofs, and the low houses, and the great bare spaces that go to make up
the city.

The East at last, the Far East! All across the old world I had come; and
here on a bitter cold February afternoon, with a wild wind blowing, the
train drew up outside the Tartar wall, the wall that {018}Kublai Khan
and the Ming Emperors built in the capital city of the civilisation that
was old when the Roman legions planted their eagles in the marshes of
the Thames. I had reached China, the land of blue skies and of sunshine;
the land of desperate poverty and of wonderful wealth; the land of
triumph, and of martyrdom, and of mystery. What was it going to hold for
me?



CHAPTER II--A CITY OF THE AGES

{019}

_Chien Men Railway Station--Driver Chow--“Urgent speed in high
disdain”--Peking dust storm--Joys of a bath--The glories of
Peking--The Imperial City--The Forbidden City--Memorial arches--The
observatory--The little Tartar princess--Life in the streets--Street
stalls--A mercenary marriage--Courtly gentlemen._

|I looked out of the carriage window as the train ran through the
Chinese city on its way to the Chien Men railway station, and wondered
what the future was going to be like, and I wondered aloud.

“How will I get on?”

Opposite me sat an amusing young gentleman with a ready tongue.

“Oh you’ll be all right,” said he. “The Chinese ‘ll like you because
you’re fat and o----” and then he checked himself seeing, I suppose, the
dawning wrath in my eyes. The Chinese admire fat people and they respect
the old, but I had not been accustomed to looking upon myself as old
yet, though I had certainly seen more years than he had, and as for
fat--well I had fondly hoped my friends looked upon it as a pleasing
plumpness. With these chastening remarks sinking into my soul, we rolled
into the railway station.

The railways in China, with a few exceptions, have been built by the
English or French--mostly {020}by the English--and are managed to a
great extent on European lines, so that arriving at the railway station
in Peking does not differ very much from arriving at any other great
terminus, save for the absence of cabs; but I imagine there must be
differences, and that those who run the lines have little difficulties
to contend with that would not occur on the London and North Western for
example.

“Dear Sir,”--wrote a stationmaster once to the locomotive
superintendent--“I have, with many tears, to call your attention to your
driver, Chow, who holds urgent speed in high disdain.”

The locomotive superintendent, without any tears, investigated the
charge against this driver, Chow. The line was worked on the staff
system. No driver could leave a station without giving up the staff he
had brought in, and receiving the corresponding one for the next stretch
of line. The staff--to follow the directions--is to be handed to the
driver by the stationmaster, but the stationmaster on this, and I expect
on many other occasions, for the Chinese are past-masters in the art of
delegating work to someone else, had handed the staff to a coolie and
gone about his pleasure. Now Chow evidently had a grudge against him,
for, I fear me, no one believed in his altruism. He insisted on the
strict letter of the law and declined to take the staff until it was
handed to him by the important man himself, and he kept the whole train
waiting, while that worthy was searched for, and hauled out of the
particular gambling-house he most affected. When the gentleman appeared,
furious and angry, on the platform, Chow calmly lifted up his staff to
effect {021}an exchange, and he swore on investigation he had forgotten
that the end the stationmaster received had been reposing for all the
long wait upon the nearly red-hot boiler! That the stationmaster burnt
his fingers is a mild statement of the case.

There was a wild wind blowing when I stepped out of the train and looked
around me at the frowning walls, at least I looked as much as I could,
for the day was bitterly cold, and most of the ground was in the air.
A London fog was nothing to it, that is soft and still and filthy, this
was hard and gritty, moving fast and equally filthy, and every one of
the passengers was desperately anxious to exchange the bleak railway
station for the warmth and comfort and cleanliness to be found between
four walls.

I was just as anxious as anybody else, but by the time I had collected
my luggage the awful facts were borne in on me that all the people with
whom I had made friends on the way across, were rapidly departing, and
that there was no one to meet me. Peking was wonderful, I knew it was
wonderful; there were such walls as I had never even dreamt of, towering
above me, but I was not able to rise above the fact that I was in a
strange city, among quaint-looking people who spoke an unknown tongue,
and that I did not know where to go. And the Morrisons’ invitation had
been most cordial. I had rejected all offers of help, because I was so
sure someone from their house would be there to meet me, now I seized
the last remaining passenger who could speak a little Chinese, and, with
his help, got a hand-cart for my gear, drawn by two ragged men, and
a rickshaw for myself--this man haulage, this {022}cheapness of human
labour, made me realise more quickly than anything else could have
done, that I had really arrived in the Eastern world--and after a little
debate with myself I started for Dr Morrison’s. I had been asked to stay
there, and I felt it would be rude to go to the hotel, but as we
drove through the streets I thought--as much as the dust, the filthy
dust--that the violent gusts of wind were blowing in my face would
allow--not of the wonders of this new world upon which I was entering,
but of how I should announce myself to these people who apparently were
not expecting me. I had such a lot of luggage too!

[Illustration: 0049]

At last the coolies stopped opposite a door guarded by two stone lions,
and as I got out of my rickshaw, entered the porch, and stood outside
a little green wicket gate, the doorkeeper stepped out of his room and
looked at me. He was clad all in blue cotton and he had an impassive
face and just enough English for a doorkeeper.

No, Missie was not at home, he announced calmly. “Master?” I asked
frantically, but he shook his head, Master was out too. Here was a
dilemma. I would have gone straight to the hotel I had discovered Peking
boasted, but I feared they might think it rude. I made him understand I
would come in and wait a little, and my luggage, my dilapidated luggage,
for Kharbin and Manchuria had been hard on it, was carried into the
courtyard of the first Chinese house I had ever seen. But I wasn’t
thinking of sight-seeing then; I was wondering what I should do.
I questioned the No. 1 boy, as I subsequently found he was, a
pleasant-faced little man in a long blue coat or dress, whichever
{023}you please to call it, and a little round silk cap suppressing
his somewhat wild hair. I learned afterwards that some students,
enthusiastic for the new regime, had caught him the day before and shorn
off his queue with no skilful hands. It was his opinion that Missie
was not expecting a guest, but he suggested I should come inside and
have-some tea. The thought of tea was distinctly comforting, and so
was his attitude. It suggested that unexpected guests were evidently
received with hospitality, and dirty as I felt myself to be, I went in
and sat down to a meal of tea and cakes.

“I makee room ready chop chop,” announced the boy, and I drank tea and
ate cakes, wondering whether I ought not to stop him, and say he had
better wait till his mistress came home. And I felt so horribly dirty,
too. Then there came in a lady who also looked at me with surprise.

She had come to tea with Mrs Morrison, and she was quite sure Mrs
Morrison was expecting no guest. This was awful. I became so desperate
that nothing seemed to matter, and I went on eating cake and drinking
tea till presently the No. 1 boy came in again, and calmly announced:

“Barf ready.”

And I had just been told that my hostess did not expect me!

I looked at the lady sitting opposite me, I looked at the boy, and I
considered my very dirty and dishevelled self. I had not even seen a
bath since I left Moscow. I had come through the Peking streets in
a Peking dust storm, and I felt a bath was a temptation not to be
resisted, wherever that bath was offered; so I arose and followed the
boy, and {024}presently Mrs Morrison, coming into her own courtyard, was
confronted by a heap of strange luggage, and a boy standing over it with
a feather duster, no mere feather duster could have coped with the dirt
upon it, but a Chinese servant would attack a hornet’s nest with one;
it is his badge of office. He looked up at her and remarked, in that
friendly and conversational manner with which the Chinese servant makes
the wheels of life go smoothly for his Missie when he has her alone.

“One piecey gentleman in barf!”

She came and knocked at the bedroom door when I was doing my hair and
feeling much more able to face the world, and made me most cordially
welcome, and, when I was fully dressed and back in the drawing-room, Dr
Morrison appeared, and said he was glad to see me, and no one mentioned
that my arrival had been unexpected, till a week later, when the letter
I had written saying by what train I was coming, turned up.

I stayed with Dr Morrison and his pretty young wife for close on a
fortnight, and they gave me most kindly hospitality, and not only did I
view the wonders of Peking, make some acquaintances and friends, but saw
just a little of the peculiarities of Chinese servants. They are good,
there is no gainsaying it, but sometimes they did surprise me. Dr
Morrison has a secretary, young and slim and clever, who in the early
days of our acquaintanceship was wont very kindly to come over and help
me in the important matter of fastening up dresses at the back. One
evening, being greatly in need of her assistance, I sent across the
courtyard to her, and the startled young lady was calmly informed by
{025}a bland and smiling boy as if it were the most natural thing in the
world:

“One piecey gentleman wanchee in he’s bedroom.”

At first I don’t think I appreciated Peking. It left me cold, and my
heart sank, for I had come to write about it, to gain material perhaps
for a novel, and this most certainly is a truth, you cannot write well
about a place unless you either love or hate it. Still, I have always
had a great distaste for dashing through a country like an American
tourist, and so I settled down at the Wagons Lits Hotel, surely the most
cosmopolitan hotel in the world.

And then by slow degrees my eyes were opened, and I saw. Blind, blind,
how could I have been so blind? It makes me troubled. Have other good
things been offered me in life? And have I turned away and missed them?
The wonder of what I have seen in Peking never palls, it grows upon me
daily.

“Walk about Zion and go round about her... consider her palaces that ye
may tell it to the generation following.” So chanted the psalmist, not
so much, perhaps, for the sake of future generations, but because her
beauty and charm so filled his soul that his lips were forced to song.
“Tell the towers thereof, mark ye well her bulwarks.” Far back in the
ages, a nation great and civilised on the eastern edge of the plain
that stretches half across the world, builded themselves a mighty
city. Peking first came into being when we Western nations, who pride
ourselves upon our intense civilisation, were but naked savages, hunters
and nomads, and she, spoiled and sacked and looted, {026}taking fresh
masters, and absorbing them, Chinese and Tartar, Ming and Manchu, has
endured even unto the present day. To-day, the spirit of the West
is breathing over her and she responds a little, ever so little, and
murmurs of change, yet she remains the same at heart as she has been
through the ages. How should she change? She is wedded to her past, she
can no more be divorced from it than can the morning from the evening.

There is something wonderful and antique about any walled city, but a
walled city like Peking stands alone. The very modern railway comes
into the Chinese City through an archway in the wall, and the railway
station, the hideous modern railway station, lies just outside the great
wall of the Tartar City. There are three cities in Peking, indeed for
the last few years there have been four--four distinct cities. There is
the Imperial City, enclosed in seven miles of pinkish red wall, close on
twenty feet high, and in the Imperial City, the very heart of it, behind
more pinkish red walls, is the Forbidden City, where dwell the remnant
of the Manchu Dynasty, the baby emperor and his guardians, the women,
the eunuchs, the attendants that make up such a gathering as waited in
bygone days on Darius, King of the Medes, or Ahasuerus, King of Babylon.
Here there are spacious courtyards and ancient temples and palaces, and
audience halls with yellowish-brown tiled roofs, extensive lakes, where
multitudes of wild duck, flying north for the summer, or south for the
winter, find a resting-place, watch-towers and walls, and tunnelled
gateways through those walls. When through the ages the greatest artists
of a nation have been giving their minds to {027}the beautifying of a
city, the things of beauty in that city are so numerous that it seems
impossible for one mind to grasp them, to realise the wonder and the
charm, especially when that charm is exotic and evasive.

The Imperial City, all round the Forbidden City, consists of a network
of narrow streets and alleys lined with low buildings with windows of
delicate lattice-work, and curved tiled roofs. Here, hidden away in
silent peaceful courtyards shaded by gnarled old trees, are temples
guarded by shaven priests in faded red robes. Their hangings are torn
and faded, the dust lies on their altars, and the scent of the incense
is stale in their courts, for the gods are dead; and yet because the
dead are never forgotten in China--China that clings to her past--they
linger on. Here are shops, low one-storied shops, with fronts richly
carved and gilded, streets deep in mud or dust, narrow alley-ways and
high walls with mysterious little doors in them leading into secluded
houses, and all the clatter and clamour of a Chinese city, laden
donkeys, mules and horses, rickshaws from Japan, glass broughams weirdly
reflecting the glory of modern London, and blue, tilted Peking carts
with studded wheels, {028}such as have been part and parcel of the Imperial
City for thousands of years, all the life of the city much as it is
outside the pinkish red walls, only here and there are carved pillars
and broad causeways that, if the stones could speak, might tell a tale
of human woe and Human weariness, of joy and magnificence, that would
surpass any told of any city in the world.

And outside the Imperial City, hemming it in, in a great square fourteen
miles round, is the Tartar City with splendid walls. Outside that
again, forming a sort of suburb, lies to the south the Chinese City with
thirteen miles of wall enclosing not only its teeming population, but
the great open spaces and parks of the Temple of Heaven and the Temple
of Agriculture. But though the Tartar City and the Chinese City are
distinct divisions of Peking, walled off from each other, all difference
between the people has long ago disappeared. The Tartars conquered the
Chinese, and the Chinese, patient, industrious, persistent, drew the
Tartars to themselves. But still the walls that divided them endure.

The Tartar City is crossed by broad highways cutting each other at right
angles, three run north and south, and three run east and west, they are
broad and are usually divided into three parts, the centre part being a
good, hard, well-tended roadway, while on either side the soil is loose,
and since the streets are thronged, the side ways are churned up in
the summer into a slough that requires some daring to cross, and in the
winter--the dry, cold rainless winter, the soil is ground into a powdery
dust that the faintest breeze raises into the air, and many of the
breezes of Northern China are by no means faint. The authorities try to
grapple with the evil--at regular intervals are stationed a couple of
men with a pail of muddy water, which with a basket-work scoop they
distribute lavishly in order to try and keep down the rising dust.
But the dust of Peking is a problem beyond a mere pail and scoop. This
spattering of water has about as much effect upon it as a thimbleful of
water flung on a raging fiery furnace.

[Illustration: 0057]

Still, in spite of the mud and the dust, the streets {029}are not
without charm. They are lined with trees; indeed I think no city of its
size was ever better planted. When once one has realised how treeless
is the greater part of China, this is rather surprising. For look which
way you will from the wall in the summer and autumn, you feel you
might be looking down upon a wood instead of a city; the roofs of the
single-storied houses are hidden by the greenery, and only here and
there peeps out the tiled roof of a temple or hall of audience with the
eaves curving upwards, things of beauty against the background of green
branches. Curiously enough it is only from the walls that Peking
has this aspect. Once in the network of alley-ways it seems as if a
wilderness of houses and shops were crowding one on top of the other, as
if humanity were crushing out every sign of green life. This is because
there is to all things Chinese two sides. There is the life of the
streets, mud-begrimed, dusty, seething with humanity, odoriferous,
ragged, dirty, patient, hardworking; and there is a hidden life shut
away in those networks of narrow alley-ways.

There is many a gateway between two gilded shop fronts, some black
Chinese characters on a red background set out the owner’s name
and titles, and, passing through, you are straightway admitted into
courtyard after courtyard, some planted with trees, some with flowering
plants in pots--because of the cruel winter all Chinese gardens in the
north here are in pots, sometimes with fruit-trees thick with blossom
or heavy with fruit, and in the paved courtyards, secluded, retired as
a convent, you find the various apartments of a well-arranged Chinese
house; there are shady verandas, and dainty lattice-work {030}windows
looking out upon miniature landscapes with little hills and streams and
graceful bridges crossing the streams. But only a favoured few may see
these oases. For the majority Peking must be the wide-open boulevards
and narrow hu t’ungs, fronted by low and highly ornamental houses,
and shops so close together that there is no more room for a garden or
growing green life than there is in Piccadilly. True there are trees in
these boulevards, in Morrison Street, in Ha Ta Men Street, in the street
of Eternal Repose that cuts them at right angles, but they would be but
small things in the mass of buildings were it not for the courtyards of
the private houses and temples that are hidden behind.

There are, too, in the streets p’ia lous or memorial arches, generally
of three archways with tiled roofs of blue or green or yellow rising
in tiers one above the other, put up in memory of some deed the Chinese
delight to honour. And what the Chinese think worthy of honour, and what
the Westerner delights to honour are generally as far apart, I find,
as the Poles. In Ha Ta Men Street, however, there is a p’ia lou all of
white marble, put up by the last Manchu Emperor in memory of gallant
Baron von Kettler, done to death in the Boxer rising, but there, I am
afraid, Chinese appreciation was quickened by European force.

We are apt to think that European influence in China is quite a thing of
yesterday, that Baron von Kettler was the first man of note who perished
in the inevitable conflict, and yet, when I looked at the eastern wall
of the city, I was reminded, with a start, that European influence dates
long before {031}the Boxer time, long before the days of the Honourable
East India Company, and many must have been the martyrs. There on the
eastern wall stands the observatory, and clear-cut against the bright
blue sky are astronomical instruments with dragons and strange beasts
upon them. They were placed there by the Jesuits in the middle of
the seventeenth century, and I know that those priests could not have
attained so much influence without a bitter baptism of blood. They stand
out as landmarks, those orbs and astrolabes, up and down the wall, even
as they have come down through the centuries; monuments, as enduring as
any Chinese p’ia lou, of faith and suffering; but the Jesuits were not
the first to place astronomical instruments there. The Chinese were not
barbarians by any means, though by some curious freak we Westerners have
passed them in the race for civilisation, and, as long ago as the days
of Kublai Khan, they had an observatory here by the wall. On the
ground below, in a tree-shaded courtyard, there is an astrolabe with a
beautiful bronze dragon for a stand, the dust-laden air of Peking has
polished and preserved it, so that I can see but little difference
between it and the newer instruments on the platform above--newer and
yet two hundred and fifty years old.

And beyond the observatory in the north-east corner of the city is the
Lama Temple, a temple with picturesque, yellowish-brown tiled roofs and
spacious courtyards, in which are quaint old gnarled trees, and building
after building in that curious state that is part beautiful, part
slovenly decay, ruled over by hundreds of shaven, yellow-robed monks
among whom, they say, it is not safe for a {032}woman to go by herself.
There is the Temple of Confucius, with surely the most peaceful
courtyard in the world, and there are other temples, temples with
courtyards and weird, twisted coniferous trees in them that are hundreds
of years old, pagodas, and bells, and towers, and to each and all is
attached many a story.

[Illustration: 0063]

Overlooking the great causeway that runs along in front of the Forbidden
City, west past the south main gate, are two towers, one to the north in
the Forbidden City, and one to the south without its walls; and of these
two towers they tell a story of tenderness and longing. Hundreds of
years ago, when the Tartars were first subject to the Ming Emperors,
part of their tribute had to be one of their fairest princesses, who
became a member of the Emperor’s harem.

The poor little girl’s inclinations were not considered, not even now
is the desire of a woman considered in China, and the little Tartar girl
was bound to suffer for her people. She might or might not please the
Emperor, but whether she did or not the position of one who might share
the Emperor’s bed was so high that she might never again hold communion
with her own kin. And then there came one little Tartar princess, who,
finding favour with her lord, summoned courage to tell him of her love
and longing. But there are some rules that not even the mighty Emperor
of China may abrogate, and he could not permit her ever again to mingle
with the common herd. One thing only could he do, and that he did. He
built the northern tower looking over the causeway, and the southern
tower on the other side. On the one tower the poor “lest we forget.”
 {033}little secondary wife, lonely and weighted by her high estate,
might stand so that she could see her people on the other, and, though
they were too far apart for caress or spoken word, at least they could
see each other and know that all was well.

I do not know whether many of the people who throng the streets from
morning to night, and long after night has fallen, ever give a thought
to the little Tartar princess. The shops, most of them open to the
streets, are full, and on two sides of the main roadways are set up
little stalls for the sale of trifles. Curiously enough, and I suppose
it denotes poverty and lack of home life, about half these stalls are
given up to the cooking and selling of eatables. In Ha Ta Men Street,
in Morrison Street, in the street of Eternal Repose, that is as if we
should say in Piccadilly, in Regent Street, and the Hay-market, and just
outside the gates in the Chinese City, on the path that runs between the
canal and the Tartar wall, you may see these same little stalls.

Here is a man who sells tea, keeping his samovar boiling with shovelfuls
of little round hard nodules, coal dust made up with damp clay into
balls; here is another with a small frying-pan in which he is baking
great slabs of wheaten flour cakes, and selling them hot out of the pan;
here is another with an earthenware dish full of an appetising-looking
stew of meat and vegetables, with a hard-boiled egg or two floating on
top; another man has big yellow slabs of cake with great plums in them,
another has sticks of apples and all manner of fruits and vegetables
done into sweetmeats. And here as it is cooked, alfresco, do the people,
the men, for women are seldom seen at the stalls, come and buy, and
{034}eat, without other equipment than a basin, a pair of chop sticks or
a bone spoon like a ladle supplied by the vendor.

They sell, and make, and mend Chinese footgear at these stalls too;
there is a fortune-teller, one who will read your future with a chart
covered with hieroglyphics spread out on the bare ground; there is
the letter-writer for the unlearned; there are primitive little
gaming-tables; and there are cheap, very cheap cigarettes and tobacco of
brands unknown in America or Egypt.

I have said there is a lack of home life, and thought, like the arrogant
Westerner I am, that the Chinese do not appreciate it, but only the
other day I heard a little story that made me think that the son of Han,
like everyone else, longs for a home and someone in it he can call his
very own.

One day a missionary teacher heard an outcry behind her, and turning,
saw a blind woman, unkempt and filthy and whining pitifully. “Oh who
will help me? Who will help me?” she cried, shrinking away from the dog
that was making dashes at the basket she carried for doles.

The missionary called off her dog, and reassured the woman. The dog
would not hurt her. He was only interested in the food in her basket.
“Then,” said she, “I went on, because I was in a hurry, but as I went I
thought how horrible the woman looked, and that I ought to go back and
tell her, ‘God is Love.’”

So the missionary stopped and talked religion to that blind beggar, and
told her to come up to the Mission Station. She looked after her soul,
but also, out of the kindness of her heart, she looked {035}after her
body, and when the beggar was established, a woman of means with a whole
dollar--two shillings--a week, she realised that God was indeed Love,
and became a fervent Christian.

“Clean,” I asked, being of an inquiring turn of mind, and her saviour
laughed.

“Perhaps you wouldn’t call her clean, but it is a vast improvement on
what she was.”

The woman wasn’t young, as Chinese count youth in a woman, she wasn’t
good-looking, she wasn’t in any way attractive, but she was a woman of
means, and presently her guardian was embarrassed by an offer from a man
of dim sight, for the hand and heart of her protégée. The missionary was
horrified. The woman was married already. The would-be bridegroom, the
prospective bride, and all their friends smiled, and seemed to think
that since her last alliance wasn’t a real marriage it should be no bar.
Still the lady was firm, the woman had lived with the man for some
years and it was a marriage in her humble opinion. So the disappointed
candidates for matrimony went their way. However, a few weeks later the
woman came to her guardian with a face wreathed in smiles, “that thing,”
 she said, she didn’t even call him a man, that thing was dead, had died
the day before, and there was now no reason why she should not marry
again! There was no reason, and within ten days the nuptials were
celebrated, and the blind woman went to live with her new husband.

I asked was it a success and the missionary smiled.

“Yes, it is certainly a success, only her husband complains she eats too
much.” {036}I said there were always drawbacks when a man married for
money!

But as a matter of fact the marriage was a great success. I saw the
happy couple afterwards, and the woman looked well-cared for and neat,
and her husband helped her up some steps quite as carefully as any man
of the West might have done. Truly the Fates were kind to the blind
beggar when they put her in the way of that missionary. She is far,
far happier probably than the bride of a higher class who goes to a
new home, and, henceforward, as long as the older woman lives, is but
a servant to her mother-in-law. True the husband had complained his new
wife ate too much. But Chinese etiquette does not seem to think it at
all the correct thing to praise anything that belongs to one. And for a
husband to show affection for his wife, whatever he may feel, is a most
extraordinary thing. The other day a woman was working in the courtyard
of a house when there came in her husband who had been away for close on
six months. Did they rush at one another as Westerners would have done?
Not at all. He crossed the courtyard to announce himself to his master,
and she went on with her work. Each carefully refrained from looking at
the other, because had they looked people might have thought they cared
for each other. And it is in the highest degree indelicate for a husband
or wife to express affection for each other.

[Illustration: 0070]

In truth, once my eyes were opened, I soon grew to think that, from the
point of view of the sightseer, there are few places in the world to
compare with Peking, and the greatest interest lies in the people--the
crowded humanity of the streets. Of course {037}I have seen crowded
humanity--after London how can any busy city present any novelty--and
yet, here in Peking, a new note is struck. Not all at once did I realise
it; my mind went groping round asking, what is the difference between
these people and those one sees in the streets of London or Paris? They
are a different type, but that is nothing, it is only skin deep. What
is it then? One thing cannot but strike the new-comer, and that is that
they are a peaceable and orderly crowd, more amenable to discipline, or
rather they discipline themselves better, than any crowd in the world.
Not but that there are police. At every few yards the police of the New
Republic, in dusty black bound with yellow in the winter, and in khaki
in the summer, with swords strapped to their waists, direct a traffic
that is perfectly capable of directing itself; and at night, armed with
rifles, mounted bands of them patrol the streets, the most law-abiding
streets apparently in the world. In spite of the swarms of tourists, who
are more and more pouring into Peking, a foreigner is still a thing to
be wondered at, to be followed and stared at; but there is no rudeness,
no jostling. He has only to put out his hand to intimate to the
following crowd that he wishes a little more space, that their company
is a little too odoriferous, and they fall back at once, only to press
forward again the next moment. Was ever there such a kindly, friendly
nation? And yet--and yet--What is it I find wrong? They are a highly
civilised people, from the President who reigns like a dictator, to
the humble rickshaw coolie, who guards my dress from the filth of the
street. He will hawk, and spit, but he is as {038}courtly a gentleman as
one of the bucks of the Prince Regent’s Court, who probably did much the
same thing. It dawned upon me slowly. These people have achieved that
refinement we of the West have been striving for and have not attained
as yet. It is well surely to make perfection an aim in life, and yet I
feel something has gone from these people in the process of refining.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred they can be trusted to keep order,
and the hundredth probably not all the police in the capital could hold
them. The very rickshaw coolies, when they fall out, trust to the sweet
reasonableness of argument, even though that argument Waste interminable
hours. A European, an Englishman or an American probably, comes
hectoring down the street--no other word describes his attitude, when
it is contrasted with that of the courteous Orientals round him. On the
smallest provocation, far too small a provocation, he threatens to kick
this coolie, he swings that one out of the way and, instead of being
shocked, I am distinctly relieved. Here is an exhibition of force,
restrained force, that is welcome as a rude breeze, fresh from the sea
or the mountains, is welcome in a heated, scented room. These
people, even the poorer people of the streets, are suffering from
over-civilisation, from over-refinement. They need a touch of the
primitive savage to make the red blood run in their veins. Not but that
they can be savage, so savage on occasion, the hundredth occasion when
no police could hold them, that their cruelty is such that there is
not a man who knows them who would not keep the last cartridge in his
revolver to save himself from the refinement of their tender mercies.
{039}But I did not make this reflection the first, or even the tenth
time, I walked in the streets. It was a thing that grew upon me
gradually. By the time I found I was making comparisons, the comparisons
were already made and my opinions were formed. I looked at these strange
men and women, especially at the small-footed women, and wondered what
effect the condemning of fifty per cent of the population to years of
torture had had upon the mental growth of this nation, and I raised my
eyes to the mighty walls that surrounded the city, and knew that the
nation had done wonderful things.



CHAPTER III--THE WALLS AND GATES OF BABYLON

{040}

_The mud walls of Kublai Khan--Only place for a comfortable
promenade--The gardens on the walls--Guarding the city from devils--The
dirt of the Chinese--The gates--The camels--In the Chien Men--The
patient Chinese women--The joys of living in a walled city--A change in
Chinese feeling._

|Are they like the walls and gates of Babylon, I wonder, these walls and
gates of the capital city of China. I thought so when first I saw them,
and the thought remains with me still. Behind such walls as these surely
sat Ahasuerus, King of Babylon; behind such walls as these dwelt the
thousands of serfs who toiled, and suffered, and died, that he might
be a mighty king. They are magnificent, a wonder of the world, and it
seemed to me that the men of the nation who built them must glory in
them. But all do not. I sat one day at tiffin at a friend’s house, and
opposite me sat a Chinese doctor, a graduate of Cambridge, who spoke
English with the leisurely accent of the cultivated Englishman, and he
spoke of these mighty walls.

“If I had my way,” said he, “they should be levelled with the ground. I
would not leave one stone upon another.” And I wondered why. They shut
out the fresh air, he said, but I wondered, in my own mind, whether he
did not feel that they {041}hemmed the people in, caged and held them
as it were, in an archaic state of civilisation, that it is best should
pass away. They can shut out so little air, and they can only cage and
hold those who desire to be so held.

Kublai Khan outlined the greater part of them in mud in the thirteenth
century, and then, two hundred years after, came the Ming conquerors who
faced the great Tartar’s walls with grey Chinese brick, curtailing them
a little to the north, and as the Mings left them, so are they to-day
when the foreign nations from the West, and that other Asiatic nation
from the East, have built their Legations--pledges of peace--beneath
them and, armed to the teeth, hold, against the Chinese, the Legation
Quarter and a mile of their own wall.

Over fifty feet high are these Tartar walls, at their base they are
sixty feet through, at their top they are between forty and fifty feet
across, more than a hundred if you measure their breadth at the great
buttresses, and they are paved with the grey Chinese bricks that face
their sides. As in most Chinese cities, the top of the wall is the only
place where a comfortable promenade can be had, and the mile-long
strip between the Chien Men, the main gate, and the Ha Ta Men, the
south-eastern gate--the strip held by the Legations--is well kept; that
is to say, a broad pathway, along which people can walk, is kept smooth
and neat and free from the vegetation that flourishes on most of the
wall top. This vegetation adds greatly to its charm. The mud of the
walls is the rich alluvial deposit of the great plain on which Peking
stands, and when it has been well watered by the summer rains, a
{042}luxuriant green growth, a regular jungle, forces its way up through
the brick pavement. The top of the wall upon a cool autumn day, before
the finger of decay has touched this growth, is a truly delightful
garden.

[Illustration: 0078]

It was my great pleasure to walk there, for there were all manner of
flowering green shrubs and tall grasses, bound together by blooming
morning glory, its cup-shaped flowers blue, and pink, and white, and
white streaked with pink; there were even small trees, white poplar
and the ailanthus, or tree of heaven, throwing out shady branches
that afforded shelter from the rays of the brilliant sun. They are not
adequate shelter, though, in a rainstorm. Indeed it is very awkward
to be caught in a rainstorm upon the walls out of the range of the
rickshaws, as I was more than once, for in the hot weather I could never
resist the walls, the only place in Peking where a breath of fresh air
is to be found, and, since it is generally hottest before the rain, on
several occasions I was caught, returning drenched and dripping. It did
not matter as a rule, but once when I was there with a companion a more
than ordinary storm caught us. We sheltered under an ailanthus tree, and
as the wind was strong, umbrellas were useless. My companion began to
get agitated.

“If this goes on,” said he, “I shan’t be able to go out to-morrow. I
have only one coat.” He had come up from Tientsin for a couple of days.
But for me the case was much more serious. I had on a thin white muslin
that began to cling round my figure, and I thought anxiously that if it
went on much longer I should not be able to go into the {043}hotel that
day! However, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun, the sun came
out in all his fierceness, and before we reached the hotel I was most
unbecomingly rough dried.

Things are ordered on the Legation wall, the pathway between the
greenery runs straight as a die, but beyond, on the thirteen miles
of wall under Chinese care, the greenery runs riot, and only a narrow
pathway meanders between the shrubs and grass, just as a man may walk
carelessly from station to station; and sometimes hidden among the
greenery, sometimes standing out against it, are here and there
great upright slabs of stone, always in pairs, relics of the old
fortifications, for surely these are all that remain of the catapults
with which of old the Chinese and Tartars defended their mighty city.

The walls stand square, north and south, and east and west, only at the
north-west corner does the line slant out of the square a little, for
every Chinese knows that is the only sure way to keep devils out of a
city, and certainly the capital must be so guarded. Whatever I saw and
wondered at, I always came back to the walls, the most wonderful sight
of a most wonderful city, and I always found something new to entrance
me. The watch-towers, the ramps, the gates, the suggestion of old-world
story that met me at every turn. In days not so very long ago these
walls were kept by the Manchu bannermen, whose special duty it was to
guard them, and no other person was allowed upon them, under pain of
death, for exactly the same reason that all the houses in the city are
of one story: it was not seemly that any mere commoner should {044}be
able to look down upon the Emperor, and no women, even the women of the
bannermen, were allowed to set foot there, for it appeared that the God
of War, who naturally took an interest in these defences, objected to
women.

Now little companies of soldiers take the place of those old-world
bannermen. They look out at the life of the city, at their fellows
drilling on the great plain beyond, at the muddy canal, that is like
a river, making its way across the khaki-coloured plain, that in the
summer is one vast crop of kaoliang--one vivid note of green. Wonderful
fertility you may see from the walls of the Chinese capital. Looking one
feels that the rush of the nations to finance the country is more than
justified. Surely here is the truest of wealth. But the soldiers on the
walls are children. China does not think much of her soldiers, and the
language is full of proverbs about them the reverse of complimentary.
“Good iron is not used for nails,” is one of them, “and good men do
not become soldiers.” How true that may be I do not know, but these men
seemed good enough, only just the babies a fellow-countryman talking of
them to me once called them. They know little of their own country, less
than nothing of any other. I feel they should not be dressed in shabby
khaki like travesties of the men of Western armies, tunics and sandals
and bows and arrows would be so much more in keeping with their
surroundings. And yet so small are they, like ants at the foot of an
oak, that their garb scarcely matters, they but emphasise the vastness
of the walls on which they stand; walls builded probably by men
differing but little from these soldiers of New China. {045}I
photographed a little company one bright day in the early spring--it is
hardly necessary to say it was bright, because all days at that season,
and indeed at most seasons, are brilliantly, translucently bright.
My little company dwelt in a low building made up apparently of
lattice-work and paper close to the observatory, and evidently word went
round that the wonderful thing had been done, and, for all the charm of
the walls, it was not a thing that was often done. I suppose the average
tourist does not care to waste his plates on commonplace little soldiers
in badly made khaki. When next I appeared with the finished picture all
along my route soldiers came and asked courteously, and plainly, for all
I knew not one word of their tongue, what the result had been. I showed
them, of course, and my following grew as I passed on. They knew those
who had been taken, which was lucky, for I certainly could not tell
t’other from which’ and, when I arrived at their little house, smiling
claimants stretched out eager hands. I knew the number I had taken and I
had a copy apiece. And very glad I was, too, when they all ranged up and
solemnly saluted me, and then they brought me tea in their handleless
cups, and I, unwashed though I felt those cups were, drank to our
good-fellowship in the excellent Chinese tea that needs neither sugar
nor milk to make it palatable.

[Illustration: 0084]

There were other people, too, on the walls in the early springtime,
coolies clearing away the dead growth that had remained over from the
past summer. It was so light it seemed hardly worth gathering, and those
gleaners first taught me to realise something of the poverty of China,
the desperate poverty that {046}dare not waste so much as a handful of
dead grass. They gathered the refuse into heaps, tied it to each end of
their bamboos, and, slinging it over their shoulders, trudged with
it down one of the ramps into the city. Ever and again in my
peregrinations, I would come across one of them sitting in the sun,
going over his padded coat in the odd moments he could spare from his
toil. For the lower-class Chinese understands not the desirability of
water, as applied either to himself or his clothes, and, as he certainly
never changes those clothes while one shred will hold to another, the
moment must arrive, sooner or later, when his discomfort is desperate,
and something must be done. He is like the _wonks_, the great yellow
scavenger dogs that haunt the streets of Peking and all Chinese cities,
he sits down and scratches himself, and goes through his clothes. At
least that was my opinion. A friend of mine who had served for some
years in the interior with the great company, the British and American
Tobacco Company, that, with the missionaries, shares the honour of
doing pioneer work in China, says I am wrong, Chinamen don’t mind such a
little thing as that.

“Those carters,” said he, “in the interior as it gets colder just
pile one garment on over another, and never take anything off, and by
February--phew! If you want to smell a tall smell”--I said I didn’t,
the smells of Peking were quite recondite enough for me--but he paid no
attention--“you just go and stand over the k’ang in a room where five or
six of them are crowded together.”

And the carters, it seems, are highly respectable, sometimes well-to-do
men. I felt I had a lot to {047}learn about the Chinese, these men whose
ancestors had built the walls.

Of course there are gates in the walls, nine gates in all in the Tartar
City, great archways with iron-studded doors and watch-towers above.
I count it one of the assets of my life, that I have stood under those
archways, where for centuries has ebbed and flowed the traffic of a
Babylonish city, old world still in this twentieth century. They are
lighted with electric light now, instead of with pitch-pine torches, but
no matter, the grey stones are there.

The gate of a city like Peking is a great affair. Over every archway is
a watch-tower, with tiled roofs rising tier above tier, and portholes
filled with the painted muzzles of guns. Painted guns in the year of our
Lord 1914! So is the past bound up with the present in China! And these
are not entirely relics of the past like the catapult stones. In the
year 1900, when the Boxers looted the Chinese City, and the Europeans
in the Legations north of the Tartar wall trembled for their lives, the
looters burned the watch-tower on the Chien Men, all that was burnable
of it, and, when peace was restored, the Chinese set to work and built
their many-tiered watch-tower, built it in all the glory of red, and
green, and blue, and gold, and in the portholes they put the same
painted cannon that had been there in past ages, not only to strike
terror into the enemy, but also to impress the God of War with an idea
of their preparedness. And yet there was hardly any need of sham, for
these gateways must have been formidable things to negotiate before the
days of heavy artillery, for each is protected by a curtain wall as high
and as thick as the main wall, and in {048}them are archways, sometimes
one, sometimes two, sometimes three ways out, but always there is a
great square walled off in front of the gate so that the traffic must
pause, and may be stopped before it passes under the main archway into
the city. And these archways look down upon a traffic differing but
little from that which has passed down through all the ages.

Here come the camels from Mongolia, ragged and dusty, laden with grain,
and wool, and fruit, and the camels from the Western Hills, laden with
those “black stones” that Marco Polo noted seven hundred years ago, and
told his fellow-countrymen they burned for heating purposes in Cambulac.
You may see them down by the Ha Ta Men preparing to start out on their
long journey, you may see them in the Imperial City, bringing in their
wares, but outside the south-western gate, by the watch-tower that
guards the corner of the wall, they are to be seen at their best. Here,
where the dust is heaped high under the clear blue sky of Northern
China, come slowly, in stately fashion, the camels, as they have come
for thousands of years. The man who leads them is ragged in the blue
of the peasant, his little eyes are keen, and patient, and cunning, and
there is a certain stolidity in his demeanour; life can hold but few
pleasures for him, one would think, and yet he is human, he cannot go on
superior, regardless of outside things, as does his string of beasts of
burden. The crenellated walls rise up behind them, the watch-tower
with its painted guns frowns down upon them, and the camels, the cord
fastened to the tail of the one in front, passing through the nostrils
of the one {049}behind, go steadily on. They are like the walls, they
are older than the walls, possibly they may outlive the walls; silently,
surely, in the soft, heaped-up dust they move; so they came a thousand
years ago, two thousand years ago, before the very dawn of history.

These Babylonish gates have for me a never-ending attraction. I look and
look at the traffic, and always find something new. One sunny morning
I went and sat in the Chien Men, just to watch the never-ending throng
that made their way backwards and forwards between the Chinese and the
Tartar Cities. I took up my position in the centre of the great square,
large as Waterloo Place, enclosed by the curtain wall, and the American
Guard looked down upon me and wondered, for they watch the traffic
day in and day out, and so long as it is peaceful, they see nothing to
remark upon in it. There are three gates in the curtain wall, the one
to the south is never opened except for the highest in the land to pass
through, but from the east gate the traffic goes from the Tartar to the
Chinese City, through the west it comes back again, meeting and passing
under the great archway that leads to the Tartar City. And all day long
that square is thronged. East and west of the main archway are little
temples with the golden-brown roofs of all imperial temples, the Goddess
of Mercy is enshrined here, and there are bronze vases and flowering
plants, and green trees in artistic pots, all going to make a quiet
little resting-place where a man may turn aside for a moment from the
rush and roar of the city, burn aromatic incense sticks, and invoke good
fortune for the enterprise on which he is {050}engaged. Do the people
believe in the Goddess of Mercy, I wonder? About as much as I do,
I suspect. The Chinaman, said a Chinese to me once, is the most
materialistic of heathens, believing in little that he cannot see, and
handle, and explain; but all of us, Eastern or Western, are human, and
have the ordinary man’s desire for the pitiful, kindly care of some
unseen Power. It is only natural. I, too, Westerner as I am, daughter
of the newest of nations, burned incense sticks at the shrine of the
Goddess of Mercy, and put up a little prayer that the work upon which
I was engaged should be successful. Men have prayed here through the
centuries. The prayer of so great a multitude must surely reach the Most
High, and what matter by what name He is known.

[Illustration: 0090]

Besides the temples there are little guard-houses for the soldiers in
the square; guard-houses with delicate, dainty lattice-work windows,
and there are signboards with theatre notices in Chinese on gay red
and yellow paper. There are black and yellow uniformed military police,
there are grey-coated little soldiers with just a dash of red about
their shabby, ill-fitting uniforms, and there are the people passing to
and fro intent on their business, the earning of a cash, or of thousands
of dollars. The earning of a cash, one would think mostly, looking at
many a thing of shreds and patches that passes by. To Western eyes the
traffic is archaic, no great motors rush about carrying crowds at once,
it consists of rickshaws with one or, at most, a couple of fares, of
Peking carts with blue tilts and a sturdy pony or a handsome mule in
the shafts, and the driver seated cross-legged in fronts of longer
carts {051}with wheels studded, as the Peking carts are, and loaded with
timber, with lime, and all manner of merchandise, and drawn sometimes by
three or four underfed little horses, but mostly by a horse or mule in
the shafts and a mule or a donkey so far in front one wonders he can
exert any influence on the traction at all. The rickshaw coolies clang
their bells, men on bicycles toot their horns, every donkey, and most
horses and mules, have rings of bells round their necks, and everyone
shouts at the top of his voice, while forty feet up on the wall,
a foreign soldier, one of the Americans who hold the Chien Men, is
practising all his bugle calls.

“Turn out, turn out Mess, mess,” proclaims the bugle shrilly above.
“Clang, clang, clang,” ring the rickshaw bells. A postman in shabby
blue, with bands of dirty white, passes on his bicycle and blows his
horn, herald of the ways of the West. A brougham comes along with sides
all of glass, such as the Chinaman loves. In it is a man in a modern
tall hat, a little out-of-date; on the box, are two men in grey silk,
orthodox Chinese costume, queue and all, but alas for picturesqueness
they have crowned their heads with hideous tourist caps, the mafoo
behind on the step, hanging on to the roof by a strap, has on a very
ordinary wideawake, his business it is to jump down and lead the horses
round a corner--no self-respecting Chinese horse can negotiate a corner
without assistance--and the finishing touch is put by the coachman, also
in a tourist cap, who clangs a bell with as much fervour as a rickshaw
coolie. Before this carriage trot outriders. “Lend light, lend light,”
 they cry, which is the Eastern way of saying “By your leave, by your
{052}leave. My master a great man comes.” After the coach come more
riders. It may be a modern carriage in which lie rides, but the
important man in China can no more move without his outriders and his
following, than could one of the kings or nobles of Nineveh or Babylon.

More laden carts come in from the west, and the policeman, in dusty
black and yellow, directs them, though they really need no directing.
The average Chinese mind is essentially orderly, and never dreams of
questioning rules. Is there not a stone exactly in the middle of the
road under the great archway, and does not every man know that those
going east must go one way, and those going west the other? What need
for direction? An old-fashioned fat Chinese with shaven head and pigtail
and sleeveless black satin waistcoat over his long blue coat comes
along. He half-smothers a small donkey with a ring of jingling bells
round its neck, a coolie follows him in rags, but that does not matter,
spring is in the land, and he is nearly hidden by the lilac bloom he
carries, another comes along with a basket strapped on his back and a
scoop in his hand, he is collecting the droppings of the animals, either
for manure or to make argol for fuel, a stream of rickshaws swerve out
of the way of a blind man, ragged, bent, old, who with lute in one hand
and staff in the other taps his way along.

“Hsien Sheng, before born,” he is addressed by the coolies directing
him, for his affliction brings him outward respect from these courteous
people.

In the rickshaws are all manner of people: Manchu women with high
head-dresses in the form of a cross, highly painted faces and the gayest
of {053}long silk coats, shy Chinese women, who from their earliest
childhood have been taught that a woman must efface herself. Their hair
is decked with flowers, and dressed low on the nape of their necks,
their coats are of soberer colours, and their feet are pitifully maimed.
“For every small foot,” says a Chinese proverb, “there is a jar full
of tears.” The years of agony every one of those women must have lived
through, but their faces are impassive, smiling with a surface smile
that gives no indication of the feelings behind.

The Chien Men, because it opens only from the Tartar to the Chinese
City, is not closed, but eight o’clock sees all the gates in the
twenty-three miles of outer wall closed for the night, and very
awkward it sometimes is for the foreigner, who is not used to these
restrictions, for neither threats nor bribes will open those gates once
they are shut.

I remember on one occasion a young fellow, who had lingered too long
among the delights of the city, found himself, one pleasant warm summer
evening, just outside the Shun Chih Men as the gates of the Chinese City
were closing. He wanted to get back to his cottage at the race-course
but the guardians of the gate were obdurate. “It was an order and the
gates were closed till daylight next morning.” He could not climb the
walls, and even if he could, the two ponies he had with him could not.
He probably used up all the bad language at his command, if I know
anything about him, and he grew more furious when he recollected he had
guests coming to dinner. Then he began to think, and remembered that
the railway came through the wall. Inspection showed him that there
{054}were gates across it, also fast closed, and here he got his second
wind, and quite a fresh assortment of bad language, which was checked by
the whistle of an approaching train. Then a bright idea occurred to him.
Where a train could go, a pony could go, and he stood close to the line
in the darkness, instructed his mafoo to keep close beside him, and the
moment the train passed, got on to the line and followed in its wake,
regardless of the protests of raging gatekeepers. He got through the
gate triumphantly, but then, alas, his troubles began, for the railway
line had not been built with a view to taking ponies through the wall.
There were rocks and barbed wire, there were fences, and there were mud
holes, and his guests are wont to relate how as they were sitting down
to table under the hospitable guidance of his No. 1 boy, there arrived
{054}on the scene a man, mud to the eyes--it was summertime when there
is plenty of mud in the country round Peking--and silent, because no
profanity of which he was capable could possibly have done justice to
his feelings. Such are some of the joys of living in a Babylonish city.

[Illustration: 0096]

{055}When I had sat an hour in the gate I rose to go, and the rickshaw coolie
and I disagreed as to the fare. A rickshaw coolie and I never did
agree as to the fare. Gladly would I pay double to avoid a row, but the
coolie, taken from the Legation Quarter of Peking where the tourists
spoil him, would complain and try to extort more if you offered him a
dollar for a ten-cent ride, therefore the thing was not to be avoided.
I did not see my way to getting clear, and a crowd began to gather. Then
there came along a Chinese, a well-dressed young man.

His long petticoats of silk were slit at the sides, he had on a silken
jacket and a little round cap. He wore no queue, because few of the men
of his generation, and of his rank wear a queue, and he spoke English as
good as my own.

“What is the matter?” I told him. “How much did you pay him?”

“Forty cents.”

“It is too much,” said he, and he called a policeman, and that coolie
was driven off with contumely. But it marked a wonderful stride in
Chinese feeling that a Chinese should come to the assistance of a
foreigner in distress. Not very long ago he would have passed on the
other side, scorning the woman of the outer barbarians, glad in his
heart that she should be “done” even by one so low in the social scale
as a rickshaw coolie, a serf of the great city these ancient walls
enclose.



CHAPTER IV--THE LEGATION QUARTER OF PEKING

{056}

_A forgotten tragedy--The troops--“Lest We Forget”--The fortified
wall--“No low-class Chinese”--The last thing in the way of insults--A
respecter of power--Racing stables--Pekin s’amuse--Chinese gentleman
on a waltz--Musical comedy--The French of the Far East--Chances of an
outbreak--No wounded._

|At Canton a few years since,” wrote Sir George Staunton, recording the
visit of the first British Ambassador to the Emperor of China in 1798,
“an accident happened which had well-nigh put a stop to our foreign
trade. Evils of every kind fraught with this tendency are to be
apprehended, and ought to be particularly guarded against, especially by
a commercial nation. On some day by rejoicing in firing the guns of
one of those vessels which navigates between the British settlements in
India and Canton, but not in the employment of the East India Company,
two Chinese, in a boat lying near the vessel, were accidentally killed
by the gunner. The crime of murder is never pardoned in China. The
Viceroy of the Province, fired with indignation at the supposed
atrocity, demanded the perpetrator of the deed, or the person of him who
ordered it. The event was stated in remonstrance to be purely
accidental but the Viceroy, supposing it to have been done from a wicked
disposition, still persisted in his {057}demand, and to assure himself
of that object, he seized one of the principal supercargoes. The other
factories being alarmed, united themselves with the English as in
a common cause, and seemed disposed to resist the intentions of the
Viceroy who on his part arranged his troops on the banks of the river
to force a compliance. It was at last deemed expedient on principles of
policy, to give up the gunner with scarce a glimmering of hope that his
life would be spared.”

Later on in a casual footnote he records that their worst fears had been
realised, and the unfortunate gunner, given up, let us hope, not so
much from motives of policy as to save the supercargo, had been done to
death.

That incident, to my mind, explains the Legation Quarter of Peking
to-day. Of course the Legation, in its present form, dates only from
the Boxer rising, but the germ of it was there when the merchants of the
assembled nations felt themselves compelled to sacrifice the careless
gunner “from motives of policy.” One hundred and twenty years ago the
Western nations were only a stage removed from the barbaric civilisation
the Chinese had reached two or three thousand years before, but still
they were moving onward, and they felt they must combine if they would
trade with this rich land, and yet protect their subjects and their
goods. And so they did combine, and there arose that curious state of
affairs between the foreigners and the people of the land that has held
for many years, that holds in no other land, and that has crystallised
in the Legation Quarter of Peking.

Suppose in London all the great nations of the {058}earth took a strip
of the town, extending say from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner, and
from Park Lane to Bond Street, held it and fortified it heavily,
barring out the inhabitants, not wholly, but by certain regulations that
prevented them having the upper hand. The thing is unthinkable, yet that
is exactly what has happened in Peking. Against the Tartar wall, from
the Chien Men to the Ha Ta Men, the nations have taken a parallelogram
of ground all but a mile square, they have heavily fortified it, on
three sides they have cleared a broad glacis on which no houses may
be built, and they have there a body of troops with which they could
overawe if not hold all the town.

[Illustration: 0102]

No man knows exactly how many men the Japanese have, but supposing they
are on a par with the other nations, there are at least two thousand
five hundred men armed to the teeth and kept at the highest pitch of
perfection in the Legation Quarter. Living there is like living in an
armed camp. You cannot go in or out without passing forts or guns,
in the streets you meet ammunition wagons, baggage wagons, Red Cross
wagons, and at every turn are soldiers, soldiers of all the European
nations that have any standing at all, soldiers from America, soldiers
from Japan; they are doing sentry-go at the various Legations, they
are drilling, they are marching, they are shooting all day long. In one
corner of the British Legation they keep untouched a piece of the old
shot-torn wall of 1900 and painted on it, in big black letters, is the
legend, “Lest We Forget,” a reminder always, if the nations needed a
reminder, of the days of 1900, of the terrible days that may be repeated
any time this {059}peace-loving nation drifts into an anti-foreign
outbreak. I was going to write it is almost insulting; but it is
insulting, and this armed Legation Quarter must be in truth cruelly
galling to the better-class, educated Chinese. They must long to oust
these arrogant men from the West and their neighbour from the East, who
thus lord it over them in the very heart of their own city. Even the
wall, the great Tartar wall built first by Kublai Khan, and finished by
the Ming conquerors, comes under foreign domination from the Ha Ta Men
to the Chien Men. The watch-tower over the Ha Ta Men is still in the
hands of the Chinese, and like most things Chinese is all out of repair.
The red lacquer is cracked, the gold is faded, the grass grows on the
tiled roofs, in the winter dried-up and faded, in the summer lush and
green, and for all the Chinese soldiers hold it, it is desolate and a
thing of the past But a hundred yards or so to the west, is the German
post. Always are armed men there with the eagle on their helmets, always
an armed sentry marches up and down, keeping watch and ward. No great
need for them to hold the Ha Ta Men, their guns dominate it, and below
in the town the French hold carefully the fortified eastern side of
the Legation Quarter. The centre of that strip of wall, held by the
Japanese, is marked by an iron fence called, I am told, a “traverse.”
 There is a gate in it, and across the path to that gate, so that it may
not be so easily got through, is built up a little wall of brick the
height of a man. In the summertime the grass grows on it green and
fresh, and all the iron bars of that fence and gate are wreathed
in morning glory. The Japanese are not so much in evidence as the
{060}efficient Germans or the smart Americans, but I am told they are
more than keen, and would gladly and effectually hold the whole wall
would the other nations allow them. At the Chien Men, the western end
of the mile-long strip of wall are the Americans, tall, lean, smart,
capable men in khaki, with slouch hats turned up at the sides,
clean-shaven faces and the sound in their voices that makes of their
English another tongue. In the troubles of 1912, when fires were
breaking out all over the city, and every foreigner fled for safety
to his Legation, Uncle Sam, guarding the western end of the wall
overlooking those Legations, seized the beautiful new watch-tower on the
Chien Men, his soldiers established themselves there, and they hold it
still. It dominates their Legation they say with reason, for their own
safety they must hold it, and the Chinese acquiesce, not because they
like it, but because they must. Periodically representations come in,
all is quiet now, the Americans may as well give up the main gate, or
rather watch-tower, for they do not hold the main gate, only the tower
that overlooks it. But the answer is always the same, it overlooks their
Legation, they must hold it. They have a wireless telegraph post there
and a block-house, and the regulations for the sentry, couched in cold,
calm, official language, are an insult to the friendly nation that gives
them hospitality, or would be so, if that nation had not shown itself
incapable of controlling the passions of its own aroused people. The
sentry clad in khaki in summer, in blue in winter, marching up and down
by the watch-tower, magnificent in its gorgeous Eastern decorations
of blue, and green, and red, and barbaric gold, must report at once
anything {061}unusual taking place in the gate below, any large
gathering of Chinese, any unusual commotion, but above all upon that
wall, that wall that belongs to them and is the wall of their capital
city, he must not allow, without a permit, any Chinese. The wording of
the order runs, “No low-class Chinese,” but the definition of low class
is left to the discretion of the soldier, and he is not likely to risk
a reproof from those in authority over him by being too lax. With my
own eyes have I seen a Chinese, well-dressed in European clothes, turned
back by the sentry from the ramp when he would have walked upon the
wall. He looked surprised, he was with European friends, the order
could not apply to him, but the sentry was firm. He had his orders, “No
Chinese,” and without a special permit he must see them carried out. It
seemed cruel, and unnecessarily humiliating, but on the central ramp
are still the places where the Americans, seeking some material for a
barricade, fighting to save themselves from a ghastly death, tore
out the bricks from the side of the great wall. Other nations beside
Britain, write in their actions, if not on their walls: “Lest We
Forget!” The lower-class Chinese probably do not mind the prohibition.
It is considered bad manners for a Chinaman to walk upon the wall,
because he thereby overlooks the private houses below, but in these days
of the New Republic possibly good manners are not so much considered as
formerly, and since the Chinese have never been allowed upon the wall
they probably do not realise that thirteen miles of it are free to them,
if they care to go there. Some few I know do, because I have met there
men gathering the dried vegetation for fuel, and I have {062}seen one or
two beggars, long-haired, filthy men in the frowsiest of rags, but the
first have probably got permission from the soldiers, and the latter,
seeing foreigners there, have most likely been tempted by the hope of
what to them is a lavish dole, and, finding no harm happen, have come
again. I may be wrong, of course, but I hardly think death can have much
terror for the Chinese beggar, life must hold so very little for him.
Those who, having dared their own portion of the wall with impunity,
find the foreign mile still a forbidden place to them, probably put it
in the same category as the Forbidden City, and never realise that it
is the outlander, the outer barbarian, and not their own Government that
shuts them off.

But the holding of that wall by an armed force, that dominates both the
Chinese and the Tartar Cities, seems to me the very greatest thing
in the way of insults. Some day when the Chinese are a united nation,
powerful as they ought to be, they will awake to that insult, and
the first thing they will do will be to clear their wall from foreign
interference. Meanwhile, as I sit in a courtyard of a temple of the
Western Hills, drinking in the sparkling air of September, looking
at the lovely blue sky peeping through the dark green branches of the
temple pines, as I sit and write this book, I think gratefully of that
loose-limbed, lissom, athletic, young American soldier who, with rifle
across his shoulder, is doing sentry-go upon the wall. The German is
there too, the stiff, well-drilled, military German, but my heart goes
out to the man who is nearer akin, and whose speech is not unlike that
of the people of my own land. It seems to me I am {063}safe here, alone
among the Chinese, because of those soldiers. There are those who will
say I am wrong, that the Chinese are always courteous, and that they
like me because of the money I put into their pockets. And that is true
enough too. I have found the very rickshaw coolie a finished, courteous
gentleman in his manner towards me, and I have received many little acts
of kindness which could but come from a kindly heart, with no thought of
profit behind it; but still, deep down at the bottom of my heart, I know
that the Chinese, more than any man on earth perhaps, respects power,
and the Legation Quarter, and the holding of that wall, are an outward
manifestation of power that reaches far and keeps me safe here in
my mountain temple. The gods here by my side are dead, who fears or
respects the gods, Spanish chestnuts are stored beside their altars, but
the foreign soldiers on the wall are a fact there is no getting over.
It impresses those in authority, and the fiat goes forth, permeating
through all classes, “The foreigner is not to be touched under any
circumstances whatever.”

On this wall come the foreign community to exercise and promenade in
the cool of the evening in summer, or to enjoy the sunshine at midday
in winter, and here all the soldiers and sailors of the various
nationalities foregather. There is no other place in all Peking where
one can walk with comfort, for the Chinese as a nation, have no idea of
the joy of exercise. They have put it out of the power of their women
to move save with difficulty, and that a man should take any pleasure in
violent exercise seems to them absurd. To walk when he {064}can ride in
a rickshaw, or mount a donkey, would argue something wrong in his mental
outlook, so it happens that, in all the great city, there are only the
streets of the Legation Quarter and the wall where walking exercise
can be indulged in. The streets of the Quarter are the streets of an
uninteresting, commonplace town, but the wall overlooking the two cities
is quite another matter. Here the part of the foreign community that
does not ride takes its exercise, and foregathers with its kind.

[Illustration: 0110]

[Illustration: 0111]

The foreign quarter is not always thinking of the dangers it is guarding
against. That it thinks also a great deal of its amusement, goes without
saying. I have observed that this is a special characteristic of the
Briton abroad. At home the middle-class man--or woman--is chary of
pleasure, taking it as if it were something he had hardly a right
to; but abroad he seizes eagerly the smallest opportunity for amusing
himself, demanding amusement as something that hardly compensates him
for his exile from his native land. So it has come that I, a looker-on,
with less strong bonds than those from the Old Country binding me to my
father’s land, fancy that these exiles have in the end a far better time
than the men of the same class who stay at home. I am apt to have no
pity for them whatever.

