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Title: A Broken Journey, Illustrated - Wanderings from the Hoang-Ho Yo the Island of Saghalien - and the Upper Reaches of The Amur River
Author: Gaunt, Mary
Language: English
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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 BROKEN JOURNEY

Wanderings from the Hoang-Ho yo the Island of Saghalien and the Upper
Reaches of The Amur River

By Mary Gaunt

Author Of “Alone In West Africa”

“A Woman In China,” Etc.

London

T. Werner Laurie Ltd.

1919


[Illustration: 0001]

[Illustration: 0008]

[Illustration: 0009]



TO MY

SISTER AND BROTHERS

IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE DAYS BEFORE WE

WANDERED



FOREWORD

I have to thank my friend Mrs Lang for the drastic criticism which once
more has materially helped me to write this book. Other people also have
I to thank, but so great was the kindness I received everywhere I
can only hope each one will see in this book some token of my sincere
gratitude.

Mary Gaunt.

Mary Haven, New Eltham, Kent.



A BROKEN JOURNEY



CHAPTER I--THE LURE OF THE UNKNOWN

Each time I begin a book of travel I search for the reasons that sent
me awandering. Foolishness, for I ought to know by this time the
wander fever was born in my blood; it is in the blood of my sister and
brothers. We were brought up in an inland town in Victoria, Australia,
and the years have seen us roaming all over the world. I do not think
any of us has been nearer the North Pole than Petropaulovski, or to the
South Pole than Cape Horn--children of a sub-tropical clime, we do not
like the cold--but in many countries in between have we wandered.
The sailors by virtue of their profession have had the greater
opportunities, but the other five have made a very good second best of
it, and always there has been among us a very understanding sympathy
‘with the desire that is planted in each and all to visit the remote
corners of the earth.

Anybody can go on the beaten track. It only requires money to take
a railway or steamer ticket, and though we by no means despise
comfort--indeed, because we know something of the difficulties that
beset the traveller beyond the bounds of civilisation, we appreciate it
the more highly--still there is something else beyond comfort in life.
Wherein lies the call of the Unknown? To have done something that no
one else has done--or only accomplished with difficulty? Where lies
the charm? I cannot put it into words--only it is there, the “something
calling--beyond the mountains,” the “Come and find me” of Kipling. That
voice every one of the Gaunts hears, and we all sympathise when another
one goes.

And that voice I heard loudly in China.

“Come and find me! Come and find me!”

The livelong day I heard it, and again and again and yet again I tried
to stifle it, for you who have read my _Woman in China_ will know that
travelling there leaves much to be desired. To say it is uncomfortable
is to put it in the mildest terms. Everything that I particularly
dislike in life have I met travelling in China; everything that repells
me; and yet, having unwisely invested $10 (about £1) in an atlas of
China, the voice began to ring in my ears day and night.

I was living in an American Presbyterian mission station in the
western suburb of the walled town of Pao Ting Fu, just beyond European
influence, the influence of the Treaty Ports and the Legation quarter of
Peking. I wanted to see something of the real China, to get material for
a novel--not a novel concerning the Chinese; for I have observed that
no successful novel in English deals with anybody but the British or
the Americans; the other peoples come in as subordinates--and the
local colour was best got on the spot. There was plenty in Pao Ting Fu,
goodness knows. It had suffered severely in the Boxer trouble. In the
northern suburb, just about a mile from where we lived, was a tomb,
or monument rather, that had been raised to the missionaries massacred
then. They have made a garden plot where those burning houses stood,
they have planted trees and flowers, and set up memorial tablets in the
Chinese style, and the mission has moved to the western suburb, just
under the frowning walls of the town, and--is doubly strong. A God-given
fervour, say the missionaries, sends them forth.’Who am I to judge? But
I see that same desire to go forth in myself, that same disregard of
danger, when it is not immediate--I know I should be horribly scared
if it materialised--and I cannot claim for myself it is God-given, save
perhaps that all our desires are God-given.

So there in the comfortable mission station I studied the local colour,
corrected my last book of China, and instead of planning the novel,
looked daily at the atlas of China, till there grew up in me a desire
to cross Asia, not by train to the north as I had already done, as
thousands of people used to do every year, but by the caravan route,
across Shensi and Kansu and Sinkiang to Andijan in Asiatic Russia, the
terminus of the Caspian Railway. Thousands and thousands of people go
slowly along that way too, but the majority do not go all the way, and
they do not belong to the class or nation whose comings and goings are
recorded. In fact, you may count on the fingers of one hand the people
who know anything of that road. The missionaries, particularly the
womenkind, did not take very cheerful view’s about it.

“If I wanted to die,” said one woman, meeting me as I was going round
the compound one day in the early spring of 1914, “I would choose some
easier way.”

But the doctor there was keenly interested. He would have liked to
have gone himself, but his duty kept him alongside his patients and his
hospital in Pao Ting Fu, and though he pulled himself up every now and
then, remembering I was only a woman and probably couldn’t do it, he
could not but take as great an interest in that map and ways and means
as I did myself. Then there was Mr Long, a professor at the big Chinese
college in the northern suburb--he was young and enthusiastic and as
interested as Dr Lewis.

He too knew something about travel in unknown China, for he had been one
of the band of white men who had made their way over the mountains of
Shansi and Shensi in the depths of winter to go to the rescue of the
missionaries in Sui Te Chou and all the little towns down to Hsi An
Fu at the time of the Revolution. Yes, he knew something of the
difficulties of Chinese travel, and he thought I could do it.

“The only danger would be robbers, and--well, you know, there mightn’t
be robbers.”

But Peking--the Peking of the Legations--that, I knew, held different
view’s. I wrote to an influential man who had been in China over ten
years, who spoke the language well, and he was against it.

“I was very much interested” (wrote he) “to read of your intention to
do that trek across country. You ask my opinion about it, but I can only
give you the same advice that _Punch_ gave many years ago, and that is,
_don’t_. You must realise that the travelling will be absolutely awful
and the cost is very great indeed. You have not yet forgotten your
trip to Jehol, I hope, and the roughness of the road. The trip you
contemplate will make the little journey to Jehol look like a Sunday
morning walk in Hyde Park, particularly as regards travelling comfort,
to say nothing about the danger of the journey as regards hostile tribes
on the southern and western borders of Tibet. You will be passing near
the Lolo country, and I can assure you that the Lolos are _not_ a set of
gentlemen within the meaning of the Act. They are distinctly hostile to
foreigners, and many murders have taken place in their country that have
not been published because of the inability of the Chinese troops to
stand up against these people. What the peoples are like farther north
I do not know, but I understand the Tibetans are not particularly
trustworthy, and it will follow that the people living on their borders
will inherit a good many of their vices and few of their virtues.

“If you have really made up your mind to go, however, just let me know,
and I will endeavour to hunt up all the information that it is possible
to collect as to the best route to take, etc., though I repeat I would
not advise the journey, and the Geographical Society can go to the
deuce.”

This not because he despised the Geographical Society by any means, but
because I had advanced as one reason for going across Asia the desire to
win my spurs so and be an acceptable member.

“My dear,” wrote a woman, “think of that poor young Brooke. The Tibetans
cut his throat with a sharp stone, which is a pleasant little way they
have.”

Now the man’s opinion was worth having, but the woman’s is a specimen of
the loose way people are apt to reason--I do it myself--when they deal
with the unknown. The “poor young Brooke” never went near Tibet, and
was murdered about a thousand miles distant from the route I intended
to take. It was something as if a traveller bound to the Hebrides was
warned against dangers to be met upon the Rhone.

One man who had travelled extensively in Mongolia was strongly against
the journey, but declared that “Purdom knew a great deal more about
travelling in China” than he did, and if “Purdom” said I might got--well
then, I might. Mr Purdom and Mr Reginald Farrer were going west to the
borders of Tibet botanising, and one night I dined with them, and Mr
Purdom was optimistic and declared if I was prepared for discomfort and
perhaps hardship he thought I might go.

So it was decided, and thereupon those who knew took me in hand and gave
me all advice about travelling in China, how to minimise discomfort,
what to take and what to leave behind. One thing they were all agreed
upon. The Chinese, as a rule, are the most peaceable people upon earth,
the only thing I had to fear was a chance band of robbers, and if I fell
into their hands--well, it would probably be finish.

“The Chinese are fiendishly cruel,” said my friend of Mongolian travel;
“keep your last cartridge for yourself.”

I intimated that a pistol was quite beyond me, that that way of going
out did not appeal to me, and anyhow I’d be sure to bungle it.

“Then have something made up at the chemist’s and keep it always on your
person. You do not know how desperately you may need it.”

I may say here that these remarks made no impression upon me whatever.
I suppose in most of us the feeling is strong that nothing bad
could possibly happen. It happens to other people, we know, but to
us--impossible! I have often wondered how near I could get to danger
without feeling that it really threatened--pretty close, I suspect. It
is probably a matter of experience. I cannot cross a London road with
equanimity--but then twice have I been knocked down and rather badly
hurt--but I gaily essayed to cross Asia by way of China, and would quite
certainly as gaily try again did I get the chance. Only next time I
propose to take a good cook.

To some, of course, the unknown is always full of danger.

The folks who walked about Peking without a qualm warned me I would die
of indigestion, I would be unable to drink the water, the filth would be
unspeakable, hydrophobia raged, and “when you are bitten, promptly cut
deep into the place and insert a chloride of mercury tabloid.”

That last warning made me laugh. It reminded me of the time when as a
little girl, living in a country where deadly snakes swarmed--my eldest
brother killed sixty in a week, I remember, in our garden--I used to
think it would be extremely dangerous to go to Europe because there were
there mad dogs, things we never had in Australia! I think it was the
reference to hydrophobia and the chloride of mercury tabloid helped me
to put things in their proper prospective and made me realise that I was
setting out on a difficult journey with a possible danger of robbers;
but a possible danger is the thing we risk every day we travel in a
railway train or on an electric tramcar. I am always ready for possible
risks, it is when they become probable I bar them, so I set about my
preparations with a quiet mind.

A servant. I decided I must have a tall servant and strong, because
so often in China I found I had to be lifted, and I had suffered from
having too small a man on my former journeys. The missionaries provided
me with a new convert of theirs, a tall strapping Northern Chinaman, who
was a mason by trade. Tsai Chih Fu, we called him--that is to say, he
came of the Tsai family; and the Chih Fu--I’m by no means sure that I
spell it right--meant a “master workman.” He belonged to a large firm of
masons, but as he had never made a dollar a day at his trade, my offer
of that sum put him at my service, ready to go out into the unknown. He
was a fine-looking man, dignified and courteous, and I had and have the
greatest respect for him. He could not read or write, of course. Now
a man who cannot read or write here in the West we look upon with
contempt, but it would be impossible to look upon Tsai Chih Fu with
contempt. He was a responsible person, a man who would count in any
company. He belonged to another era and another civilisation, but he
was a man of weight. A master of transport in Babylon probably closely
resembled my servant Tsai Chih Fu.

[Illustration: 0027]

My interpreter, Wang Hsien--that is, Mr Wang--was of quite a different
order. He was little and slight, with long artistic hands, of the
incapable artistic order, and he was a fool in any language; but good
interpreters are exceedingly difficult to get. He used to come and see
me every day for a fortnight before we started, and I must say my heart
sank when the simplest remark, probably a greeting, or a statement as
to the weather, was met with a “Repeat, please.” I found this was the
invariable formula and it was not conducive to brisk conversation. On my
way through the country things were apt to vanish before I had made
Mr Wang understand that I was asking, and was really in search of,
information. He had his black hair cut short in the progressive foreign
fashion (it looked as if he had had a basin put on his head--a good
large one--and the hair snipped off round), and he wore a long blue
cotton gown buttoned to his feet. Always he spoke with a silly giggle.
Could I have chosen, which I could not, he would have been about the
very last man I should have taken on a strenuous journey as guide,
philosopher and friend.

And there was another member of the party, a most important member,
without whom I should not have dreamt of stirring--my little black and
white k’ang dog, James Buehanan, who loved me as no one in the world has
ever loved me, thought everything I did was perfect, and declared he was
willing to go with me to the ends of the earth.

So I began my preparations. One thing only was clear, everyone was
agreed upon it, all my goods must be packed in canvas bags, because it
is impossible to travel by mule, or cart, or litter with one’s clothes
in ordinary boxes. And I had, through the kindness of Messrs Forbes &
Company, to make arrangements with Chinese bankers, who have probably
been making the same arrangements since before the dawn of history,
to get money along the proposed route. These things I managed
satisfactorily; it was over the stores that, as usual, I made mistakes.
The fact of the matter is that the experience gained in one country is
not always useful for the next. When first I travelled in Africa I took
many “chop” boxes that were weighty and expensive of transport, and
contained much tinned meat that in a warm, moist climate I did not want.
I found I could live quite happily on biscuits and fruit and eggs, with
such relishes as anchovy paste or a few Bologna sausages for a change.
My expensive tinned foods I bestowed upon my servants and carriers,
greatly to my own regret. I went travelling in China, in Northern Chihli
and Inner Mongolia, I dwelt apart from all foreigners in a temple in the
western hills, and I found with a good cook I lived very comfortably off
the country, with just the addition of a few biscuits, tea, condensed
milk, coffee and raisins, therefore I persuaded myself I could go west
with few stores and do exactly the same. Thus I added considerably to my
own discomfort. The excellent master of transport was a bad cook, and a
simple diet of hard-boiled eggs, puffed rice and tea, with raisins for
dessert, however good in itself, is apt to pall when it is served up
three times a day for weeks with unfailing regularity.

However, I didn’t know that at the time.

And at last all was ready. I had written to all the mission stations
as far west as Tihwa, in Sinkiang, announcing my coming. I had provided
myself with a folding table and chair--they both, I found, were given to
fold at inconvenient moments--some enamel plates, a couple of glasses,
a knife and fork, rudimentary kitchen utensils, bedding, cushions, rugs,
etc., and all was ready. I was to start the next week, ten days after Mr
Purdom and Mr Farrer had set out, for Honan, when there came a telegram
from Hsi An Fu:

“Delay journey” (it read).

“White wolf in Shensi. Shorrocks.”

Was there ever such country? News that a robber was holding up the road
could be sent by telegram!

China rather specialises in robbers, but White Wolf was considerably
worse than the average gentleman of the road. He defied the Government
in 1914, but the last time we of the mission station had heard of him
he was making things pleasant for the peaceful inhabitants of Anhwei,
to the east, and the troops were said to have him “well in hand.” But in
China you never know exactly where you are, and now he was in Shensi!

I read that telegram in the pleasant March sunshine. I looked up at the
boughs of the “water chestnuts,” where the buds were beginning to swell,
and I wondered what on earth I should do. The roads now were as good
as they were ever likely to be, hard after the long winter and not yet
broken up by the summer rains. We discussed the matter from all points
that day at the midday dinner. The missionaries had a splendid cook, a
Chinese who had had his kitchen education finished in a French family,
and with a few good American recipes thrown in the combination makes a
craftsman fit for the Savoy, and all for ten Mexican dollars a month!
Never again do I expect to meet such salads, sweet and savoury! And here
was I doing my best to leave the flesh-pots of Egypt. It seemed foolish.

I contented my soul with what patience I might for a week, and then I
telegraphed to Honan Fu, at which place I expected to be well away from
the railway. Honan Fu answered promptly:

“The case is hopeless. Hsi An Fu threatened. Advise you go by T’ai Yuan
Fu.”

Now the road from Honan Fu to Hsi An Fu is always dangerous. It is
through the loess, sunken many feet below the level of the surrounding
country, and at the best of times is infested with stray robbers who,
from the cliffs above, roll down missiles on the carts beneath, kill the
mules and hold the travellers at their mercy. The carters go in large
bodies and are always careful to find themselves safe in the inn-yards
before the dusk has fallen.

These were the everyday dangers of the way such as men have faced for
thousands of years; if you add to them an organised robber band and a
large body of soldiers in pursuit, clearly that road is no place for a
solitary foreign woman, with only a couple of attendants, a little dog,
and for all arms a small pistol and exactly thirteen cartridges--all
I could get, for it is difficult to buy ammunition in China. Then to
clinch matters came another telegram from Hsi An Fu, in cipher this
time:

“Do not come” (it said).


“The country is very much disturbed.”

From Anhwei to Shensi the brigands had operated. They had burned and
looted and outraged by order of Pai Lang (White Wolf), leaving behind
them ruined homes and desolated hearths, and when the soldiers came
after them, so said Rumour of the many tongues, White Wolf, who was rich
by then, left money on the roads and so bribed the avenging army to come
over to him.

But to the ordinary peaceful inhabitant--and curiously enough the
ordinary Chinese is extremely peaceful--it is not a matter of much
moment whether it be Pai Lang or the soldier who is hunting him who
falls upon the country. The inhabitants are sure to suffer. Both bandit
and soldier must have food, so both loot and outrage impartially, for
the unpaid soldiery--I hope I shall not be sued for libel, but most of
the soldiery when I was in China appeared to be unpaid--loot just as
readily as do the professional bandits. A robber band alone is a heavy
load for a community to carry, and a robber band pursued by soldiers
more than doubles the burden.

Still the soldiers held Tungkwan, the gate into Shensi, the mountains on
either side blocked the way, and Hsi An Fu breathed for a moment till
it was discovered that Pai Lang in strategy was equal to anyone who had
been sent against him. He had taken the old and difficult route through
the mountains and had come out west of the narrow pass of Tungkwan and,
when I became interested in him, was within a day’s march of Hsi An
Fu, the town that is the capital of the province of Shensi and was the
capital of China many hundreds of years ago. It is a walled city, but
the people feared and so did the members of the English Baptist Mission
sheltering behind those walls. And, naturally, they feared, for the
Society of the Elder Brethren had joined Pai Lang, and the Society of
Elder Brethren always has been and is markedly anti-foreign. This was
the situation, growing daily a little worse, and we foreigners looked
on; and the Government organs in Peking told one day how a certain Tao
Tai had been punished and degraded because he had been slack in putting
down White Wolf and possibly the next day declared the power of White
Wolf was broken and he was in full retreat. I don’t know how many times
I read the power of White Wolf had been broken and yet in the end I
was regretfully obliged to acknowledge that he was stronger than ever.
Certainly Pai Lang turned my face north sooner than I intended, for the
idea of being a target for rocks and stones and billets of wood at
the bottom of a deep ditch from which there could be no escape did not
commend itself to me. True, in loess country, as I afterwards found,
there are no stones, no rocks and no wood. I can’t speak for the road
through Tungkwan, for I didn’t dare it. But, even if there were
no stones, loose earth--and there is an unlimited quantity of that
commodity in Northern China--flung down from a height would be
exceedingly unpleasant.

Of course it all might have been rumour--it wasn’t, I found out
afterwards; but unfortunately the only way to find out at the time
was by going to see for myself, and if it had been true--well, in
all probability I shouldn’t have come back. That missionary evidently
realised how keen I was when he suggested that I should go by T’ai Yuan
Fu, the capital of Shansi, and I determined to take his advice. There
was a way, a little-known way, across the mountains, across Shansi, by
Sui Te Chou in Shensi, and thence into Kansu, which would eventually
land me in Lan Chou Fu if I cared to risk it.

This time I asked Mr Long’s advice. He and the little band of nine
rescuers who had ridden hot haste to the aid of the Shensi missionaries
during the revolution had taken this road, and they had gone in the
depths of winter when the country was frozen hard and the thermometer
was more often below zero, very far below zero, than not. If they had
accomplished it when pressed for time in the great cold, I thought’ in
all probability I might manage it now at the best time of the year
and at my leisure. Mr Long, who would have liked to have gone himself,
thought so too, and eventually I set off.

The missionaries were goodness itself to me. Dr Mackay, in charge of the
Women’s Hospital, set me up with all sorts of simple drugs that I might
require and that I could manage, and one day in the springtime, when the
buds on the trees in the compound were just about to burst, and full
of the promise of the life that was coming, I, with most of the
missionaries to wish me “Godspeed,” and with James Buchanan under my
arm, my giggling interpreter and my master of transport following with
my gear, took train to T’ai Yuan Fu, a walled city that is set in the
heart of a fertile plateau surrounded by mountains.

The great adventure had begun.



CHAPTER II--TRUCULENT T’AI YUAN FU

But you mayn’t go to T’ai Yuan Fu in one day. The southern train puts
you down at Shih Chia Chuang--the village of the Stone Family--and there
you must stay till 7.40 a.m. next morning, when the French railway built
through the mountains that divide Shansi from Shensi takes you on to
its terminus at T’ai Yuan Fu. There is a little Chinese inn at Shih
Chia Chuang that by this time has become accustomed to catering for the
foreigner, but those who are wise beg the hospitality of the British
American Tobacco Company.

I craved that hospitality, and two kindly young men came to the station
through a dust-storm to meet me and took me off to their house that,
whether it was intended to or not, with great cool stone balconies,
looked like a fort. But they lived on perfectly friendly terms with
people. Why not? To a great number of the missionaries the B.A.T. is
_anathema maranatha_, though many of the members rival in pluck and
endurance the missionaries themselves. And why is it a crime for a man
or a woman to smoke? Many of the new teachers make it so and thus lay an
added burden on shoulders already heavily weighted. Personally I should
encourage smoking, because it is the one thing people who are far apart
as the Poles might have in common.

And goodness knows they have so few things. Even with the animals the
“East is East and West is West” feeling is most marked. Here at the
B.A.T. they had a small pekinese as a pet. She made a friend of James
Buchanan in a high and haughty manner, but she declined to accompany him
outside the premises. Once she had been stolen and had spent over three
months in a Chinese house. Then one day her master saw her and, making
good his claim, took her home with him. Since that time nothing would
induce her to go beyond the front door. She said in effect that she got
all the exercise she needed in the courtyard, and if it did spoil her
figure, she preferred a little weight to risking the tender mercies of
a Chinese household, and I’m sure she told Buchanan, who, having the
sacred V-shaped mark on his forehead, was reckoned very beautiful and
was much admired by the Chinese, that he had better take care and not
fall into alien hands. Buchanan as a puppy of two months old had been
bought in the streets of Peking, and when we started on our journey
must have been nearly ten months old, but he had entirely forgotten his
origin and regarded all Chinese with suspicion. He tolerated the master
of transport as a follower of whom we had need.

“Small dog,” Mr Wang called him, and looked upon him doubtfully, but
really not as doubtfully as Buchanan looked at him. He was a peaceful,
friendly little dog, but I always thought he did not bite Mr Wang simply
because he despised him so.

Those two young men were more than good to me. They gave me refreshment,
plenty of hot water to wash away the ravages of the dust-storm, and good
company, and as we sat and talked--of White Wolf, of course--there
came to us the tragedy of a life, a woman who had not the instincts of
Buchanan.

Foreign women are scarce at Shih Chia Chuang; one a month is something
to remark upon, one a week is a crowd, so that when, as we sat in the
big sitting-room talking, the door opened and a foreign woman stood
there, everyone rose to his feet in astonishment. Mr Long, who had been
up the line, stood beside her, and behind her was a Chinaman with a
half-caste baby in his arms. She was young and tall and rather pretty.

[Illustration: 0037]

[Illustration: 0038]

“I bring you a lady in distress,” said Mr Long rather hastily,
explaining matters. “I met Mrs Chang on the train. She has miscalculated
her resources and has not left herself enough money to get to Peking.”

The woman began to explain; but it is an awkward thing to explain to
strangers that you have no money and are without any credentials. I
hesitated. Eventually I hope I should have helped her, but my charity
and kindliness were by no means as ready and spontaneous as those of my
gallant young host. He never hesitated a moment. You would have thought
that women and babies without any money were his everyday business.

“Why, sure,” said he in his pleasant American voice, “if I can be of any
assistance. But you can’t go to-day, Mrs Chang; of course you will stay
with us--oh yes, yes; indeed we should be very much hurt if you didn’t;
and you will let me lend you some money.”

And so she was established among us, this woman who had committed the
unpardonable sin of the East, the sin against her race, the sin for
which there is no atoning. It is extraordinary after all these years,
after all that has been said and written, that Englishwomen, women of
good class and standing, will so outrage all the laws of decency and
good taste. This woman talked. She did not like the Chinese, she would
not associate with them; her husband, of course, was different. He was
good to her; but it was hard to get work in these troubled times, harder
still to get paid for it, and he had gone away in search of it, so she
was going for a holiday to Peking and--here she tumedto the young
men and talked about the society and the dances and the amusement she
expected to have among the foreigners in the capital, she who for so
long had been cut off from such joys in the heart of China among an
alien people.

We listened. What could we say?

“People in England don’t really understand,” said she, “what being in
exile means. They don’t understand the craving to go home and speak to
one’s own people; but being in Peking will be something like being in
England.”

We other five never even looked at each other, because we knew, and we
could hardly believe, that she had not yet realised that in marrying
a Chinese, even one who had been brought up in England, she had exiled
herself effectually. The Chinese look down upon her, they will have none
of her, and among the foreigners she is outcast. These young men who had
come to her rescue with such right good will--“I could not see a foreign
woman in distress among Chinese”--will pass her in the street with a
bow, will not see her if they can help themselves, will certainly object
that anyone they care about should see them talking to her, and their
attitude but reflects that of the majority of the foreigners in China.
Her little child may not go to the same sehool as the foreign children,
even as it may not go to the same school as the Chinese. She has
committed the one error that outclasses her, and she is going to pay for
it in bitterness all the days of her life. And everyone in that room,
while we pitied her, held, and held strongly, that the attitude of the
community, foreign and Chinese, was one to be upheld.

“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” and yet
here and there one still comes across a foolish woman who wrecks her
life because she never seems to have heard of this dictum. She talked
and talked, and told us how good was her husband to her, and we
listeners said afterwards she “doth protest too much,” she was
convincing herself, not us, and that, of course, seeing he was a
Chinaman, he was disappointed that the baby was a girl, and that his
going off alone was the beginning of the end, and we were thankful that
she was “the only girl her mother had got,” and so she could go back to
her when the inevitable happened.

The pity of it! When will the stay-at-home English learn that the
very worst thing one of their women can do with her life is to wed
an Oriental? But when I think of that misguided woman in that remote
Chinese village I shall always think too of those gallant young
gentlemen, perfect in courteous kindliness, who ran the B.A.T. in Shih
Chia Chuang.

The next day Buchanan and I and our following boarded the luxurious
little mountain railway and went to T’ai Yuan Fu.

This railway, to me, who know nothing of such things, is a very marvel
of engineering skill. There are great rugged mountains, steep and rocky,
and the train winds its way through them, clinging along the sides of
precipices, running through dark tunnels and cuttings that tower high
overhead and going round such curves that the engine and the guard’s van
of a long train are going in exactly opposite directions. A wonderful
railway, and doubly was I interested in it because before ever I came to
China I had heard about it.

When there are disturbances in China it is always well for the foreign
element to flee while there is yet time, for the sanctity of human life
is not yet thoroughly grasped there, and there is always the chance
that the foreigner may be killed first and his harmlessness, or even
his value, discovered later. So in the revolution in the winter of
1910-1911, though all train traffic had stopped, the missionaries from
T’ai Yuan Fu and those from the country beyond fled down this railway.
A friend of mine, an artist, happened to be staying at a mission station
in the mountains and made one of the party. It was the depth of a Shansi
winter, a Continental winter, with the thermometer generally below -15°
at the warmest part of the day, and the little band of fugitives came
fleeing down this line on trollies worked by the men of the party.
They stayed the nights at the deserted railway stations, whence all the
officials had fled, and the country people in their faded blue cotton
wadded coats came and looked at them and, pointing their fingers at
them exactly as I have seen the folks in the streets of London do at a
Chinaman or an Arab in an outlandish dress, remarked that these people
were going to their death.

“Death! Death!” sounded on all sides. They, the country people, were
peaceful souls; they would not have killed them themselves; they merely
looked upon them as an interesting exhibit because they were foreign and
they were going to die. That the audience were wrong the people on show
were not quite as sure as they would have liked to be, and a single-line
railway through mountainous country is by no means easy to negotiate on
a trolly. They came to places where the line was carried upon trestles;
they could see a river winding its way at the bottom of a rocky ravine
far below them, and the question would be how to get across. It required
more nerve than most of them had to walk across the skeleton bridge. The
procedure seems to have been to give each trolly a good hard push, to
spring upon it and to trust to Providence to get safely across to the
firm earth upon the other side. The tunnels too, and the sharp curves,
were hair-raising, for they knew nothing of what was happening at the
other end of the line, and for all they could say they might have come
full butt upon a train rushing up in the other direction.

Eventually they did get through, but with considerable hardship, and I
should hesitate to say how many days that little company went without
taking off their clothes. I thought of them whenever our train went into
a tunnel, and I thought too of the gay girl who told me the story
and who had dwelt not upon the discomfort and danger, but upon the
excitement and exhilaration that comes with danger.

“I lived,” said she, “I lived,” and my heart went out to her. It is that
spirit in this “nation of shopkeepers” that is helping us to beat the
Germans.

The scenery through which we went is beautiful--it would be beautiful
in any land--and this in China, where I expected not so much beauty
as industry. There were evidences of industry in plenty on every side.
These people were brethren of the bandits who turned me north and they
are surely the most industrious in the world. Wherever among these stony
hills there was a patch of ground fit for cultivation, though it was
tiny as a pocket handkerchief, it was cultivated. Everywhere I saw
people at work in the fields, digging, weeding, ploughing with a dry cow
or a dry cow and a donkey hitched to the primitive plough, or guiding
trains of donkeys or mules carrying merchandise along the steep and
narrow paths, and more than once I saw strings of camels, old-world
camels that took me back before the days of written history. They kept
to the valleys and evidently made their way along the river beds.

Through mountain sidings and tunnels we came at length to the curious
loess country, where the friable land is cut into huge terraces that
make the high hills look like pyramids carved in great clay-coloured
steps, and now in April the green crops were already springing; another
month and they would be banks of waving green. The people are poor,
their faces were browned by the sun and the wind, their garments were
scanty and ragged, and the original blue was faded till the men and
the clothes were all the same monotonous clay colour of the surrounding
country. The women I saw here were few, and only afterwards I found the
reason. The miserably poor peasant of Shansi binds the feet of his
women so effectually that to the majority movement is a physical
impossibility.

We climbed up and up through the mountains into the loess country,
and at last we were on the plateau, about four thousand feet above the
sea-level, whereon is T’ai Yuan Fu, the capital of the province. There
are other towns here too, little walled eities, and the train drew up at
the stations outside the grey brick walls, the most ancient and the most
modern, Babylon and Crewe meeting. Oh, I understand the need of those
walled eities now I have heard so much about Pai Lang. There is a
certain degree of safety behind those grey walls, so long as the robber
bands are small and the great iron-bound gates ean keep them out, but
dire is the fate of the city into which the enemy has penetrated, has
fastened the gates and holds the people in a trap behind their own
walls.

But these people were at peace; they were thinking of no robbers. Pai
Lang was about five hundred miles away and the station platforms were
crowded with would-be travellers with their belongings in bundles, and
over the fence that shut off the platform hung a vociferating crowd
waving white banners on which were inscribed in black characters the
signs of the various inns, while each banner-bearer at the top of his
voice advocated the charms of his own employer’s establishment. The
queue was forbidden for the moment, but many of these ragged touts and
many of the other peasants still wore their heads shaven in front, for
the average Chinaman, especially he of the poorer classes, is loath to
give up the fashions of his forefathers.

Every railway platform was pandemonium, for every person on that
platform yelled and shrieked at the top of his voice. On the main line
every station was guarded by untidy, unkempt-looking soldiers armed with
rifles, but there on this little mountain railway the only guards were
policemen, equally unkempt, clad in very dusty black and white and
armed with stout-looking bludgeons. They stood along the line at regular
intervals, good-natured-looking men, and I wondered whether they would
really be any good in an emergency, or whether they would not take the
line of least resistance and join the attacking force.

All across the cultivated plain we went, where not an inch of ground
is wasted, and at half-past five in the evening we arrived at T’ai Yuan
Fu--arrived, that is, at the station outside the little South Gate.

T’ai Yuan Fu is a great walled city eight miles round, with five gates
in the walls, gates that contrast strangely with the modern-looking
macadamised road which goes up from the station. I don’t know why I
should feel that way, for they certainly had paved roads even in the
days before history. Outside the walls are neat, perhaps forty feet high
and of grey brick, and inside you see how these city walls are made, for
they are the unfinished clay banks that have been faced in front, and
when I was there in the springtime the grass upon them was showing
everywhere and the shrubs were bursting into leaf. But those banks gave
me a curious feeling of being behind the scenes.

[Illustration: 0047]

I was met at the station by some of the ladies of the English Baptist
Mission who had come to welcome me and to offer me, a total stranger to
them, kindly hospitality, and we walked through the gate to the mission
inside the walls. It was only a short walk, short and dusty, but it was
thronged. All the roadway was crowded with rickshaws and carts waiting
in a long line their turn to go underneath the gateway over which
frowned a typical many-roofed Chinese watch tower, and as cart or
rickshaw came up the men along with it were stopped by the dusty
soldiery in black and grey and interrogated as to their business.

When I got out on to the platform I had looked up at the ancient walls
clear-cut against the bright blue sky, and the women meeting me looked
askance at Tsai Chih Fu, who, a lordly presence, stood behind me, with
James Buchanan in his arms, a little black satin cap on his head and his
pigtail hanging down his back.

“There is some little commotion in the town,” said Miss Franklin. “They
are cutting off queues.”

The master of transport smiled tolerantly when they told him, and,
taking off his cap, he wound his tightly round his head.

“I know,” he said in the attitude of a man of the world, “some people do
not wear them now. But I have always worn one, and I like it,” and his
manner said he would like to see the person who would dare dictate to
him in what manner he should wear his hair. He could certainly have put
up a good fight.

It was not needed. He passed through unchallenged; he was a quietly
dressed man who did not court notice and his strapping inches were
in his favour. He might well be passed over when there were so many
slighter men more easily tackled. One man riding along in a rickshaw I
saw put up a splendid fight. At last he was hauled out of his carriage
and his little round cap tossed off his head, and then it was patent his
queue could not be cut, for he was bald as a billiard ball! The Chinese
do understand a joke, even a mob. They yelled and howled with laughter,
and we heard it echoing and re-echoing as we passed under the frowning
archway, tramping across many a dusty coil of coarse black hair roughly
shorn from the heads of the luckless adherents to the old fashion. The
missionaries said that Tsai Chih Fu must be the only man in T’ai Yuan Fu
with a pigtail and that it would be very useful to us as we went farther
west, where they had not yet realised the revolution. They doubted if
he would be able to keep it on so strict was the rule, but he did--a
tribute, I take it, to the force of my “master of transport.”

The ladies lived in a Chinese house close under the walls. There is a
great charm about these houses built round courtyards in the Chinese
style; there is always plenty of air and sunshine, though, as most of
the rooms open into the courtyard only, I admit in rough weather they
must sometimes be awkward, and when--as is always the case in Shansi
in winter-time--the courtyard is covered with ice and snow, and the
thermometer is far below zero for weeks at a time, it is impossible to
go from bedroom to sitting-room without being well wrapped up. And yet,
because China is not a damp country, it could never be as awkward as
it would be in England, and for weeks at a time it is a charming
arrangement. Staying there in April, I found it delightful. Buchanan and
I had a room under a great tree just showing the first faint tinge of
green, and I shall always be grateful for the kindly hospitality those
young ladies gave me.

From there we went out and saw T’ai Yuan Fu, and another kindly
missionary engaged muleteers for me and made all arrangements for my
journey across Shansi and Shensi and Kansu to Lan Chou Fu.

But T’ai Yuan Fu is not a nice town to stay in.

“The town,” said the missionaries, “is progressive and anti-foreign.”
 It is. You feel somehow the difference in the attitude of the people
the moment you set foot inside the walls. It seems to me that if trouble
really came it would be an easy matter to seize the railway and cut off
the foreign missionaries from all help, for it is at least a fortnight
away in the mountains.

They suffered cruelly at the Boxer time: forty men, women and little
helpless children were butchered in cold blood in the yamen, and the
archway leading to the hospital where Miss Coombs the schoolmistress
was deliberately burned to death while trying to guard and shelter
her helpless pupils still stands. In the yamen, with a refinement of
torture, they cut to pieces the little children first, and then the
women, the nuns of the Catholic Church the fierce soldiery dishonoured,
and finally they slew all the men. Against the walls in the street stand
two miserable stones that the Government were forced to put up to the
memory of the foreigners thus ruthlessly done to death, but a deeper
memorial is engraven on the hearts of the people. Some few years later
the tree underneath which they were slain was blasted by lightning and
half destroyed, and on that very spot, during the recent revolution, the
Tao Tai of the province was killed.

“A judgment!” said the superstitious people. “A judgment!” say even the
educated.

And during the late revolution the white people shared with the
inhabitants a terribly anxious time. Shut up in the hospital with a
raging mob outside, they waited for the place to be set on fire. The
newest shops in the principal streets were being looted, the Manchu
city--a little walled city within the great city--was destroyed, and
though they opened the gates and told the Manchus they might escape,
the mob hunted down the men as they fled and slew them, though, more
merciful than Hsi An Fu, they let the women and children escape. Men’s
blood was up, the lust of killing was upon them, and the men and women
behind the hospital walls trembled.

“We made up our minds,” said a young missionary lady to me, “that if
they fired the place we would rush out and mingle in the mob waiting
to kill us. They looked awful. I can’t tell you how they looked, but it
would have been better than being burned like rats in a trap.”

A Chinese crowd, to my Western eyes, unkempt, unwashed, always looks
awful; what it must be like when they are out to kill I cannot imagine.

And then she went on: “Do you know, I was not really as much afraid as
I should have thought I would have been. There was too mueh to think
about.” Oh, merciful God! I pray that always in such moments there may
be “too much to think about.”

The mob looted the city. They ruined the university. They destroyed the
Manehus. But they spared the foreigners; and still there flourishes in
the town a mission of the English Baptists and another of the Catholics,
but when I was there the town had not yet settled down. There was
unrest, and the missionaries kept their eyes anxiously on the south, on
the movements of Pai Lang. We thought about him at Pao Ting Fu, but here
the danger was just a little nearer, help just a little farther away.
Besides, the people were different. They were not quite so subservient,
not quite so friendly to the foreigner, it would take less to light the
tinder.

For myself, I was glad of the instinct that had impelled me to engage
as servant a man of inches. I dared never walk in the streets alone as
I had been accustomed to in Pao Ting Fu. It marks in my mind the
jumping-off place. Here I left altogether the civilisation of the West
and tasted the age-old civilisation of the East, the civilisation that
was in full swing when my ancestors were naked savages hunting the deer
and the bear and the wolf in the swamps and marshes of Northern Europe.
I had thought I had reached that civilisation when I lived in Peking,
when I dwelt alone in a temple in the mountains, when I went to Pao
Ting Fu, but here in T’ai Yuan Fu the feeling deepened. Only the mission
stations stood between me and this strange thing. The people in the
streets looked at me askance, over the compound wall came the curious
sounds of an ancient people at work, the shrieking of the greased
wheel-barrows, the beating of gongs, the whir of the rattle of the
embroidery silk seller, the tinkling of the bells that were hung round
the necks of the donkeys and the mules, the shouting of the hucksters
selling scones and meat balls, all the sounds of an industrious city,
and I was an outsider, the alien who was something of a curiosity, but
who anyhow was of no account. Frankly, I don’t like being of no account.
As a matter of fact, I shocked all Chinese ideas of correct deportment.
When a well-bred Chinese gentleman arrives at a strange place, he does
not look around him, he shows no curiosity whatever in his surroundings,
he retires to his room, his meal is brought to him and he remains
quietly in his resting-place till it is time for him to take his
departure, and what applies to a man, applies, of course, in an
exaggerated degree, to a woman. Now I had come to see China, and I made
every effort in my power to see all I could. I tremble to think what
the inhabitants of Shansi must have thought of me! Possibly, since I
outraged all their canons of decency, I was lucky in that they only
found me of no account.

All the while I was in T’ai Yuan Fu I was exceedingly anxious about the
measure of safety for a foreign woman outside the walls, and opinions
differed as to the wisdom of my venture, but, on the whole, those I
consulted thought I would be all right. They rather envied me, in fact,
the power to go wandering, but on one point they were very sure: it was
a pity Dr Edwards, the veteran missionary doctor, was not there, because
he knew more about China and travelling there than all the rest of them
put together. But he had gone out on his own account and was on the way
to Hsi An Fu, the town I had given up as hopeless. He did not propose to
approach it through the Tungkwan, but from the north, and they did not
expect him to have any difficulty.

Then I found I had not brought enough money with me and the missionaries
lent me more, and they engaged muleteers with four mules and a donkey
that were to take me across the thousand miles that lay between the
capital of Shansi and that of Kansu. Two men were in charge, and the
cost of getting there, everything included--the men to feed themselves
and their animals and I only to be responsible for the feeding and
lodging of my own servants--was exactly eighteen pounds. It has always
seemed to me ridiculously cheap. Money must go a long way in China for
it to be possible for two men to take four mules and a donkey laden a
thousand miles, and then come back unladen and keep themselves by the
way, for so small a sum.

So I sent off my servants the day before, then Buchanan and I bade
good-bye to the missionaries and went the first day’s journey back along
the line to Yu Tze, where the road started for the Yellow River, and
as I left the train and was taken by Tsai Chih Fu and Mr Wang to the
enclosure of the inn where they had spent the night I felt that I had
indeed left the West behind, and the only companion and friend I had was
James Buchanan. It was lucky he was a host in himself.



CHAPTER III--THE FIRST SIGN OF UNREST

I was to ride a pack-mule. Now riding a pack-mule at any time is an
unpleasant way of getting along the road. I know no more uncomfortable
method. It is not quite as comfortable as sitting upon a table with
one’s legs dangling, for the table is still, the mule is moving, and
one’s legs dangle on either side of his neck. There are neither reins
nor stirrups, and the mule goes at his own sweet will, and in a very
short time your back begins to ache, after a few hours that aching is
intolerable. To get over this difficulty the missionary had cut the legs
off a chair and suggested that, mounted on the pack, I might sit in it
comfortably. I don’t know whether I could, for the mule objected.

It was a sunny morning with a bright blue sky above, and all seemed
auspicious except my mule, who expressed in no measured language his
dislike to that chair. Tsai Chih Fu had no sooner hoisted me into it
than up he went on his hind legs and, using them as a pivot, stood
on end pawing the air. Everybody in the inn-yard shrieked and yelled
except, I hope, myself, and then Tsai Chih Fu, how I know not, rescued
me from my unpleasant position, and thankfully I found myself upon
the firm ground again. He was a true Chinese mule and objected to all
innovations. He stood meekly enough once the chair was removed.

I wanted to cross Asia and here I was faced with disaster at the very
outset! Finally I was put upon the pack minus the chair, Buchanan was
handed up to me and nestled down beside me, and the procession started.
My heart sank. I don’t mind acknowledging it now. I had at least
a thousand miles to go, and within half-an-hour of the start I had
thoroughly grasped the faet that of all modes of progression a pack-mule
is the most abominable. There are no words at my command to express its
discomforts.

Very little did I see of the landscape of Shansi that day. I was engaged
in hanging on to my pack and wondering how I could stick it out. We
passed along the usual hopeless cart-track of China. I had eschewed
Peking carts as being the very acme of misery, but I was beginning to
reflect that anyhow a cart was comparatively passive misery while the
back of a pack-mule was decidedly active. Buchanan was a good little
dog, but he mentioned several times in the course of that day that he
was uncomfortable and he thought I was doing a fool thing. I was much of
his opinion.

[Illustration: 0057]

[Illustration: 0058]

The day was never ending. All across a plain we went, with rough fields
just showing green on either hand, through walled villages, through
little towns, and I cared for nothing, I was too intent on holding on,
on wishing the day would end, and at last, as the dusk was falling, the
muleteer pointed out, clear-cut against the evening sky, the long wralls
of a large town--Taiku. At last! At last!

I was to stay the night at a large mission school kept by a Mr and Mrs
Wolf, and I only longed for the comfort of a bed, any sort of a bed so
long as it was flat and warm and kept still. We went on and on, we got
into the suburbs of the town, and we appeared to go round and round,
through an unending length of dark, narrow streets, full of ruts and
holes, with the dim loom of houses on either side, and an occasional
gleam of light from a dingy kerosene lamp or Chinese paper lantern
showing through the paper windows.

Again and again we stopped and spoke to men who were merely muffled
shapeless figures in the darkness, and again we went on. I think now
that in all probability neither Tsai Chih Fu nor Mr Wang understood
enough of the dialect to make the muleteers or the people of whom we
inquired understand where we wanted to go, but at last, more probably by
good luck than good management, somebody, seeing I was a foreigner, sent
us to the foreigners they knew, those who kept a school for a hundred
and twenty-five boys in the lovely Flower Garden. It certainly was
lovely, an old-world Chinese house, with little courtyards and ponds
and terraces and flowers and trees--and that comfortable bed I had been
desiring so long. As we entered the courtyard in the darkness and Tsai
Chili Fu lifted me down, the bed was the only thing I could think of.

[Illustration: 0057]

[Illustration: 0058]

[Illustration: 0059]

And yet next day I started again--I wonder now I dared--and we skirted
the walls of Taiku. We had gone round two sides and then, as I always do
when I am dead-tired, I had a bad attack of breathlessness. Stay on that
pack I knew I could not, so I made my master of transport lift me down,
and I sat on a bank for the edification of all the small boys in the
district who, even if they had known how ill I felt, probably would
not have cared, and I deeided there and then that pack-mule riding was
simply impossible and something would have to be done. Therefore, with
great difficulty, I made my way baek to the mission school and asked Mr
Wolf what he would recommend.

Again were missionaries kindness itself to me. They sympathised with my
trouble, they took me in and made me their guest, refusing to take any
money for it, though they added to their kindness by allowing me to pay
for the keep of my servants, and they strongly recommended that I should
have a litter. A litter then I decided I would have.

It is, I should think, the very earliest form of human conveyance. It
consists of two long poles laid about as far apart as the shafts of an
ordinary cart, in the middle is hung a coarse-meshed rope net, and over
that a tilt of matting--the sort of stuff we see tea-chests covered
with in this country. Into the net is tumbled all one’s small
impedimenta--clothes-bags, kettles, anything that will not conveniently
go on mule-back; the bedding is put on top, rugs and cushions arranged
to the future inmate’s satisfaction, then you get inside and the
available people about are commandeered to hoist the concern on to the
backs of the couple of mules, who object very strongly. The head of the
one behind is in the shafts, and the ends rest in his pack-saddle, and
the hind quarters of the one in front are in the shafts, just as in an
ordinary buggy. Of course there are no reins, and at first I felt very
much at the mercy of the mules, though I am bound to say the big white
mule who conducted my affairs seemed to thoroughly understand his
business. Still it is uncomfortable, to say the least of it, to find
yourself going, apparently quite unattended, down steep and rocky paths,
or right into a rushing river. But on the whole a litter is a very
comfortable way of travelling; after a pack-mule it was simply heaven,
and I had no doubts whatever that I could comfortably do the thousand
miles, lessened now, I think, by about thirty, that lay before me. If I
reached Lan Chou Fu there would be time enough to think how I would go
on farther. And here my muleteers had me. When I arranged for a litter,
I paid them, of course, extra, and I said another mule was to be got to
carry some of the loads. They accepted the money and agreed. But I may
say that that other mule never materialised. I accepted the excuse when
we left Taiku that there was no other mule to be hired, and by the time
that excuse had worn thin I had so much else to think about that I bore
up, though not even a donkey was added to our equipment.

Money I took with me in lumps of silver, sycee--shoes, they called
them--and a very unsatisfactory way it is of carrying cash. It is very
heavy and there is no hiding the fact that you have got it. We changed
little bits for our daily needs as we went along, just as little as
we could, because the change in cash was an intolerable burden. On one
occasion in Fen Chou Fu I gave Tsai Chih Fu a very small piece of silver
to change and intimated that I would like to see the result. That piece
of silver I reckon was worth about five shillings, but presently my
master of transport and one of the muleteers came staggering in and
laid before me rows and rows of cash strung on strings! I never felt
so wealthy in my life. After that I never asked for my change. I was
content to keep a sort of general eye on the expenditure, and I expect
the only leakage was the accepted percentage which every servant levies
on his master. ‘When they might easily have cheated me, I found my
servants showed always a most praiseworthy desire for my welfare. And
yet Mr Wang did surprise me occasionally. While I was in Pao Ting Fu I
had found it useful to learn to count in Chinese, so that roughly I knew
what people at the food-stalls were charging me. On one occasion I saw
some little cakes powdered with sesame seed that I thought I should like
and I instructed Mr Wang to buy me one. I heard him ask the price and
the man say three cash, and my interpreter turned to me and said that
it was four! I was so surprised I said nothing. It may have been the
regulation percentage, and twenty-five per cent is good anywhere, but
at the moment it seemed to me extraordinary that a man who considered
himself as belonging to the upper classes should find it worth his while
to do me out of one cash, which was worth--no, I give it up. I don’t
know what it was worth. 10.53 dollars went to the pound when I was in
Shansi and about thirteen hundred cash to the dollar, so I leave it to
some better mathematician than I am to say what I was done out of on
that occasion.

There was another person who was very pleased with the litter and that
was James Buchanan. Poor little man, just before we left the Flower
Garden he was badly bitten by a dog, so badly he could no longer walk,
and I had to carry him on a cushion alongside me in the litter. I never
knew before how dearly one could love a dog, for I was terrified lest he
should die and I should be alone in the world. He lay still and refused
to eat, and every movement seemed to pain him, and whenever I struck
a missionary--they were the only people, of course, with whom I could
converse--they always suggested his back was broken.

I remember at Ki Hsien, where I was entertained most hospitably, and
where the missionary’s wife was most sympathetic, he was so ill that I
sat up all night with him and thought he would surely die. And yet in
the morning he was still alive. He moaned when we lifted him into the
litter and whined pitifully when I got out, as I had to several times to
take photographs.

“Don’t leave me, don’t leave me to the mercy of the Chinese,” he said,
and greeted me with howls of joy when I returned. It was a great day for
both of us when he got a little better and could put his pretty little
black and white head round the tilt and keep his eye upon me while I
worked. But really he was an ideal patient, such a good, patient little
dog, so grateful for any attention that was paid him, and from that time
he began to mend and by the time I reached Fen Chou Fu was almost his
old gay happy little self again.

Taiku is a dying town over two thousand years old, and I have before
seen dead towns in China. Fewer and fewer grow the inhabitants, the
grass grows in the streets, the bricks fall away from the walls, the
houses fall down, until but a few shepherds or peasant farmers dwell
where once were the busy haunts of merchants and tradesmen.