One thing is certain, people keep horses here in Peking who could not
dream of such a luxury in England. True, they are only ponies fourteen
hands high, but a great deal of fun can be got out of pony racing. And
racing-stables are a feature of the Quarter. Not that they are in the
Quarter. {065}On the plain, about five miles to the west of the city,
lies the little race-course, and dotted about within easy distance of
this excellent training-ground are the various training-stables for the
ponies. The China pony comes from Mongolia, where close watch and ward
is kept over him, and neither mares nor stallions are exported.

“If I could only get hold of a mare,” sighs the young racing man, but he
sighs in vain. Meanwhile he can indulge in the sport of kings cheaply.

“I’ve joined another fellow in a racing-stable,” said a man to me, soon
after my arrival in Peking, and I looked upon him with something of the
awe and respect one gives to great wealth. I had not thought he was so
well off. He saw my mistake and laughed.

“The preliminary expenses are only thirty pounds,” he went on, “and
I don’t intend they shall be very heavy. We can have good sport at a
moderate cost.” Of course moderate cost is an elastic term, depending on
the purse of the speaker, but in this case I think it meant that men
of very ordinary means, poor exiles who would live in a six-roomed flat
with a couple of maidservants in England, might have a good time without
straining those means unduly.

A race-meeting in Peking has peculiarities all its own. Of course it
is only the men from the West who would think of a race-meeting. The
Chinese, except at the theatre, do not amuse themselves in crowds.

The Spring Meeting took place early in May, and the description of it
should come a little later in my book, but it seems to fall naturally
into {066}the story of the doings of the Legation Quarter. Arrangements
were made with the French railway running to Hankow to stop close to
the course, and put the race-going crowd down there. There was no other
means of getting there, except by riding; for driving in a country where
every inch of ground, save a narrow and rough track, is given over
to the needs of agriculture, is out of the question. That spring
race-meeting the day was ideal. There was the blue sky overhead, the
brilliant sunshine, a gentle breeze to temper it, the young kaoliang was
springing, lush and green, in the fields, and the ash-trees that shelter
the race-course were one delicate tender green. A delicious day. Could
the heart of man desire more? Apparently the foreign residents of Peking
did not desire more, for they turned out, men, women, and children. And
then I saw what a handful of people are these foreigners who live in
the capital of China and endeavour to direct her destinies, for save and
except the missionary element, most of the other foreigners were there,
from his Britannic Majesty’s representative to the last little boy who
had joined a hong as junior clerk at a hundred dollars a month, and
felt that the cares of Empire were on his shoulders. They were mostly
British, of course, the foreign trade of China--long may it be so--is
mostly in British hands; and there were representatives of every other
great nation, the Ministers of France, Germany, Russia, of Italy,
Austria, Spain, Belgium, Holland, and Japan, everyone but America, for
America was busy recognising the Chinese Republic, and the other nations
were smiling, and wondering why the nation that prides {067}itself on
being the champion of freedom for the people, was being the first to
recognise what is, virtually, a despotic rule.

The little course, a mile round, is marked out with leafy ash-trees, the
grand-stand was charming with lilac bloom purple and white, and
banksia roses, fragrant as tender memories. It was shaded by
p’engs--mats--raised high on scaffolding, so that pleasant shade might
not interfere with the cool breeze, and here were the women of the
community, the women of well-to-do people, gay in dainty toilets from
London and Paris; the men were in light summer suits, helmets and straw
hats, for summer was almost upon us. Tiffin, the luncheon of the East,
was set in the rooms behind, decorated with miniature flags of all
nations, made in Japan, and wreathed with artificial flowers, though
there was a wealth of natural blossom around the stand outside. There
is a steward’s room and the weighing-room in one tiny building with a
curved roof of artistic Chinese design, and all the ponies are walked
about and saddled and mounted where every interested spectator can see
them. And every spectator on that sunny May day was interested, for
the horses, the sturdy Chinese ponies, were, and always are, owned and
ridden by the men of the company, men whom everybody knows intimately.
For these Peking race-meetings are only amateur, and though,
occasionally, a special pony may change hands at two thousand
dollars--two hundred pounds--the majority are bought and sold under two
hundred dollars--twenty pounds--and yet their owners have much joy and
pride in them.

Surely it is unique, a race-meeting where all the {068}civilised nations
of the earth meet and fraternise in simple, friendly fashion, taking a
common pleasure in small things.

“They’re off!” Mostly the exclamation was in English, but a
Russian-owned horse, ridden by a Cossack rider, won one race, and was
led proudly up to the weighing-room by a fair lady of his own people,
and was cordially applauded, for the winner was always applauded, no
matter what his nationality.

The horses, coming out to parade, were each led by their own mafoo,
who managed to look horsey in spite of a shaven head, long queue, and
pronounced Chinese features. Up and down they led the ponies, up and
down, and when at last the precious charges must be resigned, a score of
them squatted down just where they could get the best view of the
race, and doubtless each man put up a little prayer to the god he most
affected, that the pony that carried his money might come in first.

When we were not watching the saddling, or the parade, or the race,
or the weighing-in, we were listening to a Chinese band, Sir Robert
Bredon’s band, with a Chinese conductor, playing selections from all the
modern Western music. It might have been--where in the world might it
not have been? Nowhere but in Peking in the heart of China surely, for
there, just beyond the limit of the course, were long strings of camels
bound for coal to the Western Hills, marching steadily, solemnly,
tirelessly, as they marched in the days of Marco Polo, and a thousand
years before the days of Marco Polo, and all round the course, crowding
every point of vantage were a large concourse of Chinese, people {069}of
the working and middle classes, clad mostly in blue, the women with
bound feet from the farms near by, the men and the children very likely
from further afield, but all unchanging as the camels themselves,
eagerly watching the foreigners’ sports. They are not allowed to come
into the enclosure, every mafoo and attendant wears a special badge, and
even Chinese of the better class may come only by special invitation
of some member. These interested folk, who have no friends among the
foreigners may not even go into the enclosure, where the “Tommies” and
bluejackets, men from England and America, France, Japan, and all the
countries of the earth crowded in the gay sunshine making high holiday.
Nevertheless the Orientals surrounded the course. They got upon the
mounds of earth that are at the back and looked from that vantage-point
not only at the races but at the foreign devils at their tiffin and
afternoon tea. Their own refreshment was provided by hawkers selling
cakes and sweetmeats, just outside the forbidden ground, and Peking
carts and donkeys waited round to take them back to their homes. There
were even beggars there, beggars with long, unkempt hair, wrapped in
a single garment of sackcloth, ragged, unwashed, unkempt, the typical
beggars of China, for no one knows better than they when money is being
lightly handled, and as the bright sunny day, the gorgeous spring day
of Northern China drew slowly to a close doubtless even they, whom every
man’s hand was against, gathered in a few stray cash. I hope they did.
Such a very little makes so much difference in China.

The sun sank slowly to the west in the translucent {070}sky, the ponies
in the saddling paddock were walked slowly up and down in the long
shadows of the ash-trees, and the country was beautiful with the soft
regret of the dying day as we walked back through the fields of kaoliang
to the railway station, we, the handful of people who represented the
power and majesty of the Western world. The mighty walls of an older
civilisation frowned down upon the train--this thing of yesterday--the
last rays of the setting sun lighted up all the glory of the red and
gold of the Chien Men watch-tower and we were in the Legation Quarter
once more, with armed sentries at the gates, and the American soldier
upon the wall sounding the bugle call for the changing guard.

I come from a country where every little township considers a
race-course as necessary as a cemetery. I have been to many many
race-meetings, but this one in Peking, where the men of the land are so
barred out that no one of Chinese descent may belong to the Club or even
ride a race, stands out as unique. It has a place in my mind by itself.
It was so expressive of the attitude of the Powers who watch over
China. Peking, the Peking of the Legations had been amusing herself. The
National Assembly was in an uproar, the Premier was openly accused of
murder, the Loan was in anything but a satisfactory state, everyone
feared that the North and the South would be at each other’s throats
before the month was out, the air was full of rumours of wars, but the
English-speaking community love racing, the other nations, from their
Ministers downwards, had fallen into line, and Peking, foreign Peking,
did itself well.

And I wondered, I wondered much what the {071}Chinese thought of it all.
It is very, very difficult, so men tell me who have lived in China long,
and speak the language well, to get at the bottom of the Chinese mind,
to know what they really do think of us. The Chinese gentleman is so
courteous that as far as possible he always expresses the opinion he
thinks you would like to hear, and the Chinese woman, even if she be of
the better classes, with very few exceptions is unlearned and ignorant
as a child, indeed she is worse than a child of the Western nations, for
the child is at least allowed to ask questions and learn, while all her
charm is supposed to depend upon her subservience and her ignorance.
As I stood on the race-course that day, and many a time as I sat in
the lounge of the Wagons Lits Hotel--the European hotel of the Legation
Quarter--where all tourists visiting Peking come, where the nations of
the world foregather, and East meets West as never before perhaps in the
world’s history have they met, I have wondered very much indeed what the
East, the portly middle-aged Chinaman with flowing silken robes and
long queue thinks of us and our manners and customs. He was accompanied
perhaps by a friend, or perhaps by a lady in high collar and trousers
with a little son, the crown of the child’s head shaven, and the
remaining hair done in a halo of little plaits tied up with string,
yellow, red, or blue, and he watched gravely either the dancing, or the
conversation, or the conjurer, or whatever other amusement the “Wagons
Lits” had for the time being set up. Again and again have I watched him,
but I could never even make a guess at what he thought. Probably it was
anything but complimentary.

[Illustration: 0119]

{072}“The men dressed for dinner,” said a Chinese once, describing an
evening he had spent among foreigners; “then the order was given and the
women stripped,” that is took off their wraps when the music began, only
everything is “ordered” in China, “and each man seized a woman in his
arms. He pushed her forward, he pulled her back,” graphic illustrations
were given, “he whirled round and round and she had no will of her own.
And it was all done to horrible music.”

Everything is in the point of view, and that is how, at least one
Chinese gentleman saw a waltz. I used to wonder what he said of the
musical comedy that from time to time is presented by a wandering
company in the dining-room of the Wagons Lits Hotel. They displayed
upon a tiny crowded stage, for the edification of Chinese and foreigners
alike, for the room was crowded with Chinese both of the old and of the
new order, such a picture of morals as Europeans take as a matter of
course. We know well enough that such scenes as are depicted in “The
Girl in the Taxi” are merely the figments of an exuberant imagination,
and are not the daily habits of any class either in London or Paris. But
what do the Chinese think? All things are necessary and good, I suppose,
but some are difficult to explain. Thirteen years ago the Boxer tragedy,
now the musical comedy full of indecencies scarcely veiled.

Truth to tell, it was a very interesting thing for a new-comer like me
to sit in that hotel watching the people, and listening to the various
opinions so freely given by all and sundry. From all parts of the world
people come there, tourists, soldiers, {073}sailors, business men,
philanthropists’--men who were working for the good of China, and men
who were ready to exploit her. And then the opinions as to the safety of
the Europeans in China that were expressed! Here, in the security of the
Legation Quarter, I collected those opinions as I wanted to go into the
interior, and I was by no means anxious to risk my life.

To arrive at any decision was very difficult. In the Treaty Ports there
may be some unanimity, but once outside it seemed that every man had his
own particular opinion of China and the Chinese, and all these opinions
differed widely.

“Safe,” said a man who had fought through the Boxer trouble; “safer far
than London. They had to pay then, and they won’t forget, you can take
your oath of that.”

“Like living on a volcano,” said another. “No, I shall never forget the
Boxer trouble. That’s the kind of thing that is graved on your mind with
hot irons. Do it again? Of course they’ll do it again. A docile people,
I grant you, but they’re very fiends when they’re aroused. They’re
emotional, you know, the French of the Far East, and when they let
themselves go------” He paused, and I realised that he had seen them let
themselves go, and no words could describe the horror of it. “Would I
let my wife and children live in one of the hu t’ungs of Peking? Would
I? How would they get away when the trouble commenced?”

The chances are they couldn’t get away. The hu t’ungs of Peking are
narrow alley-ways running out from the main thoroughfares, and the
houses there are built, Chinese fashion, round courtyards {074}and
behind blank walls, hidden away in a nest of other buildings, and the
difficulty of getting out and back to the armed Legation Quarter, when a
mob were out bent on killing, would be enormous.

“A Debt Commission spells another anti-foreign outbreak, and we’re
within an ace of a Debt Commission,” said another man thoughtfully;
“and if there is a row and things look like going against us, I keep one
cartridge in my revolver for myself.” It does not seem much when I write
it down, such things have I heard carelessly said many a time before,
but when I, a foreigner and a solitary woman, was contemplating a trip
up-country, they had a somewhat sinister sound.

On the other hand again and again have I heard men scout all idea of
danger, men who have been up and down the country for years. And yet
but yesterday, the day before I write these words, a man looked at his
pretty young wife, she was sweetly pretty, and vowed vehemently, “I
would not leave my wife and child alone for a night in our house just
outside the Quarter for anything on earth. If anything did happen--and
it might------” and he dropped his voice. There are some things that
will not bear thinking about, and he had seen the looting of Nanking and
the unfortunates who had died when they took the Woosung Forts. “We went
to look after the wounded,” said he, “and there weren’t any wounded.
The savage Northern soldiery had seen to that.” And those whom they
mutilated were their own people! What would they do to a foreigner in
the event of an anti-foreign outbreak?

“Are you afraid?” I asked a man who certainly lived far enough away in
the city. {075}He looked at me curiously, as if he were going to say
there was nothing to be afraid of, and then he changed his mind.

“Perhaps I am when I think of it,” said he; “but then you see, I don’t
think of it.”

And that is the average attitude, the necessary attitude, because no man
can perpetually brood over the dangers that might assail him. Certain
precautions he takes to safeguard himself, here are the nations armed
to the teeth in the heart of a friendly country, and for the rest _Quien
sabe?_

And I talked with all men, and while I was making preparations to go
into the interior, had the good-fortune to see a quaint and curious
pageant that took me back to Biblical days and made me remember how
Vashti the Queen was cast down, and the beautiful Esther found favour in
the sight of her lord, and how another tragic Hebrew Queen, going down
to posterity with a name unjustly smirched and soiled, had once painted
her face and tired her head, and looking out of the window had defied to
the death her unfaithful servant. “Had Zimri peace who slew his master?”



CHAPTER V--THE FUNERAL OF AN EMPRESS

{076}

_A good republican--The restricted Empire of the Manchus--Condign
punishment--Babylon--An Adventurous Chinaman--The entrance to the
Forbidden City--The courtyards of Babylon--A discordant and jarring
note--Choirs of priests--A living Buddha--“The Swanee River”--The last
note in bathos--Palace eunuchs--Out of hand--Afternoon tea--The funeral
procession--The imperial bier--Quaint and strange and Eastern._

|The Dowager-Empress of China, the unloved wife and widow of the late
Emperor, died, so they gave out to the world, on the 22nd February,
1913, the day I arrived in China. As Empress, just one of the women
of the Court chosen to please the ruler and to bear him children, his
consort in China never seems to have had any particular standing. This
Empress was overshadowed by her aunt, the great Dowager-Empress whom all
the world knew, but once the Emperor was dead, as one of the guardians
of the baby Emperor she came into a certain amount of power, for the
position of Dowager-Empress seems to be an official one as, since her
death, another woman who has never been wife to an Emperor has been
appointed to the post.

The power has gone from the Manchus, but China is wedded to her past,
nothing passes, so even the Chinese Republic, the men who barely a year
before {077}had ousted the Empress from her high estate, united in doing
her honour at her obsequies.

“She was the best republican of us all,” said a Chinese gentleman,
learned in the lore and civilisation of the West, “for she freely gave
up her position that China might be free.”

It was a pretty way of putting it, but to me it seems doubtful whether
anyone in over-civilised China trammelled with many conventions,
is free, and it is hardly likely that a woman bred to think she had
attained the most important position in the world that can fall to a
woman’s lot, would give it up freely for the good of a people she
knew absolutely nothing about. All the Manchus rule over now are
the courtyards and palaces of the Forbidden City, and there they are
supreme. It is whispered that only a week before the day of which I
write, a man was there beaten to death for having stolen something
belonging to the dead Empress. So much for the love of the Manchus
for freedom and enlightenment. It carries one back to the Middle
Ages--further, to Babylon.

“They slew there mercilessly, and they also feasted--so did the
representatives of the dead Empress hold high festival in her honour.

“The King made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan
the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the Court in the
garden of the King’s palace.

“Where were white, green, and blue hangings fastened with cords of fine
linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble, the beds were of
gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black
marble.

{078}“And they gave them drink in vessels of gold... and royal wine in
abundance, according to the state of the King.”

So Ahasuerus the King entertained his people of Babylon, when Vashti the
Queen fell, and of Babylon only could I think when, first I entered the
Forbidden City.

[Illustration: 0129]

Standing on the walls of Peking, a city of the plain, you look down upon
twelve square miles of grey-tiled roofs, the roofs of one-storied houses
hidden in the summertime by a forest of trees, but in the heart of
the city are high buildings that stand out not only by reason of their
height but because the roofs of golden-brown tiles, imperial yellow,
gleam and glow in the sunlight. This is the Forbidden City where has
dwelt for hundreds of years the Emperor of China, often he must have
been the only man in it, and always it was closed to all save the
immediate following of the Son of Heaven.

I never realised till I came to Peking that this forbidden ground was
just as much an object of curiosity to the Chinese as it would have been
to any European nation.

“I went in once,” said a Chinese gentleman to me, “when I was a young
man.” He was only forty then.

“Were you invited?”

“No, no. I went secretly. I wanted to see what it was like.”

“But how?”

“I got the dress of a eunuch and I slipped in early one morning, and
then, when I got in, I hardly dared move or breathe for fear someone
should find me out. Then when no one took any notice of me I {079}walked
about and saw everything I could, but the last hour was the worst, I was
terrified at the thought that I might not be able to get out.”

“And if you had been caught?”

He looked grave even then at the remembrance of that bygone desperate
adventure.

“Oh death, certainly.”

“Death?”

“Yes, a long and lingering death,” and the thought of what he had
escaped twenty years ago, was on his face.

I looked at him with interest, a tall stout Chinaman with his hair cut
short in the modern fashion, a long grey robe of silk reaching to his
feet, and a little short black sleeveless jacket over it. He did not
look, pleasant as he was, as if he would ever have dared anything, but
then I have never thought of any Chinaman as likely to risk his life
without hope of gain, and to risk it for mere curiosity as a man of my
own people might have done! It was throwing a new light on the Chinese.
I rather admired him and then I found he was Eastern after all.

We talked of Yuan Shih K’ai, and he, being of the opposition party,
expressed his opinion freely, and, considering all things, very boldly
about him.

“He has eighteen wives,” said he shaking his head as if this was the
unpardonable sin in a man who desired to imitate the manners and customs
of the West.

I repeated this to a friend, and he burst out laughing. “Why the old
sinner,” said he, “what’s he throwing stones for? He’s got seventeen and
a half himself!” {080}So it seems it will be some time before forbidden
cities on a small scale will be out of fashion in China.

And still, in these days of the Republic, the Forbidden City of the
Manchus dominates Peking.

It was thrown open for three days to all who could produce a black paper
chrysanthemum with five leaves, red, yellow, blue, black, and white,
fastened to a tab of white paper with a mourning edge and an inscription
in Chinese characters. The foreigners had theirs from their Legations,
and the Chinese from their guilds. And those Chinese--there are many
of them--who are so unlucky as to belong to no guild, Chinese of the
humbler sort, were shut out, and for them there was erected on the great
marble bridge in front of the southern entrance, a pavilion of gorgeous
orange silk enclosing an altar with offerings that stood before a
picture of the dead Empress, so that all might pay their respects.

I pinned my badge to the front of my fur coat, for it was keen and cold
in spite of the brilliant sunshine, and went off to the wrong entrance,
the eastern gate, where only princes and notables were admitted.
I thought it strange there should be no sign of a foreigner, but
foreigners in Peking can be but as one in a hundred or less, so
undismayed, I walked straight up to the gate, and immediately a row of
palace servants clad in their white robes of mourning, clustered before
the sacred place. They talked and explained vehemently, and with perfect
courtesy, but they were very agitated, and though I could not understand
one word they said, one thing was certain, admitted I could not be
there. So I turned to the southern gate and there it seemed all Peking
was streaming. {081}It was like China that we might not go in the direct
way.

There is a great paved way through the Imperial City alongside a canal
that runs between marble-lined banks, but on the principal bridge that
crosses it was erected the orange silk pavilion for the poorer classes,
and we, the wearers of the black chrysanthemum, hundreds and thousands
and ten thousands of us, had to turn off to the right and go along by
the tall, pinkish red walls till we came to the great archways in the
walls, five great archways filled in with doors studded with great
brazen knobs. Usually they were fast shut, but they were open to-day,
guarded by soldiers in full-marching order, soldiers of the New Republic
in modern khaki looking out of the picture, and there streamed into the
tunnellike entrance as curious a crowd as ever I set eyes upon. All
must walk, old and young, great and lowly, representatives of the mighty
nations of the world and tottering Chinese ladies swaying like “lilies
in the wind” upon their maimed feet, only one man, a Mongol Prince, an
Incarnation of a Buddha, a living Buddha, was borne in in a sedan chair.
But every other mortal had to walk. The tunnels must always be gloomy,
and, even on that cold day, they struck chill after the brilliant
sunlight, and they are long, for the walls, just here, are about
ninety feet through, so might the entrances have been in the palace
of Ahasuerus the King. The courtyard we first entered had a causeway
running right across it of great hewn stones, hewn and laid by slave
labour, when all men bowed before the Son of Heaven, hundreds of years
ago. They are worn in many places now, worn by the passing of many
{082}feet, and still more worn are the grey Chinese bricks that pave
the courtyard on either side. It is a great courtyard of splendid
proportions. In front of us frowned more high walls of pinkish red,
topped by the buildings that can be seen all over Peking, temples or
halls of audience with golden-brown tiled roofs that gleamed in
the sunlight, and on either side were low buildings with fronts of
lattice-work rather fallen into disrepair. They might have been used as
guard-houses or, more probably, were the quarters of the six thousand or
so of eunuchs that the dignity of the ruler required to attend upon him.
There were a few trees, leafless then in March, but there was nothing
to spoil the dignity and repose of every line. A great mind surely
conceived this entrance, and great must have been the minds that kept it
so severely simple. If it be the heart of a nation then do I understand.
The people who streamed along the causeway, who roamed over the worn
brick pavement, had, as a rule, delicate, finely formed hands though
they were but humble craftsmen. If the hands of the poorest be so fine,
is it any wonder that the picked men of such a people, their very heart,
conceived such a mighty pile? There were more, longer and gloomier
tunnels, admitting to a still greater courtyard, a courtyard that must
be at least a quarter of a mile across, with the same causeway of worn
stones that cry out the tale of the sufferings of the forgotten slaves,
who hewed them and dragged them into place, the same grey pavement of
bricks, the same tall smooth red walls, crowned over the gateway with
temples, rising one story after another till the tiled roof cuts the
sky. And through a third set of tunnels we came into a third courtyard,
{083}the courtyard where the obsequies were being held. The third
courtyard was spacious as Trafalgar Square, and round three sides was a
wide raised platform of stone reached by broad and easy ramps, and
all across it ran a canal held in by marble banks, crossed by graceful
bridges, and every one of the uprights, made of white marble, was
crowned by a figure that I took for the representation of a flame; but
those, who know, tell me it is meant to represent a cloud, and is part
of the dragon symbolism. When marble is the medium by which so light a
thing as a cloud is represented it must be very finely done indeed, when
one outside the national thought, such as I, sees in that representation
a flame. Two colossal bronze monsters with grinning countenances and
curly manes, conventional lions, mounted on dragon-carved pedestals,
stand before the entrance to the fourth temple or hall of audience, and
here was what the crowd had come to see, the lighthearted, cheerful,
merry crowd, that were making high holiday, here was the altar to the
dead.

Overhead were the tiled roofs, and of all the colours of the rainbow
surely none could have been chosen better than the golden brown of those
tiles to harmonise with the clear blue of the glorious sky above it, no
line to cut it could have been so appropriate as the gentle sweep of the
curve of a Chinese roof. There was a little grass growing on the roofs,
sere and withered, but a faint breeze just stirred its tops, and it
toned with the prevailing golden brown in one glorious beauty. Where
else in the world could one get such an effect? Only in Australia have I
seen such a sky, and there it was never wedded to such a glow of colour
as that it looks down {084}upon in Peking. The men who built this palace
in a bygone age, built broadly, truly, for all time.

[Illustration: 0137]

And then, it was surely as if some envious spirit had entered in and
marred all this loveliness--no, that would be impossible, but struck a
discordant and jarring note that should perhaps emphasise in our minds
the beauty that is eternal--for all the front of that temple, which as
far as I could see was pinkish red, with under the eaves that beautiful
dark blue, light blue, and green, that the Chinese know so well how to
mingle, was covered with the most garish, commonplace decorations, made
for the most part of paper, red, violent Reckitt’s blue, yellow, and
white. From every point of vantage ran strings of flags, cheap common
little flags of all nations, bits of string were tied to the marble
clouds, and they fluttered from them, and the great wonderful bronze
lions contrived to look coy in frills that would not have disgraced a
Yorkshire ham. The altar on the northern platform was hidden behind a
trellis-work of gaily coloured paper, and there were offerings upon it
of fruit and cakes in great profusion, all set out before a portrait of
the late Empress. On either side were two choirs of priests, Buddhists
and Taoists in gorgeous robes of red and orange. What faith the dead
Empress held I do not know, but the average Chinese, while he is the
prince of materialists, believing nothing he cannot see and explain,
has also a keen eye to the main chance, and on his death-bed is apt to
summon priests of all faiths so as to let no chance of a comfortable
future slip; but possibly it was more from motives of policy than from
any idea of aiding the dead woman that these representatives of the
two great faiths of China were {085}summoned. On the rights behind a
trellis-work of bright paper, one choir sat in a circle, beat gongs,
struck their bells and intoned; and on the left, behind a like
trellis-work, the other choir knelt before low desks and also solemnly
intoned. Their Mongolian faces were very impassive, they looked neither
to the right nor the left, but kept time to the ceaseless beat of their
leader’s stick upon a globe of wood split across the middle like a
gaping mouth emblematical of a fish and called mu yii--or wooden fish.
What were they repeating? Prayers for the dead? Eulogies on her who had
passed? Or comfort for the living? Not one of these things. Probably
they were intoning Scriptures in Tibetan, an unknown tongue to them
very likely, but come down to them through the ages and sanctified by
thousands of ceaseless repetitions.

And the people came, passed up the steps, bowed by the direction of the
usher--in European clothes--three times to the dead Empress’s portrait,
and the altar, were thanked by General Chang, the Military Commandant,
and passed on by the brightly clad intoning priests down into the crowd
in the great courtyard again. It was weird to find myself taking part in
such a ceremony. Stranger still to watch the people who went up and down
those steps. In all the world surely never was such an extraordinary
funeral gathering. I am very sure that never shall I attend such
another. There was such a mingling of the ancient and the blatantly
modern. To the sound of weird, archaic, Eastern music the living Buddha,
clad all in yellow, in his yellow sedan chair, borne by four bearers in
dark blue with Tartar caps on their heads, made his reverence, and was
followed {086}by a band of Chinese children from some American mission
school, who, with misguided zeal sang fervently at the top of their
shrill childish voices “Down by the Swanee River” and “Auld Lang
Syne,” and then soldiers in modern uniform of khaki or bright blue were
followed by police officers in black and gold. The wrong note was struck
by the “Swanee River,” the high officials dwelt upon it, for the
Chinese does not look to advantage in these garbs, he looks what he is
makeshift, a bad imitation, and the jarring was only relieved when the
Manchu princes came in white mourning sheepskins and black Tartar caps.
They may be dissolute and decadent, have all the vices that new China
accuses them of, but at least they looked polished and dignified
gentlemen, at their ease and in their place. It does not matter,
possibly. The President once said that to petition for a monarchy was an
act of fanaticism worthy of being punished by imprisonment, and so the
old order must in a measure pass; even in China, the unchanging, there
must come, it is a law of nature, some little change, and when I looked
at the bows and arrows of the Manchu guard leaning against the wall
I realised that it would be impossible to keep things as they were,
however picturesque. Still khaki uniforms, if utilitarian, are ugly,
and American folk-songs, under such conditions, struck the last note in
bathos, or pathos. It depends on the point of view.

On the white paper tabs, attached to our black chrysanthemums, was
written something about the New Republic, but it might have been the
spirit of the Empress at home, so cheerful and bent on enjoyment was
the crowd which thronged the {087}courtyard. The bands played, sometimes
Eastern music, strange and haunting, sometimes airs from the European
operas, there were various tents erected with seats and tables, and
refreshments were served, oranges, and ginger, and tea, and cakes of all
kinds, both in the tents and at little altar-like stands dotted about
the courtyard even at the very foot of the pedestals of the great
conventional lions. And the people walked round looking at everything,
peeping through every crevice in the hopes of seeing some part of the
palace that was not open to them, chatting, laughing, greeting each
other as they would have done at a garden-party in Europe. There were
all sorts of people, dressed in all sorts of fashions. New China looked
at best common-plage and ordinary in European clothes; old China was
dignified in a queue, silken jacket and brocaded petticoat, generally
of a lighter colour; Manchu ladies wore high head-dresses and brilliant
silken coats, blue or pink, lavender or grey, and Chinese ladies
tottered along on tiny, bound feet that reminded me of the hoofs of a
deer, and the most fashionable, unmarried girls wore short coats with
high collars covering their chins, and tight-fitting trousers, often of
gaily coloured silk, while the older women added skirts, and the poorer
classes just wore a long coat of cotton, generally blue, with trousers
tightly girt in at the ankles, and their maimed feet in tiny little
embroidered shoes. European dress the Chinese woman very seldom affects
yet, and their jet black hair, plastered together with some sort of
substance that makes it smooth and shiny, is never covered, but flowers
and jewelled pins are stuck in it. Occasionally--I {088}did on this
day--you will see a woman with a black embroidered band round the
front of her head, but this, I think, denotes that she is of the Roman
Catholic faith, for the Roman Catholics have been in China far longer
than any other Christian sect, and they invented this head-dress for the
Chinese woman who for ages has been accustomed to wear none, because of
the Pauline injunction, that it was a shame for a woman to appear in
a church with her head uncovered. Old China did not approve of a woman
going about much at all, and here at this funeral I heard many old China
hands remarking how strange it was to see so many women mingling with
the throng. It marked the change; but such a very short time back, such
a thing would have been impossible.

There were numbers of palace eunuchs too--keepers of the women who,
apparently, may now show their faces to all men, and they were clad all
in the mourning white, with here and there one, for some reason or other
I cannot fathom, in black. The demand for eunuchs was great when the
Emperor dwelt, the one man, in the Forbidden City surrounded by his
women, and they say that very often the number employed rose to ten
thousand. Constantly, as some in the ranks grew old, fell sick, or died,
they had to be replaced, and, so conservative is China, the recruits
were generally drawn from certain villages whose business it was to
supply the palace eunuchs. Often, of course, the operation was performed
in their infancy, but often, very often, a man was allowed to grow up,
marry, and have children, before he was made ready for the palace.

“Impossible,” I said, “he would not consent {089}then. Never.” And
my informant laughed pitifully. “Ah,” said she, “you don’t know the
struggle in China. Anything for a livelihood.”

Some of the eunuchs wanted their photographs taken, and I was willing
enough if they would only give me room. I wanted one in white, but they
desired one in black, either because he was the most important or the
least important, I know not which, and they sat him on a stone that had
been a seat perhaps when Kublai Khan built the palace; and the keeper
of the women, the representative of the old cruel past, that pressed
men and women alike into the service of the great, looked in my camera
sheepish as a schoolboy kissed in public by his maiden aunt.

There were coolies, too, in the ordinary blue cotton busy about the
work that the entertaining of such a multitude necessarily entails, and
everyone looked cheerful and happy, as, after all, why should they not,
for death is the common lot, and must come to all of us, and they had
seen and heard of the dead Empress about as much as the dweller in
Chicago had. They were merely taking what she, or her representatives,
gave with frank goodwill, and enjoying themselves accordingly.

Against the walls they kept putting up long scrolls covered with Chinese
characters, sentences in praise of the virtues of the Empress, and sent,
as we would send funeral wreaths, to honour the dead, and presently a
wind arose and tore at them and they fluttered out from the walls
like long streamers, and as the wind grew wilder, some were tom down
altogether. But that was on the afternoon of the second day, when worse
things happened. {090}I went down to the Forbidden City after tiffin, and
behold, outside the great gates, looking up longingly and murmuring
a little, was a great crowd that grew momentarily greater. The doors,
studded with brazen nails, were fast closed, and little parties of
soldiers with their knapsacks upon their backs were evidently telling
the crowd to keep back, and very probably, since it was China, the
reason why they should keep back. The reason was, of course, lost upon
me, I only knew that, before I realised what was happening, I was in the
centre of a crushing crowd that was gradually growing more unmanageable.
A Chinese crowd is wonderfully good-natured, far better-tempered than a
European crowd of a like size would be, but when a crowd grows great,
it is hardly responsible for its actions. Besides, a Chinese crowd has
certain little unpleasant habits. The men picked up the little children,
for the tiniest tots came to this great festival, and held them on their
shoulders, but they coughed, and hawked, and spit, and wiped their noses
in the primitive way Adam probably did before he thought of using a
fig-leaf as a pocket handkerchief, and at last I felt that the only
thing to be done was to edge my way to the fringe of the press, because,
even if the doors were opened, it would have seemed like taking my life
in my hands to go into one of those tunnels with their uneven pavements
in such a crush. Once down it would be hopeless to think of getting up
again.

{091}After a time, however, they did open the doors, and the people surged
in. When all was clear I followed, and once inside heard how the people
in the great courtyard, in spite of police and soldiers, had swarmed up
and threatened by their rush, the good-natured, purposeless rush of a
crowd, to carry away offerings, altar, choirs and decorations, and,
very naturally, those in authority had closed the doors against all
new-comers until the people had been got well in hand again. It had
taken some time. Before the altar was a regular scrimmage, and after the
crowd had passed it left behind it, shoes, and caps, and portions of its
clothing which were thrown back into the courtyard to be gathered up
by those who could recognise their own property. By the time I arrived
things were settling down. We had to wait in the second courtyard, and
the women, Chinese ladies with their little aching feet, and Manchus in
their high head-dresses sat themselves down on the edge of the causeway,
because standing on pavement is wearisome, and there waited patiently
till the doors were opened, and inside everything was soon going again
as gaily as at an ordinary garden-party in Somerset.

[Illustration: 0145]

“Do you like Chinese tea?” asked a Chinese lady of me in slow and
stilted English. I said I did.

“Come,” said she, taking my hand in her cold little one, and hand in
hand we walked, or rather I walked and she tottered, across to one of
the great pavilions that had been erected, and there she sat me down and
a cup of the excellent tea was brought me, and every one of the Chinese
ladies present, out of the kindly hospitality of her heart towards the
lonely foreigner, gave me, with her own fair and shapely little hands,
a cake from the dish that was set before us by a white-clad servant.
Frankly, I wished they wouldn’t be so hospitable. I wanted to say I
was quite capable of choosing my own cake, {092}and that I had a rooted
objection to other people pawing the food I intended to eat, but it
seemed it might be rude, and I did not wish to nip kindly feelings in
the bud. And then, as the evening shadows drew long, I went back to
my hotel, sorry to leave the Forbidden City, glad to have had this one
little glimpse of the strange and wonderful that is bound to pass away.

The Empress died in February, in March they held this, can we call it
lying-in-state, but it was not till the 3rd of April that her funeral
cortège moved from the Forbidden City, and the streets of Peking were
thronged with those who came to pay her respect. Did they mourn? Well, I
don’t know. Hardly, I think, was it mourning in the technical sense.
The man in the street in England is far enough away from the king on the
throne, but in China it seems as if he might inhabit a different sphere.

The sky was a cloudless blue, and the bright golden sunshine poured down
hot as a July day in England, or a March day in Australia, there was
not a wisp of cloud in the sky; in all the five weeks that I had been in
China there had never been the faintest indication that such a thing was
ever expected, ever known, but at first the brilliancy had been cold,
now it was warm, the winter was past, and from the great Tartar wall,
looking over the Tartar City--the city that the Mings conquered and the
Manchus made their own--the forest of trees that hid the furthest houses
was all tinged with the faintest, daintiest green; and soon to the glory
of blue and gold, the blue of the sky and the gold of the sunshine,
would be added the vivid green that {093}tells of the new-born life. And
one woman who had held high place here, one sad woman, who had missed
most that was good in fife, if rumours be true, was to be carried to her
long home that day.

The funeral procession started from the Eastern Gate of the Forbidden
City, came slowly down the broad street known now as Morrison Street,
turned into the way that passes the Legations and runs along by the
glacis whereon the conquering Western nations have declared that, for
their safety, no Chinese shall build a house, the Europeans call it
the Viale d’ltalia, because it passes by the Italian Legation, and the
Chinese by the more euphonious name of Chang an Cheeh--the street of
Eternal Repose--a curious commentary on the fighting that went on there
in 1900, into the Chien Men Street, that is the street of the main gate
through which it must go to the railway station.

It seemed to me strange this ruler of an ancient people, buried with
weird and barbaric rites, was to be taken to her last resting-place by
the modern railway, that only a very few years ago her people, at
the height of their anti-foreign feeling, had wished to oust from the
country--root and branch. But since the funeral procession was going to
the railway station it must pass through the Chien Men, and the curtain
wall that ran round the great gate offered an excellent point of vantage
from which I, with the rest of the European population, might see all
there was to be seen. And for this great occasion, the gate in the
south of the curtain wall, the gate that is always shut because only the
highest in the land may pass through, was open, {094}for the highest in
the land, the last of the Manchu rulers, was dead.

I looked down into the walled-in space between the four gateway arches,
as into an arena, and the whole pageant passed below me. First of all
marching with deliberate slowness, that contrives to be dignified
if they are only carrying coals, came about twenty camels draped in
imperial yellow with tails of sable, also an imperial badge hanging from
their necks. The Manchus were a hunting people, and though they have
been dwellers in towns for the last two hundred and fifty years the fact
was not forgotten now that their last ruler had died. She was going on
a journey, a long, long journey; she might want to rest by the way,
therefore her camels bore tent-poles and tents of the imperial colour.
They held their heads high and went noiselessly along, pad, pad, pad,
as their like have gone to and fro from Peking for thousands of years.
Mongol, or Manchu, or son of Han, it is all the same to the camel. He
ministers to man’s needs because he must, but he himself is unchanging
as the ages, fixed in his way as the sky above, whether he bears grain
from the north, or coal from the Western Hills, or tents and drapery for
an imperial funeral. Then there were about fifty white ponies, without
saddle or trapping of any kind, each led by a mafoo clad in blue like an
ordinary coolie. The Peking carts that followed with wheels and tilts
of yellow were of a past age, but, after all, does not the King of Great
Britain and Ireland on State occasions ride in a most old-world coach.
And then I noticed things came in threes. {095}Three carts, three yellow
palankeens full of artificial flowers, three sedan chairs also yellow
covered, and all around these groups were attendants clad in shimmering
rainbow muslin and thick felt hats, from the pointed crown of which
projected long yellow feathers. Slowly, slowly, the procession moved on,
broken now and again by bands of soldiers in full marching order. There
was a troop of cavalry of the Imperial Guard they told me, but how could
it be imperial when their five-coloured lance pennons fluttering gaily
in the air, clearly denoted the New Republic? There was a detachment of
mounted police in black and yellow--the most modern of uniforms--there
were more attendants in gaily coloured robes carrying wooden halberds,
embroidered fans, banners, and umbrellas, and the yellow palankeens with
the artificial flowers were escorted by Buddhist lamas in yellow robes
crossed with crimson sashes, each with a stick of smouldering incense
in his hand. In those palankeens were the dead woman’s seals, her power,
the power that she must now give up. I could see the smoke, and the
scent of the incense rose to our nostrils as we stood on the wall forty
feet above. Between the various groups, between the yellow lamas who
dated from the days of the Buddha long before the Christ, between the
khaki-clad troops and the yellow and black police, things of yesterday,
came palace attendants tossing into the air white paper discs. The dead
Empress would want money for her journey, and here it was, distributed
with a lavish hand. It was only white paper, blank and soiled by the
dust of the road, when I picked it up a little later on, but for her it
would serve all purposes.

[Illustration: 0151]

The approach of the bier itself was heralded by the striking together
of two slabs of wood by a {096}couple of attendants, and before it came,
clad all in the white of mourning, the palace eunuchs who had guarded
her privacy when in life; a few Court attendants in black, and then
between lines of khaki-uniformed modern infantry in marching order, the
bier covered with yellow satin, vivid, brilliant, embroidered with red
phoenixes that marked her high rank--the dragon for the Emperor, the
phoenix for his consort. The two pieces of wood clacked together harshly
and the enormous bier moved on. It was mounted on immense yellow poles
and borne by eighty men dressed in brilliant robes of variegated muslin,
red being the predominating colour. They wore hats with yellow feathers
coming out of the crown, and they staggered under their burden, as might
the slaves in Nineveh or Babylon have faltered and groaned beneath their
burdens, two thousand years ago.

Out of the northern archway came the camels and the horses, the
soldiers, the lamas, the eunuchs, out came all the quaint gay
paraphernalia--umbrellas, and fans, palankeens, and sedan chairs, and
banners--and slowly crossed the great courtyard, the arena; a stop,
a long pause, then on again, and the southern gate swallowed them up,
again the clack of the strips of wood, and the mighty bier, borne on the
shoulders of the Babylonish slaves. Slowly, slowly, then it stood still,
and we felt as if it must stay there for ever, as if the eighty men who
upheld it must be suffering unspeakable things. Once more the clack of
the strips of wood, and the southern archway in due course swallowed
it up, too, with the few halberdiers and the detachment of soldiery who
completed the procession. {097}Outside the Chien Men was the railway
station, the crowded people--crowded like Chinese flies in summer, and
that is saying a great deal--were cleared away by the soldiers, the bier
was lifted on to a car, the bands struck up a weird funeral march, the
soldiers presented arms, the lama priests fell on their knees, and then
very, very slowly the train steamed out of the station, and the last of
the Manchu Empresses was borne to her long home.

Was it impressive I asked myself as I went down the ramp? And the answer
was a little difficult to find. Quaint and strange and Eastern, for the
thing that has struck me so markedly in China was here marked as ever.
It was like the paper money that was thrown with such lavish generosity
into the air. Amongst all the magnificence was the bizarre note--that
discordant touch of tawdriness. Beneath the gorgeous robes of the
attendants, plainly to be seen, were tatters and uncleanliness, the
soldiers in their ill-fitting uniforms looked makeshift, and the police
wanted dusting. And yet--and again I must say and yet, for want of
better words--behind it all was some reality, something that gripped
like the haunting sound of the dirge, or the stately march of the camels
that have defied all change.



CHAPTER VI--A TIME OF REJOICING

{098}

_The charm of Peking--A Chinese theatre--Electric light--The custodian
of the theatre--Bargaining for a seat--The orchestra--The scenery of
Shakespeare--Realistic gesture--A city wall--A mountain spirit--Gorgeous
dresses--Bundles of towels--Women’s gallery--Armed patrols--Rain in
April--The food of the peasant--Famine--The value of a daughter--God be
thanked._

|The Legation Quarter in Peking, as I was reminded twenty times a day,
is not China, it is not even Peking, but it is a pleasant place in which
to stay; a place where one may foregather and exchange ideas with
one’s kind, and yet whence one may go forth and see all Peking; more,
may see places where still the foreigner is something to be stared at,
and wondered at, and where the old, unchanging civilisation still goes
on. Ordinarily if you would see something new, something that gives
a fresh sensation, it is necessary to go out from among your kind
and brave discomfort, or spend a small fortune to guard against that
discomfort, but here, in Peking, you who are interested in such things
may see an absolutely new world, and yet have all the comforts, except
reading matter, to which you have been accustomed in London. It was no
wonder I lingered in Peking. Always there was something {099}new to see,
always there was something fresh to learn, and at any moment, within
five minutes, I could step out into another world, the world of Marco
Polo, the world the Jesuit Fathers saw when first the Western nations
were beginning to realise there were any countries besides their own.

[Illustration: 0157]

There are people--I have heard them--who complain that Peking is dull.
Do not believe them. But, after all, perhaps I am not the best judge. As
a young girl, trammelled by trying to do the correct thing and behave
as a properly brought up young lady ought, I have sometimes, say at an
afternoon call when I hope I was behaving prettily, found life dull, but
since I have gone my own way I have been sad sometimes, lonely often,
but dull never, and for that God be thanked. But Peking, I think, would
be a very difficult place in which to be really dull.

It is even possible to go to the theatre every night, but it is a
Chinese theatre and that will go a long way. Nevertheless, I felt it was
a thing I should like to see; so one evening two of my friends took me
to the best theatre that was open. The best was closed for political
reasons they said, because the new Government, not as sure of itself as
it would like to be, did not wish the people to assemble together. This
was a minor theatre, a woman’s theatre; that is one where only women
were the actors, quite a new departure in the Celestial world, for until
about a year before the day of which I write, no woman was ever seen
upon the stage, and her parts, as they were in the old days in Europe,
were taken by men and boys. Even now, men and women never appear on the
stage together, never, never do the sexes {100}mingle in China, and the
women who act take the very lowest place in the social scale.

One cold night in March three rickshaws put us down at an open doorway
in the Chinese City outside the Tartar wall. The Chinese the greatest
connoisseurs of pictures do not as yet think much of posters, though the
British and American Tobacco Company is doing its best to educate them
up to that level, so outside this theatre the door was not decorated
with photographs of the lovely damsels to be seen within, clad in as few
clothes as the censor will allow, but the intellects of the patrons were
appealed to, and all around the doors were bright red sheets of
paper, on which the delights offered for the evening were inscribed in
characters of gold.

We went along a narrow passage with a floor of hard, beaten earth, and
dirty whitewashed walls on either side, along such a passage I could
imagine went those who first listened to the sayings of Hamlet, Prince
of Denmark. The light was dim, the thrifty Chinaman was not going to
waste the precious and expensive light of compressed gas where it was
not really needed, and from behind the wall came the weird strains of
Chinese music. There appeared to be only one door, and here sat a fat
and smiling Chinese, who explained to my friends that by the rules of
the theatre, the men and women were divided, and that I must go to the
women’s gallery. They demurred. It would be very dull for me, who could
not understand a word of the language, to sit alone. Could no exception
be made in my favour? The doorkeeper was courteous as only a Chinese
can be, and said that for his part, {101}he had no objection; but the
custodian of the theatre, put there by the Government to ensure law and
order, would object.

I wanted badly to stay with these men who could explain to me all that
was going on, so we sent for the custodian, another smiling gentleman,
not quite so fat, in the black and yellow uniform of the military
police. He listened to all we had to say, sympathised, but declared that
the regulations must be carried out. My friends put it to him that the
regulations were archaic, and that it was high time they were altered.
He smilingly agreed. They were archaic, very; but then you see, they
were the regulations. He was here to see that they were carried out, and
he suggested, as an alternative, that we should take one of the boxes
at the side. The question of sitting in front was dismissed, and we gave
ourselves to the consideration of a box for which six dollars, that
is twelve shillings English currency, or three dollars American, were
demanded. We demurred, it seems you always question prices in China. We
told the doorkeeper that the price was very high, and that as we were
sitting where we did not wish to sit, he ought to come down. He did.
Shades of Keith and Prowse! Two dollars!

We went up some steep and narrow steps of the most primitive order, were
admitted to a large hall lighted by compressed gas--in Cambulac! here
in the heart of an ancient civilisation--surrounded by galleries with
fronts of a dainty lattice-work of polished wood, such as the Chinese
employ for windows, and we took our places in a box, humbly furnished
with bare benches and a wooden table. Just beneath us was the stage, and
the play was in {102}full swing--actors, property men, and orchestra all
on at once. It was large and square, raised a little above the people in
the body of the hall and surrounded by a little low screen of the same
dainty lattice-work. At the back was the orchestra, composed only of men
in ordinary coolie dress--dark blue cotton--with long queues. There
were castanets, and a drum, cymbals, native fiddle, and various
brazen instruments that looked like brass trays, and they all played
untiringly, with an energy worthy of a better cause, and with the
apparent intention--it couldn’t have been so really--of drowning
the actors. Yet taken altogether the result was strangely quaint and
Eastern.

The entertainment consisted of a number of little plays lasting from
half an hour to about an hour. There were never more than half a dozen
people on the stage at once, very often only two in the play altogether,
and what it was all about we could only guess after all, for even my
friends, who could speak ordinary Chinese fluently, could not understand
much that was said. Possibly this was because every actor, instead of
using the ordinary conversational tone, adapted as we adapt it to the
stage, used a high, piercing falsetto that was extremely unnatural, and
reminded me of nothing on this earth that I know of except perhaps a
pig-killing. Still even I gathered something of the story of the play
as it progressed, for the gestures of these women, unlike their voices,
were extremely dramatic, and some of the situations were not to be
mistaken. Scenery was as it was in Shakespeare’s day. It was understood.
But for all the bare crudity, the dresses of the actors which belonged
to a previous age, {103}whether they were supposed to represent men or
women, were most rich and beautiful. The general, with his hideously
painted face and his long black beard of thread, wore a golden
embroidered robe that must have been worth a small fortune; a soldier,
apparently a sort of Dugald Dalgety, who pits himself against a scholar
clad in modest dark colours, appeared in a blue satin of the most
delicate shade, beautifully embroidered with gorgeous lotus flowers and
palms; and the principal ladies, who were really rather pretty in spite
of their highly painted faces and weird head-dresses, wore robes of
delicate loveliness that one of my companions, whose business it was to
know about such matters, told me must have been, like the general’s, of
great value. The comic servant or country man wore a short jumper and
a piece of white paper and powder about his nose. It certainly did make
him look funny. The dignified scholar was arrayed all in black, the
soldier wore the gayest of embroidered silks and satins, the landlady of
the inn or boarding-house, a pleasant, smiling woman with roses in her
hair and tiny maimed feet, had a pattern of black lace-work painted on
her forehead, and when the male characters had to be very fierce indeed,
they wore long and flowing beards, beards to which no Chinaman, I fear
me, can ever hope to attain, for the Chinaman is not a hairy man. When a
gallant gentleman with tight sleeves which proclaimed him a warrior, and
a long beard of bright red thread which made him a very fierce warrior
indeed, snapped his fingers and lifted up his legs, lifted them up
vehemently, you knew that he was getting over a wall or mounting his
horse. You could take your choice. A mountain, the shady {104}side of
it, was represented by one panel of a screen which leaned drunkenly
against a very ordinary chair, giving shelter to a very evil spirit with
a dress that represented a leopard, and a face of the grimmest and most
terrifying of those animals.

This was a play that required much property to be displayed, for a
general with a face painted all black and white and long black beard,
with his army of five, took refuge behind a stout city wall that was
made of thin blue cotton stuff supported on four bamboo poles, and this
convenient wall marched on to the stage in the hands of a couple of
stout coolies. A wicked mountain spirit outside the walls did terrible
things. Ever and again flashes of fire burst out after his speech, and
I presume you were not supposed to see the coolie who manipulated that
fire, though he stood on the stage as large as any actors in the piece.

It is hard, too, talking in that high falsetto against the shrieking,
strident notes of the music, so naturally the actors constantly required
a little liquid refreshment, and an attendant was prompt in offering
tea in tiny round basins; and nobody saw anything incongruous in his
standing there with the teapot handy, and in slack moments taking a sip
himself.

The fun apparently consisted in repartee, and every now and then,
the audience, who were silent and engrossed, instead of applauding
spontaneously, ejaculated, as if at a word of command, “Hao!” which
means “Good!”

That audience was the best-behaved and most attentive I have ever seen.
It consisted mostly of men, as far as I could see, of the middle class.
{105}They were packed close together, with here and there a little table
or bench among them; and up and down went vendors of apples, oranges,
pieces of sugar-cane, cakes and sweetmeats.

There were also people who supplied hot, damp towels. A man stood here
and there in the audience, and from the outer edge of the theatre, came
hurtling to him, over the heads of the people, a bundle of these towels.
For a cent or so apiece he distributed them, the members of the audience
taking a refreshing wipe of face and head and hands and handing the
towels back. When the purveyor of the towels had used up all his stock,
and got them all back again, he tied them up into a neat bundle, and
threw them back the way they had come, receiving a fresh stock in
return. Never did a bundle of towels fail in reaching its appointed
place, and scores of cents must the providers have pocketed. For the
delight of ventilation is not appreciated in China, and to say that
theatre was stuffy is a mild way of putting it. The warm wet towel
must have given a sort of refreshment. They offered us some up in
the dignified seclusion of our box, but we felt we could sustain life
without washing our faces with doubtful towels during the progress of
the entertainment. Tea was brought, too, excellent Chinese tea, and I
drank it with pleasure. I drink Chinese tea without either milk or sugar
as a matter of course now; but that night at the Chinese theatre I was
only trying it and wondering could I drink it at all.

Opposite us was the women’s gallery, full of Chinese and Manchu ladies,
with high headdresses and highly painted faces. The Chinese ladies often
paint their faces, but their attempts at {106}decoration pale before
that of the Manchus, who put on the colour with such right goodwill that
every woman when she is dressed in her smartest, looks remarkably like a
sign-board. The wonder is that anyone could possibly be found who could
admire the unnatural effect. Someone, I suppose, there is, or it would
not be done, but no men went near the women’s gallery that evening. It
would have been the grossest breach of decorum for a man to do any such
thing, and the painted ladies drank their tea by themselves.

Somewhere about midnight, earlier than usual, consequent, I imagine,
upon the disturbed state of the country, the entertainment ended with a
perfect crash of music, and the most orderly audience in the world went
out into the streets of the Chinese City, into the clear night. Only
in very recent years, they tell me, have the streets of Peking been
lighted. Formerly the people went to bed at dusk, but they seem to have
taken very kindly to the change, for the streets were thronged. There
were people on foot, people in rickshaws, people in the springless
Peking carts, and important personages with outriders and footmen in
the glass broughams beloved by the Chinese; and there were the military
police everywhere, now at night with rifles across their shoulders.
Here, disciplining this most orderly crowd, they struck me as being
strangely incongruous. I wondered at those police then, and I wonder
still. What are they for? Whatever the reason, there they were at every
few yards. Never have I had such a strange home-coming from a theatre.
Down on us forty feet high frowned the walls built in past ages, we
crossed the Beggars’ {107}Bridge of glorious marble, we went under the
mighty archway of the Chien Men, and we entered the Legation Quarter
guarded like a fortress, and I went to bed meditating on the difference
between a Chinese play and a modern musical comedy. They have, I fancy,
one thing in common. They are interesting enough to see for the first
time, but a little of them goes a long way.

I went to bed under a clear and cloudless sky, and the next morning, to
my astonishment, it was raining. I have, of course, seen rain many, many
times, and many, many times have I seen heavier rain than fell all this
April day in Peking, but never before, not even in my own country where
rain is the great desideratum, have I seen rain better worth recording.

It was indeed this April day rain at last!

“To everything there is a season,” says the preacher, and the spring is
the time for a little rain in Northern China. In England people suppose
it rains three hundred and sixty days out of the three hundred and
sixty-five, except in Leap Year when we manage to get in another rainy
day, but as a matter of fact, I believe the average is about one hundred
and fifty wet days in the year, with a certain number more in which
clouds in the sky blot out the sunshine. In the north of China, on the
other hand, there had been, to all intents and purposes, no cloud in
the sky since the summer rains of 1912, till this rain in April which I
looked out upon. Is not rain like that worth recording? Still more do
I feel it is worth recording when I think of what that day’s rain, that
seemed so little to me, meant to millions of people. All through the
bitter cold winter the {108}country lay in the grip of the frost,
but the sun reigned in a heaven of peerless blue, and the light was
brilliant with a brilliancy that makes the sunshine of a June day in
England a poor, pale thing. The people counted for their crops on the
rain that would come in due season, the rain in the spring. March came
with the thaw, and the winds from the north lifted the loose soil
into the air in clouds of dust. But March passed alternating brilliant
sunshine and clouds of dust, and there was never a cloud in the sky,
never a drop of moisture for the gasping earth. April came--would it go
on like this till June? Rain that comes in due season is necessary to
the crops that are the wealth, nay the very life of Northern China.

From the beams of the peasant’s cottage hang the cobs of corn, each one
counted; in jars or boxes is his little store of grain, millet--just
bird-seed in point of fact--he has a few dried persimmons perhaps
and--nothing else. Twice a day the housewife measures out the grain for
the meal--she knows, the tiniest child in the household knows exactly
how long it will last with full measure, how it may be spun out over a
few more dreary, hunger-aching days, how then, if the rain has not come,
if the crops have failed, famine will stalk in the land, famine, cruel,
pitiless, and from his grip there is no escaping.

[Illustration: 0169]

Think of it, as I did that April day in Peking, when I watched the rain
pelting down. Think of the dumb, helpless peasant watching the cloudless
blue sky and the steadily diminishing store of grain, watching, hoping,
for the faintest wisp of white cloud that shall give promise of a little
moisture. {109}They tell me, those who know, that the Chinaman is a
fatalist, that he never looks so far ahead, but do they not judge him
with Western eyes? True he seldom complains, but he tills his fields so
carefully that he must see in imagination the crops they are to produce,
he must know, how can he help knowing, that if there be no harvest,
there is an end to his home, his family, his children; that if perchance
his life be spared, it will be grey and empty, broken, desolate, scarce
worth living. Every scanty possession will have to be sold to buy food
in a ruinously high market, even the loved children, and no one who
has seen them together can doubt that the Chinese deeply love their
children, must go, though for the little daughter whose destination will
be a brothel of one of the great cities, but two dollars, four pitiful
shillings, may be hoped for, and when that is eaten up, the son sold
into slavery will bring very little more. To sell their children sounds
terrible, but what can they do? Some must be sacrificed that the others
may have a chance of life, and even if they are not sacrificed, their
fate is to die slowly under the bright sky, in the relentless sunshine.
This is the spectre that haunts the peasant. This is the thing that has
befallen his fathers, that has befallen him, that may befall him again
any year, that no care on his part can guard him from, that the clear
sky for ever threatens.

“From plague, pestilence and famine, Good Lord deliver us.”

Does ever that Litany to the Most High go up in English cathedral with
such prayerful fervour, such thorough realisation of what is meant
by the {110}supplication, as is in the heart of the peasant mother in
China, carefully measuring out the grain for the meal. Only she would
put it the other way. “F rom famine, and the plague and pestilence that
stalk in the wake of the famine, oh pitiful, merciful God deliver us!”

And when I took all this in, when I heard men who had seen the suffering
describe it, was it any wonder that I rejoiced at the dull grey sky,
at the sound of the rain on the roof, at the water rushing down the
gutters.