From Taiku I went on across the rich Shansi plain. Now in the springtime
in the golden sunshine the wheat was just above the ground, turning the
land into one vivid green, the sky was a cloudless blue, and all was
bathed in the golden sunshine of Northern China. The air was clear and
invigorating as champagne. “Every prospect pleases,” as the hymn says,
“and only man is vile.” He wasn’t vile; really I think he was a very
good fellow in his own way, which was in a dimension into which I
have never and am never likely to enter, but he was certainly unclean,
ignorant, a serf, poverty-stricken with a poverty we hardly conceive of
in the West, and the farther away I found myself from T’ai Yuan Fu the
more friendly did I find him. This country was not like England, where
until the last four years has been in the memory of our fathers and our
fathers’ fathers only peace. Even now, now as I write, when the World
War is on, an air raid is the worst that has befallen the home-staying
citizens of Britain. But Shansi has been raided again and again. Still
the land was tilled, well tilled; on every hand were men working hard,
working from dawn to dark, and working, to a stranger’s eyes, for the
good of the community, for the fields are not divided by hedge or fence;
there is an occasional poplar or elm, and there are graves everywhere,
but there is nothing to show where Wang’s land ends and Lui’s begins.
All through the cultivated land wanders, apparently without object, the
zigzag track of sand and ruts and stones known as the Great South
Road, impossible for anything with wheels but a Chinese cart, and often
impossible for that. There are no wayside cottages, nothing save those
few trees to break the monotony, only here and there is a village
sheltering behind high walls, sometimes of mud, but generally of brick,
and stout, substantial brick at that; and if, as is not infrequent,
there is a farmhouse alone, it, too, is behind high brick walls, built
like a baronial castle of mediaeval times, with a look-out tower and
room behind the walls not only for the owner’s family even unto the
third and fourth generation, but for all his hinds and his dependents
as well. The whole is built evidently with a view to defence, and built
apparently to last for hundreds of years. For Shansi is worth raiding.
There is oil and there is wheat in abundance. There is money too, much
of which comes from Mongolia and Manchuria. The bankers (the Shansi men
are called the Jews of China) wander across and trade far into Russian
territory while still their home is in agricultural Shansi, and certain
it is that any disturbances in these countries, even in Russia, affect
the prosperity of Shansi. I wonder if the Russian Revolution has been
felt there. Very probably.

Shansi is rich in other things too not as yet appreciated by the
Chinaman. She has iron and copper and coal that has barely been touched,
for the popular feeling is against mining. They say that no part of the
globe contains such stores of coal. I hesitate about quoting a German,
but they told me that Baron Reichthoffen has said that this province has
enough coal to supply the world for two thousand years at the present
rate of consumption. I haven’t the faintest notion whether the Baron’s
opinion is worth anything, but if it is, it is no wonder that Germany,
with her eye for ever on the main chance, has felt deeply being thrust
out of China.

With ample coal, and with iron alongside it, what might not Shansi be
worth to exploit!

Ki Hsien is a little walled town five _li_ round. Roughly three _li_
make a mile, but it is a little doubtful. For instance, from Taiku to Ki
Hsien is fifty li, and that fifty _li_ is sixteen miles, from Ki Hsien
to Ping Yao is also fifty li, but that is only fourteen English miles.
The land, say the Chinese, explaining this discrepancy, was measured in
time of famine when it wasn’t of any value! A very Chinese explanation.

The city of Ki Hsien is very, very crowded; there were hundreds of tiny
courtyards and flat roofs. In the picture of the missionary’s house I
have not been able to get the roof in because the courtyard--and it
was a fairly large courtyard as courtyards in the city go--was not
big enough. I stood as far away as I possibly could. Mr and Mrs Falls
belonged to the Chinese Inland Mission and the house they lived in was
over three hundred years old. Like many of the houses in Shansi, it
was two storeys high and, strangely enough, a thing I have never seen
anywhere else, the floors upstairs were of brick.

I do not know how I would like to live in such a crowded community, but
it has its advantages on occasion. At the time of the revolution,
when those missionaries who had come through the Boxer times were all
troubled and anxious about their future, the Falls decided to stay on
at their station, and a rich native doctor, a heathen, but a friend, who
lived next door, commended that decision.

“Why go away?” said he. “Your courtyard adjoins mine. If there is
trouble we put up a ladder and you come over to us.”

And there was hint of trouble then. As we sat at supper there came in
the Chinese postman in his shabby uniform of dirty blue and white, with
his large military cap pushed on the back of his head, and he brought
to the Falls a letter from Dr Edwards, the missionary doctor all foreign
T’ai Yuan Fu thought I ought to meet.

When I was within reach of the Peking foreign daily papers they
mentioned Pai Lang as one might mention a burglar in London, sandwiching
him in between the last racing fixtures or the latest Cinema attraction,
but from a little walled town within a day’s march of Hsi An Fu the
veteran missionary wrote very differently, and we in this other little
walled town read breathlessly.

White Wolf had surrounded Hsi An Fu, he said; it was impossible to get
there and he was returning.

The darkness had fallen, the lamp in the middle of the table threw a
light on the letter and on the faces of the middle-aged missionary
and his wife who pored over it. It might mean so much to them. It
undoubtedly meant much to their friends in Hsi An Fu, and it meant much
to me, the outsider who had but an hour ago walked into their lives.
For I began to fear lest this robber might affect me after all, lest in
coming north I was not going to outflank him. According to Dr Edwards,
he had already taken a little walled city a hundred li--about a day’s
journey--north-west of Hsi An Fu, and when ‘White Wolf took a town it
meant murder and rapine. And sitting there in the old Chinese room these
two people who knew China told me in no measured terms what might happen
to a woman travelling alone in disturbed country.

Missionaries, they said, never left their stations when the country was
disturbed, they were safer at home, surrounded by their friends. Once
the country is raided by a robber band--and remember this is no uncommon
thing in China--all the bad characters in the country come to the fore,
and robber bands that have nothing to do with the original one spring
into existence, the cities shut their gates to all strangers, and
passports are so much waste paper. Between ourselves, I have a feeling
they always are in China. I could hardly tell the difference between
mine and my agreement with my muleteers, and I have an uneasy feeling
that occasionally the agreement was presented when it should have been
the passport.

Now no one could be certain whether Pai Lang intended to take Lan Chou
Fu, but it looked as if that were his objective. If he took the city
it would not be much good my getting there, because the bankers would
certainly not be able to supply me with money; even if he only raided
the country round, it would be so disturbed that my muleteers would be
bound to take alarm. If they left me, and they certainly would leave me
if they thought there was a chance of their mules being taken, I should
be done. It would spell finish not only to the expedition but to my
life. A foreigner, especially a woman without money and without friends,
would be helpless in China. Why should the people help her? It takes
them all they know to keep their own heads above water. And Kansu was
always turbulent; it only wanted a match to set the fire alight. Air and
Mrs Falls--bless them for their kindness and interest!--thought I should
be mad to venture.

[Illustration: 0068]

[Illustration: 0069]

[Illustration: 0070]

So there in the sitting-room which had been planned for a merchant
prince and had come into the possession of these two who desired to
bring the religion of the West to China I sat and discussed this new
obstacle. After coming so far, laying out so much money, could I turn
back when danger did not directly press? I felt I could not. And yet my
hosts pointed out to me that if danger did directly threaten I would not
be able to get away. If Pai Lang did take Lan Chou Fu, or even if he
did not, it might well be worth his while to turn east and raid fertile
Shansi. In a little town like Ki Hsien there was loot well worth having.
In the revolution a banker there was held to ransom, and paid, as the
people put it, thirty times ten thousand taels (a tael is roughly three
shillings, according to the price of silver), and they said it was but
a trifle to him--a flea-bite, I believe, was the exact term--and I
ean well believe, in the multitude of worse parasites that afflict the
average Chinaman, a flea-bite means much less than it does in England.

However, I didn’t feel like giving up just yet, so I decided to go on to
Fen Chou Fu, where was a big American mission, and see what they had to
say about the matter. If then I had to flee, the missionaries would very
likely be fleeing too, and I should have company.

And the very next day I had what I took for a warning.

It was a gorgeous day, a cloudless blue sky and brilliant sunshine, and
I passed too many things of interest worth photographing. There were
some extraordinary tombs, there was a quaint village gateway--the Gate
of Everlasting Peace they call it--but I was glad to get back into my
litter and hoped to stay there for a little, for getting out of a litter
presents some difficulties unless you are very active indeed. It is
a good long drop across the shafts on to the ground; the only other
alternative is to drop down behind the mule’s hind quarters and slip out
under those shafts, but I never had sufficient confidence in my mule to
do that, so that I generally ealled upon Tsài Chih Fu to lift me down.
I had set out full of tremors, but taking photographs of the peaceful
scenes soothed my ruffled nerves. I persuaded myself my fears had been
born of the night and the dread of loneliness which sometimes overtakes
me when I am in company and thinking of setting out alone, leaving
kindly faces behind.

And then I came upon it, the first sign of unrest.

The winding road rose a little and I could see right ahead of us a great
crowd of people evidently much agitated, and I called to Mr Wang to know
what was the matter.

“Repeat, please,” said he as usual, and then rode forward and came baek
saying, “I do not know the word.”

“What word?”

“What is a lot of people and a dead man?”

“Ah!” said I, jumping to conclusions unwarrantably, “that is a funeral.”

“A funeral!” said he triumphantly. “I have learned a new word.”

Mr Wang was always learning a new word and rejoicing over it, but, as I
had hired him as a finished product, I hardly think it was unreasonable
of me to be aggrieved, and to feel that I was paying him a salary for
the pleasure of teaching him English. However, on this occasion his
triumph was short-lived. .

“Would you like to see the funeral?” he said.

I intimated that I would. My stalwart master of transport lifted me down
and the crowded people made a lane for me to pass through, and half of
them turned their attention to me, for though there were missionaries in
the big towns, a foreigner was a sight to these country people, and, Mr
Wang going first, we arrived at a man with his head cut off! Mercifully
he was mixed up with a good deal of matting and planks, but still there
was no mistaking the poor dead feet in their worn Chinese shoes turned
up to the sky.

Considering we are mortal, it is extraordinary how seldom the ordinary
person looks upon death. Always it comes with a shock. At least it did.
I suppose this war has accustomed some of us to the sight, so that we
take the result of the meeting of mortal man with his last friend on
earth more as a matter of eourse, as indeed it should be taken. Of
course I know this is one of the results of the war.

My sister’s son, staying with me after six months in hospital,
consequent upon a wound at Gallipoli, came home from a stroll one day
and reported that he had seen nothing, and then at dinner that night
mentioned in a casual manner that he had seen two dead men being carried
out of a large building and put in a motor ear.

I said in astonishment:

“They couldn’t have been dead!”

“Of course they were. Do you think I don’t know dead men when I see
them? I’ve seen plenty.”

So many that the sight of a couple in the streets of a quiet little
country town seemed not even an occasion for remark.

But I was not even accustomed to thinking of dead men and I turned upon
Mr Wang angrily:

“But that isn’t a funeral. That’s a corpse,” and once more to my
irritation he rejoiced over a new word.

“Who killed him?” I asked.

“They think an enemy has done this thing,” said he sententiously and
unnecessarily, as, ignorant as I am of tilings Chinese, I should hardly
think even they could have called it a friendly action. The body had
been found the day before, and the people were much troubled about it.
An official from Ping Yow--a coroner, I suppose we should call him--was
coming out to inquire about it, and because the sun was already hot the
people had raised a little screen of matting with a table and chairs
where he could sit to hold inquiry.

And here was the thing the missionaries had warned me against. Trouble,
said they, always begins by the finding of dead bodies that cannot be
accounted for, and this body was on the Great South Road. It might
be only a case of common murder such as one might perchance meet in
Piccadilly, possibly it was due to the bands of soldiers that were
pouring into the country--to defend the crossings of the Yellow
River, some people said--but it was to me an emphatic reminder that the
warnings of Mr and Mrs Falls had not been given lightly, and I meditated
upon it all the way to Ping Yow.

All day long the soldiers had been pouring through Ki Hsien, all night
long they poured through the suburbs of Ping Yow. Not through the town
itself--the townspeople were not going to allow that if they could help
themselves; and as it was evidently a forced march and the regiments
were travelling by night, they could help themselves, for every city
gate is shut at sundown. The China Inland Mission had a station at an
old camel inn in the eastern suburb, and there the missionary’s young
wife was alone with five young children, babies all of them, and there I
found her. I think she was very glad to see me, anyhow I was someone to
discuss things with, and we two women talked and talked over our evening
meal. She was a tall, pretty young woman--not even the ugly Chinese
dress and her hair drawn back, not a hair out of place, Chinese fashion,
could disguise her pathetic beauty. And she was a countrywoman of mine,
born and brought up in the same state, Victoria, and her native town was
Ararat, green and fresh among the hills. And how she talked Australia!
What a beautiful land it was! And the people! The free, independent
people! The women who walked easily and feared no man! To thoroughly
appreciate a democratic country you should dwell in effete China.
But she feared too, this woman, feared for herself and her five tiny
children. It would be no easy job to get away. I told her of the dead
man I had seen--how should I not tell her?--and she trembled.

“Very likely it is the soldiers,” she said. “I am afraid of the Chinese
soldiers.” And so am I in bulk, though taken singly they seem sueh
harmless little chaps.

“When the willow is green and the apricot yellow in the fifth moon,”
 said a metrical inscription on a stone dug up at Nankin in that
year--the fatal year 1914--“terrible things will happen in the land of
Han.” Terrible things, it seems to me, always happen in the land of Han;
but if it spoke for the great world beyond, truly the stone spoke truth,
though we did not know it then.

In the evening back from the country where he had been preaching for the
last day or two came my Australian’s husband, and there also came in to
see the stranger two missionaries from the other side of the town.
They sat there, these men and women of British race, dressed in the
outlandish costume of the people around them--a foolish fashion, it
seems to me, for a European in unadulterated Chinese dress looks as ugly
and out of place as a Chinese in a stiff collar and a bowler hat. And
all the evening we discussed the soldiers and the dead man I had seen,
and opinions differed as to the portent.

It is true, said one of them who had been in the country many years, and
was a missionary pure and simple, with eyes for nothing but the work he
had in hand--which is probably the way to work for success--that a
dead body, particularly a dead body by the highroad, is often a sign of
unrest, but again, quite as often it means no more than a dead body
in any other place. If he had turned back for every dead body he had
seen----

Well, I thought I would not turn back either. Not yet, at least.

Never was I sorrier for missionaries, I who have always written against
missionaries, than I was for this young countrywoman of mine who never
thought of being sorry for herself. It was a big ugly mission compound,
the rooms, opening one into another, were plain and undecorated, and the
little children as a great treat watered the flowers that struggled up
among the stones of the dusty courtyard, and the very watering-can was
made with Chinese ingenuity from an old kerosene tin. It seemed to me
those little children would have had such a much better chance
growing up in their mother’s land, or in their father’s land--he was a
Canadian--among the free peoples of the earth. But who am I, to judge?
No one in the world, it seems to me, wants help so much as the poorer
Chinese, whose life is one long battle with disease and poverty; and
perhaps these poorer missionaries help a little, a very little; but the
poorer the mission the poorer the class they reach, and the sacrifice,
as I saw it here, is so great.

Next morning we arose early, and I breakfasted with my host and hostess
and their five children. The children’s grace rings in my ears yet,
always I think it will ring there, the childish voices sung it with such
fervour and such faith:

               “Every day, every day, we bless Thee, we bless Thee,

          We praise Thy Name, we praise Thy Name,

               For ever and for ever!”

There in the heart of China these little children, who had, it seemed to
me, so very little to be grateful for, thanked their God with all their
hearts, and when their elders with the same simple fervour went down on
their knees and asked their God to guide and help the stranger and set
her on her way, though it was against all my received canons of good
taste, what could I do but be simply grateful.

Ping Yow is a large town set in the midst of a wheatgrowing country, and
it is built in the shape of a turtle, at least so I was told. I could
see for myself that its walls were not the usual four-square set to the
points of the compass, but seemed irregular, with many little towers
upon them. These towers, it seems, were built in memory of the teachers
of Confucius--this is the only intimation I have had that he
had seventy-two; and there were over three thousand small
excrescences--again I only repeat what I was told; I did not count them,
and if I had I would surely have counted them wrong--like sentry-boxes
in memory of his disciples. I do not know why Ping Yow thus dedicates
itself to the memory of the great sage. It needs something to commend
it, for it remains in my mind as a bare, ugly, crowded town, with an
extra amount of dust and dirt and heat, and no green thing to break the
monotony.

And I set forth, and in spite of all I still faced West.

[Illustration: 0079]

[Illustration: 0080]



CHAPTER IV--A CITY UNDER THE HILLS

In my wanderings across Shansi I came in contact with two missionary
systems run with the same object in view but carried out in
diametrically opposite ways. Of course I speak as an outsider. I
criticise as one who only looks on, but after all it is an old saw that
the onlooker sees most of the game. There are, of course, many missions
in China, and I often feel that if the Chinaman were not by nature a
philosopher he would sometimes be a little confused by salvation offered
him by foreigners of all sects and classes, ranging from Roman Catholics
to Seventh Day Adventists. Personally I have received much kindness
from English Baptists, from the China Inland Mission and from American
Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Amongst them all I--who frankly
do not believe in missions, believing that the children at home
should first be fed--found much to admire, much individual courage and
sacrifice, but for the systems, I felt the American missions were the
most efficient, far the most likely to attain the end in view.

The Chinaman, to begin with, sees no necessity for his own conversion.
Unlike the ordinary black man, he neither admires nor envies the white
man, and is given to thinking his own ways are infinitely preferable.
But the Chinaman is a man of sound common-sense, he immensely admires
efficiency, he is a great believer in education, and when a mission
comes to him fully equipped with doctors, nurses and hospitals, teachers
and schools, he, once he has overcome his dread of anything new, begins
to avail himself first of the doctor and the hospital, for the sore need
of China is for medical attendance, and then of the schools. Then comes
conversion. They tell me that there are many genuine converts. I have
only noticed that the great rich American missions rake in converts by
tens and twenties, where they come dribbling in in units to the faith
missions, which offer no such advantages as medical attendance or
tuition. The faith missionaries work hard enough. I have seen a woman
just come in from a week’s missionary tour in a district where, she
explained, she had slept on the k’angs with the other women of the
household, and she was stripping off her clothes most carefully and
combing her long hair with a tooth-comb, because all women of the class
she visited among were afflicted with those little parasites that we do
not mention. The Chinese have a proverb that “the Empress herself has
three,” so it is no shame. She thought nothing of her sacrifice, that
was what she had come for, everyone else was prepared to do the same;
but when so much is given I like to see great results, as in the
American missions. They are rich, and the Chinaman, with a few glaring
exceptions, is a very practical person. To ask him to change his faith
for good that will work out in another world is asking rather much of
him. If he is going to do so he feels he may as well have a God who will
give him something in return for being outcast. At least that is the way
I read the results. Look at Fen Chou, for instance, where the Americans
are thriving and a power in the town, and look at Yung Ning Chou,
farther west, where a Scandinavian faith mission has been established
for over twenty years. They may have a few adherents in the country
round, but in the city itself--a city of merchants--they have, I
believe, not made a single convert.

Of course the China Inland Mission does not lay itself out to be rich.
However many subscriptions come in, the individual missionary gets no
more than fifty pounds a year; if more money comes, more missionaries
are established, if less, then the luckless individual missionary gets
as much of the fifty pounds as funds allow. The Founder of the Faith was
poor and lowly, therefore the missionaries must follow in His footsteps.
I understand the reason, the nobility, that lies in the sacrifice
implied when men and women give their lives for their faith, but not
only do I like best the results of the American system, but I dislike
exceedingly that a European should be poor in an Oriental country. If
missionaries must go to China, I like them to go for the benefit of the
Chinese and for the honour and glory of the race to which they belong,
and not for the good of their own souls.

I came into Fen Chou Fu and went straight to the large compound of the
American missionaries, three men and three women from Oberlin College,
Ohio. They had a hospital, they had a school, they had a kindergarten,
the whole compound was a flourishing centre of industry. They teach
their faith, for that is what they have come out for, but also they
teach the manifold knowledge of the West. Sanitation and hygiene
loom large in their curriculum, and heaven knows, without taking into
consideration any future life, they must be a blessing to those men and
women who under cruel conditions must see this life through. These six
missionaries at Fen Chou Fu do their best to improve those conditions
with a practical American common-sense and thoroughness that won my
admiration.

Fen Chou Fu, unlike T’ai Yuan Fu, is friendly, and has always been
friendly, to the foreigner; even during the Boxer trouble they were
loath to kill their missionaries, and when the order came that they were
to be slain, declined to allow it to be done within their walls, but
sent them out, and they were killed about seven miles outside the
city--a very Chinese way of freeing themselves from blood-guiltiness.

The town struck me as curiously peaceful after the unrest and the
never-ending talk of riot, robbery and murder I had heard all along
the road. The weather was getting warm and we all sat at supper on the
verandah of Dr Watson’s house, with the lamps shedding a subdued light
on the table, and the sounds of the city coming to us softened by the
distance, and Mr Watt Pye assured me he had been out in the country and
there was nothing to fear, nothing. The Chinaman as he had seen him had
many sins, at least errors of conduct that a missionary counts sin, but
as far as he knew I might go safely to the Russian border. He had not
been in the country very long, not, I fancy, a fifth of the time Dr
Edwards had been there, but, listening to him, I hoped once more.

The town is old. It was going as a city in 2205 b.c., and it is quite
unlike any other I have come across in China. It is a small square city
about nine _li_ round, and on each of the four sides are suburbs, also
walled. Between them and the city are the gully-like roads leading to
the gates. The eastern suburb is nearly twice as large as the main city,
and is surrounded by a high brick wall, but the other suburbs have only
walls like huge banks of clay, on the top the grass grows, and on my way
in I was not surprised to see on top of this clay-bank a flock of sheep
browsing. It seemed a very appropriate place for sheep, for at first
sight there is nothing to show that this was the top of a town wall.

When the Manehus drove out the Mings, the vanquished Imperial family
took refuge in this western town and rebuilt the walls, which had been
allowed to fall into disrepair, and they set about the job in a fashion
worthy of Babylon itself. The bricks were made seven miles away in the
hills, and passed from hand to hand down a long line of men till they
reached their destination and were laid one on top of another to face
the great clay-bank forty-six feet high that guards the city. According
to Chinese ideas, the city needs guarding not from human enemies only.
The mountains to the west and north overshadow it, and all manner of
evil influences come from the north, and the people fear greatly
their effect upon the town. It was possible it might never get a good
magistrate, or that, having got one, he might die, and therefore they
took every precaution they could to ward off such a calamity. Gods they
put in their watch tower over the gate, and they sit there still, carved
wooden figures, a great fat god--if a city is to be prosperous must not
its god be prosperous too?--surrounded by lesser satellites. Some are
fallen now, and the birds of the air roost upon them, and the dust and
the cobwebs have gathered upon them, but not yet will they be cleared
away. In a chamber below are rusty old-world cannon flung aside in a
heap as so much useless lumber, and, below, all the busy traffic of
the city passes in and out beneath the arches of the gateway. In that
gateway are two upright stones between whieh all wheeled traffic must
pass, the distance between these stones marking the length of the axle
allowed by the narrow city streets. Any vehicle having a greater length
of axle cannot pass in. No mere words can describe the awful condition
of the roads of Shansi, and to lessen as far as possible the chance of
an upset the country man makes his axle very wide, and, knowing this,
the town man notifies at his gates the width of the vehicle that can
pass in his streets. No other can enter.

Besides the gods over the gateway, Fen Chou Fu, owing to its peculiar
position under the hills, requires other guarding, and there are two
tall bronze phoenixes on the wall close to the northern watch tower. I
was quite pleased to make the acquaintance of a phoenix, as, though I
have read about them, I had never met them before. In Fen Chou Fu it
appears that a phoenix is between thirty and forty feet high, built like
a comic representation of a chicken, with a long curly neck and a cock’s
comb upon his head. It would indeed be a churlish, evil spirit who was
not moved to laughter at the sight. But though the form is crude, on
the bronze bases and on the birds themselves are worked beautifully the
details of a long story. Dragons and foxes and rabbits, and many strange
symbols that I do not understand come into it, but how they help to
guard the city, except by pleasing the gods or amusing the evil spirits,
I must confess I cannot imagine. Certainly the city fathers omit
the most necessary care: once the walls are finished, the mason is
apparently never called in, and they are drifting to decay. Everywhere
the bricks are falling out, and when I was there in the springtime the
birds of the air found there a secure resting-place. There were crows
and hawks and magpies and whistling kites popping in and out of the
holes so made, in their beaks straws and twigs for the making of their
nests. They would be secure probably in any case, for the Chinese love
birds, but here they are doubly secure, for only with difficulty and by
the aid of a long rope could any man possibly reach them.

The ramps up to those walls were extremely steep--it was a
heart-breaking process to get on top--but Buchanan and I, accompanied by
the master of transport carrying the camera, and often by Mr Leete, one
of the missionaries, took exercise there; for in a walled city in the
narrow streets there is seldom enough air for my taste. The climate here
is roughly summer and winter, for though so short a while ago it had
been freezing at night, already it was very hot in the middle of
the day, and the dust rose up from the narrow streets in clouds. A
particularly bad cloud of dust generally indicated pigs, which travel a
good deal in Northern China, even as sheep and cattle do in Australia.
In Shantung a man sets out with a herd of pigs and travels them slowly
west, very slowly, and they feed along the wayside, though what they
feed on heaven only knows, for it looks to me as though there is
nothing, still possibly they pick up something, and I suppose the idea
is that they arrive at the various places in time for the harvest, or
when grain and products are cheapest. There are inns solely given over
to pigs and their drivers in Shansi, and the stench outside some of
those in Fen Chou Fu was just a little taller than the average smell,
and the average smell in a Chinese city is something to be always
remembered. There were other things to be seen from the top of the wall
too--long lines of camels bearing merchandise to and from the town,
donkeys, mules, carts, all churning up the dust of the unkempt roadway,
small-footed women seated in their doorways looking out upon the life of
the streets, riding donkeys or peeping out of the tilts of the carts. I
could see into the courtyards of the well-to-do, with their little
ponds and bridges and gardens. All the life of the city lay beneath us.
Possibly that is why one meets so very, very seldom any Chinese on the
wall--it may be, it probably is, I should think, bad taste to look into
your neighbour’s courtyard.

And the wall justified its existence, mediaeval and out of date as it
seemed to me. There along the top at intervals were little heaps of
good-sized stones, placed there by the magistrate in the revolution for
the defence of the town. At first I smiled and thought how primeval, but
looking down into the road nearly fifty feet below, I realised that a
big stone flung by a good hefty fist from the top of that wall was a
weapon by no means to be despised.

But walls, if often a protection, are sometimes a danger in more ways
than in shutting out the fresh air. The summer rains in North China are
heavy, and Fen Chou Fu holds water like a bucket. The only outlets are
the narrow gateways, and the waters rise and rise. A short time before I
came there all the eastern quarter of the town was flooded so deep that
a woman was drowned. At last the waters escaped through the eastern
gate, only to be banked up by the great ash-heaps, the product of
centuries, the waste rubbish of the town, that are just outside the wall
of the eastern suburb. It took a long, long while for those flood waters
to percolate through the gateway of the suburb and find a resting-place
at last in a swamp the other side of that long-suffering town. I must
confess that this is one of the drawbacks to a walled town that has
never before occurred to me, though to stand there and look at those
great gates, those solid walls, made me feel as if I had somehow
wandered into the fourth dimension, so out of my world were they.

There was a great fair in a Taoist temple and one day Mr Leete and
I, with his teacher and my servant, attended. A wonderful thing is a
Chinese fair in a temple. I do not yet understand the exact object of
these fairs, though I have attended a good many of them. Whether they
help the funds of the temple as a bazaar is supposed to help a church in
this country, I cannot say. A temple in China usually consists of a set
of buildings often in different courtyards behind one enclosing wall,
and these buildings are not only temples to the gods, but living-rooms
which are often let to suitable tenants, and, generally speaking, if
the stranger knows his way about--I never did--he can get in a temple
accommodation for himself and his servants, far superior accommodation
to that offered in the inns. It costs a little more, but everything is
so cheap that makes no difference to the foreigner. The Taoist temple
the day I went there was simply humming with life; there were stalls
everywhere, and crowds of people buying, selling or merely gossiping
and looking on. I took a picture of some ladies of easy virtue with gay
dresses and gaily painted faces, tottering about, poor things, on their
maimed feet, and at the same spot, close against the altar of the god,
I took a picture of the priest. With much hesitation he consented to
stand. He had in his hand some fortune-telling sticks, but did not
dare hold them while his portrait was being taken. However, Mr Leete’s
teacher was a bold, brave, enlightened man--in a foreign helmet--and he
held the sticks, and the two came out in the picture together. I trust
no subsequent harm came to the daring man.

[Illustration: 0089]

[Illustration: 0090]

In Fen Chou Fu I could have walked about the town alone unmolested. I
never did, because it would have been undignified and often awkward, as
I could not speak the language, but the people were invariably friendly.
On the whole, there was not very much to see. The sun poured down day
after day in a cloudless sky, and the narrow streets, faced with stalls
or blank grey brick walls enclosing the compounds, were dusty and
uneven, with the ruts still there that had been made when the ground was
softened by the summer rains of the year before. Away to the south-east
was a great pagoda, the second tallest in China, a landmark that can be
seen for many a long mile across the plain. This, like the phoenixes, is
_feng shui_. I have never grasped the inwardness of pagodas, which are
dotted in apparently a casual manner about the landscape. An immense
amount of labour must have been expended upon them, and they do not
appear to serve any useful purpose. This one at Fen Chou Fu is meant to
balance after a fashion the phoenixes on the northern wall and afford
protection for the southern approach to the city. I don’t know that it
was used for any other purpose. It stood there, tall and commanding,
dwarfing everything else within sight. Neither do I know the purpose of
the literary tower which stands on the southeast corner of the wall. It
denotes that the town either has or hopes to have a literary man of high
standing among its inhabitants. But to look for the use in all things
Chinese would be foolish; much labour is expended on work that can be
only for artistic purposes. To walk through a Chinese town, in spite of
filth, in spite of neglect and disrepair, is to feel that the Chinaman
is an artist to his finger-tips.

The gate to the American church in Fen Chou Fu, for instance, was a
circle, a thing of strange beauty. Imagine such a gate in an English
town, and yet here it seemed quite natural and very beautiful. They had
no bell, why I do not know, perhaps because every temple in China has
a plenitude of bells hanging from its eaves and making the air musical
when the faintest breath of wind stirs and missionaries are anxious to
dissociate themselves in every way from practices they call idolatry,
even when those practices seem to an outsider like myself rather
attractive. At any rate, to summon the faithful to church a man beats a
gong.

But there is one institution of Fen Chou Fu which is decidedly
utilitarian, and that is the wells in the northwestern corner. A
Chinaman, I should say, certainly uses on the average less water than
the majority of humanity; a bath when he is three days old, a bath when
he is married, and after that he can comfortably last till he is dead,
is the generally received idea of his ablutions, but he does want
a little water to carry on life, and in this corner of the town are
situated the wells which supply that necessary. It is rather brackish,
but it is still drinkable, and it is all that the city gets. They were
a never-ending source of interest to me. They were established in those
far-away days before history began--perhaps the presence of the water
here was the reason for the building of the town--and they have been
here ever since. The mouths are builded over with masonry, and year in
and year out have come those self-same carts with solid wheels, drawn
by a harnessed ox or an ox and a mule, bearing the barrels to be filled
with water. Down through all the ages those self-same men, dressed in
blue cotton that has worn to a dingy drab, with a wisp of like stuff
tied round their heads to protect them from the dust or the cold or the
sun, have driven those oxen and drawn that water. Really and truly our
own water, that comes to us, hot and cold, so easily by the turning of a
tap, is much more wonderful and interesting, but that I take as a matter
of course, while I never tired of watching those prehistoric carts. It
was in rather a desolate corner of the town too. The high walls rose up
and frowned upon it, the inside of the walls where there was no brick,
only crumbling clay with shrubs and creepers just bursting into leaf and
little paths that a goat or an active boy might negotiate meandering up
to the top. And to get to that part I had to pass the ruins of the old
yamen razed to the ground when the Government repented them of the
Boxer atrocities, and razed so effectually that only the two gate-posts,
fashioned like lions, Chinese architectural lions, survive. A curse is
on the place, the people say; anyhow when I visited it fourteen years
later no effort had been made to rebuild. Not for want of labour,
surely. There are no trade unions in China, and daily from dawn to dark
in Fen Chou Fu I saw the bricklayers’ labourers trotting along, bringing
supplies to the men who were building, in the streets I met men carrying
water to the houses in buckets, and now in the springtime there was a
never-ending supply of small boys, clad in trousers only, or without
even those, bearing, slung from each end of a bamboo, supplies of
firewood, or rather of such scraps as in any other land would have been
counted scarce worth the cost of transport. Any day too I might expect
to meet a coffin being borne along, not secretly and by night as we take
one to a house, but proudly borne in the open daylight, for everyone
knows a coffin is the most thoughtful and kindly as well as often the
most expensive of gifts.

While here I attended a wedding. Twice have I attended a Chinese
wedding. The first was at Pao Ting Fu at Christmas time, and the
contracting parties were an evangelist of the church who in his lay
capacity was a strapping big laundryman and one of the girls in Miss
Newton’s school. They had never spoken to one another, that would have
been a frightful breach of decorum, but as they went to the same church,
where there was no screen between the men and the women, as there is in
many Chinese churches, it is possible they knew each other by sight. It
is curious how in some things the missionaries conform to Chinese ideas
and in others decline to yield an inch. In Pao Ting Fu no church member
was allowed to smoke, but the women were kept carefully in retirement,
and the schoolmistress, herself an unmarried woman, and the doctor’s
wife arranged marriages for such of the girls as came under their
guardianship. Of course I see the reason for that: in the present
state of Chinese society no other method would be possible, for these
schoolgirls, all the more because they had a little scholarship and
education, unless their future had been arranged for, would have been a
temptation and a prey for all the young men around, and even with their
careful education--and it was a careful education; Miss Newton was a
woman in a thousand, I always grudged her to the Chinese--were entirely
unfitted to take care of themselves.

Still it always made me smile to see these two women, middle-class
Americans from Virginia, good-looking and kindly, with a keen sense of
humour, gravely discussing the eligible young men around the mission and
the girls who were most suitable for them. It was the most barefaced and
open match-making I have ever seen. But generally, I believe, they were
very successful, for this one thing is certain, they had the welfare of
the girls at heart.

And this was one of the matches they had arranged. It is on record that
on this special occasion the bridegroom, with the consent and connivance
of the schoolmistress, had written to the bride exhorting her to
diligence, and pointing out how good a thing it was that a woman should
be well read and cultured. And seeing that she came of very poor people
she might well be counted one of the fortunate ones of the earth, for
the bridegroom was educating her. The ignorance of the average Chinese
woman in far higher circles than she came of is appalling.

Christmas Day was chosen for the ceremony, and Christmas Day was a
glorious winter’s day, with golden sunshine for the bride, and the air,
the keen, invigorating air of Northern China, was sparkling with frost.
Now, in contrast to the next wedding I attended, this wedding was on
so-called Western lines; but the Chinese is no slavish imitator, he
changes, but he changes after his own fashion. The church was decorated
by devout Chinese Christians with results which to ‘Western eyes were
a little weird and outré. Over the platform that in an Anglican church
would be the altar was a bank of greenery, very pretty, with flowers
dotted all over it, and on it Chinese characters in cotton wool, “Earth
rejoices, heaven sings,” and across that again was a festoon of small
flags of all nations, while from side to side of the church were
slung garlands of gaily coloured paper in the five colours of the new
republic, and when I think of the time and patience that went to
the making of those garlands I was quite sorry they reminded me of
fly-catchers. But the crowning decoration was the Chinese angel that
hovered over all. This being was clad in white, a nurse’s apron was
used, girt in at the waist, foreign fashion, and I grieve to say they
did not give her much breathing-space, though they tucked a pink flower
in her belt. Great white paper wings were spread out behind, and from
her head, framing the decidedly Mongolian countenance, were flowing
golden curls, made by the ingenious decorators of singed cotton wool.

One o’clock was fixed for the wedding, and at a quarter to one the
church was full.

They did not have the red chair for the bride. The consensus of opinion
was against it. “It was given up now by the best people in Peking. They
generally had carriages. And anyhow it was a ridiculous expense.” So
it was deeided that the bride should walk. The church was only a
stone’s-throw from the schoolhouse where she lived. The bridegroom stood
at the door on the men’s side of the church, a tall, stalwart Chinaman,
with his blaek hair sleek and oiled and cut short after the modern
fashion. He was suitably clad in black silk. He reminded me of
“William,” a doll of my childhood who was dressed in the remains of an
old silk umbrella--this is saying nothing against the bridegroom, for
“William” was an eminently superior doll, and always looked his very
best if a little smug occasionally. But if a gentleman who has attained
to the proud position of laundryman and evangelist, and is marrying the
girl he has himself at great expense educated for the position, has not
a right to look a little smug, I don’t know who has. Beside him stood
his special friend, the chief Chinese evangelist, who had himself been
married four months before. At the organ sat the American doctor’s
pretty young wife, and as the word was passed, “The bride is coming!”
 she struck up the wedding march, and all the women’s eyes turned to
the women’s door, while the men, who would not commit such a breach of
decorum as to look, stared steadily ahead.

But the wedding march had been played over and over again before she
did come, resplendent and veiled, after the foreign fashion, in white
mosquito netting, with pink and blue flowers in her hair, and another
bunch in her hand. The bridegroom had wished her to wear silk on this
great occasion, so he had hired the clothes, a green silk skirt and a
bronze satin brocade coat.

A model of Chinese decorum was that bride. Her head under the white veil
was bent, her eyes were glued to the ground, and not a muscle of her
body moved as she progressed very slowly forward. Presumably she did put
one foot before the other, but she had the appearance of an automaton in
the hands of the women on either side--her mother, a stooping little old
woman, and a tall young woman in a bright blue brocade, the wife of the
bridegroom’s special friend. Each grasped her by an arm just above
the elbow and apparently propelled her up the aisle as if she were on
wheels. Up the opposite aisle came the bridegroom, also with his head
bent and his eyes glued to the ground and propelled forward in the same
manner by his friend.

They met, those two who had never met face to face before, before the
minister, and he performed the short marriage ceremony, and as he said
the closing words the Chinese evangelist became Master of Ceremonies.

“The bridegroom and bride,” said he, “‘will bow to each other once in
the new style.”

The bride and groom standing before the minister bowed deeply to each
other in the new style.

“They will bow a second time,” and they bowed again.

“They will bow a third time,” and once more they bowed low.

“They will now bow to the minister,” and they turned like well-drilled
soldiers and bowed to the white-haired man who had married them.

“They will now bow to the audience,” and they faced the people and
bowed deeply, and everybody in that congregation rose and returned the
salutation.

“And now the audience will bow to the bride and bridegroom,” and
with right good will the congregation, Chinese and the two or three
foreigners, rose and saluted the newly married couple, also I presume in
the new style.

It was over, and to the strains of the wedding march they left the
church, actually together, by way of the women’s entrance. But the bride
was not on the groom’s arm. That would not have been in accord with
Chinese ideas. The bridegroom marched a little ahead, propelled forward
by his friend, as if he had no means of volition of his own--again
I thought of “William,” long since departed and forgotten till this
moment--and behind came the new wife, thrust forward in the same manner,
still with her eyes on the floor and every muscle stiff as if she too
had been a doll.

“All the world loves a lover,” but in China, the land of ceremonies,
there are no lovers. This man had gone further than most men in the
wooing of his wife, and they were beginning life together with very fair
chances of success. But even so the girl might not hope for a home of
her own.

That would have been most unseemly. The evangelist laundryman had not a
mother, but his only sister was taking the place of mother-in-law, and
he and his bride would live with her and her husband.

[Illustration: 0099]

[Illustration: 0100]

The wedding I attended in Fen Chou Fu was quite a different affair. It
was spring, or perhaps I should say early summer, the streets through
which we drove to the old house of one of the Ming princes where dwelt
the bridegroom with his mother were thick with dust, and the sun blazed
down on us. The bridegroom belonged to a respectable well-to-do trading
family, and he wanted a Christian wife because he himself is an active
member of the church, but the Christian church at Fen Chou Fu has been
bachelor so long, and the division between the sexes is so strait, that
there are about fifty available girls to between eight and nine hundred
young men, therefore he had to take what he could get, and what he could
get was a pagan little girl about eighteen, for whom he paid thirty
Mexican dollars, roughly a little under three pounds. I, a Greek, who
do not care much what any man’s religion is so long as he live a decent
life, understand the desire of that man for a Christian wife, for
that means here in the interior that she will have received a little
education, will be able to read and write and do arithmetic, and will
know something of cleanliness and hygiene.

The great day arrived, and the missionaries and I were invited to the
bridegroom’s house for the ceremony and the feast that was to follow.
The entertainment began about eight o’clock in the morning, but we
arrived a little after noon, and we two women, Miss Grace Maccomaughey
and I, were ushered through the courtyards till we came to the interior
one, which was crowded with all manner of folks, some in festive array,
some servants in the ordinary blue of the country, and some beggars
in rags who were anticipating the scraps that fall from the rich man’s
table, and were having tea and cake already. Overhead the sky was shut
out by all manner of flags and banners with inscriptions in Chinese
characters upon them, and once inside, we made our way towards the house
through a pressing crowd. Opposite the place that perhaps answered for
a front door was a table draped in red, the colour of joy, and on the
table were two long square candles of red wax with Chinese characters
in gold upon them. They were warranted to burn a day and a night, and
between them was a pretty dwarf plant quaintly gnarled and bearing
innumerable white flowers. That table was artistic and pretty, but to
its left was a great pile of coal, and, beside the coal, a stove and a
long table at which a man, blue-clad, shaven and with a queue, was busy
preparing the feast within sight of all. I could have wished the signs
of hospitality had not been so much in evidence, for I could quite
believe that cook had not been washed since he was three days old, and
under the table was a large earthenware bowl full of extremely dirty
water in which were being washed the bowls we would presently use.

Out came the women of the household to greet us and conduct us to the
bridal chamber, dark and draped with red and without any air to speak
of. It was crowded to suffocation with women in gala costumes, with
bands of black satin embroidered in flowers upon their heads, gay coats
and loose trousers, smiling faces and the tiny feet of all Shansi. It
was quite a relief to sit down on the _k’ang_ opposite to a stout and
cheerful old lady with a beaming face who looked like a well-to-do
farmer’s wife. She was a childless widow, however, but she had attained
to the proud position of Bible-woman, receiving a salary of four Mexican
dollars a month, and consequently had a position and station of her
own. In my experience there is nothing like being sure of one’s own
importance in the world. It is certainly conducive to happiness. I know
the missionaries, bless them! would say I am taking a wrong view, but
whatever the reason at the back of it all, to them is the honour of
that happy, comfortable-looking Bible-woman. And there are so few
happy-looking women in China!

We sat on the _k’ang_ and waited for the bride, and we discoursed. My
feet--I never can tuck them under me--clad in good substantial
leather, looked very large beside the tiny ones around me, for even the
Bible-woman’s had been bound in her youth, and of course, though they
were unbound now, the broken bones could never come straight, and
the-flesh could not grow between the heel and the toes. She looked at my
feet and I laughed, and she said sententiously, like a true Chinese:

“The larger the feet the happier the woman.”

I asked did it hurt when hers were bound.

“It hurt like anything,” translated the missionary girl beside me, “but
it is all right now.”

The bride was long in coming, and shortly after four we heard the gongs
and music and crackers that heralded her arrival, and we all went out
to greet her, or rather to stare at her. First came the bridegroom, and
that well-to-do tradesman was a sight worth coming out to see. He wore
a most respectable black satin jacket and a very pretty blue silk
petticoat; round his neck and crossed on his breast was a sash of
orange-red silk, set off with a flaring magenta artificial chrysanthemum
of no mean proportions, and on his head, and somewhat too small for him,
was--a rare headgear in China--a hard black felt hat. From the brim of
that, on either side, rose a wire archway across the crown, on which
were strung ornaments of brass, and I am bound to say that the whole
effect was striking.

Before the bride came in to be married, out went two women to lift her
veil and smear her face with onion. They explained that the bridegroom’s
mother should do this, but the fortune-teller had informed them that
these two women would be antagonistic--which I think I could have
foretold without the aid of any fortune-teller--therefore the rite was
deputed to two other women, one of whom was the kindergarten teacher at
the sehool. Then, with the teacher on one side and a lucky woman with
husband and children living on the other, down through the crowd came
the little bride to her marriage. She was clad in a red robe, much
embroidered, which entirely hid her figure, so that whether she were
fat or slim it was impossible to see, on her head was a brazen crown
entirely covering it, and over her face was a veil of thick bright red
silk. She could neither see nor be seen. Her feet were the tiniest I
have ever seen, they looked about suitable for a baby of twelve months
old. The tiny red shoes were decorated with little green tassels at the
pointed toe and had little baby high heels, and though they say these
feet were probably false, the real ones must have been wonderfully small
if they were hidden in the manifold red bandages that purported to make
the slender red ankles neat.

Bride and bridegroom took their places in front of the minister, in
front of the plant and alongside the coals, and it made my back ache to
think of keeping any being standing for above a second on such feet.
The service began, all in Chinese, of course, though the officiating
minister was an American, a couple of hymns were sung, and the audience
laughed aloud because she was married by her baby name, her mother
having omitted to provide her with another.

The good woman had yearned for a son so she had called this girl “Lead a
brother.”

Half-way through the ceremony the bridegroom lifted the veil. He gave
it a hurried snatch, as if it were a matter of no moment, and hung it on
one of the projections of the brazen crown, and then he and we saw the
bride’s face for the first time. They had done their best to spoil her
beauty with carmine paint, but she had a nice little nose and a
sweet little quivering mouth that was very lovable, and I think the
bridegroom, though he never moved a muscle, must have been pleased with
his bargain.

When the service was ended, she and we, the principal guests, went back
to the _k’ang_ in the bride chamber; her crown and outer red robe were
taken off, all in public, and a small square box containing some of her
trousseau was brought in, and every woman and child there in that stuffy
little room dived into it and hauled out the silks and embroideries and
little shoes and made audible comments on them.

“H’m! it’s only sham silk,” said one.

“How old are you, new bride?” asked another.

“She’s not much to look at,” said a third, which was a shame, for with
the paint washed off she must have been pretty though tired-looking.

It was five o’clock before we went to the feast, all the women together,
and all the men together, four or five at a table, and the bridegroom,
without the absurd headgear, and his mother, in sober blue silk, came
round at intervals and exhorted us to eat plenty.

We had one little saucer each, a pair of chopsticks and a china spoon
such as that with which my grandmother used to ladle out her tea, and
they served for all the courses. It was lucky I had had nothing since
seven in the morning, or I might not have felt equal to eating after I
had seen the cooking and the washing-up arrangements. As it was, I
was hungry enough not to worry over trifles. After she had sucked them
audibly, my friend the Bible-woman helped me with her own chopsticks,
and I managed to put up with that too. I tried a little wine. It
was served in little bowls not as large as a very small salt-cellar,
literally in thimblefuls, but one was too much for me. It tasted of
fiery spirit and earth, and I felt my companion was not denying herself
much when she proclaimed herself a teetotaller. What we ate heaven only
knows, but much to my surprise I found it very good. Chinese when they
have the opportunity are excellent cooks.

The bride sat throughout the feast on the _k’ang_, her hands--three of
her finger-nails were shielded with long silver shields--hidden under
her lavender jacket and her plate piled before her, though etiquette
required that she should refuse all food. They chaffed her and laughed
at her, but she sat there with downcast eyes like a graven image. After
the feast two or three men friends of the bridegroom were brought in,
and to every one she had to rise and make an obeisance, and though the
men and women hardly looked at or spoke to each other, it was evident
that she was for this occasion a thing to be commented on, inspected
and laughed at. She was bearing it very well, poor little girl, when Kan
T’ai T’ai’s cart--I was Kan T’ai T’ai--was announced, and we went home
through the streets as the shades of evening were falling. I had
fed bountifully and well, but the dissipation had worn me out, the
airlessness of the rooms was terrible, and even the dust-laden air of
the narrow street I drew into my lungs with a sigh of deep thankfulness.
It was good to be in the free air again. Better still to remember,
however I had railed against my fate at times, nothing that could ever
happen to me would be quite as bad as the fate of the average Chinese
woman.

However, a new life was beginning for this girl in more ways than one.
The bridegroom was going back to his business, that of a photographer
in T’ai Yuan Fu, leaving his wife with his mother. She was to be sent to
the school for married women opened by the missionaries, and, of
course, her feet were to be unbound. Probably, I hope I do not do him an
injustice, the bridegroom would not have objected to bound feet, but he
did want an educated mother for his children, and the missionaries
will take no woman with bound feet. They will do the best they can to
retrieve the damage done, though she can never hope to be anything but
a maimed cripple, but at least she in the future will be free from pain,
into her darkened life will come a little knowledge and a little light,
and certainly her daughters will have a happier life and a brighter
outlook.

Missions in China, if they are to do any good, are necessarily
patriarchal. They look after their converts from the cradle to the
grave. The kindergarten run by a Chinese girl under the maternal eye
of young Miss Grace Maccomaughey was quite a pretty sight, with all the
little tots in their quaint dresses of many colours and their hair done
or their heads shaved in the absurd fashion which seems good to the
proud Chinese parents--for Chinese parents are both proud and tender and
loving, though their ways seem strange to us. But babies all the world
over, yellow or black or white, are all lovable, and these babies at the
kindergarten were delicious.

“Beloved guest, beloved guest,” they sang in chorus when I came in and
they were told to greet me. “Peace to thee, peace to thee.”

And “Lao T’ai T’ai” they used to address me in shrill little voices as I
went about the compound. Lao T’ai T’ai (I shouldn’t like to swear I’d
spelled it properly) means “Old lady”--that is, a woman of venerable
years who is rich enough to keep a servant--and it was the first time in
my life I had been so addressed, so I looked in the glass to see if I
had developed grey hair or wrinkles--riding on a mule-pack would be
enough to excuse anything--and then I remembered that if in doubt in
China it is erring on the side of courtesy to consider your acquaintance
old. I dare say to the children I was old. I remember as a very little
girl a maiden aunt asking me how old I thought her, and I, knowing she
was older than my mother, felt she must be quite tottery and suggested
in all good faith she might be about ninety. I believe the lady had just
attained her five and thirtieth year, and prided herself upon her
youthful appearance. At any rate her attitude on this occasion taught me
when guessing an age it is better to understate than to overestimate. At
least in the West. Here in the East I was “Old lady” by courtesy.

And they begin the important things of life early in China. At the
kindergarten there were two little tots, a boy and a girl, engaged to be
married. The boy was the son of one of the mission cooks and the girl
was the daughter of his wife. He, a widower, sought a wife to look after
his little boy, and he got this young widow cheap. Her price was thirty
_tiaous_--that is, a little over one pound--and at first he said it was
too much and he could not afford it, but when he heard she had a little
girl he changed his mind and scraped together the money, for the child
could be betrothed to his little son and save the expense of a wife
later on.

They were a quaint little pair, both in coats and trousers, shabby and
old, evidently the children of poor people, and both with their heads
shaven save for a tuft of hair here and there. The boy had his tufts cut
short, while the girl’s were allowed to grow as long as they would and
were twisted into a plait. Such a happy little couple they were, always
together, and in the games at the kindergarten when they had to pair
these little ones always chose each other. Possibly the new wife in the
home was a wise and discreet woman. She might be glad too at the thought
that she need not part with her daughter. Anyhow I should think that in
Fen Chou Fu in the future there would be one married couple between whom
the sincerest affection will exist.

I suppose Chinese husbands and wives are fond of each other
occasionally, but the Chinaman looks upon wedded life from quite a
different point of view from the Westerner. I remember hearing about a
new-made widow who came to sympathise with a missionary recovering from
a long illness. She was properly thanked, and then the missionary in her
turn said in the vernacular:

“And you too have suffered a bitterness. I am sorry.”

“I?” incredulously, as much as to say, Who could think I had a sorrow?

“Why, yes. You have lost your husband, haven’t you?”

“Call that a bitterness?” smiled the relict cheerfully, and her would-be
consoler felt the ground cut away beneath her feet.

But perhaps that sympathiser was not quite as much dismayed as another
lady who offered her condolences upon a similar occasion. The new-made
widow was a gay old thing, and she remarked blandly, with a toss of her
head:

“All, we don’t worry about things like that when we’ve got the Gospel!”
 which left that well-meaning teacher a little uncertain as to whether
she had instructed her in the doctrines of her new faith quite
correctly.

Fen Chou Fu is a town that lends itself to reform, that asks for it.
When I was there they had a magistrate who had been educated in Japan
and was ready to back any measures for the good of the town. He was too
much imbued with the spirit of modern thought to be a Christian, but
he was full of admiration for many of the measures advocated by these
enthusiastic young people from Oberlin College. There is a large
Government school here--you may see the courtyards with their lily ponds
and bridges from the wall--that has been in existence for hundreds of
years, and this magistrate appealed to the missionaries to take it over
and institute their modern methods. They might even, so he said, teach
their own faith there. The only thing that stood in the way was want
of funds, for though the school was endowed, money has still a way of
sticking to the hands through which it passes in China. The missionaries
were rather inclined, I think, to have hopes of his conversion, but I do
not think it is very easy to convert the broad-minded man who sees the
good in all creeds. This magistrate was anxious to help his people sunk
in ignorance and was wise enough to use every means that came in his
way, for he knows, knowing his own people, you will never Westernise
a Chinaman. He will take all that is good--or bad--in the West that
appeals to him, and he will mould it in his own way. This magistrate
was building an industrial school for criminal boys close to the mission
station and, more progressive than the West itself, he allowed his wife
to sit on the bench beside him and try and sentence women proved guilty
of crime.



CHAPTER V--“MISERERE DOMINE!”

As I have said more than once, it seems to me the most intolerable
thing in life would be to be a Chinese woman. I remember when first I
began to write about China I asked a friend of mine to look over my
work and he objected to my making such a fuss about the condition of the
women.

“Why, people will think you are a suffragette!” said he, searching for
some term of obloquy that he felt could not possibly apply to me.

But I am a suffragist, an ardent suffragist, realising that a woman
is most valuable neither as an angel nor as a slave, but as a useful
citizen, and I saw then that he possibly knew little about the condition
of his own women, and probably absolutely nothing at all about the
condition of the women of the race who swarmed around him. Those he met
would be dumb, and at any rate no right-minded woman begins upon her
wrongs to a stranger. In any country it would be bad taste, in China no
words can tell what shocking bad taste. I had to seek further afield for
my information, and I got it from the medical missions. Now I went to
China with a strong prejudice against missionaries, and I found there
many people who backed me up. And then it occurred to me that I had
better go to a mission station and see what manner of people were these
I was judging so hastily and so finally.

I went. And what I saw made me sorry that Great Britain and America, to
say nothing of Scandinavia, should be deprived of the services of these
men and women who are giving so much to an alien people. Of course I
know that many missionaries have the “call,” a “vocation” I suppose the
Catholics would call it.

“It is a fine work,” said I, usually the unadmiring, “to teach these
women, but I do not like coming in contact with them, however much I
appreciate their virtues.”

And the missionary girl looked at me pityingly.

“Do you think,” said she, “we could come all this way to teach Chinese
women reading, writing and arithmetic?”

It seems to me a great thing to do; if it be only to teach them to wash,
it is a great thing; but I who merely pitied would never have stayed
there to better the condition of those unhappy women. To her and her
comrades had come that mysterious call that comes to all peoples through
all the ages, the Crying in the Wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the
Lord. Make His paths straight,” and she thought more, far more, of it
than I did of the undoubtedly good work I saw she was doing, saw as
I never should have seen had I not gone in the ways untrodden by the
tourist, or indeed by any white man.

There are missionaries and missionaries, of course; there are even
backsliders who, having learned the difficult tongue under the ægis of
the missions, have taken up curio-buying or any other of the mercantile
careers that loom so temptingly before the man who knows China; but in
all classes of society there are backsliders, the great majority must
not be judged by them. Neither must their narrowness be laid too mueh
to heart when judging the missionary as a whole. Possibly only a fanatic
can carry through whole-heartedly the work of a missionary at a remote
station in China, and most fanatics are narrow. There are, too, the men
and women who make it a business and a livelihood, who reckon they have
house and income and position and servants in return for their services
to the heathen, but they too are faithful and carry out their contracts.
Having once seen the misery and poverty in which the great majority of
Chinese dwell, I can say honestly that I think every mission station
that I have seen is a centre from which radiates at least a hope of
better things. They raise the standard of living, and though I care
not what god a man worships, and cannot understand how any man can be
brought to care, it is good that to these people sitting in darkness
someone should point out that behind the world lies a great Force, God,
Love, call it what you will, that is working for good. That the more
educated Chinese has worked out a faith for himself, just as many in
the West have done, I grant you, but still the majority of the people
that I have seen sit in darkness and want help. From the missions they
get it. Taken by and large, the Chinaman is a utilitarian person, and if
the missions had not been helpful they would long ago have gone. And for
the missionaries themselves--I speak of those in the outstations--not
one, it seems to me, not one would stay among the Chinese unless he were
sure that his God had sent him, for the life is hard, even for the rich
missions there are many deprivations, and if therefore, being but human,
they sometimes depict their God as merciful and loving in a way that
seems small and petty, much must be forgiven them. They are doing their
best.

There is another side to it too for the West. These missionaries
are conquering China by the system of peaceful penetration. They are
persecuted, they suffer, are murdered often, but that does not drive
them away. They come back again and again, and wherever the missionary
succeeds in planting his foot the hatred to foreigners and things
foreign, strong among the conservative Chinese, is weakened and finally
broken down. China is a rich country, she is invaluable to the nations
of the earth for purposes of trade, and though the missionary in many
ways, if he were asked, would oppose the coming of the white man, he
certainly is the pioneer.

China is trying to reform herself, but the process is slow, and it seems
to me in Shansi and in the parts of Chihli that I know it would be a
long, long while before the good percolated to the proletariat, the
Babylonish slaves, if it were not for the missionaries; and particularly
do I admire the medical missionaries, for China is one huge sore.

That is the word the woman doctor at Pao Ting Fu applied to it, and,
attending her clinic of a morning, I was inclined to agree with her.
Life is hard for everybody among the poor in China, but especially does
it press upon the women. They came there into the clean sun-lit room and
the reek of them went up to heaven--bald-headed, toothless old crones in
wadded coats out of which all semblance of colour had long since passed,
young girls and little children clad in the oldest of garments. There
were so many with ingrowing eyelashes that the doctor had one particular
day upon which she operated for this painful disfigurement, and she
showed me how, by making a little nick--I’m afraid I can’t use proper
surgical terms--in the upper eyelid, she turned back the eyelashes and
made them grow in the direction they are intended to grow, and saved the
unfortunates’ eyes. Why eyelashes should grow in in China I don’t know.
Perhaps it is my ignorance, but I have never heard of their behaving in
such an unnatural fashion in any other part of the world, while in Pao
Ting Fu this ailment seemed to be as common as influenza in London. Then
there would be women with their mouths closed by sores, often so badly
they could only live by suction, and more than once a new mouth had to
be cut; there were cancerous growths--the woman depicted in the picture
had waited twenty years before she could arrange to come under one
hundred miles to the doctor--there were sores on the head, sores all
over the body, all, I suppose, including the ingrowing eyelashes, caused
by malnutrition, swollen glands, abscesses offensive and purulent, in
fact in that clinic were collected such an array of human woes, ghastly,
horrible, as well might make one wonder if the force behind all life
could possibly be anything but devilish and cruel. Wherein could the
good be found? Where?

And yet there was good. Among these women moved the nurses. They were
comely girls in blue coats and trousers, with their abundant black hair
smoothly drawn back, neat white stockings and the daintiest of little
shoes. Their delicate artistic hands used sponge and basin very capably,
they were the greatest contrast to their patients, and yet they were
truly Chinese, had sprung from the people to whom they now ministered,
and one of them, though it was hardly observable, had an artificial
foot. So had she suffered from foot-binding that her own had had to be
amputated.

Probably most of the ailments there treated were preventable, but worst
of all were the bound feet and the ailments the women suffered from in
consequence. It is not good manners to speak about a woman’s feet,
and the women themselves rarely refer to them, but naturally I was
interested in the custom, and whenever the doctor got a “good” bound
foot, which probably meant a very bad one, she sent over for me to come
and see it. Anyone who has once seen a bound foot will never forget it.
It always smelt abominably when first the bandages were taken off, and
the first thing the nurses did was to provide a square kerosene tin of
hot water in which to soak the foot well.

Well washed, the feet might be looked at. Shansi especially is the home
of the bound foot, most of the women have such small feet that they are
confined for the greater part of their lives to the _k’ang_. I remember
Dr Lewis in all seriousness saying that he thought on the whole a
Chinese woman was better without her feet. And I’m inclined to think he
was right. The toes, all except the big toe, are pressed back till they
touch the heel, the bandage is put on and drawn tighter and tighter
every day, and if the girl is healthy and big-boned, so much the worse
for her. No matter the size of the girl, the foot must conform to the
one standard. In Shansi when I was there the shoes were generally about
four inches long, and I have taken shoes of that length off a tall and
strapping woman who was tottering along with the aid of a stick. What
she must have suffered to get her feet to that size is too terrible
to imagine. She must have been suffering still for that matter. If the
instep after the tightest binding still sticks up the girl’s marriage
chances are seriously interfered with, and then the mother or some
feminine relative takes a meat-chopper and breaks the bone till she can
bind the foot small enough. This information I got from the American
lady who looks after the women in the mission in Fen Chou Fu; and at
T’ai Yuan Fu the sister in the women’s hospital added the gruesome
detail that they sometimes pull off the little girls’ toe-nails so that
they may not interfere with the binding!

And at the women’s hospital at Pao Ting Fu I saw the finished product.
The big toe stuck straight out, red, possibly because of the soaking
in hot water--I never had courage to look at one unsoaked--and
ghastly-looking, the other toes were pressed back against the heel
and the heel went up and was exactly like the Cuban heels affected by
smartly dressed women, only this time it had been worked in flesh
and blood. The whole limb from the big toe to the knee was hard and
immovable as stone. If you press ordinary flesh anywhere it pits, just
yields a little, not so a Chinese woman’s leg and foot. It is thin,
perished, literally hard as marble. Once having seen a foot unbound, it
is a wonder to me that any woman should walk at all. And yet they do.
They hold out their arms and walk, balancing themselves, and they use a
stick. Sometimes they walk on their heels, sometimes they try the toe,
but once I realised what those bandages concealed it was a painful and
dreadful thing to me to see a Chinese woman walking. In spite of the
hardness of the flesh, or probably because of it, they get bad corns on
the spot upon which they balance, and sores, very often tuberculous, eat
into the foot.

[Illustration: 0117]

[Illustration: 0118]

But the evil does not stop at the foot. In Shansi it seemed to me every
woman’s face was marked with the marks of patient suffering. Travelling
I often got a glimpse of one peering out of a cart or litter at the
foreigner, and that face invariably was patient, pallid and worn, for
foot-binding brings no end of evils in its train. The doctor at Fen Chou
Fu declared that nine-tenths of the women who came to him for treatment
suffered from tuberculosis in some form or another, and this in a
climate that in the winter must outrival in dryness Davos Platts. Not
a few, too, develop spinal curvature low down in the back, and often
because of the displacement of the organs they die in child-birth. A
missionary in one of the little towns I passed through, a trained nurse,
told me that when a woman suffered from what she (the woman) called
leg-waist pains--the doctor called it osteomalacia--her case was
hopeless, she could not give birth to a child. Often this nurse had been
called in to such cases, and she could do nothing to help the suffering
girl. She could only stand by and see her die. I could well believe
these tales of suffering. In Fen Chou Fu and in Pao Ting Fu the women
of the poorer classes freely walked the streets, and their crippled
condition was patent to all eyes. But in some towns it is not considered
seemly for any woman to be seen in the streets. Some reason established
this custom long ago: the reason passes, but China is the most
conservative of nations, and the custom remains. But the reason for
foot-binding is not very clear. There is something sexual at the bottom
of it, I believe, but why a sick and ailing woman should be supposed
to welcome the embraces of her lord more readily than one abounding in
health passes my understanding. Of course we remember that not so very
long ago, in the reign of Victoria, practically the delicate woman
who was always ailing was held up to universal admiration. Look at
the swooning heroines of Dickens and Thackeray. But let no man put the
compressed waist on the same plane as foot-binding. I have heard
more than one man do so, but I unhesitatingly affirm they are wrong.
Foot-binding is infinitely the worse crime. The pinched-in waist did not
begin till the girl was at least well on in her teens, and it was
only the extreme cases--and they did it of their own free will I
presume--who kept up the pressure always. There was always the night for
rest, whereas the Chinese women get no rest from torture.

The missionaries at Fen Chou Fu, being very anxious to improve the
status of the women, used to arrange to have lectures in their large
hall to women only, and they raked the country-side for important people
to address them on subjects that were, or rather that should be, of
interest to women. They were not supposed to have anything to do with
religion, but they discussed openly women’s position, were told about
hygiene and the care of children, and the magistrate’s wife, she who had
been educated in Japan, told them some home-truths about the position of
women in China.

“American women,” said she on one occasion, “go out into the world and
help in the world’s development. We Chinese stay at home and are dragged
along by the men. The time has come when we must learn better things.”

But I looked one day at over seventy women of the richer classes
assembled to listen to a young and enthusiastic Chinese with modern
views on the position of women and their equality with men. He was
passionate, he was eloquent, he was desperately in earnest, but it was
very evident he spoke to deaf ears. I do not think that any one of those
women grasped, or cared for that matter, what he was saying. In the
heart of China woman is very far from being the equal of man. These
women were pets and toys, and they came to the mission station probably
because it was the fashionable form of amusement just then, but they
listened to what was being said with deaf ears and minds incapable
of understanding. They were gaily clad in silks and satins, richly
embroidered; their hair when it was abundant was oiled and elaborately
dressed and decorated with gold and silver pins, and when it was scanty
was hidden under embroidered silken bands; there was not a skirt amongst
them, that was left to the lecturer, their blue and green and brilliant
red trousers were rather narrow, their feet were of the very tiniest
even in Shansi, and their faces, worn and suffering under their paint
and powder, were vacant. Some of them had brought their babies, and only
when a child cried, and they cried fairly frequently, did those faces
light up. That was something they really did understand.

And yet that enthusiastic young scholar in his voluminous petticoats,
with his hair cut in the modern fashion, went on lecturing to them on
the rights of women, the position women ought to occupy!

But the position of women! Toys or slaves are they, toys and slaves have
been their mothers and their grandmothers since the days before the
dawn of history, and very, very slowly is the idea of the possibility of
better things percolating through to the masses in China. It will come,
I suppose, because already there are Government schools for women,
though they are few and far between, and in some places, so far has
the desire for freedom gone, the girls have banded themselves into
societies, declaring that rather than marry a man they have never seen
they will commit suicide, and more than one has taken her own life. But
in the parts of Shansi and Chihli where I was so much light has not yet
penetrated. The wife and mother has influence because any living
thing with which we are closely associated--even if it be but a little
dog--must needs influence us, but all the same the Chinese women are as
a rule mere chattels, dependent entirely upon their menfolk. Amongst
the Chinese the five happinesses are: old age, a son, riches, official
position and a moustache; so slight a thing is a woman that she does not
come in in this connection.

“As far as the heavens are above the earth, so far am I,” disdainfully
proclaimed a Chinese teacher, “above my wife.” And he only spoke as if
stating a self-evident fact, a thing that could not be questioned. “How
could she be my equal?” Just as I might have objected to being put on
the same plane as my mule or my little dog. Indeed I doubt very much
whether he gave the same consideration to his wife as I would do to my
little dog, who is much beloved.

This is not to say, of course, that the men don’t consider the women.
They do.

I remember the gate-keeper at Pao Ting Fu mission paying up for his
daughter’s schooling. He was a jovial old soul, so old that I was
surprised to hear he had a mother.

“Short am I?” said he cheerfully. “Short? Oh, that dollar and a half!”
 He paused to consider the matter, then added: “And I was thinking about
borrowing a dollar from you. My mother’s dying, and I want to buy her a
skirt! Must be prepared, you know!”

The old lady, said Miss Newton, had probably never owned such a luxury
as a skirt in her life, but that was her son’s way of being good to
her, for the people have a proverb to the effect that the most important
thing in life is to be buried well, an idea that isn’t entirely unknown
in Western and more enlightened lands. Poor old lady, whose one and
only skirt came to her to be buried in, or perhaps it would be taken off
before she was buried, for the Chinese are a careful people. I remember
one frugal man who celebrated the funeral of his mother and the marriage
of his son at the same time, so that the funeral baked meats did for
the marriage feast, and the same musicians did for both. The coffin,
of heavy black wood, tall as a mantelpiece, stood in the yard, with the
eldest son and his wife clad in white as mourners, and the rest of
the company made merry in the house over the bridal. It was the most
exquisite piece of thrift, but the Chinaman is _par excellence_ an
economist.

It was in Pao Ting Fu that I met the only woman who made open complaint
against the position of women, and she only did it because, poor thing,
she was driven to it.

She slipped through the mission compound gate while the gate-keeper was
looking the other way, a miserable, unkempt woman with roughened hair
and maimed feet. Her coat and trousers of the poorest blue cotton were
old and soiled, and the child she carried in her arms was naked save
for a little square of blue cotton tied round his body in front. She
was simply a woman of the people, deadly poor where all just escape
starvation, young and comely where many are unattractive, and she stood
under the shade of the trees watching eagerly the mission family and
their guest at breakfast on the porch! It was a June morning, the
sunshine that would be too fierce later on now at 7 a.m. was golden, and
a gentle breeze just whispered softly in the branches that China--even
Pao Ting Fu--in the early summer morning was a delightful place.

But eager watching eyes glued to every mouthful are distinctly
disquieting, and in China, the land of punctilious etiquette, are rude.
Besides, she had no business to be there, and the doctor’s wife turned
and spoke to her.

“What custom is this?” said she, using the vernacular, “and how did you
get in here?”

“I ran past”--ran, save the mark, with those poor broken cramped
feet--“when the gate-keeper was not looking. And it’s not a day’s hunger
I have. For weeks when we have had a meal we have not known where the
next was coming from.”

“But you have a husband?”

“And he was rich,” assented the woman, “but he has gambled it all away.”

It was quite a likely story. Another woman working on the compound said
it was true. She had a bad husband--_hi yah!_ a very bad husband. He
beat her, often he beat her. Sometimes perhaps it was her fault, because
she was bad-tempered. Who would not be bad-tempered with maimed feet, an
empty stomach and two little hungry children? But often he beat her
for no reason at all. And everyone knows that a Chinese husband has a
perfect right to beat his wife. That he refrains from so doing is an act
of grace on his part, but a woman of herself is merely his chattel. She
has no rights.

The hospital quilted bed-covers--_pel wos_, they called them--had to be
unripped and washed. The pay was twenty-five _t’ung tzus_ a day and keep
yourself. One hundred and thirty _t’ung tzus_ went to the dollar, and
10-35 dollars went to the sovereign at that time, so that the work
could not be considered overpaid; but this was China, and the women were
apparently rising up out of the ground and clamouring for it. It was
evidently looked upon as quite a recreation to sit under the trees on
the grass in the mission compound and gossip and unpick quilts. The new
recruit joined them and spent a happy day, sure of food for herself and
her children for that day at least--not food perhaps such as we would
appreciate, but at least a sufficiency of millet porridge.

That day and the next she worked, and then on the third day at midday
she went away for her meal and did not come back till after two o’clock
in the afternoon. The doctor’s wife was reproachful.

“You have been away for over three hours. Why is this?”

She was a true Chinese and found it difficult to give a direct answer.

“I have been talking to my mother,” said she, rousing wrath where she
might have gained sympathy.

“What excuse is this?” said the doctor’s wife. “You go away, and when
I ask you why, you tell me you have been talking to your mother! Your
mother should have more sense than to keep you from your work!”

“But my husband has sold me!” protested the culprit and then we saw that
her face was swollen with crying; “and I am a young woman and I don’t
know what to do when my husband sells me. He keeps the children and
he sells me, and Tsao, the man who has bought me, is a bad man,” and
dropping down to the ground she let the tears fall on to the work in her
hands.

“I am young and so I don’t know what to do.” It was the burden of her
song. It may be she is wailing still, for the story was unfinished when
I left. She was young and she didn’t know what to do. She would not have
minded leaving her husband if only the man to whom she had been sold had
been a better man, but he bore a worse reputation if anything than her
husband, and ignorant, unlearned in all things of this world as she was,
she and the women round her knew exactly what her fate would be. Tsao
would sell her when he tired of her, and her next purchaser would do
likewise, and as she gets older and her white teeth decay and her bright
eyes fade and her comeliness wanes her money value will grow less and
less, and beating and starvation will be her portion till death comes
as a merciful release. But, as she kept repeating pathetically, she is
young, and death is the goal at the end of a weary, weary, heartbreaking
road.

For her husband was quite within his rights. He could sell her. It may
be, of course, he will be swayed by public opinion, and public opinion
is against the disposing of a wife after this fashion.

“Let her complain to the official,” suggested my assurance.

But the wise women who knew rose up in horror at the depths of ignorance
I was disclosing.

“Go to the yamen and complain of her husband!”

It is no crime for a man to sell his wife, but it is a deadly crime for
a woman to speak evil of her husband! She was not yet handed over. All
he would have to do would be to deny it, and then she would be convicted
of this crime and to her other ills would be added the wrath of the
official. No, something better than that must be thought of.

She had been sold for a hundred _tiaou_--something under four
pounds--and when the money was paid she would have to go to her new
master, far away from all her friends.

“_Hi yah!_” said the other women. “What a bad man!” So public opinion
was against it!

It would do no good to buy her freedom unless the purchaser were
prepared to take upon himself the conduct of her future life. A woman
must belong to somebody in China; she is, except in very exceptional
cases and among the very advanced, considered incapable of guiding her
own life, and pay this and the man would still regard her as his wife
and sell her again.

Then a woman wise with wisdom of the people arose.

“There is only one thing to be done,” said she; “you must pretend you
know nothing about it, and when Tsao comes, and you are sold, then make
an excuse and run to the yamen. It may be the official will help, for it
is a wicked thing.”

“Run to the yamen!” on feet on which she could just totter. But the wise
woman had taken that into consideration.

“Mark well the way so you may hide in the turnings.”

Such a forlorn, pitiful little hope! But with it she had to be content,
and that night she held her peace and pretended she did not know
the fate that hung over her, and when I left she was still ripping
bed-covers with the other women. She had had no hand in bringing about
her own fate, for she did not choose this man. She had never seen him
till she was handed over on her marriage day by her parents.

“What,” said the women at one place when a new missionary came to them,
“forty and not married! What freedom! How did you manage it! What good
fortune!”

In China there is no respectable word, so I am told, to denote a
bachelor, and there was almost never, at least under the old regime,
such a thing as an old maid. Every woman must belong to someone, and
few and far between are the families that can afford to keep unmarried
daughters, so the women regard as eminently fortunate those foreign
women they come across, missionary or otherwise, who are apparently free
to guide their own lives.

Of course the average husband would no more think of selling his wife
than would an Englishman, but, unlike the Englishman, he knows that he
has the right to do so should he so please, even as he has the right
of life and death over her and his children. She is his chattel, to be
faithful to her would simply be foolishness.

They tell a story of an angry father found digging a hole in which he
proposed to bury his son alive. That son had been insolent, and it was
a terrible thing to have an insolent son. His mother wept, but to her
tears the father paid no heed. A stranger passed along and questioned
the little company, and finding in his heart pity for the woman and the
lad, cast about how he might help them. He did not set about it as we of
the West would have done.

He commiserated with the father. It was a terrible thing to have an
insolent son. Undoubtedly he deserved death. But it would be a bad thing
to have no son to worship at the ancestral tablet.

That was provided for, said the irate parent. He had two other sons.

That was well! That was well! And of course they had sons?

No, they were young. They had no sons yet.

A-a-ah! And suppose anything happened by which they both should die?

The stranger let that sink in. He had struck the right chord. It
would be a terrible thing to have no son to worship at the ancestral
tablet--to think that he by his own act----

Chinese reasoning prevailed, and the son’s life was spared.

And yet the Chinese are fond of their children and, according to their
lights, good to their wives. It is that under the patriarchal system
children and women--a woman is always a child, a very ignorant child as
a rule--have no rights. They are dependent upon the good will of their
owners.

And so the woman sitting waiting to see if her husband would complete
the bargain and sell her had no rights. She was just a chattel in the
eye of the law. And there was none to help. Miserere Domine! It was just
possible public opinion would save her. It was her only hope. Miserere
Domine! Miserere Domine!

In Fen Chou Fu the missionaries had started an adult school for women.
First it was started, as they themselves put it, to teach the Gospel,
but then wisely they extended it and taught reading, writing and
arithmetic, and very eager indeed were the pupils. It is only fair to
say that very often husbands, or possibly fathers-in-law--for a woman
belongs to the head of her husband’s family, or at least owes allegiance
to him--aided and abetted in every way, and when necessary sent the
pupils twenty and thirty miles in carts and in litters from away in
the mountains to attend. One woman with four little children, all under
five, with another coming, was a most eager pupil. Her children were
sent to the kindergarten, which is in charge of a young Chinese teacher
educated by the missionaries.

Again I do not say the Chinese are not doing something to ameliorate the
condition of their women. I can only speak of what I saw, and what I saw
was, here in Shansi, the wives of the most miserable peasants sunk in
ignorance and hardly able to crawl from the _k’angs_ on which they spent
their lives. The men do the cooking because the women are incapable, and
the mortality among the children is terrible. A doctor told me that
very often he had attended a woman at the birth of her thirteenth or
fourteenth child and only one or two would be living!

I don’t know how many wives or concubines a man is allowed. Only the
first one has any standing, and the number of the others is probably
limited by his means. I remember hearing of one man, a Mr Feng, who had
just married his second wife to another man because she was making his
life too miserable for him. This was the man’s side of the story; I had
heard the woman’s the last time. I wonder how the case is put on these
occasions. Does a man say he is parting with the lady with extreme
regret because the climate does not suit her, or because his first wife
does not like her, or because a sudden reverse of fortune has compelled
him to reduce his household? He surely would never have given the real
reason. My friend Mr Farrer waxes enthusiastic over things Chinese, but
I must say what I have seen of their domestic life repels me, and I
am rather inclined to agree with a missionary of my acquaintance--a
bachelor though--that it would give nervous prostration to a brazen
statue.

There can be little happiness where there is ignorance, and the majority
of the women of Shansi anyhow are the ignorant slaves of ignorant
slaves. Miserere Domine!



CHAPTER VI--BY MOUNTAIN AND RIVER

Setting out on a long journey by road, moving along slowly, at the rate
of thirty miles a day, I find I do not have the end in view in my mind
all the time. I do subconsciously, of course, or I would never get on
at all, but I take a point a couple of days ahead and concentrate
on getting there. Having arrived so far, I am so pleased with the
performance I can concentrate on the next couple of days ahead. So
I pass on comfortably, with the invigorating feeling of, something
accomplished.

Fen Chou Fu, then, was one of my jumping-off places.

And at Fen Chou Fu my muleteers began to complain. Looked at from a
Western point of view, they ought to have complained long before, but
their complaint was not what I expected. They sent my interpreter to say
we were going the wrong way. This road would lead us out into a great
bare place of sand. When the wind blew it would raise the sand in great
clouds that would overwhelm us, and if the clouds gathered in the sky we
should not be able to see the sun, we would not know in which direction
to go and we should perish miserably. And having supplied me with this
valuable and sinister information they stood back to watch it sink in.

It didn’t have the damping and depressing effect they doubtless
expected. To begin with, I couldn’t believe in a Chinese sky where you
couldn’t see the sun. The clouds might gather, but a few hours would
suffice to disperse them, in my experience, and as for losing ourselves
in the sand--well, I couldn’t believe it possible. Always in China,
where-ever I had been, there had been plenty of people of whom to ask
the way, and though every man’s radius was doubtless short, still at
every yard there was somebody. It was like an endless chain.

“Don’t they want to go?” I asked Mr Wang.

“Repeat, please,” said he, according to the approved formula.

“Won’t they go?” I felt I had better have the matter clear.

“You say ‘Go,’ mus’ go. You fear--you no go.”

If I feared and wouldn’t go on, I grasped, the money I paid them would
be forfeit.

“But I must go. I am not afraid.”

“They say you go by Hsi An Fu. That be ploper.” And the listening
muleteers smiled at me blandly.

“But I cannot go by Hsi An Fu because of White Wolf.” I did not say that
also it would be going round two sides of a triangle because that would
not appeal to the Chinese mind.

“They not knowing White Wolf,” said Mr Wang, shaking his head.

“Well, I know White Wolf,” I said, departing a little from the truth,
“and I am going across the river to Sui Te Chou.”

“You say ‘Go,’” said Mr Wang sorrowfully, “mus’ go,” and he looked at
the muleteers, and the muleteers looked at him sorrowfully and went
off the verandah sorrowfully to prepare for the lonely road where there
would be no people of whom to ask the way, only sand and no sun.

There was plenty of sun when we started. It was a glorious summer
morning when my little caravan went out of the northern gate into the
mountains that threatened the town. It was unknown China now, China as
she was in the time of the Cæsars, further back still in the time of
the Babylonish kings, in the days before the first dynasty in Egypt. Out
through the northern gate we went, by the clay-walled northern suburb,
past great ash-heaps like little mountain ranges, the refuse of
centuries, their softly rounded sides now tinged with the green of
springtime, and almost at once my caravan was at the foot of the
hills--hills carved into terraces by the daily toil of thousands, but
looking as if they had been so carved by some giant hand. As we entered
them as hills they promptly disappeared, for the road was sunken, and
high over our heads rose the steep clay walls, shutting out all view
save the bright strip of blue sky above.

I here put it on record--I believe I have done it before, but it really
cannot be repeated too often--that as a conveyance a mule litter leaves
much to be desired. Sitting up there on my bedding among my cushions,
with James Buchanan beside me, I was much more comfortable than I should
have been in a Peking cart, but also I was much more helpless. A driver
did take charge of the Peking cart, but the gentleman who sometimes led
my mule litter more often felt that things were safer in the charge of
the big white mule in front, and when the way was extremely steep or
rough he abandoned it entirely to its discretion. The missionaries had
told me whenever I came to a bad place to be sure and get out, because
the Chinese mules are not surefooted enough to be always trusted. They
are quite likely at a bad place to slip and go over. This was a cheering
reflection when I found myself at the bad place abandoned to the tender
mercies of those animals. The mule in the lead certainly was a capable
beast, but again and again, as I told Mr Wang, I would have preferred
that the muleteers should not put quite so much faith in him. I learned
to say “B-r-rrr, b-r-r-rrr!” when I wanted him to stop, but I did
not like to say it often, because I felt in a critical moment I might
seriously hamper him to my own disadvantage. I told Mr Wang I was to
be lifted out when we came to bad places, but that too was hardly
practicable, for we came to many places that I certainly could not have
negotiated on my own feet, and how the mules got a cumbersome litter
down or up them passes my understanding. Thinking it over, the only
advice I can give to anyone who wishes to follow in my footsteps is
to shut his eyes as I did and trust to the mule. And we went down some
places that were calculated to take the curl out of my hair.

James Buchanan was a great comfort to me under these circumstances. He
nestled down beside me--he had recovered from his accident before we
left Fen Chou Fu--and he always assured me that everything would be all
right. One thing he utterly declined to do, and that was to walk with
the servants. I used to think it would be good for his health, but the
wisdom of the little Pekinese at the British American Tobacco Factory
had sunk in deep and he declined to trust himself with them unless I
walked too, when he was wild with delight. Put out by himself, he would
raise a pitiful wail.

“Buchanan declines,” Mr Wang would say sententiously, and he would be
lifted baek into the litter by my master of transport as if he were a
prince of the blood at least. And if anyone thinks I make an absurd fuss
about a little dog, I must remind him that I was entirely alone among an
alien people, and the little dog’s affection meant a tremendous deal
to me. He took away all sense of loneliness. Looking back, I know now I
could not have gone on, this book would never have been written, if it
had not been for James Buchanan.

Roughly the way to the Yellow River is through a chain of mountains,
across a stony plateau in the centre of which is situated Yung Ning
Chou, quite a busy commercial city, and across another chain of
mountains through which the river forces its way. When first I entered
the ditch in the loess my objective was Yung Ning Chou. I looked no
farther. I wanted to get to that town in which seven Scandinavian
missionaries in twenty years had not effected a single convert. The
cliffs frowned overhead, and the effect to me was of wandering along an
extremely stony way with many pitfalls in it to the chiming of many
mule bells and an unceasing shouting of “_Ta, ta!_”--that is, “Beat,
beat!”--a threat by which the muleteer exhorts his animals to do their
best. Generally speaking, I couldn’t see the man who had charge of
me because he was some way behind and the tilt shut him from my view.
Except for knowing that he was attending to his job and looking after
me, I don’t know that I pined to look upon him. His appearance was
calculated to make me feel I had not wakened from a nightmare. Sometimes
he wore a dirty rag over his head, but just as often he went in his
plain beauty unadorned--that is to say, with all the front part of his
head shaven and the back a mass of wild coarse black hair standing out
at all angles. They had cut off his queue during the reforming fever at
T’ai Yuan Fu and I presume he was doing the best he could till it should
grow again. Certainly it was an awe-inspiring headpiece.

[Illustration: 0135]

[Illustration: 0136]

And always we progressed to the clashing of bells, for on every possible
point on the trappings of the four mules and the donkey that made up the
caravan and on every available point on the harness of every mule and
donkey that passed us was a brass bell. For, for all my muleteers had
objected to going this way, it was a caravan route to the West, and it
was seldom we did not see someone on the road. Here in this ditch in the
loess I realised the stern necessity for these bells, for often the way
was narrow and when we could hear another caravan coming we could make
arrangements to pass or to allow them to pass. There were many caravans
of ragged camels, and to these my animals objected with all the spirit
a life on the roads had still left in them. When we met a string of
them at close quarters in the loess my white mule in the lead nearly had
hysterics, and his feelings were shared, so I judged by the behaviour of
the litter, by his companion behind, and they both endeavoured to
commit suicide by climbing the bank, having no respect whatever for my
feelings.

On these occasions, with clenched teeth and concentrated energy, my
muleteer addressed himself to that leading mule:

“Now! Who’s your mother? You may count yourself as dead!”

The mule evidently felt this was serious and made a desperate endeavour
to get a little higher, and his attendant became sarcastic.

“Call yourself a mule! Call yourself a lord, sir!”

By the jangling of the bells and the yells of the rest of the company I
knew that the other animals felt equally bad, and more than once I saw
my luckless interpreter, who evidently was not much of a hand at sitting
on a pack, ruefully picking himself up and shaking the dust from his
person, his mule having flung him as a protest against the polluting of
the road by a train of camels.

The camels march along with a very supercilious air, but mules, horses
and donkeys all fear them so much that there are special inns for them
and they are supposed only to travel by night, but this rule is more
honoured, I imagine, in the breach than in the observance. Most parts
of the road I don’t see that any caravan could pass along at night. The
special inns do not present any difference to my unprejudiced eyes from
the discomfort of an ordinary mule and donkey inn. I stopped at one one
day in the loess for tiffin, and it consisted of a courtyard round which
were rooms (_yaos_) that were simply caves with the mouths bricked up
and doors in them. Inside, the caves were dark and airless, with for all
furniture the universal, _k’ang_; a fireplace is either in the middle or
at one of the ends, and the flues underneath carry the hot air under
the _k’ang_ to warm it. I have never before or since seen such miserable
dwelling-places as these _yaos_, and in the loess country I saw hundreds
of them, inhabitated by thousands of people. Wu Ch’eng particularly
commended itself to my notice because here I first realised that in
expecting a room to myself I was asking too much of the country.

We crossed the mountain pass the first day out of Fen Chou Fu. Steep it
was, steep as the roof of a house, and we scrambled down the other
side and, just as the dusk was falling, we came to Wu Ch’eng, a village
mostly of _yaos_ in the mountain-side. Wu Ch’eng, where hundreds of
people live and die, was short of most things that make life worth
living: water was very scarce indeed, and there were no eggs there. It
was necessary that our little company should move on with what speed we
might. Also the inn only had one room.

“The _k’ang_ is large,” said my interpreter, as if he thought that a
woman who would come out on this journey would not mind sharing that
_k’ang_ with all the other guests, the innkeeper and his servants. It
was rather large. I looked into an earthen cave the end of which, about
thirty feet away, I could hardly make out in the dim light. There were
great cobwebs hanging from the ceiling--dimly I saw them by the light
that filtered through the dirty paper that did duty for a window--and
the high _k’ang_ occupied the whole length of the room, leaving a narrow
passage with hard-beaten earth for a floor about two feet wide between
the _k’ang_ and the left-hand wall. It was about as uninviting a room
as I have ever seen. Also it was clearly impossible that Buchanan and I
should turn out the rest of the company, so I decreed that I should have
it to myself for half-an-hour for the purposes of washing and changing,
for whieh privilege I paid about twenty cash, roughly a ha’penny, and
then we slept in the litter, as we did on many other occasions, outside
in the yard among the donkeys and mules. The last thing I saw was the
bright stars peeping down at me, and the last thing I heard was the
mules munching at their well-earned chaff, and I wakened to the same
stars and the same sounds, for early retiring is conducive to early
rising, and yet the muleteers were always before me and were feeding
their beasts. Always I went through the same routine. I went to bed
despairing and disgusted and a little afraid. I slept like the dead, if
I slept outside, and I wakened to watch the sun rise and renew my hopes.

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of villages like Wu Ch’eng in
China. The winter in Shansi in the mountains is Arctic and no words can
describe what must be the sufferings of these people; especially must
the women suffer, for the poorest peasant binds his daughter’s feet, his
wife can hardly crawl. In Chihli you may see the women tottering round
on their stumps grinding the corn, in Shansi lucky is the woman who can
do so much. The ordinary peasant woman is equal to nothing but a little
needlework, if she have anything to sew, or to making a little porridge,
if she can do so without moving off the _k’ang_.

The getting something for the men to cook must be a hard job. Potatoes
are sold singly, other vegetables are cut in halves or quarters, a fowl
is always sold by the joint. There may be people who do buy a whole
fowl, but they are probably millionaires. I suppose a whole section of a
community could not possibly exist on other folks’ old clothes, but that
is how the people of this part of Shansi looked as if they were clothed.
They had not second-hand clothes or third-hand, they were apparently the
remnants that the third buyer could find no use for.

I shall never forget on one occasion seeing a ragged scarecrow bearing
on the end of a pole a dead dog, not even an ordinary dead dog, but one
all over sores, a most disgustingly diseased specimen. I asked Mr Wang
what he was carrying that dog away for and that young gentleman looked
at me in surprise. He would never get to the bottom of this foolish
foreigner.

“For eat,” said he simply!

The people of the loess cannot afford to waste anything save the health
of their women. A dog, a wonk, shares the scavenging work of the Chinese
towns with the black and white crows, and doubtless the citizens do not
care so much for eating them as they would a nice juicy leg of mutton,
but they would no more throw away a wonk that had found life in a
Chinese town too hard and simply died than I would yesterday’s leg of
mutton in favour of the tender chicken I prefer.

This, the first camel inn I particularly noticed, was not far from
Fen Chou Fu, and they told me how many years ago one of the medical
missionaries touring the country found there the innkeeper’s wife with
one of her bound feet in a terrible condition. She had a little baby at
her breast and she was suffering horribly--the foot was gangrenous. The
doctor was troubled and puzzled as well. He had no appliances and no
drugs, but left as they were, mother and baby, already half starved,
were doomed. Therefore, like a brave man as he was, he took his courage
in both hands, made a saw of a piece of scrap iron from an American
packing-case and with this rude instrument and no anaesthetics he
amputated that foot. And the woman survived, lived to see her child grow
up, was living when I passed along that way, and I sat in her courtyard
and had my tiffin of hard-boiled eggs and puffed rice washed down by
tea. It was her son’s courtyard then, possibly that very baby’s whose
life the missionary had saved by saving his mother’s. For the Chinese
have no milch cows or goats and know little about feeding infants
artificially.

Always at midday the litter was lifted off the mules’ backs, my table
and chair were produced from some recess among the packs, my blue cotton
tablecloth was spread and Tsai Chih Fu armed himself with a frying-pan
in which to warm the rice and offered it to me along with hard-boiled
eggs of dubious age. The excellent master of transport was a bad cook,
and it is not an exhilarating diet when it is served up three times
a day for weeks with unfailing regularity. I never grew so weary of
anything in my life, and occasionally I tried to vary it by buying
little scones or cakes peppered with sesame seed, but I’m bound to say
they were all nasty. It always seemed to me that an unfair amount
of grit from the millstones had got into the flour. Chinese are
connoisseurs in their cooking, but not in poor little villages in the
mountains in Western Shansi, where they are content if they can fill
their starving stomachs. To judge Chinese taste by the provisions of
these mountaineers is as if we condemned the food of London, having
sampled only those shops where a steak pudding can be had for fourpence.

And all these little inns, these underground inns, very often had the
most high-sounding names. “The Inn of Increasing Righteousness”--I hope
it was, there was certainly nothing else to recommend it; but the “Inn
of Ten Thousand Conveniences” really made the greatest claim upon my
faith. The Ritz or the Carlton could hardly have claimed more than this
cave with the hard-beaten earth for the floor of its one room and for
all furnishing the _k’ang_ where landlord and guests slept in company.

Yet all these uncomfortable inns between Fen Chou Fu and Yung Ning Chou
were thronged. The roads outside were littered with the packs of the
mules and donkeys, and inside the courtyard all was bustle, watering
and feeding the animals and attending to the wants of the men, who
apparently took most of their refreshment out of little basins with
chopsticks and when they were very wealthy, or on great occasions, had
tea without milk or sugar--which, of course, is the proper way to drink
it--out of little handleless cups. I don’t know that they had anything
else to drink except hot water. I certainly never saw them drinking
anything intoxicating, and I believe there are no public-houses in China
proper.

Every now and then the way through the loess widened a little and there
was an archway with a tower above it and a crowded village behind.
Always the villages were crowded. There was very often one or perhaps
two trees shading the principal street, but other hints of garden or
greenery there were none. The shops--open stalls--were packed together.
And in these little villages it is all slum: there is no hint of country
life, and the street was full of people, ragged people, mostly men and
children. The men were in rags in all shades of blue, and blue worn
and washed--at least possibly the washing is doubtful, we will say worn
only--to dun dirt colour. It was not picturesque, but filthy, and the
only hint of luxury was a pipe a yard long with a very tiny bowl which
when not in use hung round their necks or stuck out behind from under
their coats. Round their necks too would be hung a tiny brass tobacco
box with hieroglyphics upon it which contained the evil-smelling
compound they smoked. Sometimes they were at work in their alfresco
kitchens--never have I seen so much cooking done in the open
air--sometimes they were shoeing a mule, sometimes waiting for customers
for their cotton goods, or their pottery ware, or their unappetising
cooked stuff, and often they were nursing babies, little blaek-eyed
bundles of variegated dirty rags which on inspection resolved themselves
into a coat and trousers, whatever the age or the sex of the baby. And
never have I seen so many family men. The Chinaman is a good father and
is not ashamed to carry his baby. At least so I judge.

Only occasionally was a woman or two to be seen, sitting on their
doorsteps gossiping in the sun or the shade, according to the
temperature. Men and women stared at the foreign woman with all their
eyes, for foreigners are rather like snow in June in these parts, and
my coming made me feel as if a menagerie had arrived in the villages
so great and interested were the crowds that assembled to look at and
comment on me.

After we passed through the loess the track was up a winding ravine cut
in past ages by the agency of water. From five hundred to a thousand
feet above us towered the cliffs and at their feet trickled a tiny drain
of water, not ankle-deep, that must once have come down a mighty flood
to cut for itself such a way through the eternal hills. For this, unlike
the road through the loess, is a broad way where many caravans might
find room. And this trickle was the beginnings of a tributary to the
Yellow River. Along its winding banks lay the caravan route.

And many caravans were passing. No place in China is lonely. There were
strings of camels, ragged and losing their coats--second-hand goods,
Mark Twain calls them--there were strings of pack-mules and still longer
strings of little donkeys, and there were many men with bamboos across
their shoulders and loads slung from either end. Some of these men had
come from Peking and were bound for far Kansu, the other side of Shensi;
but as I went on fewer and fewer got the loads from Kansu, most of them
stopped at Yung Ning Chou, the last walled town of any size this side of
the river. Always, always through the loess, through the deep ravines,
across the mountain passes, across the rocky plateau right away to the
little mountain city was the stream coming and going, bearing Pekingese
and Cantonese goods into the mountains, and coming back laden with
wheat, which is the principal product of these places.

Ask the drivers where they were going, camel, mule or donkey, and the
answer was always the same, they were going east or west, which, of
course, we could see for ourselves. There was no possibility of going
any other way. Those in authority knew whither they were bound, but the
ignorant drivers knew nothing but the direction. At least that is one
explanation, the one I accepted at the time, afterwards I came to know
it is a breach of good manners to exhibit curiosity in China, and quite
likely my interpreter simply greeted the caravans and made his own
answer to my question. It satisfied or at least silenced me and saved my
face.

One thing, however, grew more and more noticeable: the laden beasts were
coming east, going west the pack-saddles were empty. Fear was upon the
merchants and they would not send goods across the great river into
turbulent Shensi.

Already, so said my interpreter, and I judged the truth of his statement
by the empty pack-saddles, they were fearing to send goods into the
mountains at all. It was pleasant for me. I began to think. I had only
Buchanan to consult, and he had one great drawback, he always agreed
that what I thought was likely to be right. It is an attitude of mind
that I greatly commend in my friends and desire to encourage, but there
are occasions in life when a little perfectly disinterested advice would
be most acceptable, and that I could not get. Badly I wanted to cross
Asia, but I should not cross Asia if I were stopped by _tufeis_, which
is the local term for robbers. Were these rumours anything, or were
they manufactured by my interpreter? There were the warnings of the
missionaries, and there were the empty pack-saddles, and the empty
pack-saddles spoke loudly. Still I thought I might go on a little
farther, and James Buchanan encouraged me.

Truly the way to the great river through the mountains was hard. Taking
all the difficulties in the lump, it would seem impossible to overcome
them, but taking them one by one I managed it. And not the least of my
troubles were the dogs.

Here in the mountains was a very handsome breed of large white dogs with
long hair, at least I am sure they would have been handsome if they had
been well fed and well eared for. If it had not been for Buchanan, whose
heart it would have broken, I should certainly have got a puppy to bring
home with me. These dogs one and all waged war on my little friend,
who had a great idea of his own importance and probably aggravated the
ill-fed denizens of the inn-yards. He would go hectoring down a yard,
head up, white plume waving, with a sort of “Well, here we are! Now what
have you got to say for yourselves?” air about him, and in two seconds
more a big white scarecrow of a dog would have him by the neck, dragging
him across the yard, designing to slay him behind the drinking troughs.
He would give one shriek for help, and I would fly to that dog’s head,
catch him by the ears or the ruff round his neck and be dragged along in
my turn till Tsai Chih Fu the resourceful appeared on the scene with a
billet of wood, and then the unfortunate beast would be banished from
the yard or tied up till we had gone. I remembered often the warning
I had received on the subject of hydrophobia, but I never had time to
think of that till afterwards, when, of course, if anything had happened
it would have been too late.

There is one thing about a Chinese inn in the interior: it may be
exceedingly uncomfortable, but it is also exceedingly cheap. A night’s
lodging as a rule costs forty cash. Eleven cash roughly is equal to a
cent, and a cent, again roughly--it depends upon the price of silver--is
a little less than a farthing. Forty cash, then, is hardly a penny.
Hot water costs eight cash, eggs were six cash apiece and so were the
wheaten scones I bought in place of the bread my servant could not make,
and I could buy those last as low as three cash apiece. Of course
I quite understand that I as a rich traveller paid top price for
everything, probably twice or three times as much as the ordinary
traveller; the missionaries, indeed, were shocked at the price I paid
for eggs, and again I was always rooked in the matter of paper. For even
though I preferred it, it often happened that it was impossible to sleep
in my litter in the yard, it was too crowded with beasts--and it had to
be very crowded--and then I stripped off the paper from the window of
the room I occupied to let in the air, just a little air, and I was
charged accordingly from thirty to eighty cash for my destructiveness.
I found afterwards that a whole sheet of new paper can be had for ten
cash, and the paper I destroyed was not half-a-sheet and was grimed with
the dirt of ages! Glass, of course, in the mountains of Shansi is almost
unknown and the windows are covered with white paper.

After the mountains came a high stony plateau, not dangerous but
difficult, for though this is a great trade route there was not an
inch of smooth roadway, every step had to be carefully picked among the
stones, and presently the stream that when we entered the mountains was
a trickle a hand’s-breadth across was now a river meandering among the
stones. We began by stepping across it; wider it grew and there were
stepping-stones for the walking muleteers; then the mules waded and the
muleteers climbed on to the beasts or on to the front of the litter,
which last proceeding made me very uncomfortable, for I remembered my
special man was likely at most only to have been washed twice in his
life, and I was very sure his clothes had never been washed at all and
probably had never been taken off his back since last October. Finally
we crossed by bridges, fairly substantial bridges three planks wide, but
the mules required a deal of encouraging before they would trust them
and always felt the boards gingerly with their hoofs first as if they
distrusted the Chinaman and all his engineering works. The engineering
was probably all right, but as the state of repair often left much to be
desired I could hardly blame the mules for their caution. And one day we
crossed that river twenty-six times!

There is no charm in the country in Shansi beyond the sunshine and the
invigorating air. There were fields, every patch of land that could
possibly be made to grow a blade of wheat was most carefully tilled,
there was not a weed, not a blade of grass out of place. In some
fields the crops were springing green, in others the farmers were still
ploughing, with a patient ox in the plough; but there were no divisions
between these fields; there were no hedges; few and scanty trees; no
gardens; no farmhouses, picturesque or otherwise. The peasants all live
huddled together, literally in the hill-sides, and of the beauty of life
there was none. It was toil, toil without remission and with never a
day off. Even the blue sky and the sunshine and the invigorating dry
air must be discounted by the dirt and darkness and airlessness of
the houses and the underground _yaos_. The Chinese peasant’s idea in
building a house seems to be to get rid of the light and the air, the
only two things I should have thought that make his life bearable. And
in these dark and airless caves the crippled women spend their days.
The younger women--I met them occasionally gaily clad and mounted on
a donkey--looked waxen and had an air of suffering, and the older were
lined and had a look of querulousness and irritability that was not on
the men’s faces. Many an old man have I seen whose face might stand for
a model of prosperous, contented, peaceful old age looking back on a
well-lived life, but never, never have I seen such a look on a woman’s
face.