On the gently sloping hill-sides of Manchuria, where they grow the
famous bean, the hill-sides that I had seen in their winter array, on
the wide plains of Mongolia, where only the far horizon bounds the view,
and you march on to a yet farther horizon where the Mongol tends his
flocks and herds, and the industrious Chinaman, pushing out beyond the
protecting wall, has planted beans and sown oats, in Honan, where the
cotton and the maize and the kaoliang grow, all along the gardens and
grain-fields of Northern China, had come the revivifying rain. The day
before, under the blue sky, lay the bare brown earth, acres and acres,
miles and miles of it, carefully tilled, nowhere in the world have I
seen such carefully tilled land, full of promise, but of promise only,
of a rich harvest. Then, not hoped for so late, a boon hardly to be
prayed for, welcome as sunshine never was welcome, came the rain, six
hours steady rain, and the spectre of famine, ever so close to the
Chinese peasant, for a time drifted into the background with old,
unhappy, long-forgotten things. Next morning on all the khaki-coloured
country outside Peking was a tinge of {111}green, and we knew that a
bountiful harvest was ensured, knew that soon the country would be
a beautiful emerald. The house-mother, the patient, uncomplaining,
ignorant, Chinese house-mother, might fill her pot joyfully, the
house-father might look at his little daughter, with the red thread
twisted in her hair, and know, that for a year at least, she was safe in
his sheltering arms, for the blessed rain had come, God given.

Peking in the rain is an uncomfortable place. It is built for the
sunshine. The streets of the city were knee-deep in mud, the hu t’ungs
were impassable for a man on foot unless he would be mud up to the
knees, for there had been six hours solid downpour, and every moment
it continued was worth pounds to the country. What was a twenty-five
million loan with its heavy interest, against such a rain as this? More
than one hundred thousand people were affected by the downpour, were
glad and rejoicing that day at the good-fortune that had befallen
them. This mass of human beings, at the very lowest computation had
considerably more than twenty-five million pounds rained down upon it
in the course of six hours. There came with that rain, that blurred the
windows of my room, prosperity for the land, and, for a time at
least, peace, for peace and good harvests in China are sometimes
interchangeable terms. What did it matter to Northern China at that
moment that the nations were bickering over the loan, that America was
promising, Britain hesitating, Russia threatening? What did it matter
whether Emperor, President, or Dictator, was in power? What did it
matter that the national representatives hesitated to come to the
capital? {112}What did it matter what mistakes they made? What does the
peasant tilling his field, the woman filling her cooking-pot know about
these things? What do they care? A mightier factor than these, a greater
power than man’s had stepped in. God be thanked, in China that day it
rained.



CHAPTER VII--ONE OF THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD

{113}

_Courteous Americans--Nankou Pass--Beacon towers--Inaccessible
hills--“Balbus has built a wall”--Tiny towns--“Watchman, what of
the night?”--Deserted watch-towers---Thoughtful Chinese waiter--Ming
Tombs--Chinese carrying chair--Stony way--Greatest p’ia lou in
China--Amphitheatre among the barren hills--Tomb of Yung Lo--Trunks of
sandal-wood trees--Enterprising Chinese guard._

|Wherever I might wander in China, and with the rumours of war that
were in the air, it looked as if my wanderings were going to be somewhat
restricted, to one place I was bound to wander, and that was the Great
Wall of China. Even in the days of my grandmother’s curios, I had heard
about that, one of the wonders of the world, and I could never have left
China without seeing it.

“You can do it in a couple of days,” said the young man, who had
chastened me gently when first I entered Peking. “I’m going up on
Tuesday, You’d better come along. The poet’s coming too,” he added.

{114}The poet, a real live poet, who thought a deal more about his binding
than his public, was like me I think, he did not like seeing places in
crowds, and at first he did not give us much of his society. There was
also a millionaire, an American millionaire, his little wife, his
big daughter, and his angular {114}maiden sister. They had an
observation-car fixed on to the train, and the guard came along and said
that if we ordinary travellers, who were not millionaires, cared to come
in the car, the millionaire would be very pleased.

I have travelled so much by myself that the chance of congenial company
once in a way was delightful, but I did feel we ought not to have taken
the train to the Nankou Pass. A mule litter, or a Peking cart would have
been so much more suitable. However, it is as well to be as comfortable
as possible.

From the north came China’s foes, the sturdy horsemen from Mongolia,
the mountain men from the Manchurian Hills, and because the peaceful,
industrious inhabitants of the rich; alluvial plains feared greatly the
raiders, they, just at the Nankou Pass, where these inaccessible hills
might be passed, built watch-towers and kept ward. There they stand,
even to this day, upon jutting peaks where the pass opens into the
plain, grey stone watch-towers with look-outs and slits for the archers,
and beacon-towers which could flash the fiery warning that should rouse
the country to the south. For thirteen miles we went up the pass,
the cleft that the stream, babbling cheerfully now in April over its
water-worn rocks, has carved for itself through the stony hills, and its
weird beauty never palls.

{115}Always there were the hills, broken to pieces, tossed together by the
hand of a giant, there were great clefts in them, vistas looking up
stony and inaccessible valleys, gullies that are black as if a burning
fiery furnace had been set in their midst, little pockets where the
stream widened and there was a patch of green pasture, some goats
grazing, a small, neat farm-house and fruit-trees, pink and white,
almond, peach, or pear, a wealth of blossom. On every patch of those
barren hill-sides where a tree might grow, a tree--a fruit-tree--because
the Chinaman is strictly utilitarian, had been planted; only here and
there, over the sacred graves of China, there was a patch of willow,
tender with the delicate dainty green of early spring.

[Illustration: 0177]

Always in China there are people; and here there were tiny towns packed
together on ledges of the eternal hills, with the fruit-trees and the
willows that shade the graves, and there were walls--walls that stretch
up to the inaccessible portion of the hills, where only a goat might
climb, and no invading army could possibly pass. So numerous were these
walls that my cheery young friend suggested that if ever a village
head-man had a little spare time on his hands he remarked: “Oh, I say,
here’s a fine day and plenty of stones, let’s go out and build a wall.”
 And then next day the villagers in the next hamlet looking out said, “By
Jove, Balbus, no Wong, has built a wall. We can’t be beat.” But I don’t
think in the old days the villagers on those hills ever took life quite
as lightly as that.

Over and over again it is repeated, the watch-towers on the hills and
the strips of wall running down into the valley, walls with wide tops on
which companies of archers might stand, protected by a breast-work slit
for arrows, with a wall behind again to which they might retire if
they were beaten, making the space between hard to hold, even for a
victorious enemy. Always there were the walls and watch-towers as we
went on up the valley, telling (116)in their own way, the story of the
strenuous lives of the men who lived here in the old days.

Down the mule track these walls command came an endless company of
people, wandering along, slowly, persistently, as they have
wandered since the dawn of history. They had mules, and donkeys, and
horses--muzzled so that they cannot eat the tufts of herbage by the
roadside--laden with grain, and hides, and all manner of merchandise.
There were blue-coated coolies trudging along with bamboos across their
shoulders, their heavy loads dangling from either end; and there were
laden camels, the ragged dromedaries from Mongolia, long lines of them,
picking their way among the stones along the road by the side of the
stream. The camels, and the walls, and the watch-towers go together,
they enhance the wonder and the charm of this road to the Great Wall.

Up and up we went, up the valley, past the great archway where is the
Customs barrier even to-day, and on, higher and higher, deeper into
the hills, till ahead, crowning them, climbing their steepest points,
bridging their most inaccessible declivities, clear-cut against the blue
sky, I saw what I had come out to see, one of the wonders of the world,
the Great Wall of China! Here among the stony, arid hills, that anywhere
else in the world would be left to the rock-doves and the rabbits, we
came upon a piece of man’s handiwork that for ages has cried aloud to
those who have eyes to see, or ears to hear, of the colossal industry of
China, nay of more than that, of the sacrifice of the individual for
the good of the community. On and on went the Wall, up and up and up,
climbing steadily, falling, climbing again, {117}and again dropping into
the valleys. There were watch-towers and a broad highway along its top;
here stood the sentries, who kept ceaseless watch and ward looking ever
for the invader, whether he came in countless array, a conquering army,
or in small raiding bands that might take toll of the rich crops to the
south, steal a few women, or hold a wealthy squire up to ransom.

“Watchman, what of the night? What of the night? Is the road clear to
the north? Hist! Hist! What is that beneath the loom of the hills? What
is the sound that comes up on the wind?”

“There are always dark shadows in the loom of the hills, and it is only
a stone falling down the gully.”

“Ah, but the dark shadows have hidden a band of Manchurian archers,
and the stone might be loosened by the hoof of a Mongol pony. Watchman!
Watchman, what of the night? What of the night?”

That was the way I felt about it as, having got out of the train, and
taken a chair, we made our way through the desolate country to the
Nankou Pass, and I, forgetting all else, stood gazing my fill at the
Wall I had heard about ever since I was a little child. Dreaming of what
it must have been in the past, I forgot, for the moment, the present,
and the passing of time. I was alone, as the poet wished to be, and then
a high-pitched voice brought me to this present day again.

“Say Momma,” said the millionaire--we thought he was a millionaire
because of the observation-car, but he may have been just more
ordinarily well-to-do than a writer of books--“where’s Cora?”
 {118}“Search me,” said Momma placidly.

He didn’t search her, perhaps because, seeing she was but five feet and
small and thin at that, he did not think it likely that Cora, who was
a buxom young person close on six feet, could possibly be concealed
anywhere about her person.

The maiden aunt pointed an accusing finger up the rough, grass-grown
stones that make the top of the Wall.

“Skipping like a young ram,” she snorted, and then all three raised
their voices, and those old-world rocks rang with shouts of “Cora!
Cora!! Cora!!!”

I trembled for the poet’s feelings, if he were anywhere within range,
but after all, in their own way and time, I dare say the keepers of the
Wall were just as commonplace. My companion, who was steadily making his
way up the Wall beside Cora, turned at the ear-piercing yells, looked at
his watch, spoke to the girl, and came slowly back while she quickened
her pace for a moment, as if determined to get over the other side of
the hill, whatever happened.

“The young gentleman has the most sense,” opined Momma.

“She’ll come now he’s turned,” said the maiden aunt acidly, and even
though she did come, down across the rough stones, by the ruined
watch-towers, I felt the insinuation was unjust.

Those watch-towers are empty now, deserted and desolate. No thoughtful
captain, weighed down with responsibility, looks through their arched
windows, no javelin men stand on the stone steps, no sentry tramps along
peering out to the north. {119}The Wall is tumbling into disrepair, the
grass and weeds grow up between the stones, and the wonder of the world
is a mighty ruin, stately even in its decay, for never again beneath the
sun will such another wall be built. Look at it climbing up those hills,
cutting the blue sky, bridging the gullies, and think of the tears, and
sweat, and blood, that went to the building of it! That foundations may
be well and truly laid, so says tradition, they must be laid on a living
human being. It is one way of saying that on sacrifice our lives are
based, that for every good thing in life something of value must be
given; so to the building of the Wall, that was to hold China safe, went
hundreds and thousands of lives, and its upkeep and its watching cost
more than we can well imagine.

We went back to the Ching Er Hotel at Nankou, the little hotel close to
the railway and plunged once more into modern life for, unpretentious
and kept by Chinese as it is, it still represented the present day. It
is just one big room, divided into a hall and many little rooms by so
many sheets of paper, so that the man in the room in front may whisper
and nothing be lost upon the man in the room at the back, six rooms
away, while to have a bath is a matter of public interest, for the
smallest splash can be heard from one end of the building to the other.

Nevertheless, I shall always have friendly feelings towards that little
hotel, where they lodged me so hardly, and fed me so well.

They considered one in every way, too. The poet had evidently not been
troubled by the family affection of the millionaires, he walked
back from the {120}Wall, and was so full of enthusiasm he forgave my
presence, came to me as I sat at dinner and, covered with the dust of
the way as he was, stood, and just as I should expect of a poet, waxed
eloquent on the glories he had seen. The Chinese waiter, with shaven
head and long blue smock, let him go on for a few minutes, then he took
him gently and respectfully by the sleeve.

“Vash,” he said solemnly, without the ghost of a smile on his face;
“vash,” and the poet came to earth with a laugh. We both laughed.

“Well, yes,” he said looking at his dust-begrimed person. “I suppose I
had better wash. I’ll be back in a moment. May I sit at your table?”

And next day I went to see the Ming Tombs.

St Paul’s and Westminster are set in the heart of a mighty city, ever
by the peaceful dead sounds the clamour of the living, yet the living
forget, in spite of the daily reminder they forget. In China, where
graves dot every field, and are part and parcel of the lives of the
people, they bury the honoured dead far apart from the rush and roar of
everyday life, and they never forget. The Nankou Pass is two hours
from Peking, and the tombs of the Ming Emperors are nine miles from the
Nankou Pass, set in the very heart of the hills. The entrance to the
pass is barren and lonely enough, but the extra nine miles is like
journeying into the wilderness where the scapegoat, burdened with the
sins of the community, was driven by the Israelites. It is a long, long
nine miles over a stony mule track where only a donkey, a pony, or a
chair can go, and yet here centuries ago, when it was ten times farther
away, China buried her dead, the men who sat on {121}the Dragon Throne,
and bridged for the nation the gap that lies between mortal men and
high Heaven. It is lonely now when the roadway of the West brings Nankou
close to the capital, it must have been unspeakably lonely in the days
before the opening of the railway. A chair seemed to me the only way to
get there, a chair borne by four blue-clad coolies with queues wrapped
round their shaven heads, and while my companion rode a pony, in a chair
I swung over the stony narrow track away towards the hills. The hills
were rugged and barren, the same hills that the Wall crossed; on their
stony sides no green thing could ever grow, and they were brown, and
pink, and grey, and when a white cloud gathered here and there in the
faraway blue sky, the shadows lay across them in great purple patches.
And the road was stony, barely to be seen, impossible for wheeled
traffic, even the primitive wheeled traffic of Northern China. I doubt
even if a wheelbarrow could have gone along it. I doubted often whether
the heaps of stones on the slope could possibly be a road, but the
coolies seemed to know, and went steadily on, changing the pole from one
shoulder to the other so often that it gave me a feeling of brutality
that I should use such a means of locomotion. The only person who was
comfortable was I.

My companion rode beside me sometimes. He felt himself responsible for
my well-being, and it was good to be looked after.

“Are you all right?”

All right! If the country round was desolate, the sunshine was glorious,
the air, the clear, dry air of Northern China was as invigorating as
champagne, {122}and I knew that I could go on for ever and feel myself
much blessed. The Ming Tombs were but an excuse; it was well and more
than well to be here in the open spaces of the earth, to draw deep
breaths, to feel that neither past nor future mattered; here beneath the
open sky in the golden sunshine swinging along, somewhere, anywhere, I
had all I could ask of life.

And always it was a stony way. Sometimes the coolies climbed up a bank
of loose stones that slipped and rolled away as they passed, sure-footed
as goats, sometimes the stones were piled on either side and a sort of
track meandered in between, sometimes they were scattered all over the
plain in such masses that even the industrious Chinese seemed to have
given up the task of clearing them away as hopeless, and had simply
tilled the land in between. For this was no uninhabited desert, desolate
as it seemed. Always we came across little stone-built hamlets, there
were men and women working in the fields, and rosy-cheeked children
stood by the wayside and waved their little hands to the passing
stranger. There would be the sound of bells, and a string of mules or
donkeys came picking their way as soberly as the coolies themselves,
and left much to themselves by their ragged drivers. They looked of the
poorest, these people, men and women clad much alike in dirty blue that,
torn here and there, let out the cotton-wool which padded it for winter
warmth.

Probably they knew nothing, nothing of the world beyond their little
dusty, stony hamlets, they prayed perhaps for the rain that should
moisten their dusty, stony fields, and give them the mess of meal, the
{123}handful of persimmons that is all they ask of Fate, and they
watched the few strangers who came to visit the tombs, and perhaps never
even wondered what the outside world might be like, if it gave to those
who lived there anything more than fell to the lot of the humble
dwellers on the road to the Ming Tombs.

[Illustration: 0189]

And at last in the pleasant noontide we came to the p’ia lou at the
entrance, the greatest p’ia lou in China, that land of p’ia lous, and
standing there I realised, not only the beauty of the archway, but the
wonder of the place the Mings had chosen to be theirs for all time.
It is a great amphitheatre among these barren hills. St Paul’s or
Westminster could not hold these tombs, for Hyde Park might be put in
this valley and yet not half fill it; and round it, set against the
base of the hills, in great courts enclosed in pinkish-red walls, the
counterpart of those round the Forbidden City, and planted with cypress
and pine, are the various tombs. A magnificent resting-place, truly! And
the dignity is enhanced by the desolate approach. Through the p’ia lou
is the famous Holy Way, the avenue of marble animals, of which all
the world has so often heard. What mystic significance had the marble
elephant and the camel, the kneeling horse and the sedate scholar?
Possibly they had no more than the general suggestion that all things
did honour to the mighty dead laid away in their tombs. A paved way runs
between them, paved with great blocks of marble brought from the
hills, placed there in Bygone ages by the hands of slaves, sweating and
struggling under their loads, or possibly by men just exactly like the
men who were bearing me, men slaves in all but name, who each day must
earn a {124}few pence or go under in the pitiful struggle for life. The
paved way that runs on for three miles is worn and broken, the grass
comes up between the blocks, the bridges are falling into disrepair, but
these things are trifles in the face of the amphitheatre set among the
eternal hills, the blue sky and the sunshine, these are a memorial here,
a memorial that makes the work of men’s hands but a small thing.

Nevertheless that work is very wonderful. No one, I suppose, except
he were making Chinese art or antiquities a special study, would visit
every tomb in turn. It would take a week, and we, like the majority of
visitors, contented ourselves with that of Yung Lo, the principal one.
And here is a curious thing worth noting, a thing that possibly would
happen nowhere else in the world, showing how irrevocably China feels
herself bound to the past. The Ming Emperor was a Chinese, and the
Republic that has just overthrown the Manchu Dynasty, is also Chinese,
so as a mark of respect, they have repaired, after a fashion, this, the
tomb of the greatest of the Ming Emperors. That is to say--oh China!
they have whitewashed the marble, painted the golden-brown tiled roof of
the temple, and swept and garnished the great audience hall.

A tomb in China reminds me in no way of death. We entered through a
door studded with heavy brazen knobs a grass-grown courtyard, where were
trees, pine and cypress. We went along a paved way, and before us was
a building with a curved roof, with the tiles broken here and there; it
was set on a platform reached by flights of marble steps, or rather the
flights of steps were on either side, while in the centre was a ramp
on which was beautifully {125}carved in relief the dragon, the sign of
Empire, and the horse, which I have heard some people say is the sign
of good-fortune. On the platform, through all the cracks in the marble,
violets were forcing their way, making a purple carpet under the golden
sunshine. We crossed to a hall, which is surely most wonderful. The
light was subdued a little, and the hall that contains in its centre the
memorial tablet of red and gold is as magnificent in its proportions
as York Minster. The roof is supported by trunks of sandal-wood trees,
smooth, straight, and brown, they run sixty feet up to the roof, and
after more than five hundred years the air is heavy with the sensuous
scent of them. Where did they get that sandal-wood, those trunks all of
such noble proportions? They must have cost an immense sum of money, for
they never grew in Northern China.

Another courtyard is behind this hall of audience, where is a marble
fountain, whitewashed, and a spring that is supposed to cure all ills of
the eyes, and a door apparently leading into a hill-side, behind which
is a grove of cypress trees. The door being opened, we entered a paved
tunnel which led upwards to a chamber in the heart of the hill, whence
two more ramps led still upwards, one to the right and the other to the
left, into the open air again. Here the coffin was placed in the mound
through the top of the ramp. The stones with which the ramps were paved
were worn and slippery, the angle was steep, the leaves from the trees
outside had drifted in, and the effect was strange and weird. Nowhere
else but in China could such a thing be. And right on top of the mound,
over the {126}actual grave, is another memorial tablet to the dead
Emperor, looking away out over the valley to the stony hills, that are
the wall which hedges off this sacred place from the outside world.

And Yung Lo, the Emperor, died in the first half of the fifteenth
century. How many people in England know or care, where Henry V. lies
buried?

The evening was falling when we went back by the stony mule path, by the
little stony villages, where the mothers were calling their children in
from the fields, and the men were gathering at the meeting-places for
the evening gossip. Of what did they talk? Of the Emperor dead in his
tomb hundreds of years ago? Of the New Republic away in the capital? The
Emperor seemed somehow nearer to the village people. There was the sound
of quaint, tuneless, Eastern music, and sitting with the sun on his
sightless face, surrounded by a listening little crowd, was a blind
musician holding across his knees a sort of lute. The people turned
and watched as the strangers and the aliens passed, and the musician
thrummed on. Light or dark was the same to him. The clouds piled now
in the western sky, and the stony land looked unutterably dreary in
the gathering gloom, the coolies must have been weary, but they went
steadily on, changing the chair pole from one shoulder to the other. The
slopes that had been hard to scramble up were harder to scramble down,
but they made no complaint. This was their work, and the night was
coming when they might rest. The night was coming fast, but we were
nearing the end of our journey. The hills looked cold, and gloomy,
and threatening, and then the heavy clouds above them {127}broke, and
through them burst the setting sun in all the glory of silver, and
purple, and ruddy gold. Down on the barren hills, like a benediction,
fell his last rays, telling of hope for the morrow, and we turned into
the yard of the little inn, and the coolies bowed themselves to the
ground, one after the other, because they got a pitiful little over and
above their hard-earned wages.

[Illustration: 0196]

And the next day we went back to Peking, back through the pass.

The Ching Er Hotel provided tiffin on the train, curried chicken and
mutton chops, some form of cakey pudding, cheese, and bread and butter,
all excellent in its way--and we were all so amiable, even the poet had
come down from the clouds and joined us, that we only laughed when we
found we were expected to pile all these good things on one plate, and
do it quickly before the train left!

As we were eating it, the guard came round and collected one dollar and
ninety cents extra apiece, because we had ridden on the observation-car.
We paid, and said hard things about the millionaire, but a little more
knowledge of ways Chinese has convinced me we accused him unjustly. I
feel sure that enterprising and observant guard took stock of us, saw
that we did not know the American, and collected, for the benefit of a
highly intelligent, and truly deserving Chinese railway official.

We seldom think of the Chinaman with the glamour of romance, but this
Nankou Pass is well-calculated to upset all our former ideas, and give
us a setting for China such as might apply to barbaric Italy or Provence
of the Middle Ages, only--and it is well to remember, what we barbarians
of the West {128}are apt to forget--that in China, things have always
moved in mightier orbits, that where there were ten men in the Western
world, you may count a hundred in China, for a hundred a thousand, for a
thousand ten thousand.

What must the Nankou Pass have been like on some bitter night in winter,
when the stars were like points of steel, and the stream was frozen in
a grip of iron, and the still air was keen, and hard, and cold, with the
bitter, biting sting of the northern winter? When the fires blazed in
the beacons on the hillsides, flinging their ruddy light, their message
of fear and warning. The keepers of the Wall were failing, the Mongol
hordes were pouring over the barrier, and it behoved every man who saw
that ruddy glare to arm and come to the keeping of the Pass, to die in
its guarding. They died and they held it, and they died and the invaders
flung their bodies to the wolves and the crows, and swept on and took
the country beyond for their own.

But the country to the south is China, China of the ages and she absorbs
nations, Mongol or Manchu, or men from her western borders, and makes
them one with herself.

This is the message I read in the Nankou Pass. I have changed my mind
again and again, and generally I do not believe what I read that day.
But it was firmly impressed on me then. China is not dead. The spirit
that conceived and built that mighty Wall is a living thing still. All
down the Pass, alongside the age-old mule track, runs a new road, a road
of the West, a railway, planned, and laid, and built entirely by Chinese
without any Western help except such as the sons of China got {129}for
themselves in the schools of America and England. And it is not only
well and truly laid, as well as, and better than, many a Western
railway, but behold the spirit of China has entered in, the spirit, not
of her poor, struggling for a crust of bread, a mess of meal, but the
spirit of the men who conceived and planned the Wall, the beautiful Lama
Temple, or the spacious courtyards and glorious palaces of the Forbidden
City. They have built embankments and curves, tunnels and archways that
are things of beauty, and glorious to look upon, as surely never was
railway before. They have built, and it is saying a great deal,
a railway that is worthy of the Nankou Pass. They are the lineal
descendants of the men, who, two thousand years ago, built the Great
Wall. Hail and all hail!

And then a railway man talked to me. The railway might be beautiful,
but it was costly beyond all excuse. The best of the ideas had come from
Europe, certainly these highly civilised, these over-civilised people
might be trusted to see and make a beautiful thing, the question
was, could they be trusted to manage a railway as a railway should be
managed? He thought not. They had somehow lost force. Well, we shall
see. One thing seems certain, between us Westerners and the Chinese,
is a great gulf fixed. We look across and sometimes we wonder, and
sometimes we pity, and sometimes we admire, but we cannot understand.



CHAPTER VIII--TWO CHARITIES

{130}

_The manufacturing of the blind--“Before born”--The Rev. Hill
Murray--“The Message”--Geography--Marriage--A brave little
explorer--Massacre of the blind--Deposits of one tael--A missionary
career--The charitable Chinese--A Buddhist orphanage--Invitation to a
funeral--An intellectual abbot--The youngest orphan--Pity and mercy._

|The blind musician I had seen playing to the village folk with the
setting sun, that he could not see, on his face, remained in my mind.
Why especially, I do not know, for it is a common enough sight in China.
Terrible as is the affliction, the Chinese, by their insanitary habits,
more or less manufacture their blind. The cult of the bath is not theirs
yet, they live, apparently happily, amongst filthy surroundings, they
neglect the eyes of the new-born child, they suffer from smallpox, and
ophthalmia, and the barber with his infected razor shaves, not only
close round the outside, but with the laudable intention of making all
clean and neat, as far down as he can get round the delicate inside of
the eyelid. The result one may see any day in the streets of Peking, or
any Chinese town. A beggar in China is always a horrible-looking object.
He belongs to a guild. His intention is to attract pity, and it would
seem to him going the wrong way about it, to begin by being neat and
clean. Besides, though many people {131}in China are neat, I suspect
very few of them are what we arrogant Westerners would describe
as clean, and among a dirty people, the blind beggar stands out,
pre-eminent, as the filthiest creature I have ever seen. On the
roadside, again and again in a country place where many people are
passing, I have seen a half-naked man, who looked as if he had never
since his birth even looked at water, clad, or rather half-clad, in
filthy rags with raw red sores where his eyes should have been. He was
so horrible, so ghastly a specimen of humanity that he seemed almost
beyond pity. And yet a blind person always receives a certain amount
of respect and consideration from the Chinese, even from the poorest
Chinese. Never in his hearing would the roughest rickshaw coolie call
him “Hsia Tze” that is “Blind man.” That would be discourteous. Though
he be only a beggar, forlorn, hungry, unkempt, he is still addressed by
all passers as “Hsien Sheng,” “Before Born,” a title of respect that is
given to teachers, doctors, and men of superior rank and age.

Hard though, in spite of the respect that is paid them, must be the lot
of those who are handicapped by the loss of sight. It is hard in any
land, but in China, where even among those in full possession of their
senses, there are hundreds of thousands just on the verge of starvation,
the touch needed to send a man over the brink is very, very slight
indeed. Not even the close family ties of the Chinese can help them
much, for where the strongest suffer, the weak must go to the wall.
And there are very few crafts open to the blind man. He may be a
storyteller, or a fortune-teller, or a musician, I cannot {132}imagine
what he would do if his talents did not run in those lines, and even
then he is dependent upon the doles of a people who have very, very
little to give away, and naturally guard that little carefully. Once
blind there is nothing more to be done. The beautiful blue sky of China,
the golden sunshine have gone, and in its place there is the darkness,
warm sometimes, bitter cold sometimes, the enveloping darkness that
means for so many helplessness and starvation, often at the very best
semi-starvation, borne with the uncomplaining stoicism of the Chinese.

Now once upon a time a man stood upon the Beggars’ Bridge in Peking,
outside the walls of the Tartar City, selling Bibles, and noticed as
everyone must do, the number of blind who passed by. Was there none to
pity, asked the Rev. Hill Murray, none among all those who had devoted
their lives to bringing the Gospel to the heathen to help?

“What?” said some. “When you know that already the Chinese declare we
missionaries take the children for the sake of making medicine of their
eyes, will you give colour to the accusation by setting up a mission to
the blind?” And then, when he still persisted, “They need us, they need
us,” they said: “Since you are so keen, why don’t you do it yourself?”

To him it was “The Message.” Why should he not do it himself? And there
and then he set to work. It was years ago. What the cost, what the
struggle, I do not know. I only know that one sunny April day wandering
round Peking in a hu t’ung in the east of the Tartar City I came upon
the house, or rather, for it is all done Chinese fashion, {133}the nest
of little houses with their courtyards and little gardens, that is the
Mission to the Blind.

[Illustration: 0204]

The Rev. Hill Murray is gone to his rest, but his wife and daughters
keep up the Mission, waiting for the time when his young son, away in
England training, shall be ready to take his place. Fifty pupils, boys
and girls, the missionaries send in from the various stations, and
here they are taught, taught to read and write according to the Braille
system, taught to play musical instruments, and prepared for being
preachers, which of course the missionaries consider the most important
avocation of all. I, in my turn, am only concerned that the unfortunate
should be happy, or as happy as he can be under the circumstances, and
I should think that the preacher, the man who feels himself of some
importance in spite of his affliction, competent to instruct his fellows
in what, to him, is a matter of deep moment, has possibly the best
chance of happiness. The girls are taught much the same as the boys, and
in addition to knit, and such household work as they are capable of.

It seemed to me sad, when I went there one bright sunny morning, that
these young things should be for ever in the dark, but I am bound to say
it was only my thoughts that were sad. The girls came laughing into the
front courtyard with their knitting in their hands to see--see, save
the mark!--the stranger, and have their photographs taken. The sun, the
golden sun of April, streamed down on the stone-paved courtyard, all the
plants in pots were in bloom, and the girls, dressed in Chinese fashion,
made deep obeisance in the direction they were told I was. All around
were the quaint roofs, dainty {134}lattice-work windows, and Eastern
surroundings of a Chinese house, and the girls were grave at first,
because they were being introduced to an older woman, and one whom they
thought was their superior, therefore they thought it was not fitting
they should laugh and talk, but when I remarked on their gravity, Miss
Murray, shepherding them, laughed.

“Oh they are very happy. They don’t feel their lot, not yet at any rate.
They are proud because they have learned so much. They can read and
write, they can knit, and they have learned geography.”

Geography seemed a great asset, and presently, they, when they knew they
might, were laughing and talking, and saying how proud they were to have
their photographs taken. They sat there knitting, and even while they
talked, did exactly what they were told, for like all Chinese, they
have a great sense of the fitting. On one occasion a friend brought in a
gramophone and set it going for their amusement.

“I could have shaken them all,” said Miss Murray, “they received the
funniest sallies in solemn silence,” and when the entertainer was gone,
she reproached them, “You never even smiled.”

A dozen eager voices responded. “Oh but it was so hard not to laugh.
We wanted to so much, but we thought it would not be right. It was so
hard.”

The lot of all women in China is hard; doubly hard, it seemed to me,
must the lot of these poor little girls be, cut off from the only hope
of happiness a Chinese woman has, the chance of bearing a son. {135}“And
they can never marry,” I said sorrowfully to Miss Murray.

There came a smile into her bright young eyes. “Oh, I don’t know. Some
of them may. They are so very well-educated, and the Chinese admire
education, and in a Chinese household, where there are so many people to
do the work, a blind wife would not be so useless. Only the other day we
heard of the marriage of one of our girls.”

And I looked at them again with other eyes, and hoped there were many
households that would like a wife for their son who knew geography.

We went from the outer to the inner courtyard, a rock garden where, in
true Chinese fashion, are set out plants and rockeries, a little winding
river with a stone bridge across it, a miniature lake--there is no water
in it now--and many creeping plants hiding the stones. It is a charming
spot, but naturally the blind are not allowed to go there by themselves.
It is too dangerous. However, on one occasion, one curious little boy
objected to these restrictions, and went on an exploring expedition on
his own account. Groping about in the darkness, he fell into the river,
which has steep cement sides, and out of that he could not get. You
would think that he would have yelled lustily to call attention to his
predicament, but that is not the Chinese way. He had disobeyed, Fate
was against him, and he must suffer, and there he lay the livelong day
without a murmur, and not till they called the roll in the evening,
was his absence discovered, and a search for him instituted. Even that
lesson was not sufficient, for once again he was missing, and once again
he was discovered fallen into one of the many traps of the rock garden.
{136}It was unexplored country to him, and he was willing to risk much
to see what it was like.

In the parts of the house with which they are familiar they can all run
about, up and down steps, and in and out of courtyards and down passages
as easily as people with sight. The boys came out of their class-rooms
where they learn to read, and write, and sing, and play the harmonium,
and raced about much as other boys in other lands would do.

They have two meals a day--one in the morning and one at four o’clock in
the afternoon, and as much tea and bread at other times as they care
to have. Mrs Murray apologised for the dampness of the stones of the
dining-room floor. It is a Chinese house, and stone floors are not a
sign of poverty. These stones are damp because at twelve o’clock the
boys come and pour themselves out cups of tea, and naturally they make a
mess. The cook is busy, he cannot be with them always. For this charity
is run on very simple lines, and the people who see are very few. There
is the cook and the house-coolie, a woman for the girls, a doorkeeper,
frail and old, he may be seen standing just outside the door in the
picture of the hu t’ung, and a couple of men who attend to the making of
the Braille books, for their making and binding requires the attention
of someone with sight. But with these exceptions, the blind have it all
to themselves; they learn, and they play, and they eat by themselves.

In one of the pictures I have taken, the boys have come out of school
and are playing cat and mouse. All join hands in a circle, and one boy
creeping in and out softly is chased by another. How they manage it in
their darkness I don’t know, but they {137}chattered, and laughed, and
shouted happily though what they said of course I did not know. They are
all, boys and girls alike, dressed in the ordinary blue cotton of the
country; the boys had their hair cut short, for nowadays the queue,
that most curious of fashions in the dressing of hair, is going out. The
girls were also dressed like the peasants, with their trousers neatly
drawn in at the ankles and their smooth, straight hair drawn back and
plaited in a tail down the back, much like an English schoolgirl; the
little ones though, have their heads shaven in front, very ugly, but in
conformation with Chinese custom, which always shaves part at least of
the little one’s head.

In the courtyard where the boys were playing, was a rocking-horse, a
dilapidated and battered toy without either tail, or mane, or eyes. And
this toy is pathetic, when you know its history. It was bought with
the pennies saved by Mr Hill Murray’s children. They, too, out of
their small store, wanted to do something for the blind; and the blind
children, immediately it came into their possession, took out its eyes.
They were not going to have the rocking-horse spying on them when they
could not see themselves.

They all wisely live in native fashion. Their food is the food of the
well-to-do lower classes, plenty of bread, steamed instead of being
baked, and plenty of vegetables and soup, with just a little meat in it;
the food to which they have been accustomed, and which they like best.
Their beds, I have tried to depict one, are just the ordinary k’ang, a
stone platform to hold three in summer, and five in winter. Under it is
a small fireplace where a fire can be built {138}to warm it, above, it
is covered with matting, and each boy spreads his own bed of quilted
cotton, which is rolled up in the daytime.

I would have thought that the Mission to the Blind was so good and great
a thing that it could rouse no bitter feelings in any breast. It has
for its object the succouring of those whom the Chinese themselves treat
with great respect, yet so fanatical was the Boxer outbreak, that in the
hu t’ung outside the Mission, forty of the pupils and their teachers,
helpless in their affliction, were done to death by those who would have
none of the Westerner and his works, even though those works were works
of mercy.

More often, perhaps, in China than anywhere in the world where I have
been, am I reminded of the passage in Holy Writ that tells how as
the Man of Pity came nigh unto Jericho a certain blind man sat by the
wayside begging. And, hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it
meant, and they told him, “Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.” We may not
give sight to the blind nowadays, but if we walk in the streets of
Peking, and then turn in to the Mission to the Blind with its kindly
care for the helpless, and its brightening of darkened lives, we know
that that man who stood on the Beggars’ Bridge pitied, as his Master had
pitied before him. All that he could do he has done, and those who have
come after him have followed faithfully in his footsteps, can any man do
more? I think not. Truly I think not.

“What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” asked the Lord of the World
of the blind beggar.

And he said, “Lord that I may receive my sight.”

Those who charge themselves with the care of the {139}blind may not
give so royally now. Theirs is the harder part, they tend and care with
unfailing patience, untiring diligence, and then they stand, and wait.

[Illustration: 0212]

I was so lost in my admiration for the Mission to the Blind, that I
began to think and to say, that missionary enterprise, which I had
always thought should turn its attention to its own people, was at least
justified in this land of China, where no provision was made for the
sick and afflicted, and where charity was unknown. I said it very often,
and every foreigner approved, until at last, there came one or two who
promptly showed me the utter folly of drawing deductions when I didn’t
know anything about the facts.

The foreigner in China is divided into two camps. He is either
missionary or he is anti-missionary. Both sides are keen on the matter.
And, of course, there are always two sides to every question, as the
little girl saw whose sympathies went out to the poor lion, who hadn’t
got a Christian.

China needs medical missionaries, needs them as badly as the city slums
of London or New York; and China is going to get them, for there are
thousands of people who think a deal more of the state of the soul of
the materialistic Chinaman than they do of the starving bodies, and
more than starved intellects of the slum children of a Christian land.
Formerly the missionary had a worse time than he has now. He came among
a people who despised him, and more than once he suffered martyrdom, and
even when there was no question of martyrdom, some of the regulations
he submitted to must have been unpleasant. Unwisely I think, for you can
{140}never make a European look like a Chinaman, the powers that ran
the missionary societies, decided that the missionary must wear Chinese
dress, even to the shaven head and the queue behind. A hatchet-faced
Scot with a fiery red pigtail, they say was an awesome sight, certainly
calculated to impress the Celestial, though whether in the way the
newcomer intended I should not like to say. The growing of a proper
queue was, of course, a question of months, and the majority of
missionaries began their career with a false one. A story is told of one
luckless young man in Shanghai who lost his, and went about his business
for some little time unaware of the fact. When he did discover his loss
he went back on his tracks, searching for it at all the places he had
visited. At last he arrived at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and
there, pinned high on the wall, was his missing property, and attached
to it by some facetious clerk was the legend in great letters that all
might read: “Deposits of one tael not accepted here!” For the benefit of
the uninitiated, one tael is a sum of money, varying with the price of
silver, from half-a-crown to three shillings.

But those days are gone by. Nowadays missionary societies are wiser, and
the medical missionaries are pleasant, cheerful, hard-working men and
women doing an immense amount of good among the suffering poor, so
kindly, so thoughtful are they that I grudge their services to the
heathen when I think how many of the children, aye and those who are not
children, in the mean streets of the great cities of the West need their
services. They trouble themselves about the souls of the people too,
and the example of kindly lives must be good. Again I grudge it all to
{141}the Oriental, though I have come to realise that there are many
ways of doing good in the world. I do occasionally feel that the
missionaries are a little too strenuous in inculcating prayer and
praise, and exhorting to a virtue that is a little beyond the average
mortal. The caring for both bodies and souls can certainly be overdone.
However I dare say it all works right in the end, and I, who do nothing,
should be the last to judge. Still sometimes I could not but remember
the picture of the two babies discussing the situation, the fat, plump
baby, and the thin, miserable, scrawny one.

Said the thin baby: “How do you manage to keep so fat? My milk’s
sterilised, and the milkman’s sterilised, and even the cart’s
sterilised, and yet look at me,” and he stretched out his thin, starved
hands.

“Ah, so’s mine,” said the fat baby serenely, “but, when no one’s
looking, I climb down and get a chew at the corner of the floor-rug, and
get enough bacteria to keep a decent life in me!”

Listening to the talk of the missionaries, hearing of the foolishness
of smoking, the wickedness of alcoholic drinks, and various forms of
sinfulness, I have rather hoped, and more than suspected, that the
converts sometimes got down and had a chew at the corner of the
floor-rug when no one was looking.

Not that many of the missionaries don’t endeavour to live up to
their own moral code, many of them do, and many of them lead lives of
abnegation and self-denial. We all know that the missionary of the Church
of Rome gives up everything, and expects never again to see his
country once he enters the mission-field, and many of the China Inland
Missionaries, {142}except in the matter of celibacy, run them close.
Their pay is very, very small, no holidays can be counted upon, and
their lives are isolated and lonely. Even the American missionary, who
is far better paid, gives up his own individuality. The ministers earn
more, I believe, than they would in their own country, because people
give gladly to missions, while at home the minister’s salary is often a
burning question. “Far fields are ever fair,” but a clever surgeon who
is kept hard at it from dawn to dark, once the Chinese appreciate him,
certainly receives far less than he could earn working for himself. He
is given a comfortable home, he may marry and have children without a
qualm, for, for every child twenty pounds a year is allowed till he is
of age; the societies see to it that a six weeks’ holiday is given every
year, and a year’s furlough every seven years with passage paid home
for wife and children. No business firm could afford to make more
comfortable provision for its employees.

In China, service is cheap and good, the food and the cooks both
excellent, and the climate, at least in the north, exhilarating and
delightful. But the missionaries do their duty, and do it well, and they
are pioneers of Western civilisation. In their wake comes trade, though
that is the last thing the majority of them think about. The only
trouble for the American missionary seems to me the danger that hangs
over every dweller in China--a danger they share with every other
foreign resident. It is hard to think of danger when one looks at the
courteous, subservient Chinese, but Sir Robert Hart put it succinctly:
“Anything may happen at any time in China.” And for all the New
Republic, {143}and for all the fair promise, his words are still worthy
of attention.

“Do you really think,” said R. F. Johnston, the well-known writer on
things Chinese, “that the Chinese knew nothing about charity till it was
preached to them by Christian missionaries?”

I intimated that such had been my faith.

“The Chinese,” said he, a little indignantly, “are one of the most
charitable peoples on earth.”

And then he told me what I, a stranger and ignorant of the language,
might have gone years without learning. To begin with, family ties
are far stronger in China than in European countries, and a man feels
himself bound to help his helpless relatives in a way that would seem
absurd to the average Christian, and in addition there are numerous
societies for helping those, who, by some mischance, have no one upon
whom they can depend. There are societies for succouring the sick,
societies for looking after orphans, and other kindly institutions.
There are even societies for paying poor folks’ fares across ferries!
There certainly are a good many rivers in China, but this society I must
admit strikes me as a work of supererogation. I don’t think much merit
can really attach to the subscribers, for the majority of poor folks I
have seen would be so much better for walking through the river, clothes
and all.

However, we have a good few foolish charities of our own, and even if
the Chinese charities do not cover all the ground, we must remember that
China is, in so many things, archaic; and these charities run on archaic
lines are naturally shocking to men steeped in the sanitary lore of
the West, {144}We have only to read the novels of Charles Dickens and
Charlotte Brontë to see a few flaws in the way the charities of the
Early Victorian era were administered; what would we think if we could
take a peep into thetlazar-house of the Middle Ages--yet there were kind
hearts, I doubt not, in the Middle Ages--and China, with her overflowing
population, is yet in the matter of charity where we were some time
about the reign of the seventh Henry. Could we expect much?

“Would you like to see a Buddhist Orphanage?” asked Mr Johnston.

I said I would, and he promised to take me to one they were trying to
run on Western lines.

It was a pleasantly warm Sunday, with a wind blowing that lifted the
filthy dust of Peking from the roadways, and flung it in our faces.
We interviewed first two rickshaw coolies with a view to ascertaining
whether they; knew where we wanted to go, or rather he interviewed them,
for I have no Chinese. They swore they did, by all their gods. Still he
looked doubtful.

“Why don’t you take them?” said I, feeling mistakenly that nowhere else
in the town could the dust and the wind be quite so bad as just outside
the Wagons Lits Hotel.

“Because I want to find out if they really know where we want to go.
They always swear they do, for fear of losing the job.”

However, at last we set out with rickshaw coolies who seemed to have a
working knowledge of the route we wished to follow, and we went through
the Chien Men into the Chinese City, and away to the west through a
maze of narrow alley-ways, hung {145}with long Chinese signs, past the
closely packed, one-storied shops where they sold china and earthenware,
cotton goods and food-stuffs, lanterns, and rows of uninteresting
Chinese shoes. The streets of course were thronged. There were
rickshaws, laden donkeys, broughams with Venetian shutters to shut out
the glare, the clanging bell and outrider to tell that some important
man was passing, mules, camels, men on foot with or without burdens,
with bamboos across their shoulders and loads slung from them, and some
few women tottering along on maimed feet. And every man was giving his
opinion on things in general to the universe at the top of his voice.

“How I wish I could understand what they were saying,” I said to my
companion once, when the exigencies of the way brought our rickshaws
side by side.

He laughed. “Sometimes it’s as well you shouldn’t.” And then he
corrected himself lest I should have got a wrong impression. “No, on the
whole they are very polite to each other.”

Once we came upon a man with a packet of papers in his hand. He was
standing upon something to raise him a little above the passing crowd,
and distributing the papers not to everyone, but apparently with great
discrimination. Both of us were deemed worthy of a sheet, and I wondered
what on earth the hieroglyphics could mean. It was an invitation to
a funeral, my cicerone informed me, the next time we were in speaking
distance. Some woman, who had been working for a broader education for
women, had died, and her friends were going to mark their appreciation
of her labours by {146}a suitable funeral. So is the change coming to
China.

As we went on the houses grew fewer, there were open spaces where
kaoliang and millet were being reaped, for this, my second charity, I
visited in September, the grey walls of the city rose up before us,
and still there was no sign of the monastery. Our men were panting, the
sweat was running down their faces and staining their thin coats, still
they dragged us on, never dreaming; of using the tongues Nature had
given them to lighten their labours. To ask the way would have been to
show the foreigner in the rickshaw that they had not known it in the
first instance, and that would be to lose face.

But one of the foreigners had grasped that already, and he insisted on
the necessary inquiries being made, and presently we had gone back on
our tracks and were at the monastery, being received by the abbot who
had charge of it, and a tall Chinese, who spoke German, and was deeply
interested in the Orphanage.

It was the great day of the year, for they were having their annual
sports. Over the entrance gateway was a magnificent decoration to mark
the event. The place was built Chinese fashion, with many courtyards
and low-roofed houses round them, and we were led from one courtyard
to another until at last we arrived at a large courtyard, or rather
playground. Here were the monks and their charges, and a certain number
of spectators who had been invited to see the show, all men, for men and
women do not mingle in China, and the next day the entertainment
would be repeated with women only as spectators. I received a warm
{147}invitation to come again, but I felt that once would be enough. We
sat down on a bench with a table in front of us, a boy was told off to
keep us supplied with tea, and I had leisure to look around me and see
what manner of people were these among whom I had come.

[Illustration: 0222]

[Illustration: 0223]

There are thirty monks here, and they have charge of two hundred and
fifty orphans whom they teach to read and write, and all the useful
trades, give them, in fact, a good start in the world, and the best of
chances to earn their own living. The bright sunshine was everywhere,
the walls in a measure shut out the wind and the dust, and the
sports were in full swing. At the upper end of the ground, in a room
overlooking the play, sat the abbot and some of his subordinates. They
wore loose gowns of some dark material girt in at the waist, their only
ornament, if ornament it could be called, was a rosary, and head
and face were absolutely bare of hair. The abbot from a neighbouring
monastery was introduced to me too, a man with a pleasant, thoughtful,
cultured face and the most beautiful milk-white teeth. I was sorry I
could not speak to that man. I felt somehow as if we might have met on a
plane where nationalities and race count for little; but that would have
been due to his culture and broadmindedness, not to mine.

Then there were the orphans. They were fat, well-fed looking little
chaps dressed in unbleached calico trousers, and coats of the very
brightest blue I have ever seen. Each wore on his breast, as a mark of
the festive occasion, a bright pink carnation, and every head was
shaven as bare as a billiard ball. They looked happy and well, but to
my Western {148}eyes that last sanitary precaution, as I suppose it was,
spoiled any claim they had to good looks. They ran races, they jumped
about in sacks, they picked up hoops, they stood in clusters of six and
sang in shrill young voices, weird and haunting songs that I was told
were patriotic and full of hope for China. The three first in the races
had their names proclaimed in black characters on white flags that were
carried round the grounds, and there and then received their prizes, a
handkerchief or some such trifle.

It was interesting not so much for the sports themselves, those may be
better seen in any well-regulated boys’ school, but because this is the
first time such efforts have been made in China, and made by the Chinese
themselves. That a man should take any violent exercise, unless he were
absolutely obliged, that he should have any ideal beyond looking fat,
and sleek, and well-fed, is entirely contrary to all received Chinese
ideas, and must mark a great step in their advancement.

And then they brought me the youngest orphan, a wee, fat boy of eight,
and though he looked well, he seemed much younger. Probably he was. As
I understand it, the Chinese counts himself a year old in the year he
is born, and the first New Year’s day adds another year to his life, so
that the child born on the last day of the old year, would on New Year’s
Day, be two years old! There is something very lovable about a small
child, and there was about this little smiling chap, though he was
unbecomingly dressed in coat and trousers of unbleached calico, and his
head was shaven bare. He held out his hand to me when he was told, bowed
low when {149}I gave him a little piece, a very little piece, of money,
and then trotted across the grounds to where a young monk was looking on
at the show. He caught hold of the monk’s robe, and nestled against him,
and the man put down a tender hand and caressed him. No child of his
own, by his vows, would he ever have, but he was a tender father to this
little lonely waif. A waif? He was well-fed, he was suitably clad, and
here I saw with my own eyes he had tenderness, could any child have had
more? Could men do more? And again I say, as I said when I looked at the
Mission to the Blind, I think not. Very surely I think not. At least
one of these monks was giving what no Westerner could possibly give to
a child of an alien race, that tenderness that softens and smooths life.
“They brought young children to Him, that He should touch them... and He
took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.”

These monks profess a faith that was old when Christianity was born, but
they are carrying out as faithfully as ever did any follower of Christ
His behests. What matter the creed? What matter by what name we call it?
Away in this old Eastern city here, they are preaching, in deeds, the
gospel of love and kindness, and no man can do more.

We are apt to think that charity and pity are attributes of the
Christian faith only but that is to insult the many good and holy men of
other faiths. I am not scorning the kindness and self-sacrifice of
the Christian missionary, but it is better, where it is possible, that
charity and pity for the Chinese should come from those of their own
race. For, however tender and kind an alien may be, he still {150}stands
outside, and the recipient to a certain extent is necessarily alone.
Therefore am I doubly grateful to Mr Johnston for taking me to this
Orphanage, where I could see how good the Chinese could be to the waifs
and strays of their own people.

Pity and mercy belong not to the Western nations alone. They come from
the Most High, and are common to all His people, Christian missionary
selling Bibles, and pitying the blind upon the Beggars’ Bridge, or
Buddhist monk taking to his heart the little forsaken child in the
monastery of an older faith in the Chinese City. For such love as that
we find in the world we, who look on, can only bow our heads and give
thanks.



CHAPTER IX--A CHINESE INN

{151}

_The start for Jehol--Tuan--A Peking cart--Chinese roads--A great
highway--Chances of camping out--“Room for ten thousand merchant
guests”--Human occupancy--Dust of ages--Eyes at the window--Catering for
the journey--The Chinese chicken, minced._

|There were two places that I particularly wanted to go to when I could
make up my mind to tear myself away from the charms of Peking. One
was the Tungling, or Eastern Tombs, the tombs where the great
Empress-Dowager and most of the Manchu Emperors were buried, and Jehol,
the Hunting Palace of the Manchus, away to the north in Inner Mongolia,
or on the outermost edge of the Province of Chihli, for boundaries are
vague things in that out-of-the-way part of the world. I wondered if
I could combine them both if instead of coming back to Peking after
visiting the tombs I might make my way over the mountains to Jehol. With
that end in view I instituted inquiries, only to find that while many
people knew a man, or had heard of several men who had been, I never
struck the knowledgeable man himself. The only thing was to start out on
my own account, and I knew then I should soon arrive at the difficulties
to be overcome, not the least of them was two hundred {152}and eighty
miles in a Peking cart. The only drawback to that arrangement was that
if I didn’t like the difficulties when I did meet them, there could be
no drawing back. They would have to be faced.

Accordingly I engaged a servant with a rudimentary knowledge of English.
When the matter we spoke of was of no importance, such as my dinner, I
could generally understand him, when it was of importance, such as
the difficulties of the way, I could not, but I guessed, or the events
themselves as they unfolded became explanatory. This gentleman was a
small person with noble views on the subject of squeeze, as it pertained
to Missie’s servant, and he wore on state occasions a long black coat of
brocaded silk, slit at the sides, and on all occasions the short
hairs that fringed the shaven front of his head stood up like a
black horsehair halo. He was badly pock-marked, very cheerful, and an
excellent servant, engineering me over difficulties so well that I had
to forgive him the squeeze, though in small matters I was occasionally
made aware I was paying not double the price, but seven times what it
ought to have been. However one buys one’s experience. He was my first
servant and I paid him thirty dollars a month, so I was squeezed on that
basis. A six months’ stay in China convinced me I could get as good a
servant for fifteen dollars a month, and feel he was well paid.

His name was Tuan, pronounced as if it began with a “D,” and he engaged
for me two Peking carts with a driver each, and two mules apiece. One
was for myself and some of my luggage, the other took {153}my servant,
my humble kitchen utensils, and the rest of my baggage; and one Sunday
morning in May, it is hardly necessary to say it was sunny, because a
dull morning in May in Northern China is an exception hailed with joy,
the carts appeared at the door of the “Wagons Lits,” and we were ready
to start. At least everything was ready but me. I ached in every limb,
and felt sure that I was just beginning an attack of influenza. What was
to be done? I longed with a great longing for my peaceful bed. I did not
want to go venturing forth into the, to me, unknown wilds of China, but
I had engaged those carts at the rate of seven dollars a day for the
two, and I felt that I really could not afford to linger. Possibly the
fresh air might do me good. At any rate, I reflected thankfully, as I
climbed into the foremost cart, no active exertion was required of me.
And that only shows how remarkably little I knew about a Peking cart.
A man and a girl of my acquaintance rose up early in the morning to
accompany me the first ten miles on donkeys, we had tiffin together
beneath the shade of some pine-trees in a graveyard, and then they
wished me good-bye, and I started off with the comfortable feeling that
arises from the parting good wishes of kind friends.

Now a Peking cart is a very venerable mode of progression. When our
ancestors were lightly dressed in woad, and had no conception of any
wheeled vehicle, the Chinese lady was paying her calls sitting in the
back of a Peking cart, the seat of honour under the tilt, well out of
the sight of the passers-by, while-her servant sat in front, the place
of comfort, if such a word can be applied to anything {154}pertaining to
a Peking cart, for in spite of its long and aristocratic record if there
is any mode of progression more wearying and uncomfortable I have not
met it. It is simply a springless board set on a couple of wheels with a
wagon tilt of blue cotton, if you are not imperial, over it, and a place
for heavy luggage behind. The Chinaman sits on the floor and does
not seem to mind, but the ordinary Westerner, such as I am, packs his
bedding and all the cushions he can raise around him, and then resigns
himself to his fate. It has one advantage people will tell you, it has
nothing to break in it, but there are moments when it would be a mighty
relief if something did break, for if the woodwork holds together, as it
tosses you from side to side, you yourself are one sore, bruised mass.
No, I cannot recommend a Peking cart, even on the smoothest road.

And the roads in China are not smooth. We all know the description of
the snakes in Ireland, “There are no snakes,” and if in the same manner
could be described the roads in China, blessed would the roads in China
be, but as China is a densely populated country there are so-called
roads, upon which the people move about, but I have seldom met one that
was any better than the surrounding country, and very, very often on
this journey did I meet roads where it was ease and luxury to move off
them on to the neighbouring ploughed field. The receipt for a road there
in the north seems to be: Take a piece of the country that is really too
bad to plough or to use for any agricultural purposes whatever, that
a mountain torrent, in fact, has given up as too much for the water,
{155}upset a stone wall over it, a stone wall with good large stones
in it, take care they never for a moment lie evenly, and you have your
road.

[Illustration 0233]

Leaving Peking for the Eastern Tombs you go for the first two or three
hours along a paved way of magnificent proportions, planned and laid out
as a great highway should be. The great stones with which it is paved
were probably put there by slave labour, how many hundred years ago I
do not know, but the blocks are uneven now, some of them are gone
altogether, though how a huge block of stone could possibly disappear
passes my understanding, and whenever the carter could, he took the cart
down beside the road, where at least the dust made a cushion for the
nail-studded wheels, and the jarring and the jolting were not quite so
terrible.

It takes as long to get beyond the environs of Peking in a cart as it
does to get out of London in a motor-car. First we passed through the
Babylonish gate, and the great walls were behind us, then, outside the
city, all looking dusty, dirty, and khaki-coloured in the brilliant
sunshine, were numerous small houses, and the wayside was lined with
booths on which were things for sale, green vegetables and salads
looking inviting, if I could have forgotten the danger of enteric,
unappetising-looking meat, bones, the backbones of sheep from which
all flesh had been taken, eggs, piles of cakes and small pies, shoes,
clothes, samovars, everything a poor man in a primitive community can
possibly require, and along the roadway came an endless array of people,
clad for the most part in blue cotton, men walking, men with loads slung
from a {156}bamboo across their shoulders, donkeys laden with baskets,
with sacks of grain, with fat Chinese on their backs, with small-footed
women being transported from one place to another; there were Peking
carts, there were mules, there were ponies; and this busy throng is
almost the same as it was a couple of thousand years ago. I wondered;
could I have taken a peep at the outskirts of London in the days of
Elizabeth of happy memory, would it not have been like this? But no.
The sky here is bright and clear, the sunshine hot, and the faces of
the moving crowd are yellow and oriental. This crowd is like the men who
toiled round the quarries of Babylon or Nineveh, and it is perhaps more
satisfied with itself and its position in the universe than any like
company of people anywhere in the world. That impression was forced upon
me as I stayed in Peking, it grew and grew as I got farther away from
the great city, and out into the country.

But it was a long, long while before I could feel I was really in
the country. There was the khaki-coloured land, there were the
khaki-coloured houses built of mud apparently, with graceful, tiled
roofs, and blue-clad people everywhere, and everywhere at work. Always
the fields were most beautifully tilled, there were no fences, the
Chinese is too civilised to need a fence, and when you see stone walls
it is only because, since they can’t be dropped off the planet into
space, the stones must be disposed of somehow, here and there the
kaoliang was coming up like young wheat, in vivid green patches that
were a relief from the general dust, and occasionally there were
trees, willow or poplar or fir, delightful to look upon, that marked a
graveyard, {157}and then, just as I was beginning to hope I was out in
the country, a walled town would loom up.

And in the dusk of the evening we stopped and met for the first time the
discomforts of a Chinese inn.

We had started rather late, and I had spent so much time bidding
farewell to my friends, that we did not reach the town we had intended
to, but put up at a small inn in a small hamlet. This, my first inn was,
like most Chinese inns, a line of one-storied buildings, built round the
four sides of a large courtyard. Mixed up with the rooms were the
stalls for the beasts, the mules and the little grey donkeys, with
an occasional pony or two, and the courtyard was dotted with stone or
wooden mangers. In the pleasant May weather there was no need to put all
the beasts under cover, and there were so many travellers there was not
room in the stalls for all the beasts.