At last, after crossing a long bridge across the river, we came to Yung
Ning Chou. The dark grey wall stood out against the blue sky and, unlike
most Chinese cities that I have seen, there is no watch-tower over the
gate. It has suburbs, suburbs like Fen Chou Fu enclosed in crumbling
clay walls that are fast drifting to their inevitable end. They could
not keep out a rabbit now, let alone a man, and yet they are entered
through great brick gateways with a turn in them, and going under the
archways I felt as usual as if I had gone back to Biblical days.
The walls of the city proper, the crowded little city, are in better
preservation, and tower high above the caravans that pass round them,
for there are no inns in Yung Ning Chou and all caravans must stay in
the eastern suburb. There are narrow, stony little streets of houses
pressed close together, and the rough roadways are crowded with traffic:
people, donkeys, laden mules and grunting camels are for ever passing
to and fro. Looking up the principal street between the eastern and
the western gate was like looking up a dark tunnel in which fluttered
various notices, the shop signs, Chinese characters printed on white
calico. Most of those signs, according to my interpreter’s translation,
bore a strong resemblance to one another. “Virtue and Abundance,” it
seems they proclaimed to all who could read. But there was no one to
tell me whether there was really any wealth in this little mountain
city that is the same now as it probably was a thousand years ago. I
wondered, I could not help wondering, whether it would be worth Pai
Lang’s while to attack. I wondered if he could get in if he did, for
the walls were high and the gates, rising up straight and sheer
without watch towers, such piles of masonry as might have been built by
conquering Nineveh or Babylon. Here and there, though, in the walls
the water had got under the clay and forced out the bricks in long deep
cracks, and here if they were not carefully guarded were places that an
invading force might storm, and in the suburbs and among the houses that
clustered close under the protecting walls terrible things might be
done. But the western gate, I should say, is well-nigh impregnable.
Nobody but a Chinaman would have built a gate in such a place. It opens
out on to a steep cliff that falls sheer sixty feet to the river below.
Chinese towns are always built symmetrically; there should be at least
one gate in each of the four walls, therefore a gate there is here. It
seems to have occurred to no one that a gate is placed in those walls
for the convenience of traffic, and that it is simple waste of time and
labour to make a gate in a place by which no one could possibly pass.
For that matter I should have thought a wall unnecessary on top of so
steep a cliff.

The Scandinavian missionaries who have faithfully worked Yung Ning
Chou for the last twenty years with so little result were absent when I
passed through. Only two of them live here, the rest are scattered over
the mountains to the north, and when I was in Fen Chou Fu I met a woman,
a Norwegian, who was on her way to join them. She remains in my mind a
pathetic figure of sacrifice, a wistful woman who was giving of her very
best and yet was haunted by the fear that all she was giving was of very
little worth, surely the most bitter and sorrowful reflection in this
world. She had worked in China as a missionary in her girlhood. She
explained to me how hard it was for these northern peoples, for to learn
Chinese they have first to learn English. Then she married, and after
her little girl was born her husband died and so she took her treasure
home to educate her in Norway. But she died and, feeling her duty was
to the Chinese, back came the lonely mother, and when I met her she was
setting out for the little walled city in the hills where she dwelt
with some other women. A strangely lonely life, devoid of all pleasures,
theirs must have been. I was struck with the little things that pleased
this devoted woman, such little things, and we who may enjoy them
every day go calmly on our way and never appreciate them. She wore the
unbecoming Chinese dress, with her white hair drawn baek from her face,
and her blue eyes looked out wistfully as if she were loath to give up
hope that somewhere, somehow, in the world individual happiness, that
would be for her alone, would come to her. During the revolution they,
remembering the troubles and dangers of the Boxer time, had refugeed in
Tientsin, and the days there were evidently marked with a white stone in
her calendar.

“It was so delightful,” she said in her pretty precise English, “to see
the European children in the gardens.”

How her heart went out to those children. They reminded her, I suppose,
of the little girl she had left behind sleeping her last sleep among the
Norwegian mountains.

“Oh, the children!” she sighed. “It brought a lump in your throat to
look at them!”

It brought a lump in my throat to look at her as I saw her set out for
her home with two little black-eyed Chinese girls crowded in the litter
beside her. She was taking them home from the school at Fen Chou Fu.
The loneliness of her life! The sacrifice of it! I wonder if those three
women, shut away in that little walled town, made any converts. I doubt
it, for theirs, like the Yung Ning Chou mission, was purely a faith
mission.

Unmarried women and widows were these three women. The Yung Ning Chou
mission consists of four old bachelors and three old maids. Not for a
moment do I suppose the majority of the Chinese believe they are what
they are, men and women living the lives of ascetics, giving up all
for their faith, and the absence of children in child-loving China must
seriously handicap them in their efforts to spread their faith. Think of
the weary years of those workers toiling so hopelessly in an alien land
among a poor and alien population, whose first impulse is certainly to
despise them. All honour to those workers even though they have failed
in their object so far as human eye can see, and even though that object
makes no appeal to people like me.

[Illustration: 0155]

[Illustration: 0156]

[Illustration: 0157]

And I passed on through Yung Ning Chou, on across the stony plateau, and
at last, at a village called Liu Lin Chen, I was brought up with a sharp
turn with a tale of Pai Lang.

I was having my midday meal. Not that it was midday. It was four
o’clock, and I had breakfasted at 6 a.m.; but time is of no account
in China. Liu Lin Chen was the proper place at which to stop for the
noonday rest, so we did not stop till we arrived there, though the
badness of the road had delayed us. I was sitting in the inn-yard
waiting for Tsai Chih Fu to bring me the eternal hard-boiled eggs and
puffed rice when Mr Wang came up, accompanied by the two muleteers,
and they--that is, the two muleteers--dropped down to the ground and
clamoured, so I made out from his excited statements that the gates of
Sui Te Chou had been closed for the last four days on account of Pai
Lang! And Sui Te Chou was the first town I proposed to stop at after I
crossed the river! If I would go to Lan Chou Fu and on through Sin Kiang
to the Russian border through Sui Te Chou I must go. There was no other
way. These days in the mountains had shown me that to stray from the
caravan road was an utter impossibility. Had I been one of the
country people conversant with the language I think it would have been
impossible. As it was, I had my choice. I might go on or I might go
back. Mr Wang apparently thought there should be no doubt in my mind.
He evidently expected I would turn tail there and then, and I myself
realised--I had been realising ever since round the table in the mission
station at Ki Hsien we had read Dr Edwards’ letter--that my journey
across the continent was ended; but to turn tail in this ignominious
fashion, having seen nothing, within, I suppose, twenty-five miles of
the Yellow River, with the country about me as peaceful as the road in
Kent in which I live at present, how could I? It was more peaceful,
in fact, for now at night searchlights stream across the sky, within a
furlong of my house bombs have been dropped and men have been killed,
and by day and by night the house rocks as motors laden with armament
and instruments of war thunder past. But there in Shansi in the fields
the people worked diligently, in the village the archway over which they
held theatrical representations was placarded with notices, and in the
inn-yard where I sat the people went about attending to the animals as
if there was nothing to be feared. And I felt lonely, and James Buchanan
sat close beside me because at the other side of the very narrow yard a
great big white dog with a fierce face and a patch of mange on his side
looked at him threateningly.

“I’ll have none of your drawing-room dogs here,” said he.

But Buchanan’s difficulties were solved when he appealed to me. I--and
I was feeling it horribly--had no one to appeal to. I must rely upon
myself.

And then to add to my woes it began to rain, soft, gentle spring rain,
growing rain that must have been a godsend to the whole country-side.

It stopped, and Mr Wang and the muleteers looked at me anxiously.

“We will go on,” I said firmly, “to the Yellow River.”

Their faces fell. I could see the disappointment, but still I judged I
might go in safety so far.

“Don’t they want to go?” I asked Mr Wang.

“Repeat, please,” said he. So I repeated, and he said as he had said
before:

“If you say ‘Go,’ mus’ go.”

And I said “Go.”



CHAPTER VII--CHINA’S SORROW

It is better, says a Chinese proverb, “to hear about a thing than to
see it,” and truly on this journey I was much inclined to agree with
that dictum.

We were bound for Hsieh Ts’un. I can’t pronounce it, and I should not
like to swear to the spelling, but of one thing I am very sure, not one
of the inhabitants could spell it, or even know it was wrongly set forth
to the world, so I am fairly safe.

We went under the archway with the theatrical notices at Liu Lin Chen,
under the arched gateway of the village, out into the open country, and
it began to rain again. It came down not exactly in torrents but good
steady growing rain. The roads when they were not slippery stones were
appalling quagmires, and my mule litter always seemed to be overhanging
a precipice of some sort. I was not very comfortable when that precipice
was only twenty feet deep, when it was more I fervently wished that I
had not come to China. I wished it more than once, and it rained and it
rained and it rained, silent, soaking, penetrating rain, and I saw the
picturesque mountain country through a veil of mist.

Hsieh Ts’un is a little dirty straggling village, and as we entered it
through the usual archway with a watch tower above the setting sun broke
through the thick clouds and his golden rays strcamed down upon the
slippery wet cobblestones that paved the principal street. The golden
sunlight and the gorgeous rainbow glorified things a little, and they
needed glorifying. The principal inn, as usual, was a fairly large yard,
roughly paved, but swimming now in dirty water; there were stalls for
animals all round it, and there was a large empty shed where they stored
lime. It was stone-paved, and the roof leaked like a sieve, but here I
established myself, dodging as far as possible the holes in the roof and
drawing across the front of the shed my litter as a sort of protection,
for the inn, as usual with these mountain inns, had but one room.

It was cold, it was dirty, and I realised how scarce foreigners must
be when through the misty, soaking rain, which generally chokes off a
Chinaman, crowds came to stand round and stare at me. I was stationary,
so the women came, dirty, ragged, miserable-looking women, supporting
themselves with sticks and holding up their babies to look at the
stranger while she ate. By and by it grew so cold I felt I must really
go to bed, and I asked Mr Wang to put it to the crowd that it was not
courteous to stare at the foreign woman when she wished to be alone,
and, O most courtly folk! every single one of those people went away.

“You can have a bath,” said he, “no one will look”; and, all honour
give I to those poor peasants of Western Shansi, I was undisturbed. I am
afraid a lonely Chinese lady would hardly be received with such courtesy
in an English village were the cases reversed.

Next day the rain still teemed down. The fowls pecked about the yard,
drenched and dripping; a miserable, mangy, cream-coloured dog or two
came foraging for a dinner, and the people, holding wadded coats and
oiled paper over their heads, came to look again at the show that had
come to the town; but there was no break in the grey sky, and there was
nothing to do but sit there shivering with cold, writing letters on my
little travelling table and listening to my interpreter, who talked with
the innkeeper and brought me at intervals that gentleman’s views on the
doings of Pai Lang.

Those views varied hour by hour. At first he was sure he was attacking
Sui Te Chou. That seemed to me sending the famous robber over
the country too quickly. Then it was _tufeis_--that is, bands of
robbers--that Sui Te Chou feared, and finally, boiled down, I came to
the conclusion that Sui Te Chou had probably shut her gates because the
country round was disturbed, and that she admitted no one who had not
friends in the city or could not in some way guarantee his good faith.
It served to show me my friends in Ki Hsien had been right, such
disturbed country would be no place for a woman alone. I suppose it was
the rain and the grey skies, but I must admit that day I was distinctly
unhappy and more than a little afraid. I was alone among an alien
people, who only regarded me as a cheap show; I had no one to take
counsel with, my interpreter only irritated me and, to add to my misery,
I was very cold. I have seldom put in a longer or more dreary day than
I did at Hsieh Ts’un. There was absolutely nothing to do but watch the
misty rain, for if I went outside and got wetter than I was already
getting under the leaking roof--I wore my Burberry--I had no possible
means of drying my clothes save by laying them on the hot _k’ang_ in the
solitary living-room of the inn, and that was already inhabited by many
humans and the parasites that preyed upon them. Therefore I stayed where
I was, compared my feet with the stumps of the women who came to visit
me--distinctly I was a woman’s show--gave the grubby little children
raisins, and wondered if there was any fear of Pai Lang coming along
this way before I had time to turn back. If it kept on raining, would my
muleteers compel me to stay here till Pai Lang swept down upon us?
But no, that thought did not trouble me, first, because I momentarily
expected it to clear up, and secondly, because I was very sure that
any rain that kept me prisoner would also hold up Pai Lang. I could not
believe in a Chinaman, even a robber, going out in the rain if he could
help himself, any more than I could believe in it raining longer than a
day in China.

“The people are not afraid,” I said to my interpreter as I looked at
a worn old woman in a much-patched blue cotton smock and trousers, her
head protected from the rain by a wadded coat in the last stages of
decrepitude; her feet made me shiver, and her finger-nails made me
crawl, the odour that came from her was sickening, but she liked to see
me write, and I guessed she had had but few pleasures in her weary life.

“They not knowing yet,” said he; “only travellers know. They tell
innkeeper.”

Yes, certainly the travellers would know best.

And all day long he came, bringing me various reports, and said that,
according to the innkeeper, the last caravan that had passed through
had gone back on its tracks. I might have remembered it. I did remember
it--a long line of donkeys and mules.

But the day passed, and the night passed, and the next day the sun came
out warm and pleasant, and all my doubts were resolved. My journey was
broken beyond hope, and I must go back, but turn I would not till I had
looked upon the Yellow River.

We started with all our paraphernalia. We were to turn in our tracks
after tiffin, but Mr Wang and the muleteers were certain on that point,
everything I possessed must be dragged across the mountains if I hoped
to see it again, and I acquiesced, for I certainly felt until I got back
to civilisation I could not do without any of my belongings.

Almost immediately we left the village we began to ascend the mountain
pass. Steeper and steeper it grew, and at last the opening in my mule
litter was pointing straight up to the sky, and I, seeing there
was nothing else for it, demanded to be lifted out and signified my
intention of walking.

There was one thing against this and that was an attack of
breathlessness. Asthma always attacks me when I am tired or worried, and
now, with a very steep mountain to cross and no means of doing it except
on my own feet, it had its wicked way. My master of transport and Mr
Wang, like perfectly correct Chinese servants, each put a hand under my
elbows, and with Buchanan skirmishing around joyfully, rejoicing that
for once his mistress was sensible, the little procession started. It
was hard work, very hard work. When I could go no longer I sat down and
waited till I felt equal to starting again. On the one hand the mountain
rose up sheer and steep, on the other it dropped away into the gully
beneath, only to rise again on the other side. And yet in the most
inaccessible places were patches of cultivation and wheat growing. I
cannot imagine how man or beast kept a footing on such a slant, and
how they ploughed and sowed it passes my understanding. But most of the
mountain-side was too much even for them, and then they turned loose
their flocks, meek cream-coloured sheep and impudent black goats, to
graze on the scanty mountain pastures. Of course they were in charge of
a shepherd, for there were no fences, and the newly springing wheat must
have been far more attractive than the scanty mountain grasses.

And then I knew it was worth it all--the long trek from Fen Chou Fu,
the dreary day at Hsieh Ts’un, the still more dreary nights, this stiff
climb which took more breath than I had to spare--for the view when
I arrived at a point of vantage was beautiful. These were strange
mountains. The road before me rose at a very steep angle, and all around
me were hill-sides whereon only a goat or a sheep might find foothold,
but the general effect looked at from a distance was not of steepness.
These were not mountains, rugged, savage, grand, they were gentle hills
and dales that lay about me; I had come through them; there were more
ahead; I could see them range after range, softly rounded, green and
brown and then blue, beautiful for all there were no trees, in an
atmosphere that was clear as a mirror after the rain of the day before.
Beautiful, beautiful, with a tender entrancing loveliness, is that view
over the country up in the hills that hem in the Yellow River as it
passes between Shansi and Shensi. Is it possible there is never anyone
to see it but these poor peasants who wring a hard livelihood from the
soil, and who for all their toil, which lasts from daylight to dark all
the year round, get from this rich soil just enough wheaten flour to
keep the life in them, a hovel to dwell in, and a few unspeakable
rags to cover their nakedness? As far as I could see, everyone was
desperately poor, and yet these hills hold coal and iron in close
proximity, wealth untold and unexploited. The pity of it! Unexploited,
the people are poor to the verge of starvation; worked, the delicate
loveliness of the country-side will vanish as the beauty of the Black
Country has vanished, and can we be sure that the peasant will benefit?

[Illustration: 0166]

[Illustration: 0167]

Still we went up and up, and the climbing of these gentle wooing hills
I found hard. Steep it was, and at last, just when I felt I could not
possibly go any farther, though the penalty were that I should turn back
almost within sight of the river, I found that the original makers of
the track had been of the same opinion, for here was the top of the pass
with a tunnel bored through it, a tunnel perhaps a hundred feet long,
carefully bricked, and when we, breathless and panting, walked through
we came out on a little plateau with a narrow road wandering down a
mountain-side as steep as the one we had just climbed. There was the
most primitive of restaurants here, and the woman in charge--it was a
woman, and her feet were not bound--proffered us a thin sort of drink
like very tasteless barley water. At least now I know it was tasteless,
then I found it was nectar, and I sat on a stone and drank it
thankfully, gave not a thought to the dirt of the bowl that contained
it, and drew long breaths and looked around me.

The hills rose up on either hand and away in the distance where they
opened out were the beautiful treeless hills of forbidden Shensi, just
as alluring, just as peaceful as the hills I had come through. It was
worth the long and toilsome journey, well worth even all my fears.

Then we went down, down, but I did not dare get into my litter, the way
was too steep, the chances of going over too great, for it seems the
Chinese never make a road if by any chance they can get along without.
They were driven to bore a tunnel through the mountains, but they never
smooth or take away rocks as long as, by taking a little care, an animal
can pass without the certainty of going over the cliff.

And at last through a cleft in the hills I saw one of the world’s great
rivers and--was disappointed. The setting was ideal. The hills rose
up steep and rugged, real mountains, on either side, pheasants called,
rock-doves mourned, magpies chattered, overhead was a clear blue sky
just flecked here and there with fleecy clouds, beyond again were the
mountains of Shensi, the golden sunlight on their rounded tops, purple
shadow in their swelling folds, far away in the distance they melted
blue into the blue sky, close at hand they were green with the green
of springtime, save where the plough had just turned up patches of rich
brown soil, and at their foot rolled a muddy flood that looked neither
decent water nor good sound earth, the mighty Hoang-Ho, the Yellow
River, China’s sorrow. China’s sorrow indeed; for though here it was
hemmed in by mountains, and might not shift its bed, it looked as if it
were carrying the soul of the mountains away to the sea.

There is a temple where the gully opens on to the river, a temple and
a little village, and the temple was crowded with blue-clad,
shabby-looking soldiers who promptly swarmed round me and wanted to
look in my baggage, that heavy baggage we were hauling for safety over
fourteen miles of mountain road. Presumably they were seeking arms. We
managed to persuade them there were none, and that the loads contained
nothing likely to disturb the peace, and then we went down to the river,
crossing by a devious, rocky and unpleasant path simply reeking of human
occupancy, and the inhabitants of that soldier village crowded round me
and examined everything I wore and commented on everything I did.

They were there to guard the crossing; and far from me be it to say they
were not most efficient, but if so their looks belied them. They did not
even look toy soldiers. No man was in full uniform. Apparently they
wore odd bits, as if there were not enough clothes in the company to go
round, and they were one and all dirty, touzly, untidy, and all
smiling and friendly and good-tempered. I only picked them out from
the surrounding country people--who were certainly dirty and
poverty-stricken enough in all conscience--by the fact that the soldiers
had abandoned the queue which the people around, like all these country
people, still affect. The soldier wore his hair about four or five
inches long, sticking out at all angles, rusty-black, unkempt and
uncombed, and whether he ran to a cap or not, the result was equally
unworkmanlike.

I conclude Chun Pu is not a very important crossing. What the road is
like on the Shensi side I do not know, but on the Shansi side I should
think the pass we had just crossed was a very effective safeguard. He
would be a bold leader who would venture to bring his men up that path
in the face of half-a-dozen armed men, and they need not be very bold
men either. Those soldiers did not look bold. They were kindly, though,
and they had women and children with them--I conclude their own, for
they nursed the grubby little children, all clad in grubby patches, very
proudly, took such good care they had a good view of the show--me--that
I could not but sympathise with their paternal affection and aid in
every way in my power. Generally my good-will took the form of raisins.
I was lavish now I had given up my journey, and my master of transport
distributed with an air as if I were bestowing gold and silver.

He set out my table on the cobble-stones of the inn-yard in the
sunshine. I believe, had I been a really dignified traveller, I should
have put up with the stuffiness and darkness of the inn’s one room, but
I felt the recurrent hard-boiled eggs and puffed rice, with a certain
steamed scone which contained more of the millstone and less of the
flour than was usual even with the scones of the country, were trials
enough without trying to be dignified in discomfort.

And while I had my meal everybody took it in turns to look through the
finder of my camera, the women, small-footed, dirty creatures, much to
the surprise of their menfolk, having precedence. Those women vowed they
had never seen a foreigner before. Every one of them had bound feet,
tiny feet on which they could just totter, and all were clad
in extremely dirty, much-patched blue cotton faded into a dingy
dirt-colour. Most of them wore tight-fitting coverings of black cloth to
cover their scalps, often evidently to conceal their baldness, for many
of them suffered from “expending too much heart.” Baldness is caused,
say the Chinese half in fun, because the luckless man or woman has
thought more of others than of themselves. I am afraid they do not
believe it, or they may like to hide their good deeds, for they are
anything but proud of being bald. Most of the mouths, too, here, and
indeed all along the road, were badly formed and full of shockingly
broken and decayed teeth, the women’s particularly. Wheaten flour, which
is the staple food of Shansi, is apparently not enough to make good
teeth. The people were not of a markedly Mongolian type. Already it
seemed as if the nations to the West were setting their seal upon them,
and some of the younger girls, with thick black hair parted in the
middle, a little colour in their cheeks, and somewhat pathetic,
wistful-looking faces, would have been good-looking in any land.

Then I had one more good look at the river, my farthest point west on
the journey, the river I had come so far to see. It was all so peaceful
in the afternoon sunlight that it seemed foolish not to go on. The hills
of Shensi beckoned and all my fears fell from me. I wanted badly to
go on. Then came reason. It was madness to risk the _tufeis_ with whom
everyone was agreed Shensi swarmed. There in the brilliant sunshine,
with the laughing people around me, I was not afraid, but when night
fell--no, even if the soldiers would have allowed, which Mr Wang
declared they would not--I dared not, and I turned sadly and regretfully
and made my way back to Fen Chou Fu.

Had I gone on I should have arrived in Russia with the war in full
swing, so on the whole? am thankful I had to flee before the _tufeis_
of Shensi. Perhaps when the world is at peace I shall essay that
fascinating journey again. Only I shall look out for some companion, and
even if I take the matchless master of transport I shall most certainly
see to it that I have a good cook.



CHAPTER VIII--LAST DAYS IN CHINA

Well, I had failed! The horrid word kept ringing in my ears, the still
more horrid thought was ever in my mind day and night as I retraced my
footsteps, and I come of a family that does not like to fail.

I wondered if it were possible to make my way along the great
waterways of Siberia. There were mighty rivers there, I had seen them,
little-known rivers, and it seemed to me that before going West again I
might see something of them, and as my mules picked their way across the
streams, along the stony paths, by the walled cities, through the busy
little villages, already China was behind me, I was thinking of ways and
means by which I might penetrate Siberia.

At Fen Chou Fu they were kind, but I knew they thought I had given in
too easily, that I had turned back at a shadow, but at T’ai Yuan Fu I
met the veteran missionary, Dr Edwards, and I was comforted and did not
feel so markedly that failure was branded all over me when he thanked
God that his letter had had the effect of making me consider carefully
my ways, for of one thing he was sure, there would have been but
one ending to the expedition. To get to Lan Chou Fu would have been
impossible.

Still my mind was not quite at ease about the matter, and at intervals
I wondered if I would not have gone on had I had a good cook. Rather
a humiliating thought! It was a satisfaction when one day I met Mr
Reginald Farrer, who had left Peking with Mr Purdom to botanise in Kansu
ten days before I too had proposed to start West.

“I often wondered,” said he, “what became of you and how you had got on.
We thought perhaps you might have fallen into the hands of White Wolf
and then------” He paused.

Shensi, he declared, was a seething mass of unrest. It would have
spelled death to cross to those peaceful hills I had looked at from
the left bank of the Hoang-Ho. We discussed our travels, and we took
diametrically opposite views of China. But it is impossible to have
everything: one has to choose, and I prefer the crudeness of the new
world, the rush and the scramble and the progress, to the calm of the
Oriental. Very likely this is because I am a woman. In the East woman
holds a subservient position, she has no individuality of her own, and
I, coming from the newest new world, where woman has a very high place
indeed, is counted a citizen, and a useful citizen, could hardly be
expected to admire a state of society where her whole life is a torture
and her position is regulated by her value to the man to whom she
belongs. I put this to my friend when he was admiring the Chinese ladies
and he laughed.

“I admit,” said he, “that a young woman has a”--well, he used a very
strong expression, but it wasn’t strong enough--“of a time when she is
young, but, if she has a son, when her husband dies see what a position
she holds. That little old woman sitting on a _k’ang_ rules a whole
community.”

And then I gave it up because our points of view were East and West.
But I am thankful that the Fates did not make me--a woman--a member of
a nation where I could have no consideration, no chance of happiness, no
great influence or power by my own effort, where recognition only came
if I had borne a son who was still living and my husband was dead.

[Illustration: 0176]

[Illustration: 0177]

[Illustration: 0178]

On my way back to T’ai Yuan Fu I stayed at no mission station except
at Fen Chou Fu; I went by a different route and spent the nights at
miserable inns that kindly charged me a whole penny for lodging and
allowed me to sleep in my litter in their yards, and about eighty _li_
from Fen Chou Fu I came across evidences of another mission that would
be _anathema maranatha_ to the Nonconformists with whom I had been
staying. It is curious this schism between two bodies holding what
purports to be the same faith. I remember a missionary, the wife of a
doctor at Ping Ting Chou, who belonged to a sect called The Brethren,
who spoke of the Roman Catholics as if they were in as much need of
conversion as the ignorant Chinese around her. It made me smile; yet I
strongly suspect that Mr Farrer will put me in the same category as I
put my friend from Ping Ting Chou! However, here under the care of the
Alsatian Fathers the country was most beautifully cultivated. The
wheat was growing tall and lush in the land, emerald-green in the May
sunshine; there were avenues of trees along the wayside clothed in the
tender fresh green of spring, and I came upon a whole village, men and
boys, busy making a bridge across a stream. Never in China have I seen
such evidences of well-conducted agricultural industry; and the Fathers
were militant too, for they were, and probably are, armed, and in the
Boxer trouble held their station like a fort, and any missionaries
fleeing who reached them had their lives saved. I found much to commend
in that Roman Catholic mission, and felt they were as useful to the
country people in their way as were the Americans to the people of the
towns.

Outside another little town the population seemed to be given over to
the making of strawboard, and great banks were plastered with squares of
it set out to dry, and every here and there a man was engaged in putting
more pieces up. It wras rather a comical effect to see the side of a
bank plastered with yellow squares of strawboard and the wheat springing
on top.

All along the route still went caravans of camels, mules and donkeys,
and, strangest of all modes of conveyance, wheel-barrows, heavily laden
too. A wheel-barrow in China carries goods on each side of a great
wheel, a man holds up the shafts and wheels it, usually with a strap
round his shoulders, and in front either another man or a donkey is
harnessed to help with the traction. Hundreds of miles they go, over the
roughest way, and the labour must be very heavy; but wherever I went
in China this was impressed upon me, that man was the least important
factor in any work of production. He might be used till he failed and
then thrown lightly away without a qualm. There were plenty glad enough
to take his place.

I have been taken to task for comparing China to Babylon, but I must
make some comparison to bring home things to my readers. This journey
through the country in the warm spring sunshine was as unlike a journey
anywhere that I have been in Europe, Africa or Australia as anything
could possibly be. It was through an old land, old when Europe was
young. I stopped at inns that were the disgusting product of the
slums; I passed men working in the fields who were survivals of an old
civilisation, and when I passed any house that was not a hovel it was
secluded carefully, so that the owner and his womenkind might keep
themselves apart from the proletariat, the serfs who laboured around
them and for them.

Within a day’s journey of T’ai Yuan Fu I came to a little town, Tsui Su,
where there was an extra vile inn with no courtyard that I could sleep
in, only a room where the rats were numerous and so fierce that they
drove Buchanan for refuge to my bed and the objectionable insects that
I hustled off the _k’ang_ by means of powdered borax and Keating’s,
strewed over and under the ground sheet, crawled up the walls and
dropped down upon me from the ceiling. Poor Buchanan and I spent a
horrid night. I don’t like rats anyway, and fierce and hungry rats on
the spot are far worse for keeping off sleep than possible robbers in
the future. All that night I dozed and waked and restrained Buchanan’s
energies and vowed I was a fool for coming to China, and then in the
morning as usual I walked it all back, and was glad, for Mr Wang came
to me and, after the best personally conducted Cook’s tourist style,
explained that here was a temple which “mus’ see.”

I didn’t believe much in temples in these parts, but I went a little
way back into the town and came to a really wonderful temple, built, I
think, over nine warm springs--the sort of thing that weighed down the
scales heavily on Mr Farrer’s side. What has a nation that could produce
such a temple to learn from the West? I shall never forget the carved
dragons in red and gold that climbed the pillars at the principal
entrance, the twisted trees, the shrines over the springs and the bronze
figures that stood guard on the platform at the entrance gate. The
steps up to that gate were worn and broken with the passing of many feet
through countless years; the yellow tiles of the roof were falling and
broken; from the figures had been torn or had fallen the arms that they
once had borne; the whole place was typical of the decay which China
allows to fall upon her holy places; but seen in the glamour of the
early morning, with the grass springing underfoot, the trees in full
leaf, the sunshine lighting the yellow roofs and the tender green of the
trees, it was gorgeous. Then the clouds gathered and it began to rain,
gentle, soft, warm, growing rain, and I left it shrouded in a seductive
grey mist that veiled its imperfections and left me a ‘memory only of
one of the beautiful places of the earth that I am glad I have seen.

At T’ai Yuan Fu I paid Mr Wang’s fare back to Pao Ting Fu and bade him
a glad farewell. There may be worse interpreters in China, but I really
hope there are not many. He would have been a futile person in any
country; he was a helpless product of age-old China. I believe he did
get back safely, but I must confess to feeling on sending him away
much as I should do were I to turn loose a baby of four to find his way
across London. Indeed I have met many babies of four in Australia
who struck me as being far more capable than the interpreter who had
undertaken to see me across China.

I was on the loose myself now. I was bent on going to Siberia; but the
matter had to be arranged in my own mind first, and while I did so I
lingered and spent a day or two at Hwailu; not that I wanted to see that
town--somehow I had done with China--but because the personality of Mr
and Mrs Green of the China Inland Mission interested me.

Hwailu is a small walled city, exactly like hundreds of other little
walled cities, with walls four-square to each point of the compass, and
it is set where the hills begin to rise that divide Chihli from Shansi,
and beyond the mission station is a square hill called Nursing Calf
Fort. The hill has steep sides up which it is almost impossible to take
any animal, but there are about one hundred acres of arable land on top,
and this, with true Chinese thrift, could not be allowed to go untilled,
so the story goes that while a calf was young a man carried it up on
his back; there it grew to maturity, and with its help they ploughed the
land and they reaped the crops. It is a truly Chinese story, and very
likely it is true. It is exactly what the Chinese would do.

At Hwailu, where they had lived for many years, Mr and Mrs Green were
engaged in putting up a new church, and with them I came in contact with
missionaries who had actually suffered almost to death at the hands of
the Boxers. It was thrilling to listen to the tales of their sufferings,
sitting there on the verandah of the mission house looking out on to the
peaceful flowers and shrubs of the mission garden.

When the Boxer trouble spread to Hwailu and it was manifest the mission
house was no longer safe, they took refuge in a cave among the hills
that surround the town. Their converts and friends--for they had many
friends who were not converts--hardly dared come near them, and
death was very close. It was damp and cold in the cave though it was
summer-time, and by and by they had eaten all their food and drunk all
their water, and their hearts were heavy, for they feared not only for
themselves, but for what the little children must suffer.

“I could not help it,” said Mrs Green, reproaching herself for being
human. “I used to look at my children and wonder how the saints _could_
rejoice in martyrdom!”

When they were in despair and thinking of coming out and giving
themselves up they heard hushed voices, and a hand at the opening of
the cave offered five large wheaten scones. Some friends, again not
converts, merely pagan friends, had remembered their sufferings.
Still they looked at the scenes doubtfully, and though the little
children--they were only four and six--held out their hands for them
eagerly, they were obliged to implore them not to eat them, they
would make them so desperately thirsty. But their Chinese friends were
thoughtful as well as kind, and presently came the same soft voice
again and a hand sending up a basketful of luscious cucumbers, cool and
refreshing with their store of water.

But they could not stay there for ever, and finally they made their way
down to the river bank, the Ching River--the Clear River we called it,
and I have also heard it translated the Dark Blue River, though it was
neither dark, nor blue, nor clear, simply a muddy canal--and slowly made
their way in the direction of Tientsin, hundreds of miles away. That
story of the devoted little band’s wanderings makes pitiful reading.
Sometimes they went by boat, sometimes they crept along in the kaoliang
and reeds, and at last they arrived at the outskirts of Hsi An--not
the great city in Shensi, but a small walled town on the Ching River
in Chihli. Western cities are as common in China as new towns in
English-speaking lands--and here they, hearing a band was after them,
hid themselves in the kaoliang, the grain that grows close and tall as
a man. They were weary and worn and starved; they were well-nigh
hopeless--at least I should have been hopeless--but still their faith
upheld them. It was the height of summer and the sun poured down his
rays, but towards evening the clouds gathered. If it rained they knew
with little children they must leave their refuge.

“But surely, I know,” said Mrs Green, “the dear Lord will never let it
rain.”

And as I looked at her I seemed to see the passionate yearning with
which she looked at the little children that the rain must doom to a
Chinese prison or worse. In among those thick kaoliang stalks they could
not stay.

It rained, the heavy rain that comes in the Chinese summer, and the
fugitives crept out and gave themselves up.

“It shows how ignorant we are, how unfit to judge for ourselves,” said
the teller of the tale fervently, “for we fell into the hands of a
comparatively merciful band, whereas presently the kaoliang was beaten
by a ruthless set of men whom there would have been no escaping, and who
certainly would have killed us.”

But the tenderness of the most merciful band was a thing to be prayed
against. They carried the children kindly enough--the worst of Chinamen
seem to be good to children--but they constantly threatened their elders
with death. They were going to their death, that they made very clear to
them; and they slung them on poles by their hands and feet, and the pins
came out of the women’s long hair--there was another teacher, a girl,
with them--and it trailed in the dust of the filthy Chinese paths. And
Mr Green was faint and weary from a wound in his neck, but still they
had no pity.

Still these devoted people comforted each other. It was the will of the
Lord. Always was He with them. They were taken to Pao Ting Fu, Pao
Ting Fu that had just burned its own missionaries, and put in the gaol
there--and, knowing a Chinese inn, I wonder what can be the awfulness
of a Chinese gaol--and they were allowed no privacy. Mrs Green had
dysentery; they had not even a change of clothes; but the soldiers were
always in the rooms with them, or at any rate in the outer room, and
this was done, of course, of _malice prepense_, for no one values the
privacy of their women more than the Chinese. The girl got permission
to go down to the river to wash their clothes, but a soldier always
accompanied her, and always the crowds jeered and taunted as she went
along in the glaring sunshine, feeling that nothing was hidden from
these scornful people. Only strangely to the children were they kind;
the soldiers used to give them copper coins so that they might buy
little scones and cakes to eke out the scanty rations, and once--it
brought home to me, perhaps as nothing else could, the deprivations of
such a life--instead of buying the much-needed food the women bought
a whole pennyworth of hairpins, for their long hair was about their
shoulders, and though they brushed it to the best of their ability with
their hands it was to them an unseemly thing.

And before the order came--everything is ordered in China--that their
lives were to be saved and they were to be sent to Tientsin the little
maid who had done so much to cheer and alleviate their hard lot lay
dying; the hardships and the coarse food had been too much for her. In
the filth and misery of the ghastly Chinese prison she lay, and, bending
over her, they picked the lice off her. Think of that, ye folk who guard
your little ones tenderly and love them as these missionaries who feel
called upon to convert the Chinese loved theirs.

After all that suffering they went back, back to Hwailu and the
desolated mission station under the Nursing Calf Fort, where they
continue their work to this day, and so will continue it, I suppose,
to the end, for most surely their sufferings and their endurance have
fitted them for the work they have at heart as no one who has not so
suffered and endured could be fitted. And so I think the whirligig of
Time brings in his revenges.

I walked through a tremendous dust-storm to the railway station at
the other side of the town, and the woman who had suffered these awful
things, and who was as sweet and charming and lovable a woman as I have
ever met, walked with me and bade me God-speed on my journey, and when
I parted from her I knew that among a class I--till I came to China--had
always strenuously opposed I had found one whom I could not only
respect, but whom I could love and admire.

Going back to Pao Ting Fu was like going back to old friends. They had
not received my letter. Mr Wang had not made his appearance, so when
James Buchanan and I, attended by the master of transport, appeared upon
the scene on a hot summer day we found the missionary party having their
midday dinner on the verandah, and they received me--bless their kind
hearts!--with open arms, and proceeded to explain to me how very wise a
thing I had done in coming back. The moment I had left, they said, they
had been uncomfortable in the part they had taken in forwarding me on my
journey.

It was very good of them. There are days we always remember all our
lives--our wedding day and such-like--and that coming back on the warm
summer’s day out of the hot, dusty streets of the western suburb into
the cool, clean, tree-shaded compound of the American missionaries at
Pao Ting Fu is one of them. And that compound is one of the places in
the world I much want to visit again.

There is another day, too, I shall not lightly forget. We called it the
last meeting of the Travellers’ Club of Pao Ting Fu. There were only
two members in the club, Mr Long and I and an honorary member, James
Buchanan, and on this day the club decided to meet, and Mr Long asked me
to dinner. He lived in the Chinese college in the northern suburb. His
house was only about two miles away and it could be reached generally
by going round by the farms and graves, mostly graves, that cover the
ground by the rounded north-west corner of the wall of the city. Outside
a city in China is ugly. True, the walls are strangely old-world and the
moat is a relic of the past--useful in these modern times for disposing
of unwanted puppies; Pao Ting Fu never seemed so hard up for food as
Shansi--but otherwise the ground looks much as the deserted alluvial
goldfields round Ballarat used to look in the days of my youth; the
houses are ramshackle to the last degree, and all the fields, even when
they are green with the growing grain, look unfinished. But round the
north-west corner of Pao Ting Fu the graves predominate. There are
thousands and thousands of them. And on that particular day it rained,
it rained, and it rained, steady warm summer rain that only stopped
and left the air fresh and washed about six o’clock in the evening.
I ordered a rickshaw--a rickshaw in Pao Ting Fu is a very primitive
conveyance; but it was pleasantly warm, and, with James Buchanan on my
knee, in the last evening dress that remained to me and an embroidered
Chinese jacket for an opera cloak, I set out. I had started early
because on account of the rain the missionaries opined there might be a
little difficulty with the roads. However, I did not worry much because
I only had two miles to go, and I had walked it often in less than
three-quarters of an hour. I was a little surprised when my rickshaw man
elected to go through the town, but, as I could not speak the language,
I was not in a position to remonstrate, and I knew we could not come
back that way as at sundown all the gates shut save the western, and
that only waits till the last train at nine o’clock.

It was muddy, red, clayey mud in the western suburb when we started,
but when we got into the northern part of the town I was reminded of the
tribulations of Fen Chou Fu in the summer rains, for the water was up to
our axles, the whole place was like a lake and the people were piling
up dripping goods to get them out of the way of the very dirty flood. My
man only paused to turn his trousers up round his thighs and then went
on again--going through floods was apparently all in the contract--but
we went very slowly indeed. Dinner was not until eight and I had given
myself plenty of time, but I began to wonder whether we should arrive at
that hour. Presently I knew we shouldn’t.

We went through the northern gate, and to my dismay the country in the
fading light seemed under water. From side to side and far beyond the
road was covered, and what those waters hid I trembled to think, for
a road at any time in China is a doubtful proposition and by no means
spells security. As likely as not there were deep holes in it. But
apparently my coolie had no misgivings. In he went at his usual snail’s
pace and the water swirled up to the axles, up to the floor of the
rickshaw, and when I had gathered my feet up on the seat and we were in
the middle of the sheet of exceedingly dirty water the rickshaw coolie
stopped and gave me to understand that he had done his darnedest and
could do no more. He dropped the shafts and stood a little way off,
wringing the water out of his garments. It wasn’t dangerous, of course,
but it was distinctly uncomfortable. I saw myself in evening dress
wading through two feet of dirty water to a clayey, slippery bank at
the side. I waited a little because the prospect did not please me, and
though there were plenty of houses round, there was not a soul in sight.
It was getting dark too, and it was after eight o’clock.

Presently a figure materialised on that clayey bank and him I beckoned
vehemently.

Now Pao Ting Fu had seen foreigners, not many, but still foreigners,
and they spell to it a little extra cash, so the gentleman on the bank
tucked up his garments and came wading over. He and my original friend
took a maddeningly long time discussing the situation, and then they
proceeded to drag the rickshaw sideways to the bank. There was a narrow
pathway along the top and they apparently decided that if they could get
the conveyance up there we might proceed on our journey. First I had to
step out, and it looked slippery enough to make me a little doubtful.
As a preliminary I handed James Buchanan to the stranger, because, as he
had to sit on my knee, I did not want him to get dirtier than necessary.
Buchanan did not like the stranger, but he submitted with a bad grace
till I, stepping out, slipped on the clay and fell flat on my back, when
he promptly bit the man who was holding him and, getting away, expressed
his sympathy by licking my face. Such a commotion as there was! My two
men yelled in dismay. Buchanan barked furiously, and I had some ado to
get on my feet again, for the path was very slippery. It was long past
eight now and could I have gone back I would have done so, but clearly
that was impossible, so by signs I engaged No. 2 man, whose wounds had
to be salved--copper did it--to push behind, and we resumed our way....

Briefly it was long after ten o’clock when I arrived at the college. My
host had given me up as a bad job long before and, not being well, had
gone to bed. There was nothing for it but to rouse him up, because I
wanted to explain that I thought I had better have another man to take
me home over the still worse road that I knew ran outside the city.

He made me most heartily welcome and then explained to my dismay that
the men utterly declined to go any farther, declared no rickshaw could
get over the road to the western suburb and that I must have a cart.
That was all very well, but where was I to get a cart at that time of
night, with the city gates shut?

Mr Long explained that his servant was a wise and resourceful man and
would probably get one if I would come in and have dinner. So the two
members of the Travellers’ Club sat down to an excellent dinner--a
Chinese cook doesn’t spoil a dinner because you are two hours late--and
we tried to take a flash-light photograph of the entertainment. Alas!
I was not fortunate that day; something went wrong with the magnesium
light and we burnt up most things. However, we ourselves were all right,
and at two o’clock in the morning Mr Long’s servant’s uncle, or cousin,
or some relative, arrived with a Peking cart and a good substantial
mule. I confess I was a bit doubtful about the journey home because I
knew the state of repair, or rather disrepair, of a couple of bridges
we had to cross, but they were negotiated, and just as the dawn was
beginning to break I arrived at the mission compound and rewarded the
adventurous men who had had charge of me with what seemed to them much
silver and to me very little. I have been to many dinners in my life,
but the last meeting of the Travellers’ Club at Pao Ting Fu remains
engraved on my memory.

Yet a little longer I waited in Pao Ting Fu before starting on my
Siberian trip, for the start was to be made from Tientsin and the
missionaries were going there in house-boats. They were bound for Pei Ta
Ho for their summer holiday and the first stage of the journey was down
the Ching River to Tientsin. I thought it would be rather a pleasant
way of getting over the country, and it would be pleasant too to have
company. I am not enamoured of my own society; I can manage alone, but
company certainly has great charms.

So I waited, and while I waited I bought curios.

In Pao Ting Fu in the revolution there was a great deal of looting done,
and when order reigned again it was as much as a man’s life was worth
to try and dispose of any of his loot. A foreigner who would take the
things right out of the country was a perfect godsend, and once it was
known I was buying, men waited for me the livelong day, and I only
had to put my nose outside the house to be pounced upon by a would-be
seller. I have had as many as nine men selling at once; they
enlisted the servants, and china ranged round the kitchen floor, and
embroideries, brass and mirrors were stowed away in the pantry. Indeed
I and my followers must have been an awful nuisance to the missionaries.
They knew no English, but as I could count a little in Chinese, when
we could not get an interpreter we managed; and I expect I bought an
immense amount of rubbish, but never in my life have I had greater
satisfaction in spending money. More than ever was I pleased when I
unpacked in England, and I have been pleased ever since.

Those sellers were persistent. They said in effect that never before had
they had such a chance and they were going to make the best of it. We
engaged house-boats for our transit; we went down to those boats, we
pushed off from the shore, and even then there were sellers bent on
making the best of their last chance. I bought there on the boat a royal
blue vase for two dollars and a quaint old brass mirror in a carved
wooden frame also for two dollars, and then the boatmen cleared off the
merchants and we started.

I expect on the banks of the Euphrates or the Tigris in the days before
the dawn of history men went backwards and forwards in boats like these
we embarked in on the little river just outside the south gate of Pao
Ting Fu. We had three boats. Dr and Mrs Lewis and their children had the
largest, with their servants, and we all made arrangements to mess on
board their boat. Miss Newton and a friend had another, with more of the
servants, and I, like a millionaire, had one all to myself. I had parted
with the master of transport at Pao Ting Fu, but Hsu Sen, one of the
Lewis’s servants, waited upon me and made up my bed in the open part of
the boat under a little roof. The cabins were behind, low little places
like rabbit hutches, with little windows and little doors through which
I could get by going down on my knees. I used them only for my luggage,
so was enabled to offer a passage to a sewing-woman who would be
exceedingly useful to the missionaries. She had had her feet bound in
her youth and was rather crippled in consequence, and she bought her own
food, as I bought my water, at the wayside places as we passed. She
was a foolish soul, like most Chinese women, and took great interest in
Buchanan, offering him always a share of her own meals, which consisted
apparently largely of cucumbers and the tasteless Chinese melon. Now
James Buchanan was extremely polite, always accepting what was offered
him, but he could not possibly eat cucumber and melon, and when I went
to bed at night I often came in contact with something cold and clammy
which invariably turned out to be fragments of the sewing-woman’s meals
bestowed upon my courtly little dog. I forgave him because of his good
manners. There really was nowhere else to hide them.

They were pleasant days we spent meandering down the river. We passed by
little farms; we passed by villages, by fishing traps, by walled cities.
Hsi An Fu, with the water of the river flowing at the foot of its
castellated walls, was like a city of romance, and when we came upon
little marketplaces by the water’s edge the romance deepened, for
we knew then how the people lived. Sometimes we paused and bought
provisions; sometimes we got out and strolled along the banks in the
pleasant summer weather. Never have I gone a more delightful or more
unique voyage. And at last we arrived at Tientsin and I parted from my
friends, and they went on to Pei Ta Ho and I to Astor House to prepare
for my journey east and north.

And so I left China, China where I had dwelt for sixteen months, China
that has been civilised so long and is a world apart, and now I sit in
my comfortable sitting-room in England and read what the papers say of
China; and the China I know and the China of the newspapers is quite a
different place. It is another world. China has come into the war. On
our side, of course: the Chinaman is far too astute to meddle with a
losing cause. But, after all, what do the peasants of Chihli and the
cave-dwellers in the _yaos_ of Shansi know about a world’s war? The
very, very small section that rules China manages these affairs, and
the mass of the population are exactly as they were in the days of the
Cæsars, or before the first dynasty in Egypt for that matter.

“China,” said one day to me a man who knew it well commercially, just
before I left, “was never in so promising a condition. All the taxes are
coming in and money was never so easy to get.”

“There was a row over the new tax,” said a missionary sadly, in the part
I know well, “in a little village beyond there. The village attacked the
tax-collectors and the soldiers fell upon the villagers and thirteen men
were killed. Oh, I know they say it is only nominal, but what is merely
nominal to outsiders is their all to these poor villagers. They must pay
the tax and starve, or resist and be killed.”

He did not say they were between the devil and the deep sea, because he
was a missionary, but I said it for him, and there were two cases like
that which came within my ken during my last month in China.

The fact of the matter is, I suppose, that outsiders can only judge
generally, and China is true to type, the individual has never counted
there and he does not count yet. What are a few thousand unpaid soldiers
revolting in Kalgan? What a robber desolating Kansu? A score or two of
villagers killed because they could not pay a tax? Absolutely nothing in
the general crowd. I, being a woman, and a woman from the new nations
of the south, cannot help feeling, and feeling strongly, the individual
ought to count, that no nation can be really prosperous until the
individual with but few exceptions is well-to-do and happy. I should
like to rule out the “few exceptions,” but that would be asking too much
of this present world. At least I like to think that most people have
a chance of happiness, but I feel in China that not a tenth of the
population has that.

[Illustration: 0194]

[Illustration: 0195]

China left a curious impression upon my mind. The people are courteous
and kindly, far more courteous than would be the same class of people
in England, and yet I came back from the interior with a strong
feeling that it is unsafe, not because of the general hostility of the
people--they are not hostile--but because suffering and life count for
so little. They themselves suffer and die by the thousand.

“What! Bring a daughter-in-law to see the doctor in the middle of the
harvest! Impossible!” And yet they knew she was suffering agony, that
seeing the doctor was her only chance of sight! But she did not get it.
They were harvesting and no one could be spared!

What is the life then of a foreign barbarian more or less? These
courteous, kindly, dirty folk who look upon one as a menagerie would
look on with equal interest at one’s death. They might stretch out
a hand to help, just as a man in England might stop another from
ill-treating a horse, though for one who would put himself out two
would pass by with a shrug of the shoulders and a feeling that it wras
no business of theirs. Every day of their lives the majority look upon
the suffering of their women and think nothing of it. The desire of the
average man is to have a wife who has so suffered. I do not know whether
the keeping of the women in a state of subserviency has reacted upon
the nation at large, but I should think it has hampered it beyond words.
Nothing--nothing made me so ardent a believer in the rights of women as
my visit to China.

“Women in England,” said a man to me the other day, a foreigner, one
of our Allies, “deserve the vote, but the Continental women are babies.
They cannot have it.” So are the Chinese women babies, very helpless
babies indeed, and I feel, and feel very strongly indeed, that until
China educates her women, makes them an efficient half of the nation,
not merely man’s toy and his slave, China will always lag behind in the
world’s progress.