It was all wonderfully Eastern. I remembered, I could not but remember,
how once there arrived at such an inn a little company, weary and tired,
and “so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished
that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son,
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger: because
there was no room for them in the inn.”

I thought of that little company as the Peking cart jolted over the step
that is on the threshold of all Chinese doors--no one considers comfort
in China, what is a jolt more or less, a Peking cart will not break--and
I found myself in the courtyard, and a trestle was brought for me to get
down from {158}the cart. I might have jumped, I suppose, but one hundred
li, about thirty miles, had left me stiff and aching in every limb. My
head ached too with the influenza, and when I inspected the room offered
for my accommodation, I only wished drearily that there had been no room
in this particular inn, and that I might have slept out in the open.

But that first day as I went across the plain, that while there were no
hills upon it rose slowly towards the hills, I realised that in China,
there is not the charm of the open road, you may not sleep under the
sky, you must put up at an inn, you would as soon think of camping
out in one of the suburbs of London. Indeed you might easily find more
suitable places for camping about Surbiton or Richmond than you would
among the sterile hills or cultivated valley bottoms of Northern China.
I hoped against hope for three days. I had a comfortable sleeping-bag
and the nights were fine, it seemed it would be so simple a thing to
camp a little off the roadside, even though I had no tent, and that
first night, when I smelled the smell of the rooms, rank and abominable,
and reeking of human occupancy, I envied my mules, and said that as I
got farther into the country I could certainly sleep outside.

“Room for ten thousand merchant guests,” said the innkeeper in
characters of black on red paper over his door, and unless those
merchants were very small indeed, I am sure I don’t know where he
proposed to put them. I remembered with a shudder, that one man of my
acquaintance had said: “What I cannot stand is the perpetual tramp,
{159}tramp, all night,” and I had my suspicions that the guests were
small on this occasion, and I feared lest they were going to be catered
for. There were also notices in the effective red and black that the
landlord would not be responsible for any valuables not confided to his
care, and exhorting the guests to be careful of fire. And it seemed to
me, as I looked at the rotting thatch and the dubious grey walls, that
a fire in this inn would be the very best thing that could happen to it.
You see I was specially particular this first night. I thought the next
inn might be better. I had a good deal to learn. “The tiger from the
Eastern Hills and the tiger from the Western Hills,” says the Chinese
proverb, “are both the same.” So everywhere a Chinese inn is about as
bad as it can be. They are mostly used by carters, and well-to-do people
always go to temples, when they are available. There wasn’t a temple
about here, and I didn’t know I could have lodged there had there been
one, so I resigned myself to the inevitable, and wondered with all the
energy that was left in me what adverse fate had set me down here. I
might have gone back, of course. In a way I was my own mistress; but
after all, we none of us own ourselves in this world. I had a book
to write, and material for that book was not to be got by staying
comfortably in the Wagons Lits Hotel, and therefore I very reluctantly
peeped into a room from which clouds of dust were issuing, and which
smelt worse than any place I had ever before thought of using as
a bed-chamber and dining-room combined. The dust was because I had
impressed upon the valued Tuan that I must have a clean room, so he had
importantly turned {160}two coolies on to stir up the dust of ages, a
thousand years at least, I should say, there seemed no end to it, and I
wondered, in addition to the merchant guests, what awful microbes were
being wakened out of their long sleep. Left alone, they might have been
buried so deep that they might not have come nigh me; but he was giving
them all a chance. After all it was only fair, a foreign woman did not
visit a Chinese inn every day of the week. After more dust than I had
ever seen before all at once, had come out of that room, I instructed
water to be brought and poured on things in general, and, when the
turmoil had quieted down a little, I went in and inspected my quarters.

They all bear a strong family resemblance to one another, the rooms of
these Chinese inns. I always tried to get one that opened directly on
to the courtyard, as giving more chance of air. The Chinese, as a rule,
have not much use for fresh air. Tuan, had he had his way, would have
shut the door fast, as being more correct and private, and then I
should have been in an hermetically sealed room, lighted all along the
courtyard side by a most dainty latticework window covered with white
tissue paper, or rather tissue paper that had once been white. It had
been well-smoked during the winter, and a considerable quantity of the
dust that had been so industriously stirred up, had lodged there. But
air I must have, so I had the paper stripped off from the top of the
window as far down as my desire for privacy would allow. Below, the more
daring spirits, who had assembled to see the foreign woman, wetted their
fingers and poked them softly through the bottom part of the window;
and then {161}an eye appeared, so that it really seemed at first as if
I might as well have been comfortable and had all the paper off. I went
outside, and let it plainly be seen that I was very angry indeed, and
then Tuan, who had a great idea of my dignity, or rather of his dignity,
which was as nothing if I was of no consequence, put one of the “cartee
men” on guard, and once more I retired to my uncomfortable lodging. It
had a stone floor, being quite a superior sort of inn, the poorer sort
have only beaten earth, there were two wooden chairs of dark wood, high,
with narrow and uncomfortable seats, a table, also uncomfortably high,
and of course, the k’ang. Most people know all about the k’ang now, but
this was my first introduction to it as a working piece of furniture. It
is a platform of stone about two feet high, so constructed that a
small fire lighted underneath, and a very small fire it is, carries the
warmth, by a system of flues, all over it. It is covered generally
with matting, and on it is always a k’ang table, a little table
about eighteen inches square and a foot high, and, though this is not
intentional, covered with the grease of many meals.

I looked doubtfully at the k’ang this first day. It seemed to me I could
not lodge in such a place, and I wished heartily that I had left the
describing of China to some more hardened traveller. There was a grass
mat upon it, hiding its stoniness, and I had powdered borax sprinkled
over it, about half a tin of Keating’s followed, though I am told the
insects in China rather like Keating’s, and only then did I venture to
have my bed set up. Alongside was placed my india-rubber bath, the
gift of a friend, and every night of that journey did I thank her with
{162}all my heart, it was so much nicer than my old canvas bath, and
making sure that the “cartee man” was still on guard I proceeded to wash
and undress and creep into my sleeping-bag.

At only one Chinese inn where I stayed could food for the traveller be
had, and that was, I think, only because it combined the functions of
innkeeping and restaurant. In any case, of course, the foreign traveller
would not think of eating Chinese food, and I, like everyone else,
provided my own. I brought with me rice, tea, and flour. Tuan cooked for
me on an absurd little charcoal stove upon which I might have succeeded
in boiling an egg. With the exception of those few stores, I lived off
the country, buying chickens and eggs, onions, and hard little pears;
Tuan doing the buying, charging me at a rate that made me wonder how on
earth the “Wagons Lits” managed to board and lodge its guests at a day.
I used to think that, for sheer toughness, the palm might be given to
the West African chicken, but I withdraw that statement, he isn’t in it
alongside the Chinese. We used to buy small birds about the size of a
pigeon, But an elderly ostrich couldn’t have been tougher. My teeth,
thank Heaven, are excellent, but the Chinese chicken was too much for
them. I then saw why Tuan had provided a chopper for kitchen use, he
called it “cookee knife,” and the fiat went forth--I would have no more
chicken unless it was minced.

But that first night I couldn’t look at chicken, I couldn’t even laugh
at the woodeny pears and rice which were the next course. I declined
everything, lay in bed and drank tea, the wind came in through {163}the
open lattice-work, guttered my candle and then blew it out, and I, first
hot, and then cold, and always miserable, stared at the luminous night
sky, cut into squares by the lattice-work of the window, was conscious
of every bone in my body, and wondered if I were not going to be very
ill indeed.

[Illustration: 0243]



CHAPTER X--THE TUNGLING

{164}

_A Peking cart as a cure for influenza--Difficulties of a narrow
road--The dead have right of way--The unlucky women--Foot
binding--“Beat you, beat you”--Lost luggage--“You must send
your husband”--Letter-writing under difficulties--A masterless
woman--Malanyu--Most perfect place of tombs in the world._

|But I wasn’t. As a rule I find I worry myself unnecessarily in life.
Either a thing can be altered, or it can’t. If it can’t there’s an end
to the matter, worrying doesn’t mend it. I had come here of my own free
will--it wasn’t nice, but there was nothing to do but make the best of
it. In the morning if I wasn’t very happy I was no worse, and to go back
that weary journey to Peking would only be to make myself ridiculous.
Therefore I arose with the sun, and a nice, bright cheerful sun he was,
looked at my breakfast, drank the tea and was ready to start. All the
hamlet watched me climb into my cart. I felt I couldn’t have walked a
step to save my life, and we rumbled over that steep step, and were out
in the roadway again.

It is not the best way to view a country from a Peking cart, for the
tossing from side to side is apt to engender a distaste for life and to
encourage a feeling that nothing would really matter if only the cart
would come to a standstill for a moment. Add to that the aching head of
influenza and that morning {165}I began to pity not only myself but my
publisher, for I began to fear he was going to lose money on me. It
was Byron, I think, who considered that Providence or somebody else who
shall be nameless always took care of publishers, and that is the reason
perhaps why I have come to the opinion that a trip in a Peking cart is
really the best cure for influenza. Had I gone to bed and had someone
kind and nice to wait upon me and bring me the milk and soda and offer
the sympathy my soul desired, I should probably have taken a fortnight
to get well; as it was, out in the open air from dawn to dark, three
days saw the end of my woes, and even at the worst I was able to sit up
and take a certain amount of interest in passing events.

Gradually, gradually, as we went on we seemed to forget the great
city that absorbed all things, and the surroundings became more truly
countrified. The road, when it was not stones, was deep sand with deep,
deep ruts worn by the passing of many carts, and it stretched over just
as great a portion of the country as the people would allow. Flat it
was, flat, and all along the way were little villages and hamlets. There
was no temptation to walk, for it was very rough indeed, just the worn
road and the edge of the tilled fields, tilled as surely never before in
the world were fields tilled, and they stretched away to the far distant
blue hills. Occasionally the road sank deep between them, and as it was
very narrow the traffic question was sometimes troublesome. On this day
we met a country cart, a longer cart than the Peking cart, covered in
with matting and drawn by a mule and a couple of donkeys. Manifestly
there was not room for the carts to pass {166}and I wondered what would
happen for, for either of us, laden as we were, to go backwards
would have been difficult. I was requested to get out, which I did
reluctantly, my carts were drawn so close against the bank that the
right wheels were raised against it, and then they tried to get the
other cart past. No good, it would not go. About a dozen men all in
dirty, very dirty blue, with pointed hats of grass matting, looking
as if they had stepped off old-fashioned tea caddies, came and took an
intelligent interest, even as they might have done in Staffordshire, but
that didn’t make the carts any smaller, and then they decided to drive
the country cart up the bank into the field above. They tried and tried,
they lashed that unfortunate mule and the donkeys, but with all their
pulling it was too heavy, up the bank it would not go. Chinese patience
was exemplified. But it was the mule and the donkeys that really
displayed the patience. I climbed the bank, sat on a stone and watched
them, and did not like to give my valuable advice, because these men
must have been driving carts along these roads all their lives, and
presumably must know something about it, while never in my life had I
handled a team consisting of two donkeys and a mule. At last when they
got an extra hard lashing and fell back, conquered once more, poor
brutes, by the weight, I rose up and interfered. I did not request--I
ordered. They were to take the two foremost mules from my carts
and hitch them on to the other cart. My foremost mule protested, he
evidently said he had never been associated with donkeys before; but in
two minutes they had got that cart to the higher level, and we were free
to go on our way. Why {167}they did not do it without my ordering I am
sure I do not know, for as a rule I had no authority over the carts,
they went their own way--I was merely a passenger.

Once more that day the narrow way was blocked, this time by a funeral.
The huge coffin was borne by ten straining men, and there was no
parleying with it, the dead have right of way in China, and out of the
way we had to get. We backed with difficulty till the bank on one side
was a little lower, and then up we went till we were on the cultivated
land, drove on till we were ahead of the corpse, and then down again
into the roadway once more.

In China, as far as I have been, you never get away from the people,
this country was far more thickly populated than the country round
London, for I have walked in Surrey lanes and found no one of whom to
ask a question, while here there were always people in sight. True, here
were no leafy lanes such as we find in Surrey and Kent, but the whole
country lay flat and outstretched till it seemed as if nothing were
hidden right up to the base of the far away hills. The days were getting
hot and the men were working in the fields stripped to the waist, while
most of the little boys were stark naked, pretty little lissom things
they were, too, if they had only been washed; and the little girls, for
all clothing, wore a square blue pocket-handkerchief put on corner-wise
in front, slung round the neck and tied round the waist with a bit of
string; but farther on, in the mountain villages, I have seen the little
girls like the little boys, stark naked. Only the women are clothed
to the neck, whatever the state of the thermometer. Always there were
houses by the {168}wayside, and many villages and hamlets, and the women
sat on the doorsteps sewing, generally it seemed to me at the sole of a
shoe, or two of them laboured at the little stone corn mills, that
were in every village, grinding the corn, the millet, or the maize, for
household use. Sometimes a donkey, and a donkey can be bought for a very
small sum, turned the stone, but usually it seemed that it was the
women of the household who, on their tiny feet, painfully hobbled round,
turning the heavy stone and smoothing out the flour with their hands, so
that it might be smoothly and evenly ground.

Poor women! They have a saying in China to the effect that a woman eats
bitterness, and she surely does, if the little I have seen of her life
is any criterion. As I went through the villages, in the morning and
evening, I could hear the crying of children. Chinese children are
proverbially naughty, no one ever checks them, and I could not know why
these children were crying, some probably from the pure contrariness of
human nature, but a missionary woman, and a man who scorned missionaries
and all their works both told me that, morning and evening, the little
girls cried because the bandages on their feet were being drawn more
tightly. Always it is a gnawing pain, and the only relief the little
girl can get is by pressing the calf of her leg tightly against the edge
of the k’ang. The pressure stops the flow of blood and numbs the feet as
long as it is kept up, but it cannot be kept up long, and with the rush
of blood comes the increase of pain--a pain that the tightening of the
bandages deepens.

“Beat you, beat you,” cries the mother taking a {169}stick to the little
suffering thing, “you cry when I bind your feet.” For a Chinese woman
must show no emotion, above all she must never complain. This, of
course, is a characteristic of the nation. The men will bear much
without complaining.

I never grew accustomed to it. The pity and the horror of it never
failed to strike me, and if the missionaries do but one good work, they
do it in prevailing on the women to unbind their feet, in preventing
unlucky little girls from going through years of agony.

There is no mistaking the gait of a woman with bound feet. She walks as
if her legs were made of wood, unbending from the hip downwards to the
heels. The feet are tiny, shaped like small hoofs about four inches
long, encased in embroidered slippers, and to walk at all she must hold
out her arms to balance herself. When I was laughed at for my “pathetic
note,” and was told I exaggerated the sufferings of the women, I took
the trouble to inquire of four doctors, three men and one woman, people
who came daily in contact with these women, and they were all of one
opinion, the sufferings of the women were very great. The binding in
girlhood was not only terribly painful but even after the process was
finished the feet were often diseased, often sore and ulcerated, and at
the very best the least exertion, as is only natural, makes them ache.

“Try,” said one doctor, “walking with your toes crushed under your sole,
the arch of your foot pressed up till the whole foot is barely four
inches long, and you can only walk on your heel, and see if you do not
suffer--suffer in all parts of your body. They say,” he went on, “that
while there are many {170}peaceful, kindly old men among the Chinese,
every woman is a shrew. And I can well believe it. What else could you
expect? Oh women have a mighty thin time in China. I don’t believe there
is any place in the world where they have a worse.”

If anyone doubts that this custom presses heavily on the women, let him
ask any doctor who has practised much among the Chinese how many legs he
has taken off because the neglected sores of ulcerated, bound feet have
become gangrenous and a danger to life.

“It really doesn’t matter,” said another doctor I knew well, “a Chinese
woman is just as well with a pair of wooden legs as with the stumps the
binding has left her!”

As a rule I did not see the beginnings, for though the women go about a
little, the small girls are kept at home. But once on this journey, at
a poor little inn in the mountains, among the crowd gathered to see the
foreign woman were two little girls about eight or nine, evidently the
innkeeper’s daughters. They were well-dressed among a ragged crew. Their
smocks were of bright blue cotton, their neat little red cotton trousers
were drawn in at their ankles, and their feet, in tiny embroidered
shoes, were about big enough for a child of three. There was paint on
their cheeks to hide their piteous whiteness, and their faces were drawn
with that haunting look which long-continued pain gives. As they stood
they rested their hands on their companions’ shoulders, and, when they
moved, it was with extreme difficulty. No one took any notice of them.
They were simply little girls suffering the usual agonies that custom
has ordained a woman {171}shall suffer before she is considered a meet
plaything and slave for a man. A woman who would be of any standing at
all must so suffer. Poor little uncomplaining mites, they laughed and
talked, but their faces, white and strained under the paint, haunted
me the livelong night, and I felt that I who stood by and suffered this
thing was guilty of a wicked wrong to my fellows.

And foot binding may result in death. There was a child whose father, a
widower, not knowing what to do with his little girl, an asset of small
value, sold her to a woman of ill repute. The little slave was five
years old, but as yet, her feet had not been bound. Her mistress of
course took her in hand and bound her feet, so that she might be married
some day. But her feet being bound did not exempt small Wong Lan from
her household duties. Every morning, baby as she was, she had to get up,
kindle the fire, and take hot water to her mistress, who, in her turn,
did not give the attention they required to the poor little feet. With
feet sore, ulcerated and dirty, she went about such household duties as
a little child could do, till they grew so bad she could only lie about
and moan, and was a nuisance to the woman who had taken her. At last a
man living in the same courtyard had pity on her. He was a mason and had
worked at the great hospital the foreigners had set up just outside the
walls of the city where they lived, and he took her in his arms, a baby
not yet seven, and brought her to the doctor. She had cried and cried,
he said, and he thought she would die if she were left. The doctor when
he took her thought she was going to die whether she were left or not.
There and then he took a pair of {172}scissors, snapped two threads and
one foot was off, still in its filthy little slipper. The whole leg was
gangrenous and they nursed the baby up for a week till she was strong
enough to have the leg amputated at the hip. She grew better, though the
doctor shook his head over her. The missionaries decided they had better
keep her, and as she recovered, they set about getting her crutches. A
Chinese woman evidently begins to be self-conscious very soon, for the
mite cried bitterly when they wanted to measure her. The Chinese have a
great horror of any deformity, and she thought she would be an object of
scorn if she went about on crutches, and everyone could see she had only
one leg. Her idea was that she should sit all day long on the k’ang, and
then it would be hidden. However, her guardians prevailed, and presently
she was hopping about the missionary compound, and being a pretty,
taking little girl soon found friends who forgot, or what was more
important, taught Her to forget, that she was crippled. Someone gave
her a doll, and with this treasure tucked under her arm, she paid
visits from one house to the other, happy as the day was long, petted
by Chinese and foreigners alike. But the doctor who had shaken his head
over her at first was right. The poison was in her system, and in a
little over six months from the day she was brought in to the hospital
she died. Poor little mite! For six months she had been perfectly happy.
The man who had brought her in made her a coffin, the aliens who had
succoured and cared for her laid her there with the doll she had been
so proud of in her arms, and told all the Chinese who had known her they
might come and say a last farewell. They came, {173}and then--oh curious
human nature!--someone stole the poor little makeshift doll from the
dead baby’s arms!

Of course cruelty to children is a sin that is met with in countries
nearer home, is, in fact, more common in Christian England than in
heathen China. This was a death that was attributable to the low value
that is set on the girl child and to the cruel custom of binding the
feet.

And not hundreds and thousands but millions of women so suffer. The
practice, they say, is dying out among the more enlightened in the
towns, but in the country, within fifteen miles of Peking, it is in full
swing. Not only are these “golden lilies” considered beautiful, but
the woman with bound feet is popularly supposed to care more for the
caresses of her lord, than she with natural feet. Of course, a man may
not choose his wife, his mother does that for him, he may not even see
her, but he can, and very naturally often does, ask questions about her.
The question he generally asks is not: “Has she a pretty face?” but:
“Has she small feet?” But if he did not think about it, the women of his
family would consider it for him.

A woman told me, how, in the north of Chihli, the custom was for the
women of the bridegroom’s family to gather round the newly arrived bride
who sat there, silent and submissive, while they made comments upon her
appearance.

“Hoo! she’s ugly!” Or worst taunt of all, “Hoo! What big feet she’s
got!”

Many will tell you it is not the men who insist upon bound feet, but the
women. And, if that is so, to me it only deepens the tragedy. Imagine
{174}how apart the women must be from the men, when they think, without
a shadow of truth, that to be pleasing to a man, a woman must be
crippled. The women are hardly to be blamed. If they are so ignorant as
to believe that no woman with large feet can hope to become a wife and
mother, what else can they do but bind the little girls’ feet? Would any
woman dare deprive her daughter of all chance of wifehood and motherhood
by leaving her feet unbound? Oh the lot of a woman in China is a cruel
one, civilised into a man’s toy and slave. I had a thousand times rather
be a negress, one of those business-like trading women of Tarquah, or
one of the capable, independent housewives of Keta. But to be a Chinese
woman! God forbid!

It seems very difficult to make a Chinaman understand that a woman has
any rights, even a foreign woman, apart from a man. I remember being
particularly struck with this once at Pao Ting Fu, the capital of
Chihli, a walled town about three hours by rail from Peking. I lost
a third of my luggage by the way, because the powers that be, having
charged me a dollar and a half for its carriage, divided it into three
parts, and by the time I had discovered in what corner the last lot was
stowed, the train was moving on, and I could only be comfortably sure
it was being taken away from me at the rate of twenty miles an hour.
However, the stationmaster assured Dr Lewis, the missionary doctor with
whom I was living, that it should be brought back by the next day.

Accordingly, next day, accompanied by a coolie who spoke no English, I
wended my way to the railway station and inquired for that luggage. The
{175}coolie had been instructed what to say, and I thought they would
simply bring me into contact with my lost property. I would pay any
money that was due, and the thing would be finished. But I had not
reckoned on my standing, or want of standing, as a woman.

[Illustration: 0257]

Nobody could speak a word of English. In the course of five minutes I
should say, the entire station staff of Pao Ting Fu stood around me,
and vociferously gave me their views--on the weather and the latest
political developments for all I know. If it was about the luggage I was
no wiser. Some were dressed in khaki, some in dark cloth with uniform
caps, and most had the wild hair that comes to the lower classes with
the cutting off of the queue. There were about a dozen of them with a
few idlers in blue cotton, patched, dirty, faded, and darned, and some
of these wore queues, queues that had been slept in for about a week
without attention, and they were all quite anxious to be nice to the
foreign woman, and took turns in trying to make her understand. In
vain. What they wanted I could not imagine. At last a lane opened, and
I guessed the vociferating crowd were saying: “Here is the very man to
tackle the situation.” There came along a little man in dark cloth who
stood before me and in the politest manner laid a dirty, admonitory
finger upon my breast He had a rudimentary knowledge of English but it
was very rudimentary, and I remembered promptly that this was a French
railway.

“_Parlez-vous Français?_” said I, wondering if my French would carry me
through.

He shook his head. As a matter of fact English, {176}pidgin-English,
is the language of China, when another tongue is wanted, and my new
friend’s English was not at all bad--what there was of it. Though why I
should go to their country and expect these people to understand me I’m
sure I do not know.

“Your luggage is here,” said he very slowly, emphasising every word by a
tap.

“Thank Heaven,” I sighed, “take me to it,” but he paid no heed.

“You”--and he tapped on solemnly--“must--send--your--husband.”

This was a puzzler. “My husband,” I said meekly, “is dead.”

It looked like a deadlock. It was apparently impossible to deliver
up her luggage to a woman whose husband was dead. Everybody on the
platform, including the idlers, made some suggestion to relieve the
strain, and feeling that it might help matters, I said he had been dead
a very long time, I was a lonely orphan and I had no brothers. They
probably discussed the likelihood of my having any other responsible
male belongings and dismissed it, and the man, who knew English,
returned to the charge.

“Where--do--you--stay?” and he tapped his way through the sentence.

“At Dr Lewis’s.” I felt like doing it singsong fashion myself.

“You--must--tell--Lu Tai Fu--to--come.”

“But,” I remonstrated, “Dr Lewis is busy, and he does not know the
luggage.”

There was another long confabulation, then a brilliant idea flashed like
a meteor across the crowd. {177}“You--must--go--back--and--write--a--
letter,” and with a decisive tap my linguist friend stood back, and the
whole crowd looked at me as much as to say that settled it most
satisfactorily.

I argued the matter. I wanted to see the luggage.

“The--luggage--is--here”--tapped my friend, reproachfully, as if
regretting I should be so foolish--“you--must--go--back--write--one--
piecey--letter.”

“I’ll write it here,” said I, and after about a quarter of an hour taken
up in tapping, I was conducted round to the back of the station, an
elderly inkpot and a very, very elderly pen with a point like a very
rusty pin were produced, but there was no paper. Everyone looked about,
under the benches, up at the ceiling, and at last one really resourceful
person produced a luggage label of a violent yellow hue, and on the back
of that, with some difficulty, for as well as the bad pen, there was a
suspicion of gum on the paper, I wrote a letter to “Dear Sir” requesting
that responsible individual to hand over my luggage to my servant, I
signed my name with as big a flourish as the size of the label would
allow, and then I stood back and awaited developments.

Everybody in the room looked at that valuable document. They tried it
sideways, they tried it upside down, but no light came. At last the
linguist remarked with his usual tap:

“No--can--read.”

Well, I could read English, so with great _empressement_ and as if I
were conferring a great favour, I read that erudite document aloud to
the admiring crowd, even to my own name, and such was the magic of the
written word, that in about two {178}minutes the lost luggage appeared,
and was handed over to my waiting coolie! Only when I was gone doubt
fell once more upon the company. Could a woman, a masterless woman, be
trusted? they questioned. And the stationmaster sent word to Lu Tai Fu
that he must have his card to show that it was all right!

If a woman counted for so little in a town where the foreigner was well
known, could I expect much in out-of-the-way parts. I didn’t expect
much, luckily. The people came and looked at me, and they were
invariably courteous and polite, with an old-world courtesy that must
have come down to them through the ages, but they did not envy, I felt
it very strongly--at bottom they were contemptuous. As I have seen the
lower classes in an Australian mining town, as I myself have looked upon
a stranger in an outlandish dress in the streets of London, so these
country people looked upon me. It was just as well to make the most of a
show, because their lives were uneventful, that was all.

It began to get on my nerves before I had done, this contemptuous
curiosity. I don’t know that I was exactly afraid, but I grew to
understand why missionaries perish when the people have all apparently
been well-disposed. These people would not have robbed me themselves,
but had I met any of the robbers I had been threatened with in Peking, I
am sure not one of them would have raised even a finger to help me, they
would not even have protested. I was outside their lives.

And at last, at Malanyu, the hills that at first had loomed purple on
the horizon, fairly overshadowed us, and I had arrived at the first
stage of my {179}journey, the Tungling, or Eastern Tombs. We did forty
miles that day over the roughest road I had gone yet, and thankful was I
when we rumbled through the gates of the dirty, crowded, little town.

We put up at the smallest and filthiest inn I had yet met. Chinese
towns, even the smallest country hamlet, are always suggestive of slums,
and Malanyu was worse than usual, but I slept the sleep of the utterly
weary, and next morning at sunrise I had breakfast and went to see the
tombs. I went in state, in my own cart with an extra mule on in front, I
seated under the tilt a little back, and my servant and the head “cartee
man” on the shafts; and then I discovered that if a loaded cart is an
abomination before the Lord, a light cart is something unspeakable. But
we had seen the wall that went round the tombs the night Before, just
the other side of the town, so I consoled myself with the reflection
that my sufferings would not be for long.

When the Imperial Manchus sought a last resting-place for themselves
they had the whole of China to choose from, and they took with Oriental
disregard for humbler people; but--saving grace--they chose wisely
though they chose cruelly. They have taken for their own a place just
where the mountains begin, a place that must be miles in extent. It is
of rich alluvial soil swept down by the rains from the hills, and all
China, with her teeming population, cannot afford to waste one inch of
soil. The tiniest bit of arable land, as I had been seeing for the last
three days, is put to some use, it is tilled and planted and carefully
tended, though it bear only a single fruit-tree, only a handful of
grain, but here we entered a park, waste land covering many miles,
wasted with {180}a royal disregard for the people’s needs. It lay in a
great bay of the hills, sterile, stony, rugged hills with no trace of
green upon them, hills that stand up a perfect background to a most
perfect place of tombs. I had thought the resting-place of the Mings
wonderful, but surely there is no such place for the honoured dead as
that the Manchus have set up at the Eastern Tombs.

Immediately we entered the gateway, the cart jolting wickedly along a
hardly defined track, I found myself in a forest of firs and pines
that grew denser as we advanced. Here and there was a poplar or other
deciduous tree, green with the greenness of May time, but the touch
of lighter colour only emphasised the sombreness of the pines and firs
that, with their dark foliage, deepened the solemnity of the scene.
Through their branches peeped the deep blue sky, and every now and again
they opened out a little, and beyond I could see the bare hills, brown,
and orange, and purple, but always beautiful, with the shadows chasing
each other over them, and losing themselves in their folds. Spacious,
grand, silent, truly an ideal place for the burial of Emperors and
their consorts is hidden here in the heart of mysterious, matter-of-fact
China, and once again I was shown, as I was being shown every day,
another side of China from the toiling thousands I saw in the great city
and on the country roads.

Dotted about in this great park, with long vistas in between are
the tombs. They are enclosed in walls, walls of the pinkish red that
encloses all imperial grounds, generally there is a caretaker, and
they look for all the world like comfortable houses, picturesque and
artistic, nestling secluded and away {181}from the rush and roar of
cities, homes where a man may take his well-earned rest. The filthy inn
at which I stayed, the reeking little town of Malanyu, though it is at
the very gates, is as far-removed from all contact with the tombs as are
the slums of Notting Dale from the mansions in Park Lane, or the sordid,
mean streets of Paddington from the home of the King in Buckingham
Palace. The birds, the innumerable, much-loved birds of China sang in
the trees their welcome to the glorious May morning, and the only thing
out of keeping was my groaning, jolting, complaining Peking cart and the
shouts of the “cartee man” assuring the mules, so I have been told, that
the morals of their female relatives were certainly not above suspicion.

Here and there, among the trees, rose up marble pillars tall and
stately, carved with dragons and winged at the top, such as one sees
in representations of Babylon and Nineveh, there was a marble bridge,
magnificent, with the grass growing up between the great paving-stones
that here, as everywhere in China, seem to mark the small value that
has been put on human flesh and blood, for by human hands have they been
placed here, and the uprights are crowned by the symbolic cloud form,
caught in the marble. This bridge crosses no stream. It is evidently
just a manifestation of power, the power that crushes, and beyond it is
an avenue of marble animals. There they stand on the green sward, the
green sward stolen from the hungry, curving away towards the p’ia lou
stand, as they have stood for many a long year, horses, elephants,
fabulous beasts that might have come out of the Book of Revelations,
guarding the entrance {182}to the place of rest. They are not nearly
so magnificent as the avenue at the Ming Tombs, they are only quaintly
Chinese, it is the winged pillars, the silence, the sombre pine and
fir-trees, and the everlasting hills behind that give them dignity.

And now Tuan became very important. I began to feel that he had arranged
the whole for my benefit, and was keeping the best piece back to crown
it all. We came to a piece of wild country and I was requested to get
out of the cart. Getting out of the cart where there was no place
to step was always a business. I was stiff from the jolting, felt
disinclined to be very acrobatic, and Tuan always felt it his bounden
duty to stretch out his arms to catch me, or break my fall. He was so
small, though he was round and fat, that he always complicated matters
by making me feel that if I did fall I should certainly materially
damage him, but it was no good protesting, it was the correct thing for
him to help his Missie out of her cart, and he was prepared to perish in
the attempt. However, here was a soft cushion of fragrant pine needles,
so I scrambled down without any of the qualms from which I usually
suffered. We had come to a halt for a moment by the steep side of a
little wooded hill where a narrow footpath wound round it. Just such
a modest little path between steep rising ground one might see in the
Surrey Hills. It invites to a secluded glen, but no cart could possibly
go along it, it is necessary to walk. I turned the corner of the hill
and lo! there was a paved way, a newly paved way, such as I have seldom
seen in China. The faint morning breeze stirred among the pine
needles, making a low, mysterious whispering, and out against the back
{183}ground stood, a splash of brilliant, glowing colour, the many roofs
of golden-brown tiles that cover the mausoleum of the great woman
who once ruled over China, the last who made a stand, a futile stand,
against foreign aggression, and now a foreigner and a woman, unarmed and
alone, might come safely and stand beside her tomb.

[Illustration: 0267]

[Illustration: 0268]

Perhaps that was the best way to view it, at any rate inside I could not
go, for the key I discovered was at Malanyu, and it would have taken
me at least half a day to go back and get it. Besides I don’t think I
wanted to go inside. I would not for the world have spoilt the memory
that remains in my mind by any tawdry detail such as I had seen at the
younger Empress’s funeral. It was just a little spoilt as it was by my
boy, who came along mysteriously and pointed with a secret finger at the
custodian of the tomb, who had not the keys.

“Suppose Missie makee littee _cumshaw_. Suppose my payee one dollar.”

And I expect the man did get perhaps sixty cents, because Tuan was
bent on impressing on these people the fact that his Missie was a very
important woman indeed.

It was worth it, it was well worth it.

They say that the old in China is passing away. “Behold upon the
mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.” Will they sweep
away these tombs and give this land to the people? I hope not, I think
not, I pray not. The present in China is inextricably mixed up with the
past. “Oh Judah keep thy solemn feast, perform thy vows.” Sometimes it
is surely well that the beautiful should be kept for a nation, even at
great cost.



CHAPTER XI--A WALLED CITY

{184}

_Numerous walled towns--The dirt of them--T’ung Chou--Romance of the
evening light--My own little walled city--The gateways--Hospitable
landlady--Bald heads--My landlady’s room--A return present--“The
ringleaders have been executed”--Summary justice--To the rescue of the
missionaries at Hsi An Fu--The Elder Brother Society-Primitive method of
attack and defence--The sack of I Chun._

|Oh that first walled city! It was the first of many walled cities, many
of them so small that it did not take us more than a quarter of an hour
to cross from gate to gate; but to enter one and all was like opening a
door into the past, into the life our forbears lived before the country
I was born and brought up in was ever thought of. When I was a little
girl, I cherished a desire to marry a German baron, a German baron of
the Middle Ages, who lived in a castle, and I could not help thinking,
as the influenza left me and I regained my powers of thought, that here
were the towns of my German baron’s time--dirt and all. In my childhood
I had never thought of the dirt, or perhaps I had not minded. One thing
is certain, in the clean land of my childhood I never realised what the
dirt that comes from a packed population, from seething humanity, can
be like. The Chinese live in these crowded towns for the sake of
security--of security in this twentieth century--for even still, China
seems to be much in the condition of Europe of the Middle Ages, safety
cannot be absolutely counted upon inside the gates of a town, but at
least it is a little safer than the open country.

{185}We passed through T’ung Chou when the soft tender evening shadows were
falling upon battlements and walls built by a nation that, though it
is most practical, is also one of the most poetical on earth; we passed
through Chi Chou when the shadows were long in the early morning, and
in the sunlight was the hope of the new-born day. Through the gate was
coming a train of Peking carts, of laden donkeys, of great grain carts
with seven mules, all bound for the capital in the south.

I remember these two perhaps because they were the first of many walled
towns, but Tsung Hua Chou will always remain in my memory as my own
little walled city, the one that I explored carefully all by myself,
and, when I think of a walled town, my thoughts always fly back to that
little town, three-quarters of a mile square, at the foot of the hills
that mark the limit of the great plain of China proper.

It was Tuan’s suggestion we should stay there. I would have lingered at
the tombs, but he was emphatic.

“Missie want make picture. More better we stop Tsung Hua Chou. Fine
picture Tsung Hua Chou.”

There weren’t fine pictures at Tsung Hua Chou. He had struck up a great
friendship with the “cartee man,” and, perhaps, either he or the “cartee
man” had a favourite gaming-house, or a favourite {186}singing girl
in the town. At any rate we went, and I, for some hardly explainable
reason, am glad we did.

The road from the tombs was simply appalling. The hills frowned down
on us, close on either side, high and steep and rugged, but the rough
valley bottom, up which we went, was the wildest I was to see for a
long time. To say I was tossed and jolted, is to but mildly express the
condition of affairs. I sat on a cushion, I packed my bedding round me,
and with both my hands I held on to the side of the cart, and if for one
moment I relaxed the rigidity of my aching arms, my head or some other
portion of my aching anatomy, was brought into contact with the woodwork
of the cart, just in the place I had reckoned the woodwork could not
possibly have reached me. There were little streams and bridges across
them, which I particularly dreaded, for the bridges were always roughly
paved, but it was nobody’s business to see that the road and the
pavement met neatly, and the jolt the cart gave, both getting on and
getting off, nearly shook the soul out of my body. I thought of walking,
for our progress was very slow, but in addition to the going being bad,
the mules went just a little faster than I did, three and a half miles
an hour to my three, and I felt there was nothing for it but to resign
myself and make the best of a bad job. Not for worlds would I have
lingered an hour longer on that road than I was absolutely obliged. And
yet, bad as it was, it was the best road I had till I got back to Peking
again. There may be worse roads than those of China, and there may be
worse ways of getting over them than in a {187}Peking cart, but I do
trust I never come across them.

We entered the gates of the city as the evening shadows were growing
long, and as usual, I was carried back to the days of the Crusaders--or
farther still to Babylon--as we rumbled under the arched gateway, but
inside it was like every other town I have seen, dirty, sordid, crowded,
with uneven pavements that there was no getting away from. Within the
curtain wall, that guarded the gate, there were the usual little stalls
for the sale of cakes, big, round, flat cakes and little scone-like
cakes, studded with sesame seed, or a bright pink sweetmeat; there
were the sellers of pottery ware, basins and pots of all sorts, and the
people stared at the foreign woman, the wealthy foreign woman who ran
to two carts. It is an unheard-of thing in China for a Chinese woman to
travel alone, though sometimes the foreign missionary women do, but they
would invariably be accompanied by a Chinese woman, and one woman would
not be likely to have two carts. One thing was certain however,
my outfit was all that it should have been, bar the lack of a male
protector. It bespoke me a woman of wealth and position in the eyes of
the country folk, and the people of the little towns through which
I passed. It is possible that a mule litter might have enhanced my
dignity; but after all, two Peking carts was very much like having a
first-class compartment all to myself.

There were no foreigners, that I could hear of, in Tsung Hua Chou. The
missionaries had fled during the Boxer trouble, and never come back,
so that I was more of a show than usual, though {188}indeed, in all
the towns I passed through I was a show, and the people stared, and
chattered, and crowded round the carts, and evidently closely questioned
the carters.

They tell me Chinese carters are often rascals, but I grew to like mine
very much before we parted company.

They were stolid men in blue, with dirty rags wrapped round their heads
to keep off the dust, and I have no reason to suppose that they affected
water any more than the rest of the population, whereby I perceive, my
affections are not so much guided by a desire for cleanliness as I had
once supposed. They both had the hands of artists, artists with very
dirty nails, so it may be a feeling of brotherhood had something to do
with my feelings, for I am hoping you who read will count me an artist
in a small way. What romance they wove about me, for the benefit of the
questioning people, I don’t know, but the result of their communications
was that the crowd pressed closer, and stared harder, and they were
evil-smelling, and had never, never in all their lives been washed. I
ceased to wonder that I ached all over with the jolting and rumbling of
the cart, I only wondered if something worse had not befallen me, and
how it happened that these people, who crowded round, staring as if
never in their lives had they seen a foreign woman before, did not fall
victims to some horrible pestilence.

For once inside Tsung Hua Chou I saw no beauty in it, for all the
romantic walls outside. The evil-smelling streets we rumbled through
to the inn were wickedly narrow, and down the centre hung notices in
Chinese characters on long strips of {189}paper white and red, and pigs,
and children, and creaking wheelbarrows, and men with loads, blocked the
way. But we jolted over the step into the courtyard of the inn at last,
quite a big courtyard, and quite a busy inn. This was an inn where they
apparently ran a restaurant, for as I climbed stiffly out of my cart a
servant, carrying a tray of little basins containing the soups and stews
the Chinese eat, was so absorbed in gazing at me he ran into the “cartee
man,” and a catastrophe occurred which was the occasion of much bad
language.

[Illustration: 0276]

The courtyard was crowded. There were blue-tilted Peking carts, there
were mules, there were donkeys, there were men of all sorts; but there
was only one wretched little room for me. It was very dirty too, and I
was very tired. What was to be done?

“Plenty Chinese gentlemen sleep here,” declared Tuan, and I could quite
believe it. At the door of every lattice-windowed room that looked out
on to that busy courtyard, stood one, or perhaps two Chinese of the
better class--long petticoats, shaven head, queue and all--each held in
his hand a long, silver-mounted pipe from which he took languid whiffs,
and he looked under his eyelids, which is the polite way, at the
foreign woman. The foreign woman was very dirty, very tired, and very
uncomfortable, and the room looked very hopeless. The “cartee men”
 declared that this was the best inn in the town, and anyhow I was
disinclined to go out and look for other quarters. Then there came
tottering forward an old woman with tiny feet, one eye and a yellow
flower stuck in the knot at the back of her bald head. China is the
country of bald {190}women. The men, I presume, would not mind it very
much, as for so long they have shaven off at least half their hair, but
the women certainly must, for if they can they dress their dark hair
very elaborately. And yet have I seen many women, like this innkeeper’s
wife, with a head so bald that but a few strands of hair cover its
nakedness, yet those few poor hairs are gathered together into an
arrangement of black silk shaped something like a horn, and beside it
is placed a flower, a rose, a pink oleander blossom, or a bright yellow
flower for which I have no name. That flower gives a finish to a sleek
and well-dressed head, when the owner has plenty of hair, but when she
has only the heavy horn of silk, half a dozen hairs, and the rest of her
bald pate covered with a black varnish, it is a poor travesty. When a
girl marries, immediately after her husband has lifted her veil and she
is left to the women of his family they pluck out the front hairs on
her forehead, so as to give a square effect, and the hair is drawn very
tightly back and gathered generally into this horn. I suspect this
heavy horn is responsible for the baldness, though an American of
my acquaintance declares it is the plucking out of the hairs on the
forehead. “The rest of the hair,” says he, “kinder gets discouraged.”

This innkeeper’s wife was very kindly. She said I should not sleep in
that room, I should have her room, and she would go to her mother’s.
The mother was a surprise to me. I hope when I am as old as she looked I
shall have a mother to go to.

Now I do not as a rule embrace my landlady. In England I couldn’t even
imagine myself feeling particularly kindly towards a dirty little woman
clad {191}in a shirt and trousers of exceedingly dirty blue cotton, but
the intention was so evidently kind and hospitable, I knew not a word of
her tongue, and was by no means sure the valued Tuan would translate my
words of thanks properly, so I could but take both her very dirty little
hands in mine, clasp them warmly, and try and look my thanks.

Then I inspected her room. It was approached through an entrance where
lime was stored, it was rather dark, and it was of good size, though
on one side was stacked a supply of stores for the restaurant. Chinese
macaroni, that looks as if it were first cousin to sheet gelatine, stale
eggs and other nondescript eatables. There was a k’ang, of course,
quite a family k’ang, and there was a large mirror on one wall. I had
forgotten my camp mirror, so I looked in it eagerly, and the reflection
left me chastened. I hadn’t expected the journey to improve my looks,
but I did hope it had not swelled up one cheek, and bunged up the other
eye. I felt I did not want to stay in the room with that mirror, but
there were other things worse than the mirror in it. The beautiful
lattice-work window had apparently never been opened since the first
cover of white tissue paper had been put on it, and the smell of human
occupancy there defies my poor powers of description. The dirty little
place I had at first disdained, had at least a door opening on to the
comparatively fresh air of the courtyard. I told Tuan to explain that
while I was delighted to see her room, and admired everything very
much in it, nothing would induce me to deprive her of its comforts. She
certainly was friendly. As I looked in the chastening mirror, I, like
a true woman, I suppose, put up {192}a few stray locks that the jolting
cart had shaken out of place, and she promptly wanted to do my hair
herself with a selection from an array of elderly combs with which
she probably dressed her own scanty locks. That was too much. I had to
decline, I trust she thought it was my modesty, and then she offered me
some of the macaroni. I tried to say I had nothing to give in return and
then Tuan remarked, “As friend, as friend.” So as a friend, from that
little maimed one-eyed old woman up in the hills of China, I took a
handful of macaroni and had nothing to give in return. I hope she feels
as friendly towards me as I shall always do towards her.

It is not always that the difficulty of giving a return present is on
the foreign side, sometimes it is the Chinese who feel it. I remember
a traveller for a business house telling me how on one occasion he had
gone to a village and entertained the elders at dinner, giving
them brandy which they loved, and liqueurs which seemed to the
unsophisticated village fathers ambrosia fit for the gods. The next day,
when he was about to take his departure, a small procession approached
him and one of them bore on a tray a little Chinese handleless cup
covered with another. They said he could speak Chinese, so there was no
need for an interpreter, that he had given them a very good time, they
were very grateful, and they wished to make him a present by which he
might remember them sometimes. But their village was poor and small.
It contained nothing worth his acceptance, and after much consultation,
they had come to the conclusion that the best way would be to present
him with the money, {193}so that he might buy something for himself
when he came to Peking or some other large town. Thereupon the cup was
presented, the cover lifted off, and in the bottom lay a ten cent piece,
worth about twopence halfpenny. Probably it seemed quite an adequate
present to men who count their incomes by cash of which a thousand go to
the dollar.

I don’t think my landlady minded much my declining the hospitality of
her room. Possibly she only wished me to see its glories, and presently
she brought to the little room I had at first so despised, and now
looked upon, if not as a haven of rest, at least as one of fresh air,
a couple of nice hard wood stools, and a beautifully carved k’ang table
thick with grease.

“Say must make Missie comfortable,” said Tuan with the usual suggestion
he had done it himself.

And those stools were covered, much to my surprise, with red woollen
tapestry, and the pattern was one that I had seen used many a time in a
little town on the Staffordshire moors, where their business is to dye
and print. And here was one of the results of their labours, a “Wardle
rag,” as we used to call them, up among the hills of Northern China.

I was too tired to do anything but go to bed that night as soon as I had
had my dinner. I had it, as usual, on the k’ang table, the dirt shrouded
by my humble tablecloth, and curious eyes watched me, even as I watched
the trays of full basins and the trays of empty ones that were for ever
coming and going across the courtyard.

Next morning my friendly landlady brought to see me two other
small-footed women, both smoking {194}long pipes, women who said,
through Tuan, their ages were forty and sixty respectively, and who
examined, with interest, me and my belongings. They felt my boots so
much, good, substantial, leather-built by Peter Yapp, that at last I
judged they would like to see what was underneath, and took off a boot
and stocking for their inspection, and the way they felt my foot up and
down as if it were something they had never before met in their lives,
amused me very much, At least at first it amused me, and then it
saddened me. Though they held out their own poor maimed feet, they did
not return the compliment much as I desired it. They took me across the
courtyard into another room where, behind lattice-work windows, that had
not been opened for ages, were two more women sitting on the k’ang, and
two little shaven-headed children. These were younger women, tall and
stout, with feet so tiny, they called my attention to them, that it did
not seem to me possible any woman could support herself upon them. My
boy was not allowed in, so of course I could not talk to them, could
only smile and drink tea.

These two younger women, who were evidently of superior rank, had their
hair most elaborately dressed and wore most gorgeous raiment. One was
clad in purple satin with a little black about it, and the other, a mere
girl of eighteen, but married, for her hair was no longer in a queue,
and her forehead was squared, wore a coat of pale blue silk brocade and
grass-green trousers of the same material. Their faces were impassive,
as are the faces of Chinese women of the better class, but they smiled,
evidently liked their tortured feet to be noticed, gave {195}me tea from
the teapot on the k’ang table, and then presently all four, with the
gaily dressed babies, tottered out into the courtyard, the older women
leading the toddling children, and helping the younger, and, with the
aid of settles, they climbed into two Peking carts, my elderly friends
taking their places on the outside, whereby I judged they were servants
or household slaves.

“Chinese wives,” said Tuan, but whether they were the wives of one man,
or of two, I had no means of knowing. The costumes of the two younger
were certainly not those in which I would choose to travel on a Chinese
road in a Peking cart, but the Chinese have a proverb: “Abroad wear the
new, at home it does not matter,” so they probably thought my humble
mole-coloured cotton _crêpe_, equally out of place.

And when they were gone I set out to explore the town.

It was only a small place, built square, with two main roads running
north, and south, and east, and west, and cutting each other at right
angles in the heart of it. They were abominably paved. No vehicle but a
springless Peking cart would have dreamt of making its way across that
pavement, but then probably no vehicle save a cart or a wheelbarrow in
all the years of the city’s life had ever been thought of there.
The remaining streets were but evil-smelling alley-ways, narrow in
comparison with the main ways which, anywhere else, I should have
deemed hopelessly inadequate, thronged as they were with people and
encroached upon by the shops that stood close on either side. They had
no glass fronts, of course, these shops, but otherwise, {196}they were
not so very unlike the shops one sees in the poorer quarters of the
great towns in England. But there was evidently no Town Council to
regulate the use to which the streets should be put. The dyer hung
his long strips of blue cloth half across the roadway, careless of the
convenience of the passer-by, the man who sold cloth had out little
tables or benches piled with white and blue calico--I have seen
tradesmen do the same in King’s Road, Chelsea--the butcher had his
very disagreeable wares fully displayed half across the roadway, the
gentleman who was making mud bricks for the repair of his house, made
them where it was handiest in the street close to the house, and the man
who sold cooked provisions, with his little portable kitchen and table,
set himself down right in the fairway and tempted all-comers with little
basins of soup, fat, pale-looking steamed scones, hard-boiled eggs or
meat turnovers.

This place, hidden behind romantic grey walls, at which I had wondered
in the evening light, was in the morning just like any other city,
Peking with the glory and beauty gone out of it, and the people who
thronged those streets were just the poorer classes of Peking, only it
seemed there were more naked children and more small-footed women with
elaborately dressed hair tottering along, balancing themselves with
their arms. I met a crowd accompanying the gay scarlet poles, flags,
musical instruments and the red sedan chair of a wedding. The poor
little bride, shut up in the scarlet chair, was going to her husband’s
house and leaving her father’s for ever. It is to be hoped she
would find favour in the sight of her husband and {197}her husband’s
women-folk. It was more important probably, that she should please the
latter.

The bridal party made a great noise, but then all in that town was
noise, dirt, crowding, and evil smells. The only peaceful place in it
was the courtyard of the little temple close against the city wall.
Outside it stand two hideous figures with hands flung out in threatening
attitude, and inside were more figures, all painted in the gayest
colours. What they meant I have not lore enough to know, but they were
very hideous, the very lowest form of art.

[Illustration: 0286]

There was the recording angel with a black face and the open book--after
all, the recording angel must often wear a black face--and there was
the eternal symbol that has appealed through all ages to all people,
and must appeal one would think above all, to this nation that longs
so ardently for offspring, the mother with the child upon her knee. But
they were all ugly to my Western eyes, and the only thing that charmed
me was the silence, the cleanliness, and the quiet of the courtyard, the
only place in all the busy little city that was at peace.

When I engaged Tuan I had thought he was to do all the waiting upon me I
needed, but it seems I made a mistake. The farther I got from Peking the
greater his importance became, and here he could not so much as carry
for me the lightest wrap. His business appeared to be to engage other
people to do the work. There was one dilapidated wretch to carry the
camera, another the box with the plates, and yet a third bore the black
cloth I would put over my head to focus my pictures properly. It was not
a bit of good protesting, two minutes after I got rid {198}of one lot
of followers, another took their place, and as everyone had to be
paid, apparently, I often thought, for the pleasure of looking at me, I
resigned myself to my fate.

Accompanied by all the idlers and children in the town I climbed the
ramp on to the walls, which are in perfect order, three miles round and
on the top from fifteen feet to twenty broad. That ramp must have been
always steep, the last thing a Chinese ever thinks about is comfort,
steep almost as the walls themselves, and everywhere the stones are
gone, making it a work of difficulty to climb to the top. Tuan helped me
in approved Chinese fashion, putting his hand underneath my elbow, and
once I was there the town was metamorphosed, it was again the romantic
city I had seen from the plain in the evening light. Now the early
morning sunlight, with all the promise of the day in it, fell upon
graceful curved Chinese roofs and innumerable trees, dainty with the
delicate vivid verdure that comes in the spring as a reward to a country
where the winter has been long, bitter, and iron-bound.

The walls of most Chinese cities are built square, with right angles at
the four corners, but in at least two that I have been in, T’ung Chou
and Pao Ting Fu, one corner is built out in a bow. I rather admired the
effect at first, till I found it was a mark of deepest disgrace. There
had been a parricide committed in the town. When such a terrible thing
occurs a corner of the city wall must be pulled down and built out; a
second one, another corner is pulled down and built out, and a
third likewise; but the fourth time such a crime is committed in the
{199}luckless town the walls must be razed to the ground. But such
a disgrace has never occurred in any town in the annals of Chinese
history, those age-long annals that go back farther than any other
nation’s, for if a town should be so unlucky as to have harboured four
such criminals within its walls they generally managed, by the payment
of a sum of money, to get a city that had some of its corners still
intact to take the disgrace upon itself.

I strongly suspect too, that it is only when the offender is in high
places that his crime is thus commemorated, for I have only heard
of these two cases, and yet as short a while ago as 1912 there was a
terrible murder in Pao Ting Fu that shocked the town. It appeared there
was an idle son, who instead of working for his family, spent all his
time attending to his cage bird, taking it out for walks, encouraging
it to sing, hunting the graves outside the town for insects for it. His
poor old mother sighed over his uselessness.

“If it were not for the bird!” said she.

The young blood in China, it seems, goes to the dogs over a cage bird, a
lark or a thrush, as the young man in modern Europe comes to grief over
horse-racing, so we see that human nature is the same all the world
over. This Chinese mother brooded over her boy’s wasted life, and one
day when he was out she opened the cage door and the bird flew away.

When he came in he asked for the bird and she said nothing, only with
her large, sharp knife went on shredding up the vegetables that she
was putting into a large cauldron of boiling water for supper. He asked
again for the bird. Still she took no {200}notice, and he seized her
knife and slit her up into small pieces and put her into the cauldron.
He was taken, and tried, and was put to death by slicing into a thousand
pieces--yes, even in modern China--but they did not think it necessary
to pull down another corner of the city wall. Possibly they felt the
disgrace of a bygone age was enough for Pao Ting Fu.

The corners of the walls of Tsung Hua Chou were as they were first
built, rectangular, and the watch-towers at those corners and over the
four gates from the distance looked imposing, all that they should be,
but close at hand I saw that they were tumbling into ruins, the doors
were fallen off the hinges, the window-frames were broken, all was
desolate and empty.

“Once the soldier she watch here,” said my boy, whose pronouns were
always somewhat mixed.

“Why not now?”

“No soldier here now. She go work in gold mine ninety li away. Gold mine
belong Plesident.”

Tuan had got as far as the fact that a President had taken the place of
the Manchu Emperor, but I wondered very much whether the inhabitants of
Tsung Hua Chou had. I meditated on my way back to “Missie’s inn” on the
limitations of the practical Chinese mind that because it is practical,
I suppose, cannot conceive of the liberty, equality, and fraternity that
a Republic denotes. The President, to the humble Chinese in the street,
has just taken the place of the Emperor, he is the one who rules over
them, his soldiers are withdrawn. That there was a war in Mongolia,
a rebellion impending in the south, were items of news that had not
reached {201}the man in the street in Tsung Hua Chou who, feeling that
the soldiers must be put to some use, concluded they were working in the
President’s gold mine ninety li away.

[Illustration: 0292]

A foreigner went to a Chinese tailor the other day to make him a suit of
clothes, and he found occasion to complain that the gentleman’s prices
had gone up considerably since he employed him last. The man of
the scissors was equal to the occasion, and explained that, since
“revelations,” so many Chinese had taken to wearing foreign dress, he
was obliged to charge more.

“You belong revolution?” asked the inquiring foreigner, anxious to find
out how far liberty, fraternity, and equality had penetrated.

The tailor looked at him more in sorrow than in scorn. How could he be
so foolish.

“I no belong revelation,” he explained carefully, as one who was
instructing where no instruction should have been necessary. The thing
was self-evident, “I belong tailor man.”

When the revolution first dawned upon the country people all they
realised--when they realised anything at all--was that there was no
longer an Emperor, therefore they supposed they would no longer have to
pay taxes. When they found that Emperor or no Emperor taxes were still
required of them, they just put the President in the Emperor’s place.
I strongly suspect that if the greater part of the inhabitants of my
walled city were to be questioned as to the revolution they would reply
like the tailor: “No belong revolution, belong Tsung Hua Chou!”

But in truth the civilisation of China is still so {202}much like that
of Babylon and Nineveh, that it is best for the poor man, if he can, to
efface himself. He does not pray for rights as yet. He only prays that
he may slip through life unnoticed, that he may not come in contact with
the powers that rule him, for no matter who is right or who is wrong
bitter experience has taught him that he will suffer.

We do not realise that sufficiently in the West when we talk of China.
We judge her by our own standards. The time may come when this may be a
right way of judging, but it has not come yet. Rather should we judge as
they judged in the days of the old Testament, in the days of Nineveh and
Babylon, when the proletariat, the slaves, were as naught in the sight
of God or man.

A man told me how in the summer of 1912, travelling in the interior, he
came to a small city in one of the central provinces, a city not unlike
Tsung Hua Chou, like indeed a thousand other little cities in this realm
of Cathay. The soldiers quartered there had not been paid, and they
had turned to and looted the town. The unwise city men, instead of
submitting lest a worse thing happen unto them, had telegraphed their
woes to Peking, and orders had come down to the General in command that
the ringleaders must be executed. But no wise General is going to be
hard on his own soldiers. This General certainly was not. Still justice
had to be satisfied, and he was not at a loss. He sent a body of
soldiers to the looted shops, where certain luckless men were sadly
turning over the damaged property. These they promptly arrested. The
English onlooker, who spoke Chinese, declared to me solemnly these
arrested men were the merchants themselves, {203}their helpers and
coolies. That was nothing to the savage soldiery. There had to be
victims. Had not the order come from the central government. Some of the
men, there were twenty in all, they beat and left dead on the spot, the
rest they dragged to the yamen. The traveller, furious and helpless,
followed. Of course the guilt of the merchants was a foregone
conclusion. They never execute anyone who does not confess his guilt and
the justice of his sentence in China, but they have means of making
sure of the confession. Presently out the unfortunate men came again,
stripped to the waist, with their arms tied up high behind them,
prepared, in fact, for death. The soldiers dragged them along, they
protesting their innocence to unheeding ears. Their women and children
came out, running alongside the mournful procession, clinging to the
soldiers and to their husbands and fathers, and praying for mercy. They
tripped and fell, and the soldiers, the soldiers in khaki, pushed
them aside, and stepped over them, and dragged on their victims. The
traveller followed. No one took any notice of him, and what could he
do, though his heart was sore, one against so many. Through the narrow,
filthy streets they went, past their own looted shops. They looked about
them wildly, but there was none to help, and before them marched the
executioner, with a great sharp sword in his hands, and always the
soldiers in modern uniform emphasised the barbarity of the crime.
Presently they had distanced the wailing women and were outside the
walls, but the foreign onlooker was still with them.