Already China is split up into “spheres of influence.” Whether she likes
it or not, she must realise that Russian misrule is paramount in
the great steppes of the north; Japan rules to a great extent in
the north-east, her railway from Mukden to Chang Ch’un is a model of
efficiency; Britain counts her influence as the most important along
the valley of the Yang Tze Kiang, and France has some say in Yunnan.
I cannot help thinking that it would be a great day for China, for the
welfare of her toiling millions, millions toiling without hope, if she
were partitioned up among the stable nations of the earth--that is to
say, between Japan, Britain and France. And having said so much, I refer
my readers to Mr Farrer for the other point of view. It is diametrically
opposed to mine.



CHAPTER IX--KHARBIN AND VLADIVOSTOK

At Tientsin I sweltered in the Astor House, and I put it on record that
I found it hotter in Northern China than I did on the Guinea coast in
West Africa. It was probably, of course, the conditions under which I
lived, for the hotel had been so well arranged for the bitter winter
it was impossible to get a thorough draught of air through any of
the rooms. James Buchanan did not like it either, for in the British
concessions in China dogs come under suspicion of hydrophobia and have
always to be on the leash, wherefore, of course, I had to take the poor
little chap out into the Chinese quarter before he could have a proper
run, and he spent a great deal more time shut up in my bedroom than he
or I liked.

But Tientsin was a place apart, not exactly Chinese as I know
China--certainly not Europe; it remains in my mind as a place where
Chinese art learns to accommodate itself to European needs. All the
nations of the world East and West meet there: in the British quarter
were the Sikhs and other Indian nationalities, and in the French the
streets were kept by Anamites in quaint peaked straw hats. I loved
those streets of Tientsin that made me feel so safe and yet gave me a
delightful feeling of adventure--adventure that cost me nothing; and I
always knew I could go and dine with a friend or come back and exchange
ideas with somebody who spoke my own tongue. But Tientsin wasn’t any
good to me as a traveller. It has been written about for the last sixty
years or more. I went on.

One night Buchanan and I, without a servant--we missed the servant we
always had in China--wended our way down to the railway station and
ensconced ourselves in a first-class carriage bound for Mukden. The
train didn’t start till some ungodly hour of the night, but as it was in
the station I got permission to take my place early, and with rugs and
cushions made myself comfortable and was sound asleep long before we
started. When I wakened I was well on the way to my destination.

I made friends with a British officer of Marines who, with his sister,
was coming back across Russia. He had been learning Japanese, and I
corrected another wrong impression. The British do sometimes learn a
language other than their own. At Mukden we dined and had a bath. I find
henceforth that all my stopping-places are punctuated by baths, or by
the fact that a bath was not procurable. A night and day in the train
made one desirable at Mukden, and a hotel run by capable Japanese made
it a delight. The Japanese, as far as I could see, run Manchuria; must
be more powerful than ever now Russia is out of it; Kharbin is Russian,
Mukden Japanese. The train from there to Chang Ch’un is Japanese, and
we all travelled in a large open carriage, clean and, considering how
packed it was, fairly airy. There was room for everybody to lie down,
just room, and the efficient Japanese parted me from my treasured James
Buchanan and put him, howling miserably, into a big box--rather a dirty
box; I suppose they don’t think much of animals--in another compartment.
I climbed over much luggage and crawled under a good deal more to see
that all was right with him, and the Japanese guards looked upon me as
a mild sort of lunatic and smiled contemptuously. I don’t like being
looked upon with contempt by Orientals, so I was a little ruffled when I
came back to my own seat. Then I was amused.

Naturally among such a crowd I made no attempt to undress for the night,
merely contenting myself with taking off my boots. But the man next me,
a Japanese naval officer, with whom I conversed in French, had quite
different views. My French was rather bad and so was his in a different
way, so we did not get on very fast. I fear I left him with the
impression that I was an Austrian, for he never seemed to have heard
of Australia. However, we showed each other our good will. Then he
proceeded to undress. Never have I seen the process more nattily
accomplished. How he slipped out of blue cloth and gold lace into a
kimono I’m sure I don’t know, though he did it under my very eyes, and
then, with praiseworthy forethought, he took the links and studs out
of his shirt and put them into a clean one ready for the morrow, stowed
them both away in his little trunk, settled himself down on his couch
and gave himself up to a cigarette and conversation. I smoked too--one
of his cigarettes--and we both went to sleep amicably, and with the
morning we arrived at Chang Ch’un, and poor little Buchanan made the
welkin ring when he saw me and found himself caged in a barred box.
However that was soon settled, and he told me how infinitely preferable
from a dog’s point of view are the free and easy trains of Russia and
China to the well-managed ones of Japan.

These towns on the great railway are weird little places, merely
scattered houses and wide roads leading out into the great plain, and
the railway comes out of the distance and goes away into the distance.
And the people who inhabit them seem to be a conglomeration of nations,
perhaps the residuum of all the nations. Here the marine officer and
his sister and I fell into the hands of a strange-looking individual who
might have been a cross between a Russian Pole and a Chinaman, with a
dash of Korean thrown in, and he undertook to take us to a better hotel
than that usually-frequented by visitors to Chang Ch’un. I confess I
wonder what sort of people do visit Chang Ch’un, not the British tourist
as a rule, and if the principal hotel is worse than the ramshackle place
where we had breakfast, it must be bad. Still it was pleasant in the
brilliant warm sunshine, even though it was lucky we had bathed the
night before at Mukden, for the best they could do here was to show us
into the most primitive of bedrooms, the very first effort in the way of
a bedroom, I should think, after people had given up _k’angs_, and there
I met a very small portion of water in a very small basin alongside an
exceedingly frowsy bed and made an effort to wash away the stains of
a night’s travel. Now such a beginning to the day would effectually
disgust me; then, fresh from the discomforts of Chinese travel, I found
it all in the day’s work.

I found too that I had made a mistake and not brought enough money with
me. Before I had paid for Buchanan’s ticket I had parted with every
penny I possessed and could not possibly get any more till I arrived
at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank at Kharbin. I am rather given to a
mistake of that sort; I always feel my money is so much safer in the
bank’s charge than in mine.

We went on through fertile Manchuria and I saw the rich fields that
coming out I had passed over at night. This train was Russian, and
presently there came along a soldier, a forerunner of an officer
inspecting passengers and carriages. Promptly his eye fell on Buchanan,
who was taking an intelligent interest in the scenery--he always
insisted on looking out of the window--and I, seeing he, the soldier,
was troubled, tried to tell him my intentions were good and I would pay
at Kharbin; but I don’t think I made myself understood, for he looked
wildly round the compartment, seized the little dog, pushed him in
a corner and threw a cushion over him. Both Buchanan and I were so
surprised we kept quite still, and the Russian officer looked in, saw a
solitary woman holding out her ticket and passed on, and not till he
was well out of the way did James Buchanan, who was a jewel, poke up his
pretty little head and make a few remarks upon the enormity of smuggling
little dogs without paying their fares, which was evidently what I was
doing.

We arrived at Kharbin about nine o’clock at night, and as I stepped out
on to a platform, where all the nations of the earth, in dirty clothes,
seemed yelling in chorus, a man came along and spoke to me in English.
The soldier who had aided and abetted in the smuggling of Buchanan was
standing beside me, evidently expecting some little remembrance, and I
was meditating borrowing from the officer of Marines, though, as they
were going on and I was not, I did not much like it. And the voice in
English asked did I want a hotel. I did, of course. The man said he was
the courier of the Grand Hotel, but he had a little place of his own
which was much better and he could make me very comfortable. Then I
explained I could not get any money till the bank opened next day and
he spread out his hands as a Chinaman might have done. “No matter, no
matter,” he would pay, his purse was mine.

Would I go to his house?

Could I do anything else under the circumstances? And I promptly took
him at his word and asked for a rouble--Kharbin is China, but the rouble
was the current coin--and paid off the soldier for his services. I bade
farewell to my friends and in a ramshackle droshky went away through the
streets of Kharbin, and we drove so far I wondered if I had done wisely.
I had, as it turned out.

But I heard afterwards that even in those days anything might have
happened in Kharbin, where the population consists of Japanese and
Chinese and Russians and an evil combination of all three, to say
nothing of a sprinkling of rascals from all the nations of the earth.

“There is not,” said a man who knew it well, “a decent Chinaman in the
whole place.”

In fact to all intents and purposes it is Russian. There were Russian
students all in uniform in the streets, and bearded, belted drivers
drove the droshkies with their extra horse in a trace beside the shafts,
just as they did in Russia. Anyhow it seems to me the sins of Kharbin
would be the vigorous primal sins of Russia, not the decadent sins of
old-world China.

Kharbin when I was there in 1914 had 60,000 inhabitants and 25,000
Russian soldiers guarding the railway in the district. The Russian
police forbade me to take photographs, and you might take your choice:
Chinese _hung hu tzes_ or Russian brigands would rob and slay you on
your very doorstep in the heart of the town. At least they would in
1914, and things are probably worse now. All the signs are in Russian
and, after the Chinese, looked to me at first as if I should be able to
understand them, but closer inspection convinced me that the letters,
though I knew their shape, had been out all night and were coming home
in not quite the condition we would wish them to be. There is a Chinese
town without a wall a little way over the plain--like all other Chinese
towns, a place of dirt and smells--and there is a great river, the
Sungari, a tributary of the Amur, on which I first met the magnificent
river steamers of these parts. Badly I wanted to photograph them, but
the Russian police said “No, no,” I would have to get a permit from
the colonel in command before that could be allowed, and the colonel in
command was away and was not expected back till the middle of next week,
by which time I expected to be in Vladivostok, if not in Kharbarosvk,
for Kharbin was hardly inviting as a place of sojourn for a traveller.
Mr Poland, as he called himself, did his best for me. He gave me a
fairly large room with a bed in it, a chair, a table and a broken-down
wardrobe that would not open. He had the family washing cleared out of
the bath, so that I bathed amidst the fluttering damp garments of his
numerous progeny, but still there was a bath and a bath heater that with
a certain expenditure of wood could be made to produce hot water; and
if it was rather a terrifying machine to be locked up with at close
quarters, still it did aid me to arrive at a certain degree of
cleanliness, and I had been long enough in China not to be carping.

But it is dull eating in your bedroom, and I knew I had not done wisely,
for even if the principal hotel had been uncomfortable--I am not saying
it was, because I never went there--it would have been more amusing to
watch other folks than to be alone.

The day after I arrived I called upon Mr Sly, the British consul, and I
was amused to hear the very dubious sounds that came from his room when
I was announced.

I cleared the air by saying hastily: “I’m not a distressed British
subject and I don’t want any money,” though I’m bound to say he looked
kind enough to provide me with the wherewithal had I wanted it. Then he
shook his head and expressed his disapproval of my method of arrival.

“The last man who fell into Kharbin like that,” said he, “I hunted for
a week, and two days later I attended his funeral,” so badly had he been
man-handled. But that man, it seems, had plenty of money; it was wisdom
he lacked. My trouble was the other way, certainly as far as money was
concerned. It would never have been worth anyone’s while to harm me for
the sake of my possessions. I had fallen into the hands of a Polish
Jew named Polonetzky, though he called himself Poland to me, feeling, I
suppose, my English tongue was not equal to the more complicated word,
and he dwelt in the Dome Stratkorskaya--remember Kharbin is China--and
I promised if he dealt well by me that I would recommend his
boarding-house to all my friends bound for Kharbin. He did deal well by
me. So frightened was he about me that he would not let me out of his
sight, or if he were not in attendance his wife or his brother was
turned on to look after me.

“I am very good friends,” said he, “with Mr Sly at present. I do not
want anything to happen.”

Mr Sly, we found, knew one of my brothers and he very kindly asked me
to dinner. That introduced me to the élite of the place, and after
dinner--Chinese cooks are still excellent on the borders--we drove in
his private carriage and ended the evening in the public gardens.
The coachmen here are quite gorgeous affairs; no matter what their
nondescript nationality--they are generally Russians, I think, though I
have seen Chinamen, Tartars, driving like Jehu the son of Nimshi--they
wear for full livery grey beaver hats with curly brims like Johnny
Walker or the Corinthians in the days of the Regent. It took my breath
away when I found myself bowling along behind two of these curly brimmed
hats that I thought had passed away in the days of my grandfather.

The gardens at Kharbin are a great institution. There in the summer’s
evening the paths were all lined with lamps; there were open-air
restaurants; there were bands and fluttering flags; there were the most
excellent ices and insidious drinks of all descriptions, and there were
crowds of gaily dressed people--Monte Carlo in the heart of Central
Asia! Kharbin in the summer is hot, very hot, and Kharbin in the winter
is bitter cold. It is all ice and snow and has a temperature that ranges
somewhere down to 40° Fahrenheit below zero, and this though the sun
shines brilliantly. It is insidious cold that sneaks on you and takes
you unawares, not like the bleak raw cold of England that makes the very
most of itself. They told me a tale of a girl who had gone skating and
when she came off the ice found that her feet were frozen, though she
was unaware of her danger and had thought them all right. Dogs are often
frozen in the streets and Chinamen too, for the Chinaman has a way of
going to sleep in odd places, and many a one has slept his last sleep in
the winter streets of Kharbin--the wide straggling streets with houses
and gardens and vacant spaces just like the towns of Australia. A
frontier town it is in effect. We have got beyond the teeming population
of China.

And then I prepared to go first east to Vladivostok and then north
to Siberia, and I asked advice of both the British consul and my
self-appointed courier, Mr Poland.

Certainly he took care of me, and the day before I started east he
handed me over to his wife and suggested she should take me to the
market and buy necessaries for my journey. It was only a little over
twenty-four hours so it did not seem to me a matter of much consequence,
but I felt it would be interesting to walk through the market. It was.

This class of market, I find, is very much alike all over the world
because they sell the necessaries of life to the people and it is only
varied by the difference of the local products. Kharbin market was
a series of great sheds, and though most of the stalls were kept by
Chinamen, it differed from a market in a Chinese town in the fact that
huge quantities of butter and cheese and cream were for sale. Your true
Chinaman is shocked at the European taste for milk and butter and cream.
He thinks it loathsome, and many a man is unable to sit at table and
watch people eat these delicacies. Just as, of course, he is shocked at
the taste that would put before a diner a huge joint of beef or mutton.
These things Chinese refinement disguises. I suspect the proletariat
with whom I came in contact in Shansi would gladly eat anything, but
I speak of the refined Chinaman. Here in this market, whether he was
refined or not, he had got over these fancies and there was much butter
and delicious soured cream for sale. My Polish Jewess and I laboured
under the usual difficulty of language, but she made me understand I had
better buy a basket for my provisions, a plate, a knife, a fork--I had
left these things behind in China, not thinking I should want them--a
tumbler and a couple of kettles. No self-respecting person, according to
her, would dream of travelling in Siberia without at least a couple
of kettles. I laid in two of blue enamel ware and I am bound to say I
blessed her forethought many and many a time.

Then we proceeded to buy provisions, and here I lost my way. She engaged
a stray Chinaman, at least I think he was a Chinaman, with a dash of the
gorilla in him, to carry the goods, and I thought she was provisioning
her family against a siege or that perhaps there was only one market
a month in Kharbin. Anyhow I did not feel called upon to interfere. It
didn’t seem any concern of mine and she had a large little family. We
bought bread in large quantities, ten cucumbers, two pounds of butter,
two pounds of cream--for these we bought earthenware jars--two dozen
bananas, ten eggs and two pounds of tea. And then I discovered these
were the provisions for my journey to Vladivostok, twenty-seven hours
away! I never quite knew why I bought provisions at all, for the train
stopped at stations where there were restaurants even though there was
no restaurant car attached to it. Mr Sly warned me to travel first class
and I had had no thought of doing aught else, for travelling is very
cheap and very good in Russia, but Mr Poland thought differently.

“I arrange,” said he, “I arrange, and you see if you are not
comfortable.”

I am bound to say I was, very comfortable, for Buchanan and I had a
very nice second-class carriage all to ourselves. At every station a
conductor appeared to know if I wanted boiling water, and we had any
amount of good things to eat, for the ten eggs had been hard boiled
by Mrs “Poland,” and the bread and butter and cream and cucumbers and
bananas were as good as ever I have tasted. I also had two pounds of
loaf sugar, German beet, I think, and some lemons.

And so we went east through the wooded hills of Manchuria. They were
covered with lush grass restfully green, and there were flowers, purple
and white and yellow and red, lifting their starry faces to the cloudy
sky, and a soft damp air blew in through the open window. Such a change
it was after China, with its hard blue skies, brilliant sunshine and
dry, invigorating air. But the Manchus were industrious as the Chinese
themselves, and where there were fields the crops were tended
as carefully as those in China proper, only in between were the
pasture-lands and the flowers that were a delight to me, who had not
seen a flower save those in pots since I came to China.

I spread out my rugs and cushions and, taking off my clothes and getting
into a kimono--also bought in the Kharbin market; a man’s kimono as the
women’s are too narrow--I slept peacefully, and in the morning I found
we had climbed to the top of the ridge, the watershed, the pleasant
rain was falling softly, all around was the riotous green, and peasants,
Russian and Chinese, came selling sweet red raspberries in little
baskets of green twigs.

And the flowers, the flowers of Siberia! After all I had heard about
them, they were still something more beautiful than I could have hoped
for; and then the rain passed, the life-giving rain, the rain that
smoothed away all harshness and gave such a charm and a softness to the
scenery. And it was vast. China was so crowded I never had a sense of
vastness there; but this was like Australia, great stretches of land
under the sky, green, rich lush green, and away in the distance was a
dim line of blue hills. Then would come a little corrugated-iron-roofed
town sprawled out over the mighty plain, a pathway to it across the
surrounding green, and then the sun came out and the clouds threw great
shadows and there was room to see the outline of their shapes on the
green grass.

There were Chinese still on the stations, but they were becoming more
and more Russianised. They still wore queues, but they had belted
Russian blouses and top-boots, and they mixed on friendly terms with
flaxen-haired, blue-eyed Russians similarly attired. And the evening
shadows gathered again and in the new world we steamed into Vladivostok.

The Russians I came across did not appreciate fresh air. The porter of a
hotel captured me and Buchanan, and when we arrived on a hot July night
I was shown into a bedroom with double windows hermetically sealed and
the cracks stopped up with cotton wool!

I protested vehemently and the hotel porter looked at me in
astonishment. Tear down those carefully stopped-up cracks! Perish the
thought. However, I persuaded him down that cotton wool must come, and
he pulled it down regretfully. I called at the British consulate next
day and asked them to recommend me to the best hotel, but they told me
I was already there and could not better myself, so I gave myself up
to exploring the town in the Far East where now the Czech Slovaks have
established themselves.

It is a beautifully situated town set in the hills alongside a narrow
arm of the sea, rather a grey sea with a grey sky overhead, and the
hills around were covered with the luxuriant green of midsummer,
midsummer in a land where it is winter almost to June. The principal
buildings in Vladivostok are rather fine, but they are all along the
shore, and once you go back you come into the hills where the wood-paved
streets very often are mere flights of steps. It is because of that
sheltered arm of the sea that here is a town at all.

Along the shore are all manner of craft. The British fleet had come on
a visit, and grey and grim the ships lay there on the grey sea, like a
Turner picture, with, for a dash of colour, the Union Jacks. The Russian
fleet was there too, welcoming their guests, and I took a boat manned
by a native of the country, Mongolian evidently, with, of course, an
unknown tongue, but whether he was Gold or Gilyak I know not. He was a
good boatman, for a nasty little sea got up and James Buchanan told me
several times he did not like the new turn our voyaging had taken, and
then, poor little dog, he was violently sick. I know the torments of
sea-sickness are not lightly to be borne, so after sailing round the
fleets I went ashore and studied the shipping from the firm land.

I was glad then that Mr Sly at Kharbin had insisted that I should see
the Russian port. The whole picture was framed in green, soft tender
green, edged with grey mist, and all the old forgotten ships of wood,
the ships that perhaps were sailed by my grandfather in the old East
India Company, seemed to have found a resting-place here. They were
drawn up against the shore or they were going down the bay with all
their sails set, and the sunlight breaking through the clouds touched
the white sails and made them mountains of snow. There was shipbuilding
going on too, naturally--for are there not great stores of timber in the
forests behind?--and there were ships unloading all manner of things.
Ships brought vegetables and fruit; ships brought meat; there were
fishing-boats, hundreds of them close against each other along the
shore, and on all the small ships, at the mast-heads, were little
fluttering white butterflies of flags. What they were there for I do
not know, or what they denoted. Oh, the general who commands the Czech
Slovaks has a splendid base. I wish him all success. And here were the
sealing-ships, the ships that presently would go up to the rookeries to
bring away the pelts.

One of my brothers was once navigating lieutenant on the British ship
that guarded the rookeries “north of 53°,” and I remembered, as Buchanan
and I walked along the shore, the tales he had told me of life in these
parts. His particular ship had acquired two sheep, rather an acquisition
for men who had lived long off the Chinese coast, and had a surfeit of
chickens; so while they were eating one, thinking to save the other a
long sea voyage they landed him on an island, giving him in charge of
the man, an Aleut Indian, my brother called him, who ruled the little
place. Coming back they were reduced to salt and tinned food, but they
cheered themselves with thoughts of the mutton chops that should regale
them when they met again their sheep. Alas for those sailor-men! They
found the Indian, but the sheep was not forthcoming.

His whilom guardian was most polite. He gave them to understand he was
deeply grieved, but unfortunately he had been obliged to slay the sheep
as he was killing the fowls!

The ward-room mess realised all too late that mutton was appreciated in
other places than on board his Majesty’s ships.

I thought all the races of the earth met in Kharbin, but I don’t know
that this port does not run it very close. There were Japanese, Chinese,
Russians, Koreans in horsehair hats and white garments; there were the
aboriginal natives of the country and there were numberless Germans.
And then, in July, 1914, these people, I think, had no thought of the
World’s War.

And here I came across a new way of carrying, for all the porters had
chairs strapped upon their backs and the load, whatever it was, was
placed upon the chair. Of all ways I have seen, that way strikes me as
being the best, for the weight is most evenly distributed. Most of the
porters, I believe, were Koreans, though they did not wear white; nor
did they wear a hat of any description; their long black, hair was
twisted up like a woman’s, but they were vigorous and stalwart. We left
weakness behind us in China. Here the people looked as if they were
meat-fed, and though they might be dirty--they generally were--they all
looked as if they had enough.

Always the principal streets were thronged with people. At night the
town all lighted up is like a crescent of sparkling diamonds flung
against the hill-sides, and when I went to the railway station to take
train for Kharbarosvk, thirty hours away, at the junction of the Ussuri
and the Amur, that large and spacious building was a seething mass of
people of apparently all classes and all nationalities, and they were
giving voice to their feelings at the top of their lungs. Everybody, I
should think, had a grievance and was makin the most of it. I had not
my capable Mr Poland to arrange for me, so I went first class--the exact
fare I have forgotten, but it was ridiculously low--and Buchanan and I
had a compartment all to ourselves. Indeed I believe we were the only
first-class passengers. I had my basket and my kettles and I had laid in
store of provisions, and we went away back west for a couple of hours,
and then north into the spacious green country where there was room and
more than room for everybody.



CHAPTER X--ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREAT RIVERS

All the afternoon we went back on our tracks along the main line, the
sea on one side and the green country, riotous, lush, luxuriant, on the
other, till at last we reached the head of the gulf and took our last
look at the Northern Sea; grey like a silver shield it spread before us,
and right down to the very water’s edge came the vivid green. And then
we turned inland, and presently we left the main line and went north.
Above was the grey sky, and the air was soft and cool and delicious.
I had had too much stimulation and I welcomed, as I had done the rains
after the summer in my youth, the soft freshness of the Siberian summer.

There were soldiers everywhere, tall, strapping, virile Russians; there
were peasants in belted, blouses, with collars all of needlework; and
there were Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and the natives of the country,
men with a strong Mongolian cast of countenance. The country itself was
strangely empty after teeming China, but these all travelled by train
or were to be found on the railway stations and at the fishing stations
that we passed, but apparently I was the only bloated aristocrat who
travelled first class. In normal times this made travelling fairly easy
in Russia, for it was very cheap and you could generally get a carriage
to yourself.

Oh! but it was lovely; the greenness of the country was a rest to eyes
wearied with the dust and dirt of China. And there were trees--not trees
denuded of all but enough timber to make a bare livelihood possible, but
trees growing luxuriantly in abundant leaf after their own free will,
oaks and firs and white-stemmed, graceful birches bending daintily
before the soft breeze. At the stations the natives, exactly like
Chinamen, dirty and in rags, brought strawberries for sale; and there
were always flowers--purple vetches and gorgeous red poppies, tall
foxgloves and blue spikes of larkspur. The very antithesis of China it
was, for this was waste land and undeveloped. The very engines were run
with wood, and there were stacks of wood by the wayside waiting to be
burnt. I was sorry--I could not but be sorry. I have seen my own people
cut down the great forests of Western Victoria, and here were people
doing the same, with exactly the same wanton extravagance, and in this
country, with its seven months of bitter winter, in all probability the
trees take three times as long to come to maturity. But it is virgin
land, this glorious fertile country, and was practically uninhabited
till the Russian Government planted here and there bands of Cossacks
who, they say, made no endeavour to develop the land. The Koreans and
the Japanese and the Chinese came creeping in, but the Russians made
an effort to keep them out. But still the population is scanty. Always,
though it was before the war, there were soldiers--soldiers singly,
soldiers in pairs, soldiers in little bands; a horseman appeared on a
lonely road, he was a soldier; a man came along driving a cart, he was a
soldier; but the people we saw were few, for the rigours of this lovely
land in the winter are terrible, and this was the dreaded land where
Russia sent her exiles a long, long way from home.

Farther we went into the hills; a cuckoo called in the cool and dewy
morning; there were lonely little cottages with wooden roofs and log
walls; there were flowering creepers round the windows, and once I saw
a woman’s wistful face peeping out at the passing train, the new train
that at last was bringing her nearer the old home and that yet seemed to
emphasise the distance. We went along by a river, the Ussuri, that wound
its way among the wooded green hills and by still pools of water that
reflected in their depths the blue sky, soft with snow-white clouds. A
glorious land this land of exile! At the next station we stopped at
the people were seated at a table having a meal under the shade of the
trees. Then there was a lonely cross of new wood; someone had been laid
in his long last home in the wilderness and would never go back to
Holy Russia again; and again I thought of the woman’s wistful face that
peered out of the flower-bordered window.

This is a new line. Formerly the way to Kharbarosvk was down the Amur
river from the west, and that, I suppose, is why all this country of the
Amur Province south and east of the river is so lonely.

As we neared Kharbarosvk came signs of settlement, the signs of
settlement I had been accustomed to in Australia. There were tree
stumps, more and more, and anything more desolate than a forest of
newly cut tree stumps I don’t know. It always spells to me ruthless
destruction. I am sure it did here, for they cut down recklessly,
sweeping all before them. It seemed to cry out, as all newly settled
land that ever I have seen, and I have seen a good deal, the distaste of
the people who here mean to make their homes. These are not our trees,
they say; they are not beautiful like the trees of our own old home; let
us cut them down, there are plenty; by and by when we have time, when
we are settled, we will plant trees that really are worth growing. We
shall not see them, of course, our children will benefit little; but
they will be nice for our grandchildren, if we hold on so long. But
no one believes they will stay so long; they hope to make money and go
back. Meanwhile they want the timber, but they neglect to plant fresh
trees.

They wanted the timber to build Kharbarosvk. This is a town of the
outposts, a frontier town; there are no towns like it in the British
Isles, where they value their land and build towns compactly, but I have
seen its counterpart many a time in Australia, and I know there must be
its like in America and Canada. It straggled all along the river bank,
and its wide streets, streets paved, or rather floored, here and there
with planks of wood, were sparsely planted with houses. In one respect
Australian towns of the frontier are much wiser. When there is a train
they do build their stations with some regard for the comfort and
convenience of the inhabitants. In Russia wherever I have been the
railway station is a long distance, sometimes half-an-hour’s drive, from
the town it serves. I suppose it is one of the evils of the last bad
regime and that in the future, the future which is for the people, it
will be remedied, but it is difficult to see what purpose it serves. I
had to get a droshky to the hotel. We drove first along a country road,
then through the wide grass-grown streets of the town, and I arrived
at the principal hotel, kept by a German on Russian lines, for the
restaurant was perfectly distinct from the living-rooms. I put it on
record it was an excellent restaurant; I remember that cold soup--the
day was hot--and that most fragrant coffee still.

From the windows of my bedroom I saw another of the world’s great
rivers. I looked away over a wide expanse of water sparkling in the
sunshine: it was the junction of the Ussuri and the Amur, and it was
like a great lake or the sea. It was very, very still, clear as glass,
and the blue sky and white clouds were reflected in it, and there were
green islands and low green banks. All was colour, but soft colour
without outlines, like a Turner picture.

The Amur is hard frozen for about five months of the year and for about
two more is neither good solid ice nor navigable water. It is made by
the joining of the Shilka and the Aigun in about lat. 53° N. 121° E.,
and, counting in the Shilka, must be nearly three thousand miles in
length, and close on two thousand miles have I now travelled. I
don’t know the Amur, of course, but at least I may claim to have been
introduced to it, and that, I think, is more than the majority of
Englishmen may do. And oh, it is a mighty river! At Kharbarosvk, over a
thousand versts--about six hundred and forty miles--from the sea, it
is at least a mile and a third wide, and towards the mouth, what with
backwaters and swamps, it takes up sometimes about forty miles of
country, while the main channel is often nearly three miles wide. It
rises in the hills of Trans-Baikal--the Yablonoi Mountains we used to
call them when I was at school. Really I think it is the watershed that
runs up East Central Siberia and turns the waters to the shallow Sea of
Okhotsk; and it cuts its way through wooded hills among rich land hardly
as yet touched by agriculture, beautiful, lovely hills they are, steep
and wooded. It climbs down into the flat country and then again, just
before it reaches the sea, it is in the hills, colder hills this time,
though the Amur falls into the sea on much the same parallel of latitude
as that which sees it rise, only it seems to me that the farther you get
east the colder and more extreme is the climate. For Nikolayeusk at the
mouth is in the same latitude as London, but as a port it is closed for
seven months of the year. True, the winter in Siberia is lovely, bright,
clear cold, a hard, bright clearness, but the thermometer is often down
below -40°

Fahrenheit, and when that happens life is difficult for both man and
beast. No wonder it is an empty river. The wonder to me is that there
should be so much life as there is. For in those five months that it
is open fine large steamers run from Nikolayeusk by Ivharbarosvk to
Blagovesehensk, and smaller ones, but still rather fine, to Stretensk,
where river navigation, for steamers of any size at any rate, ceases.
There are the two months, April-May, September-October, when the river
cannot be used at all, and there are the winter months when it may be,
and is to a certain extent, used as a road, but with the thermometer
down far below zero no one is particularly keen on travelling. It has
its disadvantages. So most of the travelling is done in the summer
months and in 1914 the steamers were crowded. Now, I suppose, they are
fighting there. It is a country well worth fighting for.

It was a curious contrast, the lonely empty river and the packed
steamer. It was an event when we passed another; two made a crowd;
and very, very seldom did we pass more than two in a day. But it was
delightful moving along, the great crowded steamer but a puny thing on
the wide river, the waters still and clear, reflecting the blue sky and
the soft white clouds and the low banks far, far away. When there were
hills they were generally closer, as if the river had had more trouble
in cutting a passage and therefore had not had time to spread itself as
it did in the plain country. The hills were densely wooded, mostly with
dark firs, with an occasional deciduous tree showing up brightly among
the dark foliage, and about Blagovesehensk there is a beautiful oak
known as the velvet oak, the wood of which is much sought for making
furniture. However dense the forest, every here and there would be a
wide swath of green bare of trees--a fire brake; for these forests in
the summer burn fiercely, and coming back I saw the valleys thick with
the curling blue wood smoke, smelt the aromatic smell of the burning fir
woods, and at night saw the hills outlined in flames. It was a gorgeous
sight, but it is desperately destructive for the country, especially
a country where the wood grows so slowly. But at first there were no
fires, and what struck me was the vastness and the loneliness of the
mighty river. I had the same feeling on the Congo in the tropics, a
great and lonely river with empty banks, but that was for a distance
under two hundred miles. Here in the north the great lonely river went
wandering on for ten times as far, and still the feeling when one stood
apart from the steamer was of loneliness and grandeur. Man was such a
small thing here. At night a little wind sighed over the waters or swept
down between the hills; round the bows the water rose white; there was a
waste of tossing water all round, under a lowering sky, and the far-away
banks were lost in the gloom. A light would appear, perhaps two lights
shining out of the darkness, but they only emphasised the loneliness. A
wonderful river!

The navigation of the river is a profession in itself. There is a school
for the navigators at Blagoveschensk where they are properly trained.
All along we came across the red beacons that mark the way, while beside
them in the daytime we could see the cabins of the lonely men who tended
them.

Truly a voyage down the Amur in summer is not to be easily forgotten,
and yet, sitting here writing about it in my garden in Kent, I sometimes
wonder did I dream it all, the vastness and the loneliness and the
grandeur that is so very different from the orchard land wherein is
set my home. You do not see orchards on the Amur, the climate is too
rigorous, and I doubt if they grow much beyond berries, a blue berry in
large quantities, raspberries, and coming back we bought cucumbers.

Oh, but it was lovely on that river. Dearly should I like to share its
delights with a companion who could discuss it with me, but somehow it
seems to be my lot to travel alone.

Not, of course, that I was really alone. Though the steamers were
few, perhaps because they were few, they were crowded. There were two
companies on the river, the Sormovo or quick-sailing company, and the
Amur Company; and I hereby put it on record that the Amur Company is
much the best. The _John Cockerill_, named after some long-dead
English engineer who was once on the Amur, is one of the best and most
comfortable.

At Kharbarosvk, finding the steamer did not leave till the evening of
the next day, I had naturally gone to a hotel. It seemed the obvious
thing to do. But I was wrong. The great Russian steamship companies,
with a laudable desire to keep passengers and make them comfortable,
always allow a would-be traveller to spend at least two days on board
in the ports, paying, of course, for his food. And I, who had only come
about thirty-six hours too soon, had actually put up at a hotel, with
the _John Cockerill_ lying at the wharf. The Russo-Asiatic Bank,
as represented by a woman clerk, the only one there who could speak
English, was shocked at my extravagance and said so. These women clerks
were a little surprise for me, for in 1914 I was not accustomed to
seeing women in banks, but here in Eastern Siberia--in Vladivostok,
Kharbarosvk, and all the towns of the Amur--they were as usual as the
men.

The _John Cockerill_ surprised me as much as I surprised the bank clerk.
To begin with, I didn’t realise it was the _John Cockerill_, for I could
not read the Russian letters, and at first I did not recognise the name
as pronounced by the Russians. She was a very gorgeous, comfortable
ship, with a dining saloon and a lounge gorgeous in green velvet. And
yet she was not a post steamer, but spent most of her time drawing
barges laden with cargo, and stopped to discharge and take in at all
manner of lonely little ports on the great river. She was a big steamer,
divided into four classes, and was packed with passengers: Russians
in the first, second and third class, with an occasional German or
Japanese, and in the fourth an extraordinary medley of poorer Russians,
Chinese and Gilyaks and Golds, the aboriginals of the country, men with
a Mongolian east of countenance, long coarse blaek hair, very often
beards, and dirty--the ordinary poor Chinaman is clean and tidy beside
them.

But the first class was luxurious. We had electric light and hot and
cold water. The cabins were not to hold more than two, and you brought
your own bedding. I dare say it could have been hired on the steamer,
but the difficulty of language always stood in my way, and once away
from the seaboard in North-Eastern Asia the only other European language
beside Russian that is likely to be understood is German, and I have no
German. I was lucky enough on the _John Cockerill_ to find the wife of
a Russian colonel who spoke a little English. She, with her husband, was
taking a summer holiday by journeying up to Nikolayeusk, and she very
kindly took Buchanan and me under her wing and interpreted for us. It
was very nice for me, and the only thing I had to complain of on that
steamer was the way in which the night watch promenading the deek shut
my window and slammed to the shutters. They did it every night, with a
care for my welfare I could have done without. In a river steamer
the cabins are all in the centre with the deck round, and the watch
evidently could not understand how any woman could really desire to
sleep under an open window. I used to get up early in the morning and
walk round the decks, and I found that first and second class invariably
shut their windows tight, though the nights were always just pleasantly
cool, and consequently those passages between the cabins smelt like
a menagerie, and an ill-kept menagerie at that. They say Russians age
early and invariably they are of a pallid complexion. I do not wonder,
now that I have seen their dread of fresh air. Again and again I was
told: “Draughts are not good!” Draughts! I’d rather sleep in a hurricane
than in the hermetically sealed boxes in which those passengers stowed
themselves on board the river steamers. On the _John Cockerill_ the
windows of the dining saloon and the lounge did open, but on the steamer
on which I went up the river, the _Kanovina_, one of the “Sormovo”
 Company, and the mail steamer, there was only one saloon in the first
class. We had our meals and we lived there. It was a fine large room
placed for’ard in the ship’s bows, with beautiful large windows of glass
through which we could see excellently the scenery; but those windows
were fast; they would not open; they were not made to open. The
atmosphere was always thick when I went in for breakfast in the morning,
and I used to make desperate efforts to get the little windows that ran
round the top opened. I could not do it myself, as you had to get on the
roof of the saloon, the deck where the look-out stood, and anyhow they
were only little things, a foot high by two feet broad. But such an
innovation was evidently regarded as dangerous. Besides the fact that
draughts were bad, I have been assured that perhaps it was going to
rain--the rain couldn’t come in both sides--and at night I was assured
they couldn’t be opened because the lights would be confusing to other
steamers!

Nobody seemed to mind an atmosphere you could have cut with a knife. I
am sure if the walls had been taken away it would have stood there in
a solid block--a dark-coloured, high-smelling block, I should think. I
gave up trying to do good to a community against its will and used to
carry my meals outside and have them on the little tables that were
dotted about the deck.

After all, bar that little difficulty about the air--and certainly if
right goes with the majority I have no cause of complaint, I was in a
minority of one--those steamers made the most comfortable and cheapest
form of travelling I have ever undertaken. From Kharbarosvk to
Nikolayeusk for over three days’ voyage my fare with a first-class cabin
to myself was twelve roubles--about one pound four shillings. I came
back by the mail steamer and it was fifteen roubles--about one pound
ten shillings. This, of course, does not include food. Food on a
Russian steamer you buy as you would on a railway train. You may make
arrangements with the restaurant and have breakfast, luncheon, afternoon
tea and dinner for so much a day; or you may have each meal separate
and pay for it as you have it; or you may buy your food at the various
stopping-places, get your kettles filled with hot water for a trifling
tip, and feed yourself in the privacy of your own cabin. I found
the simplest way, having no servant, was to pay so much a day--five
shillings on the big steamers, four shillings on the smaller one--and
live as I would do at a hotel. The food was excellent on the Amur
Company’s ships. We had chicken and salmon--not much salmon, it was too
cheap--and sturgeon. Sturgeon, that prince of fish, was a treat,
and caviare was as common as marmalade used to be on a British
breakfast-table. It was generally of the red variety that we do not see
here and looked not unlike clusters of red currants, only I don’t know
that I have ever seen currants in such quantities. I enjoyed it very
much till one day, looking over the railing into the stern of the boat,
where much of the food was roughly prepared--an unwise thing to do--I
saw an extremely dirty woman of the country, a Gilyak, in an extremely
dirty garment, with her dirty bare arms plunged to the elbow in the red
caviare she was preparing for the table. Then I discovered for a little
while that I didn’t much fancy caviare. But I wish I had some of that
nice red caviare now.

The second class differed but little from the first. There was not so
much decoration about the saloons, and on the _John Cockerill_, where
the first class had two rooms, they had only one; and the food was much
the same, only not so many courses. There was plenty, and they only paid
three shillings a day for the four meals. The people were much the
same as we in the first class, and I met a girl from Samara, in Central
Russia, who spoke a little French. She was a teacher and was going
to Nikolayeusk for a holiday exactly as I have seen teachers here in
England go to Switzerland.

But between the first and second and the third and fourth class was a
great gulf fixed. They were both on the lower deck, the third under the
first and the fourth under the second, while amidships between them were
the kitchens and the engines and the store of wood for fuel. The third
had no cabins, but the people went to bed and apparently spent their
days in places like old-fashioned dinner-wagons; and they bought their
own food, either from the steamer or at the various stopping-places, and
ate it on their beds, for they had no saloon. The fourth class was still
more primitive. The passengers, men, women and children, were packed
away upon shelves rising in three tiers, one above the other, and the
place of each man and woman was marked out by posts. There was no effort
made to provide separate accommodation for men and women. As far as I
could see, they all herded together like cattle.

The ship was crowded. The Russian colonel’s wife and I used to walk up
and down the long decks for exercise, with Buchanan in attendance, she
improving her English and I learning no Russian. It is evidently quite
the custom for the people of the great towns of the Amur to make every
summer an excursion up the river, and the poorer people, the third and
fourth class, go up to Nikolayeusk for the fishing. Hence those shelves
crowded with dirty folk. There were troughs for washing outside the
fourth class, I discovered, minor editions of our luxurious bathrooms
in the first class, but I am bound to say they did not have much use.
Washing even in this hot weather, and it certainly was pleasantly
warm, was more honoured in the breach than in the observance. The only
drawback to the bathrooms in the first class, from my point of view, was
their want of air. They were built so that apparently there was no means
of getting fresh air into them, and I always regarded myself as a very
plucky woman when in the interests of cleanliness I had a bath. The
hot water and the airlessness always brought me to such a condition of
faintness that I generally had to rush out and lie on the couch in my
cabin to recover, and then if somebody outside took it upon them to bang
to the window I was reduced to the last gasp.

The _John Cockerill_ was run like a man-of-war. The bells struck the
hours and half-hours, the captain and officers were clad in white and
brass-bound, and the men were in orthodox sailor’s rig. One man came
and explained to me--he spoke no tongue that I could understand, but his
meaning was obvious--that Buchanan was not allowed on the first-class
deck, the rules and regulations, so said the colonel’s wife, said he
was not; but no one seemed to object, so I thought to smooth matters
by paying half-a-rouble; then I found that every sailor I came across
apparently made the same statement, and having listened to one or two,
at last I decided to part with no more cash, and it was, I suppose,
agreed that Buchanan had paid his footing, for they troubled me no more
about him.

Three or four times a day we pulled up at some little wayside place,
generally only two or three log-houses with painted doors or windows, an
occasional potato patch and huge stacks of wood to replenish the fuel
of the steamer, and with much yelling they put out a long gangway,
and while the wood was brought on board we all went ashore to see
the country. The country was always exactly alike, vast and green and
lonely, the sparse human habitations emphasising that vastness and
loneliness. The people were few. The men wore belted blouses and high
boots and very often, though it was summer, fur caps, and the women very
voluminous and very dirty skirts with unbelted blouses, a shawl across
their shoulders and a kerchief on their unkempt hair. They were dirty;
they were untidy; they were uneducated; they belonged to the very
poorest classes; and I think I can safely say that all the way from
Kharbarosvk to Nikolayeusk the only attempt at farming I saw was in a
few scattered places where the grass had been cut and tossed up into
haycocks. And yet those people impressed upon me a sense of their
virility and strength, a feeling that I had never had when moving among
the Chinese, where every inch of land--bar the graves--is turned to good
account. Was it the condition of the women? I wonder. I know I never saw
one of those stalwart women pounding along on her big flat feet without
a feeling of gladness and thankfulness. Here at least was good material.
It was crude and rough, of course, but it was there waiting for the
wheel of the potter. Shall we find the potter in the turmoil of the
revolution and the war?

We went on, north, north with a little of east, and it grew cooler and
the twilight grew longer. I do not know how other people do, but I count
my miles and realise distances from some distance I knew well in my
youth. So I know that from Kharbarosvk to Nikolaycusk is a little
farther away than is Melbourne from Sydney; and always we went by way of
the great empty land, by way of the great empty river. Sometimes far
in the distance we could see the blue hills; sometimes the hills were
close; but always it was empty, because the few inhabitants, the house
or two at the little stopping-places where were the piles of wood for
the steamer, but emphasised the loneliness and emptiness. You could have
put all the people we saw in a street of a suburb of London and lost
them, and I suppose the distance traversed was as far as from London to
Aberdeen. It was a beautiful land, a land with a wondrous charm, but it
is waiting for the colonist who will dare the rigours of the winter and
populate it.

At last we steamed up to the port of Nikolayeusk, set at the entrance of
the shallow Sea of Okhotsk, right away in the east of the world. When I
set foot upon the wharf among all the barrels with which it was packed I
could hardly believe I had come so far east, so far away from my regular
beat. One of my brothers always declares I sent him to sea because my
sex prevented me from going, and yet here I was, in spite of that grave
disadvantage, in as remote a corner of the earth as even he might have
hoped to attain.

It was a July day, sunny and warm. They had slain an Austrian archduke
in Serbia and the world was on the verge of the war of the ages, but
I knew nothing of all that. I stepped off the steamer and proceeded to
investigate Nikolayeusk, well satisfied with the point at which I had
arrived.



CHAPTER XI--THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

Nikolayeusk seemed to me the ends of the earth. I hardly know why it
should have done so, for I arrived there by way of a very comfortable
steamer and I have made my way to very much more ungetatable places. I
suppose the explanation is that all the other places I have visited I
had looked up so long on the map that when I arrived I only felt I was
attaining the goal I had set out to reach, whereas I must admit I had
never heard of Nikolayeusk till Mr Sly, the British consul, sketched
it out as the end of my itinerary on the Siberian rivers, and ten days
later I found myself in the Far Eastern town. I remember one of my
brothers writing to me once from Petropaulovski:

“I always said my address would some day be Kamseatkha and here I am!”

Well, I never said my address would be Nikolayeusk because I had never
heard of it, but here I was nevertheless. The weather was warm, the sun
poured down from a cloudless blue sky, and in the broad, grass-grown
streets, such streets have I seen in Australian towns, when the faint
breeze stirred the yellow dust rose on the air. And the town straggled
all along the northern side of the river, a town of low, one-storeyed
wooden houses for the most part, with an occasional two-storeyed house
and heavy shutters to all the windows. There was a curious absence
of stone, and the streets when they were paved at all were, as in
Kharbarosvk, lines of planks, sometimes three, sometimes five planks
wide, with a waste of dust or mud or grass, as the case might be, on
either side.

The Russians I found kindness itself. In Vladivostok I had met a man
who knew one of my brothers--I sometimes wonder if I could get to such
a remote corner of the earth that I should not meet someone who knew
one of these ubiquitous brothers of mine--and this good friend, having
sampled the family, took me on trust and found someone else who
would give me a letter to the manager of the Russo-Asiatic Bank at
Nikolayeusk. This was a godsend, for Mr Pauloff spoke excellent English,
and he and his corresponding clerk, a Russian lady of middle age who had
spent a long time in France, took me in hand and showed me the sights.
Madame Schulmann and I and Buchanan drove all over the town in one of
the most ancient victorias I have ever seen--the most ancient are in
Saghalien, which is beyond the ends of the earth--and she very kindly
took me to a meal at the principal hotel. I was staying on board the
steamer while I looked around me. The visit with this lady decided me
not to go there. It wras about four o’clock in the afternoon, so I don’t
know whether our meal was dinner or tea or luncheon; we had good soup,
I remember, and nice wine, to say nothing of excellent coffee, but the
atmosphere left much to be desired. I don’t suppose the windows ever
had been opened since the place was built, and no one seemed to see any
necessity for opening them. My hostess smiled at my distress. She said
she liked fresh air herself but that for a whole year she had lodged in
a room where the windows would not open. She had wanted to have one of
the panes--not the window, just one of the panes--made to open to admit
fresh air, and had offered to do it at her own expense, but her landlord
refused. It would spoil the look of the room. She advised me strongly
if I wanted fresh air to stay as long as I could on board the steamer at
the wharf, and I decided to take her advice.

The Russo-Asiatic Bank was not unlike the banks I have seen in
Australian townships, in that it was built of wood of one storey and the
manager and his wife lived on the premises, but the roof was far more
ornamental than Australia could stand and gave the touch of the East
that made for romance. The manager was good enough to ask me to dinner
and to include Buchanan in the invitation because I did not like to
leave the poor little chap shut up in my cabin. This was really dinner,
called so, and we had it at five o’clock of a hot summer’s afternoon,
a very excellent dinner, with delicious sour cream in the soup
and excellent South Australian wine, not the stuff that passes for
Australian wine in England and that so many people take medicinally, but
really good wine, such as Australians themselves drink. The house was
built with a curious lack of partitions that made for spaciousness, so
that you wandered from one room to another, hardly knowing that you had
gone from the sitting-room to the bedroom, and James Buchanan going on a
voyage of discovery unfortunately found the cradle, to the dismay of his
mistress. He stood and looked at it and barked.

“Gracious me! What’s this funny thing! I’ve never seen anything like it
before!”

Neither had I; but I was covered with shame when a wail proclaimed the
presence of the son and heir.

Naturally I expressed myself--truly--charmed with the town, and Mr
Pauloff smiled and nodded at his wife, who spoke no English.

“She hates it,” said he; “she has never been well since we came here.”

She was white, poor little girl, as the paper on which this is written,
and very frail-looking, but it never seemed to occur to anyone that it
would be well to open the double windows, and so close was the air of
the room that it made me feel sick and faint.

“She never goes out,” said her husband. “She is not well enough.”

I believe there was a time in our grandmothers’ days when we too dreaded
the fresh air.

And in this the town differed markedly from any Australian towns I have
known. The double windows were all tight shut these warm July days, with
all the cracks stopped up with cotton wool, with often decorations of
coloured ribbons or paper wandering across the space between. Also there
were very heavy shutters, and I thought these must be to shut out the
winter storms, but M. Pauloff did not seem to think much of the winter
storms, though he admitted they had some bad blizzards and regularly the
thermometer went down below -40° Fahrenheit.

“No,” he said, “we shut them at night, at four in the winter and at nine
in the summer. Leave them open you cannot.”

“But why?” I thought it was some device for keeping out still more air.

“There is danger,” said he--“danger from men.”

“Do they steal?” said I, surprised.

“And kill,” he added with conviction.

It seems that when the Japanese invaded Saghalien, the great island
which lies opposite the mouth of the Amur, they liberated at least
thirty thousand convicts, and they burnt the records so that no one
could prove anything against them, and the majority of these convicts
were unluckily not all suffering political prisoners, but criminals,
many of them of the deepest dye. These first made Saghalien an
unwholesome place to live in, but gradually they migrated to the
mainland, and Nikolayeusk and other towns of Eastern Siberia are by no
means safe places in consequence. Madame Schulmann told me that many
a time men were killed in the open streets and that going back to her
lodgings on the dark winter evenings she was very much afraid and always
tried to do it in daylight.

Nikolayeusk is officially supposed to have thirteen thousand
inhabitants, but really in the winter-time, says Mr Pauloff, they shrink
to ten thousand, while in the summer they rise to over forty thousand,
everybody coming for the fishing, the great salmon fisheries.

“Here is noting,” said he, “noting--only fish.”