“And one was a boy not twenty,” he said with {204}a sharp, indrawn
breath, wiping his face as he told the ghastly tale.

They knelt in a row, just where the walls of their own town frowned down
on them, and one by one the executioner cut off their heads. The death
of the first in the line was swift enough, but, as he approached the
end of the row the man’s arm grew tired and he did not get the last two
heads right off.

“I saw one jump four times,” said the shocked onlooker, “before he
died.”

And then they telegraphed to Peking that order had been restored, and
the ringleaders executed.

Since I heard that man’s story, I always read that order has been
restored in any Chinese city with a shudder, and wonder how many
innocents have suffered. For I have heard stories like that, not of one
city, or told by one man, but of various cities, and told by different
men. The Chinese, it seems to me, copy very faithfully the European
newspapers, the great papers of the Western world. Horrors like that
are never read in a Western paper, therefore you never see such things
reported in the Chinese papers. After all they are only the proletariat,
the slaves of Babylon or Nineveh. Who counted a score or so of them
slain? Order has been restored, comes the message for the benefit of the
modern world, and in the little city the bloody heads adorn the walls
and the bodies lie outside to be torn to pieces by the _wonks_ and the
vultures.

And when I heard tales like this, I wondered whether it was safe for a
woman to be travelling alone. It is safe, of course, for the Chinaman,
strange as it may sound after telling such tales, is at bottom more
law-abiding than the average {205}European. True, he is more likely to
insult or rob a woman than a man, because he has for so long regarded a
woman as of so much less consequence than a man, that when he considers
the matter he cannot really believe that any nation could hold a
different opinion. Still, in all probability, she will be safe, just as
in all probability she might march by herself from Land’s End to John
o’ Groats without being molested. She may be robbed and murdered, and
so she may be robbed and murdered in China. The Chinese are robbed and
murdered often enough themselves poor things. Also they do not suffer in
silence. They revenge themselves when they can.

A man travelling for the British and American Tobacco Company, he was a
young man, not yet eight-and-twenty, told me how, once, outside a small
walled town, he came upon a howling mob, and parting them after the
lordly fashion of the Englishman, who knows he can use his hands, he saw
they were crowding round a pit half filled with quicklime. In it, buried
to his middle, was a ghastly creature with his eyes scooped out, and the
hollows filled up with quicklime.

“If I had had a pistol handy,” said the teller of the tale, “I would
have shot him. I couldn’t have helped myself. It seemed the only thing
to put him out of his misery, but, after all, I think he was past all
feeling, and I wonder what the people would have done to me!”

They told him, when he investigated, that this man was a robber, that he
had robbed and murdered without mercy, and so, when he fell into their
hands, they had taken vengeance. {206}Was that Babylon, or Nineveh, I
wondered? Since such things happen in China one feels that the age of
Babylon and Nineveh has not yet gone by. Talk with but a few men who
have wandered into the interior, and you realise the strong necessity
for these walled towns.

When the rumour of the slaughter of the Manchus, and the killing in the
confusion of eight Europeans at Hsi An Fu in Shensi in October 1911,
reached Peking, nine young men banded themselves together into the
Shensi Relief Force, and set out from the capital to relieve the
missionaries cut off there. One of these young men it was my good
fortune to meet, and the story of their doings, told at first hand,
unrolled for me the leaves of history. They set out to help the men and
women of their own colour, but as they passed west from Tai Yuan Fu,
again and again, the people of the country appealed to them to stop
and help them. The Elder Brother Society, the Ko Lao Hui were on the
warpath, and, with whatever good intentions this society had originated,
it was, on this way from Tai Yuan Fu to Hsi An Fu, nothing less than
a band of robbers, pillaging and murdering, and even the walled cities
were hardly a safeguard. Village after village, with no such defences,
was wrecked, burned, and destroyed, and their inhabitants were either
slain or refugees in the mountains. And the suffering that means, with
the bitter winter of China ahead of them, is ghastly to think of.
They died, of course, and those who were slain by the robbers probably
suffered the least.

“What could we do? What could we possibly do?” asked my informant
pitifully. {207}At last they came to Sui Te Chou, a walled city, and Sui
Te Chou was for the moment triumphant. It had driven off the robbers.
The Elder Brother Society had held the little city closely invested.
They had built stone towers, and, from the top of them, had fired into
the city, and at the defenders on the walls, and, under cover of this
fire from the towers, they had attempted to scale the battlements. But
the people on the walls had pushed them down with long spears, and had
poured boiling water upon them, and, finally, the robbers had given
way, and some braves, issuing from the south gate had fallen upon them,
killing many and capturing thirty of them. It was a short shrift
for them, and a festoon of heads adorned the gateway under which the
foreigners passed.

But, though victorious, the braves of Sui Te Chou knew right well that
the lull was only momentary. They were reversing the Scriptural order of
things, and beating their ploughshares into swords. The brigands would
be back as soon as they had reinforcements, the battle would be to the
strong and it would indeed be “Woe to the Vanquished!”

“We could not help them. We could not,” reiterated the teller of the
tale sadly; “we just had to go on.”

It was old China, he said, let us hope the last of old China. In that
town were English missionaries, a man and his wife, another man and
two little children, members of the English Baptist Church, dressed in
Chinese dress, the men with queues. These they rescued, and took along
with them, and glad were they to have two more able-bodied men in the
party, even though they were counterbalanced {208}by the presence of the
woman and two children, for everywhere along the track were evidences of
the barbaric times in which they lived. Human head? in wicker cages
were common objects of the wayside, and the wolves came down from
the mountains and gnawed at the dead bodies, or attacked the sick and
wounded. Old China was a ghastly place that autumn of 1911, during the
“bloodless” revolution. Chung Pu they reached immediately after it had
been attacked by six hundred men.

“I had to kick a dog away that was gnawing at a dead body as we led
the lady into a house for the night,” said the narrator. “I could only
implore her not to look.”

But at I Chün things were worse still. They reached it just as it had
fallen into the hands of the Elder Brother Society, and they began to
think they had taken those missionaries out of the frying-pan into the
fire. I Chün is a walled city up in the mountains of Shensi, and the
only approach was by a pathway so narrow that it only allowed of one
mule litter at a time. On one side was a steep precipice, on the
other the city wall, and along that wall came racing men armed
with matchlocks, spears, and swords, yelling defiance and prepared,
apparently, to attack. The worst of it was there was no turning that
litter round. They halted, and the gate ahead of them opened, and right
in the centre of the gateway was an ancient cannon with a man standing
beside it with a lighted rope in his hand. Turn the litter and get away
in a hurry they could not. Leave it they could not. There was seemingly
no escape for them. It only wanted one of those excited men to shout
“Ta, Ta,” and the match {209}could have been applied, and the ancient gun
would have swept the pathway. Then the leader of the band of foreigners
stepped forward. He flung away his rifle, he flung away his revolver, he
flung away his knife, and he stood there before them defenceless, with
his arms raised--modem civilisation bowing for the moment before the
force of Babylon. It was a moment of supreme anxiety. Suppose the people
misunderstood his actions.

“We scarcely dared breathe,” said the storyteller. Every heart stood
still. And then they understood. The man with the lighted rope dropped
it, and they beckoned to the strangers to come inside the gates.

It required a good deal of courage to go inside those gates, to put
themselves in the power of the Elder Brother Society, and they spent an
anxious night. The town had been sacked, the streets ran blood, the
men were slain, their bodies were in the streets for the crows and the
_wonks_ to feed on, and the women--well women never count for much
in China in times of peace, and in war they are the spoil of the
victor--the Goddess of Mercy was forgotten those days in I Chün. All
night long the anxious little party kept watch and ward, and when day
dawned were thankful to be allowed to proceed on their way unmolested,
eventually reaching Hsi An Fu and rescuing all the missionaries who
wished to be rescued.

“It was exciting,” said my friend, half apologising for getting excited
over it. “It was the last of old China. Such things will never happen
again.”

Exciting! it thrilled me to hear him talk, to know such things had
happened barely a year before, to {210}know they had happened in this
country. Would they never happen again? I was not so sure of that as I
went through walled town after walled town, as I looked up at the walls
of Tsung Hua Chou. This was the correct setting. To talk in friendly,
commonplace fashion to people who lived in such towns seemed to
annihilate time, to bring the past nearer to me, to make me understand,
as I had never understood before, that the people who had lived, and
suffered, and triumphed, or lived, and suffered, and fallen, were almost
exactly the same flesh and blood as I was myself.

Back at the inn my friend the landlady brought me her little grandson to
admire. He was a jolly little unwashed chap with a shaven head, clad in
an unwashed shift, and I think I admired him to her heart’s content. It
was evidently worth having been born and lived all the strenuous weary
days of her hard life to have had part in the bringing into the world
of that grandson. His little sister in the blue-cornered handkerchief,
looking on, did not count for much, and yet she had her own feelings,
for when I clambered into my cart and was just rumbling over the step I
was startled by a terrified childish outcry. Looking back, I saw that
a little serving-maid, a slave probably, was running after my cart with
the small son and heir in her arms, making believe to give away
the household treasure to the foreign woman, with grandmother and
subordinates looking smilingly on. Only the little sister, who was not
in the secret, was shrieking lustily in protest.

I had been thinking of the cities in the plain of Mesopotamia! And this
carried me back to the {211}days of my own childhood and the hills
round Ballarat! Many and many a time in my young days have I seen the
household baby offered to the “vegetable John,” and the small brothers
and sisters shrieking a terrified protest. “They would be good, and love
baby, and never be cross with him any more.” Here was I taking the place
of the smiling, bland, John Chinaman of my childhood. After all human
nature is much the same all the world over, on the sunny hills of
Ballarat, or in a walled city at the foot of the mountains in Northern
China. If we could but bridge the gulf that lies between, I expect we
should have found it just exactly the same on the banks of the Euphrates
and beneath the walls of Babylon.



CHAPTER XII--THE NINE DRAGON TEMPLE

{212}

_The crossing of the Lanho--A dust storm--Dangers of a new inn--Locked
in--Holy mountain--Ruined city--My interpreter--A steep hill--The barren
woman--Unappetising food--The abbot--The beggar--Burning incense--The
beauty of the way._

|We were fairly in the mountains when we left Tsung Hua Chou. As we
crawled along slowly, and I trust with dignity, though dignity is not
my strong point, I looked up to the hills that towered above us, almost
perpendicular they seemed in places, as if the slope had been shorn off
roughly with a blunt knife, and I saw that one of these crags, that
must have been about a thousand feet above the valley bottom, anyhow it
looked it in the afternoon sunlight, was crowned by buildings; and not
feeling energetic, nobody does feel energetic who rides for long in a
Peking cart, I thanked my stars that I had not to go up there. I thought
if it were the most beautiful temple in the world I would not go up
that mountain to visit it. Which only shows that I did not reckon on my
Chinese servant. There may be people who can cope single-handed with the
will of a Chinaman. I can’t. I know now that if my servant expresses a
desire for a thing, he will only ask, of course, for what is perfectly
correct and good {213}for his Missie, he will have it in the end, so it
is no good struggling; it is better to give in gracefully at first.

[Illustration: 306]

As we neared a river, the Lanho, or I suppose I should say the Lan, for
“ho” means a river, the clouds began to gather for the first time since
I had set out on my journey, and it seemed as if it were going to rain.

“Must make haste,” said Tuan looking up at the grey sky with the clouds
scurrying across it, and making haste in a Peking cart is a painful
process.

By the time we arrived at the river-banks it was blowing furiously, and
a good part of the country, as always seems to be the case in China when
the wind blows, was in the air. The river, wide and muddy and rather
shallow, was flowing swiftly along, and the crossing-place was just
where the valley was widest, and there was a large extent of sand on
either bank, so there was plenty of material for the wind to play with.
It used it as if it had never had a chance before and was bound to make
the most of it. There were many other people on that sandy beach, there
were other Peking carts, there were laden country carts with their
heavily studded wheels cut out of one piece of wood, looking like the
wheels Mr Reed puts on his prehistoric carts in _Punch_, there were
laden donkeys and mules, there were all the blue-clad people in charge
of the traffic, and there were tiny restaurants, rough-looking shacks
where the refreshment of these people was provided for. They weren’t
refreshing when I arrived, the wind was blowing things away piecemeal,
and every man seemed to be grabbing something portable, or putting it
down with a stone upon it to anchor it. {214}“Must make haste,” said
Tuan again, as he helped me out of the cart, and the wind got under my
coat, tore at my veil, and succeeded in pulling down some of my hair.

We had got beyond the region of bridges, I suppose in the summer the
floods come down and sweep them away, and everybody was crossing on a
wupan, a long, shallow, flat-bottomed boat that had been decked in the
middle to allow of carts being taken across. The mules were taken out,
and the carts with the help of every available man about, except the fat
restaurant-keeper, were got on the boat.

“Must make haste,” repeated Tuan, distributing with a liberal hand my
hard-earned cents. I used to think a cent or two in China didn’t matter,
but I know by bitter experience they mount up.

And then just as we were all ready, my leading mule, a fawn-coloured
animal of some character, expressed his disapproval of the mode of
transit by a violent kick, and broke away. The dust was blowing in heavy
clouds, but every now and then I could see through the veil a dozen
people racing after him, while he kicked up his heels in derision,
and in a fashion of which I should not have thought any beast that
had brought a Peking cart so far over such roads was capable. Then a
brilliant idea occurred to the younger “cartee man.” He decided to mount
the white mule that led the other cart. This was a meek-looking beast
who I presume always did exactly as he was told; but a worm will turn,
and to be ridden after all the long journey was more than even he would
stand. With a buck and a kick he got rid of the “cartee man,” and then
{215}there were two mules careering about in the wild dust storm. It
looked highly probable that they would take advantage of their liberty
to go back to Peking, and I crossed that river wondering very much how I
was to get any farther on my journey, and whether lost mules were a part
of the just expenditure expected of a foreign woman. After about two
hours, however, they were brought in, the fawn-coloured mule as perky as
ever, but the white one so depressed by his only taste of freedom that
he never recovered as long as I had the pleasure of his acquaintance.

Before we were on our way again the dust storm had subsided, and I was
shaking the mountains, or the Gobi Desert, or whatever it was, out of
the folds of my clothes and out of my hair and eyes, and Tuan was once
more urgent.

“Must make haste.”

But it was no good, we had lost too much time, we could not possibly
reach the little town we had planned to reach, and before the sun set
we turned into the yard of a little hostelry in a small mountain hamlet
underneath the holy mountain that was crowned with the temple I had been
looking at all the afternoon.

And then to my joy I found that this place was clean, actually clean!!
Two notes of exclamation do not do proper justice to it. The yard bore
little traces of occupation, the room I was shown into had a new blue
calico curtain at the door, it was freshly whitewashed, a clean mat was
on the k’ang, the wood that edged it was new, and there was clean tissue
paper over the lattice-work of the windows. The floor, of course, was
only hard, beaten earth, but that did not matter. I would sit on the
k’ang, and {216}besides this place smelt of nothing but whitewash. I
rejoiced exceedingly as I had the paper torn off the top of the window
to let in the fresh air, but Tuan looked at it from another point of
view.

“Must take care,” said he, “this new inn. ‘Cartee man’ no know she. Must
take care,” and he looked so grave that I wondered what on earth was the
penalty I ran the risk of paying for cleanliness.

They evidently were afraid, for all the luggage, which as a rule stayed
strapped on the carts in the inn yard, was taken off and brought in. I
was worth robbing, for I had about seven-and-twenty pounds in dollars in
my black box, and that, judging by what I saw, would have bought up all
the villages between Jehol and Peking. However, it was no good worrying
about it, however agitated Tuan might be. Besides, anyhow he was
something of a coward, all Chinese servants are, it seems to me.

His fear didn’t seem to last very long, for presently he came bustling
in, all excitement.

I was brushing my hair to try and get some of the dust out of it, and
reflecting there was possibly some reason in so many Chinese women being
bald. It must be much easier to keep a hairless head free from dust.

“Missie, Missie, innkeeper man, she say my Missie come in good time.
Nine Dragon Temple,” he pointed upwards, and I knew with a sinking heart
he meant the one I had watched all day and decided that to it I would
not go, “open one time for ten day, never in year open any more,” and he
looked at me to see his words sink in. They sank in right enough. I knew
I was going there, but still I protested.

“I cannot walk up that mountain.”

“No walk, Missie no walk, can get chair.”

Still I struggled. “It will cost too much money.”

“Three dollars, Missie, can do. Not spend much monies,” and he looked
at me as much as to say I would never let three dollars, about six
shillings, stand between me and a wonder that was only open for ten days
in the year, especially when I had arrived on the auspicious day.

“But what will you do, Tuan, {217}I really cannot afford a chair for you,”
 for I knew my follower on every occasion, even when I should have walked
made a point of riding. He looked at me, but I suppose he saw I had
reached the limit of my forbearance. His chest swelled out virtuously.

“I strong young man, I walk.”

I made another effort. “But the bottom of the mountain is a good way
off, how shall I get there?”

“I talkee ‘cartee man,’ he takee Missie two dollars.”

It was mounting up. I knew it would.

“But who will look after our things here?”

“One piecey ‘cartee man,’ stop,” said he airily. So it was all arranged
and I was booked for the Nine Dragon Temple whether I liked it or not.
Then there was the night to consider in this new inn, the safety of
which Tuan had doubted. In my room were all my possessions, including
the black box with the money in it, and I looked at the door and saw to
my dismay that there was no fastening on the inside.

“I take care Missie,” said Tuan loftily, and then {218}proceeded to
instruct me in the precautions he had taken.

“Innkeeper man ask how long Missie stay and I say p’r’aps five day,
p’r’aps ten day. No tell true.” No tell true indeed, for I had every
intention of leaving next day even if I did have to go up to the
mountain temple in the morning.

Again I looked at the rough planks of the door coming down to the
earthen floor, and decided I would draw my heavy box across it, and I
said so to Tuan.

But he was emphatic, “I take care Missie,” I wonder if he would have
done so had there really been any danger. Then he bid me good night and,
going out, drew the door to after him and proceeded to lock it on
the outside! I presume he put the key in his pocket. Some papers have
honoured me by referring to me as a “distinguished traveller,” and I
have had hopes of being elected to the Royal Geographical Society! For
a moment I thought of calling him back indignantly, and then I thought
better of it. “A man thinks he knows,” says the Chinese proverb, “but a
woman knows better.”

The window was frail and all across the room, and I knew I could break
the lattice-work if I wanted to, so could the thief for that matter, so
I slept peacefully, the sleep of the utterly weary, and the innkeeper
proved an honest man after all.

And next day, after breakfast, just as the sun was rising, I started
for the Nine Dragon Temple. The peak which it crowned stood out from the
rest like a very acute triangle. They say the camera cannot lie, I only
know I did not succeed in getting a photograph of that mountain that
gave any idea of its steepness. Its slopes, faintly tinged with green
and dotted with fir-trees, fell away like the sides of a house from the
narrow top that was crowned with buildings. It was just one of the
many holy mountains that are scattered over China, and it seemed to me,
looking up, that nothing but a bird could reach it. But still I had
to try. All the country was bathed in the golden rays of the sun as I
climbed into the cart, and we made our way through a ruined city that
must once have been very rich and prosperous. Only the poorest of the
poor apparently lived among the ruins, and we went through a ruined
gateway where no man watched now, and over half-tilled fields, to the
supplementary temple at the bottom of the mountain.

Here Tuan blossomed forth wonderfully. Up till now he had only been my
servant, a most important servant but still a servant, now he became, on
a sudden, that much more important functionary, my interpreter.

A solemn old gentleman in a dark-coloured robe with a shaven head
received me with that perfect courtesy which it is my experience these
monks always show, escorted me into a large room with a k’ang on one
side and a figure of a god, large and gorgeous, facing the door. He
asked me my age, as apparently the most important question he could
ask--it _is_ rather an important factor in one’s life--and then when I
was seated on the k’ang, with my interpreter, in his very best clothes
of silk brocade, on the other, a variety of cakes in little dishes were
set on the k’ang table beside me, and a small shavenheaded little boy
who I was informed was called “Trees” was set to pour out tea as long
as I would drink it. I was so amused at the importance of Tuan. Not
for worlds would I have given him away as he sat there sipping tea
and nibbling at a piece of cake; and I wonder still what he thought I
thought. Did he fear I should call him to account for sitting down as if
he were on terms of equality with me? Did he think I was a fool, or was
he properly grateful that I allowed him this little latitude? At any
rate, except in the matter of squeeze, he always served me very well
indeed, and there is no doubt my dignity was enhanced by going about
with a real, live interpreter. The priest could not know what a very
inadequate one he was.

Presently they came and announced that the chair was ready.

“Put on new ropes,” announced my interpreter pointing out the lashings
to me. The chair was fastened to a couple of stout poles and four
coolies, they might have been own brothers to the ones I had at the Ming
Tombs, lifted it to their shoulders and we were off. All the people who
dwelt in the little hamlet that clustered round the temple at the
foot of the mountain, hoary-headed old men, little, naked children,
small-footed women, peeped out and looked at the foreign woman as she
passed on her pilgrimage up the steep and narrow pathway, the first
foreigner that had passed up this way for some years, and probably the
only one who would pass up this year. It took a good many people to get
me up, I noticed, it wouldn’t have been Tuan if it hadn’t. There was
his all-important self of course, there was a man carrying my camera,
another one carrying my umbrella and a bundle of incense sticks, there
were various minor hangers-on in the shape of small boys, and there
were, of course, my four chair coolies.

[Illustration: 0316]

[Illustration: 0317]

A Chinese chair is a most uncomfortable thing anyway, and this had
exaggerated the faults of its kind. Always it is so built that there is
not seat enough, while the back seems specially arranged to pitch the
unlucky occupant forward. It is bad enough in the ordinary way--going up
a mountain, and a very steep mountain, it is anathema, and coming down
it is beyond words. And this mountain was steep, its looks had not
belied it; never have I gone up such a steep place before, never, I
devoutly hope, shall I go up such a steep place again. The mountain fell
away, and I looked out into space on either side. I could see hills, of
course, away in the far distance, with a great gulf between me and them,
rounded, treeless hills with just a faint touch of green upon them, and
the trees on my own mountain, firs and pines with an occasional poplar,
green and fresh with the tender green of May time, stood up at an acute
angle with the hill-side above, and an obtuse angle below. The air was
fresh, and keen, and invigorating, and in the green grass grew bulbs
like purple crocuses, wild jessamine sweetly scented, and delicate blue
wild hyacinths, that in Staffordshire they call blue bells. I remember
once in a delightful wood in the Duke of Sutherland’s grounds near
Stoke-on-Trent, that most sordid town of the Black Country, seeing the
ground there carpeted with just such blossoms as I saw here on the holy
mountain in China.

Up we went and up. There were stone steps put together without mortar,
all the way, and there were platforms every here and there, where
the weary {222}might rest, and because the hill was so steep, these
platforms were generally made by piling up stones that looked as if a
touch would send them rolling to the bottom of the mountain, a step and
one would be over oneself, for there were no barriers. It was twelve li,
four miles up, and the way was broken by smaller temples dedicated to
various gods, among them one to the goddess who takes pity on barren
women. This one was half-way up the mountain, and here we met a
small-footed woman toiling along with the aid of a stick. Half-way up
that cruel mountain she had crawled on her aching feet, and every day
she would come up, she told us, to burn incense at the shrine. And she
looked old, old. It would be a miracle indeed, I thought, if she bore
that longed-for child. Hope must be dying very hard indeed. And yet she
must have known. Poor thing, poor weary woman, what was the tragedy of
her life? Children, one would think, were a drug in the market in China,
they swarm everywhere. I burned an incense stick for her and could only
hope the God of Pity would answer her prayer, and take away her reproach
before men.

Up and up and up, and so steep it grew I was fain to shut my eyes else
the sensation that I would fall off into space would have been too much
for me. From the doorways of the wayside temples we passed through we
looked into space, and the mountains at the other side of the valley
seemed farther away than ever. A cuckoo called and called again “Cuckoo!
Cuckoo!” As we waited once a coolie passed with a bamboo across his
shoulder from which were slung two very modern kerosene tins--Babylon
and America meeting--and they told me there was no water on the
mountain, every drop had to be carried up; and then the men took up
the poles on their shoulders and tramped on again, and every time they
changed the pole from one shoulder to the other I felt I would surely
fall off into the valley, miles below. Up and up and up, they were
streaming with perspiration, and at last when it seemed to me we had
arrived at the highest point of the world, and that it was very like
a needle-point, they set down my chair at the bottom of the flight of
steps that led up to the entrance to the main temple, and the abbot and
a crowd of monks stood at the top to greet me.

They swarmed everywhere, it was impossible to estimate their numbers,
young men and old, all with shaven heads and dark, rusty red robes, and
then others, blind, and halt, and maimed, evidently pensioners on their
bounty. It seemed to me it could hardly be worth while to climb up so
steep a place for the small dole that was all the monks had it in their
power to give. It must have been so little, so little. They showed me
the shrine, a poor little shrine to one who had seen the wonders of the
Lama Temple in Peking. I took a picture of the abbot standing in front
of it, and they showed me their kitchen premises, where were great jars
of vegetables salted and in pickle, and looking most unappetising, but
that apparently, with millet porridge, was all they had to live on.

It was crowded, it was dirty, it was shabby, but there were great stone
pillars, eighteen of them, that they told me had been brought from a
great distance south of Peking, and had been carried up the mountain in
the days of the Mings, long before there were {224}the steps, which were
only put there a little over a hundred years ago--quite recently for
China. How they could possibly get them up even now that there are four
miles of steep stone steps I cannot possibly imagine. Babylon! Babylon!!
I shut my eyes and saw the toiling slaves, heard the crack of the
taskmaster’s whip, and the hopeless moan of the man who sank, crushed
and broken, beneath the burden.

The abbot bowed himself courteously over a gift of thirty cents which
Tuan, and I am sure he would not have understated it, said was the
proper _cumshaw_, and I bade them farewell and turned to go down that
hill again. The thought of it was heavy on my soul. Outside was a
beggar, men are close to starvation in China. The wretched, forlorn
creature, with wild hair and his nakedness hidden by the most disgusting
rags, had followed my train up all those four steep miles in the hope of
a small gift. For five cents he too bowed himself in deepest gratitude.
It was a gift I was ashamed of, but the important interpreter considered
he had the right to regulate these things, and he certainly led me
carefully on all other occasions. Then I looked at my chair and I looked
at the steep steps down which we must go. How could I possibly manage it
without getting giddy and pitching right forward, for going down would
be much worse than coming up had been. And then the men showed me that I
must get in and be carried down backwards.

Would they slip? I could but trust not. I was alone and helpless, days,
and they must have known it, from any of my own people. They might
easily have held me up and demanded more than the three dollars for
which they had contracted, but they did not. Patient, uncomplaining,
as the Babylonish slaves to whom I had compared them, they carried me
steadily and carefully from temple to temple all the way down, and at
every altar we stopped I sat and looked on, and Tuan burned incense
sticks, the officiating priest, he was very poor, dirty and shabby,
struck a melodious gong as the act of adoration was accomplished and
Tuan, in all his best clothes, knelt and knocked his head on the ground.
I wondered whether I, too, was not acquiring merit, for my money had
bought the incense sticks, and my money, it was only a trifling ten
cents, paid the wild-looking individual, with torn coat and unshaven
head, who carried them up the mountain.

[Illustration: 0323]

[Illustration: 0324]

Oh, but I had something--something that I cannot put into words--for
my pains; the something that made the men of five hundred years before
build the temple on the mountain top to the glory of God, my God and
their God, by whatever Name you choose to call Him. It was good to sit
there looking away at the distant vista, at the golden sunlight on the
trees and grass, at the shadows that were creeping in between, to smell
the sensuous smell of the jessamine, and if I could not help thinking
of all I had lost in life, of the fate that had sent me here to the Nine
Dragon Temple, at least I could count among my gains the beauty that lay
before my eyes.

And when I reached the bottom of the mountain in safety, I felt I had
gained merit, for the men who had carried me so carefully were wild with
gratitude, and evidently called down blessings upon my head, because I
gave them an extra dollar. It pleased me, and yet saddened me, because
it seemed an awful thing that twenty-five cents apiece, sixpence
{226}each, should mean so much to any man. Their legs ached, they said.
Poor things, poor things. Many legs ache in China, and I am afraid more
often than not there is no one to supply a salve.

So we came back to the little mountain inn in the glorious afternoon,
and the people looked on us as those who had made a pilgrimage, and Tuan
climbed a little way down from his high estate. He set about getting
me a meal, the eternal chicken, and rice, and stewed pear, and I looked
back at the mountain I had climbed and wondered, and was glad, as I am
often glad, that I had done a thing I need never do again.

Was there merit? For Tuan, let us hope, even though I did pay for
the incense sticks, for me, well I don’t know. On the mountain I was
uplifted, here in the valley I only knew that the view from the high
peak, the vista of hill and valley, the greenness of the fresh grass on
the rounded, treeless hills, and the greenness of the springing crops
in the valley, the golden sunshine and the glorious blue sky of Northern
China, the sky that is translucent and far away, was something well
worth remembering. Truly it sometimes seems that all things that are
worth doing are hard to do.



CHAPTER XIII--IN THE HEART OF THE MOUNTAINS

{227}

_Etiquette of the Chinese cart--Ruined city--The building of the
wall--The advice of a mule--A catastrophe--The failing of the Peking
cart--Beautiful scenery--Industrious people--The posters of the
mountains--Inn yards--The heads of the people--Mountain dogs--Wolves--A
slum people--Artistic hands--“Cavalry”--The last pass._

|And now we were on the very borders of China proper. The road was
simply awful, very often just following the path of a mountain torrent.
Always my cart went first, and however convenient it sometimes seemed
for the other cart to take first place, it never did so. Suppose we
turned down a narrow path between high banks and found we were wrong and
had to go back, the second cart would make the most desperate effort and
get up the bank rather than go before me. Such is Chinese etiquette, and
like most rules and customs when one inquires into the reason of them,
there is some sense at the bottom of it. A Chinese road is as a rule
terribly dusty and the second cart gets full benefit of all the dust
stirred up.

The day after we had been to the Nine Dragon Temple we passed through
the Great Wall at Hsing Feng K’ou, another little walled city. We had
spent the night just outside the ruined wall of an old city, a city that
was nearly deserted. There were {228}the old gateways and an old bell
tower, even an old cannon lying by the gate, but more than half the
people were gone, and those who remained were evidently poor peasants,
living there I should say because building material was cheap, and eking
out the precarious existence of the poor peasant all over China. The
hills were very close down now and the valleys very narrow, and on
a high peak close to the crumbling walls was the remains of a beacon
tower. Here by the border they had need to keep sharp watch and ward.
I suppose they have nothing to fear now, or perhaps there is nothing
to take, but in one ruined gateway I passed through they were tending
swine, and in another they were growing melons. At least it would never
be worth the raiders while to gather and carry away the insipid melon of
China.

The Wall is always wonderful. It was wonderful here even in its decay.
The country looked as if some great giant had upheaved it in great flat
slabs, raising what had been horizontal almost into the perpendicular.
It would have been impossible I should have thought for any man, let
alone an invading army, to cross there; there were steep grassy slopes
on one side, on the other the precipice was rough and impassable, and
yet, on the very top of the ridge, ran the wall, broken and falling
into decay in some places. I do not wonder that it has not been kept
in repair, what I wonder is that it was ever built. Tradition says they
loaded goats with the material and drove them to the top of the hills,
but it seems to me more likely they were carried by slaves. All the
strenuous past lived for me again as the sunlight touched the tops
of the watch-{229}towers and I saw how carefully they were placed to
command a valley. And that life is past and gone, the Manchus have
conquered and passed away, and the Mongols--well the Mongols they say,
when they come in contact with the Chinese, always beat them, and yet it
is the Chinese who, pushing out beyond the Wall, settle on and till the
rich Mongol pasture lands. There is now no need of the Wall, for the
Chinese, the timid Chinese have gone beyond it.

Inner Mongolia they call this country beyond the Wall, and worse and
worse got the road, sometimes it was between high banks, sometimes on
a ledge of the hills, sometimes it followed the course of a mountain
torrent, but always the general direction was the same, across or
along a valley to steep and rugged hills, hills sterile, stony, and
forbidding, and through which there seemed no possible way. There
was always a way to the valley beyond, but after we passed the Wall I
considered it possible only for a Peking cart, and by and by I came to
think it was only by supreme good luck that a Peking cart came through.
There was a big brown mule in the shafts of my cart, and the fawn mule
led, so far away that I wondered more than once whether he had anything
to do with the traction at all, or whether it was only his advice that
was needed. He was a wise mule, and when he came to a jumping-off place,
with apparently nothing beyond it, he used to pause and look round as
much as to say:

“Jeewhicks!” you couldn’t expect much refinement from a Chinese mule,
“this is tall No can do.” {230}The carter would jump down from his place
on the tail of the shaft. He would make a few remarks in Chinese, which,
I presume, freely translated were:

“Not do that place? What ‘re yer givin’ us? Do it on me ‘ed.”

Then the fawn-coloured mule would return to his work with a whisk of his
tail which said plainly as words:

“Oh all serene. You say can do. Well, I ain’t in the cart, I ain’t even
drawing the cart, and I ain’t particular pals with the gentleman in the
shafts, so here goes.”

And the result justified the opinion of both. We did get down, but it
seemed to me a mighty narrow squeak, and I was breathless at the thought
that the experience must be repeated in the course of the next hour or
so. At first I was so terrified I decided I would walk, then I found
it took me so long--one mountain pass finished off a pair of boots--and
there were so many of them I decided I had better put my faith in
the mules if I did not wish to delay the outfit and arrive at Jehol
barefoot. But I never went up and down those passes without bated breath
and a vow that never, never again would I trust myself in the mountains
in a Peking cart. Still I grew to have infinite faith in the Peking
cart. I was bruised and sore all over, and I found the new nightgowns
and chemises in my box were worn into holes with the jolting, but
I believed a Peking cart could go anywhere, and then my confidence
received a rude shock.

We came to a stony place, steep and stony enough in all conscience, but
as nothing to some of the places we had passed over, where there had
been a precipice on one side and a steep cliff on the other, and where
to go over would certainly have spelled grave disaster, but here there
was a bank at either side and the fawn-coloured mule never even looked
round before negotiating it. Up, up went one side of the cart, but I was
accustomed to that by this time, up, up, the angle grew perilous, and
then over we went, and I was in the tilt of the cart, almost on my head,
and the brown mule in the shafts seemed trying to get into the cart
backwards. I didn’t see how he could, but I have unlimited faith in
the powers of a Chinese mule, so, amidst wild yells from Tuan and the
carters, I was out on to the hillside before I had time to think, and
presently was watching those mules make hay of my possessions.
They didn’t leave a single thing either in or on that cart, camera,
typewriter, cushions, dressing-bag, bedding, all shot out on to what the
Chinaman is pleased to consider the road, even the heavy box, roped on
behind, got loose and fell off, and the mule justified my expectations
by, in some mysterious way, breaking the woodwork at the top of the
cart and tearing all the blue tilt away. It took us over an hour to get
things right again, and my faith in the stability of a Peking cart was
gone for ever.

[Illustration: 0332]

We were right in the very heart of the mountains now, and the scenery
was magnificent, close at hand hills, sterile and stony, and behind
them range after range of other blue hills fading away into the bluer
distance. Day after day I looked upon a scene that would be magnificent
in any land, and here in China filled me with wonder. Could this be
China, practical, prosaic China, China of the ages, {232}this beautiful
land? And always above me was the blue sky, always the golden sunshine
and the invigorating, dry air that reminded me, as I have never before
been reminded, of Australia.

But, however desolate and sterile the hills, and they seldom had more
than an occasional fir-tree upon them, in the valleys were always people
and evidences of their handiwork in the shape of wonderfully tilled
fields. There are no fences, the Chinaman does not waste his precious
ground in fences, but between the carefully driven furrows there is
never a weed, and all day long the people are engaged turning over
the ground so that it will not cake, and may benefit by every drop of
moisture that may be extracted from the atmosphere. A little snow in
the winter, a shower or two in April, and the summer rains in July or
August, are all this fruitful land requires for a bountiful harvest, but
I am bound to say it is fruitful only because of the intense care that
is given to it. No one surely but a Chinese peasant would work as these
people work. In every valley bottom there is, according to its size, a
town, perhaps built of stones with thatched roofs, a small hamlet, or
at least a farmhouse, enclosed either behind a neat mud wall or a more
picturesque one of the yellow stalks of the kaoliang. And the people are
everywhere, in the very loneliest places far up on the hills I would see
a spot of blue herding black goats or swine, and on parts of the road
far away from any habitation, when I began to think I had really got
beyond even the ubiquitous Chinaman, we would meet a forlorn, ragged
figure, an old man past other work or a small boy with a bamboo across
his shoulders and slung {233}from it two dirty baskets. With scoop in
hand he was gathering the droppings of the animals with which to make
argol for fuel, for enough wood is not to be had, and in this respect so
industrious are the Chinese that their roads are really the cleanest I
have ever seen.

There were strangely enough here, in the heart of the mountains, signs
of foreign enterprise, for however desolate the place might seem, sooner
or later we were sure to come across the advertisements of the British
American Tobacco Company. There they would be in a row great placards
advertising Rooster Cigarettes, or Peacock Cigarettes or Purple Mountain
Cigarettes, half a dozen pictures, and then one upside down to attract
attention. I never saw the men who put them there, and I hate the
blatant advertisement that spoils the scenery as a rule. Here I greeted
them with a distinct thrill of pleasure. Here were men of my race and
colour, doing pioneering work in the out-of-the-way corners of the
earth, and I metaphorically made them a curtsy and wished them well, for
no one knows better than I do the lonely lives they lead. But they are
bringing China in touch with the outside world.

By and by we came to a place where carts were not seen, the people were
wiser than I, but there was a constant stream of laden mules and donkeys
bringing grain inside the wall. Long before I could see them I could
hear the jingling of the collar of bells most of them wore, and in an
inn yard we always met the train and saw them start out before us in the
morning, though we were early enough, I saw to that, often have I had
my breakfast before five o’clock, or coming in after we did in the
{234}dusk of the evening. I objected to travelling in the dusk. I felt
the roads held pitfalls enough without adding darkness to our other
difficulties.

The inns grew poorer and poorer as we got deeper into the mountains but
always I found in those inn yards something interesting to look at. By
night I was too weary to do anything but go to bed, but I generally had
my tiffin in a shady spot in a corner of the yard and watched all
that was going on. The yard would be crowded with animals, mules, and
donkeys, and always there were people coming and going, who thought the
foreign woman was a sight not to be missed. There have been missionaries
here or in Chihli for the last hundred years, so they must have seen
foreign women, but the sight cannot be a common one judging by the way
they stared. There would be well-to-do Chinamen riding nice-looking
donkeys, still more prosperous ones borne in litters by a couple of
protesting mules, and in every corner of the yard would be beasts
eating. And all these beasts of burden required numerous helpers, and
the hangers-on were the most dilapidated specimens of humanity I have
ever seen, not nearly so sure of a meal, I’m afraid, as the pigs and
hens that wandered round scavenging. There would be an occasional old
woman and very, very seldom a young one with large feet marking her as
belonging to the very poorest class, but mostly they were men dressed in
blue cotton, faded, torn, ragged, and yet patched beyond recognition.

“Patch beside patch is neighbourly,” says an old saw, “but patch upon
patch is beggarly.” The poor folks in the inn yards not only had patch
upon patch, but even the last patches were torn, and they {235}looked
far more poverty-stricken than the children who played about this
pleasant weather wearing only their birthday dress. But they all had
something to do. An old man whose bald head must have required little
shaving and whose weedy queue was hardly worth plaiting, drew water from
the well, another who had adopted the modern style of dressing the hair
gathered up the droppings of the animals, a small boy with wild hair
that no one had time to attend to, and clad in a sort of fringe of
rags, drove away the hideous black sow and her numerous litter when she
threatened to become a nuisance, and from earliest dawn to dark there
were men cutting chaff. The point of a huge knife was fixed in the end
of a wooden groove, one man pushed the fodder into its position and
another lifted the knife by its wooden handle and brought it down with
all his strength. Then he lifted it, and the process was repeated. I
have seen men at work thus, in the morning before it was light enough to
see, I have seen them at it when the dusk was falling. There do not seem
to be any recognised hours for stopping work in China. And all the
heads of these people were wild. If they wore a queue it was dirty and
unplaited, and the shaven part of their heads had a week’s growth of
bristles, and if they were more modern in their hair-dressing, their
wild black hair stuck out all over the place and looked as if it had
originally been cut by the simple process of sticking a basin on the
head and clipping all the hairs that stood out round it. But untidy
heads of hair are not peculiar to the inn yard, they are common enough
wherever I have been in China. There were always innumerable children in
the yard, too, with heads {236}shaven all but little tails of hair here
and there, which, being plaited stiffly, stood out like the headgear of
a clown, and there were cart men and donkey men, just peasants in blue,
with their blouses girt round their waists. There were the guests, too,
petticoated Chinese gentlemen, squires, or merchants, or well-to-do
farmers, standing in the doorways looking on, and occasionally ladies,
dressed in the gayest colours, with their faces powdered and painted,
peeped shyly out, half secretively, as if they were ashamed, but felt
they must take one look at the foreign woman who walked about as if she
were not ashamed of the open daylight, and was quite capable of managing
for herself. Sometimes I was taken to the women’s quarters, where the
women-folk of the innkeeper dwelt, and there, seated on a k’ang, in a
room that had never been aired since it was built, I would find feminine
things of all ages, from the half-grown girl, who in England would have
been playing hockey, to the old great grandmother who was nursing the
cat. They always offered me tea, and I always took it, and they always
examined my dress, scornfully I am afraid, because it was only of
cotton, and wanted to lay their fingers in the waves of my hair, only I
drew the line at those dirty hands coming close to my face. At first it
all seemed strange, but in a day I felt as if I had been staying in just
such inns all my life. The farther one wanders I find the sooner does
novelty wear off. As a little girl, to go fifty miles from my home and
to have my meals off a different-patterned china gave me a delightful
sense of novelty, and to sleep in a strange bed kept me awake all night.
Now in an hour--oh far less--nothing feels new, not even the courtyard
of a Chinese mountain inn.

[Illustration: 0340]

I have never seen so many people with goitres. The missionaries at
Jehol told me it was very much dreaded, and that the people brought the
affliction upon themselves by flying into violent passions. I doubt very
much whether that is the origin of the goitre; but that it is very
much dreaded, I can quite believe. For not only does a goitre look most
unsightly, but the unfortunate possessor must always keep his head very
straight, for if he lets it drop forward, even for a moment, he closes
the air passages, and is in danger of suffocating. I have heard it is
brought on by something in the water. Water, of course, I never dared
drink in China. I saw very pleasant, clear-looking, liquid drawn up
from the wells in those inn courtyards in closely plaited buckets of
basket-work, but I never ventured upon it. I always remembered Aunt
Eliza:

                   “In the drinking well

                   Which the plumber built her,

                   Aunt Eliza fell.

                   We must buy a filter.”

Aunt Eliza’s cheerful, if somewhat callous, legatees had some place
where they could buy a filter, I had not, besides, I am sure, all the
filters in the world could not make safe water drawn from a well in a
Chinese inn yard, so I drank tea, which necessitates the water being
boiled.

The Chinese build their wells with the expectation of someone, not
necessarily Aunt Eliza, coming to grief in them. On one occasion a man
of my acquaintance was ordering a well to be made in his yard, and
he instructed the well-sinker that he need {288}not make it, as the
majority of Chinese wells are made, much wider at the bottom than at the
top. But the workman shook his head.

He must make it, he said, wide enough at the bottom for a man--or woman,
they are the greatest offenders--to turn round if he flung himself in.
He might change his mind and want to get out again, and if a body were
found in a well not roomy enough to allow of this change of mind, he,
the builder, would be tried for murder.

This thoughtful consideration for the would-be suicide, who might wish
to repent, is truly Chinese. Personally I doubt very much whether anyone
would take the trouble to investigate the bottom of a well. There might
easily be something very much worse than Aunt Eliza in it. Presumably
she was a well-to-do, and therefore a clean old lady, while the
frequenters of those yards were beyond description.

The people in the little towns, and more especially those in the lonely
farm-houses which looked so neat and well-kept in contrast with the
ragged, dirty objects that came out of them, kept a most handsome breed
of dogs. Sometimes they were black and white, or grey, but more often
they were a beautiful tawny colour. They were, apparently, of the same
breed as the _wonks_ that infest all Chinese towns, but there was the
same difference between these dogs and the _wonks_ as there is between
a miserable, mangy mongrel and the pampered beast that takes first prize
at a great show. Indeed, I should like to see these great mountain
dogs at a show, I imagine they would be hard to beat. They looked very
fierce, whether they are or not I don’t know, because I always gave them
a wide berth, and {239}Tuan, the cautious, always shook his head when
one came too close, called to someone else with a stick to drive it
away, and murmured his usual formula: “Must take care.” They told me
there were wolves among these mountains, and I can quite believe it,
though I never saw one. In the dead of winter they are fierce and
dangerous, and much dreaded. They come into the villages, steal the
helpless children, will make a snap at a man in passing and inflict
terrible wounds. A Chinaman will go to sleep in all sorts of
uncomfortable spots, and more than one has been wakened by having
half the side of his face torn away. Of such a wound as this the man
generally dies, but so many are seen who have so suffered, and gruesome
sights they are, that the wolves must be fairly numerous and exceedingly
bold. They take the children, too, long before the winter has come upon
the land. There was a well-loved child, most precious, the only son of
the only son, and his parents and grandparents being busy harvesting
they left him at home playing happily about the threshold. When they
came back, after a short absence, they found he had been so terribly
mauled by a wolf that shortly after he died, and the home was desolate.
And yet these wolves are very difficult to shoot.

“I have never seen one,” a man told me. “Again and again, when I was in
the mountains, the villagers would come complaining of the depredations
of a wolf. I could see for myself the results of his visit, but never,
never have I found the wolf. It seems as if they must smell a gun.”

When first I heard of the wolves I laughed. I was so sure no beast of
prey could live alongside {240}a Chinaman, the Chinaman would want to
eat him.

“They would if they could catch him,” said my friend, “but they can’t,
though the majority of the population are on the look-out for him. There
is nothing of the hunter about the Chinaman.”

“Meat!” said a wretched farmer once, rubbing his stomach, when the
missionaries fed him during a famine. He couldn’t remember when he had
tasted meat, and not in his most prosperous year had he had such a feast
as his saviours had given him then.

“How much do you make a year?” asked the missionary.

He thought a little and then he said that, in a good year, he perhaps
made twelve dollars, but then, of course, all years were not good years.
But we, on our part, must remember that these people belong to another
age, and that the purchasing power of the dollar for their wants is
greater than it is with us.

Very, very lonely it seems to me must these mountain villages be when
the frost of winter holds the hills in its grip, very shut out from the
world were they now in the early summer, and very little could they
know of the life that goes on within the Wall, let alone in other lands.
Indeed there are no other lands for the Chinese of this class, this
is his country, and this suffices for him, everybody else is in outer
barbarism.

Steeper and steeper grew the hills, more and more toilsome the way, and
the people, when we stopped, looked more and more wonderingly at the
stranger. At one place, where I had tiffin, I shared the room and the
k’ang, the sun was so hot and there was no shade, so I could not stay
outside, with six women {241}of all ages, two had babies that had never
been washed, two had hideous goitres, and all had their hair gathered
into long curved horns at the back. There was also on the floor, a
promising litter of little pigs, and three industrious hens. The women’s
blue coats were old, torn, patched, soiled, and yet----oh the pity of
it, these women, who had to work hard for their living, work in the
fields probably, had their feet bound. One had not, but all the rest
were maimed. Two of them had their throats all bruised, and I wondered
if they had been trying to hang themselves as a means of getting away
from a life that had no joy in it, but I afterwards found that with two
coins, or anything else that will serve the purpose, coins are probably
rather scarce, they pinch up the flesh and produce these bruises as a
counter-irritant, and, ugly as it looks, it is often very effective.

These should have been country people, if ever any people belonged to
the country, and then, as I looked at them, the truth dawned on
me. There are no country people in the China I have seen, as I from
Australia know country people, the men of the bush. They--yes--here in
the mountains, are a people of mean streets, a slum people, decadent,
the very sediment of an age-long civilisation. I said this to a man who
had lived long in China and spoke the language well, and he looked at me
in surprise.

“Why,” he said, “they all seem to me country people. The ordinary people
of the towns are just country yokels.”

But we meant exactly the same thing. I looked at the country people I
had known all my life, the capable, resourceful pioneers, facing new
conditions, {242}breaking new ground, ready for any emergency, the men
who, if they could not found a new nation, must perish; he was looking
at the men from sleepy little country villages in the old land, men
who had been left behind in the race. And so we meant exactly the same
thing, though we expressed it in apparently opposing terms. These
people are serfs, struggling from dawn to dark for enough to fill their
stomachs, toiling along a well-worn road, without originality, bound to
the past, with all the go and initiative crushed out of them. As their
fathers went so must they go, the evils that their fathers suffered must
they suffer, and the struggle for a bare existence is so cruelly hard,
that they have no hope of improving themselves.

It was all interesting, wonderful, but I do not think ever in the world
have I felt so lonely. I longed with an intense longing to see someone
of my own colour, to speak with someone in my own tongue.

I don’t know that I was exactly afraid, and yet sometimes when I
saw things that I did not understand, I wondered what I should do if
anything did happen. Considering the way some people had talked in
Peking, it would have been a little surprising if I had not. Once we
came upon a place where the side of the road was marked with crosses in
whitewash and I wondered. I remembered the stories I had heard of
the last anti-Christian outbreak, and I wondered if those crosses had
anything to do with another. It all sounds very foolish now, but I
remember as cross after cross came into view I was afraid, and at last I
called Tuan and asked him what they meant.

“Some man,” said he, “give monies mend road, {243}puttee white so can
see where mend it.” And that was all! But what that road was like before
it was mended I cannot imagine!

At last, after a wearying day’s journey of one hundred and twenty li,
or forty miles, over the roughest roads in the world, we came in the
evening sunlight upon a long line of grunting, ragged camels just
outside a great square gate enclosed in heavy masonry, and we were at Pa
Kou, as it is spelt by the wisdom of those who have spelled Chinese, but
it is pronounced Ba Go. It is a city or rather a long street, twenty
li or nearly seven miles long, and the houses were packed as closely
together in that street as they are in London itself. The worst of the
journey, Tuan told me, was over. There was another range of mountains to
cross, we had been going north, now we were to go west, it would take us
two days and we would be in Jehol.

And here, for the first time, the authorities took notice of me. The
first inn we stopped at was dirty, and Tuan went on a tour of inspection
to see if he could not find one more to his Missie’s liking, and I sat
in my cart and watched the crowded throng, and thought that never in my
life had I been so tired--I ached in every limb. If the finding of an
inn had depended on me I should simply have gone to sleep where I was.
At last it was decided there was none better, and into the crowded and
dirty yard we went, and I, as soon as my bed was put up, had my bath and
got into it, as the only clean place there was, besides I was too tired
to eat, and I thought I might as well rest.

But I had been seen sitting in the street, and the Tutuh of the
town, the Chief Magistrate, sent his {244}secretary to call upon the
“distinguished traveller” and to ask if she, Tuan, who never could
manage the pronouns, reported it as “he,” had a passport. The
“distinguished traveller” apologised for being in bed and unable to see
the great man’s secretary, and sent her servant--I noticed he put on his
best clothes, so I suppose he posed as an interpreter--to show she had
a passport all in order. He came back looking very grave and very
important.

“She say must take care, plenty robber, must have soldier.”

Here was a dilemma. I had heard so much about the robbers of China,
and the robbers of China are by no means pleasant gentlemen to meet. A
robber band is not an uncommon thing, but is more dangerous probably, to
the people of the land than to the foreigner, for here in the north
the lesson of 1900 has been well rubbed in. It is a dangerous thing to
tackle a foreigner. Dire is the vengeance that is exacted for his life.
Still I wasn’t quite comfortable in my own mind. I thought of the mighty
robber White Wolf, who ravaged Honan, of whom even the missionaries and
the British American Tobacco Company are afraid. On one occasion two
missionaries were hunted by his band and driven so close that, as they
lay hidden under a pile of straw, a pursuer stood on the shoulder of
one of them. He lay hardly daring to breathe and the robber moved away
without discovering their hiding-place. Afterwards, however, they did
fall into the hands of White Wolf, who, contrary to their expectations,
courteously fed them and set them on their way. Of course, they had
nothing of which to be despoiled, and it was their good-fortune to fall
into {245}the hands of the leader himself, who knows a little of the
world, and something of the danger of attacking a foreigner. The danger
had been that they might fall into the hands of his men, his ignorant
followers, who, in their zeal, would probably kill them, perhaps with
torture, and report to the chief later on. This happened after I had
been to Jehol, but, of course, I had heard of White Wolf. I knew his
country was farther to the south in the more disturbed zone, and I did
not expect to meet robbers here. Still I had the Tutuh’s word for it
that here they were.

If you are going to have any anxiety in the future, I have come to the
conclusion it is just as well to be dead tired. I couldn’t do anything,
and I was utterly tired out. I had been in the open air all day since
five o’clock in the morning, I was safe, in all probability, for the
night, and robbers or no robbers, I felt I might as well have a sound
night’s rest and see what the situation looked like in the morning. I
heard afterwards there were missionaries in the town, and had I known
it, I might have sought them out and taken counsel with men of my own
colour, but I did not know it.

“Must have soldier,” repeated Tuan emphatically, standing beside my camp
bed. “How many soldier Missie want?”

I had heard too many stories of Chinese soldiers to put much reliance on
them as protectors. I didn’t know offhand how many I wanted. I was by no
means sure that I wouldn’t be just as safe with the robbers. One thing
was certain, I couldn’t go back within two days of my destination,
besides for all I knew, the robbers were behind me.

I put it to Tuan. {246}“Suppose I have no passport, what the Tutuh do
then?”

“Then,” said my henchman emphatically, “he no care robber get Missie.”

Evidently the Tutuh meant well by me, so I said they might send a
soldier for me to look at, at six o’clock next morning and then I would
decide how many I would have, and feeling that at least I had eleven
hours respite, I turned over and went to sleep.

Punctually the soldier turned up. He was a good-tempered little man, all
in blue a little darker than the ordinary coolie wears, over it he had
a red sleeveless jacket marked with great black Chinese characters, back
and front, a mob cap of blue was upon his head, over his eyes a paper
lampshade; he had a nice little sturdy pony, and, for all arms, a fly
whisk!

I didn’t feel I could really be afraid of him, and I strongly suspected
the robbers would thoroughly agree with me.

“What’s he for?” I asked Tuan.

That worthy looked very grave. “Must take care,” he replied with due
deliberation. “Plenty robber. She drive away robber. How many soldier
Missie have?”

Well there was nothing for it but to face the danger, if danger there
was. I don’t know now if there was any. It is so difficult to believe
that any unpleasant thing will happen to one. Again I reflected that
there is no danger in China till the danger actually arrives, and then
it is too late. What my guardian was to drive away robbers with I am
sure I don’t know, for I cannot see that the fly whisk would have been
very effective. The “cartee men” were perfectly willing to go on, so I
said I thought this warrior would be amply sufficient for all purposes,
and we started.

[Illustration: 0352]

Everybody in Pa Kou keeps a lark, I should think, and every one of those
larks were singing joyously as we left the town. Never have I heard such
a chorus of bird song, and the morning was delightful. My guardian
rode ahead, and for three hours as we jolted over the track, I kept
a look-out for robbers, wondered what they would be like, and what
I should do when we met, but the only things I saw were bundles
of brushwood for the kitchen fires of Pa Kou, apparently walking
thitherward on four donkey legs. They reassured me, those bundles of
brushwood, they had such a peaceful look. Somehow I didn’t think we were
going to meet any robbers.

Evidently Tuan and the “cartee men” came to the same conclusion, for, at
the end of three hours, they came and said the soldier must be changed,
did Missie want another? Missie thought she didn’t, and the guard was
dismissed, his services being valued at twenty cents. It was plenty, for
he came, with beaming face, and bowed his thanks.

That was the only time I had anything to do with soldiers on the
journey, and I forgot all about him, hieroglyphics, lampshade, fly
whisk, and all, till I found entered in the accounts, Tuan was a learned
clerk and kept accounts: “Cavalry, twenty cents.”

Then I felt I had had more than my money’s worth.

The last night of my journey I spent at Liu Kou, the sixth valley, and
the next morning the men made {248}tremendous efforts to hide all
trace of the disaster that had befallen us on the way. I said it didn’t
matter, it could wait till we got to Jehol, but both Tuan and the
“cartee men” were of a different opinion. Apparently they would lose
face if they came to their journey’s end in such a condition, and I
had to wait while the cloth was taken off the back of the cart,
and carefully put on in front, so that the broken wood was entirely
concealed. Then, when everybody was satisfied that we were making at
least a presentable appearance, we started. You see, I never appreciated
the situation properly. To travel in a cart seemed to me so humble a
mode of progression, that it really did not matter very much whether it
were broken or not, indeed a broken cart seemed more to me like going
the whole hog, and roughing it thoroughly while we were about it. But
with the men it was different, a cart was a most dignified mode of
conveyance, and to enter a big town in a broken one was as bad as
travelling in a motor with all the evidences of a breakdown upon it, due
to careless driving. And when I saw their point of view, of course I
at once sat down on some steps and watched an old man draw water, and a
disgusting-looking sow, who made me forswear bacon, attend to the wants
of her numerous black progeny.

Tuan passed the time by having a heated argument with the landlord. The
fight waxed furious, as I was afterwards told, regarding the hot water I
had required for my bath, which was heated in a long pipe, like a copper
drain-pipe, that was inserted in a hole by the k’ang fire. Fuel is
scarce, and stern necessity has seen to it that these people get the
{249}most they possibly can out of a fire. I hope Than paid him fairly,
but of course I do not know, I parted with a dollar for the night’s
lodging and the little drop of hot water, for otherwise we carried our
own fuel--charcoal--bought our provisions and cooked for ourselves, but
we left that landlord protesting at the gate that he would never put up
another foreigner.