And this remark he made at intervals. He could not reiterate it too
often, as if he were warning me against expecting too much from this
remote corner of the world. But indeed the fish interested me. The
summer fishing was on while I was there, but that, it seems, is as
nothing to the autumn fishing, when the fish rush into the wide river in
solid blocks. The whole place then is given over to the fishing and the
other trades that fishing calls into being to support it. All the summer
the steamers coming down the river are crowded, and they bring great
cargoes of timber; the wharves when I was there were covered with
barrels and packing-cases containing, according to Mr Pauloff, “only
air.” These were for the fish. And now, when the humble mackerel costs
me at least ninepence or a shilling, I remember with longing the days
when I used to see a man like a Chinaman, but not a Chinaman, a bamboo
across his shoulder, and from each end a great fresh salmon slung, a
salmon that was nearly as long as the bearer, and I could have bought
the two for ten kopecks!

He that will not when he may!

But great as the trade was down the river, most eatables--groceries,
flour and such-like things--came from Shanghai, and the ships that
brought them took back wood to be made into furniture, and there
was, when I was there, quite a flourishing trade in frozen meat with
Australia, Nikolayeusk requiring about two hundred and forty thousand
pounds in the year. In winter, of course, all the provisions are frozen;
the milk is poured into basins, a stick is stuck in it and it freezes
round it, so that a milk-seller instead of having a large can has an
array of sticks on top of which is the milk frozen hard as a stone.
Milk, meat, eggs, all provisions are frozen from October to May.

I do not know what Nikolayeusk is doing now war and revolution have
reached it. At least they have brought it into touch with the outer
world.

And having got so far I looked longingly out over the harbour and
wondered whether I might not go to Saghalien.

Mr Pauloff laughed at my desires. If there was nothing to see in
Nikolayeusk, there was less than nothing in Saghalien. It was dead. It
never had been much and the Japanese invasion had killed it. Not that he
harboured any animosity against the Japanese. Russians and Japanese, he
declared, were on very friendly terms, and though they invaded Saghalien
they did not disgrace their occupation by any atrocities. The Russian,
everybody declared in Nikolayeusk, bridges the gulf between the white
man and the yellow. Russian and Chinese peasants will work side by side
in friendliest fashion; they will occupy the same boardinghouses; the
Russian woman does not object to the Chinese as a husband, and the
Russian takes a Chinese wife. Of course these are the peasant classes.
The Russian authorities made very definite arrangements for keeping out
Chinese from Siberia, as I saw presently when I went back up the river.

But the more I thought of it the more determined I was not to go
back till I had gone as far east as I possibly could go. The Russian
Volunteer fleet I found called at Alexandrovsk regularly during the
months the sea was open, making Nikolayeusk its most northern port of
call. I could go by the steamer going down and be picked up by the one
coming north. It would give me a couple of days in the island, and Mr
Pauloff was of opinion that a couple of days would be far too long.

But the _John Cockerill_ was going back and Buchanan and I must find
another roof and a resting-place. According to the inhabitants, it would
not be safe to sleep in the streets, and I had conceived a distinct
distaste for the hotel. But the _Erivan_ lay in the stream and to
that we transferred ourselves and our belongings, where the mate spoke
English with a strong Glasgow accent and the steward had a smattering.
It was only a smattering, however. I had had a very early lunch and
no afternoon tea, so when I got on board at six in the evening I
was decidedly hungry and demanded food, or rather when food might be
expected. The steward was in a dilemma. It was distinctly too early for
dinner, he considered, and too late for tea. He scratched his head.

“Lunch!” said he triumphantly, and ushered me into the saloon, where
hung large photographs of the Tsar, the Tsarina and the good-looking
little Tsarevitch. In the corner was an ikon, St Nicolas, I think, who
protects sailors. And there at six o’clock in the evening I meekly sat
down to luncheon all by myself.

Lying there I had a lovely view of the town. At night, like Vladivostok,
it lay like a ring of diamonds along the shore of the river; and in
the daytime the softly rounded green hills, the grey-blue sky and the
grey-blue sea with the little white wavelets, and the little town just
a line between the green and the blue, with the spires and domes of the
churches and other public buildings, green and blue and red and white,
made a view that was worth coming so far to see. There were ships in the
bay too--not very big ships; but a ship always has an attraction: it has
come from the unknown; it is about to go into the unknown--and as I sat
on deck there came to me the mate with the Scots accent and explained
all about the ships in sight.

The place was a fort and they were going to make it a great harbour, to
fill it up till the great ships should lie along the shore. It will
take a good time, for we lay a long way out, but he never doubted the
possibility; and meantime the goods come to the ships in the lighters
in which they have already come down the river, and they are worked by
labourers getting, according to the mate, twelve shillings a day.

“Dey carry near as much as we do,” said he.

Then there were other ships: a ship for fish, summer fish, for Japan,
sealers for the rookeries, and ships loading timber for Kamseatkha. I
thought I would like to emulate my brother and go there, and the Russky
mate thought it would be quite possible, only very uncomfortable. It
would take three months, said he, and it was rather late in the season
now. Besides, these ships load themselves so with timber that there
is only a narrow space on deck to walk on, and they are packed with
passengers, mostly labourers, going up for the short summer season.

My old trouble, want of air, followed me on board the _Erivan_. On deck
it was cool, at night the thermometer registered about 55° Fahrenheit,
but in my cabin Buehanan and I gasped with the thermometer at over 90°,
and that with the port, a very small one, open. That stuffiness was
horrible. The bathroom looked like a boiler with a tightfitting iron
door right amidships, and having looked at it I had not the courage
to shut myself in and take a bath. It seemed as if it would be burying
myself alive. As it was, sleep down below I could not, and I used to
steal up on deck and with plenty of rugs and cushions lay myself out
along the seats and sleep in the fresh air; but a seat really does leave
something to be desired in the way of luxury.

But the early mornings were delightful. The first faint light showed a
mist hanging over the green hills marking out their outlines, green
and blue and grey; then it was all grey mist; but to the east was the
crimson of the dawn, and we left our moorings early one morning and
steamed into that crimson. The sun rose among silver and grey clouds,
and rose again and again as we passed along the river and the mountains
hid him from sight. There were long streaks of silver on the broad
river; slowly the fir-clad hills emerged from the mist and the air was
moist and fragrant; the scent of the sea and the fragrance of the pines
was in it. A delicious, delicate northern sunrise it was; never before
or since have I seen such a sunrise. Never again can I possibly see one
more beautiful.

And the great river widened. There were little settlements, the
five-pointed tents of the Russian soldiers and many places for catching
fish. No wonder the fish--fish is always salmon here--like this great
-wide river. The brownish water flowed on swiftly and the morning
wind whipped it into never-ending ripples that caught the sunlight. A
wonderful river! A delightful river! I have grown enthusiastic over
many rivers. I know the Murray in my own land and the great rivers of
tropical Africa, the Congo, the Gambia, the Volta, grand and lovely
all of them. I felt I had looked upon the glory of the Lord when I had
looked upon them, but there was something in the tender beauty of the
Amur, the summer beauty veiled in mist, the beauty that would last so
short a time, that was best of all.

Meanwhile the passengers and officers of the _Erivan_ were much
exercised in their minds over me. What could an Englishwoman want
in Saghalien? To my surprise I found that none had ever stayed there
before, though it was on record that one had once landed there from a
steamer. The mate was scathing in his remarks.

“Dere are skeeters,” said he, “big ones, I hear,” and he rolled his
“r’s” like a true Scotsman.

“But where can I stay?” He shook his head.

“In de hotel you cannot stay. It is impossible.” That I could quite
believe, but all the same, if the hotel was impossible, where could I
stay?

However, here I was, and I did not intend to go back to Vladivostok by
sea. At Alexandrosvk, the town of Saghalien, I proposed to land and I
felt it was no good worrying till I got there.

We entered De Castries Bay in a soft grey mist, a mist that veiled
the mountains behind. Then the mist lifted and showed us the string of
islands that guard the mouth of the bay, strung in a line like jewels
set in the sea, and the hills on them were all crowned with firs; and
then the mist dropped again, veiling all things.

It was a lonely place, where I, being a foreigner, was not allowed to
land, and we did not go close up to the shore, but the shore came to us
in great white whale-boats. Many peasants and soldiers got off here, and
I saw saws and spades in the bundles, the bundles of emigrants. There
were a few women amongst them, women with hard, elemental faces, so
different from the Chinese, that were vacuous and refined. I remembered
the women who had listened to the lecturer at Fen Chou Fu and I drew
a long sigh of relief. It was refreshing to look at those big-hipped
women, with their broad, strong feet and their broad, strong hands and
the little dirty kerchiefs over their heads. Elemental, rough, rude, but
I was glad of them. One was suckling a child in the boat, calmly, as if
it were the most natural thing to do, and somehow it was good to see it.
The beginning of life.

The morning brought a dense mist, and as it cleared away it showed us
a sparkling, smooth sea, greyish-blue like the skies above it, and a
little wooden town nestling against fir-clad hills. We had arrived at
Alexandrosvk and I wondered what would become of me.

And then once again I learned what a kind place is this old world of
ours that we abuse so often. I had gone on board that steamer without
any introduction whatever, with only my passport to show that I was a
respectable member of society. I knew nobody and saw no reason
whatever why anyone should trouble themselves about me. But we
carried distinguished passengers on board the _Erivan_. There was the
Vice-Governor of Saghalien, his wife and son, with the soldiers in
attendance, and a good-looking young fellow with short-cropped hair and
dreamy eyes who was the Assistant Chief of Police of the island, and
this man, by command of the Governor, took me in charge.

Never again shall I hear of the Russian police without thinking of the
deep debt of gratitude that I owe to Vladimir Merokushoff of Saghalien.

I do not think as a rule that people land from steamers at Alexandrosvk
on to red tapestry carpets under fluttering bruiting to the strains of
a band. But we did; and the Chief of Police--he spoke no language but
Russian--motioned me to wait a moment, and when the Governor had been
safely despatched to his home he appeared on the scene with a victoria
and drove me and Buchanan to the police station, a charming little
one-storeyed building buried in greenery, and there he established us.
Buchanan he appreciated as a dog likes to be appreciated, and he gave
up to me his own bedroom, where the top pane of the window had actually
been made to open. His sitting-room was a very bower of growing plants,
and when I went to bed that night he brought his elderly working
housekeeper, a plain-faced woman whom he called “Stera,” and made
her bring her bed and lay it across my door, which opened into the
sitting-room. It was no good my protesting; there she had to sleep. Poor
old thing, she must have been glad my stay was not long. Every day she
wore a blue skirt and a drab-coloured blouse, unbelted, and her grey
hair twisted up into an untidy knot behind, but she was an excellent
cook. That young man got himself into his everyday holland summer coat
and to entertain me proceeded to lay in enough provisions to supply a
hungry school. He showed me the things first to see if I liked them, as
if I wouldn’t have liked shark when people were so kind. But as a matter
of fact everything was very good. He produced a large tin of crawling
crayfish, and when I had expressed not only my approval but my delight,
they appeared deliciously red and white for dinner, and then I found
they were only _sakouska_--that is, the _hors d’ouvre_ that the Russians
take to whet their appetites. I have often lived well, but never better
than when I, a stranger and a sojourner, was taken in charge by the
hospitable Russian police, who would not let me pay one penny for my
board and lodging. We fed all day long. I had only to come in for a
bottle of wine or beer to be produced. I was given a _gens d’arme_ to
carry my camera and another to take care of Buchanan. Never surely was
stranger so well done as I by hospitable Saghalien. The policeman
made me understand he was an author and presented me with a couple of
pamphlets he had written on Saghalien and its inhabitants, but though
I treasure them I cannot read them. Then the Japanese photographer was
sent for and he and I were taken sitting side by side on the bench in
his leafy porch, and, to crown all, because I could speak no Russian, he
sent for two girls who had been educated in Japan and who spoke English
almost as well as I did myself, though they had never before spoken to
an Englishwoman. Marie and Lariss Borodin were they, and their father
kept the principal store in Alexandrosvk. They were dainty, pretty,
dark-eyed girls and they were a godsend to me. They had a tea in my
honour and introduced me to the manager of the coal mine of Saghalien
and took care I should have all the information about the island it was
in their power to supply.

There were then about five thousand people there, one thousand in
Alexandrosvk itself, but they were going daily, for the blight of the
convict was over the beautiful land. The best coal mine is closed down
on fire and the one whose manager I met was leased to a company by the
year and worked by Chinese on most primitive lines. There is gold,
he told me, this business man who surprised me by his lavish use of
perfume, but he did not know whether it would pay for working--gold
and coal as well would be almost too much good luck for one island--and
there is naphtha everywhere on the east coast, but as it has never been
struck they think that the main vein must come up somewhere under the
sea. Still it is there waiting for the enterprising man who shall work
it.

Saghalien used to be as bad as Nikolayeusk, they told me, after the
Japanese had evacuated the northern part; but now the most enterprising
section of the convicts had betaken themselves to the mainland, and
though the free settlers were few and far between, and the most of the
people I saw were convicts, they were the harmless ones with all the
devilment gone out of them.

Alexandrosvk is a place of empty houses. When the Japanese came the
people fled, leaving everything exactly as it was; and though the
Japanese behaved with admirable restraint, considering they came as
an invading army, many of these people never came back again, and the
alertness in a bad cause which had sent many of the convicts there
against their will sent them away again as soon as they were free. All
down by the long wooden pier which stretches out into the sea are great
wooden storehouses and barracks, empty, and a monument, if they needed
it, to the courteous manner in which the Japanese make war. They had
burnt the museum, they told me, and opened the prison doors and burnt
the prison, but the other houses they had spared. And so there were
many, many empty houses in Alexandrosvk.

All the oldest carriages in the world have drifted to Saghalien.

They are decrepit in Western Siberia, they are worse, if possible, in
the East, but in the island of Saghalien I really don’t know how they
hold together. Perhaps they are not wanted very often. I hired the most
archaic victoria I have ever seen and the two girls came for a drive
with me all round the town and its neighbourhood. It was a drive to be
remembered. The early summer was in all its full freshness, the red and
white cows stood knee-deep in grass that was green and lush everywhere.
There were fir-trees on the hills and on every spur of the hills, and
there were hedges with dog-roses blossoming all over them; there were
fields of dark blue iris; there were little red tiger lilies and a
spiked heliotrope flower like veronica, only each bloom grew on a single
stalk of its own; there were purple vetches and white spiræa growing in
marshy places, and the land was thick with sweet-scented clover among
which the bees were humming, and in a little village there was a Greek
church that, set in its emerald-green field, was a very riot of colour.
There were balls on the roof of royal blue, the roof itself was of pale
green, the walls were of brown logs untouched by paint and the window
edges were picked out in white. I photographed that picturesque little
church, as I did the peasant women standing at the doors of their log
huts and the queer old shandrydan in which we drove, but alas! all my
photographs perished miserably in Russia. The girls wondered that I
liked town and country so much, that I saw so much beauty in everything.

“Ah! Madame,” they sighed, “but you can go away tomorrow! If only we
could go!”

They had been educated at a convent and they produced the English books
they had read. They were very apologetic but they had found them rather
tame. Had I read them? I smiled, for they all turned out to be the
immortal works of Charles Garvice!

And we had tea in the dining-room, where father slept because they were
rather crowded, the store took up so much room; and it was a very nice
tea too, with raspberry jam in saucers, which we ate Russian
fashion with a spoon, and the roses in the garden tapped against the
window-panes, asking to come in and join us, and Buchanan got what his
soul loved, plenty of cake. They apologised because there was no fruit.
No fruit save berries ripen in Saghalien and the strawberries would not
be ready till well on in August. No words of mine can tell how kind they
were to the stranger.

I went back in the long twilight that was so cool and restful and sat
outside the leafy shaded police station and killed mosquitoes, for the
mate had heard aright, there were “skeeters” and to spare, the sort to
which Mark Twain took a gun. I watched the grey mist creeping slowly
down, down the beautiful mountains, and when it had enveloped them the
night was come and it was time to go in and have dinner and go to bed.

Perhaps it would not do to stay long in Saghalien. There is nothing to
do. She lies a Sleeping Beauty waiting the kiss of the Prince. Will this
war awaken her? The short time I was there I enjoyed every moment.

The people seemed nondescript. The upper class were certainly Russians,
and all the men wore military caps and had their hair clipped so close
it looked shaven, but it would be utterly impossible to say to what
nationality the peasant belonged. There were flaxen-haired Russians
certainly, but then there were dark-bearded men, a Mongolian type, and
there were many thrifty Chinese with queues, in belted blouses and
high boots, generally keeping little eating-shops. There may have been
Japanese, probably there were, seeing they hold the lower half of the
island, but I did not notice them, and there is, I am afraid, in that
place which is so full of possibilities absolutely nothing for that
go-ahead nation to do.

My pretty girls complained dreadfully. They looked after the shop and
then there was nothing. In the winter they said they had skating and
they liked the winter best, but the really bad time in places like
Saghalien and Nikolayeusk were the two months when it was neither
winter nor summer. Then their only means of communication with the
outside world, the river and the sea, was too full of ice to admit of
navigation and yet was not solid enough for dog-sled, so that if the
telegraph broke down, and it very often did, they are entirely cut off
from the world. Saghalien, of course, is worse off than the town, for on
the mainland presumably there are roads of sorts that can be negotiated
in case of necessity, but the island is entirely isolated. In the winter
the mails take five days coming across the frozen sea from the mainland,
and often when there are storms they take much longer. Fancy living on
an island that stretches over nearly ten degrees of latitude, which
for five months in the year gets its mails by dog-sled and for two goes
without them altogether! On the whole, there may be drawbacks to living
in Saghalien!

I left it at nine o’clock in the evening, after the darkness had fallen,
and the police officer and the pretty girls saw me on board the steamer
which was to take me back to Nikolayeusk.

They loaded me with flowers and they were full of regrets.

“Oh, Madame, Madame, how lucky you are to get away from Saghalien!”

But I said truly enough that I felt my luck lay in getting there. And
now that I sit in my garden in Kent and watch the beans coming into
blossom and the roses into bloom, look at the beds gay with red
poppies and violas, cream and purple, or wander round and calculate the
prospects of fruit on the cherry and the pear trees, I am still more
glad to think that I know what manner of island that is that lies so far
away in the Eastern world that it is almost West.



CHAPTER XII--FACING WEST

On the 25th July 1914, at nine o’clock in the evening, I left
Saghalien, and as the ship steamed away from the loom of the land into
the night I knew that at last, after eighteen months of voyaging in the
East, I had turned my face homeward. I had enjoyed it, but I wanted to
go home, and in my notebook I see evidences of this longing. At last
I was counting the days--one day to Nikolayeusk, three days to
Kharbarosvk, three days more to Blagoveschensk--and I was out in my
calculations in the very beginning. The ships of the Volunteer fleet
take their time, and we took three days wandering along the island of
Saghalien and calling at ports I should think mail steamer had never
before called at before we turned again towards the mainland.

And yet in a way it was interesting, for I saw some of the inhabitants
of the island, the aboriginal inhabitants, I should never have otherwise
seen. Gilyaks they are, and the water seems their element. They have the
long straight black hair of the Mongolian, and sometimes they were
clad in furs--ragged and old and worn, the very last remains of
furs--sometimes merely in dirty clothes, the cast-offs of far-away
nations.

They live by the fish. There is nothing else.

I tried hard to photograph these aborigines, using all sorts of guile to
get them into focus. I produced cigarettes, I offered sugar, but as soon
as they found out what I was about they at once fled, even though their
boat was fastened against the gangway and it meant abandoning somebody
who was on board. I did eventually get some photographs, but they shared
the fate of the rest of my Russian pictures, and I am sorry, for I do
not suppose I shall ever again have the chance of photographing the
Gilyak in his native haunts. He belongs to a dying race, they told me,
and there are few children amongst them.

And though we lay long at De Castries Bay they would not let me take
pictures there at all. It was forbidden, so I was reduced to doing the
best I could through my cabin port. In Alexandrosvk the police officer
had aided and abetted my picture-making, but in Nikolayeusk it was a
forbidden pastime, for the town, for purposes of photography, was a
fort, and when I boarded the _Kanovina_ on the river, the post steamer
bound for Blagoveschensk, I met with more difficulties.

There was on board a Mrs Marie Skibitsky and her husband, the headmaster
of the Nikolayeusk “Real” School, and she spoke very good English and
was a kind friend to me. Through her came a message from the captain to
the effect that though he did not mind my photographing himself, it
was forbidden in Russia, and he begged me not to do it when anyone was
looking on. That made it pretty hopeless, for the ship was crowded and
there was always not one person but probably a score of people taking a
very great interest. The captain was not brass-bound as he had been in
the _John Cockerill_, but he and all his officers were clad in khaki,
with military caps, and it was sometime before I realised them as the
ship’s officers. The captain looked to me like a depressed corporal who
was having difficulties with his sergeant, and the ship, though they
charged us three roubles more for the trip to Blagoveschensk than the
Amur Company would have done, was dirty and ill-kept. It was in her I
met the saloon the windows of which would not open, and the water in my
cabin had gone wrong, and when I insisted that I could not be happy till
I had some, it was brought me in a teapot! They never struck the hours
on this steamer as they had done on the _John Cockerill_, and gone was
the excellent cook, and the food consisted largely of meat, of which I
am bound to say there was any quantity.

But in spite of all drawbacks the ship was crowded; there were many
officers and their wives on board, and there were many officers on board
with women who were not their ‘wives. These last were so demonstrative
that I always took them for honeymoon couples till at last a Cossack
officer whom I met farther on explained:

“Not ‘wives. Oh no! It is always so! It is just the steamer!”

Whether these little irregularities were to be set down to the
discomforts of the steamer or to the seductive air of the river, I do
not know. Perhaps I struck a particularly amorous company. I am bound to
say no one but me appeared to be embarrassed. It seemed to be all in the
day’s work.

It was pleasant going up the river again and having beside me one who
could explain things to me. Every day it grew warmer, for not only was
the short northern summer reaching its zenith, but we were now going
south again. And Mrs Skibitsky sat beside me and rubbed up her English
and told me how in two years’ time she proposed to bring her daughters
to England to give them an English education, and I promised to look out
for her and show her the ropes and how she could best manage in London.
In two years’ time! And we neither of us knew that we were on the
threshold of the greatest war in the world’s history.

I took the breaking out of that war so calmly.

We arrived at Kharbarosvk. I parted from Mrs Skibitsky, who was going to
Vladivostok, and next day I looked up my friend the colonel’s wife with
whom I had travelled on the _John Cockerill_. She received me with open
arms, but the household cat flew and spat and stated in no measured
terms what she thought of Buchanan. The lady caught the cat before I
realised what was happening and in a moment she had scored with her
talons great red lines that spouted blood on her mistress’s arms. She
looked at them calmly, went into the kitchen, rubbed butter on her
wounds and came back smiling as if nothing in the world had happened.
But it was not nothing. I admired her extremely for a very brave woman.
Presently her husband came in and she just drew down her sleeves to
cover her torn arms and said not a word to him. He was talking earnestly
and presently she said to me:

“There is war!”

I thought she meant between Buehanan and the cat and I smiled feebly,
because I was very much ashamed of the trouble I and my dog had caused,
but she said again:

“There is war! Between Austria and Serbia!”

It did not seem to concern me. I don’t know that I had ever realised
Serbia as a distinct nationality at all before, and she knew so little
English and I knew no Russian at all, so that we were not able to
discuss the matter much, though it was evident that the colonel was very
much excited. That, I thought, might be natural. He was a soldier. War
was his business, though here, I think, he was engaged in training boys.

After the midday meal--_déjeuner_, I think we called it--she and I went
for a walk, and presently down the wide streets of Kharbarosvk came a
little procession of four led by a wooden-legged man bearing a Russian
naval flag, the blue St Andrew’s Cross on a white ground. I looked at
them.

They meant nothing to me in that great, empty street where the new
little trees were just beginning to take root and the new red-brick post
office dominated all minor buildings among many empty spaces.

“They want war! They ask for war!” said my friend. I was witnessing my
first demonstration against Germany! And I thought no more of it than I
do of the children playing in the streets of this Kentish village!

She saw me on to the steamer and bade me farewell, and then my troubles
began. Not a single person on that steamer spoke English. However, I
had always found the Russians so kind that the faet that we could not
understand one another when the going was straight did not seem to
matter very much. But I had not reckoned with the Russians at war.

At Kharbarosvk the river forms the Chinese-Russian boundary and a little
beyond it reaches its most southern point, about lat. 48°. But the China
that was on our left was not the China that I knew. This was Manchuria,
green and fresh as Siberia itself, and though there was little or no
agriculture beyond perhaps a patch of vegetables here and there, on both
sides of the broad river was a lovely land of hills and lush grass and
trees. Here were firs and pines and cedars, whose sombreness contrasted
with the limes and elms, the poplars and dainty birches with whieh they
were interspersed. The Russian towns were small, the merest villages,
with here and there a church with the painted ball-like domes they
affect, and though the houses were of unpainted logs, always the windows
and doors were painted white.

And at every little town were great piles of wood waiting for the
steamer, and whenever we stopped men hastily set to work bringing in
loads of wood to replace that which we had burnt. And we burnt lavishly.
Even the magnificent forests of Siberia will not stand this drain on
them long.

The other day when the National Service papers came round one was sent
to a dear old “Sister” who for nearly all her life has been working for
the Church in an outlying district of London. She is past work now, but
she can still go and talk to the old and sick and perhaps give advice
about the babies, but that is about the extent of her powers. She
looked at the paper and as in duty bound filled it in, giving her age
as seventy. What was her surprise then to receive promptly from the
Department a suggestion that she should volunteer for service on the
land, and offering her, by way of inducement, good wages, a becoming
hat and high boots! That branch of the Department has evidently become
rather mechanical. Now the Russians all the way from Saghalien to
Petrograd treated me with sueh unfailing kindness that I was in danger
of writing of them in the stereotyped fashion in which the National
Service Department sent out its papers. Luckily they themselves saved
me from such an error. There were three memorable, never-to-be-forgotten
days when the Russians did not treat me with kindness.

The warmest and pleasantest days of my trip on the Amur we went through
lovely scenery: the river was very wide, the blue sky was reflected in
its blue waters and the green, tree-clad hills on either side opened
out and showed beyond mountains in the distance, purple and blue and
alluring. It was the height of summer-time, summer at its best, a green,
moist summer. We hugged the Russian bank, and the Manchurian bank seemed
very far away, only it was possible to see that wherever the Russians
had planted a little town on the other side was a Chinese town much
bigger. The Russian were very little towns, and all the inhabitants, it
seemed, turned out to meet us, who were their only link with the outside
world.

The minute the steamer came close enough ropes were flung ashore to moor
it, and a gangway was run out very often--and it was an anxious moment
for me with Buchanan standing on the end, for he was always the first
to put dainty little paws on the gangway, and there he stood while
it swayed this way and that before it could make up its mind where to
finally settle down. Then there was a rush, and a stream of people going
ashore for exercise passed a stream of people coming on board to sell
goods. Always these took the form of eatables. Butter, bread, meat,
milk, berries they had for sale, and the third and fourth class
passengers bought eagerly.

I followed Buchanan ashore, but I seldom bought anything unless the
berries tempted me. There were strawberries, raspberries and a blue
berry which sometimes was very sweet and pleasant.

At first the people had been very kind and taken a great deal of
interest in the stranger and her pretty little dog, but after we left
Kharbarosvk and I had no one to appeal to a marked change came over
things. If I wanted to take a photograph, merely a photograph of the
steamer lying against the bank, my camera was rudely snatched away and
I was given to understand in a manner that did not require me to know
Russian that if I did that again it would be worse for me. Poor little
Buchanan was kicked and chunks of wood were flung at him. As I passed
along the lower decks to and from the steamer I was rudely hustled, and
on shore not only did the people crowd around me in a hostile manner,
but to my disgust they spat upon me.

I could not understand the change, for even in the first-class saloon
the people looked at me askance. And I had ten days of the river before
I reached Stretensk, where I was to join the train. It is terrible to
be alone among hostile people, and I kept Buchanan close beside me for
company and because I did not know what might happen to him. If this had
been China I should not have been surprised, but Russia, that had always
been so friendly. I was mightily troubled.

And then came the explanation, the very simple explanation.

Just as the river narrowed between the hills and looked more like a
river, and turned north, there came on board at a tiny wayside town a
tall young Cossack officer, a _soinik_ of Cossacks, he called himself.
He wore a khaki jacket and cap, and dark blue breeches and riding-boots.
He had a great scar across his forehead, caused by a Chinese sword, and
he had pleasant blue eyes and a row of nice white teeth. He was tall and
goodly to look upon, and as I sat at afternoon tea at a little table on
deck he came swaggering along the deck and stood before me with one hand
on a deck-chair.

“Madame, is it permitted?” he asked in French.

Of course Madame permitted and ealled for another glass and offered
him some of her tea and cake. Possibly he had plenty of his own, but no
matter, it was good to entertain someone in friendly fashion again after
being an outcast for three days. And it took a little while to find out
what was wrong, he was so very polite.

“Madame understands we are at war?”

Madame opened her eyes in astonishment. What could a war in the Balkan
Provinces have to do with her treatment on the Amur river thousands of
miles in the East?

However, she said she did.

“And Madame knows------” He paused, and then very kindly abandoned his
people. “Madame sees the people are bad?”

Madame quite agreed. They were bad. I had quite an appetite for my tea
now that this nice young man was sympathising with me on the abominable
behaviour of his countrymen.

He spread out his hands as if deprecating the opinion of sueh foolish
people. “They think--on the ship--and on the shore--that Madame is a
GERMAN!”

So it was out, and it took me a moment to realise it, so little had I
realised the war.

“A German!” I did not put it in capital letters as he had done. I had
not yet learned to hate the Germans.

“A--spy!”

“Oh, good gracious!” And then I flew for my passports.

In vain that young man protested it was not necessary. He had felt sure
from the moment he set eyes upon her that Madame was no German. He had
told the captain--so the depressed corporal had been taking an interest
in me--she might be French, or even from the north of Spain, but
certainly not German. But I insisted on his looking at my passports and
being in a position to swear that I was British, and from that moment we
were friends and he constituted himself my champion.

“The people are bad,” he told me. “Madame, they are angry and they are
bad. They may harm you. Here I go ashore with you; at Blagoveschensk
you get a protection order from the Governor written in Russian so that
somebody may read.”

Then he told me about the war. Russia and France were fighting Germany.
He had come from Tsitsihar, on the Mongolian border, across Manchuria,
and before that he had come from Kodbo, right in the heart of the great
Western Mongolian mountains, and he was going as fast as he could to
Chita, and thence he supposed to the front.

“C’est gai a la guerre, Madame, c’est gai!” I hope so. I earnestly hope
he found it so, for he was a good fellow and awfully good to me.

He was a little disquieting too, for now it dawned upon me it would be
impossible to go back through Germany with Germany at war with Russia,
and my friend was equally sure it would be almost impossible to go by
way of St Petersburg, as we called Petrograd then. Anyhow we were still
in the Amur Province, in Eastern Siberia, so I did not worry much. Now
that the people were friendly once more it all seemed so far away, and
whenever we went ashore my Cossack friend explained matters.

But he was a little troubled.

“Madame, why does not England come in?” he asked again and again, and I,
who had seen no papers since I left Tientsin, and only _The North China
Herald_ then, could not imagine what England had to do with it. The idea
of a world war was out of the question.

It was more interesting now going up the beautiful river, narrowed till
it really did look like a river. I could see both banks quite plainly.
My friend had been stationed here a year or two before, and he told me
that there were many tigers in the woods, and wild boar and bear, but
not very many wolves. And the tigers were beautiful and fierce and
dangerous, northern tigers that could stand the rigours of the winter,
and they did not wait to be attacked, they attacked you. There was a
German professor in Blagoveschensk a year or two ago who had gone out
butterfly-hunting, which one would think was a harmless and safe enough
pastime to satisfy even a conscientious objector, and a tiger had got
on his tracks and eaten him incontinently. They found only his butterfly
net and the buttons of his coat when they went in search of him.

The plague had broken out during this officer’s stay on the river,
and the authorities had drawn a cordon of Cossacks round to keep the
terrified, plague-stricken people from fleeing and spreading the disease
yet farther, and he pointed out to me the house in which he and two
comrades had lived. It was merely a roof pitched at a steep angle, and
the low walls were embedded in earth; only on the side facing the river
was a little window--it did not open--and a door. A comfortless-looking
place it was.

“But why the earth piled up against the sides?” I asked. It was
sprouting grass now and yellow buttercups and looked gay and pretty, the
only attractive thing about the place.

“Madame, for the cold,” said he, “for the cold.” And remembering
what they had told me about the cold of Kharbin, what I myself had
experienced at Manchuria on the way out in much the same latitude as
this, I could quite well believe that even sunk in the earth this poor
little hut was not a very good protection against the cold.

The river widened again, winding its way across a plateau. On the
Chinese side were great oak forests where my Cossack told me were many
pig that gave them good hunting and many bees, but this was not China
as I knew it. It was inhabited, he said, by nomad tribes who were great
horsemen, and we saw occasional villages and--a rare sight--cattle, red
and white, standing knee-deep in the clear water. Particularly was I
struck by the cattle, for in all those thousands of miles of travel
I could count on my fingers--the fingers of one hand would be too
many--the numbers of times I saw herds of cattle. Once was in Saghalien,
and twice, I think, here, curiously enough, for the pure Chinese does
not use milk or butter on the Chinese side of the river. Of course there
must have been cows somewhere, for there was plenty of milk, cream and
butter for sale, but they were not in evidence from the river.

On the Russian side the landing-places did not change much, only now
among the women hawkers were Chinese in belted blouses, green, yellow,
blue, pink, red; they rioted in colour as they never did in their own
land, and they all wore sea-boots.

And still over twelve hundred miles from the sea it was a great
river. And then at last I saw what I had been looking for ever since I
embarked--fields of corn, corn ripe for the harvest. This was all this
lovely land needed, a field of corn; but again it was not on the Russian
side, but on the Chinese.

The spires and domes of Blagoveschensk, the capital of the Amur
Province, came into view. All along the Russian bank of the river lay
this city of Eastern Siberia. Its buildings stood out against the clear
sky behind it, and approaching it was like coming up to a great port.
The river, I should think, was at least a mile wide. I am not very good
at judging distances, but it gave me the impression of a very wide river
set here in the midst of a plain--that is, of course, a plateau, for we
had come through the hills.

And here my Cossack friend came to bid me good-bye and to impress upon
me once again to go straight to the Governor for that protection order.
He was sorry he could not see me through, but his orders were to go
to Chita as fast as he could, and someone would speak English at
Blagoveschensk, for it was a great city, and then he asked for the last
time:

“But, Madame, why does not England come in?”

And then the question that had troubled me so was answered, for as we
touched the shore men came on board wild with excitement, shouting,
yelling, telling the war news, that very day, that very moment, it
seemed, England had come in!

And I appeared to be the only representative of Britain in that corner
of the world! Never was there such a popular person. The sailor-men who
worked the ship, the poorer third and fourth class passengers all came
crowding to look at the Englishwoman. I had only got to say “Anglisky”
 to have everyone bowing down before me and kissing my hand, and
my Cossack friend as he bade me good-bye seemed to think it hardly
necessary to go to the Governor except that a member of a great Allied
nation ought to be properly received.

But I had been bitten once, and I determined to make things as safe as
I could for the future. So I got a droshky--a sort of tumble-down
victoria, held together with pieces of string, and driven by a man who
might have been Russian or might have been Chinese--and Buchanan and
I went through the dusty, sunny streets of the capital of the Amur
Province to the viceregal residence.



CHAPTER XIII--THE UPPER REACHES OF THE AMUR

Blagoveschensk is built on much the same lines as all the other
Siberian towns that I have seen, a wooden town mostly of one-storeyed
houses straggling over the plain in wide streets that cut one another
at right angles. Again it was not at all unlike an Australian town, a
frontier town to all intents and purposes. The side-roads were deep in
dust, and the principal shop, a great store, a sort of mild imitation of
Harrod’s, where you could buy everything from a needle to an anchor--I
bought a dog-collar with a bell for Buchanan--was run by Germans. It was
a specimen of Germany’s success in peaceful penetration. It seemed as if
she were throwing away the meat for the shadow, for they were interning
all those assistants--400 of them. Now probably they form the nucleus of
the Bolshevist force helping Germany.

The Governor’s house was on the outskirts of the town, and it was
thronged with people, men mostly, and Buchanan and I were passed from
one room to another, evidently by people who had not the faintest
notion of what we wanted. Everybody said “Bonjour,” and the Governor and
everybody else kissed my hand. I said I was “Anglisky,” and it seemed
as if everybody in consequence came to look at me. But it didn’t advance
matters at all.

I began to be hungry and tired, and various people tried questions upon
me, but nothing definite happened. At last, after about two hours, when
I was seriously thinking of giving up in despair, a tall, good-looking
officer in khaki came in. He put his heels together and kissed my hand
as courteously as the rest had done, and then informed me in excellent
English that he was the Boundary Commissioner and they had sent for him
because there was an Englishwoman arrived, and, while very desirous of
being civil to the representative of their new Ally, nobody could make
out what on earth she was doing here and what she wanted!

I told my story and it was easy enough then. He admired Buchanan
properly, drove us both to his house, introduced me to his wife and made
me out a most gorgeous protection order written in Russian. I have it
still, but I never had occasion to use it.

Opposite Blagoveschensk is a Chinese town which is called Sakalin,
though the maps never give it that name, and in Vladivostok and Peking
they call it various other names. But its right name is Sakalin, I know,
for I stayed there for the best part of a week.

At Sakalin the head of the Chinese Customs is a Dane, Paul Barentzen,
and to him and his wife am I greatly beholden. I had been given letters
to them, and I asked my friend the kindly Russian Boundary Commissioner
if he knew them. He did. He explained to me I must have a permit to
cross the river and he would give me one for a week. A week seemed
overlong, but he explained the Russian Government did not allow free
traffic across the river and it was just as well to have a permit that
would cover the whole of my stay. Even now, though I did stay my week, I
have not fathomed the reason of these elaborate precautions, because
it must be impossible to guard every little landing-place on the long,
long, lonely river--there must be hundreds of places where it is easy
enough to cross--only I suppose every stranger is liable sooner or later
to be called upon to give an account of himself.

The ferries that crossed the Amur to the Chinese side were great boats
built to carry a large number of passengers, but the arrangements
for getting across the river did justice to both Chinese and Russian
mismanagement. Unlike the efficient Japanese, both these nations,
it seems to me, arrive at the end in view with the minimum amount of
trouble to those in authority--that is to say, the maximum of trouble
to everybody concerned. The ferry-boats owing to local politics had a
monopoly, and therefore went at their own sweet will just exactly when
they pleased. There was a large and busy traffic, but the boats
never went oftener than once an hour, and the approaches were just as
primitive as they possibly could be. There was one little shed with a
seat running round where if you were fortunate you could sit down with
the Chinese hawkers and wait for the arrival of the boat. And when it
did come the passengers, after a long, long wait, came climbing up the
rough path up the bank looking as if they had been searched to the
skin. They let me through on the Chinese side and I found without
any difficulty my way to Mr Paul Barentzen’s house, a two-storeyed,
comfortable house, and received a warm invitation from him and his wife
to stay with them.

It was a chance not to be missed. I was getting very weary, I was tired
in every bone, so a chance like this to stay with kindly people who
spoke my own language, on the very outskirts of the Chinese Empire, was
not to be lightly missed, and I accepted with gratitude, a gratitude I
feel strongly. Mr Barentzen was a Dane, but he spoke as good English as
I do, and if possible was more British. His wife was English. And that
night he celebrated the coming into the war of Britain. He asked me
and the Russian Boundary Commissioner and his wife and another Russian
gentleman all to dinner in the gardens at Blagoveschensk.

The place was a blaze of light, there were flags and lamps and bands
everywhere, the whole city was _en fête_ to do honour to the new
addition to the Grande Entente. When we were tired of walking about the
gardens we went inside to the principal restaurant that was packed with
people dining, while on a stage various singers discoursed sweet music
and waved the flags of the Allies. But the British flag had not got as
far as the capital of the Amur Province. Indeed much farther west than
that I found it represented by a red flag with black crosses drawn on
it, very much at the taste of the artist, and “Anglisky” written boldly
across it to make up for any deficiency.

Mr Barentzen had foreseen this difficulty and had provided us all with
nice little silk specimens of the Union Jack to wear pinned on our
breasts. About ten o’clock we sat down to a most excellent dinner,
with sturgeon and sour cream and caviare and all the good tilings that
Eastern Siberia produces. A packed room also dined, while the people on
the stage sang patriotic songs, and we were all given silk programmes
as souvenirs. They sang the Belgian, the French and the Russian national
anthems, and at last we asked for the British.

Very courteously the conductor sent back word to say he was very sorry
but the British national anthem was also a German hymn and if he dared
play it the people would tear him to pieces. Remembering my tribulations
a little way down the river, I quite believed him, so I suggested as an
alternative _Rule, Britannia_, but alas! he had never heard of it. It
was a deadlock, and we looked at one another.

Then the tall Russian who was the other guest pushed his chair from
the table, stood up, and saluting, whistled _Rule, Britannia!_ How the
people applauded! And so Britain entered the war in Far Eastern Siberia.

We certainly did not go home till morning that day. For that matter, I
don’t think you are supposed to cross the river at night, not ordinary
folk, Customs officials may have special privileges. At any rate I came
back to my bunk on the steamer and an anxious little dog just as the
day was breaking, and next day I crossed to Sakalin and stayed with the
Barentzens.

The Russians then took so much trouble to keep the Chinese on their own
side of the river that the Russian officers and civil servants, much to
the chagrin of their wives, were nowhere in the province allowed to have
Chinese servants. The fee for a passport had been raised to, I think,
twelve roubles, so it was no longer worth a Chinaman’s while to get one
to hawk a basket of vegetables, and the mines on the Zeya, a tributary
of the Amur on the Russian side, had fallen off in their yield because
cheap labour was no longer possible. The people who did get passports
were the Chinese prostitutes, though a Chinese woman has not a separate
identity in China and is not allowed a passport of her own. However,
there are ways of getting over that. A man applied for a passport and it
was granted him. He handed it over to the woman for a consideration, and
on the other side any Chinese document was, as a rule, all one to the
Russian official. Remembering my own experience and how I had difficulty
in deciding between my passport and my agreement with my muleteers, I
could quite believe this story.

Blagoveschensk is a regular frontier town and, according to Mr
Barentzen, is unsafe. On the first occasion that I crossed the river
with him I produced a hundred-rouble note. Almost before I had laid it
down it was snatched up by the Chinese Commissioner of Customs.

“Are you mad?” said he, and he crumpled up the note in his hand and
held out for my acceptance a rouble. I tried to explain that not having
change, and finding it a little awkward, I thought that this would be a
good opportunity to get it, as I felt sure the man at receipt of custom
must have plenty.

“I dare say,” said my host sarcastically. “I don’t want to take away
anybody’s character, but I’ll venture to say there are at least ten
men within hail”--there was a crowd round--“who would joyfully cut your
throat for ten roubles.”

He enlarged upon that theme later. We used to sit out on the balcony of
his house looking out, not over the river, but over the town of Sakalin,
and there used to come in the men from the B.A.T. Factory, a Russian in
top-boots who spoke excellent English and a young American named Hyde.
They told me tales, well, something like the stories I used to listen
to in my childhood’s days when we talked about “the breaking out of the
gold” in Australia, tales of men who had washed much gold and then
were lured away and murdered for their riches. Certainly they did not
consider Blagoveschensk or Sakalin towns in which a woman could safely
wander. In fact all the Siberian towns that they knew came under the
ban.

But of course mostly we talked about the war and how maddening it was
only to get scraps of news through the telegraph. The young American was
keen, I remember. I wonder if he really had patience to wait till his
country came in. He talked then in the first week of the war of making
his way back to Canada and seeing if he could enlist there, for even
then we felt sure that the Outer Dominions would want to help the
Motherland. And the Germans were round Liège--would they take it?
Association is a curious thing. Whenever I hear of Liège I cannot
help thinking, not of the Belgian city, but of a comfortable seat on a
balcony with the shadows falling and the lights coming out one by one
on the bath-houses that are dotted about a little town on the very
outskirts of the Chinese Empire--the lights of the town. There are the
sounds and the smells of the Chinese town mingling with the voices of
the talkers and the fragrance of the coffee, and the air is close with
the warmth of August. There comes back to me the remembrance of the
keen young American who wanted to fight Germany and the young Russian in
top-boots who was very much afraid he would only be used to guard German
prisoners.

Sakalin was cosmopolitan, but it had a leaning toward Russia, hence the
bath-houses, an idea foreign to Chinese civilisation; and when I got a
piece of grit in my eye which refused to come out it was to a Japanese
doctor I went, accompanied by my host’s Chinese servant, who, having
had the trouble stated by me in English, explained it to another man in
Chinese, who in his turn told the doctor what was the matter in Russian.
Luckily that man of medicine was very deft and I expect he could have
managed very well without any explanation at all. I have the greatest
respect for the Japanese leech I visited in Sakalin.

On the Sunday we had a big picnic. The Russian Boundary Commissioner
came across with his wife and little girls, Mrs Barentzen took
her little girl and the Chinese Tao Tai lent us the light of his
countenance. He was the feature of the entertainment, for he was a very
big man, both literally and socially, and could not move without a large
following, so that an escort of mounted police took charge of us. The
proper portly Chinaman of whom this retinue was in honour spoke no
English, but smiled at me benevolently, and wore a petticoat and a
Russian military cap! The picnic was by a little brook about seven miles
from the town and I shall always remember it because of the lush grass,
waist-high, and the lovely flowers. I had looked at the Siberian flowers
from the steamer when they were ungetatable, I had gathered them with
joy in Saghalien, and now here they were again just to my hand. In June
they told me there were abundant lilies of the valley, and I regretted
I had not been there in June. Truly I feel it would be a delight to
see lilies of the valley growing wild, but as it was, the flowers were
beautiful enough, and there were heaps of them. There were very fine
Canterbury bells, a glorious violet flower and magnificent white
poppies. Never have I gathered more lovely flowers, never before have I
seen them growing wild in such amazing abundance. No one is more truly
artistic than the average Chinese, and I think the Tao Tai must have
enjoyed himself, though it is against the canons of good taste in China
to look about you.

Presently I was asking the chief magistrate’s good offices for Buchanan,
for he, my treasured Buchanan, was lost. In the Barentzens’ house
there was, of course, as in all well-regulated Chinese houses run by
foreigners, a bathroom attached to every bedroom, and when I wanted a
bath the servants filled with warm water the half of a large barrel,
which made a very excellent bath-tub. And having bathed myself, I bathed
Buchanan, whose white coat got very dirty in the dusty Chinese streets.
He ran away downstairs and I lingered for a moment to put on my dress,
and when I came down he was gone. High and low I hunted; I went up and
down the street calling his name, and I knew he would have answered, he
always did, had he been within hearing. All the Customs men were turned
out and I went to the Chinese Tao Tai, who promptly put on all the
police. But Buchanan was gone for a night and I was in despair. Mr
Barentzen’s head boy shook his head.

“Master saying,” said he, “mus’ get back that dog.” So I realised I was
making a fuss, but for the moment I did not care. The Tao Tai gave it
as his opinion that he had not been stolen. There were many little dogs
like him in the town, said he, no one would steal one, which only shows
a Chinese magistrate may not be infallible, for I was sure Buchanan
would not stay away from me of his own free will.

And then at last the servants turned up triumphant, Buchanan, in the
arms of the head boy, wild with delight at seeing his mistress again.
The police had searched everywhere, but the servants, with their
master’s injunction in mind and my reward to be earned, had made further
inquiries and found that a little boy had been seen taking the dog into
a certain house occupied by an official, the man who was responsible for
the cleaning of the streets. This was the first intimation I ever had
that the Chinese did clean their streets: I had thought that they
left that job to the “wonks” and the scavenger crows. The police made
inquiries. No, there was no little dog there. But the servants--wise
Chinese servants--made friends with the people round, and they said:
“Watch. There is a dog.” So a junior servant was put to watch, and when
the gate of the compound was opened he stole in, and there was poor
little James Buchanan tied up to a post. That servant seized the dog and
fled home in triumph.

The T’ai T’ai (the official’s wife), said the people round, had wanted
the pretty little dog.

I was so delighted to get my little friend back that I should have been
content to leave things there. Not so Mr Barentzen. He sent for that
official, and there in his drawing-room he and I interviewed a portly
Chinese gentleman in grey petticoats, a long pigtail, a little black
silk cap and the tips of the silver shields that encased the long nails
of his little fingers just showing beyond his voluminous sleeves.

“An officious servant,” he said. He was extremely sorry the Commissioner
of Customs and his friend had been put to so much inconvenience. The
servant had already been dismissed. And so we bowed him out, face was
saved, and all parties were satisfied. It was very Chinese. And yet we
knew, and we knew that he must have known we knew, that it was really
his wife who received the little dog that everyone concerned must have
realised was valuable and must have been stolen.

Here in Sakai in I heard about the doings of the only wolves that came
into my wanderings. In the little river harbour were many small steamers
flying the Russian flag and loading great barrels with the ends painted
bright red. These barrels, explained the Customs Commissioner, contained
spirits which the Russians were desirous of smuggling into Russian
territory. The Chinese had not the least objection to their leaving
China after they had paid export duty. They were taken up and down the
river and finally landed at some small port whence they were smuggled
across. The trade was a very big one. The men engaged in it were known
as the wolves of the Amur and were usually Caucasians and Jews. In
1913, the last year of which I have statistics, no less than twenty-five
thousand pounds export was paid on these spirits, and in the years
before it used to be greater. I wonder whether with the relaxing of
discipline consequent on the war and the revolution the receipts for the
export have not gone up.

The wide river was beautiful here, and Blagovesehensk, lying across the
water, with its spires and domes, all the outlines softened, standing
against the evening sky, might have been some town of pictured Italy. I
am glad I have seen it. I dare not expiate on Mr Barentzen’s kindness.
My drastic critic, drastic and so invaluable, says that I have already
overloaded this book with tales of people’s kindness, so I can only say
I stayed there a week and then took passage on the smaller steamer which
was bound up the Amur and the Shilka to Stretensk and the railway.

I had, however, one regret. I had inadvertently taken my plates and
films on which I had all my pictures of the Amur and Saghalien across
the Sakalin and I could not take them back again. The Russian rule was
very strict. No photographs were allowed. Everything crossing the river
must be examined. Now to examine my undeveloped films and plates would
be to ruin them. I interviewed a Japanese photographer on the Sakalin
side, but he appeared to be a very tyro in the art of developing, and
finally very reluctantly I decided to leave them for Mr Barentzen to
send home when he got the chance. He did not get that chance till the
middle of 1916, and I regret to state that when we came to develop them
every single one of them was ruined.

The steamer that I embarked on now was considerably smaller, for the
river was narrowing. The deck that ran round the cabins was only thirty
inches wide and crowded with children; worse, when James Buchanan and
I went for our daily promenades we found the way disputed by women,
mothers, or nursemaids, I know not whieh, propelling the children who
could not walk in wheeled chairs, and they thought Buchanan had been
brought there for their special benefit, a view which the gentleman
himself did not share. However, he was my only means of communication
with them, for they had no English or French.

But I was lucky, for one of the mates, brass-bound and in spotless
white, like so many Russians had served in British ships and spoke
English very well with a slight Scots accent. With him I used to hold
daily conversations and always we discussed the war. But he shook his
head over it. It was not possible to get much news at the little wayside
places at which we stopped. There were no papers--the Russian peasant
under the beneficent rule of the Tsar was not encouraged to learn to
read--and for his part he, the mate, put no faith in the telegrams. All
would be well, of course, but we must wait till we came to some large
and influential place for news upon which we could rely.

But that large and influential place was long in coming, in fact I may
say it never materialised while I was on the river. There are at least
eleven towns marked on the way between Blagoveschensk and Stretensk, but
even the town at the junction where the Aigun and the Shilka merge into
the Amur is but a tiny frontier village, and the rest as I know the
river banks are only a few log huts inhabited by peasants who apparently
keep guard over and supply the stacks of wood needed by the steamers.

It was a lovely river now going north, north and then west, or rather
we went north, the river flowed the other way, it was narrower and wound
between wooded hills and it was very lonely. There were occasional, very
occasional, little settlements, on the Chinese side I do not remember
even a hut, though it was a lovely green land and the river, clear as
crystal, reflected on its breast the trees and rocks among which we made
our way.

Once on the Russian side we landed from a boat a woman with two little
children and innumerable bundles. They had been down, I suppose, to
visit the centre of civilisation at Blagoveschensk and now were
coming home. In the dusk of the evening we left her there looking down
thoughtfully at her encumbrances, not a living creature in sight, not
a sign of man’s handiwork anywhere. I hoped there were no tigers about,
but she has always lived in my memory as an unfinished story. I suppose
we all of us have those unfinished stories in our lives, not stories
left unfinished because they are so long drawn out we could not possibly
wait for developments, but stories that must finish suddenly, only
we are withdrawn. Once I looked from a railway carriage window in the
Midlands and I saw a bull chasing a woman; she was running, screaming
for all she was worth, for a fence, but whether she reached it or not
I have no means of knowing. Another time I saw also from a railway
carriage window two men, mother naked, chasing each other across the
greensward and left them there because the train went on. Of course I
have often enough seen men without clothes in the tropics, but in the
heart of England they are out of the picture and want explaining.
That explanation I shall never get. Nor is it likely I shall ever know
whether that unknown woman and her little children ever reached their
unknown home.

We were luxuriously fed upon that little steamer. The Russian tea with
lemon and the bread and butter were delicious, and we had plenty of
cream, though gone was the red caviare that farther east had been so
common. But I was tired and at last feeling lonely. I began to count the
days till I should reach home.

On the Amur the weather had been gorgeous, but when we entered the
Shilka we were north of 53° again and well into the mountains, and
the next morning I awoke to a grey day. It rained and it rained, not
tropical rain, but soft, penetrating rain; the fir-clad hills on either
side were veiled in a silvery mist. The river wound so that as we looked
ahead we seemed to be sailing straight into the hills. The way looked
blocked with hills, sometimes all mist-covered, sometimes with the green
showing alluringly through the mist, and occasionally, when the mist
lifted and the sun came out, in all the gullies would linger little grey
cloudlets, as if caught before they could get away and waiting there
screened by the hills till the mist should fall again. Occasionally
there were lonely houses, still more occasionally little settlements of
log huts with painted windows hermetically sealed, and once or twice a
field of corn ripe for the harvest but drowned by the persistent rain.
But the air was soft and delicious, divine; only in the cabins on board
the crowded steamer was it pestilential. The mate told me how, six weeks
before, on his last trip up, an Englishman had come selling reapers and
binders, and he thought that now I had made my appearance the English
were rather crowding the Amur.

Sometimes when we stopped the passengers went ashore and went berrying,
returning with great branches laden with fruit, and I and Buchanan too
walked a little way, keeping the steamer ‘well in sight, and rejoicing
in the flowers and the green and the rich, fresh smell of moist earth. I
do not know that ever in my life do I remember enjoying rain so much.
Of course in my youth in Australia I had always welcomed the life-giving
rain, but thirteen years in England, where I yearned for the sunshine,
had somehow dimmed those memories, and now once again the rain on the
river brought me joy. The mist was a thing of beauty, and when a ray of
sunshine found its way into a green, mist-veiled valley, illuminating
its lovely loneliness, then indeed I knew that the earth was the Lord’s
and the fullness thereof.

Sometimes we passed rafts upon the river. They were logs bound together
in great parallelograms and worked with twelve long sweeps fixed at each
end. Twelve men at least went to each raft, and there were small houses
built of grass and canvas and wood. They were taking the wood down to
Nikolayeusk to be shipped to Shanghai and other parts of the world for
furniture, for these great forests of birch and elm and fir and oak must
be a mine of wealth to their owners. I do not know whether the wood is
cut on any system, and whether the presence of these great rafts had
anything to do with the many dead trees I saw in the forests, their
white stems standing up ghostlike against the green hill-side.

I have no record of these lovely places. My camera was locked away now
in my suit-case, for it was war, and Russia, rightly, would allow no
photographs.

Seven days after we left Blagoveschensk we reached Stretensk and I came
in contact for the first time with the World’s War.



CHAPTER XIV--MOBILISING IN EASTERN SIBERIA

At Stretensk I awakened to the fact that I was actually in Siberia,
nay, that I had travelled over about two thousand miles of Siberia, that
dark and gloomy land across which--I believed in my youth--tramped long
lines of prisoners in chains, sometimes amidst the snow and ice of a
bitter winter, sometimes with the fierce sun beating down upon them, but
always hopeless, always hungry, weary, heartbroken, a sacrifice to the
desire for political liberty that was implanted in the hearts of an
enslaved people.

It is an extraordinary thing that, though for many years I had believed
Saghalien was a terrible island, a sort of inferno for political
prisoners, something like Van Diemen’s Land used to be in the old
convict days one hundred and ten years ago, only that in the Asiatic
island the conditions were still more cruel and it was hopeless to think
of escaping, while I was actually in that beautiful island I was so
taken up with its charm, it was so extremely unlike the place of which I
had a picture in my mind’s eye, that I hardly connected the two. All
up the Amur river was a new land, a land crying out for pioneers,
pastoralists and farmers, so that the thought that was uppermost in my
mind was of the contrast between it and the old land of China, where I
had spent so long a time; but at Stretensk I suddenly remembered
this was Siberia, the very heart of Siberia, where men had suffered
unutterable things, might still be so suffering for all I knew, and I
stepped off the steamer and prepared to explore, with a feeling that at
any moment I might come across the heavy logs that made up the walls of
a prison, might see the armed sentries, clad to the eyes in furs, who
tramped amidst the snow. But this was August and it was fiercely hot, so
the snow and the sentries clad in furs were ruled out, and presently
as Buchanan and I walked about the town even the lonely prison built of
logs had to go too. There may have been a prison, probably there was,
but it did not dominate the picture. Not here should I find the Siberia
I had been familiar with from my youth up.

Stretensk is like all other Siberian towns that I have seen. The houses
are mostly of one storey and of wood, of logs; the streets are wide and
straight, cutting each other at right angles, and the whole is flung out
upon the plain; it is really, I think, rather high among the mountains,
but you do not get the sensation of hills as you do from the steamer.

The rain had cleared away and it was very hot, though we had started
out very early because I was determined to go west if possible that very
afternoon; We went gingerly because the dangers of Siberian towns
for one who looked fairly prosperous had been impressed upon me at
Blagoveschensk, and I hesitated about going far from the steamer, where
the mate could speak English. Still we went. I was not going to miss the
Siberia of my dreams if I could help it.

I saw something more wonderful than the Siberia of my dreams.

In consequence of the ceaseless rain the roads between the log-houses
with their painted windows were knee-deep in mud, a quagmire that looked
impassable. In the air was the sound of martial music, and up and
down in what would have been reckless fashion but for the restraining
glue-like mud galloped officers and their orderlies. It was the war, the
first I had seen of it. The war was taking the place of the political
exiles, and instead of seeing Siberia as a background for the exiles as
I had dreamed of it for so many years, I saw it busy with preparations
for war. The roads were like sloughs out of which it would have been
impossible to get had I ever ventured in. Naturally I did not venture,
but took all sorts of long rounds to get to the places I wanted to
reach. It is not a bad way of seeing a town.

The heavily built houses, built to defy the Siberian winter, might have
come out of Nikolayeusk or Kharbarosvk, and though the sun poured down
out of a cloudless sky, and I was gasping in a thin Shantung silk, they
were hermetically sealed, and the cotton wool between the double windows
was decorated with the usual gay ribbons. I dare say they were cool
enough inside, but they must have been intolerably stuffy. The sidewalks
too had dried quickly in the fierce sunshine. They were the usual
Siberian sidewalks, with long lines of planks like flooring. Had
they ever been trodden, I wonder, by the forced emigrant looking with
hopeless longing back to the West. Finally we wandered into the gardens,
where I doubt not, judging by the little tables and many seats,
there was the usual gay throng at night, but now early in the morning
everything looked dishevelled, and I could not find anyone to supply me
with the cool drink of which I stood so badly in need, and at last we
made our way back to the steamer, where the mate, having got over the
struggle of arrival--for this was the farthest the steamer went--kindly
found time enough to give himself to my affairs. I wanted a droshky to
take me to the train, and as nowhere about had I seen any signs of a
railway station I wanted to know where it was.

The mate laughed and pointed far away down the river on the other side.
I really ought to have known my Siberia better by now. Railways are not
constructed for the convenience of the townsfolk. There was nothing
else for it. I had to get there somehow, and as the train left somewhere
between five and six, about noon, with the mate’s assistance, I engaged
a droshky. The carriages that are doing a last stage in this country
are not quite so elderly here as they are in Saghalien, but that is
not saying much for them. The one the mate engaged for me had a sturdy
little ungroomed horse in the shafts and another running in a trace
alongside. On the seat was packed all my baggage, two small suit-cases
and a large canvas sack into which I dumped rugs, cushions and all odds
and ends, including my precious kettles, and the rough little unkempt
horses towed us down through the sea of mud to the ferry, and then I saw
the scene had indeed shifted. It was not long lines of exiles bearing
chains I met, that was all in the past, at least for an outsider like
me, but here in the heart of Asia Russia in her might was collecting her
forces for a spring. The great flat ferry was crossing and recrossing,
and down the swamp that courtesy called a road came endless streams of
square khaki-coloured carts, driven by men in flat caps and belted
khaki blouses, big fair men, often giants with red, sun-tanned faces and
lint-white hair, men who shouted and laughed and sang and threw up their
caps, who were sober as judges and yet were wild with excitement; they
were going to the war. I could not understand one word they said, but
there is no mistaking gladness, and these men were delighted with their
lot. I wondered was it a case of the prisoner freed or was it that life
under the old regime in a Russian village was dull to monotony and to
these recruits was coming the chance of their lifetime.

Some will never come east again, never whether in love or hate will they
see the steppes and the flowers and the golden sunshine and the snow of
Siberia, they have left their bones on those battle-fields; but some, I
hope, will live to see the regeneration of Russia, when every man shall
have a chance of freedom and happiness. I suppose this revolution was in
the air as cart after cart drove on to the ferry and the men yelled and
shouted in their excitement. A small company of men who were going east
looked at them tolerantly--I’m sure it was tolerantly--and then they too
caught the infection and yelled in chorus.

I watched it all with interest.

Then half-an-hour passed and still they came; an hour, and I grew a
little worried, for they were still pouring over. Two hours--I comforted
myself, the train did not start till late in the afternoon--three horns,
and there was no cessation in the stream. And of course I could make no
one understand. It looked as if I might wait here all night. At last
a man who was manifestly an officer came galloping along and him I
addressed in French.

“Is it possible to cross on the ferry?”

He was very courteous.

“It is not possible to cross, Madame. It is not possible. The soldiers
come first.”

I took another look at the good-humoured, strapping, fair-haired
soldiers in khaki, with their khaki-coloured carts. The ferry crossing
was laden with them, hundreds of others were waiting, among them numbers
of country people. They had bundles and laden baskets and looked people
who had shopped and wanted to go home again. Were these exiles? I did
not know. They looked simple peasants. Whoever they were, there did not
seem much chance for them or me, and I said the one Russian word I
knew, “steamer,” and indicated that I wanted to go back there. Much as
I wanted to go home, tired as I was of travelling, I decided I would
postpone my railway journey for a day and take advantage of that
comfortable Russian custom that allows you to live on a steamer for
two days while she is in port. The _ishvornik_ nodded, back we went
helter-skelter to the wharf and--the steamer was gone!

I have had some bad moments in my life, but that one stands out still.
Why, I hardly know, for sitting here in my garden it does not seem a
very terrible thing. I had plenty of money in my pocket and there were
hotels in the town. But no! more than ever, safe here in Kent, do I
dread a Siberian hotel! Then I was distinctly afraid. I might so easily
have disappeared and no one would have asked questions for months to
come. I tried to tell the boy I wanted to go to one of those dreaded
hotels--I felt I would have to risk it, for I certainly could not spend
the night in a droshky--and I could not make him understand. Perhaps, as
in Saghalien, there were no hotels to accommodate a woman of my class,
or perhaps, as is most probable, they were all full of soldiers, anyhow
he only looked at me blankly, and Buchanan and I looked at each other.
Buchanan anyhow had no fears. He was quite sure I could take care of
him. I looked at the boy again and then, as if he had suddenly had an
inspiration, he drove me back to the place opposite the ferry whence we
had come. The soldiers were there still, crowds and crowds of them,
with their little carts and horses, and they were amusing themselves by
stealing each other’s fodder; the ferry had come back, but there were no
soldiers on it, only the country people were crowding down. I had been
forbidden to go upon it, and never should I have dreamt of disobeying
orders, but my driver had different views. He waited till no officer was
looking, seized my baggage and flung it down on the great ferry right
in front of the military stores, beside the refreshment stall where they
were selling sausages and bread in round rings such as peasants eat, and
tea and lemonade. I had not expected to find so commonplace a thing on
a river in Siberia. Now I had sat in that dilapidated carriage for
over four hours and I was weary to death, also I could not afford to be
parted from my luggage, so I put Buchanan under my arm--it was too muddy
for him to walk--and followed as fast as I could. My good angel prompted
me to pay that driver well. I paid him twice what the mate had said it
ought to cost me if I waited half-a-day, and never have I laid out money
to better advantage. He turned to a big man who was standing by, a man
in sea-boots, a red belted blouse and the tall black Astrakhan cap that
I have always associated in my own mind ‘with Circassians, and spoke to
him, saying “Anglisky.” Evidently he said it might be worth his while to
look after me. I don’t know whether this gentleman was a Caucasian, one
of the “wolves of the Amur,” but whoever he was, he was a very hefty and
capable individual, with a very clear idea of what a foreign lady ought
to do, and he promptly constituted himself my guardian.

After all, the world, take it on the whole, is a very kindly, honest
place. So many times have I been stranded when I might quite easily have
been stripped of everything, and always some good Samaritan has come
to my aid, and the reward, though I did my best, has never been
commensurate with the services rendered.

The ferry across the Shilka at Stretensk is a great affair, like a young
paddock afloat, and beside the horses and carts upon it were a number
of country people with their bundles. I sat there a little uncomfortably
because I did not know what would happen, only I was determined not to
be parted from my baggage. Presently the huge float drifted off, amidst
wild shouts and yells. When I was there, a great deal in Russia was
done to the accompaniment of much shouting, and I rather fancy that this
ferry was going off on an unauthorised jaunt of its own. The Shilka is a
broad river here, a fortnight’s steamer journey from its mouth, but the
ferry came to a full stop in the middle of the stream and a motor boat
which did not look as if it could hold half the people came alongside.

“Skurry! Skurry!” was the cry, and the people began leaping overboard
into the boat. The military were getting rid summarily of their civilian
crowd. In a few seconds that boat was packed to the gunwales and I was
looking over at it. I had Buchanan under my arm; he was always a good
little dog at critical moments, understanding it was his part to keep
quiet and give as little trouble as possible. In my other hand I had my
despatch-case, and, being anything but acrobatic by temperament, I felt
it was hopeless to think of getting into it. If the penalty for not
doing so had been death, I do not think I could have managed it.
However, I didn’t have a say in the matter. The big Russian in the red
blouse picked me up and dropped me, little dog, box and all, into the
boat, right on top of the people already there. First I was on top, and
then, still hanging on to my little dog, I slipped down a little, but my
feet found no foothold; I was wedged between the screaming people. After
me, with my luggage on his shoulder, came my guardian, and he somehow
seemed to find a very precarious foothold on the gunwale, and he made me
understand he wanted two roubles for our fares. If he had asked for ten
he would have got it, but how I managed to get at my money to this day I
do not know. The boat rocked and swayed in a most alarming manner, and I
thought to myself, Well, we are on top now, but presently the boat will
upset and then we shall certainly be underneath. I gathered that the
passengers were disputing with the boatman as to the price to be paid
for the passage across, though this was unwise, for the ferry was
threatening momentarily to crush us against the rocky bank. He was
asking sixty kopecks--a little over a shilling--and with one voice they
declared that forty was enough. Considering the crowd, forty I should
have thought would have paid him excellently. That I had given my
guardian more did not trouble me, because any extra he earned was more
than justified, for one thing was certain, I could never have tackled
the job by myself.

Just as I was growing desperate and Buchanan began to mention that he
was on the verge of suffocation the difficulty of the fares was settled
and we made for the bank. But we did not go to the usual landing-stage;
that, I presume, was forbidden as sacred to the soldiers, and we drew up
against a steep, high bank faced with granite.

“Skurry! Skurry!” And more than ever was haste necessary, for it
looked as if the great ferry would certainly crush us. The people began
scrambling up. But I was helpless. Whatever happened, I knew I could
never climb that wall. I could only clutch my little dog and await
events. My guardian was quite equal to the situation. The boat had
cleared a little and there was room to move, and, dropping the baggage,
he picked me up like a baby and tossed me, dog and all, up on to the
bank above. Whether that boat got clear away from the ferry I do not
know. When I visited the place next morning there were no remains, so
I presume she did, but at the time I was giving all my attention to
catching a train.

My guardian engaged a boy to carry the lighter baggage, and shouldering
the rest himself, he took me by the arm and fairly raeed me up the steep
incline to the railway station that was a seething mass of khaki-clad
men.

“Billet! Billet!” said he, raping the sweat from his streaming face
and making a way for me among the thronging recruits. There was a train
coming in and he evidently intended I should catch it.

Such a crowd it was, and in the railway station confusion was worse
confounded. It was packed with people--people of the poorer class--and
with soldiers, and everyone was giving his opinion of things in general
at the top of his voice. My stalwart guardian elbowed a way to the
pigeon-hole, still crying, “Billet! Billet!” and I, seeing I wanted
a ticket to Petrograd, produced a hundred-rouble note. The man inside
pushed it away with contumely and declined it in various unknown
tongues. I offered it again, and again it was thrust rudely aside, my
guardian becoming vehement in his protests, though what he said I have
not the faintest idea. I offered it a third time, then a man standing
beside me whisked it away and whisked me away too.

“Madame, are you mad?” he asked, as Mr Barentzen had asked over a
week before, but he spoke in French, very Russian French. And then he
proceeded to explain volubly that all around were thieves, robbers and
assassins--oh! the land of suffering exiles--the mobilisation had called
them up, and any one of them would cut my throat for a good deal less
than a ten-pound note. And he promptly shoved the offending cash in his
pocket. It was the most high-handed proceeding I have ever taken
part in, and I looked at him in astonishment. He was a man in a green
uniform, wearing a military cap with pipings of white and magenta, and
the white and magenta were repeated on the coat and trousers. On the
whole, the effect was reassuring. A gentleman so attired was really too
conspicuous to be engaged in any very nefarious occupation.

He proceeded to explain that by that train I could not go.

It was reserved for the troops. They were turning out the people already
in it. This in a measure explained the bedlam in the station. The people
who did not want to be landed here and the people who wanted to get away
were comparing notes, and there were so many of them they had to do it
at the top of their voices.

“When does the next train go?” I asked.

My new friend looked dubious. “Possibly to-morrow night,” said he. That
was cheering.

“And where is there a hotel?”

He pointed across the river to Stretensk.

“Are there none this side?”

“No, Madame, not one.”

I debated. Cross that river again after all it had cost me to get here I
could not.

“But where can I stay?”

He looked round as if he were offering palatial quarters.

“Here, Madame, here.”

In the railway station; there was nothing else for it; and in that
railway station I waited till the train came in the following evening.

That little matter settled, I turned to reward my first friend for his
efforts on my behalf, and I felt five roubles was little enough. My new
friend was very scornful, a rouble was ample, he considered. He had my
ten-pound note in his pocket, and I am afraid I was very conscious
that he had not yet proved himself, whereas the other man had done me
yeoman’s service, and never have I parted with ten shillings with more
satisfaction. They were certainly earned.

After, I set myself to make the best of the situation. The station was
crowded with all sorts and conditions of people, and a forlorn crowd
they looked, and curious was the flotsam and jetsam that were their
belongings. Of course there was the usual travellers’ baggage, but
there were other things too I did not expect to come across in a railway
station in Siberia. There was a sewing-machine; there was the trumpet
part of a gramophone; there was the back of a piano with all the wires
showing; there was a dressmaker’s stand, the stuffed form of a woman,
looking forlorn and out of place among the bundles of the soldiers.

But the people accepted it as all in the day’s work, watched the
soldiers getting into the carriages from which they were debarred, and
waved their hands and cheered them, though the first train that started
for anywhere did not leave till one-fifteen a.m. next morning. They
were content that the soldiers should be served first. They
settled themselves in little companies on the open platform, in the
refreshment-room, in the waiting-rooms, fathers, mothers, children and
dogs, and they solaced themselves with kettles of tea, black bread and
sausages.

It was all so different from what I had expected, so very different, but
the first effect was to bring home to me forcibly the fact that there
was a great struggle going on in the West, and Eastern Siberia was being
drawn into the whirlpool, sending her best, whether they were the exiles
of my dreams or the thieves and robbers my newest friend had called
them, to help in the struggle! To wait a night and day in a railway
station was surely a little sacrifice to what some must make. How
cheerfully and patiently that Siberian crowd waited! There were no
complaints, no moans, only here and there a woman buried her head in her
shawl and wept for her nearest and dearest, gone to the war, gone out
into the unknown, and she might never see him again, might never even
know what became of him. Truly “They also serve who only stand and
wait.”

I went into the refreshment-room to get some food, and had soup with
sour cream in it, and ate chicken and bread and butter and cucumber and
drank _kvass_ as a change from the eternal tea. I watched the people
on the platform and as the shades of night fell began to wonder where I
should sleep. I would have chosen the platform, but it looked as if
it might rain, so I went into the ladies’ waiting-room, dragged a
seat across the open window, and spread out my rugs and cushions and
established myself there. I wanted to have first right to that window,
for the night up in the hills here was chilly and I felt sure somebody
would come in and want to shut it. My intuitions were correct. Buchanan
and I kept that open window against a crowd. Everybody who came in--and
the room was soon packed--wanted to shut it. They stretched over me and
I arose from my slumbers and protested. For, in addition to a crowd,
the sanitary arrangements were abominable, and what the atmosphere would
have been like with the window shut I tremble to think. I remembered the
tales of the pestilential resthouses into which the travelling exiles
had been thrust, and I was thankful for that window, thankful too that
it was summer-time, for in winter I suppose we would have had to shut
it. At last one woman pulled at my rugs and said--though I could not
understand her language her meaning was plain enough--that it was all
very well for me, I had plenty of rugs, it was they who had nothing.
It was a fair complaint, so with many qualms I shared my rugs and the
summer night slowly wore to morning.

And morning brought its own difficulties. Russian washing arrangements
to me are always difficult. I had met them first in Kharbin in the house
of Mr Poland. I wrestled with the same thing in the house of the Chief
of Police in Saghalien, and I met it in an aggravated form here in the
railway station waiting-room. A Russian basin has not a plug--it is
supposed to be cleaner to wash in running water--and the tap is a twirly
affair with two spouts, and on pressing a little lever water gushes
out of both and, theoretically, you may direct it where you please.
Practically I found that while I was directing one stream of water down
on to my hands, the other hit me in the eye or the ear, and when I got
that right the first took advantage of inattention and deluged me round
the waist. It may be my inexperience, but I do not like Russian basins.
It was running water with a vengeance, it all ran away.

However, I did the best I could, and after, as my face was a little
rough and sore from the hot sun of the day before, I took out a jar of
hazeline cream and began to rub it on my cheeks. This proceeding aroused
intense interest in the women around. What they imagined the cream was
for I don’t know, but one and all they came and begged some, and as long
as that pot held out every woman within range had hazeline cream daubed
on her weather-beaten cheeks, and they omitted to rub it off, apparently
considering it ornamental. However, hazeline cream is a pleasant
preparation.

Having dressed, Buchanan and I had the long day before us, and I did not
dare leave the railway station to explore because I was uneasy about my
luggage. I had had it put in the corner of the refreshment-room and as
far as I could see no one was responsible for it, and as people were
coming and going the livelong day I felt bound to keep an eye upon it.
I also awaited with a good deal of interest the gentleman with the
variegated uniform and my ten-pound note. He came at last, and explained
in French that he had got the change but he could not give it to me till
the train came in because of the thieves and robbers, as if he would
insist upon tearing the veil of romance I had mapped round Siberia. And
God forgive me that I doubted the honesty of a very kindly, courteous
gentleman.

It was a long, long day because there was really nothing to do save to
walk about for Buchanan’s benefit, and I diversified things by taking
odd meals in the refreshment-room whenever I felt I really must do
something. But I was very tired. I began to feel I had been travelling
too long, and I really think if it had not been for Buchanan’s sympathy
I should have wept. No one seemed at all certain when the next train
west might be expected, opinions, judging by fingers pointing at the
clock, varying between two o’clock in the afternoon and three o’clock
next morning. However, as the evening shadows were beginning to fall
a train did come in, and my friend in uniform, suddenly appearing,
declared it was the western train. Taking me by the hand, he led me into
a carriage and, shutting the door and drawing down the blinds, placed in
my hands change for my ten-pound note.

“Guard your purse, Madame,” said he, “guard your purse. There are
thieves and robbers everywhere!”

So all the way across Siberia had I been warned of the unsafe condition
of the country. At Kharbin, at Nikolayeusk, at Blagoveschensk men
whose good faith I could not doubt assured me that a ten-pound note and
helplessness was quite likely to spell a sudden and ignominious end to
my career, and this was in the days when no one doubted the power of the
Tsar, a bitter commentary surely on an autocracy. What the condition of
Siberia must be now, with rival factions fighting up and down the land,
and released German prisoners throwing the weight of their strength in
with the Bolshevists, I tremble to think.

When he made sure I had carefully hidden my money and thoroughly
realised the gravity of the situation, my friend offered to get my
ticket, a second-class ticket, he suggested. I demurred. I am not rich
and am not above saving my pennies, but a first-class ticket was so
cheap, and ensured so much more privacy, that a second-class was an
economy I did not feel inclined to make. He pointed round the carriage
in which we were seated. Was this not good enough for anyone? It was.
I had to admit it, and the argument was clinched by the fact that there
was not a first-class carriage on the train. The ticket only cost about
five pounds and another pound bought a ticket for Buchanan. We got
in--my friend in need got in with me, that misjudged friend; it seemed
he was the stationmaster at a little place a little way down the
line--and we were fairly off on our road to the West.



CHAPTER XV--ON A RUSSIAN MILITARY TRAIN

I was in the train at last, fairly on my way home, and I was glad. But
I wasn’t glad for very long. I began to wish myself back in the railway
station at Stretensk, where at least I had fresh air. At first I had the
window open and a corner seat. There are only two people on a seat in a
Russian long-distance train, because when night falls they let down the
seat above, which makes a bunk for the second person. But I was
second class and my compartment opened without a door into the other
compartments in the carriage, also two more bunks appeared crossways,
and they were all filled with people. We were four women, two men who
smoked, a baby who cried, and my little dog. I spread out my rugs and
cushions, and when I wanted the window open the majority were against
me. Not only was the window shut, but every ventilating arrangement was
tightly closed also, and presently the atmosphere was pestilential.
I grew desperate. I wandered out of the carriage and got on to the
platform at the end, where the cold wind--for all it was August--cut me
like a knife. The people objected to that cold wind coming in, and the
next time I wandered out for a breath of fresh air I found the door
barred and no prayers of mine would open it. In that carriage the people
were packed like sardines, but though I was three-quarters suffocated
no one else seemed at all the worse. I couldn’t have looked at breakfast
next morning, but the rest of the company preened themselves and fed
cheerfully from the baskets they carried. Then at last I found a student
going to a Western Siberian university who spoke a little French and
through him I told the authorities that if I could not be transferred
to a first-class carriage I was to be left behind at the next station. I
had spent a night in a station and I knew all about it; it wasn’t nice,
but it was infinitely preferable to a night in a crowded second-class
carriage.

After a little while the train master came and with the aid of the
student informed me that there would be a first-class carriage a little
farther on and if there was room I should go in it, also we would know
in an hour or so.

So I bore up, and at a little town in the hills I was taken to a
first-class compartment. There were three--that is, six bunks--making
up half of a second-class carriage, and they were most luxurious, with
mirrors and washing arrangements complete. The one I entered was already
occupied by a very stout woman who, though we did not know any tongue in
common, made me understand she was going to a place we would reach next
morning for an operation, and she apologised--most unnecessarily but
most courteously--for making me take the top bunk. She had a big Irish
setter with her whom she called “Box”--“Anglisky,” as she said--and
“Box” was by no means as courteous and friendly as his mistress, and not
only objected to Buchanan’s presence but said so in no measured terms.
I had to keep my little dog up on the top bunk all the time, where
he peered over and whimpered protestingly at intervals. There was one
drawback, and so kind and hospitable was my stable companion that I
hardly liked to mention it, but the atmosphere in that compartment you
could have cut with a knife. Wildly I endeavoured to open the windows,
and she looked at me in astonishment. But I was so vehement that the
student was once more brought along to interpret, and then everybody
took a turn at trying to open that window. I must say I think it was
exceedingly kind and hospitable of them, for these people certainly
shrank from the dangers of a draught quite as much as I did from the
stuffiness of a shut window. But it was all to no purpose. That window
had evidently never been opened since the carriage was made and it held
on gallantly to the position it had taken up. They consulted together,
and at length the student turned to me:

“Calm yourself, Madame, calm yourself; a man will come with an
instrument.” And three stations farther down the line a man did appear
with an instrument and opened that window, and I drew in deep breaths of
exceedingly dusty fresh air.

The lady in possession and I shared our breakfast. She made the tea, and
she also cleaned out the kettle by the simple process of emptying the
tea leaves into the wash-hand basin. That, as far as I saw, was the
only use she made of the excellent washing arrangements supplied by
the railway. But it is not for me to carp, she was so kind, and bravely
stood dusty wind blowing through the compartment all night just because
I did not like stuffiness. And when she was gone, O luxury! Buchanan and
I had the carriage to ourselves all the way to Irkutsk.

And this was Siberia. We were going West, slowly it is true, but with
wonderful swiftness I felt when I remembered--and how should I not
remember every moment of the time?--that this was the great and
sorrowful road along which the exiles used to march, that the summer
sun would scorch them, these great plains would be snow-covered and the
biting, bitter wind would freeze them long before they reached their
destination. I looked ahead into the West longingly; but I was going
there, would be there in less than a fortnight at the most, while their
reluctant feet had taken them slowly, the days stretched into weeks, the
weeks into months, and they were still tramping east into an exile that
for all they knew would be lifelong. Ah! but this road must have been
watered with blood and tears. Every river, whether they were ferried
over it or went across on the ice, must have seemed an added barrier to
the man or woman thinking of escape; every forest would mean for them
either shelter or danger, possibly both, for I had not forgotten the
tigers of the Amur and the bears and wolves that are farther west. And
yet the steppes, those hopeless plains, must have afforded still less
chance of escape.

Oh! my early ideas were right after all. Nature was jailer enough here
in Siberia. Men did escape, we know, but many more must have perished
in the attempt, and many, many must have resigned themselves to their
bitter fate, for surely all the forces of earth and air and sky had
ranged themselves on the side of the Tsar. This beautiful country, and
men had marched along it in chains!

At Chita, greatly to my surprise, my _sotnik_ of Cossacks joined the
train, and we greeted eaeh other as old friends. Indeed I was pleased to
see his smiling face again, and Buchanan benefited largely, for many
a time when I was not able to take him out for a little run our friend
came along and did it for us.

The platforms at Siberian stations are short and this troop train,
packed with soldiers, was long, so that many a time our carriage never
drew up at the platform at all. This meant that the carriage was usually
five feet from the ground, and often more. I am a little woman and
five feet was all I could manage, when it was more it was beyond me. Of
course I could have dropped down, but it would have been impossible to
haul myself up again, to say nothing of getting Buchanan on board. A
Russian post train--and this troop train was managed to all intents and
purposes as a post train--stops at stations along the line so that the
passengers may get food, and five minutes before it starts it rings a
“Make ready” bell one minute before it rings a second bell, “Take your
seats,” and with a third bell off the train goes. And it would have gone
inexorably even though I, having climbed down, had been unable to climb
up again. Deeply grateful then were Buehanan and I to the _sotnik_ of
Cossacks, who recognised our limitations and never forgot us.

I liked these Russian post trains far better than the train _de luxe_,
with its crowd and its comforts and its cosmopolitan atmosphere. A
Russian post train in those days had an atmosphere of its own. It was
also much cheaper. From Stretensk to Petrograd, including Buehanan, the
cost was a little over nine pounds for the tickets, and I bought my food
by the way. It was excellent and very cheap. All the things I had bought
in Kharbin, especially the kettles, came into use once more. The moment
the train stopped out tumbled the soldiers, crowds and crowds of them,
and raced for the provision stalls and for the large boilers full of
water that are a feature of every Russian station on the overland line.
These boilers are always enclosed in a building just outside the railway
station, and the spouts for the boiling water, two, three and sometimes
four in a row, come out through the walls. Beside every spout is an iron
handle which, being pulled, brings the boiling water gushing out.
Russia even in those days before the revolution struck me as strangely
democratic, for the soldiers, the non-commissioned officers, the
officers and everyone else on the train mingled in the struggle for hot
water. I could never have got mine filled, but my Cossack friend always
remembered me and if he did not come himself sent someone to get my
kettles. Indeed everyone vied in being kind to the Englishwoman, to
show, I think, their good will to the only representative of the Allied
nation on the train.

It was at breakfast-time one warm morning I first made the acquaintance
of “that very great officer,” as the others called him, the captain of
the _Askold_. He was in full naval uniform, and at that time I was not
accustomed to seeing naval officers in uniform outside their ships, and
he was racing along the platform, a little teapot in one hand, intent
on filling it with hot water to make coffee. He was not ashamed to
pause and come to the assistance of a foreigner whom he considered the
peasants were shamefully overcharging. They actually wanted her to pay a
farthing a piece for their largest cucumbers! He spoke French and so we
were able to communicate, and he was kind enough to take an interest in
me and declare that he himself would provide me with cucumbers. He got
me four large ones and when I wanted to repay him he laughed and said
it was hardly necessary as they only cost a halfpenny! He had the
compartment next to mine and that morning he sent me in a glass of
coffee--we didn’t run to cups on that train. Excellent coffee it was
too. Indeed I was overwhelmed with provisions. One woman does not want
very much to eat, but unless I supplied myself liberally and made it
patent to all that I had enough and more than enough I was sure to be
supplied by my neighbours out of friendship for my nation. From the
Cossack officer, from a Hussar officer and his wife who had come up
from Ugra in Mongolia, and from the captain of the _Askold_ I was always
receiving presents. Chickens, smoked fish--very greasy, in a sheet of
paper, eaten raw and very excellent--raspberries and blue berries, to
say nothing of cucumbers, were rained upon me.

At some stations there was a buffet and little tables set about
where the first and second class passengers could sit down and have
_déjeuner_, or dinner, but oftener, especially in the East, we all
dashed out, first, second and third class, and at little stalls presided
over by men with kerchiefs on their heads and sturdy bare feet, women
that were a joy to me after the effete women of China, bought what we
wanted, took it back with us into the carriages and there ate it. I had
all my table things in a basket, including a little saucer for Buchanan.
It was an exceedingly economical arrangement, and I have seldom enjoyed
food more. The bread and butter was excellent. You could buy fine white
bread, and bread of varying quality to the coarse black bread eaten by
the peasant, and I am bound to say I very much like fine white bread.
There was delicious cream; there were raspberries and blue berries to
be bought for a trifle; there were lemons for the tea; there was German
beet sugar; there were roast chickens at sixpence apiece, little pasties
very excellent for twopence-halfpenny, and rapchicks, a delicious little
bird a little larger than a partridge, could be bought for fivepence,
and sometimes there was plenty of honey. Milk, if a bottle were
provided, could be had for a penny-farthing a quart, and my neighbours
soon saw that I did not commit the extravagance of paying three times as
much for it, which was what it cost if you bought the bottle.

The English, they said, were very rich! and they were confirmed in their
belief when they found how I bought milk. Hard-boiled eggs were to be
had in any quantity, two and sometimes three for a penny-farthing. I am
reckoning the kopeck as a farthing. These were first-class prices, the
soldiers bought much more cheaply. Enough meat to last a man a day could
be bought for a penny-farthing, and good meat too--such meat nowadays I
should pay at least five shillings for.

Was all this abundance because the exiles had tramped wearily across the
steppes? How much hand had they had in the settling of the country? I
asked myself the question many times, but nowhere found an answer. The
stations were generally crowded, but the country round was as empty as
it had been along the Amur.

And the train went steadily on. Very slowly though--we only went at the
rate of three hundred versts a day, why, I do not know. There we stuck
at platforms where there was nothing to do but walk up and down and look
at the parallel rails coming out of the East on the horizon and running
away into the West on the horizon again.

“We shall never arrive,” I said impatiently.

“Ah! Madame, we arrive, we arrive,” said the Hussar officer, and he
spoke a little sadly. And then I remembered that for him arrival meant
parting with his comely young wife and his little son. They had with
them a fox-terrier whom I used to ask into my compartment to play with
Buchanan, and they called him “Sport.”

“An English name,” they said smilingly. If ever I have a fox-terrier
I shall call him “Sport,” in kindly remembrance of the owners of the
little friend I made on that long, long journey across the Old World.
And the Hussar officer’s wife, I put it on record, liked fresh air as
much as I did myself. As I walked up and down the train, even though
it was warm summer weather, I always knew our two carriages because in
spite of the dust we had our windows open. The rest of the passengers
shut theirs most carefully. The second class were packed, and the third
class were simply on top of one another--I should not think they could
have inserted another baby--and the reek that came from the open doors
and that hung about the people that came out of them was disgusting.

I used to ask my Cossack friend to tea sometimes--I could always buy
cakes by the wayside--and he was the only person I ever met who took
salt with his tea. He assured me the Mongolians always did so, but I
must say though I have tried tea in many ways I don’t like that custom.

In Kobdo, ten thousand feet among the mountains in the west of Mongolia,
was a great lama, and the Cossack was full of this man’s prophecy.

Three emperors, said the lama, would fight. One would be overwhelmed and
utterly destroyed, the other would lose immense sums of money, and the
third would have great glory.

“The Tsar, Madame,” said my friend, “the Tsar, of course, is the third.”

I wonder what part he took in the revolution. He was a Balt, a man from
the Baltic Provinces, heart and soul with the Poles, and he did not even
call himself a Russian. Well, the Tsar has been overwhelmed, but which
is the one who is to have great glory? After all, the present is no very
great time for kings and emperors. I am certainly not taking any stock
in them as a whole. Perhaps that lama meant the President of the United
States!

We went round Lake Baikal, and the Holy Sea, that I had seen before one
hard plain of glittering ice, lay glittering now, beautiful still in the
August sunshine. There were white sails on it and a steamer or two, and
men were feverishly working at alterations on the railway. The Angara
ran swiftly, a mighty river, and we steamed along it into the Irkutsk
station, which is by no means Irkutsk, for the town is--Russian
fashion--four miles away on the other side of the river.

At Irkutsk it seemed to me we began to be faintly Western again. And the
exiles who had come so far I suppose abandoned hope here. All that they
loved--all their life--lay behind. I should have found it hard to turn
back and go east myself now. What must that facing east have been for
them?

They turned us out of the train, and Buchanan and I were ruefully
surveying our possessions, heaped upon the platform, wondering how on
earth we were to get them taken to the cloakroom and how we should
get them out again supposing they were taken, when the captain of the
_Askold_ appeared with a porter.

“Would Madame permit,” he asked, not as if he were conferring a favour,
“that her luggage be put with mine in the cloakroom?”

Madame could have hugged him. Already the dusk was falling, the
soft, warm dusk, and the people were hastening to the town or to the
refreshment-rooms. There would be no train that night, said my kind
friend, some time in the morning perhaps, but certainly not that night.
I sighed. Again I was adrift, and it was not a comfortable feeling.

If Madame desired to dine---- Madame did desire to dine.

Then if Madame permits---- Of course Madame permitted.

She was most grateful. And we dined together at the same table outside
the station restaurant--I like that fashion of dining outside--under the
brilliant glare of the electric light. He arranged everything for me,
even to getting some supper for Buchanan. And I forgot the exiles who
had haunted me, forgot this was Siberia. Here in the restaurant, save
for the Tartar waiters, it might almost have been France.

“Perhaps,” said my companion courteously as we were having coffee,
“Madame would care to come to my hotel. I could interpret for her and
here no one speaks anything but Russian.”

Again I could have hugged him. I intimated my dressing-bag was in the
cloakroom, but he smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“For one night!”

He himself had nothing, so there and then we got into one of the usual
decrepit landaus and went to the town, to Irkutsk on the Angara, in the
heart of Siberia. If in my girlish days when I studied the atlas of the
world so carefully I could have known that one day I should be driving
into Irkutsk, that map would have been glorified for ever and a day;
but I could never have realised, never, that it would be set in a summer
land, warm as my own country, and that I should feel it a great step on
towards the civilisation of the West.

It was night, and here and there clustering electric lights glittered
like diamonds, making darker the spaces in between. In the morning I saw
that the capital of Eastern Siberia, like all the other towns of that
country, is a regular frontier town. There were the same wide streets
grass-grown at the edges, great houses and small houses side by side,
and empty spaces where as yet there were no houses. We went to the
Central Hotel.

“I do not go to an expensive hotel,” my companion told me, “this is a
moderate one.”

But if it were moderate it certainly was a very large and nice hotel.
Russian hotels do not as a rule provide food, the restaurant is
generally separate, but we had already dined. That naval officer made
all arrangements for me. He even explained to an astonished chamber-maid
with her hair done in two long plaits that I must have all the windows
open and when I tried for a bath did his best for me. But again, he
explained, Russians as a rule go to a bath-house, and there was only
one bathroom in this hotel; it had been engaged for two hours by a
gentleman, and he thought, seeing I should have to start early in the
morning, it might be rather late for me to have a bath then, but if I
liked in the morning it would be at my service.

If anyone had told me in the old days that going to Irkutsk I should be
deeply interested in a bath!

I engaged that bath for an hour in the morning as that seemed to be the
correct thing to do. Then I went to bed and heartily envied Buchanan,
who did not have to bother about toilet arrangements.

In the morning early there was a knock at the door and when I said “Come
in,” half expecting tea, there was my naval officer in full uniform
smilingly declaring my bath was ready, he had paid the bill, and I could
pay him back when we were on board the train. The chamber-maid, with
her hair still done in two plaits--I rather fancy she had slept in
them--conducted me to the bathroom, and I pass over the difficulty of
doing without brush and comb and tooth-brush. But I washed the dust
out of my hair, and when I was as tidy as I could manage I joined
the captain of the _Askold_ and we drove back through the town to the
railway station.

The station was a surging mass of people all talking at once, and all,
I suppose, objurgating the railway management, but we two had breakfast
together in the pleasant sunlight. We had fresh rolls and butter and
coffee and cream and honey--I ask no better breakfast when these things
are good--and meanwhile people, officials, came and went, discussing
evidently some important matter with my friend. He departed for a
moment, and then the others that I had known came up, my Cossack friend
and the Hussar officer, and told me that the outgoing train was a
military train, it would be impossible for a woman, a civilian and a
foreigner at that, to go on it. I said the captain of the _Askold_ had
assured me I could, and they shook their heads and then said hopefully,
well, he was a very great officer, the captain of a ship, and I realised
that no lesser authority could possibly have managed this thing for
me. And even he was doubtful, for when he came back and resumed his
interrupted breakfast he said:

“The train is full. The military authorities will not allow you on
board.”

That really did seem to me tragedy at the moment. I forgot the sorrowful
people who would gladly enough have stayed their journey at Irkutsk. But
their faces were set East. I forgot that after all a day or two out of a
life would not matter very much, or rather I think I hated to part from
these kindly friends I had made on the train. I suppose I looked my
disappointment.

“Wait. Wait. It is not yet finished,” said my friend kindly. “They give
me two compartments”--I felt then he was indeed “a very great officer,”
 for the people were packed in that train, tier upon tier, like herrings
in a barrel--“and I cannot sleep in four bunks. It is ridiculous.”

That may have been, but it was kindness itself of him to establish a
stranger in one of those compartments. It was most comfortable, and
Buchanan and I being established, and my luggage having come safely to
hand, I proceeded to make the most of the brush and comb that had come
once more into my possession, and I felt that the world was a very good
place indeed as we sped across the green plain in the sunny morning. I
could hardly believe that this goodly land was the one to which I had
always been accustomed to think men went as to a living death.

And then I forgot other folks’ troubles in my own, for envious eyes were
cast upon the spare bunk in my compartment. No one would have dreamt of
interfering had the sailor insisted upon having all four for himself,
but since he had parted with the rights of one compartment to a foreign
woman, it was evident that other people, crowded out, began to think
of their own comfort. Various people interviewed me. I am afraid
I understood thoroughly what they wanted, but I did not understand
Russian, and I made the most of that disability. Also all my friends who
spoke French kept out of the way, so I suppose they did not wish to
aid and abet in upsetting my comfort. At last a most extraordinary
individual with a handkerchief tied round his neck in lieu of a collar
and a little tourist cap on the back of his head was brought, and he
informed me in French that there was a doctor in the hospital section
of the train who had not been in bed for a week, they could not turn
the soldiers out, they must have rest, would I allow him to sleep in my
compartment?

“Madame,” he said, and the officials standing round emphasised the
remark, if it needed emphasis, “it is war time. The train is for the
soldiers.”

Certainly I was here on sufferance. They had a right to turn me out if
they liked. So the doctor came and turned in in the top bunk, and his
long-drawn snores took away from my sense of privacy.

I don’t think he liked it very much, for presently he was succeeded by
a train official, very drunk, though I am bound to say he was the only
drunken man I saw on all that long train journey from Stretensk to
Petrograd. It was a little unlucky we were at such close quarters.
Everyone, too, was very apologetic.

He was a good fellow. It was an unfortunate accident and he would be
very much ashamed.

I suppose he was, for the next day he too disappeared and his place
was taken by a professor from one of the Siberian universities who was
seeking radium. He was a nice old gentleman who had learned English
but had never had the chance of hearing it spoken. Where he went in the
daytime I do not know, probably to a friend’s compartment, and Buchanan
and I had the place to ourselves. We could and did invite the Cossack
officer and the Hussar officer and his belongings and the naval man to
tea, and we had great games with the little fox-terrier “Sport” from
next door, but when night fell the professor turned up and notified me
he was about to go to bed. Then he retired and I went to bed first on
the lower seat. He knocked, came in and climbed up to his bunk, and
we discoursed on the affairs of the world, I correcting his curious
pronunciation. He really was a man of the world; he was the sort of man
I had expected to meet in Siberia, only I had never imagined him as free
and sharing a railway compartment with me. I should have expected to
find him toiling across the plains with the chains that bound his ankles
hitched to his belt for convenience of carrying. But he looked and
he spoke as any other cultivated old gentleman might have spoken,
and looking back I see that his views of the war, given in the end of
August, 1914, were quite the soundest I have ever listened to.

“The Allies will win,” he used to say, “yes, they will win.” And he
shook his head. “But it will be a long war, and the place will be
drenched in blood first. Two years, three years, I think four years.” I
wonder if he foresaw the chaos that would fall upon Russia.

These views were very different from those held by the other men.

“Madame,” the Cossack would say, laughing, “do you know a good hotel in
Berlin?”

I looked up surprised. “Because,” he went on, “I engage a room there. We
go to Berlin!”

“Peace dictated at Berlin,” said they all again and again, “peace
dictated at Berlin.” This was during the first onward rush of the
Russians. Then there came a setback, two towns were taken and the
Germans demanded an indemnity of twenty thousand pounds apiece.

“Very well,” said the Cossack grimly, and the Hussar nodded his head.
“They have set the tune. Now we know what to ask.”

But the professor looked grave. “Many towns will fall,” said he.

Another thing that struck me was the friendly relations of the officers
with those under them. As the only representative of their Western
Ally on the train, I was something of a curiosity, and soldiers and
non-commissioned officers liked to make excuse to look at me. I only
wished I had been a little smarter and better-looking for the sake of my
country, for I had had no new clothes since the end of 1912. However, I
had to make the best of it, and the men came to me on the platforms or
to my compartment without fear. If by chance they knew a little French
they spoke to me, helped out by their officers if their vocabulary ran
short.

“Madame, Madame,” said an old non-commissioned officer, “would you be
so good as to tell me how to pronounce the English ‘zee’? I teach myself
French, now I teach myself English.”

Well, they had all been good to me and I had no means of repaying their
kindness save vicariously, so I took him in hand and with the aid of a
booklet published by the Wagons Lit Train du Luxe describing the journey
across Siberia we wrestled with the difficulties of the English “th.”

It was a long long journey. We crept across the great steppes, we
lingered by stations, sometimes there were lakes, sometimes great
rivers, but always the great plains. Far as the eye could see rolled the
extent of green under the clear blue sky; often we saw herds of cattle
and mobs of horses, and again and again companies of soldiers, and
yet so vast is the country the sensation left upon the stranger is of
emptiness, of a rich and fertile land crying out for inhabitants. I
looked at it from the train with eager eyes, but I began to understand
how there had grown up in my mind the picture of this lovely land as
a dark and terrible place. To the prisoners who came here this plain,
whether it were green and smiling, or whether it were deep in white
snow, could only have been the barrier that cut them off from home and
hope, from all that made life dear. How could they take up their broken
lives here, they who for the most part were dwellers in the cities?

Here was a regiment of soldiers; it was nothing, nothing, set in the
vast plain. The buttercups and daisies and purple vetches were trampled
down for a great space where men had been exercising or camping; but it
was nothing. There were wide stretches of country where the cattle were
peacefully feeding and where the flowers turned up smiling faces to the
blue sky for miles and miles, making me forget that this had been the
land of shadowed lives in the past and that away in the West men were
fighting for their very existence, locked in a death-grip such as the
world has never before seen.

It was well there was something to look out upon, for that train was
horrid. I realised something of the horrors of the post-houses in which
the prisoners had been locked at night. We could get good food at every
station, but in the train we were too close on the ground and the
reek of us went up to heaven. I felt as if the atmosphere of the train
desecrated the fresh, clear air of the great plain over which we passed,
as if we must breed disease. The journey seemed interminable, and what
I should do when it ended I did not know, for opinion was fairly
unanimous: they were sure I could not get to England!