That last day’s journey was, I think, the hardest day of all, or perhaps
it was that I was tired out. There was a long, long mountain to be got
over, the Hung Shih La, the Red Stone Rock, and we crossed it by a pass,
the worst of many mountain passes we had come across. We climbed up
slowly to the top and there was a tablet to the memory of the man who
had repaired the road. What it was like before it was repaired I can’t
imagine, or perhaps it was not done very recently, say within a couple
of hundred years, for the road was very bad. There is only room for one
vehicle, and the carters raised their voices in a loud singsong, to warn
all whom it might concern that they were occupying the road. What would
happen if one cart entered at one end and another at the other I am sure
I cannot imagine, for there seemed to be no place that I could see where
they could pass each other, and I think it must be at least three steep
miles long. I did not trust the carts. I walked. My faith in a Peking
cart and mule had gone for ever, and if we had started to roll here,
it seemed to me, we should not have stopped till we reached America or
Siberia at least. So every step of the way I walked, and Tuan would have
insisted that the carts come behind me. But here I put my foot down,
etiquette or no etiquette I insisted they should go in front. I felt
{250}it would be just as bad to be crushed by a falling cart as to be
upset in it, so they went on ahead, and when we met people, and we met
a good many on foot, Tuan called out to them and probably explained that
such was the foolish eccentricity of his Missie that, though she was
rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and always travelled with two carts,
she yet insisted upon walking down all the passes.

It was worth it too, for the view was glorious, the sunlight, the golden
sunlight of a Chinese afternoon, fell on range after range of softly
rounded hills, the air was so clear that miles and miles away I could
see their folds, with here and there a purple shadow, and here and there
the golden light. And over all was the arc of the blue sky. Beautiful,
most beautiful it was, and I was only regretful that, like so many of
the beautiful things I have seen in life, I looked on it alone. I shall
never look on it again. The journey is too arduous, too difficult, but I
am glad, very glad indeed, that I have seen it once.

But it was getting late. At the bottom of the pass I got into my cart,
and was driven along a disused mountain torrent that occupied the bed
of the valley under a line of trees just bursting into leaf. The shadows
were long with the coming night, and at last we forded a shallow river
and came into the dusty, dirty town of Cheng Teh Fu, an unwalled town
beyond which is Jehol, the Hunting Palace of the Manchu Emperors.

Here there were thousands of soldiers, not like my “cavalry,” but
modern, khaki-clad men like those in Peking, gathered together to
go against the Mongols, for China was at war, and apparently was
{251}getting the worst of it, and the air was ringing with bugle calls.

And then Tuan and I had an argument. He wanted me to go to an inn. The
streets were dusty, dirty, evil-smelling, I was weary to death, my dress
had been rubbed into holes by the jolting of the cart, and my flesh
rebelled at the very thought of a Chinese inn. But what was I to do?
There were no Europeans in Jehol save the missionaries, and I was so
very sure it was wasted labour to try and convert the Chinese it seemed
unfair to go to the mission station.

And then I suddenly felt I must speak to someone, must hear my own
tongue again, must be sympathised with, by a woman if possible, and in
spite of the protests of Tuan who saw all chance of squeeze at an end, I
made them turn the mules’ heads to the mission.

There a sad, sweet-faced woman gave me, a total stranger, the kindest
and warmest of welcomes, and I paid off the “cartee men.” For sixty
dollars they had brought me two hundred and eighty miles, mostly across
the mountains, they had been honest, hard-working, attentive, patient,
and good-tempered, and for a _cumshaw_ of five dollars they bowed
themselves to the ground. I know they got it, because I took the
precaution to pay them myself, and as I watched them go away down
the street I made a solemn vow that never again would I travel in the
mountains, and never, never again would I submit myself to the tender
mercies of a Peking cart. It is one of the things I am glad I have done,
but I am glad also it is behind me with no necessity to do again.



CHAPTER XIV--TO THE GREEKS, FOOLISHNESS

{252}

_Missionary compound--Prayer--Reputed dangers of the way--The German
girl--Midwife--The Bible as a guide--“My yoke is easy, My burden
is light”--A harem--Helping the sick and afflicted--A case of
hysteria--Drastic remedies--Ensuring a livelihood--“Strike,
strike”--Barbaric war-song--The Chinese soldier--The martyrdom of the
Roman Catholic priest._

|And with my entrance into that missionary compound I entered a world as
strange to me as the Eastern world I had come across two continents to
see.

The compound is right in the heart of the town, and was originally
a Chinese inn, built, in spite of the rigour of the climate, Chinese
fashion, so that to go from one room to the other it was necessary to go
out of doors. The walls looking on to the street were blank, except in
the room I occupied, where was a small window, so high up I could not
see out of it. How it must be to pass from one room to the other when
the bitter winter of Northern China holds the mountains in its grip, I
do not know.

I walked in out of the unknown and there came forward to meet me that
sad-looking woman with the soft brown eyes and bright red lips. Take
me in, yes, indeed she would take me in. I was dusty, I was torn, and
I think I was more weary than I {253}have ever been in my life, and she
made me welcome, made me lie down in a long chair, and had tea brought
in. A tall buxom German girl entered, and then to my surprise, and not
a little to my discomfort, my hostess bowed her head, and thanked God
openly that I had come through the dangers of the way, and been brought
safely to their compound! For a moment it took my breath away, and so
self-conscious was I, that I did not know which way to look. My father
was a pillar of the Church of England, Chancellor of the Diocese in
which we lived, and I had been brought up straitly in the fold, among
a people who, possibly, felt deeply on occasion, but who never, never
would have dreamt of applying religion personally and openly to each
other. Frankly I felt very uncomfortable after I had been prayed over,
and it seemed a sort of bathos to go on calmly drinking tea and eating
bread and jam. The German girl had just arrived, and they heard that the
day after she had left Peking, the German Consul had sent round to the
mission station, where she had been staying, to cancel her passport, and
to say that on no account must she go to Jehol as the country was too
disturbed. However she and her escort, one of the missionaries, had come
through quite safely, and the Tartar General in charge here had said she
might stay so long as she did not go outside the boundaries of the town.
But naturally, they were much surprised to see me, a woman and alone.

I looked round the room, the general sitting-room, a bare stone-floored
room, with a mat or two upon it, a little cane furniture, a photograph
or two, and some texts upon the walls, a harmonium, a {254}couple of
tables, and a book-case containing some very old-fashioned books, mostly
of a religious tendency, and some stories by A.L.O.E. There was a time
when I thought A.L.O.E’s stories wonderful, and so I read one or two of
them while I was here, and wondered what it was that had charmed me when
I was eleven.

The only other woman in that compound, beside my hostess, was the German
girl who had come out to help.

“I gave myself to the Lord for China,” she said, and she spoke simply
and quietly, as if she were saying the most natural thing in the world,
as if there could be no doubt of the value of the gift--truly it was
her all, she could not give more. And the Chinese did need her, I
think--that is only my opinion--but not exactly in the way she counted
most important. She had taken the precaution to become a midwife, and
indeed she must be a godsend, for Chinese practices are crude and cruel
in the extreme. It is the child that counts, the mother, even in her
hour of travail, must literally make no moan. A woman once told me how
she went to see her amah, who was expecting a baby, and she was asked to
wait. She waited about an hour, for she was anxious about the woman, and
the room was very still, there was no sound till the silence was broken
by the first cry of the new-born infant. The child had been born behind
the screen while she waited, and an hour later, to her horror, the
white-faced young mother was up and preparing to cook the family evening
meal. The woman would not have cried out for the world. No Chinese woman
would. If poor human flesh is weak, and a {255}sigh of pain escape her,
her mother-in-law will cover her mouth with her hand, but mostly the
woman will gag herself with her long black hair, she will not disgrace
herself by a cry as long as her senses are with her. It is all very well
to say the Chinese do not suffer as white women suffer. They are not
like the sturdy negro women who have lived a primitive, open-air life,
walk like queens, and have exercised every muscle. They are the crippled
products of an effete civilisation, who spend long hours on the k’ang,
and go as little as possible from their own compound. To those women
that German girl will be a blessing untold. I think of their bodies
while she labours for their souls. Anyway she is surely sent by God.

There were two men here to make up the complement, one was my
missionary’s husband, a man who takes the Bible for his guide in
everything, the Bible as it is translated into the English tongue. He
does not read primarily for the beauty of the language, for the rhythm,
for the poetry, for the Eastern glamour that is over all. He reads
it, he would tell you himself, for the truth. It is to him the most
important thing in the world; he quotes it, he lives by it, it is never
out of his thoughts, he might be a Covenanter of old Puritan days. And
the fourth missionary is a man of the world. I don’t think he realises
it himself, but he is. He had lived there many years, had married a
wife and brought up children there, and now had sent them home to be
educated, and he himself talked, not of the Bible, though I doubt not
he is just as keen as the other, but of the people, and their manner
of life, and their customs, of the country, and of the strangers he had
{256}met, the changes he had seen, and, when I questioned him, of the
escape of himself and his family from the Boxers.

For the souls and bodies of these wretched, miserable, uncomprehending
Chinese, who very likely, at the bottom of their hearts, pity the
strangers because they were not born in the Flowery Land, these devoted
people work--work and pray--day and night. The result is not great.

“They will not hear the truth. Their eyes are blind. They worship
idols,” they told me of the majority. But they give kindliness, and in
all probability, for it is seldom that faithful, honest kindliness fails
in its purpose, they make a greater impression than they or I realise.

True they believe firmly in the old Hebrew idea of a “jealous God,” but
they themselves are more tender than the God they preach. For all of
them, it seemed to me, life is hard, unless they have greater joy in the
service than I, “a Greek” could understand, but for the older woman it
must be hardest of all.

“My yoke is easy, My burden is light,” said the Master she followed, but
the burden of this woman, away up in the mountains of Northern China, is
by no means light. The community is so small, they do not belong to the
China Inland Mission but call themselves “The Brethren,” the nearest
white man is two days away hard travelling across the mountains, so that
perforce the life is lonely. Day in and day out they must live here for
seven years among an alien people; a people who come to them for aid and
yet despise them. And because they would put no more stumbling-blocks
in the way of {257}bringing the Chinese to listen to the message they
bring, these missionaries conform, as much as they can, to Chinese
custom. Very seldom does this woman walk abroad with her husband--it
would not be the thing--women and men do not walk together in China.
If she goes outside the missionary compound she must be accompanied
by another woman, and she puts on some loose coat, because the Chinese
would be shocked at any suggestion of the outline of a figure. Also she
looks neither to the right nor the left, and does not appear to notice
anything, because a well-behaved woman in China never looks about
her. She considers, too, very carefully her goings, she would not
walk through the town at the hour when the men are going about their
business, the hour that I found the most interesting, and invariably
chose, no boy may bring her tea to her bedroom--it would not be
right--and she has none of the arrogance of the higher race who think
what they do must be right and expect the natives of the land to fall
into line. No, she conforms, always conforms to the uncomfortable
customs of the Chinese, and when any man above the rank of the poorest
comes to call upon her husband, she and the girl are hustled out of the
way and are as invisible as if he kept a harem. It often occurred to
me that the Chinese thought he did. Even in the church the women are
screened off from the men, and if a man adheres to the customs of the
country so closely in everything they can see, it is natural to suppose
they will give him credit for adhering to them in all things. But they
must think, at least, he has selected his womenkind with a view to their
welfare, for the older woman has had {258}a little medical training, and
simple cases of sickness she can deal with, while the German girl, as
I have said, is a certified midwife. The other man too, though not a
doctor, has some little knowledge of the more simple eye diseases.

And they are grateful, the poor Chinese, for the sympathy they get from
these kindly missionaries, who openly say they tend their poor bodies
because they feel that so only can they get at their souls. They come to
the little dispensary in crowds, come twenty miles over the mountains,
and they bring there the diseases of a slum people, coughs and colds,
pleurisy and pneumonia, internal complaints and the diseases of
filth--here in the clean mountains--itch and the like. Many have bad
eyes, many granulated lids, and there is many a case of hideous goitre.
While I was there a man, old and poor, tramped one hundred miles across
the mountains; he was blind, with frightfully granulated lids, and he
had heard of the skill of the missionaries. There are also well-to-do
people here, who sometimes seek aid from them, though as a rule, it is
the lower class they come in contact with.

But the ailments of the rich are different, I remember my missionary
woman was called in to see a girl about twenty, the daughter of a
high-class Manchu. The girl had hiccough. It came on regularly about
four o’clock every afternoon, and continued, if I remember rightly,
three or four hours. She was well and strong, she had everything the
heart of a Chinese woman could desire, she was never required to do one
stroke of work, but she was not married. The Manchus have fallen on evil
times and find some difficulty in marrying their {259}daughters. So this
girl, the daughter of well-to-do people, was necessary to no one, not
even to herself, and the missionary, finding she spent the greater
part of her time lying idly upon the k’ang, diagnosed hysteria, and
prescribed a good brisk walk every day. The proud Manchu, who was her
mother, looked at the woman she had called in to help her, scornfully.

“My daughter,” she said drawing herself up to her full height, and the
Manchus are tall women, “cannot walk in the street. It would not be
seemly.”

The missionary looked at her a little troubled.

“At least,” she said, “she can walk in the courtyard and play with her
brother’s children.”

But the girl looked at her with weary eyes. There was no excitement in
playing with her brother’s, children, and she could not see the good to
be got out of walking aimlessly round the courtyard. Poor Manchu maid!
What had she expected?

“If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have
done it?”

“I could do no good,” said the missionary sorrowfully, “and they would
not listen to my message.”

The Chinese have their own remedies for many diseases, and some of them
the missionaries told me were good, but many were too drastic, and many
were wickedly dangerous. When an eye is red and bloodshot for instance,
they will break a piece of crockery and pierce the eye with it, and in
all probability the unfortunate loses his sight. No wonder they come
miles and miles, however rough the way, to submit themselves to gentler
treatment. I have known even women with bound feet toil twenty miles
{260}to see them about some ailment. Of course their feet are not as
badly bound as some, for there are many women in China who cannot walk
at all. I talked with a man once who told me he had just been called
upon to congratulate a man because he had married a wife who could not
get across the room by herself. She, naturally, was a lady with slaves
to wait upon her. These Chinese women of the mountains of the poorer
classes--the Manchus do not bind their feet--must be able to move about
a little, for there is a certain amount of work they must do.

“A hundred thousand medical missionaries,” said this man, “are wanted in
China, for the teeming population suffers from its ignorance, it suffers
because it is packed so tightly together; the women suffer from the
custom that presses so heavily, and it suffers from its own dirt.”

Up here at Jehol the suffering is apparently as bad as anywhere, and
the dispensary is full with all the minor ailments that come within the
range of the missionaries’ simple skill, and all the cruel diseases that
are quite beyond them, that they cannot touch, and they do their best
in all pity and love, and yet think that they are doing a greater thing
than binding up a man’s wounds when they can induce him to come to their
prayer-meetings, which go along, side by side, with the dispensary.

I, a heathen and a “Greek,” question whether the Chinese ever receives
Christianity. A Chinese gentleman, a graduate of Cambridge, once told me
he did not think he ever did.

“But the Chinaman,” said he, he actually used the contemned word, “is
a practical man, he receives all faiths. Some may be right, and when
he thinks {261}he is dying, he will send for a priest of every faith he
knows of to help him across the dark river. Who knows, some of them may
chance to be right,” and he laughed. He himself was of the faith so many
of us of this modern world have attained to, seeing the good in so many
faiths, seeing the beauty and the pity of them and standing aside and
crying: “Why all this? Whither are we bound? What can it matter whether
this poor coolie believes in Christ, or Buddha, or the cold ethics of
Confucius?” I said this to my missionary woman one day and she looked at
me with horror in her eyes.

“There will be a reaping some day,” she said. “Where will you be then?”

“Surely I cannot be blamed for using the reasoning powers God has
given.” But I am sure she thought my reasoning powers came from the
devil, and if I hadn’t been getting used to it I should have been made
uncomfortable by being prayed for as one in outer darkness.

It is the worship of the ancestors that holds the Chinese, the man
who gives up that, gives up all family ties and becomes practically an
outcast. There may be a few genuine Christians, but in proportion to the
money spent upon their conversion, their number must be very small. I
saw the colporteur come into the compound one day, and they told me he
was an earnest Christian. He might be, but again that doubt arose in my
mind. If the receiving of Christianity ensures a livelihood, could you
expect one of a nation, who will be made a eunuch for the same reason,
to reject it.

The missionaries had a hard time when first they came here. The place
is inhabited by Manchus, {262}full of the pride of race, and they do not
want the outsider. They use them, as they have effected a settlement,
but they do not approve of their being there.

As I and my saintly missionary walked down the street, she carefully
avoiding a glance either to the right or the left, a little half-naked
child at his mother’s side looked at her and cried aloud:

“Ta, ta,” and he said it vehemently again and again.

She stopped, spoke to the mother, and evidently remonstrated, and
the woman laughed and passed along on her high Manchu shoes without
correcting the child.

She looked troubled. “What did he say?” I asked.

“Strike, strike! or some people might say ‘kill, kill!’ I said to the
woman: ‘What bad manners is this?’”

And the woman had only laughed! After all her kindness and tenderness,
all her consideration and care; I should have thought the very children
would have worshipped the ground she walked upon.

They are holding their own, they say. In the compound are a couple of
Chinese women, the wives of their teachers or servants, and they have
had to unbind their feet, a process almost as painful as the binding.
One old woman could not unbind hers, they told me, because so long had
they been bound the feet split when she attempted to walk upon them
unbound, but so true a Christian is she, she puts her tiny feet inside
big shoes. But to balance her, their amah, a Manchu, is still a heathen.
After the years, the years they had been striving there, they could not
find one who has embraced their faith to wait upon them.

[Illustration: 0370]

In truth it was a hard faith, morning, noon, and night, they prayed,
morning, noon, and night, it seemed to me from the little meeting-house
went up the sound of hymns and prayers, not even in Christian England,
England that has held the faith for over a thousand years would so many
services have been attended, could they expect it of the Chinese?

In the evening, when the night fell, we sat in the compound and talked,
I, who was cold and reasonable, and they who were enthusiasts, for to
them had come the call, that mysterious crying for the unknown that
comes to all peoples and all classes, and is called by such different
names.

“I have given myself to the Lord for China.” And outside the house
the watchman beat his gong, not to frighten off thieves, as I at first
thought, but to keep away the devils who help the “stealer man,” for he
cannot alone carry out his nefarious designs, the _wonks_, the scavenger
dogs made the night hideous by their howling, and the soldiers, of whom
the town was full, sang their new war-song--wild and barbaric.

“I do not like it,” said she of the sad eyes and red lips, “I do not
like it. It does not sound true.”

And I, who had not got to live there, did not like it either, but it was
because it did sound to me true--it sounded fierce and merciless. What
might not men, who sang like that, do?

“The Chinese soldier is a baby,” said a Chinese {264}to me, but that is
when he is among his own particular people at home.

“Chinese soldiers,” said another man, a foreigner, “are always robbers
and banditti.”

And there is truth in that last statement, possibly there is truth
in both, for children, unguided and unbridled, with the strength and
passions of men, are dangerous to let loose upon a community.

We are beginning to look upon China as a land at peace. We talk about
her “bloodless revolution,” yet even as I write these words I see,
sitting opposite to me, my friend who was one of the rescue-party,
the gallant nine, who rode post-haste to Hsi An Fu to rescue the
missionaries cut off by the tide of the revolution, and I know the peace
of China is not as the peace of a Western land.

Hsi An Fu is situated in Shensi, roughly, about a fortnight’s journey
from the nearest railway, with walls that rival those of Peking, and
like Peking, with a Manchu City walled off inside those walls. There on
the 22nd October, 1911, the Revolutionaries, the apostles of progress,
shut fast the gates of the inner city and butchered the Manchus within
the walls. From house to house they went, and slew them all, old women
on the brink of the grave and the tiny infant smiling in its mother’s
arms. Not one was spared. No cries for mercy were listened to. “Kill,
kill!” was the cry that bright autumn Sunday; men, women, and children
were slain, the streets ran with their blood, the reek of slaughter went
up to heaven, and the Manchus were exterminated.

The movement was not anti-foreign, but the plight of the missionaries
well illustrates the danger every {265}foreigner faces in China. The
bulk of the people are peaceful. Nowhere in the world, I suppose, is a
more peaceful person to be found than the average Chinese peasant. He
asks only to be let alone, but, unfortunately, he is not let alone.
His rulers “squeeze” and oppress him, bands of robbers take toll of his
pittance, and when an unpaid soldiery is let loose upon him, his plight
is pitiable. It is certainly understandable, if not pardonable, that he
in his turn, takes to pillage, and pillage leads to murder. He is only
a puppet in the hands of others. One man alone may be kindly enough but
the man who is one of a mob, is swayed by the passions of that mob, or
the passions of its leader. So it was at Hsi An Fu. Party feeling ran
high. There were really three parties, the Manchus, the Revolutionaries,
and the Secret Society, the Elder Brother Society, who are always
anti-foreign and who, here in Hsi An Fu, for whatever purpose they might
originally have banded themselves together, were virtually a band of
robbers, mainly intent on filling their own pockets. The Revolutionaries
declared that the foreigners should be protected, but--and again the
menace of China to the white man is felt--in the rush and tumult of the
battle, many of their followers did not realise this. This was the time
to wreak private vengeance, and it was fiercely taken advantage of.
When thousands of helpless people, closer akin to the slayers than the
foreigners, were being given pitilessly to the sword, who was likely to
take much account of a handful of missionaries.

There was outside the city in the south suburb a small school for the
teaching of the Swedish missionaries’ children, and the head of that
school had, {266}some little time before, had a camera stolen. He
reported it to the police, and being dissatisfied with the lax way the
man at the head of the district took the matter up, went to his superior
officer. Now in these disturbed times, the man who had “lost face” saw
his way to vengeance, and, being in sympathy with the Revolutionaries,
and knowing the exact hour of the outbreak, he ordered the villagers
round the south suburb, every family, to send at least one man to
help exterminate the foreigners. “It was an order,” and the villagers
responded. The school was the first place attacked, for not only did
this man seek vengeance, but the humble possessions of the missionaries
seemed to the poorer Chinese to be wealth well worth looting. Therefore
that Sunday at midnight a mob attacked the school premises. The
missionaries, Mr and Mrs Beckman and Mr Watne, the tutor, were helpless
before the crowd, and hid in a tool-house, but they were discovered and
ran out, making for a high wall that surrounded the compound. Mr Watne
got astride of this and handed over Mr Beckman’s eldest daughter, a tall
girl of twelve, but, before he could get the other children, the crowd
rushed them, and he was tumbled over the wall, making his escape with
the girl to another village some way off while the mob swept over the
rest, scattering them far and wide. Mr Beckman, a particularly tall,
stalwart man, considerably over six feet high, had his youngest child, a
baby, in his arms, and the people gave way before him, closing in on
the unfortunates who were following. It is impossible for an outsider to
tell the tale of that massacre, for massacre it was, the people falling
upon and doing to death the unfortunate woman and the children who were
clustering round her. The darkness was filled with the fierce shouts of
the murderers, and every now and again they were broken in upon by the
terrified wail of a child butchered with none to help.

“Ta, ta,” cried the people, and they struck mercilessly, with spades and
reaping hooks and knives, the weak and helpless, and dodged out of the
way of the great, strong man who could fight a little for his life and
the lives of those dear to him.

The woman and the children were slain and at last he was hunted, with
the little girl still in his arms, into a deep pond of water outside the
suburb. The mite was only three years old, and the distracted father,
wild with anxiety for his wife and other children, had to soothe the
little one and exhort her to be quiet and not to cry, for the pursuers
were lighting fires round the pond to find them. They lighted three, and
the fires probably defeated their own end, for the fugitive managed
to keep out of the glare, and the leaping flames deepened the darkness
around. The baby sheltered in her father’s arms, and in spite of the
cold, never even whimpered, and the water was so deep the mob dared
not venture in. Only a man of extraordinary height could have so saved
himself. Hour after hour of the bitter cold autumn night passed and the
mob dispersed a little. The lust for killing was not so great in
the keen Hours of the early morning. Then the first silver streaks,
heralding the rising of the moon, appeared in the eastern sky and the
distracted man made his way softly to a bank at one side, and reaching
up, again only a tall man could have done it, laid his little girl
there. But the child who had been so good in the icy water while she was
against his breast began to fret when the keen morning air blew through
her sodden clothes and she could not feel her father’s arms round her,
and he had to take her back and soothe her. But at last he persuaded
her to lie still till he got softly out of the water, and crept round to
her. He was not followed, the pursuit was slackening more and more,
and, keeping in the shadows, he made his way to the missionaries in
the western suburb. He thought that all but he and his little girl
had perished, and sad to say they did not know of the two who were
sheltering in a village some miles away in the country. Here, nearly
twelve hours later, the pursuers sought them out and stoned them to
death.

Meanwhile rumours of what was happening in the southern suburb reached
the missionaries in the eastern suburb, and they, taking counsel with
their native helpers, divided themselves into three parties, and set
out to take refuge in some more distant villages where the people were
reputed Christians. They had gone but a little way, when the carts of
two of the parties were overtaken by a mob, who handled them somewhat
roughly, took all their humble possessions, and drove them back.

“Kill, kill!” cried the pointing people, as the little helpless company,
escorted by the shouting, threatening mob passed, and even those who did
not directly threaten, seemed to have no hope.

“They go to their deaths,” they said, looking at them curiously as men
look upon other men about to die.

The missionaries themselves had small hope of their lives. When they
reached the first mission-{269}house they were roughly thrust into a
room and there guarded, and they only wondered why death did not come
swiftly and cut short the agony of waiting.

The third party that set out from that suburb consisted of the Rev.
Donald Smith, his wife, and some schoolgirls they were escorting back to
their homes, as he considered, in these troublous times, they would be
safer with their own people than in the mission school. They went due
east, and had not gone three miles when they were set upon. The girls
fled in all directions, but the attackers only molested the foreigner
and his wife. He endeavoured to defend her, but they beat him so
severely that both his arms were broken, and they were both left for
dead by the wayside. Here they were found by some friendly, kindly
villagers--the average Chinaman is kindly--who, when the roughs were
gone, came to their rescue, and took them back to the eastern suburb,
where the other missionaries had spent a terrible two hours, momentarily
expecting the mob to rush in and kill them.

But the Chinese are a cautious people, curious in their respect for
precedent. What was to be done with these foreigners. Sometimes the
foreigners had been slain, but then again, quite as often, they had been
guarded and kept safely. There was no getting into the city. The gates
were fast locked and were kept shut for days, but someone--very probably
a well-wisher to the missionaries--went to the wall and shouted up to
know what was the order about foreigners? Were they to kill them or
were they to protect them? Back came the response, the order was, the
foreigners were to be protected, and when word of this was brought back
to the mission station, they were not only released, but the property
of which they had been robbed was returned to them. For those who had
looted kept it intact till they saw which way the wind blew.

And by the time the city gates were opened and order was restored,
it was understood, by the proclamation of the New Republic, that all
foreigners were to be protected.

But the case of the missionaries in Hsi An Fu graphically illustrates
the dangers every foreigner, missionary, or the missionary’s _bête
noire_, the ubiquitous cigarette-selling British American Tobacco man,
runs in China, where the civilisation, the long-established civilisation
is that of Nineveh or Babylon, or ancient Egypt. Not that the foreigner
runs any greater risk than the native of the country, sometimes he runs
less, because, even into the far interior, a glimmering of the vengeance
the Christian nations take for their martyred brothers has penetrated;
but life in China is, as it was in Nineveh or Babylon, not nearly as
sacred as it is in the West. The life of a poor man, one of the luckless
proletariat, is of small account to anyone. A disbanded and unpaid
soldiery are for ever a menace, and the difference between the
disciplined soldier and the unlicensed bandit is very, very small. One
week a regiment of soldiers clamouring for their pay, the next a band of
robbers hiding in the hills, their methods ruthless, for their hand is
against every man’s and every man’s hand is against them. They live by
the sword, as they perish by the sword, and when the tide of lawlessness
reaches a certain height, white man and yellow alike suffer, but we
take count only of the sufferings of our own people. {271}Sitting in
the missionary compound up at Jehol in the evening, I thought of these
things and looked into the eyes that looked into mine, the kind, brown
eyes, and I wondered did she remember, did she think of them, too. I
looked again, and I knew she remembered, that ever with her was the
thought how cut off they were from the rest of the world, and I read
there, though she never murmured, fear. For Jehol has its traditions
of sacrifice and martyrdom too. Only six miles away at a village on
the Lanho, in the year of the Boxer trouble, they had slowly buried the
Catholic priest alive. All the long hot summer’s day they had kept
him tied to a post, slowly, to prolong his agony, heaping up the earth
around him. The day was hot, and he begged for water as the long, weary,
hopeless hours dragged themselves away. And some of them had loved him.

“You might,” said a man looking on, “give him a drink, even if you do
kill him.”

And they turned on him even as men might have done in the days of the
Inquisition:

“If you say any more, we will bury you beside him.”

And so he died a cruel death, a martyr, for there was none to help, and
when the Western nations exacted retribution, they made the people put
up a cross, the symbol of his faith, over the grave. And then, because
they had been forced to do it, every villager who passed that monument
to show his contempt for the foreigner and all his works cast a stone,
till now shape and inscription have both gone, and the passer-by cannot
tell what is that rough rock, jagged and unshapely.

Yet here among these selfsame people, four and a half days’ hard journey
from Peking, far beyond all hope of help from the foreign soldiery,
dwell these Christian missionaries. “To the Greeks, foolishness.” But
could they better demonstrate the strength of their faith?



CHAPTER XV--A VISIT TO THE TARTAR GENERAL

{273}

_Hsiung Hsi Ling, Premier of China--Preparations for a call--A cart
of State--An elderly mule--Waiting in the gate--The yam en--Mr Wu, the
secretary--“Hallo, Missus!”--The power of a Chinese General--“Plenty
robber, too much war”--Ceremonial farewell--A cultivated gentleman--Back
to past ages for the night._

|Up in Jehol they called the General commanding the three thousand odd
troops the Tartar General, why I do not know, but it seems it is the
title by which he is commonly known among the country people. He was
Hsiung Hsi Ling, the man who is now Premier of China, and to him I
brought letters of introduction so that I might be admitted to the
Imperial Palace and Park and be treated as a person of consequence,
otherwise I imagine a foreigner and a woman at that would have but small
chance of respect in China. The Chinese letters lifted me to the rank of
the literati, which must have been rather surprising to the Chinese, and
these in English were such that I felt I must bear myself so as to live
up to them.

The yamen was about five minutes’ walk from the mission station, and
in my ignorance I had thought I would stroll up some morning when I
had recovered from the fatigues of the journey, but the missionaries,
{274}steeped in the lore of Chinese etiquette, declared such a
proceeding was not suitable. A person of consequence, such as my letters
proclaimed me, must bear herself more becomingly.

“Write and ask if ten o’clock on Tuesday morning will be a suitable time
for you to call on the General, and send your letters by your servant.
I dare say there will be somebody who can read them, though I am sure
there will be nobody who can write an answer,” said the missionary. “The
General’s English-speaking secretary is away.”

Accordingly I sent off Tuan, who was more than sure that he was equal
to the task, and he returned without a letter, as the missionary had
prophesied, but saying: “She say all right.”

“And now you must have a cart,” said that missionary who was more
worldly wise than I expected an enthusiast to be, “and don’t get down
till the yamen gates are opened. It would never do to wait with the
servants in the gate.”

How Eastern it sounded! And then his wife came and superintended my
toilet. The weather was warm, not to say hot, and I had thought a
black and white muslin a most fitting and suitable array. But she was
horrified at the effect. It was made in the mode of 1913, and did not
suggest, as the long Manchu robes do, that I was built like a pyramid,
broadest at the base.

“Haven’t you got a coat to put over you,” said she looking round, and
she seized my burberry which was the only thing in the shape of a wrap
I had with me. Chinese ideas of propriety evidently influenced her very
strongly.

I declined to wear a burberry on a hot day late in {275}May, though all
the Chinese Empire were shocked and horrified at my impropriety, but I
sought round and found a lace veil which, draped over me, was a
little suggestive of a bridal festivity, but apparently satisfied all
conditions, and then I went out to mount into that abomination--a Peking
cart. The Peking cart that is used for visiting has a little trestle
carried over the back end of the shafts, which is taken down when the
occupant wishes to mount and dismount, so I got into the seat of honour,
the most uncomfortable seat well under the tilt, and Tuan, glorious in
a long black silk brocade robe, his queue newly oiled and plaited, and
a big straw hat upon his head, climbed on to the tail of the shaft, and
the carter, dressed in the ordinary blue of his class, with the ordinary
rag over his head to keep off the dust, walked beside the most venerable
white mule I have ever come across. I don’t know whether aged animals
are held in respect in China, I’m afraid not. The poor old thing had
great deep hollows over his eyes. I suspect Tuan had got him cheap,
because the cart was respectable, and he had been good once--of course
he would never have let me lose face--and then he made me pay full
price, a whole fivepence I think it came to.

“That’s a very old mule, Tuan,” I said.

“Yes,” he assented, “very old, she forty,” which was certainly more
than I had reckoned him. I afterwards came to the conclusion he meant
fourteen.

What Tuan was there for, I certainly don’t know, except to carry my
card-case, which I was perfectly capable of carrying myself.

We went out into the dusty, mud-coloured street, and along between
mud-coloured walls of the dullest, most uninteresting description, and
presently we arrived at the yamen gates, and here it was evident that
Tuan, who had been so important all across the mountains, was now quite
out of his depth.

“Cart no can go,” said he. “Missie get out.”

I was prepared for that. “No,” I said very important for once in my
life, “I wait till someone comes.”

The yamen entrance was divided into three, as all Chinese entrances
seem to be, and over it were curved tiled roofs with a little colouring,
faded and shabby, about them; all of it was badly in need of repair,
and on the fast-closed gates in the middle were representations of some
demon apparently in a fit, but his aspect was a little spoiled by the
want of a fresh coat of paint. The two little gates at either side were
open, and here clustered Chinese soldiers in khaki, and men in civilian
dress of blue cotton, and all stared at the foreign woman who was not
a missionary, in the cart; that is the rude ones stared, and the polite
ones looked uncomfortably out of the corners of their eyes. A Chinaman’s
politeness in this respect always ends by making me uncomfortable. A
good, downright stare that says openly: “I am taking you in with all my
eyes,” I can stand, but the man who looks away and down and out of the
corners of his eyes gets on my nerves in no time.

However, this time I had not long to wait. After a minute or two out
came a messenger, a Chinese of the better class, for he was dressed in
a bright blue silk coat and petticoats, with a black sleeveless jacket
over it, and the gates at his command, to my boy’s immense astonishment,
opened, and my cart rumbled into the first courtyard. We went on into
a second--bare, ugly courtyards they were, without a flower or a tree or
any green thing to rest the eye upon--and then I got down as there came
to meet me a small bare-headed man without a queue, and his thick
black hair apparently cut with a saw and done with a fork. He wore an
ill-fitting suit of foreign clothes, and about his neck, instead of a
collar, one of those knitted wraps an Englishwoman puts inside her coat
when the weather is cold. On his feet were the white socks and heelless
slippers of the Chinese. Instead of the dignified greeting the first man
had given me he remarked genially, and offhandedly: “Hallo, Missus!”
 and he did it with a certain confidence, as if he really would show the
numerous bystanders that he knew how to receive a lady.

[Illustration: 0386]

[Illustration: 0387]

Through one shabby courtyard after another, all guarded by soldiers in
khaki, he led me to the presence of the Tartar General, Hsiung Hsi Ling,
the great man who had been Minister of Finance and who now held military
command over the whole of that part of China, independent even of the
Viceroy of the Province of Chihli. Those who told me made a great point
of that independence; but in China it seems that a General with troops
at his command always is independent, not only of the Viceroy of the
Province in which he is stationed, but of anyone else in authority. The
President himself would treat him with great respect so long as he had
troops at his back. He is, in fact, entirely independent. If the central
authorities give him money to pay his troops, well and good, he holds
himself at their command, if they do not, then he is quite likely
to sympathise with his men, and become not only a {278}danger to the
community among whom he is stationed, but to the Government as well. It
is hardly likely yet in China, that a General popular with his troops
can be degraded or dismissed. He can only be got rid of by offering him
something better.

Here I found none of the pomp and magnificence I had expected to find
about an all-powerful Oriental. We went into a room floored with stone,
after the Chinese fashion, and furnished with a couple of chairs, and
through that into a plain, smallish room, with the usual window of
dainty lattice-work covered with white paper. All down the centre of it
ran a table like a great dining-table, covered, as if to emphasise
the likeness, with a white cloth. I felt as if I had come in at an
inopportune moment, before the table had been cleared away. Seated at
this table, with his back to the window, was the General. He rose as I
entered and came forward, kindly and considerately, to meet me--a man
of middle height, younger than I expected, for he hardly looked forty.
There was not a thread of white in his coal-black hair, but he had
some hair on his face--a moustache and the scanty beard that is all the
Chinese can produce--so he was evidently of ripe years, well past middle
age. He wore a uniform of khaki, as simple and devoid of ornament as
that of one of his own soldiers; his thick black hair was cut short and
he had a clever, kindly face. Though he could understand no English, he
looked at the foreign woman pleasantly, and as if he were glad to see
her. He went back to his chair, and I was seated at his right hand,
while his secretary, and very inadequate interpreter, sat on his left.
An attendant, looking like an ordinary coolie, brought in tea in three
cups with handles and saucers, foreign fashion, and the interview began.

I have been told that a grave and unsmiling demeanour is the proper
thing to bring to a Chinese interview; and if so I failed lamentably
to come up to the correct standard. But since the interpreter knew even
less English than Tuan, whom I had left outside, there was really little
else to do but smile and look pleasant. My host certainly smiled many
times. I complimented him on the beauty of his country and then I asked
permission, that is to say his protection, to go on to Lamamiao, or as
it is called on the maps, Dolnor. Goodness knows why I asked. It would
have meant two or three weeks at least in that awful Peking cart, but I
appear to be so constituted that, when I am within range of a place,
it would seem like missing my opportunities not to try and get there. I
don’t know what there is to see at Dolnor, but it is up on the Mongolian
plateau, and there is a big lamaserie there and a living Buddha, that
is an incarnation of the Buddha. The one who is there at present may be
very holy as to one part of him, but the earthly part requires plenty
of drink, I am told, and the caresses of many women to make this world
tolerable. However, I was not to see him. The General and his secretary
might not have understood much, but they did understand what I wanted
then, and they were emphatic that I could not go. The General looked at
his secretary and then at me, and explained at length, and he must have
thought that the English language was remarkable for its brevity, for I
was curtly informed:

“No can go. Plenty robber. Too much war.”

I had been threatened with robbers before, but not by an important
General, and this time I felt I had better take heed, besides there was
always the consolatory thought that, if I did not go, I need not ride
any more in a Peking cart. Then I asked permission to visit the Palace
and Park.

“No can do one time,” said the interpreter. “How many day you want go?”

Somehow, though I had come all this way to see it, I have a rooted
objection to sightseeing. To get a ticket to go into a place takes away
the charm; still as I was about it, I thought I would go as often as
I could, so I said I would like to go on five days. The missionaries,
though they had been here for six years, had never yet set foot inside
that Park; to go required a permit from the authorities, and it was
their idea to ask nothing from those authorities that they could
possibly avoid. They would certainly have thought it wicked to ask for
anything for their own pleasure. I did not suffer from any such ideas.
As the General was bent on being civil to me I thought I might as well
say I would like to take my friends in, and as we could not go without
proper attendants--I who come from a country where I have blacked my own
boots, cooked the family dinner, and ironed my husband’s shirts many a
time--I asked for and got about thirty tickets. I’ve got some of them
still. Then I drank a cup of very excellent tea, and before five minutes
were up rose and made my adieux. Brevity, I had been instructed, was the
soul of courtesy in a Chinese interview.

The Tartar General saw me through two doors, which I believe was a high
honour, and due to my having been introduced as a learned doctor. The
correct thing is to protest all the while and beg your host not to come
any farther, but I am really too Western in my ideas and it seems silly.
Either he wants to come, or he doesn’t, in any case what does it matter,
and so I fear me, I was not vehement enough in my protestations of
unworthiness. The secretary conducted me to my cart, where a subdued
and awed servant awaited my arrival with a new and exalted idea of his
Missie’s importance. Tuan had magnified my importance, I fancy, for his
own sake. He was serving a woman--yes, but she was a rich, generous, and
important woman, but he had never, at the bottom of his heart, really
dreamt that she could go through the yamen gate in a cart, that she
could sit down beside the Tartar General, that she could get many
tickets to go inside grounds forbidden to all the Chinese round about.
I have not the slightest doubt all the details of the interview reached
him before I came out, brief as my visit had been, and he helped me
into my cart with, I felt, more deference and less make-believe than was
usual. It made me smile a little to myself, but I think it was Tuan who
really got most satisfaction out of that visit, though he had not seen
the great man.

[Illustration: 0393]

I had been comparing China to Babylon. I came away from the General’s
presence with the feeling that a Babylonish gentleman was truly
charming--just like a finished product of my own time. Probably he was.
But there were other sides to Babylon, as I was reminded that night. It
is well to know all sides. When I had said good night and gone to bed,
there burst on my ears a loud beating of gongs, and the weird war-song
I had found so {282}haunting the night before. The soldiers were
stimulating their courage for the fighting in Mongolia. I wonder if the
Babylonish soldiery sang so before they marched down upon Jerusalem.
Then there came the watchman’s gong, and the howl of the _wonks_ that
prowled about the town. I was back in past ages, and as I lay there
in the darkness I wondered how I had ever had the temerity even to
contemplate a visit to Lamamiao, and whether I would ever have the
courage necessary to get back to Peking by myself. Luckily the fears of
the dark are generally dispersed by the morning sunlight. At least they
are with me, or I should never dare go travelling in remote places at
all.



CHAPTER XVI--A PLEASURE-GROUND OF THE MANCHUS

{283}

[Illustration: 0386]

_A return call--Ceremonies--A dog-robbing suit--Difficulties of
conversation--A treat for the amah--The British Ambassador at Jehol in
the eighteenth century--The last stages of decrepitude--Glories of the
park--The bronze temple--A flippant young Chinese gentleman--“Ladies’
Temple”--Desolation and dirt and ruin--“Happiness Hall”--Examining a
barbarian._

|The next day the secretary returned my call, bringing with him the
General’s card, and an apology for not coming himself. He was so very
busy. I never expected him to come, and don’t suppose he ever really
intended to, but it was true Chinese politeness to put it that way.

Mr Wu had sent to say he was coming to call upon me, and it surprised
me to see the commotion such a little thing occasioned in the mission
house. I felt they were really being awfully good to my guest, but,
without taking away one jot from their kindliness, I think, too, they
were very glad to be brought into friendly relations with the yamen, and
I was very glad indeed to think that I, who was in outer darkness from
their point of view, was able to do this little thing for them. Cakes
were made, the best tea got out, the table set, and the boy, who
generally waited upon us humbler folk in a little short jacket and
trousers caught in at the ankles, was put into the long coat, {284}or
petticoat, whichever you are pleased to call it, that a well-dressed
Chinese servant always wears. It seems it is not the correct thing for
him to wait upon one in a little short jacket. And then when all was
ready, and the small great man was announced, to my surprise the other
two women were hustled out of sight, and I and the missionary received
him alone. Why, I do not know even now. I sat on a high chair, and
so did Mr Wu, and the missionary gave us both tea and cakes, handing
everything with both hands; that I believe is the correct Chinese way
of doing honour to your guest. I received it as a matter of course, said
“Thank you,” or “Please don’t bother,” whichever occurred to me, but
Mr Wu was loud in his protestations, in both Chinese and English, and
I fancy the whole interview--unless I spoiled it--was conducted in a
manner which reflected infinite credit upon the missionary’s knowledge
of Chinese customs and the secretary’s best manners. They certainly were
very elaborate. This day he had on what one of my naval brothers was
wont to designate a dog-robbing suit, though I don’t know that he ever
went out dog-robbing, and I am quite sure the young Chinese gentleman
never did, also his hair was neatly parted in the middle and plastered
down on each side, and with a high collar and tie on, he looked really
as uncomfortable and _outré_ as it was possible to look. He had brought
me the tickets, and implored me if I wanted anything else to ask for it.
The interview was a trial to me. It is all very well to be prepared to
smile, but smiles don’t really fill up more than a minute or two, and
what on earth to say during the rest of the time, troubled me. In all
the wide world, and I felt it acutely, we had absolutely nothing in
common save those tickets, and my heart sank when he told me he would do
himself the honour of showing me over the palace himself. If I felt
half an hour with him, for all my gratitude for his kindliness, an
intolerable burden, what on earth should I feel the livelong day. One
piece of news he did tell us, there had been fighting in Mongolia,
severe fighting, and many men had been killed, but when we came to
ask which side had won he said he did not know, and then of course we
guessed the Chinese had suffered a reverse, for if the telegraph could
tell any details at all, it was sure to have told the all-important one
which side was the conqueror. At last, when it seemed that hour had been
interminable, the young man rose, and the farewells began.

[Illustration: 0399]

Those Chinese farewells! Chinese etiquette is enough to cure the most
enthusiastic believer in form and ceremony, to reduce him to the belief
that a simple statement of fact, a “Yea, yea,” and “Nay, nay,” are amply
sufficient. I suppose all this form and ceremony, this useless form
and ceremony, comes from the over-civilisation of China. If ever in the
future I am inclined to cavil at abrupt modern manners, I shall think of
that young man protesting that the missionary must not come to the gate
with him, when all the while he knew he would have been deeply offended
if he had not. I fear lest I may now swing over to the other side and
say that a rude abruptness is a sign of life, so much better does it
seem to me than the long elaborate and meaningless politeness that
hampers one so much.

When he had gone we discussed the question of a visit to the Imperial
Park, and then I found that {286}there were many things in the way of my
entertaining my hosts, prayer meetings, dispensary afternoons, visits,
and that in any case, only the women would accompany me, whether that
was really because the men were busy, or because it was not Chinese
etiquette for men and women to amuse themselves together I do not know,
but I strongly suspect the latter had something to do with it. For of
course what the foreigners did, more especially the new foreign woman,
who was not a missionary, was a matter of common talk in all the
district round. Then my hostess put it to me, as I had plenty of tickets
and to spare, would I take their amah. She was most anxious to go. She
had been in service with a Manchu family, and once when they were going
she had been ill, and once it had rained so that she had never gone,
and she was getting an old woman and feared her chances were dwindling
sadly.

It was such a little thing to want, and yet I don’t know. When I looked
at the hideous town, for Cheng Teh Fu remains in my mind as the ugliest
Chinese town I have ever seen it had not the charm and fascination that
walls give, when I thought of the delights that lay hidden behind the
fifteen miles of high wall that surround the Park, the delights that
are for so very, very few, I did not wonder that the Manchu woman, who
already counted herself old, she was forty-five, should have been
very anxious to go inside. And when I told her I would take her, she
immediately begged leave to go away and put on her best clothes. I
couldn’t see any difference between her best clothes and her everyday
clothes, but I could see she had a small shaven grandchild in
attendance, who was immediately put on to carry my umbrella. I suppose
she hoped to smuggle him in to see the delights, and I said nothing, for
I had plenty of tickets.

Curiously enough, while most of China has been a sealed book, the
Hunting Palace--it is really better described as a Lodge--of the Manchus
has been known to the English for one hundred and twenty years, for
it was here that, on the 9th September, 1793, the Emperor Ch’ien Lung
received Lord Macartney, the first British Ambassador to China. I did
not come straight from Peking, but I know that the road, by valley and
mountain pass, is reckoned very bad indeed, and very few people as
yet take the trouble to go to Jehol. It is four and a half days’ hard
travelling now, but Lord Macartney took seven, and it is a curious
commentary upon the state of the roads in the British Isles in those
days that though his chronicler, Sir George Staunton, writing of
the journey, complains a little of the roads, and mentions that Lord
Macartney’s carriage, which he had brought out from England with him,
had generally to be dragged along empty, while the “Embassador” himself
rode in a palankeen, he does not make much moan about them; no one
reading his account would think they were so appalling as they must have
been, for I cannot think they have deteriorated much since those days.
When I looked at the streets of Cheng Teh Fu, banks, dust heaps, great
holes, stones, I tried to imagine the British “Embassador’s” coach being
dragged across them, twisting round corners, balancing on sidings, up
to the axles in dust, or perhaps mud, for it was September and the crowd
looking on at the lord from the far islands of the sea, who was bringing
tribute to the Emperor of China, {288}for I am afraid it is hardly
likely they believed he was doing anything else.

Another thing Sir George Staunton notes is the scarcity of timber. “The
circumjacent hills,” he writes, “appeared to have been once well planted
with trees; but those few which remained were stunted, and timber has
become very scarce. No young plantations had been made to supply the old
ones cut down.” Now the hills round are absolutely bare, there is not
a sign that ever a tree has grown upon them, and I should not have
believed they had, had it not been for Sir George Staunton’s account.

And on the other side of this ugly town, among these desolate hills, is
set a wall, a wall about twenty feet high, with a broad pathway on the
top, along which the guards might walk. And the wall has been built with
discretion. Not only was it to keep out all but the elect, but it was
to block effectually all view of what went on inside. Not even from the
neighbouring hills is it possible to look into that Park. Its delights
were only for the Son of Heaven and those who ministered to his
well-being.

We went along a sordid, dusty street to the principal gate, a shabby
and forlorn-looking gate, and the watch-tower over it was crumbling to
decay, and we entered the courtyard, a forlorn and desolate courtyard,
where the paving-stones were broken, and the grass and weeds were coming
up between the cracks. Then there was a long pathway with a broken
pavement in the middle, a pavement so characteristic of China that
wherever I chance to see such I shall think of her golden sunshine and
bright skies. On either side of that pathway were high walls over which
were peeping the tiled roofs of {289}buildings, until at last after
fully five minutes’ walk, after passing through many gates, all in
various stages of decay, we came to a place where the path ended with
two doors to the right and left. This, the palace of an Emperor; it
seemed impossible to believe it. I wondered if the woman who had wanted
for so many years to see it was disappointed. She was supporting my
elbow, true Chinese fashion, and Tuan, having succeeded in passing on my
camera to the usual ragged follower, was on the other side, as if I were
in the last stages of decrepitude. At first this exceeding attention
used to irritate me, but by this time I had resigned myself to my fate.
I was more concerned at the shabbiness and sordidness of everything. Of
course no one save the servants, who keep the place, live in the grounds
now, no one has lived there for over fifty years, not since 1860, when
the reigning Emperor fled there from the Allies who sacked Peking, and
died there. Perhaps it was for that reason that his secondary wife, the
great Dowager-Empress whom all the world knew, disliked the place, and
went there no more. I remembered that, as I stood between those two
doors and wondered which I should go through first. The one to the
left led to some courtyards surrounded by low, one-storied
buildings--Emperor’s first bedroom--said Tuan, and possibly he was
right. I turned to the door on the right and as it opened I knew that
these Manchu pleasure-grounds had been planned, as so many things
Chinese are planned, nobly. I stepped out on to a plateau and there,
there in this treeless China, was a grove of firs and pines. The blue
sky peeped through the branches, the sunshine dappled the ground with
shadow and light, and the wind {290}murmured softly among the evergreen
foliage. Here was coolness and delight. Beyond the plateau lay a long
grassy valley surrounded by softly rounded, tree-clad hills, and right
at the bottom of the valley was a lake with winding shores, a lake
covered with lotus lilies, with islands on it, with bridges and
buildings, picturesque as only the ideal Chinese buildings can be
picturesque. It may have been created by art, and at least art must have
entered to some great extent into the making of the beauty, but there
is no trace of it. My followers looked at the scene and looked at me,
as much as to say this was something belonging to them they were showing
me, and they hoped I was appreciating it properly. It might have been
the Manchu woman’s very own. In truth I could only look and wonder, lost
in admiration. What could the heart of man want more for the glorious
summertime, the brief, hot summer of Northern China?

[Illustration: 0405]

The first glance was a surprise, and the farther I went in the more my
wonder grew. There were paved pathways, but they were not aggressively
paved, the rough grey stones had just been sunk in the grass. They
were broken a little now, and they toned naturally with the rural
surroundings. There were lovely bridges bridging ravines, and here, too,
was not one stone too many, nothing to suggest the artificial, that
so often spoils the rural scene made to conform to the wants of the
luxurious. Of course, besides the pavement, other things had fallen into
disrepair, there were steps down hill-sides that were well-nigh hopeless
for purposes of ascent and descent, and there were temples where indeed
the gods were forlorn and forgotten. Gigantic gods they were {291}with
fearsome faces and painted in gorgeous colours, but they were all dusty
and dirty. There was one temple all of bronze, but it was rusted
and shabby. There were shrines in it set with agate and jasper,
mother-of-pearl and jade, and what looked like great rubies, but, very
likely, were only garnets. Shabby, forlorn, forgotten was the temple,
the steps that led up to it were broken and almost unusable, the
courtyards were neglected, the tiles of the roof grass-grown, the
woodwork of the doors perished, the walls falling, but the situation on
the hill-side, embosomed in pines, with the beautiful lake at its feet
and the wide vista of hills beyond, was superb, eternal.

On the day the missionaries arranged to come we made a picnic to this
temple, I, and the two missionary women and our attendants, my servant,
and their boy and the Manchu amah and all the heterogeneous! following
my boy always collected, and as we sat there at our open-air tiffin the
gates were pushed open and in came the little Chinese gentleman in his
badly fitting foreign clothes.

“Hallo, Missus,” he said, and I forgot for a moment all the wonders that
his people had done, that were here before my eyes.

He had come to fulfil his promise and show me round.

He was a flippant young gentleman impatient of the past, just as I have
seen young men of his age, in Western lands. He was only a boy, after
all, and he threw stones at the birds just as a younger boy might have
done in England. Only I wished he wouldn’t. It was nice to think the
birds had sanctuary here, but I suppose it was a way of letting off
steam, since he could not talk very easily to the {292}foreign woman. A
small red squirrel, sitting up deeply engaged with a nut from one of the
fir-trees, roused him to wild excitement, and he shouted and yelled to a
couple of dignified, petticoated Chinamen on the other side of the lake,
in a way that quite upset my ideas of Chinese propriety; in fact, he was
the General’s secretary, showing off just as I have seen boys in other
lands show off.

He took us to the women’s temple, since we were interested in temples,
a temple away on the other side of the lake, down in a hollow of the
hills, hidden away as woman has been hidden away in China for immemorial
ages.

“Ladies’ temple,” said our cicerone with a wave of his hand.

And it, too, is falling into decay, the dusty gods, ranged round
the sacred place, remind one of the contents of a lumber-room, and
“Forgotten, forgotten,” is written large all over it. The forlorn old
man in shabby blue, with a tiny little queue and a dirty face who
keeps it, looks as if he too had been forgotten, and was grateful for a
twenty-cent _cumshaw_. Only the courtyard with the soft breeze rustling
in the pine-trees and ringing the musical bells that hung from the eaves
was peaceful in the afternoon sunshine, with a charm of its own.

What women have come and prayed here? The proud Manchu Empress whom her
lord had neglected, the Chinese concubine who longed to find favour in
his eyes?

All over this pleasure-ground are buildings, but so deftly placed they
never for one moment interfere with the charm of the countryside. There
is a little temple on the Golden Mountain where the Jehol River takes
its rise in a spring; on another hill is a little look-out place or tea
pagoda with the roof covered with tiles of imperial yellow, and a view
from it that even an Emperor is lucky to command. At the end of a
long grassy glade where the deer were feeding in the shade of oaks and
willows was a tall pagoda, and the Emperor’s library was in another
little valley, hidden away behind high walls. We entered through a
guard-house and came upon a small door in the high stone wall, and this
door on the inner side appeared to be blocked not only by the trunk of a
tree but by a huge rock. There was, however, just room for one person to
pass round, and then we entered a shaded rock garden, which is all round
the building that holds the library. The deep veranda was charming, on
the hottest day one might sit, cool and secluded, reading here, and on
each corner are exquisite bronze models of Chinese ponies. The library
itself, like most of these houses, was sealed up, and our young friend
had not the key, but the lattice-work windows, and most of the walls are
of lattice-work, for this is a summer palace, were down to the ground,
and through the torn paper I could get a glimpse of what looked like
another lumber-room, but that once must have been gorgeous with red
lacquer and gold.

[Illustration: 0411]

Always it was the same, desolation and dirt and ruin, and the young man
who was showing us everything made as if he wished to impress upon us
that it did not matter. He belonged to the modern world, and these were
past and gone. But when we admired and were charmed and delighted I saw
that he, too, was pleased.

There were the Emperor’s rooms opening into a courtyard close to the
gate, there were his great audience halls down among a grove of firs,
where probably he received Lord Macartney. Highly scented white single
peonies made fragrant the grass-grown courtyards, where great bronze
gongs are the remnants of a past magnificence, and the rooms are many of
them empty, for all they are so carefully sealed. There were more rooms
for the Emperor on an island in the lily-covered lake; and reached by
bridges that are taken up in June and July and boats substituted, and
farthest away of all, at the very end of the lake, were the rooms of the
Empress.

“Happiness Hall” the Emperor Kwang Hsi wrote on it with his own hands,
or so our guide told us, and there to this day the golden characters
remain. Did they speak the truth, I wonder. At that particular period, I
believe, the Empress counted for a great deal more than the Emperor, so
possibly at least the envious Emperor felt he was speaking the truth;
but, as a rule, it is difficult to think that the woman who shared the
Dragon Throne could have been happy. It is difficult to believe that
any woman in China can be happy, she counts for so little even now.

The courtyards were like all the other courtyards, with great gongs of
Ningpo work and bronze vases, and shaded by picturesque pine-trees,
only here was an innovation. In a sheltered corner, hidden away from the
sight of all, by high walls and green shrubs, was the bathing-place of
the Court ladies, and on the other side their theatre.

The Emperor had a theatre not far from the gate of the pleasure-grounds,
a great place all falling into decay, and here they had a play for the
entertainment {295}of their guests, when the first British Ambassador
came here, and it is evident that the women were allowed to be present,
even though they were behind a screen, for Sir George Staunton relates
that the only foreigner, seen by these secluded women, was George
Staunton aged thirteen, the page to the Embassy, who was led on to a
platform by a eunuch, so that the wives and concubines of the Emperor
might see what a barbarian from the islands of the far Western sea
looked like.

But here, close to her rooms, and by her bathing-place, the Empress
had her own private theatre, and I wondered what manner of play could
interest such secluded ladies, such narrow lives.

Wonderful to relate both the theatre and the roof of the rooms showed
signs of having been recently done up. The rumour ran that after the
Revolution in February 1912, the Court thought of retiring here, and
these recent repairs in a place that has been untouched for years give
colour to the rumour. We asked our guide as we sat at afternoon tea on
the veranda looking out at the sunlight coming through the fir-trees
that make the approach to “Happiness Hall,” but he shook his head. He
knew nothing about it. He was a most circumspect young man and never did
know anything, he felt perhaps it was wisest not.

Oh but it was sad the waste here. All these dwelling-places dotted about
in the valley, on hillside, hidden away in groves of trees, are of one
story, they are summer palaces, but the rooms are well-proportioned,
and with their wide verandas and their lattice-work walls down to the
ground, must have been delightful to live in, and they were furnished as
{296}an Emperor’s palace should be furnished. There were chairs
unlike the usual Chinese chairs, comfortable chairs of red lacquer and
blackwood, and they were inlaid with cloisonne work, with carved jade,
with delightful patterns in mother-of-pearl, there were stools, there
were tables, there were low k’ang tables of lacquer, and all were
perished with the sun and the wind; of not one piece has any care been
taken. Some of the rooms were empty, some were full of packing-cases
hiding I know not what treasures; judging by those perishing chairs and
tables that were left out, I should imagine something worth possessing.
Can it be only fifty years since an Emperor came here, it might be two
hundred judging by the state of decay everything was in, and yet,
when all was said and done, this place struck me as being the most
magnificent pleasure-ground, the most beautifully situated, the most
beautifully planned, that I have ever seen, worth, and more than worth,
the arduous journey through the mountains that I had taken to see it.