With many apologies the captain of the _Askold_ permitted himself to ask
how I was off for money. I was a total stranger, met on a train, and a
foreigner! I told him I had a little over forty pounds and if that were
not enough I had thought to be able to send to London for more.

He shook his head.

“I doubt if even letters can get through.”

And I sighed that then I did not know what I should do, for I had no
friends in Petrograd.

“Pardon, Madame,” said he remonstrantly, and he gave me the address of
his wife and daughters. He told me to go and see them; he assured me
that everybody in Russia now wanted to learn English, that I would have
no difficulty in getting pupils and so do myself very comfortably “till
we make a passage to England again.”

Just before we reached Cheliabynsk he came and told me that he had heard
there was a west-bound express with one place vacant, a ship awaited him
and speed was very necessary, therefore he was leaving this train. Then
at one of the greater stopping-places he bowed low over my hand, bade me
farewell, made a dash and caught the express. I have never either seen
or heard of him since, but he remains in my mind as one of the very
kindly men I have met on my way through the world.

At Cheliabynsk we spent the livelong day, for there the main part of the
train went on to Moscow with the soldiers, while we who wanted to go
to Petrograd caught a train in the evening. I was glad to find that the
Hussar officer and the Cossack were both bound for Petrograd. And here
we came in touch once more with the West. There was a bookstall, and
though I could not buy an English paper I could and did buy an English
book, one of John Galsworthy’s in the Tauchnitz edition. It was a great
delight to come in contact once more with something I could read. There
was a big refreshment-room here with all manner of delectable things to
eat, only we had passed beyond the sturgeon, and caviare was no longer
to be had save at a price that was prohibitive to a woman who had had as
much as she could eat and who anyhow was saving her pennies in case of
contingencies.

But one thing I did have, and that was a bath. In fact the whole train
bathed. Near the station was a long row of bath-houses, but each one
I visited--and they all seemed unpleasant places--was crowded with
soldiers. After a third attempt to get taken in my Cossack friend met
me and was shocked at the idea of my going to such a place; if I would
trust him he would take me to a proper place after _déjeuner_.

Naturally I trusted him gladly, and we got into one of the usual
broken-down landaus and drove away to the other side of the town to a
row of quite superior bath-houses. My friend declared he knew the
place well, he had been stationed here in “the last revolution,” as if
revolutions came as regularly as the seasons.

It was a gorgeous bath-house. That young man bought me soap; he bought
me some sort of loofah for scrubbing; he escorted me to three large
rooms which I engaged for a couple of hours and, much to the surprise of
the people, having had the windows opened, he left me, assuring me that
the carriage should return for me in two hours. There was plenty of hot
water, plenty of cold, and any amount of towels, and both Buchanan and
I washed the grime of the journey from us and then rested on the sofa in
the retiring-room. I read John Galsworthy and punctually to the moment
I descended to the street, clean and refreshed, and there our carriage
awaited us.

We bought water-melons on our way back to the train, for the streets
were heaped up with the great dark green melons with the pink flesh that
I had not seen since I left Australia. Autumn was on the land and here
were watermelons proof thereof.

Ever as we went west the cornfields increased. Most of the wheat was cut
and standing in golden-brown stooks waiting to be garnered by old men
and boys and sturdy country women and those who were left of her young
men, for Russia had by no means called out her last lines in 1914. There
were still great patches of forest, primeval forest, of dense fir, and I
remembered that here must be the haunts of the wolves and the bear with
which I had always associated Russia. More, though why I know not,
my mind flew back to the times of the nomad hordes who, coming out of
Central Asia, imposed their rule upon the fair-haired Aryan race that
had settled upon the northern plain of Europe. Those forests for me
spelled Romance; they took away from the feeling of commonplaceness that
the breaking down of my preconceived ideas of Siberia had engendered.
Almost anything might happen in a land that held such forests, and such
rivers. Not that I was allowed to see much of the rivers now. Someone
always came in and drew down the blinds in my compartment--I had one to
myself since leaving Cheliabynsk--and told me I must not go out on
the platform whenever we crossed a bridge. They were evidently taking
precautions against spying though they were too polite to say so. There
were big towns with stations packed to overflowing. At Perm we met some
German prisoners of war, and there were soldiers, soldiers everywhere,
and at last one day in the first week in September we steamed into
Petrograd.



CHAPTER XVI--THE WAYS OF THE FINNS

It was evening and we had arrived at Petrograd. For many years I
had wanted to see the northern capital. I had thought of it as a town
planned by a genius, slowly growing amid surrounding swamps, and in
my childhood I had pictured that genius as steadily working as a
carpenter--in a white paper cap--having always in his mind’s eye the
town that was to grow on the Baltic Sea, the seaport that should give
his country free access to the civilisation of the West. He was a great
hero of mine because of his efficiency; after all I see no reason why I
should dethrone him now that I realise he had the faults of his time and
his position.

But in life I find things always come differently to what one pictures
them. The little necessities of life will crop up and must be attended
to first and foremost. The first thought that came to me was that I had
to part with the friends I had made on the journey. Right away from the
borders of China the Cossack officer and I had travelled together; I had
met the Hussar officer and his wife soon after I had joined the train,
and we seemed to have come out of one world into another together. It
made a bond, and I for one was sorry to part. They were going to their
own friends or to a Russian hotel, and the general consensus of opinion
was that I would be more comfortable in a hotel where there were English
or at least French people.

“Go to the Grand Hotel, Madame,” suggested the Hussar officer’s wife,
she who spoke perfect French.

So Buchanan and I loaded our belongings on to a droshky that looked
smart after the ones I had been accustomed to in Asia, bade farewell to
our friends “till after the war”--the Cossack was coming to England then
“to buy a dog”--and drove to the Grand Hotel.

The Grand Hotel spoke perfect English, looked at me and--declined to
take me because I had a little dog. I was very much astonished,
but clearly I couldn’t abandon Buehanan, so I went on to the Hotel
d’Angleterre, which also declined. I went from hotel to hotel and
they all said the same thing, they could not think of taking in anyone
accompanied by a dog. It was growing dark--it was dark, and after a
fortnight on the train I was weary to death. How could I think of the
glories of the Russian capital when I was wondering where I could find
a resting-place? I couldn’t turn Buchanan adrift in the streets, I
couldn’t camp in the streets myself, and the hotel porters who could
speak English had no suggestions to make as to where I could bestow my
little friend in safety. Six hotels we went to and everyone was firm and
polite, they could not take a dog. At last a hotel porter had a great
idea, the Hotel Astoria would take dogs.

“Why on earth didn’t someone tell me so before?” I said, and promptly
went to the Hotel Astoria. It was rather like going to the Hotel Ritz,
and though I should like to stay at the Hotel Ritz I would not recommend
it to anyone who was fearing an unlimited stay in the country, who had
only forty pounds to her credit and was not at all sure she could get
any more. Still the Hotel Astoria took little dogs, actually welcomed
them, and charged four shillings a day for their keep. I forgot Peter
the Great and the building of the capital of Russia, revelling in the
comforts of a delightful room all mirrors, of a bathroom attached and
a dinner that it was worth coming half across the world to meet. My
spirits rose and I began to be quite sure that all difficulties would
pass away, I should be able to get back to England and there would be
no need for that desperate economy. It was delightful to go to bed in
a still bed between clean white sheets, to listen to the rain upon the
window and to know that for this night at least all was well. I had seen
no English papers; I knew nothing about the war, and it is a fact one’s
own comfort is very apt to colour one’s views of life. Buchanan agreed
with me this was a very pleasant world--as a rule I do find the world
pleasant--it was impossible anything could go wrong in it.

And the next day I received a snub--a snub from my own people.

I went to the British Consulate full of confidence. Every foreigner I
had met all across the world had been so pleased to see me, had been so
courteous and kind, had never counted the cost when I wanted help, so
that I don’t know what I didn’t expect from my own countrymen. I looked
forward very mueh to meeting them. And the young gentleman in office
snubbed me properly. He wasn’t wanting any truck with foolish women who
crossed continents; he didn’t care one scrap whether I had come from
Saghalien or just walked down the Nevsky Prospekt; I was a nuisance
anyway, his manner gave me to understand, since I disturbed his peace
and quiet, and the sooner I took myself out of the country the better
he would be pleased. He just condescended to explain where I could get a
ticket straight through to Newcastle-on-Tyne; people were doing it every
day; he didn’t know anything about the war, and his manner gave me to
understand that it wasn’t his business to supply travellers with news.
I walked out of that office with all the jauntiness taken out of me.
Possibly, I have thought since, he was depressed at the news from
France, perhaps someone was jeering him because he had not joined up, or
else he had wanted to join up and was not allowed. It was unlucky that
my first Englishman after so long should be such a churlish specimen. I
felt that unless my necessity was dire indeed I should not apply to the
British Consulate for help in an emergency. I did not recover till I
went to the company who sold through tickets, across Finland, across
Sweden and Norway, across the North Sea to Newcastle-on-Tyne. There I
bought a ticket for fifteen pounds which was to carry me the whole
way. It was a Swedish company, I think, and the office was packed with
people, Poles, Letts, Lithuanians and Russians, who were naturalised
Americans and who wanted to go home. Everybody took the deepest interest
in Buchanan, so much interest that the man in charge asked me if I was
going to take him, I said “Of eourse,” and he shook his head.

“You will never get him through Sweden. They are most strict.”

Poor Buchanan! Despair seized me. Having been to the British Consulate,
I knew it was no use seeking advice there. I suppose I was too tired or
I should have remembered that Americans are always kind and helpful and
gone there or even dared the British Embassy. But these ideas occurred
to me too late.

You may travel the world over and the places you visit will often remain
in your mind as pleasant or otherwise not because of any of their own
attributes, but because of the emotions you have suffered in them. Here
was I in St Petrograd, and instead of exploring streets and canals and
cathedrals and palaces my whole thoughts were occupied with the fate
of my little dog. I “had given my heart to a dog to tear” and I was
suffering in consequence. All the while I was in Petrograd--and I stayed
there three days looking for a way out--my thoughts were given to James
Buchanan. I discussed the matter with the authorities in the hotel who
could speak English, and finally Buchanan and I made a peregrination to
the Swedish Consulate. And though the Swedish Consulate was a deal more
civil and more interested in me and my doings than the English, in
the matter of a dog, even a nice little dog like Buchanan, they were
firm--through Sweden he could not go.

I read in the paper the other day that the world might be divided into
men and women and people-who-hate-dogs, and these last will wonder what
I was making such a fuss about, but the men and women will understand.
My dear little companion and friend had made the lonely places pleasant
for me and I could not get him out of the country save by turning round
and going back across Europe, Asia and America!

I went back to the place where I had bought my ticket. They also were
sympathetic. Everyone in the office was interested in the tribulations
of the cheerful little black and white dog who sat on the counter and
wagged a friendly tail. I had many offers to take care of him for me,
and the consensus of opinion was that he might be smuggled! And many
tales were told me of dogs taken across the borders in overcoats and
muffs, or drugged in baskets.

That last appealed to me. Buchanan was just too big to cany hidden
easily, but he might be drugged and covered up in a basket. I went back
to the Astoria and sent for a vet. Also I bought a highly ornamental
basket. The porter thought I was cruel. He thought I might leave the dog
with him till after the war, but he translated the vet’s opinion for me,
and the vet gave me some sulphonal. He assured me the little dog would
be all right, and I tried to put worrying thoughts away from me and to
see Petrograd, the capital of the Tsars.

But I had seen too much. There comes a moment, however keen you are on
seeing the world, when you want to see no new thing, when you want only
to close your eyes and rest, and I had arrived at that moment. The wide
and busy streets intersected with canals, the broad expanse of the Neva,
the cathedral and the Winter Palace were nothing to me; even the wrecked
German Embassy did not stir me.

I was glad then when the fourth morning found me on the Finland station.
The Finland station was crowded and the Finland train, with only second
and third class carnages and bound for Raumo, was crowded also, and it
appeared it did not know its way very well as the line had only just
been opened to meet the traffic west diverted from Germany. A fortnight
before no one had ever heard of Raumo.

And now for me the whole outlook was changed. This was no military
train, packed as it was, but a train of men, women and children
struggling to get out of the country, the flotsam and jetsam that come
to the surface at the beginning of a war. And I heard again for the
first time since I left Tientsin, worlds away, English spoken that was
not addressed to me. To be sure it was English with an accent, the very
peculiar accent that belongs to Russians, Lithuanians, Poles and Letts
Americanised, and with it mingled the nasal tones of a young musician
from Central Russia who spoke the language of his adopted land with a
most exaggerated accent and the leisurely, cultivated tones of Oxford.

I had come from the East to the West!

The carriage was open from end to end and they would not allow Buchanan
to enter it. He, poor little man, in the gorgeous basket that he
objected to strongly, was banished to the luggage-van, and because the
carriage was hot, and also because I felt he would be lonely separated
from me, I went there and kept him company.

And in that van I met another Russian naval officer and deepened my
obligations to the Russian navy. He sat down beside me on one of the
boxes, a tall, broad-shouldered, fair man who looked like a Viking with
his moustache shaved off. I found to my joy he spoke English, and I
confided to him my difficulties with regard to breakfast. I was so old
a traveller by now I had learned the wisdom of considering carefully the
commissariat. He was going to the forts on the Finnish border of which
he was in command, but before he left the train we would arrive at a
refreshment-room, and he undertook to arrange matters for me. And so he
did.

Petrograd does not get up early, at least the Hotel Astoria did not, and
the most I could manage before I left was a cup of coffee, but I made
up for it at that first refreshment-room. The naval officer took entire
charge and, revelling in his importance, I not only had a very good
breakfast but made the most of my chances and, filling up my basket with
a view to future comforts, bought good things so that I might be able
to exchange civilities with my fellow-passengers on the way to Raumo. I
had eggs and sausages and new bread and scones and a plentiful supply
of fruit, to say nothing of sugar and lemons and cream and meat for
Buehanan--the naval man looking on smiling--and when I had really done
myself well I turned to him and demanded what I ought to pay.

“Nothing, Madame. In Russia when a gentleman takes a lady for
refreshment he pays!”

Imagine my horror! And I had stocked my basket so lavishly!

My protests were useless. I was escorted back to our luggage-van and
my thoughts led gently from the coffee and eggs I had consumed and the
sausages and bread I had stowed away in my basket to the state of the
war as it struck the Russian naval mind.

Had I heard about the sea fight in the Mediterranean? Not heard about
the little _Gloucester_ attacking the _Goeben_, the little _Gloucester_
that the big German battleship could have eaten! A dwarf and a giant!
Madame! Madame! It was a sea fight that will go down through the ages!
Russia was ringing with it!

“Do you know anyone in the English navy?”

I said I had two brothers in the senior service, a little later and I
might have said three.

“Then tell them,” said he earnestly, “we Russian sailors are proud to be
Allies of a nation that breeds such men as manned the _Gloucester!_”

The Finnish border was soon reached and he left us, and the day went
on and discipline I suppose relaxed, for I brought Buchanan into the
carriage and made friends with the people who surrounded me. And then
once again did I bless the foresight of the Polish Jewess in Kharbin who
had impressed upon me the necessity for two kettles. They were a godsend
in that carriage. We commandeered glasses, we got hot water at wayside
stations and I made tea for all within reach, and a cup of tea to a
thirsty traveller, especially if that traveller be a woman, is certainly
a road to that traveller’s good graces.

Finland is curiously different from Russia. They used to believe in the
old sailing-ship days that every Finn was a magician. Whether they are
magicians or not, they have a beautiful country, though its beauty is
as different from that of the Amur as the Thames is from the Murray
in far-away Australia. Gone were the wide spaces of the earth and the
primitive peoples. We wandered through cultivated lands, we passed lake
and river and woods, crossed a wonderful salmon river, skirted Finland’s
inland sea: here and there was a castle dominating the farmhouses and
little towns, the trees were turning, just touched gently by Autumn’s
golden fingers, and I remembered I had watched the tender green of
the spring awakening on the other side of the world, more, I had been
travelling ever since. It made me feel weary--weary. And yet it was good
to note the difference in these lands that I had journeyed over. The air
here was clear, clear as it had been in China; it had that curious
charm that is over scenery viewed through a looking-glass, a charm I can
express in no other words. Unlike the great rivers of Russia, the little
rivers brawled over the stones, companionable little streams that ‘made
you feel you might own them, on their banks spend a pleasant afternoon,
returning to a cosy fire and a cheery home when the dusk was falling.

And this evening, our first day out, we, the little company in my
carriage, fell into trouble.

We spoke among us many tongues, English, French, German, Polish,
Russian, Lettish, and one whose tongue was polyglot thought in Yiddish
and came from the streets, the “mean streets” of London, but not one
amongst us spoke Finnish, the language of the magicians, or could even
understand one word of it. This was unfortunate, for the Films either
spoke no language but their own or had a grudge against us and declined
to understand us. That didn’t prevent them from turning us out that
night in a railway station in the heart of Finland and leaving us to
discover for ourselves that every hotel in the little town was full
to overflowing! Once more I was faced with it--a night in a railway
station. But my predicament was not so bad shared with others who spoke
my language. There was the Oxford man and the musician with a twang,
there was the wife of an American lawyer with her little boy and the
wife of an American doctor with her little girls--they all spoke English
of sorts, used it habitually--and there were four Austrian girls making
their way back to some place in Hungary. Of course, technically, they
were our enemies, while the Americans were neutral, but we all went in
together. The Russian-American musician had been in Leipsic and was most
disgustingly full of the mighty strength of Germany.

The refreshment-rooms were shut, the whole place was in darkness, but
it was a mild night, with a gorgeous September moon sailing out into the
clear sky, and personally I should not have minded spreading my rugs and
sleeping outside. I should have liked it, in fact, but the tales of the
insecurity of Siberia still lingered in my consciousness, and when the
Oxford man said that one of the porters would put us up in his house I
gladly went along with all the others and, better still, took along my
bundles of rugs and cushions.

The places that I have slept in! That porter had a quaint little wooden
house set in a garden and the whole place might have been lifted bodily
out of Hans Andersen. We had the freedom of the kitchen, a very clean
kitchen, and we made tea there and ate what we had brought in our
baskets. The Austrian girls had a room to themselves, I lent my rugs to
the young men and they made shift with them in the entrance porch, and
the best sitting-room was turned over to the women and children and me.
Two very small beds were put up very close together and into them
got the two women and three children, and I was accommodated with a
remarkably Lilliputian sofa. I am not a big woman, but it would not hold
me, and as for Buchanan, he looked at me in disgust, said a bed was a
proper place for a dog and promptly jumped on it. But it was full to
overflowing of women and children sleeping the sleep of the utterly
weary and he as promptly jumped off again and the next moment was
sitting up in front of my sofa with his little front paws hanging down.
He was a disgusted dog. He always begged when he wanted me to give him
something, and now he begged to show me he was really in need of a bed.
There were great uncurtained windows on two sides of that room, there
were flowers and ferns in pots growing in it, and the full moon strcamed
in and showed me everything: the crowded, rather gimcrack furniture, the
bucket that contained water for us to wash in in the morning, the bed
full of sleeping women and children and the little black and white dog
sitting up in protest against what he considered the discomforts of
the situation. What I found hard to bear were the hermetically sealed
windows--the women had been afraid of draughts for the children--so as
soon as that night wore through and daylight came stealing through the
windows I dressed quietly and, stepping across the sleeping young men at
the door, went outside with Buchanan to explore Finland.

Our porter evidently ran some sort of tea gardens, for there were large
swings set up, swings that would hold four and six people at once, and
we tried them, much to Buchanan’s discomfiture. We went for a walk up
the street, a country town street of little wooden houses set in little
gardens, and over all lay a Sabbath calm. It was Sunday, and the people
slept, and the autumn sunlight made the whole place glorious. There is
such rest and peace about the autumn: everything has been accomplished
and now is the fullness of time. I never know which season I like best,
each has its own beauty, but I shall always think of Finland as a land
of little things, charming little things bathed in the autumn sunlight.

When the whole party were awake we found some difficulty in getting
something to eat. The porter could not supply us, and at the station,
where they were vigorously sweeping--the Finns are very clean--they
utterly declined to open the first-class refreshment-rooms. We could
only get something to eat in the third-class. There was a great feeling
of camaraderie and good-fellowship among us all, and here I remember the
lawyer’s wife insisted upon us all having breakfast at her expense, for
according to her she owed us all something. It was she who added to our
party the Yiddish woman, a fat, square little person hung round with
innumerable bundles, carrying as she did a month’s provisions, enough to
last her across to America, for she was a very strict Jew and could eat
nothing but _kosher_ killed meat and _kosher_ bread, whatever that may
be. I know it made her a care, for a month’s provisions make something
of a parcel, and when bedding and a certain amount of clothing has to be
carried as well, and no porters are available, the resulting baggage
is apt to be a nuisance. All along the line this fat little person was
liable to come into view, toiling under the weight of her many bundles.
She would be found jammed in a doorway; she would subside exhausted in
the middle of a railway platform--the majority of her bundles would be
retrieved as they fell downstairs--or she blocked the little gateway
through which passengers were admitted one by one, and the resulting
bad language in all the tongues of Northern Europe probably caused the
Recording Angel a good deal of unnecessary trouble. But the Oxford
man and the musician were always ready to help her, and she must have
blessed the day the American lawyer’s wife added her to a party which
had such kindly, helpful young men among its members.

I found presently that the Oxford man and I were the moneyed members of
the party, the only ones who were paying our way; the others, far richer
people than I, I daresay, had been caught in the whirlpool of the war
and were being passed on from one American consul to another, unable
to get money from their own country. Apparently this was rather an
unpleasant process, meaning a certain scarcity of cash, as an American
consul naturally cannot afford to spend lavishly on his distressed
subjects. It was the irony of fate that some of them were evidently not
accustomed to looking too carefully after the pennies.

It took us two days to cross Finland, and towards the end of the
journey, after we had got out to have tea at a wayside station that
blossomed out into ham and tea and bread and honey, we made friends with
a certain Finn whose father had been a Scotsman. At last we were able to
communicate with the people of the country! Also I’m afraid we told him
in no measured terms that we did not think much of his compatriots.
That was rather a shame, for he was exceedingly kind. He was going to
England, he told us, to buy sheepskins for the Russian army, and he took
great interest in my trouble about Buchanan. He examined him carefully,
came to the conclusion he was a perfectly healthy little dog and
suggested I should lend him to him till we reached Sweden, as he was
perfectly well known to the authorities, and Finnish dogs would be
allowed to enter Sweden, while a dog that had come from Russia would
certainly be barred. I loved that man for his kindly interest and I
handed over Buchanan in his basket without a qualm.

We were really quite a goodly company when in the dusk of the evening
we steamed into Raumo. The station seemed deserted, but we didn’t worry
much about that, as our new Finnish friend suggested the best thing to
do was to go straight down to the steamer, the _Uleaborg_, a Finnish
ship, and have our dinner and spend the night there. Even if she did not
go that night, and he did not think she would, we could rest and sleep
comfortably. We all agreed, and as the train went on down to the wharf
we appointed him our delegate to go on board and see what arrangements
he could make for us. The minute the train stopped, off he went, and
Buchanan went with him. I was getting easier in my mind about Buchanan
now, the thought of drugging him had been spoiling my pleasure in the
scenery. And then we waited.

It began to rain, and through the mist which hid the moonlight to-night
we could see the loom of the ships; they were all white and the lights
from the cabin ports showed dim through the misty rain. The wharf was
littered with goods, barrels and bales, and as there was more than one
steamer, and apparently no one to guide us, or the Scots Finn had not
returned, we tackled the Russian _gens d’arme_ who seemed to be in
charge of the wharf and who was leaning up against the train.

“Can you speak Finnish?”

“Ah! now you have my secret first shot,” said he, with a smile. He,
their guardian, was no more equal to communicating with these people
than we were. And then, to our dismay, before our messenger could
return, the train which considered not a parcel of refugees put on steam
and started back to Raumo!

A dozen voices were raised in frantic protest, but we might as well have
spared our breath, the train naturally paid no attention to us, but went
back at full speed to the town proper. It was a comfort when it stopped,
for, for all we knew, it might have gone straight back to Petrograd
itself. And Buchanan, shut up in a basket, was left behind, I knew not
where! They dumped us on that station, bag and baggage, in the rain. We
were worse off here than we were at the wharf, for there the steamer and
comfort at least loomed in the distance. Here was only a bare and empty
station, half-a-dozen men who looked at us as if we were so many wild
beasts on show, and a telephone to the wharf which we were allowed to
use as long as we pleased, but as far as I could gather the only result
was a flow of bad language in many tongues. We might be of many nations,
but one and all were we agreed in our dislike of the Finns and all
things Finnish. If I remember rightly, in the Middle Ages, most people
feared and disliked magicians.

We managed to get our baggage into the hall of the station, whieh was
dimly lighted by electric lights, and in anticipation of our coming they
had filled up the station water-carafes. But that was all the provision
they had made. If there was a refreshment-room it had been locked up
long ago, and as far as we could make out, now our interpreter had gone,
there were no hotels or boarding-houses. Our Scots Finn had said it was
impossible to stay in Raumo. We looked at one another in a dismay in
which there was, after all, something comic. This that had befallen us
was the sort of aggravating thing a mischievous magician would cause
to happen. We were tired and hungry and bad-tempered, and I for one was
anxious about my little dog and I began to seek, with cash in my hand,
somebody who would find me Buchanan.

How I made my wants known I don’t now realise, but money does wonders,
and presently there came in a man bearing his basket and a rapturous
little dog was let out into the room. Where he had been I have not the
faintest idea, and I could not ask, only I gathered that the man who
brought him professed himself perfectly willing to go on fetching little
dogs all night at the same rate, and the musician remarked in his high
nasal twang that he supposed it was no good expecting any more sympathy
from Mrs Gaunt, she was content now she had her little dog. As a
matter of fact, now that my mind was at ease, I was equal to giving my
attention to other people’s woes.

We tackled the men round us.

Where was our messenger?

No one knew.

Where could we get something to eat?

Blank stare. They were not accustomed to foreigners yet at Raumo. The
station had only just been opened. The musician took out his violin
and its wailing tones went echoing and re-echoing through the hall. The
audience looked as if they thought we had suddenly gone mad, and one man
came forward and by signs told us we must leave the station. That was
all very well, we were not enamoured of the station, but the port we
judged to be at least four miles off, and no one was prepared to start
down an unknown road in the dark and pouring rain. There was a long
consultation, and we hoped it meant food, but it didn’t. Out of a
wilderness of words we at last arrived at the interesting fact that if
we cared to subscribe five marks one of these gentlemen was prepared to
conduct us to the police station. There appeared to be no wild desire on
the part of any of us to go to the police station, the violin let out a
screech of scornful derision, and one of the officials promptly turned
off the electric lights and left us in darkness!

There were many of us, and vexations shared are amusing. We laughed,
how we laughed, and the violin went wailing up and down the octaves. No
wonder the Finns looked at us askance. Even the darkness did not turn us
out, for we had nowhere else to go, and finally a man who spoke English
turned up, the agent for the Swedish steamer. He had thought there would
be no passengers and had gone to bed, to be roused up, I presume by the
stationmaster, as the only person likely to be capable of dealing with
these troublesome people who were disturbing the peace of this Finnish
village.

We flew at him--there were about a dozen of us--and showed our tickets
for the Finnish steamer, and he smiled in a superior manner and said we
should be captured by Germans.

We didn’t believe much in the Germans, for we had many of us come
through a country which certainly believed itself invulnerable. Then
a woman travelling with her two daughters, Americans of the Americans,
though their mother spoke English with a most extraordinary accent,
proclaimed aloud that if there was a Swedish steamer she was going by it
as she was afraid of “dose Yarmans.” She and her daughters would give up
their tickets and go by the Swedish steamer. Protest was useless. If
we liked to break up the party we could. She was not going by the
_Uleaborg_. Besides, where were we to sleep that night? The Finnish
steamer was three or four miles away down at the wharf and we were here
along with the Swedish agent.

The Swedish agent seized the opening thus given. There were no hotels;
there were no boarding-houses; no, it was not possible to get anything
to eat at that hour of the night. Something to drink? Well, in surprised
tones, there was surely plenty of water in the station--there was--and
he would arrange for a train for us to sleep in. The train at ten
o’clock next morning would take us down to the steamer.

We retired to that train. Only one of the carriages was lighted, and
that by general consent we gave up to the lady whose fear of the Germans
had settled our affairs for us, and she in return asked us to share
what provisions we had left. We pooled our stores--I don’t think I
had anything left, but the others shared with me--and we dined, not
unsatisfactorily, off sardines, black bread, sausages and apples. The
only person left out of the universal friendliness was the Yiddish lady.
Out of her plenty she did not offer to share.

“She cannot,” said the musician. “She is saving for the voyage to
America. You see, she can eat none of the shipboard food.” He too came
of the same strict order of Jew, and his grandparents, with whom he
had been staying in Little Russia, had provided him with any amount of
sausage made of _kosher_ meat, but when he was away from his own people
he was evidently anything but strict and ate what pleased him. He shared
with the rest of us. Possibly he was right about the Yiddish woman,
and I suppose it did not really do us any harm to go short till next
morning, but it looked very greedy, and I still wonder at the nerve of
a woman who could sit down and eat sausage and bread and all manner
of such-like things while within a stone’s-throw of her people who had
helped her in every way they could were cutting up apples and pears into
quarters and audibly wishing they had a little more bread. The Oxford
man and musician had always helped her, but she could not find it in her
heart to spare them one crumb. I admire her nerve. In America I doubt
not she will acquire wealth.

After supper Buchanan and I retired to a dark carriage, wrapped
ourselves in my eiderdown and slept till with break of day two capable
but plain Finnish damsels came in to clean the train. I think the
sailors’ ideas must have been wrong: every Finn cannot be a magician
else they would not allow all their women to be so plain. I arose and
dressed and prepared to go out and see if Raumo could produce coffee
and rolls, but as I was starting the violinist in the next compartment
protested.

“I wouldn’t. Guess you haven’t got the hang of these Finnish trains. It
might take it into its head to go on. Can’t you wait till we reach the
steamer.”

I gave the matter my consideration, and while I was considering the
train did take it into its head to go on four hours before its appointed
time. On it went, and at last in the fresh northern dewy morning, with
the sun just newly risen, sending his long low rays streaming across the
dancing waters of the bay, we steamed up to the wharf, and there lay the
white ships that were bound for Sweden, the other side of the Baltic.



CHAPTER XVII--CAPTURED BY GERMANS

But we couldn’t get on the steamer at once. For some reason or other
there were Customs delays and everything we possessed had to be examined
before we were allowed to leave the country, but--and we hailed them
with delight--under the goods sheds were set out little tables where we
could buy coffee and rolls and butter and eggs. It was autumn now, and
for all the sunshine here in such high latitudes there was a nip in the
air and the hot coffee was welcome. We met, too, our friend of the night
before, the Scots Finn, but the glamour had departed from him and we
paid no attention to his suggestion that the _Goathied_, the Swedish
steamer, was very much smaller than the _Uleaborg_ and that there was
a wind getting up and we would all be deadly sick. We said we preferred
being sick to being captured by the Germans. And he laughed at us. There
was no need to fear the Germans in the Baltic so far north.

It was midday before we were allowed on board the little white ship,
but still she lingered. I was weary, weary, even the waiting seemed a
weariness so anxious was I to end my long journeying and get home. And
then suddenly I felt very near it, for my ears were greeted by the good
broad Doric of Scotland, and there came trooping on board five and fifty
men, part of the crews of four English ships that had been caught by the
tide of war and laid up at Petrograd and Kronstadt. An opportunity had
been found and they were going back by way of Sweden, leaving their
ships behind till after the war. We did not think the war _could_ last
very long on board that steamer.

The Scotsmen had evidently been expected, for on the deck in the bows
of the little steamer--she was only about three hundred tons--were laid
long tables spread with ample supplies of boiled sausages, suet pudding
and potatoes, and very appetising it looked, though in all my wanderings
I had never met boiled sausages before. Down to the feast sat the
sailor-men, and our Yiddish friend voiced aloud my feelings.

“Anglisky,” said she unexpectedly, “nice Anglisky boys. Guten appetite,
nice Anglisky boys!”

They were very cheery, poor boys, and though they were not accustomed to
her sort in Leith, they received her remarks with appreciative grins.

As we started the captain came down upon me.

“Who does that dog belong to?” he asked angrily. Everyone on board spoke
English. And before I could answer--I wasn’t particularly anxious to
answer--he added: “He can’t be landed in Sweden.”

My heart sank. What would they do to my poor little dog? I was
determined they shouldn’t harm him unless they harmed me first, and if
he had to go back to Russia--well, I would go too; but the thought of
going back made me very miserable, and I made solemn vows to myself
that if I by some miracle got through safely, never, never again would I
travel with a dog.

And while I was thinking about it there came along a junior officer,
mate, purser, he might have been the cook for all I know, and he said:
“If you have bought this dog in Finland, or even on board the steamer,
he can land.”

It was light in darkness, and I do not mind stating that where my dog is
concerned I have absolutely no morals, if it is to save him from
pain. He had been my close companion for over a year and I knew he was
perfectly healthy.

“I will give you a good price for him,” said I. “He is a pretty little
dog.”

“Wait,” he said, “wait. By and by I see.”

Just as we got out of the bay the captain announced that he was not
going to Stockholm at all, but to Gefle, farther north. Why, he did not
know. Such were his orders. In ordinary times to find yourself being
landed at Liverpool, say, when you had booked for London might be
upsetting, but in war time it is all in the day’s work, and sailors and
crowded passengers only laughed.

“Let’s awa’,” said the sailors. “Let’s awa’.”

The air was clear and clean, clean as if every speck of dust had been
washed away by the rain of the preceding night; the little islands at
the mouth of the bay stood out green and fresh in the blue sea, but the
head wind broke it up into little waves, and the ship was empty of cargo
and tossed about like a cork. The blue sea and snow-white clouds, the
sunlight on the dancing waves mattered not to us; all we wanted, those
of us who were not in favour of drowning at once and so ending
our misery, was to land in Sweden. Buchanan sat up looking at me
reproachfully, then he too subsided and was violently sick, and I
watched the passengers go one by one below to hide their misery, even
those who had vowed they never were sea-sick. I stayed on deck because I
felt I was happier there in the fresh air, and so I watched the sunset.
It was a gorgeous sunset; the clouds piled themselves one upon the other
and the red sun stained them deepest crimson. It was so striking that I
forgot my sea-sick qualms.

And then suddenly I became aware there were more ships upon the sea
than ours, one in particular, a black, low-lying craft, was steaming
all round us, sending out defiant hoots. There were three other ships
farther off, and I went to the rail to look over the darkening sea.

Between us and the sunset was the low-lying craft, so close I could see
the gaiters of a man in uniform who stood on a platform a little higher
than his fellows; the little decks were crowded with men and a long gun
was pointed at us. It was all black, clean-cut, silhouetted against the
crimson sunset.

We were slowed down, barely moving, the waves slop-slopped against our
sides, and the passengers came scrambling up.

“Germans! Yarmans!” they cried, and from the torpedo boat came a voice
through a megaphone.

“What are you doing with all those fine young men on board?” it asked in
excellent English, the language of the sea.

The black torpedo boat was lying up against us.

Sea-sickness was forgotten, and the violinist came to me.

“They are going to take the young men,” he said, and he was sorry and
yet pleased, because all the time he had been full of the might of the
Germans.

I thought of the Oxford man in the very prime of his manhood.

“Have you told him?”

“Guess I didn’t dare,” said he.

“Well, I think you’d better, or I’ll go myself. They are going to search
the ship and he won’t like being taken unawares.”

So he went down, and presently they came up together. The Oxford man
had been very sea-sick and he thought all the row was caused by the ship
having struck a mine, and he felt so ill that if things were to end
that way he was accepting it calmly, but being captured by Germans was
a different matter. He was the only Englishman in the first class, and
when we heard they were coming for the young men we felt sure he would
have to go.

Leaning over the rail of the _Goathied_, we could look down upon the
black decks of the torpedo boat, blacker than ever now in the dusk of
the evening, for the sun sank and the darkness was coming quickly. A
rope ladder was flung over and up came a couple of German officers. They
spoke perfect English, and they talked English all the time. They went
below, demanded the passenger list and studied it carefully.

“We must take those Englishmen,” said the leader, and then he went
through every cabin to see that none was concealed.

The captain made remonstrance, as much remonstrance as an unarmed
man can make with three cruisers looking on and a torpedo boat close
alongside.

“It is war,” said the German curtly, and in the dusk he ranged the
sailor-men along the decks, all fifty-five of them, and picked out
those between the ages of nineteen and forty. Indeed one luckless lad of
seventeen was taken, but he was a strapping fellow and they said if he
was not twenty-one he looked it.

It was tragic. Of course there must have been treachery at work or how
should the German squadron have known that the Englishmen were crossing
at this very hour? But a few moments before they had been counting
on getting home and now they were bound for a German prison! In the
gathering darkness they stood on the decks, and the short, choppy sea
beat the iron torpedo boat against the ship’s side, and the captain
in the light from a lantern hung against the little house looked the
picture of despair.

“She cannot stand it! She cannot stand it much longer!”

Crash! Crash! Crash!

“She cannot stand it! She was never built for it! And she is old now!”

But the German paid no attention. The possible destruction of
a passenger ship was as nothing weighed in the balance with the
acquirement of six and thirty fighting men.

They were so quiet. They handed letters and small bundles and sometimes
some of their pay to their comrades or to the passengers looking on and
they dropped down that ladder. No one but a sailor could have gone down,
for the ships heaved up and down, and sometimes they were bumping and
sometimes there was a wide belt of heaving dark water between them,
bridged only by that frail ladder. One by one they went, landing on the
hostile deck, and were greeted with what were manifestly jeers at their
misfortune. The getting down was difficult and more than once a bundle
was dropped into the sea and there went up a sigh that was like a wail,
for the passengers looking on thought the man was gone, and I do not
think there would have been any hope for him between the ships.

Darker and darker it grew. On the _Goathied_ there were the lighted
decks, but below on the torpedo boat the men were dim figures, German
and English undiscernible in the gloom. On the horizon loomed the sombre
bulk of the cruisers, eaeh with a bright light aloft, and all around
was the heaving sea, the white tops of the choppy waves showing sinister
against the darker hollows.

“Anglisky boys! Anglisky boys!” wailed the Yiddish woman, and her voice
cut into the waiting silence. It was their dirge, the dirge for the
long, long months of imprisonment that lay before them. And we were
hoping for a short war! I could hear the Oxford man drawing a long
breath occasionally, steeling himself against the moment when his turn
would come.

It never came. Why, I do not know. Perhaps they did not realise his
nationality, for being a Scotsman he had entered himself as “British” on
the passenger list, and “British” was not such a well-known word as the
sons of Britain gathering from all corners of the earth to fight the
common foe have made it to-day.

“Puir chappies! Puir chappies! A’m losin’ guid comrades,” sighed an
elderly man leaning over the side and shouting a farewell to “Andra’.”

I murmured something about “after the war,” but he cut me short sternly.
The general opinion was that they would be put to stoke German warships
and as the British were sure to beat them they would go down and be
ingloriously lost. The thought must have been a bitter one to the men on
that torpedo boat. And they took it like heroes.

The last man was gone, and as the torpedo boat drew away a sort of
moan went up from the bereft passenger ship and we went on our way, the
captain relieved that we were free before a hole had been knocked in our
side.

He was so thankful that no worse thing had befallen him that he became
quite communicative.

“They are gone to take the _Uleaborg_,” he said, “and they will blow her
up and before to-morrow morning Raumo will be in flames!”

In those days Sweden had great faith in the might of Germany. I hope
that faith is getting a little shaken at last. Still that captain
declared his intention of warning all the ships he could. There were two
Finnish ships of which he knew that he said were coming out of Stockholm
that night and he was going to look for them and warn them.

And so the night was alive with brilliant electric light signals and
wild hootings from the steam siren, and he found them at last, all
honour to him for a kindly sailor-man, and the Finnish ships were warned
and went back to Sweden.

But no matter how sorry one is for the sufferings of others, the feeling
does not in any way tend to lessen one’s own private woes. Rather are
they deepened because sympathy and help is not so easily come by when
men’s thoughts are occupied by more--to them more--important matters.
And so I could not go to sleep because of my anxiety about my little
dog. Only for the moment did the taking of the men and my pity for them
drive the thought of his predicament from my mind.

We were nearing Sweden, every moment was bringing us closer, and as yet
I had made no arrangements for his safety. He lay curled up on the seat,
hiding his little snub nose and his little white paws with his bushy
tail, for the autumn night was chilly, and I lay fearing a prison for
him too, when he would think his mistress whom he had trusted had failed
him. All the crew were so excited over the kidnapping of the men that my
meditated nefarious transaction was thrust into the background. It was
hopeless to think that any one of them would give ear to the woes of
a little dog, so at last, very reluctantly, I gave him, much to his
surprise, a sulphonal tablet. I dozed a little and when by my watch it
was four o’clock Buchanan was as lively as a cricket. Sulphonal did not
seem to have affected him in any way. I gave him another, and he said it
was extremely nasty and he was surprised at my conduct, but otherwise it
made no difference to him.

In the grey of the early morning we drew up to the wharf and were
told to get all our belongings on to the lower deck for the Customs to
examine them, and Buchanan was as cheerful and as wide awake as if he
had not swallowed two sulphonal tablets. With a sinking heart I gave him
another, put him in his basket and, carrying it down to the appointed
place, threw a rug over it and piled my two suit-cases on top of it. How
thankful I was there was such a noisy crowd, going over and over again
in many tongues the events of the night. They wrangled too about their
luggage and about their places, and above all their din I could hear
poor little James Buchanan whining and whimpering and asking why his
mistress was treating him so badly.

Then came the Customs officer and my heart stood still. He poked an
investigatory hand into my suit-case and asked me--I understood him
quite well--to show him what was underneath. I could hear Buchanan if he
could not, and I pretended that I thought he wanted to know what was at
the bottom of my suit-case and I turned over the things again and again.
He grew impatient, but luckily so did all the people round, and as a
woman dragged him away by force to look at her things so that she could
get them ashore I noticed with immense relief that the sailors were
beginning to take the things to the wharf. Luckily I had taken care the
night before to get some Swedish money--I was taking no chances--and a
little palm oil made that sailor prompt to attend to my wants. Blessings
on the confusion that reigned around! Two minutes later on Swedish
soil I was piling my gear on a little hand-cart with a lot of luggage
belonging to the people with whom I had come across Finland and it was
bound to the railway station.

“You have left your umbrella,” cried the violinist.

“I don’t care,” said I. I had lost my only remaining hat for that
matter, goodness knows what had become of it, but I was not going to put
myself within range of those Customs men again. What did I care about
appearances! I had passed the very worst milestone on my journey when I
got James Buchanan into Sweden; I had awakened from the nightmare that
had haunted me ever since I had taken my ticket in Petrograd, and I
breathed freely.

At the railway station we left our luggage, but I got Buchanan’s basket,
and we all went across the road to a restaurant just waking to business,
for we badly wanted breakfast. I loved those passengers. I shall always
think of them with gratitude. They were all so kind and sympathetic and
the restaurant folks, who were full of the seizing of the Englishmen on
a Swedish ship--so are joys and sorrows mingled--must have thought
we were a little mad when we all stood round and, before ordering
breakfast, opened a basket and let out a pretty little black and white
dog.

And then I’m sorry to say we laughed, even I laughed, laughed with
relief, though I there and then took a vow never again to drug a dog,
for poor little James Buchanan was drunk. He wobbled as he walked, and
he could not make up his mind to lie down like a sensible dog and sleep
if off; he was conversational and silly and had to be restrained. Poor
little James Buchanan! But he was a Swedish dog, and I ate my breakfast
with appetite, and we all speculated as to what had become of the Scots
Finn who had failed me.

Gefle reminded me of Hans Andersen even more than Finland had done. It
had neat streets and neat houses and neat trees and neat and fair-haired
women, and Gefle was seething with excitement because the _Goathied_
had been stopped. It was early days then, and Sweden had not become
accustomed to the filibustering ways of the German, so every poster had
the tale writ large upon it, in every place they were talking about it,
and we, the passengers who walked about the streets, were the observed
of all observers.

I was nearing the end of my long journey, very near now, and it did not
seem to me to matter much what I did. We were all--the new friends I had
made on the way from Petrograd--pretty untidy and travel-stained, and
if I wore a lace veil on my hair, the violinist had a huge rent in his
shoe, and, having no money to buy more, he went into a shoe-shop and had
it mended. I, with Buchanan a little recovered, sat beside him while it
was done.

And in the afternoon we went by train through the neat and tidy country,
Selma Lagerlof’s country, to Stockholm. I felt as if I were resting,
rested, because I was anxious no longer about Buchanan, who slumbered
peacefully on my knee; and if anybody thinks I am making an absurd fuss
about a little dog, let them remember he had been my faithful companion
and friend in far corners of the earth when there were none but
alien faces around me, and had stood many a time between me and utter
loneliness and depression.

We discussed these sturdy Swedes. The Chicago woman’s daughter, with the
pertness and aptness of the American flapper, summed them up quickly.

“The men are handsome,” she said, looking round, “but the women--well,
the women lack something--I call them tame.”

And I knew she had hit them off to a “T.” After that I never looked at
a neat and tidy Swedish woman with her hair, that was fair without that
touch of red that makes for gold--gives life--coiled at the back of
her head and her mild eyes looking out placidly on the world around her
without feeling that I too call her tame.

Stockholm for the most of us was the parting of the ways. The American
consul took charge of the people who had come across Finland with us
and the Oxford man and I alone went to the Continental Hotel, which, I
believe, is the best hotel in that city. We had an evening meal together
in a room that reminded me very much of the sort of places we used to
call coffee palaces in Melbourne when I was a girl, and I met here again
for the first time for many a long day tea served in cups with milk and
cream. It was excellent, and I felt I was indeed nearing home. Things
were getting commonplace and the adventure was going out of life. But I
was tired and I didn’t want adventure any more. There comes a time when
we have a surfeit of it.

I remember my sister once writing from her home somewhere in the Malay
jungle that her husband was away and it was awkward because every night
a leopard came and took up his position under the house, and though she
believed he was only after the fowls she didn’t like it because of the
children. If ever she complains that she hasn’t had enough adventure
in her life I remind her of that and she says that is not the sort of
adventure she has craved. That is always the way. The adventure is
not always in the form we want. I seemed to have had plenty, but I was
weary. I wanted to sit in a comfortable English garden in the autumn
sunshine and forget that such things as trains and ships--perish the
thought of a mule litter--existed. I counted the hours. It couldn’t be
long now. We came down into the hall to find that I had been entered on
the board containing the names of the hotel guests as the Oxford man’s
wife. Poor young man! It was a little rough on him, for I hadn’t even a
hat, and I felt I looked dilapidated.

I was too. That night in the sleeper crossing to Christiania the woman
who had the bottom berth spoke excellent English. She was going to some
baths and she gave some advice.

“You are very ill, Madame,” said she, “very ill.”

I said no, I was only a little tired.

“I think,” she went on, “you are very ill, and if you are wise when you
get to Christiania you will go to the Hotel Victoria and go to bed.”

I was horrified. Because I felt I must go to England as quickly as
possible, and I said so.

“The train does not go to Bergen till night,” said she. “Stay in bed all
day.” And then as we crossed the border a Customs officer came into the
carriage. Now I could easily have hidden Buchanan, but I thought as
a Swedish dog all his troubles were over, and he sat up there looking
pertly at the uniformed man and saying “What are you doing here?”

“Have you got a certificate of health for that dog?” asked the man
sternly.

I said “No,” remembering how very carefully I had kept him out of the
way of anybody likely to be interested in his health.

“Then,” said he, “you must telegraph to the police at Christiania. They
will meet you and take him to a veterinary surgeon.”

“And after?” I asked, trembling, my Swedish friend translating.

“If his health is good they give him back to you. You take a room at
a hotel and if his health is good he will be allowed to skip about the
streets.”

I felt pretty sure he would be allowed to skip about the streets and
I took a room at the Victoria, the Oxford man kindly seeing us
through--they put us down as Mr and Mrs Gaunt here--and James Buchanan,
who had been taken possession of by the police at the station, came back
to me, accompanied by a Norwegian policeman who demanded five shillings
and gave me a certificate that he was a perfectly healthy little dog.

I want to go back to Norway when I am not tired and fed up with
travelling, for Christiania struck me as a dear little home-like town
that one could love; and the railway journey across the Dovrefield and
even the breakfast baskets that came in in the early morning were things
to be remembered. I saw snow up in those mountains, whether the first
snow of the coming winter or snow left over from the winter before, I
do not know, but the views were lovely, and I asked myself why I went
wandering in far-away places when there were places like this so close
at home and so easily reached. So near home. We were so near home. I
could think of nothing else. I told Buchanan about it and he licked my
hand sympathetically and told me always to remember that wherever I was
was good enough for him. And then we arrived at Bergen, a little wooden
city set at the head of a fiord among the hills, and we went on board
the _Haakon VII._, bound for Newcastle-on-Tyne.

And then the most memorable thing happened, the most memorable thing
in what for me was a wondrous journey. All across the Old World we had
come, almost from the very farthest corner of the Old World, a wonderful
journey not to be lightly undertaken nor soon forgotten. And yet as I
went on board that ship I felt what a very little thing it was. I have
been feeling it ever since. A Norwegian who spoke good English was
there, going back to London, and, talking to another man, he mentioned
in a casual manner something about the English contingent that had
landed on the Continent.

It startled me. Not in my lifetime, nor in the lifetime of my father,
indeed I think my grandfathers must have been very little boys when the
last English troops landed in France.

“English troops!” I cried in astonishment.

The Norwegian turned to me, smiling.

“Yes,” he said. “But of course they are only evidence of good will.
Their use is negligible!”

And I agreed. I actually agreed. Britain’s rôle, it seemed to me, was on
the sea!

And in four years I have seen Britain grow into a mighty military power.
I have seen the men of my own people come crowding across the ocean to
help the Motherland; I have seen my sister’s young son pleased to be a
soldier in that army, just one of the proud and humble crowd that go to
uphold Britain’s might. And all this has grown since I stood there at
the head of the Norwegian fiord with the western sun sparkling on the
little wavelets and heard a friendly foreigner talk about the little
army that was “negligible.”

I was tired. I envied those who could work and exert themselves, but I
could do nothing. If the future of the nation had depended on me I could
have done nothing. I was coming back to strenuous times and I longed
for rest. I wanted a house of my own; I wanted a seat in the garden; I
wanted to see the flowers grow, to listen to the birds singing in the
trees. All that our men are fighting for to keep sacred and safe, I
longed for.

And I have had it, thanks to those fighting men who have sacrificed
themselves for me, I have had it. It is good to sit in the garden
where the faithful little friend I shall never forget has his last
resting-place; it is good to see the roses grow, to listen to the lark
and the cuckoo and the thrush; but there is something in our race that
cannot keep still for long, the something, I suppose, that sent my
grandfather to the sea, my father to Australia, and scattered his sons
and daughters all over the world. I had a letter from a soldier brother
the other day. The war holds him, of course, but nevertheless he wrote,
quoting:

          “Salt with desire of travel

               Are my lips; and the wind’s wild singing

          Lifts my heart to the ocean

               And the sight of the great ships swinging.”


And my heart echoed: “And I too! And I too!”





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