It is supposed to be cut off from the people, and it is I suppose,
judging by the joy the mission servants expressed at getting a chance to
see it.

“All my life,” said the amah, “I have served in Manchu families, and yet
see, it is through a foreigner I come here,” and it was as if the seeing
had crowned her life. But still there is a little dribbling in of
the favoured few of the lower classes. It may be they were the palace
servants who speared great black bass in the lake. It might have been
they who carried out baskets of lily root and sold them with the fish
outside. I bought bass easily enough for my hostess, great things still
alive and bleeding from women’s temple.

Sometimes there are rumours of art treasures sold from the palace, and
then again it is contradicted: but I wondered, as I looked at those
great baskets of lily roots that were constantly going outside, if here
were not an excellent way to conceal contraband. It may be though that
the guards at the gate are not to be bought, and possibly I do them an
injustice.

[Illustration: 0417]

I had written this and felt apologetic for my suspicions of the humble
guard, forgetting that this is China, where anything may happen, when
before my book could go to press a greater than the guard, no less
a person than the Premier himself, Hsiung Hsi Ling, the great Tartar
General, was accused of taking away the precious curios from Jehol. He
had brought away curios valued at tens of thousands of pounds but he
succeeded in proving to the satisfaction of the President that he had
brought them away only that they might be stored in one of the great
museums in Peking, where not only could they be cared for, but they
might be seen by far more people. Again I thought of the Babylonish
gentleman. Doubtless he, too, would have moved the nation’s treasures
from one place to another without saying by your leave to any man. To
whom was he responsible? Perhaps to the King upon the throne. Hardly to
him, if his army was strong and faithful.

We lingered on the veranda of the Empress’s house over our afternoon
tea--wherever we went hot water was procurable--and the sunshine came
through the branches of the pines and firs, the great willows dipped
their weeping branches in the clear waters of the lake, the deep blue of
the sky contrasted {298}with the green of the pine-needles, and a long
snake came slowly, slowly, through the grass to take his daily drink,
unperturbed, though all the servants and the German girl and I ran
to look at him. He knew he was quite safe, no one would harm a sacred
snake. A small eagle screamed from the rocks above, there was the
mourning of a dove, the plaintive cry of a hoopoe, and a chattering
black and white magpie looked on. A tiny blue kingfisher, like a jewel,
fluttered on to a stone, and a bird something like a thrush, sang
sweetly and loudly as the evening shadows lengthened. A great blue
crane, tall almost as a man flew slowly across the water, and the brown
deer clustered in the glades and began to feed. Truly it was an ideal
spot up among the barren hills of Inner Mongolia, this Park enclosed by
miles of high wall and still carefully guarded and jealously secluded
by the Republic as it was by the Manchus. When France became a Republic
they threw open her palaces and desecrated her most holy places. Not so
here in the unchanging East. What was secluded and difficult of entrance
in Manchu times is secluded and entered only by favour still. China
absorbs the present and clings to the past. Are they past for ever those
dead and gone rulers who made these pleasure-grounds?

Their last representative is a little boy hidden away in the heart of
Peking, hardly realising yet what he has lost.

“If he comes again,” said a Chinese gentleman, “he will be Emperor by
force of arms.”

Will the power come back to him? I can no more believe that the Chinese
will become a modern nation, forgetting these glories of their past,
than could the women’s bathing place. {299}prophet believe that the Lord
would leave His chosen people in captivity.

[Illustration: 0421]

“I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they
shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant
vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens and
eat the fruit of them.

“And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled
out of their land, which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.”

And we from the mission wended our way back through the dusty, dirty,
commonplace streets, and the little gentleman who had been our guide,
much to his relief, I am sure, for he spoke little English, and he would
not speak Chinese, turned off at the yamen.



CHAPTER XVII--THE VALLEY OF THE DEAD GODS

{300}

Legend of the birth of Ch’ien Lung--A valley of temples--Wells--A temple
fair--Hawking--Suicide’s rock--Five hundred and eight Buddhas--The
Po-Ta-La--Supercilious elephants--Steep steps--Airless temple--The
persevering frog--Bright-roofed Temple--Tea at the Temple of the great
Buddha--The Yuan T’iing--Ming Temple outside Peking.

As we walked in the Manchu Park the amah told us a story, a legend, and
the missionary translated it to me. It took a long while to tell, first
she slipped on the rocky steps and we had to wait till she recovered,
then the General’s secretary joined us, and finally, when we were
safe back at the missionary compound, she had to wait till we got by
ourselves, because she thought it was improper!

And this was the story the amah told as we walked beneath the fir-trees.

Once upon a time in the valley of Jehol there was born a little girl who
did not speak till she was three years old, then she opened her lips,
looked at her grandfather, and called him by name. And her grandfather
died. She did not speak again for a long time, but the next person she
called by name also died and consternation reigned in the family. Her
father and mother died, whether because she spoke to them the amah
did not know, but she was left penniless and at last a farmer took
compassion {301}upon the girl, now just growing into womanhood, and told
her she might have charge of the ducks, on condition she did not speak.
So for her began a lonely, silent life among the mountains, herding the
ducks.

One night as the dusk was falling and the duck pond and the hills beyond
were wrapped in a mysterious haze that hid and glorified everything,
there came along an old man riding a donkey and asked her the way to the
Hunting Palace of the Manchus that was somewhere among these hills and
valleys. He had lost his way, he said, and wanted to get back there. The
girl looked at him with mournful eyes and shook her head without saying
a word.

“What is your name?” cried the old man.

She turned away silently.

“I must find my way,” he added, and she took up a stick and gathered her
ducks together.

“But I am the Emperor,” said he, “and I must get back. What manner of
girl are you who will not speak to the Emperor?”

And she looked at him more gravely than ever out of her dark eyes, and
drove off her ducks, taking no more notice of the greatest ruler in the
world than if he had been a common coolie. So the Emperor found his own
way to his Hunting Palace, and that night he dreamed a dream, a vivid
dream, that an ancestor had come to him and told him he must marry a
strange and mysterious woman.

But the women who came to the ruler of the earth were not strange and
mysterious, they were ordinary and commonplace even though he had his
choice of the women of his Empire. He brooded over the matter and came
to the conclusion that the strange {302}and mysterious woman must be the
girl he had met herding ducks in the dusk of the evening. Then he sent
out to the part of the country where he had wandered that night and
demanded the daughters of the farmer.

The good man was highly honoured and dressed his girls in their finest
clothes to appear before their Emperor, but, and they must have been
bitterly disappointed, though they were pretty girls, there was nothing
strange about them, they were as ordinary as all the other women who
occupied, the women’s quarters. He had seen many, many, like them. Again
he sent back to the farm and they said there were no other women there
but the girl who herded the ducks, and it could not be she because she
spoke to no one.

“That,” said the Emperor, “is the girl,” and he ordered her to be
properly arrayed and brought before him at once.

Alas for the glamour that comes with the dusk of the evening. The girl
had grown up without any comeliness and when she was brought before the
Emperor he turned away disgusted. Nevertheless, for his dream’s sake, he
married her and gave her a fine house to live in, but he had nothing to
do with her, she was his wife only in name.

And the duck-herd girl, come to high estate, pined because she did not
find favour in the sight of her lord, she never ceased to pray for his
smiles, and at last she so worked upon him that one night he did send
for her. She was his wife, her shame had gone from her. And presently,
it was rumoured that the duck-herd girl was to become a mother. But the
Emperor was angry, he could not believe the child was his, and he turned
Her out to wander, desolate and forlorn, upon the hills. At first she
despaired, but presently she took courage, had she not been raised from
a duck-herd to an Emperor’s wife, and was she not to bear his son, and
by her faith in herself she persuaded some shepherds who tended their
sheep upon the other side of the valley from the wall that surrounded
the Emperor’s pleasure-grounds to take her in, and here her son was
born.

[Illustration: 0427]

And that night the Emperor dreamed another dream. He dreamed that a most
illustrious son had been born to him that very night. He sent to make
inquiries and the only one of his wives or concubines who had borne a
son that night, was the woman he had driven from him with contumely.
So he took her back with honour, and his dream--both his dreams were
fulfilled, for the son that was born to him that night among the hills
was the illustrious Ch’ien Lung, the man who at eighty-three still sat
upon the Dragon Throne when George III. of England sent Lord Macartney
on an embassy to China in 1793.

And Ch’ien Lung was a good son to his mother at least, and because she
was a pious woman, and he was born amidst those sheltering hills,
he built there a series of temples to the glory of God and for her
pleasure.

I was bound to go and see those temples, indeed I think the man or woman
who went to Jehol and did not make a point of going up that valley must
lack something.

The drawback for me was that I had to go in a Peking cart, and even
though those temples were {304}built by an Emperor I had no reason to
suppose that the road that led to them was any better than the ordinary
Chinese roads. It wasn’t, but I don’t know that it was worse. Tuan
engaged the old white mule of venerable years, and I think that was an
advantage, he went so slowly that often I was able to walk. I did not
propose to visit all of them, there is a family likeness between all
Chinese temples, whatever be the name of the deity to whom they are
dedicated, and seeing too many I should miss the beauty of all.

It was a gorgeous June morning the day I set out, sitting as far forward
as I could in the cart with Tuan on the tail of the shaft and the carter
walking at the mule’s head. All round one side of Cheng Teh Fu is built
up a high wall that the Chinese call a breakwater, and a breakwater
I believe it is indeed after the summer rains, though then, the Jehol
River ran just a shallow trickle at its foot. There were many little
vegetable gardens along here, the ground most carefully cultivated and
showing not a weed, not a stray blade of grass. “The garden of every
peasant contained a well for watering it,” writes Sir George Staunton in
1793, “and the buckets for drawing up the water were made of ozier twigs
wattled or plaited, of so close a texture as to hold any fluid.” He
might have been writing of the peasants of today. As I passed, with
those selfsame buckets were they watering their gardens.

The people were streaming out of the town, most of them on foot, but
there were a few fat men and small-footed women on donkeys, and one or
two of the richer people, I noticed by the women’s dresses they were
mostly Manchus, had blossomed out into {305}Peking carts. For there was
a fair at one of the temples, a very minor temple; and a fair in China
seems to be much what it used to be in England, say one hundred, or
one hundred and fifty years ago. It attracts all the country people for
miles round. Here they were all clad in blue, save the lamas, who
were in bright yellow and dingy red. There were the people who came to
worship, followed by the people who came to trade, who must make money
out of them, men buying, selling, begging, men and women clad in neat
blue cotton, and in the dingiest, dirtiest rags, men gathering the
droppings of the mules and donkeys, and--how it made me think of
the historical novels I used to love to read in the days when novels
fascinated me--gentlemen with hooded hawks upon their wrists. All of
them wended their way along this road, this beautiful road, this very,
very bad road, and I went along with them, the woman who was not a
missionary, who was travelling by herself, and who, consequently, was an
object of interest to all, far outrivalling the fair, in attraction. It
was a scene peculiarly Chinese, and it will be many a long year before I
forget it.

On the left-hand side rose a steep ridge well wooded for China, and on
the very top of the ridge ran the encircling wall that shut out all but
the favoured few from the pleasure-grounds of the Manchu Sovereigns. Six
weeks before, up among these mountains of Inner Mongolia, all the trees
were leafless, and on this day in June the leaves of the poplars and
aspens, acacias and oaks still retained the delicate, dainty green
of early spring, and on the right were the steep, precipitous cliffs
over{306}looking the town. One of these cliffs goes by the sinister
name of the “Suicide’s Rock.” The Chinese, though we Westerners are
accustomed to regard them as impassive, are at bottom an emotional
people. They quarrel violently at times, and one way of getting even
with an enemy or a man who has wronged them is to dare him to go over
the “Suicide’s Rock.” To my Western notions it is not quite clear how
the offender is scored off, for the challenger must be prepared to
accompany the challenged on his dreadful leap. Yet they do it. Three
times in the six years the missionaries have been here have a couple
gone over the cliff, to be dashed to pieces on the rocks below.

But that sinister cliff was soon passed, and turning a little with the
wall we went up a valley, and up that valley for perhaps eight miles,
embosomed among the folds of the hills, hills for the most part steep,
rounded, and treeless, are the temples, red, and gold, and white,
against the green or brown of the hills.

To the glory of God! Surely. Surely. An ideal place for temples whoever
placed them there, artist or Emperor, holy man, or grateful son.

“Idols. Idols,” say the missionaries at Jehol sadly, those good, kindly
folk, whose life seemed to me an apology for living, a dedication of
their whole existence to the austere Deity they have set up. But here I
was among other gods.

“We go last first,” said Tuan, and I approved. There would be no fear of
my missing something I particularly wanted to see if they were all on my
homeward path.

“B-rrr! B-rrr! B-rrr!” cried my “cartee man” encouraging his old mule,
and as we went along the road, up the valley, and everywhere in this
treeless land, the temples were embowered in groves of trees, sometimes
fir-trees, sometimes acacia or white poplar, and always on the road
we passed the blue-clad people, and out of the carts peeped the Manchu
ladies with highly painted faces and flower-decked hair, till at last
we came to a halt under a couple of leafy acacia-trees, by a bridge that
had once been planned on noble lines. And bridges are needed here, for
the missionaries told me that a very little rain will put this road,
that is axle-deep in dust, five feet under water. But the bridge was
broken, the stones of the parapet were lying flat on one side; the
stones that led up to it were gone altogether. And as the bridge that
led up to it so was the temple.

[Illustration: 0433]

[Illustration: 0434]

Tuan, with some difficulty, made me understand it was the Temple of the
five hundred and eight Buddhas, and as I went in, attended by a priest
in the last stages of dirt and shabbiness, I saw rows upon rows of
seated Buddhas greater than life-size, covered with gold leaf that shone
out bright in the semi-darkness, with shaven heads and faces, sad and
impassive, gay, and laughing, and frowning. Dead gods surely, for the
roof is falling in, the hangings are tatters, and the dust of years lies
thick on floor, on walls, on the Buddhas themselves. There was a pot of
sand before one golden figure rather larger than the rest, and I burned
incense there, bowing myself in the House of Rimmon, because I do not
think that incense is often burned now before the dead god.

They are all dead these gods in the temples {308}builded by a pious
Emperor for his pious mother. The next I visited was a lamaserie, built
in imitation of the Po-Ta-La in Lhasa. It climbs up the steep hill-side,
story after story, with here and there on the various stages a
pine-tree, and the wind whispers among its boughs that the Emperor who
built and adorned it is long since dead, the very dynasty has passed
away, and the gods are forgotten. Forgotten indeed. I got out of my
cart at the bottom of the hill, and the gate opened to me, because
the General had sent to say that one day that week a foreign woman was
coming and she must have all attention, else I judge I might have waited
in vain outside those doors. Inside is rather a gorgeous p’ia lou,
flanked on either side by a couple of elephants. I cannot think the man
who sculptured them could ever have seen an elephant, he must have done
it from description, but he has contrived to put on those beasts such a
very supercilious expression it made me smile just to look at them.

From that p’ia lou the monastery rises. Never in my life before have
I seen such an effect of sheer steep high walls. I suppose it must be
Tibetan, for it is not Chinese as I know the Chinese. Stage after stage
it rose up, showing blank walls that once were pinkish red, with square
places like windows, but they were not windows, they were evidently put
there to catch the eye and deepen the effect of steepness. Stage after
stage I climbed up steep and narrow steps that were closed alongside the
wall, and Tuan, according to Chinese custom, supported my elbow, as if
it were hardly likely I should be capable of taking another step. Also,
according to his custom, he had engaged a ragged follower to {309}carry
my camera, and a half-naked little boy to bear the burden of the
umbrella. I don’t suppose I should have said anything under any
circumstances, China had taught me my limitations where my servants were
concerned, but that day I was glad of his aid, for this Tibetan temple
meant to me steep climbing. I have no use for stairs. Stage after stage
we went, and on each platform the view became wider, far down the valley
I could see, and the hills rose range after range, softly rounded,
rugged, fantastic, till they faded away in the far blue distance. I had
thought the Nine Dragon Temple wonderful, but now I knew that those men
of the Ming era who had built it had never dreamed of the glories of
these mountains of Inner Mongolia. I was weary before I came to the
last pine-tree, but still there was a great walled, flat-topped building
towering far above me, its walls the faded pinkish red, on the edge of
its far-away roof a gleam of gold.

The steps were so narrow, so steep, and so rugged, that if I had not
been sure that never in my life should I come there again I should have
declined to go up them, but I did go up, and at the top we came to
a door, a door in the high blind wall that admitted us to a great
courtyard with high walls towering all round it and a temple, one of
the many temples in this building, in the centre. The temple was
crowded with all manner of beautiful things, vases of cloisonné, figures
overlaid with gold leaf, hangings of cut silk, the chair of the Dalai
Lama in gold and carved lacquer-work, the mule-saddle used by the
Emperor Ch’ien Lung, lanterns, incense burners, shrines, all heaped
together in what seemed to me the wildest confusion, and everything
was {310}more than touched with the finger of decay. All the rich, red
lacquer was perished, much of the china and earthenware was broken, the
hangings were rotted and torn and ragged, the paint was peeling from
stonework and wood, the copper and brass was green with rust. Ichabod!
Ichabod! The gods are dead, the great Emperor is but a name.

It was oppressive in there too, for the blank walls towered up four
sides square, the bright blue sky was above and the sun was shining
beyond, but the mountain breezes for at least one hundred and fifty
years have not been able to get in here, and it was hot, close, and
airless. Once there were more steps that led up to the very top of the
wall, but they are broken and dangerous now, crumbling to ruin, and as
far as I could make out from Tuan’s imperfect English no one has been
up them for many a long day. There was nothing to be done but to go
away from this airless temple and make my way down, down to the platform
where are its foundations, and thence down, down, by the little plateaux
where the pine-trees grow, by the rough and broken paths to the floor of
the valley again.

Sightseeing always wearies me. I want to see these places, I want to
know what they are like, I want to be in a position to talk about them
to people who have also been there--they are the people who are most
interested in one’s doings--but the actual doing of the sightseeing I
always find burdensome. Now having done so much I was tempted to go back
and say I had had enough, for the time being, at any rate, but then I
remembered I could not indefinitely trespass upon the kindness of my
hosts, I must go soon, and I should never, never come back to this
valley. Still I was desperately tired and sorely tempted to give up, and
then I remembered the two frogs who fell into a pitcher of milk. I don’t
think Æsop told the story, but he ought to have done so. They swam round
and round hopelessly, for there was no possibility of getting out, and
one said to the other, “It’s no good, we may as well give in. It’ll save
trouble in the end,” and he curled up his legs and sank to the bottom of
the milk and was drowned. But the other frog was made of sterner stuff.

“I think I’ll just hustle round a bit,” said he, needless to say he
was an American frog, “who knows what may happen.” So he swam round and
round, and sure enough when they looked into that pitcher in the morning
there he was sitting on a little pat of butter!

[Illustration: 0440]

I thought of that frog as I sat at the door of the next temple we drove
up to, and I, weary and tired and a little cross, had to wait some time,
for the priest who had the keys was not there. Of course I had sent no
word that I was coming and it was unreasonable of me to expect that the
priest should wait from dawn till dark for my arrival. With me waited a
little crowd of people, men, women, and children, that gradually grew in
numbers, and when the custodian at last arrived it was evident they all
intended to take advantage of my presence and go in and see the temple
too. I had not the least objection, neither, it seemed, had the priest.
They were holiday-makers from the fair, and they probably gave him some
small trifle. Tuan decided that we should give eighty cents, roughly
about one and eightpence, or forty cents American money. {312}And glad
indeed was I that I had waited. Not that the temple differed much inside
the courtyard and the sanctuary from the other temples I have seen,
all was the same ruin and desolation, only after I had climbed up many
steps, roughly made of stones and earth, we came upon a platform from
which the roof was visible. The Emperor’s Palace, they call this, or the
Bright-roofed Temple, and truly it is well-named. Its roof, with dragons
running up all four corners, is of bronze covered with gold, and gleams
and glitters in the sunshine. Solomon’s Temple, in all its glory, could
not have been more wonderful, and as I tried to photograph it, though no
photograph can give any idea of its beauty, some girls, Manchu by their
head-dresses, with flowers in their hair, giggled and pointed, and
evidently discussed me. I thought they would come in well--a contrast to
that gorgeous roof, but a well-dressed Chinese--not in foreign clothes,
I imagine the General’s secretary is the only man up among these hills
who could indulge in such luxuries, drove them away and then came and
apologised, through Tuan, for their behaviour. I said, truly enough,
that I did not mind in the least, but he said, as far as I. could make
out, that their behaviour was unpardonable, so I am afraid they hadn’t
admired me, which was unkind, considering I had taken them in.

The next temple, a mass of golden brown and green tiled roofs, looked
loveliest of all in its setting, against the hill-side. The roofs,
broken and irregular, peeped out from among the firs and pines, and
there was a soft melody in the air as we approached, for a wind, a
gentle wind had arisen, and every bell {313}hanging at the corners of
the many roofs was chiming musically. I do not know any sweeter sound
than the sound of those temple bells as the evening falls. This was
an extensive place of many courtyards, climbing up the hill like the
lamaserie, the Ta Fo Hu they call it or “Great Buddha Temple,” for in
one of the temples, swept and garnished better than any temples I had
seen before, was a colossal figure seventy feet high with many arms
outstretched and an eye in the palm of every hand. It is surely a very
debased Buddhism, but I see the symbolism, the hand which bestows and
the eye which sees all things. But for all the beauty of the symbolism
it was ugly, as all the manifestations of the Deity, as conceived
by man, are apt to be. The stone flooring was swept, but the gold is
falling from the central figure, the lacquer is perished, the hangings
are torn and dust-laden beyond description, and the only things of
any beauty are walls which are covered with little niches in which are
seated tiny golden Buddhas, hundreds of them. I wanted to buy one but
the priests shook their heads, and it would have been a shame to despoil
the temple. Even if they had said, “Yes,” I don’t know that I would have
taken it.

There were many priests here, shaven-headed old men and tiny children
in brilliant yellow and purplish red, but they were all as shabby and
poverty-stricken as the temple itself. I had tea on one of the many
platforms overlooking many roofs, and a young monk made me a seat from
the broken yellow tiles that lay on the ground, and the little boy
priests looked so eagerly at the cakes I had brought with me--the
priests gave me tea--that I gave some to them and {314}they gobbled them
up like small boys all the world over. Tuan pointed out to me some dark
steps in the wall. If I went up there I should reach the Great Buddha’s
head; but I shook my head, not even the recollection of the frog who
gave up so easily could have made me climb those steps. I am not even
sorry now that I didn’t.

I was very tired by this time, and very thankful that there was only one
more temple to see. There were really eight in all, but I was suffering
from a surfeit of temples, only I could not miss this one, for every day
when I went for a walk I could see its glorious golden brown tiled roof
amid the dark green of the surrounding mountain pines. It was unlike any
Chinese roof I have seen, but it is one of the temples of this valley.
It is the Yuan T’ing, a temple built by Ch’ien Lung, not for his mother
but for a Tibetan wife, after the style of her country, that she might
not feel so lonely in a strange land.

Its pinkish red arched walls and gateways seemed quite close, but it
was exceedingly difficult to get at, particularly for a tired woman who,
when she was not jolting in a Peking cart, had been climbing up more
steps than even now she cares to think about. And the temple, save for
that roof, was much like every other temple, a place of paved courtyards
with the grass and weeds growing up among the stones, and grass and even
young pine-trees growing on the tiled roofs. The altars were shabby
and decayed, and when I climbed up till I was right under the domed
roof--and it was a steep climb--more than once I was tempted to turn
back and take it as read, as they do long reports at meetings. I found
the round chamber was the roosting-place of many pigeons, all {315}the
lacquer was perished, the bronze rusted, and though the attendant opened
many doors with many keys, I know that the place is seldom visited, and
but for that vivid roof, it must be forgotten.

[Illustration: 0446]

And yet the people like to look at these things. There was not a crowd
following me as there was at the Bright-roofed Temple, but there was
still the ragged-looking coolie who was carrying my camera. I suspected
him of every filthy disease known in China, and their name must be
legion, any that had by chance escaped him I thought might have found
asylum with the boy who bore my umbrella. I hoped that rude health and
an open-air life would enable me to throw off any germs. These two, who
had had to walk where I had ridden, I pitied, so I told Tuan to say they
need not climb up as I had used up all my plates and certainly had no
use for an umbrella.

“She say ‘No matter,’” said Tuan including them both in the feminine,
“She like to come,” and I think he liked it as well, for they escorted
me with subdued enthusiasm round that domed chamber inspecting what must
have been a reproduction of a debased Buddhist hell in miniature. It was
covered with dust, faded, and weather-worn, like everything else in the
temple, but it afforded the four who were with me great pleasure, and
when with relief I saw a figure instead of being bitten by a snake, or
eaten by some gruesome beast, or sawn asunder between two planks,
merely resting in a tree, Tuan explained with great gusto and evident
satisfaction: “Spikes in tree.” He took care I should lose none of the
flavour of the tortures. But even the tortures were faded and worn, the
dust had settled on them, the air and the sun {316}had perished them,
and I could not raise a shudder. Dusty and unclean they spoiled for me
the beauty of the golden roof and the dark green mountain pines. I was
glad to go down the many steps again, glad to go down to the courtyard
where the temple attendant, who might have been a priest, but was
dressed in blue cotton and had the shaven head and queue that so many
of the Manchus still affect, gave me tea out of his tiny cups, seated on
the temple steps. A dirty old man he was, but his tea was perfect, and I
made up my mind not to look whether the cups were clean, for his manners
matched his tea.

And then I went out on to the broad cleared space in front, and feasted
my eyes for the last time on the golden brown tiled roof set amongst the
green of the pines, and clear-cut against the vivid blue of the sky.

And yet it is not the beauty only that appeals, there is something more
than that, for even as I look at those hills, I remember another temple
I visited just outside Peking, a little temple, and I went not by myself
but with a party of laughing young people. There was nothing beautiful
about this temple, the walls were crumbled almost to dust, the roof was
falling in, upon the tiles the grasses were growing, the green kaoliang
crept up to the forsaken altars, and the dust-laden wind of Northern
China swept in through the broken walls and caressed the forgotten gods
who still in their places look out serenely on the world beyond.

I could not but remember Swinburne, “Laugh out again for the gods are
dead.” Are they dead? Does anything die in China? {317}In the Ming
Dynasty, some time in the fifteenth century, when the Wars of the Roses
were raging in England they built this little temple, nearly three
hundred years before Ch’ien Lung built the temples in the valley at
Jehol, and they installed the gods in all the glory of red lacquer and
gold, and when the last gold leaf had been laid on and the last touches
had been given to the dainty lacquer they walked out and left it, left
it to the soft, insidious decay that comes to things forgotten. For it
must be remembered, whether we look at this valley of dead gods or this
little temple outside Peking, that when a memorial is put up it is not
expected to last for ever, and no provision is made or expected for its
upkeep. If it last a year, well and good, so was the man to whom it was
put up, valued, and if it last a hundred years--if five hundred years
after it was dedicated there still remains one stone standing upon the
other, how fragrant the memory of that man must have been. It is five
hundred years since this temple was built and still it endures. Behind
is the wall of the city, grim and grey, but the gods do not look upon
the wall, their faces are turned to the south and the gorgeous sunshine.
They still sit in their places, but the little figures that once adorned
the chamber are lying about on the ground or leaning up disconsolately
against the greater gods, and some of them are broken. On the ground,
in the dust, was a colossal head with a face that reminded us that the
silken robes of Caesar’s wife came from China, for that head was never
modelled from any Mongolian, dead or alive. A Roman Emperor might have
sat for it. The faces that looked down on it, lying there in the dust,
were Eastern there were the narrow {318}eyes, the impassive features,
the thin lips, but this, this was European, this man had lived and
loved, desired and mourned, and, for there was just a touch of scorn on
the lips, when he had drained life to its dregs, or renounced its joys,
said with bitterness: “All is vanity.”

And the Chinese peasants came and looked at the aliens having tiffin in
the shade, and for them our broken meats were a treat. One was crippled
and one was blind and one was covered with the sores of smallpox, so
hideous to look upon that the lady amongst us who prided herself upon
her good looks turned shuddering away and implored that they be driven
off, before we all caught the terrible disease.

What could life possibly hold for these people? Surely for them the gods
are dead?

I talked with an old woman, dirty and wrinkled, with a bald head and
maimed feet.

“She asks how old you are?” translated the young man beside me.

“Tell her I am sixty.” I thought it would sound more respectable.

“A-a-h!” She looked at me a moment. “She says,” he went on translating,
“that you have worn better than she has, for she is sixty too. And have
you any sons?”

For a moment I hesitated, but I was not going to lose face, what would
she think of a woman without sons, so I laid my hand on his arm, and
smiled to indicate that he was my son.

“A-a-h!” and she talked and smiled.

“What does she say?” He looked a little shy. “Tell me”

“She says you are to be congratulated,” and indeed he was a fine
specimen of manhood. “She says she has three sons.”

[Illustration: 0452]

And alas, alas, I had brought it on myself, for I was not to be
congratulated, I have no son, but I was answered too. I have called the
gods dead, but they are not dead. What if the temple crumbles? There is
the cloudless sky and the growing green around it. This woman was old,
and grey, and bent. The gods have given her three sons, and she is
content. This child had the smallpox, and by and by when it shall have
passed--Ah but that is beyond me. What compensation can there be for the
scarred face and blinded eyes? Only if we understood all things, perhaps
the savour would be gone from life. Behind all is the All Merciful, the
dead gods in the temples are but a manifestation of the Great Power that
is over all.

I thought of that little temple outside the walls of Peking, and the
old woman who congratulated me on the son I had not as I stood taking
my last look at the Yuan T’ing. And then I looked again away down
the valley to the folds of the hills where the other temples nestled,
embowered in trees. Far away I could see the sheer walls of the Po Ta
La climbing up the hill-side golden and red and white with the evening
sunlight falling upon them, and making me feel that just so from this
very spot at this very hour they should be looked at, and then I went
down, a ten minutes’ weary scramble, I was very, very tired, to my cart
and across the Jehol River again, back to the missionary compound.

Never again shall I visit that valley of temples that lies among the
hills of Inner Mongolia, never again, and though, of course, since the
days of {320}Marco Polo Europeans have visited it, it is so distant, so
difficult to come at that they have not gone in battalions. But those
temples in the folds of the hills are beautiful beyond dreaming, and
though their glory has gone, still in their decay, with the eternal
hills round and behind them, they form a fitting memorial to the man who
set them there to the glory of God and for his humble mother’s sake.



CHAPTER XVIII--IN A WUPAN

{321}

_The difficulties of the laundry--A friend in need--A strange picnic
party--The authority of the parent--Travelling in a mule litter--Rain--A
frequented highway--Yellow oiled paper--Restricted quarters--Dodging the
smoke--“What a lot you eat!”--Charm of the river--Modest Chinamen--The
best-beloved grandchild--The gorges of the Lanho--The Wall again--Effect
of rain on the Chinaman--The captain’s cash-box--A gentleman of
Babylon--Lanchou._

|And now it was time to bid farewell to my kind hosts and start back to
Peking. Thank goodness it was going to be fairly easy. Instead of the
abominable cart I was going to float down the River Lan in a wupan, a
long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat.

First I sent my servant with my card to the Tartar General to thank him
for all his kindness. This brought Mr Wu down again with the General’s
card at the most awkward hour of course, in the middle of tiffin, and Mr
Wu, much to my surprise, was dignified and even stately in full Chinese
dress. He was all grey and black. His petticoat or coat or whatever
it is called was down to his ankles and was of silk, he wore a little
sleeveless jacket, and his trousers were tied in with neat black bands
at his neat little ankles. So nice did he look, such a contrast to the
commonplace little man I had seen before, that I felt obliged to admire
him openly. Besides, I am {322}told that is quite in accordance with
Chinese good manners.

He received my compliments with a smile, and then explained the reason
of the change.

“Must send shirt, collar, Tientsin, be washed. I very poor man, no more
got.”

And Tientsin was three or four days by river, sometimes much more, as
well as five hours by train! I felt he had indeed done me an honour when
he had used up his available stock of linen in my entertaining, and to
think I had only admired him when he was in native dress!

Another Chinese gentleman came in that day and was introduced to me. He
contented himself with Chinese dress, and he had more English, though it
was of a peculiar order.

“But I hate to hear people laugh at Mr Chung’s English,” said the
missionary who was a man of the world. “He was a good friend to me and
mine. If it hadn’t been for him, I doubt if I or my wife or children
would be here now.”

It was the time of the Boxer trouble, and the missionary was stationed
at Pa Kou where Mr Chung had charge of the telegraph station. The
missionaries grew salads in their garden, which the head of the
telegraphs much appreciated, and even when he felt it wiser not to be
too closely in touch with the foreigners, he still sent down a basket
for a salad occasionally. One day in the bottom of the basket he put
a letter. “The foreign warships are attacking the Taku Forts,” it ran,
“better get away. I am keeping back the news.”

But the missionary could not get away. Up and down the town he went,
but he could get no carts. {323}All the carters raised their prices to
something that was prohibitive, even though death faced them. And then
came the basket again for more salads and in the bottom was another
letter.

“The foreign ships have taken the Taku Forts,” it said. “I am keeping
back the news. Go away as soon as possible.”

And then the missionary spoke outright of his dilemma, and Mr Chung went
to the Prefect of the town and enlisted him on their side. The carters
were sent for.

“You would not go,” said the Prefect, “when this man offered you a great
sum of money,” it sounded quite Biblical as he told it. “Now you will go
for the ordinary charge or I will take off your heads.”

So two carts were got, and the missionary, his wife, and children, and
as much of their household goods as they could take, were hustled into
them, and they started off for the nearest port.

“If ever I am in a hole again I hope I travel with such women,” said the
missionary; “they were as cheerful as if it was a picnic-party.”

All went well for a couple of days, and then one day, passing through a
town, a man came up and addressed them, and said he was servant to some
Englishmen, a couple of mining engineers, who were held up in this town,
because they had heard there was an ambush laid for all foreigners a
little farther down the road. And the missionaries had thought they were
the last foreigners left in the country!

They promptly sought out the Englishmen, who confirmed the boy’s
story. It was not safe to go farther. The little party decided to stick
together, {324}and finally the missionary went to the Prefect and told
him how the Prefect at Pa Kou had helped them, and suggested it would
be wise to do likewise, especially as the foreigners were sure to win in
the end.

The Prefect considered the matter and finally promised to help them,
provided they put themselves entirely in his hands and said nothing,
no matter what they heard. It seemed a desperate thing to do to put
themselves entirely in the hands of their enemies, but it was the
only chance, that chance or Buckley’s and Buckley, says the Australian
proverb, never had a chance. They agreed to the Prefect’s terms; he set
a guard of soldiers over them, and they travelled surrounded by them.
But at first they were very doubtful whether they had been wise in
trusting a man who was to all intents and purposes an open enemy.

“Where did you get them?” asked the people of the soldiers as they
passed. And the soldiers detailed at length their capture.

“And what are you going to do with them?” And the soldiers always said
that, by the orders of the Prefect of the town where they had been
captured, they were taking them on to be delivered over to the proper
authorities, who would know what to do with them, doubtless the least
that could happen would be that they would have their heads taken off.

And the man who told me the story had lived through such days as that.
Had seen his wife and children live through them!

But the Prefect was as good as his word, the soldiers saw them through
the danger-zone to safety.

“But if it had not been for Mr Chung in the first {325}instance-------”
 says the missionary, and his gratitude was in his voice.

And Mr Chung had his own troubles. He was progressive and modern, not,
I think, Christian, and he had actually himself taught his daughters to
read. Also he had decided not to bind their feet. And then, the pity
of it--and the extraordinary deference that is paid to elders in
China--there came orders from his parents in Canton--he must be a man
over forty--the daughters’ feet were to be bound.

I was glad indeed to have heard the story of Mr Chung before I set out
on my journey.

The Lanho is seven miles, a two hours’ journey by mule litter or cart
from Cheng Teh Fu, and I decided to go by litter and send my things by
cart, for, not only did I object to a cart, but I thought I would like
to see what travelling by mule litter was like. I am perfectly satisfied
now--I don’t ever want to go by one again.

I had to get in at the missionary compound, because it takes four men to
lift a litter on to the mules, and there was only one to attend to
it. It was early in the morning, only a little after six, but all the
missionaries walked about a mile of the way with me--I felt it was
exceedingly kind of them, because it was the only time I ever saw men
and women together outside the compound--then they bade me good-bye,
and I was fairly started on my journey. I sat in my litter on a spring
cushion, lent me for the cart by a Chinese gentleman, and I endeavoured
to balance myself so that the litter should not--as it seemed to me to
be threatening to do--turn topsy-turvy. It made me rather uncomfortable
at first, because once in there is no way of getting out without
{326}lifting the litter off the mules. You may indeed slip down between
it and the leading mule’s hind legs, but that proceeding strikes me as
decidedly risky, for a mule can kick and his temper does not seem to be
improved by having the shafts of a litter on his back.

It was a cloudy morning and it threatened rain. I had only seen one
day’s rain since I had been in China. The scenery was wild and grand. We
went along by the Jehol River, on the edge of one range of precipitous
mountains, while the other, on the other side of the river, towered
above us. We were going along the bottom of a valley, as is usual in
this part of the world, but as the Jehol is a flowing river and takes up
a good part of the bottom, we very often went along a track that was
cut out of the mountain-side. The white mule in front with the jingling
bells and red tassels on his collar and headstall, always preferred the
very edge, so that when I looked out of the left-hand side of my litter,
I looked down a depth of about thirty or forty feet, as far as I could
guess, into the river-bed below. I found it better not to look. Not that
it was very deep or that there was any likelihood of my going over. I am
fully convinced, in spite of the objurgations showered upon him by the
driver, that that white mule knew his business thoroughly. Still it made
me uncomfortable to feel so helpless.

And the way was very busy indeed, even thus early in the morning. All
sorts of folk were going along it, there were heavy country carts drawn
by seven strong mules, they were taking grain to the river to be shipped
“inside the Wall,” and the road that they followed was abominable. Every
now and {327}again they would stick in the heavy sand or ruts, or stones
of the roadway--everything that should not be in a road, according to
our ideas, was there--and the driver would promptly produce a spade and
dig out the wheels, making the way for the next cart that passed worse
than ever. Two litters passed us empty, and we met any number of donkeys
laden, I cannot say with firewood, but with bundles of twigs that in any
other country that I know would not be worth the gathering, much less
the transport, but would be burnt as waste. And there were numberless
people on foot, this was evidently a much-frequented highway, since it
was busy now when it was threatening rain, for no Chinese go out in the
rain if they can help it. I thoroughly sympathise, I should think twice
myself before going if I had but one set of clothes and nowhere to
dry them if they got wet. The hill-sides were rocky and sterile, but
wherever there was a flat place, wherever there was a little pocket of
fertile ground, however inaccessible it might appear, it was carefully
cultivated, so was all the valley bottom along the banks of the river,
and all this ground was crying out for the rain. And then presently
down it came, heavy, pouring rain such as I had only seen once before
in China. It drove across our pathway like a veil, all the rugged hills
were softened and hidden in a grey mist, and my muleteer drew over and
around me sheets of yellow oiled paper through which I peered at the
surrounding scenery. I wasn’t particularly anxious to get wet myself,
because I did not see in an open boat how on earth I was ever to get
dry again, and three or four days wet or even damp, would not have been
either comfortable, or healthy.

[Illustration: 0462]

{328}At last we arrived at the river, a broad, swift-flowing, muddy river
running along the bottom of the valley and apparently full to the brim,
at least there were no banks, and needless to say, of course, there was
not a particle of vegetation to beautify it. There was a crossing here
very like the ferrying-place I had crossed on my journey up, and there
were a row of long boats with one end of them against the bank. It was
raining hard when I arrived, and the litter was lifted down from the
mules, but the only thing to do was to sit still and await the arrival
of Tuan and my baggage in the Peking cart.

They came at last, and the rain lifting a little Tuan set about
preparing one of the boats for my reception.

I must confess I looked on with interest, because I did not quite see
how I was going to spend several days with a servant and three boatmen
in such cramped quarters. The worst of it was there was no getting out
of it now if I did not like it, it had to be done. Though I do worry so
much I always find it is about the wrong thing. I had never--and I might
well have done so--thought about the difficulties of this boat journey
until I stood on the banks of the river, committed to it, and beyond the
range of help from any of my own colour. For one moment my heart sank.
If it had been the evening I should have despaired, but with fourteen
good hours of daylight before me I can always feel hopeful, especially
if they are to be spent in the open air. The wupan is about thirty-seven
feet long, flat bottomed, and seven feet wide in the middle, tapering of
course towards the ends. In the middle V-shaped sticks hold up a ridge
pole, and {329}across this Tuan put a couple of grass mats we had bought
for this purpose, then he produced some unbleached calico--and when
I think of what I paid for that unbleached calico, and how poor the
Chinese peasants are, I am surprised that the majority of them do not
go naked--and proceeded to make of it a little tent for me right in the
middle of the awning. I stood it until I discovered that the idea was
he should sleep at one end and the boatmen at the other, and then I
protested. What I was to be guarded from I did not know, but I made him
clearly understand that one end of the boat I must have to myself. There
might be a curtain across the other end of the awning, that I did not
mind, but I must be free to go out without stepping on sleeping servant
or boatmen. That little matter adjusted, much to his surprise, the next
thing we had to think about was the stove. I wanted it so placed that
when the wind blew the matting did not make a funnel that would carry
the smoke directly into my face. But that is just exactly what it
did do, and I’ve come to the conclusion there is no possible way of
arranging a stove comfortably on a winding river. We tried it aft, and
we tried it for’ard, and when it was aft it seemed the wind was behind,
and when it was for’ard the wind was ahead, and whichever way the smoke
came it was equally unpleasant, so I decided the only thing to be done
was to smile and look pleasant, and be thankful that whereas I required
three meals a day to sustain me in doing nothing, my boatmen who did
all the work and had a stove of their own, apparently, sustained life on
two. The ideal way would be to have a companion and two boats, and
then the trip would be delightful. {330}As it was I found it well worth
doing.

The rain stopped that first day soon after we left the crossing-place,
and from the little low boat the mountains on either side appeared to
tower above us, rugged, precipitous, sterile; they were right down to
the waters edge and the river wound round, and on the second day we were
in the heart of the mountains, and passed through great rocky gorges.
It was lonely for China, but just as I thought that no human being could
possibly live in such a sterile land, I would see far up on the hills a
little spot of blue, some small boy herding goats, or a little pocket
of land between two great rocks, carefully tilled, and the young green
crops just springing up. And then again there were little houses, neat,
tidy little houses with heavy roofs, and I wondered what it must be
like to be here in the mountains when the winter held them in its grip.
Somehow it seemed to me far more lonely and desolate than anything I had
seen on my way across country.

We always tied up for the men to eat their midday meal, and we always
tied up for the night. But we wakened at the earliest glimmer of dawn.
They evidently breakfasted on cold millet porridge, and I, generally,
was up and dressed and had had my breakfast and forgotten all about it
by five-thirty in the morning. My bed took up most of the room in my
quarters, I dressed and washed on it, a bath was out of the question,
and pulling aside the curtains sat on it and had my breakfast, the
captain of the boat, the gentleman with the steering-oar, looking on
with the greatest interest.

He spoke to Tuan evidently about my breakfast, and I asked him what he
said.

“She say what a lot you eat,” said Tuan. “Not in ten days she have so
much.”

{468}And I was surprised, because I had thought my breakfast exceedingly
frugal. I had watched the eggs being poached, and I ate them without
butter or toast or bacon, I had a dry piece of bread, tea, of course,
and some unappetising stewed pears. But by and by I was watching my
captain shovelling in basinsful of millet porridge, about ten times as
much as I ate, and I came to the conclusion it was the variety he was
commenting on, not the amount.

They were things of delight those early mornings on the river. At first
all the valley would be wrapped in a soft grey mist, with here and there
the highest peaks, rugged and desolate, catching the sunlight; then
gradually, gradually, the sun came down the valley and the mists melted
before his rays, lingering here and there in the hollows, soft and grey
and elusive, till at last the sunlight touched the water and gave this
muddy water of the river a golden tint, and all things rejoiced in
the new-born day. The little blue kingfishers preened themselves, the
blue-grey cranes with white necks and black points that the Chinese call
“long necks” sailed with outspread wings slowly across the water, and
the sunlight on the square sails of the upcoming boats made them gleam
snow white. For there was much traffic on the river. Desolate as the
country round was, the river was busy. The boats that were going down
stream were rowed, and those that were coming up, when the wind was
with them, put out great square sails, and when it was against them were
towed by four men. They fastened the towing rope to the mast, stripped
themselves, and slipping a {332}loop over their heads fixed it round
their chests and pulled by straining against a board that was fast
in the loop. The current was strong, and it must have been hard work
judging by the way they strained on the rope. The missionaries were
afraid I would be shocked at the sight of so many naked men, but it
was the other way round, my presence, apparently the only woman on the
river, created great consternation, for the Chinaman is a modest man.
Badly I wanted to get a photograph of those straining men, for never
have I seen the Chinese to greater advantage. In their shabby blue
cotton they look commonplace and of the slums, you feel they are
unwashed, but these suggest splendid specimens of brawny manhood. They
don’t need to be washed. However, as we approached, boatmen and servant
all raised their voices in a loud warning singsong. What they said, I
do not know, but it must have been something like: “Oh brothers, put on
your clothes. We have a bothering foreign woman on board.” The result
would be a wild scramble and everybody would be getting into dirty blue
garments, only some unfortunate, who was steering in a difficult part or
had hold of a rope that could not be dropped was left helpless, and he
crouched down or hid behind a more lucky companion. If there had been
anybody with whom to laugh I would have laughed many a time when we met
or passed boats on the Lanho. But I never got a really good photograph
of those towing men. My men evidently felt it would be taking them at
a disadvantage, and the production of my camera was quite sufficient
to send us off into mid stream, as far away from the towing boat as
possible.

Occasionally the hills receded just a little and left a small stretch
of flat country where there were always exceedingly neat-looking huts.
There were the neatest bundles of sticks stacked all round them, just
twigs, and we landed once to buy some, for the men cooked entirely with
them, and my little stove needed them to start the charcoal. But oh, the
people who came out of those houses were dirty. Never have I seen such
unclean-looking unattractive women. One had a child in her arms
with perfectly horrible-looking eyes, and I knew there was another
unfortunate going to be added to the many blind of China. She ran away
at the sight of me, and so did two little stark-naked boys. I tempted
them with biscuits, and their grandfather or great-grandfather, he might
have been, watched with the deepest interest. He and I struck up quite
a friendship over the incident, smiling and laughing and nodding to one
another, as much as to say, “Yes, it was natural they should be afraid,
but we--we, who had seen the world--of course knew better.” Then he went
away and fetched back in his arms another small shaven-headed youngster
whom he patted and petted and called my attention to, as much as to say
this was little Benjamin, the well-beloved, had I not a biscuit for him?
Alas I had been too long away from civilisation and I had given away all
I had. But when I think about it, it is always with a feeling of regret
that I had not a sweet biscuit for that old Chinaman up in the mountains
and his best-beloved grandson.

I saw one morning some men fishing in the shallows by a great rock, and
I demanded at once that we buy a fish. They were spearing the fish and
{334}we bought a great mud-fish for five cents, for I saw the money
handed over, and then the unfortunate fish with a reed through his gills
was dragged through the water alongside the boat. When I came to eat a
small piece of him, which I did with interest I was so tired of chicken,
he was abominable, and I smiled a little ruefully when I found in the
accounts he was charged at thirty-five cents! Judging by the nastiness
of that fish one ought to be able to buy up the entire contents of the
Lanho for such a sum. However, the boatmen ate him gladly, and I suppose
if I lived on millet for breakfast, tiffin, and dinner, and any time
else when I felt hungry, I might even welcome a mud-fish for a change.
Their only relish appeared to be what Tuan called “sour pickle.” There
was one most unappetising-looking salted turnip which lasted a long
while, though every one of the crew had a bite at it.

Gorge after gorge we passed, and the rocks rising above us seemed very
high, while the sun beating down upon the water in that enclosed space
made it very hot in the middle of the day, and I was very glad indeed of
the mat awning, though, of course, it was of necessity so low that even
I, who am a short woman, could not stand up underneath, but it kept
off the sun, and the air, coming through as we were rowed along, made a
little breeze. There were rapids, many rapids, but they did not impress
me. I couldn’t even get up a thrill, sometimes indeed the boat was
turned right round, but it always seemed that the worst that might
happen to me would be that I should have to get out and walk, and of
course get rather wet in the process. Tuan made a great fuss about
them all, “must take care” but the worst {335}one of all he was so
exceedingly grave over that I felt at least we were risking our valuable
lives. It was inside the wall and was called “Racing Horse Rapid” but it
wasn’t very bad. I have been up much worse rapids on the Volta, in
West Africa, and nobody seemed to think they were anything out of the
ordinary, but then the negro has not such a rooted objection to water as
the Chinaman apparently has. My crew had to get wet, up to their waists
sometimes, and it was a little rough on them--I remembered it in their
_cumshaw_--that having a woman on board their modesty did not allow them
to strip, and they went in with all their clothes on.

The Wall, broken for the passing of the river, is always a wonder, and
here it was wonderful as ever. We stopped here for a little in order,
as far as I could make out, that Tuan might get some ragged specimens of
humanity to pluck a couple of chickens, being too grand a gentleman
to do it himself, and for a brief space the foreshore was white with
feathers, for the thrifty Chinaman, who finds a use for everything, once
he has made feather dusters has no use for feathers. Feather pillows he
knows not. But for once Tuan’s skill in putting the work he was paid for
doing, off on to other people, failed either to amuse or irritate me.
I had eyes for nothing but the Wall--the Wall above all other walls
still--for all it is in ruins. As we went down the river it followed
along the tops of the highest hills for over a mile. Always the Wall
cuts the skyline. There is never anything higher than the Wall. And
here, as if this river valley must be extra well guarded, on every
accessible peak was a watch-tower. They are all in ruins now, but they
speak {336}forcibly of the watch and ward that was kept here once.
There was one square ruin on the highest peak. As evening fell, heavy,
threatening clouds gathered and it stood out against them. As we went
far down the valley it was always visible, now to the right of us, now
to the left, as the river wound, and when I thought it was gone in the
gathering gloom, a jagged flash of lightning, out of the black cloud
behind it, illumined it again, and for the moment I forgot that it was
ruined, and thought only what an excellent vantage-point those old-time
builders had chosen. All the country round must see the beacon fire
flaring there. And again I thought of the signals that must have gone
up, “The Mongols are coming down the river. The Manchus are gathering in
the hills.”

Those heavy clouds bespoke rain, and that night it came down, came down
in torrents, and if there is a more uncomfortable place in which to be
rained upon than a small boat I have yet to find it. Those grass mats
kept off some of the rain, but they were by no means as water-tight as I
should have liked. I spread my burberry over my bed, put up my umbrella,
and stopped up the worst leaks with all the towels I could spare, and
yet the water came in, and on the other side of my calico screen I could
hear the men making a few remarks, which Tuan told me next day were
because, “she no can cook dinner, no can dry clothes.” I had lent them
my charcoal stove, but it was small and would only dry “littee, littee
clothe” so everybody including myself got up next morning in a querulous
mood, and very sorry for themselves. The others at least were earning
their pay, but I wondered how I was {337}going to make money out of
it, and again I questioned the curious fate that sent me wandering
uncomfortably about the world, and sometimes actually--yes actually
getting enjoyment out of it.

I didn’t enjoy that day, however. We went on a little and at length
we stopped, all the country was veiled in soft moist grey mist, the
perpetual sunshine of Northern China was gone, and Tuan and the boatman
came to me. They proposed, of all the Chinese things in this world to
do, to go back! Why I don’t know now, for to go back meant going against
the stream and towing the boat! A very much harder job than guiding it
down stream, where it would go of its own weight. I have not often put
my foot down in China. I have always found it best to let my servants,
or those I employed, go about things their own way, but this was too
much for me. I made it clearly understood that the boat belonged to me
for the time being, and that back I would not go.

Tuan murmured something about some place “she get dry” and I quite
agreed looking at the shivering wretches, but that place had got to be
ahead, not behind us. However, go on they would not, so we pulled up
against the bank and all four of them cowered over the little charcoal
stove till I feared lest they would be asphyxiated with the fumes. I got
in my bed, pulled my eiderdown round me, and thanked Providence I had
it, a sleeping bag, and a burberry, and then as best I could I dodged
the drops that came through the matting, but I knew I wasn’t nearly so
uncomfortable as my men. At last the rain lifted a little, and three
rueful figures pulled us down to a small, a very {338}small temple
wherein they lighted a fire and cooked themselves a warm meal. By that
time the rain had gone, and they were smiling and cheerful once more.

As the result of that rain the river rose three feet, the rapids were
easier than ever to go over, only of course there was the risk of
hitting the rocks that were now submerged, and the waters were muddier
than ever. I felt as if all those mountain-sides were being washed down
into the Lanho, as they probably were. All along the banks, too, the
people were collected gathering--not driftwood, for there was none, but
driftweed, gathering it in with rakes and dipping-in baskets, holding
them out for the water to run away and using the residuum “for burn,” as
Tuan put it. It was dreary, wet, grey, cold. The country grew flatter
as we came down the river, the hills receded; we were in an agricultural
country which was benefiting, I doubt not, by this rain, but with the
mountains went the stern grandeur, and cold rain on a flat country is
uninspiring. Besides breakfast before five-thirty leaves a long day
before one, and the incidents were so small. I watched the captain
steering and refreshing himself with a bite at a pink radish as large
and as long as a parsnip, and it looked cold and uninviting. Surely I
ought to be thankful that Fate had not caused me to be born a Chinese of
the working classes.

The captain had a large cash-box which reposed trustfully at the end of
my bed. Not that I could have got into it, for it was fastened with
the sort of padlock that I should put on park gates, and I certainly
couldn’t have carried it away, at least not unbeknownst, for it was a
cube of at least eighteen inches. It gave me the idea of great wealth,
for never in my life do I expect to require a cash-box like that. If I
did I should give up story writing and grow old with a quiet mind. But
then I do not take my earnings in copper cash.

[Illustration: 478]

More and more as we went along the river was I reminded of my idea
of Babylon--Babylon with the romance taken out of it, Babylon grown
commonplace. At one place we stopped at, there came down to the ferry
a short fat man in blue, in a large straw hat, leading a donkey. But he
belonged to no age, he was Sancho Panza to the life. Again there came
a gentleman mounted on a mule, his servant following slowly on a small
grey donkey. He was nicely dressed in darkish petticoats, and his
servant wore the usual blue. They stood on the river-bank and the
servant hailed the ferry. With a little difficulty the beasts were got
on board and the boat poled across. It was just a wupan like my own,
decked in the middle so that the animals would not have to step down.
The donkey came off as if it were all in the day’s work, but the
mule was obstinate, and it took the entire population of that little
crossing-place, including Tuan and my boatmen, to hoist him off. The
person most interested, the rider, never stirred a finger. True son
of Babylon was he. “Let the slaves see to all things,” I imagine him
saying. There was a little refreshment booth, and a man selling long
fingers of paste, or rather fried batter. My captain handled one
thoughtfully and then put it back.

“Doesn’t he like it?” I asked Tuan. It seemed to me so much nicer than
the pink radish.

“She like,” said Tuan, “too much monies. Very dear,” and I think I could
have bought up the whole {340}stock in trade for twenty cents, about
fivepence, so the cash-box was a fraud after all.

Now the hills had receded into the dim distance there were no more
rapids, and I was back on the great alluvial plain of Northern China
once more. The sun came out in all his glory, there were innumerable
boats, and the evening sunlight gleamed on their white sails. Many of
them were full of people, with many women amongst them, and Tuan told me
it was the Dragon Boat Festival.

And then, as the evening shadows were falling, we came to the port of
Lanchou and my journey in a wupan was ended.



CHAPTER XIX--A RIVER PORT IN BABYLON

{341}

_The question of squeeze--Batter fingers for the boatmen--An array
of damp scarecrows--Ox carts--Prehistoric wheels--A decadent
people--Beggars--The playing of a part--A side show--Cumshaw._

|They tell me I must not talk about a river port in Babylon, because
Babylon was a city not a country, and it had no river port, but in that
valley of Mesopotamia there must have been in those old days, little
places where the people living along the banks landed their produce, or
gathered it in, and I think they must have resembled this river port of
Lanchou in Chihli, to which I came one still pleasant evening in June.

The sun was on the point of setting, and I consulted Tuan about where I
should go for the night. The inns, he opined, would be full, for all the
country-side had come to the feast, and, in truth, I did not hanker much
after a Chinese inn. I infinitely preferred the wupan, even at its very
worst, when the rain was coming through the matting. I only wondered if
Tuan and the boatmen would think it extremely undignified of me to stay
where I was. The worst I knew there were the cockroaches, and Heaven
only knew what I might find in a Chinese inn in June. {342}Apparently
Tuan did not think it undignified, and the boatmen of course were glad.

“You pay him one dollar,” suggested Tuan. Now a dollar is a thousand
cash, and a thousand cash, I suppose would about fill that money-box of
his. He got the dollar, because I paid it him myself, but what squeeze
Tuan extracted I am sure I don’t know. Some he did get, I suppose as of
right, for squeeze seems to be the accepted fact in China.

A woman once told me how she was offered squeeze and a good big squeeze
too.

She was head of a hospital, and being an attractive young person,
she used to go out pretty often for motor drives with the locomotive
superintendent of the nearest railway. The Chinese took note of this,
as apparently they do of all things likely to concern them, and one day
there called upon her a Chinaman, well-dressed, of the better class. He
stood at the door of her sitting-room, shaking his own hands, and bowed
three times.

“What do you want?” said she, for she had never to her knowledge, seen
him before.

He spoke as good English, almost as she did herself, and he said,
well it was a little matter in which she might be of service to him,
and--yes--he of service to her.

She looked at him in astonishment. “But I don’t know you,” she said,
puzzled and surprised.

It was a matter of oil, he said at last, when he got to the point. It
was well known that the engines required a great deal of oil, and he had
several thousands of tons of oil for sale. {343}“But what has that to do
with me?” asked the girl, more surprised than ever.

He bowed again. “You are a great friend of ------”

“But how do you know that?”

“Oh pardon,” his hand on his heart, “Chinaman know everything. You can
help me.”

“How?” she said still wondering.

“You speak to Mr -------. He buy oil,” and he looked at her
ingratiatingly.

She stared at him, hardly knowing whether to be angry or not.

“I have nothing to do with the locomotives.”

“Oh, but it will pay you,” said he, and from each side out of a
long pocket he drew two heavy bags, and planked them down on her
writing-table. Still she did not understand what he was driving at.

“For you,” said he, “for a few words.”

“Why, you are offering me squeeze,” said she indignantly, as the full
meaning of the thing flashed on her.

He made a soothing sound with his mouth. “Everybody does it,” said he.

“Indeed I don’t.”

“Not enough?” said he. “There is five hundred and fifty dollars there,”
 and he looked at her questioningly. “Well,” thoughtfully, “I can make it
two hundred dollars more, I have much oil,” and down went another bag of
silver. More than six months’ salary was on the table.

“And suppose,” said she, curious, “Mr -------- pays no attention to me.”

“That would be unfortunate,” with a low bow, “but I think not. I have
much oil. I take risk.” {344}Then she rose up wrathfully. “Take it
away,” she said, “take it away. How dare you offer me squeeze!” And he
did take it away, and as he probably knew her salary to the very last
penny, thought her a fool for her pains.

I don’t know whether Tuan extracted his squeeze beforehand, but I know
all three boatmen had the long fingers of batter fried in lard for
their breakfast the next morning, for I saw them having them, and Tuan
informed me with a grin, “Missie pay dollar. Can do,” and I was very
glad I had not patronised the Chinese inn.

Of course I rose very early. Before half-past four I was up and dressed
and peeping out of my little tent at the rows and rows of boats that lay
double-banked against the shore. The sun got up as early as I did, and
most of those people in the boats were up before him. The boats were own
sisters to the one in which I had come down the river, with one mast,
and shelters in the middle, and all the people had suffered, as we had
done, from wet, for such a drying day I have never before seen. All the
sails of course had to be dried, all the mats, the dilapidated bedding,
and it seemed most of the clothing, for padded blue coats and trousers
were stuck on sticks, or laid out in the sun. All the scarecrows that
ever I had known, had apparently come to grief on that double-banked
row of boats. The banks were knee-deep in mud, but it was sandy mud that
soon dried, and by six o’clock business on that shore was in full swing.
There was a theatre and fair going on close at hand, but business had to
be attended to all the same. These boatmen all still wear the queue,
so the barber was very busy, as it is of course impossible to shave on
board a boat, and even the immaculate Tuan had a fine crop of bristles
all over his head. They were gone before he gave me breakfast this
morning. The alluvial mud of the shore was cut into deep cart ruts, and
there were any number of carts coming down to the boats and going away
from them. There were ox carts with a solitary ox, harnessed much as
a horse would be and looking strange to me, accustomed to the bullock
drays of Australia with their bullocks, ten or twenty of them drawing
by a single wooden yoke, there were mule carts and carts heavy with
merchandise drawn by a mixed team of mule, ox, and the small and patient
donkey, and the people took from the boats their loading of grain, grown
far away in Mongolia, of stones, gathered by the river-bank, water-worn
stones used for making the picturesque garden and courtyard paths the
Chinese love, and even sometimes for building, and of osiers, grown
up in the mountains. There were piles and piles of these, and men were
carrying them slung on the ends of their bamboos. And the boats, for
the return journey were loaded, as far as I could see, with salt and the
thin tissue paper they use everywhere for the windows, it is much more
portable than glass, and cotton stuffs, such as even the poorest up in
the mountains must buy for their clothing. And because it was the Dragon
Boat Feast, I suppose, many of the boats were full of passengers, people
who had started thus early to make a day of it, innumerable small-footed
women and small, shavenheaded children, what little there was left of
their hair done up in tiny plaits, that stood straight out on end. And
all had on their best clothing. Even {346}the gentleman whose picture
I have taken standing under a tree had on a new hat of the brightest
yellow matting, and I wondered whether the poorer folk who thronged
the river-side in Mesopotamia, so many long centuries ago, were not
something like him. The only thing that was modern was the railway
station and rolling stock, just behind the river-side town, and the
great iron bridge that spans the river. Modern civilisation come to
Babylon. It has barely touched the surface though of this age-old
civilisation. The people who came crowding into the feast came in carts
with heavy wooden wheels, Punch’s prehistoric wheels, exactly as their
ancestors came, possibly three thousand years ago, and the carts were
drawn by mules, by oxen, by donkeys, and were covered, some with the
ordinary blue cloth, some with grass matting, and sometimes, when they
were open, the women carried umbrellas of Chinese oiled paper, with here
and there one of ordinary European pattern. And the carts were packed
very close together indeed, for there were numberless women, and the
majority of them could only just totter along. For them to walk far or
for long, would be a sheer impossibility. Country people? No, again I
saw it strongly, these were serfs, perhaps, but not country people, they
were a highly civilised people, far more highly civilised than I am who
sit in judgment, so civilised that they were decadent, effete, and every
woman was helpless!

They crowded round the theatricals that were going on there in the open,
and all the stalls were crowded together round them too. These sellers
cannot afford to spread themselves out when half of {347}the likely
buyers must needs be stationary. Never have I seen so many Chinese women
of the well-to-do class together before. They wore their gayest silks
and satins and embroidered coats, their hair was elaborately dressed and
decked with flowers, their faces were painted and powdered, and usually
there was on them the faintest of impassive smiles. Poor women of modern
Babylon, maimed and crippled! It was rather a relief to look at the
beggars, and there were many of them, who, clad in sacking and filthy
rags, with wild black hair, beat their foreheads in the dust, and made
loud moan of their sufferings. Everyone plays his part properly in
China. It is the beggars’ to make loud moan, it is the women’s to give
no hint of the cruel suffering that has made childhood and youth a
torture, and left the dreadful aftermath behind it.

[Illustration: 0488]

I had plenty of time to see everything, for the train was not due till
eleven, and when it grew too hot to stay in the open any longer, I went
on to the platform and sat in the shade, and formed a sort of side show
to the fair, for so many people crowded round to look at the foreign
woman, and they had more than what a servant of one of my friends called
“a littee stink,” that at last the station policeman, who was really a
soldier guarding the line, came and cleared them away drastically
with drawn sword, and I explained, as best I could, that on this great
occasion, I hadn’t the least objection to being a show, for very likely
many of these people had come from beyond the beaten tracks, from places
where foreigners were scarce, but I must have sufficient air.

Tuan got the tickets, and then I suppose, seeing his time was short, for
we should be in Peking by seven, and should certainly part, he relieved
his mind and asked a question that had evidently been burning there ever
since we had left the mission station.

“Missie have pay mission boys _cumshaw?_”

Now the _cumshaw_ had been a difficulty.

My hostess had come to me and said: “I know you are going to give a
_cumshaw_. I may as well tell you that if our visitors don’t we always
do ourselves, because the servants expect it, but I am come to beg of
you not to give too much and to give it through us. In fact the cook
went for his holiday last night and we gave him eighty cents and said it
was from you.”

“Eighty cents!” I was afraid those servants would think me very mean.
But my hostess was very fluent on the subject, and very determined. The
majority of their visitors could not possibly afford to give much, and
they were very anxious not to establish a precedent. What was I to do? I
might have supplemented it through Tuan, but I felt it would be making
a poor return to the people who had been so kind to me, so I was obliged
to let it go at that.

“I pay Missie, she give _cumshaw_ for me,” said I to Tuan.

“Ah!” said that worthy, as if he had settled a doubt satisfactorily in
his own mind, “boy say Missie pay eighty cent, I say, not my Missie, she
give five, ten dollar, always give five, ten dollar, your Missie give
eighty cent!”

And as I went on my way to Peking, across the plain in its summer dress
of lush green kaoliang, I wondered sorrowfully if all the return I had
made for the kindness received was to have those missionaries accused of
pocketing the _cumshaw_ I was supposed to have given.

But I was glad to come back, glad not to think any more of the Chinaman
as a creature whose soul had to be saved, glad to come back to my
ordinary associates who were ordinarily worldly and selfish, and
felt that they might drink a whisky-and-soda and consider their own
enjoyment, though there were a few hundred million people in outer
darkness around them. The majority of us cannot live in the rarefied
atmosphere that demands constant sacrifice and abnegation for the sake
of those we do not and cannot love.



CHAPTER XX--THE WAYS OF THE CHINESE SERVANT

{350}

_The heat of Peking---The wall by moonlight--Tongshan--“Your devoted
milkman”--The eye of the mistress--A little fort--In case of an
outbreak--The Temple of the Sleeping Buddha--A runaway bride--The San
Shan An--My own temple courtyard--The missing outfit--The Language
Officer--Friends in need._

|It was David, I think, who said in his haste, that all men are liars,
but I suppose he was right, if he meant as he probably did, that at one
time or another, we are all of us given to making rash statements. I
expect it would be a rash statement to say that Peking in the summer is
the hottest place in the world, and that the heat of West Africa, that
much-maligned land, is nothing to it, and yet, even when I think over
the matter at my leisure, I know that the heat, for about six weeks,
is something very hard to bear. I suspect it is living in a stone house
inside the city walls that makes it so hot. Could I have slept in the
open I might have taken a different view. I slept, or rather I did not
sleep, with two windows wide open, and an electric fan going, but, since
Peking mosquitoes are of the very aggressive order, bred in the imperial
canal, the great open drain that runs through the city, it was always
necessary to keep the mosquito curtains drawn. If anyone doubts that
a house with mosquito-proof {351}windows and doors is an airless
death-trap, let him try and sleep under mosquito curtains, while hoping
for a breath of cool air from the electric fan. Fully half the air is
cut off, but as the mosquito curtains are raised during the daytime, the
air over the bed is renewed daily. In that abomination a mosquito-proof
house, it is never renewed.

Since it was a choice between little air and plenty of mosquitoes. I
chose the shortage of air, and generally went to bed with a deep soup
plate full of cold water, and a large sponge. It made the bed decidedly
wet, but that was an advantage.

I did not go away because the war had started between the North and the
South, and no one knew exactly what was going to happen. To be at the
heart of things is often to be too close, wiser eyes than mine saw
nothing. Once there was a rumour that the Southern army would march on
Peking, and that promised excitement, but in the city itself, though
there was martial law, there was no excitement, and the only pleasant
thing to do was to go on moonlight evenings and sit on the wall. There
was a cool breath of air there, if there was anywhere, and at any rate
the moonlight lent it a glamour, and the fireflies, that came out after
the rain, gave the added touch that made it fairyland.

But at last the heat was too much even for me, who am not wont to
complain of whatever sort of weather is doled out to me, and I accepted
the invitation of a friend to stay at Tongshan, which is a great railway
centre, a place where there is a coal mine, and some large cement works
run by capable and efficient Germans.

And at Tongshan I lived in the house that was {352}held for defence
during the Boxer trouble. The barrier at the gate--the barrier that is
at the gate of all Chinese houses, to keep off evil spirits, who can
only move in a straight line--was so curious that I took a photograph
of it, and against the walls that surround the grounds were the look-out
places which the railwaymen manned, and from which they kept watch and
ward.

I have always liked the feeling of living in a fort--a place where men
have helped to make history, but I have observed that it is always
the immediate trifle that is to the fore that counts, and my friend’s
servants were a perpetual joy and delight to me. They used to write
her letters. There was one, a touching one, from the milkman I shall
remember with joy. A “cunningful” cook had misrepresented him, and he
wished to be taken into favour again, and he signed himself distractedly
“Your devoted milkman.” The cow was brought round so that it might be
milked before the eyes of the buyer, and only a Chinaman, surely, would
have been capable of concealing a bottle of water up his sleeves and
letting it run slowly down his arm as he milked, so that the cow was
unjustly accused of giving very poor milk. Besides, when the cow’s
character was cleared, who knew from where that water had been taken,
and how much dirt it had washed off the arm down which it ran. No
pleading took that milkman into favour again, despite the tenderness
expressed in his signature. Another man had been away, and returning,
wished a small job as watchman at six dollars a month, and begging for
it by letter, he signed himself fervently “Your own Ah Foo.” But the
crowning boy was the No. 1 boy. He was a {353}delicious person without
intending it. When first my friend engaged him, she acquired at the same
time a small dog, and she soon realised that the rigorous Chinese winter
was hard on dogs, and that Ben must have a little coat. The question was
how to make the coat. No. 1 boy came to the rescue.

Mr ------ at the railway station had a dog, and “Marcus,” said the boy,
“have two coats.”

“Oh well borrow one and copy it,” said his mistress, relieved.

“My tink,” said the boy confidentially, and he sank his voice, “Missie
bolly, more better not send back.” And he looked at her to see if this
wisdom would sink in.

“Boy!”

“Marcus have two coats,” repeated he reproachfully.

[Illustration: 0496]

The owner of Marcus, on the story being told to him, when the coat was
borrowed with every assurance it should be returned, admitted that if
occasionally he saw among his accounts a coat for Marcus he always paid
for it, and supposed the old one had worn out. Thinking it over, he
thought perhaps he had supplied a friend or two, or more possibly his
friends’ servants. No. 1 boy made a mistake in taking his mistress into
his confidence, instead of charging her for “one piecey dog coat.”

But, of course that is the trouble with Missies, as compared with
Masters, they have such inquiring minds. There was once a man of violent
temper who was in the habit of letting off steam on his No. 1 boy. He
abused him roundly, and even beat him whenever he felt out of sorts, yet
greatly to the surprise of all his friends, the boy put up with him, and
made him a very excellent servant. Presently he married, and then, much
to his surprise, before a month was out the boy, who had been faithful
and long-suffering for so long, came and gave notice.

“But why?” asked the astonished man.

“Master beat,” said the boy laconically.

“D----n it,” said the man, “I’ve beaten you a dozen times before. Why
do you complain now?”

“Before time,” explained the boy solemnly, “when Master beat, my put
down one dollar, sugar, one dollar flour. Now Missie come, no can. My
go.”

He did not mind a beating so long as he could make his master pay for
it, but when an inquiring mistress questioned these little items for
groceries that she knew had never been used, he gave up the place, he
could no longer get even with his master. It was a truly Chinese way of
looking at things.

These were some of the stories they told me in the house they had
fortified against the Boxers and held till the ships sent them a guard.
And once the sailors came there was no more danger, It was the luckless
country people who feared. The older men pitied and understood the
situation, but the mischievous young midshipmen took a fearful joy in
scaring the problematical enemy.

“Who goes there?”

“Belong my,” answered the shivering coolie, endeavouring to slip past,
and in deadly terror that the pointed rifle would go off. They were
ground between two millstones those unfortunate peasants. The Boxers
harried them, and then the foreigners came and avenged their wrongs on
these who had done probably no harm. Always it is these helpless serfs
who suffer in case of war. Other classes may suffer--these are sure to.

They will never hold this house again should necessity arise, for the
well that gave them water has gone dry.

Of course everyone hopes and says, that the necessity never will arise
again but for all that, they are not, the foreign settlers in China,
quite as certain of their safety as one would be in a country town in
England, for instance. They came in to afternoon tea and tennis, men
and women, and they gave all attention to the amusement in hand, a
lighthearted, cheerful set of people, and then one little speech and one
saw there was another side. There was always the _might be_. Everything
was going on as usual, everywhere around were peaceable, subservient
people, and yet--and yet terrible things had happened in the past,
who could say if they would not happen again. Every now and again, not
dominating the conversation, but running a subcurrent to it, would
come up the topic of the preparations they had made in case of “another
outbreak.”

One woman kept a box of clothes at Tientsin.

“I wonder you don’t,” she said looking at her hostess. “No, my dear,
don’t you remember yet, I never take sugar. Thank you. You ought to
think about it, you know. It is really so awkward if one has to rush
away in a hurry to find oneself without clothes.”

Another woman laughed, and yet she was very much in earnest.

“That’s not the first thing to worry about. There, that was vantage to
them,” she interpolated, taking an interest in the game of tennis, “that
young {356}woman’s going to make a nice little player. No, what I think
is that the place they have chosen to hold is far too far away. Want
your clothes in Tientsin? I’m not at all sure you’ll get over that mile
and a half from your house in safety, and I’ve farther still to go,
with two little children too. Why don’t you get your husband to------ Oh
there they’ve finished! Now have I time for another set?”

“It’s after six.”

“Good gracious! And baby to bath! I must go. You speak to your husband
about another place, my dear. He’ll have some influence.”

“No, I wouldn’t try to hold any place again,” said my host, thinking
of the past, “I should be on the train and off to Tientsin at the first
hint of danger.”

“But suppose you couldn’t get away in time?”

“Well, of course, that’s possible,” he said thoughtfully, “and the
Chinese are beggars at pulling up railways.”

I listened, and then I understood how people get used to contemplating a
danger that is only possible, and not actually impending.

“If anything happens to Yuan Shih K’ai,” but then, of course, though
that is not only a possible, but even a probable danger, everyone hopes
that nothing will happen to Yuan Shih K’ai, just as if anything did
happen to him, they would hope things would not be as bad as they had
feared, and if their worst fears were realised, then they would hope
that they would be the lucky ones who would not be overwhelmed. This
is human nature, at least one side of human nature, the side of human
nature that has made of the British a great colonising people. The
autumn was coming, the golden, glowing {357}autumn of Northern China,
so, coming back to Peking, I determined to find out some place where I
could enjoy its beauties and write the book which my publisher expected.
Most people seem to think that the writing of a book is a mere question
of plenty of time, a good pen, paper, and ink. “You press the button, we
do the rest,” promises a certain firm that makes cameras; but I do not
find either writing or taking photographs quite so simple a matter as
all that. To do either, even as well as I can, I want to be by myself,
for I am a sociable being, I do love the society of my kind, to talk to
them, to exchange ideas with them, and when I am doing that, I cannot
give the time and attention it requires to writing. Everyone who writes
in China, and anyone who writes at all is moved to take pen in hand
to try and elucidate its mysteries, wants to write in a temple in the
Western Hills. I was no exception to the rule. The Western Hills, whose
rugged outlines you can see from Peking, called me, and I set out
to look for a temple. It was going to be easy enough to get one, for
“Legation” Peking goes to the hills in the summer, and when autumn holds
the land goes back to the joys of city life.

The first I inspected was the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha, a temple
which has many courtyards, and a figure of the Buddha, peacefully
sleeping. An emblem of peace looks the great bronze figure. He is, of
course, represented clothed, only his feet are bare, and the faithful
bring him offerings of shoes, rows and rows of shoes there were on a
shelf at the side of the temple, some colossal, three or four feet long,
and some tiny, some made after the fashion of the ordinary Chinese shoe,
of silk or {358}quilted satin, but some make-believe, and very excellent
make-believe, of paper. Looking at them I could not have told the
difference, and as the Buddha’s eyes are shut, he could not even go
as far as that. He certainly could not put them on, for his feet are
pressed closely together, the feet of a profoundly sleeping man. All is
peace here. Here there is no trouble, no anxiety, that sleeping figure
seems to say.

But there was for all that. Where in the world is there no trouble?

[Illustration: 0504]

It takes about three and a half hours to reach the Sleeping Buddha
Temple from Peking. First I took a rickshaw across the city. Then from
the northwest gate, the Hsi Chih Men, still by rickshaw, I went to the
Summer Palace, and I did the remaining five miles into the heart of the
hills on a donkey. I don’t like riding a donkey, five miles on a donkey
on an uncomfortable Chinese saddle, riding astride, wearies me to death,
and when I was just thinking life was no longer worth living I arrived,
and wandered into a courtyard where, at the head of some steps, stood a
little Chinese girl. She was dressed in the usual dress of a girl of the
better classes, a coat and trousers, like a man usually wears with us,
only the coat had a high collar standing up against her cheeks, and
because she was unmarried, she wore her hair simply drawn back from
her face and plaited in a long tail down her back, much as an English
schoolgirl wears it. She made me a pretty, shy salutation, and called to
her friend the Englishwoman, who had rented the courtyard, and who
was living here while she painted pictures. This lady was returning
to Peking she said, next day, but she {359}very kindly invited me to
luncheon, and she told me the Chinese girl’s story. She was practically
in hiding. She had been betrothed, of course, years before to some boy
she had never seen, and this year the time had arrived for the carrying
out of the contract. But young China is beginning to think it has rights
and objects to being disposed of in marriage without even a chance to
protest. It would not be much good the boy running away, however much
he objected to the matrimonial plans his family had made for him, for he
could be married quite easily in his absence, a cock taking his place;
but it beats even the Chinese to have a marriage without a bride,
therefore the girl had run away. The time was past and the contract had
not been carried out. Poor little girl! It surprised me that so shy and
quiet a little girl had found courage to defy authority and run away,
even though she had found out that her betrothed was as averse from the
marriage as she was. She had unbound her feet, as if to signalise her
freedom; but alas, the arch of her foot was broken, and she could never
hope to be anything but flat-footed, still that was better than walking
with stiff knees, on her heels, as if her legs were a couple of wooden
pegs like the majority of her fellow-countrywomen. The woman who was
befriending her suggested, as I was taking a temple in the hills, I
should give her sanctuary. That was all very well, but the care of
a helpless being, like a Chinese girl, is rather an undertaking. I
consulted a friend who had been in China many years, and he was emphatic
on the subject.

“No, no, no. Never have anything to do with a woman in China until
she is well over forty. You {360}don’t know the trouble you will let
yourself in for. Chinese women!” And he held up his hands. So it appears
that the secluded life does not make them all that they ought to be.

However, while I was considering the matter, some woman in Peking,
kinder and less cautious than I, stepped in and the little girl has
found an asylum, and is, I am assured by a friend, all right, and better
off than hundreds of her people. True she easily might be that, and yet
not have attained to much.

I always seem to be talking of the condition of the Chinese women, like
King Charles’s head, it comes into everything. After all, the condition
and status of half the nation must be always cropping up when one
considers the people at all. “Chinese women,” said a man, “are
past-mistresses in false modesty.” And again I thought what a commentary
on a nation. To Western eyes how it marks the subjection and the
ignorance of the women.

When the first baby is coming, the bride is supposed, though it would be
a tragedy beyond all words if she had no children, to be too shy to tell
her husband, or even her mother-in-law, so she puts on bracelets, and
then the family know that this woman, at least, is about to fulfil her
destiny. I hope the little Chinese girl I found up in the Temple of the
Sleeping Buddha will yet marry, marry someone she chooses herself, will
not need to pluck out the front hairs on her forehead, and will be on
such terms with her husband, that though she may with pride put on the
bracelets, she may rejoice openly that their love is crowned. I do not
think there will be any false modesty about her. {361}But I did not take
a courtyard in the Sleeping Buddha Temple. It was rented by the Y.M.C.A.
and I think that, combined with the donkey ride, put me off. I felt
I would rather go farther afield, farther away from the traces of the
foreigner, and I could have my pick of temples in September. I took the
San Shan An, in another valley, one of the lovely valleys of the world.

The San Shan An is only a small temple with a central courtyard and
two or three smaller ones, and I agreed to take it for the sum of
twenty-eight dollars a month. I engaged a cook and a boy, the boy’s
English was scanty and the cook had none, but I only paid the two
twenty-four dollars a month, six dollars less than the valued Tuan had
all to himself, and one day in September I saw my household gods on to
two carts, went myself by train, and got out at the first station at the
Western Hills.

I had taken the precaution, as I had no Chinese, and I did not expect
to meet anybody who understood English, to have the name of the temple
written out in Chinese characters, and descending from the train, after
a little trouble I found one among the wondering crowd who could read,
and all that crowd, a dirty little crowd, took an interest in my further
movements. They immediately supplied me with donkeys and boys to choose
from, and I had the greatest difficulty in explaining that I did not
want a donkey, all I wanted was a guide. The only one who seemed to
grasp it was a very ragged individual who, with basket under his
arm, and scoop in hand, was gathering manure. He promptly seized my
dispatch-box, all the luggage I carried, and we started, pursued by
disappointed boys with donkeys, {362}who could not believe that the
foreign woman was actually going to walk in the wake of a man who
gathered manure. I must confess it was a most humble procession, even in
my eyes, who am not accustomed to standing on my dignity. My only sister
had given me that dispatch-case as a parting present, and it looked
wonderfully rich and cultured in the very grimy hand that grasped it
so triumphantly. I should never have had the heart to turn that old
man away, he looked so pleased at having got a job. Off he went, and
we walked for over an hour across a flat and rough country, where the
kaoliang had been gathered on to the threshing floors, and all the
people this gorgeous hot autumn day were at work there.

A threshing floor in the East makes one think of Ruth and Boaz, and
possibly these people were not unlike those who worked on that threshing
floor in Judah so long ago, only they were dirty and poor, and not
comely as we picture the Moabitish beauty. It was hot as we walked, and
I grew a little doubtful as we approached the hills--were we going in
the right direction.

“San Shan Erh,” said my guide, and he repeated it, and I grew more
doubtful, for I did not know then that these hill people say, “San Shan
Erh” where a more cultivated man would say “San Shan An,” it is
very Pekingese to have many “r’s” to roll. He combined business with
pleasure, or rather he combined his business, and whenever he came
across a patch of manure, he gathered it in, and I waited patiently. At
last we came to the entrance of a well-wooded valley, and a well-wooded
valley is a precious thing in China, and we went up a roughly
{363}flagged pathway, flagged, I dare say, a couple of hundred years ago
or more, a steep pathway by a graveyard, and between the trees that were
just taking on a tinge of autumn gold, we arrived at a plateau built
up with stones, and along beneath some trees we entered a gate and
came into a square brick paved courtyard surrounded by low, one-storied
buildings, and with four pine-trees raising their dark green branches
against the deep blue sky. I had seen so many temple courtyards, and
now here was one, that for a space, was to be my very own. In China,
it seems, the gods always make preparation for taking in guests--at a
price.

[Illustration: 0510]

But was this my temple?

My heart sank, as for a moment I realised what a foolish thing I had
done. I had supposed, after my usual fashion, that everything would go
smoothly for me, and now at the very outset, things were going wrong,
and I knew I was helpless. Two men in blue, of the coolie class, old,
and very, very dirty, looked at me, and talked unintelligibly to my
guide, and he, very intelligibly, demanded his _cumshaw_, but there was
no sign of my possessions.

For the moment I feared, feared greatly, I was entirely alone, what
might not happen to me? I might not even have been brought to the right
temple, for all I knew. In bridge, when doubtful they say play to win,
so I decided I must act as if everything was all right, and I paid my
guide his _cumshaw_, saw him go, and not quite as happy as I should have
liked to have been, inspected the temple. There was one big room that I
decided would do me for a living-room, if this were really my temple, as
it had a sort of little veranda or {364}look-out place, which stood out
on the cliff side overlooking the place of tombs, and the plain where in
the distance, about twelve miles as the crow flies, I could see in the
clear atmosphere the walls of Peking. They might as well have been a
hundred, I thought ruefully, for all the help I was likely to get from
that city to-night, if this were not really my temple.

A Chinese temple is sparsely furnished. All the rooms had stone floors,
all of them opened into the courtyard and not into one another, and for
all furniture there were the usual k’angs, two cupboards, three tables,
and three uncomfortable Chinese chairs. I had hired an easy chair, a
lamp, and with my camp outfit I expected to manage. But where was my
camp outfit?

I could not understand a word of what the people said, but they seemed
friendly, they well might be, I thought, I was entirely at their mercy,
and a very dirty old gentleman with claw-like hands, an unshaven head,
and the minutest of queues came and contemplated me in a way which was
decidedly disconcerting. I went and looked at the gods, dusty and dirty
too in their sanctuaries. There was a most musical bell alongside one of
them and when I struck it, the clang seemed to emphasise my loneliness
and helplessness. Could this be the right temple? If it was not where
was I to go? There was no means of getting back to Peking, short of
walking, even then the gates must be shut long before I arrived. As far
as I knew, there was no foreigner left in the hills. I went on to the
look-out place, and looked out over the plain, and the old man came and
looked at me, and I grew more and more uncomfortable. {365}Tiffin time
was long past, afternoon tea time came and went. It had been warm enough
in the middle of the day, but the evenings grow chill towards the end of
September, and I had only a white muslin gown on. At the very best the
prospect of sleeping on one of those cold and stony k’angs did not look
inviting. I could have cried as the shadows grew long and the sun set.

And then, oh joy, down beneath me, out on the hill-side, I heard a
voice, an unmistakable American voice. I had been terrified, and like a
flash my terrors rolled away. I looked over and there were a man and a
woman taking an evening stroll, very much at home, for neither of them
had on a hat. I forgot in a moment I had been afraid and I hailed them
at once.

“Is this the San Shan An?”

“Sure,” said the man as they looked up in surprise.

Well, that was a relief anyhow, and I thought how foolish I had been to
be afraid. But where were the carts?

The stranger said they ought to have arrived hours ago, and then they
bid me good-bye, and I waited once more. I was uncomfortable now--I
was no longer afraid. At least not till it grew dark, and then, I must
confess, the place seemed to me strangely eerie. The sun was set,
the moon was old, and not due till the morning, the faint wind moaned
through the pine-branches, and the darkness was full of all sorts of
strange, mysterious, unexplainable sounds. It was cold, cold, and the
morning and the light were a good eleven hours off.

Then, just as I was in the depths of despair, there {366}was a commotion
in the courtyard, a lantern flashed on the trunks of the pine-trees, and
a kindly American voice out of the darkness said:

“I thought I had better come down and see if your outfit had turned up.”

“There is not a sign of it.” I wonder if there was relief in my voice.

“No, so the people here tell me, and they are in rather a way about
you.”

So that was why the dirty old gentleman had apparently been stalking me.
It had never occurred to me that these people could be troubled about
me, this was a new and kindly light on Chinese character.

“Perhaps you’ll come along with me,” went on my new friend. “I’ve got
two ladies staying with me from Tientsin, and they’ll do the best they
can for you for the night.”

Bless him, bless him, I could have hugged him. Go, of course I went
thankfully, and with his lantern, he guided me over the steepest and
roughest of mountain paths till we came to his temple, a much bigger one
than mine.

“I thought there was no one left in the hills,” I said as we went along.

“I’m going next week,” he said, “but I love this valley. There is only
one lovelier in the world--the one I was born in.”

“And where is that?”

“The Delaware Valley. These people,” he went on, “are mightily relieved
to hear I am going to keep you for the night.”

Again I thanked him, and indeed he and his friends were friends in
need. “And I cannot make them understand like you do,” I said a little
futilely. {367}“Well, I ought to,” he laughed. “I’m the Language
Officer.”

He decided my carts had had time to come from Peking and go back again,
and they must have gone up the wrong valley, and he and his friends took
me in and fed me, and comforted me, so that I was ready to laugh at my
woes, and then, just as we were finishing an excellent dinner, there
appeared on the terrace, where we were dining, an agitated individual
with a guttering candle, my boy, whom I hardly knew by sight yet.

He told a tale of woe and suffering. According to him, the road to Jehol
must have been nothing to that road from Peking to the Western Hills,
and I and my new friends went down to inspect what was left of my
outfit. There wasn’t much in it that was smashable, and beyond salad oil
in the bread and kerosene in the salt, there was not much damage done.
I could not understand though how they had come to grief at all, for
the loads were certainly light for two carts, and once in the hills, of
course, the goods were carried by men. And then the truth dawned on me.
It was the way of a Chinese servant all over. I had been foolish enough
to give my boy the five dollars to pay for the two carts. He had made
one do, and pocketed two dollars fifty cents. I asked him if such were
not the case.

“Yes, sah,” said he, and I wondered, till I found that he always said
“Yes, sah,” whether he understood me or not. More often than not he did
not understand, but that “sah” made me understand he had learned his
little English from a countryman of my friend, the Language Officer.

And after all I think I was glad of the little adventure. I had not
realised how eerie a temple would be all by myself at night, and it was
good to think that for a night or two at least there would be people of
my own colour within a quarter of an hour of me on the hill-side.

[Illustration: 0518]



CHAPTER XXI--FROM THE SAN SHAN AN

{369}

_An old temple--Haunted--Wolf with green eyes--Loneliness--Death
of missionaries--Fear--Sanctuaries--“James Buchanan”--Valiant
farmers--Autumn tints--Famous priest--Sacrifice of disciples--Tree
conserving--Camels at my gate--Servants--“Cook book”--Enchanted
hills--Cricket cages--Kindly people--The fall of Belshazzar--Hope for
the future._

|And with two servants and the temple coolies to wait upon me I settled
down in the San Shan An, the Temple of the Three Mountains, the oldest
temple in this valley of temples, built long ago in the Sung Dynasty.
They said it was haunted, haunted by the ghost of a big snake, and when
the mud from the roof fell as so much dust on the stone floor, and over
me, my tables and chairs and bed, my boy stretched out his arms and
explained that the snake had done it. The snake, I found, always
accounted for dust. When my jam and butter disappeared, and
I suspected human agency, he said in his pidgin-English,
“I tink--I tink----” and then words failed him, and he broke out into
spelling, “I tink it R--A--T.” Why he could spell that word and not
pronounce it I do not know, but until I left I did not know that the
snake that lived in my roof was supernatural. I don’t think even I could
be afraid of the ghost of a snake. The temple up above, the Language
{370}Officer’s temple, was haunted by a wolf with green eyes, and that
would have been a different matter. I am glad I did not dare the wolf
with green eyes. For I was all by myself. The Language Officer, the
Good Samaritan, went back to Peking, and, except at week-ends, when I
persuaded a friend or two to dissipate my loneliness, I was the only
foreigner in the valley. Go back to Peking until the work I had set
myself to do was done, I determined I would not. It has been a curious
and lonely existence away in the hills, in the little temple embosomed
in trees, among a people who speak not a word of my language; but it had
its charm. I had my camp-bed set up on the little platform looking out
over the place of tombs, with the great Peking plain beyond, and there,
while the weather was warm, I had all my meals, and there, warm or cold,
I always slept. When the evening shadows fell I was lonely, I was worse
than lonely, all that I had missed in life came crowding before my eyes,
all the years seemed empty, wasted, all the future hopeless, and I went
to bed and tried to sleep, if only to forget.

And China is not a good place in which to try the lonely life. There are
too many tragic histories associated with it, and one is apt to remember
them at the wrong times. Was I afraid at night? I was, I think, a
little, but then I am so often afraid, and so often my fears are false,
that I have learned not to pay much attention to them. I knew very well
that the Legations would not have allowed me, without a word of warning,
to take a temple in the hills, had there been any likelihood of danger,
but still, when the evening shadows fell, I could not but remember
{371}once again, Sir Robert Hart’s dictum, and that if anything did
happen, I was cut off here from all my kind. It was just Fear, the Fear
that one personifies, but another time, if I elect to live by myself
among an alien people, I do not think I will improve my mind by reading
first any account of the atrocities those people have perpetrated at
no very remote period. As the darkness fell I was apt to start and look
over my shoulder at any unexplainable sound, to remember these things
and to hope they would not happen again, which is first cousin to
fearing they would. At Pao Ting Fu, not far from here as distances
in China go, during the Boxer trouble, the Boxers attacked the
missionaries, both in the north and the south suburb, just outside the
walls of the town. In the north suburb the Boxers and their following
burned those missionaries to death in their houses, because they would
not come out. They dared not. Think how they must have feared, those
men and women in the prime of their life, when they stayed and faced
a cruel death from which there was no escape, rather than chance the
mercies of the mob outside. One woman prayed them to save her baby girl,
her little, tender Margaret, not a year old, her they might kill, and
her husband, and her two little boys, but would no one take pity on the
baby, the baby that as yet could not speak. But though many of those who
heard her prayer and repeated it, pitied, they did not dare help. It
is a notable Chinese characteristic--obedience to orders--and the
lookers-on thought that those in authority having ordered the slaughter
of the missionaries it was not their part to interfere. They told
afterwards how, as a brute rushed up the {372}stairs, the mother,
desperate, seized a pistol that lay to her hand and shot him. I am
always glad she did that. And others told, how, through the mounting
flames, they could see her husband walking up and down, leading his two
little boys by the hand, telling them--ah, what could any man say under
such terrible circumstances as that.

And in the south suburb the missionary doctor was true almost to the
letter of the faith he preached. As the mob surrounded him, he took a
revolver, showed them how perfect was his command over the weapon, how
he could have dealt death right and left, and then he tossed it aside
and submitted to their wicked will, and they took him and cut off his
head. But the fate of the women always horrified me most. It was that
that seemed most terrible in the dusk of the evening. They took two of
the unmarried women, and one was too terrified to walk--having once seen
a Chinese crowd, filthy, horrible and always filthy and horrible even
when they are friendly, one realises what it must be to be in their
power, one understands that girl’s shrinking terror. Her they tied,
hands and feet together, and slung her from a pole, exactly as they
carry pigs to market. Is this too terrible a thing to write down for
everyone to read? It almost seems to me it is. If so forgive me. I used
to think about it those evenings alone in the San Shan An. And one of
those women, they say, was always brave, and gave to a little child her
last little bit of money as she walked to her death, and the other, who
was so terrified at first, recovered herself, and walked courageously as
they led her to execution outside the city walls.

When I thought of those women I was ashamed [373]of the Fear that made
me afraid to look behind me in the dark, made me listen intently for
unusual sounds, and hear a thousand unexplainable ones. I, in the broad
daylight, went and looked in the two sanctuaries that were at each end
of my courtyard, each with an image and altar in it. In both were
stored great matting bundles of Spanish chestnuts, and in the larger,
oh sacrilege! oh bathos! was my larder, and I saw eggs, and meat, and
cabbage, and onions, coming out of it, but I do not think anything could
have induced me to go into those places after nightfall. I ask myself
why--I wonder--but I find no answer. The gods were only images, the dust
and dirt of long years was upon them, they were dead, dead, and yet I,
the most modern of women was afraid--at night I was afraid, the fear
that seems to grow up with us all was upon me. By and by a friend sent
me out “James Buchanan”--a small black and white k’ang dog, about six
inches high, but his importance must by no means be measured by his
size. I owe much gratitude to James Buchanan for he is a most cheerful
and intelligent companion. I intended to part with him when I left the
hills, but I made him love me, and then to my surprise, I found I loved
him, and he must share my varying fortunes. But what is a wandering
woman, like I am, to do with a little dog?

[Illustration: 0524]

We went for walks together up and down the hill-sides, and the people
got to know us, and laughed and nodded as we passed. The Chinese seem
fond of animals, and yet you never see a man out for a walk with his
dog. A man with a bird-cage in his hand, taking birdie for a walk, is a
common {374}sight in China, so common that you forget to notice it,
but I have never seen a man followed by a dog, though most of the
farm-houses appear to have one or two to guard them. Here, in the hills,
they were just the ordinary, ugly _wonks_ one sees in Peking, not nearly
such handsome beasts as I saw up in the mountains. The farms in these
hills evidently require a good deal of guarding, for I would often hear
the crack of a gun. Some farmer, so my friend, the Language Officer,
told me, letting the “stealer man,” and anyone else whom it might
concern, know that he had fire-arms and was prepared to use them. At
first the reports used to startle me, and make me look out into the
darkness of the hill-side, darkness deepened here and there by a tiny
light, and I used to wonder if anything was wrong. “Buchanan” always
regarded those reports as entirely out of place, and said so at the
top of his small voice. But then he was always challenging _wonks_, or
finding “stealer men,” so I paid no attention to him.

At the first red streak of dawn, for the temple faced the east, I
wakened. And all my fears, the dim, mysterious, unexplainable fears born
of the night, and the loneliness, and the old temple, were gone, rolled
away with the darkness. The crescent moon and the jewelled stars paled
before the sun, rising in a glory of purple and gold, a glory that
brightened to crimson, the pungent, aromatic fragrance of the pines and
firs came to my nostrils, their branches were outlined against the deep
blue of the sky, and I realised gradually that another blue day had
dawned and the world was not empty, but full of the most wonderful
possibilities waiting but to be grasped. Oh those dawnings in the San
Shan An! Those dawnings after a night in the open air! Never shall I
forget them!

And the valley was lovely that autumn weather. Day after day, day after
day, was the golden sunshine, the clear, deep blue sky, the still, dry,
invigorating air--no wonder everyone with a literary turn yearns to
write a book in a valley of the Western Hills. And this valley of the
San Shan An was the loveliest valley of them all. It, too, is a valley
of temples, to what gods they were set up I know not, by whom they were
set up I know not, only because of the gods and the temples there are
trees, trees in plenty, evergreen firs and pines, green-leaved poplars
and ash-trees, maples and Spanish chesnuts. At first they were green,
these deciduous trees, and then gradually, as autumn touched them
tenderly with his fingers, they took on gorgeous tints, gold and brown,
and red, and amber, the summer dying gloriously under the cloudless blue
sky. They tell me that American woods show just such tints, but I have
not been to America, and I have seen nothing to match this autumn in the
Chinese hills. And I had not thought to see beauty like this in China!

I counted seven temples, and there were probably more. Up the hill
to the north of my valley, beyond a large temple that I shall
always remember for the quaint and picturesque doorway, that I have
photographed, was a plateau to be reached by a stiff climb, and here
was a ruined shrine where sat calmly looking over the plain, as he had
probably looked in life, the marble figure of a very famous priest of
the long ago. It is ages since this priest {376}lived in the hills,
but his memory is fragrant still. He had two disciples. I wonder if the
broken marble figures, one beside him and one on the ground outside the
shrine, are figures of them. There came a drought upon the land, the
crops failed and the people starved, and these two, to propitiate a
cruel or neglectful Deity, flung themselves into a well in the temple
with the beautiful doorway. Whether the rain came I know not, but
tradition says that the two disciples instead of perishing rose up
dragons. Personally I feel that must have been an unpleasant surprise
for the devotees, but you never know a Chinaman’s taste, perhaps they
liked being dragons. The country people seem to think it was an honour.
There was a farmhouse just beyond this shrine, a poor little place, but
here on the flat top of the hill there was a little arable land, and the
Chinese waste no land. Far up the hill-sides, in the most inaccessible
places, I could see these little patches of cultivated ground. It seemed
to me that the labour of reaching them would make the handful of grain
they produced too expensive, but labour hardly counts in China. Up the
paths toiled men and women, intent on getting the last grain out of the
land. Off the beaten ways walking is pretty nearly impossible so steep
are the hill-sides, but of course there are paths, paths everywhere,
paved paths, in China there are no untrodden ways, and upon these paths
I would meet the peasants and the priests, clad like ordinary peasants
in blue cotton, only with shaven heads. My own landlord whom my boy
called “Monk,” and generally added, “He bad man,” used to come regularly
for his rent, and he was so fat that the wicked evidently flourished
like a green bay tree. All the priests, I think, let out their temples
as long as they can get tenants, and whatever they are--my landlord
had beaten a man to death--much must be forgiven them. They have gained
merit because, in this treeless China, they have conserved and planted
trees. Some little profit, I suppose they make out of their trees
because, one day in September, I waked to the fact that at my gate, how
they had climbed up the toilsome, roughly-paved way I know not, was
a train of camels, and they had come to take away the sacks that were
stored in the sanctuary under the care of the god. What on earth was
done with those Spanish chestnuts? They must have been valuable when
they were worth a train of camels to take them away.

[Illustration: 0530]

[Illustration: 0530]

As far as I could see there was no worship done in my temple, the
coolies, who carefully locked the sanctuary doors at night, were filthy
past all description. I tried to put it out of my thoughts that they
occupied a k’ang at night in the room that did duty for my kitchen, and
I am very sure that they were the poorest of the poor, but at night
I would see the youngest and dirtiest of them take a small and
evil-smelling lamp inside along with the god, but what he did there I
never knew. Only the lamp inside, behind the paper of the windows lit
up all the lattice-work and made of that sanctuary, that shabby,
neglected-looking place, a thing of beauty. But, indeed, the outside of
all the buildings was wonderful at night. In the daytime when I looked I
saw how beautiful was the lattice-work which made up the entire top half
of my walls. At night in the courtyard when only a single candle was
lighted {378}their beauty was forced upon me, whether I would or not.
Always I went outside to look at those rooms lighted at night. I walked
up and down the courtyard in the dark--“James Buchanan” generally hung
on to the hem of my gown--I looked at the lighted lattice-work of the
windows, and I listened to the servants and the coolies talking, and I
wondered what they discussed so endlessly, in voices that sounded quite
European.

They were good servants. The cook I know I shall regret all my days,
for I never expect to get a better, and the boy was most attentive. Any
little thing that he could do for me he always did, and the way they
uncomplainingly washed up plates never ceased to command my admiration.
I had only a camp outfit, the making of books may be weariness unto the
flesh, as Solomon says it is, but even then it does not make me a rich
woman, so I did not wish to spend more than I could help, and yet I
wanted to entertain a friend or two occasionally. This entailed washing
the plates between the courses, and the servants did it without a
murmur. I came to think it was quite the correct thing to wait while
the plates and knives for the next course were washed up. My friends,
of course, knew all about it, and entered into the spirit of the thing
cheerfully, but the servants never gave me away. You would have thought
I had a splendid pantry, and my little scraps of white metal spoons
were always polished till they looked like the silver they ought to have
been. My table linen I made simply out of the ordinary blue cotton one
meets all over China, and it looked so nice, so suitable to meals on
the look-out place, that I shall always cherish a tenderness for blue
cotton. {379}Indeed, but for the lonely nights when one thought, it was
delightful. I only hope my friends enjoyed coming to me, as much as I
enjoyed having them. Their presence drove away all fears. I never feared
the gods in their sanctuaries, I never thought of those who had perished
in the Boxer trouble or the possibility of the return of such days when
they were with me. I thought I had lost the delights of youth, the
joy of the land of long ago, but I found the sensation of entertaining
friends in the San Shan An was like the make-believe parties of one’s
childhood. Sitting on the look-out place, away to the south, we could
see a range of low, bald hills. They were enchanted hills. The Chinese
would not go near them, for all that the caves they held hidden in their
folds were full of magnificent jewels. We planned to go over and get
them some day before I left the hills, and make ourselves rich for life.
But they were guarded by gnomes, and elves, and demons, who by their
nefarious spells kept us away, though we did not fear like the Chinese,
and we are not rich yet, though jewels are there for the taking.

Oh, those sunny days in the mountain temple when we read poetry, and
told stories, and dreamed of the better things life held for us in the
future! They were good days, days in my life to be remembered, if no
more good ever comes to me. Was it the exhilarating air, or the company,
or the temple precincts? All thanks give I to those dead gods who gave
me, for a brief space, something that was left out of my life.

There was only one blot. That imaginative document known as “Cook’s
book” was brought to me afterwards. It wasn’t a book at all, needless to
{380}say. It was written on rejected scraps of my typewriting paper, and
it generally stated I had eaten more “Chiken” than would have sufficed
to run a big hotel, and disposed of enough “col” to keep a small railway
engine of my own. Then the flour, and the butter, and the milk, and the
lard, I was supposed to have consumed! I did not at first like to
say much, because the servants were so good in that matter of washing
plates, and knives, and forks, and whenever I did remonstrate the boy
murmured something about “Master.” He was a true Chinaman, he felt
sure I would not grudge anything to make a man comfortable. The woman
evidently did not matter. She was never urged as an excuse for a heavy
bill. I put it to him that the presence of “Master” need not add so
greatly to the coal bill, and I put it very gently, till one day he
mentioned with pride that “Missie other boy was a great friend of his.”
 And I, remembering Tuan’s powers in the matter of squeeze, had gone
about getting these servants through quite different channels! But once
this knowledge was borne in on me, I became hardhearted. I threatened to
do the marketing myself.

“I talkee cook,” said the crestfallen boy, and he did “talkee cook,”
 said, I suppose, Missie wasn’t quite the fool they had counted her, and
presently he came back and returned me fifteen cents! After that I had
no mercy, and I regularly questioned every item of my bills.

But they were simple souls, and I couldn’t help liking them. It seemed
hardly possible they could belong to the same people who had slung a
helpless woman from a pole like a pig, bearing her to her death, a woman
from whom they had had naught {381}but kindness. And yet they were. The
selfsame subservience that made them bow themselves to the Boxer yoke,
was exactly the quality that made them pleasant to me, who was in
authority over them. They were just peasants of Babylon, making the best
of life, deceiving and dissimulating, because deception is the safeguard
of the slave, the only safeguard he knows. And they certainly made the
best of life. It amused me to watch their pleasures, those that were
visible to my eyes. They had a little feast one night, with my stores,
I doubt not, and they caught and kept crickets in little three-cornered
cages which they made themselves. At first, when I went to the temple,
these cages were hung from the eaves outside, but as the weather grew
colder they were taken inside, and I could hear a cheery chirping, long
after the crickets had gone from the hills outside. It rained and was
cold the first week in October, and the servants, like the babies they
were, shivered, and suggested, “Missie go back Peking,” and one day when
it rained hard my tiffin was two hours late, and was brought by a boy
who looked as if he were on the point of bursting into tears.

[Illustration: 0537]

Certainly those temples are not built for cold weather. Everything
is ordered in China, even the weather, and the first frost is due, I
believe, on the 1st of November, and yet, on that day, I sat in the warm
and pleasant sunshine writing on the platform that looked away to the
enchanted hills, reflecting a little sorrowfully that presently I would
be gone, and it would be abandoned for the winter.

For after that unexpected rain, which for once was not ordered, the days
were lovely, and the nights {382}times of delight. The stars hung like
diamond drops in the sky, the planets were scintillating crescents, and,
when the moon rose, the silver moon, she turned the courtyard and the
temple into a dream palace such as never was on sea or land. It was
beauty and delight given, oh given with a lavish hand.

And the people I saw in the hills were the kindliest I had yet met in
China. I had little enough to do with them, I could not communicate
with them, and yet this was borne in on me. Whenever we met, dirty
brown faces smiled upon me, kindly voices with a burr in them gave
me greeting, I was regularly offered the baby of the farm-house at my
gates, much to that young gentleman’s discomfiture, and whenever there
was anything to see, they evidently invited me to stay and share the
sight. Once a bridal procession passed with much beating of gongs, the
bride shut up in the red sedan chair, and all the people about stood
looking on, and I stayed too. Another time they were killing a pig, an
unwieldy, gruesome beast, that made me forswear pork, and I was invited
to attend the great event. The poor pig was very sorry for himself,
and was squealing loudly, but much as I wished to show I appreciated
kindliness, I could not accept that invitation.

And here in the Western Hills I sat in judgment upon the people I
had known of all my life and been amongst for the last ten months. Of
course, I have no right to sit in judgment but after all, I should be
a fool to live among people for some time and yet have no opinion about
them. And it seemed to me that I was looking with modern eyes upon the
{383}survival of one of the great powers of the ancient world, Babylon
come down to modern times, Babylon cumbrously adapting herself to the
pressure of the nations who have raced ahead of the civilisation that
was hers when they were barbarian hordes.

All along the Pacific Coast, on the west of America, and the east of
Australia, they fear the Chinaman, and--I used to say his virtues. I put
it the wrong way. What the white races fear--and rightly fear--is that
the Chinaman will come in such hordes, he will lower the standard of
living, he will bring such great pressure to bear, he will reduce the
people of the land in which he elects to live, the people of the working
classes, to his own condition--the hopeless condition of the toiling
slaves of Babylon. It has been well said that the East, China, is the
exact opposite of the West in every thought and feeling. In the West
we honour individualism. This is true of almost every nation. A man is
taught from his earliest youth to depend to a great degree upon himself,
that he alone is responsible for his own actions. Even the women of the
more advanced nations--it marks their advancement, whatever people may
think--are clamouring for a position of their own, to be judged on their
merits, not to be one of a class bound by iron custom to go one way and
one way only. In the East this is reversed. No man has a right to judge
for himself, he is hide-bound by custom, he dare not step out one pace
from the beaten path his fathers trod. The filial piety of the Chinese
has been lauded to the skies. In truth it is a virtue that has become a
curse. To his elders the Chinaman {384}must give implicit, unquestioning
obedience. His work, his marriage, the upbringing of his children, the
whole ordering of his life is not his business but the business of those
in authority over him. If he stepped out and failed, his failure would
affect the whole community. Whatever he does affects not only
himself, but the farthest ramifications of his numerous family. This
interdependence makes for a certain excellence, an excellence that was
reached by the Chinese nation some thousands of years ago, and then--it
is stifling.

This patriarchal system, this continual keeping of the eyes upon the
past, has done away in the nation with all self-reliance. A man must be
not only a genius, but possessed of an extraordinarily strong will-power
if he manage to shake off the trammels and go his own way unaided, if
he exercise the sturdy self-reliance that sent the nations of the West
ahead by leaps and bounds, though the Chinese had worked their way
to civilisation ages before them. Pages might be written on the
subservience and ignorance of the women.

“Oh but a woman has influence,” say the men who know China most
intimately. And of course she has influence, but in China it must often
be the worst form of power, the influence of the favourite, favoured
slave. The woman’s influence is the influence of a degraded, ignorant,
and servile class, a class that every man treats openly with a certain
contempt, a class that is crippled, mentally and bodily. The Chinese,
be it counted to them for grace, have always held in high esteem a
well-educated man, educated on their archaic lines; but not, I think,
till this century, has it ever occurred to {385}them that a woman would
be better educated. A cruel drag upon the nation must be the appalling
ignorance of its women, the intense ignorance of half the population.
Things are changing, they say, but, of necessity, they change most
slowly. Knowledge of any kind takes long, long to permeate an inert
mass.

[Illustration: 0543]

We praise the Chinaman for his industry. But, in truth, we praise
without due cause. We of the West have long since learned of the dignity
of labour and if we do not always live up to our ideals, at least we
appreciate them, and judged by this standard the Chinaman is found
wanting. He does not appreciate the dignity of labour. The long nails on
the fingers of the man upon whom fortune has smiled proclaim to all that
he has no need to use his hands; his fat, flabby, soft body declares him
rich and well-fed, and that there is no need to exert himself. He is
a man to be envied by the greater part of the nation. The forceful,
strenuous life of the West, the life that has made the nations has
no charms for, excites no admiration in his breast. Manual labour and
strife is for the man who cannot help himself. And, man for man, his
manual labour will by no means compare with that accomplished by the
man of the West. Nominally he works from dawn to dark, really he wastes
two-thirds of the time, sometimes in useless, misdirected effort,
sometimes in mere idle loitering. He is a slave in all but name. His
life is dull, dull and colourless; he can look forward to no recreation
when his work is over, therefore he spins it out the livelong day. Home
life, in the best sense of the term, he has none, he may just as well
stay at his {386}work, exchanging ideas and arguing with his fellows.

Something to hope for, to live for, to work for, seems to me the great
desideratum of the majority of the Chinese nation, something a little
beyond the colourless round of life. The greater part of the nation is
poor, so poor that industry is thrust upon it, unless it worked it would
of necessity die; the struggle for life absorbs all its energies, gives
it no time for thought sufficient to raise it an inch above the dull
routine that makes up the daily round, but the country is by no means
poor, had it been there would have been no such civilisation so early
and so lasting in the world’s history, no such fostering of a race that
now, in spite of most evil sanitary conditions, raises four generations
to the three of the man of the West.

China is a rich land and once she is wiser she will be far richer still,
for in her mountains are such store of iron and coal as, once worked,
may well revolutionise the industrial world.

Now the thought of revolutionising the condition of the industrial world
brings me quite naturally to the consideration of missionary effort.

For the last two hundred and fifty years the Catholic, and for the last
hundred years the Protestant Churches, have been working in China with a
view to proselytising the people. And converts are notoriously harder to
make than in any other missionary field. Still they are made.

To me, a Greek, it does not seem to matter by what name a man calls upon
the Great Power that is over us all--the thing that really matters
is the life of the man who calls upon that God. Now the missionaries,
whether they make converts, or whether they do not, do this, they set
up a higher standard of living. They come among these slave people, they
educate them, men and women, they care for the sick by thousands, and
by their very presence among them they show them, I speak of material
things, there is something beyond their own narrow round, and they make
them desire these better things. If the Western nations are wise they
will allow no poor missionaries in China, it is so easy to sink to the
level of the people, to become as Chinese as the Chinese themselves.
Personally, I think it is a mistake to conform to Chinese customs. The
missionaries are there to preach the better customs of the West and
there must be no lowering of the standard. The Chinaman wants to be
taught self-reliance, he wants to be taught self-respect, and, last but
by no means least, he wants to be taught to amuse himself rationally
and healthily. Now this in a measure, even this last, is what the
missionaries, the majority of them, are teaching him, though, doubtless,
they would not put their teaching in exactly those words, might be even
surprised to hear it so described. They are helping to break down the
great patriarchal system which has been stifling China for so many
hundreds of years. They are teaching responsibility, the responsibility
of every man and woman for his and her own doings.

And they are pioneers of trade, forerunners of the merchants who must
inevitably follow in their footsteps. There are those who will say that
they do not influence the more highly educated portion of the community,
but they come to those who need {388}them most. The rich can afford to
send their sons abroad, to pay for medical attendance. It is to those
of humble means that the schools and hospitals introduced by foreign
charity are an immeasurable advantage, a boon beyond price. For the man
who has once come in contact with these foreigners never forgets. He has
seen their possessions, humble in their eyes, wonderful in his, and in
his heart a desire is implanted--a desire for something a little
better than has satisfied his fathers. And slowly this little leaven of
discontent, heavenly discontent and dissatisfaction with things as they
are, will permeate the whole lump. China is daily coming more in
contact with the rest of the world. That world ruthlessly shuts out her
proletariat because it will not be pulled down. It is well then that the
proletariat should be levelled up. The process is slowly beginning when
the missionaries put into the hands of a labourer the Gospels, tell him
he is of as much value as the President in his palace, make him desire
to read, to wash his face to be just a little better than his fellows.
The creed he holds is a small matter, but it is a great matter if he
be no longer a slave, but a self-respecting man fit to mingle on equal
terms with the men of the West. Such a man will be more capable, more
ready to develop the resources of his own rich land; as a trader he
will be of ten times more value to the mercantile world for ever on the
look-out for a market. Whether the nations then need fear him will be
matter for further consideration. It is possible things may be adjusted
on a comfortable basis of supply and demand.

It would be unfair to give all credit for changing {3898}China to the
missionaries. They are only one factor in a general movement that her
own sons, the men of new China, have deeply at heart. The past is going,
but the great change will not be anything violent. The Boxer tragedy
awakened the Western world thoroughly to what it had always felt, that
an Empire like Babylon was unsuited to the present day, and they said
so with shot and shell, and China is taking the lesson to heart, slowly,
slowly, but she is taking it. She will have learned it thoroughly when
the need for change, the desire for better things, the power to insist
on a higher standard of living shall have come to her lower classes, and
then she will not change exactly as the Western world would wish, but as
she herself thinks best. The Chinese have always adapted themselves, and
in these modern times they will use the same methods that they have done
through the centuries.

There came forth the fingers of a man’s hand and wrote upon the plaster
of the wall of the King’s Palace, “_MENE MENE TEKEL UPHAR-SIN_.” In that
night was Belshazzar, the King of the Chaldeans, slain, and Darius the
Mede took the kingdom. So the men who made the Forbidden City sacred
have passed away, the Dowager-Empress who defied the West has gone to
her long home, the Emperor is but a tiny child, his Empire is confined
within the pinkish red walls of the Inner City, and the Republic, the
new young Republic with a Dictator at its head, reigns in his stead. But
the nation is stirring, the slow-moving, patient slaves of Babylon. Will
not a new nation arise that shall be great in its own way even as
the nations of the West are great, for surely the spirit of those men
{390}who built the wondrous courtyards and halls of audience of the
Forbidden City, who planned the pleasure-grounds at Jehol, who stretched
the wall over two thousand miles of mountain and valley, who conceived
the Altar of Heaven, the most glorious altar ever dedicated to any
Deity, must be alive and active as it was a thousand’ years ago. And
when that spirit animates not the few taskmasters, but the mass of the
people, when it reaches the toiling slaves and makes of them men, the
nation will be like the palaces and altars they built hundreds of
years ago, and the rest of the world may stand aside, and wonder, and,
perhaps, fear.


THE END





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